Drastic Changes have Occurred Behind and in Front of the Pulpit
Rev. Shawn O’Shields, Senior Pastor of Renfrew Baptist Church in Travelers Rest, was the invited guest speaker at the June 26 dinner meeting of the 16th Regiment, Sons of Confederate Veterans, held at the Phoenix Inn in Greenville.
Pastor O’Shields, a passionate student of the Word of God and Southern History, was asked to compare the Christian Church of 1861 to the Church of 2014.
He said he would talk from the perspective of a Southern Baptist since that was his denomination and leave discussion of other denominations to their own.
Pastor O’Shields is a dynamic speaker, speaking rapidly for a Southerner, skillfully blending humor with hard facts while carefully adhering to Biblical and historical truth.
Shawn O’Shields is a unique pastor serving a unique church. Renfrew Baptist is apparently the only Southern Baptist Church in Greenville County with both an integrated congregation and pulpit. Renfrew may also be the only Southern Baptist Church anywhere that continues to proudly honor their ancestors with a Confederate Memorial Day Service.
One could accurately say that Pastor O’Shields identifies more with the pastors of 1861 that were called by and dependent upon an all powerful God, than many career-oriented pastors of 2014. Most modern pastors serve at the pleasure of the congregation and function in the church more like a corporate CEO operating under the direction of a board of directors called deacons.
The speaker said he was not going to preach a sermon, however, he did use some strong Biblical language to describe himself and American society today.
“I’m a little bit different and off the beaten path,” he admitted. This tends to draw criticism. However, he added: “I don’t mind that, because the path I see most people taking today is a path leading straight to Hell, and they are taking our country with them.”
Serious students of Confederate History know that large revivals occurred in the Confederate Army throughout the War. In 1861 the man behind the pulpit in the South understood himself to be
a shepherd. He was an Undershepherd of the Great Shepherd.
“He was called by God to look after God’s congregation, to look after the Master’s sheep. He was to love them, to protect them, and discipline them.
“He was there to teach them to obey all that Jesus had demanded. He was there to lead them in evangelistic efforts, and reach the lost with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“It was not a profession. It was not a vocation. It was a divine calling. He believed in the inerrancy of Scriptures. He believed God had breathed out every book of the Bible. He believed it was without error and without contradiction. He believed that God had the power to present His Word to us, and it was the Word of God speaking to us.
“The pastors in the South saw themselves as the inheritors of the ‘Black Robe’ pastors of the American Revolution.”
Pastor O’Shields explained that both the American Revolution and the War for Southern Independence began as a theological revolution and gained political overtones.
The differences in the Church of 1861 and 2014 are found in the differences in the “men behind the pulpit and the men and women in front of the pulpit.”
Pastor O’Shields said his father had a great saying: “Son, when I was a kid we had a better class of trash. Even the trash knew what God said was right and wrong and they were embarrassed when they found themselves wanting in public. Now you can be as trashy as you want and be held up as a model for American youth.”
After the war, things began to change. The ways of the North moved South. Darwinism won a foothold in education.
Professionalism became popular and pastors began seeing themselves as a professional. Being a pastor became a vocation or an occupation rather than a divine calling from a sovereign God.
Deacons became known as a board rather than a body of deacons serving the church. The pastor became the CEO, the deacons a board of directors and the congregation stockholders with a vested interest in church policy.
“The Social Gospel moved South.” The Constitution was ignored. Civil government is in rebellion against the Constitution and any government that oversteps it’s authority is no longer under the protection and authority of God.
“Pastors are now afraid to speak out against tyranny. The majority of Southern Baptist pastors are success oriented. Success is defined by bigger congregations, bigger buildings, more money and more power and influence. They talk about the unchurched instead of the unsaved. They ask people to ‘invite Jesus into your heart’ rather than ‘repent of sin, turn from it and be saved by the shed blood of Jesus.”
Pastor O’Shields said most churches are in rebellion against God and Pastors are afraid of making people mad.
The speaker avoided politics most of the evening, however he found time to drop this profound challenge: “If you are a believer in Jesus and you vote for a candidate who is against what God is for and for what God is against, you are in rebellion against God.”
Rev. Shawn O’Shields has been pastor of Renfrew Baptist Church since 2008. He is passionate about teaching the Word of God and watching as God transforms lives.