Mar 282016
 

steve-brown-213x300A lot of people are angry with Steve Brown over his handling of Tullian Tchividjian’s scandal and the statement he made afterward.

Brown has publicly admitted he didn’t handle the situation well, though he didn’t give us specific ways that he believes he failed.

Many of us who have a history with Steve are satisfied with his answer as it fits coherently with everything we’ve known him to teach for more than three decades.

 

 

We’re not completely satisfied, but trust the man enough to leave a ladder of grace for him to climb back inside the house with.

That makes some people angry with us.

Upon thinking about this matter, I’ve come to the conclusion that we culturally now have only two allowable responses to almost everything.

Affirmation or outrage.

A nuanced response to people or to any political or social issues will result in both the affirming and the outraged taking turns rending their garments (and you) if they can catch you.

There are people and issues that I can almost completely affirm and some that should leave us outraged.

However, we spend so much time being outraged that outrage itself has become pedestrian and lacking in meaning.

Should you ask the people that know me the best what they think of me, the answers would (hopefully) be a lot of affirmations along with a recognition that there are some things about me that they wish were different.

That would be a reasonable assessment…I am after all, simultaneously saint and sinner.

Anyone who completely affirmed me or was completely outraged that I am still sucking air would be someone who either didn’t know me well or chose to believe things that were not based in reality.

With Steve, I wonder what do people want now?

Should we fine him?

Stone him?

We can’t defrock him because he’s not frocked.

Frock him?

I’m perfectly able to acknowledge that he blew it while still appreciating the gifts he brings to the church.

He’s been exposed to public humiliation and censure after a long and spotless career.

That’s more than enough for me.

I’m not going to  affirm what he did, but I’m going to affirm him.

I’m disappointed, but miles from being outraged.

The Bible teaches that by the measure I judge, that is the way I will be judged.

I’m going to spend my outrage carefully and wisely.

I will be as liberal as I can be with my affirmations…and pray God do likewise for me.

You think about that…

Since I posted this article I’ve received new information from unimpeachable sources that indicate that Browns involvement in covering up this scandal are more grievous than I had known.

While this saddens me deeply, it must also be posted.

My prayer is that Steve will reconsider his actions and make things as right as he can.

  53 Responses to “Affirmation or Outrage?: Updated”

  1. Grace is bigger–and better–than we think. Nuance fits well within its boundaries. Thank you, Michael.

  2. Thanks Micheal. I agree and affirm, as well. I don’t have enough energy to be outraged.
    I sure as heck wouldn’t want those ‘guns’ aimed at my imperfect life.

    Piranhas. Cannibals. Fault finders. In some ways, this is what the church can look like; at least the visible and vocal members. The Vocal Minority.
    I suspect the Quiet Majority are at a prayer vigil or Bible Study Fellowship.

  3. I appreciate the thoughts here, and hope that others will be allowed to reach the same conclusions with people they know who may do or be involved in similar things. It needs to be alright for you, but it needs to be alright for others involving other people, too.

  4. One size does not fit all.

    I’m outraged over the Gospel For Asia mess.
    There is ongoing wrong taking place there that could be prevented.

    There is a huge difference between this situation and that one.

    We try to take all the facts in consideration.

  5. Well said.

    Grace evident.

  6. Agreed, Michael. That is why I said, “with people they know who may do or be involved in similar things”. GFA is not similar, and much worse, based on many factors, including the sheer # of people involved in both the coverup(s) and those affected “on the ground”.

  7. I agree with this. There is way to much outrage wasted over things that are foolish, or half-true, or a matter of opinion instead of fact. Political outrage is a very good example I think, as most views are exaggerated, or idealized, or over demonized and polarized. I see pretty much everything outside of Jesus and the Godhead in shades of grey. Some are so off white that they are simply distractions from more important things. Other things are so dark and clear that they deserve some focus. I wish that many would stop straining at gnats in order to swallow a camel. I think celebrity worship in the Church is the bigger issue behind the scandals that are covered here.

