Church Planting: Is It About the Gospel or Acquisitions?

Are we Christians or Ferengi?

how-people-join-megachurches
As featured at Reclaiming the Mission link

In 1998, Charles Swindoll, serving as the Chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary, decided to start a church in Frisco, which is a quick drive on the Dallas Tollway from downtown Dallas. I lived in Dallas at the time, attending another large church off the Dallas Tollway, about 10 minutes due south from the site of the new church plant. The Dallas culture revolves around celebrity, perhaps foreshadowing the rise of the celebrity pastor phenomenon. Opening day saw over 2000 people (perhaps 3000) in attendance. Were people in Dallas overwhelmed by the Gospel, answering the call at Stonebriar Church? link

Nah-it was just a shift of attendees from other area churches who wanted to be part of the next cool church. People simply changed churches. When I heard about the struggle of one fine church nearby which nearly closed its doors because they couldn't compete with the hoopla, I shook my head. I actually laughed when I heard about the mighty work of God in establishing an instant mega church.

A few years later, after a move, I attended a new members class at a church. The pastor announced that they were going to 'bring the Gospel" to an adjacent town by establishing a new church plant. Ever the pain in the neck, I mentioned that were several "gospel" churches within two blocks of the proposed site and asked if this was bringing the gospel or merely bringing a franchise to the area. The pastor looked a bit perturbed and mumbled that the area was growing. (Now you see why I had to start a blog).

Yesterday, Bob Allen at Associated Baptist Press link published the results of a new LifeWay (SBC owned) Christian Resources poll which sadly pointed out:

Annual baptisms in Southern Baptist churches have declined by 100,000 in the last 12 years, last year dropping to the smallest number in 64 years.

LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention released figures June 5 reporting 314,959 baptisms in 2012, down 18,385 – or 5.5 percent – from 2011.

Total membership of 15,872,404 marked the sixth straight year of statistical decline for the nation’s second-largest faith group behind Roman Catholics. Membership dropped by 105,000 – two-thirds of a percent. Weekly worship attendance, meanwhile, fell below 6 million to 5,966,735, down 3 percent.

SBC baptisms plateaued after an all-time record 445,725 in 1972. They have declined six out of the last 10 years to the lowest number since 1948,

Many leaders quietly admit that the numbers are worse than reported. Most insiders agree that the number of SBC members is actually around 8+ million. The Baptists have a penchant for leaving members on church rolls for years, even after members leave a church. They also double and triple count some of them as they hop from church to church.

Even the gold numeric standard of most SBC churches, baptisms, has questionable application as a measure of new converts. Some Baptist churches rebaptize those who were sprinkled or baptized as children as well as those who were baptized in "suspect" Baptist churches. Dee was one such person who had been baptized as a child and became convicted, 17 years after conversion, that she should participate in a believer's baptism. She did so in Jordan Lake in North Carolina. She loves to tell people that she was immersed baptized in the Jordan, thereby satisfying all but the most elite of churches.

It is important to realize that this decline in numbers have occurred since the Conservative Resurgence and the increased influence of Calvinism within the SBC. Both of those movements were supposed to be the salvation of the SBC.Yet, this decline is continuing, in spite of an increased emphasis on church planting. So what is going on?

I propose that these efforts are not successful because we are not adding new Christians to our churches. I believe this to be the case for both small churches in rural areas and mega churches in wealthy suburban areas. 

I was delighted to attend a retreat which featured Dr Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe. Dr Ross' ministry goes far beyond his interest in Old Earth Creationism. He discussed the shrinking membership of the evangelical church as a whole. He referenced a book, The Fall of the Evangelical Nation: The Surprising Crisis Within the Church by Christian Wicker link. Here is the synopsis at Amazon.

Evangelical Christianity in America is dying. The great evangelical movements of today are not a vanguard. They are a remnant, unraveling at every edge. Conversions. Baptisms. Membership. Retention. Participation. Giving. Attendance. Impact upon the culture at large. All are down and dropping. When veteran religion reporter Christine Wicker set out to investigate the evangelical movement, her intention was to forge through the stereotypes and shed new light on this highly divisive religious group. But the story soon morphed into an entirely new and shocking tale of discovery, as Wicker's research unearthed much more than she originally bargained for.

Everywhere Wicker traveled she heard whispers of diminishing statistics, failed campaigns, and empty churches. Even as evangelical forces trumpet their purported political and social victories on the national and local fronts, insiders are anguishing over their significant losses and preparing to rebuild for the future. The idea that evangelicals represent and speak for Christianity in America is one of the greatest publicity scams in history, a perfect coup accomplished by savvy politicos and zealous religious leaders who understand the weaknesses of the nation's media and exploit them brilliantly.

In case you are wondering if this is a liberal tirade, let me point out the Trevin Wax gave this book a "Recommend" on the Discerning Reader (which, I hasten to add, is not a discernment blog). Here is what he said on The Gospel Coalition blog link.

Wicker demonstrates with statistics that "image is everything" when it comes to evangelicalism. The number of evangelicals in our country is astoundingly low. We're not 25% of the population. We're nowhere close. At best, we make up 3.7%. One of the purposes of Wicker's book is to "take back" the voice of the religious from evangelicals:

"The majority of American Christians have been so marginalized by public rhetoric and news coverage that they don't even know they are the overwhelming majority of Christians and that they are the Christians who actually represent American religious values, not the religious right." (55)

I wish I could say that Wicker's bias inclines her to overstate her case in order to make a point. But I can't. She's right.

Dr Ross addressed the belief that mega churches appear to be growing. He emphasized two points from the book. Mega churches primarily grow by:

  1. Transfer from other churches.
  2. Baptisms of the children of church members.

He claimed that, until the church realizes that it is doing a poor job in bringing people to Christ, the church, and its influence in America, will continue to decline. It appears that Wicker's predictions from 2008 are coming true if the current numbers from LifeWay are to be believed.

Before I continue, I want to highlight two points. First, I do not believe in using the term "sheep stealing." I believe that slavery was ended in this country over  a century ago, and, in spite of proclamations by authoritarian leaders, we sheep can come and go when we wish. We are not "owned" by any church. 

From this point forward, I am using examples that have been sent to me by our readers. In some, I have changed locations, etc. so it is useless to "guess" to which church or organization I am referring. However, all of these incidents have occurred.

In a Christianity Today article, Ed Stetzer, of LifeWay Resources, wrote an article to debunk the myth that new church startups merely swap sheep between churches here.  However, his arguments were unconvincing. He used the pie chart which can be seen at the top of our post today. He claims:

So there it is– about 44% of new members at megachurches are from other local churches– not 60%, not 70%, and definitely not 95%. I hear people saying 90% and I agree that's a myth.

However, look closely at the chart. See if you can spot the difficulties as did David Fitch of Reclaiming the Mission link.

1.) Ed’s Statistics are Suspect. I suggest there’s a lot to question in these statistics.  For example, Ed’s numbers could be interpreted to show that the mega churches’ congregations are at least 90% transfer growth (not 44%).  I add up distant church transfers plus local church transfers plus dechurched transfers (people have left another church, it’s just been a while) and it comes to 90% of people who are coming to this church from another church in some way. Organic growth could also be transfer growth, people coming from another church that were just invited through relationships.

I am inclined to side with Fitch. I suspect that the day that Swindoll's church opened, 95%+ were merely "let's go to the cooler church" Christians. In fact the next morning, at my kid's Christian school, there was the inevitable bragging that their families went to Stonebriar and actually met Swindoll. (Christian kids can be weird).

In a post at TGC, link, Jared Wilson posted the following quote from Tim Keller.

Only a person who is being ‘evangelized in the context of an on-going worshiping and shepherding community can be sure of finally coming home into vital, saving faith. This is why a leading missiologist like C. Peter Wagner can say, ‘Planting new churches is the most effective evangelistic methodology known under heaven.’”

It is a nice sentiment but I believe it is about numbers, not evangelism.

Multi-site Churches:

Multi site churches are vogue. Why? According to a number of articles about this phenomenon, satellite churches break even after one year and begin to make money in year 2. So is it about the spreading the "gospel" or making money? The old "bums and bucks" approach is in play.

In one large city in the South, there are two mega SBC churches, Church A  and Church B. You know the type-cool worship leader, Bose speakers, pastor in skinny jeans, and associate pastors with clearly visible tattoos, etc. Both are essentially the same in their "distinctives." Church B decides that the best method of growth is to plant satellite/multi-site churches. This is the type of church in which people watch their pastor on a screen. He is beamed in from his main location.

Church B puts a satellite within one mile of Church A (as well as a couple of other large SBC churches.) Church B advertises free food, coffee, and CDs if people come to the church. Church B gets 1,000 people the first Sunday, almost all of them from Church A.

Church A now begins to go toe to toe, offering similar coffee, food, CDs and "almost professional" music. Why do they always tell us that their worship pastor traveled with "Famous band" or had a 'record contract' (yet never really made it)? When asked about evangelism, the members are told "X" number of baptisms took place but the pastors are unclear on how many of them represent new conversions. I suspect precious few.

Targeting the parachurch groups

In one large Midwest city, there is a huge campus Christian group at the local university. The leaders attend the hip mega church in town. However, there is a new "thought" in certain circles that parachurch organizations should be "under the authority" of a local church. And, of course, that authority is the local mega church because, well, just because.

Said church, without notifying the campus leaders, begins to set up Bible studies around the campus, on the same night as the parachurch group's Bible studies. The pastor teaches that college students must join the mega church because it is Scriptural. He also tells them they need to support and attend the mega church Bible studies on campus because it is biblical. The parachurch groups sees a drop in attendance by 50%. The mega church declares that they have added 150 new members in the last two months. What he doesn't say is that they are the college students that used to attend the parachurch gatherings.

Targeting institutionalized people.

One church in California decided to do "outreach" to local nursing homes by conducting weekly church services. The pastor in charge was told to sign up the people who attend as members of the local church. The church announces new members each month as the "ministry" continues around town. The church membership rolls were "growing."

Targeting upper middle class families

Several church affiliations plant churches. However, the church plants target areas with higher disposable incomes. Many of these areas already have "gospel" churches. But, this is not about making disciples. It is about acquisitions.

Church plants that do not survive.

Peter Lumpkins wrote an interesting post, What Ever Happened to Lake Ridge Church link. This was a church plant that was spear headed by Ed Stetzer who is considered the guru of church plants. This particular church also supposedly planted two other churches which have disappeared as well.

 In September 2005, Stetzer and Phillip Nation planted the Lake Ridge Church, a church affiliated at the time with both Acts 29 Network and the Southern Baptist Convention. Nation now serves on Stetzer's Lifeway team in Nashville as Director of Ministry Development for LifeWay Christian Resources.

But where is Lake Ridge Church now?

It's gone.

Apparently, Stetzer is going to try a new church plant in metropolitan Nashville which probably has plenty of "gospel" churches. Go figure…

The church in America is losing its influence. While our culture slowly drifts from its Christian roots, it is evident that we evangelicals have lost our influence in the hearts of the people. While church leaders surround troubled ministry leaders and hold them up as role models, baptisms are down. While men debate whether a woman can read Scripture out loud from the pulpit, membership is declining. Mega churches pretend they are growing when they are merely swapping "sheep."

