This question has been asked by several readers.
Sometimes with a barb.
“Was this your intent? To cause division among us? Well, you’ve won.”
I started answering the question “Why?” in the last post, but to fully answer it, I have to go back a few years.
To 2013, to be precise.
My wife and I had been members of Grandville PRC since we were married in 2001.
It was only in 2013 that we came to the conviction that something was amiss.
We had suspected for some time that there was something wrong with the preaching of Rev. Koole. However, for many years we blamed ourselves.
We were not listening hard enough. We had to take better notes.
One quote in particular from A.W. Tozer would plague my conscience. “If you will not worship God seven days a week, you do not worship Him on one day a week.” This would ring in my ears, and I would reproach myself for not living a holy enough life during the week. Sundays were a trial because I was not faithful enough, diligent enough, spiritual enough. I was not doing enough. That law of Tozer’s lashed my conscience and left me despairing.
Finally, in 2013, I went to Rev. Koole. I told him I did not know what was wrong with the preaching, just that I knew something was wrong.
Over the course of the next year, nothing changed.
But I was busy reading everything I could get my hands on regarding preaching.
As useful as those books were, it is to my shame that I needed them in the first place.
The answer was painfully evident as to what was wrong with the preaching.
Christ was missing.
The preaching was Christless.
(There was much more that went on throughout that time that I will not detail. The lies and the duplicity of those appointed by Christ to lead me and my family. The double-minded men who would tell me one thing in private and then see to it that I received something altogether different in official correspondence from the consistory. Those books will be opened and revealed someday, and that is enough for me).
That does not mean the name “Jesus” was not said throughout a sermon. It probably was. It certainly was tacked on to the end of the sermon.
Yet Christ was absent from the preaching.
In their office of believer, a man, a woman, and even a child knows when they are being fed Christ and when they “hear his voice” (John 10:3).
And they know when they hear the voice of a stranger (John 10:5).
Finally, after vexing my soul and having the souls of my wife and children vexed for far too long, a man came to me and asked to me to consider whether it was time for me to leave Grandville. His reason was stark. Rev. Koole was not going to change, and the elders were not going to do anything about it.
So we left.
And joined Byron Center PRC.
Where we heard Christ.
It was only a few weeks in, and only a few minutes into a sermon, when I leaned over to my wife and, stifling a laugh, said to her, “He can’t get to Christ quick enough!”
Rev. Lanning knew nothing among us, except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2).
That was a joyous time for my family. We had been led out of the wasteland and to the green, verdant pastures of the riches of God’s word, as Rev. Lanning drew out of the treasure house things old and new (Matt. 13:52).
Every service, morning and evening, we were led to Jesus Christ, and how our souls sang with joy!
I truly had never experienced preaching like this.
And do you know what my denomination did to these two men?
It made the one man who refused or was unable to preach Christ a leader in the denomination. It made him a church visitor and editor of the church paper and an authority figure for the denomination to look up to.
The other man, who humbly fed his flock with Christ Sunday after Sunday, service after service, the denomination despised. It mocked him at the assemblies and made his name a byword. And then it brutally cast him out of their fellowship.
What the faithful officebearers from Wingham PRC wrote regarding the wicked treatment of Rev. Lanning and Rev. Langerak is true: “The denomination’s abuse of these men is nothing less than a rejection of Christ himself as he is revealed in the faithful office-bearer of Christ and as he speaks to and teaches his church in the gospel.”
What caused me to leave—no, what drove me to leave—was what the PRC did with Jesus Christ.
They cast him out.
I know I speak for the rest of my brothers and sisters who left Byron Center PRC when I say that we did not have a choice. We had heard the voice of Christ in the preaching, and having heard it, we would not, under any circumstances, allow ourselves to be robbed of it or allow it to be silenced.
Many of us had languished for years, if not decades, in spiritual wastelands of empty words and man-centered theology.
We were starving to death.
And now our denomination, after trumping up some charges, says that Rev. Lanning is not fit to be a preacher?
We said no.
Even if that meant the loss of our families, our friends, and our schools.
We can identify the voice of strangers. We will not follow those voices.
(Rev. Lanning certainly could not abide this unrighteous deposition. John Calvin spoke for all faithful ministers of God’s word when he said his ministry was from Christ, and therefore it must be defended “with his own blood if necessary.”)
This will probably draw the spurious charge that we are following a man. That charge is slander.
One of the cheapest, most superficial, evilest, but nevertheless often very effective methods to brand a movement of a reformatory character in the church as false and of the evil one, is to concentrate all one’s attention upon the leader of such a movement, vituperate his character and personality, ascribe the movement wholly to the powerful influence of that personality, and present all other participants in the movement as blindly following that strange, that ambitious, that impossible man.
This method has many advantages.
It simplifies the case immensely. Instead of collecting and carefully evaluating the historical data, the doctrinal implications, and the church-political transactions involved in the case, you can afford to limit yourself to the presentation of a simple syllogism: 1. The leader is no good; 2. The movement is wholly inspired by the evil leader; 3. The movement must be evil.
Moreover, if such a man happens to be condemned and cast out by the church, the latter, by fixing all the attention upon the impossible and evil personality of the leader, is at once justified. No matter what may be the doctrinal implications of the case, no matter whether this leader actually taught false doctrine worthy of deposition, no matter how many injustices the church may have committed in casting him out, the church is plainly justified in her act for the simple reason that the man is impossible. (Hoeksema, Vitriolic Indeed, 9/15/46, SB)
But when you consider that God is pleased to have his word preached through a man, then the faithful believer will gladly confess that they will “not easily allow themselves to be separated from any man in whom they have detected a right understanding of Christ” (Calvin).
As I have been led to see, not every man has a “right understanding of Christ.”
So you want to know why I am writing this blog.
In part—in large part—I am writing this for my brothers and sisters who themselves are bewildered and confused at the abuse they are facing. I am writing for those who I am called by God to protect and to whom I am called to minister. I am defending them. I am trying to be their voice. What have they done but follow the voice of Christ?
It is written in love for the “simple” in the PRC, who, through good words and fair speeches, have had their hearts deceived (Rom. 16:18).
It is written because it was, and continues to be, my duty as a watchman to warn God’s people of the grave danger they are in.
This blog is being written because of a love for Jesus Christ and a desire to stand up for his name and his truth in the world.
He is worth fighting for.
He is the only one worth fighting for.
I make no apology for this blog or what I have written.
If what I write is false, then prove it. If I am wrong, then show me.
And while I continually must ask God to forgive my cowardice for keeping back my pen from blood, and for so often turning back in the day of battle, and for wavering at the faces of men, I will continue to make the prayer of Psalm 144:1 my own.
“Blessed be the Lord my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight.”