rick warren is not the antichrist :: seeker sensitive sacred cow tipping

November 5, 2009

 cow face

A month ago, while writing a series of posts for my first WordPress blog on Design in Ministry (here), I touched a nerve.  While my basic point in the article was not all that controversial – basically, “Do your best possible work, church people!  Don’t settle for a ‘good enough’ mentality when it comes to church design, art, music, planning, teaching, fill-in-the-blank…” – I drew some criticism and some great challenges from a number of readers.  Blog traffic spiked.  Debate and discussion continued in the blog comments and spilled over into Facebook and Twitter for days.

And the reoccurring theme in the discussion seemed to mostly bypass my focus on design and center instead around this hackle-raising philosophy/church methodology/label for churches actively pursuing souls within a modern cultural context as…  wait for it…  “seeker sensitive.”

Now I want to say this and be heard… so if you have a fire in your belly that burns with passion to eradicate all things “seeker sensitive,” because you think it is an unbiblical, dangerous, corrupt, or even heretical methodology… please set down your shotgun for a minute and hear me out.  Before my September 29th post, I honestly thought being “seeker sensitive” was a good thing.  And, by the way, I still do – albeit not necessarily as “seeker sensitive” is defined by some of you.  Our church, Living Hope, has been unapologetically “seeker sensitive” from our earliest days.  And to me, I just thought every church would desire that.  To be sensitive to seekers.  What could be wrong with that?

Well, I’ve made some new friends (and I had some old friends) who have raised the red flag and sounded the alarm.  Apparently, Rick Warren is destroying the Church.  And I don’t write that to be sarcastic or hyperbolic.  Among some, there is a visceral, white-hot anger at the man – and a feeling that any church that is comfortable with the term “seeker sensitive” is walking on dangerous ground.  Or altogether in sin.

I refute that sentiment as a “seeker sensitive” pastor who wants to love people with Jesus’ love, and who wants to share the whole truth of Scripture – the condemnation of the Law and the freedom of forgiveness through Jesus’ death and resurrection alone.  AND, I WANT TO BE EFFECTIVE in ministry.  If the methods I use are not working to help the community I live in connect with the Gospel, I will continue to adapt and monitor (and adapt some more) the METHODS I use – without ever being willing to compromise the fullness of the Truth of God.

And that’s where I am wondering just how deep this chasm runs.  How great is this division we see in the Church?  On one side, those who are sensitive to seekers in their methodology, trying to remove barriers to the Gospel before the Word is even shared.   And on the other side, those who label “seeker sensitivity” a “man-centered” methodology (or even theology) that must, by definition compromise the Truth in order to make seekers more comfortable? 

Is there a sacred cow to be killed on both sides of the discussion? 

I’m writing to encourage hope and peace in the Church over this hot-button topic.  Jesus Christ’s prayer for His Church on the night he was taken into captivity was this:  “I pray that they may be ONE…” (John 17:21).  There is hope for greater understanding and greater unity with the bride of Christ here.  And no, I don’t think that means disregarding the importance of solid doctrine for the sake of a “lowest-common-denominator” kind of unity. 

 To help clarify the discussion, I asked permission from a friend of mine, Jason Coyle, to repost a comment he sent to me during our last blog discussion.  To read it in context, go here and scroll through the comments below the post.  Jason and I attended the Association Free Lutheran Bible School together about 20 years ago, now.  I found his press back to be both very thoughtful and thought provoking.  While I think there are some core kernels of disagreement between us, his thinking is clear, and his discussion is respectful.  Here it is, in full, unedited:

Thanks for the time in writing a response, Josh. There’s a lot I could say to clarify what I meant or refute what I disagree with in what you wrote, but I think you’ve done a good job finding the core bone of contention between how we teach/think/believe: pragmatism within the church. I’ll stick to that; the rest (e.g. changing methodology over time or culture), however important, is secondary, and largely an application of the central issue. And I’m sorry this is still long; I’m too tired to effectively edit it down.

We may not mean exactly the same thing by “effective,” but your reply was pretty thorough, and I think we’re close. And yes, you’re correct: I disagree with you. I’d go further, and say I believe that your position is counter to Scripture, and its typical application lays the enormously heavy burden on the servant of God. (We haven’t spoken for years, but trust me when I say that I don’t use terms like this often or lightly. This is a serious subject.)

You said “Does effective = good? Maybe not all the time. But I’ll say this with conviction… INEFFECTIVE does NOT = good.” Yikes, Josh. It is a very small step from there to “INEFFECTIVE = bad.” Do you have any idea of the disastrous weight such a concept places on the believer that God, in His wisdom, has called to preach without visible result?

Effective and ineffective are moot; ONLY FAITHFULNESS = good in this mathematics. Jonah preached to the Ninevites and they repented; was his ministry better than that of Noah, who preached for a century without effect outside his own family? Or Ezekiel, who was sent to Israel to give God’s message and was actually told by God that he would be completely ineffective!? (Ez 3:4-9)

What of the missionary that faithfully labors years or decades preaching the Word and displaying God’s love in the field before seeing a convert, or the pastor of a small flock that he shepherds faithfully, but without growth in numbers? Are we to condemn their lack of “success?”

Point 1: We are called to be faithful, not effective. The results, whatever they may be, are to God’s glory, for His pleasure.

Clarifying subpoint: Part of faithfulness is to be good stewards of the gifts and talents God gives us; being lazy or half-hearted in one’s service is not being faithful.

You continued “And churches who make the case that God alone is responsible for their growth while doing nothing to try to increase their effectiveness in communicating the gospel are in sin.” There’s a lot of wiggle-room in how you’ve phrased that, so I’m going to hold back a bit. I’m concerned we’ve started talking past each other.

There may be churches that actually behave as you’ve described. But are there churches that deliberately avoid preaching on certain passages or topics because it might offend attendees or give a bad impression to “seekers”? Or that structure their worship music or other service elements to manipulate emotional responses (or even decisions for Jesus)? Which version of the error (for both are rooted in sin of elevating tradition to the level of Scriptural authority) do you think is more widespread, and thus probably needs to be fought more stridently?

Point 2: “Does it work?” is fundamentally a man-centered question, and it will inevitably shape the message to be more man-centered, regardless of the methods used. And a man-centered Gospel is another gospel; it is not the good news.

My response:

(A)  Jason, I told you at the time, and I’ll say it again here…  OUTSTANDING response.  Thank you so much.  You help me clarify my thoughts, and you provide some clear Biblically supported points that will help refine the Church.

(B) Where we agree:  God calls us to be faithful, and the results are ultimately up to Him.  No one is able to save a soul.  Only God does that.  No one is able to turn a heart God-ward and refine it.  Only God does that.  Warning to “seeker sensitive” churches:  Any church that compromises the Truth, manufactures an emotional experience in order to manipulate people, or chooses to bypass difficult (or possibly “offensive”) passages of Scripture in order to add more “seekers” to your roster is engaged in idolatry.  We are to be obedient.  The eternal results of our ministry are in God’s hands, and to think otherwise is dangerous.  We agree, I believe, on this – and on the key qualifier that “being lazy or half-hearted in one’s service is not being faithful.”  And that leads me to…

(C)  Where we disagree:  Jason, when you say “Effective and ineffective are moot; only FAITHFULNESS = good in this equation,” I will press back.  Is it not part of our responsibility – part of that FAITHFULNESS God asks for – to serve with ALL of the creativity God has given us?  To work and pray and reinvent our methods as long as necessary to bring the fullness of the Gospel to as many as possible?  Providing we agree that the MESSAGE must not be compromised, why is flexibility in methodology not EXPECTED in every local church?

I submit it is often because for many many churches (both traditional and contemporary, by the way), some form of methodology has become its own kind of idolatry, and the truth that God is ultimately responsible for spiritual growth (in hearts and in numbers) gets twisted into an excuse to settle.  To settle for what has always been done, wrapped in self-righteous indignation over churches with a different approach to ministry.

Warning to churches who reject a “seeker sensitive” methodology:  Don’t excuse yourself from investing your deepest, best efforts to reach this culture – the one we live in NOW, not 20 years ago – with the excuse that your methods are somehow more sacred because of their style.  If the content of the message is the truth of scripture – without compromise – then you have no business judging churches who are trying to build relational bridges with their communities using a modern construct.

(D)  Final thought to put a bow on it all…  There are sacred cows here on both sides of the chasm.  But there is common ground to be found.  At the end of the day, I understand concern over man-centered “seeker DRIVEN” methods that are willing to compromise the message in order to attain more measurable “success.”  I also have concern over the legalism and judgmental attitudes I see in many who throw out the baby with the bathwater when it comes to seeker sensitivity.  Can we get beyond the label here and deal with the core issue?

Message does NOT equal method.  I believe it is possible (and simply wise) to create welcoming environments for people who are not yet connected to God, so that they feel welcome in our churches, so that they may hear the full truth of Jesus – which may, as God works, make people very uncomfortable on its own.  I pray that God will give me the humility, wisdom, courage and creativity to NEVER compromise the message, while being ALWAYS willing to compromise my methods.  I pray for healing in the Church.  I pray for sound teaching of the Truth of God’s Word.  And I pray that we will be EFFECTIVE in our methods to reach our culture with the Gospel.

Where does your church land on this, and what do you think?


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Psalm 24:7 & Luke 10:42 >> Like David, and Mary, I'm in pursuit of my one thing. I'm the Pastor at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Montgomery, IL. Pastor, teacher, writer, communicator, designer, and drummer. I definitely got the better deal in my marriage to Amy. And I couldn't be any more proud of my five amazing boys. Deeply grateful.

32 responses to rick warren is not the antichrist :: seeker sensitive sacred cow tipping

  1. Paul Schoolmeesters November 5, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    Whew! What a discussion. Thanks for your thoughts. What’s astounding to me is the vast majority of methodologies said to be “sacred” in years past were themselves at one point viewed and treated as heretical threats to Christianity…

    “There are several reasons for opposing this new form of worship. It’s too new. It’s too worldly, even blasphemous. The new Christian music is not as pleasant as the more established style, and because there are so many new songs, you can’t learn them all. It puts too much emphasis on instrumental music rather than on Godly lyrics. The new music creates disturbances, making people act disorderly or wanting to move to it, and the preceding generation got along without it.”
    (written in 1723 – in criticism of Isaac Watts)

    • That crazy Isaac Watts. Ripping it up on “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross…”

      Paul, thanks for checking in. I am saddened by the gulf between those with a “flexible methodology” mindset (Hey! That might just become my new replacement phrase for “Seeker Sensitive”!) and those who resist modern culture with a counter-culture only view of ministry. And it truly is a gulf. Deep and wide.

      I don’t believe the divide is necessary – I believe there is room for common ground. Let the message remain constant, and let the method of delivery change as necessary. Why is this such a hard sell? I’m learning from the responses to my writing here, on Facebook, and private emails. I am learning.

      God bless, Paul! Keep serving him brother!

  2. You’ve raised three or four points that I’d love to write about and that I think are worth discussion, but I want to keep things short (well, short-ish), so I’m going to hold off on effectivity in ministry, Christian unity, and your point C on where we disagree, and limit myself to discussing “seeker-sensitive.”

    I agree completely that the term has become very polarizing, and I think using it tends to produce more heat than light for one simple reason:

    Everyone thinks the term has only one definition: theirs

    Josh, I read through your post a couple of times, and I’m still not sure of your definition for “seeker,” let alone “seeker-sensitive,” even though you claim the label and disagree with how some others define it. You say that your church has always been “unapologetically” seeker-sensitive. But when I went to Living Hope’s website, I couldn’t find the term at all (I couldn’t even find “seeker”), so I’m not sure what it means there either.

    I’m not trying to pick nits here, and I don’t intend to mock. I have no question of your sincerity, regard for the Gospel, or heart for God’s body. But if, as you’ve stated, this term produces such heated responses pro and con, then I think it’s worth taking the time to say exactly what you mean by it; otherwise there is no way to defend or critique it, to exercise biblical discernment regarding it.

    Accordingly, I’ll throw out a *very* abbreviated argument for why I don’t find Biblical support for the underlying ideas implied by the term “seeker-sensitive.” In one sentence, here’s the problem with it:

    There are no seekers toward whom one can be sensitive!

    A brief argument (and one that I believe is completely orthodox and in keeping with historical Lutheran and Reformed theology):

    1) Rom 3:11 says “No one seeks for God.” The context is pretty clear, pointing to every person’s sinful nature. We don’t understand (fallen mind), we don’t seek for God (fallen heart), we turn aside and don’t do good (fallen will). This is the doctrine of man’s depravity.

    2) Since we don’t seek God, salvation only comes because He seeks us. He acts. As you said, “No one is able to save a soul. Only God does that.” I might state it more strongly, but we seem to agree: Salvation is completely and totally by God’s action. To put a theological label on it: monergism

    3) The unbeliever may have an interest in–even an obsession with–the spiritual. He may even have an awareness of some aspects of God and seem to acknowledge Him. But he won’t seek after God by following the Law (none can, according to Rom 3), and he won’t repent and cling to the Gospel (for it’s foolishness to him, according to 1 Cor 1). Only those whose hearts have been opened by God will see the message of the Cross as it truly is: the power of God unto salvation.

    That is the fundamental flaw in the paradigm of the “seeker:” the implication that man can choose to follow God, if only he’s shown how. By corollary, the idea that church is being “sensitive” to the seeker by meeting his felt needs (a common phrasing in the movement) is likewise misguided, because the unbeliever won’t feel the need for the only real salvation offered through Christ.

    This one misunderstanding has enormous ramifications. Because while method may not equal message (as you stated), the philosophy that informs method and core assumptions upon which it’s based will *inevitably* influence the message. Methodology will never be neutral, because it is in our practice that we reveal what we truly believe. (This doesn’t prohibit flexibility, but saying more is off-topic.) Bottom line: Methodology informed by unbiblical theology will *always* compromise a biblical message.

    You’ve already cautioned against some of the ways that can happen: emotional manipulation or omitting Scripture. But it can manifest in other ways, such as the teaching that once one is saved, he must work to maintain his salvation. This is often seen today as a return to a softer (but no less impossible to keep) teaching of law *as* gospel, and it is an abomination. Just as only God can save, only God can keep; the the Gospel is as sweet and as needed in the daily life of the believer as it is for the unregenerate heathen the first time God opens his eyes to the Truth. (By the way, I’m not saying this confusion of law and gospel is limited to “seeker-sensitive” churches; it’s endemic to churches across denominations and worship style.)

    Hm, just under 800 words. I hope I’ve been clear about why I find the term and concept flawed and unbiblical. If I have time this weekend I’ll try to take a shorter stab at the other bits in your post that tweaked me.

    • Jason – so glad you stopped by and added your brain to the discussion. Per usual, very good. Thanks a ton.

      I’d like to take a moment to stand up and cheer for your observations about the term “seeker sensitive.” Both its multiple definitions and its polarizing tendency… Just did. Spot on.

      To clarify the discussion, I’ll gladly do my best to give a working definition of both “seeker” and “seeker sensitive” in the way that I am using the terms. You are right that my doing so is critical to a clear discussion. I also realize that this may be a theological minefield (unintentionally) so I will try to walk the fine line of speaking precisely in the vernacular.

      It is also important to point out that since this is my personal blog, the views I express here are mine – not official Living Hope Church policy or theological talking points. I’ll try my best to accurately portray my church’s practice and mindset, but please read these words as my thoughts on the matter – not those of Living Hope.

      “Seeker” = someone not yet connected to God through a relationship with Jesus, but either spiritually curious or actively “checking out” Christianity. I understand your theological position that there are no “seekers,” per se, but I’m sure you agree that there are people who come to church looking for something. Or hoping that maybe this Jesus talk is for real. Or maybe they are going through a very difficult time and are simply “seeking” comfort in a church. These are the people we would consider “seekers.” Simply curious people, or questioning people, who have come to our church to ask faith questions or just listen and think about it. I understand that this definition does not address the theological issue of whether their hearts are actively seeking God, or whether God is drawing them. That is a different debate. (However, I completely understand why you take the time to clarify your position on this point.) I’m just trying to be clear that there are people who will come to a church – to our church or to yours – because they want to know more or to explore Christianity, and in the mean time, they hear the Gospel. They meet Jesus. And in some of them, conversion happens. (Yes – I’m being intentionally vague about the process. My post about whether Billy Graham was a hero of the faith or misguided and theologically dangerous can come another day. 🙂 The moment of salvation is a mystery to all of us.)

      “Seeker sensitive,” in my use of the term, means “trying to create a welcoming environment for people not yet connected to God through a relationship with Jesus by being sensitive to how they feel coming into our church.” I hesitate to use the word “feel” at all, because I’ve been whacked many times by critics who accuse every “seeker sensitive” church (in their definition, I suppose) of being “feelings-based” or somehow more concerned about how people feel than whether the truth is presented. So if your hackles were raised when I talked about how someone might feel coming into church, give me some grace and apply some common sense (and Jason, I’m not just speaking to you here, but anyone who may be reading it).

      Of course coming into a church can feel intimidating. I’ve been a believer since childhood, and if I visit a new church, I can even feel a little intimidated – because it is unfamiliar territory. So imagine what it must be like for someone who doesn’t know Jesus. They know they are on the “outside” of the church club from the start. They probably are a bit defensive – feeling like they are going to be judged by the church people inside as they walk in the door. They don’t know where the bathrooms are. They don’t know the songs. They don’t have the prayers memorized, and they don’t know when to stand up or when to sit down. Maybe they’ve seen prosperity gospel preachers on TV, and they expect a full-out money grab by way of guilt trip from the git go. Maybe they don’t know where to find “Luke 10” because they have almost never cracked open a Bible.

      At Living Hope, we try to remove as many of those barriers as possible. To help people feel at ease and welcome in the ENVIRONMENT so that the MESSAGE can do its full work. (And I’m not just talking about the sermon. I’m talking about the message of the Gospel – revealed in the truth of the inerrant, living and active Word of God.) We call this having a “front porch” mentality. Just like you would go out of your way to offer a beverage and a good seat to a guest who comes to visit and hang out on your front porch. We don’t pull punches and “dumb down” or “soften” the teaching. We understand that God and the truth of His Word may make people very uncomfortable. Even more reason to remove other barriers.

      How does this play itself out practically? When we ask people to open their Bible to Psalms, we will most often say something simple like “Psalms is right about in the middle.” Believers most likely know that already, but we understand – because we have a “front porch” mentality – that it could be helpful to someone who is unfamiliar with the Bible. We don’t have “pre-programmed” spots in our service where everyone stands or sits together. We simply ask people to stand or sit. If we pray the Lord’s Prayer together, we often will put the words up on the screen. Most people don’t look. But it helps remove a barrier for someone who doesn’t need just another reminder that they’re an outsider.

      And just to put the cherry on top for this part of our discussion, Living Hope is “unapologetically seeker sensitive” in nature (as I have just described it), but we don’t often use the term itself. As we have worked out our shared vocabulary, the terms we use are “people not connected to God” and “Front Porch.” That is something we do not apologize for – what we believe and practice – even though the terms “seeker” and “seeker sensitive” do not appear anywhere on our website (or in our brochures, or any church communications). I would go so far as to say that I have even talked to Pastor Bob about whether or not we should EVER use the terms, simply because of their polarizing nature and your insight that everybody has their own understanding of what those terms mean.

      OK – this has been important and valuable, but it is outpacing your comment and threatening to become longer than my original post, so I will try to deal with the rest of your comment as succinctly as possible.

      (1) Thanks for the brief theological outline on why no one can seek after God. I think a major cause of disunity between the “seeker sensitive” and “opposed” camps is the assumption that our efforts to make guests/seekers/non-church people feel comfortable in the environment spills over into our teaching of the Word. Not necessarily the case. Not in Living Hope’s case.

      (2) You wrote “Bottom line: Methodology informed by unbiblical theology will *always* compromise a biblical message.” Yes. I understand that. And I do not believe that anyone alive and active in ministry today has a perfect understanding of theology. Therefore, EVERY methodology will at some point “get in the way” of the truth. And, therefore, we must have some measure of grace with one another – not compromising on core theology, but humble enough to recognize that none of us understands fully the deep mysteries of the work of God. Therefore, where core truth remains doctrinally sound, we MUST have grace with each other with regard to methodology. I would go so far personally as to recommend EMBRACING each other as brothers/sisters/co-ministers of the gospel with different styles. Instead, I see vitriol. Way too much.

      (3) My last clarifying point in this LONG response… At Living Hope we are not driven by meeting felt needs. That is an inexhaustible well. We do want to minister to the poor and marginalized in our community – and bless the community we serve in all kinds of ways – because Christ commands it, and it is a joy to obey and serve in His name. That being said, meeting felt needs does not equate to sharing the Gospel, nor does it translate into conversions for those we serve. Only God saves souls. Only God.

      Must… stop… typing. Must rest. Thank you, Jason. Are we finding some common ground here?

      • I don’t know about common ground yet, Josh, but I do see a clearer picture of the central questions leading to our contrasting positions. I believe that’s useful; articulating those questions can only be good for any teacher who feels the weight of the warning in James 3:1, IMO.

        (An aside: I appreciate you making explicit that you aren’t speaking for Living Hope in what you write; for what it’s worth I never thought of it in that way. I can listen to the sermon podcast there to get a handle on the public teaching and doctrinal focus of the church. FWIW, I haven’t heard much from you that I’d think *didn’t* match the message of Living Hope.)

        I’ll grant that people that meet your definition of “seeker” (someone not yet connected to God through a relationship with Jesus, but either spiritually curious or actively “checking out” Christianity) exist. My initial thought would be that for such people, the only thing worth presenting to such a person would be Christianity. The law to crush and the gospel to save, clearly articulated, so that the person who rejects it understands what they’ve done, and the person under conviction knows the what, why, and way of salvation, that they may repent and believe.

        I felt two questions shake out after reading your response:

        – Does this approach cause us to assume the gospel?

        – Who is the church, and specifically, the worship service, for?

        Michael Horton in his book _Christless Christianity_ speaks of an “assumed gospel,” and I think he’s clearly described what concerns me so much about specific methods (and messages proclaimed with them) I’ve seen from those espousing the seeker-sensitive:

        “[W]e easily forget the gospel. We’re wired for law, see. “The gospel is so odd, even to us Christians, that we have to get it again and again,” says Horton. Treat Christianity primarily as a means of “getting your marriage” on track, and you’ll be welcomed in the public sphere. If religion is private therapy to improve our lives and make us better, it has an important place in society. “[T]reat it as public truth–Good news to the whole world–and it provokes offense. Moral and spiritual enlightenment is one thing; redemption by a one-sided divine rescue operation is another.” When we assume we know the gospel, we slip right into our (semi-) Pelegian moralism all too easily. We need the gospel again and again. Every single Lord’s day. Rather than the constant burden to “do more” in our lives and church, we need first and foremost to be reminded of what was done for us. Only if this gospel has been properly preached can the Christian go out and love his neighbor and minister to others in the body.”

        (Full disclosure: This was from an Amazon review, but it’s accurate to my understanding of Horton’s thesis, and saved me time in saying the same.)

        Put another way, the gospel is not a means to any end, however worthy it may seem.

        When I ask who is church for, I’m not trying to take any focus from God. It’s a worship service, after all. But if that’s the case, then who can participate? Can an unbeliever (even a seeker) worship? I don’t see how.

        In that way, the service is for the believers, for the body. The unbeliever is welcome (and to that end, we should be sensitive to avoid repelling them by traditions or other culturally driven practices), but they are there as spectators, not participants. If the seeker or unbeliever becomes the focus/target/audience of the worship service, then the church cannot remain healthy, because it is being directed by those who don’t love God! But if the whole counsel of God is preached, the law thundered and the gospel proclaimed (which as I’ve already said is desperately needed by every believer at every opportunity), then any seekers present will hear it, and God willing, be saved.

        The church exists for the mutual support and edification of the saints, that they can grow in the faith through preaching, teaching, the sacraments, and church discipline, so that they may be witnesses in the world as they do the good works God has given them to do. Evangelism is crucial, it is commanded, but it is a byproduct of a church functioning in a biblical way, rather than a core aspect of its mission.

        I’m stating things baldly for clarity and brevity; while I believe I’m correct and can defend what I’ve stated, I’m not trying to shout anyone down. I’m open to any questions and challenges you may have to this. I’m actually working on a paper about the doctrine of the church this month, so if you have rocks, go ahead and chuck ’em my way!

  3. Jason said: “Methodology informed by unbiblical theology will *always* compromise a biblical message.”

    Josh said (seeming to agree): “At Living Hope, we try to remove as many of those barriers as possible. To help people feel at ease and welcome in the ENVIRONMENT so that the MESSAGE can do its full work.”

    Ok, that’s all well and good. Rick warren does/claims the same priority and it sounds very nice and loving on the surface.

    However, RW’s message IS compromised. As is Living Hope’s, and Emmaus’s and Good Shepherd Camarillo (the three that seem to have a lot of trading of ideas going on – in fact LH and Camarillo claim to be ‘sister congregations’ – and I’m sure there are more, and they all sound the same after a while).

    I have listened extensively to all three church’s messages, and there is little to NO gospel and a lot of law. Sometimes God’s law and that is necessary and good to be preached, but more often man’s law/tradition being preached and that is NOT good. And it is very rarely followed up with the gospel.

    Occasionally there is a gospel crumb whizzing by at about mach 3, a passing shorthand reference to what Christ accomplished, but it is almost never the MAIN POINT of the sermon. Almost never elaborated on. This blessed Gospel, Christ the perfect God-man offering himself up freely for our sins, past present and future, knowing our frailties, knowing how even AFTER we are saved, we will continually fall short in everything we do, this gospel which is the ONLY thing that makes alive after one has been convicted by that law, and shown to be dead in tresspasses and sins, and realizes how far they fall short.

    Since you claim you want to connect people with Jesus (i.e. get them saved) I will tell you unequivocally this approach of predominantly ‘how to’ have a better life (in any form) will CONNECT NO ONE to Jesus. ONLY the Gospel does that. The law kills. No matter whose law it is, God’s or man’s, it will KILL those people spiritually that you are trying to make ‘comfortable’ to hear this message. And believers need to hear the gospel again and again too, because we fail every day and as we grow, we become more and more aware of how we fail!

    A predominantly “how to have a better life” message will kill them either by 1. offering them no hope of ever living up to the standard of performance that is required and thereby killing them by depression or despair/discouragement, or 2. kill them by convincing them they being successful at it, and turning them into pharisees.

    Again Josh, PLEASE oh please I beg you, take a month or so to listen to Chris Rosebrough’s show < http://www.fightingforthefaith.com > as he goes through and ANALYZES sermons. If indeed you want to save people, if indeed you have believed the true gospel, learning to discern the proper Christian gospel in today’s evangelical church will honestly be quite a bit like being born again AGAIN.

    However, the main point of your original post was that those who aren’t as gifted as you think they should be in music should probably consider stepping down… I still contend that this is a shallow focus, FED BY seeker sensitive mindsets (dont’ want anyone to think we have mediocre music here they might not come back!).

    The sad thing is, if the messages and teaching was on target, no one would really care about the quality of the music because they would know we are Christians by our love… and that includes our love for even those musicians who sing off key with true joy for the Lord. And if the message is way off, no amount of good catchy/emotional/professional sounding music will redeem it.

    Again, I ask you to consider this with no malice from me: Consider that if I were to go up to your pastor Bob and say he that maybe he should consider serving elsewhere in the church, not preaching and teaching. Just how that would be taken? Because I honestly feel that is the case and no I am not angry about it, I am deeply grieved instead.

    Yes, I phrase things strongly as a reflection of how strongly I feel about them, and I do get frustrated when people cannot see what is so clear to me.

    In essence Jason and I agree. I’ve never been able to understand why he can say he something and everyone thinks it’s great, but I say it and everyone flips out and calls me mean spirited. sigh. Believe me I do agonize over it all the time, and still can’t figure it out. But what bothers me is that while people will insist I have grace for teachers who corrupt the gospel, even for those who corrupt it with harsh language and beating up on people verbally from the pulpit like Steven Furtick and Perry Noble (and others with a similar approach) do. However if I phrase something a tad too strongly and use a little sarcasm to belittle an unbiblical position, and speak in favor of a clear articulate gospel, that gospel without which no one CAN be saved (connected to Christ), there is suddenly no grace for me. This seems upside down in priority and generally only serves to reinforce my state of alarm.

    I would suggest you read some Luther and see how strongly he phrased things. 🙂 I almost fell out of my chair when Jason had me read the introduction to Bondage of the Will.

    Another great one is Rob Morey’s “And God Mocked them”
    (yes, I know he’s reformed, and so Lutherans won’t agree with everything he says)

    and his article/audio here on Satire, Gullibilty, and Discernment

    If you want a good post on Christians and art, go here

    he TOUCHES briefly on judging/evaluating others’ art, but certainly doesn’t spend the time on it that you seemed to have. I found his post on Christian priorities in art far more inspiring (sorry).

    • Paula, I’m connecting this response to your comment because I have a few specific issues to deal with in your comment, but please see this as a response to both you and your husband, Jason. Thanks to both of you for your thoughtful and direct responses here. You are both helping to clarify very complex issues confronting the church.

      I want to deal with a couple of points for clarity’s sake:

      (1) To clarify the relationship between Living Hope, Emmaus, and Good Shepherd… Emmaus Lutheran (Bloomington) planted Living Hope Church about 7 years ago. Both Pastor Bob Halvorson and I were on staff at Emmaus first, and transferred to full-time ministry at Living Hope as the church got started. Living Hope received financial support from Emmaus for a season, but now is a fully independent congregation. Good Shepherd in Camarillo, CA, is pastored by one of our former Elders at Living Hope, Pastor Jim Johnson. It is true, we consider Good Shepherd a “sister” congregation, and we pray often for them, send occasional short-term financial support, and Bob goes there to teach occasionally, as well. It is also true that our theology and methodology may be similar between churches – we are good friends, and have a similar heart and wiring for ministry.

      (2) Paula, I believe you are wrong when you accuse Living Hope of sharing little to no Gospel and being heavy on the Law. You just are inaccurate in saying that. I know you disagree, but I can only ask people to listen to our messages and visit on a Sunday morning asking the question, “Is God at work here? Is Jesus crucified and risen again being preached here?” I will let the reputations of Emmaus and Good Shepherd stand on their own.

      (3) I did listen to some of Chris Rosebrough’s shows. While I believe he means to stand up for what is right, and therefore help to purify the Church, I found him reckless and judgmental at a level that I couldn’t listen to. In one case he reviewed a sermon in a church I know very well. For him to suggest that people ought to “run away” and leave a church after listening to about 2 minutes of one sermon from a young associate pastor discounts all of the good work that God has done through that local congregation and the many, many souls God has saved as a RESULT (not in spite of) the ministry of that church over more than half a century. I found it repulsive. I’m sure he has things to offer the Church, but he is doing damage, as well.

      (4) Thank you very much for the last link in particular in your comment above. For anyone interested in a thoughtful view of the proper role of ART within the Christian’s worldview, check it out here >> http://faithdefenders.com/a-christian-view-of-art/

      (5) While I could wrestle point by point through the fracas here (which I need to do internally – but cannot take the time to write out at this point), I will try to cut to the main point I want to address. In a nutshell, I feel that there is a tug of war going on in the Church between those who claim their theology is pure and those who purport to have a more effective methodology that supersedes doctrinal purity. I believe this is a FALSE dichotomy, and it is splitting the Church. And Jesus wants us to be ONE. (Jn. 17:21)

      I believe that EVERY local church, and EVERY pastor/teacher stumbles and believes wrongly about some facet of doctrine. This means that on earth, there is no perfect church. It bothers me when I see brothers and sisters in Christ who focus their best energy and passion cutting down other ministries – or worse – other MINISTERS.

      While I do believe there is only ONE TRUTH that will be revealed to us in its fullness one day, I am grateful for the differing churches and methodologies that are united under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. God can use our weaknesses and differences to win different kinds of people.

      I pray for greater understanding, and a supernatural outpouring of humility and grace for one another in the Church. Lord, Your will be done, and Your kingdom come.

      I think today, I will just leave it at that.

  4. rebecca enderlein November 10, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    I’m waiting for the Billy Graham post…

  5. Josh, there are good ideas very practical ideas in something like Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Church. Those are not the dangerous ones and those are not what make his whole movement so popular. The dangerous ones are the ones that actually have theological underpinning because Rick Warren’s theology is so lacking in MAJOR facets not minor ones. And those other ideas that make people think that if they aren’t doing it such and such way and creating a big crowd they are failing, those are also dangerous.

    Rick’s entire approach is based on the false teaching that ANYONE can be brought to Christ “if you just find the key to his or her heart.” and the likely place to start is “felt needs.” (Purpose Driven Church page 219)

    Actually the Biblical place to start is not felt needs but REAL spiritual needs which are often NOT felt.

    This seeker sensitive approach is semi pelagianism and is an oppressive heavy burden for the believer to bear responsiblity to get people ‘connected’ to Christ or ‘saved.’ To make worship into a performance meant to impress man and hope they enjoy the music so they come back, instead of sabbath rest for musicians and hearers alike. I don’t know about you but if I dealt with the corporate performance-based high pressure world 5-6 days a week, I would not want to have to come in and deal with it every Sunday morning as well. The church is for believers, not unbelievers or seekers. If they truly are being drawn by the Holy Spirit, they will see past the minor irritations of faulty music, faulty art, IF the people are truly Christ centered.

    Our responsibility is only to remain faithful to preach the message uncompromised, in season and out of season and leave the results to God, who promises his word will not return void.

    One thing you might want to be aware of, is that there is already such a huge and justified backlash against seeker sensitive approaches by mature believers with discernment, the kind that churches NEED to remain stable and on track. Those mature believers are really seeking HARD, sometimes for years because every church within a half hour drive radius is caught up in some version of seeker sensitive, or charismania/word faith, or emergent liberal theology, social gospel, liberation theology, mysticism, etc. etc. ad nauseam…

    They seek for years for a good Biblical church and are running scared from places like Emmaus and Living Hope and Good Shepherd Camarillo because they can see right away they are off track like the churches they fled.

    I would also seriously suggest you visit Twin City Fellowship some Sunday in St Louis Park, for different perspective on how to do church. Pastor Bob DeWaay is very approachable. He’s also written a book I think you would benefit from reading, called “Redefining Christianity:Understanding the Purpose Driven Movement” which is one of the best I have read on the subject. They are growing fast and it’s not because they have hopping professional music. Its because they are one of the only churches out there offering the truth of the gospel clearly these days and providing a refuge for sheep fleeing from hirelings who abused them in the name of purpose.

    • OK Paula. I’ll respond to some of this stuff:

      (1) You said “This seeker sensitive approach is semi pelagianism and is an oppressive heavy burden for the believer to bear responsibility to get people ‘connected’ to Christ or ’saved.’” Maybe some churches teach that. Living Hope does not. Only God saves. We are very clear on this point, and repeat it in a hundred ways weekly.

      (2) You write about churches who set out “to make worship into a performance meant to impress man and hope they enjoy the music so they come back…” Maybe some churches do that. Living Hope does not. If there is ANYTHING I am ferociously consistent about in leading our Worship Team, it is “BE AUTHENTIC.” If they are not healthy spiritually, they should not lead people in worship. “Don’t ever fake it,” I say all the time. I often end Wednesday night rehearsal with “Guard your hearts between now and Sunday so you can reflect your faith with joy and freedom and integrity.” We cannot be accurately accused of performance-based music meant to impress man. It’s just not our heart at all.

      (3) THIS IS THE MONEY QUOTE of your whole comment: “The church is for believers, not unbelievers or seekers.” Can’t wait to deal with that one as an entire new post. Another day.

      (4) You talk about people fleeing the abuse of seeker-sensitive churches, saying, “They seek for years for a good Biblical church and are running scared from places like Emmaus and Living Hope and Good Shepherd Camarillo because they can see right away they are off track like the churches they fled.”

      At this point, I’d like to ask you to lay off Emmaus and Good Shepherd. I am certain that you have not spent time in those congregations getting to know the staff and congregation, and listening thoughtfully and prayerfully over a period of time to rightly analyze the soundness of their doctrine and the fruit of their methodology. You have not done this with Living Hope, either, of course, but I can accept your criticism of our church because I make reference to it all the time.

      However, to dump your judgment upon the good people of Emmaus and Good Shepherd simply because we share a relationship with them is out of line. I’m asking you to please keep your commentary focused on the issues at hand without hurling arrows at other churches.

      Thanks in advance. My goal is not to continually butt heads over the areas we disagree, but to clarify our positions and try to find whatever common ground exists – for the good of the Church and out of love for Jesus and His name.

  6. I am not sure how Chris Rosenbrough’s comments can be considered anything but unedifying and slanderous. I have to this day never met a perfect pastor nor heard a perfect sermon. So I will keep it simple “Ephesians 6:7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not man” Thankful we rely on God’s grace not the opinion of men.

    • Thanks for your comment. I agree. This is a heart-wrenching program to listen to. I hate to see the Bride of Christ pulled apart from within. From what I have heard of it, Chris’s show is more like cancer than medicine.

    • *** NOTE from Joshua Skogerboe: This comment and the one above are both in response to an earlier comment from Paula in which she mentioned a specific Pastor’s message, critiqued by Chris Rosebrough on his podcast, by name. This Pastor (a) was not a part of the discussion in this post, and (b) was not notified of the public critique before it aired. Further, the use of the audio was a violation of his church’s stated audio download policy on their website. Therefore, I informed Paula that I needed to remove his name from the public forum of my blog comments. The rest of her comment was left intact. Jason references that podcast critique in his comments here, so this is the backstory for those of you reading. Further, I have left Jason’s comment untouched below, other than to remove the name of the Pastor he mentioned. What you read below is from Jason. Thanks. ***


      I don’t expect much more to come from this particular post, but I wanted to say something here. First, for full disclosure, I know Chris pretty well, but I have not heard his show reviewing this particular message yet. “Slander” has a very specific meaning; I’m guessing you meant more that you didn’t like what he was saying, and thought he shouldn’t be saying it (hence the “unedifying” comment).

      In brief, I will say that I’ve found Chris’s constant searching for an explicit and accurate proclamation of the Gospel in teachings and sermons to be a very helpful thing in my own spiritual development. Also, I’m quite certain that if you can present examples with Scripture of where he’s wrong in what he said, he’d be very open to hearing you out. I’d be stunned if he hadn’t attempted to contact Pastor __________ around the time the show originally aired, for that very reason.

      One other thing: Chris’s theology is very much a Lutheran one which treasures grace *very* highly. Accordingly, he’ll hold a sermon preached from a Lutheran pulpit to a slightly different standard than that against which he’d measure a Baptist or Reformed message. Whether or not you agree with Chris’s methodology, I’d hope we’d all consider it reasonable to expect an AFLC pastor to preach messages which are consistent with the creeds and Lutheran confessions (e.g. unaltered Augsburg)? Indeed, the places where I have disagreement with Chris tend to be those areas where I struggle with the historical Lutheran doctrines as the best interpretation of Scripture…

    • Mom–

      Unedifying and slanderous? Hm.

      Well, they are Scriptural and that means edifying both in the POSITIVE and the NEGATIVE – e.g. discerning truth from ALMOST true. and Slander or libel by definition must be untrue. But if a person lacks discernment, it would be hard to properly tell whether what he is saying is slanderous. It is much easier to just *slander* Chris by such accusations as have been leveled against him here by Josh and you, than to actually be a Berean and pore over the Scriptures and see if these things be so.

      So, go ahead and find some quotes of his that are untrue and unscriptural please. I find some things that Josh’s pastor does to be unedifying and slanderous, or at least unedifying. In particular recently I recall hearing him mock people who make excuses — I think it was about making excuses not to tithe.

      Now, that couldn’t have been very loving nor motivating and I know that such a use of sarcasm from Chris would be frowned upon.

      In addition, the sermons I have listened to from Emmaus, Living Hope St Michael, and Good Shepherd Camarillo, which are pretty much the same message as the bad ones Chris reviews, are mostly law. Now, in the AFLC the seminarians are taught NEVEr to leave out the gospel once you have preached the law. And no, you don’t give law gospel to save people and then put them back under the law.

      For one thing, law/guilt doesn’t work against the sin nature. It only shows us our sin. The gospel does work both to save and sanctify, for those who believe it or who are being called by God through it. But **if it is not preached, it cannot call or save anyone.**

      So… re: slanderous and unedifying: Would you be offended if I say that about pastors you like with whom I disagree, since you did? I surely hope you wouldn’t be offended, and that there isn’t a double standard going on. That would be somewhat unChristian wouldn’t it?

      Also, I would encourage you to take it up with Chris if you think he is being slanderous and unedifying, as well. Lovingly correct your brother Chris so that he might better serve the body of Christ. You seem to have some idea how it should be done, so do your Christian duty to sharpen your brother.

      Another idea would be to listen to some of his shows where he actually reviews good sermons. Because he does that too. The difference, once you learn to see it, is pretty amazing.

      Btw whose ‘mom’?

      • 1) I’ll let the people of Living Hope judge whether or not God uses our pastor to speak the truth. Their opinion holds more water than a critic from outside the flock.

        2) If I decide to confront Chris for some reason, I will. Otherwise, I’ll let him serve God as he is led by the Holy Spirit. At this time, it isn’t my fight. It isn’t a fight at all.

        3) Paula, the gospel is clearly and consistently preached at all three of the churches you continue to criticize. I’m not posting any more of your criticism of these churches from this point on. You have shared your opinion. That’s enough.

  7. I think we should be careful when discussing therories of our faith. Yes, stand for what we believe. Yes, study God’s word in order to understand what it means. Yet, when discussion leads to hurting feelings and making harmful, personal remarks. We are gaining no ground for the Kingdom of God…isn’t that what Satan wants?

    • Please don’t understand this to be flippant; I don’t mean it to be. But here’s what immediately came to mind in reading your comment:

      1) I have no desire or interest in discussing theories of faith. I seek truth, as defined be fidelity to Scripture. If I’m hold a faulty position, I want to change it. This is not the whole of sanctification, but it must be a part of a growing spiritual maturity.

      2) Another way to say this is “Iron sharpens iron” (Prov 27:17). How is that process done? Through subtraction (chipping away what is dull). Unfortunately, we are not unfeeling metal (at the risk of mixing biblical metaphors, we are living stones (1 Pet 2:5)), so that process can be painful. I think that may be part of the wisdom in God’s structuring of the local church. We edify each other in the body, but we also grow in patience, etc. as we deal with some that otherwise we would not!

      3) I think often of the command to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15). I think everyone struggles with this; either by sacrificing truth to seem loving (i.e. not hurting feelings) or justifying saying things in a deliberately harmful way (because they are not false). IMO (and what follows is just my opinion; I haven’t the Scripture to back it up yet), we should know our own tendency, and examine what we’re going to say in light of that, to better strive to fulfill Eph 4:15. Personally, I’m tempted to soft-sell things, so I need to fight against that and be clear in proclaiming the truth. I’ve found that if I do that, then my tendency actually can be productive, allowing others to understand the truth without needlessly offending by my manner. When I *don’t* do that, then we never get to the point of understanding the truth, and frankly, a superfically common ground is often less valuable than an honest (even divisive) difference of opinion.

  8. 3) I did listen to some of Chris Rosebrough’s shows. While I believe he means to stand up for what is right, and therefore help to purify the Church, I found him reckless and judgmental at a level that I couldn’t listen to. In one case he reviewed a sermon in a church I know very well. For him to suggest that people ought to “run away” and leave a church after listening to about 2 minutes of one sermon from a young associate pastor discounts all of the good work that God has done through that local congregation and the many, many souls God has saved as a RESULT (not in spite of) the ministry of that church over more than half a century. I found it repulsive. I’m sure he has things to offer the Church, but he is doing damage, as well.

    So you discount all the good he’s doing in just one short attempt to listen?

    You know how Rush works…(yes, I know Chris is no Rush Limbaugh) you gotta give him a few weeks to sink in.

    I’ve listened to a load of Emmaus sermons and a load of Living Hope Sermons and a load of Jim Johnson’s sermons. Jason has spent the last year scouring the web looking for any AFLC pastors that have their stuff online, just to try and get a feel for the direction of the denomination lately.

    I think Chris got it right. I was the one who pleaded with him to review [pastor’s name deleted by the webmaster]. Although, [pastor’s name omitted] sermons aren’t nearly as entertaining as some.

    BTW he spends most of his time looking at sermons, so if he doesn’t have time to listen to ALL the sermons (remember he is just reviewing THAT sermon that day) you’ll have to pardon him I suppose, just as you expect us to pardon bad teaching. I think these pastors at these churches are doing MUCH damage to the church as well, and Chris does a good job of explaining why. But when you are in the midst of it, you cannot see it until you take the time to put the pieces together. We are too busy ‘doing church’ to actually analyze our spiritual diet and make sure it is nutritious and not just something that gives us a thrill because it manipulates our emotions and/or gives us hoops to jump through and convince ourselves we’re “succeeding” in this Christian life.

    However I’m sure that my insistence that the churches you are promoting are damaging the body of Christ greatly (mirroring what you said about Chris R.) well somehow I don’t imagine that will go over too well with you and will come across as mean spirited (never mind some of the comments on your previous blog that inspired this one).

  9. btw Chris is well within his legal rights (as advised by his attorney) to use any freely available material for educational purposes. So unless they want to start making people pay for their spiritual food…

  10. Here’s an article that says exactly what I’m talking about.

    “Dude, where’s my gospel?”
    First Things Magazine

    btw ‘mom’ lots of times the truth hurts. I am not offended by Josh saying all kinds of wrong things about Chris, it doesn’t surprise me in the least. I would hope that I could be afforded equal amounts of grace when I offer critiques of the messages Josh is supporting and promoting.

  11. Yes, we do disagree Josh, I don’t see how you can’t see that your church and you are agreeing only in theory to that article, but not in practice. It is saying exactly what I am saying about the messages in the three churches mentioned above. There are innumerable others, due to the popularity of people like Rick Warren and Bill Hybels and so many zillions of spin-offs.

    The three mentioned above concern me here because they are closely associated with you. And because many people in the leadership are thought of quite highly, and no one wants to think people they admire are not quite on track, or going off track. I hate it as much as anyone, and believe it would be far easier for me not to think about it or deal with it.

    I’m going to submit a bit I wrote on facebook that you might have seen a few days ago.

    ” I honestly think that this constant insistence on turning the other cheek and walking away from a theological fight is what is WRONG with the church. The false teaching is not being rooted out in our peers’ hearts, and they just keep going on and on until pretty soon they are an elder/deacon/pastor and in charge of making decisions based on that bad theology.”

    “Then the faithful elders who just assumed their neighbors were on track or brushed something they didn’t really LIKE under the rug, wonder why their fellows are going off track. Because we as Christians didn’t do our job as iron sharpening iron. It was too hard to face that rejection and ruffled feathers.”

    “f just facing rejection and ruffled feathers is what REAL persecution is all about, SIGN ME UP!

    The church in America is mentally lazy and cowardly, refusing to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints, as commanded in Jude, (and elsewhere) refusing to divide along Gospel lines. DIVISION IS A FACT OF LIFE and MUST come, but beware if you are dividing based on something other than the truth!”

    “Cursed be any love or unity for which the Word of God must be put at stake! — Martin Luther”

    In response, one lady told me a story about an elder at her church who decided The Shack would be a good book to get people to read. She mentioned to another elder that this was not good and the elder and pastor agreed, but will they do anything? No. They will allow the leaven to spread, because the first elder has lots of money and they don’t want to ruffle any feathers.

    I see this same thing happening in the AFLC when I write to the leadership and ask them if they plan on making any kind of statement even unofficially about seeker sensitive/purpose driven, or any of these things that are dividing church after church because of their unbiblical basis. The leadership refuses to get involved. I know, I know, we’re congregational. But that doesn’t mean recommendations can’t be strongly made, but must be made with sound doctrinal backing, nor does it mean that opinions can’t be strongly given, in writing, online, in publications. Continually being minnesota nice and avoiding confict and just letting the sheep and undershepherds wander into every new fad is not the way to preserve truth in any church or denomination. And I thought that is what the AFLC was about?

    I also had asked Dana and Andy what the policy was on naming the names of false teachers, correcting error, etc. Apparently they let the pastors decide for themselves whether or not they want to do it. This too is unscriptural, for we Christians are COMMANDED to do it. If a pastor doesn’t want to do it, he is shirking one of his main responsibilites.

  12. “you need someone to get in your face from time to time and speak the truth in love.” — pastor Bob Halvorson

    yes on occasion these guys do say things right, but their working it out is usually not the same thing. And in addition, when we are rightly challenged, the idea of it being done ‘love’ is not as obvious and warm feeling as we would like it to be.

    Steve Camp wrote a great article about Holding Pastors Accountable:

    here’s a paragraph from that:
    “Dear men of God, if you have faithful “Bereans” in your church constantly plying you with questions, constantly examining you with the Word of God, constantly offering you from the well of careful learning a word of circumspection, don’t recoil at those parishioners, but thank the Lord for them for you are blessed. You might be tempted to say to some, “lighten up…back off…give me a break.” Don’t! I know that some elders look at people like this as being a nuisance, but they are really just fulfilling their biblical duty to you—and let them do this with joy. Paul says, “And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God’s message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).”

    I see my posts have disappeared, probably because I noticed after I posted them that you said to lay off those specific churches. I respectfully respond No, all the same, but I won’t do it here, since you won’t countenance anyone speaking ill of them (i only spoke ill of the message, not the people).

    In addition I might point out that you are speaking ill of people I care about, and that Jason cares about, and he has not yet told you even to lay off his wife.

    • Your posts have not disappeared. I haven’t removed any of them. Also, you are commenting on my blog, not the other way around. Why would Jason ask me to lay off?

  13. Well thanks for putting a few back. The originals are also on my blog.

    Lay off as in the way you insisted I was being mean and divisive on the other blog post. And lay off by making me jump through nitpicking hoops about which words I can and cannot use, which churches and which pastors I can and cannot mention. This seeker sensitive walk sure gets more and more marrow and complicated the more I learn about it.

  14. btw they really did disappear, for me, so I don’t know what happened.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

  15. I still am not seeing the one to ‘mom’ that starts with ‘unedifying and slanderous’?

  16. whoops, there it is. NEVER MIND. argh. I apologize. I don’t know why they aren’t showing up for me consistently.

  17. This absolutely breaks my heart. I don’t even know what to say. Knowing that some of my brothers and sisters in Christ are spending time analyzing sermons, searching for doctrinal errors, and spending hours criticizing other believers leaves me so discouraged. I’m almost scared to say anthing at all because I feel like I’m running the risk of being torn to bits… but I feel so strongly that through all this time spent critiquing sermons and researching different demonination’s downfalls — even reading great christian commentaries — we’re wasting time that could be spent on building edifying, Christ-glorifying relationships (with Christians, and especially with non-christians). So many sick people need a Healer! I want to do whatever I can to love them, build friendships with them, and hopefully introduce them to the One who has healed me. Please, I’m begging you, spend your time there — reaching the lost, and loving on the body of Christ — not cutting us down…

    • Liz – I love your heart. Don’t be discouraged. There is a small number of people in the church who have given their life to criticism of others in the church. While they are vocal, and they actually do have some important points to make, their numbers relatively small. I say “don’t be discouraged” because God does not “discourage.” He disciplines his children, but always for the joy of redemption. Discouragement comes from the other side. There are many, many, MANY churches and pastors and people like you whom God has called and empowered to build bridges with lost souls and share the GOOD NEWS! Like your Dad! Celebrate the joy of what God is doing – because he is active and moving and He’s already won! God bless you friend, and don’t you dare be discouraged. We are chosen children of the King – full of the Spirit and purpose – and the light we bear is the best news the world has ever heard. You are a victorious saint, my friend. Thanks for checking in, Liz. We miss you dearly at Living Hope. 🙂

  18. Rachel Peterson July 29, 2011 at 5:38 am

    Interesting discussion. I’m coming late to the table here. There are many who are quick to point out what is wrong with the “Church” in general and in specific today. But I also believe that in general, the “Church” has a cheap grace. It is because we don’t really understand the Holiness of God. I also believe we don’t understand community the way God intended it to be. Please understand that I am speaking in generalities here, I will let you know if I mean something specifically. In today’s world everything is throw away. If I don’t like mt cell phone, I’ll get a different one, if my friend makes me angry enough or causes too much drama, I’ll get a new BFF. If I don’t like the sermons and if I don’t feel like I’m being fed and the church isn’t meeting MY needs, I’ll find a different church. The same thing can be applied to spouses, and children, parents, etc. If you read the Old Testament, you will read that the Israelite community depended upon each other for life. Not that I am leaving God out of the equasion, He is the owner of heaven and earth. But He intended for life to be lived in community. People want to throw out the Old Testament and just read and live by the New Testament because the idea of grace is more appealing than the hard line of the Law. We in ourselves rebell against the very word “Law”. The problem is that the word “Law” is an inacurate translation of the word Torah. The word Torah is an archery term and it means to “The Mark.” As in a Bulls eye. Hmmm, where have I heard that before, Sin-to miss the mark. Torah is God’s “Instruction for righteous living.” Misstranslated as Law. When the Bible talks about the “Lawless one.” It is talking about those who do not follow Torah. Before you say something about this being a Jewish thing, please understand that none of this was started by the Jews, it all originated in heaven with God. Our adversary was also in heaven and saw the things of God and is able to counterfit the things of God. Jewish tradition and Church tradition have been elevated (by man)to equal standing with God’s way. For myself, I am choosing to keep it simple, I am a witness, and a fruit inspector. The great Commission is threefold-Make disciples Mt.28, Bear fruit Jn.15 and preach the Gospel Mk.16

    May the Lord bless you and keep you and yours always,