  8. I’m going to respectfully disagree with you, Michael, because of this: “There is ongoing wrong taking place there that could be prevented.”

    Perhaps if you heard directly from the victims, heard their pain, the damage caused to their marriages, the families split because of this, you would be outraged. To me, the protection of one man’s secret vs. many more lives and families destroyed is wrong. From Brown’s statement, I can’t see how he would do anything differently because he holds confession so sacred. Steve Brown obviously was not going to spill the beans to anyone, and frankly, with TT’s ongoing behavior, TT most likely would have blown off anything that Steve Brown said in counseling. TT was already standing behind the pulpit at the beginning of March in California. It’s very likely that Steve knew because of his close ties with TT and going to Labby’s church, Liberate, Key Life, etc.

    Is it still appropriate to hold secrets when lives are at stake? Is it ever appropriate to protect someone’s chronic sin, knowing the chronic behavior has destroyed his own family, and other families?

    I can’t help but see how easy it is to give a respected individual grace – but the destruction and carnage left behind is appalling.

  9. Thank you for this, Michael! As one contemporary song says, “Grace wins every time.”

  10. Julie Anne,

    Here’s the problem I have with this.

    I’m seeing a lot of people after Steve’s hide…when we don’t know what he did or did not say or do in this matter.
    We all agree and Steve affirms that whatever he did wasn’t enough.

    So what do we do now?

    He’s a 75 year old man with a pristine record in ministry.
    Over 15 years of blogging, the most frequent email I’ve received is a thank you note for introducing people to his ministry.

    How do you want to discipline him?

    The elders have lost their positions.
    TT will hopefully never be in a pulpit again…and he is the one that created all the carnage and damage.

    Yes, it’s easy after almost thirty years to think the best of someone who has gone out of his way for me and countless others.
    It’s easy to offer him grace.
    Grace, after all, is never deserved.

    I’m disappointed that this happened…but I’ll save my fire for the guy who actually did the damage…and who is content to let his friend take the heat for his actions.

  11. I’m so sorry to hear this. I’ll believe Steve, when he says he did what he thought was right at that time, but I also agree with Julie that more lives were hurt because of ongoing sin.

    Where does 1Tim. 3:2 fit in, when a pastor/elder confesses adultery to another pastor? Where does the life/safety of the wife, (STD’s) come into pastoral care? Where does the pastoral care come in for the children of the adulterer? Where is the pastoral care for the church the adulterer is currently pastoring?

    Please know that I don’t ask that question with any snark. I am asking sincerely.

    This just seems like more of the good ole’ boys club covering for one another, but i don’t want to believe that with someone I have respected for so long.

    God help us.

  12. I’m with Michael that I will save my outrage for TT who actually did the damage. However I do think a bit of outrage is now due for Lutheran pastor Chris Rosebrough of fightingforthefaith.com. He is actually promoting TT book on his web site as I write. Not sure what kind of message this sends to the world. The book itself maybe good, not sure. But considering the carnage that Julia Anne speaks of above I can’t understand why there would not be a more appropriate book to advertise on your website.

  13. I don’t think Steve Brown is above criticism in this situation. That being said, he should be considerably down on the target list for those who want to express outrage. Tchividjian is obviously far and away at the top of the list. Next in line would be the elders who had formal and direct responsibility over Tchividjian.

    Brown has a very high and sacred view of confession. He can be criticized for holding to such in a situation where it can be argued that there was a greater good. However, at least he was consistent in what he has always preached. Unlike so many other scandals and cover-ups in the church where people clearly were not practicing what they preached.

    Brown has said that Tchividjian did not take his advice. Brown also admitted that he, himself, could have and should have done more. We don’t really know the details beyond that. If it were ever to come to light that Brown counseled Tchividjian to keep all these things secret, then that is a big problem.

