Archive for August, 2007

ya know, when I first started interacting with the ODMs I really could understand their logic behind what they were doing. It’s the basic idea that certain key leaders (ie. Bell, McManus, McLaren) were leading large groups of people astray and so they felt they needed to publicly address the epidemic on a large and international scale. I understood their logic, but obviously completely disagreed with what they believed or how they did it. Well, now I am reading more and more articles that have nothing to do with key leaders in the church, but small hometown churches that they disagree with. These websites are turning from a pharasee supreme court to a full blown witch hunt. Sometimes I wonder how many websites they have to go thru in order to make their headline quota for the day. It doesn’t matter how small or uninfluential the ministry or minister is. If they can comb through the web and find it, they are their next Christian human sacrifice on the web. And then when they are called on the carpet by a big name publication like Christianity Today, they write article after article in an attempt to defend their ways.

So I suggest two things:

  1. pray for these small churches that are doing innovative things with the timeless message of Jesus Christ. Pray that they would find their success and identity in Jesus Christ and that attempts to stop their ministry would be hindered
  2. write these pastors. These ODMs usually post the websites of these churches to make an example of them. Turn a wrong into a right and email the staff an encouraging thought. I cannot tell you how many times I have done this and started meaningful relationships with pastors all over the world
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OK, over at Pyro a commentor mused about writing a top ten list about when you know your pastor isn’t called. You know, just to lighten up for a minute. None of you know this but my mother was a stand up comedienne. So sometimes I just can’t help it. 

10. He doesn’t agree with you
9. He cheats at golf
8. He thinks “Pyromaniacs” is a disco group
7. He thinks Thomas Nelson wrote the Bible
6. She doesn’t wear enough makeup
5. He wears too much makeup
4. He thinks Plato is the original Greek
3. He has “applause” lights on the front of the pulpit
2. He thinks the movie “The Godfather” denied the Trinity
1. He insists on including eunuchs in his altar calls.

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A Funny Watchdawggie!When I need to find out the news beyond the headline story of the day, I have found that one of the best places to go to get a pulse of what’s news and what news is actually interesting for discussion, I often go to FARK.  (Warning: If you go there, you’re best bet is to avoid the comment threads on the RH side, which can be vulgar.  Additionally, some actual discernment is needed when selecting the stories to read, so it’s not something I recommend to children or immature adults, either).

Imagine my surprise last summer when I checked out the list of stories and found this one:

(Some Tomato) ”Christian” website declares war on the Veggie Tales. What will QWERTY say about this?

[NOTE: The link is dead, but you can see the source being linked to.]

After reading the story and the sad comment thread beneath it, I braced myself and decided to read the FARK comment thread about the article.  It was truly sad to see how the outside world viewed this intra-church sniping and foolishness.  (mild examples: Wow. Someone there disses “Adventures in Oddysey” by Focus on the Family. THAT is hardcore. or It’s gotta be tough to write for Landover Baptist when the real sites are this unintentionally satirical. )

Well, it’s not uncommon to expect such foolishness to repeat itself, and so it has… and I have to say that I’m still a bit perplexed on a number of items:

Cartoons and Artistic Adaptation

This article takes issue with the upcoming Veggie Tales adaptation of The Prodigal Son, set against a Wizard of Oz meme.

The producers of these Veggie Tales movies desecrate Holy Scripture by perverting it into upbeat do-good stories completely absent the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Read that sentence again. Holy Scripture. That’s what we teach our children that the Bible is. Holy. Untouchable. Sacred. Must not be tampered with. But we are considered freaks in a world where nothing is sacred. Nothing is holy. Nothing is untouchable, particularly if there is cash to be made. These people are getting wealthy off the mistreatment of the Word of God.

