A few weeks ago I responded to some statements Johnny Hunt made at the 2005 SBC Pastor’s Conference. See my post Johnny Hunt on Election. I received several comments agreeing with my assessment. A few comments veered off the subject at hand and into criticism of Johnny Hunt’s ministry at FBC Woodstock. I stepped in and tried to keep people on topic. In no way did I want to allow my blog to become a platform to call into question Johnny Hunt’s integrity or denigrate his ministry. As I said, I admire and love Johnny Hunt. I have nothing personal against him or his church. In my original article I spoke of “his contagious enthusiasm, pastor’s heart, and compelling testimony.” I have been encouraged by several of his sermons. I said, “I want to make it clear – I love Johnny Hunt. I think he is an excellent man, an engaging preacher, a wonderful pastor, a motivating leader, a dedicated Christian, and a righteous zealot for souls.” I spent a great deal of time in the article acknowledging the points of agreement I had with a particular thrust of his statements under consideration; namely our mandate to indiscriminantly proclaim the good news of the gospel to everyone. I echoed his charge to “invite everyone to come to Christ! Just preach it! Invite everybody! Tell everyone!”
Johnny Hunt responded to my article with the following:
If your intent is to know what I meant, I would be delighted to respond to your Biblical understanding of Matt 18. I was courious as to why you played only 54 seconds of your 40 minute message and never once ask the deliverer one question but passed such judgement as ” damage to the cause of Christ” to name only one. I deeply love Christ and His word and attempt to preach and live it under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. I made no statement that I am ashamed of and would have welcomed any personal call or confrontation,however this site has allowed Nathan White that ought to be ashamed for what he said in light of the way I have loved him even when he was in his sin and others to “post” their statements when the Bible that you wish to honor calls for Matt.18 approach.Their is hope for everyone. It is my desire to love Jesus and to lift Him up as the Lord of salvation till I die and to encourage the Brethren. With that said I love you Brothers!
I do desire to know what he meant and so I will attempt to address each of his statements and questions directly. At the risk of sounding impersonal I’ll focus on them one at a time.
First, I played a 54 second clip of the sermon because it contained the point I wanted to address. I transcribed Hunt’s statements on election in the sermon, but felt that hearing them in his own voice would prevent someone from reading their own inflection and tone into the naked printed words. I pointed to the entire sermon, which can be heard on the SBC Pastor’s Conference web site. Let me encourage everyone to go and listen to the full sermon.
Second, Hunt asked me about my biblical understanding of Matthew 18. He believes that I should have gone to him privately with these concerns before publicly addressing them. I disagree for several reasons.
Interestingly, or perhaps I should say providentially, I will preach Mathew 18:15-20 this Sunday. I have been preaching through Galatians for the past 10 months and this Sunday we will look at Galatians 6:1. “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” Paul’s admonition ties directly to Jesus’ words in Mathew 18:15-18.
15 If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
In this passage Jesus sets forth the pattern for church discipline /restoration. We see 1. the person, 2. the purpose, and 3. the procedure. Jesus tells us three things about the type of person he has in mind here. First, we know the person confesses to be a believer, i.e. a fellow Christian. Jesus calls him a “brother.” Second, the person has “sinned against you.” Jesus does not describe the particulars of the sin, but he notes its personal nature. Third, the person belongs to your church. While Jesus does not mention church membership explicitly, in the event that the situation reaches the third stage, the offended party consults the church body. An unsuccessful restoration results in the church removing the person from covenant membership participation. This implies the importance of meaningful church membership.
Jesus makes the purpose of these actions clear. The restoration of the erring brother, not a desire to be vindicated, ought to drive us to practice redemptive church discipline. He says, “If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”
Jesus also sets forth a clear procedure for carrying out church discipline. Step One: You should go to the person who has sinned against you privately. The sin should not be broadcast to the world, or spread around like gossip, but should be a private matter with the goal of restoring the fellowship between the two believers. Step Two: If the one on one confrontation proves unfruitful, then bring in one or two others for arbitration. Prayerfully the unbiased third party mediation will foster reconciliation and restored fellowship between the two involved. Step Three: If the small group effort does not produce reconciliation then Jesus instructs us to bring the matter before the church. The goal of restoration should drive every step along the way. Step Four: If the person stubbornly still clings to their sin, and refuses to even listen to the loving chastisement of the church then the church regrettably must disfellowship the person. Jesus said to treat the person as a “Gentile and a tax collector.” In other words view them as being outside the community of faith and a candidate for evangelism.
Mathew 18:15-18 instructs me on how to treat a fellow church member who sins against me personally. Johnny Hunt is not a member of my local church, he does not fall under our churches authority, and most of all he did not sin against me personally. The steps of church discipline do not apply. A more applicable passage might be the example that Paul gives when he rebuked Peter publicly in Galatians 2:11-14. Peter’s subtle (yet public) actions served to undermine the gospel he proclaimed. Paul realized that Peter’s public actions required a public response. Paul rebuked Peter “before them all.” Johnny Hunt spoke his words in a very public forum. Thousands of people heard him misrepresent the biblical doctrine of God’s sovereign electing grace. I believe his public words begged for a public response.
If Hunt would have offended me on a personal level, cheated me out of some money, kicked my dog, or hustled me in a game of pool, then I would have been obligated to follow the steps Jesus set forth in Matthew 18. Johnny Hunt did not do any of those things, nor do I think for a second he ever would. Hunt spoke as a public figure, in a public forum, and his words deserve public scrutiny in the light of God’s word.
Third, Hunt chastised me for allowing Nathan White, one of his former church members, to post negative criticism against FBC Woodstock. I admit the conversation in the comment section of my blog did begin to go in a direction that I did not want to see it go. I posted a statement asking people to refrain from dealing with subjects other than the particular issue at hand. Several other people posted ugly comments and I did not approve them for public display. After Nathan said what he did, and after I requested that he refrain from deviating off the topic, he sent me a private apology. I did not know Nathan before this encounter, but after emailing him privately back and forth a few times he seems like a godly young man with a legitimate concern for the glory of Christ.
I do not know the details of Nathen’s past “sin” that Hunt publicly accused him of; nor do I want to know. It seems to me that whatever the issue might have been, Matthew 18 would apply much more directly to that situation.
Fourth, Bro. Johnny said, “I deeply love Christ and His word and attempt to preach and live it under the Lordship of Jesus Christ” and “It is my desire to love Jesus and to lift Him up as the Lord of salvation till I die and to encourage the Brethren.” I have no doubt as to the veracity of those statements. I pray that nothing I said even gave a single hint at calling those assertions into dispute. I did not question Hunts love for Jesus, his commitment to Christ, or his heart of encouragement. I focused on his misrepresentation of the doctrine of election and its supposed hindrance to evangelism.
As I said before, the doctrine of election does not negate evangelism, it ensures its success. Let’s not undermine the very foundation on which our evangelism stands. Let’s boldly proclaim the gospel to everyone. Lets savor the supremacy of Christ over all things as He uses our collective evangelistic voices to call people to Himself for His glory.