“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” The Lord Jesus as recorded in Luke 14:26
Last night J.D. Hall interviewed me for the “Radio Free SBC” segment of the Friday July 25th edition of his Pulpit and Pen Podcast. This article is meant as a companion piece to that interview. I wrote this late. Forgive typos.
The subject of Friday’s “Radio Free SBC” portion of the Pulpit and Pen Program is the tragic invitation that Johnny Hunt extended to the charlatan Ergun Caner to preach at First Baptist Church of Woodstock on July 27, 2014. Since I am a member of FBCW who has vociferously objected to the propriety of such an invitation, J.D. Hall was interested in hearing more about my perspective on the matter and thus he asked me to be a guest on his program. I was happy to share my perspective and am grateful to J.D. for the forum. I look forward to hearing the program tomorrow when the podcast is posted. However, there is one additional facet of my experience at First Baptist Woodstock, one that wasn’t covered in the interview, which I’d like to share here…my emotional reaction to the great injustice perpetrated by my church and my pastor.
During our interview, JD and I didn’t really talk much about emotions and feelings. We talked a little about how indignant I felt, but we mainly stuck to rational argumentation and discussion. What else would one expect from the both of us, giving our mindsets? After all, J.D. Hall is a staunch Calvinist and I am a logically-minded Christian apologist. Men such as us, more or less, tell it how it is.
Ask a Calvinist about the justification for God ordering the extermination of the Canaanites in the Old Testament and you’ll likely get an answer like this:
“The Canaanites weren’t elect. They were vessels prepared for destruction. Just look in God’s word. Read Romans 9:22. How dare you question the sovereign God of the universe!”
Ask a Christian apologist about for justification of God ordering the extermination of the Canaanites in the Old Testament and you’ll likely get an answer like this:
“Well, you really can’t even have objective moral values and duties unless they are grounded in God. So, it really doesn’t even make sense for a finite being such as yourself to question the justness of our Holy God. Without God, moral values and duties and even a sense of ‘justice’, are purely subjective matters of opinion. In such a case, murder and genocide can’t be universally condemned but can only be viewed as matters of preference. Thus, your question is really just nonsense if you think about it.”
For a person dealing with an emotional objection, such answers go over like Mark Driscoll at a Beth Moore study. People are thinking beings as well feeling beings. I know this; however, I rarely remember to put forth any emotional arguments for God. I read a book on doing so. I even asked a lady apologist for advice. It turns out, that sometimes people just need to understand the emotional side of things.
I think people may be having an emotional rejection to believing that Johnny Hunt is leading his church in a bad direction. My strictly-business way of approaching the matter just isn’t getting over. Someone in my Apologetics Sunday School class (of all places) pointed it out to me last night:
I haven’t been considering the emotional side. This is quite the blunder on my part, especially since this experience has been so emotionally wrenching for me. One of the reasons, I think, that members are refusing to leave First Baptist Woodstock as it refuses to right this wrong is because the church leadership is holding them emotionally hostage. Church members are “plugged in” to their church. To take a stand, they’d have to take up their crosses and leave friends or family behind. Doing so hurts. I know because I am doing it.
Missing Miss Mona
There are a lot of kind, servant-hearted people filled with the Love of Christ at FBCW. One of them is a sweet, old Iranian lady who works in the FBCW nursery named Miss Mona. My wife and I absolutely adore her. When our twin girls were first old enough to be taken out of the house to church, we started bringing them to Miss Mona in the nursery. It was hard for my wife, a first time mother, to leave our children with anybody. However, she always had peace of mind when leaving them with Miss Mona. Miss Mona was always so excited to take care of a pair of twins. She fawned over our girls and always thanked us for bringing them. She always asked us to bring them back the next week and said, “I take such good care of your babies” in her thick Farsi accent.
One Sunday, I came to church to substitute teach Sunday school and dropped of my babies with Miss Mona. After class, I picked up my babies from dear Miss Mona and never returned them to her. She had watched them grow up for weeks; now she doesn’t know whatever became of them.
One day, after not attending Woodstock for some weeks, I got a postcard from the nursery looking for our family. Miss Mona missed the babies. It was one the most heartbreaking piece of mail I ever received.
I used to love to listen to Pastor Johnny preach. It was his preaching that first drew me to visit FBCW. Now, after finding out what kind of man he is, I am loathe to hear him speak. Johnny’s spiritual gift is exhortation. At this point, he couldn’t so much as exhort me to take out the garbage on trash day. Still, I found myself telling my wife, “We need to go back to Woodstock; Miss Mona needs to see the babies.”
But we haven’t been back. We miss Miss Mona. We miss our brothers and sisters in Sunday School, too.
“Hey hey, I can’t meet you here tomorrow, No say goodbye, don’t follow.” Jerry Cantrell
I miss Steve Kennedy, our Sunday School teacher. He taught my wife more about the Bible in 26 weeks than she had learned in 26 years of going to church. Steve is one of the most knowledgeable theologians I’ve ever met. He has a Divinity degree from Liberty online, but he isn’t a professional minister. He’s just a guy with a regular job who loves to teach about Jesus. He used to teach my wife and me. Now he does not.
I miss Shirley. She works for the church in administrative capacity. She is an elderly woman who attends our apologetics class. She reminds me of my grandmother. Most fundamentalists Shirley’s age aren’t interested in apologetics, but she is. I think that’s so neat. She always had a word of encouragement for me and was always so open about sharing her life experiences. I heard wisdom in her words.
I miss Lauren and Bonnie. They are sisters who run a wedding dress shop. They minister to people who have been abused trough human trafficking. Lauren cries almost every time she opens up because she loves Jesus so much. She always wears heavy purple or blue eye shadow. I wonder what tragedy those painted eyes have seen through her ministry. Whatever they have seen, I see her as someone he keeps her eyes on the Lord.
