Adventures in Theology BlogChase A. Thompson: Author, Pastor, Vigilante.
The problem with the current outrage culture in our society is that people get frothing at the mouth angry and furious at so many things that it is difficult to separate that which is truly horrific and rage inducing from those things which are not. With some situations, however, the distinction is easy, and the recent report about child sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches falls under the category of things to be genuinely outraged about.*** Child abuse in all of its forms, especially sexual abuse and physical abuse, is a heart-rending tragedy. That it has been allowed (and in some cases, facilitated) by church leaders in Baptist churches is a howling outrage. Church leaders who have perpetrated sexual abuse should be removed – permanently! – from any place of Christian leadership. Church leaders who have genuinely helped cover up such abuse, or have advocated more for the rights and privileges of the abuser rather than the abused, should also be removed from leadership. Such blindness and foolishness in leadership is inexcusable, and is fatal to the continuance in any sort of leadership position going forward.***
Some people were even bringing infants to Him so He might touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. Jesus, however, invited them: “Let the little children come to Me, and don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I assure you: Whoever does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”Luke 18:15-17
The sad truth is that sexual assault, and especially sexual assault against children and the powerless, is both epidemic and endemic in our society. Statistically, women and girls are the most vulnerable, and should also be the most protected. I myself am a victim of several acts of sexual abuse at the hands of an older guy when I was less than twelve years old. (He was not in a position of religious authority) My situation was not nearly as severe as most, but as a young person, I had no way to know how to deal with it properly. Even though I had a great and very open relationship with my parents, and also had lots of trusted friends and teachers in my life, I was absolutely silent about what happened to me until I was in my 40s. I suspect there are many, many people in that same boat, and many others who are tragically being put into that boat every day. We must act, and do more than we have been doing!
Here are some sobering statistics:
* At least 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse;
* Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident;
* During a one-year period in the U.S., 16% of youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
* Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
*Children are most vulnerable to CSA between the ages of 7 and 13.Source: http://victimsofcrime.org/media/reporting-on-child-sexual-abuse/child-sexual-abuse-statistics
If the above statistics are correct (and I actually believe they are underestimating, rather than overestimating the prevalence of child sexual abuse), then almost 1/3rd of all young people will be the victim of some type of sexual assault. That is an alarming, sobering and soul-rending statistic. The church – the family of Jesus – should be the absolute safest place in the world for people, especially the most vulnerable. That it is not should cause us to rend our hearts and garments, to weep, to repent, and to tirelessly work until the church is the haven of hope that it is supposed to be.
Before I discuss what Southern Baptist churches should do, I think it is fair to discuss what the church I’m pastoring does to prevent child sexual abuse. Here are a few of our strategies:
1. Our policy at Valley Baptist Church (in Salinas, California) is that every children’s worker must pass an extensive background check.
2. During children’s church time, we have a hall monitor and adult teachers (and open doors!) to ensure that there is accountability and safety.
3. Our children’s ministry leaders have great experience with children. (One is a school principal, and several are school teachers)
4. We have at least one leader each Sunday and Wednesday that is assigned to ‘security.’ They walk around and make sure everybody is safe.
5. Our leadership has had several discussions over the past year about how we can do better at keeping the kids safe and preventing any sort of abuse. It is on our radar, and we are openly talking about it.
Is that enough? I’m not sure that it is, but it does represent a decent beginning, I think. One area that probably needs improvement is in terms of communicating dangers to children. (Important advice offered by Boz
Tchividjian in this article) When I was a kid, I had no idea about sexual assault, and when it happened to me, I had no real way of communicating about it, or dealing with it. I would like to see our church do a better job of equipping parents to have those conversations with their kids. I do believe it is the role of the parents to take lead in those conversations (and not the church or another institution), but I think the church should work hard to equip parents as to how to have those conversations and urge them to do so, even if they aren’t easy or comfortable.
What about churches at large – specifically Southern Baptist churches? Much needs to change in our culture. We, like many institutions, have allowed for conditions to persist which are favorable to sexual predation and actually squelch the reporting and prevention of child sexual abuse. Shame on us.
After an online discussion with some SBC leaders, I believe there are two primary difficulties that have eroded our ability as a denomination to respond to sexual abuse:
1. The overall autonomy of Southern Baptists, which makes implementing rules/legislation/policies across the board extremely difficult. Southern Baptists are a fairly loose conglomeration of churches. While we have a missions board, and we cooperate a great deal on multiple education, missions, and discipleship endeavors, Southern Baptists do not recognize a central authority. No governing body has the authority to tell all SBC churches what to do. While there are a great many benefits to this policy, one drawback is seen in issues like this one, where every individual church is free to determine its own policies, and many of those churches have done a horrible job in this area.
2. Legal liability. When the Executive Board of the Southern Baptist Church does try to step in and implement direction on this (and other issues) they expose themselves to lawsuits and legal action, which places them in a difficult place. Because of the autonomy mentioned above, the Executive Board of the Southern Baptist Church cannot mandate for churches what policies to have. That fact has not, however, insulated them from lawsuits, and the more direction they offer the local church, the more lawsuits they seemingly expose themselves too.
Those are both difficult hurdles to overcome, and thus far, our SBC leaders don’t seem to have found ways effectively get over them. To reiterate, the SBC does NOT have the power to tell individual churches what to do. They have NO WAY to acquire that power, so solutions to this issue that assume the SBC denomination is run with a central authority structure like Roman Catholic, Anglican or Episcopal churches fall flat, because they do not recognize the reality of the structure of the SBC. That reality, however, is NOT AN EXCUSE for inaction, but it IS a reality that must be faced and acknowledged. That said, and lacking a central denominational policy, I would suggest that SBC churches (Indeed every church) adopt a few iron-clad policies on this issue.
1. Church leaders must read about and be very familiar with sexual abuse and sexual assault. A great place to start is this book, The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide for Churches and Ministries, by Boz Tchividjian. Education does NOT solve every problem, but it does help.
2. Background checks and due diligence are a MUST for screening ALL people who would come into church-related contact with children. Churches, even when they are desperate for volunteers, MUST say no to children’s workers that could endanger children.
3. Churches should equip parents to have frank and honest conversations with their kids about child sexual abuse. I do not believe that churches should do that as institutions, but parents MUST. Churches should encourage the parents to do so, and equip and teach the parents how to do so.
4. Wolves must be shot. I realize that is a stark statement, and I do not 100 percent mean it literally. However, when a predator (wolf/child abuser) is found, the church must remove that predator from every leadership role and that situation must be reported to law enforcement, parents, and anybody who needs to know. The predator/wolf must NOT simply be allowed to slink away to another church to prey on other little lambs there. He/She MUST be stopped.
5. Leadership who have allowed wolves to ravage the flock in this way (who have tolerated/defended/covered up the actions of child sexual abusers) must be removed from leadership and deemed untrustworthy. Pastors and leaders who have more concern for their cronies who have abused children than the victims of such abuse have disqualified themselves from leadership, as they are no longer ‘above reproach.’ (1 Timothy 3:2, “An overseer, therefore, must be above reproach, “)
6. Accountability is crucial. Hall monitors, double teachers, etc – ideally, there should NEVER be an incident where a non-parent adult is alone with a group of children not their own in a church situation.
That’s what I have, but I realize it is an incomplete and imperfect list. The above doesn’t adequately address what should be done about this situation from a denominational level, and it has holes in how the local church should approach child sexual abuse prevention. Please leave comments on what I’ve missed, where I’ve missed, and what you think should be added or modified!
Some important words from Southern Baptist Church president J.D. Greear – copied from his recent Twitter post of February 10, 2019. I fully support Greear’s position on this issue, and appreciate that he is meeting it head on and not sweeping it under the rug!
I am broken over what was revealed today. The abuses described in this @HoustonChron article are pure evil. I join with countless others who are currently “weeping with those who weep.” (Article source: Houston Chronicle) The voices in this article should be heard as a warning sent from God, calling the church to repent. As Christians, we are called to expose everything sinful to the light. The survivors in this article have done that—at a personal cost few of us can fathom.
We must admit that our failures, as churches, put these survivors in a position where they were forced to stand alone and speak, when we should have been fighting for them. Their courage is exemplary and prophetic. But I grieve that their courage was necessary. We—leaders in the SBC—should have listened to the warnings of those who tried to call attention to this. I am committed to doing everything possible to ensure we never make these mistakes again. It’s time for pervasive change. God demands it. Survivors deserve it. We must change how we prepare before abuse (prevention), respond during disclosure (full cooperation with legal authorities), and act after instances of abuse (holistic care).Source: https://twitter.com/jdgreear/status/1094675144931454976
I will pursue every possible avenue to bring the vast spiritual, financial, and organizational resources of the Southern Baptist Convention to bear on stopping predators in our midst. There can simply be no ambiguity about the church’s responsibility to protect the abused and be a safe place for the vulnerable. The safety of the victims matters more than the reputation of Southern Baptists. The Baptist doctrine of church autonomy should never be a religious cover for passivity towards abuse. Church autonomy is about freeing the church to do the right thing—to obey Christ—in every situation. It is a heinous error to apply autonomy in a way that enables abuse. As a denomination, now is a time to mourn and repent. Changes are coming. They must. We cannot just promise to “do better” and expect that to be enough. But today, change begins with feeling the full weight of the problem.
To the abused, we say: We, the church, have failed you, but we do not want you to forgo counsel or care. To that end, here are some options to consider: https://buff.ly/2SrSHp3 NOTE: This link is a great place to begin looking for help if you have been abused.
*** With the caveat that the outrage should be directed in the proper direction. Condemning the innocent – and guilt by association – is also a great miscarriage of justice that far too many people are perpetuating right now. Outrage and condemnation directed at people who are innocent of the charges at hand just muddies the water and confuses people. Crying ‘racism!’ when no such racism exists actually helps perpetuate more racism and racial animus, rather than the reverse. Accusing every member of a particular group of sexual assault (e.g. Catholic priest, Baptists, Democrats, Republicans, Men, Iowans, etc.) actually lets the guilty off of the hook. When everybody is guilty of something – nobody is guilty. To understand this more, read up on the fallacy of association.
We live in a world right now where it ‘pays’ to be the first to get your opinion out on a particular issue; the more reactionary and strong that opinion is, the better. In the past, it has been considered unwise to be quick to judge with hair-trigger opinions, but things have changed. The payment for being quick to speak, quick to jump to conclusions and quick to put your thoughts out into the public is attention, publicity, likes, comments, and hearty agreement. It feels good to be part of a mob, especially when that mob has a particularly easy to hate target in its cross hairs. We love to join together with like-minded people and attack the intolerant, the unenlightened, and the people we see as deserving of our scorn. Our culture and opinions right now are largely dominated and formed by social media, and social media itself is mostly dominated by people who are quick to speak, slow to listen, and become angry at near warp-10 speeds. This is a problem, and I am afraid it is turning us into a nation of shallow fools, rather than thoughtful and measured people. Consider the following council from the Bible:
My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, 20 for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.James 1:19-20
The first to state his case seems rightProverbs 18:17
until another comes and cross-examines him.
The intelligent person restrains his words, and one who keeps a cool head is a man of understanding.Proverbs 17:27
The above verses are powerful and important truths. I imagine that there are many celebrities and professional ‘journalists,’ who are kicking themselves today because they did not heed such advice. Perhaps you’ve heard the story? A few days ago, a very short video was released and it quickly became viral (under suspicious circumstances, possibly shared and inflamed by a rogue Twitter account.***) In that video, a group of white teenagers, some of them wearing red MAGA caps, are seen along with a Native American man playing a drum. I watched that clip several times the first day it came out. In reading commentary about the clip, I was told that the teenagers, who come from a Catholic school in Kentucky, were bullying a peaceful Native American veteran of the Vietnam war. (Note: Mr. Phillips, despite his claims to the contrary, never fought in Vietnam.) Indeed, that veteran was interviewed, and he claimed (with tears) that some of the teenagers were being very rude to him, and shouting slogans such as “Trump in 2020!” And, “Build the Wall!” Many celebrities and professional journalists absolutely vilified the students from the Catholic school, expressing their wishes of bodily harm to come to those kids as well as failure in life, years of punishment, and worse. The kids were called foul and profane names, and seemingly everybody piled on until it became a foregone conclusion that they were horrible, entitled and backward people.
The trouble is – that even in the very short video that first went viral…I couldn’t see that the kids did anything definitively wrong! Yes, one or two of them may have had smug-looking grins, but that is hardly a cause for alarm, and who knows what is in the heart and mind of somebody who has a grin on their face? How many times have you or I had our facial expressions misjudged? How many times have we thought somebody was angry or upset with us, and it turned out that we were completely wrong? It happens all of the time – we are not mind-readers. But, that didn’t stop people who claim to be adults from commenting harshly on the video. Here are some examples:
Ms. Omar is a sitting member of the House of Representatives – a person in a very significant position of power, leadership and privilege. To use that position to spread unsubstantiated and bombastic claims is alarming, but that is exactly what she has done here. Thanks to our ‘video anything interesting’ society, there have been multiple videos (and video angles) released of the encounter between Nathan Phillips and the Covington school kids. One of the videos is over an hour long. In all of those videos that have been released, however, I have seen no evidence of a Covington kid using a racial slur or saying anything bombastic, and especially not YELLING something horrible like, “It’s not rape if you enjoy it.” (BUT, SEE BELOW!) We need leaders that have wisdom and self-control, not ones that engage in inflammatory “ultra-gossip” in public.
UPDATE: There is indeed a video that has surfaced of a teenage boy yelling “it’s not rape if you enjoy it.” That boy has been identified by some as going to a different high school than Covington, a public school nearby, but I have no way of confirming this. It is a reprehensible statement to make, and there is absolutely no excuse for it. That boy should be held accountable for such a statement, and there should be consequences. That said, it is no more a reflection on the other students in his high school anymore than one bully (or school shooter, or racist, or drug dealer) at a particular school means that everybody is a bully (or school shooter, or racist, or drug dealer.)
One (of many) Twitter users ‘doxxed,’ or revealed the identity of the boy in the MAGA hat. In doing so, she gave his name, and her wishes that he would have severe consequences and such. She even posted a picture, reproduced below (that purports to come from Occupy Democrats) that expressed a sideways desire that the boys in the video had been aborted. The trouble is…the boy she doxxed (or identified) was not the correct boy! She, and many others, absolutely misidentified the guy in question. Further, the boy in the video (even the extended version of the video) never does anything more than smile at the Native American drum player. Imagine an adult wishing such harm to a kid for that sort of behavior. And yet, I continue to see adults on ALL sides of the political spectrum behaving this way.
Another adult on social media (in London) wrote this, “Many were shouting abuse. What a depressing sight to see these hateful kids. They just shamed themselves, their school, their generation & the country. ‘Congrats’ to Trump,their families & peers for poisoning their young minds. They’re probably still laughing. ” The problem with her statement is that, despite multiple videos being made public of the event in question, many of which focus in on the group of kids from the Catholic high school – NONE OF THE VIDEOS SHOW THE KIDS SHOUTING ABUSE (or actually saying anything clearly untoward.) You might interpret the kids’ behavior as somehow disrespectful, but to do so, you’d have to be a mind-reader of sorts, because nothing said by that group has surfaced that would be offensive.
TheRoot.com writer Michael Harriot wrote the following tweet shortly after the first video of the Covington kids became viral:
In a follow up post that was released after the second, longer, video was released, Mr. Harriot offered the following ‘apology,’ in an article entitled, “An Open Apology to the Covington Catholic MAGA Hat Harassment Team” In the article, which is not an apology at all, Harriot puts forth the tongue in cheek and acerbic theory that the Covington kids were imitating (in an theater sort of way) white supremacists of the past who committed various horrendous and violent acts against people of color, before concluding his article with this:
Thank you, Covington Catholic.
Thank you for showing that any person of color in America who has ever protested has faced this kind of scorn. Thank you for showing that white boys intimidating others is a longstanding American tradition.
But most of all, thank you for reminding America that there is one untouchable, unassailable thing in this country — white boys. And whether it’s Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump or a bushel of high school Klansmen-in-training, if anyone ever makes the mistake of blaming them for their black-hearted hate, they will be forced to apologize. God bless the National Championship white supremacist squad from Covington Catholic High School for giving us this much-needed history lesson. And may God bless the still racist, always “great,” past, present, and future white boys of the United States of America.
I agree, and mourn, with Harriot about the shameful way that white people in this country have treated people of color in past history. I have not experienced much racial animus in my life, but if I had, chances are that I would be angry too. I agree that racism still goes on, and it is beyond deplorable when it happens. Where I suspect we’d disagree is that I don’t just assume that a group of white kids from the south are racists (or future Klansmen!) perpetrating racist actions and crimes that make them worthy of death, expulsion, scorn or ridicule just because they are wearing a MAGA hat. Consider this comment on the fuller video of the incident, which is worth watching HERE.
What speaks louder than words? Body language. So you show up at a native american rally with a MAGA hat on? Then you see a group of black “preachers” and you stand around sneering and mocking? Racism isn’t water hoses and dogs attacking kids. It evolves like everything else and the MAGA hat is the newest form. It’s given so many more power than the “N” word ever will. Look at the guy on the skateboard. What’s he doing there? The kid who walks right by in the american flag get-up.
Is that fair? Is it right to assume that kids wearing MAGA hats (or, riding skateboards with American flag shirts on) are not only racists, but antagonizing racists, who have shown up at an Indigenous people’s march to harass Native Americans? I don’t think so. Factually, those kids were there as a sort of staging area, waiting to be picked up by their bus, they just happened to be assembling near an area where a march was taking place. While waiting for the bus, the teens were subjected to repeated verbal harassment and taunts (caught on video and clearly seen at the Youtube link above) by a group of adults from a fringe religious group. An adult Indigenous marcher came over to the kids and played his drums close to them, so close that his drum actually touched the neck and chest of Nicholas Sandmann. He approached them…not vice versa. How did the kids react? HONESTLY, its tough to tell. One of them, Sandmann, just smiles the whole time. What was he thinking? Was he thinking racist, arrogant thoughts? WHO KNOWS?! Does he deserve violence, scorn and ridicule (as many celebrities, journalists and adults OPENLY and PUBLICLY wished for) just because he stood there and smiled at an Indigenous marcher? If your answer is yes, my question is WHY? Is it merely because he is wearing the hat? That doesn’t seem fair, and it is certainly divisive.
When the mom of one of the teenagers in question defended her son, The Root writer Jay Connor had this response:
Because bigots often prove themselves incapable of taking accountability for their behavior, it comes as no surprise that the mother of the offending party removed her Klan hood in order to come to her son’s defense.https://www.theroot.com/the-next-generation-of-maga-hat-wearing-bigots-besiege-1831894971
Again, I don’t think that is fair. Worse, I don’t think it is helpful. It contributes to racism and racial animus rather than helping. It adds to hatred rather than adding to peace. It makes the problem worse. Confront racism. Remove racists from power. Diligently pursue a society that is free from racism and arrogance and oppression. Yes, yes, and yes! BUT – in doing so, don’t kill the innocent along with the guilty. Don’t let the penalty exceed the offense – that is unjust. Did these Covington kids behave properly? Honestly? I don’t know. I’ve watched the videos again and again. Sometimes it looks like they are jeering. Sometimes it looks like they are bemused, and have no idea what to do. Sometimes it looks like they aren’t even paying attention to what is going on, but are just hamming it up for the cameras. If they are racists, I don’t see any evidence of it in the videos. If they are racists…I don’t hope for their destruction, but for their redemption. Full Stop.
Allow me to close with a meditation on peace. Once again, this article has not been about politics, but about the current bombastic culture of outrage that we are living in that seeks to annihilate the guilty on scant evidence and with no contemplation. Again- this is not about the Covington kids – this is about rushing to judgment and avoiding the toxic people who do so. (If you will see my earlier posts on racial issues, police brutality, etc, I think you will find that I try to avoid this, even if you don’t agree with me.)
‘Fools rush in where angels fear to tread,’ goes the old saying, which demonstrates the value of making good judgments that are not rash. Here is my appeal to you, patient reader: #1 Be a person of peace, no matter which side of the political spectrum you are on. #2 Flee from people of rash outrage and thoughtless condemnation NO MATTER WHICH SIDE OF THE POLITICAL SPECTRUM THEY ARE ON. Conservative or Liberal, Democrat or Republican: people who are rash, thoughtless and quick to fury are people who must be avoided. They may be right on some issues, but they are not driven by justice and wisdom, but by anger and malice. Avoid such people. Do not give them a platform or hearing.
Instead, seek peace and pursue it. Selah.
Jesus: Matthew 5:9
The peacemakers are blessed,
for they will be called sons of God.
1 Peter 3:10-12
For the one who wants to love life and to see good days
must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit,
and he must turn away from evil and do what is good.
He must seek peace and pursue it, 12 because the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are open to their request. But the face of the Lord is against those who do what is evil.
1For where envy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every kind of evil. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy. 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.
But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil.Luke 6:35
Postscript: As mentioned above, the purpose of this article is NOT to engage in politics, or to attack one political side or the other. I’m not writing here to slam liberals and praise conservatives. I’m writing to exhort ALL of us – liberal or conservative, to move beyond inflammatory, attacking, rush-to-judgment rhetoric. It’s literally killing this country as it divides our people. Perhaps it is worth pointing out here that interests outside the United States are actively spending money and working on advertising that seeks to do just that: divide us, sow hatred, and cause division. We don’t need to participate in that and glorify/follow people who promulgate such divisive tactics.
This article is also not meant to be a defense of Nicholas Sandmann and the Covington kids, but rather to use such a situation to point out the dangers of bombastic speech and rushing to judgment. That said, the more I watch video of this encounter, and the more I read of people in positions of power and privilege (celebrities, governmental people, prominent journalists) attacking these minor kids, the more I want to defend them.
I believe that this issue is indeed an issue of privilege, but I think the privileged ones are not the boys from Covington, but the blue check marks on Twitter and other social media platforms that wield enormous power and influence. Their attacks and hopes for bad things to happen to minors bothers me, and it should bother you too. I live within 100 yards of two private Catholic schools in Salinas, California. One is all male, and one is all female, and I frequently see students walking to school in the morning, and leaving in the afternoon. I imagine there are some kids with rich parents that attend those schools, but they don’t exude power and privilege. I don’t see a cavalcade of luxury cars taking those kids to school, but normal people driving normal cars. I suspect that Covington school is similar. There’s probably some rich kids there with powerful parents, but mostly just normal people. Many celebrities and the media have framed the Covington kids as archetypes of privilege and power, which seems quite unproven. Perhaps you see the irony there: powerful and privileged people (almost every blue check on Twitter, government official, celebrity and popular journalist is a person of privilege in terms of power and influence!) derisively wishing harm on minors that are themselves not powerful or privileged, and likely aren’t the children of powerful and privileged people. Two streams of evidence are worth mentioning here in favor of the Covington kids:
#1 In several different angles of video, it is quite clear that Nathan Phillips (who has quite definitively lied in the past about being a Vietnam Veteran) intentionally approaches the group of Covington kids and gets in the middle of them. Congresswoman Omar (and thousands of others…) claim that the Covington kids “surrounded” Mr. Phillips and began to taunt him with racial slurs. The video evidence clearly and decisively shows another story entirely. Mr. Phillips marches into frame, along with some other Indigenous people playing drums. Mr Phillips very intentionally walks over to the group of Covington kids (who are mugging for the camera) and inserts himself into the middle of them, where he and Nicholas Sandmann (15 or 16 years old – I’ve read both) have a bit of a stare-down. Sandmann smiles unwaveringly at Phillips and Phillips sings loudly at Sandmann while banging his drum. The only reason that Philips is ‘surrounded’ is because he has walked into the middle of a group of people. Think about that. Take the hats away. Take race away. Take location away. What has happened here is that an adult (stranger) walks into the middle of a group of teenagers that he does not know, and is playing music loudly in the middle of them. That is…odd. Abnormal. Strange, even. How would your kids act in such a situation? I’m honestly not sure how mine would. How would you react to a strange man walking down the road, seeing you, and coming straight up to you and playing his drum literally in your face while singing just inches away from you?! I imagine some people would be quite aggressive in such a situation, but there is NO evidence the Covington kids were. Look at the screen-cap below – Mr. Phillips’ drum is literally touching Sandmann around his face/neck area. That is NOT OK for a man who is a stranger to do such a thing to a teenager. I have taught high school, and if I had a group of kids on a field trip, and an adult man (or woman) whom we did not know walked loudly into a group of kids I was chaperoning, I would be quite concerned at such behavior.
#2 A group of adult males known as Black Hebrew Israelites (A.K.A. House of Israel – identified as a ‘hate group’ by the Southern Poverty Law Center) engaged the Covington kids with shouts and such before Mr. Phillips and the Indigenous people march arrives on the scene. This group of people shouted profanities and slurs at the Covington kids, including one of the leaders calling them, “a bunch of f—-ts made out of incest.” Other slurs were used also, but there is little, if any, evidence that the Covington kids responded in kind.
Shortly after that, when Mr. Phillips walked into the middle of the Covington kids, he was apparently accompanied by another adult Native American man. That man engaged the Covington students loudly saying, “You want to make America great – You white people need to go back to Europe where you came from. This is not your land. You have been here two or three generations compared to us. We’ve been here a million f-ing years. So get the F out of my face with that S-t.” (taken from the video)
When one of the Covington boys tried to argue with the gentleman, Nicholas Sandmann tried to calm him down, and apparently told him not to argue. Immediately after that, a teacher/parent/chaperone intervened, and tried to get the boys to move away. As the second Native American gentleman leaves the scene, he apparently says, “I got him, man – we’re not alone! I got him, man!” Which, again, is a troubling thing for a grown man to say after he has provoked a confrontation with a group of minors.
Many, many people are demanding apologies from Sandmann and the Covington kids. While I agree that it would have been much better for them to have merely moved away from Phillips, I will point out again that it was Phillips and his accompaniment that moved into the middle of the Covington kids. The confrontation lasted only a short time – less than 5 minutes, and it could be argued that a group of 16 year old boys would have no idea how to properly handle such a situation. Saying the boys could have simply left is a little difficult, because it is likely that they were told to stand where they were standing.
I think it would be very wise for Sandmann and the Covington people to issue a sort of blanket but sincere apology along the lines of, “We are sorry that people were hurt by some of our actions on the day in question. We have great respect for Indigenous people’s and their cause….etc.) But to demand an apology out of this group, one has to clearly say what they did wrong. Should they apologize for wearing MAGA hats? That’s probably not realistic. I would say the same if they were a group of kids wearing #Resist2020 hats, and they had been in a confrontation with a different group of people. Some people have deeply held political views. While I don’t share those views, it seems unwise and divisive to vilify such people. I ask again: What did the kids do WRONG? If you have an answer for that, please leave it in the comments! (And I am aware of the video that purports to show the Covington kids catcalling a group of young ladies. Having watched that video a dozen times, I can say that it is very inconclusive at best as to who is doing the catcalling. Catcalling is offensive and wrong. I am also aware of the very grainy picture that shows two kids at a Covington game covered in some sort of dark, full body paint. Does that constitute blackface when the whole body if painted black? Maybe so, and if so, it is offensive. It is worth pointing out that the picture shows TWO kids painted. It isn’t right to identify a whole student body with the actions of two kids, is it?)
*** It should be noted and emphasized that this video became viral after it was shared by a Twitter account, since suspended, that claimed to the account of a teacher in California. As CNN Business reported, that account was inauthentic, and suspicious. More people should be investigating the source of that account and its purpose. Is this the work of an outside agency, trying to tear Americans apart? Is this the work of a spiritual agency, seeking to sow disunity? Both?
Martin Luther King Jr. Non-violent in SPEECH! What Today’s Bombastic Americans can Learn from this Hero.
Have you heard the parable of the frog in the kettle? Most of us have – it is said (unscientifically, I am sure!) that one can put a frog in a pot of warm water, and the frog will happily stay in as you turn up the heat gradually, until that frog is boiled. I doubt that is true for most frogs, but ‘Frog in the Kettle Syndrome,’ is a very real issue that refers to profound societal and cultural changes that unfold gradually over time, thus seeming of lesser magnitude to those living through the gradual changes. I believe that we are living in such a ‘gradual but profound change’ era in the western world when it comes to rhetoric and our communication with each other.
In the last few years, people who disagree (on the news, in social media, around the water-cooler, etc.) appear to have become increasingly polarized, insulting, bombastic, rude and ad hominem (referencing personal attack) in those disagreements. I’m not sure there is a scientific way to quantify and prove that assertion, but there are evidences and examples all around and (despite whatever bias you might have) the examples of such incendiary communications can be found all across our various spectra of opinion: conservative to liberal, religious to atheist, rich to poor, etc. I think such forms of communication are extremely unhelpful and do more to cause strife and division than they do to educate and persuade, but my opinions on such matters are not the focus of this article.
Today is Martin Luther King Jr. day in the United States, and I consider him a personal hero as a civil rights leader and communicator. I believe that Dr. King is easily one of the top five communicators that the United States has ever produced. He is an exemplar of brilliant and persuasive communication who never (that I know of) stooped to attack his opponents with base insults or bombastic speech. WHAT WOULD MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. SAY ABOUT OUR CURRENT POLITICAL CLIMATE AND THE WAY THAT CONSERVATIVES AND LIBERALS OFTEN LAMBASTE EACH OTHER? I believe he would pointedly demonstrate to us a better way, and I believe that we can see abundant evidence from the writings and interviews of Dr. King that clearly back up that assertion. DR. KING WAS NON-VIOLENT IN HIS PURSUIT OF CHANGE IN BOTH LANGUAGE/COMMUNICATION AND DEMONSTRATIONS. I’m not shouting, there, i’m just trying to emphasize an important point: Martin Luther King Jr. was one of best and most effective communicators in human history – his communication style was non-attacking, graceful, and wise…and yet marvelously effective The point is: we don’t have to attack each other to communicate with impact…in fact, attacking each other waters down and weakens our communication and the impact it might have! But don’t take my word for it – let’s hear about it from Dr. King, the master communicator.
You might think you have reasons to be angry at your ideological opponent – they’ve hurt you with their words and their actions, and you are fed up and not going to take it anymore. They deserve your anger and your harsh speech. THEY’VE EARNED IT! Well, it is very likely that your opponents aren’t nearly as hateful and attacking as Dr. King’s vile and racist opponents. It’s very likely that your opponents have not BOMBED YOUR HOME, like they did to Martin Luther King Jr. in 1956. Here’s how Dr. King responded after his home was bombed:
“I could not go to sleep. While I lay in that quiet front bedroom, with a distant street lamp throwing a reassuring glow through the curtained window, I began to think of the viciousness of people who would bomb my home. I could feel the anger rising when I realized that my wife and baby could have been killed. I thought about the city commissioners and all the statements that they had made about me and the Negro generally. I was once more on the verge of corroding anger. And once more I caught myself and said: “You must not allow yourself to become bitter.” I tried to put myself in the place of the police commissioners. I said to myself these are not bad men. They are misguided.” (MLKJr. after his house was bombed in 1956) (Source: Stride Toward Freedom. Written by MlkJr in 1957)
Note the wisdom of Dr. King: He had been dangerously threatened and treated horribly, but he would NOT let himself fall into corrupting anger and bitterness. Perhaps, since Dr. King was a Christian and a preacher, he was remembering Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:
And don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit. You were sealed by Him for the day of redemption. 31 All bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice. 32 And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. Ephesians 4:30-32
Here’s another excellent example. In 1956, Dr. King had led a year-long non-violent protest and boycott against racist and unjust bussing practices in the city of Montgomery, Alabama. On the occasion of seeing some of those unjust practices overturned, Dr. King gave a victory speech of sorts at a Montgomery church. Read his words and consider their tone:
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Speech at Holt Street and First Baptist Church. December 20, 1956, Montgomery, Alabama
I cannot close without giving just a word of caution. Our experience and growth during this past year of united non-violent protest has been of such that we cannot be satisfied with a court “victory” over our white brothers. We must respond to the decision with an understanding of those who have oppressed us and with an appreciation of the new adjustments that the court order poses for them. We must be able to face up honestly to our own shortcomings. We must act in such a way as to make possible a coming together of white people and colored people on the basis of a real harmony of interests and understanding. We seek an integration based on mutual respect.
This is the time that we must evince calm dignity and wise restraint. Emotions must not run wild. Violence must not come from any of us, for if we become victimized with violent intents, we will have walked in vain, and our twelve months of glorious dignity will be transformed into an eve of gloomy catastrophe.
What a remarkable call for peace and charity. If anybody had a right to be angry at their opponents, it was Dr. King. But, note the wisdom and restraint and desire for peace in this victory speech. I have heard numerous voices on the left and right allege that bombastic and invective speech is necessary now because the other side is too far gone, and they won’t be persuaded or changed by words that lack profound insults, anger, and hyper-pointed language. In fact, the very opposite of that is true, and the effectiveness and impact of Dr. King’s Civil Rights Movement demonstrates that almost nobody will be persuaded by insulting language and personal attacks. People who engage in such rhetoric are simply alienating their opponents (and those in the middle) more and more. It does not work, and you may not use the fact that the other side uses attacking and bombastic rhetoric to justify your own use of such communication. Dr. King’s opponents vilified him at every turn but his wiser and measured response was ultimately more powerful, more persuasive and won the day. I’m not advocating for boring, vanilla speech that doesn’t make any strong points and aims to never offend. That was NOT Dr. King’s way. I am, however, advocating for communication that is graceful, wise, non-violent, non-attacking and unity-seeking, while also being powerful and persuasive. If you don’t think that is possible, you are missing the legacy and impact of Dr. King who proved that it was possible and change-inducing.
5Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. 6 Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.
Consider another speech from Dr. King, his most famous one:
“I have a Dream” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. August 28, 1963
But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: in the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence., we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
We must hear again Dr. King’s call to resist bitterness and hatred, even when the other side is wrong, wrong, wrong – as Dr. King’s opponents most assuredly were. I concur with King’s call to dignity and discipline. But note that it is not a bland, tasteless and weak dignity and discipline, as the last quote above illustrates. Instead of meeting force with force, hatred with hatred, invective with invective, insult with insult, we must meet those things with what Dr. King calls ‘Soul Force,’ which, I believe, is much more powerful AND revolutionary than violence, insults, vile language, and the like. As the apostle Paul notes below, we can impact our opponents more by loving them, doing good to them, and not repaying evil for evil with them, than we can by BECOMING JUST LIKE THEM and trading insult for insult, evil for evil. I don’t know if you’ve noticed it or not, but there is almost nothing substantial that separates those on the more extreme end of the conservative or liberal political spectrum. They both behave the same way in defense of their positions, they both attack in the same manner (while decrying the barbaric attacks of their ideological opponents) and the tone of their communications is both almost exactly the same. And what is the result of all of this bombastic speech? Disunity, division, and a growing weakening of our country.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil.Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. 18 If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone. 19 Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord. 20 But If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head.21 Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.Romans 12:17-21
One more example from Dr. King of how to persuasively communicate without vilifying your opponent or making an enemy out of them. The genius of Dr. King is in this: he sought unity, reconciliation, friendship and partnership with his opponents – vile and misguided and wrong as they were – rather than seeking their annihilation and destruction. This lesson is one of the key truths from Dr. King that Americans in 2019 must learn. Listening to liberals and conservatives debate with each other, one gets the idea that one or the other would just as soon see the other side utterly destroyed, rather than won over to truth. Consider these principles from Dr. King on how to resist evil AND win over those who are supporting injustice:
Source: Stride Toward Freedom, by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
First, it must be emphasized that nonviolent resistance is not a method for cowards; it does resist… A second basic fact that characterizes nonviolence is that it does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win his friendship and understanding. The nonviolent resister must often express protest through noncooperation and boycotts, but the resister realizes that these are not ends in themselves; they are merely means to awaken a sense of moral shame in the opponent. The end is redemption and reconciliation. The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness.
A third characteristic of this method is that the attack is directed against forces of evil rather than against persons who happen to be doing the evil. It is evil that the nonviolent resister seeks to defeat, not the persons victimized by evil. If she is opposing racial injustice, the nonviolent resister has the vision to see that the basic tension is not between races. As I like to way to the people in Montgomery: “tension in this city is not between white people and Negro people. The tension is, at bottom, between justice and injustice, between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. And, if there is a victory, it will be a victory not merely for fifty thousand Negroes, but a victory for justice and the forces of light. We are out to defeat injustice and not white persons who may be injust.”
A fourth point that characterizes nonviolent resistance is a willingness to accept suffering without retaliation, to accept blows from the opponent without striking back. …One may well ask: “What is the nonviolent resister’s justification for this ordeal to which he invites others, for this mass political application of the ancient doctrine of turning the other cheek?” The answer is found in the realization that unearned suffering is redemptive. Suffering, the nonviolent resister realizes, has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities…
A fifth point concerning nonviolent resistance is that it avoids not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. The nonviolent resister not only refuses to shoot his opponent, but he also refuses to hate him. At the center of nonviolence stands the principle of love. The nonviolent resister would contend that in the struggle for human dignity, the oppressed people of the world must not succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter or indulging in hate campaigns. To retaliate in kind would do nothing but intensify the existence of hate in the universe. Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can only be done by projecting the ethic of love to the center of our lives.
One final Postscript. Dr. King was a pacifist in terms of his approach to Civil Rights, but he was not PASSIVE. There is a vast difference between the two things. I believe Dr. King would passionately advocate for dignified dialog that avoids bombastic insults and vilifying one’s opponents. He would NOT, however, advocate passivity. It must be realized that Dr. King’s civil rights movement – which I believe was the most effective civil rights movement in world history – was indeed dignified but DYNAMIC. Far more dynamic than 99.99 percent of the people on social media who hurl insults and attacks as easily as they can take a breath. See below for some words from Dr. King which demonstrate that he was far from passive, nor was he advocating patient passivity in the face of evil:
Now I would like to mention one or two ideas that circulate in our society—and they probably circulate in your society and all over the world—that keep us from developing the kind of action programs necessary to get rid of discrimination and segregation. One is what I refer to as the myth of time. There are those individuals who argue that only time can solve the problem of racial injustice in the United States, in South Africa or anywhere else; you’ve got to wait on time. And I know they’ve said to us so often in the States and to our allies in the white community, “Just be nice and be patient and continue to pray, and in 100 or 200 years the problem will work itself out.” We have heard and we have lived with the myth of time. The only answer that I can give to that myth is that time is neutral. It can be used either constructively or destructively. And I must honestly say to you that I’m convinced that the forces of ill will have often used time much more effectively than the forces of goodwill. And we may have to repent in this generation, not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around saying, “Wait on time.” And somewhere along the way it is necessary to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals who are willing to be co-workers with God. And without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation.Recently found December 7, 1964 Martin Luther King Jr. speech in London.
This is an update of an original article written in 2016, that was part of a series on spiritual gifts. The other posts aren’t updated yet, but are still relevant to the topic. Click here for part 1: An Introduction to Spiritual Gifts or click here for part 2: The Purpose of Spiritual Gifts.
The focus of this article is to offer an answer to what is usually the most commonly asked question on this topic: How do I know what my spiritual gift is? This question (and this post itself) makes me quite nervous, because it is an attempt to answer a question that is not directly answered by Scripture. The fact is there is no Scripture that directly tells believers how to find out what their spiritual gift is, and this is a bit of bad news; at the same time, the good news is that God has given His Holy Spirit to believers to lead them into all truth (John 16:13). Since God in His Word has commanded that all believers USE their spiritual gifts (1 Peter 4:10-11), then it is reasonable to believe that one of the roles of the Holy Spirit – Himself the giver of spiritual gifts – is to actually lead Christians into the knowledge of what their gift is AND how to walk in it. The seven simple steps outlined below are informed by Scripture and are built around the understanding that the Holy Spirit is active, near, close and personally involved in every believer’s life.
How Do I know My Spiritual Gifts?
Seven Step Process to Learn Your Spiritual Gift:
Yes, I know seven steps actually seems like a lot of steps, but please bear with me. First of all, I believe all seven steps are biblical, necessary, and should not be skipped. Secondly, from my observation, it seems like it is somewhat rare for Christians to immediately understand and know their spiritual gifting(s). I am not sure why that is, but based on informal surveys, I would estimate that less than 50 percent of active, church-going people who show the fruit of being Christians, actually know what their primary spiritual gift is.
If you are a Christian and don’t know what your primary spiritual gift is, then don’t be alarmed by this – you are not alone! I have been in ministry for well over 20 years, and have served as a senior pastor for over ten years. In 2016, when I surveyed our church congregation and my closest friends (people that knew me VERY well) about what they thought MY primary spiritual gift was, I got at least nine different answers out of roughly two dozen respondents. Of those two dozen – only TWO mentioned pastoring or shepherding as my primary spiritual gift. That is not particularly disconcerting to me, because even though I have the title of “senior pastor” on paper, and even though I spend a good amount of time pastoring, I actually don’t believe that pastoring/shepherding is my primary spiritual gift. The fact of the matter is that God can and will use you to edify and build up His Body even if you don’t have a clue what your spiritual gift is. He is sovereign, and He cares greatly for His people, the Body of Christ! The final reason to indulge in a seven step process for identifying spiritual gifts is that it spells out an awesome acrostic, DISCOVER, and everybody likes acrostics, right? (Shout out to 80s preachers)
So – without further keystrokes, here is the seven step DISCOVER process to learn what Spiritual Gift you have:
Study the Word
Consider a Spiritual Gifts Test
Observe Needs and Offer to Serve
- Desire Intensely The first step in finding out your spiritual gift is that you obey the Word and intensely desire spiritual gifts for your self and fellow Christians that you are in relationship with. At least THREE times in Scripture, the apostle Paul tells Christians to desire, pursue and/or be eager to have various spiritual gifts – especially the greater ones. The Greek word he uses is the word ζηλοῦτε or ZEALOUTAY, which is the word that we get zeal/zealous from. It means to intensely long for something – even to covet it. It is right and biblical to have a deep desire to know and use your spiritual gift! 1 Cor 12:31, “31 But desire the greater gifts. And I will show you an even better way.” 1 Corinthians 14 1, “Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, and above all that you may prophesy.” 1 Corinthians 14:39, “Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.”
- Study the Word. Remember that God’s Word is living AND active and that the Bible is a supernatural book. Remember also that one of the jobs of the Holy Spirit is to lead us into all truth. As you study the major Bible passages on the spiritual gifts, I believe and trust that God will unlock insight, understanding and knowledge and lead you to truth through His living Word. Here are four excellent passages on spiritual gifts to start your study. There are certainly other places in Scripture where the gifts are mentioned, but I believe the below passages are the four longest and most detailed teachings on spiritual gifts in the Bible. Prayerfully read and meditate on these passages and ask the Holy Spirit to sovereignly (in His timing) lead you into a deeper understanding of spiritual gifts and your gift in particular:A.1 Corinthians 12-1
B. Romans 12:3-8
C. 1 Peter 4: 7-11
D. Ephesians 4:4-16
Also, there are passages like Romans 1:11-12, “11 For I want very much to see you, so I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you, 12 that is, to be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” I believe this passage indicates a major purpose of spiritual gifts – that they be MUTUALLY encouraging to each other. Paul addresses this in 1 Corinthians 12:7, “A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial:” The Greek word there for ‘beneficial,’ is ‘‘symphero,’ and it means to hold up together, or bring together, or mutually hold each other up.
Another pertinent passage is 2 Timothy 1:6 6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
- Consider a spiritual gifts test. For a lot of Christians that are interested in finding out their spiritual gift, the first place they start is by taking a spiritual gifts test or a spiritual gifts inventory. Call me crazy, but I do not believe that a test taken and graded by an individual, is the correct place to start when trying to ascertain one’s spiritual gift. First, this is not a great idea because we are biased – we might fill out a test based on what we wish to do or be, or how we wish to be gifted, rather than based on how God has actually gifted us. In preaching, I have found myself more than once using a word or phrase from some of my heroes of the faith (men like: Charles Spurgeon, John Piper, David Platt, Tim Keller, etc.). I am not, however, any of those guys, and I am not gifted in the same way that they are. On a spiritual gifts test, I might give in to gift-envy, and thus fill out the test in a way that would make me match up better with those that I look up to.Another way that bias works against us on spiritual gifts tests is in the negative sense: we might actually underrate ourselves, either because of humility, or because we are going through a trial at the moment, or the Refiner’s fire, or even a bad taco last night. The point is that when we are evaluating ourselves, we often miss things. This is precisely why Jesus warned His followers to not point out splinters in their brother’s eyes when they have trees in their own eyes. Most people are not accurately self-aware, and a spiritual gifts test does not account for this. The best way to discover your spiritual gift is via the leadership of the Spirit through the Word of God in the midst of the Body of Christ – a community of believers that can give you feedback and encourage you in what you areas or roles that you are gifted and fruitful in.Brilliant Spiritual Gifts Test
That said – I am myself actually working on an online spiritual gifts test. Other than the programming side of things, it is not terribly difficult to do a spiritual gifts test (see an early beta version of my test in action above). Jokes aside, spiritual gifts tests do have SOME value, but should neither be the starting point nor the ending point in spiritual gifts discovery. Consider taking a test, but know that this step is not necessary, and could even be counterproductive, though such tests are usually helpful. There is not a large selection of free online spiritual gifts tests available, but one that is quite good is the Gifted2Serve test at BuildingChurch.net – shout out to the 90s on that web design there. It is made by a blogger and pastor that was an intern at Lakeview Baptist in Auburn, Alabama and it contains a full list of spiritual gifts (including a few controversial ones).
Note this caution from seasoned Christian counselor and writer Edward Welch: “As a counselor, I have spoken with many people who want to know their spiritual gifts. They come hoping for some sort of diagnostic test that will precisely locate them. My impression is that this perspective represents a breakdown in the church. It reflects a church where we are running around as self-actualizing individuals rather than uniting as a God-glorifying community.“ Ed Welch in “When People are Big and God is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency and the Fear of Man.”
- Observe Community Needs AND Offer to Serve in an Area of Need Yes. I am cheating a bit here – there are two “O’s” in step number four, and only one “O” in Discover. I refuse to call it the “Discoover” method, as people will laugh at me. Understand, as Paul notes in 1 Corinthians 12:18 (below) that God has ordered the body of Christ precisely the way that He wants it to be ordered. That means that He has sovereignly guided you to your current church fellowship, small group, family, etc. Further understand, as Peter notes in 1 Peter 4:10, that your gift is designed to be used – it is a command – to serve other Christians. Putting these two facts together, leads me to conclude that, wherever you are and whomever you are, God has placed you, with your specific gifting, in a place that needs your service! In other words, you have a gifting that is designed to be used in an area of need in your church, small group, job, or family. Look for it, and ask God to lead you to it. Hopefully you are in the kind of church where the leaders actually know you and want you to not merely fill a need, but to thrive in an area of gifting***. If you are are in such a place, then ask them where they think you might fit. Ask other members of your church fellowship that you are close to. Once again: There is a need in your community that you are designed to meet and serve in and The Holy Spirit will lead you to that need! ***I note here that things like toilet cleaning, trash picking up, nursery service, and lots of other areas of seemingly menial service do not necessarily have a spiritual gift directly associated with them, with the possible exception of the gift of service itself. Please don’t ever beg out of lowly tasks by saying that you aren’t gifted to do them. None of us are exactly gifted to clean toilets or change diapers, or pick up trash, but we do serve a master, Jesus, who tells us that they key to greatness is not to BE served, but to SERVE!
A. 1 Peter 4:10, “10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:”
B. 1 Corinthians 12:18, “18 But now God has placed each one of the parts in one body just as He wanted.” If God has placed you in a certain church fellowship, in a certain job, in a certain neighborhood, then you can KNOW that He has placed YOU – with your special gifting – in a place where you can USE that gift.
- Verify Giftedness with Family and Friends. This is another place where being in a Christian family/community becomes important. After testing the waters, so to speak, and serving in an area or two in your fellowship or small group, then ask follow-up questions of your spouse, your friends, and trusted church leaders. Here are some questions to consider asking: “Where do you think I am gifted?” “What are the needs of the church that are currently going unmet?” “Is there a different place where I could serve fruitfully, or am I being fruitful here?”Also, be on the look out for others who are serving with noticeable impact and giftedness, and intentionally encourage them WITHOUT their asking in areas of obvious gifting. Don’t assume they know what their gift is! Very often people will discover areas that God has gifted them not on their own, but through the encouraging and insightful words of others. Also consider having your spouse take a spiritual gifts test FOR you, and then compare notes – they might see things that you are missing. Finally, consider asking mature Christians and spiritual leaders that know you well what areas they might believe that you are gifted to serve in. If you yourself are asked such a question, never give a terse or discouraging answer, but also never tell an untruth. In other words, seek neither to blow people off, nor inaccurately declare their giftedness in an area that you don’t have confidence that they are gifted in. Speak the truth in Love.
- Evaluate Fruitfulness This step is very similar to step number five, and can even be done together with number five. If you are gifted in a particular area, then there should be obvious fruit that comes from your endeavors in that area. Failure to be fruitful in a particular calling or area of service, especially in the short term, does not necessarily mean that you aren’t gifted in that area. Adonirum Judson labored for almost six years as a missionary in Burma before he saw his first convert, and Judson was a tremendously gifted missionary and evangelist. God often leads His people through the testing grounds of failure and pruning so that they will be more fruitful (John 15). That said, serving for a significant amount of time in an area without noticeable joy or fruit/impact might be a signal that you are not serving in an area of giftedness Often it is important to involve others in this evaluation. Avoid sunshine pumpers who will encourage you in every single endeavor of your life – even those you aren’t great at. These people may love you well, but they aren’t the ones to get a genuine evaluation from. Avoid critics even more vigorously – the kind of people who tell you that those jeans do actually make your bottom look huge. Stark truth, spoken without love and encouragement, is unhelpful. The ability to criticize well is perhaps the most common ability in our culture. We do NOT need more critics, or fault finders or more masters of snark. We need more LOVING truth tellers. People that can communicate truth WITHOUT wounding and WITHOUT misdirecting somebody. Seek those kind of people out, and ask them to help evaluate your fruitfulness in areas of service. Those who genuinely speak the truth in love to you will be invaluable assets in your life – helping you to thrive in areas of giftedness and avoid areas of barren frustration.
- Repeat These seven steps should be an ongoing process. Since God’s Word tells us to eagerly desire spiritual gifts, I believe it is possible that spiritual gifts might not be delivered to believers in full on the day of salvation, but distributed by the Spirit over time and according to need. Thus, as we mature, and as our needs change (and as we intensely desire…), I suspect that the Spirit will lead us to unperceived areas of fruitfulness. Therefore keep desiring intensely, keep studying God’s Word, keep considering spiritual gifts tests and offering to serve in areas of need. Keep verifying giftedness and evaluating fruitfulness. Do all of this in the knowledge that you are led by a Holy Spirit that, “causes all things to work together for good for those who know God and are called according to His purposes.”
In closing, allow me to quote from Acts 15, and point us to the encouragement and strengthening that came when Judas and Silas exercised their giftings in the Antioch congregation. These men knew their areas of spiritual giftedness and walked in them, which brought great edification and strength to their fellowship. May we be like Judas and Silas in that area – different giftings, perhaps, but the same results: encouragement and strengthening!
Acts 15: 30 So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. 31 And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement.32 And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words. 33 And after they had spent some time, they were sent off in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them.
What an interesting discovery! In doing some research for an upcoming Christmas devotional (featuring writings from Charles Spurgeon, C.S. Lewis, Tim Keller, John Piper, and more), I stumbled on quite a fascinating article from Spurgeon in the 1874 Sword and Trowel magazine. The title of that post? “Ghost Stories for Christmas!” In the article, Spurgeon details some of his own ghost-hunting exploits and discusses a ghost that apparently haunted John Wesley…and no, I’m not exaggerating! Did Spurgeon actually believe in ghosts? I’ll try and answer that in a moment…but first, the briefest of commercials about a new book I just released:
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Back to Charles Spurgeon and…ghosts?! Yes, believe it or not, Spurgeon penned a very long column on ghosts in Sword and Trowel, 1874. The article in question begins thus:
WE may be very wrong, but we confess a weakness for a ghost story, and cannot help listening to it, and all the more if it makes the blood curdle and blanches the cheek…We lived at one time among a people many of whom devoutly believed in apparitions, and wizards, and witches, and all that horrible rout, and often have we heard the most thrilling stories—stories, we believe, in more senses than one.
C. H. Spurgeon, The Sword and Trowel: 1874 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1874), 170.
Just those first few sentences instantly hooked me and roused my curiosity! Spurgeon here is apparently using the ‘royal we,’ as the article in question is signed, “C.H.S.” Do those next two sentences give evidence that Spurgeon believed, in some ways, in ghosts? Perhaps so…he states that he believed some of the ghost stories he has heard in more ways than one. Here is some more evidence in that direction:
We had sent us for review some little time ago a book upon apparitions, which claims to be a narrative of facts; and as we read it through we said “Yes, these were facts where they were done,” and we put the book aside, to be looked up somewhat nearer the end of the year, when our Christmas number might excuse our inserting one or more of the aforesaid facts. We are afraid our readers will think us rather a Sadducee, but we are nothing of the kind, nor a Pharisee either; but we do not believe that in nine out of ten ghost stories there is a ghost of truth, and we are not quite sure that we believe the tenth one.
C. H. Spurgeon, The Sword and Trowel: 1874 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1874), 170–171.
Therefore, Spurgeon is a skeptic about paranormal things…but is he a 100 percent skeptic? Perhaps not, as indicated by that last line. Spurgeon appears to be saying that he dismisses 9 out of 10 ghost stories he hears, but maintains some level of credulity about the 10th. Directly after this, he actually gives an example of a ‘ghost story’ that he gives at least a little belief to:
The Wesley family undoubtedly were favoured with a very noisy visitant of some sort, and we have no idea what it was, only there is no accounting for the noises which rats make in old houses any more than for the foul gases in new ones.
C. H. Spurgeon, The Sword and Trowel: 1874 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1874), 171.
Wesley family? Not the John Wesley‘s family?! Yes, one and the same. Apparently, as the old story goes, the house that John Wesley was raised in had a period of being ‘haunted’ by something that made interesting and remarkable noises. You can read John Wesley’s full summation of those events at the bottom of this post, but here is his mother Susanna Wesley’s account, taken from a letter written to her away at-college son Samuel Wesley:
“We all heard it but your father, and I was not willing he should be informed of it, lest he should fancy it was against his own death, which, indeed, we all apprehended. But when it began to be so troublesome, both day and night, that few or none of the family durst be alone, I resolved to tell him of it, being minded he should speak to it. At first he would not believe but somebody did it to alarm us; but the night after, as soon as he was in bed, it knocked loudly nine times, just by his bedside. He rose and went to see if he could find out what it was, but could see nothing. Afterwards he heard it as the rest. One night it made such a noise in the room over our heads, as if several people were walking, then ran up and down stairs, and was so outrageous, that we thought the children would be frightened: so your father and ! rose, and went down in the dark to light a candle. Just as we came to the bottom of the broad stairs, having hold of each other, on my side there seemed as if somebody had emptied a bag of money at my feet; and on his, as if all the bottles under the stairs (which were many) had been dashed in a thousand pieces. We passed through the hall into the kitchen, and got a candle, and went to see the children, whom we found asleep.”
“We had both man and maid new last Martinmas (St. Martin’s Day, AKA Old Halloween, November 11) yet I do not believe either of them occasioned the disturbance, both for the reason above mentioned, and because they were more affrighted than anybody else. Besides, we have often heard the noises when they were in the room by us; and the maid particularly was in such a panic, that she was almost incapable of all business, nor durst even go from one room to another, or stay by herself a minute after it began to be dark. “The man Robert Brown, whom you well know, was most visited by it lying in the garret (small, top-floor attic room), and has often been frightened down barefoot, and almost naked, not daring to stay alone to put on his clothes; nor do I think, if he had power, he would be guilty of such villainy. When the walking was heard in the garret, Robert was in bed in the next room, in a sleep so sound that he never heard your father and me walk up and down, though we walked not softly I am sure. All the family has heard it together, in the same room, at the same time, particularly at family prayers. It always seemed to all present in the same place at the same time, though often before any could say, ‘It is here,’ it would remove to another place. “All the family as well as Robin were asleep when your father and I went down stairs, nor did they wake in the nursery when we held the candle closely to them, only we observed that Hetty trembled exceedingly in her sleep, as she always did before the noise awaked her. It commonly was nearer her than the rest, which she took notice of, and was much frightened, because she thought it had a particular spite at her. I could multiply particular instances, but I forbear.”(The Fortnightly Review, volume 3, page 725 – 1866)
I’m not sure what to make of that Wesley situation, and neither was Spurgeon. There could certainly be some natural causes for it, and indeed, that is what many modern skeptics believe. After his discussion of the Wesley case, Spurgeon then begins to describe several previous ghost-hunting missions that he has been on. One thing is clear from this description: Spurgeon was quite the curious and adventuresome gentleman!
