How Today’s Churches Would View Paul
THE Challenge, a New Zealand interdenominational religious weekly, carried a “famous unwritten letter,” from J. Flavius Fluffyhead, Foreign Mission Board Secretary, to Paul, Independent Missionary, Corinth, Greece. Pointed selections from it follow:
“Dear Mr. Paul: We recently received an application from you for service under our Board. It is our policy to be as frank and open-minded as possible with all our applicants. We have made an exhaustive survey of your case. To be plain, we are surprised that you have been able to ‘pass’ as a bona-fide missionary. . . .
“At Antioch, we learn, you opposed Dr. Simon Peter, an esteemed denominational secretary, and actually rebuked him publicly. You stirred up so much trouble at Antioch that a special Board meeting had to be convened in Jerusalem. We cannot condone such actions. Do you think it seemly for a missionary to do part-time secular work? We hear that you are making tents on the side. In a letter to the Church at Philippi, you admitted that they were the only Church supporting you. We wonder why.
“Is it true that you have a jail record? Certain brethren report that you did two years’ time at Caesarea and were imprisoned at Rome. You made so much trouble for business men at Ephesus that they refer to you as ‘the man who turned the world upside down.’ Sensationalism in missions is uncalled for. We also deplore the lurid ‘over-the-wall-in-a-basket’ episode at Damascus.
“We were appalled at your obvious lack of conciliatory behaviour. Diplomatic men are not stoned and dragged out of the city gate, or assaulted by furious mobs. Have you ever suspected that gentler words might gain you more friends? . . . You have caused much trouble everywhere you have gone. You opposed the honourable women at Berea and the leaders of your own nationality in Jerusalem. If a man cannot get along with his own people, how can he serve foreigners?
“You have written many letters to churches where you have formerly been pastor. In one of these letters, you accused a church member of living with his father’s wife, and you caused the whole church to feel badly; and the poor fellow was expelled. You spend too much time talking about ‘the second coming of Christ.’ Your letters to the people at Thessalonica were almost entirely devoted to this theme. Put first things first from now on. . . .
“Your sermons are much too long for the times. At one place, you talked until after midnight and a young man was so asleep that he fell out of the window and broke his neck. Nobody is saved after the first twenty minutes. ‘Stand up, speak up, and then shut up,’ is our advice. . . . You wrote recently to Timothy that ‘you had fought a good fight.’ Fighting is hardly a recommendation for a missionary. No fight is a good fight. Jesus came, not to bring a sword, but peace. You boast that ‘I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus.’ What on earth do you mean? It hurts me to tell you this, Brother Paul, but in all my 25 years of experience, I have never met a man so opposite to the requirements of our Foreign Mission Board.”
So no Pauls serve such Boards today.