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Archive for the ‘Mega Churches’ 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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What these “Hirelings” mean when they say God wants to “bless” the faithful with earthly riches is that they are the ones to be “blessed” with money of those foolish enough to hand it over to them!

from MSN:

The ministry of a prominent Georgia megachurch pastor and evangelist who teaches that God wants to bless the faithful with earthly riches is seeking donations to buy a luxury jet valued at more than $65 million.

The website of Creflo Dollar Ministries asked people Friday to “Sow your love gift of any amount” to help the ministry buy a Gulfstream G650 airplane. Dollar and his wife, Taffi, are co-pastors of World Changers International Church in College Park, just south of Atlanta.

Dollar is one of the most prominent African-American preachers based around Atlanta who have built successful ministries on the prosperity gospel. Ministers in this tradition often hold up their own wealth as evidence that the teaching works.

The ministry’s current plane, acquired in 1999, was built in 1984, has traveled more than 4 million miles and is no longer safe, spokesman Juda Engelmayer said. On a recent trip overseas, one of the engines failed, but the pilot was able to land safely and no one was injured, the ministry’s website says.

“(W)e are asking members, partners, and supporters of this ministry to assist us in acquiring a Gulfstream G650 airplane so that Pastors Creflo and Taffi and World Changers Church International can continue to blanket the globe with the Gospel of grace,” the ministry’s website says.

Gulfstream’s website lists an asking price of $67,950,000 for a G650 with a flight record of 1,616 hours and 625 landings since it entered service in mid-December.

Members of the ministry travel for much of the year bringing their message, food and supplies to people around the world, Engelmayer said. They need a plane that’s fuel efficient, faster, with enough cargo capacity and enough seats, he said.

The G650 “flies at more than 92 percent of the speed of sound,” typically holds about 18 seated passengers and can take off with a maximum weight of 99,600, according to Gulfstream’s website.

Numerous online reports quoted the ministry website as saying: “We are believing for 200,000 people to give contributions of 300 US dollars or more to turn this dream into a reality.”

On Friday afternoon, that line was gone, and the website instead said: “Your love gift of any amount will be greatly appreciated.”

When asked about the change, Engelmayer replied in an email: “The ministry operates on the goodness of its followers and has always been a donor based organization. Every gift given is heartfelt and appreciated, and people who wish will give at the level comfortable to their situation and ability.”

Soon after that, the website’s entire page about the plane appeared disabled.

Dollar, who has five children, is a native of College Park and says he received a vision for the church in 1986. He held the first service in front of eight people in an elementary school cafeteria. His ministry grew quickly and the church moved into its current 8,500-seat sanctuary, on Dec. 24, 1995.

Dollar said in a 2007 interview with The Associated Press that he renounced his church salary, and his income comes only from personal investments, including a real estate business and horse breeding company called Dollar Ranch. He’s also published more than 30 books, focusing mostly on family and life issues, including debt management.

He said he can get up to $100,000 for a single appearance on his packed schedule of speaking engagements.

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from STAND UP FOR THE TRUTH:

Recently we shared that a pastor of GracePointe Church, who leads the megachurch congregation that country star Carrie Underwood attends, announced from the pulpit that not only can practicing homosexuals be members, but those in sexual sin can now fully serve in his church and will be allowed to “marry” at the facility.

In his excellent article titled,Witnessing to a New Breed of False Converts, Mike Gendron from Proclaiming the Gospel writes: “How do we evangelize people who believe they are Christians but, at the same time, deny their sin of homosexuality? We know from God’s Word that conviction of sin is an essential part of true conversion (John 16:8-11; 2 Cor. 7:10).

Until the sinner is convinced of sin, he can never be converted from sin. Until sin is thoroughly revealed, Christ cannot be rightly claimed as Savior. As long as sin is rationalized, Christ will be recognized merely as a badge of honor. No one will seek a Savior unless they know they are perishing. We must speak the truth in love to “gay Christians” and tell them that the Lord Jesus saves us from sin, not in sin.”