First off, I’m failing to see where such hysteria is warranted.  It is not as if Phil Vischer (producer of VT) is claiming that Veggie Tales is scripture, or a tool aimed at evangelizing children with a full outlay of the plan of salvation.  Rather, it is, and always has been, a modern method of relaying some scriptural stories and parables to children, typically pre-school and lower elementary school aged.  Additionally, enough (clean) pop-culture and catchy music is woven in so that adults aren’t bored to tears, but will be conversant and interested enough that good discussion might arise between parent and child on the topics presented.  There is no ‘mistreatment of the Word of God’, despite the screeching hyperbole to the contrary.

This goes without saying, though, that if a child’s sole (or primary or secondary) exposure to scripture is to Veggie Tales, he or she is sorely lacking in biblical instruction.  No argument here.  However, in a marketplace of mindless, violent or vulgar media choices, I can’t think of many better children’s ‘entertainment’ for this particular age group than Veggie Tales and Adventures in Odyssey, both of which adapt biblical texts and stories into a format for children (though AiO is aimed at an older contingent).

So the question becomes: Is it acceptable for artistic works, be they for children or adults, to adapt parts of scripture in non-literal renderings which may include humorous devices?  Assuming that scripture is not mis-interpreted or treated as irrelevant or mocked, I see no scriptural basis for arguing the contrary. 

The Use of Humor

The mindset accompanying this blog article also has consistently posited that Jesus had no sense of humor and that comedy has no place in a Christian lexionary.  I would severely disagree, and the primary key to my disagreement is acknowledged and lauded in the opening paragraph of this particular article:

When Dr. John MacArthur was here in Milwaukee for one of our VCY America rallies earlier this year, his message was on the powerful Bible story of the Prodigal Son. He didn’t skim over the surface as so many preachers do and hit all the obvious points. He went deep into the Middle Eastern context of the story which enabled us to understand even more just how amazing the response of the father in the story actually was. Each detail of the Bible’s account took on new significance as we were taught about the social rules of the day and what the father’s condescension because of love for His son really meant. There is so much depth to this story as you carefully study it.

That is the key to understanding Jesus’ humor – the context!  (Side note: Ironically, I have heard JMac’s sermon on the Prodigal Son and on the Good Samaritan, both of which drew their first century details from the a source like Brad Young’s The Parables, an excellent resource I highly recommend, and were almost verbatim as taught by Rob Bell and Ray VanderLaan…)

In narrative, the two primary thematic directions are drama and comedy.  Drama is seated in the emotion and easily translates across cultures, because of the similarity of the human experience.  Comedy, on the other hand, is seated in the intellect, and is highly contextual.  Apart from slapstick (considered the lowest form of comedy), it does not translate well across cultures, because of its contextuality.  So, the key to Jesus’ humor is in knowing the culture.

One example lies in the story of the Good Samaritan.

A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.

This is pretty funny, don’t you think?  No?  How about I add this detail: Jesus places this story on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho.  This “road” is about 2 – 3 feet wide, with a steep wall on one side of it and a steep, 100+ foot drop off on the other side.  It still exists today, and people still die falling off of it today.  In Jesus story, the priest and the Levite to “pass by on the other side”.  There is no ‘other side’!  So now, imagine what these two figures had to do to avoid dealing with the half-dead man in the road.  This mental picture is very similar to other humor found in other contemporary Jewish works.

There are numerous other examples, particularly laced in Jesus’ parables, which have been identified as humorous elements in his stories and in his life.  Additionally, some of the chief commands of the Old Testament dealt with the seven Jewish festivals, five of which were to be joyous occasions, not solemn remembrences.

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon teaches that everything, when taken apart from God, is meaningless.  In it, though, he notes:

There is a time for everything,
       and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die,
       a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,
       a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,
       a time to mourn and a time to dance,

And this is true – there is a time for everything, including humor and laughter - especially when it is used to glorify its creator, rather than denigrate Him or to tear down those made in His own image.

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Monday Morning Insights brings to you this conversation. My favorite bit:

Pastor: “The label ‘emerging church’ is used to describe a lot of different things, and I know some emerging church leaders are pushing the envelope with their theology, but I don’t think Erwin McManus is one of them. To tell you the truth, I’ve never really considered McManus part of that movement. I think his books are just packaged and marketed to that crowd. I don’t think you have to worry about his theology. Have you ever read one of his books?”

