Scott Brown and Jason Dohm Offer Advice On the Doug Phillips Debacle

In the last three days Scott Brown and his fellow church Elder Jason Dohm have, between them, posted three noteworthy articles. Their articles seem inspired by the Doug Phillips sex scandal that resulted in his resignation and the closure of Vision Forum Ministries. No doubt there is much more than a mere adulterous affair that forced the closure of Vision Forum Ministries, but that story will have to wait for another day. Scott Brown and Jason Dohm are Elders at both Hope Baptist Church and Sovereign Redeemer Community Church. Both churches are in or close to Wake Forest, N.C.

Distancing oneself from Doug Phillips is all the craze these days. Multiple blog articles, Facebook posts, and even a sermon or two have been hastily thrown up by Vision Forum board members, employees, interns, and various assorted associates of Doug Phillips. The humorous part for me is they hardly ever mention the name “Doug Phillips”. It’s as though there is now an unwritten rule, Let not that name be mentioned. In this way they can circumvent the “no gossip” rule that is so widespread in Vision Forum Land, or so they at least rationalize. Since we all know who they’re talking about anyway, I’d much prefer they just stop pretending. Moreover, too many of those public postings smack of CYA and are no more genuine than was Doug Phillips’ True Repentance article that he posted in August 2013. In retrospect we can plainly see that article was an utter sham and a ploy to save his own bacon. It goes to show that even the most biblically valid article, written in the most eloquent prose, can be authored by a silver-tongued wolf in sheep’s clothing. We should never assume that good sermons only come from good men.

ScottBrown-DougPhllips

Doug Phillips and Scott Brown

Scott Brown features prominently in the Doug Phillips sex scandal. He is the Director for the Vision Forum Ministries Board of Directors and, no doubt, has good reason to distance himself from The Doug. Scott Brown is also the Director for the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches. The NCFIC was handed over to Scott Brown by Doug Phillips.

Brown and Dohm’s articles are quite good. I especially appreciate Jason Dohm’s article, not only for his brevity and his insights, but for the fact that he’s one of the few that has actually used the forbidden name “Doug Phillips” (Scott Brown has yet to do that). Jason Dohm’s article is so good that I contacted him and asked permission to repost it here, in it’s entirety, thereby giving it far greater exposure than he has now. To put it in the politest possible terms (on my part) he declined my request.

Jason Dohm

Jason Dohm

Jason Dohm doesn’t permit comments on his blog, and perhaps that’s why he doesn’t want his article being reposted in it’s entirety here. Doing so might facilitate some discussion that he may not want to address. It might also necessitate his interacting with commenters here, something he may wish to avoid. Be that as it may I’ll only selectively quote from Brown and Dohm’s articles and link to them where they may be read in their entirety. Needless to say, any discussion is welcome here, as are Scott Brown and Jason Dohm themselves, should they wish to make an appearance to answer questions. Feel free to ask them questions regardless of whether or not they reply. I’m confident they’re reading. In fact Jason made an appearance here earlier today.

Regardless of their motivation in writing their articles, they are good articles, and worthy of our consideration and discussion. We should all take these matters to heart.

First from Jason Dohm:

Has Doug Phillips repented? No one knows.

Even if all the signs were positive – granting that purely for the sake of argument – no one would really know for quite some time. Though Proverbs 28:13 doesn’t explicitly use the word “repentance,” it contains the best definition of true repentance that I know: “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” Did you catch that? Confession ≠ Repentance. Confession is a subset of repentance. The other active ingredient is the forsaking of the sin, and knowing whether or not that has really happened takes significant time. Part 1, confession, is super-easy for a skilled communicator – and Doug is a very skilled communicator…

Has Doug Phillips repented? Don’t count on it.

