Earlier, on the Christian Hub and, today, on The Fellowship Room (I keep wanting to say in TFR), I highlight George Jensen’s timely warning about supporting unworthy works. George names one of those unworthy works as an example of his point. In another example, he refrains from naming. I suppose he thought one example was sufficient.

George is right to name names. The problem of dishonest, unscrupulous, or (note I said, or) compromising missionaries is serious and widespread enough to warrant attention on the part of overseeing and supporting churches.

I have not done what George just did, name names. From what I know of him (I’ve not had the pleasure to meet him and Joy personally), George is not a heretic detector. He and I both have other, better things to do. But there are moments when it’s appropriate to mention, as Paul did in his letters, people and efforts who damage the work on the field.

What sometimes happens is that churches throw money at a work, don’t accompany or visit, and never know what goes on, besides what a missionary says during a visit. And they often hear with one ear. They seldom read written reports. Then, when a situation breaks open and a missionary is exposed in doctrine or morals, a supporting church reacts, cuts off funds, looks suspiciously at other works, closes itself off to good efforts. The church must share the blame in such a scenario.

When we first arrived in Brazil, the more experienced missionaries told us they had adopted a stay-in-Vegas approach (my characterization). What happens on the field, stays on the field. What a missionary does is between him and his supporters. There’s wisdom in that, to a point.

Within a year or so of our arrival, however, our mission team broke that rule, and rightly so. We did so as a team, for moral reasons. That was the first and only exception.

Comes a time, however, when one may need to name names, for any number of reasons: to create a distance, in the eyes of supporters and the brotherhood in general (we live the Internet age now), between one’s work and others who’ve abandoned the way; to alert supporters to tendencies against which one must teach; to elicit specific prayers both for ourselves, that we might not fall into collusion, and for the wayward, that they might return to the truth. You may think of others as well.

For a ministry like ours, which publishes news of the brotherhood, silence might say something, when we don’t give space to progressive works. On the other hand, someone can interpret it as certain works just not appearing on our radar. Silence in such a context is open to misinterpretation.

We’re not brotherhood police, nor do we do detective work. Progressives love to use those phrases to cow anyone who would speak against their agenda. For they almost all have the agenda of converting us to their views. That makes them doubly dangerous. They infiltrate themselves into churches, manipulate to get their way, move as fast as the unsuspecting will allow, and — when they see they can get away with it — tell those who object to lump it or leave. Other missionaries, elders, and evangelists on the field smile, open the door, and offer the sheep on a platter to the wolves.

So though we’re not the CSI, we do have an obligation to note manifestations of that spirit that denies the Lord Jesus Christ. In critical times like these, that sometimes means naming names.

Thanks, George.

5 thoughts on “To name names or not

  1. Thanks Randal. This post reminded me of a “discussion” we had on the Church of Christ listserv (the one that was hosted by Silbano Garcia). Some felt like it was essential to name names, and some took the opposite stance that it was wrong to do so. My position was somewhere in the middle — that while it’s appropriate to name names and expose false teachers, I should always question my own motives in doing so. Another thing to ask myself is whether I’ve personally contacted the offender.

    I agree with what you’ve written, and think prayerful caution is always warranted in cases such as this.

  2. If one approaches the person first, to point out his or her error, fine. Then if the person persists in that error, they should, imho, be exposed, albeit politely. It often takes awhile before error becomes so egregious that any one can recognize it. If we (as a body) can stop it, or steer people away from it while it is small, then we can keep more souls safe. And if the person being named has a problem with it, then s/he should correct the error. Most of the time, however, I think that people who fuss and scream about being “marked” by “legalists” are just being defensive because they know, at least on some level, that there is a problem. John and other apostles had no compunction about naming names–Demos, no matter if he repented later, is forever known for “loving this present world.” And lest someone counter that this is “judging,” there’s a difference between pointing out error and judging someone’s soul, or even his/her motives.

  3. Greetings brothers. I am certainly in favor of naming those who step outside of following the scriptures. There are no doubt steps that need to be followed beginning with individual approach. Motivation for marking individuals or groups certainly needs to be Godly. For the safety of local congregations and society at large false teachers / works need to be identified. Sometimes there is backlash. However, if the Christian is standing on the truth and have exposed falsehood in love, there is no shame.

    My biggest concern with naming names is validation of facts before assertions are made. Personally and by observation, I have seen public declarations of rebuke made which had no grounding in truth. The individuals and the works were put in jeopardy due to rash statements. Christians are to “prove [test] all things”. This demands investigation much like the Bereans. Certainly by scriptural context examination of the Word, but not withstanding assumed actions of brothers and sisters which are supposed sinful. If due diligence is not taken, than hasty actions to “lay hands” upon an individual is drastically in error.

    To name names it clearly seems to me as already stated in the above posts, to be quite scriptural. However, the process must remain rooted in scripture as well.

    God Bless,

    Travis

  4. As someone who has been “marked” without just cause, I stand behind what Travis said. I believe people have a responsibility to listen to both sides of an issue. The church I was with took an approach that I asked them to back up with scripture. They could not, but they still attempted to blacklist me across the brotherhood. This is not what happened with Paul and Demas, Philetus, Hymaneaus, or Alexander.

  5. Randal raises some interesting points. I’m almost certain, though I can’t find it now, that he also invoked the analogy of drawing the line in one of his attention drawing posts via twitter/fb…

    I certainly agree that publicly “calling out” a person about perceived error must be something that is preceeded by much prayer, thought, and yes, direct contact with the person being named. The scriptural bases for these caveats are quite clear and well established. So, I’ll go a bit further and ask that some greater attention be given to *where* one should “draw the line”.

    Should the line be doctrinal error? If so, what points of doctrine should be the criteria? I know that you who are in the field can appreciate cultural differences in approach to doctrine. In some areas there are things that must be dealt with that simply will never even occur to any of the folks back home writing the checks…So from that perspective alone I can appreciate the what’s in the field stays in the field approach. It seems to me that the doctrinal line may be variable depending on circumstances, and perhaps on opinions too.

    The drawing of a line implies a clear cut deliniation point. I’d be obliged if some of you would bring a few more specifics to the table…

What do you think?

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