Certainly, this post was at least partly prompted by the incredible number of sad, tragic, and horrific events in my denomination.
For sure, the brutal reality of the calendar and my impending 63rd birthday caused me to pause and write this public missive.
But more, far more, has been the conviction of God’s Spirit in my life. While I have been prone to judge the fallen and the offenders in the melodrama of my denomination, God has reminded me again how fallen I am, how sinful I am, and how I am unworthy to cast the first stone.
It is perhaps for accountability, and perhaps for confession, that I write about changes I must make.
- I must change and be more obedient in sharing the gospel. I exhort others to do so, but I am disobedient far too much myself.
- I must change and increase my time in the Word and in prayer. Too often, I let the tyranny of the urgent replace the priority of time with God. If I sound foolish, it is because I am, and because I have been.
- I must change how I seek my identity. My identity should be first in Christ. And my identity should also be as a family man. My greatest titles are “husband,” “Dad,” and “Rad Rad,” not “CEO” or “Dr. Rainer.” Too often I seek the accolades of others instead of pleasing Christ and serving my family.
- I must change the depth and breadth of how I love my local church. I must serve with greater joy, give with greater commitment, and worship with greater abandon.
- I must change my involvement in denominational politics. Indeed, I must flee from denominational politics. My involvement breaks my heart and hurts my soul.
- I must change from a posture of silence to one of courage when others are hurt, marginalized, and abused. My silence is too often a deafening endorsement of injustice and wrongdoing.
This list is neither complete nor exhaustive. God is still working on me. He knows I need a lot of work. I am not sure what paths I will take in the weeks and months ahead, but I know I need to be on His path and not my own. I am no less a sinner subject to failure and to fall than anyone else.
I must change.
With the few years I have left, I must change.
Let me be clearer and more biblical: I must ask God to change me. It is not by my strength nor by my might, but by the Spirit of the Lord that I can change.
And then, and only then, will I dare to whisper, “My life was not lived in vain.”
Posted on June 4, 2018
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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The power of your words sources, in part, from their confessional nature. First, they express the ever urgent (but easily marginalized and less than fully enacted) need to keep Christ first in our hearts and to recognize our families as our “first” congregations. Second, your words express your willingness to be vulnerable and to speak openly of the struggles that all too often we want to hide in a culture where there is such emphasis on projecting an image of unbroken perfection and self-sufficiency.
Thanks, Thom, for sharing of yourself as you do. I’m grateful for your work and that of your team.
Your words are a tremendous encouragement, Jeff. Thank you.
Thom, your missive echoes the Spirit’s work in my own heart. I am asking the Lord to break me of me afresh and anew this morning. Thank you brother.
Thank you, Derek. Good to hear from you, my friend.
My concern is the tone of those who are supposedly exposing and disciplining. I thought we were to seek restoration, not exact a pound of flesh. What about Romans 12:19, Galatians 6:1, and Eph 4:29? I do no,t sense the brokenness of those who are anxious to throw stones. May Psalm 139:23-24 be our starting point.
It sounds like you want it swept under the rug, which is exactly what led to this in the first place.
Did you read the Scripture references.? The issue of Discipline should take place, but It should be biblically and in the Spirit of Christ. I do not sense that in the tone of many. Eph 4:30-32
Discipline is a must, but so is the right attitude and tone. Eph 4:30-32
Discipline is a must, but so is the right attitude and tone. Eph 4:30-32. Must not ignore Scripture when our passion is great.
My concern is for the victim. I can forgive the aggressor and move on, but God did not spare characters in the Bible from the consequences of their actions. I can love in the Biblical sense the aggressor but I have duty and love for victims and potential victims to protect them.
In the past it was too tempting for church and school leadership to avoid making waves. Incidents are the worst kind of publicity. Yet our job is to assure that God’s children feel safe in our Church and with other church people.
Yes I did. I know of noone who is really taking delight in any of this. Many people are looking out for the next generation to make sure they don’t have to suffer too. Also, I don’t think anyone is calling for vengeance. Calling for someone’s forced retirement is not vengeance, especially when that someone is in a position of trust.
It usually takes a major crisis in order for a tight system to change. Can the Baptist hierarchy make the right changes or hang on to the old ways?
I pray so, Gary.
Can we add “not seek material gain for me and my family, but rather seek material gaim for the least of these and spiritual nourishment for all?”
You know, as SBC myself, I feel the need to add this. I work at a secular university as a faculty member and have for 10 years, and before that I was a student in secular universities for 12 years. Unfortunately during that time I have heard of several sexual assault claims against the universities I have been at. All of them made the university look bad and made the people handling the situation look insensitive.
I am not giving Paige Patterson or anyone else a pass on how they handled their situations handling assault claims at the seminaries he was at. But rarely does a school and the administrators involved come out looking good on an assault claim. I mean, the subject is terrible for the woman (or the guy if he was the victim). All too often the details are murky.
All I am saying is if you look at almost any administrator’s background, you will find things they did that they did wrong or could have done better.
I totally agree with that. Sexual assault is the worst thing to deal with and rarely if ever does the one responsible for responding come out unscathed. At the same time, we must have people who respond, who work to do the right thing, who are human as well and yet reflect the work of Christ in a horrible situation.
We cannot abandon the church because it is wounded and we are weak.
Thank you Dr. Rainer for your post. I am currently in my first sabbatical in 42 years of pastoring. Your post today is an answer to prayer. Change is not easy, but our Lord is the Master of change!
My prayers for you in your sabbatical, Rick.
Thank you for your transparency and for your admission that you need to change and will with God’s help. Please accept these words as an encouragement. Change all of the “I must” to “I will.” Then focus on what you are doing to accomplish the “I will” and not what you need to stop doing. Find an accountability partner for each of the “I will.” When the pain of not changing seems greater than the pain of changing, you will change. You are loved and appreciated. You are not going through this alone unless you want to. So, embrace the pain and embrace the change. May God bless you.
Very good word.
I too have been hearing that still small voice telling me that I must change. If my life does not reflect the love of Christ IN ALL I do, it has been for naught.
Thank you for your sincere admonition to all of us.
Words well spoken, Ron.
Thanks Thom. Well said and transparent. Just about every word you wrote applies to me also, and in my work with pastors and other denomination leaders, I suspect it will well apply to most of them as well. Let us all remember to make and keep the main things the main things and to focus on my faults and needs more than those of my brothers.
Well said, James.
The Spirit has used what you wrote today to break me. You are indeed correct and I must also make necessary changes. Thank you.
Your words are powerful, Travis.
Thank you! A great list for us all to consider. I look forward to hearing the details of how you approach each bullet point! Have a great day!