The work of the consistory was now characterized by disorder.
It started when we passed a motion requiring Rev. Lanning to resign as editor. This was not a principled decision, as has been shown. One ground dredged up an old decision for the sake of expediency, and the other ground lied to the congregation about the work of our pastor.
Once a consistory no longer makes decisions according to principle, which is to say the word of God, it will no longer act in an orderly manner. It cannot because God is a God of order, and when a consistory no longer relies upon God, it will rely upon man.
Take a look around at society, and you see what kind of confusion results from the wisdom of man.
That type of wisdom was about to be put on full display in the weeks to follow.
On Sunday, November 15, 2020, Rev. Lanning preached a sermon titled “Shepherds to Feed You,” based on Jeremiah 23:4, 14.
I dare say none of us have heard a sermon like that before.
I dare say none of us have ever walked out of a sanctuary and been confronted so clearly by the two-fold response to the word of God: belief and unbelief. This was characterized by the repentant, humbled spirit of some and the angry, hardened response of others.
Some hearts had been prepared by the Holy Spirit to receive that word of rebuke and to respond with anguish of heart for their complacency and apathy to the truth of God’s word. The word fell upon such fertile soil and produced fruit. It produced the blessed fruit of repentance and sorrow for sin.
Other hearts were hardened against that word. Those men and women stormed out of the sanctuary, their faces set against the sermon and against the instrument of God who had delivered the sermon.
One man posted on Facebook shortly thereafter, “Zero edification for the flock. Unless you were there to support the Sword & Shield, in which case you really got your kicks. 85% of the content was a speech, not a sermon…Literally saw a handful of the BYRON congregation wiping tears of frustration from their eyes after we were dismissed. BCPRC was clicking along just fine up until about a year or so ago…when things started to get VERY political and agenda-driven.”
A few days after the Jeremiah sermon was preached, the consistory received a letter from a member of the denomination who had a different response to the sermon, “I didn’t understand what the controversy was all about. In my spiritual apathy I kept my head in the sand. Until last Sunday. I listened to learn. What I walked away with was a holy awareness of the gravity of this issue. Indeed the issue is unresolved. I see now that our denomination can not move forward and prosper under the blessing of God if we shove this into the vault never to be dealt with appropriately. It is very much unfinished.”
How to explain this two-fold response?
“In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight” (Luke 10:21).
But then, curiously enough, there were those who were broken by the sermon, repentant and humbled, but then just a short time later were hardened against the sermon.
That describes the consistory.
Immediately after the morning service, an elder—which was neither Elder Van Baren nor me—gathered all the other elders for a meeting to discuss the sermon. This elder was, in his own words, humbled by the sermon. He had never heard it preached like that before, and he was moved to repentance and humility by the sermon.
So the consistory met immediately after the service.
Not one word of criticism about the sermon was uttered that morning.
The elder who had called the meeting was emotional, wondering how we should proceed. Other elders agreed, and the consistory discussed possible ways forward.
The elder who closed that meeting with prayer—which was neither Elder Van Baren nor me—prayed that God would “speed” the sermon throughout the denomination.
But the seed of that sermon had fallen on stony soil in the hearts of those elders.
“But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended” (Matt. 13:20–21).
They were only able to endure for a few short hours.
An elder, just a few days later would excoriate Rev. Lanning in a consistory meeting, calling him a “Howard Stern shock jock.”
I will never know what happened between the time of that meeting after church and what transpired later that day and especially later that week.
Because only a few short hours later—which attitude was confirmed a few days later—those very men who had earlier been broken by the sermon were hardened against it.
What kind of persecution or tribulation arose to cause them “by and by” to be offended by that word?
They had no root, so the word was easily plucked from their hearts and souls.
Whatever happened, things looked a whole lot different when some of the elders gathered for a secret meeting that night after church.