The title of this blog post might come as a bit of a surprise in light of my position as a vocational pastor and leader of a local church. Let me start by commending what I believe to be the intent of the bill, which is to protect the church, an essential pillar of society, from harm or harassment from an increasingly antagonistic government. Anything we can do to protect the “conscience of the state” is praiseworthy. On that front the bill is excellent. We need to ensure that the government cannot force a pastor, clergy member, or church to perform any act that would violate their sincerely held religious beliefs. My problem is not with the bill’s intent but rather with its implications.
While it is essential that we protect the rights of pastors and churches for our country to prosper as God intended, it not okay to perpetuate an unhealthy understanding of the role of every believer in the church. Intentionally or not, this bill will do that by implying a false distinction between church staff and church members. As the bill is currently written (see bottom of post) it will continue to reinforce a perspective that is too often and too widely held by too many church attenders.
The “Priesthood” of The Believer
Regarding the Church, SB 2065, in its current state, is inconsistent with Scripture’s teaching regarding the identity of priests and pastors. The Bible makes no distinction between salaried saints and faithful laymen. The Scriptures teach the “priesthood” of the believer (1 Peter 2:9-10); SB 2065 does not. Any law that would give vocational clergy and the institutional church protection, but deny those same protections to individuals, is intentionally (even if unwittingly) redefining the biblical mandate for all believers to “walk worthy of the calling to which they have been called” (Ephesians 4:1).
If there is a distinction in the roles of leadership and laymen taught in God’s Word, it can be found in Ephesians 4:11-16. Here we see that it is the role of leadership to equip the saints for the work of service, which is to say, it is the job of every member of the church to remind, reprove, correct, care for the people and speak truth in the land. The idea that a pastoral staff alone is to be given responsibilities, protection and rights was never God’s intention. The Church (which is a people, not a 501C3), is defined in Scripture as a people called by God out of darkness into His marvelous light to proclaim His excellencies (1 Peter 2:9). Faithfully proclaiming God’s word and faithfully performing God’s will are responsibilities given to every Christ follower, not just those on a church staff.
The First Amendment Already Protects All “Pastors.”
While SB 2065 is written in such a way that it will give me, as a vocational leader, fortified protections, in its silence it withholds it from others who deserve the same protections. The fact that this bill even needs to be proposed, when our Constitution already gives and protects the rights of all believers to be able to live out their faith unhindered by government, is the first part of the problem; the second is that current language of the bill far too narrowly defines, and thus reduces, the number of individuals called by God to speak His word. The First Amendment clearly grants the rights of all citizens to courageously live their faith in our country in the Establishment Clause, which states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Any bill that continues the common error of confusing the distinction of clergy and laity, is not helpful to society or the Church itself.
Centuries ago, Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Retracting our society’s understanding of what defines the “good men” who are legally protected in their right to speak good won’t help. The last thing we need is to pass a law that could potentially limit the rights of the true Church by claiming that only those ordained by men have the right to do what has been ordained by God for all His men to do.
There are three divine institutions established in God’s Word: the Family, the Church, and Government. Any damage done to any of these will directly result in damage done to the land.
1. FAMILY: Whose job is to educate the next generation.
“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
2. CHURCH: Whose job it is to remind, reprove, correct and care for people.
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.5 But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
2 Timothy 4:1–5
1 And the word of the Lord came to me, saying,2 “Son of man, speak to the sons of your people and say to them, ‘If I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman,3 and he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows on the trumpet and warns the people,4 then he who hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, and a sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his own head.5 ‘He heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning; his blood will be on himself. But had he taken warning, he would have delivered his life.6 ‘But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand.’7 “Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from My mouth and give them warning from Me.
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
3. GOVERNMENT: Whose job it is to prosecute evil and protect those who do right.
1 Peter 2:13–14
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
Our government is already looking to constitutionally redefine the family. Our government is already operating outside of its biblical mandate to prosecute evil and praise those who do right. Let’s not help the government by limiting the definition of the true church or by limiting the number of people who already constitutionally have protection.
Join Me In Ministering To Others!
Since starting Watermark 16 years ago, I have consistently said, “Just as there was a reformation in the 16th century, which got the word of God out of the hands of clergy and into the hands of the entire Church, there needs to be another reformation today that gets the work of God out of the hands of the clergy and into the hands of the laity.” Whatever your view on SB 2065 may be, join me in being a minister of the Gospel in our land and a beacon or truth and hope to all. No matter your title, the tidal wave of compromise is here and the time to remind, reprove, correct and care for our land and its citizens is now. All of us need to play our prophetic role. Paul’s exhortation to Timothy is God’s encouragement to us all.
Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery 15 Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. 16 Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.
1 Timothy 4:13–16
Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; 3 praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; 4 that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.5 Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.6 Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
Below you will find a copy of the Pastor Protection Bill (SB2065)
By: Estes S.B. No. 2065
A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
relating to the rights of certain religious organizations and individuals relating to a marriage that violates a sincerely held religious belief.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
SECTION 1. Chapter 2, Family Code, is amended by adding Subchapter G to read as follows:
SUBCHAPTER G. FREEDOM OF RELIGION WITH RESPECT TO RECOGNIZING OR PERFORMING CERTAIN MARRIAGES
Sec. 2.601. RIGHTS OF CERTAIN RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS. A religious organization, an organization supervised or controlled by or in connection with a religious organization, an individual employed by a religious organization while acting in the scope of that employment, or a clergy or minister may not be required to solemnize any marriage, provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, or celebration of any marriage, or treat any marriage as valid for any purpose if the action would cause the organization or individual to violate a sincerely held religious belief.
Sec. 2.602. DISCRIMINATION AGAINST RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATION PROHIBITED. A refusal to provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges under Section 2.601 is not the basis for a civil or criminal cause of action or any other action by this state or a political subdivision of this state to penalize or withhold benefits or privileges, including tax exemptions or governmental contracts, grants, or licenses, from any protected organization or individual.
SECTION 2. This Act takes effect immediately if it receives a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each house, as provided by Section 39, Article III, Texas Constitution. If this Act does not receive the vote necessary for immediate effect, this Act takes effect September 1, 2015.