Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Call

“It’s not the devil…is it, Brother?”
  If you have attended a New Testament Christian Church more than once, you have noticed the extreme emphasis placed upon the pulpit ministry; its privileges, its protocols, and the overall critical importance of preaching. This group places a premium on the pulpit to the exclusion of all other means of spreading the gospel. They promote a degree of pastoral authority seldom seen in churches anywhere. The worldwide body of NTCC is organized like a military chain-of-command, with the preachers acting as the “officer corps”, holding out the promise to its faithful “enlistees” that they too may become a member of this elite hierarchy. To this end, you will at times be made aware of the existence of New Testament Christian Seminary in beautiful Graham, Washington, the organizational training institution of NTCC.
  Should you decide that you are dissatisfied with life as a “mere Christian”, should you seek a “higher calling”, you may be tempted to attend this organizational mecca for further spiritual development and the fulfillment of your purpose in life. Be warned however; NTCC may not be offering you what you think, and you may not get exactly what you expect to receive. It should be made clear to all prospective students (though it never is made clear until they have become completely enmeshed) that they are not to consider themselves as having a “ministry” of their own, but rather are merely an extension of another man’s ministry, that being the leader and head of the organization, RW Davis. It is a systemic aspect of NTCC to look at this man as a sort of high priest on earth, a mediator between God and men. He is wont to tell people, “If God wants you to do something, I would think He would let me know. After all, I’m your pastor, and everything I do is by the Holy Ghost!” His local representatives, in emulation of their leader, embody this attitude of pulpit authority and desire to act as your go-between for the important decisions that present themselves to you. One of these decisions is bound to be: “Am I ‘called to preach’? Is it God’s will for me to attend Bible College?” You will doubtless speak to your pastor about this, as it is he who must recommend you for acceptance. He will usually attempt to persuade you one way or the other without appearing to do so. In approaching this problem, your pastor will generally employ one of two distinct methods. He may “guide” you into a decision while allowing you to believe you have come to the conclusion all by yourself with the help of God. Or he may exercise the option of exerting priestly authority over your life,
  The first method is an NTCC classic, customarily used when the pastor of your church wishes you to attend Bible seminary. If a man is uncertain as to God’s will for the future, or has difficulty in making up his mind about “going to Graham”, the pastor will draw him aside and ask, “Well, brother…do you have the desire to go?” The young man will then briefly reflect on the many thoughts that have arisen in his mind over the past few months; the thrill of an adventure, the prospect of a life of consecration, of having an opportunity to “preach”, and will ordinarily respond, “Well…yes, sir, I do…” To which the pastor, according to formula, will ask (as if the question answers itself), “Who do you think put that desire in your heart, Brother? Was it the Devil? Do you think the Devil would cause you to want to preach the gospel, Brother?” Conversation ended. The reasons for this are manifold. The pastor is under extreme pressure to produce results. If asked, he would deny this, and you will not likely convince him to speak candidly concerning the expectations under which he is laboring. The required results take many forms, namely: a) money b) attentance c) buildings and d) students. A pastor who is not hard up in the way of a,b and c, is perhaps likely to lean toward an increase in the production of d. Organizational growth is promoted as evidence of God’s blessing, and is in point of fact necessary for the financial survival of the larger group. Therefore it is considered part of the pastor’s obligation to “the program of God” to send potential workers into the harvest field of lost souls, and this means New Testament Christian Seminary. It not only bolsters his own prestige, but it keeps his leaders from asking, “Where are all the new students? Surely, if your ministry is bearing fruit, God can call some of them to preach, don’t you think?” This is an indication of the push for enrollment at the seminary, and of the need to continue feeding into a system that constantly hungers for fresh meat.
  The second method takes place under entirely different circumstances, but is equally driven by carnal concerns. Your pastor might need you to “stick around” for a while. It may be that there are few regular attendees, and he does not wish to preach to empty seats. Perhaps the church finances are in a constant state of distress, and your tithes make up the deficit, always arriving just in time. Maybe they are relying upon your continued giving and participation to carry out plans for the purchase of a new building. Perhaps you have been bringing large numbers of guests (or do you still call them ‘contacts’?) to church services and there is no immediate prospect of a replacement–someone to take over the various duties that you perform. If you have come to your pastor under these conditions and spoken with him about your curiosity in the matter of “Bible school”, he will have to make a decision between his own best interests and your personal wishes. There are some good men throughout NTCC who will act out of a good conscience, and release their grip upon you. But there are also many who will never yield their authority, nor the opportunity to use you for all you are worth while they yet may. In such cases your pastor is likely to exercies his priestly authority and say, “Brother, let me pray about that and get back to you.” In appearing to exercise both personal concern for your welfare as well as a “spiritual” approach to the question, he has subtly but intentionally taken the decision out of your hands. He thus causes you to believe that the decision is now between him and God, so you might as well wait until he “gets back to you”. When pressed for a ruling, he will often answer, “God hasn’t really dealt with me about you one way or another. Just do what you’re doing, and stay faithful, and if God wants you in the ministry, He’ll let me know. But until He lets me know, just pray. Believe me–if you’re called to preach, He’ll let me know.” Meanwhile he goes about stalling your departure in every possible manner.
  So we see that in the one case, a major life decision is determined by a nebulous “desire”, while in the other, the pastor in his high-priestly office must function as the Oracle. And all based entirely upon the leader’s personal needs and goals.
  This lack of objectivity brings to mind the episode of Matthias. He was the disciple chosen to take the place of Judas Iscariot. NTCC holds it to be axiomatic that Paul was the true “twelfth man” chosen by God, and further; that the eleven Apostles were wrong in appointing Matthias, being misguided in their attempts to “do God’s job for Him”, and what’s more; they should never have resorted to the Old Testament method of drawing lots to make a decision, but rather; they “should have listened to the Holy Ghost” (for men who tolerate no disagreement, NTCC leaders are certainly quick to diminish the Apostolic prerogatives of the twelve). Maybe NTCC is right and maybe they are wrong. Perhaps the drawing of lots was a good idea and perhaps not. But it is difficult to imagine a worse outcome to an individual choice than that which arises out of one man’s vested interest in pushing his own earthly program. One wonders if it would not be best to allow a pair of dice to render a judgement in the matter, rather than to place oneself in the hands of such “pastors”. At the very least, the dice are disinterested in the outcome.

This is the first article in the series entitled “What Can I Expect From New Testament Christian Seminary?“.

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