Caption Please!

Context: The person who received this letter recently went through a divorce. runs on the Standard Theme

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36 Responses to “Caption Please!”

  1. Graham April 19, 2011 at 4:43 pm #

    I am saddened by this. I thought the church is supposed to be there for people during difficult times in their lives? Doesn’t love win?

  2. Brandon Cox April 19, 2011 at 4:53 pm #

    Wait for the fall… now commence kicking.

  3. Jeremy April 19, 2011 at 4:58 pm #

    Blacking out the name of the church at the top of the page doesn’t do much when you leave the name of the church at the bottom of the page.

    As for the topic at hand… do these elders honestly believe that what they say has any bearing on this persons salvation? Also, when they say that they’re going to have to treat this person as they would a pagan, it sounds like a threat. But, based on my (limited) understanding of scripture, I thought we were to treat non-believers with love and mercy and tell them about Jesus Christ.

    Seems to me, some church elders get a little full of themselves. Were it I, I think I’d respond with a similar letter that, among other things, announced my intention to dissolve my membership with their church.

    • Justin Wise April 20, 2011 at 9:05 am #

      Jeremy, with all due respect, does it matter that “village church” is on the letter? There’s literally a million results on Google when you search for “village church”. This letter could be from any of the thousands with the name.

      The bigger point, in my opinion, is what is behind this letter.

      • Jeremy April 20, 2011 at 9:44 am #

        It wouldn’t matter to me if they listed the church address. I just thought it odd that they blacked it out in one spot and not the other. lol.

  4. Martha April 19, 2011 at 5:12 pm #

    This is disturbing to me. I’m not a theologian and maybe I will be corrected if I am wrong but does sin, even sin that a person hasn’t repented of yet, really mean a person is handed over to Satan? If that person has received salvation? I hope my church doesn’t send letters like this.

  5. Buddy R April 19, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

    I’m not sure the context is enough Justin. This person “went through a divorce” could mean it was a typical divorce due to “irreconcilable differences” or this person could have been cheating on their spouse, or somewhere in between.

    I guess I’d have to know what the specific accusation was in order to form an accurate caption. The letter does sound harsh, but also Biblical (they tend to go hand in hand sometimes 🙂 ).

    • Justin Wise April 20, 2011 at 10:21 am #

      Buddy, with all due respect, does it really matter how the divorce happened?

      And further, what’s your definition of “biblical”? Is it simply quoting Bible passages? I seem to remember the Accuser doing so with the greatest of ease. Does that mean he was “biblical” in his temptation of Christ?

      • Brooklyn Cravens April 20, 2011 at 4:37 pm #

        Mehh, expelling someone who gets a divorce is definitely too much, but if I was in an eldership and a guy was going through a divorce because he savagely beat her and their children and posed a threat to their life, that might be a cause for concern. Also, the letter was clear he wouldn’t repent. So, if this case is about a dangerous guy who did not want to repent, I’d probably throw him out of the church before he beats up some other women or something.

        Realistically speaking, though, this was supposedly to a female divorcee. So unless it’s an extreme case like the story above, I’m sure the elders are the ones actually being sinful here.

        But in terms of being Biblical, they weren’t taking snippets of Scripture and using them out of context like the Accuser. They were actually being accurate in context, even if they were taking the verses quite literally (see 1 Corinthians 5:2-5).

        Speaking of context, it is impossible to come to a good, Biblical judgment of this situation.

        • Buddy R April 21, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

          “It is impossible to come to a good, Biblical judgment of this situation”.

          I agree.

      • Buddy R April 21, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

        Hey Justin,

        It does not matter how the divorce happened and that is my point. Given the vague context, this is really not about divorce. It is about a specific sin that is unknown to all of us – so it’s impossible to form a full conclusion on this letter.

        Being biblical is following the standards and guidelines laid out in Scripture when you are confronted with a certain decision. Obviously, these elders were confronted with a decision on whether or not to continue this member’s membership. I’m not even sure this is about a specific sin as it is about the person not responding to their initial requests.