    However, I think this is a case where we can give the benefit of the doubt to Brown for two reasons. One, unlike so many other Christian “celebrities”, his life and career seemingly has been free of questionable and suspicious activity or corruption. And two, he was consistent in what he has always preached.

    Can we send some criticism his way? Sure. Should we be outraged? I think there are others who are much more worthy of outrage.

  14. Just a sidebar for Michael because I know you like Jerry Lee Lewis:

    Unbeknownst to them, on December 4th, 1956, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins were secretly recorded at Sun Studios by founder Sam Phillips.

    This has got to be Lewis tickling the ivories at his best!

    Here are those uncovered tracks:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xboSJqW1NM

  15. I think there’s plenty of people who are prepared to have nuanced responses.
    I think most of us remember that, although he made wrong choices in regard to Tullian’s grievous sin, he wasn’t the one who did it. We’ve all loved very sinful people and had to make hard decisions. That’s not an excuse, just a reality.
    It seems that most people who love Steve Brown as a teacher love him a lot. I never developed that affection for him. I think to people who heard him when they were struggling with the very things he pushes so hard against found him to be a glass of cool water. The timing was off with me.
    To me, when he speaks, he comes off as a man with an ego. He’s the type of Christian people can talk to. He’s the guy who makes a really good confessor, he especially can offer a listening ear, keep a secret and offer informal absolution. (Can you see that in his remarks about Tullian?) He’s not just any pastor!
    I sometimes see his irreverence when he teaches as him putting himself, and his legendary wit ahead of the message, and also sometime exalting himself above other believers. A genuine legalist is an abomination. A garden-variety stick-in-the-mud is not, they’re our brothers too.
    I don’t think people who like him a lot will agree with this, and that’s ok, maybe I’m wrong, but those are my impressions. From my standpoint, the mistakes he made aren’t as much of a shock, although still a disappointment. I hope he learns something, God isn’t finished with him. I don’t want any of his hide, just for all wrongdoing in this situation to be take seriously.

  16. We live in gotcha land ….

  17. Observed, analyzed and described this Dynamic back in 2012.

    You will be gracious to those you like and agree with and you will be more critical and “feet to the fire” of those you don’t like or disagree with. It’s Human Nature. Calvary Chapel turns a blind eye to its guys, others do similar. It’s how the “Good Old Boys Club” stereotype was born…b/c there is Truth to it.

    http://calvarychapelabuse.com/wordpress/loyalty-allies-and-enemies-dynamic-and-calvary-chapels-corrupted-view-and-practice/

  18. “Blind Justice” is largely a mythology. It doesn’t really exist, though our System tries to overcome the Good Old Boys Dynamic….with limited success. If you have money, influence and power (see Hillary Clinton) you are above the law.

    If you are a well-connected Pastor with lots of big name friends….similar.

    Brown covered for Tullian T, very predictable and fits my Premise that “NONE” are special, we all tick the same, even Steve Brown. He is not enlightened, he’s human. Don’t follow him, don’t put him on a pedestal. He’s the same jerk as anyone, just different friends, different packaging. When push comes to shove, he will act and respond exactly like all other humans do.

    THAT is part of my macro-philosophical Belief System and it is proven to be True….daily.

  19. And, yes, I am smarter than you are, so listen once in awhile. It is what it is 🙂

  20. I wonder…. if what we do good should be done in private so that we do not garner man’s praise and to keep the glory on God, should we also not let people also make their reparations and repentance to God and those involved, but why do we expect and demand that people air their dirty laundry in public? It reminds me of the first time I went to a “Church of God” and it happened that a young high school couple was forced to go before the whole congregation and “confess” their sexual promiscuity. There was no baby, no consequence (disease, rape, etc…) and I just could not believe that a body who professed Christ could be so hateful and judgemental of two high school kids (I was one too at the time). It was horrific, and reminded me of a teacher who used public shaming to punish 2nd graders.

    So every time someone falls and the public has a feeding frenzy, passing judgement and calling for public statements and wanting to know all the dirty details, it makes me sad and reminds me of the shame and sadness I have felt watching this happen over and over.

