Written by Rev. Lai Zhunduo; translated by Wu Simin
The date of this article cannot be traced. It was kept in the archives of the late Rev Lai’s writings. Reading it always evokes mixed feelings in me. Rev Lai has spent more than 30 years shepherding five churches for the Lord. Though he encountered numerous attacks and setbacks, he did not give up the calling to shepherd nor the conviction to build up Christ’s church according to the model set in the bible. At the last journey of his pilgrimage, he responded to the moving of the Holy Spirit and started Truth Baptist Church boldly and resolvedly. In this article he shared the wisdoms from his life of servitude and faith in the Divine Caller. Although the circumstances we face today may differ, the teachings in this article are precious reminders. May the Lord use it to help us deal with the recent as well as future attacks in a manner worthy of the calling.
– Rev. Zheng Biqing
“Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, ‘There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.’ The Lord answered him, ‘You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?’ When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.” (Luke 13:14-17)
It is inevitable that we are subjected to attacks as we continue to grow strong as a church. Nonetheless, our pastors and elders must come forward to handle these “attacks” with a positive attitude. Attacks usually take on three forms:
- Personal attacks on the pastors
- Attacks on the teachings of the church
- Attacks on our stance of faith
Personal attacks on our pastors
Our pastors have to be mentally prepared for such unjustifiable yet inevitable attacks. These attacks often evolve from personal dissatisfaction, jealousy or disdain towards the pastors, due to all kinds of reasons. Even “Yes man” type pastors could not avoid it. I have seen many of them oppressed by extremely insulting attacks. It seems like this has become an ‘occupational hazard’. If we have been diligent in our teachings, there would not be personal attacks against our pastors in our church. I firmly believe that such occurrences are unlikely to happen to us in the future, but the same cannot be said for external attacks. The possible situations are:
(1) Criticisms against the pastor’s lifestyle
Such highly subjective accusations are usually accepted by those who lack discernment. Pastors may disregard them, but are to stay mindful of the sources of these accusations and take precautionary measures. For instance, some expect pastors to live on meagre meals and criticise relentlessly when they see our pastors living a better life. Pastors and elders are to pray and be watchful, lest our brothers and sisters are misled by such criticism.
(2) Criticisms against the pastor’s sermon
I encourage pastors and elders to preach according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. You have been given the spiritual authority to teach, exhort and guide the saints in the church, do not cower when you are criticised. It is for this reason that I do not agree that we need to record Sunday sermons and upload them online. Does a mother need the neighbour to tell her how to rebuke her child? If we consider transcribing our sermons, the content will not be the same.
(3) Criticisms against the pastor’s public speeches
We ought to be careful in making public speeches, as they are a public declaration of our stance. Therefore, we shoulder a greater responsibility when we offer public courses, lead public gatherings, or even publish printed materials. When doing so, we ought to take care of not just the content but also our stance and any legal implications. I am of the view that we ought to exercise extra care with anything that go out of the church. If anyone initiates an attack, we should request him/her for a direct conversation or a letter. We are not to engage in verbal quarrel or one-sided written arguments under any circumstances.
Attacks on our teachings
Pastors are to teach through sermons, Bible classes, writings…etc. Through multi-media or printed text, it is unavoidable that our teachings may land in the hands of people who disagree with us. There are two situations where they could criticise at great lengths:
(1) Cynicism of the ignorant
For instance, there are speakers who like to be sarcastic about baptism by immersion. As a Baptist, if you find it unbearable, you should not continue listening. But if you believe that he is speaking out of his weakness, then forgive him before you continue listening.
(2) Intentional attacks by name
We usually take such attacks with a pinch of salt, for they do not do much harm to us knowing that the body of Christ is in the Lord’s good keeping. However, if the attack is intentional, orchestrated and persistent, then we should leave it to our pastors and elders to pray and decide on how to respond. Taking legal actions should only be our last resort.
Attacks on our stance of faith
This is less commonly seen in denominational churches as they share a system of theology. But it is not the case for independent churches.
(1) Since we are Baptists, we do not need to heed attacks from non-Baptist pastors. For example, when people use the theological stances of another denomination to criticize and ridicule us, simply ignore them. They are preposterous in the eyes of the wise.
(2) When a Baptist church leader criticized that we are not Baptists, we should note that Baptists take on varying stances as well. In North America, Baptists are categorised into Northern Baptist, Southern Baptist and Independent Baptist. Even the Southern Baptist, the largest group of which, experienced several major changes in its faith stance since its founding. So, as long as we follow the teachings of the Bible, we need not emulate others’ models.
Disputes and lawsuits among the Christian community have been on the rise in recent years. Some due to different stances on Bible translations, some over property and some over power. We must be vigilant for attacks from without as well as discord from within. We ought to spread the Gospel as instructed by Christ, instead of dwelling on theological debates. We are to devote our lives to bring people to the Lord, teach them, and pass on the word of life to our godly offspring.
In the passage of Luke, we see that those who opposed God repeatedly used the Sabbath as a subject to attack the Lord Jesus. However, they were put to shame when the Lord Jesus triumphed over death. We are to rely on the Lord to overcome our attackers. May the Lord strengthen our pastors, elders and deacons!