Here is the article:

Witnessing to a New Breed of False Converts

By Mike Gendron

A new kind of false convert has emerged within the professing church in this generation. They are professing Christians who identify themselves with a particular sinful lifestyle. They call themselves “gay Christians” and they are becoming more and more accepted in many Christian communities. Many of them have been encouraged by a book released last year called God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships. The book was written by Matthew Vines who was raised in a Christian home. At age 19, he left Harvard University after his third semester to study the Bible and prove that homosexuality is not a sin and to remove the term “homophobia” that he thought was in the church. In March 2012, he delivered a message about the Bible and homosexuality that called for acceptance of gay Christians and same-sex marriages. Since then, his message has been seen nearly a million times on YouTube and was featured in The New York Times and The Christian Post. Tragically, Vines interprets the Bible through the lens of his sexuality rather than interpreting his sexuality through the lens of Scripture!
There is also the Metropolitan Community Church, which calls itself a Christian denomination, with 222 congregations in 37 countries. It is an outreach to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families and reportedly bases its theology on the historic creeds of the Christian Church. One of its pastors was Mel White, who was best known for his ghostwriting auto-biographies for Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Billy Graham. After years of writing for the Christian right, he came out as a homosexual in 1994 and wrote his autobiography, Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay And Christian In America.

The apostate pastor of GracePointe Church, who leads the megachurch congregation that country star Carrie Underwood attends, announced from the pulpit that not only can practicing homosexuals be members, but those in sexual sin can now fully serve in his church and will be allowed to “marry” at the facility.

How do we evangelize people who believe they are Christians but, at the same time, deny their sin of homosexuality? We know from God’s Word that conviction of sin is an essential part of true conversion (John 16:8-11; 2 Cor. 7:10). Until the sinner is convinced of sin, he can never be converted from sin. Until sin is thoroughly revealed, Christ cannot be rightly claimed as Savior. As long as sin is rationalized, Christ will be recognized merely as a badge of honor. No one will seek a Savior unless they know they are perishing. We must speak the truth in love to “gay Christians” and tell them that the Lord Jesus saves us from sin, not in sin.

We must tell them that the Bible reveals homosexuality to be a most degrading and indecent behavior that dishonors the body. It is an ungodly and unnatural sin that has been condemned by God, was punishable by death in the Old Testament and given as a divine judgment in the New Testament. It is a twisted perversion of the God-ordained roles for men and women. Of over 30,000 verses in the Bible, not one makes a positive statement about homosexuality. We must encourage false converts to take the Word of God seriously. Those who don’t will be judged by the Word of God on the last day (John 12:48). The Apostle Paul made it profoundly clear: “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). We must lovingly confront homosexuals and share with them that there is forgiveness in Christ. The power of God can set captives free from the bondage of any sin when they are washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:11). In Christ, there will be victory and there will be joy and peace.

When God replaces man’s stony heart with a heart of flesh, and opens his eyes to see the light of the Gospel, and he is humbled under the sovereign hand of God, he will turn from his sin to Jesus Christ in gratitude and thanksgiving. Then his mind, his will, and his heart will all join together in the power of the Holy Spirit to put to death the evil deeds of the flesh for the glory of God.

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from MSN News:

The pastor of one of the Pacific north-west’s most successful evangelical mega churches stepped down on Tuesday, amid allegations that he bullied dissenting members and plagiarized.

Mark Driscoll announced his resignation from the Mars Hill church in Seattle, Washington, in a letter to church accountability advisers published by Religion News Service and later on the Mars Hill website.

“I readily acknowledge I am an imperfect messenger of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Driscoll. “Specifically, I have confessed to past pride, anger and a domineering spirit,” he said.

Described by some as an “evangelical bad boy,” Driscoll founded the now-14,000-member church in 1996. The pastor gives sermons the way some explain neurology in Ted Talks, and he’s credited with bringing evangelicalism into the digital age.

Last Easter, for example, the church’s 15 locations in five states packed in more than 21,000 attendees for its service, and another 50,000 people watched the downtown Seattle service online. Other online promotions, like Mars Hill GO, have the look and sound of an iPad app, but support the church’s missionising theology.

Despite the church’s sophisticated online presence, some of Driscoll’s theological views have been cited as opposing modern sensibilities. Complementarianism, one of the church’s teachings, reasons that men and women were created by God equal in dignity, but that the sexes have specific and distinct roles to play. Men, for instance, are expected to lead the household – and their wives.

After years of pressure, Driscoll took a six-week leave of absence from the church in mid-August, and tendered his resignation to the church’s board of advisers and accountability that investigated him.

“Other issues, such as aspects of my personality and leadership style, have proven to be divisive within the Mars Hill context, and I do not want to be the source of anything that might detract from our church’s mission to lead people to a personal and growing relationship with Jesus Christ,” Driscoll said.

Controversy began to coalesce around Driscoll in 2007, when he attempted to reduce the power of church elders through the congregation’s bylaws, according to the New York Times. Later, the nine church elders who asked Driscoll to step down resigned or were fired, Driscoll’s books were pulled from the 186 stores of the LifeWay Christian Resources retailer, and petitions called for an investigation into financial mismanagement.

Leaders told RNS that Driscoll was never charged with heresy or immorality, but that, “Most of the charges involved attitudes and behaviors reflected by a domineering style of leadership.”

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“To pastors outside the Christian-rock-star echo chamber, the issue has never really been one of “will Driscoll repent?” Rather the issue has always been one of “will Christian leaders recognize how foolish it was to expose their people to Driscoll’s preaching and leadership?”

Worldview Weekend:

In many ways, Mark Driscoll’s stepping down from his church brings to a close a somewhat ignominious chapter in the history of American Evangelicalism (you know something is ignominious when it gets Voxified). The Driscoll Decade of Drama unfolded like a circus: for ten years there was a show in town, and there were otherwise respectable people selling tickets. Many of those people have now taken to hoping for Driscoll’s repentance. Here is the most famous example:

First, a few disclaimers. 1. Ten years ago I made a personal rule to not blog on anything related to Mark Driscoll. To the best of my memory I have kept that quasi-vow, but am breaking it now.

Second, I have a huge/tremendous respect for John Piper and Douglas Wilson. They are probably my two favorite living authors, and Wilson is probably my favorite Christian blogger (along with Challies, of course). I mean no disrespect to these men at all.

Now then.

It strikes me that in the chorus of calls to pray for Driscoll’s repentance, or hope for his hopeful repentance, or whatever other optimistic attitude we are supposed to have for that aforementioned repentance, there is something missing. Namely, the ownership of the problem.

And here is where some history is helpful. Much of this is old news, but bear with me.

About 12 years ago Driscoll began publishing and advocating a new way of doing church. Out with regenerate church membership. Out with corporate worship music as it has always been known. Out with sanctification as a theme. Out with a pastor who is actually in your church. In with being cool, in with being gruff, in with the occasional coarse language. While this simplifies it a bit, you get the idea if you see Driscoll in this stage of his ministry essentially taking the seeker sensitive movement to the grunge community of Seattle. MacArthur even labeled his approach to ministry “Grunge Christianity.” While he didn’t mean it as a compliment, that’s the way it was taken, which pretty much says it all.

Over the next few years Driscoll gained national influence as other Christian leaders propped him up. John Piper brought him to his own pastor’s conference as the key-note speaker. The Gospel Coalition made him a board member. He was able to reach a wider and wider audience.

By 2009 it was obvious that the doctrine of sanctification was seriously neglected in the theology that was coming out of Acts 29 and specifically Driscoll’s preaching. In April of 2009 John MacArthur wrote a series of blog posts on Driscoll’s preaching (The Rape of Solomon’s Song)—which to my knowledge is the last time he has said anything publicly about Driscoll. This was the year I gave up talking about/reading/listening to Mark Driscoll. By that point it was either obvious to people what the danger was, or there was really no helping it.