    I really don’t care what happens to any of them. You can make the choice to follow them or not, believe them or not. But I just pray that in their hearts are cleaved and they can go to the creator and seek His forgiveness and healing, and then do the same for those affected around them. I don’t pretend this does not change my opinion of these people, but it does not make me want to dance them in a bonfire either.

  21. And i did not mean to offend anyone if you are in that denomination, it just happened to be that kind of church. I do not know if that is their normal proceedings, and I am sure there are other denominations that do the same. I am also sure that there are perfectly nice people in that church too. This was just one experience that has stayed with me to this day.

  22. gomergirl,

    There is a huge difference between what goes on in a local church and what goes on in national parachurch ministries.

    This has been very difficult to write about…I think my affection and respect for Steve is pretty well known.

    These national ministries are supported by people all over the world…and they have a right to know if things go sideways.

    The reality that is becoming evident is that we don’t know how to do with either sin or restoration…our own or anyone else’s.

  23. I really hope some of the pastors out there with address my sincere questions: Where does pastoral confidentiality and care begin and end with the confess adulterer pastor and….

    Where does 1Tim. 3:2 fit in, when a pastor/elder confesses adultery to another pastor?
    Where does the life/safety of the wife, (STD’s) come into pastoral care?
    Where does the pastoral care come in for the children of the adulterer?
    Where is the pastoral care for the church the adulterer is currently pastoring?

    I’m having a hard time reconciling this and wondering how you men (men of this community that I deeply respect) would handle this.

  24. Nonnie,

    Those are stunningly good questions.
    They probably deserve a separate article, but I have my hands full today and I’ve been pushing things too hard this week on my “sabbatical”.

    For me…if someone confessed adultery it simply can’t stay with me.
    That pastor has to tell the people he’s accountable to and his family.
    It’s non negotiable.

    Depending on the size of the church pastoral care may be available for the wife and children or it may not.

    I do think it’s time to be honest about these issues…we simply do not have good mechanisms or systems to deal with all the fallout.

  25. Nonnie,

    To be honest, I’m ready to flush the whole system.
    I’m afraid of dying and leaving Trey to what passes for church today.

    There is a massive shake up and shake out coming…

  26. “To be honest, I’m ready to flush the whole system.”

    Good. Flush it.

    Organized Institutional “Church” is an anti-Christ. It gives power to human beings, creates a hierarchy and power structure…and puts men on stages in places of prominence ahead of Jesus. I promise they will fail you, they will lie, cheat, steal, fornicate, have gay sex, beat their kids, beat their wives, be full of pride, mistreat folks etc etc etc.

    “Do not be called Teacher” “You are all brothers (equals)” “DO NOT do a power structure and authority as the World does….the greatest among you is to be least, be THE SERVANT of all”

    Then Paul, a human being not a deity, comes along and creates a Power Structure and Institution and Hierarchy….and the rest is history.

  27. The World Financial System will collapse in 10 years, maybe Institutional “church” will collapse with it and maybe the reboot will be healthier.

  28. J2 was the first to raise the question on the danger of STDs today… in all of this angst, she led me to see one thing clearly – at least i think i do 🙂
    the pastor’s first response should be to say, go home and tell your spouse – the best i can do right now is cover you with prayer… if i don’t receive a call from your spouse in the next 24, then i will call him/her and tell them, myself, and that i will help in any way i can

    just sayin … cuz i saw that play out very well one time years ago in a different situation

  29. In any group there are going to be leaders.
    In any group there will be leaders that fail over time.

    They will fail in the church as well because we are all sinners.

    The apostles themselves had a hierarchal structure.

    Peter was pretty much acknowledged as the leader.
    Pauls writings are scripture.

    Whenever you have a group there will of necessity be structure.

  30. It’s more than that.

    The Structure and Apparatus is flawed and does not reflect what Jesus taught and exampled.

