Posts Tagged 'pastor-teacher'

NoCal Conference 2009

karen Golden Gate

Well, I got back Monday afternoon from the Northern California Bible Conference which was held in Burlingame, CA (just south of San Francisco on the Peninsula) and sponsored by Grace Bible Church but which my Pastor did not attend, and so, obviously, did not teach at. Instead it was taught by one of the pastors my pastor has ordained, a man who has started his own ministry out here in the west.

The subject was Authority — how it is the most important thing in the universe. The question asked was “Do you know who/what your authority is?”

The answer… it’s a threefold construct — a triangle of God, His Word and the Pastor Teacher God has assigned to you to communicate that Word.

We were reminded that God is not the author of confusion. (I Co 14:33)

That God does things in ones — One Lord, one faith, one baptism (Eph 4:5) — and that we each have one spiritual gift and one pastor teacher assigned at a time.

We reviewed the scriptures that document the fact that we are assigned a Pastor Teacher — Ephesians 4:12, 13 which tells us the gift of Pastor-Teacher is given for the training of the saints for the work of the ministry. I Pe 5:3 reveals that each pastor is assigned a specific congregation, and I Th 512 adds that each believer is assigned a pastor… and thus a specific congregation as well. The local congregation operates as a body in itself, and all the parts are needed by all the other parts. (I Co 12)

In times past the notion of staying loyal to an assigned pastor and local assembly was mostly unchallenged due to the difficulties of travel and the limitations of technology. If you wanted to hear someone you had to be there. Or perhaps, as in the first century, ou could rely on letters or books. Now with the explosion of printed material as well as internet technology which puts the works of thousands at our fingertips, and with transportation having advanced to the point you can travel thousands of miles in a day… this is more of a challenge. And that challenge was what the bulk of the teaching — and the conversation — at the Northern California Bible conference was about.

With the proliferation of prepared, doctrinal pastors in recent years, many of whom have their messages recorded and made available through the internet or other digitized means, it has become very easy to go “church hopping.” Don’t like what your pastor is teaching this week? With a couple of mouse clicks, you can see what Pastor B is teaching. Angry and offended because your pastor has dared to tell you the truth and thereby become your enemy (Gal 4:16), you can click out of his site and go to someone else who teaches more in line with what you want to hear. Do you just want to accumulate knowledge?  Feel good about your life and your self? Or are you simply curious as to what else is out there? Are you bored? Familiarity can be a subtle attack on your mental attitude with respect to doctrine which can cause you to become dissatisfied, restless or feel dry — though sometimes that dry feeling is just part of the Christian life, a test to see if you will proceed regardless or wander away in search of something new and more exciting.

The problem with this “spiritual adultery” (as the concept was taught this weekend) is that even prepared, experienced doctrinal pastors disagree in what they teach. Some say the rapture will occur at the end of the church age and other place it mid Tribulation. Some say we don’t need rebound (confession of sins to regain the Filling of the Holy Spirit) and others say rebound is central to the function of the Christian life. Some have taught that you can reach in this life a state of sinless perfection and others are aghast at such a suggestion.

All of them can support their positions scripturally because, as my pastor says, you can make the Bible say anything you want it to. So then, how does the congregant determine which is right? To think that you have the ability to discern through all the different teachers and pick out which one is correct here and which is correct there is really pretty arrogant. It assumes that you out of all of them are the one with the greatest knowledge and ability to see truth. It’s especially arrogant if you consider the fact that most of the men you are critiquing spend their days digging into God’s word, study the Greek and Hebrew and have spent years doing so, whereas the average congregant has devoted maybe only 20% of the same amount of time to their studies.

Actually, that mindset, the one of roaming about sampling from this and that source as you determine (or perhaps you think the Holy Spirit is guiding you… but not anyone else, apparently, or wouldn’t they be right?) is pretty close to today’s post-modernist thinking that says you don’t need an authority, someone to teach you, but that you can figure things out for yourself. It says that there is no absolute truth, either, that image is more important than words, that personal experience and emotion trumps reason.  A 2002 article in Christianity Todaypoints out that “when we speak of truth…our postmodern neighbors hear just one more opinion among many.”  I wonder if that might not also apply to some of our fellow Christians, their thinking influenced by the prevailing viewpoint of the times. 

