*Disclaimer: This is a letter written in its entirety by Lynn Messer’s son Abram Messer. These are his memories, opinions, and accounts of interactions and conversations. I am committed to publishing works of integrity. In that spirit, I offer this letter to my readers; however, the story, the experiences, and the words are the author’s alone—told from his viewpoint. The testimony presented in this letter does not constitute legal facts, a guarantee, or a prediction regarding the outcome of advice given.
By: Abram Messer
As many of you know my father Kerry has announced that he is planning a memorial service for my mom at First Baptist Church of Festus Crystal City. Many of you also know that our family also used to attend First Baptist FCC as well. In fact we were members there for over a decade, and pastor Charles McClain even baptized some of my children. We still have many dear friends who attend there. Those friends we thought so highly of, we were sure to invite to my mother’s memorial service in December of 2016. My brother Aarron, was also sure to send invitations to my mom’s friends and acquaintances at First Baptist FCC as well. Due to questionable weather conditions, many of our friends were not able to attend. And sadly, almost everyone else that Aarron invited declined to attend or even respond to their invitation.
So what does this have to do with obedience?
The Word of God has plenty to say about sin, repentance, obedience and reconciliation. And 2 Tim 3:16-17 tells us “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” This tells us that any questions that we have about ‘what to do next’ can be found in the infallible Word of God. All we have to do is be obedient. We do not have the luxury of picking and choosing what portions of the Word we ‘feel’ like obeying. Nor do we get to skip over the parts that are hard, challenging or that make us uncomfortable. When it comes to our current circumstances, it can be easy to feel very lost… but God has not abandoned us and has left us with a very specific course of action in dealing with sin.
*Just an FYI, I am NOT perfect. I have made plenty of mistakes, struggled and failed repeatedly to wholly live up to Gods standard. I have also never hid these shortcomings, and sought both God’s forgiveness as well as done everything within my power to be reconciled to those that I have offended.
Obedience in response to sin
The Word of God gives us a very detailed outline of what to do when a brother (or sister) is in sin. This process is not one to be taken lightly. It should be done with all seriousness and humility before God, as Ezekiel chapter 3 and Romans 1 lay out our biblical responsibility to call out sin as well as presents Gods firm condemnation on us if we sit quietly by. The consequences of this “sin of silence” ought to be more than enough to demand our attention.
This outline we biblically must follow starts in Matthew 7:1-6
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”
Church goers are always quick to point out verses 1-4, while conveniently editing out the rest of the passage… namely that confronting sin is a serious thing, and our first stop is not the person whose actions are in question. Our first stop is on our knees at the foot of the cross. Dealing with sin always begins with personal reflection, to ensure that our hearts and minds are right before God.
After we have dealt with our own heart before God we move on to Matthew 18:15-20.
“If your brother sins against you go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
If we have made certain that our hearts are right before God and we are operating out of the right motivation, then we are commanded by Jesus Christ Himself to go to the individual who has sinned and in love confront them about the issue. If they do not repent, go back with more fellow believers and confront them again. If they still refuse to turn from their sin, we are commanded by God to bring them before the church, and finally… if steeped in their rebellion they refuse to submit to the Word of God, they are to be treated as a nonbeliever and a tax collector. The term “tax collector” here which is used is very interesting, considering He was referring to the Jewish people who had betrayed their countrymen by cutting a deal to work with the Roman officials to extract and extort Gods people.
If an individual still refuses to repent of their sin and submit to God, He still has commands for us.
“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
1 Timothy 5:20-21
“As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.”
The Word of God stands in stark contrast to the way most churches deal with sin… and sadly this is the case with First Baptist Church of Festus Crystal City. You see I think Dr. McClain kind of was obedient. He did do some things… he did go to the MBC president Dr. Yeats and together they made the decision to remove my father Kerry from his position representing the MBC at the capital (a position, they were very careful to explain was basically a verbal agreement formed through the CLC). But here is where something happened.
I started meeting with Dr. McClain in June of 2015 after discovering my father’s secret relationship with Spring. We met off and on through the end of the year, and I followed up with him repeatedly until the end of the legislative session in May of 2016. All in all, for 11 months we had an ongoing dialogue. That my friends, was a lot of time, tears, and prayer. I met personally with Dr. Yeats in Jefferson City in the early months of 2016, and he recounted for me his personal conversations with my father in which my father was informed that he would no longer be publicly speaking on behest of the convention. As time went on things continued to disintegrate. My father has refused to speak to me since December of 2015. Despite my pleas for him to repent, and in spite of the fact that I had gone to him in private (multiple times) begging him to repent; in love desperately seeking that he would be reconciled to God, so that our relationship could be healed, he has refused to do so. He has ignored the fact that my brother and I both sat down with him, calling him in love and tears to repentance. His first response was to attempt to pacify me by telling me he was going to turn MFN over to me (which I never asked for) and finally place my home in my name, but also failed to follow through with anything he pledged to do, setting himself up with the legal authority to remove my family and me from our home.
Partial obedience is disobedience
1 Samuel 15 tells us about King Saul being given a direct command from God. Saul then goes out and does… most of it. King Saul does most of what God commanded, but decided that he knew better than God. God responded in 1 Sam 15:22-23 by saying
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.”
