Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Emerging Church’ Category

from Campus Reform:

Swarthmore College offers a course on “Queering God,” most recently taught during the spring 2019 semester, that provides a feminist and queer perspective of the Bible, while also exploring God’s gender identity.

The course, taught by Professor Gwynn Kessler, questions whether God is a masculine or feminine figure through the examination of feminist and queer writings. Its course description says the class “stretch[es] the limits of gendering-and sexing-the divine.” Key themes of the class, also outlined in the course description, include gender, embodiment, masculinity, liberation, sexuality, and feminist and queer theory.

“Part of the student community definitely wants to have more representation and to have LGBTQ issues addressed in courses and elsewhere on campus,” a Swarthmore student, who asked to remain anonymous, told Campus Reform. “This means spreading awareness and getting people to action through taking courses like this.”

Natalie, another Swarthmore student who asked for her last name not to be published, noted that the school demonstrates “normalized progressivism, unfazed by even the most controversial topics.”

Queering the Bible is a similar course that the institution offers, which uses Biblical readings from a queer and transgender perspective to explore sex, identity, and gender. Campus Reform has previously reported on the rise of such courses in American academic institutions.

“I took [Queering the Bible] because I’ve always overheard of people claiming that being queer, specifically homosexual, was a sin, or that the Bible said so,” another Swarthmore student, who also asked to remain anonymous, said. “It pushed me to ask questions so absurd that it seems even unthinkable to ask.”

Kessler is an associate professor of religion at Swarthmore College. She received her Ph.D. in Rabbinics from the Jewish Theological Seminary and has taught at various universities in the U.S., including the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the University of Florida. Kessler has taught many different courses, some of which are on Jewish History, Judaism and Gender, Judaism and Ecology, Feminist Theology, and Religion and Gender. In her university bio, it says that her work fits the categories of “postmodern, feminist, and queer theoretical approaches.”

Campus Reform reached out to Kessler for comments regarding her course but received no response in time for publication.

Read Full Post »

from The Los Angeles Times:

A Northern California pastor has parted ways with his church following outrage over a sign outside the parish that read, “Bruce Jenner is still a man, homosexuality is still a sin.”

The sign, shared on the pastor’s Facebook page, sparked protests and national news coverage. Justin Hoke announced his departure on the Trinity Bible Presbyterian Church Facebook page on Saturday evening.

“I was informed that essentially all but one couple in membership would leave the church if I continued as pastor of TBPC,” Hoke said in his post. Another church elder agreed to assume pastoral responsibilities, according to Hoke, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The church has been under fire since the sign went up less than two weeks ago, targeting transgender celebrity Caitlyn Jenner. Hoke first announced that the message was going up outside the church through a Facebook post.

“The response we’re receiving from this sign proves that it was posted way too late,” Hoke commented under a photo he shared of the sign. “If a conservative mountain farming community is no longer a safe place to call sin, sin. Then is anywhere in this country still safe for real Christians?”

The church is located in Siskiyou County, near the Oregon border.

Someone vandalized the sign earlier this week, breaking the Plexiglas and stealing some of the letters. It went back up the following day with essentially the same message.

The sign prompted a few people to organize the Shastina Love Rally “to show our love and support for the LBGTQ community; not only to our community, but worldwide.” The first rally took place Jan. 6, and the second one is planned for Sunday.

Amelia Mallory, a resident of Lake Shastina and organizer of the rally, said the sign was shocking. When the organizers reached out to the pastor about taking down the sign, “He seemed really not open to the idea,” she said.

“Even acknowledging that we live in a more rural, and generally a more conservative area — the fact that somebody thought that that would be accepted by our community was definitely surprising,” Mallory said.

The rally organizers applauded the congregation for being “willing to stand on their convictions,” but also expressed concern for Hoke and his family.

On the church’s Facebook post announcing the pastor’s departure, Mallory offered to help take down the sign.

Read Full Post »

from Into:

The Church of England hasn’t always been LGBTQ-friendly. In fact, the official church stance is still that marriage should remain a strictly heterosexual affair between a man and a woman. But the church is slowly evolving, and on Wednesday announced new pastoral guidelines for an official gender transition ceremonythat can be performed by its parishes.

That’s a big deal for a country in which church and state are inextricably linked; the Church of England is the official state religion, public schools are run according to church tenets, and church bishops even participate in lawmaking through a special section of Parliament called “Lords Spiritual.” Unlike in the U.S., the English church has broad influence over national policy and the culture at large. And the Church of England is the mother-ship of the international Anglican faith, with over 85 million members worldwide.

The new ceremony for trans church members incorporates something called the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith into celebrations that mark a gender transition.

“Everyone’s journey through life is unique. Baptism is the place where we find our true identity in Christ,” reads the pastoral guidance. “As with all pastoral encounters with people negotiating major life events, ministers will wish to respond sensitively and creatively to the person’s circumstances.”

