The Church Seatbelt Checkers

The Seatbelt Checkers

I once joked about a fictitious church announcement: “The same rules for the church camping trip will apply to everyone in church: DON’T STAND UP IN THE CANOE!”

We all have a lot of acquaintances, friends and relatives in quite a variety of professions. Most of them work hard and have a boss over them. Often those at the top who do not have a boss are those who work the hardest. This has been my observation everywhere for a number of decades. Well . . . . . not quite everywhere. I have never seen it work that way in church.

Let me tell you about my last pastor. That church in Weatherford, Texas ran about 300-350 in attendance most Sundays. The church offerings were in the range of $25,000 a week. The pastor’s salary was in the $100,000 range, not counting a number of perks such as a yearly clothing allowance of several thousand dollars, a new luxury car (he went through three in the fourteen months I was there), paid vacations every 6-8 weeks, and extraordinarily generous offerings for any conceivable occasion: birthdays, Christmas, anniversary, anniversary of his arrival, and some other occasions I can’t think of. He had a staff whose salaries averaged $75,000 a year who did most of his actual work as he came and went as he pleased and had no official office hours. His sermons were devotional fluff—usually some variation of his weekly (or “weakly”) central theme: “Give Your heart to Jesus.”

It is hard for me to contemplate this man, my former pastor and a good number of others like him who have stood before me every Sunday in their pulpit and not think of the dire warnings against pastors sounded by the prophet Ezekiel: “ And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them.”
“ Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord; As I live, saith the Lord God, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord; Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them.”

Now all that being said, something should become rather apparent to the average person contemplating such a professional church man: anyone you and I know would go to extraordinary means to keep that gig going, would they not? The “Don’t-Stand-Up-In-The-Canoe” rule becomes the unofficial yet inviolable mantra of the church, as well as the principal foundation of church polity. Biblical rules and protocols for dealing with dissenters in churches like these went out the window so long ago that few remember them. But it is worse than even this . . . . much worse.

These pastors have developed a great skill. Their church “canoes” have a distinguishing feature that we never see in a canoe: SEAT BELTS! Yes, seat belts! And make no mistake about it, THEY ARE REQUIRED TO BE KEPT FASTENED AT ALL TIMES! Individualism, critical thinking, a Berean attitude toward the Scriptures, divergent and doctrinal views are NOT welcome. In other words, keep that seatbelt on and just enjoy the ride down the lazy river of devotional preaching, platitudes, and the expression of what I call “Bumper Sticker Theology.” But it is even worse than this.

These career church men whom I see far more as “Church C.E.O.’s” and not the kinds of shepherds Jesus spoke of, or Paul exhorted Timothy to be have honed yet another skill. They can spot an “unbuckled seat belt” a mile away. I remember my last pastor actually saying to me once, “The men in my pulpit have to reflect me.” I must have failed to suitably disguise my astonished and disturbed look at hearing that statement, for my reaction seemed to precipitate the decline of my status in that church. You see, I had always thought that a man in a Christian pulpit ought to reflect Jesus Christ. Silly me.

They make T-shirts with the image of a seatbelt imprinted upon them for those foolishly inclined to avoid wearing them while driving. Maybe I’ll try to remember where I saw them advertised. I think one may come in handy the next time I visit a Baptist church.

We have a pattern for the church found throughout the New testament. This prototypical institution does not include a number of things that we take for common in our assemblies today: church buildings, and pastoral salaries are two that come to mind. Tithes that were directed toward supporting the well-being of the LOCAL community are another. While not a pastor, the Apostle Paul made it clear: “I would not be chargeable to any of you.” He managed to write most of the New Testament, take numerous missionary journeys, and curiously to LISTEN to those in the Corinthian and other churches who “stood up in the canoe. The Corinthian Epistles, in fact, were written on the pure basis of many Baptists would today call “gossip:” “things reported commonly among you.”

Paul, John the Baptist, pretty much every one of the Old Testament prophets, and ah yes . . . Jesus Himself regularly did something that is entirely anathema in our churches today: THEY NAMED NAMES! Imagine the nerve. Do I hear the sizzle of sacred cows? I’ll get the barbeque sauce . . . .while others run for their fire extinguishers.