Next week, the SBC meets in Houston. They will have an opportunity to make their voices heard on significant issues of our day. There is an elephant in the room. It is the response of the church to child sexual abuse and cover-up. If they ignore it, and continue to push incompetent leaders, the SBC will become irrelevant to a culture that sees little to admire in the church. It is sad when the church looks more and more like an old boys club at Penn State. And it is obvious that the public is becoming increasingly "not impressed" and they are voting with their feet. I heard one pundit say that the evangelical vote is not longer influential. Perhaps evangelicals are becoming less monolithic as they become less dominant.

In case you don't know what we mean by "acquisitions," enjoy this video about the infamous Ferengi from Star Trek who spell out their rules for acquisitions. Somehow, it seems like they could fulfill a consulting role for today's evangelical franchises.

Lydia's Corner:1 Kings 5:1-6:38 Acts 7:1-29 Psalm 127:1-5 Proverbs 16:28-30

Comments

Church Planting: Is It About the Gospel or Acquisitions? — 220 Comments

  1. “The church in America is losing its influence. While our culture slowly drifts from its Christian roots, it is evident that we evangelicals have lost our influence in the hearts of the people.”

    According to recent demographic research, in my geographic area 1/3 of the people go to church, 1/3 are CEO, and the other 1/3 will never darken the door of a church. Given your quote and this information, what would you recommend we do to reach these people? Do you have examples of things that are working? Is there a church planting model that works? If things aren’t working what concrete steps can be taken to reverse that?

  2. @ citationsquirrel:

    as a former believer, no church will gain respect until 1. it cleans up it own house on pedophilia. 2. the churches as institutions stay out of politics. Individual member can preach their beliefs every day, 24/7 but the institution should just shut up and 3. all churches, especially the megachurches need to be open and honest about their finances.

  3. A friend of ours was employed by a mega-church within the “ARC” organization — Association of Related Churches. She was underpaid, overworked, under-appreciated, and overwhelmed. Was required to be at every service (sometimes 8 per week-end)even if her 6 days of work were finished. Another friend volunteered full-time in the same church — over 40 hours per week. They began to realize that the pastor had removed himself from contact with church members, and was accountable to no one. They said he had one sermon – it was all about how God created you to do something great, so get off your duff and do great things for God. 99% works oriented. Then, they found that the church spent tons of money and had huge credit card balances. Attendance numbers were fudged; all those staff people who were required to be there every week-end were counted at every service, which alone inflated the numbers by several hundred per week. And baptisms — oh my goodness. People were never taught that baptism is not a repetitive thing. Anyone who signed up to be baptized could be, even if they’d been baptized the last month, as if was some kind of underwater communion service. They were just itching to dunk people. These dedicated, hardworking followers of Christ brought their concerns to the pastor along with their resignations, offered to work until replacements could be found, but were kicked out on the spot, with the comment “if you’re not with us, you’re against us.” Several years later, their replacements are resigning – and being kicked out on the spot. And every week, it’s the same old tune: ‘This sermon series is going to be the most AWESOME series we’ve ever had.’

    The hype never stops, and you can donate at kiosks in the church or online. So very sad, because many of the unchurched people who do come to this church come in, and put faith in Jesus, and then, week after week, they are taught something that resembles a non-charismatic prosperity gospel, leaving them to drown in the baptistry.

  4. citationsquirrel wrote:

    1/3 of the people go to church

    How do they define “go to church?” I have a few suggestions. Unhook politics from the faith. Speak to the essential faith and downplay secondary issues. Stress the love of Christ.

  5. nmgirl wrote:

    as a former believer, no church will gain respect until 1. it cleans up it own house on pedophilia. 2. the churches as institutions stay out of politics. Individual member can preach their beliefs every day, 24/7 but the institution should just shut up and 3. all churches, especially the megachurches need to be open and honest about their finances.

    Applause!!!!!!

  6. I like you guys, but I’m going to strongly dispute that our country has “Christian roots” and that we’re losing them. What we have are SECTARIAN roots. For example, there was a Puritan colony in Massachusetts, but if you weren’t Puritan, you were given the left foot of fellowship and told to get out (which happened to Roger Williams). The same was true for other colonies up and down the Eastern Seaboard, with the notable exception of Pennsylvania, which was started as a Quaker refuge.

    I’d also note that our so-called “Christian” roots are absolutely NOT on display in the founding document of our country. We don’t have an established church–in fact, we have the “no religious test for public office under the United States” clause in Article VI of the Constitution. The guys who set up our government weren’t stupid–they had observed carefully how Europe had ripped itself to pieces over the previous 250 years in wars of religion and were successful in not importing that into the new United States of America.

    Granted, we still have to fight for our rights–particularly minority religions which aren’t “proper Christian groups,” such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. From them we have the principle, as elucidated by Justice Jackson in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943): “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

    And in Unites States v. Ballard (1944) Justice William O. Douglas wrote: “The religious views espoused by respondents might seem incredible, if not preposterous, to most people. But if those doctrines are subject to trial before a jury charged with finding their truth or falsity, then the same can be done with the religious beliefs of any sect. When the triers of fact undertake that task, they enter a forbidden domain. The First Amendment does not select any one group or any one type of religion for preferred treatment. It puts them all in that position.” [N.B. Justice Jackson thought the whole thing should have been dismissed outright as being entirely close to a religious persecution.]

    (I was reading about the Ballard case this week. It involved a group of what we’d call “New Agers” today. The Postal Service prosecuted the Ballards saying they were collecting money for religious beliefs that they themselves were falsifying and/or didn’t believe in. There were some unbelievable legal shenanigans in the case, where the federal district court judge was SO upset that the appellate court overturned the defendants’ convictions that he made a secret, unprecedented ex parte appeal to Justice Douglas. He obviously didn’t see the same way as the federal judge did. The case wandered around for a couple more years after being returned to lower courts before finally being dismissed because women had been deliberately excluded from both the grand jury and trial jury. But just imagine if the Ballards had lost!)

    Seriously, I wouldn’t be claiming Christian roots for the foundation of the United States. After all, if you buy into that, you have to buy into the idea that it was totally OK for Some People to own Other People as slaves. I don’t really think you want to go there.

  7. Southwestern Discomfort wrote:

    “Christian roots”

    Thank you for the comment. Well written. I hope I didn’t give the impression that I was arguing for a Christian nation. My point was merely that the number of self identified Christians is declining in America today.

  8. I love the Ferengi video. Mr. Hoppy and I sometimes text each other made up rules of acquisition.

  9. dee wrote:

    How do they define “go to church?”

    I believe it was has a regular church home that they attend weekly or semi-regular basis.

  10. @ Southwestern Discomfort: While I agree with the substance of your comment, I must object re. PA – it was founded by a Quaker, William Penn, as a refuge for people of all religious beliefs – and none.

    It did not have an established church, unlike most of the original 13 colonies.

  11. @nmgirl

    o.k. … My church has no pedophilia activity (that I’m aware of) and we have very good procedures and training in place, our pastor doesn’t preach politics from the pulpit, and our finances are about as transparent as you can get … What’s next? As a former believe how does our church reach a person like you? What positive steps can we take? How do we reach th3 other 2/3?

  12. @ citationsquirrel: Off the top of my head – please, please, quit trying so hard. I think it really puts people off.

    After my time in abusive churches, I don’t ever want anyone to try and get me to come to their church.

    Now, if I get interested and indicate to a friend that I might like to visit their church, that’s another thing entirely.

    to reiterate: please quit trying. Just be, and if you evidence Christ’s love, well… people will probably want to come, all on their own.

    (P.s.: In no way to I wish to be offensive; my comments are from the heart.)

  13. citationsquirrel wrote:

    How do we reach th3 other 2/3?

    Show them something that don’t see elsewhere. Love that is real. Joy that is infectious. Cool it with the interminable gender talks. Preach more about the forgiveness of sins as opposed to harping on sin. Help those who come to see that they are dearly beloved by the Father. Smile and talk to the checkout person in the supermarket. Leave a 40% tip for the breakfast wait staff. Tell in old lady that her sweater is pretty. Tell a new mother her baby is beautiful. And sometimes, when no one is looking, dance around your kitchen because you are free in Christ.

  14. @ citationsquirrel:
    -Love your neighbor as yourself with no motivation other than to funnel God’s love to them.
    -Value people, not as prospective church members, but as objects of God’s love.
    - Be willing to do the above, even if you knew they would never come to your church.
    - Recognize that an institutional church model is not the only valid one and that many people will be healthier outside of it.
    - Also recognize that a personal relationship with someone who truly cares can impart the gospel message much better than a sermon preached to a crowd.
    - And please do not scheme up an event that serves people in some way (giving out free muffins and coffee, washing cars, etc) and ends up giving out the church’s business card. It will be seen for the marketing ploy that it is.
    - Or as Numo said above, quit trying so hard. Quit trying to get people to your church and just love them, give the reason for the great love that you have, introduce them to The Lord and let Him plant them in the community of believers that He has for them.

  15. @ Bene D:

    Not only that, Bene D, the police also left a voicemail asking about any intentions for protesting at the SBC convention. She sent me an e-mail a few hrs ago and also posted about it here on TWW. I included the full scoop on my blog right now: including info on Peter Lumpkins Sex Abuse Resolutions proposal he hopes to submit at the convention, SNAP’s press release, Amy’s story and follow-up on the recent police involvement.

    Also included is a screen shot of a comment by Houstons First, Amy’s Church, on the Associated Baptist Press article (which tells the story Amy being asked to step aside from youth ministry work). The comment challenges Amy’s story. Very interesting, indeed.

    Why do these people have time to go after Amy? Their focus is completely wrong. Here’s the link: http://goo.gl/QaWGK

  16. @ Leah:

    …let Him plant them in the community of believers that He has for them.

    which might not be one’s own church, let alone another evangelical church.

    I really cannot stress enough that I believe most evangelicals are SO over-focused on “evangelization” and “getting people to come to church” that they forget the reason they have a church in the 1st place.

  17. numo wrote:

    @ Southwestern Discomfort: While I agree with the substance of your comment, I must object re. PA – it was founded by a Quaker, William Penn, as a refuge for people of all religious beliefs – and none.

    It did not have an established church, unlike most of the original 13 colonies.

    Agreed. I wasn’t very clear on that point.

  18. @ Southwestern Discomfort: No worries; I am not nearly as clear as I’d like to be a lot of the time, or at least, it sure seems that way!

    am PA born and bred, so all the stuff about the founding of the colony was drummed into my head from a very young age.

  19. Wow, this Amy Smith thing is getting very weird, very fast. Calling the cops? That’s just crazycakes. Sounds like something Scientology would do. The powers that be must be really rattled. As Grumpy Cat would say, GOOD. I can’t think of a more deserving bunch.

  20. @ numo:

    Amen! I am so tired of hearing about getting people in the door so they can hear the “preached word.” I was saved without ever stepping foot in a church. I had friends who shared the gospel with me, over time, before I ever went to a church.

  21. My pastor says that the statistics show that new church plants are responsible for the highest number of new converts- he isn’t talking about mega churches though. He is talking about SMALL churches, and for this reason he is committed to not allowing our church to grow beyond 500 members. That is, our church will continue to plant new churches and send folks out in order to maintain its small size.

    I don’t know where he got these figures from so I have no way to verify it, but it sounds a little different than what you are talking about here because it seems you are looking at high profile mega church plants.

