Thursday, July 24, 2008

Chop his hand off

Well, at least the Religion of Peace isn't barbarically violent and urges its children toward bloodthirsty extremism or anything...

Save the Males

Amanda Platell, in the UK's Daily Mail (interestingly enough, in a column titled "Femail") discusses the book Save the Males by Kathleen Parker.

One of the quotes from the article:

Parker writes almost poetically about the ultimate beauty of men's innate character. When she looks at her own father and fathers around her, she concludes that being a dad is, in fact, the manliest thing a man can do.

It encourages responsibility, sacrifice and the ability to put others before yourself  -  all essential qualities to a functioning society, let alone a home.

'When we take away a man's central purpose in life and marginalise him from society's most important institution (the family), we strip him of his manhood.'

And it's not all we strip away, as studies have discovered here. We reduce a child's chance of a successful and happy life.

'Growing up without a father is the most reliable indicator of poverty and all the familiar social pathologies affecting children, including drug abuse, truancy, delinquency and sexual promiscuity. Yet some feminists and other progressives still insist that men are non-essential.'

The powerful argument Parker constructs is that unless we wake up, and wake up quickly, to the importance of men in family life, society as we know it is doomed. In the creation of a more female friendly world, we have unwittingly created a culture hostile to men, not in the workplace, but the most important place, the home.

How refreshingly honest, how devoid of political correctness or feminist dogma for a woman to argue for and ultimately celebrate the necessity and the goodness of men.

Now, of course you know what my response is going to be: "Look, guys...suck it up, stop whining about how unappreciated you are, and don't wait for 'permission' to lead - lead! While you're huddled in a corner rocking yourself in a fetal position because society's gone girly and you can't catch a break, your family is suffering.  So get over yourselves, and start doing what you were created to do."

...that being said, I loved Amanda's article, and I think I'm going to need to get the book for myself.

MacArthur on Pragmatism

Pragmatism is defined as:

A philosophical movement or system having various forms, but generally stressing practical consequences as constituting the essential criterion in determining meaning, truth, or value.

Pragmatism happens to be the dominant philosophical assumption in much of the modern church - even among many who consider themselves to be evangelicals.  The hallmark of pragmatism is the focus on the question, "does it work."  Results are, at the end of the day, the criteria for assessing the relative rightness of any system, endeavor, or question.  Whether a thing is right winds up being a secondary concern; the "rightness" of a thing is more a function of how well it "works" than it is of how it corresponds with what is objectively right and true.  Therefore, something may be in a "grey area" but still be considered copasetic simply because it "works," and that "at least we're doing something."

Notice that: the emphasis is on action, and only then - and at least somewhat peripherally - on the essential rightness of that action.

Translation: the most crucial consideration of all is results.

As I'd already said: pragmatism is the dominant philosophical assumption in much of the modern church. Even many of my brothers-in-arms, while vociferously and vigorously denying that they have taken the pragmatist blue pill, effectively operate under pragmatistic premises.

I have heard from these guys things like:

Hey, that church has the most number of converts ever, and they're in the least churched area in the universe, man!

It's all about Sunday {{usually defended because either (a) "that's our culture, man!" or (b) that's when you get the most "bang for your buck" - both of which are quintessentially pragmatistic answers}}

Hey, man...doesn't the Bible say, "to him who knows to do good and does not do it, for him it is sin...?" {{...without defining what "good" is, and who it is who gets to define what "good" is, and how it is He defines it; "good" in this case is defined pretty much solely in terms of results}}

At least we're reaching people {{with what doesn't factor in as much as how - does the method of "reaching" mitigate the Gospel? Be honest, now...}}

And again, the classical pragmatistic answer when confronted about supporting something that is at the very least morally questionable, like providing condoms to teenagers "so that at least they don't spread AIDS and get pregnant"...:

Hey - at least we're doing something...!  What are you doing?  What do you suggest?

...as if in order to militate against doing something morally questionable, we have to present another alternative which produces at least comparable results. The rightness of the action is a secondary consideration; it's the results of the action which are all-important.

Look - actions are important.  The Gospel is an active thing; our God is an active God. You can believe all day long, but if you don't do, your belief is worthless - James tells us that.  I can sit and pontificate all day long on what the Bible objectively teaches, but if I don't put that into practice, then I have become worse than an infidel and have denied the faith.

Absolutely.  Amen.

But, those actions that I take are and must be predicated firmly upon what God has revealed as being right and good.

In other words, my first consideration is, "is this right?" Results, at this point, do not even begin to factor into the equation. Completely aside from results, the question needs to be squarely faced, is what I'm considering true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy, as God defines it?  If not - no matter what "results" may or may not devolve from that conclusion - then I cannot take that action as a faithful, obedient Christian.

There is an anecdote that I live by:

The obedience is mine; the results are His.

I am not called to be overly concerned about results; I am called to be very concerned about faithfulness and obedience.

The Bible says,

Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.

Interesting, that...no?  It is required in stewards that one be found faithful - not:

  • that one be found fruitful
  • that one be found with super-duper results
  • that one be found doing the most things

Fruitfulness, results, and action are all very important in the equation of faithful Christian obedience.  But they are subordinal to the issue of right action, right results, and the right sort of fruit.

