Friendships and Seniority

By Paul K. Williams

I was 27 years old when I was a central figure in a church split. It was the most harrowing time of my life. After I agreed to move to that congregation and before the time for the move had come, an institutional preacher told that church that I would split it within a year. And a respected brother told me, “Paul, that is a good church, but they have six elders and not a one is qualified.” When I moved there I found that he had told me the truth, and they were hopelessly divided.

I attempted to preach, teach, and live the truth. It was a time of great soul-searching. And one of the truths which had to be preached was the subject of church discipline. One of the troubles in the church was that the only child (a son) of one of the elders had committed fornication, married the pregnant girl, but had made no confession of sin. I talked to the son. I talked to the father. But nothing was happening.

Then an older, respected preacher who was a close friend of that elder came for a meeting. I talked to him about the problem and told him that since he was a friend of the elder, he was in a position to help him make the decision about discipline that needed to be made. That very night the older, respected preacher preached about young preachers coming into a congregation and taking control away from the respected elders!

The split came, with all the ugliness that such things inevitably bring. But I loved those brethren dearly. I knew that another preacher, even older and more respected, was to preach a meeting for the old congregation. I wrote to him and asked him to preach on church discipline during the meeting. I told him that in my opinion if he would preach what he had written on the subject it would do good. He wrote back to the effect: “Brother Williams, I have been preaching more years than you have been living. I don’t need anyone to tell me what to preach!”

Right then I promised myself and God that when I got old I would never pull rank on a younger Christian, preacher or not. Years of life do not give us the right to disregard advice, or to be rude. 

And in the cases of both preachers, I saw that they were favoring their friends. Friendships and old loyalties were more important than the truth of God! They would not have admitted that, but their actions convinced me of the fact. 

But how easy it is for us to act that way. How hard it is for us to do “nothing in a spirit of partiality” (1 Tim. 5:21). But, my brethren, I exhort you to try, and keep on trying, and never stop trying. If we want to go to heaven, we must not let friendships or the pride of age cause us to  P.O. Box 324, Eshowe, 3815 South Africa

Truth Magazine Vol. XLIV: 10 p18  May 18, 2000