By Dub McClish
Some Background Notes
The Sherman Drive congregation is what is left of the once mighty Pearl Street congregation that for almost a quarter century enjoyed a spotless reputation for soundness and faithfulness. This reputation was known in many nations, principally through its twenty-one consecutive Annual Denton Lectures programs (1982–2002).
Pearl Street apostatized in 2003, mainly through the influence of one of its elders, Joe Chism, who persuaded two of his fellow elders to join him in the unholy Holy Spirit errors of brethren Mac Deaver and Goebel Music. I was one of the elders and Gary Summers was the preacher when this issue arose. We fought it with all we had from its first appearance, but we did not prevail. The eldership fired Gary in April 2003, and I resigned from the eldership and left in May 2003, both departures precipitated by our opposition to the Deaver error.
When questioned, those elders vehemently insisted more than once (including written statements) that they had not been infected with the Deaver virus. They soon demonstrated their unmitigated hypocrisy by their actions, however (Gary Summers and I knew all too well they were lying, from our face-to-face discussions with them between November 2001–May 2003, attempting to salvage this congregation for the Truth). In 2004 they furnished Mac Deaver with funds and address lists for a special issue of his Biblical Notes Quarterly. The church also allowed him to mail it on the church’s mailing permit, which may not even be legal (but why should breaking the law matter if lying doesn’t [it appears that Mac’s “Biblical ethical deceit” doctrine, along with his Holy Spirit errors rubbed off on these elders]). In 2005 they further sealed their reputation as deceivers by employing Deaver as their preacher. This apostasy so decimated the church’s numbers that it had no use for a 500-seat auditorium and accompanying abundant classroom space. In 2007 they sold the Pearl Street property and bought a small building on Sherman Drive, hence the church’s new name.
When Deaver joined Pearl Street in 2005, his principal Holy Spirit contention was that He provides help to Christians in a direct manner (in addition to His Word), producing in us spiritual fruit, giving us wisdom, and helping us understand Scripture. In 2006 he began publicly contending that all sinners must undergo both water and Holy Spirit baptism (we have yet to hear if he and all of his disciples [including the Sherman Drive membership] have been re-baptized according to this strange doctrine).
Deaver moved from Sherman Drive in 2010. One might have been tempted to speculate that his doctrinal evolution into Holy Spirit baptism was more than even those derelict elders could tolerate, and that perhaps they “encouraged” him to leave when he “went public” with his novel doctrine. Obviously, this was not so, for they immediately hired his son, Weylan, a chip off the old block, doctrinally as well as physically.
Was Sherman Drive supportive of Mac’s and Weylan’s Holy Spirit baptism heresy at the time of the Pollard meeting there? No doubt about it, unless they ceased their support almost overnight. One month before the meeting, Mac mailed another “Special Issue” of his Biblical Notes Quarterly (I received mine on April 18). The entire “Special Issue” was an attempt to defend his Holy Spirit baptism error in the face of Daniel Denham’s withering refutation of it at the Spring Contending for the Faith Lectures in February. In BNQ he credited the Sherman Drive secretary, Pam Morse (wife of elder Randy Morse) for “help in getting the material ready for print.” Deaver mailed it on Sherman Drive’s mailing permit again, and it appears that he again used mailing lists supplied by Sherman Drive. The point just here is that there can be no doubt whatsoever that Sherman Drive was still firmly in support of the entire Deaver Holy Spirit schema at the time of the Pollard meeting.
Enter Neal Pollard
On May 15–18, 2011, brother Neal Pollard preached in a Gospel meeting at the Sherman Drive Church of Christ (formerly Pearl Street) in Denton, Texas. This meeting may prove to be significant beyond the mere facts on the surface.