Johnny Mac, in his blog, just posted an absolutely brilliant article on this very subject of pragmatism, and how this really isn't anything new; the modern focus on "yeah, but does it work...?" which in turn leads to accommodation is something that the church has encountered before - numerous times.  Namely, in this article he compares the modern pragmatistic climate with the Down-Grade Controversy of a century ago - and examines the effects of pragmatism.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Leeman on Individuality and Community

Jon Leeman writes a positively brilliant critique of the oft-heard modern platitude, "individualism's the problem - community is the answer" here.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Guzik on Jesus

I'm finishing up on prep work for this morning's festivities at Calvary Chapel on the Lakeshore, studying the last half of Luke 9, and I run across this gem from David Guzik:

Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side: Jesus taught them to have a more generous spirit. There are many that are wrong in some aspect of their presentation or teaching, yet they still set forth Jesus in some manner. Let God deal with them. Those who are not against a Biblical Jesus are still on our side, at least in some way.

  • Paul saw many men preaching Christ from many motives, some of them evil - yet he could rejoice that Christ was being preached (Philippians 1:15-18).

Wow...

Asking hard questions - even vigorously debating - is important for the ongoing development of your understanding of doctrine.

I'd earlier read this on Dr. James White's blog:

"A debate is a conflict which clarifies a position. A dialogue is a conversation which compromises a position."
John E. Ashbrook, The New Neutralism II

Amen.

And very relevant given today's church's penchant for "dialogue" that leads to precisely nowhere. (BTW, I agree with White - I also need to get that book.) We must contend earnestly for the faith once for all given - that's a command, not a suggestion that can be ignored  because we want our Orthodoxy to be Generous so that Everything Must Change along with the Hidden Message Of Jesus - who it turns out is the penultimate Velvet Elvis.

Ahem.

Given that, there are debates that are "in-house," and debates that are "outside the family." And we need to keep the distinction in mind.

When it comes to intramural debate, we need to remember that we're contending with our brethren, who we might not agree with on all (or even most) particulars, and who love the same Jesus of the Bible that we do. Definitely, debate; that's how we refine our understanding of the Word - when our views & stances are challenged.

Yes, definitely debate...but never demonize.

Those who stand on the core orthodoxy of Scripture, though they're wacked in every other point, are still our brethren.

People can be confused about

  • The timing of the Rapture
  • If there's even going to be a Rapture
  • The timing of the Millennium
  • The structure of church government
  • Egalitarianism vs. complementarianism
  • The Gifts of the Spirit
  • Bible versions
  • The place - and the extent of the place - of psychology's legitimate insights
  • Political leanings
  • Modes of baptism
  • etc.

...and a host of other issues, and still be our brethren.

It's those core, "first-order" doctrines that define the border between the Kingdom of God and all else, and they all revolve around the Person and Work of Jesus:

  • His full Deity
  • His full Humanity
  • The fact that His two natures aren't in any way mingled
  • The fact that His Person is in no way divided
  • The Triune Godhead
  • Jesus' death, burial, bodily resurrection & ascension
  • His impending return
  • Salvation by grace alone through faith alone
  • etc.

That's something I need to keep in mind - I'm by nature a doctrinaire, an ideologue.

So it's of vital importance to keep in mind the distinction between an in-house debate and an outside-the-family debate.

In the former, we're vigorously dialoguing with another brother over important-albeit-secondary issues of the Faith; in the latter, we're contending earnestly with unbelievers over the very heart of that Faith, with the goal not of bludgeoning them with the Truth, but of being used as instruments of the Spirit in convicting them of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.

Driscoll & Packer

Mark "Blankety-Blank" Driscoll sits down with evangelical elder-statesman J. I. Packer.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I must get this book...

George Musser talks about his new book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to String Theory.

Bring on the New Year!


Oh...my...goodness...

I cannot wait...

Open Letter to the Growthinistas, Pt. 1.9375

Yes, it's "Part 1.9375."  I'm still working on "Part 2."

About a year ago, at the recommendation of a brother-in-arms who I love, like, and respect...and very, very rarely agree with, I signed up for a newsletter for "Church Leaders" to glean insight into...how to lead the church.

Over the course of the intervening year, I've grown increasingly saddened by what I've read.

The dude whose newsletter this happens to be is very highly regarded in Growthinista circles - entirely because his church exploded from just a few families to well over a thousand in a short period of time in New York City - which, as the story goes, is an extremely difficult place to plant churches, I'm told.

And since the be-all-end-all for Growthinistas is results...the gentleman in question is regarded as being nigh unto a demigod in those circles.

The content of the newsletter (which I had initially hoped would have contained insightful, helpful nuggets for this whole "pastoring a church" thing) turned out to be a semi-regular infomercial-in-print hawking his materials...and that's pretty much it.

Correction: that is it.  The "newsletters" contain absolutely nothing else.

And when it comes to the work of shaking down the pastors who fawn over this gentleman's results and shell out some pretty decent coin to buy his materials which are "guaranteed to grow your church (TM)!!!", the newsletters are, by all indications, very effective tools.

I received the latest "newsletter" yesterday...and it just blew my mind.

Dear Pastor,

I'm writing to invite you to be part of my new Tele-Coaching Network for Senior Pastors that starts August 28.  This is the only Tele-Coaching Network I plan to lead until 2010.  I hope you'll consider applying.