Church member: “No, but I don’t have to. I listen to Chuck Colson on the radio and he says the emerging church is dangerous. It’s not something we should be messing around with, and the fact that you’d quote an emerging church pastor in your sermon is very alarming.”

What is it with criticizing what you haven’t read?

Here’s a bit more from the author, separate from the conversation:

I’ve had my share of confrontations with Christians that adhere to radio-orthodoxy. I recognize they measure every sermon I preach against what is beamed through the airwaves. But I have yet to discover a pastoral way of handling their unquestioning faith in the disembodied voices they hear on the commute to work everyday.

I’m not calling for a revolt against Christian radio stations (although I don’t listen to them personally). I recognize that many people are blessed and encouraged by the programming offered through the radio. However, the voices coming through the speakers seem to be monotone. Without multiple perspectives and thoughtful dialogue around important issues facing the church (social, political, missional, or familial) listeners are left to believe the Christian position is cut and dry, black and white. And those who dare to question this perspective, as I did with my disturbed church member, are given a verbal lashing that ends with “thus saith the radio!”

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Have you ever read or heard of some of the great revivals, where the Spirit of God so moved upon His people that all concern about anything else ceased and the body of Christ sought the face of Christ as one? Whole towns were transformed by God’s power and repentance spread through the church like wildfire. Secret sins were exposed, marriages were healed, worship became life, and the world was transfixed at the demonstration of the Spirit as it moved through God’s people.

Some of the most pronounced sinners would come unexpectedly into a church service and were brought to their knees before the preacher could even begin the message. Entire congregations would sink before the pews and cry out unashamedly for God to cleanse them and save them from hell. Work places would close on weekdays as the owners met the Living Christ, and people would actually run to the church house. Lights would burn in the windows of houses as entire families would be crying out to God led by the husband who was a drunk just a week ago.

Prayer meetings were observed every night and the taverns were closed many times for good. Diminutive preachers with very little speaking skills would be so anointed of the Spirit that in the middle of the seemingly insignificant sermon the pastor of that church and his wife would stand and loudly confess they had grown cold on God and they were begging Him for a fresh awakening in their own lives. It was not uncommon for strangers to enter the city and see people on their faces in the park, confessing their sins and interceding for entire towns, and without knowing why they were drawn to go join them, some who would not be saved until that night. The percentages of young people who were called into the minitry skyrocketed to God’s glory!

In one of the revivals in Wales the Spirit of God so transformed the coal miners that when they descended into the mines, and when they commanded the little ponies to pull the wagons, the ponies would not even move. It wasn’t until later they discovered that the ponies did not recognize those commands because of the absence of swear words. On rare occasions a violent man would come to do the preacher harm and be struck dead in front of the congregation which led to wholesale conversions.

Do you not thirst for God to move among us today in that fashion? Do you ever get tired of the fighting and bickering among us and do you not long to experience a flood of God Spirit that will strip us of us? What would the newspapers report if they saw the body of Christ consumed with prayer, consumed with the Word, consumed with repentance, consumed with worship and shining the love of Christ in their lives and on their lips? And what would the worldly media think when they saw such a surrender, such a love, and such power that was manifested in the church that services were held nightly and the place was packed? Revival, oh yes, revival. The greatest hindrance to revival is not sin or unbelief, and it isn’t worldliness or hedonism, and it isn’t even prayerlessness or complacency. The greatest hindrance to revival is that the church doesn’t even realize we need it more than we need the breath we breathe. Watch this video and let God speak to your heart.

