The Fine Pastoral Ministry of Billy
For my fellow laborers in the ministry, I truly wish I could tell you Billy was actually a real individual. He is not a living person, but rather a hypothetical example developed in a recent article from The Gospel Coalition of Canada. Here is a description from the author about our dear friend Billy:
“Perhaps I could explain this dynamic with a hypothetical scenario. Suppose a law passes in Canada that labels certain kinds of preaching as “hate speech” and thus illegal. Virtually all Canadian evangelical churches are appalled and oppose the new law. These churches and their leaders begin coordinating their collective response. Given our limitations (and our temperament), the response is slow-developing and careful. It’s also shaped by our understanding of the unique culture and government of Canada.”
“Meanwhile, there’s a pastor with a history of divisiveness that has hurt our fragile cooperation – we’ll call him Billy. Billy mocks our Canadian commitment to process, calling his fellow pastors cowards. He conducts an outdoor service, invites the press, and preaches a jarringly candid sermon that defies the law. As a result, he’s arrested on the spot (a terrible outcome, we’d agree).”1
I suppose that Billy sounds like the type of individual I would rather like to be friends with if he were an actual person. He has a commitment to truth instead of “process” and is willing to take a stand for biblical Christianity. Someone who has the courage to preach on texts outlawed by the government is following in the footsteps of the Apostles who said, “we must obey God rather than men” and kept preaching when the authorities forbid them to do so (Acts 5:29). Apparently, the Apostles had a so-called “history of divisiveness” for the sake of Christ (see the New Testament). The early Christian brothers were even known as those who turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6). Amazingly, it did not seem to take them long to deliberate on issues such as found in Acts 5. They were not troublemakers in the sense of being those who were simply sought their own selfish gain, thereby trespassing morality, rather, they were known for causing dissension because of their preaching and obedience to Christ.
In other words, the example of Billy used by TGC could have been written in the early days of the church about Paul, Peter, Stephen, and others who undoubtedly caused a bit of trouble for the Gentile pagans and Jewish apostates. We could also apply this name to those downright onery theologians known as Calvin and Luther who caused much trouble for the heretical Roman Catholic church. I would also recommend we apply it to a figure like William Wilberforce, who fought so hard against the slave trade, he did cause a bunch of trouble for those slavers you know. Then again, it should be just as suitable a name for Charles Spurgeon ,who was kicked out of his denomination for his fiery fight against that false theology known as liberalism. I think it would apply very well to men like James Coates and John MacArthur in our own day who have stood up to Caesar by proclaiming the truth that Christ is Lord. I would contend Billy is not a rabble-rouser but representative of the faithful pastors throughout the ages standing against evil for the truth of God! The ones who do not hesitate in the day of adversity but continue preaching the Word of God faithfully and applying it in all of life. They evaluate situations clearly and take their stand on Scripture out of hearts of love for the good of others and the glory of God.
The Issue Billy Poses
Despite all of the great aspects we have seen about Billy, James Seward, who wrote the TGC piece, doesn’t seem to appreciate Billy’s courage in preaching and defying unjust tyrants. Yet, the issue goes deeper than that mere dispute over our hypothetical pastor. Mr. Seward also has issues with the way American Evangelicals support pastors like Billy:
“So the American Evangelical bullhorn starts blaring his story. Billy becomes a quasi-celebrity in the States. His voice and perspective is amplified. Suddenly, pastors all across Canada – already struggling to navigate their way through a horrible situation – are forced to answer questions from their own congregants about why they aren’t taking the approach Billy has taken.”
“Billy’s perspective rockets up the charts, far eclipsing the stable, trusted voices that have proven their godliness and fidelity through years of faithful work. Billy and his fringe approach do not stay on the fringe. He dominates our miniscule airwaves. He sucks the oxygen from the room. Instead of forging a way forward tailored to our Canadian context, we spend a good deal of our limited resources providing a nuanced assessment of Billy.”
Mr. Seward has managed to put his finger on a most pertinent issue indeed. He is right about one thing, Billy does pose issues for other pastors. Will they follow what is appealing to the culture, or will they obey God? If one man is standing boldly upon the Word of God by applying it with unyielding courage to his present circumstance, then it will make Christians wonder why other pastors are not doing the same? One pastor biblically standing against evil men will stand out when all of the other pastors around him refuse to defend the hill God has given to them. Indeed, the sheep are wise to run to the hill where the man is defending what God has called Him to steward. It is downright perilous to stay on the hill where all of the shepherds refuse to use the staff of Scripture God has given to them!
The Opportunity Billy Presents
However, a biblical pastor does not only pose an issue for unbiblical ones. He also presents an opportunity. It is a chance to be confronted by a loving congregant who points to what Scripture says and the example of a faithful man living it out. Those pastors not taking that Scriptural stance are given an example prompting them to evaluate their own stance. Once they see they are in error for not upholding Scripture, they should repent thereby moving forward in faithfulness to Christ. They have had this opportunity placed in their lap by the kindness of their Lord. It is imperative for them to see it and take the stance they should have exerted in the first place.
So, my friends, may we learn from Billy seeking to be faithful to our Lord with courage. With all due respect to Mr. Seward, I do believe he has completely missed the boat in his analysis. Mr. Seward charges Billy with being divisive, but he does not prove he is unbiblical. Unbiblical cultures will view biblical Christians as divisive for simply acting biblically. The master of the lost world hates those who follow Christ as their Master. If I see a Canadian pastor going to jail for the sake of Christ (i.e. James Coates), even as an American, I will stand up to use however big of a bull horn God gives to me in order to give support and encouragement. I will do this for the sake of the man, his family, his church, and the glory of God. By the grace of God, by seeing the man’s example, I will learn and grow in my own life, thereby being stirred to more faithfulness. Let us not be clanging gongs, but let us take our stand out of love for others and God. May we have more pastors like Billy in this day!
1 All quotes from the article can be found here:https://ca.thegospelcoalition.org/article/a-word-to-american-christians-from-a-pastor-in-canada/