Monday, April 16, 2012

The Bully Pulpit

"Pulpit", from the eyes of my 9-yr old son

According to, a bully pulpit is:  "An older term within the U.S. Government, a bully pulpit is a public office or other position of authority of sufficiently high rank that provides the holder with an opportunity to speak out and be listened to on any matter. The bully pulpit can bring issues to the forefront that were not initially in debate, due to the office's stature and publicity."

The correct definition of bully pulpit does not refer to a pastor abusing authority from the pulpit; however, using the literal meanings of "bully" and "pulpit" seemed appropriate to me when we were there.    Interestingly, I have been in contact with others who also used the bully pulpit expression in the same sense.  

The Bully Pulpit

You commit a sin.  You either get caught or realize the error of your sin.  You initiate a meeting with your pastor to discuss said sin, or perhaps if you are caught, you are called into a meeting with the pastor to discuss the situation.

Let's say everything is worked out in the meeting:  confession, contrition, repentance, forgiveness between all parties, and with God.

You think everything is fine.  You're forgiven.  The slate is clean and it's time to move on.  God's grace is sufficient.  Or perhaps it is not?   This thought is so important:   is God's grace sufficient or is it not?  Tuck that thought away.  It is an important theme in this blog.

Your heart is now clean and you look forward to attending the Wednesday night teaching.  You get to start fresh and want to walk in the light.  This is good.  Yea!

With Bible in your lap and ready to take notes, you ready yourself to hear the teaching.  The pastor starts preaching.  After the first few sentences a dark cloud descends on you.  The teaching is regarding the same sin issue that brought you to the pastor's office.  Your heart starts racing. 

He's talking about you and you know it.  He doesn't name your name, but you recognize certain details.  You feel hurt, ashamed, and betrayed.  This was supposed to be a fresh start. You have difficulty looking up at the pastor as he is teaching.  You do not want your eyes to connect and give the perception to others that this was your sin issue. 

You wonder if anyone else knows of your sin.  You keep your head forward because you don't want to see the eyes of others looking at you.  You feel guilty all over again.  You want to leave and weigh the options of leaving verses staying.  You decide to stay, but leave quickly when people are dismissed so as not to mingle with anyone who might know your story.  You especially don't want to run into the pastor.  This Wednesday service is not what you had hoped it to be.

A week goes by.   You convince yourself to go back - that the pastor is going to move on to a different topic.  You need to move on.  The following Wednesday, you find that the message this week is Part 2, a continuation of last week's teaching.  The wound has been scraped once again.  It bleeds. The same emotions from last week are overwhelming.

What should be healing, has not healed.  It is like a scab that has been scraped off or picked.   It may get infected.  Where there should have been a layer of new skin is now an open wound.  God's grace doesn't feel sufficient.   Does He really offer any grace at all?  It doesn't feel like it.

What thoughts and emotions are going through my mind now?  How does it feel knowing the possibility that my sin has been exposed to others?  Will they still accept me, love me?  Will this open up old wounds in relationships? 

On the flip side, if you are a congregant and hear a sermon like this, it makes you wonder who the pastor is talking about.  You know how this works.  You may have experienced it, too.  You might look around and try to guess who was caught in this sin.  What does this do to the unity of the congregation?   How does this make you feel toward the "sinner"?  Does it draw you closer or further away?  How does this make you feel about meeting with the pastor, knowing your sins very likely will be addressed publicly from the pulpit?  In a church this size, no names need to be mentioned and the sinner will usually be exposed in the form of holy gossip:  we need to pray for sinner "Joe" as he's really struggling.

This environment is hurtful for both the sinner and the congregants who see this played out before them.  There is confusion.  Sometimes this creates an environment where congregants begin to be on the lookout for the sins of others.  These informants feed the pastor news about members in sin.  These informants unknowingly create an unhealthy alliance with the pastor.  They perpetuate this destructive cycle of "sin sniffing":  sinner is confronted, pastor meetings occur, The Bully Pulpit lesson is taught regarding the sin.   Informants are given pseudo grace by the pastor and their own sins may be overlooked.  The emphasis of the church seems to be heavily on sin and repentance, not grace.  This is a travesty to the meaning of grace, the meaning of church, the meaning of a shepherd.  