As you may have guessed, this new Tele-Coaching Network is based on the same principles I have used to successfully coach 300+ other pastors through in person networks here in New York City or in Phoenix, Southern California, Atlanta or Tampa. 

In fact, the primary reason I'm offering this new Tele-coaching network is because of the long waiting list for my in person networks. 

And don't forget, with this Tele-Coaching Network, you will save thousands of dollars in airfare, hotel, rental car and time away from the office costs.

I'll admit that this network is not for everyone and the truth is, I cannot accept everyone who applies. 

But this is the perfect coaching network for those pastors with a desire to see their church grow and who are willing to invest the time and energy to cooperate with God in seeing it happen.

I can guarantee that if you apply and are accepted, this network will be more than worth your time and investment (in fact, I'm offering a complete money back guarantee - something I've never done for any regular coaching network).

** Please keep reading for even more info, but if you are ready to apply now, just click here:

{{url to the signup for the "tele-coaching"}}

I hope you'll be part of this one of a kind opportunity.

N.  {{dude signed his name here}}

Yeesh.

Take out the scant, seemingly after-thoughtish reference to God, and this sure does sound like one of the slickest, hard-sell marketing letters one would expect from one of those awfully-full-of-himself "personal life coach motivational speaker types that were real popular in the '90's.

Oh, but it gets worse... Just in case the veiled threat of not being able to get to cash into this incredibly awesome opportunity to Grow Your Church!!! didn't motivate you to pour out your oblation at the altar of Church Growth buy in and sign up, he goes on with a mini-FAQ:

WHY SHOULD I CONSIDER THIS NETWORK?
Here's a powerful question for you: What could you do over the next year that would more dramatically impact the growth of your church and your personal growth as a leader better than this network? 

Imagine for a moment, what if you church could double over the next year and so could your personal effectiveness?  What if you could consistently get everything done at the office, manage your staff well, see consistent growth and still get home on time for dinner and family fun each night?  What would your life and church look like one year from now if your church grew by 25% and your effectiveness increased by 50%?    I can't promise these results but I can say that they are typical of results I've seen in hundreds of pastors over the last five years.

I would venture to say that there is no conference or set of conferences in the world, nor is there a process offered by any other organization or denomination that is as proven as this coaching process.

I'm not teaching you theory or stuff that I've only read about.  I'm coaching you as a fellow practitioner who is in the trenches day after day leading a growing church in one of the most difficult cities in the world.  In addition, the coaching process that I will lead you through is a proven process that has been effective with over 300 churches from 17 denominations from all over the nation.

** Please keep reading for even more info, but if you are ready to apply now, just click here:

{{again with the url to the signup for the "tele-coaching"}}

...in fact, that ** Please keep reading for even more info, but if you are ready to apply now, just click here: link was liberally sprinkled throughout the "newsletter".  Very effective fleecing technique marketing.

Oh, but wait...there's more...

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY TELE-COACHING?
Instead of you flying to my office in New York City or any other location where I'm doing an in person coaching network, you will participate in this coaching network via your telephone and your computer.

Think about it, you will experience the same network experience that others have experienced while SAVING THOUSANDS of dollars in travel costs and SAVING DOZENS OF HOURS on cross-country flights.

WHAT WILL I RECEIVE AS PART OF THIS NETWORK?
The short answer... I will share every church growth and personal development principle I know and give you every resource I've developed to help you implement each principle.  Don't worry, it will not be overwhelming... everything will be delivered in a mangeable bits over the course of the year.

All that said, here's the official list of all that you receive:

* Monthly hands-on coaching from {{Growthinista über-guru put his name here}}.

* A proven coaching process that leads to growth and health.

* Over $1400.00 in FREE resources from {{dude's church growth consulting business}} PLUS special discounts on any new resources.

* Unlimited email access to {{again with the dude's name}} and the {{church growth consulting business}} team.

* A monthly coaching environment where everyone is focused on a Kingdom agenda.

* MP3s of each session for your review.  NOTE: Even if you miss the exact date, you can listen to the network at your leisure.

* FREE attendance at all live or web {{church growth consulting business}} training events during your network (up to $1750.00 value).

* Private 'call-in' times with {{dude's name}} to have your specific questions answered in more detail.

* A private day-long meeting with {{dude's name}}, exclusively for tele-coaching participants (location to be determined, a $2100 value).

* The chance to grow and take your church to the next level

* Plus much, much more

As you can see, just the tangible benefits you will receive as part of this network will far out weigh you monthly financial investment.

** Please keep reading for even more info, but if you are ready to apply now, just click here:

{{again with the url to the signup for the "tele-coaching"}}

Dude! I'm so ready to sign up right no-----ow!  ...thanks, Matt, for slapping me upside the head, thereby breaking the trance. I was just about to drink the Kool-Aid...you saved me, bro...

But in case you thought we had thankfully come to the end of this marketing pitch, it unbelievably goes on:

HOW LONG DOES THE NETWORK LAST?
Each phone call is two hours long and we will meet monthly for one year.  This is a big commitment but I want to make sure that we fully cover all 8 Church Systems and each of the 9 Growth Barriers I've outlined in my resources. 