The church guidelines recommend a ceremonial event that fosters a “celebratory character.” The pastor conducting the ceremony is advised to use the trans person’s chosen name and pronouns, perform an anointment using water or oil, allow “testimony” to reflect on the person’s journey, and present the person with a baptismal certificate of sorts.

The impressively detailed church guidelines include basic definitions of what it means to be transgender along with an overview of terminology for church officials for whom the concept is new. “It should be noted that the term ‘transgender’ is typically preferred to transgendered,” reads the guidance.

The church’s ceremonial blessing of gender transition does not mean the work of LGBTQ advocates in England is over. With the church still defining marriage in heterosexual terms, a debate is roaring within its ranks over the welcoming of LGBTQ congregants.

This past May, bishops from the Lichfield diocese just outside Birmingham, England signed a letter calling for “radical Christian inclusion” that urged LGBTQ people to seek leadership positions within the church. In the letter, the bishops also instructed their parishes on how to treat LGBTQ people in a way that made them feel welcome.

“Nobody should be excluded or discouraged from receiving the Sacraments of Baptism or the Lord’s Supper on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” read the May 2018 letter. “It is also unacceptable to tell or insinuate to people that sexual orientation or gender identity will be changed by faith, or that homosexuality or gender difference is a sign of immaturity or a lack of faith.”

Read Full Post »

from Lighthouse Trails Research:

In May of 2013, Lighthouse Trails released a report titled, “They Hate Christianity But Love (Another) Jesus – How Conservative Christians Are Being Manipulated and Ridiculed, Especially During Election Years.” In view of the upcoming elections and some of the things going on around the country in the “background,” it seems diligent to repost the report at this time. While some of the documentation in the report is a few years old, there are similar efforts going on today as are described in the report. For instance, the “Vote Common Good” (a website created on June 2018, just in time for the elections) bus tours taking place right now around the country are intending on “flipping congress.” The line up of those speaking on the tour are largely extreme liberal  emergent figures such as Brian McLaren, Shane Claiborne, Frank Schaeffer, John Pavlovitz (recently featured in a LT article), Mark Scandrette, Doug Pagitt, Samir Selmanović, Diana Butler Bass, and Nadia Bolz-Weber. Folks, these people mean business, and they won’t let up until they’ve accomplished their Marxist/Socialist-leaning, anti-biblical goals. This next election will come and go, but they will still be here, telling the world that they represent “true” relevant organic Christianity, and your children and grandchildren will believe them. We know that politics is never going to solve the problems of any country. And there is no perfect political party. But what is being presented by the people in groups like the one named above is an anti-Christ agenda. That sounds strong, but think about what Diana Butler Bass (who was part of the 2015 Parliament of World Religions) said in her book, Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening:

Conventional, comforting Christianity has failed. It does not work. For the churches that insist on preaching it, the jig is up. We cannot go back, and we should not want to. . . . In earlier American awakenings, preachers extolled “old-time religion” as the answer to questions about God, morality, and existence. This awakening is different . . . it is not about sawdust trails, mortification of sin [putting to death the old man], and being washed in the blood of the Lamb [the preaching of the Cross]. The awakening going on around us is not an evangelical revival; it is not returning to the faith of our fathers or re-creating our grandparents church. Instead, it is a Great Returning to ancient understandings of the human quest for the divine. (pp. 36, 99; emphasis added)

Several of the names we have listed above have said similar type things about biblical Christianity over the years as you can read about on our site and in our published materials. Some of you may remember our 2009 article “Brian McLaren Wants End Time Believing Christians Robustly Confronted.” As far as these highly influential emergents are concerned the “old-time religion” of being washed in the blood of the Lamb is over. And you can be sure their target is your children and grandchildren, especially ones who’ve grown up in Christian homes. When you consider how Rick Warren, Bob Buford (Leadership Network), and Bill Hybels all had a part in launching the emergent church back in the 1990s1 and then never retracted a single promotion of it, it’s difficult to witness the “fruit” of their labors these 25 years later and listen to the silence of Christian leaders who seem to care more about building their own empires than defending that old time religion.

And now the 2013 Lighthouse Trails report:

“They Hate Christianity But Love (Another) Jesus – How Conservative Christians Are Being Manipulated and Ridiculed, Especially During Election Years”

In 2008, which was an election year, books, videos, broadcasts, and news articles were pouring into mainstream America with a guilt-ridden message that basically manipulated conservative Christians into thinking that either they shouldn’t vote because “Jesus wouldn’t vote,” or they shouldn’t vote on morality issues such as abortion or homosexuality. Suddenly, all over the place, there was talk about “destroying Christianity,” or “liking Jesus but not the church,” or “Jesus for president” (suggesting that maybe we could get Him on the ballot but certainly we shouldn’t vote for anyone already on the ballot). It all sounded very noble to many. After all, everybody knows there is so much political corruption in high government and certainly as much hypocrisy within the walls of many proclaiming Christian leaders and celebrities.