  31. It is flawed.
    In time, God will bring correction…maybe he’s doing that now.

  32. You claim “Man is flawed!” yet you elevate Paul to Deity status and make his words the same as the words of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

    The illogic and irony in that is staggering. You are in love with your inerrancy doctrine at the expense of common sense and reason.

    The “church” is a flawed apparatus. Church history demonstrates this in spades.

  33. Em,

    Well said…

  34. It’ll play out however it is going to play out.

    One thing I know, what I observe does not and has not matched up with the words and example of Jesus Christ in the bible (all translations).

  35. Alex,

    I’m not interested in arguing with you even though you’ve managed to get around moderation yet again.

    Paul is not a deity, he was inspired by the Holy Spirit just as the other biblical writers.

    You reject that.

    The vast majority of us here don’t and won’t.

  36. Michael, Do not be weary in well doing. It’s pastors like you, Babs, Steve, Josh, and others here that encourage me, and I am sure, many others. God bless you as you seek to serve Him and others with integrity and love.

  37. None of us match up with Jesus.
    That’s why He had to die.

    On my best day, I’m still an abysmal failure.

    My hope is in His grace, not my behavior.

    I want to get better…and I’m better than I was…but until I get home I’m still going to be a holy car wreck.

  38. Nonnie,

    Thanks.

    I don’t think it’s fixable anymore, I think it probably has to be totaled.
    At this point I’m more worried about the damage I do in my own circle…how I fall short.

    Nothing like getting really sick to change your perspective.

    The hope is that God is in control and it’s His church…and he will do what needs to be done.

    The only thing I can tell T at this point is to not join any church that isn’t at least 500 years old and be cautious then. 🙂

  39. I for one think that as long as people are getting baptized and the word is being preached, the Church is in pretty good shape.
    Now, some leaders and their followers are stinkers – but hey – God’s Church is just fine. 🙂

  40. #14 – thank you 🙂 i’ve run out of things that i can do to keep from filing out my tax forms… so i’m sitting here working on the government’s insanity with the jolly boys jamming in the background … it is helping

  41. MLD,

    In some places it is.

    In most of what passes for evangelicalism, it isn’t.

    On the other hand, I may be having one of those days where I’m too pessimistic and depressed to comment rightly.

  42. “Where does 1Tim. 3:2 fit in, when a pastor/elder confesses adultery to another pastor?
    Where does the life/safety of the wife, (STD’s) come into pastoral care?
    Where does the pastoral care come in for the children of the adulterer?
    Where is the pastoral care for the church the adulterer is currently pastoring?”

    Those are great questions that I want to try to answer. Not because my answers matter much, but because I need to think through these things more deeply. I know for sure when someone else’s self-caused tragedy came into my life, I would not handle it perfectly. You don’t plan for those kind of things. I can tell you how I stay faithful to my wife, but I can’t make other ministers be faithful to their wives. The collateral damage is often unavoidable when a selfish person makes a destructive decision like that. So:

    1. I would urge the person to leave ministry. It is for there good, as well as the congregation. An adulterer in the pulpit isn’t going to do any good for the church or for his own soul. He needs to step away for years, at least. Maybe 10? I don’t know the exact time period, but I have told friends in the past, When you choose to sleep with a woman who is not your wife, you choose to stop being a pastor.
    2. The STD issue, I haven’t really thought through at all. I would strongly urge the man to confess to his wife. I don’t know that I would see it as my place to tell her. I certainly couldn’t continue in a relationship with the man who wouldn’t confess, so perhaps in time I would tell her. I would definitely put that in his court, first.
    3. Ohhh, that hurts. I don’t know. They were dealt a bad hand in life. A dad who loved pleasing his flesh more than he loved them. If they knew of the affair, of course pastoral counseling would be available, but they aren’t escaping without major scars either way. Chances are, the shame and guilt are leading them to a different congregation, if they continue in church at all. It would be my prayer that they landed in a loving, gentle, patient environment.
    4. What a burden to live with, huh? If the pastor stayed in the pulpit, after I had done everything I could to convince him to step down…wow. If he was part of a larger denomination, he could be reported to an overseer. Do you go to his church and tell the congregation? That would be wild. I honestly don’t know. I would just constantly appeal for him to do the right thing.