You will complete the network with a library worth of church growth materials and personal development insights.  Dare I say that this network is the equivalent of a doctorate in church leadership but I'll teach you the practical, will work tomorrow stuff they don't teach in seminary!

WHAT WILL WE COVER?
We will cover each of my eight systems of a healthy church plus issues related to personal development, time management and growth barriers.  As a reminder, the eight systems are:

Worship Planning - 'How we plan, execute and evaluate the weekend service(s) at our church'

Evangelism - 'How we attract unchurched people to our church and mobilize our people for evangelism'

Assimilation - 'How we move people from first time guests to fully engaged members at our church'

Small Groups - 'How we fill and reproduce small groups at our church."

Stewardship - 'How we develop extravagant givers at our church.'

Ministry/Volunteers - 'How we mobilize people for significant ministry at our church.'

Leadership - 'How we develop leaders at all levels at our church.'

Strategy - 'How we constantly evaluate and improve our church'

WHAT ARE THE DATES AND TIMES OF THE CALLS?
{{gives the dates & times}}

WHAT IF I CAN'T MAKE ALL THE DATES?
I strongly encourage you to make every date a priority but I also know that ministry is messy and uncertain so I will record every session and you will receive the complete MP3's of each session within a day or two of meeting.  If you attend, the MP3 is for your library and for your review.  If you are unable to attend, you will still be able to gain the full experience.

TELL ME ABOUT THE GUARANTEE YOU MENTIONED?
As I mentioned earlier, this network is not for everyone but if you choose to apply and you are accepted, I would like to offer you a no-hassle, no questions asked guarantee.  Here it is:  I'm so confident that you will find this Network beneficial that any time prior to the fourth monthly meeting (November 13) you can call my office and tell me that this network isn't benefiting your church or your leadership ability and I will refund everything you have invested, including any long distance costs you might have incurred.  Plus, you can keep any of the resources, MP3s or seminar materials that you have received to date.

In other words, I want to remove any fear you might have in joining this network.  You can try it for three months with absolutely NO RISK!

WHAT IS THE FINANCIAL INVESTMENT?
I have tried to keep the monthly investment in this network as low as possible.  But remember, you are receiving thousands of dollars of resources, free passes to my seminars, email support and private consulting.  At the same time, you are saving thousands of dollars in hotel, flight costs, rental car expenses, gas, etc.  That said, the monthly investment is $195 per month.  Once you are accepted, your credit card will be charged for the first two months.

** Please keep reading for even more info, but if you are ready to apply now, just click here:

{{again with the url to the signup for the "tele-coaching"}}

Wow! Only $195/month, two months in advance! Such a deal!

I get the impression that dude takes himself more than a bit too seriously, eh...?

And yes, if you've been paying attention to the pattern, you know by now that this ain't over quite yet...:

WHAT WILL WE DO EACH MONTH?
In addition to the monthly call, you will be assigned to read or listen to one of my resources plus another book (generally, a business book with clear application to ministry).  While the network will stretch you to grow, study and read, it will not be overwhelming.  I'll help you prioritize so you can get the most from the network.

At the same time, there will be opportunities for you to share your ideas and learning's from the network plus you'll be able to submit prayer requests and ask questions to me and everyone else in the network.

WHAT HAVE BEEN THE RESULTS OF PAST NETWORKS?
While I certainly can't guarantee that our network will in any way produce the same fruit as previous networks, I can share what I've seen God do in the past!  I've seen:

*Churches that have been declining for years to start growing *Churches double in a year *Churches set baptism or evangelism records *Pastors become so effective that they never miss a day off again *Pastors wives write me letters and emails thanking me for helping their husband

I could keep going but let me allow some of my coaching alumni pastors to share their results:

I began this network two and a half months after launching a new church, with great uncertainty about taking the time away and spending the money.  Six months later, I would do it again every time.  I have grown as a leader and my church has grown as a direct result of being in this network. - {{"coaching alumni pastor" name here}} 

'Before I decided to attend the coaching network with {{Growthinista über-guru}}, I thought, I'm pastoring a church that runs under 200 and I live in San Diego, CA.  I can't afford to travel across the country.  Let me tell you, the network has been well worth all the time and money I spent!  It has changed me as a leader and it has changed our church.' -   {{"coaching alumni pastor" name here}}

'Our church has survived!  We were a church in 'crisis-mode'- now we are a church with momentum.  We have grown numerically, financially AND evangelistically and spiritually.' -  {{"coaching alumni pastor" name here}}

'I almost didn't do the network because of finances.  It is worth TEN TIMES the cost and I'm coming back again.  The network turned our church attendance around from declining by 5% a quarter to increasing by 5% a quarter.' -  {{"coaching alumni pastor" name here}}

'Listening to the podcasts and seminars on CD is great, but as a pastor I learned through the coaching network what I needed to do to implement and lead these systems.' -  {{"coaching alumni pastor" name here}}

'Really gave me a structure to organize priorities for leading growth. I have seen the principles I learned in this network have a direct, positive impact on my church. Coaching Community gave me more confidence, competency, inspiration. Do it! It is worth exponentially more than the fees! This is church-growing, kingdom-building, powerful, powerful stuff!'  - New pastor at a 25+ year old church

'Better than any leadership conference - and allows you to debrief everything you are learning.  I learned more in this network than any other ministry experience or church conference I've attended.' -  {{"coaching alumni pastor" name here}}

WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS NETWORK?
As you've probably heard me say, I believe that God has called me to help 100 church leaders reach 1000 people over the next 10 years.  This is one of the ways I believe God wants to accomplish this vision.  Can you imagine what it would look like for you to grow by 20%, 30% or even 100% or more over the next few years?  This network is not about me, I've struggled long and hard about whether or not I should invest the time in doing it, but I believe God is up to something so I *have* to do it.  I hope you'll join me in what God is doing.