        The whole thing could be a big mis-understanding, but all we have to go on is what is written in the letter – and what is written in the letter, to the best of my limited knowledge, falls in accordance with the guidelines set forth in Scripture for dealing with such a conflict (ie “biblical”). The quoted scripture in the letter serves as citation and proof as to WHY they are doing what they are doing – not justification for doing so, in my opinion.

        Anybody can quote scripture, true, but it is the person (or church) who follows scripture that is acting “biblically”.

  6. Josh April 19, 2011 at 7:41 pm #

    I agree, I would like to know the whole context. What if this person molested his child? What if they cheated on their spouse? The bible is clear that church discipline is needed. What if the church actually handled it correctly according to the bible? Maybe they are actually in the right? Unfortunately people just want to see the worst in the church, so they think the worst in the church in every situation. That’s what is sad.

    Sometimes believe it or not the church does the right thing and handles themselves biblically and they are right. It is sad that a letter is on here that has NO context whatsoever by a person who fails to respond to a church seeking restoration

    • Josh April 19, 2011 at 8:00 pm #

      or what if he beat her? Or what if he did nothing at all wrong? None of us know the situation so that’s why I don’t think it is wise to speculate that the church is wrong or judgmental here.

    • Justin Wise April 20, 2011 at 10:22 am #

      Josh … Why does it matter how the divorce occurred?

      And further, what’s your definition of “biblical”? Is it simply quoting Bible passages? I seem to remember the Accuser doing so with the greatest of ease. Does that mean he was “biblical” in his temptation of Christ?

    • Buddy R April 20, 2011 at 10:39 am #

      I agree Josh.

      • Justin Wise April 20, 2011 at 10:41 am #

        Why? And you still haven’t answered my questions.

  7. Luke Allison April 19, 2011 at 9:56 pm #

    Justin: Why post this here with the name for everyone to see? You honestly have no problem with that? It’s a 10,000-plus church attempting to exercise discipline with a covenant member. A person who signed a covenant agreeing to some things. One of these would be accountability with Church Elders.

    Why mock something like that?

    • Luke Allison April 19, 2011 at 10:03 pm #

      For more context.

      I’m starting to think you should change your last name to “Rash”.

      • Justin Wise April 20, 2011 at 10:24 am #

        • Luke Allison April 20, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

          He he. Well played.

          But still, why post the name at all?

          Also, what does Jesus have to say about divorce? Are we actually following Jesus in our acceptance of divorce (an unbelievably devastating ordeal for all involved) or are we following the cultural understanding?

          Also again, how do we ever have a community of believers who are actively involved in each others’ lives if “stay out of my business” is our standard response? On what level are we different? Sinful people will make devastating mistakes, but how do we deal with them? If I had said “stay out of my business” to brothers in my life, I would still be addicted to pornography.

          Also again again, how “prescriptive” do you think Paul’s instructions on Church discipline are for us today? Are they less prescriptive than Jesus’ instructions to love (which were written down by various men who weren’t Jesus) our neighbors?

          It can be very easy after a while to make the assumption that the most offensive thing to you is Christians attempting to apply the Bible to life. Say it ain’t so!

          • Luke Allison April 20, 2011 at 12:31 pm #

            Also again: Does this kind of thing merely exist for the purpose of people saying “Yeah, I agree with you! High five bro!”, or for the purpose of discussion?

          • Justin Wise April 20, 2011 at 3:13 pm #

            FWIW, I did not take this picture. It was sent to me.

          • Luke Allison April 20, 2011 at 3:58 pm #

            I understand that. I just think that we should be more thoughtful on both ends of the spectrum: Yes, how are we treating people, but also, how have we completely succumbed to cultural norms that are killing us?

            Remember, the same book that says “God is love” also says “Don’t love the world or anything in the world”. There are tensions here.