But the Bible doesn’t hold that a man’s opinion or his experience is important. God’s ways are not man’s ways; His thoughts are not man’s thoughts. The fool is right in his own eyes. The ways of a man seem right to him… And pastors were given to train and instruct the saints for the work of service. Yes, the Holy Spirit is our ultimate teacher — we can’t understand a thing the pastor teaches apart from Him; nor can the pastor study and teach correctly apart from Him. But that doesn’t negate the fact that the gift of pastor teacher has been given for our edification and we need him. One pastor. One human authority at a time to respect, trust and submit to — not merely to the man himself, but ultimately to God, who provided the man and delegated the authority to him.

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Opposition

I mentioned yesterday that once I began to study under the Colonel’s ministry, opposition came in. When I shared my excitement with my old church friends of what I was learning, how real it had become, how it was all making so much sense I was told to stay away from Thieme. He splits churches, I was told. I said, “He just teaches truth. If people leave a church to follow that, he’s not doing it, the people are.”

I was also told that Thieme would steal my soul. But when I asked how that might be accomplished, the person couldn’t tell me.

Col. Thieme taught that the “blood of Christ” did not refer to the literal blood of Christ (He didn’t bleed to death after all, since He said himself that His work was “finished” before He died physically) but to the expiatory work of Christ’s spiritual death on the cross, during which he was separated from God the Father for the first time ever as all the sins of the world were poured out on Him and judged. This was major anathema to my critics.

To me it was the first time the whole blood thing ever made sense.  I’d always wondered why would God be interested in some plasma with red corpuscles, platelets and white blood cells. How could that do anything about sin? It made no sense. The moment I heard this teaching I knew it was truth. So many things fell into place. But when I tried to share it people got very upset, so I soon learned not to.

Other friends wrote a lengthy letter detailing a metaphor for Christian living that involved a wheel with spokes — there’s Bible study, witnessing, prayer, giving, singing, fellowshipping, etc. Get too much of any one category, that spoke grows and the wheel won’t work. Clever metaphor, but it didn’t sway me. The word of God is not a spoke equal with those other things my friends listed, it’s the axle around which they all turn! The word of God is the mind of Christ and when it becomes our mind, it informs all those other things, so that we do them in accordance with His standards and in the power of His Spirit.

My mother, an unbeliever, thought I was in some kind of cult like that of Jim Jones, whose Guyana fiasco happened around the time I was just gaining momentum.

The weirdest thing though was the strange assault to get me to buy into tongues. Orville had told me right off that they weren’t for this age, but as soon as we got into the small churches in northern Arizona, we were bombarded with people telling us this was the right way to go. Col Thieme agreed with Orville, and backed it up with extensive scriptural evidence. 

Still, the people kept coming. Our landlady was into tongues and tried to convince me it was good. Then when we moved to an apple orchard, a woman showed up at the door to buy apples, and as we got into conversation, she told me that I needed to have the baptism of the Spirit so I could speak in tongues. A teacher friend invited for dinner, one of the few non-Mormons, confessed that she spoke in tongues whenver she didn’t know what to pray and began doing so right there in my kitchen.

We went to a Bible study where a woman sat looking spacier and spacier as the study concluded and when the pastor started to say the closing prayer she raised her hand and said she had a message from the Holy Spirit. He waved her on and she began to speak in tongues, looking as if she were in a trance. I was absolutely creeped out. All I could think was that it sounded like something from the devil.

When she was done, she offered to give the interpretation (in violation of protocol set up in the NT — it was supposed to be someone else who did that; in fact, mostly tongues was a sign for the Jews to witness to those who had gathered from afar and spoke other languages) wqhich was that God wants us to worship Him “in this way.” I stared at the floor praying God would get us out of there right away.

Thankfully, she finished, the Pastor said his prayer and to my horror, my husband was suddenly in conversation with the person beside him. A pair of shoes appeared on the floor before mine and I looked up into the eyes of the woman who had spoken (there were about 30 people present — and she was some distance away, separated from me by several people when she spoke). She invited me to come to her Bible class. I thanked her, and refrained from telling her I wouldn’t attend if it were the last bible study on earth.