WHAT ARE YOUR CREDENTIALS?
{{Growthinista über-guru}} is the Founding and Lead Pastor of {{dude's church}} in New York City.  In its' first 5 years, {{again with the church name}} has grown from one family to over 1100 in weekend attendance, over 500 baptisms and 1300 in small groups!  This groundbreaking church sees the majority of its growth coming from new believers and currently meets in multiple venues across metro NYC, including Manhattan, Jersey City and Brooklyn.  He is the author of 3 books and over 60 church growth resources.  An in demand church growth coach, he has coached almost 200 pastors since 2004, many of which have seen their church double in size and several that have grown from a few hundred to over 1000+ in attendance.  His coaching networks fill up fast and often have long waiting lists.  Prior to coming to NYC, he was the founding director of {{another organization which it turns out is pretty controversial in its own right at the moment - though I admit unnecessarily so}}.

HOW TO I PARTICIPATE?
Please complete the application and return it to my office ASAP.  I am reviewing applications right now and will try to review your application and let you know within two weeks but please bear with me.  We are receiving greater response to this network than any other network I've offered. 

** Apply now by following this link:

{{and, one final time, the url to the signup for the "tele-coaching"}}

Oooooooookaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyy... So much - so very much to comment on...

I'll just zero in on this - which to me, strikes right at the heart of why this dude concerns me so very, very greatly.

He states:

As you've probably heard me say, I believe that God has called me to help 100 church leaders reach 1000 people over the next 10 years.

My response: Then help them. What's with the massive pricetag?

I could understand this kind of thinking with Word-Faithers like Ken Copeland & crew - the idea that God's blessings are available in purchasable quantities and all that, and that ministry is a means of great gain. But this guy's not part of the Word-Faith Movement; he's (I believe) a theologically orthodox Baptist.

But this really does illustrate the subtle connection between Growthinista philosophy and an almost Tetzelish focus on funds - all in the name of growing the Kingdom, of course.  Unsurprising: the raison d'être of the church, in Growthinista philosophy, ultimately boils down to two indispensable absolutes:

  1. Nickels
  2. Noses

...and the two are tightly bound together in a strongly symbiotic relationship.

Sigh.

As I ponder this more, my heart sinks more...but at least there's this: whether in pretense or in truth, there are people getting saved through this guy's highly effective and fabulously profitable marketing empire church.

But it still absolutely blows my mind that even some Calvary guys eat this dude's stuff up and still clamor for more.

Argh...

The Taxonomy of the Pastor's Wife

There is no such thing as the office of a pastor's wife.

I want to be clear about that at the outset.

The Bible speaks of the servanthood of the church - elders (of which the pastor is the primus inter pares, the "senior elder"), charged with the spiritual care, protection, and leadership of the flock, and deacons, charged with attending to the material/physical needs of the flock. In both lists of qualifications, the wives of these men are listed, but not in the capacity of the offices themselves.

(Incidentally, in light of much of the ECM's love affair with egalitarianism, the language of the texts in question paints an unassailably complementarian  picture. Fascinating...)

This is important, because all too often when a man is called to vocational ministry, there are often heavy, implicit, contrabiblical expectations placed on his wife.

The pastor's wife is not the assistant pastor.  She is not a "shadow elder." She is not the be-all-do-all of the church. She is, simply and profoundly...the pastor's wife.

Too often, she's made to labor and suffer stoically under the burden of duties and roles that should never have been forced on her to begin with.

The pastor's wife is not automagically the Children's Ministry Director, head of the Women's Ministry, back-up counselor, she-whose-ear-is-to-be-bent by any and all who have a beef or a comment or feedback.  She is not the church de facto cleaning lady, interior decorator, or event planner.

She already has a truly daunting task - being a wife and (if she is so blessed) a mommy.

In our culture, this is often a difficult concept to get across; most people assume that, to get a hearing with the pastor, you first go through his wife. Or - and we've had this happen on more than one occasion since we came here to the Lakeshore - someone has a comment/suggestion/disagreement/complaint, and instead of manning up and coming directly to me, they waylay my lovely and gracious wife. Don't do that - come directly to me. My wife can seem like an easier target than me - but when someone backs her into a corner and starts unloading on her, I become distinctly displeased.

Too often, the pastor's wife is expected to be and to do what God has not Himself called her to be or to do.  And she's judged harshly for it.

If a pastor's wife also feels called to lead Women's Ministry (as mine does), then wonderful - but that's not an automatic calling.  I know of pastors' wives who didn't feel called to that particular ministry, and wisely handed it over to other ladies in the fellowship who did - and I know of others who didn't hand it over, and became very burnt out.

