Friday, 9 January 2009


Now this post is going to really get up the noses of our evangelistic brethren. It is going to question the biblical validity and necessity of giving testimonies in church services, especially evangelistic services. This is customary amongst some evangelical ministers, though the practice is largely dying out.

Why am I prepared to do this? For this reason, that the giving of testimonies can detract from the teaching of Scripture on how a sinner becomes a Christian, by going beyond what is written. The major objection to the giving of testimonies is this: they tend to reduce all conversions to a similar pattern, and to standardise experience in a way that went beyond Scripture. While this is not the intention of the testimony-giver, this impression is left on the minds of those who hear them.

How often I had heard it said by soundly converted Christians, that they almost wish they had lived a profligate life, so that they would have a story to tell like So and So. This is very sad, and undermining of faith.

Indeed, when newly converted sinners are asked to give their testimony, the pressure is on them to dramatise what their experience has been, and to include that which is noteworthy in their past lives. Further, those personal testimonies that I have heard have spent much more time on their lives before they became Christians, and precious little on their lives afterwards - surely a wrong emphasis. The story prior to conversion is all about me, while the story after conversion ought to be about what God's grace has been doing in the Christian's life; it ought to be, not self-centred, but Christ-centred.

Now I have no doubt at all that the motives of these testifiers are often well-intentioned. But as I have already stated, the effect can be carnal and man-centred. It is not the first time that Christians, on leaving a testimony meeting, were so impressed by what they had heard from the testifier, that this was all they had to talk about - not Christ, God's marvellous grace, the message. The true focus was removed from God, and placed, inevitably, on man!

A dramatic telling of the story of conversion, especially if one had a colourful life prior to this, can be most gripping. So the time is taken up with these unique features, rather than with the amazing grace of our sovereign God.

The reason why testifiers do not concentrate on the really important aspect of their conversion is this: in every conversion, it is the grace of God that is at work, therefore, it is exactly the same in every conversion. Further, their pre-conversion life is so interesting, that, in comparison, their Christian life is boring - and you can't have that!

How many times have you heard Christians say in their testimony that when they decided to become a Christian, it was "the best decision they ever made." The focus, again, is on what I did, not on what God in His grace did.

Or, I have heard Christians testify that they "never regretted becoming a Christian." Now think about this for a moment: what you left behind was nothing compared with what you now have in Christ, yet how can anyone say they never regretted giving up what they could not keep in order to keep what they could not lose? The very language of having 'regrets' about belonging to Christ is abhorrent, and dishonouring to our gracious Lord and Saviour. Using a weak analogy, what man in his right mind would talk about regretting having millions, after giving up poverty!

Yet this is the kind of careless language that is being used by new Christian. And I doubt if their minister took them aside and talked over with them the basic biblical theology of conversion.

When you become a Christian, you do not give up anything; rather you gain everything. That's why all this talk about people sacrificing to serve the Lord in some special way is out of order. They are sacrificing nothing, but they are gaining everything.

In my own ministry, which commenced some 34 years ago, I don't think I ever gave my testimony in any sermon, evangelistic or otherwise, throughout all those years. I don't think it is necessary, and there is no biblical mandate for doing it.

If someone is bearing testimony to their Saviour, let them do precisely that! Talk about Christ and His beauty, loveliness, and graciousness, but please talk no more about yourself. In comparison, there is nothing in your life to talk about with pride, yet so many almost gloat in their past lives, and revel in telling others how 'bad' they had been. I would be ashamed to tell the world what I was really like, so I don't do it. In fact, the parts of the story that are related in testimonies are those in which the teller has a certain pride, therefore enjoys telling them.

Are you proud of Christ? Then tell us that. Are you delighted in your Saviour? Then that's what we want to hear. Do you enjoy spending time with Him in prayer and bible study? Then, tell the world. Is serving Christ your greatest joy in this life? Then, glorify Him when you rise to speak. But keep yourself in the background; don't let your 'self' appear to mess up the testimony. Give Christ all the glory, and remember, "those who honour Me, I will honour."


As someone who also experienced the terror of workplace bullying some 18 years ago, I know something of what it is like to be picked upon by colleagues – the self-questioning, the depression, mood swings, avoidance of company, and personality change. The unanswerable “why me?” question keeps on going around your head, because there is no logical answer to it.