Neal Pollard is the preacher for the Bear Valley Church of Christ in Denver, Colorado, which conducts the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver (BV). He also teaches part-time in this school. He became somewhat of a hero to the Miller/AP defenders/endorsers/supporters after writing a sweet little article in August 2005, titled, “Devil’s Disease: Illustration of Gal. 5:15.” In it, he described brethren in such terms as “Tasmanian Devils,” “heretic detectors,” and “fight-pickers” (and others), calling for their “eradication.” He left few doubts that he was aiming at those rapscallions who were determined to continue to oppose and expose brother Dave Miller. I somehow thought those were rather biting words from a brother who was accusing others of “biting and devouring one another,” all the while calling for “balance.”
I am not aware if he has ever expressed the slightest hint of sympathy for the Deaver errors, much less having ever taught them. Likewise, I am not aware of any such leanings on the part of the church or school with which he works. Yet, here he came to preach in a meeting series designed to strengthen, encourage, and build up a congregation that is perhaps more unabashedly eaten up with the Deaver errors than any other.
Could he be so out of touch that he was not aware of Sherman Drive’s devotion to Deaver and his errors (some brethren pride themselves on their ignorance of who is teaching what)? Even if I didn’t know better, I would doubt it. lt is apparent that Neal Pollard and Weylan Deaver were acquainted beyond mere knowledge about one another before Pollard arrived in Denton, otherwise they would not have links to each other’s blogs (http://wdeaver.wordpress.com/; http://preacherpollard.wordpress.com/). Pollard prefaced his closing sermon in the series by saying his visit at Sherman Drive had “forged a bond that will continue to grow.” He told the audience, “What a wonderful preacher…you have here at Sherman Drive.” He further said of Weylan Deaver, “We respect the depth of spirituality and Bible knowledge that is evident.” I don’t see much in those words to indicate any doctrinal disagreements with the Sherman Drive preacher.
Beyond that, however, at least two brethren (Daniel Denham and Gary Summers), upon learning of his planned trip to Denton, sought to contact Pollard by email messages and telephone, informing him of Sherman Drive’s doctrinal aberrations. Pollard ignored both of them. He came right on, in spite of knowing what Sherman Drive is. Could he more eloquently have expressed his sympathy for the Deaver errors than by doing so? At the very least, one must say that he expressed utter lack of concern about them and the confusion and division among brethren they have wrought.
In a July 29, 2009, Denton Record-Chronicle article Mac wrote:
A sinner must change his nature. Having become a natural sinner or sinner by nature, he must become a partaker of the divine nature. He has to be forgiven of his sins, and made alive again. He must be born again of water and Spirit (John 3:3, 5). He must be regenerated or made spiritually alive again. This happens when he is baptized into Christ (Tit. 3:5; 2 Pet. 1:40 [sic., he meant 1:4]). As his body is immersed in water (Acts 8:38), his human spirit is immersed in the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13).
The Sherman Drive elders obviously endorse Mac’s “spirit-immersed-in-Spirit” gobbledy-gook as necessary (not optional) for the sinner’s “nature change” in order for him to be saved. Did they make their conviction clear to Pollard? Did Pollard make this clear when he offered the invitation at the end of each of his sermons so the poor sinners might know that their “sinful nature” was going to be overhauled by the Holy Spirit and that they would thereby be given a “divine nature”? I suppose an invitation by one who subscribes to this error might go something like this: “While we stand and sing, come and let us baptize your body in water so your sins can be washed away and so your spirit can be baptized in the Holy Spirit to change your ‘sinful nature.’”
The “Bigger Picture”
Brother Pollard’s blasé attitude about bidding Godspeed to a church given over to heresy concerning the Holy Spirit is a small part of a much bigger picture. I am writing these words on June 6, 2011. Exactly six years ago the packet of letters from Apologetics Press (AP), announcing the forced resignation of its executive director, Bert Thompson, was hitting mailboxes. One of the letters announced the appointment of brother Dave Miller to succeed the departed Thompson. The packet further included a list of sixty men who had permitted their names to be used in a statement of support for AP and, by implication, for Dave Miller. These documents began a series of ripples that continues to rock the ship of Zion.
