Monday, September 19, 2011

Polygamy in the Church....again?

About twice a year I schedule a pastor from America to come and conduct a church leadership conference where he teaches several hours a day on subjects ranging from the qualifications of the pastor to the Works of the Holy Spirit.  Inevitably, there is a local pastor who will come to me and ask advice on how to handle a delicate matter in his church.  Usually, it involves polygamy.

"Polygamy?"  I ask myself!  "But this seminar is about _________!  How does polygamy fit in to that context?!?"

Well, in short, it doesn't!  But, these pastors labor faithfully in far reaching, remote villages where they have little help and support.  Therefore, when they have a chance to get together with 60 or so other church leaders, I can understand why they would want to talk about what is most urgent to their immediate problems.
From questions such as these thence cometh my bloggings...

Guest speaker, Pastor Chris Luppino, teaching on Spiritual Gifts while Tanzanian church leadership takes diligent notes.  Isaiah is seen here listening with open Bible seated near the front wearing a pink long sleeved shirt and vest. 
This last May, a local pastor by the name of Isaiah asked to speak to me after the second day of the seminar.  He had planted a church in the remote area of Giatara about ten years ago.  During that time he has faced some hair-raising scenarios, but God has always been faithful.  The one which sticks out in my mind is when the local witch-doctor saw how effective the church was becoming in witnessing to the very people who used to fear him! Because of the obvious lack of respect (as well as lagging income) he came by to curse the church building.

"I will tear down this church!" he was reported to have declared.

I guess he was ignorant of Jesus' promise in Mathew 16 where He said that HE would BUILD His church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it.  Nevertheless, Pastor Isaiah handled the situation with patience and tact; thus, nothing violent ever transpired. On the contrary, he eventually diffused the 'bewitched' doctor by showing him the love of Christ.  I wish that I could report that he eventually received the Lord, but, alas, I cannot!

Isaiah had shared that story with me during the time I was attempting to plant a church in the village of Mdori where a different witch doctor was trying to intimidate the people of that area.  I am sorry to say that that church plant never did get off the ground...not because of any efforts by the witch doctor; contrariwise, because of the unbelief of the people. And so rings clear Jesus' question of: "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" Luke 18:8


I knew that Pastor Isaiah had most likely already thought through his scenario biblically and was coming to me for reassurance.

"I'd better be on my toes spiritually...especially when it has to do with polygamy in the church." I thought.

As I stood with him to one side of the building, he began relaying his scenario...

A young Christian man from one of our churches moved away to a remote village to farm some land and make a living.  There was no church of any kind there except for one Catholic fellowship.  Soon he and a young Catholic girl became involved and wanted to marry...thus they did...without permission from her parents.  After a while, she was called back home where her parents prohibited her from returning to her husband.  [tribal laws and obligation are heavily respected; when they are ignored, consequences can be horrendous]  Seven years went by and neither had remarried.  Then, the man met and married another lady.  In the mean time, Pastor Isaiah planted his church.  The man and his new wife began attending and after a short time, she gets saved, and he gets his life right with the Lord!  After a few weeks go by, wife number one returns!  He had never officially annulled his marriage with her.  Now, suddenly, and unexpectedly, he has two wives!

Pastor Isaiah's question then is this--How does this man serve the Lord in the church?  Does he come with both wives?  What do the Scriptures teach about his situation?

I paused for a moment to allow the facts to sink into my ears...I asked a few clarifying questions like:

"In seven years neither ever officially got divorced?!?"  
"In preparing to get married again, he never filed for divorce based on abandonment?"
"Does he truly want to get right with God now, or is he looking for the church to sanction his marriages?"

Afterwards, I asked if I could take that night to think about it and talk to him again the next day.  I didn't get a chance to talk to him the next day...but the following day I did.

No comments:

Post a Comment