About Jerry Kaifetz

Christian author, c.e.o. Omega Chemical Corp.
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5 Responses to The Church Seatbelt Checkers

  1. John says:

    I just read some of your blog. You have some valid points but I strongly disagree with the way you are handling it. No where in the scriptures do you see where one blasts another like you are doing here on a public forum. No man is perfect and the pastor should be held to a higher standard but you sir are doing more damage than good. It seems as if you were hurt by these men, man will let you down, God will not. Everyone (especially pastors) will answer for what they have done. I ask you to take these blasts off of a public forum, deal with it privately. Thank you for your time.

    • John, you are seriously mistaken and biblically lacking if you believe that the Bible does not contain “blasts” such as mine. Perhaps you have not heard of the Old Testament prophets, 20% of the Bible. That is pretty much ALL they did. Same with some actions and words of John the Baptist, the Apostle Paul, and Jesus. Your church has shunned me and you pastor will not respond, all because I disagreed with him according to biblical protocol in a good spirit. I have only published an accurate, first hand narrative, NOT gossip, which I am wiling to bet you cannot define or locate in the Bible. I will NEVER remove my posts about Charles Wetherbee and Victory Baptist Church, because they are GUILTY and UNREPENTANT. Wetherbee lied to the whole church about his son’s (Jason Wetherbee) adultery and I have hard evidence which I have offered to the entire church to prove that. NOBODY THERE CARES, John! That is a despicable position to take before a holy God. Your loyalties are to men and institutiions, not the principles of God! The fact that I have “been hurt” by these men is inaccurate and if it were not it would be anecdotal and insignificant. The fact is that God commands Christians to “pursue righteousness” and to be a person “in whose eyes a vile person is condemned.” I judge Charles Wetherbee to be such a man and I will act accordingly. Sorry you don’t like that.

    • Don’t know how you define gossip or where you find it in the Bible, but every single thing that I have written about Charles Wetherbee and Victory Baptist Church has been either first-hand or fully documented. John, YES, the pastor SHOULD and IS held to a higher standard in Scripture. Open your Bible. Please don’t veil Wetherbee’s sins under the cloak of the unattainability of human perfection. Lets leave that to the likes of Bill Clinton. You are right, God will not let us down. Your assumption is that he is not my focus. You are wrong. I TRIED to deal with these issues privately. I made over 15 overtures to Wetherbee. I told him I was going public. That was his call, not mine. NO, I will not take this material down. In fact, there is more to come. This is the biblical doctrine of “The Pursuit of Righteousness,” which I gather you know nothing about.

  2. Ken Reamy says:

    Regarding Phil’s assertions that Jerry “ought to be ashamed” of himself, it’s important to note that shame can only come from a conviction that an act is wrong, and this conviction is what the Holy Spirit causes as He works in our conscience. For Phil to think something is wrong and that Jerry ought to repent of it is putting himself in the place of the Holy Spirit; a place mere mortals should not try to be!
    Some people believe some actions or things are wrong that the scripture actually does not condemn. Paul wrote, “Let every man be persuaded in his own mind.” But if that person goes ahead and does what he thinks may be wrong, thereby violating his conscience, he has committed wrongdoing for imposing his error on others from the standpoint of a weak conscience (Romans 14).
    Also, if it is wrong to confront a preacher’s error, then Paul was out of the will of God when he confronted Peter with his waffling on the issue of whether he as a Jew could eat with the Gentiles in Antioch. Peter showed his selective racism in ignoring the Gentile believers when “certain men came from James” and he separated himself from them. Paul wrote in Galatians about confronting Peter, “I withstood him to the face.” Paul had no illusions whatsoever that preachers or leaders were somehow immune from accountability or criticism. Indeed, their accountability is intensified! James wrote, “My brethren, be not many teachers, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.” Preacher/leader accountability is also underscored in First Timothy 5:19-21, where Paul outlines the process for accusing an elder for sin, prejudice, or partiality.
    I myself have encountered unaccountable preachers in their open partiality, violation of scripture, and contempt for the ordinances of man, and I have hit a brick wall with some who resist accountability, or who flee to the refuge of so-called pastoral immunity. Such things are not in the scripture, but reek of denominationalism. It was the elitist, untouchable, multi-tier system of religious privilege and simony that prompted the Pharisees to falsely accuse Jesus Christ of error, leading to His crucifixion. Never let this once be named among us as becometh saints and leaders!

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