This special report by Lighthouse Trails is not going to attempt to answer the question, “Should a Christian vote?” But we hope to at least show that things are not always as they seem, and what may appear noble and good may not be so at all.

In January of 2012, another election year, a young man, Jefferson (Jeff) Bethke, who attends contemplative advocate Mark Driscoll’s church, Mars Hill in Washington state, posted a video on YouTube called “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.” Within hours, the video had over 100,000 hits. Soon it reached over 14 million hits, according to the Washington Post, one of the major media that has spotlighted the Bethke video (hits as of May 2013 are over 25 million).

The Bethke video is a poem Bethke wrote and recites in a rap-like fashion his thoughts and beliefs about the pitfalls of what he calls “religion” but what is indicated to be Christianity. While we are not saying at this time that Bethke is an emerging figure, and while some of the lyrics in his poem are true statements, it is interesting that emerging spirituality figures seem to be resonating with Bethke’s message. They are looking for anything that will give them ammunition against traditional biblical Christianity. They have found some in Bethke’s poem. Like so many in the emerging camp say, Bethke’s poem suggests that Christians don’t take care of the poor and needy. While believers in Christ have been caring for the needy for centuries, emerging figures use this ploy to win conservative Christians (through guilt) over to a liberal social justice “gospel.” Emerging church journalist Jim Wallis (founder of Sojourners) is one who picked up on Bethke’s video. In an article on Wallis’ blog, it states:

Bethke’s work challenges his listeners to second guess their preconceived notions about what it means to be a Christian. He challenges us to turn away from the superficial trappings of “religion,” and instead lead a missional life in Christ.1

What the article is talking about when it says “preconceived notions” is Christianity according to the Bible. Emerging figures accept some of it but find to accept all of it is too restricting. Many of them call themselves “red letter Christians,” supposing to mean they adhere to all the red letters that Jesus said; but they have actually chosen which red letters they adhere to—they don’t accept them all. For instance, they dismiss red letters that refer to there being a hell for those who reject Jesus Christ as Lord, God, and Savior. When the word missional is used, this doesn’t mean traditional missionary efforts to evangelize the world. It means to realize that all of humanity is saved and being saved along with all of creation and that the means of salvation didn’t take place in a one-time event (the Cross) but is an ongoing procedure that occurs as people begin to realize they are all connected to one another and can bring about a Utopian society through this interconnectedness. Such emerging buzz words like missional fool a lot of people though.

Incidentally, if you’ve never read the article we posted in the summer of 2010 regarding Jim Wallis and Sojourners, “Sojourners Founder Jim Wallis’ Revolutionary Anti-Christian “Gospel” (and Will Christian Leaders Stand with Wallis?)” we highly recommend it.2 But be warned—you may find it quite disturbing when you read what the agenda behind the scenes really is.

The rally call to throw out Christianity but keep “Jesus” isn’t a new one—we’ve heard it many times before from various emerging contemplatives. Futurist Erwin McManus once said in an interview:

My goal is to destroy Christianity as a world religion and be a recatalyst for the movement of Jesus Christ . . . Some people are upset with me because it sounds like I’m anti-Christian. I think they might be right.3

And, of course, there is Dan Kimball’s book, They Like Jesus But Not the Church. In a book review of Kimball’s book, Lighthouse Trails stated that the book should really be calledThey Like (Another) Jesus But Not the Church, the Bible, Morality, or the Truth.4 Kimball interviews several young people (one is a lesbian) who tell him they “like and respect Jesus” but they don’t want anything to do with going to church or with those Christians who take the Bible literally. Kimball says these are “exciting times” we live in “when Jesus is becoming more and more respected in our culture by non-churchgoing people.”5 He says we should “be out listening to what non-Christians, especially those in their late teens to thirties, are saying and thinking about the church and Christianity.”6

According to Kimball, it is vitally important that we as Christians be accepted by non-Christians and not thought of as abnormal or strange. But in order to do that, he says we must change the way we live and behave. Kimball insists that “those who are rejecting faith in Jesus” do so because of their views of Christians and the church.7 But he makes it clear throughout the book that these distorted views are not the fault of the unbeliever but are the fault of Christians, but not all Christians, just those fundamentalist ones who take the Bible literally, believe that homosexuality is a sin, and think certain things are wrong and harmful to society . . . and actually speak up about these things.

