Struthers Memorial Church and the question of questions






On 9 Aug 2010 at the church camp the morning speaker, in the middle of a sermon mainly about dog training techniques, helpfully speaks about a view of questions, and those who question, which matches closely the experience of many who have been members in SMC and have asked questions over the last 30-40 years.


We do not know if this sermon reflects a formal written and agreed policy on questions worked out by the SMC leadership. We do think it very capably summarises our view of the the SMC leadership’s attitude and practice to those asking questions.


The quote we refer to is this from the sermon starting at point 16.49 on the publicly available recording:




"Questionings of our own mind and of others....a while ago somebody was asking me all sorts of questions and I feel as if sometimes you can write a book about them as they seem to be the same questions that sometimes come up again and again and again."How come this happens?" "Why is it that happens with this ?" and there's a whole list of questions about what happens within the church or "What happens here?" and so on and How comes? How comes? How comes? Have you ever noticed in scripture how many questions the enemy asks ? He's always questioning. Questions. Questions. They just seem to be there. "If you are the son of God" - he had the cheek to even ask that question of Christ. And so he questions in your mind. So he brings a questioning – its almost like – I don't know if there's such a thing – a questioning spirit. And sometimes you know when I heard this person asking these "How comes" I just – I didn't say it but I just felt like saying – "How come you ask so many questions? Why don't you just believe? Why is it that it's always a question? Why not start actually believing God? Why not instead of saying "How come? "Or "How is it that ?" or "Why is it that?" Why don't you just say – "Oh God that's amazing! Oh that happens? That's wonderful!" Why not have that attitude? How many dogs are you letting through the door of your mind?



Some observations on this:


  • A lot of questions in this quote come from the speaker herself – so presumably not all questions are spiritually adverse. Just those asked of SMC leaders, perhaps, not those asked by them.


  • As invited here by the speaker we have thought about "how many questions "the enemy" asks". And we have particularly noticed how much fewer it is in the Bible than Jesus asks. He used questions to teach people and to find out what they knew and were thinking. He asked what people wanted God to do for them and he even sometimes used questions because He wanted to get information from people. We particulary notice however, that one of the places he used questions most effectively was when He used questions to ask the Pharisees – the corrupt religious leaders of his day - questions which exposed their abuse of authority and the distance they were from leading the people in the way God wished. We love how he did that. Don't you?


  • We love the idea of a book being written answering the questions about Struthers Memorial Church that come up "again and again". That is an excellent idea. Once they are publicly answered they will never need to be asked again and the leaders are freed from this irksome repetition of pointless questions which annoys them so much. We assume the speaker meant they sometimes feel they could write a book answering the annoying questions about things – like “how the church works” and “how things are done”. Presumably the speaker wasn’t just saying she could write a book just listing the annoying, oft repeated questions. However if she just meant the latter we have good news. There is no need to do that any more because a large number of the annoying oft repeated questions are now listed in the articles on this website.


You see there is an important distinction to make here:


If someone asks a question and a SMC leader has answered it diligently, biblically and honestly then that person will usually not ask the same question again. If the SMC leadership would write the answer down for them, then it can also be shared with everyone else and everybody benefits. We find it hard to see in what possible way an SMC leader could be thinking (or what bizarre view of the world they would need to have) to not see this as a good thing.


If someone does continually ask the same questions then either


  • They are a bit stupid and have forgotten the comprehensive and convincing answers they were given the last time.


  • In this case the leader should handle the person with understanding and kindness.




  • The leader didn't answer the questions.


  • In this case the leader should answer the questions.


When you have had a question poorly answered or avoided, or you are blamed and shamed for asking it, that is an unmistakable and always reliable sign that something is wrong. Then a Christian has 2 choices:


1    You shut up – as the sermon quoted above invites you to – and understand that poor and even nonsensical things spoken from the platform are not supposed to be challenged and there are certain things people who want to be sucessful in SMC don't talk about.


2    You have integrity and ask, ask and ask again until you are have an answer that fits with the plain facts you can see in front of you. This is a painful road. No SMC leader will welcome it. You may be judged harshly and branded a rebel. But you know in your heart of integrity that the thing you are asking about was important enough for God to speak of it in His Word – and all you want is to know how the practices in SMC match up to the practices taught in the Bible. It is a sign of great commitment and seriousness about your walk with God that you are identifying these issues and seeking answers to important questions. This is a narrow road and the only road that leads to the truth.


Knowing the truth sets people free.


According to Jesus.


Now – where there are apparent differences between SMC practice and Biblical practice there may be a well-thought out, reasonable explanation for this apparent difference. These explanations of course, if they exist, should never be secret to a select few, so dealing with any questions which have such an answer should be very straightforward. If the leader you are talking to hasn't had this secret answer shared with them that is not your fault. Perhaps the leader should have been as interested as you are in their own church and asked.


In our experience, and we say this with tremendous sadness, when people we have spoken to have asked the SMC leadership questions about non-trivial and genuinely important things, the answer (as in the sermon quoted above) is often a paraphrase of the following:


"those who God has placed in charge of this church are perfectly outworking His will for this church, its government and the good of the people in it. We as a leadership believe there are no significant important contradictions in this church between what we do and what the Bible teaches. We have no duty to justify and present our practices and teachings in Biblical terms. If you think there are contradictions you are wrong. If you believe there is any conduct of ours which raises questions of divergence from Biblical guidelines you must remember that we are spiritually led and you are led of the mind which cannot understand our deep spiritual motives. If we ever change our practices, beliefs and teachings from time to time don't question why – just go with it and God will bless you. Just believe we are led of God and everything will be okay. "  


Former members have told us that they were expected to mindlessly accept this - even if that meant ignoring what they felt God was saying to them when they prayed and what the Bible said to them when they read it. Persisting in questions led to them feeling they were frozen out of the affections of the leaders. This removal of interest in them by the leaders was never stated openly and honestly - they just had to walk on in the church for a while until they understood they no longer had a pastor who seemed remotely interested in them. Perhaps the leaders were deeply concerned for the people - unfortunately they never once showed it. Interestingly often no one openly accused these people of being in sin. No information or feedback seemed to come at all. They just felt frozen out and totally unwanted.








In the sermon quote given the camp speaker appears to say that she thinks people should stop asking questions and instead people should take every opportunity to tell the leadership how wonderful everything is and to focus on commenting on how successful and amazing the church is in every possible way.


This sermon has then been made available to the public on the SMC web site which we assume would not have been done if the teaching in the sermon were not fully endorsed by the senior leadership of the church.


Does this sermon then reflect the current teaching of Struthers Memorial Church on the subject of questions?