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Arrrrrrr!  There be other watchdawggies afloat!Recently, we seem to have come back to the topic of watchblogging and “discernment” (quotes intentional), which reminded me of an article published early this year in which one watchblog took on the “seamy underbelly” of ‘discernment’ ministries. This seems like an appropriate time for a reposting of this article, available only here on CRN.Info:

There is a campaign of destruction underway in the church. There are lies being passed off as truth; there is slander and gossip and the carnage that is being caused is causing long-term harm to the cause of the Gospel of Christ. No, I’m not talking about attacks from emergent church followers or outraged Purpose Driven disciples. I’m talking about the seamy underbelly of what goes on in the name of “discernment ministry.” I have been in ministry since 1988 and I can say with confidence that the enemy of Jesus Christ has to do very little. The church is really, really good at destroying itself.

This post is prompted by an ongoing attack against the American Family Association by several in the “discernment” community. These attacks have also been against me and Christian Worldview Network’s Brannon Howse. The squalor of the dealings that have taken place would rival that of anything you would find in a secular workplace and it saddens me to say that. I have been repeatedly told that these issues should stay behind the scenes for the “sake of Christ”. However, those who say this are the same ones who are publicly picking fights with Christian brothers and sisters in the same line of work and using their columns and websites to attack them. This is the reason for my post. I give to you just two recent examples of how some in the “discernment realm” work.

Example One: I recently featured a very articulate guest on contemplative spirituality on the Crosstalk Show. The show went beautifully and much information was given out in warning to the church. Within a short time, however, the guest received a hostile letter from Paul Proctor, berating her for being on my radio program. He even further challenged her as to how she could let me link to the work at Herescope.com. What mattered not at all to Mr. Proctor was the fact that solid information went out to thousands of people on 87 radio stations because of the guest’s work. What mattered was that the guest had dared to be on MY radio program. Paul Proctor was convinced that he had the right to bully guests I featured on Crosstalk because he believes I am compromised. The guest then received contacts from two others in the discernment realm, friends of Proctor’s, regarding her being on my radio program.

Another example: Bud Press of the Christian Research Service website informed Rev. Ken Silva that if he didn’t stop writing for Slice of Laodicea, (because we were compromised), he would remove his links from his site. Ken refused to be bullied and strong-armed into seeing things Bud’s way and Bud removed his links.

What was it about me that had made me so repugnant that Paul Proctor and Bud Press would bully others to stay away from me? Answer: I write for Brannon Howse and the Christian Worldview Network, as does Pastor Bob DeWaay, Mark Cahill, Dwayna Litz, Jan Markell and a host of other excellent Christian writers who care about biblical truth. Because Paul Proctor, Deborah Dombrowski and Bud Press don’t agree with Brannon because, as Proctor sneeringly puts it in his latest column, he is a “dear friend” of Tim Wildmon at AFA, I am tainted goods to be avoided at all costs. There was an attempt a few months ago to get as many discernment writers as possible to drop off Brannon’s site through an old fashioned tool—peer pressure. Paul Proctor resigned from Brannon’s site and copied a number of us in on his resignation letter. When I, Bob DeWaay, Jan Markell and a number of others refused to stop publishing the truth on emergent, etc. on Brannon’s site, Paul Proctor and friends were most unhappy. Which leads us to the shameful state of events today.

What is most disturbing in this case is the gossip and false information that has been carried by these “discernment” folks. One researcher who sought to reconcile with me and who apologized for helping to spread false information was warned ahead of time to “be careful” if he talked to me. Brannon Howse was labeled a dangerous “change agent”, and I was accused of being an adherent to “replacement theology”, despite numerous radio shows on Israel and its importance to the end times. This gossip and slander continues unabated at this hour. Worse still, these individuals are publishing columns and links to columns, like the one on Lighthouse Trails, blasting Tim Wildmon for “promoting” contemplative. These people have been harassing Tim Wildmon for months, demanding that he conduct his decency organization like their own “discernment” ministries. They have deliberately sought to find what evil they can on the American Family Association secular online bookstore link that they use for the sale of their own books. The only people finding New Age and contemplative books on Wildmon’s site are the ones spending their time looking for them: Bud Press, Deborah Dombrowski and Paul Proctor.

This is the closest thing to a nasty personal vendetta, couched in pious language, I have seen recently. Paul Proctor’s language isn’t all that pious, actually, as he calls Tim Wildmon a hypocrite and derisively refers to his friendship with Brannon in his latest column. Paul Proctor and Bud Press are not in a position of authority to demand that Tim Wildmon carry out his organization’s work according to Bud and Paul’s own standards. We answer to the Lord for our own ministries, not Bud and Paul. Further, the outrageous and threatening behavior of Bud toward Ken Silva in trying to force him to stop writing for Slice is evidence that something is clearly out of control in these men’s minds and hearts. Likewise, Paul Proctor’s troubling of a guest who appeared on my show is way over the top. That is mafioso behavior, not the behavior of a brother in Christ.

At one time I linked to research sites like Christian Research Service and Lighthouse Trails. I felt that the truth on false teaching and error was most important to get out. Things have reached a point, however, where it is plain that the false teaching entering the church isn’t the most important thing that needs addressing. This situation has been simmering underground for months. With Paul Proctor, Deborah Dombrowski and Bud Press’s latest attack on Tim Wildmon today, it has erupted into the face of the Christian public.

Is Christianity just a matter of holding right positions, or should it impact how we relate to each other as believers? Are the commands of Scripture telling us to be tender-hearted and forgiving of one another less important than the verses about heresy and false teaching? Is gossip and slander okay if it is conducted by those knee deep in research on contemplative spirituality? If some New Agers have more personal peace and treat people more kindly than born-again Christians, doesn’t it say something about the content of our hearts? We can rant and rave about contemplative spirituality, meditation, breath prayers and yoga until we’re blue in the face, but if we can’t reconcile with fellow believers who believe the same things and would prefer to publicly find fault and attack them because they don’t do everything the way we do, we have nothing to share with the world. We become frauds.

The public attacks on Tim Wildmon and American Family Association need to stop. The gossip and slander against me, Brannon Howse and Tim Wildmon need to stop. It is because of Brannon Howse’s encouragement that Tim Wildmon has allowed countless programs on purpose driven error and emerging church issues to air on his large network of Christian stations. It is because of Brannon Howse that the truth on these same issues is reaching untold thousands who would otherwise never hear about these matters. I know, because I get the emails from people who read my columns, some of which had never heard of contemplative spirituality, etc. before encountering columns on Christian Worldview Network.

When soldiers begin to turn and shoot their own, combat fatigue has set in. No general would long keep soldiers like this in the field. Speaking from my own experience, combat fatigue is a huge menace in this job. I have had to cut back because of my own dangerous level of fatigue recently. How long the Lord will keep any of us in the field if these issues are not resolved, is questionable. Like the church at Ephesus in the book of Revelation, we can become very good at discerning error from truth, but when we’ve lost our first love for the Lord Jesus, it starts showing in our relationships. The Lord’s words warn us that he will put our lampstands out completely if we don’t repent. It’s a wake up call for all of us involved in putting out this information.

While I’m not in complete concert with this writer, I have to agree with them on many of the statements made in this heartfelt article.

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Slice’s latest missive is a hysterical, huffy piece about Rob Bell preaching in front of an unmade bed. Here’s the bit to focus on:

Rob Bell preached on the same subject with an unmade bed behind him on the “stage”. How long until the bed will be occupied? I predict it won’t be long until this kind of sensuality goes even father. To keep a buzz going, you simply have to continue to provide ever more titillating offerings. After all, if God gave us sexuality, what would be wrong with celebrating it in a “Christian” setting? Or so they will claim. You were warned.

This is a continuing theme and, I guess argument from from the watchdoggies, a prediction of apocalyptic theological terror sweeping through the whole of Christendom. I’m sort of curious how accurate these guys actually are. Any chance our lovely commenters would like to scour the watchdoggies’ site to catalog these predictions?

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We challenge you to write a post criticizing Purpose Driven, Willow Creek, Rob Bell, Billy Graham, or any one of your usual targets without calling anyone a heretic, apostate, or a fornicator with evil. Try to make your point about what you view as the demise of the Evangelical Church without referring to it as a “spiritual whorehouse,” “mystic murky mess,” or any of your other mean-spirited alliterations.