Perhaps what is most damaging about Dan Kimball’s book is his black and white, either or reasoning (the very thing he accuses Christians of). He makes it very clear that you cannot be a Christian who takes the Bible literally and also be a humble, loving, thoughtful person. They are two different things, according to Kimball. There is no such thing as a loving, humble Christian who takes the Bible literally. His book further alienates believers in a world that is already hostile to those who say Jesus is the only way to salvation, the Bible should be taken literally, homosexuality is a sin, and we are called out of this world to live righteously by the grace of God.

Brian McLaren, the emerging church’s early pioneer, resonates with these ill feelings toward the Christian faith when he states:

I must add, though, that I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts.8

Roger Oakland deals with this “we love Jesus but hate Christianity” mentality in his book Faith Undone. Listen to a few quotes Oakland includes in that book:

For me, the beginning of sharing my faith with people began by throwing out Christianity and embracing Christian spirituality, a nonpolitical mysterious system that can be experienced but not explained.9—Don MillerBlue Like Jazz

They [Barbarians] see Christianity as a world religion, in many ways no different from any other religious system. Whether Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, or Christianity, they’re not about religion; they’re about advancing the revolution Jesus started two thousand years ago.10—Erwin McManusThe Barbarian Way

New Light embodiment means to be “in connection” and “information” with other faiths. . . .  One can be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ without denying the flickers of the sacred in followers of Yahweh, or Kali, or Krishna.”11–Leonard Sweet

I happen to know people who are followers of Christ in other religions.12–Rick Warren

I see no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity. . . . I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can.13–Thomas Merton

Allah is not another God … we worship the same God. . . . The same God! The very same God we worship in Christ is the God . . . the Muslims–worship.14–Peter Kreeft

Roger Oakland relates a story from the Book of Acts:

“[T]he apostle Paul had been arrested for preaching the Gospel. He was brought before King Agrippa and given the opportunity to share his testimony of how he became a Christian. He told Agrippa that the Lord had commissioned him to preach the Gospel and:

To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. (Acts 26:18)

“Agrippa continued listening and then said to Paul, ‘Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian (vs. 28).’ Paul answered him:

I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds. (vs. 29)

“If Paul had been following the emerging mentality, he would have told Agrippa, “No need to become a Christian. You can remain just as you are; keep all your rituals and practices, just say you like Jesus.” In actuality, if Paul had been practicing emerging spirituality, he wouldn’t have been arrested in the first place. He would not have stood out, would not have preached boldly and without reservation, and he would not have called himself a Christian, which eventually became a death sentence for Paul and countless others.”15

It’s hard to believe there was not at least some political agenda in this storm of “we love Jesus but not the church or Christianity” especially witnessed in election years. And we believe this agenda was aimed particularly toward young people from evangelical conservative upbringings who had joined the emerging church movement. In a CBS Broadcast, anchorman Antonio Mora suggests there may have been over twenty million participants in the emerging church movement in the United States alone by 2006.16 Even half that number would be enough to change the results of a presidential election.

Some may contend that Jefferson Bethke’s song doesn’t have any political message at all—it’s just about hypocrisy of religious people. But interestingly, in the very first few lines of the song, Bethke raps:

“What if I told you getting you to vote Republican, really wasn’t his [Jesus’] mission? Because Republican doesn’t automatically mean Christian.”

Could there be some message here that Bethke is trying to relay? Is it just to tell people that just because they are Republican doesn’t mean they are Christian? Surely not. A fourth grader could reason that out. It’s difficult not to believe there is some other message here that just happens to be taking place on an election year.

Just consider some of the things that were said by evangelical and emerging figures during the 2008 presidential election year. And think about what you are hearing today. A lot of people love the messages being sent out by people like Dan Kimball, Erwin McManus, and let’s not forget Frank Viola and George Barna’s book, Pagan Christianity, where they condemn church practices like pastors, sermons, Sunday School, and pews, but say nothing about spiritual deception that has come into the church through the contemplative prayer movement. These latter two figures (Viola and Barna) give readers a feeling that they should hate Christianity but just love Jesus. But what Jesus are these voices writing, singing, and rapping about? It may be “another Jesus” and “another gospel” (2 Corinthians 11:4).

As the world is gradually (but not too slowly anymore) heading toward a global government and global religion, it is becoming more and more apparent that this global society will be one where “tolerance” is the byword for everything other than biblical Christianity. And what better way to breed hatred toward biblical Christians than to say “we love Jesus but hate the church” (i.e., Christians and Christianity)? Perhaps they have forgotten what Jesus said:

If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. (John 15: 18-19)

I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (John 17:14)

This report we have written may produce more questions than answers regarding things like politics, voting, the role of Christians in the world, the view the world has of Christians, and so forth. But while we have not answered such questions, we hope we have shown that indeed things are not always as they seem and that often what seems right may actually be from a deceiving angel of light and those who appear good may actually be only false ministers of righteousness.

