Thursday, December 21, 2006

Threads

As an actor, writer, and theater teacher, I'm big on threads. Not the kind you use to darn your socks with (just ask my wife), and not the "threads" we used to wear in the 1970s, but the threads the connect point A to point B in a narrative. Good stories, whether they're comedies, or tragedies, or somewhere in the middle, always have good threads; for a number of days I've been praying and ruminating about the threads that have manifested themselves in the recent unpleasantness--which was in many ways a comedy, until events began to turn tragic.

There have been, for a number of months now, three threads in play: trust, integrity, and accountability. I have spent a number of months cataloguing and warning against the difficulties many (if not most) of those opposing Bellevue's staff and lay leadership have in those areas. By the same token, I have also been researching and investigating how members of Bellevue's staff and lay leadership have also had difficulty in those areas, much to my disappointment.

With regard to trust, there's isn't very much to go around these days. The "anti-Bellevue" cadre (and no complaining--your group's continued predilection for attacking those with whom you disagree warrants the continued use of that appellative) has been on the offensive for so long that apologies are ignored, and tempered speech is eschewed. But look at Bellevue's responses. We've seen a gaggle of Communication Committee meetings that produce precious little communication and much more in the way of hard feelings, meetings hosted by staff and lay leadership as prone to dismiss or demean questions, in too many cases, as they were to address them head-on. We've seen pronouncements from the pulpit by various individuals that do not stand up to close examination. And now we've seen, unfortunately, felonious activity that does not (from the available evidence) appear to have been addressed swiftly and decisively.

Let me pause a moment to remind everyone involved in this of something: A crime has been committed, and innocent people have been injured in ways I simply cannot comprehend. If you use this crime as a jumping-off point to make specious accusations against anyone in leadership at Bellevue, you run the risk of being known as an opportunist, someone who is inured to the pain of others, yet glad to use it as another weapon in your arsenal. Some of you have already gone down that road--back up while you still can. Now is the time to be sober and measured in any and every response; if you don’t keep those with whom you’ve shared a viewpoint over the past few months in line, you’re tacitly endorsing their bad behavior.

Integrity is something else that is lacking these days, but something that can (just as trust can) be reclaimed. The penny-ante nonsense that was at the heart of the so-called "saving Bellevue" business should've been left by the wayside months ago, but it hasn't been; if you're one of the ones still percolating the small stuff, please stop. But there is much to be desired in the behavior of Bellevue leadership, as well. I trust they will agree with me that there have been too many actions for which apologies have been issued over the past few months. Personally, I wouldn't have issued some of the apologies, but that's neither here nor there; the fact is that it is incumbent upon Bellevue leadership to make decisions and engage in behavior for which apologies are unnecessary. I have often summarized the decision-making process of Bellevue Baptist Church in years past with the following axiom: The wheels of Bellevue grind slow, but exceeding fine. This should be the standard to which the Bellevue Baptist Church of today aspires, and achieves.

Accountability is a much easier matter to address. Never mind the anti-Bellevue bomb-tossing and sniper fire, conducted largely by people who either do it from the shadows or by people who make absolutely sure they get all the brownie points they can from their fellow "antis." (By the way, do TV interview appearances count for extra points?) Since this business has escalated from personal tastes being offended and certain individuals being disgruntled, the response from Bellevue leadership must be both more open, and more direct.

How do we all keep those three threads from fraying even further? The first step is actually a simple one: We must convene an official business meeting (not a one-way "informational" meeting) as soon as physically possible. It must not be held after Sunday night church, but at a more accessible time, perhaps a Sunday afternoon; cancel the evening service if necessary, but every single Bellevue member who has a significant question must be given the opportunity to speak, whether "anti," "pro," or otherwise. Direct, honest, open, Christ-honoring communication is the key to healing--because the lack of it is at the heart of the problems we're facing as a church body.

Pastor Gaines and Bellevue leadership, I know you keep tabs on this little corner of the Internet, and I'm frankly blessed by that beyond the shadow of any doubt or peradventure. Just as I have never questioned the character of those who would attack you, please understand that I do not question yours. However, I must stress that the objections to certain of your actions are not without foundation. A friend of mine, Mike Spradlin, has gone so far as to call for Pastor Gaines' resignation. Do I agree with him? No--but keep in mind that I also don't agree with much of what he wears to the athletic fields. Seriously, though, I believe from the evidence I've seen that calls for the resignation of any member of Bellevue leadership (either staff or lay leaders) are premature; however, I also believe that public apologies are due Dr. Spradlin for at least two incidents he's gone through with Bellevue leadership in recent months, incidents whose details I do not have permission to cite in detail.

Do I love my church? Absolutely.

Do I love my pastor? Absolutely.

Do I love those who disagree with him? Absolutely.

Which is why I must encourage my pastor and my church to convene in a business meeting. We have business which requires our attention, because it is distracting us from our singular responsibility of sharing Christ with a lost and dying world.

Merry Christmas.

--Mike

13 comments:

CH said...

Be sure you revisit the "Yet More Media Coverage" thread over at that anti-Bellevue site, will ya? You've got comments.

Just My Opinion said...

Mike,
Singing to the tune of “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”….
“Mike’s beginning to sound a lot like the rest of us, with every newest post” LOL
I still have a disagreement with you on your continued utilization of the term “anti” but I must admit that you are starting to move from a full fledged apologist for Bro Steve to a much concerned member of Bellevue with regards to the recent leadership decisions. I say ‘welcome aboard’! Just wondering what your take is on my position as previously posted on the other board…..am I still an anti-Bellevue target?

Guys, I am just an average member of some 18 years that has tried to limit my voice to this forum. Steve Gaines would not know me from Adam. I am friends with some of the men in leadership but have no one on staff that I would call a friend. I am not a deacon, was asked but declined some years ago. I am sure that many who post on this board would not know me by name but my face would be familiar as I’ve been involved in a number of things at the church. I say all this to provide a perspective outline of who I am and where I am be coming from with my comments. I am not a Steve Gaines apologist but am only a lowly sinner yet saved by the grace of God.

First of all I agree that Steve Gaines has created most all of his problems. He has asked me to forgive him and I have. I do expect a higher standard for a pastor at Bellevue than what Bro. Steve has provided. My personal opinion is that he has allowed his ego and need to be right to override doing the right thing and making the right choices. I pray that God will guide him and he will seek out wiser consultation than he is currently getting.

My opinion on the savingBellevue.com site is that while it has provided some much needed communication it has also shown some irresponsibility in some of the postings and headlines. By the church withholding information it was inevitable that a website be created to allow for some dissemination of information. If the church had made effective utilization of the Communication Committee then the need for other outlets would have diminished. But I cannot overlook the mean spirited and misleading headlines which were posted on the site.

With regards to this blog I have taken the time to follow most of the postings on a regular basis. The postings have ranged from sincere concern to vile mean spirited attacks. While I will scroll on by much of the trash talk and meanness I must confess that it has left a distasteful thought for some of you. I have a difficult time understanding how we Christians can profess the love of Christ and accept God’s forgiveness only to tolerate some of the harsh words we write for the world to see. I do find it difficult when gossip outweighs the known facts. One case in point involves someone I’ve known at Bellevue since joining. He was the deacon who counseled my family when we walked the aisle. We are on a first name basis and I see him regularly at church where we will exchange a greeting but are not intimate friends. I come on this board to find that he has been accused of adultery by some. This is the type of gossip the Bible clearly says that we should refrain from. I happened to hear Dr. Laura (man, would she have blasted Bro. Steve on keeping a child molester on our staff) and she was pointing out how evil it was to gossip. The problem as she stated is that one day when that person has asked for and received forgiveness for their actions we are still left with the residual gossip. This is why it could be difficult for someone to seek salvation knowing that our mindset is to gossip about one another. I understand the consequences of sin but as those of us who are new creatures we would expect Christians to have an attitude of forgiveness. I am a friend of a former minister who was rebuked in front of the church by Dr. Rogers. I am aware of the consequences that sin has created in his life. He was immediately terminated and suffered both personal and financial loss. But I know his heart and he’s been forgiven for that particular sin. It will be difficult for some of us to reconcile ourselves if we continue to use hardened tones and harsh words.
May grace prevail on this board.

gopher said...

I also believe that public apologies are due Dr. Spradlin for at least two incidents he's gone through with Bellevue leadership in recent months, incidents whose details I do not have permission to cite in detail.