            Dude, I’m going to see you in a few weeks at Hosanna and I really don’t have a problem with you. Blog comments always seem way more intense than they really are.

            I’m sure you and I disagree about some things, but I’m also sure I like having people around who keep me sharp. So…catch 22.

  8. Adam Bradshaw April 19, 2011 at 10:28 pm #

    All of those blocks…and you forgot Village Church…but Im checking it out now! Miss you bro!

  9. Jon Van Gilder April 19, 2011 at 11:43 pm #

    I’m really hoping you’re using this like a rorshach test. “When you read this. What do you see?” Because I would answer “I see church leadership stuck in a difficult position and trying to do the right thing.”

    Otherwise, I would have to go with “Context. It matters more than you think.”

    I would then follow that up by suggesting that the people reading this blog pray for all the the parties involved. Pray that God’s will is followed. Pray that everyone involved is given the wisdom and insight needed to do the right thing. Pray that anyone in the wrong is convicted of this, seeks forgiveness and is genuinely given that forgiveness. And that, if possible, the marriage may be saved.

  10. Maria Thompson April 20, 2011 at 12:45 pm #

    The letter breaks my heart. The Jesus I know, love and worship is full of compassion for those in crisis. Don’t get me wrong. He’s no pushover. But who better to turn to for a loving, listening ear? This letter doesn’t reflect the Jesus I know and love.

    And are the intimate details of a marriage the business of church elders? I know a few people who are divorced. They didn’t take the decision lightly. In each case it was a heart-wrenching situation up to, through and beyond the divorce. *Requiring* anyone to tell their story publicly–even to a small group–is cruel.

  11. Joshua Potter April 20, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    It matters if he molested their children. It matters if he had an affair. It matters if he abused her continually. It also matters if he refuses to repent. Why won’t he meet with the elders?

    It seems to me they took the Matthew 18 approach of dealing with a brother in Christ. The letter clearly states they wanted restoration, but this person had nothing of it, which says a lot.

    I just don’t know why people are piling on the church when this guy could be completely in the wrong. It does matter 100% what happened. If this guy is 100% innocent in it, why not talk to the elders and clear it up?

    Biblical is not just quoting scriptures. Anyone can do that you are right. But the bible does help us when it comes to church discipline.
    So, I guess my question is what if he molested their children, beat her regularly? Does it not matter then? What if this guy did something wrong and refuses to repent. Is that ok?

    • Maria Thompson April 20, 2011 at 3:25 pm #

      None of the things you mentioned are OK. If someone has committed a crime the police need to be involved. You thought I was condoning criminal behavior?

      My question is why the elders need to be involved. (This is likely a difference in polity.) Does repentance count only if it’s done in front of the elders? Can someone repent privately? Could he repent and ask forgiveness from the people he has harmed? For example, ask his ex-wife and, if he has them, children? And, of course, if he’s committed a crime he needs to be turned over to the police.

      I’m not trying to give this guy a pass. I was reacting to the tone of the letter. The tone implies that the recipient has done something horribly wrong. That may or may not be the case.

      • Luke Allison April 20, 2011 at 4:05 pm #


        I think it’s a matter of understanding this church’s desire to follow some kind of standard for church discipline.

        The Church in America tends to be treated as a voluntary organization (you’re lucky to have me here!) and less as a Spirit-filled body of believers.

        Some Churches will have people sign a membership covenant as a “next step” of commitment. Usually these covenants will state what the disciplinary procedures look like. The standard for a covenant member needs to be higher than a casual attender.

        I think you’re reflecting something of our cultural values over and against what would be considered Church values. Love is commanded, but a certain element of “set-apartness” is also required for those who have been set free by the blood of Jesus. That’s pretty much the message of all the Epistles: “You are this! Start acting like it!”