Those who signed the statement to prop up AP could hardly oppose its new executive director. Brother Miller’s unrepented-of errors concerning elder reaffirmation/reconfirmation and marital intent were at least easily knowable, if not widely known, before he joined Apologetics Press in 2002. AP lost considerable financial support because of Miller’s errors when Thompson hired him. At least some of those who signed the support statement are on record as opposing Miller’s elder r/r error pre-June 2005. One of them even told me he did not know Miller would be the next head of AP at the time he signed the support document, implying he would not have signed it had he known it. He quickly joined the ranks of the Miller defenders, however.
Amazingly, several former opponents of his errors became defenders and endorsers of them and him in order to continue support for AP. A new attitude concerning Truth and error emerged among many of those long considered unflinching in their defense and proclamation of the faith. These brethren, whether or not they have ever faced it, have rationalized their selective endorsement of error and its advocates. They are practicing situation ethics relating to Truth and error. They have reached the point of choosing which false teachers they still oppose and which it is permissible to embrace and defend. I suppose those at Memphis School of Preaching (MSOP), GBN/Southaven, Spiritual Sword/Getwell, The New Gospel Journal, “Polishing the Pulpit,” Schertz, Lubbock, and others of their band still anathematize the late James D. Bales, Rubel Shelly, and Mac Deaver (their errors are noxious, unacceptable, and damnable, you see). However, Dave Miller need not fear, for his errors are completely palatable, harmless, and acceptable (never mind that they strike at the foundation of Scriptural congregational government and MDR). (Does anyone with an ounce of honesty and objectivity believe for one moment that the Miller errors would have been given a pass by most of these brethren six years ago had not their support of AP demanded it?)
The Fellowship Fallout
The brethren who rationalized supporting a teacher of error have triggered a massive fellowship realignment, both exclusive and inclusive in its course. The first consequence of their support-at-all-cost policy toward AP/Miller was exclusive in nature. In order to maintain their agenda, those who cast their lot with AP/Miller had to marginalize those of us who refused to “go along” with a false teacher and his institution in order to “get along.” Their means of accomplishing this aim initially was to malign, denounce, and demonize all non-Millerites as merely loud-mouthed misfits, allegedly disgruntled because we did not “get our way.” Their list of pejoratives ranged everywhere from “Tasmanian Devils” to members of a “toxic loyalty circle,” and thirty or more additional complimentary monikers thrown in just in case some soul missed their point (have these brethren been studying the tactics of the Democrat Party?). Never mind that they spurned three invitations to join various ones of us in open, public discussion of the issues dividing us. Some of us even offered to come to their home ground for the same purpose, but they spurned that, too. They made it very clear that they considered us dispensable as far as their fellowship and their future course were concerned.
The second consequence, and a corollary to the first, has been inclusive in nature. Almost simultaneous with their new policy of exclusion, the Miller/AP acolytes began a new policy of unprecedented inclusion. While they pushed us out the back door and slammed it, they opened wide the front door to a new group of brethren. In place of their formerly beloved and respected brethren to whom they gave the bum’s rush, they began almost feverishly to embrace those whom they had formerly not only not included in their work, but whom they criticized and scorned. Moreover, they have left that front door open, and one wonders just whom all it will eventually admit.
This phenomenon has revealed itself most glaringly in the list of speakers at various lectureships. The “old” Tommy Hicks and the Southside Church in Lubbock, Texas, had long opposed (and rightly so) its neighbor across town, Sunset International Bible Institute. However, although Brad Harrub spoke on the Lake Tahoe Family Camp with Truitt Adair, President of the school, earlier in the year, the “new” Hicks saw no fellowship inconsistency with Harrub’s appearance on the 2006 Lubbock Lectures. Also, the “old” Hicks previously had no use for BV, but the “new” Hicks placed Mark Hanstein, a teacher and administrator in that school, on the 2006 Lubbock Lectures. Although the “old” Hicks is on record in print (July 2005) as being strongly opposed to both of the Miller errors, the “new” Hicks flooded the 2006 Lubbock Lectures with no fewer than eleven men who signed the AP statement of support, not counting other Miller sympathizers—a strange way to oppose Miller’s errors.
