The following piece is meant to be informative, not critical, even though I may criticize a little, and I apologize in advance for the length. All in all, I hope that it will help lead people away from unhealthy, legalistic, and abusive churches by helping them recognize “red flags.”
Not all pastors are abusive megalomaniacs. The ones that are should be called out and held accountable, for their poor witness harms not only the Church, but the world to which we are called to be witnesses.
Several months ago a video was posted on YouTube. That video shows Dr. Jim Standridge, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Skiatook, Oklahoma, publicly chastising members of his congregation.
Since its release, the video has gone viral with over 700,000 views, so far. I was made aware of this video a couple of months ago when friend on Facebook posted it to her wall and created a stir. It was originally posted on a website called Stuff Fundies Like.
Personally, I think it is a shame that something like this has been put out for all to see, for it damages the reputation of all who sincerely follow Christ. I even have problems with the website that originally made this widely available. But since it is out there and not going away, I feel it should be addressed.
It is important to look at things in their proper contexts before we come to conclusions. That is why I wanted to find the video of Dr. Standridge’s entire sermon. I found it on Immanuel Baptist Church’s website and watched the entire thing, making plenty of notes.
Those commenting in defense of this video have said things like: “You shouldn’t judge a man based on this one video…we don’t know what led up to him talking this way.” In an interview with The Christian Post, even Dr. Standridge said, “…you can’t judge a man by one message.”
But is that entirely so? During the time it took to watch the hour-long sermon I noticed several “red flags” that told me this was probably not an isolated incident.
Full Sermon (see if you can spot the red flags)
NOTE: The video was taken down, so I’m glad I reviewed it when I did!
The term “red flag” is used to describe a warning sign. The following are some of the red flags I noticed while watching the full sermon preached by Dr. Standridge on May 19, 2013.
1) The need to express self-importance, along with possessiveness.
In less than two minutes into the sermon (1:13), Dr. Standridge first addresses the boy that was to fall asleep. He says: “Son, look at me – I’m the man, baby.” Later (39:23), he addresses the boy again and says: “I’m somebody…now you might do your English teacher thataway [sic], but I’m not teaching English…”
To the same boy he says, “I’m not some little hireling” (20:55). Then, at the 48:20 mark: “I don’t care…I do care, but I don’t care…It’s like that young boy right there, he don’t know who I am.”
In the infamous part where Dr. Standridge talks to Mr. Cox, the man in the video room, he says: “…you don’t care about what I want to do right…if you loved me, and you submitted to me, you’d know what my heart is and my message is…(43:00). Then, at the 47:25 mark he says: “You may be the best sound man…but that’s my sound room before it’s yours!”
Towards the end Dr. Standridge confronts a girl named Wendy (1:01:39) and plays the guilt card: “You count my life as something, well, very secondary, if anything.”
2) Belittling others.
In one hour Dr. Standridge manages to put down skateboards, comparing them to witch’s brooms (1:13; 4:39), texting (54:35-55:20), secular college education (1:01:39), the right of a mother to be upset (48:11), a woman’s needs (3:50), and a wife’s spirituality and intelligence (6:50-7:25).
In several places Dr. Standridge threatens to leave the church if the congregation doesn’t want to hear what he has to say. “Now if you don’t want me…”(40:50).
4) Publicly announcing church members’ faults.
What gets Dr. Standridge into so much trouble is where he calls out Mr. Cox in the sound/video room and the young couple about to get married (as seen in the YouTube clip). But where some want to say that was just an isolated incident, the reality is that he did this from the beginning to the end of the sermon!
The fact that he would say in front of the church that a young man was “one of the sorriest church members” and “not worth 15 cents” (39:50) was completely inexcusable. And, telling Angela, a young wife, that she should quit questioning her husband and start submitting to him (6:50-7:25) was completely out of line.
5) Following abuse with “You know I love you.“
It was really hard to keep track of how many times Dr. Standridge followed a stinging comment or snide remark with something like, “You know I love you, don’t you?” He said this to Mr. Cox and put him on the spot with a hug (39:50ff) right after telling him he wasn’t worth 15 cents! He even asked the poor skater boy: “Have I convinced you I love you? You better nod your head yes.” (39:23ff)
Even more, his love comments were commonly used as a justification to the congregation for his actions: “I love that boy right there” (1:13); “Now, let me tell everybody here how much I love these kids” (referring to Mr. Underwood and his bride to be). This is what abusive husbands do, not pastors.
1 Timothy 5:20 says: “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” The only problem with using that verse to justify what Dr. Standridge did/does is that this verse was meant for elders…Pastors (vs. 18-19)! I cannot see any reason why it had to come to a point where the pastor of a church called out so many people for their supposed sins and inconsistencies.
Long before any of the people chastised by Dr. Standridge should have been publicly reprimanded, Jesus set the pattern for how to deal with church issues…privately, with one or two, then before the church.
“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. “But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ “And if he refuses to hear them, tell [it] to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17 NKJV)
So much pain and embarrassment, both for the individuals involved and the church in general, could have been spared had Dr. Standridge heeded the wisdom of Solomon: “He who covers a transgression seeks love, But he who repeats a matter separates friends.” (Proverbs 17:9 NKJV)
As I see it, Dr. Standridge should have been asked to resign after this sermon, but as with any abused wife, the congregation defends what he said. When I spoke of it to my congregation, they agreed that if I had done anything similar I would be looking for a job.
Not all pastors are like Dr. Standridge, even on a bad day; those who are should be called to the carpet (1 Timothy 5:20). Sure, we make mistakes and say things we regret, but most of us aren’t arrogant and abusive. We love our flocks to the point of laying down our own lives (John 10:11). The last thing we want to do is embarrass and shame people; we want to see them restored, edified, and molded into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).