My husband finally stopped talking and we left. Outside I told him of my intense negative reaction and he told me that as soon as she’d begun speaking he’d prayed that if that was really something from God He would make it clear, and if it wasn’t, that He would make it stop. And immediately it had stopped.

We never went to that bible study again, nor the church that sponsored it.

And then, in the most bizarre event of all, our Landcruiser broke down in the middle of nowhere between Globe and Winkleman one very hot summer dayas we were on our way down to Tucson. Stu got up on the Toyota’s roof and spied a trailer hidden behind some trees not far off, so we took our dog out of the car and walked down to see if we could use the phone. I don’t know what was done about the Landcruiser, too excited to discover that the woman of the house was a Christian. We talked and talked and I told her how I’d gotten saved and she took me down to Winkleman for some reason where I told some other people how I’d gotten saved… and then she started in on the second blessing and tongues and how she’d awakened one night to find Satan standing at the foot of her bed. She prayed him away to a radius of one mile from her home.

I probably listened like a deer caught in headlights and was quite relieved when we left. But somehow she had gotten my address and sent me several letters urging me in this direction.  I know I asked her several questions regarding what speaking in tongues did for her but the only one I recall is her saying that it made her certain she was saved. I was already certain of that, so didn’t tongues to do it.

Anyway, this all went on over a period or a year or so, and only when I was  solid in my understanding of the relevant scriptures  and absolutely convinced that tongues are not for today, did all that stop. Since that period of time I have never had another person show up out of nowhere telling me about tongues.

How I Found Col Thieme

I was saved in the fall of 1974, by the words of a man who taught the college class Sunday school at a Conservative Baptist Church in Tucson, AZ. Orville Smyth was a letter carrier, back in the days when they didn’t drive trucks but walked from door to door. During his route, Orville memorized scripture. He also taught himself Greek (although not, I think, while he was walking…). And he taught in the Sunday school — adults and young adults.

In addition to the college class, he taught a new believer’s class on Monday nights which I and my now-husband attended — salvation by grace, salvation by faith alone in Christ alone, eternal security, the inerrancy of the Scriptures, 1 John 1:9 and more.  In the college classes he worked from Lewis Sperry Chafer’s Major Bible Themes, and taught us… well, the basic doctrines of the church age — all the above plus the essence and character of God, the angelic conflict, the depravity of man, Dispensations…

I had about nine months with him before my husband and I were married and we moved to Northern Arizona. Orville gave me an excellent foundation for my spiritual life. But there were a lot of other things… I had so many questions. Especially over that summer as we sought to find a new church home and every place we went more or less struck out. They were either way off the doctrine we believed or weren’t interested in studying at all.

The tiny Baptist church we were attending in Heber was either searching for a pastor or having a revival — I can’t recall any more — but the speaker’s subject was “yielding to the Spirit.” I’d already heard about yielding, but no one could really tell me how that was accomplished or what it actually meant. I mostly thought of yellow yield signs when I thought of the word, and not driving into oncoming traffic. Which wasn’t terribly useful.

The temporary speaker suggested that to yield we write all our sins down on a piece of paper and then light a match to it. By doing that, we would be yielded.

So I did that. I didn’t feel any more yielded than I had previously. And worse, it wasn’t an hour before I was committing another sin again. So that whole paper burning thing didn’t seem to have done much good. Besides making me feel terribly silly.

Then my husband got a job teaching math and biology and coaching football at the high school in nearby Lakeside and started about two weeks later. About a week into his teaching experience, he didn’t come home for dinner, so I turned down the heat on my simmering meatballs and went to school to find him. Football practice had held him late, but he was about ready to go when I arrived.

Not to go home and eat the meatballs, however. No. We had been invited to a Bible study at one of his fellow teachers’ homes. So off we went. I was not in the best mood for new people, a new Bible Study (most til then had been extremely lame) and no dinner. Besides, what about my meatballs!?

Looking back it makes me laugh. Little did I know how great that meeting would impact my life. And there I was, like Martha, all worried about meatballs.

When we got there everyone else has arrived and instead of meeting in the spacious living room, we were ushered to a dimly lit back bedroom that had been converted to a sort of study. There were file cabinets, several Western saddles on stands, shelves and shelves of 8 track tapes and a reel-to-reel tape player, which was to be the source of our “Bible Study.” I thought it was all  terribly weird, including the people.

And then the Colonel began…His voice and his manner were both annoying and compelling. His doctrinal content was what I was looking for, but he was so in-your-face. He taught like a drill instructor! (given his preparations, no surprise!) And in that first lesson, he was criticising lots of things I held dear — environmentalism, being one of them. The rest is lost to time, but Stu and I went home laughing about his dogmatic, forthright manner, his critical words, and totally un-pastor like demeanor.

But there was truth there and we came back the next week. I don’t recall whose idea it was. I think it might have been my husband’s, but I’m not sure. In between the things I didn’t like were lots of things I did. For one thing there was this matter of yielding.

That, taught Colonel Thieme, was merely another way of saying we needed to be filled with the Spirit. He delineated between the Indwelling of the Spirit, which all church age believers have all the time, and the Filling of the Spirit which is transitory. The first time we sin after salvation, we lose the filling of the Spirit, which is where He controls the soul. 1 John 1:9, which tells us to confess our sins, brings back the Filling of the Spirit and temporal fellowship with God. A baby believer spends more time out of fellowship than in. But as we grow and as God’s word begins to transform our thoughts, we begin to avoid the more obvious sins and spend more time filled with the Spirit. It’s a long slow process.

But it made sense. And it works. I knew it was truth as soon as I heard it. Suddenly all the floundering around, all the vagueries of what “yieldedness” meant had been circumvented and I had a concept I could hold on to and actually apply.

Thus  began what was for a few months (or was it years?) of a love-hate relationship with the man. His personality was abrasive. He made an issue of his authority. He sometimes used “bad words”. And while none of that bothered me all that much, it sure did bother others.  And that did bother me.

But even so,  I couldn’t stop listening; it was the only place I was getting fed, and boy was I!  I ordered cassettes of the basics series through the mail and listened to three of the hour-long tapes a day — because I was so eager to hear the next one. I just couldn’t seem to get enough. Since I had no kids, no job and no car, I had time. Also no telephone, and no TV. And, it being Mormon country (almost all the teachers at the school were LDS), and us being new to the area, I had few friends as well. I listened, took notes, then copied them over into neat transcriptions with all the references. I also read most of the publications, and taught myself beginning Greek.  

 The Colonel’s teachings on Moses made him come alive. I saw him as a real person, with flaws and faults and foibles like the rest of us, even if he was the “humblest man in the earth.” It told me that sinless perfection was not the goal. That those people in the Bible were not “saints” in the sense of holier than thou individuals but people just like me, with very similar struggles.

I LOVED the story of Joseph, which is echoed in The Light of Eidon

Col Thieme’s teachings on the angelic conflict, which elaborated on what Chafer had uncovered, answered all sorts of questions and made so many things fit together into one understandable whole. The difference between the Indwelling and Filling of the Spirit, the concept of human viewpoint versus divine viewpoint,  the notion of mental attitude sins, the clarification of what a pastor’s job really was, why we need to get the word taught every day… everthing was so vital, so exciting and compelling and useable. The Christian life came alive as never before.

But of course, because we are in a battle with spiritual forces of darkness in the heavenlies, there had to be opposition, and there was…

Colonel Thieme – Face to Face With the Lord

RBTBIOPH3

My first pastor, the one through whom I was introduced to doctrine, and under whom I studied for something like 23 years, and one of the two men I credited in the acknowledgements of Arena and the Guardian King series went home to be with the Lord last Sunday. Here is the press release:

Robert B. Thieme, Jr., pastor of Berachah Church from 1950-2003 and president of R. B. Thieme, Jr., Bible Ministries, passed through death into eternity Sunday, 16 August 2009 at 8:45 PM and is now “absent from the body and face to face with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8b). He was the beloved husband of Betty Beal Thieme and devoted father of Robert B. Thieme III. He is also survived by his sister, Ann T. Wallis, and his cousins, Fredericka Botts and Nancy N. Harder.

Bob was born on 1 April 1918. His father, Robert B. Thieme, and mother, Anna Cloakey Thieme, of Ft. Wayne, Indiana moved to Beverly Hills, California in 1926. Bob graduated from Beverly Hills High School in the summer of 1936, having lettered in football, track, and gymnastics. He was a member of the Beverly High Alumni Association.

Bob enrolled at the University of Arizona in Tucson in the fall of 1936 where he majored in classical Greek and joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. After a distinguished college career, he graduated on 29 May 1940 magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. He was also commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army Reserve.

With the goal of becoming a pastor, Bob was licensed to preach by the First Baptist Church of Tucson, Arizona on 5 June 1940. To further his ministerial preparation, he enrolled in Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas in 1940. After one semester, his seminary studies were interrupted by the impending entry of the United States into World War II.

On 3 April 1941 Lieutenant Thieme began active duty service in the Army Air Corps. Because of the nature of his assigned duties he received rapid promotion and by the end of the war had attained the rank of lieutenant colonel. LTC Thieme was the Director of Military Training for Flying Training Command. In this position he was charged with initiating, prescribing, and standardizing military training for all categories of personnel in the Aviation Cadet programs. His duties included coordinating training at 120 Army Air Corps installations throughout the United States and authoring publications that standardized this training. By 1943, he had written The Military Triad, Strategy and Tactics for The Aviation Cadet, and Get Smart, Mister. His final assignment was to supervise and direct the gunnery training at Harlingen Field, Texas. Bob returned to Dallas Seminary in 1946 to resume preparation for the ministry. The academic training he received in Greek, Hebrew, theology, history, and textual criticism became the foundation for a rigorous professional life of studying and teaching the Word of God. As a student, he became the interim pastor of Reinhardt Bible Church in Dallas, Texas. Upon graduating summa cum laude with a Master of Theology in May 1949, he continued to pastor at Reinhardt until April 1950.

For fifty-three years Robert B. Thieme, Jr., was the pastor of Berachah Church in Houston, Texas. As pastor he developed an innovative system of vocabulary, illustrations, and biblical categories designed to communicate the truths of God’s Word. His scholarly, expository approach to teaching the Word of God and the worldwide distribution of his publications and biblical teachings without charge or obligation have made Pastor Robert B. Thieme, Jr., a major voice in Christianity today.

A memorial service will be held at Berachah Church at 10:00 AM Sunday, 23 August 2009.

**

As I read this I realized for the first time that Col Thieme had already started preparing for the ministry when he was called into military service. But despite the press release’s implication that this service was an “interruption” I suddenly saw that it was anything but. It was not only God’s preparation for what was to be his life’s work but a wonderful metaphor for what Col Thieme would do as a pastor: train the army of God. I knew he had been involved in the Army’s training program, but it didn’t register until now just how extensive that work had been. First he developed a program for training the country’s soldiers. Then he developed a program for training the soldiers of our Lord’s heavenly kingdom. And that is just… awesome.

I also had completely forgotten that he had started out as interim pastor at Reinhardt Bible Church. Yes, I know I heard him mention it on occasion, but I did not recall it until now — certainly not when I came up with Cam Reinhardt’s name. Too funny.

I don’t think I can even get my mind around how greatly this man influenced my life. I am so grateful for his diligence in studying and teaching and protecting his sheep, in the face often of tremendous opposition and persecution. What he gave to me is a something I shall literally cherish forever.

But I’ll save that musing for another day.

The R. B. Thieme, Jr, Bible Ministries website has a wealth of his materials available for ordering free of charge. As with Grace Bible Church, the financial policy is one of grace, whereby anyone interested in receiving doctrinal information is free to do so and contributions are made solely on a voluntary basis. There are audio tapes, MP3 CD’s, DVDs and numerous booklets. I own and have read nearly all the latter, and still go back to refer to them from time to time.

God Makes the Switch

Yesterday my friend Mary Hugill (whose blog I neglected to link to is here .  Be sure to read her “About” page —  she’s done a great job explaining what a “doctrinal ministry” is) allowed me to post some thoughts she’d shared with me about the importance of positive volition and God’s provision in a time of confusion regarding one’s right pastor teacher.

I loved every word of it, but of course I have some thoughts, as well, these more along the lines of my personal experience which backs up and illustrates some of Mary’s conclusions. (I, unlike Mary, have been involved in doctrinal ministries for over 35 years). Here’s my response:
 
You’re right, Mary, about the Pastor Teacher being a gift, not something you have to “figure out.” As for having a list of pastor/voices to choose from, I don’t think at the moment that there is such a list, even though there have been several pastors teaching from Pastor Bob’s pulpit. But that’s the key. When each of them is teaching from PB’s pulpit, I love their messages. I am rivetted. God speaks to me. But awhile back one of them taught down here at someone’s house, totally outside of Pastor’s Bob’s authority, and I could hardly pay attention. My mind wandered constantly, I kept disagreeing with things, having to rebound, asking God what was wrong with me… When I got home I felt like I hadn’t been fed and had to put on a lesson from PB.  I felt no leading whatsoever to attend the second session they had scheduled and did not.
 
For awhile I felt guilty, even though I was pretty sure I was being shown that he is not, at the moment, my right PT. As an affirmation, at a conference last summer, that same pastor shared in a Q&A that when he first heard Pastor Bob, he couldn’t listen to him.  Col Thieme was still his pastor. I believe it wasn’t until the Colonel retired that this pastor switched to Pastor Bob. So that affirmed for me my own situation.
 
All the men trained by Pastor Bob and speaking behind his pulpit at his behest and from his notes are pretty much extensions of Pastor Bob in my mind. They provide embellishment, a new angle of view, elaboration, etc., so I value their voices for the context they provide for the general messages that God the HS is pouring out through PB. But eventually they’ll have to leave. Keeping them at GBC is like keeping your 30-year old son at home answering to Mommy. They were given their gifts to go out and really use them, not to teach from another man’s pulpit but to be pastors fully in their own rights with all the pressures that go with the job. Would God then move me to their ministry? Maybe. My inclination would be to say no, but I know that my inclination is not a reliable source of information.

Which brings me to my second experience, wherein God moved me from Col Thieme to Pastor Bob. At the time, I had no interest whatsoever in leaving the Colonel, who I’d studied under for close to 25 years. I didn’t even want to listen to the tapes of Pastor Bob’s lessons that my friend had brought and did so only at her strong insistence and with the intention of only listening to a little bit (which is usually all I can do with someone not my pastor anyway).  But of course, everything came alive when I heard him, and I couldn’t stop listening.

Starting the day I heard Pastor Bob, I never listened to Col Thieme again. It had nothing to do with not liking Col Thieme– he was a fabulous Bible teacher; he trained Pastor Bob and ordained him — but everything to do with the fact that I HAD to hear the next message in Pastor Bob’s series. I hung on his every word, took copious notes, my mind never wandering even once.  It was very much like what had happened when I first heard doctrine — so compelling I couldn’t NOT listen.
 
Pastor Bob is still my pastor. Whoever he assigns to teach behind his pulpit I will listen to and learn from. I love those younger guys and get distressed to think of any of them leaving, but as I said, it has to happen. Maybe then I would be switched to one of those men. Maybe eventually I’ll be moved on to the man I couldn’t listen to in that home Bible study, which would be funny, and fit with the pattern God’s worked in my life of unexpected turns. Or it might be Pastor Bob til the rapture, which at this point is fine with me. I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. It’s part of God’s provision and I know that when He switches you, He does it and you don’t have to worry about it.

Endnote:  Mary’s and my exchange occurred last week right before Pastor Bob returned to his pulpit. Since then, I have to say, his lessons have been rich, exhilarating and convicting. As always. Today’s though, as God the Holy Spirit answered one of my questions of the day through Pastor Bob’s words, was particularly sobering. Maybe I’ll talk about that tomorrow…


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