The sleepless nights, the overactive mind, feelings of revenge, the irritability, the inability to trust people, are all well-documented signs of the negative effects of workplace bullying.

The two professions that stand head and shoulders above all others for bullying are nursing and teaching – and by some distance. But it is also carried out in some of the most unexpected of professions, namely, charitable organisations, such as, the church.

I was a minister in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland for about 14 years, and was subjected to ‘the treatment’ by colleagues at local and regional levels. Indeed, when I tell people where my bullying occurred, and who did it, they look at me with utter disbelief. But it was in the church and by the church that I was singled out for this excruciatingly painful treatment that resulted in me, the victim, losing my job, and the perpetrators being protected by the establishment.

Sadly, this is usually what happens. When a child is bullied at school, s/he usually has to leave the school and go elsewhere, and the bully can remain on at his/her school. In work situations, it is the victim who has to leave because of a work-related breakdown in his mental and/or physical health, or by his/her own choice, but the bully, who is usually a manager, is protected by the organisation, and even promoted within it.

Those who engage in such perverted logic must take a long and hard look at what they are doing, and the longer term effects of so doing on future generations. I have worked with more nurses and teachers, as well as people from other walks of life, who have been broken by their managers than I care to mention, professional people who are good at their job and who get on well with people, and the stories were quite similar.

The bullies don’t realise this, but they are damaging, sometimes beyond recovery, the best employees they have. These are committed, dependable, hard-working people that are needed in every workplace in the country. Contrast them with the bullies – incompetent, lazy, nasty, duckers and divers, boot lickers, possessing Jekyll and Hyde personality traits, at times psychopathic, people who will tramp over anyone, no matter who they are, in order to get on in their careers, nitpickers, negative people, always criticising and fault-finding, nasty pieces of work. Beside the victims, their bullies just do not stack up.

I’d be very surprised if the four men involved in the bullying of this young boy didn’t cover up for each other. In my case, other ministers, when informed by me about the immoral misbehaviour of a church elder, treated me as a liar, and protected the individual – protection that is still in place to this day – and punished me instead. At least two of those doing the protecting were promoted to the position of Moderator a few short years later.

I can identify with the situation of this young lad – the crying, the not wanting to be bothered by others, including caring family members, the depression, and in my case suicidal tendencies. Workplace bullying is a life-threatening behaviour, and it is also life-dominating – you just cannot get what these people did to you out of your mind.

One very important fact that victims of bullying need to remember is that they did not bring this on themselves. It was the bully’s decision to inflict this on them. It was not their fault that this happened to them, and when they ask the “Why me?” question, this is something they need to remember. It was not necessarily something you did, or did not do, that accounts for the bullying, but something in the bully, some deficiency or something present in them, that urged them to act in this manner. They are to be held fully responsible for their behaviour, not excused, and certainly not to be understood. What they did was WRONG.

Another thing that is important to know, is this: you are not on your own, and you are not the only person to whom kind of thing was done. It may be cold comfort now, but when you think about it, you will come to realise that there are people out there who have survived and come through this ordeal, and who can now help those who are going through it. You need their support, for this is much too big a thing for you to handle on your own.

One former Moderator once asked me what I thought about ministers, and I told him, “I don’t trust any of you. The only time I will ever trust a minister again is when he first proves that he is a friend.” I have learned that you do not have friends in the ministry, only colleagues.

The sad thing is that this type of gross behaviour occurs in every religious denomination – sometimes the professedly purer denominations are the worst. How can someone in the caring profession par excellence be trusted when that profession not only treats its employees in such a despicable way, but then proceeds to cover up the immoral behaviour of the bullies?

I have spoken to ministers and their wives, and some of the stories I have heard from them are devastating. Ministries have been cut short and ruined, marriages have been placed under almost intolerable strain, and serious breakdown in health has been experienced by these good men and women.

In every bullying situation, including my own, there were the bullies, I was the victim, but there were also the by-standers, the lookers-on who saw what was happening and did nothing to stop it. Thankfully, the man who arrived at the garage and disturbed the bullies as they tortured the boy, is to be heartily commended for his compassion and pro-activity – would there were more like him in today’s workplaces.

