By Dub McClish
On May 15–19, 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 surface.
Sherman Drive 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 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 the dishonesty their words by their actions, however (Gary Summers and I knew all too well they were lying from face-to-face discussions with them stretching from November 2001–May 2003). In 2004 they furnished Mac Deaver with funds, address lists, and the church’s mailing permit for a special issue of his Biblical Notes Quarterly. In 2005 they further sealed their reputation as deceivers by employing Deaver as their preacher. This apostasy so decimated the church’s numbers it had no use for a 500-seat auditorium and accompanying abundant class room 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 May 15–19 Pollard meeting there? No doubt about it, unless they ceased their support almost overnight. One month before the meeting, Mac mailed a “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 his paper he credits the Sherman Drive secretary, Pam Morse (wife of elder Randy Morse) for “help in getting the material ready for print.” Deaver mailed his paper on the Sherman Drive non-profit mailing permit (which I seriously doubt is even legal since it nowhere carries any Sherman Drive identity and since it advertises books for profit; some more of Mac’s vaunted “Biblical ethical deceit,” I suppose). Sherman Drive also most likely furnished him with its mailing lists that reach back to the first 1982 Annual Denton Lectures. 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
Neal Pollard is the preacher for the Bear Valley Church of Christ in Denver, Colorado, which conducts the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver. He also teaches part-time in this school. I am not aware if he has ever expressed the slightest hint of sympathy for the Deaver errors, much less having ever taught such. 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 it be that he is so so out of touch that he was not aware of the Deaver devotion of the Sherman Drive church (could he be one of those brethren who pride themselves on their ignorance of who is teaching what)? Even if I didn’t know better, I would doubt it. 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. No, he came right on, in spite of knowing what Sherman Drive is. Could he have more eloquently expressed his sympathy for the Deaver errors than by doing so? At the very least, one must say that he expressed utter unconcern for the outlandish errors Mac Deaver has visited up the brotherhood and the confusion and division 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”? How would one offer an invitation per this doctrine? I suppose it would be something like this: “Come and allow your body to be baptized 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.” It would be interesting to hear the way Pollard framed his invitation remarks at Sherman Drive, assuming he offered such.
The “Bigger Picture”
Brother Pollard’s blasé attitude about bidding Godspeed to a church given over to heresy concerning the Holy Spirit is only a small part of a much bigger picture. I am writing these words on June 5, 2011. Exactly six years ago the packet of letters from Apologetics Press (AP), announcing the forced resignation of its executive director, Bert Thompson, was in the mail. It also announced the appointment of brother Dave Miller to succeed him in that post. 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. When it hit the mailboxes it 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 said he did not know Miller would be the next head of AP at the time he signed the support document, implying that he would not have signed it had he known it. Strangely, he quickly joined the ranks of the Miller defenders.
Amazingly, former opponents of his errors became defenders and endorsers of them in order to accept and defend Miller—and thus 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 opened more widely the front door, and one wonders just who 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 Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver, 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 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. While director of MSOP, the “old” Curtis Cates had spoken of East Tennessee School of Preaching, Tri-Cities School of Preaching, and Bear Valley 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, and often drawn for political considerations in both cases. Perhaps that is too harsh. 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) are in 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.
The Pollard-Deaver Fellowship 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 literally to destroy me for daring to expose them in 2003, no one was more supportive of me—and encouraging to me—than Curtis A. Cates, then director of MSOP. He confronted Harry Ledbetter, one of the Pearl Street elders, with more than one 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. Our 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 know the answer to all of these questions pre-June 2005.
But there is more. Jerry Martin, a teacher and dean at MSOP, is on the Bear Valley “Master’s Faculty” (yes, the same Bear Valley school with which Pollard is intimately associated). Connect the dots with me: Sherman Drive is strongly supportive of Deaver and his errors. Pollard is in fellowship with Sherman Drive. Pollard is in fellowship with Bear Valley. MSOP, through Jerry Martin, is in fellowship with both Pollard and Bear Valley. When the circle is completed, MSOP, through Martin, Bear Valley, and Pollard is in fellowship with Sherman Drive, and therefore with Mac Deaver. The principle taught in 2 John 9–11 allows no other conclusion. MSOP seems to have only two choices if Pollard is unwilling to repent of his Denton trip: Withdraw fellowship from Pollard or invite Mac Deaver to speak on their next lectureship. 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.
[Note: I wrote this MS for and it was published in the July 2011, edition of Contending for the Faith, ed. David P. Brown.]