Partial obedience is in fact disobedience; it is nothing more that rebellion before God Himself. Let me phrase that a little bit differently for you… “To not act is to act”.
The hardest part of this whole mess has not been the abuse and betrayal of my own father. It has not been losing my home and career. It has not been the long-term trauma of my mom’s missing persons case, or the years of searching.
It was realizing that Dr. McClain and the MBC, as far as I can tell, chose partial obedience.
I was getting concerned that the MBC was more interested in making sure that they had covered their backside than being obedient when I tried to follow up with Dr. Yeats in 2016. When I finally was able to reach him, he recounted a completely different version of his conversation with my father. A new version which completely whitewashed the very issues which we were attempting to deal with. Furthermore, when various media reached out to the MBC, they chose to tell a third version of why my father was no longer representing them, this time fabricating the story that it was due to budget cuts.
It is with the deepest heartbreak that I tell you that when I met with Dr. McClain days after my father fired me, he chose a side.
I am not telling you this because I am angry and lashing out, nor am I out for blood as some have accused me of. I am telling you this because I believe that I have a biblical responsibility to tell you. For the same reason that I chose to publicly “expose” the sin that my father has become involved in. Someone else’s disobedience is not an excuse for you to be disobedient too. We are responsible to God Himself to be obedient. No matter what.
In May of 2016 I believe Dr. McClain chose to lie. I think he chose to outright lie about the content of 11 months of meetings, and place himself firmly in support of my father. He has not chosen to follow the biblical outline for dealing with sin, choosing rather to be partially obedient. He has done just enough to pacify his own conscience. When I asked him about going before the church, or least of all the deacon body he said “that’s not even going to happen.” It was not biblical for him to tell me to not tell anyone else at church anything about the investigation, and it was not biblical for him to respond to my tearful voicemail begging him to please call me, but instead he waited a few weeks before emailing me and telling me I should find someone else to counsel with.
This is why we left First Baptist Church of Festus Crystal City. Not because of my father, but because of what I considered blatant, unbiblical actions and the chosen path of Pastor McClain.
I would be amiss if I did not also point out that there are still a tremendous amount of good people who still attended there. PLEASE do not misinterpret my public calling out of church leadership as condemnation of a whole church body. I am well aware of the manner in which information has been used to manipulate and keep people in the dark. For those members who truly have no idea what has been going on behind the scenes, I am truly sorry. I love all of you, and the deepest desire of my heart is that we may all be reconciled. I know there are godly people at First Baptist, many of whom I am still in regular contact with. Some of them have even reached out to me here and there and I look forward to their warm embrace when we see one another around town. I even had one brother reach out to me once, and I hope that as the months go on his schedule would open up enough for him to continue our conversation. But it is sickening to hear the ongoing criminal investigation of my father regarding my mother’s death and disappearance referred to as a “family dispute.” To do so is to completely disregard and devalue my mother’s life and ministries. All while gravely downplaying open disobedience to Gods commands. I would truly like to have conversations with Dr. McClain about these issues but I fear that is not an option. The last two times that I saw him publicly, he looked right into my eyes, his face got red, and he started breathing heavy… then he physically turned his body away from me and refused to acknowledge my existence. The second time he did this I knew that it was not a case of mistaken identity.
So here is the bottom line. What are you going to do about the memorial service that is being planned at First Baptist? Remember, people don’t typically have another funeral just because they missed the first one. This is not about my mother; this is not about honoring her. If you truly seek to honor her, then walk in obedience, stand for the Word of God. Refuse to accept partial obedience, stand up for Truth. I would encourage you to follow the biblical outline, start with yourself. And in that time of self-examination ask yourself “what if it was my mom?” or sister… or daughter. How would you react to the news that the church leaders who lied to you and withdrew their support from you in the most desperate time you have ever been in, had decided to put together another service without any family involvement. But most importantly, how should you biblically respond?
08/12/2017 3 PM, I would add two things to this in response to various comments I have read.
1. I’ve heard people say for almost 3 years now that my father has not been charged with a crime yet so what can the church really do?
This is very problematic from a biblical standpoint. Go back and reread 1 Cor 5 and Mat 18. Then message me and point out to me where the Word says something about charges being filed. It’s not there. We have to stop confusing sin, with the term “crime”. Crime is sin, but legally not all sin is considered a crime. Is it a crime to cheat on your wife? Nope. Is it a sin? ABSOLUTELY. So we must stop thinking about our biblical responsibility in terms of man’s law, because it is about obedience to a higher law- Gods law.
2. There isn’t really anything more that the pastor of First Baptist can do.
Wrong. Biblically, if you are a member of First Baptist you are under the spiritual leadership of the pastor. The pastor (also referred to biblically by terms like “Shepherd” and “overseer”), is required by the Word to bring sheep who have wandered back into the fold… not passively offer lip service and watch the sheep walk off a cliff.
I would encourage Dr. McClain to have the Biblical and moral fortitude to “reign in” my father and not allow him to continue to control this service they way he is.
Click link ‘LYNN MESSER’ in margin for more articles.
The pastor that ignores an abuser’s profound and hateful lack of love, in order to deal with a relatively minor fault with the victim, has allowed themselves to be manipulated into becoming an instrument of cruelty in the abuser’s hands.
~Psalm 82 Initiative (Facebook forum)