Ohhh so you got a letter in the mail from the church! Can you guess what it is? End of year tax exempt contributions perhaps? Or maybe an invite to the church’s Christmas play? Maybe a personalized Christmas card? Well, if you guessed an invitation to take your membership and go somewhere else, you guessed right!
Chances are you’re reading this because you are one of a large number of people who received a letter from the CEO of First Baptist Church of Sapulpa Inc. It looks something like this:
Your letter probably contained the same empty platitudes. “We love you.” “Hope you’re not mad at us.” “Church isn’t just a building.” etc… We didn’t realize how meaningless and hollow these words actually were until we began receiving stories from the people who received the letters. As far as we know not one person who got one of these received a personal visit, a phone call, or even a text. If the church had bothered to do any of these things they would have realized some life-long members are in a season of life where they are physically unable to attend. Imagine the disappointment of one of these people when they opened this envelope. Others are not attending because they were purposefully driven out by the staff. We’re told that one group of 30+ people has met in the same place for a year now and nobody from the church has done anything to contact them other than attempt to send over the collection plate. Obviously FBC doesn’t really “long for you to continue your walk with Christ as a vital family member at FBC Sapulpa.” They do, however, long for your charitable tax-exempt donations to pay their fat salaries.
Along with this note came a little response card with a pretty specific (albeit passive aggressive) threat: Return to FBC Sapulpa and worship in the sanctuary with the pastor or your membership will be terminated. No matter which of the 3 options you choose on this card there is one thing you need to understand with absolute clarity.
YOU ARE NOW UNDER CHURCH DISCIPLINE.
YOU are under church discipline. No joke. These letters are actually intended as a step in the disciplinary process. The goal is to “correct” your behavior. Our regular readers probably spotted this immediately. If you’re new around here, we’ll break it down for you quickly.
We know this is a proven 9Marks tactic and is taught in certain SBC seminaries. In a previous post we covered the the strange relationship between SBC Seminary President Paige Patterson and Mark Dever of 9Marks. In an interview in 2000, they both affirm their belief that terminating members is a real form of church discipline. See the applicable snippet below:
Mark Dever: How do you encourage a pastor at Southeastern Seminary in their classes? Does the seminary encourage young ministers to help churches move toward church discipline?
Paige Patterson: Yes, we absolutely do. I tell them to begin preaching it as you come to it in the text, don’t back off from it. Preach it straight. Then I tell them when the day comes when you’re actually going to begin practicing it, the place to begin is not with somebody who’s been caught in some heinous iniquity, because you’re going to have sympathy problems there. The place to do it is on every one of these church rolls where you have huge numbers of people that are not attending church . That is something that people can understand. I know that’s exactly what you did here.[The entire interview can be heard here on our youtube page.]
It could be said that membership termination is the “gateway drug” to the dark arts of church discipline. It lets the members of the church get comfortable with punishing their fellow Christians but doesn’t get too controversial because these people are not present. For them it’s like a victimless crime.
The exact same process being used at Sapulpa is described in detail by 9Marks founder Mark Dever. Dever issued a similar letter with response card in his mass membership termination at his church, Capitol Hill Baptist Church. In a Fall of 2000 article for Christianity Today Dever describes how he did this. The name of the article is “Why We Disciplined Half Our Church.” Go read it for yourself. What they describe is what FBC Sapulpa is doing today.
Need another example? A similar story of another Calvinist mad man can be found on the 9Marks website entitled: “Church Disciplines 575 Members”. It describes the process of removing people from the rolls as a form of church discipline. The title itself is a dead giveaway.
So how does it feel to be disciplined by a church? You’re the easy prey. You’re the distant target that can be punished and discarded like an old shoe. You are being used to train the remaining congregation to get comfortable with the concept of membership punishment.
Regardless of motive, these men clearly believe and teach that threatening the removal of memberships is a form of discipline. Paige Patterson has gone on record saying as much. It’s no great surprise FBC Sapulpa has chosen this path. Patterson was the President of the seminary that trained the young jock who is currently the head cheese of FBC Sapulpa Inc. But don’t be focused on him. He is not alone in this decision.
Though there are still a few brave members left who have not bowed their knee, many members of FBC Sapulpa Inc are silently endorsing the despicable behavior of the church lords. If they stood against it, they could have stopped it. They have the power to stand up to the rich young rulers controlling the church. They still have the power to vote the clowns out of the circus. They have the power to direct the finances. Instead they freely and ignorantly give, thinking its somehow honoring God. Think about that. Their tithes bought the paper, paid for the printing, and paid the secretary to lick the stamp. Those that know what the church is doing and remain silent are endorsing its actions and their money is funding it. The members of FBC Sapulpa have the power to stop the 9Marks, but it looks like nobody has the guts. Do they fear man rather than God?
These people you used to fellowship with have shown their support of every despicable scheme that has been hatched in recent years at FBC Sapulpa. On one hand they recently overwhelmingly passed a new Constitution granting deacons the express permission to go boozing. On the other hand they’re coming after YOU for not contributing to the church. No, they’re not without sin but they have officially thrown the first stone… directly at YOU. It landed in your mailbox just in time for Christmas. Tis the season!
WHAT’S BEEN HAPPENING AT FBC WHILE YOU WERE GONE?
Since FBC Sapulpa has already put you on their naughty list this year, you’ve got no obligation to obey their commands to stay off this blog. Here are a couple of things you might want to know:
If you received a discipline letter, we have much more information available for you on our members only blog. You may request the password by going to this link: Password Request.
Lastly, let us at The Sapulpa Messenger say one thing to those weary Christians who are having their membership terminated. Many of you are our cherished brothers and sisters whom we love. Though many of us at TSM are members of FBC Sapulpa we are vehemently opposed to the church’s current agenda. Please understand that we tried to stop this. We have poured countless hours and dollars into sounding the alarm. The people just would not wake up fast enough. Some people chose to leave, some left without a choice, and those that stayed to fight have been picked off one by one.
The prophet Jeremiah was called “the weeping prophet” because he foresaw the complete violent destruction of Jerusalem and their exile into Babylon. For years he begged and pleaded with the Jews to repent and change their course, and for years he watched as they ignored him. Finally God’s patience ran out and his judgment came upon the entire nation. They were slaughtered and their empire burned to ashes. Jeremiah wept because he was powerless to help. All he could do was watch and warn.
We’ve been telling the church about this plot since 2015. In the end it looks like The Sapulpa Messenger will be proven to have been 100% accurate in our warnings about the 9Marks takeover. Still, there is no comfort in just being right. The church disaster we’ve warned about is here and will grieve us all for a long time. Beyond that, we don’t know what the future of FBC Sapulpa will be once it has sold its soul to 9Marks. But there is one thing we do know for certain.
God will not be mocked.
For more about FBC Sapulpa and the long sad path to destruction please check out our “Latest News” page at The Sapulpa Messenger website.