Unfortunately, also in April of 2009 Driscoll preached at the Gospel Coalition’s national conference. And even after that other leaders and institutions continued to expose their people to Driscoll’s leadership and preaching. He did a marriage conference and Liberty University. He started a conference with Rick Warren. He featured on Family Life’s Men’s curriculum. In other words, the groups that Driscoll was lambasting in his books 10 years earlier were eager to have him, and equally eager to expose their people to his teaching.

And Driscoll in turn used his increased influence to expose his new followers—including The Gospel Coalition crew—to TD Jakes. Driscoll’s subsequent claim that Jakes’ modalism could be considered orthodoxy appeared to be the last straw with the TGC crowd through, and Driscoll left their council a short time later.

We can skip the bit about plagiarism, or his stunt at Grace Church, or no-compete clauses for pastors, or buying his way onto the New York Times bestseller list with church money, etc., and jump to present day. Driscoll has been removed from Acts 29, and “charges have been filed” against him within his own church. I have no idea what that means, but it sounds bad. So bad that he is stepping down for six weeks.

Which brings us back to the blog/tweet that we should be hopeful for Driscoll’s repentance. While I am always in favor of repentance, and  remain hopeful for it in everyone, the call for it here is exceptionally tone deaf.

That’s because to pastors outside the Christian-rock-star echo chamber, the issue has never really been one of “will Driscoll repent?” Rather the issue has always been one of “will Christian leaders recognize how foolish it was to expose their people to Driscoll’s preaching and leadership?”

That remains my question today for those that lent him their pulpit and their audience. Looking back on the whole decade (2004-2014), do those leaders (Piper, Wilson, Liberty, Denis Rainey, D. A. Carson, and so on) see that they had a role to play in this? Douglas Wilson–who is one of the Christian leaders who helped Driscoll grow his audience–wrote that he is concerned that some people jumped on the Driscoll train because it was the cool ticket in town, and now they are jumping off only because it is the new cool. To which I say: when the train is on fire, of course it is cool to jump off–after all, everyone is doing it.

But my real question to Wilson is: “Do you see your responsibility for directing people to the train to begin with?”

When the credits roll on this generation of American Christianity, there will be this interesting segment in the 2000’s where a famous Christian essentially mocked sanctification, and instead of being rebuked he was promoted. Obviously this ended poorly for the famous Christian (and his church), but what of those who bought the ticket and took the ride? What of those who sold the tickets? Is it too much to wonder if they will say more than “we sure hope he experiences a sense of hope in this time?” Wilson says that is the best he has to offer—but I don’t buy it.

Specifically, we need more than a simple, “I like Driscoll, and I hope things work out well for him.” I’d like to hear them say, “the biblical qualifications for elders are important, and we made a judgment mistake in holding someone out as a Christian leader who did not meet them.”

Yes, I hope Driscoll comes out feeling like a new man. But more than that, I want the evangelical leaders who were largely responsible for shaping the last decade of Christian leadership to understand the importance of the biblical qualifications for pastors. I want them to see that while the Driscoll Drama may have happened anyway, that doesn’t mean they needed to sell tickets.

(I encourage everyone to read Eric Davis’ post a few weeks ago—there he offers a few necessary lessons from this ordeal)

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2 Timothy 3:2 “For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy” 

The big lie of Humanism goes all the way back to Lucifer’s rebellion against God:

Isaiah 14: 12-16:

“How you are fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How you are cut down to the ground,
You who weakened the nations!
For you have said in your heart:
‘I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High.’
Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol,
To the lowest depths of the Pit.

The big lie is “it’s all about me” And that is the lie that Joel Osteen peddles! Humanism teaches that there is no God, That we ALL are God, or we all have a God spark in us and we just need to realize that, and when we all do then we can have “Heaven on Earth” Sorry folks but that is the biggest lie ever told! Look around us at what this kind of thinking has created in our society!

The only way that a man can be changed is to “die to self” and surrender his life to redemption in Jesus Christ, and when he does that then the Holy Spirit can come in and begin to guide that person via God’s Word: The Bible! The Holy Spirit will open that person’s eyes to God’s Truth in God’s written word, The Bible! Not via false humanist words straight form the pits of Hell!

from Christian News:

A recently recorded video is circulating online of Victoria Osteen, wife of megachurch speaker and author Joel Osteen, calling on congregants at Lakewood Church to ‘do good for your own self’ because obedience, the church and worship are not for God as much as for self-happiness.

“I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God—I mean, that’s one way to look at it—we’re doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we’re happy,” she declares in the undated 36-second clip with her husband standing by her side and nodding. “That’s the thing that gives Him the greatest joy…”

“So, I want you to know this morning: Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy,” Osteen continues. “When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy. Amen?”

Osteen is the author of the book Love Your Life, and is “co-pastor” of Lakewood in Houston, Texas. Her husband Joel is known for his motivational speeches and his books Your Best Life Now and It’s Your Time.

Steve Camp, pastor of The Cross Church in Palm City, Florida and former singer/songwriter, told Christian News Network that he viewed the video on Wednesday, and while saddened, he was not surprised at her remarks. He stated that Osteen’s statements were humanistic in nature and antithetical to Scripture.

“It’s the age old sin of idolatry—that it’s not about God, it’s about us,” he explained. “True worship for the humanist is about how we feel at the end of the day and what gives us meaning, as opposed to what gives God glory.”

“When we come to see men happy rather than God glorified, it’s not worship, it’s idolatry,” Camp stated, reading from Psalm 115:1, which states, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake.”

He said that Osteen’s words were essentially blasphemous because they disregard God’s holiness and the way that He is to be worshiped.

“She honestly believes that God exists to make us happy rather than holy,” Camp lamented. “She honestly believes that worship is about our fulfillment rather than His glory. That’s the bottom issue here.”

But he outlined that Scripture commands man to be selflessly abandon themselves to Christ and to not worry about their own lives.

“1 Corinthians so clearly says that whether we eat or drink, do it all to the glory of God. It’s not just self,” Camp stated. “Jesus said … in Matthew 16, ‘Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me.’”

He also pointed to Acts 20:24, which reads, “[N]either count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”

“The Osteens have just inverted that. They think it’s not the denial of self, but the exaltation of self,” Camp lamented. “They’re not trying to pursue a cross; they’re trying to pursue prosperity. And they’re certainly not following the biblical Jesus; they’re following whatever brings happiness and contentment.”

When asked about the dangers of “me-centered” church, Camp outlined numerous concerns. He explained that besides such congregations not being a real church to begin with, “me-centered” churches are based on pragmatism over Scripture, the pleasure of men over the glory of God, and are more concerned with being liked than being truthful. In doing so, such assemblies thrust the Lord of the Church outside of the Church as in Laodicea, as  Christ declared, “[T]hou sayest, ‘I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing,’ and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”

“The gospel is always counter-cultural. It always runs against that with which man wants to be satisfied and pleased with,” Camp explained. “The me-centered church is about what’s temporal rather than eternal. … The end of worship in a me-centered church has to be money, has to be fame, has to be the pragmatics of temporal culture. Therefore, it won’t do anything to offend a culture.”

“What’s the chief end of man? To bring glory to God and enjoy him forever,” he stated, quoting from Thomas Watson. “I think that’s the thing that’s been lost in our culture.”

Camp, who has spoken with Joel Osteen in the past, and has urged him to speak boldly about Christ instead of worrying about public opinion, said that if he were to encourage Victoria—whom he noted should not be serving as “co-pastor” in the first place—he would call upon her to repent.