Workplace bullying is currently a growing problem, and decisions such as the one taken recently by the courts can only act as a spur on to those currently engaged in this anti-social behaviour. In fact, incidences of this doubled in the nineties, and there is no reason to believe that this trend will stop.

I would say to the parents of this child to proceed to sue for compensation those who abused your son. This initiation ceremony went horribly wrong, but even if it hadn’t, it was still indefensible behaviour to inflict on any human being.

Sadly, the only way employers will be taught a lesson is when it hits their pockets really hard. Get the best lawyers you can and sue these bullies. You do not know what the future will be for your son, or you, what help he will need, or indeed whether he will ever work again; so he needs to be cared for, and those who inflicted such damage on him must be made to pay. Rogue employers like this one must know that workplace bullying will not be tolerated in any civilised society. A clear message must be sent out that bullying will cost you dearly if you engage in it.

Because of media coverage, the name of the company is now well known, and decent people ought not to give it any custom. Young people or even older people should look elsewhere for employment, because working for this company could seriously damage your health.

I said that bullying inflicts psychiatric damage – an invisible injury – and it does. The positive news is that it is an injury, not an illness, and like other injuries will heal given time and the proper care and support. My health crashed as a direct result of the bullying treatment meted out by the church, which necessitated me being under psychiatric care for 18 months; but I proceeded to study for a Master’s research degree at Magee in which I looked at workplace bullying.

However, it took me 14 years before I could attend a Presbyterian church again. I have not forgotten what that church did to me and to my family, showed no care whatsoever for us, never once apologised for the hurt caused, showed no remorse, made no attempts at reconciliation – these came from my side – but for my own good, I had to walk away from the hurt caused, and get on with life, a most difficult thing to do.

I am not suggesting that this ought to be done by every victim of bullying, for each one is different. What I do know is that it will take a very long time for any measure of recovery to be experienced, and the worse the ordeal, the longer it will take. ‘Moving on’ depends entirely on where you are moving on from! So we are all different, and our individuality must be recognised and respected.

If anyone reading this article is experiencing this terrible thing called workplace bullying, I am prepared to give what insight I can. I can be contacted at jehlynch [at] and any help I can give will be made available.

CONTACT: Dr J. E. Hazlett Lynch, West Lynn, 23 Parkmore Close, MAGHERAFELT, Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland, BT45 6PL. Tel. 0044 (0) 28 7963 4684. Or at JEHLynch [at]

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Full-time Christian service?

This is a term that we hear mentioned from time to time in Christian churches, and seems to refer only to those who are paid or supported by someone else in order to do their service for God.

I feel I must challenge this viewpoint, because if you can explain how a Christian can be a part-time Christian, I'll accept this viewpoint. Surely, from the moment a Christian is born into the family of God, he is from that very instant a full-time Christian, and therefore in full-time service for Christ.

What has brought this to my attention was the practice that the church was to pray for doctors, nurses and teachers, et al, who were doing this work in a country other than their own, but the same care is not taken to pray for Christians who are doing these same jobs at home. What is different about these situations? Only location. These Christians are doing what they are doing as their service for Christ, even if the Department of Health and Social Services, or the Department of Education, is paying their salaries.

I think that this false distinction has a discouraging effect on Christians who are serving Christ at home, and tends to place a halo above the heads of those who do the same work overseas.

The church must begin to see things through more biblical eyes, and not get involved in Roman-like halo placing for some Christians, and not for all. Why ought it to be thought a great thing for a Christian to serve Christ overseas, yet it is not so great a thing to serve Him at home? Why is a nurse or a teacher working at home not prayed for with the same enthusiasm as the same professional is who is working abroad? This does not stand to biblical sense.

What a mighty difference it would make to the effectiveness of Christian service were the church to pray as fervently for Christians working at home as she does for those working abroad! Surely we do a massive dis-service to all those good Christians who serve Christ faithfully at home, and depreciate and discredit their service for Christ.

As a Christian, I serve Christ in a full-time capacity, and it is when I believe that I am not in His service that I go astray. I would find it very difficult to argue from Scripture or from experience that Christians can serve Christ casually.