        It’s not a matter of taking every passage in Scripture as prescriptive, it’s a matter of seeing that the way we do things culturally will have to clash with God’s best standard for us. There is always forgiveness and mercy, but unrepentant people tend to need some impetus to come back to the Father. Paul refers to this as “turning them over to Satan for the destruction of their flesh.” This is a restorative measure that appears harsh but is done in love. What’s more loving? To allow a person to sit in their dirty diaper, or to rip it off and wipe their bum? A crude analogy, but it works I guess.

        • Maria Thompson April 21, 2011 at 11:38 am #

          Luke — Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I really appreciate it. 🙂

        • Buddy R April 21, 2011 at 1:38 pm #

          Well said Luke.

      • Joshua Potter April 20, 2011 at 4:22 pm #

        Obviously no one on this blog knows the context, that’s why it’s pretty pointless and let’s people assume whatever they want. The elders were involved because there was a need for correction. Correction is in the bible, however is rarely used in the church today. (unfortunate, because when done the right way promotes restoration, which interestingly enough this letter seems to try to do).

        Sure we can repent privately and should. Sometimes there is a need for more of a public repentance, not to the whole church, but maybe to an accountability group.

        My guess is this person is refusing to repent. They are trying to make The Village Church come across in a negative way and most people who have commented probably have little or no understanding or follow The Village Church and what God has been doing there.

        So once again we are left with people bashing a church, they know nothing about, nor probably care to know anything about(otherwise they would do more research on it and maybe listen to some messages), they just want to offer their opinion on a situation that no one on here knows the context.

        I am a little confused why the immediate reaction from most was to take the side of a person who we know nothing of compared to a church that has a tremendous reputation and appears to have handled themselves in a correct way? That seems to sum up a lot of what I have read from most readers of this blog, so I don’t know why I expect different. I am sure Justin will delete this like he has other posts because he won’t like the tone, yet he allows people to constantly go off on some well meaning church folks. It is all very disturbing to me, but hey Justin, you got your blog traffic. Well done, well done!

        • Justin Wise April 20, 2011 at 4:26 pm #

          Sorry, all I could think about was this after reading your comment:

          • Joshua Potter April 20, 2011 at 4:34 pm #

            I am sure that is ALL you could think about. You asked for a response to your previous comment. I gave it. You can’t respond for some reason because you didn’t post this letter to paint that church in a positive light? I don’t know your motives, but it might be good to check them out.

            Why would you want to make this church look bad?
            What’s wrong with accountability?
            Does the bible talk about church discipline?
            Are elders a bad thing?
            Why is the reaction of so many to think this church is so bad?

            These are honest questions. I see this kind of stuff on your blog all the time. It seems like more church/christian bashing than anything else? I don’t know that it’s a healthy approach, but to each his own.

            For the record, I am not saying I know your motives because I don’t.

  12. JD April 23, 2011 at 11:29 pm #

    These comments make me think of a post I read a couple months back when news was first circulating about Rob Bell’s new book.

    Here’s an excerpt from Tony Jones predicting how the book release will go:


    -The Calvinistas will attack Rob as a universalist
    -Rob won’t care
    -Christianity Today will write a review that expresses some serious doubt and hesitation about Rob’s new book, but they won’t entirely throw him under the bus (yet)
    -Rob won’t care
    -Lots of people like me will blog about this
    -Rob won’t care
    -Some people will even leave Mars Hill Bible Church because they don’t like what’s in the book
    -Rob won’t care

    It’s a special gift to be able to be a theological provocateur and to be so un-codependent that you can say whatever you like with no fear. It seems to me that Rob Bell has that gift.


    You’ll notice Justin NOT having a temper tantrum after you finish throwing yours. ‘Theological provocateur’ fits fairly well.

    I think when you get all bent out of shape about ANYTHING on BeDeviant, you’re missing the point of the blog. And when you get all pissy, those of us who can remain calm have to laugh. It’s supposed to bug you a little. Otherwise we’d be on

    Quoted post: