You will have an opinion about the following video.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s been quite the topic of conversation.

Baptist Pastor Jim Standridge has made a name for himself after a video of one of his sermons, showing him rebuking some of his members, went viral.  Out of all of his messages he might have desired to become famous for, I don’t know if he saw this one coming to the top of the list.

The preacher from Immanuel Baptist Church in Skiatook, Oklahoma, for 24 years, left the platform, stepped down from his pulpit into the seated congregation on May 19 to call out one member for dozing off.  But that was just the beginning.

Spotting someone else in the congregation, he then called out a member, Ryan Underwood, who had missed several services, “You are one of the sorriest church members I have. You’re not worth 15 cents.”

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“I know I’m right, and I know I haven’t done anything wrong,” Standridge told the Barnsdall Times. “I don’t want to offend. That’s not my intention.”  To the Huffington Post earlier this week, Standridge said “What concern is it of me what a carnal world thinks of this?”  Tulsa World reported Standridge saying he was “on a mission of cleaning the house. I’m a purifier. That’s my job.”

Ryan Underwood said he “felt pretty out of place after that” and noted he had not attended the church again since that service.

“The Bible says if you have a problem with your brother, go to him in private first,” Underwood said, according to Tulsa World.

After his first shout-outs, he kinda gets on a role calling out a few other people.  I can just imagine being in that room and trying to hide behind the person in front of you.

Standridge soon reemerged on the platform, paused, took a sip of water and said, “I really feel good now.”

You can see the video here:

I told you: you have an opinion.

Here are some of mine:

  • Our feelings determine our beliefs more often than we admit.  You most probably had an emotional reaction to what you watched.  Immediately, you felt a certain way and then began to justify what you felt.  I’m not saying that your emotions are wrong, but they have to be weighed.  They have to be assessed.  You can’t believe what you believe based on why you feel the way you feel.
  • Sometimes it’s not what you say but where you say it.  As Underwood mentioned, you are supposed to handle that in private.  By Underwood’s comments, it appears that it had not been addressed privately first as Jesus mentions in Matt. 18:15-17.  In this passage, sin is supposed to be called out one-on-one.  If that doesn’t work, you are supposed to bring someone else along.  If that doesn’t work, you are supposed to bring it before the church.  What’s difficult about that passage is the “church” literally means “group.”  Is that in a worship service or in a home setting with the “assembly” there?  These people might have been in sin.  The sin might need to have been confronted.  But was that the best way to confront it?
  • Don’t be guilty of the offense that offends you.  When you watched the video, you might have talked about what you considered this man’s sin.  Standridge could reply, “You are talking about me and your view of my supposed sin and you don’t me.  I was talking to some people about their sin and I have a relationship with them.”  Who knows if he had done step 1 and 2 and this was step 3 in his mind?  It doesn’t appear that way from Underwood’s comments, but I’m not in that church.  That’s why I’m hesitant to make judgment calls in a blog post concerning a man whom I have never met (though I checked to see if I could contact him and his direct information has been removed for obvious reasons).  Matthew 18 speaks of when one brother knows of a private sin of another brother.  This situation is different though since Standridge and his church have decided to post this sermon video online.  He is now intentionally engaging with a global audience.  But we must be careful of abusing the text of Matthew 18 by saying we can’t comment publicly on what someone has done publicly.
  • Like it or not, pastors are called to call out sin.  “As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear” (1 Timothy 5:20).  I guarantee Standridge is fully aware of this charge to elders.  He in his thinking defends what he did and even feels called to it.  The rationale is simple: if your pastor did what he did this Sunday, you would either stop coming or you would be fearful of letting your sin get rampant and getting to the attention of the pastor.  While you may not like the approach, you can see how the approach would work quickly within a congregation.  We may feel like this isn’t a loving thing to do, but we would say that in the name of Jesus who was known to throw tables over and drive people out of temples with whips (John 2:15).  The point again is this: our experience drives our beliefs.  And that is unfortunate.  You might assume that what this man did was wrong because Jesus loves everyone.  And he does, but he has also been known in his love to rebuke in the presence of many.

My conclusion is this: I hope that Pastor Standridge followed the Matthew 18 model.  Regardless of whether or not he did, I think it would be wise as a shepherd not to record his style of preaching and post them online.  Not that he doesn’t have anything worthwhile to say, but local church discipline shouldn’t be broadcast for the whole world to see.  He might have been rebuking things that needed to be addressed, but church discipline shouldn’t make any elder “feel better now.”  It should leave a burden on the deliverer of the message.

I hate that Underwood isn’t going to church anymore.  I hope he can reconcile with the pastor and they both grow in Christ.

I also hope though that out of any outrage you have that we don’t neuter down the call to discipleship.  The New Testament is adamant that those who call themselves followers of Jesus are held to a higher standard.  Yet, I can think of other ways that these issues could have been addressed.

All that to say that we live in conflicting times and I fall back on the Word of God ever more closely.

By the way, we’re talking about church discipline at North Side on Sunday.  If you see Jeff start coming down the aisle, watch out ;)!

Travis Agnew is a Christian, husband, father, pastor, author, blogger, and religion instructor.