We need to take a fresh look at this aspect of church life, and hopefully be drawn to more biblical conclusions.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009


When it is asserted by Baptists that unless a newly converted Christian is baptised, immersion being understood as the only biblical way for this to be done, to demonstrate his obedience to Christ, do they mean that this is the best or only way of demonstrating such obedience? Or, is it implying that those who do not do this are by definition disobedient Christians? For Baptists, this appears to be the case. If a converted Christian remains unbaptised as a believing adult and the mode of baptism being total immersion, that Christian’s obedience to Christ is open to question. Is this the case?

Looking at this situation generally, let me ask a few other equally relevant questions. Is a Christian being disobedient to Christ who does not seek to speak in tongues? Some Pentecostals would answer, Yes. Is it a mark of disobedience to admit women to the Lord’s Supper? Some Christians, on the basis of their grasp of biblical teaching, would answer, Yes. Is it an act of disobedience, repeated every week, for the Christian Church to meet for worship on the Lord’s Day, Sunday, and not on the Jewish Sabbath, Saturday? Some would answer that it is. Is it an act of perpetual disobedience for Christians to use hymns and paraphrases in the worship of God, and not Psalms exclusively? Reformed Presbyterians would answer ‘yes’ to this question. Is it disobedience to the Scriptures for ministers not to receive Episcopal ordination? Anglicans would answer, Yes. Is it disobedience for churches not to maintain their independent status? Congregationalists would say, Yes. Is the use of other translations of the Scriptures and not the exclusive use of the Authorised King James Version a mark of apostasy from the Christian faith? Free Presbyterians and others who insist on this, answer Yes. Can a Christian’s obedience to God be determined by whether or not he belongs to a ‘mixed’ denomination? Again, Free Presbyterians and other separatists will answer, Yes. Is it disobedience for Christians not to accept the credentials of any religious grouping that claims to be Christian and a Church? Liberals and Ecumenicals would answer, Yes.

Let’s broaden this out just a little. Some Christians have castigated other Christians for being disobedient to God’s Word when they voted for the Belfast Agreement, whereas these same critics, not all of them but many of them, would claim that they were correct to vote for the St Andrews Agreement and go into government with terrorists, and that those who voted against this move were disobedient to the Scriptures. Some believe that compromise is a sign of Christian obedience whereas others see it as evidence of disobedience.

Now if all these issues determine whether or not a Christian is living in obedience to his Lord, who is left that really does live under the lordship of Christ? No one. So to teach and insist that obedience is measured by a Christian’s acceptance of believer’s baptism by immersion is to go beyond what is accepted in other areas of doctrine. Baptists can claim to be theologically correct in their understanding and practice of baptism, but Presbyterians will claim that Baptists are in error because they are more restrictive than the Scriptures. And Psalms-only singers will claim that every hymn-singing church has departed from the clear teaching of Scripture, including the Baptists.

So adherence or not to denominational distinctives must not be used to determine any Christian’s obedience to Christ, for the simple reason that church bodies exist to maintain these distinctives.

Our obedience to Christ as Lord and King must be determined in a different arena. For example, if we do not “love the Lord our God with your whole heart, mind, soul and strength, and your neighbour as yourself,” then our obedience to Christ may be questioned. If we seek to order our doings in a way that does no harm to our neighbour, which is how Paul understands love, then we may be said to be living obediently to Christ.

When we try to live within the Moral Law as expounded by our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount, then we have a degree of confidence that we are living obediently to Christ.

Some Christians can get so caught up in their own distinctives that they lose sight of the bigger picture, and believe that their grasp of Christian doctrine is so correct that it is inconceivable for any Christian to think otherwise.

This smacks of arrogance, spiritual pride and hypocrisy. Where such arrogance, spiritual pride and hypocrisy exist, Christ is being dishonoured and souls left in confusion.

If Christian obedience is required in an ongoing manner, as it most surely is, and if baptism as a professing believer is one such requirement, then every time we wish to show our obedience to Christ, we must undergo baptism. Yet not even the Baptist church requires any such act on our part, which questions whether or not submission to adult believers’ baptism is really an act of Christian obedience. Christians show their love for, and obedience to, the Lord by seeking to honour Him in all of life.