“Repent of this self-oriented, feel good gospel you’ve embraced, and don’t let your life be of any value to you or precious to yourself,” he said. “The chief concern in this life is not us. The chief concern is that we bring glory to God, that we further His gospel, and that we testify of His grace. We’re here to do his bidding.”

 

 

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There is so much wrong with what this “Pastor” is saying. He lumps perceptions about political party allegiance (As if Christians are supposed to declare a public political allegiance to either of the fallen humanistic led American political parties)  in with a multitude of other errors.

What he displays is the classic Assembly of  God second generation “priestly class” humanist mentality. One that says “I was born into the AOG priesthood to an AOG Pastor and therefore it is my right and destiny to be in that class so I can lead people wherever I choose”.  This type of thinking is a cancer in the Assembly of God Ministry!

Everyone who reads this needs to look at your own church. Even if you have a pastor that preaches and teaches what is right and good NOW. If it is a situation where “the pastor is master” then 99% of those pastors will go down the road to error in order to maintain their “high place” instead of being scorned, shunned, and pushed aside for standing up for Biblical truth. Our churches heap praise on pastors and feed their humanistic egos which overtakes their love for the truth!

“God never intended for a Pastor to be a “King”. Sadly, this is what most congregations want just as Israel wanted a king. They want someone to tell them what to do instead of taking responsibility to do it themselves. They are satisfied to live their spirituality vicariously through the Pastor, their king. This Pastor has obviously taken on that role and is now leading an entire congregation into the depths of deception. It is absolutely heartbreaking!”

 

from The Sacramento Bee:

A Pentecostal pastor, a rabbi and an imam walk into a restaurant. Then they go to a synagogue. For Ramadan, Pastor Rick J. Cole of Capital Christian Center – one of the region’s oldest and largest fundamentalist churches – gave a sermon to about 500 Muslims and their friends at the Sunrise Event Center in Rancho Cordovaon Friday.

Cole, 56, was a featured guest on Imam M.A. Azeez’s weekly talk show, “Heart of the Matter.” The show has explored women’s rights, justice, self-expression and democracy in the Muslim world.

Cole, whose 98-year-old Assemblies of God church was long considered the most conservative in the region, has been reaching out to gays, Jews and now Muslims to break down barriers and biases. Cole joined Azeez and Rabbi Mona Alfi at Congregation B’nai Israel on June 18 to mark the 15th anniversary of the one of the most heinous – and ultimately unifying – events in Sacramento history, the pre-dawn firebombing of three Sacramento synagogues. Those blazes were followed by the firebombing of a building housing an abortion clinic and the murder of a gay couple – Gary Matson and and Winfield Mowder – while they slept in their Happy Valley home in rural Shasta County.

Cole, who replaced his father, the late Pastor Glen D. Cole, at the helm of Capital Christian Center in 1995, told the audience at B’nai Israel he’d been to Israel seven times and asked forgiveness of those he may have had been intolerant toward. “I’m now intolerant of people who are intolerant. I’ve got to figure out how to tolerate intolerant people,” Cole said. “We make things about issues instead of people,” he said, adding that he now has a growing number of gay congregants. As for those who don’t accept believers of different faiths or sexual orientation, “if they’ve got a problem, I’m not going to let it become my problem. They really need to talk to more people!”

Cole – whose church’s motto is “Truth, Growth, Love” – has 7,000 congregants, about 4,000 of whom attend one of his three Sunday sermons. Some of them speak in tongues. He oversees the 1,000 students at his church’s Christian school; serves on the board of Sacramento Steps Forward, a partnership addressing the needs of the region’s homeless; and provides help to inner-city schoolchildren through Equal Start. He also works with Champions, which assists special-needs families, and he supports the Center for AIDS Research.

What’s inspired you to step outside the box and reach across the aisle?

Rabbi Alfi, Imam Azeez and I started meeting for lunch at Plates (a restaurant that trains homeless moms) three years ago. Rather than assuming things about each other, we’ve developed a good friendship through direct communication. Too often we stereotype groups and determine this is the way everyone is within that group. There are many people of the Muslim faith who are not interested in violence. Often, they become characterized that way by 9/11 and other incidents that have occurred. There are far fewer Muslim people of faith who embrace extremism than those who are pushing it away. Imam Azeez has become a friend, I see him as a man of hopes and dreams for building a better world and not for tearing it down. The more common ground we can all find, and the more we learn about each other’s belief systems, the more we grow. Friday, I said, “I know the Quran is a great source of wisdom in understanding who God is. We share four of the five pillars of Islam: there is only one God; daily prayers; give to the poor and help the hurting; and fasting, self-control and self discipline.”

Your church has long been considered a bastion of conservatism. What’s changed?

We still lean toward a Republican ideology, but today we have strong representation across the aisle. We have a real passion for ethnic diversity, and people of other ethnicities often tend to adopt a more Democratic ideology. When we blend together different points of view, that’s quite important in challenging how we come together. … There are so many things that divide us ethnically, socioeconomically, spiritually. Part of my role and goal is to unify and honor people, bless people and affirm people.

In the 1980s, Capital Christian Center threatened to quit the Interfaith Service Bureau for admitting a gay-oriented church, and in the 1990s gay and bisexual protesters accused you of “a long history of anti-gay political activity and bigotry.” What’s happened since?

It’s something I’ve grown into the last five or six years. Life is a journey, and we should always be learning and growing along the way. It’s OK to have strong beliefs and convictions, but when we make that the only message, it becomes a dividing line that doesn’t help us build community with others who don’t see things quite the way we do. I had a revelation that God wants us to find ways to love people and not separate them. God’s heart of love for each of us is equal. Homosexuality’s still a complex subject and can cause some to be judgmental. I can maintain convictions but don’t have to impose those convictions on people who don’t share them.

If we take homosexuality as an issue, we dehumanize the person, and I don’t believe God ever does that. God loves each of us right where we are. In the past we have chosen to communicate a certain belief from scripture that homosexuality is not acceptable to God and push that way, instead of leading with, “God loves you and we do too.” I’ve adopted a love for gay people from my own heart, and we have a really great dialogue about faith and how we can encourage one another along the way. Our church has gone from where we wouldn’t know if we had any gay congregants to where we know we have at least several dozen, and instead of being afraid to come here, God wants us to make this a safe place for people to grow.

In 2009, you apologized to Christina Silvas, a former stripper who’d been asked to remove her children from your school in 2001, and to Ben Sharpe, an African American star student who was banned from eighth-grade graduation because his buzz cut violated school policy in 1995. Who are the intolerant you’ve got to learn to tolerate?

There’s a lot of intolerance when it comes to ideas – the political atmosphere in our country is so polarized. It would do us all good if we could have more conversations instead of accusations. Immigration is obviously a great concern – we have to have a heart of compassion for these children coming every day. The more grace we have for others, the more grace we receive. I’m concerned about those who want to make this issue non-human – these are precious people and we need to try and put ourselves in their shoes and practice empathy and see the world through their lens – ‘What if it were me?’ There are those who want to build a utopian world for ourselves. That’s not what we’re here for; we’re here to help each other.

It’s an evolving understanding of our role and how we pursue our place in the community. We aim to heal people who have walked through broken dreams, broken relationships, broken health, and give them a place to find hope and purpose. If we reach out to the hurting, the disadvantaged, the underserved, the overlooked, that’s more in the sweet spot on God’s heart. We have a really passionate outreach to the homeless, and we’re partnering with four inner-city schools, providing mentoring, tutoring, after-school care and encouragement. In the summer, we take kids … to places they’ve never been, ending up at various universities for a sit-down with administrators. My goal is to honor God, his truth and his creation. I’m not trying to push any buttons and create controversy. I really want to bring harmony.

 

 

 

 

 

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