By the way - while I believe firmly in targeted ministries (Women's, Men's, Children's, etc.) it also needs to be pointed out that these are all relatively recent innovations in the church; the Bible itself knows nothing of these things, so they too are not automatic, necessary, sine qua non functions of the local body.  Churches which have these ministries are no more valid than churches which don't.

All that being said...

"Prodigal Jon" has posted a rip-roariously hilarious taxonomy of the Pastor's Wife here that's so good, I'm printing it out and keeping it.

Tee hee hee. Makes me chuckle.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Nate Williams goes to Mars

Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, that is.  For those who may not yet be aware, that's the church that's pastored by Rob "Jesus' Dad Was Larry!" Bell, author of Velvet Elvis and Sex God, and Exhibit A for what's wrong with the EmergENT side of the ECM.

Yes, yes, yes...I know, he's not really Emergent.

Because he says he's not.

...of course, he holds to all the essential elements of the ECM, with the possible exception that he's attractional.

But let's not confuse the issue with facts, eh?

Nate blogs about his experience in two parts:  Part 1, and Part 2.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Tim Chaddick's session on the Emergent Church

Just got done - finally - listening to Tim Chaddick's workshop session on the ECM. I was very deeply impressed with it; both since Tim's very Emerging in many ways (in the good ways), and very knowledgable RE: the ECM, and since he and the two other speakers (Britt Merrick and Brian Brodersen) were very fair and balanced - took great pains to point out that:

  1. You've got to be really super duper careful about making any blanket statements about the ECM - you have to take each author/speaker/personality as an individual
  2. Even with the nutjobs like Brian "Orthodoxy Schmorthodoxy!" MacLaren and Rob "Jesus' Dad Was Larry!" Bell, there's a lot of guys in the ECM who are actually quite good (my personal favorite, Mark "Blankety-Blank" Driscoll earned an honorable mention a few times during the session by all three presenters).

It was so good, I'm making the MP3 available to the Servanthood here on the Lakeshore - it really is the best short-format treatment on the subject that I've encountered.

While dealing very clearly and very firmly & decisively with the problematic and outright heterodox issues with the EmergENT side of the ECM, the tenor remained fair, balanced, even-handed, non-sensational...and just plain good.

If you weren't able to make it to the conference, you need to give Tim's session a listening-to.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Eckhart Tolle comes to Michigan

Christ Community Church, a "Progressive" "Christian" "Church" (...yes, each word is individually in quotes - on purpose) discusses Eckhart Tolle's insipid intellectual offerings book(s).

This is an extremely liberal "church" that is somewhat large and influential in the Spring Lake/Grand Haven areas, which last year for Easter celebrated the "coming of the Cosmic Christ," loves "Bishop" Spong, and hosts meditations on...eastern meditation.

And other such stuff.

Again - as a pastor, it simultaneously breaks my heart, drives me up a wall, and completely mystifies me that so many in this area just can't get enough of this kind of [insert Mark Driscoll colorful language here], and that this "church" is so well attended and so influential.

But, when you lose your taste for the pure, unmediated Word...

It struck me today, as I was reviewing C3's "statement of core values" again, what it sounded like.  I quote it here:

Christ Community Church’s core values

Pursuing Relevant Religion — We value the progressive religious journey.
Pursuing Justice — We seek to be the change we wish to see in the world.
Pursuing Sustainability — We seek a future in harmony with the earth.
Pursuing Wellness — We value holistic health.
Celebrating Gender — We value the masculine and feminine expression in all.
Celebrating Sexuality — We are an open and affirming community.
Celebrating Inquiry
— We encourage independent thinking.
Celebrating Creativity
— We value the arts.
Celebrating Interfaith — We celebrate universal truths.
Celebrating Community — We value community.

...sound familiar...?

...like, for instance, someone that had A Generous Orthodoxy and thought Everything Must Change because of the Secret Message of Jesus might wholeheartedly embrace with enthusiasm and verve?

I'm just sayin' is all...

Ken Copeland's Right

Surprised a bit by the title a bit, are you, eh?

Normally, you'd never catch me agreeing with much of anything by the Wrong Reverend Copeland.  Being a Kenyonite, his theology skirts the edge of Biblical orthodoxy - and often tumbles over the divide into what the good, late Dr. Walter Martin rightly called "the Kingdom of the Cults."  In one of his last two good books, Hank "I'm not a Preterist...I just believe in Preterism" Hanegraaff outlined some of the more egregious, obvious heterodoxies of the luminaries of the Word-Faith Movement, including Copeland.

No, Ken; we're not "little Christs," God isn't the biggest loser in the universe, and Jesus wasn't "born again" in hell - or at any point. You goober.

That being said, Copeland's got every right to be dead wrong; and those who are undiscerning enough to keep shoveling their money at him have every right to be...less than wise.

He has that right because this is still America.  America is still (at least in name) a republic - which means among other things that we are, as the second president of our United States wrote in his Thoughts on Government, a nation "of laws, not of men" - meaning that the law is the supreme and final word, the last resort, the ultimate court of arbitration - not the ephemeral whims of any given ruler or, worse "the people" (the founders, incidentally, feared a true "democracy" worse than they did the tyranny of the King of England; they rightly equated true democracy with its more common term, anarchy).  Even the congress, the judiciary (though they currently forget this of late), and the president himself are subject to and must bow before the law.  "The will of the people" is not the ultimate consideration in a republican government - and trust me, you don't want it to be - the tyranny of the majority is a terrible bus to be thrown under.

