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Archive for the ‘Emerging Church’ Category

from MSN:

Paul Burress, a charismatic, in-your-face pastor who gained fame for operating a fight club in his house of worship, has been accused of forcibly touching two women.

Burress was for years a pastor at Victory Church, a large nondenominational Christian church. The Victory website does not list Burress as being among its leadership team, and the telephone went unanswered there Monday morning.

Burress, 43, is a mixed-martial arts fighter as well as a minister, and received a great deal of publicity when he was featured in Fight Church, a 2014 documentary.

On Friday morning, however, he was arrested by Monroe County sheriff’s deputies on two counts of forcible touching, according to Sheriff’s Office spokesman Cpl. John Helfer. Helfer verified the person arrested was the minister noted for his “Fight Church” activities.

The charges arose from separate incidents in February, Helfer said. The complainants are adult females.

The offense in question, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail, is defined in the state penal law as forcibly touching “the sexual or other intimate parts of another person.”

Burress, who could not be reached for comment Monday, was processed in the sheriff’s Henrietta substation and given an appearance ticket.

He is scheduled to be arraigned in Henrietta Town Court on Sept. 19, according to the Monroe County District Attorney’s office.

The Henrietta pastor has been dogged by accusations of sexual misconduct for several years. Several blogs and news websites featured such claims three years ago, when Burress came to public attention because of his fighting-in-church approach.

But none of those accusations were proved and there is no record of any previous arrest.

Tina Wright, a former member of Victory Church who asserts she has a long personal history with Burress, said she had spoken to one of the women who filed charges.

Wright, who now lives in South Carolina, said she encouraged that woman and others who may have been harmed by the minister to come forward.

“I know beyond the shadow of a doubt there are more victims. There’s a lot of us here,” Wright said. “We need to end the silence so we can stop the cycle of abuse, especially in the church.”

Asked her reaction to reports of his arrest, Wright said, “I’m still in shock, to be honest. I’m relieved that the voices of the victims are finally being heard and they’ll have the opportunity to tell their stories.”

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from Pastor Bill Randles Blog:

I was heartened the other day when I read that the President of the United States took time out of his busy schedule to allow an “Evangelical Minister” to lay hands on Him and pray. He needs prayer, and the support of the evangelical church, as much as possible.

But then my joy turned to angst when I read further, that the “evangelical minister” who prayed for Trump, was in fact a spiritually dangerous counterfeit, a purveyor of false doctrine and gnostic, experience based spirituality named Rodney Howard Browne.

I shouldn’t have been surprised because one of the President’s closest Spiritual advisor, is  a televangelist and Word of Faith heresy  proponent Paula White who is of the same heretical ilk as Rodney Howard Browne.

In short Rodney Howard Browne is the Father of the so called “Laughing Revival” of mysticism and Spiritual Drunkenness which led directly to the disastrously destructive “Toronto Blessing” which spread through Pentecostal, Charismatic and Even evangelical churches in the late 1990’s spreading heresy, false doctrine, mystical experience, deception and delusion throughout the world.

Howard Browne is famous for calling himself the “Holy Ghost Bartender” and inducing people into states of Spiritual Drunkenness, and has destroyed much of what was left of the sense of the true Fear of God in many, many Pentecostal, Charismatic churches. I consider him a minister of Judgment and part of the Strong, God sent Delusion.

In the interest of discernment and for the sake of real prayer by real Christians, I am excerpting a chapter of my 1995 book, WEIGHED AND FOUND WANTING;PUTTING THE TORNOTO BLESSING IN CONTEXT, to let you know just who this man is.

 

Who Is Rodney Howard Browne?

He was born into a Pentecostal home, an atmosphere that was bathed in prayer. By his own testimony, he was saved at the age of five and baptized in the Holy Spirit at age eight. Both at home and in the Pentecostal church he attended, he testifies of

“continually [seeing] supernatural manifestations.”2
His own “baptism of fire” occurred in 1979, while he was still a teenager. Hereis how he tells it.

I knew that there was more, much more…In July of 1979, I cried out to God in sheer desperation. I wanted Him to manifest Himself to me and in me. I was hungry…As I prayed that day, I told the Lord, “Either you come down here and touch me, or I am going to come up there and touch you.” I was desperate. I must have called out to God for about 20 minutes that day. Suddenly, the fire of God fell on me. It started on my head and went right down to my feet. His power burned in my body and stayed like that for three whole days…I was really praying, “Lord, I am too young to die.” In the fourth day, I am not praying, “O Lord send your glory,” I am praying, “Please lift it off me so that I can bear it.” I was plugged into heaven’s electric light supply…my desire has been to go and plug other people in. My whole body was on fire…Out of my belly began to flow a river of living water. I began to laugh uncontrollably and then I began to weep and then speak with tongues. I was so intoxicated on the wine of the Holy Ghost that I was beside myself…Because of that encounter with the Lord, my life was radically changed from that day on.3

Rodney Howard Browne proceeds in the book to relate changes in his ministry after that anointing with fire, while preaching in a Methodist church. I’ll let him tell it in his own humorous way.