The 2006 Lubbock Lectures typified what would become the new “fellowship” norm in other venues. The slate of speakers on MSOP, Power, and Schertz lectureships followed Lubbock’s lead and took on a decidedly new fellowship hue compared with previous years. While director of MSOP, the “old” Curtis Cates had spoken of East Tennessee School of Preaching, Tri-Cities School of Preaching, and BV only with contempt pre-June 2005. I think it a fair assumption that his successor, the “old” Bobby Liddell, agreed with him. Since that time, the directors of each of those schools has appeared on the MSOP Lectures, some of them more than once.
The speakers lists in such places as MSOP and Lubbock have also contained men who formerly would not have been invited because of their perceived unwillingness to openly oppose such things as Balesism, Deaverism, and liberalism in general (e.g., the late William Woodson, Dan Winkler, Tom Holland, Jeff Jenkins, Phil Sanders, Roger Comstock, et al.). Such men have also been known to have few scruples about hobnobbing with known liberals. For example, Phil Sanders preaches on the “Search” TV program, sponsored by one of the most liberal churches in the Oklahoma City area. Not only did that relationship not keep MSOP from inviting him to speak in 2010, neither was it a problem to MSOP that Sanders spoke at Sunset earlier in the year. Ah, those plastic fellowship lines must be very convenient (at least here on earth), not unlike the gerrymandering lines of congressional districts, often drawn for political considerations—in both cases.
Perhaps that is too harsh. After all, these brethren really do have a strict fellowship code: Those who do not oppose Dave Miller and his errors (almost regardless of doctrinal/fellowship compromises otherwise) are inside their new (since June 2005) fellowship circle, and those who oppose Dave Miller and his errors (regardless of their record of decades of doctrinal and moral uprightness) are outside of it. If any had any doubts that Barry Grider, Forest Hill preacher and part-time MSOP teacher, spoke for the eldership and for the school it oversees when he wrote of drawing his fellowship “circle” much larger, the behavior of MSOP has surely removed them all. Many of us are made to wonder just how large it will eventually become.
The Pollard-Deaver-Bear Valley-MSOP Conundrum
I refer the reader to the opening paragraph in which I announced the Neal Pollard meeting at the Deaver-infested Sherman Drive Church in Denton, Texas. It is now time to consider some of the implications of that meeting. They start with MSOP’s long, well-known (and rightful) opposition to the errors of Mac Deaver. When the Pearl Street Deaver-devotee elders were seeking to literally destroy me for daring to tell the truth about their convictions in 2003, no one was more supportive and encouraging than Curtis A. Cates, then director of MSOP. He confronted Harry Ledbetter, one of the Pearl Street elders, with more than one strong letter. As far as I know, MSOP still stands in opposition to the disastrous Deaver doctrines. We know MSOP regards Neal Pollard highly, for he spoke on their 2007 and 2010 lectureships. My question to our beloved MSOP brethren now is, how will they regard him henceforth, since he has given aid and comfort to some of the most avid disciples of Deaver? Will MSOP invite him back again? Will Pollard’s Denton trip even make a difference to them? I believe I know what the answer to all of these questions would have been pre-June 2005.
But there is more. Jerry Martin, a teacher and dean of students at MSOP, is on the BV “Master’s Faculty” (yes, the same BV school with which Pollard is intimately associated). Connect the dots with me: Sherman Drive is neck deep in Deaver’s errors. Pollard, an employee of BV, is in fellowship with Sherman Drive. MSOP, through Jerry Martin, is in fellowship with both Pollard and BV (even apart from MSOP’s inclusion on its lectureship in recent years of Pollard and Denny Petrillo, Director of the BV school). When the MSOP, Martin, BV, Pollard circle is completed, MSOP is in fellowship with Sherman Drive, and therefore with Mac Deaver. The principle set forth in 2 John 9–11 allows no other conclusion.