Inherent in the idea of republicanism (and by "republican" and "republicanism" I am of course referring to theories of government, not the GOP as a political party, which, along with the Democratic Party, long ago essentially abandoned republicanism as a guiding principle), at least in the American expression of it, is the idea of "separation of powers" - not only between the disparate branches of a particular republican government (ours has three - the executive, legislative, and judiciary, which are at least in theory coequal and sovereign within their respective purviews and which act as checks to each other's power) but also between spheres of authority external to what we today consider "government."

One of the legacies that the Protestant Reformation bequeathed to us is the idea of the separation of spheres of governmental power and authority.  To the Reformers, the State was only one of several distinct sovereignties that one owed fealty to; there was also the individual, the family...and, among others, the church.  Having witnessed what happens when the church gains temporal power and the line between State and Church becomes blurred, and having remembered what happened when the pendulum had earlier rested in its opposite extreme and the State itself reigned unchecked and supreme in totalitarian Rome, the Reformers eventually formulated the idea of a distinction and separation of sovereignties.

R. J. Rushdoony, an admittedly controversial figure in the Reformed side of the church, father of what is now known as "Christian Reconstruction," had this to say in an interview:

We have never had a more top-down culture than for about 1500 years, than since Rome fell. Rome fell because it confused simplicity with efficiency. They simplified the state and centralized more and more as if that were the answer. The more they centralized, the more they destroyed the fabric of society. We are following the Roman pattern. We are centralizing as though that were the answer and we are destroying the pattern of society.

Now as Christians we believe that the basic starting point is the regeneration of man. Then man takes and applies that faith. For Christians the basic government is the self-government of the Christian man. Then the basic governmental unit is the family. This means that every father and mother will be more important in the sight of God than heads of state, because He controls children, property and the future. Then the third is the church as the government, fourth the school as a government, fifth your job governs you, then sixth society governs you with its ideas, beliefs and standards, and seventh, one among many forms of government, is the civil government.

Today, we are implicitly totalitarian. We speak of the state as the government. That's totalitarian. So we have to rid ourselves of such things. The Christian theonomic society will only come about as each man governs himself under God and governs his particular sphere. And only so will we take back government from the state and put it in the hands of Christians.

Laying aside for the moment the many, many areas where I strongly disagree with the late Rushdoony, his sentiments here are absolutely correct.

And the essence of these is enshrined in our nation's founding documents, among other places, in the First Amendment, which states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It is the "establishment clause" which wack-job groups like the ACLU and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State camp on; but it's the second clause in this Amendment which was intended to forever separate the State and the Church.

It's well known that the term "separation of church and state" does not appear anywhere in the Constitution. Instead, it comes from a letter that the third president of the United States wrote to the Danbury Baptists in 1802 guaranteeing them that the government would not - could not, due to the protection afforded by the Constitution - infringe upon their free expression and exercise of religious faith through the "establishing" of a particular denomination to the detriment of others.  In light of the current hostile-to-Christianity climate in our civil government, it's exceedingly instructive to note that the "wall of separation" that Jefferson speaks of was intended to be bi-directional - that not only could the Church not govern the State, but the State had no authority whatsoever to govern the Church.

The two sovereignties were, are, and forever remain wholly distinct.

I'm not sure when that wall began to erode; symptoms of its continued deterioration include the 1954 "Johnson Amendment" to the IRS tax code which, for the first time in American history, put an effective gag order over the mouths of religious workers and declared political speech to be off-limits to them - contrary to the nearly unbroken tradition in our nation going back to the time of the Puritans and before in which the Church - though remaining governmentally separate from the State, nonetheless acted as a necessary and more often than not effective counterbalance to the corruption and excesses to which any secular government naturally tends toward.

Though the Church could not legislate, she could comment on legislation, watching over the magistrates-that-be and thereby act as a moral compass to the mostly amoral activity of civil governance.

It was the pulpits of America which motivated the colonials in our struggle against the King's tyranny; it was the pulpits of America which kept our nation on course during the darkest days of the War for Independence.  And until 1954, it was the pulpits of America which served as the moral stabilizers of our government and citizenry.

But then something happened; the wall which not only prevented the Church from dominating the State, but also which prevented the State from interfering in and dominating the Church, began to crack.

It is now in woeful disrepair.

While the Church has been all but muzzled, able only to speak nice platitudes and hazy generalizations, the State has been very aggressive in its invasion of the Church.

The wall has been long-since breached, and the secular barbarians are rampaging across the sacred landscape.

Which brings me to why the Wrong Reverend Copeland is, at least at this one point, absolutely right.

It seems that RINO Senator Chuck Grassley's decided to forget the separation of powers and initiate an "inquiry" into the practices of several televangelists.

Now, while I in no way want to advance the idea that I am in any way defending the cast of characters being investigated (I emphatically am not), I am very adamantly opposed to some too-big-for-his-britches Senator calling a State-sponsored Inquisition, sticking the State's already-overlarge nose into the affairs of the Church - ANY church.

Or synagogue.

Or mosque.

Or Kingdom Hall.

Or...or...or...

This sets a deadly precedent (or, perhaps better put, continues a deadly precedent) which must be vigorously opposed.