  1. It wasn't always a "sin" that was talked about from the pulpit. Sometimes it was who your adult children were dating, or where you went on vacation, or missing a required meeting,or something you discussed with the pastor in private at dinner and suddenly it is the subject of a teaching time. Ugh! This got old very quickly!

    From BGBC website:

    Our Focus
    is on the glory of our sovereign God through the systematic verse-by-verse preaching of the Holy Scriptures for the sanctification of the saint and the salvation of the sinner. (Eph. 1:11-14 & 2 Tim. 3:15-4:5)

    The above statement is a nice sentiment but not practiced (in my experience) at BGBC. The pastor apparently felt he needed to use the pulpit to enforce his idea of sanctification of the saints.

    Julie Anne, thanks for all the work you put into writing this blog. Great job of exposing the dangers of hyper-authoritarian pastors. I know you are paying a price for exposing evil. Stand fast!

    1. My commenters always give the best ideas for future blog posts! :) You have not let me down, Anonymous! :)

  2. let's talk about courting! He thought HE needed to be into all the details of ADULTS courting! What a sickness that he thought he needed to micromanage adult children who were submitting to their own parents~I remember MANY a Wednesday night lecture on courting...made people directly involved paranoid that it wasn't being done right~I went to him and his wife and told them to butt out of my business~of which only enraged their hatred towards me....very sad indeed.
    This was the beginning of the end for me and my family.

    1. In the cases I know of, the parents were all very involved in their adult children's lives. I never understood that kind of micro-managing. I wonder how many stood up to him like you, Meaghan? Probably not too many.

    2. I guess I never understood the emphasis on courting - or I guess on having to say courting. Yes, there are right and wrong ways to carry on a relationship, but slapping a label on it doesn't necessarily make it a good, pure, upright relationship. And isn't relationship building done little differently for each person and each family - I mean, short of obviously things to be avoided, of course. Some people have no options; they cannot do things "correctly" because of circumstances beyond their control. The emphasis should have been on healthy, Godly, relationship building, rather than on a set of rules. But, I'm preaching to the choir here...

    3. The current courtship model is relatively new - maybe 20 yrs. Its popularity grew primarily in the homeschool movement. I don't know how Chuck got hold of it, but most likely with the homeschool influence. It really can't work well unless both parents are on board. Each set of parents has their own ideas of how courtship works and the rules involved, so it requires a lot of communication between families to make it work. Another big part of courtship ideas it the father looks after the heart of his daughter until a suitable husband is found. All potential suiters have to go through dad first. I've seen some dangerous things with this movement, too. Do a Google search on patriarichal and courtship and see what you find. There are some alarming stories of people who have gone through this "culture". I am rethinking many things I learned in the homeschooling community.

  3. This post is so true! And it wasn't always about a sin or even something you discussed directly with the pastor. He used others as informants so you might have a casual and private conversation about how you are doing and the next thing you know it is public business. What really got to me was when it was like that old game of "telephone" tell someone something and it comes out in a sermon way exaggerated or completely wrong but you knew it was about you all the same.

    1. It amazes me when I post something and then read about something even more disturbing. Wow! Thank you for sharing your experience. Being betrayed by a pastor? Unreal.

    2. I SEE WAY TOO MUCH KORAH-LIKE BEHAVIOR HERE!!!!! LOL...couldn't help myself!

    3. Did you really say Korah? HAHAHAHAHAHA

      You are inkorahgible!

      incorrigible = habitual, confirmed, hardened, dyed-in-the-wool, incurable, chronic, irredeemable, hopeless, beyond hope; impenitent, unrepentant, unapologetic, unashamed; bad, naughty, terrible.

    4. Jason, a young man who had a conversation with Chuck via BGBC blog on 8-08-08 had some very perceptive insights. Take a look.

      Jason: I sense in your writing an over-emphasis on your position of authority as a pastor; the Word is not your club or mine to wield as we desire. The people you minister to are all at different stages of spiritual growth; the Word of God (thru the Spirit) will speak to each of them where they are. If you want to see lasting change and not just outward conformity, let God do the work in His time. Remember, in your preaching you must also address your own heart; it’s not just you telling others what to do.

      It’s not by a preacher personal authority or persuasiveness, no matter how well he knows scripture or how highly he is gifted. But solely by the authority and the power of Scripture itself, illuminated and applied by the Holy the Holy Spirit, that any ministry or Christian service can be spiritually effective and pleasing to the Lord.
      While I agree with most of what you say the sentence “It is every pastor's job to bring conviction upon God's people.” is a little frightening. Remember, it is the Holy Spirit that brings conviction through the Word, not the pastor. The pastor and others, not just the appointed leader of a local body (pastor in your case), are to preach the Word. It is the Spirit that does the work. If you truly wish to submit to the work of the Holy Spirit in convicting God’s people of sin, let Him do it; His Word will not return void (Is. 55)

    5. Here is one portion of Chuck s response:

      You are in danger of being a spiritual descendant of Korah. I am reminded of a similar conversation Moses once had (no, I don’t think I’m Moses) :
      Now Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men; 2 and they rose up before Moses with some of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, representatives of the congregation, men of renown. 3 They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, "YOU TAKE TOO MUCH UPON YOURSELVES, FOR ALL THE CONGREGATION IS HOLY, EVERY ONE OF THEM, AND THE LORD IS AMONG THEM. WHY THEN DO YOU EXALT YOURSELVES ABOVE THE ASSEMBLY OF THE LORD?"

      4 So when Moses heard it, he fell on his face; 5 and he spoke to Korah and all his company, saying, "Tomorrow morning the LORD will show who is His and who is holy, and will cause him to come near to Him. That one whom He chooses He will cause to come near to Him. 6 Do this: Take censers, Korah and all your company; 7 put fire in them and put incense in them before the LORD tomorrow, and it shall be that the man whom the LORD chooses is the holy one. YOU TAKE TOO MUCH UPON YOURSELVES, YOU SONS OF LEVI!" (Num 16:1-7)

      Go here to read the entire exchange:

    6. OK...this is tooo weird. What is up with this Korah talk? Beside telling Jason (in the blog post) he was "in danger of being a spiritual descendant of Korah", I have a copy of a letter where he called someone Korah-like, and have heard of him using that term to describe one other family. So is someone Korah-like if they have a different opinion from Chuck O'Neal? Or if they question him? I happen to wholeheartedly agree with Jason's comment so am I now Korah-like?

      It sure does sound like Chuck thinks he has the same authority as Moses.....just sayin...

    7. Are you guys reading my notes? I have a draft post on Korah that I'm working on :)

    8. We were told we were committing the sin of Korah when we left. No ifs ands or buts. We had done it. Still waiting for the earth to swallow us up.

    9. trying to be a private person and objecting to being lied about I am usurping the authority of Chuck??? Satan is indeed crafty in his subtlety. Thanks be to God for opening my eyes and getting me away from such corrupt thought.

    10. Anonymous 10:24 - I rejoice with you, too. Now we know it was usurping the imaginary authority of Chuck.

  4. Hhm, I am confused: So does the Wed. night's teaching based on a verse-by-verse study plan? Is there any study plan? Or is it just a topical approach?


  5. "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries." (Heb 10:26-27)

    Sin, all sin, is directly spitting in the face of God. Purposefully hurtful to Him. Do we sweep it away and say, "meh, I repented, leave me alone". Did God see our sin in such a fashion? "meh, no biggie, you're only human".


    God bludgeoned the life out His own Son, spilling His blood, pouring out His Eternal Wrath on Christ.
    Instead of you.

    When you understand that, and Christ really truly does matter to you, then you are not able to run headlong into your ever loving sin. You should be driven to the foot of the Cross where if you do truly believe, there you will find forgiveness in the pool of blood shed for you.

    Your sin will be more of a reproach because it hurt the Christ who should matter more to you than you. You will not be still covering yourself hiding, you will be covered in blood. guilty, and purchased.

    Your guilt covered by the Christ on the Cross, now risen to life forever, No matter who else knows it. Your eyes would be on Him for forgiveness, not the pastor not the pope not the earthly priest not the "father" not the Rev. the Bro. the Dr. or any other person place or thing.

    You would be more worried about your Sin in His eyes, than any one else's.

    I'm not agreeing with Pulpit Punching, nor what "Chucky" did.

    BTW Heb 10:26-27 comes after the other parts of Hebrews of which 10:10 is a key point and "Faith" is vital. True trust.


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