If we have learned anything from these revelations, it is that Doug is a very skillful deceiver and manipulator. He is good at it, and he has had a lot of practice. Knowing that, it would be foolish for any of us to put ourselves in a position to be deceived or manipulated by him now…

Which kind of shepherd has Doug been? For years now, Doug has been an Ezekiel 34 shepherd, exploiting and devouring for self-satisfaction. He was entrusted with sheep to be a blessing to them, and instead he has been a curse. Is this not beyond dispute? And has not the Chief Shepherd removed him?…

Has Doug really repented? Time will tell, as the saying goes. And as it relates to Christian leadership, that can’t mean a week, a month, a year, or a decade. When it becomes known that a shepherd has cultivated a life of deception and manipulation for many years, such a man may not have enough years to reestablish himself as qualified for leadership.

Should Doug be forgiven? Absolutely. Anyone who has been forgiven much by the King must stand ready to forgive his fellow servants (Matthew 18:21-35).

Should he be trusted? Not on your life. At least not now. At least not soon.

Next, Scott Brown:

Disciplining an Elder – Alexander Strauch Weighs In

One of the most difficult things a church ever does is to discipline an elder. It is difficult enough to bring biblical discipline to church members, but it is even more difficult when elders are the ones in need of correction. There are so many conflicts and questions that are raised when an elder is caught in sin. When this happens, the church is in a very vulnerable situation. They are immediately subject to partiality, divisions, and even biting and devouring one another. Alexander Strauch has given me permission to post this from his book, Biblical Eldership. The quotation below is from chapter nine, following this citation is a link to the whole chapter.

Disciplining an Elder

How should an elder be treated if an accusation of sin is found to be true? Verse 20 provides the answer: “Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all.” Some expositors think that verse 20 begins a new subject regarding the treatment of sinners in general, but this view is incorrect. Such a break in thought would be too abrupt and unexpected. Furthermore, it is clear that verses 19-25 deal with the topic of elders, particularly the sin of elders.

The clause, “those who continue in sin,” translates a present active participle (tous hamartanontas). The New American Standard Bible rendering stresses the persistent nature of the sinning. There is disagreement among commentators, however, as to what is implied by this present tense participle.

Some commentators believe that only those elders who stubbornly persist in sin after private warnings are to be publicly rebuked and that repentant elders need not be rebuked publicly. This interpretation, however, misconstrues the point of the passage…

The elder’s disposition toward his sin is not the issue here. The issue is: an elder’s sin demands public exposure…

First Timothy 5:20 provides additional biblical instruction on church discipline, specifically the matter of a church leader’s sin. Of course, if an elder refuses to repent, he would be disfellowshiped from the congregation according to Matthew 18.  Paul’s instructions go on to add that an elder who has been proven to be guilty of sin by witnesses is to be rebuked before the church. The imperative verb “rebuke” translates the Greek word elencho, which is a rich term conveying the ideas of “exposing,” “proving guilt,” “correcting,” and “reproving.” In this context, “rebuke” includes the ideas of public exposure, correction, and reproof…

Nine Ways Church Elders are to be Held Accountable

Each year we see new stories of Christian leaders who get entangled in scandalous sin. Our experience tells us that this has happened before and will happen again. Often we ask, “Who was holding this man accountable?” And, “If I can’t trust this seemingly godly man, who can I trust?” It is very common and very appropriate to also ask, “How are we supposed to hold leaders accountable?” If they are local church elders, the Bible speaks directly to the question…

Following are nine ways that 1 Timothy 5:19-21 shows how church elders are to be held accountable.

1. Personal responsibility

Paul makes it clear that church members have a very specific role. Every church member has the divinely appointed right and responsibility to bring a charge against a church elder when it is necessary. It is remarkable that woven into the very relational and sociological fabric of the local church is the assumption that at no time should elders be above the evaluation of the people they serve. Every person in the pew has this responsibility…

2. A stricter judgment

It is immediately evident from 1 Timothy 5:20 that the Lord has designed His church to have a very specific set of rules for dealing with church elders when they sin. These procedural commands are obviously focused on elders, not the wider church. Eldership carries with it greater risks for a greater number of people, and therefore they are subjected to a “stricter judgment,” (James 3:1)…

3. Multiple witnesses 

Holding church elders accountable requires two or three witnesses, “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses.” Notice how the Lord has commanded that there be a careful process that includes the following elements. First there must be a personal witness. Then in order to bring an accusation, that person is obligated to bring a minimum of one other witness. This language implies a vigilant examination and verification process.