Assuming Pollard is unwilling to repent of bidding Godspeed to those enmeshed in error and that BV continues Pollard’s employment, MSOP must make a choice:
- They can do what 2 John 9–11 demands by ceasing fellowship with Pollard and BV. This move would not only mean no more MSOP invitations to BV personnel, but that Jerry Martin would have to resign from the BV faculty. It would likely also set a precedent for others who have issued invitations to Pollard and/or other BV personnel.
- They can ignore 2 John 9–11 (as they have done in the Miller/AP situation and others, especially since June 2005) as if Pollard did nothing wrong. This choice will allow MSOP to continue using BV folk on their lectureship and Jerry Martin to continue his place on the BV faculty.
However, if they make the latter choice, they will be surrendering any basis for further opposition to Mac Deaver’s heresies. They may as well, in fact, invite him to speak on their next lectureship and finish smoking the peace pipe with him. (Why, it will almost make one feel sorry for Mac if MSOP continues to give him the cold shoulder while they ignore 2 John 9–11 in regard to Pollard.) After all, if they can turn a blind eye to Dave Miller’s egregious errors, why should they not do so to Mac Deaver’s (or Rubel Shelly’s)? If I were Mac Deaver, I would drive this point home relentlessly. There is no way for MSOP or any other lectureship that might be considering an invitation to Pollard to avoid the significance of his willing sashay into a Deaver domain.
The Broader Implications
The fellowship implications are much more widespread than with MSOP alone, however. Every other venue that continues to use Pollard (or others from BV) and those who are scheduled to speak beside him in a non-adversarial role should take notice—if they have any scruples about Deaver’s errors. The upcoming “Polishing the Pulpit” (PTP) program will provide a significant fellowship “test case” for a number of brethren scheduled to speak thereon. To my knowledge, Allen Webster, the founder and director of PTP is not a Deaver sympathizer, but will it make any difference to him that one of his speakers, Neal Pollard, has now revealed himself to be such?
Wesley Simons, director of Tri-Cities School of Preaching, has been outspoken against the Deaver errors and at one time sought to engage Mac Deaver in a debate regarding them. He is on the PTP program. Will he fellowship a supporter of Deaver’s errors? The same can be said and asked about B.J. Clarke, MSOP teacher and dean of admissions. Will Robert R. Taylor, Jr., another very vocal opponent of Deaver’s errors, have no problem joining hands with one who has now joined hands with Deaver disciples?
What about Brad Harrub (Think! Magazine), Gary Hampton, Steve Higginbotham, Jody Apple, and James Meadows (East Tennessee School of Preaching), Alan Highers (Spiritual Sword), Eddie Parrish (Brown Trail congregation, home of Brown Trail Preacher Training School), Kyle Butt and Eric Lyons (AP), Wade Webster (Southaven/Power Lectures/GBN), Rick Brumback (Southwest School of Bible Studies), and Jerry Martin (MSOP)? Will none of these even give a second thought to the implications of speaking with Pollard? As far as I know, the nearest any of these have come to expressing unconcern about Mac Deaver’s errors is Eddie Parrish of the Brown Trail Church, Bedford, Texas. While he has indicated he sees no grave implications of the Deaver direct-operation doctrine, I seriously doubt that he would follow the Deavers in their Holy Spirit baptism aberration.
Given the gargantuan shift in fellowship lines and practices over the past six years, I will be greatly surprised if hardly an eyebrow is raised by the implications of the Pollard trek to Denton, Texas. I expect the big network that has come together to protect and defend AP and its impenitent director will do nothing about this latest development. After all, if one of its major players took a stand on this issue, some of the others might feel the pressure to do the same not only on this fellowship issue, but on others—and they couldn’t allow that. Because AP is “too big to fail,” so must its director be, regardless of his grave errors. Can anyone doubt what the repercussions of the Pollard visit would have been in pre-June 2005 days? But, alas, those days—and the convictions so many dear brethren then had—appear to be gone, never to be reclaimed.
[Note: I wrote this article for and it was published in the July 2011 edition of Contending for the Faith, ed. David P. Brown.]
Attribution: From TheScripturecache.com, owned and administered by Dub McClish.