And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness. (2 Corinthians 11: 14-15)

Read Full Post »

I have seen as well what this article details, people no longer care about eschatology or discernment, they just want to hear positive things.

from Lighthouse Trails Research:

Not long ago, social media (e.g. Facebook, Google, etc.) presenting end-times information was bustling with activity. Eschatological and discernment posts were peppered with thousands of favorable commentaries. Now, most of the ones I’ve checked have incurred a significant drop-off in views, likes, comments, and shares. The most popular ones are receiving only a few hundred views and some less than a hundred. It is as if a switch was flipped and people are staying away from information deemed “negative.” The blogs and pages maintaining viewership are the ones presenting heresy or benign information.

Why are people shunning the news of a perilous time arriving? Are they rejecting portents of a harsh period because they no longer believe them to be true? No, I don’t think so. I believe it is what I call the Great Shut-Down. I’ve been expecting it to manifest—it has finally arrived. The Great Shut-Down is the point when negative information overload reaches a saturation point. People can only take so much bad news, especially those who are spiritually weak or have not been conditioned to receive harsh truth.

Futurologist Alvin Toffler labels the phenomenon in secular society as “future shock” syndrome. Toffler postulates that future shock is the result of people witnessing and feeling the effects of sudden negative changes in society. The lack of response from any authoritative source can cause them to feel helpless and hopeless. They reach the point where they no longer have the will to resist or even complain. Obviously, the secular faction is not looking to Christianity for hope. However, many professing Christians seem to be experiencing a lack of hope as well.

Sociologist and philosopher Émile Durkheim (1858-1917) observed that the collapse of European society by modernity dramatically affected Christianity. He observed that once “the collective force so vital for the life of a society was no longer generated,”1 faith in God declined. Harsh burdens and stresses prevented the people from sensing God’s presence. This resulted in replacing faith with belief in social justice and science. In other words, “the social milieu that supported Christianity disappeared, leaving Christian faith, values, and thinking without any social foundations to give them life.”2

Consider the situation today. Evidence suggests that Christianity is disintegrating from the inside out. Christian leaders are allowing (either through their silence or their promotion) millions of Christians to be introduced to heretical doctrines and practices. The effects of this landslide of heresy are pushing biblical Christianity into obscurity. One of the heresies that has made major inroads is contemplative spirituality (a mystical spirituality often introduced through Spiritual Formation programs). It is going unchecked and virtually fully ignored by almost every Christian leader, spreading throughout Christian colleges, seminaries, ministries, and denominations rapidly. People don’t realize that by embracing such a belief system, they are, in effect, rejecting the biblical concept of God’s nature because the two oppose each other. And the results of this are rejection of love for truth and unbridled acceptance of heretical and cultural trends.

Shutting Down or Staying Alert?
Whatever the cause, shutting down is the worst thing a Christian can do at this point of time. Instead of shutting down, believers need to be selective about what they are putting into their minds and spirits. Being informed is essential to being prepared. Shutting down will not prepare one to endure the harshness of the tough days ahead. It’s one thing if believers are focusing on their relationship with the Lord and want to spend less time on the Internet and watching TV. However, the temptation for many (and I have seen it already) will be to shut down by engaging in entertainment media and outlets of benign and mundane information. Rather than adjusting with balance, they are going into denial, choosing to believe we have lots of time before our society, as we know it, collapses. That’s the “Ostrich Complex,” and professing Christians with the Ostrich Complex will pay a severe price for what they are enjoying now.

As painful and frightening as it is to accept, I believe we are on the verge of a global government and religion that will be very brutal to true Christians. It will take more than a sabbatical from bad news and ominous warnings to prepare for enduring life in such an environment.

Satan, the enemy of our souls, is working overtime right now to “wear out the saints” (Daniel 7:25), but I cannot exhort you enough, this is not a time when born-again believers in Christ can afford to be worn down, bury their heads, and become apathetic toward what is happening around us. For those who cave in to that temptation of apathy, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to stand when things get truly harsh. The time to prepare is long past, but it’s still not too late. The first step is to wake up and accept truth. It is time to gather and store “oil,” the substance that keeps our light shining. In order to keep that flame lit and not allow it to become a flickering flame on a wick in a near-empty reservoir, we must put into action our confession of faith in Christ. He promises to sustain us as we abide in Him.

It is essential for preparation and subsequent endurance that we acknowledge the spiritual war in which we find ourselves, that we do not shut down our senses because of negative information overload, and that we do not live in a bubble of false security.

May we also remember that this home on earth is not our final destination. We have a home where God dwells in righteousness. Nothing in this life is worth forfeiting the opportunity to live in that eternal kingdom with Him. If we are going to defeat the forces of darkness that seek to minimize our efforts and diminish our faith, we will have to fight, “not as one that beateth the air” (1 Corinthians 9:26) but as informed and equipped saints of God. We must not deceive ourselves and think we can be both complacent and effective all at the same time.

Instead of shutting down, let us look up. Genuine blessed hope is the buffer for the stress of perilous times. It can only be had with a sincere relationship with Christ, a strong knowledge of His Word, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit (who “shall teach you all things; John 14 :26). That is the only focus that makes sense in this period of encroaching darkness. As the psalmist so well stated, let us hope in His mercy, rejoice in Him, and trust in His holy name.

Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waiteth for the Lord: he is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name.—(Psalm 33:18-21)

The above is an extract of Cedric Fisher’s booklet, The Unacknowledged War and the Wearing Down of the Saints. To order the full booklet, click here.

Read Full Post »

We have seen this in the past and there are two major errors that lead to this kind of conduct: 1. Raising a pastor up to be a CEO Superstar type of figure who becomes immune to oversight. 2. Errant non-Biblical teaching. If a church is following Biblical teaching and guided by the Holy Spirit in all that it does this would not happen!

from The New York Times:

SOUTH BARRINGTON, Ill. — After the pain of watching her marriage fall apart, Pat Baranowski felt that God was suddenly showering her with blessings.

She had a new job at her Chicago-area megachurch, led by a dynamic young pastor named the Rev. Bill Hybels, who in the 1980s was becoming one of the most influential evangelical leaders in the country.

The pay at Willow Creek Community Church was much lower than at her old job, but Ms. Baranowski, then 32, admired Mr. Hybels and the church’s mission so much that it seemed worth it. She felt even more blessed when in 1985 Mr. Hybels and his wife invited her to move into their home, where she shared family dinners and vacations.

Once, while Mr. Hybels’s wife, Lynne, and their children were away, the pastor took Ms. Baranowski out for dinner. When they got home, Mr. Hybels offered her a back rub in front of the fireplace and told her to lie face down.

Stunned, she remembered feeling unable to say no to her boss and pastor as he straddled her, unhooked her bra and touched her near her breasts. She remembered feeling his hands shake.

That first back rub in 1986 led to multiple occasions over nearly two years in which he fondled her breasts and rubbed against her. The incidents later escalated to one occasion of oral sex. Ms. Baranowski said she was mortified and determined to stay silent.

“I really did not want to hurt the church,” said Ms. Baranowski, who is now 65, speaking publicly for the first time. “I felt like if this was exposed, this fantastic place would blow up, and I loved the church. I loved the people there. I loved the family. I didn’t want to hurt anybody. And I was ashamed.”

Mr. Hybels denied her allegations about her time working and living with him. “I never had an inappropriate physical or emotional relationship with her before that time, during that time or after that time,” he said in an email.

Since the #MeToo movement emerged last year, evangelical churches have been grappling with allegations of sexual abuse by their pastors. A wave of accusations has begun to hit evangelical institutions, bringing down figures like the Rev. Andy Savage, at Highpoint Church in Memphis, and the Rev. Harry L. Thomas, the founder of the Creation Festival, a Christian music event.

Ms. Baranowski is not the first to accuse Mr. Hybels of wrongdoing, though her charges are more serious than what has been reported before.

In March, The Chicago Tribune and Christianity Today reported that Mr. Hybels had been accused by several other women, including co-workers and a congregant, of inappropriate behavior that dated back decades. The allegations included lingering hugs, invitations to hotel rooms, comments about looks and an unwanted kiss.

The accusations did not immediately result in consequences for Mr. Hybels. At a churchwide meeting where Mr. Hybels denied the allegations, he received a standing ovation from the congregation.

The church’s elders conducted their own investigation of the allegations when they first surfaced four years ago and commissioned a second inquiry by an outside lawyer, completed in 2017. Both investigations cleared Mr. Hybels, though the church’s two lead pastors have since issued public apologies, saying that they believe the women.

In April, Mr. Hybels announced to the congregation he would accelerate his planned retirement by six months and step aside immediately for the good of the church. He continued to deny the allegations, but acknowledged, “I too often placed myself in situations that would have been far wiser to avoid.” The congregation let out a disappointed groan. Some shouted “No!”

On Sunday, one of the church’s two top pastors severed his ties with Willow Creek. After services, the Rev. Steve Carterannounced that he was resigning immediately in response to Ms. Baranowski’s “horrifying” allegations about Mr. Hybels.

Mr. Carter said he had a “fundamental difference” with the church’s elders over how they had handled the allegations against Mr. Hybels, and had been planning to resign for some time.

Mr. Carter did not appear as scheduled at Sunday services at the church’s main campus, and the congregation at the second service was told that he was so sick that he was vomiting backstage.

No mention was made of Mr. Hybels or the allegations against him at either service at the main campus.

In many evangelical churches, a magnetic pastor like Mr. Hybels is the superstar on whom everything else rests, making accusations of harassment particularly difficult to confront. Such a pastor is seen as a conduit to Christ, giving sermons so mesmerizing that congregants rush to buy tapes of them after services.

In the evangelical world, Mr. Hybels is considered a giant, revered as a leadership guru who discovered the formula for bringing to church people who were skeptical of Christianity. His books and speeches have crossed over into the business world.

Mr. Hybels built a church independent of any denomination. In such churches, there is no larger hierarchy to set policies and keep the pastor accountable. Boards of elders are usually volunteers recommended, and often approved, by the pastor.

But the most significant reason sexual harassment can go unchecked is that victims do not want to hurt the mission of their churches.

“So many victims within the evangelical world stay silent because they feel, if they step forward, they’ll damage this man’s ministry, and God won’t be able to accomplish the things he’s doing through this man,” said Boz Tchividjian, a former sex crimes prosecutor who leads GRACE, an organization that works with victims of abuse in Christian institutions.

“Those leaders feel almost invincible,” said Mr. Tchividjian, a grandson of Billy Graham who has consulted with some former staff members accusing Mr. Hybels of wrongdoing. “They don’t feel like the rules apply to them, because they’re doing great things for Jesus, even though their behavior doesn’t reflect Jesus at all.”

A Sign

In 1984, Ms. Baranowski was walking to her car in the vast parking lot of Willow Creek one night after services. She had just been praying about whether to apply for a job at the church she saw posted.

Suddenly a car screeched to a stop beside her, and the driver rolled down his window. It was the church’s pastor.

“Could I drive you to your car or something?” offered Mr. Hybels, who was then 33. Her car was nearby, but she accepted the ride.

It seemed like a sign from God.

Mr. Hybels later also described the meeting as a miracle: He had been driving out of the parking lot when God urged him to go back and find the woman he drove by.

“That night I had no idea how offering help to a person who probably didn’t need it would affect my life and ministry,” he wrote in one of his first books.

Soon after, she left her position as a computer systems manager. She found great purpose in working for a church that was adding more than 1,000 new members a year. She served as Mr. Hybels’s gatekeeper, fielding calls from pastors across the country eager to tap him for advice.

“It was a wonderful time,” she said. “I thought maybe God was just being good to me, and I think he was. But I couldn’t understand: Why did he select me? Because I didn’t think that highly of myself.”

Ms. Baranowski kept handwritten notes she received from Mr. Hybels. In one, Mr. Hybels praised her work and said, “I am praying that your new small group” at church “will be a source of much happiness and strength in your life.” Then he added, “P.S. Plus, you are a knockout!”

Mr. Hybels was regarded as a maverick in the evangelical world for giving women leadership positions.

Nancy Beach, who joined the staff soon after Ms. Baranowski, said the work was exhilarating.

“We were at the center of this grand adventure,” said Ms. Beach, the first woman appointed by Mr. Hybels to be a “teaching pastor,” meaning she could preach at services.

Ms. Beach recalled that Mr. Hybels was an exacting boss who got angry if the sound system was fuzzy or if a Christmas drama wasn’t performed smoothly. And he didn’t tolerate personal misconduct. After one staff member had an affair and another was discovered with pornography, she said, “They had to speak publicly to everyone affected. They lost their jobs.”

Ms. Beach is among the women who have recently come forward in articles accusing Mr. Hybels of harassment. She said that on a work trip to Spain in 1999, he invited her to his hotel room and gave her a long hug that made her feel uncomfortable.

She didn’t speak up until recently, when she heard there were other women with similar experiences.

“That’s what makes some of this so confusing, because he has been a champion for women,” said Ms. Beach, who has since left Willow but still preaches widely.

‘Humiliated, Guilty and Ashamed’

In the late 1980s, crusading against pornography was a top priority for evangelicals. Mr. Hybels told Ms. Baranowski that he had been told to educate himself on the issue by James Dobson, founder of the ministry Focus on the Family, who had been appointed by President Ronald Reagan to an anti-pornography commission.

Calling it research, Mr. Hybels once instructed Ms. Baranowski to go out and rent several pornographic videos, she said, to her great embarrassment. He insisted on watching them with her, she said, while he was dressed in a bathrobe.

One night, she said, Mr. Hybels felt too sick to go to a church event, so he sent his wife in his stead to introduce the guest speaker, a famous evangelist from India. He asked Ms. Baranowski to bring him something to eat, and fondled her again, she said.

Ms. Baranowski said that during the years of harassment, Mr. Hybels never kissed her, and they never had intercourse. She was particularly ashamed about the oral sex. She grew increasingly wracked by guilt and tried to talk with him. One day in his office, she told him that it was unfair to his wife, that it was sin, and that she felt humiliated.