  43. Josh,
    As far as the way pastors help their pastor friends who have committed adultery, as compared to helping the wife and children……. I can tell you from people that I know personally who were children of sinning pastors and watched the good ole boys club rally round their father while they and their mother felt painfully betrayed. Those kids (adults now) have never gotten over that.

    I know there is no easy answer and not just one answer. I’m glad that you are thinking about it.

  44. ” they and their mother felt painfully betrayed. ”

    Yeah, I know. I don’t know if it is avoidable. They have been betrayed, and I’m not sure they’d want the dad’s old friends reaching out to help. Horrible situation for them.

  45. Nonnie, those are not easy questions to answer. But if you are looking, I would recommend this website, starting with this article, which is the best thing I have read on the Internet over the past few years: http://fallenpastor.com/church-as-first-mistress-wounded-church-pt-1/
    I think you are more likely to find your answers at FallenPastor than here because he specializes in dealing with your questions. PhoenixPreacher deals with many different topics.

  46. Do you know much about that guy, or his situation, Mr. Jesperson?

  47. Sometimes people create their own problems.

    I’m never going to sit with an active pastor and tell him he has the same confidentiality expectation as someone in my congregation would have. Doesn’t mean I’m going to share secrets – and I have plenty that have been told me – but if the scenario is some sort of counselor relationship with a pastoral peer….nope.

    It’s the height of selfishness for a pastor to dump his crap on someone else while having zero desire or willingness to repent and own up to the consequences – and then play a Jesus juke on the dumpee if he goes to the sinning pastor’s church Board and/or spouse.

  48. I’ve had a problem with Brown, ever since a friend gave me a book of his. I think it was called “a scandalous freedom.” Sorry, Michael, I know you love this guy. But the message of Christianity is simply not, do whatever you want, live however you feel like, because well….grace. I believe a fellow named Bonhoeffer wrote something about that.

    But now, we see how that type of dangerous “theology” plays out in real life.

    Please, save your straw man responses for someone else. I’m all for grace. But what Brown preaches is not grace.

  49. “But the message of Christianity is simply not, do whatever you want, live however you feel like, because well….grace.”

    That’s not Steve’s message either.

  50. we really don’t understand grace very well, do we? what it means to forgive, discern but not judge, bear another’s burdens but not enable… sigh… we so need the mind of Christ that improves our instincts as well as our understanding

  51. But now, we see how that type of dangerous “theology” plays out in real life.
    _________________________________________________________________________
    Alan,
    What is the “dangerous” theology these guys preach? I think what TT needs now more than anything is the grace he attempted to teach others. Maybe Steve needs the same. What got TT in so much trouble in my humble opinion is not the grace he preached but more likely being the product of privilege and celebrity. Maybe being as popular as Steve is what also got him in trouble to a certain degree as well.

  52. Nonnie @ 23 and Josh @ 42… excellent questions and answers.

    While I don’t know the relationship that TT and SB have, we could all be in Steve’s shoes, if we, even in our heart, give a friend the benefit of doubt versus doing what we should have done.

    If you ever had a friend confide in you some information that you know you should do something with, and you didn’t… yeah, I’m guilty of that.

    But if you had a stranger confide the same thing to you treated them differently than your friend…that’s a bad on me.

    Again, not saying that’s what happened here, just knowing in my own heart that a friend of mine would probably get a different message from me… and that’s not right.

  53. […] 28, 2016. Phoenix Preacher, Affirmation or Outrage?: Updated, by Michael Newnham. The main topic of the post is about the extreme either/or responses of […]

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

(required)

(required)

%d bloggers like this: