Philemon v. 24 “Marcus … Demas … my fellowlaborers.”
2 Timothy 4:10 “Demas hath forsaken me…”
Acts 15:39 “…the contention was so sharp between them (Paul & Barnabas), that they departed asunder…”
Over more than 20 years of missionary evangelism and in ministry officially since 1994, we have been privileged and blessed to experience many different situations, from unexpected vehicle issues to a variety of good, bad, or indifferent church situations. We’ve had the incomparable blessing to serve in some churches year after year and to see VBS age children in those churches grow up and reach “helper status.” Through the years, the LORD has kept us going, upholding, strengthening, and encouraging us in creation missionary evangelism and supplying our needs and even many wants!
For example, this summer (2023) we had to have some major brake work done on our RV/home/office when we were in Kankakee, IL. Although this repair was a major expense ($2700), we can only imagine what it could have been had we continued to ignore a tire wear issue. As it turned out, there was a problem that needed to be addressed before a tragedy might happen on the road. The brakes on the RV were not working and the truck had been doing all the work.
As I was typing the above illustration, not originally intending to use the repair as a segue, I realized that the same is true when it comes to other issues … be it personal, job-related, spiritual, etc. Sometimes, something seemingly small represents a much bigger issue.
After much prayer over the last several months, I am absolutely certain that the LORD has prompted me to address a rather complicated and eye-opening situation that came to our attention this past March. It involves a church that supported us financially for about 20 years and was one of the first ones to take us into their missionary family. I recall only one opportunity to serve there in a VBS and we think it was our JungleTales theme that year. On another occasion, we parked our RV there to serve at an area camp. Other than that, we have had a couple of opportunities as their missionaries to report on a Wednesday or a Sunday.
“And we know that all things work together for good …” (Rom. 8:28)
This past March, while comparing our debt-to-income, I realized something interesting as I was listing our supporting individuals and churches. Having noticed that our monthly income had decreased over the last couple of years, one thought I had was of COVID’s affect on people’s giving. Plus, my ability with fundraising is rather dismal and just the thought of asking a church, “Where’s our check?” is detestable! Whatever the case, I noticed that Victory Baptist of Montrose hadn’t sent us a monthly support check in quite some time. After more research, I found that they hadn’t sent support in over 2 years! I racked my brain and wondered, “Had I missed something?”
We all change. Change can be good, bad, or indifferent. Churches also change, since they are made up of individuals who change. Since 2000, when we began Creation Family Ministries, the LORD has brought a number of influences in our lives that “pointed” us in unique directions that are different from other creation ministries. One of those “pointers” was in the area of health, an issue which was one of the concerns relayed to us by the new pastor of Victory. He said this area was a matter that the former pastor thought we should keep “personal.” In other words, we should keep quiet about it (see below). For more on that subject, check here or here.
(above) “…the previous pastor communicated that his concern over your position on personal health and tying it to creationism was a departure from the biblical teaching expected in a ministry partner and was more appropriately held personally not publicly.”
In March, we learned that the other two issues of concern they had were that we promoted dinosaurs living today and that we took a stand for the King James version of the Bible. However, the text issue was their main concern.
After a longtime friend and retired missionary encouraged me to reach out to the church, I used Facebook Messenger to communicate with the previous pastor who still serves in the church. After some initial conversation, I mentioned to him that I had been going through our finances and noticed that the church hadn’t been sending support. Instead of offering a reason why or asking if we had received a letter, he said he would speak with the new pastor about the issue and get back with me.
On August 15, 2023, after the last response from the new pastor, I searched my G-mail using a different word and happened upon an email from the previous pastor (see below) dated November, 2020. This was a note I had not seen until now:
Hmmm. After a great deal of emails with the new pastor about the three concerns he brought up, I found the above email from the former pastor which stated that the church was going to drop our support because we were no longer doing “a great deal of VBS work out west.” FACT: From 1999 to 2007, we went west every year. Since 2009, we have made our western trip every other year since such a trip every year was both a financial and physical hardship on us and our vehicles. This information had been in our newsletters and emails, as well as on Facebook posts. It wasn’t until this year (2023) that we skipped two years going west due to fuel expense and family health issues. So, our alleged “shift” referenced above had taken place eleven years earlier! This is quite a different picture than “the last few years” as the email stated. Plus, totally absent is any reference to the three areas of concern that were made known to us this past March by the new pastor. It is apparent that the fake reason was re: our alleged lack of ministry out west, while the real reason was our stand on Bible versions.
“For God is not the author of confusion…” (1 Cor. 14:33)
God’s Word recounts believers who had disagreements. Paul and Barnabas had a contention over John Mark and parted ways (Acts 15:37-40). Paul confronted Peter in front of others over his duplicitous behavior (Gal. 2:11-14) . The apostle John called out the contentious Diotrephes (3 John 9-11) and Paul named Alexander the Coppersmith (2 Tim. 4:14-15) as one who had done him “much evil.” Paul even called out a former co-laborer, Demas, who “departed, having loved this present world” (2 Tim. 4:10). Sometimes, it is necessary and right to call out others, even other believers, for overtly wrong behavior.
It is fully the responsibility and right of each assembly to pray and decide where and to whom they send their money. I have not one issue with their decision. In fact, I am all FOR that freedom to choose! This post is regarding the way this decision was handled.
“He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.” Proverbs 18:13
Aside from making confusing statements and avoiding telling the real reason they discontinued their “partnership” with us, Victory failed to heed the admonition in Proverbs regarding answering a matter before hearing it. In truth, absolutely no one from the church reached out to us to discuss their concerns about our western travel and why we discuss health or living dinosaurs, or even to find out what led us to add to the statements on our website concerning Bible versions. As far as I know, no one even bothered to research the “Neither Oldest” book which shared the compelling evidence that influenced us in this matter. What’s more, the Scripture admonishes believers toward unity (e.g. Psalm 133:1; 1 Cor. 1:10 & 3:3). What is unifying in a scenario between believers that involves such confusion, lack of honesty, and surreptitious behavior?
My father-in-law, Ken Sheets, has taught textual apologetics (his term being “evalutation”) on the seminary level for 6 times over the years and has been an excellent resource for me. He has actually come from the multi-version side through his analytical research in the field of textual criticism, and through teaching the Biblical languages for more than 30 years at Ambassador Baptist College and (presently) at Tabernacle Baptist Bible College & Seminary. He accurately asserts that the text issue isn’t about any English translation. It is about the languages GOD CHOSE to use in communicating His Revelation to mankind. The overarching issue, then, is whether a particular modern language accurately represents the ancient languages of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.
Honestly, I sought to hear as much as possible from the new pastor about why the church suddenly decided to drop a long-time supported, veteran missionary over the Bible version issue. At his suggestion, I undertook to read the book “From the Mind of God to the Mind of Men” and found it to be very interesting and informative. Since I’d sent him the “Neither Oldest” book by David Sorensen, with an encouragement to read it, I thought I would likewise read one from his perspective. In doing so, I found “From the Mind of God” to be heavily biased toward the CT (Critical Text) side, a view that I refer to as “multi-version.” Among the things I noted from reading it was that there was a total lack of addressing the availability of modern tools (e.g. using a Google search) that help people understand meanings of words such as the archaic English words in the King James. I referred to this in more detail in my last letter to Bro. Kassales (see link below).
While there is much, much more to this situation, sharing everything would be extremely lengthy and tedious to the reader. I earnestly desire to represent the situation succinctly, and as accurately and honestly as I can. However, the bottom line is that they have been duplicitous. They said they sent me a letter and that they called to inform us of their decision, even recording that information in the deacons’ minutes. Yet, I would certainly recall such communication and would have filed the letter. They have not produced a physical copy of the alleged letter. They said the reason for dropping our support in 2020 was a change we had made to our labors out west, but we have been going west every other year since 2009. They allege errors in the King James version, naming Isaiah 9:1 as an example, but were totally and absolutely wrong. (See here and here for detailed reasons why, along with a comparison here.) To their credit, they acknowledged and apologized for failure in communication and the new pastor has been very up front and in depth in sharing his perspective. He even read the copy of “Neither Oldest” that I sent him and undertook to produce a review which I shared with the author, and I am grateful that he took the time and effort. I want to say that I personally have no hard feelings toward him, the church, or the previous pastor.
While much more can and perhaps should be said, I would like to share with the reader my last letter to the new pastor which broaches most of the issues involved. While he and I have never met in person, I certainly wish we could have met. Not knowing the church had dropped our support, I called him in August/September of 2021 to see about us possibly coming to give a report while we were out west and in that general area. It was our hope that we could meet the new pastor. However, we were taken aback by the unusual and “cool” response that we recall receiving over the phone. It is indeed sad, even tragic, that issues such as this have caused great division and separation among brethren. However, in the case of Paul and Barnabas’ contention over John Mark, the positive was that two missionary teams were formed as Barnabas took Mark and Paul took Silas! Hence, the positive from this situation is the fact that our knowledge and understanding of the issue has been broadened and strengthened so that we are better equipped to help others, proclaiming truth with authority and warning of errors and false teachers!
It is our encouragement that each individual do his own research, weighing all sides with an open mind to the evidence. When we see such decisions among believers to “cut off” others without actually doing what the Bible says (Proverbs 18:13), and not having accurate answers for important questions in the process, we are burdened all the more to help especially younger believers understand that not all churches or preachers that claim to be Bible believing can be trusted to promote and stand for truth.
“Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy Word is truth.” John 17:17
My Advice for Victory
1. Don’t be so dogmatic on the text issue that you cannot abide someone who holds solely to the TR/KJV position.
2. Be up front and thorough in communicating with your missionaries when you both disagree on an issue of preference.
3. Allow for some areas of disagreement among your missionaries in the text issue, or other areas of preference, keeping in mind the Baptist distinctive of individual soul liberty.
4. Keep an open mind to in-depth explanations that point out clear inconsistencies, inadequacies, or inaccuracies that exist in many, if not most, modern versions.
5. Keep good records of communication with your missionaries, even after you discontinue their support.
6. Avoid as much as possible the modern business structure and operating that’s common to many modern assemblies.
7. Learn the Biblical purpose of “pure religion” is to serve (James 1:27) and that pastors must not “lord” over others (1 Peter 5:3) to try to make them believe as they do.
For my part, I will continue to pray for Victory and the people and pastors there, especially that this situation might be rectified. This post isn’t without a great deal of concern for ones who have been influenced by error. It is my prayer that these few words will be of some help to turn someone from error to the truth.