Maybe now you can understand why others do not reveal the exact details or sources for their statements. You have previously been very critical of individuals for not revealing details and/or sources for their information.

CH said...

Mike,

Should we — the "anti-Bellevue" crowd, as you say — view this as a veiled apology of sorts? Not the earth-shattering kind, but rather a delicate and thoughtfully worded admission that perhaps we do have a point to be made?

Is this your way of recanting... slightly, just a little bit, perhaps a tad?

I point to the fact that what you are asking for — an open business meeting — is essentially what the majority of us have requested for months.

--Collin

choice_is_yours said...

Brother Mike Bratton,

I have always believed you to be a man of great integrity.

In fact, in all of the past months of BBC problems, I will be honest and say that I am not ashamed of any of my individual brothers and sisters in Christ. I have been honored and blessed by my opportunity to meet all.

The only shame is personal: I helped nail Jesus to the cross. The same Jesus who was once placed in a manger because there was no room in the inn.

I am humbled today by your message I just read and so I have posted.

I am very happy that this season of Christmas time is seeing a thaw in relations between two blogs which have traded a lot of "arrows" up until now.

If only Dr. Gaines and Dr. Spradlin could have some kind of joint BBC/GBC Christmas service. WOW! What healing that could come of that.

Merry Christmas,

Choice

Karen said...

Mike,

Good for you! Because of your softball background, I completely understand your remark about Mike Spradlin's attire on the ballfields. FUNNY!

Lord help Mike Bratton as I am sure Dr. Gaines will be watching this site as well as others. Father, bless Mike as he stands for Truth. Thank you God that your created us so we can agree to disagree yet still be one in the bonds of love. Thank you!

Karen

Karen said...

Mike,

Do you realize if you posted this prior to "Majesty" you and your wife would probably been asked to bow out of the performance? Just something to ponder.

karen

FinanceGuy said...

Karen,
Maybe thats why he waited.

Now he can go on "paid leave" while he's investigated to see if there is any truth to what he said!!

BBC Refugee said...

Mike,
I will pray for you as you seek truth. I cannot explain how devastating it has been, the more questions you ask "leadership". It has been a while since your last post. If you are still asking questions, you are still NOT getting answers. Soon, the responses you receive will become attacks. The "Men" that we followed blindly we find were not worthy of that trust. Of course, I realize that it is my own sin that caused me to follow any man so blindly. Let's all keep seeking the one who is worthy...Jesus Christ. Happy New Year Mike!

Mike Bratton said...

Karen said...
Mike,

Do you realize if you posted this prior to "Majesty" you and your wife would probably been asked to bow out of the performance? Just something to ponder.

karen

3:03 PM, December 22, 2006


No, honestly, I don't realize that at all--because I seriously doubt it would've happened.

FinanceGuy said...
Karen,
Maybe thats why he waited.


Incorrect.

I posted after Majesty because I didn't have time to post before Majesty, and that's the beginning and the end of it.

Now he can go on "paid leave" while he's investigated to see if there is any truth to what he said!!

4:52 PM, December 22, 2006


I didn't realize asking for a business meeting to promote two-way communication was such a shocking proposal! :)

--Mike

TruthSeeker said...

Have you also lacked time to post anything more than just this one reply - or are you still waiting for a response to your request before postulating anything further? (just curious - b/c it seems that you would have *something* to say about further developments in the last 10 days...)

Mike Bratton said...

If you have a specific question, I'd be happy to hear it.

--Mike

Mike Sense said...

Mike- I have had a couple of interactions with you over email...not sure if you remember them, but they have been beneficial. Through disagreement and exhortation, they have been blessed.

I just want to say that I appreciated your post and hope that you will vigilantly pursue truth in this matter. With what I have read at jonthebaptist, I would have to say that the cracks in character of leadership at BBC seem to be growing. I hope that the same vigor in which you have defended leadership at BBC and critiqued the "anti" crowd, will be employed with an urgency to bless BBC. I like you, I really do. Though a bit overly sarcastic at times, I think you bless the body and challenge people where they need to be. Keep on brother, work hard to make sure that your church honors God through their actions and leadership. Don't be a lemming.