I miss Sharon. She is Shirley’s friend. Her husband is Jewish. He waits in the car during the sermon and most of Sunday School and then he comes to pick her up. Sharon wants to see her husband come to Christ and goes to apologetics class to become a better witness for Jesus.
I miss Kirk. He’s a landscaper. He’s a dad who brings his young son to Apologetics class. I think it’s because he knows that his son is going to grow up in a world that is hostile to our faith and he wants to prepare him. It does my heart so well to see a dad lead his son like that. I wish everybody did.
I miss Jeff. He works in the produce department at the grocery store. Jeff got in an accident when he was little and it stunted his mental development. The doctors said he wouldn’t make much of himself. He hasn’t let his limitations stop him from working hard and engaging in the theologically heavy discussions of apologetics class. This guy, who the doctors said would never be all there, invites Mormon missionaries to his house so he can share the true gospel with them.
I miss Steve. He works in graphic design. He’s Puerto Rican, he used to be catholic but he came out of that religion to find Christ. Now he has an interest in apologetics.
I miss Lara. She doesn’t fit the mold of ultra-conservative republican Cherokee County Redneck. She’s a (gasp) democrat, but she drives a long way to get to FBCW to participate in apologetics class. Sometimes, she brings chocolate chip cookies. They are really good.
I miss Erin. She’s a single mom. She doesn’t go to the ladies Sunday school class. She comes to our little diverse group. She doesn’t say much, but when she does (see the tweets above), it makes you think.
I used to pray with all these people every week. We shared our needs with each other. I haven’t seen them in months.
These names are just some of the people I miss from church. I don’t go there and I don’t give there because I know it’s immoral to support the errant leadership of a church like First Baptist Church of Woodstock. I wonder, does mega-church Pastor Johnny Hunt know the voices and names off all the people I miss? I do. I know for darn sure that Johnny knows the name of his good-old boy buddy Ergun Caner.
I think Hunt knows that every-day members like me are so plugged into his membership that many won’t leave no matter what he and the other leaders do. They hold people emotionally hostage.
I hope that soon and very soon, people will pick up their bibles, turn to Matthew 10:37-38 and realize that following Jesus sometimes mean leaving loved ones behind. I hope that individual everyday people at FBCW will start looking to holding each other accountable and look away from the cult of personality of Johnny M. Hunt. It’s quietly tyrannical.
“There shall be no more tyranny. A handful of men cannot seize power over thousands. A man shall choose who it is shall rule over him. . . . We give all we have, lives, property, safety, skills . . . we fight, we die, for a simple thing. Only that a man can stand up.” James Otis, from the novel Johnny Tremain
Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Mid-Size Church
“I seem to recognize your face. Haunting, familiar yet, I can’t seem to place it. Cannot find the candle of thought to light your name. Lifetimes are catching up with me” Eddie Vedder
I’ve only been a member of Woodstock for a couple of years. I wasn’t saved there. I wasn’t baptized there. I didn’t grow up there. Do I know what it would really be like to stand up and leave over the evil Johnny is perpetrating on his people?
A couple of years back, my granddad was in the hospital. My wife and I went to visit him on a Sunday. That evening, I got the idea to stop by the church where I grew up for the Sunday night service. I hadn’t been there in over ten years, since my family moved from Chattanooga to Cartersville. The church had sold the building and moved. It was a different place…but the people were the same.
When I walked in a saw an old lady named Pasty. I hadn’t seen her since I was a teenager. I couldn’t even remember her name at the time but I knew that I knew her. In my mind’s eye, I could see her in the parking lot of the old church where I’d see her at the same time every Sunday. Patsy has known my mother since before I was born. Seeing Patsy made me feel like I was home. It was a Sunday night service, there was no choir. We met in the dark, concrete floored youth area…but I knew the preacher and I knew the people.
I wept. I was home.
It’s hard to leave home, but sometimes Jesus asks us to do so, carrying our cross along the way. For me, First Baptist Church of Woodstock had become home, but it is a corrupt place, and it appears that it will not change.
Injustice: Thoughts on Hobby Lobby and the Local Church
Now for the rational argument….
I don’t know any fellow Southern Baptists who were indignant over the recent Supreme Court decision to exempt Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. from the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate. We all seem pretty satisfied with what appears to be a decision to respect religious liberty. If there is anything in the adjudication of the Hobby Lobby case with which to be dissatisfied, it is the narrow 5-4 margin by which the Supreme Court made its decision. The Supreme Court was very close to dealing a blow to religious liberty in the United States. Only one vote prevented it from doing so. Now, this doesn’t amount to anything where results are concerned. As my daddy once told me, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Yet, we almost had a big problem on our hands.
I ask you fellow Christian, “What would you have done if the Supreme Court’s decision had done the other way?”
Would you have protested? Would you have sought to have the law repealed? Would you call for more drastic measures? Would you have been able to honestly say to those who supported the contraceptive mandate:
“ We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
I don’t think I could. I can’t say the same to anyone who supports Johnny Hunt. No matter what good he has done in the past, he has proved himself inadequate today.
I’m moving on. I’m pressing on. Who knows where I’ll end up? There is a potential for a seminary graduate coming out of FBCW. Churches recruit ministers from there. I may now be anathema in the Georgia Baptist Convention for speaking out on the Pulpit & Pen program against Johnny Hunt. So be it. I ain’t going where I don’t belong.
If you are enduring corruption quietly, it might just be because you are exactly where you belong.
Wake up. Strengthen what remains.
*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.
 Or, at least, I am studying to become one