On the amount of water to be used in baptism, we can look at the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, the other of the two Gospel sacraments. There, all Christian churches accept that the amount of bread and wine used is immaterial, since it is the significance of the sacrament that is important. Baptists also accept this understanding of the Lord’s Supper, because the NT records that this was a full meal that Jesus and His disciples had. Yet, when it comes to the practice of baptism, Baptists insist that for baptism to be valid, total immersion alone fulfils the biblical requirement. This basic inconsistency is so obvious that the discerning believer cannot miss it. If a small amount of bread and wine suffices for one sacrament, why cannot a small amount of water suffice for the other? Baptists must answer this question.

One further point is worth raising. Baptists keep on asking Paedo-baptists, that is those Christians who believe that the children of believers ought to receive this sacrament, as well as adult believers who have not previously been baptised, to produce the biblical proof for their practice. Yet Baptists have not provided any biblical proof, either textual or by good and necessary theological deduction, that in the NT the children of believers, who would have been baptised as infants, were baptised on profession of faith. This point also requires an answer from our Baptist friends.

Whilst it is not my intention to sow seeds of discord between Christians, the insistence of believer’s baptism for new converts is doing just that. Such insistence is theologically wrong, sends out a confusing message, and is an attempt to undermine the practice and credibility of other equally good Christians. Surely there is enough confusion in the churches today without increasing it by this issue!

Let me be very clear: there is no biblical need for new converts to be baptised as believers, since their baptism as infants pointed to the grace of God in salvation, and forward to their faith in Christ, which is where they have come to; to follow the position and practice of the Baptists may, in fact, be an act of disobedience and amount to covenant breaking, a sin that we do not want to commit.

Hymns good and bad!

The 'worship songs' that are used in many congregations, both old and new, are a real mixture of stuff. In fairness, the older material is generally more theologically correct than is much modern stuff. Whatever we use, be it old or new, there must be one deciding criterion - is it faithful to Scripture? Do the contents of the hymn accord with the highest theology of the church's best periods?

Modernity is no guarantee of faithfulness, just as the antiquity of hymns does not, of itself, guarantee faithfulness to the Gospel.

That said, it could be argued that there was much more solid theological awareness in the olden days than there is today. Take, for instance, the hymns of hymn-writers like Charles Wesley, Philip Doddridge, Isaac Watts, to name just three, and you will find a balanced biblicism and content that is sadly absent from many modern attempts at hymn-writing. Wesley's hymns have stood the test of time and usage, and are amongst the best loved and most precious in the entire repertoire of hymns. the only exception among Wesley's most popular hymns is the line in "Hark! The herald angels sing..." that suggest that Christ laid aside His eternal glory when He became man. The line is: "Mild He lays His glory by..."

For many years, I have found it impossible to sing this line, believing, as I do, that Christ never laid aside His glory when He became incarnate, but that His glory was concealed in flesh. But it was always there!

Another problematic line in Wesley is "Emptied Himself of all but love," a sentiment that I cannot endorse from the hymn "And can it be..." Where Wesley's theological head was when he penned these words, I do not know! Perhaps he was taking poetic licence, but that does not excuse the insertion of theological error into otherwise brilliant hymns of praise.

Another older hymn states that we want "another Pentecost," something that is as impossible as wanting another Calvary. These theological aberrations are most unfortunate, and are best avoided.

The newer 'worship songs' - the term 'hymns' has been dropped, presumably because it is not a modern word, and young people might object to it - are a mixed bag. Some contemporary songs are faithful to the teaching of Scripture, and these are a welcome addition to the repertoire. But some are not, mere man-made slush that is totally inappropriate in the worship of Almighty God.

I think the biggest problem caused by modernity in worship is the overwhelming desire to cater for the younger generation, almost to the exclusion of the older, more mature, Christians. Modernity has, as its corollary, the palsy-walsy attitude to God and to spiritual things that is so common today. Look at the state of dress, or undress, of some modern worshippers, and you'll see what I am saying. Look at the grossly casual presentation of many within the contemporary church, a presentation that would be inappropriate at work, or when presenting to the Queen. Bosses simply would not tolerate the casualness of their staff, nor would the Queen when presenting for a 'honour,' yet anything goes when it comes to entering God's holy presence for worship.

But whether it was the new man-centred focus of contemporary worship that led to the overly casual dress at worship, or vice versa, is hard to resolve. The singing of man-centred songs leads inexorably to man-centred worship and man-centred worship means that anything goes. God does not have a look-in!

In favour of exclusive Psalmody is the fact that what we are singing are the inspired words of God, however difficult to sing and understand at times. The reverence in worship is maintained, truth is to the fore, and the worship is God-centred. How sad to see a psalm like Ps.23, one of the most God-centred psalms in the psalter, being re-set and provided gratuitously with a refrain that is not in the original psalm, reducing it to a man-centred exhibition that undermines the entire ethos of that precious piece of sacred poetry.

While it is true that all the Scriptures testify of Christ, as he Himself stated, the reference to Christ in many of the Psalms is difficult to discern. Perhaps that's why ministers in exclusive psalm singing churches feel obliged to explain the meaning of the psalm before any attempt is made at singing it! Christ is most assuredly there, but finding Him can be a real challenge.

Were the church to return to the hymns of the best periods of her history, and to a proper mix of psalms, paraphrases and hymns, a sense of reverence would also return, and a taste for solid doctrine would follow, as night follows day. In this way, a tremendous teaching aid would be returned to its place, God would be glorified thereby, and the saints richly blessed.

Woman Ministers

It is gratifying to see that there are some other ministers in PCI who are prepared publicly to endorse the stand taken by the Portadown minister who believes that it is wrong to have a woman in the ordained ministry. It is interesting that those who do not agree with woman ministers and who wish to defend the biblical position, appeal to the man-made and ever-changing Code of his church and then to Scripture, revealing a mindset.

If Scripture is the supreme standard of the Presbyterian church, why do ministers make every effort to abide by the Code, especially when it contravenes Scripture? Why is the Code, in practice, the supreme standard of PCI, whereas in theory only, and on paper, it is the Scriptures? It is somewhat hypocritical to claim allegiance to God-given Scripture, while in practice everything is done in accordance with the man-made Code, even where it contradicts Scripture.

The PCI General Assembly has held Scripture as its supreme standard since 1840, yet look at the way liberalism has dominated, and still dominates, that church’s life. Unfaithfulness to the Gospel is synonymous with PCI in many minds, despite the number of faithful ministers that are in it. Because the supreme and subordinate standards of the church have not been taken seriously within its life, error has taken root and will now be almost impossible to eradicate. To what end then are ordinands, ministers, and elders subscribing the Westminster standards?

A minister is less than clever when he tells us that as long as his church “holds to the Word of God as its supreme standard, … there is still hope….”

But this is like saying that so long as a man has a licence to drive, it matters little how he drives; or while a couple possess a marriage certificate, they can then live as they please.

This is ridiculous in the extreme. The sorry fact is that the law of the land can be invoked against those who break traffic laws or who infringe marriage laws, but the law of the church cannot be invoked when a minister neither believes nor preaches the Gospel. A Presbyterian minister can hold that all men will eventually be saved – a belief that contravenes Scripture – and yet be honoured by that church! S/he can hold that all religions and all sorts of religion, even false religion, lead to God, yet be promoted within the church! Many hold to theological liberalism, yet this is acceptable by the church at large.

Having a “paper confession,” as Dr D. M. Lloyd-Jones put it, is a dangerous thing, and to say that while it remains in place in a church, there is hope. Ministers who believe this have thrown out a vital life-line to their liberal colleagues who can now do as they please in terms of theological pluralism, ecumenical development, inter-faith activities, the undermining of moral standards, etc. The reformed men within the church will still remain within it because the “paper confession” is in place. The liberals and ecumenicals can now have a field day as they continue to undermine the Gospel, and the conservatives will hold their peace, tolerate them, welcome unconverted male ministers into their pulpits without a twinge of conscience, all in a bid to be seen by the establishment as ‘good churchmen.’

Despite possession of the Scriptures and the Westminster standards, PCI still does not know what the truth is! Am I wrong in this? Answers please.