 To quote Mr. Aikman at the end of his CT article:

“Christians should be an example. By all means criticize fellow Christians if necessary, but do so with grace.”

In so doing, we will show the world a “gentleness, modesty and wisdom” that just might bring some grace and savor to our crumbling civilization.

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From Wikipedia
Although some emergent thinkers such as Brian McLaren and many Evangelical scholars such as D. A. Carson use “emerging” and “emergent” as synonyms, a large number of participants in the emerging church movement maintain a distinction between them. “Emergent” is sometimes more closely associated with Emergent Village. Those participants in the movement who assert this distinction believe “emergents” and “emergent village” to be a part of the emerging church movement but prefer to use the term “emerging church” to refer to the movement as a whole while using the term “emergent” in a more limited way, referring to Brian McLaren and emergentvillage. Many of those within the emerging church movement who do not closely identify with emergentvillage tend to avoid that organization’s interest in radical theological reformulation and focus more on new ways of “doing church” and expressing their spirituality. Mark Driscoll, an early leader associated with the emerging church conversation, now distances himself from the “emergent thread.” In a short video clip, he summarizes some of his concerns. Some observers consider the “emergent stream” to be one major part within the larger emerging church movement. This may be attributed to the stronger voice of the ‘emergent’ stream found in the US which contrasts the more subtle and diverse development of the movement in the UK, Australia and New Zealand over a longer period of time. As a result of the above factors, the use of correct vocabulary to describe a given participant in this movement can occasionally be awkward, confusing, or controversial.

In the mid-1990s I was part of what is now known as the Emerging Church and spent some time traveling the country to speak on the emerging church in the emerging culture on a team put together by Leadership Network called the Young Leader Network. But, I eventually had to distance myself from the Emergent stream of the network because friends like Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt began pushing a theological agenda that greatly troubled me. Examples include referring to God as a chick, questioning God’s sovereignty over and knowledge of the future, denial of the substitutionary atonement at the cross, a low view of Scripture, and denial of hell which is one hell of a mistake. — Mark Driscoll

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A few months ago I had to quickly re-arrange our worship service and so had one of my deacons combine my class with his. He took the opportunity to pass out some sheets of paper and ask everyone to write whatever they wanted about the church. Most of them were positive or constructively critical. But two of them were vitriolic, nasty, and simply wrong. What caught me by surprise was that these two nasty notes came from people who shook my hand every week, smiled at me every week, played with my infant son, and were just generally nice normal people. So why the change? In a word: accountablity. The anonymous nature of the informal survey guaranteed there wouldn’t be called to account for their words. They wouldn’t be asked to work to fix the problems they saw, they wouldn’t be told to tone down the vitriol and they wouldn’t have to deal with everyone knowing the way they had attacked people within their church.

I think that’s what we’re dealing with here with the watchdoggies. The reason why they feel so free to slander and lambaste is because there is no accountability. First, there’s the lack of human contact with the people they’re actually attacking. Then there’s a total disconnect with their online activities from either a larger body of Christians, or with their jobs. Think about it for a second. First you’ve got Ingrid who’s daddy owns her place of employment, I doubt her job is ever in jeopardy much less from any kind of controversy she could cause, and, I believe I remember reading from her site that the church she attends is a house church made up mostly of her family (and if that’s incorrect I’ll happily correct it). What are the chances that that kind of fellowship would be calling anyone to heel until the situation became untenable? Ken Silva is largely as immune to any sort of accountability. His church is roughly the size of a Sunday school class, which brings as little accountability as Ingrid’s situation.

And, ultimately, it is these types of situations that have cut the ecclesiastical brake lines that are supposed to exist within a church. There’s no chance of the principles of confrontation found in Matthew 18 to play out. There’s no way elders are going to step in and enforce Biblical models of behavior.

So what do seatbelts and accountability have in common? They’re both restraining devices.

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