When we meet with a thing which puzzles us we pry into the cause as far as we can, and generally find it out; and if we cannot read the riddle we lay it by to be solved another day, never flying to the old-fashioned resort of dragging in the supernatural. We traced a spirit song after much investigation to a foot-warmer filled with hot water, which was being used by an invalid. We found a band of celestial visitants, who whispered to us all night in a country house, and they turned out to be a nest of birds in a hole in the plaster of the wall at our bed head, which hole nearly came through into the room. Nothing supernatural has ever been seen by our eyes, nor do we think we shall ever be blessed with such visions while in this body, for after seeing Robert Houdin and other wonder-workers we are casehardened against the whole set of tricks and sham spirits, and these are the parents of most of the marvels which set silly people’s hair on end. As a general rule, when we hear of an apparition, or anything of the kind, we do not believe it to be other than an illusion or a falsehood. The most wonderfully well-attested narratives seldom bear investigation, they are built up upon hearsay and tittle-tattle, and will not endure a strict examination; like most rumours, they fall like card-houses as soon as the hand of truth touches them. Perhaps a few of them appear to be so far true that we may safely say that they are not yet accounted for except upon a supernatural hypothesis, but we should hesitate to say more. Some are evidently the result of strong imagination, and are true to the parties concerned, affecting their fears and stamping themselves upon their minds too firmly to allow them to doubt.
C. H. Spurgeon, The Sword and Trowel: 1874 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1874), 171.
So then, our man Spurgeon was an intrepid fellow, and a skeptic for sure…but did he absolutely disbelieve in the possibility of ghosts or other apparitions? Surprisingly, he refused to rule out the possibility! In Spurgeon’s mind, the vast majority of claimants to paranormal experience were worthy of an asylum, but possibly not all. Spurgeon concludes his discourses in Sword and Trowel by retelling two ghost stories – both relayed to him by ministers. The second ghost story is debunked by the participants themselves in a quite humorous way (the ‘ghost’ haunting a group of antebellum New Englanders ended up being an escaped pale horse), but the first ghost story Spurgeon relates does not have a simple explanation, and Spurgeon himself seems to find it unexplainable, and perhaps even authentic. He introduces both stories with this interesting paragraph:
We do not affirm that ghosts have never been seen, for no one has any right to hazard so broad a statement, but all spirits, as such, must be invisible, and the two sorts of human spirits which we know of are both by far too seriously occupied to go roaming about this earth rapping on tables or frightening simpletons into fits. As for angels, though they also as spirits are not cognizable by the senses, no doubt they have been made visible to men, and there is no reason why they should not be made so now if God so willed it; it would certainly be a wonder, but we do not see that any of the laws of nature need to be suspended to produce it. We can readily believe that those messengers who keep watch around the people of God would be rendered visible to us and to others if some grand purpose could be accomplished thereby, and if the safety of the saints required it. Whether in these days angels or departed spirits ever do assume forms in which they can be seen is the question, and we have as yet seen nothing to lead us to believe that they do. Others assert that they have seen such things, but as they generally admit that they would not have believed unless they had seen for themselves, we hope they will allow us to exercise the same abstinence.
C. H. Spurgeon, The Sword and Trowel: 1874 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1874), 172.
Where does that leave us relative to Spurgeon and ghosts? I think he sums it up here quite unmistakably, despite the double negative, “We do not affirm that ghosts have never been seen, for no one has any right to hazard so broad a statement.” In other words, Spurgeon is saying that nobody should say that ghosts have never been seen, because it is such a broad statement that is difficult to prove. What do YOU think? Was Spurgeon right to be (slightly) open-minded, or did he leave things a little too vague for your tastes?
Addendum #1: Some Interesting Charles Spurgeon Quotes on Ghosts and other Oddities:
1. “Guilt raked out of its grave is more frightful than a ghost, or one risen from the dead.” Nor is the terror which sin excites in the awakened conscience at all an idle one. There is in evil a horror greater than can be found in hobgoblin, sprite, or apparition. Great is the mystery of iniquity, and he who comes under its spell will have no joy of his life till the ghost is laid in the Red Sea of Jesus’ precious blood. Blessed be God, our Lord has done this for us; and we are not afraid of being haunted by sins which are buried in his grave.
C. H. Spurgeon, Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden, Distilled and Dispensed (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1883), 49.
2. Lesson from a Ghost: I REMEMBER well, one night, having been preaching the word in a country village, I was walking home alone along a lonely footpath. I do not know what it was that ailed me, but I was prepared to be alarmed, when of a surety I saw something standing in the hedge, ghastly, giantlike, and with outstretched arms. Surely, I thought, for once I have come across the supernatural; here is some restless spirit performing its midnight march beneath the moon, or some demon of the pit. I deliberated with myself a moment, and having no faith in ghosts, I plucked up courage, and resolved to solve the mystery. The monster stood on the other side of a ditch, right in the hedge. I jumped the ditch, and found myself grasping an old tree, which some waggish body had taken pains to colour with a little whitewash, with a view to frighten simpletons. That old tree has served me a good turn full often, for I have learned to leap at difficulties, and find them vanish or turn to triumphs. (Editor’s note: I think this quote ultimately encapsulates Spurgeon’s theology of ‘ghosts.’ He likely didn’t believe in them, but that disbelief didn’t keep him from investigating the odd bump in the night, or apparent apparition on a lonely country road.)
C. H. Spurgeon, Flashes of Thought (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1874), 171–172.
3. The belief in witchcraft would not still linger in our villages if all preachers of the gospel set their faces like a flint against it. We may never feel safe with regard to the inflammable material of superstition which remains in the human breast even in times of scepticism; at any hour it may serve as tinder for a new Mormonism, or some other form of wild fanaticism. There are not lacking portentous signs at this moment. What some have hailed as hopeful we have had reason to dread. Once or twice within the last dozen years the church at large has escaped from a fever of fanaticism by a hair’s breadth, and the peril ought not to be perpetuated by unrebuked ignorance. (Editor’s note: This article, written about ten years after the above ‘ghost article,’ might show evidence that Spurgeon’s attitude towards paranormal things has hardened in his older years, or it might just represent his attitude towards witchcraft.)
C. H. Spurgeon, The Sword and Trowel: 1884 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1884), 320.
4. You will perceive that a soul which can really pray thus has life, true spiritual life still struggling within. An ungodly man does not ask that he may abide in nearness to God; rather would he say, “Whither shall I flee from thy presence?” He does not seek for God’s Spirit; he is quite content that the evil spirit should rule him, and that the spirit of this world should be predominant in him. But here is life, struggling, panting, crushed, painful life, but life for all that; the higher spiritual life which sighs after God. I have seen in the corner of the garden a little fire covered up with many damp autumn leaves; I have watched its feeble smoke, and known thereby that the fire still lived and was fighting with the damp which almost smothered it; so here these desires and sighs and cries are as so much smoke, indicating the divine fire within. “Cast me not away from thy presence,” shows a soul that loves God’s presence; “take not thy Holy Spirit from me,” reveals a heart that desires to be under the dominion of that Spirit yet more completely. Here are signs of life, though they may appear to be as indistinct and doleful as hollow groans far underground, such as have been heard from men buried alive; voices from the sepulchre, choked and ghostly, but telling of life in the charnel house, grappling with death, and crying out, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me?” (Editor’s note: This is from an 1870 sermon by Spurgeon. Such vivid language! It reminds me very much of Jesus’ challenge to the pharisees that they were ‘white washed tombs.’ I note here that a charnel house is a place where bones are stored, often in, or near a churchyard.)
C. H. Spurgeon, “A Most Needful Prayer Concerning the Holy Spirit,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 16 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1870), 554–555.
Children of God, can you not bear witness to this fact? When convinced of sin, you were almost driven to despair. You went to Moses, and he said, ‘Do good works.’ You tried to obey him, but how you failed! You tried ceremonies, baptism, the so-called Sacrament, church-going; but you were none the better. What could you do? The ghosts of your old sins haunted you every day. By night you dreamed of them, and by day you seemed to feel the hell of which you had dreamed by night. Do you remember the time when the burden was lifted, and all your terrors were quieted? Was it not when you saw Jesus crucified for you,—when you saw Jesus bleeding, dying in your stead? Then you were set free, fully emancipated; then your every fetter was broken, then every bond was snapped; then, by the life and blood-shedding of the Lord Jesus Christ, you were delivered from terror and alarm. So Jesus saves his people from the terror of their sins. (Editor’s note: What is more terrifying than the possibility of real ghosts haunting you? The ghost of past sins haunting you! Nobody can preach the gospel like Spurgeon.)
Unpublished notes from a Spurgeon sermon delivered in Belfast, 1858 C H Spurgeon’s Forgotten Early Sermons: A Companion to the New Park Street Pulpit: Twenty-Eight Sermons Compiled from the Sword and the Trowel, ed. Terence Peter Crosby (Leominster: Day One, 2010), 88–89.
Who can enlighten the blind eye? Who can bring spiritual hearing into the deaf ear? Indeed, who can quicken the dead soul but the eternal, enlightening, quickening Spirit? There it lies before us, a vast valley full of bones. Our mission is to raise them from the dead. Can we do it? No, by no means, of ourselves. Yet we are to say to those dry bones, “Live.” Our mission is absurd; it is worthy of laughter, unless we have prayer and the supply of the Spirit with us. If we have those, the bones shall come to other bones, the skeleton shall be fashioned, the flesh shall clothe the bony fabric, the Holy Ghost shall blow upon the inanimate body, and life shall be there, and an army shall throng the cemetery. Let us but invoke the Spirit and go forth to minister in His might, and we shall do marvels yet, and the nation, and the world itself, shall feel the power of the gospel of Jesus. But we must have the Spirit. (Editor’s note: Skeletons, bones, the gospel!)
Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Philippians, ed. Elliot Ritzema, Spurgeon Commentary Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014), 35.
“Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night.” Such frail creatures are we that both by night and by day we are in danger, and so sinful are we that in either season we may be readily carried away by fear; the promise before us secures the favourite of heaven both from danger and from the fear of it. Night is the congenial hour of horrors, when alarms walk abroad like beasts of prey, or ghouls from among the tombs; our fears turn the sweet season of repose into one of dread, and though angels are abroad and fill our chambers, we dream of demons and dire visitants from hell. Blessed is that communion with God which renders us impervious to midnight frights, and horrors born of darkness. Not to be afraid is in itself an unspeakable blessing, since for every suffering which we endure from real injury we are tormented by a thousand griefs which arise from fear only. The shadow of the Almighty removes all gloom from the shadow of night: once covered by the divine wing, we care not what winged terrors may fly abroad in the earth. “Nor for the arrow that flieth by day.” Cunning foes lie in ambuscade, and aim the deadly shaft at our hearts, but we do not fear them, and have no cause to do so. That arrow is not made which can destroy the righteous, for the Lord hath said, “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper.” In times of great danger those who have made the Lord their refuge, and therefore have refused to use the carnal weapon, have been singularly preserved; the annals of the Quakers bear good evidence to this; yet probably the main thought is, that from the cowardly attacks of crafty malice those who walk by faith shall be protected, from cunning heresies they shall be preserved, and in sudden temptations they shall be secured from harm. (Editor’s note: WOW! What an amazing promise of protection from ghouls, demons and beasts!)
C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David: Psalms 88-110, vol. 4 (London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers, n.d.), 90–91.
SOLDIER of Christ, thou wilt have to do hard battle. There is no bed of down for thee; there is no riding to heaven in a chariot: the rough way must be trodden; mountains must be climbed; rivers must be forded; dragons must be fought; giants must be slain; difficulties must be overcome; and great trials must be borne. It is not a smooth road to heaven; those who have gone but a very few paces therein, have found it to be rough and rugged. Yet it is pleasant; it is the most delightful journey in all the world; not because it is easy in itself, it is only pleasant because of the company; because of the sweet promises on which we lean; because of our Beloved who walks with us through all the rough and thorny brakes of this vast wilderness. Christian soldiers, expect conflict: “Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.” As truly as thou art a child of God, thy Saviour hath left thee for His legacy—“In the world ye shall have tribulation.” Yet remember that this “tribulation” is the way to “enter the kingdom;” therefore “endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” (Editor’s note: Giants and dragons!)
C. H. Spurgeon, Gleanings Among the Sheaves (New York: Sheldon and Company, 1869), 128–129.
Such is Calvinistic doctrines: if the life be in it, it is a fountain of living waters, a splendid storehouse of vital nourishment, a gathering up of sacred streams from the divine wellhead of truth; but if the inward vitality be gone it is dark and dreary, repulsive to many, and chilling to all who enter it. We have known men who have dwelt in its empty vaults till they have become wretched as ghosts wandering among the tombs, and fierce as mountain wolves. To them the purposes of God were only dark retreats from the responsibilities of life, or prisons for the hopes of their fellow men. Pour in the life-bearing floods, and then you shall see the glory of that marvellous system, which comprises more of divine revelation than any other which the mind of man has ever discovered in the inspired page. Calvinism, or, better still, Pauline doctrine, is a collection of the living waters of the gospel, and so abundant are the stores which it treasures that they are the daily joy and rejoicing of ten thousand saints, We prize the reservoir, not for its masonry but for its contents; and so we value Calvinism; not so much for its massive logic, its stupendous grandeur, its sublime conceptions, and its vast compass, as for the gospel of our salvation which from its depths it has poured forth for the supply of human needs. Let its professors see to it that it becomes to them no dry doctrine, empty and void and waste; but let them receive it in its spiritual fullness and divine energy, and they need never blush to own in all companies that their faith is bound up with it. Our creed is no ephemeral creation;—it is worthy of the loftiest genius, though plain enough to be comprehended by the wayfaring man. It is alike sublime and simple, for it is truth. (Editor’s note: Not the right kind of ‘ghost’ for our article here, but such a lovely and powerful quote that I can’t help but include it!)
C. H. Spurgeon, The Sword and Trowel: 1872 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1872), 208.
Addendum #2: John Wesley on the ‘haunting’ his family experienced in the early 1700s.
The following is John Wesley’s testimony about the strange noises and encounters his family had with an entity that they referred to as ‘Jeffrey.’ Of particular non-supernatural interest here is the fact that John Wesley’s Father Samuel (a preacher), left his mother Susanna for the period of a year, because Susanna DID NOT SAY AMEN to his prayer for the health of the king. By most accounts, he was a fairly ridiculous man, in this way and others. Susanna, the 25th child of a family of 25 children, herself had 19 children along with Samuel, including John and Charles Wesley, the founders of Methodism.
“On December 2, 1716, while Robert Brown, my father’s servant, was sitting with one of the maids, a little before ten at night, in the dining-room which opened into the garden, they both heard one knocking at the door. Robert rose and opened it, but could see nobody. Quickly it knocked again and groaned. ‘It is Mr. Turpin,’ said Robert; he has the stone, and uses to groan so.” He opened the door again twice or thrice, the knocking being twice or thrice repeated; but still seeing nothing, and being a little startled, they rose and went up to bed. When Robert came to the top of the garret stairs he saw a hand-mill, which lay at a little distance, whirled about very swiftly. When he related this he said, ‘Nought vexed me but that it was empty. I thought, if it had been but full of malt, he might have ground his heart out for me.” When he was in bed he heard, as it were, the gobbling of a turkeycock close to the bed-side; and soon after, the sound of one stumbling over his shoes and boots; but there were none there: he had left them below.
The next day he and the maid related these things to the other maid, who laughed heartily, and said, ‘What a couple of fools are you ! I defy anything to fright me.” After churning in the evening, she put the butter in the tray; and had no sooner carried it into the dairy than she heard a knocking on the shelf where several puncheons of milk stood, first above the shelf, then below. She took the candle, and searched both above and below ; but being able to find nothing, threw down butter, tray, and all, and ran away for her life.
The next evening, between five and six o’clock, my sister Molly, being then about twenty years of age, sitting in the dining-room reading, heard as if it were the door that led into the hall open, and a person walking in that seemed to have a silk night-gown rustling and trailing along. It seemed to walk round her, then to the door, then round again, but she could see nothing. She thought, ‘It signifies nothing to run away, for whatever it is, it can run faster than me.’ So she rose, put her book under her arm, and walked slowly away. After supper she was sitting with my sister Suky (about a year older than her) in one of the chambers, and telling her what had happened ; she made quite light of it, telling her, ‘I wonder you are so easily frightened; I would fain see what would frighten me.’ Presently a knocking began under the table. She took the candle and looked, but could find nothing. Then the iron casement began to clatter, and the lid of a warming-pan. Next the latch of the door moved up and down without ceasing. She started up, leaped into the bed without undressing, pulled the bed-clothes over her head, and never ventured to look up till next morning.
A night or two after, my sister Hetty, a year younger than my sister Molly, was waiting, as usual, between nine and ten, to take away my father’s candle, when she heard one coming down the garrot stairs, walking slowly by her, then going down the best stairs, then up the lack stairs, and up the garret stairs; and at every step it seemed the house shook from top to bottom. Just then my father knocked. She went in, took his candle, and got to bed as fast as possible. In the morning she told this to my eldest sister, who told her, ‘You know I believe none of these things. Pray let me take away the candle to-night, and I will find out the trick.”
She accordingly took my sister Hetty’s place, and had no sooner taken away the candle than she heard a noise below. She hastened down stairs to the hall, where the noise was, but it was then in the kitchen. She ran into the kitchen, where it was drumming on the inside of the screen. When she went round, it was drumming on the outside; and so always on the side opposite to her. Then she heard a knocking at the back kitchen door. She ran to it, unlocked it softly, and, when the knocking was repeated, suddenly opened it; but nothing was to be seen. As soon as she had shut it the knocking begun again; she opened it again, but could see nothing. When she went to shut the door, it was violently thrust against her ; she let it fly open, but nothing appeared. She went again to shut it, and it was again thrust against her : but she set her knee and her shoulder to the door, forced it to, and turned the key. Them the knocking began again; but she let it go on, and went up to bed. IIowever, from that time she was thoroughly convinced that there was no imposture in the affair. The next morning, my sister telling my mother what had happened, she said, ‘If I hear anything myself, I shall know how to judge.’ Soon after she begged her to come into the nursery. She did, and heard in the corner of the room, as it were, the violent rocking of a cradle; but no cradle had been there for some years. She was convinced it was preternatural, and earnestly prayed it might not disturb her in her own chamber at the hours of retirement; and it never did.
She now thought it proper to tell my father, but he was extremely angry, and said, ‘Suky, I am ashamed of you. These boys and girls fright one another, but you are a woman of sense, and should know better. Let me hear of it no more.’ At six in the evening he had family prayer as usual. When he began the prayer for the king, a knocking began all round the room, and a thundering knock attended the Amen. The same was heard from this time every morning and evening while the prayer for the king was repeated. As both my father and mother are now at rest, and incapable of being pained thereby, I think it my duty to furnish the serious reader with a key to the circumstance. The year before King William died, my father observed my mother did not say Amen to the prayer for the king. He vowed he never would cohabit with her till she did. He then took his horse and rode away, nor did she hear anything of him for a twelvemonth. He then came back, and lived with her as before. But I fear his vow was not forgotten before God.”