We were preaching in a Methodist church. I was back in the vestibule—which is a holy name for a plain old office—preparing for service. One of the young ladies came into the office and asked me to pray for her because she was in terrible pain…I got my hand halfway to her head, almost like a gunslinger would draw a gun out of a holster, and point it at his opponent. Suddenly, unexpectedly, it felt like my finger tips came off. I felt a full volume of anointing flow out of my hand. The only way I can explain it is to liken it to a fireman holding a fire hose with a full volume of water flowing out of it. The anointing went right into her. It looked like someone had hit her in the head with an invisible baseball bat and she fell to the floor…4

On and on it goes.

Notice the sensuality of the testimony, though. The fire of God courses through his body, it shoots out of his fingers, like a gun, she gets hit by an invisible bat! The concept behind the word sensual is not always referring to “sexual.” Sensual refers to the things pertaining to the five physical senses. Rodney Howard Browne has a very sensual ministry. The promise is held out that you are going to be touched by God, you’re going to feel God, you’ll even get drunk on the new wine! You’ll laugh, stagger, get stuck to the floor, and generally have an all out good time! It’s “fun” going to these meetings!

Back to Who is Rodney Howard Browne?

In 1987, Rodney Howard Browne left his native South Africa to come to the

United States, on a “word from God.” By that time, he had already pioneered a church, pastored for a time and been on the pastoral staff of Ray McCauley’s Rhema Bible Church in Johannesburg. Upon arriving in America, he commenced an itinerant ministry.

It was at a series of meetings in Albany, New York in 1989 that the unusual manifestations had begun to take place. It began to occur at a time when both he and his wife were hungry for God to move. As he was preaching at a morning meeting, he said a cloud filled the room, visible to others, but not to him. He could feel it, though. People began falling out of their seats as he preached.

While I was preaching, the power of God began to fall. Many people began to fall out of their seats. It looked like someone was shooting them and in some places whole rows at a time would go down. They were laughing and crying and falling all over the place and looked like drunken people.5

Rodney Howard Browne became an internationally prominent revivalist after a Spring, 1993 meeting at an Assembly of God church in Lakeland, Florida, the Carpenter’s Home Church. He was scheduled for one week, but the meeting lasted four! People who heard about it flew in from as far away as Africa, Great Britain and Argentina. What made the difference in this revival meeting? According to Charisma Magazine,

The difference was the laughter. No matter what Howard Browne did or said, hundreds who attended the daily sessions always ended up on the sanctuary floor in helpless laughter. When the services were broadcast on radio, more curious seekers showed up to join the fun.6

In Conclusion

I suppose I could go on and on, “building a case,” about my reservations of the ministry of Rodney Howard Browne, but why? After all of the above, if you don’t have serious problems, you are also a victim of the continuous conditioning that has taken place. Keep in mind that it was a transference of his “anointing” into Randy Clark who brought “it” to Toronto, that “birthed” the Toronto Blessing. I hope that I have brought some clarity to the issue. This is not about personality, it’s about truth. Can you see Jesus or the apostles even remotely promoting anything like this? I think not.

 

Is Rodney Howard Browne correct when he dismisses his critics by saying things like,

Now some would say, “I don’t believe it,” that’s fine, those people that don’t want to believe it, they probably wouldn’t believe anything. They probably wouldn’t believe the Bible…16

On the contrary, I don’t buy this, and I believe in the Bible! I also believe in the present activity of the Holy Spirit. I consider myself to be spirit filled and have seen many “signs, wonders, and gifts of the Holy Ghost” over the years in my ministry as well as in many other fellow ministers. We have witnessed the casting out of devils, healing of the sick, and powerful life transformations, all to confirm the preaching of the gospel! So don’t dismiss me as an unbelieving, religious dead head!

I want to close this chapter by encouraging you to hold fast to that which is good. We know that certain men have crept in unawares, but that doesn’t mean that we have to throw out the validity of supernatural workings of God. The Pentecostal experience is needed now more than ever, God’s people do need a fresh baptism in the Holy Ghost, to witness afresh to this sin-sick generation.

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from CCC Discover:

Talk of sin and grace is out of style. Now, before we attack the culture, secularism, or those other Christians who are not part of our tribe, it’s important to ask two questions: Do I believe in sin and grace as a reality? Do I recognize sinfulness in my own life, and do I see God’s ongoing, supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in my life as a work of God’s grace?

Sin and grace are core doctrines of Christianity. Sin, rebellion against God, a state of defiance—this is not just something I do, but something I am. To be a human being, Christian or non-Christian, is to be a sinner.

This is important because only sinners are saved by grace, and Christians remain sinners. Holiness, sanctification, the work of the Spirit is only begun—Christians won’t see perfection in this life.

We are declared saints and we are becoming saints, but we don’t completely model sainthood yet. We still sin. We still have twisted desires. We still feel the tensions of this present evil age working within our heart. Anyone who is married can confirm this. A spouse is a good mirror to reveal our worst side.

So how does our denial of sin and grace show itself in our life?

1. We reveal a grace-denying heart when we treat God casually.

To treat God casually is to lose a sense that God is holy. It’s an attempt to tame God, to ignore the sides we don’t like. It’s like treating a lion as a house cat. Michael Horton explains it this way:

[T]he transcendent God of majesty and holiness succumbed to a casual familiarity. Although only one in ten Americans say that they have ever doubted God’s existence, most say that they view God exclusively as a friend rather than as a king and “only a small minority” report having ever experienced fear of God. (Michael Horton, Christless Christianity, 53)

When you read the Bible, you don’t find a God to be taken lightly. God is king over all creation. God is holy. God is working in the world to save it. God is not my homeboy, nor is God a genie granting wishes or a grandfatherly figure who turns his face from evil.

2. We reveal a grace-denying heart when we treat the gospel therapeutically.

To treat the gospel therapeutically shows itself in many ways. Tony Robbins’ I Am Not Your Guru is a good example (although please do not watch this if vulgar language offends you). The people who come to events like Tony Robbins’ pay a lot of money to find themselves, improve themselves, become successful, or find healing from some tragedy.

These are all legitimate pursuits, and maybe people like Tony Robbins, despite his language, can help people. But this is not Christianity. Christianity is not a wholesome alternative to self-improvement. God never promised prosperity or comfort in this life. The apostles were not successful by the world’s standards.

It’s true that God cares about our well-being. He provides for our needs. He wants to heal our broken lives. He wants to help us in our weaknesses. He wants to move us to good works for the sake of others. But the difference between therapy and the gospel lies in one important distinction: God cares about so much more than our emotional well-being. The gospel is not a self-help program to make us feel better. Michael Horton explains it this way:

[A]s religion is privatized into a kind of therapeutic usefulness, sin and redemption are translated in subjective rather than objective categories. Christ, then, is the answer to bad feelings, not any actual state of enmity or guilt before God. Everything that used to be considered a sovereign work of God, through his appointed means of preaching and sacrament, is now attributed to the self (or the evangelist) working through the most efficient steps and techniques. We recognize this pragmatic orientation in the “how-to” literature that lines the shelves of Christian bookstores and pastors’ studies. (Michael Horton, Christless Christianity, 53)

Salvation is more than therapy, and often the gospel leaves us weak, broken, and suffering so that God can demonstrate his grace in our lives for the sake of those around us. This seems counter-intuitive, but that is the point. God gets the glory when God keeps us dependent upon his grace and mercy.

3. We reveal a grace-denying heart when we make excuses for our own graceless Christianity.

It’s important in these discussions to realize that I am just as guilty for a therapy approach to Christianity. It’s easy to find a sinless and graceless Christianity in everyone else, but that is not the point. Self-help religion is our natural wiring. It’s easy to see this in others, but much harder to see this in my own heart. The answer to the temptation to turn the gospel of grace into a self-help religion of good morals or successful living demands practice.

  • We need to hear the law. We need to hear that we ourselves are still sinners. We need to be honest with ourselves. We need to engage in regular self-reflection and self-criticism. We need to expose our own sinful hearts, and allow the light of God’s Word to reveal our sinful desires.
  • We need to confess our sins and our continual need for grace to God. We need to pray: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:14).
  • We need to continually hear the message of grace: that God accepts us as his children through faith in Jesus and that God gives us the Holy Spirit to help us, to keep us focused on Jesus, to draw us to love those around us.
  • We need to look at other people tempted by the same self-help religion and love them. We need to be a gracious presence in their life. We need to remind them of the gospel. We need to pray with them and for them. And we need to hope that they will do the same for us.

When hearing about self-help religion, it’s easy to become proud thinking that we are immune and that we are the solution, that we need to go around pointing out sins and exposing people’s graceless approach to Christianity. But we need to watch out that our approach is not itself graceless self-help.

If we think that we are the “successful” Christians who have all our theology figured out and are truly committed to the way, we need to ask ourselves some important questions: “Is this the heart that the Holy Spirit produces?” “Do I treat others expecting that the Holy Spirit will help them?” “Is my approach toward people kind?”

Self-help religion is a problem, but so is being a graceless jerk. May God help us in both areas to continually seek the grace of acceptance with God and the grace of the Holy Spirit’s power to love people as much as doctrine. As Christians, our hope is not in how much we believe grace or how much our lives reveal the effects of grace. Our hope is in the grace of God, and the gospel is the good news that God is gracious and merciful to us.

 

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Hat tip to Apostasy Watch:

This is also apostasy, because these religions can’t all be true considering the fact they all contradict each other…

This is the one world religion the Bible speaks of in Revelation, the end is growing near.

1 Thessalonians 5:3:

 “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.”

The World’s Most Prominent Religious Leaders Call On Everyone To Make Friends Across Religions

Welcome to The Elijah Interfaith Institute. On June 14, 2017 many of the world’s most prominent religious leaders made a joint statement encouraging people everywhere to make friends across religions. Friendship and getting to know one another are the antidotes to negativity and divisions in society, enhancing understanding and unity. We invite you to download our toolkits for friendship and study. We pray that the message and example of unity, shown by these leaders, will contribute to bridging divisions by inspiring you and your friends to start new conversations with people of different faiths. Follow the example, spread the message.

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from Baptist News:

A historic Baptist church in the nation’s capital has called a legally married lesbian couple as co-pastors.

Calvary Baptist Church in Washington announced Jan. 9 the hiring of Sally Sarratt and Maria Swearingen as the congregation’s new senior ministers. The couple, married the weekend after same-sex marriage became legal in South Carolina in November 2014, were ordained to the gospel ministry by First Baptist Church in Greenville, S.C., on Nov. 15, 2015.

Calvary isn’t the first Baptist church to hire an openly gay minister or even to have lesbian co-pastors, but challenging the status quo is nothing new for the congregation started by abolitionists in 1862.

In 2014 the congregation ordained what is believed to be the first transgender Baptist minister, Allyson Robinson, a George W. Truett Theological Seminary graduate who previously had been ordained as a man.

Carol Blythe, chair of the ministerial selection committee, said the couple brings complementary skills and backgrounds that will serve the church’s needs in new and exciting ways.

“As we met and talked with Sally and Maria about their vision for pastoral leadership at Calvary, we were struck by their deep faith and commitment to being part of a gospel community,” Blythe, a past president of the Alliance of Baptists, said in a news release. “We were impressed by how their gifts, talents and experience matched our ministry priorities — and we are thrilled about their upcoming pastorate and the versatility the co-pastor model will provide our congregation.”

Swearingen, a master of divinity graduate of Duke Divinity School, currently serves as associate university chaplain at Furman University in Greenville, S.C. She earned her undergraduate degree at Baylor University in 2007.

She is the daughter of a Southern Baptist pastor and Puerto Rican mother and grew up speaking Spanish in a bilingual household. She has served in leadership roles in the Alliance of Baptists and is co-chairingthe 2017 annual gathering.

Sarratt, currently sabbatical minister at Greenville Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, also works as associate chaplain for behavioral health in the Greenville Health System. After graduating from Carson-Newman College she served two years as a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Global Service Corps missionary in New York City before earning an MBA and working several years in the corporate world.

She reclaimed her call to ministry by enrolling at Emory University in Atlanta, where she earned a master of theological studies degree in 2014, studying religion in public life with a focus on the Moral Mondays movement and California’s Proposition 8.

Sarratt serves on an Alliance of Baptists Identity Discernment Group formed by request of the board of directors to focus and clarify the group’s identity in anticipation of its 30th anniversary gathering April 28-30 at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C.

The new co-pastors officially begin duties at Calvary Baptist Feb. 26. “We have found it so easy to fall in love with Calvary and its longstanding commitment to be a voice of justice and compassion for those who perpetually find the wholeness of their humanity disregarded and maligned,” they said in a joint statement.

The former pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Baptist News Globalist columnist Amy Butler, left to become pastor of Riverside Baptist Church in New York City in 2014.

Edgar Palacios, associate pastor of Christian education who functioned as a missionary pastor for the church’s Latino fellowship, said his goodbyes last September after being appointed by his native El Salvador as ambassador to Canada.

According to a Greenville News article about same-sex couples seeking the city’s first marriage licenses after a federal court order finding South Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional took effect on Nov. 20, 2014, Sarratt and Swearingen met six years earlier at Greenville First Baptist Church, when Swearingen served the church as an intern. They thought more than a year before they started dating about what it would mean for them to be in a relationship and to be Christian.

First Baptist Church in Greenville adopted a new policy in August 2015 of non-discrimination in the congregation’s life and ministry “based on sexual orientation or gender identity.” The church subsequently withdrew from the South Carolina Baptist Convention at the convention’s request.

Calvary Baptist Church severed ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, which automatically excludes churches that affirm or tolerate homosexuality, in 2012. The congregation remains affiliated with American Baptist Churches USA, the Alliance of Baptists, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the District of Columbia Baptist Convention.

Calvary Baptist Church also aligns with the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, Baptist World Alliance, Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America and Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.

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From Charisma:

Peek behind the curtain of some “progressive” or “hip” evangelical churches, past the savvy technology and secular music, and you will find more than just a contemporary worship service. You’ll find faith leaders encouraging young evangelicals to trade in their Christian convictions for a gospel filled with compromise. They’re slowly attempting to give evangelicalism an “update”—and the change is not for the good.

It’s painful for me to admit, but we can no longer rest carefree in our evangelical identity—because it is changing. No doubt you have seen the headlines declaring that evangelicalism is doomed because evangelical kids are leaving the faith. It is no secret that there is an expanding gulf between traditional Christian teachings and contemporary moral values. But the sad truth is that the ideological gulf between America’s evangelical grown-ups and their kids, aka the millennials, seems to be widening too.

Somehow the blame for this chasm is being heaped on traditional churches. They are accused of having too many rules as well as being homophobic and bigoted. Yes, we’ve heard those false claims from popular culture in its desperate attempt to keep Christianity imprisoned within the sanctuary walls. But now popular culture is being aided by Christ-professing bedfellows whose message to “coexist,” “tolerate” and “keep out of it” is more marketable to the rising generation of evangelicals.

The seasoned Christian soldiers are noticing these distortions of the gospel. But for young evangelicals, the spiritual haze is harder to wade through. Desperate for acceptance in a fallen world, many young evangelicals (and some older ones) choose not to take Christ out of the chapel, and so they are unwittingly killing the church’s public witness. In this uphill cultural battle, mired by scare tactics and fear, three types of evangelical Christians are emerging:

  • Couch-potato Christians: These Christians adapt to the culture by staying silent on the tough culture-and-faith discussions. Typically, this group will downplay God’s absolute truths by promoting the illusion that neutrality was Jesus’ preferred method of evangelism.
  • Cafeteria-style Christians: This group picks and chooses which Scripture passages to live by, opting for the ones that best seem to jive with culture. Typically, they focus solely on the “nice” parts of the gospel while simultaneously and intentionally minimizing sin, hell, repentance and transformation.
  • Convictional Christians: In the face of the culture’s harsh admonitions, these evangelicals refuse to be silent. Mimicking Jesus, they compassionately talk about love and grace while also sharing with their neighbors the need to recognize and turn from sin.

I know about these three types of Christians because at one time or another, I have fallen into each of these three categories. My parents will tell you that even though I was raised in church, I morphed into a full-fledged feminist, told my parents they were ignorant for not endorsing homosexuality and bought into the distorted social justice rhetoric that confuses caring for the poor with advancing socialist or big government systems and demonizing the United States for its free-market system.

I’m not ashamed to share my story because my experiences and those of my fellow bold evangelicals are a testimony of God’s awesome, transforming power. Being countercultural for Christ isn’t easy. What does the Great Commission say? Jesus commanded us to go, “teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20a).

Where Did We Go Wrong?

I see so many parents scratching their heads trying to figure out where they went wrong with young evangelicals. Following the instructions of Proverbs 22:6—”Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it”—many evangelical parents took their children to church and prayed with them every night before bed. Yet the values those children now hold dear do not reflect the traditional teachings of Jesus.

To be perfectly clear, I want to let you know up front that this isn’t a parenting how-to guide that, if followed, will lead your loved ones to salvation. Instead, what I can offer you is a glimpse into the world of a 20-something who sees thousands of young evangelicals being spiritually and emotionally targeted on Christian university campuses, in college ministries and at churches nationwide by a growing liberal movement cloaked in Christianity.

Research tells us evangelicals are drifting further away from the orthodox truths their parents and grandparents held dear.

Our churches have rarely—if ever—faced the exodus we are seeing today. This will have a direct effect on the spiritual and moral values that will shape the nation in the coming years. That is why it is urgent that concerned Christians start acting now before the situation gets worse.

The Collision of Faith and Culture

Faith and culture will continue to collide in America. The culture wars, the growth of family, the success of missions, the prosperity of our great nation—the future rests on millennial evangelicals’ worldview. And that is cause for concern, because something has gone wrong with young evangelicals’ theology.

The millennial generation’s susceptibility to “feel-good” doctrine is playing a big part in America’s moral decline. Millennials’ religious practices depend largely on how the actions make us and others feel, whether the activities are biblical or not. For example, we only attend churches that leave us feeling good about our lifestyle choices, even if those choices conflict with God’s clear commandments. We dismiss old hymns that focus on God’s transforming salvation, love and mercy and opt for “Jesus is your boyfriend” songs. Or we contribute to nonprofits that exploit and misuse terms such as justice, oppressed and inequality because tweaking the language makes us feel more neutral, less confrontational.

Popular liberal evangelical writers and preachers tell young evangelicals that if they accept abortion and same-sex marriage, then the media, academia and Hollywood will finally accept Christians. Out of fear of being falsely dubbed “intolerant” or “uncompassionate,” many young Christians are buying into theological falsehoods. Instead of standing up as a voice for the innocent unborn or marriage as God intended, millennials are forgoing the authority of Scripture and embracing a couch potato, cafeteria-style Christianity, all in the name of tolerance.

This contemporary mindset is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian whose Christian convictions put him at odds with the Nazis and cost him his life, called “cheap grace.” In his book The Cost of Discipleship Bonhoeffer wrote: “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

Right now, cheap grace theology is proliferating around evangelical Bible colleges, seminaries and Christian ministries.

Christian Doctrine Hijacked

It is not that millennial evangelicals were not taken to church by their parents. It is that their training has been hijacked by ineffective and sometimes intentionally distorted doctrine.

As constant and pervasive as the attacks on Christianity are at public universities, it is important to remember that millennials’ worldviews do not start taking shape after they move out of their parents’ houses. Their understanding of Jesus’ teachings and cultural convictions begins to form while they are still at home and under the influence of their local church.

What I hope and pray evangelical parents and leaders come to realize is that the church has been too trusting. In our jam-packed lifestyles, parents have treated Sunday school as they do softball or ballet class—drop off the kids for an hour, then pick them up and hope they learned something.

Early on in my Sunday school teaching days, my co-teacher and I followed the curriculum pretty narrowly, the exception being that my co-teacher had an outstanding knowledge of biblical history that he imparted to the kids.

We taught all about Jesus’ birth, resurrection and saving grace. Thinking the fluffy kids ministry curriculum covered all of the necessary bases, I felt confident these kids had a firm grasp on their Christian worldview. Boy, was I wrong!

One day my co-teacher and I decided to play “True or False.” We casually went down a list of worldview questions with our class, sure that our little evangelicals would nail every question correctly.

No. 1: Jesus is God. “True.” Great job.

No. 2: Jesus sinned. “False.” Bingo!

No. 3: Jesus is one of many ways to heaven. “True.” What?!

Shocked is the only way to describe how I felt. Hadn’t they been listening to us? When I asked who taught them that, one girl said, “Coexist.” Yes, these young evangelicals had been listening to their Sunday school teachers and their parents, but they had also been listening to their public school teachers, TV celebrities and rock stars.

Youth ministers, volunteer leaders and pastors also have to start preparing these kids to deal with the very real hostility that faces young evangelicals.

If we never talk about abortion in church, how can we expect the rising evangelical girl to calmly explain the option of adoption to her frightened best friend who just admitted she is pregnant?

What will surprise you is how much young evangelicals actually crave honest discussions about abortion, sexuality, sexual exploitation, feminism and radical Islam. My friend and Evangelical Action adviser Richmond Trotter has two non-negotiable topics when addressing youth: creation and life. Having volunteered in church youth ministry since 1996, Richmond is not afraid to have serious discussions about what Scripture says about abortion, evolution and homosexuality. Make no mistake: The trend away from biblical truth is not concentrated in the hipster city limits. It is unfolding in the crevices of America’s plains, hills, mountains and swamplands. All across this nation, “old-fashioned” conservative evangelicalism is being traded in for a bright and shiny, mediocre Christianity.

If America’s evangelicals disengage from the public square and fail to engage the rising generation of Christian leaders, then we risk losing our public voice, then our religious liberty, then liberty altogether.

What Happened to the Religious Right?

The last several decades witnessed tremendous evangelical influence in the United States. Leaders such as Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Tim and Beverly LaHaye, Paige and Dorothy Patterson, James Dobson and James and Betty Robison made a bold impact on America’s families, churches and government. Now that those few leaders are aging or retiring, or have died, there are very few traditional evangelical leaders left holding the torch, and even fewer candidates to whom they can pass it.

But religious convictions in America are not on the verge of disappearance just yet. There is still hope. In the book God Is Alive and Well: The Future of Religion in America, Gallup Inc. Editor-in-Chief Frank Newport opines: “Christianity will prevail in the U.S. America will remain very much a Christian nation in the decades ahead, albeit less so than in the past because of an increase in Americans who don’t have a religious identity.”

Heed the Warning Signs

Evangelicals and culture warriors in the U.S. do not have to look far to discover what happens when Christian denominations give up on their traditional convictions and teachings. All we have to do is look at the dwindling memberships of mainline Protestant denominations.

In order to safeguard the trajectory of young evangelicals, we must uphold the authoritative Word of God. It is imperative that those in a position to influence millennials have transparent and honest discussions about the culture wars in which evangelical youth are already engaging. Otherwise they will be silent and accepting in the face of persecution and false doctrine.

The importance of arming the next generation of evangelicals cannot be overstated. If we continue to follow the example of mainline Protestants, evangelicalism will have a gloomy future. We must offer sorely needed leadership, but before we can do that, we need to know exactly whom and what we are up against.

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I get that people do not like what the Bible says, today even most people who call themselves Christians do not like what it says, but that does not mean you can change what it does say!

The message of the Cross was always supposed to be offensive, sad that most who call themselves Christians have forgotten that!

1 Corinthians 1:18: “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God”

 

from Leading The Way:

This Spring, the New York Times bestselling book The Shack by William P. Young will come to the big screen. The emotionally charged story seems to offer a resolution to the problem of pain—those who are struggling with the question, “Where is God when the world is full of brokenness?” Though many readers have labeled Young’s story a compelling work of Christian fiction, discerning believers must ask themselves: Are The Shack’s underlying teachings Biblically sound, or a far reach from the teachings of God’s Word?

Though you might be swayed into thinking the god of The Shack is the same as the God of the Bible, there are several problems that arise if we take a close look at The Shack. Here are six concerns that develop as Mack converses with Young’s caricatures of the Trinity.

LOVE VS. JUSTICE

Problem #1: According to Young, justice and love are at odds and cannot be reconciled. He reasons that God will never judge people for their sins because He is limited by His love. Neither will He enact eternal judgment upon those who reject Him or send anyone to torment in hell. 

But why would Jesus Christ die a criminal’s death on the cross if not to save us from something? What a wasteful and pointless act it would be if Christ did not take on our just punishment, the wrath of God, for our sin.

We cannot remove the wrath of God from Scripture. It is as surely a part of His character as His love and mercy are. But God’s wrath is not a human anger that flares up because of wounded pride or envy. His wrath is not self-indulgent, but rather, as theologian J.I. Packer says in his book Knowing God, “a right and necessary reaction to objective moral evil. God is only angry where anger is called for. . . . all God’s indignation is righteous.”

The Bible is very clear about why Jesus came to earth, humbly taking on the very nature of a servant (see John 3:16-18, Philippians 2:6-7). Jesus Himself warned about the coming judgment and hell, commissioning His followers to proclaim the Gospel that the lost might be saved—that they might choose life (see Matthew 25:31-46, Revelation 21:6-8). Ultimately, that is what every person must do: Either choose salvation through the atoning blood of Jesus or choose the wrath of the righteous God. 

Would Mack really want a God who would not punish evil? Would he be okay with a God who would not exert justice for the evil done to his daughter? Would God be good and loving if He said to Mack, “We’ll just let this slide”? Of course not. He shows us His love by both punishing sin and providing us with an escape: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He is “the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished” (Exodus 34:6-7).

UNIVERSALISM: A PERILOUS PARDON

Problem #2: Another theme in The Shack that doesn’t square with the Word of God is the idea that God forgives all of humanity, regardless of whether or not they repent and believe in the redeeming work of Jesus. It is an idea rooted in universalism—the belief that all roads lead to God and that Jesus is walking with all people in their different journeys to God, whether they call Him Jesus or Buddha or Allah. In fact, Young asserts that there is no need for faith or reconciliation with God because all people will make it to heaven. 

The Bible is very clear that only those who call on the name of Jesus will be saved: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12. See also 1 Timothy 2:5, Romans 10:9). Universalism is a dangerous and malicious lie. It leads people to think that it doesn’t matter what you believe, sin is not really a problem, and there is really no need for a Savior. Universalism single-handedly destroyed Christianity in much of Europe, and universalism is working hard to destroy the faith of remnant believers in the American church today. 

Jesus is not the same as Buddha or Krishna; He does not hide behind such false and impotent gods. He became flesh and dwelt among us that we might know Him. He wants us to know the one true God. He wants the glory that He deserves, for He alone is God: “I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols” (Isaiah 42:8).

Are you willing to risk your eternal future on feel-good fluff? Sin is real. It is rebellion against God, and it requires justice. God’s justice and wrath were poured out on Jesus Christ to reconcile us to the holy God (see 1 Peter 2:24-25). But we must have faith in Jesus, confessing His lordship and believing in His resurrection.

Jesus calls out to us, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). Beware of the “broad road” theology of The Shack.

WHO IS THE POTTER?

Problem #3: In The Shack, the god character tells Mack that “submission is not about authority or obedience” and that the Trinity is even submitted to Mack (145). Young is suggesting that God submits to human wishes and choices.

The Bible in its entirety points us to the need to submit to God. Submitting is by definition yielding to the authority of another. God created man, and man cannot dictate terms to God. As Isaiah 29:16 says, “You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘You did not make me’? Can the pot say to the potter, ‘You know nothing’?” 

God does not answer to us; we answer to God. In this way we remain in His love: “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:10-11). Submission is about obedience, and that’s because obedience is ultimately about love. Jesus Himself said, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching” (John 14:23). To minimize obedience is to minimize love for God.

THE LIVING WORD

Problem #4: Young alleges that the Bible limits God, implying that it was man who reduced God’s voice to paper: “Nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book” (66). Thus the Bible is portrayed as inadequate to know God.

If the Bible were simply a book written by man, then it would be about as useful as The Shack. However, the Bible was written over the course of about 1,800 years with many different authors all inspired by the Holy Spirit. They all through various time periods and life experiences tell the same story, pointing us to the Messiah—Jesus, who is the very Word of God made flesh (John 1:1-4, 14). 

It is through Scripture that God chose to reveal Himself to us. The Bible is a divine product. Jesus Himself trusted the Scriptures and used them to teach about Himself (see Luke 24:44-47). If the risen Lord values, trusts, and feeds on the Bible (see Matthew 4:1-11), should we not also look to it as the saving Gospel it is? Let us therefore heed Paul’s words:

Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:14-17

ENCOUNTERING THE SOVEREIGN, HOLY GOD

Problem #5: The God portrayed in The Shack seems casual and unconcerned with holiness, which is inconsistent with what we see in the Bible. Mack’s troubling disrespect and disregard for the Trinity would be impossible if he had encountered the sovereign, holy God. 

By presenting a god wholly different from the true God revealed in the Bible, Young mocks the importance and uniqueness of the Word of God. He makes the Bible equal to or less than whatever personal imagination anyone might have of God. Mack did not encounter the Holy God of heaven and earth in the shack, but a created god who is controlled and manipulated by man—like an idol that is put away in a closet and brought out when needed. The Shack exchanges “the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being” (Romans 1:23).

While it’s a righteous desire to want to know God, Mack’s fictional experience of encountering God is demonstrably inconsistent with what we see in Scripture. It’s also a poor sequel to the true story we already have of God’s interactions on earth through Jesus Christ. When Moses asks God to show him His glory, God warns, “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live” (Exodus 33:20)—such is the dangerous magnificence of the Father’s glory. We must be careful of assigning any image to Him that diminishes His holiness.

In Scripture, when people face the Lord, they fall down in repentance and worship. Isaiah’s response was: “Woe to me! . . . I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5). When John is swept up to heaven in a revelation from God and sees the glorified Jesus, he falls at His feet “as though dead” (Revelation 1:17)! When Job was confronted by the Lord as He laid out His majesty, Job replies, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6). God is awesome, and we simply cannot stand in His presence. Neither can we live without Him. 

THE ULTIMATE QUESTION

Problem #6: In The Shack, Young tries to answer the important personal question of suffering—and he thinks the answer is to change who God is. But God has already answered this question perfectly according to His true and unchanging character. He answered it with the Gospel. He answered it on the cross. He answered it through Jesus Christ our Lord.

As we carefully consider the ideas presented in The Shack, the greater question we must ask ourselves is: Am I willing to accept God’s gift of eternal life as it is revealed in Scripture? Am I willing to accept God’s salvation the way He provided it—even if I want something else that accommodates my wishes, desires, and emotions? Am I willing to accept Truth over what makes me comfortable, realizing that Truth is what I need—for it alone leads to eternal life? 

We must not allow ourselves to be swayed by emotionalism. We must instead be like the Bereans, who “examined the Scriptures” rather than readily accepting what they heard as Truth (Acts 17:11). Because no story, no matter how compelling, can ever improve upon God’s story of redemption in the Bible. 

Beloved, the best place to meet God is not at the shack, but at the cross. For the Gospel is the greatest story ever told, and better still, it is true.

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