This procedure is designed to protect the elder from trivial, false or evil accusations. It also protects him from accusations based on rumors, gossip or internet slander. It is part of the territory: Church elders are often targets of criticism since they are all imperfect in their life and doctrine, and the best of men can be picked apart…

4. Partiality avoided

Paul makes it clear that there must not be any partiality, “I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality.” Partiality has many faces. Sometimes it expresses itself when there is a very gifted elder and because of his charisma, persuasiveness and position, people actually hold him to a lower standard when they should be holding him to a higher one…

5. Accountability for what happened

Paul is advocating accountability for the sin, in the phrase, “Those who are sinning rebuke…’… In the case of sins of a financial or moral nature, for instance, the very act of getting caught almost always brings these sins to an immediate stop.

For example, if an elder is caught embezzling funds from his church, the ability to embezzle is taken away the moment he is found out. He is therefore no longer continuing in his sin. Does this mean that he should not be rebuked? Or if a man is caught in adultery, he usually stops. Does this mean there is no need to rebuke him?…

What if the man says he repents: does he then escape the rebuke? This passage gives no indication that repentance suspends rebuke. In fact, there is no mention of repentance in the text. Paul’s instructions are very clear. The purpose of this rebuke is not to produce repentance in the elder—important as that may be—but to cause all “to fear.” The issue here is not excommunication (whether that happens or not). The issue is the public exposure and reproof of one who holds a high office. No one gets a pass in Christ’s churches when it comes to sin, especially not its elders. While true repentance is a critical matter in the elder’s relationship with the Lord and His church, it is important to remember – the explicitly stated purpose of the rebuke is not repentance, but the causing of fear…

6. A rebuke 

…The rebuke is designed to expose and bring the sin to light. The word that Paul uses here speaks of exposing, convicting, disapproving or punishing.”The rebuke should be delivered according to wisdom. It should be measured according to the severity of the sin and the disposition of the offender. There could be a simple public rebuke, or temporary removal, or even excommunication depending on the many factors involved. The punishment should be delivered according to wisdom…

7. A public rebuke 

The rebuke is to be delivered before the whole congregation, “…in the presence of all.” There is the tendency in many situations like this to try to protect people from hearing. Sometimes, in an attempt to express sympathy or to act out of a sense of misplaced kindness, there is a private meeting for the church members only, or a subset of the church. It is difficult to see how these approaches are appropriate applications of the scriptural language…

8. The courage to cause fear 

In today’s church environment, church elders and members often prefer a positive, upbeat church life; free from guilt, repentance or fear. In contrast to this, Paul’s stated purpose of the rebuke is so that “the rest also may fear.” Paul uses very strong language to communicate this. The word he uses to communicate the desired result indicates “alarm” and “fright.” Paul desires that there be a fear of sin in the congregation…

9. Trembling at the seriousness of the matter

The requirement to rebuke must be regarded with utmost seriousness. The gravity of handling the matter properly is identified by an unusually sober warning, “I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality.”…

Is your church afraid to expose sin? Is there partiality? Are you personally reluctant to play your role for an elder trapped in sin? If so, the consequences can be terribly harmful for the purity of the church and the elder entrapped in sin. It easily blemishes the public reputation of the church as “pillar and ground of the truth.” It can muffle the proclamation that God saves and sanctifies sinners. In the presence of God, the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels, it hides an important expression of the redemptive power of the gospel itself.

Advertisements