    I don’t know if his figures are accurate or not, but regardless I like the idea of trying to keep the church smaller. It’s a lot easier (for me) to get connected and stay connected in a small church. And spinning off new churches is a lot better way of doing that than mult-site church (or I suppose locking the doors to keep people out!)

  22. Elastigirl wrote:

    Just like Wal-Mart! I can even sense that plastic-y smell that hits you when you enter.

    I just got a position with Walmart. I was very impressed with their orientation, with its emphasis on respect for both employees and customers. Walmart does a much better job of conveying respect than my former church.

  23. @ Bridget: I must confess that what draws me – maybe what’s drawn me for decades – are the things that have been the main reason the church has met together since the early days: communion, responsorial reading of the Psalms, singing, quiet prayer.

    The rest is so much window dressing, for me, anyway. (Though i do love a lot of black gospel music and can easily trade off between lively participation and quieter time.)

  24. Mega churches primarily grow by:

    1) Transfer from other churches.

    AKA sheep-rustling.

    2) Baptisms of the children of church members.

    AKA Bedroom Evangelism.

  25. I had a pastor who referred to this growth by transfer as “shifting inventory.” I don’t know which I find more demeaning, being thought of as a commodity or as “wee little sheep” wandering out the back gate.

  26. Thanks Julie Anne.

    I’m behind the curve, I see you are all over this like white on rice and comments are in the post at TWW below this one.:^)

    Sorry for going off topic, I’m disgusted and angry.

  27. @ nmgirl:

    Churches also need to cater more to those who don’t fit the usual or preferred demographics (which are usually middle class and married-with-kids who are in great or average physical and emotional health).

    Churches need to pay more attention to the elderly, the widows, the divorced, the never married adults past 30 years of age, and both singles and married people without children.*

    Also, anyone with physical disabilities and mental illness or issues (anxiety attacks, bi polar, depression).

    *Almost half the nation’s adult population is currently single (some by choice some not), but churches continue to behave as though everyone is married with children and that by their mid 20s.

  28. dee wrote:

    Speak to the essential faith

    I found it sad that the Hall preacher guy Julie Anne debated the other day acted ignorant about what “essential” is as pertains to the Gospel / Christian faith. I don’t know if he was being obtuse or not.

    “Essential” to me would have to do with letting people know they are sinners, and sin keeps them separated from God, and that the only solution for this is to accept, to believe, to put trusting faith in Jesus as their Savior, since Jesus paid their penalty on the cross and was resurrected from the dead, and Jesus said He alone was the only way to God.

  29. Southwestern Discomfort wrote:

    Seriously, I wouldn’t be claiming Christian roots for the foundation of the United States. After all, if you buy into that, you have to buy into the idea that it was totally OK for Some People to own Other People as slaves. I don’t really think you want to go there.

    Why would anyone have to arrive at your point B (Christianity necessarily endorses slave owning) from your point A (nation’s roots are heavily Judeo Christian)? I don’t see the connection, or that one necessarily follows from the other.

    Anyhow, I think it fair to say that the nation’s founders and the citizenry were heavily influenced by, or respectful of, many Judeo-Christian principle s, even if some of them got some things wrong along the way.

    I don’t believe that our nation’s founders and early citizens were largely atheists, agnostics, Hindus, Muslims, or hostile towards the Bible, and yes, I realize Jefferson took scissors and cut out any reference to the supernatural in his copy of the Bible.

  30. dee wrote:

    Show them something that don’t see elsewhere. Love that is real. Joy that is infectious. Cool it with the interminable gender talks. Preach more about the forgiveness of sins as opposed to harping on sin. Help those who come to see that they are dearly beloved by the Father. Smile and talk to the checkout person in the supermarket. Leave a 40% tip for the breakfast wait staff. Tell in old lady that her sweater is pretty. Tell a new mother her baby is beautiful. And sometimes, when no one is looking, dance around your kitchen because you are free in Christ.

    That’s all good, and along with my recommendation in a post or two above….

    Churches need to stop being gimmicky, slick, and trendy with the skinny jeans, rock bands, big video screens, coffee shops, and trying to prove they are just as hip and with-it as secular society.

    The harder preachers and churches try to be cool, the lamer they look. (I guess that might go with numo’s comments about not trying so hard?)

    Also: preachers, stop with the sex sermons.

    You have single adult Christians who have never married, some are divorced, and they are trying to refrain from sex outside of marriage. Stop dangling sex in front of us with “You guys can’t believe how great sex is… when you’re married of course” sermons.

    Plus, as a single person, I am not edified or lifted up on hearing (for the billionth time) the “ten steps to great sex in marriage” sermon, whether on Christian TV or in person.

    Or “Wives, how to submit to your husbands and remember they prefer respect to being loved,” or “Husbands, how to be a servant leader like Christ to your wife” sermons. They never stop with these sermons.

  31. numo wrote:

    I really cannot stress enough that I believe most evangelicals are SO over-focused on “evangelization” and “getting people to come to church” that they forget the reason they have a church in the 1st place.

    This feeds into something else that bothers me.

    If Christians were to love and care for and about other Christians, as the Bible says to do (and Christ said if you love one another, people will know you are mine), that would look so appealing to so many non believers, it might convince them to give Christianity a look.

    Sound doctrine alone won’t compel everyone to consider Christ, and may even turn then off (James 2:16).

    There are parts of the New Testament that tell Christians to care for and about people who are not believers, I know, but IMHO, one reason why Christianity is not appealing to many is that some Christians, some churches, are a bit too “outward-focused,” such as constantly wanting to send money or missionary people to, say, for instance, Africa.

    There’s nothing wrong with churches wanting to send money, food, or Bibles to Africa, but as I’ve said before, in my time of greatest pain, when I needed the most support from Christians, I was shunted aside by some and told by a few that my sorrows were nothing, but strangely, these same Christians were all moved and compassionate about orphans in third-world nations.

    In the story about the Samaritan, Jesus told people to care about whomever is in their path right then and there.

    You are not supposed to step over the bleeding guy on the road to go down the street to go to your church to toss money in a donation plate for Africa. Helping Africa while ignoring the bleeding guy in your path is not commendable to God, far as I can tell.

    But this sort of thing goes on all the time in American Christianity.

  32. Daisy wrote:

    There’s nothing wrong with churches wanting to send money, food, or Bibles to Africa, but as I’ve said before, in my time of greatest pain, when I needed the most support from Christians, I was shunted aside by some and told by a few that my sorrows were nothing, but strangely, these same Christians were all moved and compassionate about orphans in third-world nations.

    Sorry to hear that, Daisy. I suppose it is easier to chuck money in a box to help fund someone you’ll never meet, than it is to deal with the turbulent feelings and inconveniently complex circumstances of the person sat next to you. For most of us, it takes something we don’t actually have – let’s call it the love of God poured out in our hearts. A bit like it’s easy to have a doctrine that says we are invisibly “saved” from invisible “original sin”, but harder to counterfeit the real evidence of that.

  33. “The Dallas culture revolves around celebrity, perhaps foreshadowing the rise of the celebrity pastor phenomenon. Opening day saw over 2000 people (perhaps 3000) in attendance. …it was just a shift of attendees from other area churches who wanted to be part of the next cool church. People simply changed churches.”

    We have a friend who is moving to Atlanta (she goes to a Calvary Chapel up here). As she does research she keeps telling us about all the COOL churches near her new house. COOL, of course, = mega, has rock bands, flat-screen TVs, and (preferably) a mildly or actually famous pastor. I do not understand this mindset or why it seems to be so prevalent in the South. If this is what the “Bible Belt” is based on, it won’t be the Bible Belt much longer! In my experience, they talk about how New England is so “dark” while completely ignoring the deep-seated cultural problems in their own churches. Cultural problems which, if added up, might actually put them in no better position, per actual numbers of “real Christians,” than us heathen Yankees. Okay, off rant.

    “This is why a leading missiologist like C. Peter Wagner can say, ‘Planting new churches is the most effective evangelistic methodology known under heaven.’”

    The better question is why Tim Keller is quoting NAR bigwig C. Peter Wagner. That’s some bad juju, y’all.

  34. @ Daisy:

    “Churches need to stop being gimmicky, slick, and trendy with the skinny jeans, rock bands, big video screens, coffee shops, and trying to prove they are just as hip and with-it as secular society. The harder preachers and churches try to be cool, the lamer they look.”

    Yes. Thank you. They think this look is necessary to “reach” people, and (maybe) it worked 15-20 years ago, but I think it’s starting to turn people off now because they perceive it as fakey or a facade for money-grubbing. It also suffers badly from Christian Knock-Off Syndrome, where all the church bands sound suspiciously like the popular secular singer(s) that year. Personally, as someone who wasn’t raised in a traditional liturgical church, I still have no clue why megachurches/wannabe megachurch culture is attractive to anybody.

  35. citationsquirrel wrote:

    Do you have examples of things that are working? Is there a church planting model that works?

    The trouble is, there are numerous church planting models that work, or success-stories one might copy, as far as getting numbers into a building goes. But they are just that: processes, models and formulas. They can only create the impression of planting a church, in the same way that sticking leaves onto a rotary clothes-dryer can only create the impression of planting a tree.

    Consider it this way… Is there a formula for miraculously healing a person? Do you stick your fingers in their ears? Speak to them? Spit in the soil to make a paste? Lay hands on them? Wait till they’re dead and then call them out of their tomb? Declare them healed without even visiting them? Jesus, as you all know, did all of the above and more. As far as I can tell from the gospel accounts that we have, the only common factor was that he did only what he saw his Father doing.

    It grieves me more than many things that might seem worse (to quote Tolkien!) to see the appetite my Christian siblings here have for downloading christian resources from the interweb or buying them in from catalogues whenever they plan a program of events or meetings. So few people seem willing to “go to the well” for themselves.

  36. Regarding “trying too hard,” obviously you don’t want to come across as trying too hard. But, there is a difference between trying too hard and trying hard. I think as Christians we need to try hard. I think there needs to be an urgency. It isn’t really a ho-hum issue. And a point of clarification, I’m don’t care if they come to my church or the church down the street. What I actually care about is that they come to Christ.

    I also don’t think that we (the church) can’t just sit back and not plan. After all, failing to plan is planning to fail. Obviously it starts with each individual and their attitudes toward others. But, I think that a corporate strategy can help. Otherwise too many Christians will just sit on their hands and say “I don’t want to look like I’m trying too hard.” The momentum of doing nothing is hard to overcome.

    Finally, I’m glad to see so many people here talking about positive solutions and steps that can be taken. [turning on Phil Hartman voice] My work here is done.

  37. Daisy wrote:

    There’s nothing wrong with churches wanting to send money, food, or Bibles to Africa, but as I’ve said before, in my time of greatest pain, when I needed the most support from Christians, I was shunted aside by some and told by a few that my sorrows were nothing, but strangely, these same Christians were all moved and compassionate about orphans in third-world nations.

    “Not in my backyard” missions.

    Goes along with the idea that it is easier to sacrifice for the poor than to sacrifice for corruption in the church family.

    And easier to criticize the same corruption when it’s “out there” than when it is “in here”.

    One layer of removal after another. All righteous condescension.

  38. Hester wrote:

    Personally, as someone who wasn’t raised in a traditional liturgical church, I still have no clue why megachurches/wannabe megachurch culture is attractive to anybody.

    I don’t either. There’s so much cheese! The last church service I attended was at a mega-church (to see what it was like) and I had to leave for that reason. I felt bad about it at the time, but dang, I love God and He/She’s marvelous and deep!

    Decades ago, I sometimes attended a small chapel in which was a couple who loved to sing together, and it was rough and simple but I relished it. So it’s not the actual quality that bothers me, it’s the cheesiness, the sentimentality, the superficial lyrics and melodic lines.

    And that’s when I start moaning, again, about Christian needing training in the arts.

  39. Jeff S wrote:

    My pastor says that the statistics show that new church plants are responsible for the highest number of new converts-

    I have to admit that I am a bit cynical about conversion stats. Could you please ask him where he got that number. Right now, I am of the opinion that churches are not doing a good job of attracting people outside of the faith.

    Think about who you know. How many of them are what you might consider new converts? Something is wrong. People are leaving the churches and that is being well documented by poll after poll. In other words, we are losing folks and we are not attracting enough new folks to make a difference in the numbers.

  40. @ citationsquirrel:

    I am not interested in finding a church. If i was, the only one i would investigate is Unitarian Universalist. I am a political and social liberal with a strong interest in proper science education so main stream churches don’t attract me. I can worship God on my own. I have never seen any reason to believe that I need another human (usually a man) to tell me how to worship or what truth is. I discovered TWW during a recent period when i was doing some deep thinking about my faith. While most of the people who post here seem very sincere, the stories of evil, control and misogyny they tell confirm my perceptions of most church organizations.

    One of the things i really detest in modern american christianity is the “prosperity gospel”. i think it is totally and completely evil to assume that material wealth is a sign of god’s favor. As far as i can tell, the only one really getting rich in these churches is the pastor (Skip Heitzig?)

  41. TeriAnne wrote:

    Walmart does a much better job of conveying respect than my former church.

    There is a reason that they are attracting workers and customers and the evangelical church is not.

  42. Lee wrote:

    shifting inventory.

    I swear these churches are going nuts. They are studying business models and trying to employ it in church management. They make a mistake here. Businesses are present to make a profit by supplying wanted items.

    Churches should operate on the economy of God which is far different. The pastor should not be in it for a personal profit. He should not be reimbursed on how many he gets to come to the church yet this is often the basis for his salary in the me gas.The people who work for the business should not be the church hires but the members.

    Any pastor who calls the members “wee little sheep” or “shifting inventory” should be fired on the spot.

  43. I will add this to my blog post as well:
    After almost an hour on the phone with Doug challenging me about my efforts to raise awareness about abuse within the SBC, I was in tears and finally said to him, “I’m going to save you the awkardness of having to ask me to step down and I will step down.” His reply was “Let’s take a few weeks…” The next day in a meeting with my husband Doug brought up the subject about us stepping down and he said, “I told Amy I would think about it, but I’ve thought about it overnight, and I think it’s best that she step down.”

    My husband Matt questioned him about why he thought it was best that I step down. Matt says that Doug gave an explanation that he has to look out for the children in the church.

    HFBC wants to make this an issue of whether or not they *asked* me to step down. That doesn’t remove the elephant from the room that Doug was asked to call me, and he did so to challenge me about my blog, starting out by saying “I saw your blog. You don’t see it as a problem?”

    I could see the writing on the wall early into the call. I decided to save myself some dignity and resign instead of having to be “fired” from a volunteer position.

  44. @ Bene D: I spoke with Amy Smith’s pastor. I am trying to give him the benefit of the doubt. However, having recently been the target of an attempt to marginalize me because of this blog, I am suspicious as to the motivation.

    I believe that the church is involved in planning for the SBC convention in Houston. having lived in Texas, I know the drill. Texas will do it bigger and better than anyone else. Anything that might interfere with this show will be targeted.

    i am glad the police are now involved. SNAP is smart. the police must allow for peaceful protest or, as SNAP calls it, an Awareness event. SNAP will make sure the appropriate permits, if any, are obtained. Also, the police can show where the group can stand within the law.

    I bet the police are having a good laugh. they are used to demonstrations involving potential violence and ugliness. A peaceable group of people is cake for them.

    i have no doubt, after reading what happened at Prestonwood, that the police were told that Amy was a potential threat. It worked there. However, it will not work in this highly public event. Such tactics will only draw the press.

    I swear these churches are stupid. Do they not know that they are causing the very thing that they wish to avoid? They will definitely attract the media now and the media is less adoring of the tactics of churches these days, in light of all of the pedophile scandals.

  45. nmgirl wrote:

    One of the things i really detest in modern american christianity is the “prosperity gospel”. i think it is totally and completely evil to assume that material wealth is a sign of god’s favor. As far as i can tell, the only one really getting rich in these churches is the pastor

    You are most perceptive. Yes, only the pastors are getting rich and everyone else want to.

    Another group that might be attractive to you is the Friends or Quakers. They spend a lot of time in silence as a group and then discuss what they are learning in a cooperative fashion.

    If you like the sciences, are you familiar with Biologos? It is the group that was founded by Francis Collins who, as I am sure you know, is no slouch in the sciences. He is suspect by the far right which you might find amusing. His book, The Language of God, is a classic.

    Does nm mean New Mexico? I lived in Gallup for 2 years and worked with the Navajos. i cried when we had to leave. It is a beautiful state.

  46. Amy Smith wrote:

    My husband Matt questioned him about why he thought it was best that I step down. Matt says that Doug gave an explanation that he has to look out for the children in the church.

    Amy — What was he worried about? That you might teach the kids that abusing children sexually is wrong and they should go to the police if it happens? [sarcasm off] Sheesh.

  47. Janey wrote:

    Amy Smith wrote:
    My husband Matt questioned him about why he thought it was best that I step down. Matt says that Doug gave an explanation that he has to look out for the children in the church.
    Amy — What was he worried about? That you might teach the kids that abusing children sexually is wrong and they should go to the police if it happens? [sarcasm off] Sheesh.

    *Drops mic. Goes home.*

  48. Amy Smith wrote:

    I saw your blog

    That is the exact statement that someone used on me recently and that conversation descended into the pits, causing me a lot of turmoil. Pastors do not like blogs. They can’t control them.

    If you have the strength, after the SBC convention, you should go back to the youth program since he said he wants you, and your husband, there. It might be interesting to see what happens.

  49. dee wrote:

    i am glad the police are now involved. SNAP is smart. the police must allow for peaceful protest or, as SNAP calls it, an Awareness event. SNAP will make sure the appropriate permits, if any, are obtained. Also, the police can show where the group can stand within the law.

    I bet the police are having a good laugh. they are used to demonstrations involving potential violence and ugliness. A peaceable group of people is cake for them.

    I found this photo of what the police are likely to face at a Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests “awareness event.” Do you think more than one Explorer scout will be required?

    http://www.abpnews.com/ministry/congregations/item/8166-abuse-cover-up-alleged-at-sbc-mega-church#.UbMnwetAtzY

  50. Janey wrote:

    dee wrote:
    i am glad the police are now involved. SNAP is smart. the police must allow for peaceful protest or, as SNAP calls it, an Awareness event. SNAP will make sure the appropriate permits, if any, are obtained. Also, the police can show where the group can stand within the law.
    I bet the police are having a good laugh. they are used to demonstrations involving potential violence and ugliness. A peaceable group of people is cake for them.
    I found this photo of what the police are likely to face at a Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests “awareness event.” Do you think more than one Explorer scout will be required?
    http://www.abpnews.com/ministry/congregations/item/8166-abuse-cover-up-alleged-at-sbc-mega-church#.UbMnwetAtzY

    Ooh, that Amy Smith woman, stay-at-home mother of 4 looks scary.

  51. Janey, Amy

    The manly leaders of the SBC are shaking in their boots. Nothing scares them more than a mother with a righteous agenda.

  52. dee wrote:

    Janey, Amy
    The manly leaders of the SBC are shaking in their boots. Nothing scares them more than a mother with a righteous agenda.

    and a blog…

  53. dee wrote:

    I swear these churches are stupid. Do they not know that they are causing the very thing that they wish to avoid? They will definitely attract the media now and the media is less adoring of the tactics of churches these days, in light of all of the pedophile scandals.

    Dee — What was going through Pastor Doug and his boss Gregg Matte’s head? “Hey, I think it would be a great idea to tell an zealous blogger who is a child abuse awareness activist to shut up. Yeh, that will work.”

  54. Deb wrote:

    @ Amy Smith:
    Be strong! Praying for you.

    Thank you! I can tell y’all are…and I’m so thankful.I am honored and humbled that one of the mothers of the SGM plaintiffs and survivor will be standing out there with me. I have also been privately contacted by others thanking me. I will be standing out there on their behalf as well. We can hear you now!

  55. @ dee:
    I’ll try to remember to ask him. In the past six months I can recall only one adult Baptism, but I can say we do have large percentage of people who are new to the faith in our congregation.

  56. Deb wrote:

    SBC mission control to HFBC launch site: “Houston, we have a problem.”

    In keeping with that theme, you should have said “Give me oxygen!”

  57. Jeff S wrote:

    large percentage of people who are new to the faith

    New to the faith in the form of “they need to be baptized? “

  58. @ dee:
    Well, some of whom may have been Baptized as babies. But people who have recently made professions of faith and until recently didn’t go to church at all.

  59. I just watched the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition video clip above. Good stuff.

    Has TWW ever done the good-old-boys Rules of Evangelicalism?

  60. Dear Leaders of the SBC,

    Hello,

        Concerned Wartburg Warch readers are sincerely asking that the SBC take responsibility for preventing pedophilia in the churches under their umbrella , treating  this issue, -this horror, with the gravity it deserves.

    “Do not forsake your gathering together as a habit of some”, the Apostle admonished?

    Kind Leaders of the SBC, 

    …how can we as believers in Jesus Christ in good conscience attend worship services within an SBC umbrella –houses of worship when it may not be safe for our families to do so?

    …how can we follow God, and his holy scriptures, when we may be putting our families at risk possibly by the very shepherds, and their staff, charged with our care. We are afraid for our families, we are afraid for fellow christian’s families, and their children as well. 

    We are afraid our house of worship is no longer safe for our families to worship there.

    What are we to do?

    Please understand, Jesus, from his throne in heaven is speaking to his beloved people:

    “Look what they are doing to my church.”

    Dear SBC leaders, I kid you NOT: These are Jesus’ very words.

    (sadface)

    Sopy 

  61. @ Sopwith: I cannot figure out, for the life of me, why child sex abuse isn’t a priority for the church? Why don’t these men reach out to the victims as well as their buddies?

  62. dee wrote:

    Jeff S wrote:
    My pastor says that the statistics show that new church plants are responsible for the highest number of new converts-
    I have to admit that I am a bit cynical about conversion stats. Could you please ask him where he got that number. Right now, I am of the opinion that churches are not doing a good job of attracting people outside of the faith.
    Think about who you know. How many of them are what you might consider new converts? Something is wrong. People are leaving the churches and that is being well documented by poll after poll. In other words, we are losing folks and we are not attracting enough new folks to make a difference in the numbers.

    Having attended a church tor 26+ years my observations are most “new ” attendees were not new to the faith but to the congregation. Occasionally, someone ‘s newly converted spouse or relative would join the congregation.