That night she recorded in her journal what he had said in response: “It’s not a big deal. Why can’t you just get over it? You didn’t tell anyone, did you?”

His attitude toward her slowly began to change, she said. She moved out of the house after two years. In the office, he began to suggest she was incompetent and unstable. He berated her work in front of others. She grew depressed and poured out her feelings to God, filling 20 spiral-bound journals.

On May 11, 1989, she wrote, “I feel like an abused wife.”

She feared that she would be forced to stand in front of the congregation and confess, like the other employees who were fired. She was relocated to work in a converted coat closet.

Mr. Hybels finally sketched out an exit plan for her on a piece of note paper, which she kept. She resigned from Willow after more than eight years.

Mr. Hybels said in an email last week that Ms. Baranowski had “wanted a bigger challenge than being my assistant” and changed jobs “on good terms.”

She saw a counselor, who said in an interview that she remembered only that Ms. Baranowski was “humiliated, guilty and ashamed” because of her relationship with Mr. Hybels. The counselor, who spoke with Ms. Baranowski’s permission, requested anonymity because she did not want to be part of the controversy.

She recalled of Ms. Baranowski, “She felt she had lost her connection to God.”

Since leaving the church, Ms. Baranowski said she has struggled to keep a job, lost her condominium, moved from state to state, and had migraines and panic attacks.

“I carried Bill’s responsibility, for things he should have been responsible for,” she said.

Ms. Baranowski told only one friend, the Rev. Don Cousins, about one month after she left the Willow staff. She begged him to stay silent, and he did, until now.

The entanglement with Mr. Hybels “altered the trajectory of her life,” said Mr. Cousins, a well-known evangelical leader who worked at Willow for 17 years.

“She had been a very high-performing person, committed, high-caliber, responsible,” said Mr. Cousins, now a pastor in Orlando, Fla. “And the church was her life.”

Mr. Hybels went on to expand Willow to eight sites with 25,000 worshipers. He published more than 50 books, many on ethics, like “Who Are You When No One’s Looking.”

He was a spiritual adviser to President Bill Clinton and stuck with him through his impeachment. He drew speakers like Colin Powell, Bono and Sheryl Sandberg to his annual Global Leadership Summit, which has continued and will be held later this week.

When news of the other allegations against Mr. Hybels broke, Mr. Cousins encouraged Ms. Baranowski to get in touch with Ms. Beach. The two women had a tearful reunion. Both wish they had confronted Mr. Hybels at the time so they could have spared other women from harassment.

Ms. Beach remembers traveling to 27 countries representing Willow Creek and hearing pastors say hundreds of times that they owed their churches’ success to Mr. Hybels.

“How could he have done all this good,” she asked, “when there were such dark things happening behind the scenes?”

Read Full Post »

from Got Questions:

The existence of so many religions and the claim that all religions lead to God without question confuses many who are earnestly seeking the truth about God, with the end result sometimes being that some despair of ever reaching the absolute truth on the subject. Or they end up embracing the universalist claim that all religions lead to God. Of course, skeptics also point to the existence of so many religions as proof that either you cannot know God or that God simply does not exist.

Romans 1:19-21 contains the biblical explanation for why there are so many religions. The truth of God is seen and known by every human being because God has made it so. Instead of accepting the truth about God and submitting to it, most human beings reject it and seek their own way to understand God. But this leads not to enlightenment regarding God, but to futility of thinking. Here is where we find the basis of the “many religions.”

Many people do not want to believe in a God who demands righteousness and morality, so they invent a God who makes no such requirements. Many people do not want to believe in a God who declares it impossible for people to earn their own way to heaven. So they invent a God who accepts people into heaven if they have completed certain steps, followed certain rules, and/or obeyed certain laws, at least to the best of their ability. Many people do not want a relationship with a God who is sovereign and omnipotent. So they imagine God as being more of a mystical force than a personal and sovereign ruler.

The existence of so many religions is not an argument against God’s existence or an argument that truth about God is not clear. Rather, the existence of so many religions is demonstration of humanity’s rejection of the one true God. Mankind has replaced Him with gods that are more to their liking. This is a dangerous enterprise. The desire to recreate God in our own image comes from the sin nature within us—a nature that will eventually “reap destruction” (Galatians 6:7-8).

Do all religions lead to God? No. All people—religious or otherwise—will stand before God some day (Hebrews 9:27), but religious affiliation is not what determines your eternal destiny. Only faith in Jesus Christ will save. “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12). It’s as simple as that. Only Christianity—faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—leads to God’s forgiveness and eternal life. No one comes to the Father except through the Son (John 14:6). It does make a difference what you believe. The decision to embrace the truth about Jesus Christ is important. Eternity is an awfully long time to be wrong.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: