Granted, I do not have all the facts and because of that I am in no position to render any kind of final opinion on the situation. But I have learned enough, both in the last week and over the last thirty years, to recognize the pattern. This pastor is deeply committed to the lordship of Christ, the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, biblical evangelism, regenerate church membership, and promoting the glory of God in the church. He is confessionally reformed in his understanding of salvation. Both in writing and in conversation, he expressly declared his views and approach to ministry in the interview process with the church he was called to serve.

The church is on record as being committed to the inerrancy of Scripture, the exclusivity of Christ, and all things conservative in general. They were very careful to guard against inadvertently allowing a liberal to become their pastor. They strongly profess to believe the Bible, but, despite having inerrantist pastors in the past, don’t have a very deep understanding of what the Bible actually says. The leaders believe the gospel message is true, but don’t really know how to articulate the gospel and have little regard for the all-encompassing nature of life under the lordship of Christ.

When a pastor as I have described begins to pastor a church as I have described, there will inevitably be conflict. It is simply unavoidable. Tragically, in this case, the issue is purportedly over getting Santa back into Christmas. But as is frequently true in church conflicts, the issue is not really the issue. That is, the rallying cry of the church leaders—“Santa is coming back to church!”—conveniently covers up the deeper issues related to the gospel and the church.

I would argue that the gospel has been lost in this church, although the leaders and members would undoubtedly say that they believe it. My fear is that they, like so many others, have assumed for so long that they believe it that they have never really stopped to examine it, weighing its provisions, power, and attendant duties. They probably have an inadequate understanding of the nature of saving faith in comparison to the various kinds of faith that do not save.

I would also argue that the church has deviated far from the biblical foundations prescribed by Christ and the apostles. Though they affirm regenerate church membership in theory they do not pursue it in practice. Though they have officially adopted the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 as their statement of faith, their method of making decisions in the church is ruled by pragmatism far more than biblical conviction. They are in desperate need of being biblically re-formed so that how they live more closely reflects that they profess to believe.

What will rescue this kind of situation? Nothing short of a recovery of the gospel and the reformation of the church.

Pray for this church and brother. Ask the Lord to move in ways that will humble all of them under the authority of His Word and the lordship of our Savior. And pray for the inevitable conflicts that will occur in thousands of other churches as the faithful ministry of God’s Word is introduced (or reintroduced) by men who are committed to both.