    For the most part (our church and surrounding churches) were made up of grown children in the faith.

    Having recently left our church and attended 3/4 other local congregations . I’ve seen many familiar faces who attended our old church years ago and also other people who left other congregations I ‘m familiar with.

    One newer church plant (Calvinist) I visited was made up almost entirely of members who previously attended a local Baptist church.

    I am 62 and really haven’t witnessed many unchurched people being converted since the late 60′s, early 70′s.

    Just my two cents worth from observing our local area churches.

  63. This is a great topic and I think you have great points. I think church planting has a place but it’s important how you do it.

    The disclaimer here is I live in a major city and my church plants churches. I am a fan of church planting. But…we are not a white suburb church with an urban location in the white part of the city that we beam satellite sermons to. Our worship leaders are people with day jobs. We have a guy who is gifted preacher and drives a sanitation truck for the city during the week. Our locations are in some of the poorest, gang ridden neighborhoods in the city. We currently have an autistic homeless young man living in our building. Not all our locations are even in English. Not that these things make us awesome or more holy, but I think they are different than what everyone here might envision with the word phrase “church planting”

    That said, if it involves a head pastor being streamed live from the main location, it is not really a church plant. Church planting should be seen as a way to multiply the church in functioning in spiritual gifts, not just expanding the ‘brand.’ It means opportunity for more people to preach, teach, lead, minister, not more people to be ministered to by the same people. And while we do ‘advertise’ contemporary worship music, definitely no professionals of any sort. Just Joe Schmoes with guitars and such.

    There is natural growth in church planting because it is easier for people to find a place to fit in and find real community. It helps avoid big crowds and keeps it real. Yeah some people switch churches. We gain people from other local churches but we have lost people to them too. I would much rather a person switch churches for personal preference than become a none because of bad experience or something.

    The nature of “conversions” is a good question to ask. Most people in America have some background in faith. We encounter a lot of folks who grew up nominally christian and baptized as infants but never heard the gospel. The semantics of whether that person is a true convert or not doesn’t matter to me. They didn’t know Jesus before and now they do, so they get baptized. Praise God. A person who is a believer but was hurt and stayed away from church for awhile, then returns is a thing to celebrate too. (Usually don’t baptize these people though)

    I personally think church planting is really only applicable in urban situations, because it is nearly impossible to saturate a city of several million with thriving churches. Suburb churches in saturated areas wanting to church plant should really consider forming better partnerships with other churches instead. Or what about partnering with a church in the city, and direct resources and volunteers to them? There are 2 megachurches in the suburbs of our particular city – both attempted to plant in the city (in the hipster neighborhoods) and failed. How about just sending some of that money and people our way, and just help us out? It is so sad, to see some churches with such excess and some churches with very little.

  64. Lin wrote:

    I am 62 and really haven’t witnessed many unchurched people being converted since the late 60′s, early 70′s.
    Just my two cents worth from observing our local area churches.

    My observations are in line with yours. Great comment.

  65. Sorry that was a lot. I think to sum up, I would challenge that church planting isn’t the problem here, but the attitude behind it.

  66. Kristin wrote:

    I would challenge that church planting isn’t the problem here, but the attitude behind it.

    I would agree. I would add that many who claim to be “bringing them to the Lord” are really bringing them from the church down the street.

  67. Dee,

    HowDee,

    I share your concerns, :-)

    I am perplexed also.

    …blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, they shall be satisfied? We can pray, we can see the good and do it? To love honor, and serve our God with all of our might, and encourage all others to do the same? To overcome evil with good? To trust that Jesus, our Great Ark, will go before us with great might….and with great compassion, to dry our tears….

    Blessings,

    (sadface)

    Sopy

  68. dee wrote:

    Jeff S wrote:
    large percentage of people who are new to the faith
    New to the faith in the form of “they need to be baptized? “

    Most people in America have some background in faith so if you’re looking for “pure conversions” you’re not gonna find much. We encounter a lot of folks who were nominally Christian and baptized as infants but actually didn’t know the gospel or Christ. Conversion is simply they didn’t know Jesus before and now they do, so they get baptized. I see your concern if it is about being baptized at “our” church or having the right doctrine or something.

  69. Kristin wrote:

    I see your concern if it is about being baptized at “our” church or having the right doctrine or something.

    i was just trying to determine if we are truly making new disciples. Some people will go through a crisis of faith or get tired of church, etc. Then, a few years later they return. I am concerned that, in fact, we evangelicals are a declining species. We may deserve to be.

  70. Kristin wrote:

    I personally think church planting is really only applicable in urban situations, because it is nearly impossible to saturate a city of several million with thriving churches.

    Kristen — I’ve been thinking about this and I agree with your comment. Most white evangelical churches in my area are deficient at reaching out credibly to anyone who doesn’t fit their existing demographic: They want you to have the BIG 4 traits: white, married, right-wing conservative, financially stable. If you don’t have all 4, you don’t fit.

    Corporations know the dangers of this thinking. If they want to grow, they compare their existing customer base with the rest of the population and create new products and they doesn’t go out to the people like Jesus did. Jesus enjoyed people who didn’t fit.

    I think even in the suburbs there is room for churches for the people who don’t fit. If more than one of these traits is missing (white, married, right-wing conservative, financially stable), people sense the disconnect. If my old church’s leadership had cared about people who didn’t meet these criteria, they would have grown. They called themselves the “premier church” in the area, but their zip code has declined 5% in religious interest in the past 10 years — worse than in other nearby zip code.

    I’m attending a suburban church plant for people who don’t fit the BIG 4, or want to worship with people who don’t fit. It’s a breath of fresh air.

  71. That 2nd paragraph should have said:
    Corporations know the dangers of this thinking. If they want to grow, they compare their existing customer base with the rest of the population and create new products and marketing to capture market share. A lot of churches don’t do this. They don’t go out to the people like Jesus did. Jesus enjoyed people who didn’t fit. They related to him and vice versa.

  72. Daisy wrote:

    Why would anyone have to arrive at your point B (Christianity necessarily endorses slave owning) from your point A (nation’s roots are heavily Judeo Christian)? I don’t see the connection, or that one necessarily follows from the other.
    Anyhow, I think it fair to say that the nation’s founders and the citizenry were heavily influenced by, or respectful of, many Judeo-Christian principle s, even if some of them got some things wrong along the way.
    I don’t believe that our nation’s founders and early citizens were largely atheists, agnostics, Hindus, Muslims, or hostile towards the Bible, and yes, I realize Jefferson took scissors and cut out any reference to the supernatural in his copy of the Bible.

    Slavery: If you’re going to argue that the basis of our country is Christianity**, you’re going to have to accept that the country was founded in part on the fact that millions of people were owned as chattel property by your Christian slaveowners. They were owned in terrible conditions, their families were broken up upon whim, they were not allowed to be educated by law, they couldn’t legally marry because they were PROPERTY and all of this was supported by preaching over the pulpit. (You may want to read abut the the Grimke sisters, for example, to get a small idea of how awful it was–and the Grimkes were privileged white women.) Remember, we’ve got a Southern Baptist Convention because the Southern Baptists couldn’t agree with the northern Baptists that owning another human being was wrong. And gee, the Southern Baptists could point to scripture after scripture after scriptures showing that chattel ownership was right and pleasing unto God, too!

    I’d also note again that the colonies were founded as sectarian affairs, where you were required to live the rules of the particular religion that ran the place or get kicked out (like Roger Williams, the first Baptist). So, no there wasn’t a Hindu, Buddhist, Shinto or atheist influence, but the Founders were smart enough not to let one group of sectarians get on top of all the others. This didn’t (and doesn’t) mean we didn’t have problems in that area that needed (and need) to be worked out, but the Founders wanted a level playing field.

    I’m going to close this by quoting from Article VI of the Constitution.

    The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

    If it was so Christian, why doesn’t it say so? It doesn’t.

    **As my Jewish friends would say, there’s nothing Judeo about it, this is just appropriation that they didn’t have any part of.

  73. @ Janey:
    That is a good point. A Latino young man in our church recently said “I used to think that church was for white people without any problems.” So yes, there can be lots of churches around but none that are truly welcoming to all people.

    I am white and educated and by and large without problems and there are lots of things about big megachurches, celebrity pastors, TGC, etc that I find attractive. But at the end of the day I force myself to question any brand of Christianity that is only liked by people like me. The YRR think they have it “right” but no one other than fairly well off white folks seem eager to sign up. It’s been refreshing and humbling for me to be in community with the opposite of “white people without any problems.” But there is a lot of love and reliance on Jesus which is really all you need anyways.

  74. I don’t know if there’s anything the churches could do to get me back short of tearing down all the edifices. And I’m not just talking about the buildings (however I think that’s a big part of it), but just the attitudes. Churches today are looking for nuclear families with disposable incomes and no serious problems. Those of us who have living arrangements that don’t fit that mold, fergit it. Churches don’t want messy lives on display in their hallowed sanctuaries. They certainly don’t want middle-aged, never-married, living alone with cats, elderly parents down the street, full time working, educated women with not one, not two but THREE chronic illnesses who ask pointed questions or who object strenuously when something obnoxiously stupid is going on (like defending child molesters)!

    I’ve said this before here but it’s worth repeating–the church could learn from large, impersonal corporations some lessons on how to treat people. I feel more respected and more valued within the walls of the evil empire, too big to fail financial institution I work for, because I am valued for what I bring to the table, not that I fit into a specific mold. (And my employer works with my disabilities if I have issues, too.)

  75. Oh, and to be honest, after hearing for decades that I’m a wretched sinner that needed to have Jesus die for me to be saved, I got tired of always looking over my shoulder and worrying about sin. Seriously, it was a relief to walk away and not have that little voice in my head asking me over and over, “Did you do X right? Did you offend? Did you sin? Do you need to ask forgiveness?” Let’s just say that getting hammered over and over again with YOU ARE A SINNER week after week after week does not help a person who has obsessive-compulsive tendencies to live well on the other six days!

    I also learned that substitutionary atonement is not the be-all to end-all of theories of why Jesus died. (There are others.) And, frankly, not everyone is going to respond well to the idea that God had to kill his Son to make everything right for us. I’m now at the point where the whole thing is simply appalling. If God is God, he could just forgive us, no human sacrifice needed. (Which, by the way, is why so many Jews are turned off by Christianity. The Old Testament prophets were really against human sacrifice to the Baals, and then to turn around and have this happen…well, yeah, it’s no wonder Jews have stuck to their guns for two millennia.)

  76. Kristin wrote:

    It’s been refreshing and humbling for me to be in community with the opposite of “white people without any problems.” But there is a lot of love and reliance on Jesus which is really all you need anyways.

    Absolutely. I too have always been at the top of the A List, but a crisis many years ago changed me. It opened my eyes to the incredible faith of those average Christians who are slogging it out in the trenches on faith alone. Looking back, my own shallowness as a Evangelical elitist, it is embarrassing and reprehensible. I can’t quite fit in anymore. And that’s good. We need to have our hearts broken for the marginalized.

  77. Southwestern Discomfort wrote:

    I’ve said this before here but it’s worth repeating–the church could learn from large, impersonal corporations some lessons on how to treat people. I feel more respected and more valued within the walls of the evil empire, too big to fail financial institution I work for, because I am valued for what I bring to the table, not that I fit into a specific mold. (And my employer works with my disabilities if I have issues, too.)

