Regarding the passing of Rachel Held Evans, I express my deepest sympathies to her family and anyone else whose heart is broken over her death. Mine is, too. I cannot imagine how devastating this is to such a young family. As her husband, Dan, said, "This entire experience is surreal. I keep hoping it's a nightmare from which I'll awake."
I prayed for her while she was in a coma. Alone in my church, I walked up and down the center aisle of the sanctuary asking God to heal her, physically and spiritually. My wife and I heard about her passing before 8:00 Saturday morning, hours before the news broke to the public. I relayed the message privately to a few people, and made the decision not to say anything else outside of members of my congregation.
However, some have recognized that the last rant Mrs. Evans made on social media was in regards to a video I had made. I've been contacted and asked if I'd like to respond (I'm also still receiving scathing criticism from her followers). I had prepared a response weeks ago, but once Mrs. Evans went into the hospital, I decided the timing wasn't appropriate. I'm breaking my self-imposed moratorium to say there will be time for that later. I will wait until next month to share what I was going to share when Mrs. Evans first rebuffed my video.
For now, I'm asking that the saints join with me in prayer. Pray for Rachel's family. I pray that the gospel comes to them and the peace of God through Christ Jesus our Lord will fill their hearts. I also ask that you pray for the many fans of hers mourning the loss of such an influential figure. Pray that in their grief, the gospel will also come to them, and they will repent of their sin and live.
Evans taught many damning and dangerous doctrines and doings—things that will keep a person from the kingdom of God. Some will think of me as acting inappropriately for saying so. "Can't we just set our doctrinal differences aside and weep with those who weep?" they are saying. I tell you we should never set our doctrinal differences aside. Hold fast to the truth always—especially in grief. Pray for all, including those who hate the truth that they will repent.
Over the weekend, Rachel Held Evans' followers have been thanking her, in memoriam, for encouraging them to be gay, feminist, a woman pastor, to worship a female version of God, to not feel guilty about voting for a woman's right to choose abortion, to celebrate doubt, and to cut essential doctrines out of the Christian faith. What she taught in life, she's being celebrated for in death. And yet we who know the truth are expected to remain silent about the danger they are in? We're supposed to hide our light under a bushel until—when, exactly?
Someone might say, "Well, you can just pray quietly and not have to make a public statement about it." How as a pastor am I to shepherd the flock of God without instruction? (I did speak about these things with my congregation yesterday before coming to a blog post today.) Among the qualifications of a pastor, he is to "hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it" (Titus 1:9).
Someone might say, "Well, Jesus rebuked those who pray publicly, so keep it private." He rebuked those whose motivation was to be seen by others, not that prayer should never be public. The Spirit says to pray for everyone in every place, and men should lead lifting holy hands (1 Timothy 2:1, 8). I'm not trying to score theological points with anyone. Do you know the heat I took when I first said to her followers that if they truly cared for Rachel's well-being, they should repent of their sin lest the Lord ignore their prayers (Psalm 66:18)? Some prominent figures who fancy themselves preachers called my appeal "antichrist."
I desire that none should perish but that all should come to repentance. Galatians 1:10 says, "For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." Ezekiel 18:23 says, "Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?"
Never at any point have I issued a condemnation of Mrs. Evans' soul. Perhaps in the depths of her coma, she was conscious enough that the Lord granted her a thief-on-the-cross moment. Perhaps she realized, "I am receiving the due reward of my deeds," and she was able to cry out, "Jesus, remember me!" (Luke 23:41-42). Friends, I want that ending for Rachel. I have never wanted anything else for her but that.
I have wept with those who are weeping. It is with tears that I tell you to repent. Hebrews 12:14 says, "Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord." With the pursuit of holiness comes the call of our Lord Christ to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15). I love you too much not to say, "Repent, or you will likewise perish" (Luke 13:3).
Pray for peace for Rachel's family, and pray for repentance for her fans. May the Lord show mercy to Rachel Held Evans, and may she rest in peace.