Grassley's putting himself in the position of being able to dictate to a religious group how it is to administrate the funds of that group.  The rightness and wrongness of that group or how it functions is not in question (Copeland's unquestionably a wolf) - the important point to get is that the State now believes it has the right to dictate to a religious group how it is to function.

I can hear the objections:

Dude! Seriously! These nut-jobs are fleecing the flock, living high on the hog, and are taking advantage of tens of thousands of people!

I understand entirely; but, the sheep who willingly fork over their cash to these charlatans are responsible for their own actions (and their own lack of discernment).  The fact that Copeland can exist and even thrive is an indictment on the orthodox churches of America.

Something must be done - but not by the State.

Why?

Because when we cede to the State the power to govern the internal operations of any religious group - whether orthodox or heretical, whether Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or Satanist - we set a boulder to rolling downhill, and it's only a matter of time before that boulder smashes into us and destroys us.

Right now, the State's going after dudes we rightly regard as the Bad Guys.  Yay, State.

...but what happens when the State decides that oh, say, teaching on Romans 1 hurts gays, and so any church teaching that, or Leviticus, should be brought up on inquiry, too?

Or what happens when the State decides that a church which supports homeschooling is engaging in political speech...?

Or what happens when the State decides that teaching the Gospel inflicts undue harm to those who don't believe in the Gospel...?

It is the nature of governments to arrogate to themselves more and more power; and once they gain power, they never willingly cede it back.

Again, quoting from our second president:

Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.

We are fools if we think otherwise, and if we think the federal government can be tamed, that once it has done our dirty work for us in applying discipline to the heretic, it won't turn the torch of Inquisition on us.

So, I take the shocking, historical step of declaring that I agree with Ken Copeland in so far as his stand against an overreaching federal government is concerned. Not for why he stands against it (I have no doubt that he has much he's trying to hide, and that that's his true motivation for his stand) but rather for the principle behind that stand.

The Wrong Reverend has gone so far as to set up a website in protest against the inquiry.

In his doctrine, he's a complete wack-job.

In this fight, however...Ken Copeland's right.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Things They Tell Church Planters That Are Simply Wrong

...aka, "Open Letter to the Growthinistas, Pt. 1.875."

One of the things that I believe strongly in is reading/listening to dudes I don't already agree with.  I like reading fellow Calvary pastors' stuff - and I do.  But I need to read the stuff from other streams that I'm not directly a part of, for two major reasons:
  1. To fight the natural tendency towards provincialization in thinking that happens when one drinks from his own bathwater, intellectually speaking, and, close on the heels of the first reason:
  2. To be challenged in my thinking. I already agree with myself; because it's simple human nature to have blind spots in our thinking, and by definition we can't see our own blind spots, it's a great habit to get into to read/listen to/interact with as broad a range of thinking as possible to constantly challenge your presuppositions, and hopefully thereby identify and deal with those blindspots.

Being that I'm no friend of Emergent, I specifically choose to read as much of their stuff as possible (by the way - not for the purpose of proving them wrong; if that's the motive, stop; you're not thinking, you're reacting - and besides, the ECM is hugely self-defeating anyway), and one of the ECM sources I like to read is the Next-Wave e-zine.

Next-Wave is a great resource; it's a mostly-regular online publication where ECMmers contribute mercifully short articles on subjects near and dear to the Emergent heart.  (I say "mercifully short" because, due to the inherent limitations of articular writing, they're largely forced to actually focus their thoughts, eschewing their habitual obfuscatory grandiloquence, and for the most part restricting their wonted overuse of bromidic ECM catchphrases like missio dei, neo-monastic, and incarnational...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...)  I try to read it whenever it's updated; in doing so, I have shaken my head in mystified disbelief more than once, chuckled at the apparently not-obvious-to-them pretentiousness of it all just about every time...and been deeply challenged on more than a few occasions.

I have also read stuff that I have, to my deep and abiding shock, been 100% in agreement with.

Honestly...didn't see that one coming.

It turns out, however, that many ECMmers actually have some good stuff to say; some of it is even marginally orthodox.  You can imagine my surprise.

This month's issue deals with "Church Pirates" - you know, the kind that Ed Young knows and loves.

...or, wishes he didn't know and doesn't love too much.

...or...whatever.

But tucked away in this month's missive (and I haven't read all of it yet) is a gem of an article by a Vineyard church planter, titled Things They Tell Church Planters That Are Simply Wrong.  It is, incidentally, simply right.

He comments on some of the things he's heard as a church planter that have proven to be out-of-kilter with what is truly true.  Things like:

  • It's all about Sunday (hint: no it's not)
  • If it's not working, your signage or location is wrong
  • What counts is attendance, baptism and signups for membership class (hint: Jesus leaves the ninety-and-nine to minister to the one - what about that, eh?)
  • For the first two years, work as hard as you can without burning out
  • The goal of every pastor should be to be full-time paid (wouldn't that be nice... ;D )
  • Some people are just scaffolding people
  • Gather a crowd first, figure out who the disciples are later

This is a stunningly good article by a brother I probably wouldn't agree with much on...but who apparently loves Jesus and "gets it" when it comes to a true Kingdom (not kingdom-building) viewpoint.

I give it eleven thumbs up.