    Preach it, sister.

  78. Southwestern Discomfort wrote:

    Churches today are looking for nuclear families with disposable incomes and no serious problems.

    They are running out of those fast! Few mega-church leaders realize that Evangelicals are among the least educated religious groups in America. We’re not quite as bad as the anti-intellectual Jehovah’s Witnesses, but we have one of the lowest percentages of 4-year college degrees of any religious group in America. We white evangelicals are also are among the poorest people in America. And with the marriage rate dropping, elitist churches simply aren’t going to have many people to choose from.

  79. @ Hester:

    I don’t know where Keller got that quote. I’ve heard it for at least the last 25 years. SGM lives and dies by equating “church planting” with going into all the world and making disciples. They (and many others) have adopted a business model for making disciples which, um well . . . isn’t the same thing at all.

  80. Jeff S wrote:

    I’ll try to remember to ask him. In the past six months I can recall only one adult Baptism, but I can say we do have large percentage of people who are new to the faith in our congregation.

    St Boniface normally gets between half a dozen and two dozen every Easter Vigil, but then we’re Romish…

  81. Janey wrote:

    dee wrote:

    I swear these churches are stupid. Do they not know that they are causing the very thing that they wish to avoid? They will definitely attract the media now and the media is less adoring of the tactics of churches these days, in light of all of the pedophile scandals.

    Dee — What was going through Pastor Doug and his boss Gregg Matte’s head? “Hey, I think it would be a great idea to tell an zealous blogger who is a child abuse awareness activist to shut up. Yeh, that will work.”

    “Because We Are Men-O-GAWD. GAWD Is On Our Side In EVERYTHING!”

    “TOUCH NOT MINE ANOINTED! DO MY PROPHET NO HARM!”
    – Benny Hinn and his Holy Ghost Machine Gun

  82. dee wrote:

    Smile and talk to the checkout person in the supermarket. Leave a 40% tip for the breakfast wait staff. Tell in old lady that her sweater is pretty.

    True enough Dee. Our kind words that build up and affirm the worth of another human being might be the remaining strands of rope that keep them from the abyss of suicide or worse. What we do and say in the here and now nudges the gear teeth of the future.

  83. Kristin wrote:

    I am white and educated and by and large without problems and there are lots of things about big megachurches, celebrity pastors, TGC, etc that I find attractive. But at the end of the day I force myself to question any brand of Christianity that is only liked by people like me. The YRR think they have it “right” but no one other than fairly well off white folks seem eager to sign up.

    That’s simple, Kristin. They’re from the top of the heap, and YRR Party Line justifies it as God Hath Predestined You To Be On Top. And because it’s all Predestined by God, you have NO responsibility towards others (like those at the bottom of the heap) with your position and wealth — “In’shal’lah…”

    And when YOUr’e the one personally benefiting from the (literally Cosmic) arrangement…

    And when there’s the implied assumption that God will protect you on top of the heap…

  84. @ nmgirl: You might want to look into some of the mainline denominations – you’re not going to run into problems with science there, and most mainline Protestant churches have been ordaining women for a while now. (They are not complementarian.)

    I think it’s a certain “flavor” of xtianity that puts you off, and believe me, I’m right there with you!

  85. dee wrote:

    Hester wrote:

    The better question is why Tim Keller is quoting NAR bigwig C. Peter Wagner. That’s some bad juju, y’all.

    Seriously strange. Wagner is one weird dude and has some seriously strange views. This ain’t your daddy’s Calvinism either.

    More like Witchfinder-General and Malleus Malefacarium filtered through Aliester Crowley. (And probably without the juicy demon/witch porn of the Malleus…)

    Wagner breaks down spiritual warfare as having three levels:
    “Ground Level: Person-to-person, praying for each other’s personal needs.
    Occult Level: deals with demonic forces released through activities related to Satanism, witchcraft, astrology and many other forms of structured occultism.
    Strategic-Level or Cosmic-Level: To bind and bring down spiritual principalities and powers that rule over governments.”[1] “Strategic-level intercession” uses “spiritual mapping” and “tearing down strongholds” to engage in spiritual warfare against “territorial spirits”[2]

    “Occult-level” nothing, THIS IS AS OCCULT AS ANYTHING CROWLEY DID AT THELEMA ABBEY. “Spiritual Mapping”? “Territorial Spirits”? “Cosmic Level” (LITERALLY)? They are Making Mighty Magick against other Mighty Sorcerers, setting wards, binding spirits (wonder if they use a proper summoning circle…)

    “I thought I had s most morbid imagination, as good as any man’s. But it appears I have not.”
    – Aliester Crowley, commenting on the occult antics of Jack Parsons and L Ron Hubbard

    And did you catch the part about “These Spiritual Warfare Methods Were Unknown Before The 1990s”? Implied that Wagner discovered them? Or had them Revealed to him through Special Revelation? The Speshul Sekrit Knowledge (“Occult Gnosis”) Revealed to Wagner alone? (“Gnostic” = “He Who KNOWS Things”)

  86. dee wrote:

    @ HoppyTheToad: I want to write a book called “The Gospel According to Star Trek.”

    I once suggested “The Gospel According to Beavis and Butthead” but got piled on from all sides for it.

    And today I think I can make a case for “The Gospel According to My Little Pony Fanfic.”

  87. Southwestern Discomfort wrote:

    Oh, and to be honest, after hearing for decades that I’m a wretched sinner that needed to have Jesus die for me to be saved, I got tired of always looking over my shoulder and worrying about sin. Seriously, it was a relief to walk away and not have that little voice in my head asking me over and over, “Did you do X right? Did you offend? Did you sin? Do you need to ask forgiveness?”

    SWD, my church calls this “Excessive Scrupulosity”, a theological form of OCD.

  88. Daisy wrote:

    There’s nothing wrong with churches wanting to send money, food, or Bibles to Africa, but as I’ve said before, in my time of greatest pain, when I needed the most support from Christians, I was shunted aside by some and told by a few that my sorrows were nothing, but strangely, these same Christians were all moved and compassionate about orphans in third-world nations.

    Daisy, this is a near-universal trait among activists of all types. “Abstract Compassion” for the faceless collective noun way off on the other side of the world who you never have to meet face-to-face. Like Marx fanboys going on about “The People” as a singular collective, never as individuals.

    “The little lanes and houses where
    I learned with little labor
    The way to Love My Fellow Man
    And hate my next-door neighbor.”
    – G.K.Chesterton

    And “Darkest Africa” has ALWAYS had the cachet of the Prestige Posting for Heroic WHITE Missionaries. Kind of racist if you stand back and look at it like a Martian.

  89. Daisy wrote:

    Churches need to stop being gimmicky, slick, and trendy with the skinny jeans, rock bands, big video screens, coffee shops, and trying to prove they are just as hip and with-it as secular society.

    The harder preachers and churches try to be cool, the lamer they look. (I guess that might go with numo’s comments about not trying so hard?)

    Because the original will always be able to one-up the imitation.

  90. Oh yeah, another thing.

    GET RID OF ONE SIZE FITS ALL.

    We’re all different. Jesus didn’t approach every person in the same way. In fact, he met them where they were at or, “worse yet” (heh heh) he went to their level (eating with prostitutes and other notorious sinners).

    Too many churches see relationship and salvation as 1-2-3-4 Spiritual Laws, sign on the dotted line, get baptized, start paying tithing, and get your butt in the pew every Sunday. That sort of thing drives me bonkers. It’s not meeting people where they’re at, it’s making people meet you where you’re at because that’s what you’re most comfortable with. It’s kind of like having people dress up like white Christian Americans on Sunday rather than their own nice, local clothing, because, well, all that color and vibrancy and gee, is that a skirt on the guy? could be “offensive.”

    Anyway, enough of that. Just get rid of one size fits all. We’re not all wanting a Happy Meal.

  91. I would read a Gospel According to Beavis and Butt-Head any day. Heh heh heh.

  92. How to decrease your church,
    1. Shoot the wounded
    2.Form cliqes that make certain people or groups of people outsiders within the church.
    3.Pastors…Deacons/Elders who dont meet the N T criteria for the positions they hold in the church.
    4.Letting your church become a subdivison of the Democratic or Republican partry .

    I have 5 more but I dont have the time to finish the list

  93. church planting in the SBC has become a jobs program for 20 something seminarians who don’t want to go to some existing church, be a servant and mentored by some old preacher who believes in free will.

    And don’t get me started on the ridiculous word, ‘unchurched’. As if being “unchurched” is the same as being not saved. Ridiculous. There are saved folks out there that are SO saved they won’t enable the evil perpetuated in these evangelical fundyorYRR churches anymore.

  94. @ dee:
    dee wrote:

    citationsquirrel wrote:
    Show them something that don’t see elsewhere. Love that is real. Joy that is infectious…. Smile and talk to the checkout person in the supermarket. Leave a 40% tip for the breakfast wait staff. Tell in old lady that her sweater is pretty. Tell a new mother her baby is beautiful….

    +++++++++++++

    Hmmmmm,….. Coming dangerously close to manufacturing. To becoming salespeople.

    There is no truer statement I can make than the healthiest, kindest, and most genuine people I’ve ever known are notchristians. They have nothing to prove. To themselves, to others, to god, to an institution. They are utterly free to choose kindness for its own sake.

  95. @ dee:

    Thanks Dee, i never thought of those 2 groups. and yes, i live in the Albuquerque area and New Mexico is beautiful but so endangered by fire these days. Those of you who pray, please pray for the people’s whose lives, livelihoods and property are in danger.

  96. Southwestern Discomfort wrote:

    Too many churches see relationship and salvation as 1-2-3-4 Spiritual Laws, sign on the dotted line, get baptized, start paying tithing, and get your butt in the pew every Sunday.

    Absolutely. Too many people in these production lines have never “come to know Jesus” at all; they’ve just been sold a life-coaching product.

    The leader/founder of a congregation I used to be part of insisted that any “new Christian” had to be visited every day, otherwise they’d fall away. In other words, the post-purchase “cooling off” period will come into effect and they’ll realise they aren’t really interested. Certainly, my experience was that most people who responded to salesmanlike “altar calls” had to be dragged to church meetings ever after. Whereas those – and to be fair, this did happen – whom God had genuinely met with, and added to the congregation, would move heaven and earth to come to anything and everything.

  97. @ Elastigirl:

    dee & deb — my experience of you is that there is no one more sincere and natural as yourselves, christian or not.

    in christianworld, you are unique in this.

  98. nmgirl wrote:

    Those of you who pray, please pray for the people’s whose lives, livelihoods and property are in danger.

    I’ll pray for that one. I was brought up in a brush fire area.

  99. linda wrote:

    Fire near Beulah Colorado this afternoon. Hot and windy–please pray!

    Prayers for you too. Were you part of last year’s fire?

  100. At my class this past week I met a classmate from Colorado Spring and had an interesting conversation about megachurches. She said she and her family won’t set foot in the infamous evangelical church in town, and she described it as a show that says, “Introducing…God!” with bells and whistles. I too have tired of the glitz and glamor and bells and whistles included in most evangelical churches. Let’s just do and look at the basics. Though I do like the music, I must admit.

  101. Anon 1 wrote:

    And don’t get me started on the ridiculous word, ‘unchurched’. As if being “unchurched” is the same as being not saved. Ridiculous. There are saved folks out there that are SO saved they won’t enable the evil perpetuated in these evangelical fundy or YRR churches anymore.

    Amen.

  102. Elastigirl wrote:

    Hmmmmm,….. Coming dangerously close to manufacturing. To becoming salespeople.

    I mean this from the bottom of my heart. If you love, you will see those folks who slog along in mundane anonymity and you will see them as God sees them-beautiful-created in His image. No manufacturing involved if one loves.

  103. Boy, would it ever be nice if evangelicals stopped using terms like “get saved,” “unsaved,” “fall away,” “backslide,” “know the Lord,” “unchurched” – and all the rest of the cultural xtianese slang terms that make NO sense to:

    - xtians who are not evangelicals

    - people who are supisious of white evangelical culture and/or know nothing about it.

    Further, I think the “get saved/get right with God” thing is seriously off theologically, if used as a model for all people. Not everyone falls to the ground like Paul! One person’s conversion should not be used as the template for the mass of humanity out there.

    I could go on, but I’ll stop for now. There are people who are far more articulate about these things than I am, for one thing…

  104. @ dee: I know you do – and I’m sure elastigirl does too.

    What’s sad is that she’s right about so many others using phony “friendliness” as a sales technique (in evangelical/charismatic culture).

  105. @ numo:

    Unregenerate church membership – it's a phrase that one can find over at 9Marks. Now that I've seen Mark Dever and gang in action over the last 4 years, I have a different perspective on membership than they do.

  106. @ Deb: I’ve looked at material on their site about 3 times – just have no interest.

    and that phrase – on one level – simply does not compute!

  107. Brent Detwiler today sent a letter to 77 National Leaders on these topics:

    • Change in wording on the Together for the Gospel Statement
    • ‪Janet Mefferd Show – Boz Tchividjian‬ interview
    • Grace Goe
    • Pam Palmer, mother of Plaintiff Renee Palmer Gamby, will be standing with Amy Smith of SNAP at the Southern Baptist Convention.

    For the full text:
    http://www.brentdetwiler.com/brentdetwilercom/correspondence-sent-to-77-national-leaders-statement-by-moth.html

  108. @ dee:

    hi, dee — just want to make sure you know i consider you & Deb two of the most sincere and genuine persons i’ve ever come across. it is why i am a part of this community.

  109. The church “business” is something that has happened during my lifetime. The local “Mega-church” has recently bought a huge shopping area with plans on turning it into a office and Sunday School rooms. Trouble is many of the businesses have long term leases with the former owner.( 10+ years.) These include restaurants who have large bars.
    The “Mega-Church” is SBC. It makes me wonder about having SS rooms and offices next door to the bar-restaurants….perhaps the pastor needs a drink to relax after a hard day….I remember when I was a kid the SBC selling off Delta Airline stock because the airline sold alcohol on flights…my how times have changed….

  110. i grew up Methodist in a small town dominated by the SBC church. We were christians, but just barely. but it’s a small town so we all were friends who went their separate ways on Sunday. One evening a friend had invited me to the SBC youth even. The young pastor there was all excited about all the people who had been saved at a recent revival. budding heathen (?) that i was, i asked. “Wouldn’t god be happy if only one person was sincerely saved?” Talk about blasphemy! This SBC church eventually imploded over money when the big money guy started demanding control over many things and the pastor and elders gave in.

  111. Elastigirl

    You have made me cry. Thank you. Please pray for us as we navigate some turbulent waters.

  112. dee wrote:

    @ Sopwith: I cannot figure out, for the life of me, why child sex abuse isn’t a priority for the church? Why don’t these men reach out to the victims as well as their buddies?

    You are asking me to speculate as to why there is no real SBC leadership action concerning an overwhelming pedophilia problem found within the church walls today.

    Ans:

    A. ….there  are too many skeletons in the closet.

    B. …revelation would simply upset the applecart. 

    C. Abuse perpetrated by its leadership ranks. (You will haveta get da bugman; cockroaches are such tricky lit’l buggers…)

    D. ….reaching out to victims could be considered an admission of guilt.

    E. ….church lawyers, and insurers.

    F. ….simply uneconomical.

    G. ….might soil the name brand.

    H. All the above.

  113. dee wrote:

    Please pray for us as we navigate some turbulent waters.

    We’re praying for you. You don’t have to be successful, just faithful.

  114. K.D. wrote:

    I remember when I was a kid the SBC selling off Delta Airline stock because the airline sold alcohol on flights…my how times have changed….

    On a lighter note, the church I joined in Cambridge had a biggish student population and we used to boast (small “b”) that we formed the backbone of the Cambridge University Home Brewing Society. Reference was frequently made to “ex-Baptists making up for lost time”!

    In fairness, as far as I know the UK Baptist Union doesn’t have a policy on the (responsible) drinking of alcohol now and didn’t then either; though specific local congregations may.

  115. @ Anon 1:
    Anon 1 you are priceless.

    At my old church they did the whole campus expansion with a campus “plant” in a suburban neighbourhood with a video hook-up of the Pastor. The people running it are all 25 years or younger. Our (old) pastor is only in his thirties. The attitude of “Why be mentored by someone who isn’t doctrinally TGC? They couldn’t possibly have anything to teach me.” Better to have a position of privilege right from the get go. I give this whole “movement” about 5 – 10 (at most) more years. Then it will all be in damage repair mode, if it isn’t already.

    The next generation coming up doesn’t have the wealth to make pastors rich anyways. The few that stick around with a decent income will want more respect and answers then the young bucks know how to dispense (they only know how to demand it from women). These young guys aren’t used to being questioned. When the ship is sinking, they are going to wish they did go to the church with the older free-will pastor (his congregation will still be humming along, while the young-buck’s church will have had its day).

    This whole TGC is all vaguely familiar, I was in the (Canadian) Vineyard movement in the 90s, back then, in my area, Vineyards were bursting at the seems with cool worship and spirt-filled evangelicals – today, that once fantastic church doesn’t even have a Pastor, the elders preach to a very small congregation. It’s church plant collapsed about seven years ago. It was pre-emergent, but the graduates of that movement went on to be emergents, where are they now?

    I get that it isn’t exactly the same, the internet may make the Neo Cal movement last longer, as it is easy to search out like-minded communities in a geographic area now, then it was back in the 90s. That said, given the decline in church attendance, coupled with the rise of women breadwinners and essential earners in a family, there won’t be much growth. Any pastor on record as saying (or supporting) the extreme views on manhood/womanhood will drive away newcomers – talk about ridiculous rules like, the wife needs to make less than 68% of her husband’s salary, for him to feel like a provider. Women have to give their husbands a trump card in any major marital decision. Women can’t appear to have any influence on a man at church (so, she can’t read scripture, or a man might accidentally learn something from her). And, and this is crazy, the younger men coming up seem to be more patriarchal and sexist than the older TGC guys. Old man Keller is practically a feminist compared to young buck Owen Strachan. In my area (Vancouver), the cost of living is so high most young families rely on 2 incomes to make ends meet. Pastors never talk about gender roles in church, but scratch the surface, and the attitudes are all there. If a young women was saved and joined a church today, she would likely be disgusted that all the young men don’t think women can be pastors. All the major provinces in Canada are lead by a woman right now (Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and B.C.). Compare that to the church. There is a lot of disconnect between church and society. Is it worth it? Well, once the money dries up and attendance plummets, I think they will reconsider. By then it may be too late.

  116. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    In fairness, as far as I know the UK Baptist Union doesn’t have a policy on the (responsible) drinking of alcohol now and didn’t then either; though specific local congregations may.

    In the US as recently as 1970 or so the “official” Baptist Hymnal has the statement of faith inside the front cover. And it included a prohibition of alcohol.

  117. We were not part of last year’s fire, but we have had two years of close calls and breathing smoke all summer. Hoping and praying for better this year.

    Last night, last I heard, the Beulah fire was about out, thankfully.

    And if you want to see news of my old hometown of yore, look at the weather channel’s haboob in Artesia NM.

    Gotta love the dry west!

  118. Southwestern Discomfort wrote:

    Wow, this Amy Smith thing is getting very weird, very fast. Calling the cops? That’s just crazycakes. Sounds like something Scientology would do.

    Re Scientology, look up “Fair Game Law” and “Operation Freakout” sometime.

    “Fair Game Law” is a policy that all SPs (“Suppressive Persons”, enemies of Scientology real or imagined) are “fair game” and anything may be done to them.

    “Operation Freakout” was an application of Fair Game Law where Scientolgy forged evidence to bring Federal felony charges against a reporter who was investigating them. This was only discovered after-the-fact, when the FBI seized Scientology records after Scientology operatives were caught in an IRS office after hours running official records through the photocopier.

  119. Southwestern Discomfort wrote:

    Too many churches see relationship and salvation as 1-2-3-4 Spiritual Laws, sign on the dotted line, get baptized, start paying tithing, and get your butt in the pew every Sunday.

    And 100 years ago, also “sign the Dry Pledge” and join the Culture War against Demon Rum.

  120. Southwestern Discomfort wrote:

    I would read a Gospel According to Beavis and Butt-Head any day. Heh heh heh.

    The Gospel According to Beavis & Butthead was actually very simple:
    “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
    Because EVERY character in B&B was an ******** (ed. note) — from the 60s throwback teacher to the Defrocked Marine coach to the mealy-mouthed school principal. B&B were just the two most obvious.

    P.S. And that’s “Heh-huh. Heh-huh. Heh-huh.”

  121. Lynn wrote:

    In the US as recently as 1970 or so the “official” Baptist Hymnal has the statement of faith inside the front cover. And it included a prohibition of alcohol.

    And one of the original reasons for the “walk the aisle” Altar Call was to get ‘em up front to sign the Dry Pledge in public.

  122. @ Headless Unicorn Guy:
    No public signing for walking the alise in my church. But officially alcohol was evil. Except for communion. Then it was pastor’s (SBC) choice. With our pastor commenting in private with my dad that it wasn’t biblical. But there are only so many fights one can fight at one time. He (our pastor and family friend) got chewed up by being outspoken on most topics and not affirming segregation.

  123. A full discussion of the decline of Christianity in the West, and the U.S., could take up several books. The SBC is a part of that. Evangelicalism has held on longer because it has picked up the defectors from the mainline churches, and their children, through church, parachurch and evangelism efforts.

    As for church planting, I have been part of one. It’s 20 years old now. Started with 5 couples and 4 children. Now we have between 800-900 in attendance.

    We have never done evangelism blizts, crusades, or mass mailings with catchy topical sermon series. Until 6 years ago, we rented facilities in places that were not optimal.

    A few other churches were started in the same time frame. Some before, some after. Some are “power point” churches with no denominational affiliation. There is a plant here of Andy Stanley’s church where he is beemed in on the screen. I am not sure that has really taken off.

    Watching our church, these churches and the general church scene in town, I would say that it is accurate that the church usually reaches Christians. Christians go to places where there is good teaching, that are located in good areas (except for some really young congregations that are edgy and are “power point” types), or that have good amenities – e.g. affiliated schools (the Presbyterians in town have grown because of the schools. If you a member, you have a better chance of getting in), convenience, located in nice areas, youth facilities and activities etc.

    But all of these churches have reached unbelievers, as well, based on my observations.

    We have reached Christians who preferred the preaching, worship or emphasis at our church, and we have reached people who were not Christian, but are now.

    There is a good deal of celebrity seeking. New churches can also become the “hot church” for a 1 to 5 years, and you see people moving around.

    We helped plant 2 churches 2 years ago – one in the University area and another in a outerlying suburb. Both have some of our DNA. Focus on good Bible teaching, orthodox, modern but not loud and boisterous worship, and denominaitonally affiliated. Both have their own pastors and are autonomous. We did not do “satellites” because we believe each church should have its own pastor and govern itself.

    We have also adopted a church that is being pastored by a young guy. It is in rough area. He and his family are committed to pastor in that area. He is a great guy.

    Although church planting gets a lot of attention and there is a lot of hype surrounding it, church planting is not glamorous. It is rewarding, but it’s tough.

  124. CitationSquirrel, kudos for the Phil Hartmann voice ;-)

    In the debate on America’s Founders I am going to have to go with SWD’s argument this time – many of those who signed the Declaration of Independence were, I believer, deists. Deism happened to be popular in the English-speaking world at the time. On the other hand I would argue that deism is really watered-down Christianity rather than anti-Christian.

    Maybe the way forward is, as with Jeff S’s church, to keep churches below a certain size but also to encourage believers to join local churches, even the struggling ones, rather than travelling for miles to a cool one.

  125. How to decrease your church…the rest of the story.
    5.Gossip
    6.The rejection of Jesus Christ as the head of your local church
    7.Sin management……we are saved and transformed by grace not by abusive legalism.
    Grace needs to be like living water over flowing in the life of the indivdal believer not to be tapped and dispenced at the pastors discretion.
    Have a wonderful Sunday.

  126. @ Southwestern Discomfort:

    The United States does have at its historical roots men who believed in Judeo Christian beliefs, and some may have owned slaves, yes.

    It does not follow from this that Christianity itself or God Himself supports or condones slavery or are the causes of slavery.

  127. Southwestern Discomfort wrote:

    Oh, and to be honest, after hearing for decades that I’m a wretched sinner that needed to have Jesus die for me to be saved, I got tired of always looking over my shoulder and worrying about sin.

    SD, I relate to this.

    I’ve been heading a little into agnostic territory the last couple of years, after having been a very devout, conservative Christian from childhood.

    The oddest thing is that while the Bible says the fruits of the Holy Spirit (which one receives if one accepts Christ) is peace and joy, I never really experienced this myself, and yes, I was “saved.”

    Christ said part of the reason He came was so that we could have an “abundant life.” I never felt as though I had an “abundant life.”

    Since I have tinkered with the idea of walking away from most, or all, of the Christian faith, ironically, I’ve felt more free, content, happy, and better about myself.

    I’ve learned it’s okay to make mistakes. I’m not as hard on myself anymore, and I don’t care near as much as I used to of other people’s opinions of me.

    Even when I was a very conservative Christian, I found much of the legalism (e.g., Christians who rant against secular entertainment) idiotic, though. The older I get, the more and more idiotic it looks.

    When you eject a lot of the rules and legalism of Christianity, or stop feeling like you have to live by them and be condemned by them, life becomes more enjoyable to live.

    Since I’ve departed from the faith a little bit, I don’t feel like I’m under bondage anymore. Maybe this is what Christianity was supposed to be and feel like, but Christians have been teaching it incorrectly?

  128. Janey wrote:

    Southwestern Discomfort wrote:

    Churches today are looking for nuclear families with disposable incomes and no serious problems.

    They are running out of those fast! Few mega-church leaders realize that Evangelicals are among the least educated religious groups in America.

    … And with the marriage rate dropping, elitist churches simply aren’t going to have many people to choose from.

    Approximately half of the American population is single today.

    One book I read (that I think was published around 2005 / 06) said that only about 18% of adults in America are youngish married couples with kids, and only around 20% of the US population is married – but married without children.

    The rest are single with no children.

    Churches, however, either don’t realize this shift in demographics, or do not care, and so they continue to chase after, and base church services and functions around, the 18% (the married with kids).

    First marriages for adults in the USA have shifted, the age has gone up. People used to marry in their early or mid 20s, now it’s late 20s, and for others, a first marriage does not happen until one’s 30s, 40s, or 50s.

    The churches and groups who do bother to notice these trends only care about teens (and at times, 20 somethings) today, though, which bothers me.

    They are advocating for “early marriage,” with Al Mohler and others telling teen Christians to marry the instant they graduate high school.

    They don’t care that there are scads and lots of single Christian women age 25 and up who want to get married, but there are no Christian single men of their age ranges to marry.

    All the attention and help in how to get singles married goes to Christians these days who are under 25 year of age, and they need the least help.

    If you’re over 25 or 30 years old, single, and want to be married, these conservative Christian groups do not care at all and will not do anything to help at all.

  129. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    I once suggested “The Gospel According to Beavis and Butthead” but got piled on from all sides for it.

    How would that work? All the quotes would look like:

    “Huh huh, huh huh. heh. Huh huh. You said ‘propitiation.’ Heh heh heh. Uh-hem, mmm heh heh. Huh Huh.”

    It would be funny to watch Beavis and Butthead do a critique of Christian sermons on You Tube.

    Show them sitting on their couch watching Mark Driscoll on You Tube, talking about ‘Song of Songs’ and watch as Butthead sits in shocked silence and Beavis’ eyes bulging out, like he can’t believe what he’s hearing from a “preacher.”

  130. @ Headless Unicorn Guy:

    It’s just very sad, frustrating, and hurtful when here I am bloodied and bruised on the road of life asking Christians for help, but get stepped over by them and some add insult to injury by saying, “get over it!,” and they continue on their merry way to their church to donate money to “feed the African orphans” charity.

    They have other favorite groups. It’s not just the orphans in Africa.

    Homeless American crack addicts who live in the inner city are popular with some Christians, as are girls who get kidnapped into sex trafficking.

    I’m sorry for the homeless and the girls sold into prostitution, please don’t misunderstand, and I think it’s great people are lending a hand to help them.

    I’m just saying if you’re involved in that sort of charity and out-reach, please don’t heartlessly or cavalierly brush off the middle class, suburban lady (or guy), who is a going through a difficult trial of their own who could use your compassion and help too.

  131. Southwestern Discomfort wrote:

    GET RID OF ONE SIZE FITS ALL.
    We’re all different. Jesus didn’t approach every person in the same way. In fact, he met them where they were at or, “worse yet” (heh heh) he went to their level (eating with prostitutes and other notorious sinners).

    I agree with this.

    There’s a Christian pod cast I listen to, and while I agree with the host on some points, he has a few tendencies that bother me.

    He is always assuming everyone needs to hear the Gospel the same way. He seems to think everyone needs to get hit over the head forcefully with the message that they are a Hell-bound sinner.

    Some may need that heavy handed approach, true I guess, but some sinners have a sense already that they are lost; the last thing they need is to be beat over the head with a Bible and assaulted.

    Jesus acknowledged this, if you see how he acted differently towards different types of lost sinners who approached him about how to achieve eternal life.

    The podcast host also seems to feel that unless each and every sermon contains a reference to the Bible every two seconds (i.e, a direct quote from the Bible), the preacher he is critiquing is, in his estimation, a bum, a fake Christian, an incompetent yea-hoo, who is leading people to Hell.

    Also, even though the Bible itself talks about a large variety of topics and conditions (e.g., regret, sorrow, infertility, joy, fear, parenting, how to construct temples, jealousy, affairs, war, politics, fighting, divorce, farming, humane treatment of animals, etc. etc.), the host thinks unless every single sermon is about soteriology (salvation / sin/ Hell/ Jesus as Savior) that the preacher who he is reviewing is awful, misleading people, is a false teacher, etc.

    Jesus Christ Himself did not make every sermon/speech he gave about soteriology or about Himself.

    I think there’s a verse that says a preacher should present the “whole counsel of God” – and the whole counsel does not equal soteriology only.

    If you are already saved, you don’t need to hear the Gospel every single Sunday from your preacher. You are past that and need to hear how the Bible treats other issues you’re dealing with in this life.

  132. @ numo:

    I sometimes use some of those terms and other Christianese, but only because I’m used to it or don’t know what other words to use.

  133. Deb wrote:

    Here’s how it has been used by Jim Elliff: Southern Baptists: An Unregenerate Denomination

    So the person that wrote that assumes if you don’t go to Sunday night services in addition to Sunday morning services, you’re probably “unregenerate.”

    He also uses church attendance as a method for measuring how much a self professing believer “loves the love the brethren” – he adds that not attending weekly is “a clear sign of being unregenerate”.

    I think it’s pretty legalistic and unreliable to use church attendance as a barometer of someone’s spirituality or to determine if they are “regenerate” or not.

    There are sincere believers, people who accepted Christ, who are in fact regenerate, who don’t attend a weekly service in a brick structure, and they have their reasons.

    He says,

    It is impossible to believe that anything like real familial affection exists in the hearts of people who do not come at all, or who only nominally check in on Sunday morning as a cultural exercise. Love is the greatest mark of a genuine believer…
    Attendance alone does not guarantee that anyone is an authentic believer, but “forsaking the assembling,” is a serious sign of the unregenerate heart.

    I think it’s wrong to equate enthusiastic weekly attendance with being evidence of being a genuine believer.

    I’ve read lots of testimonies by divorced Christian women on blogs for domestic abuse victims that their “Christian” husbands were avid church goers.

    Here on this blog, we see story after story of regular church attendees who molest kids and/or cover it up.

    The guy wrote on his page,

    “Second, these numbers suggest that most of those who do not attend (or who only come when it is convenient), are more interested in themselves than God. … They use the church, but are not really a part of it.”

    Seeing as how most churches (the CEO preacher type churches) expect you to meet the preacher’s needs (believers are treated like workers in a cube farm), you can’t blame them. Getting needs met is a two way street.

    A lot of churches these days are ‘using’ their congregants.

    He wrote, “they will politely resist getting involved”

    Try being a single female in a conservative church – even when you volunteer your skills, volunteer to serve in a capacity where you have talent, churches often won’t take you up on it. This has been my experience and that of many other single Christian ladies.

    He wrote, “A great mistake is made by blaming the problem on poor follow-up. In many churches there is every intention and effort given to follow-up, yet still the poor numbers persist.”

    I say that’s a crock.

    My experience, seeing other people’s experiences online, and in books I’ve read about why people leave church, presents the opposite scenario:

    Most churches do little to nothing to follow up with people who stop attending. They will not phone you or visit and ask why you stopped attending.

    He said, “But you cannot follow-up on a spiritually dead person. Being dead, he has no interest in growth.”

    How is he understanding growth?

    IMO, sitting in a brick building once or twice a week listening to condemning sermons, dry sermons, or sermons that don’t address the realities and struggles in life, is not conducive to “growth.”

    I also don’t need to hear the Gospel rehashed every other sermon (“you are a sinner, you need Christ, who is the only Savior”).

    Hearing Gospel 101 every Sunday doesn’t help me to grow spiritually, but some churches are stuck on that 101 message, or on “20 steps on how to have a successful marriage” sermons.

    There might be a problem with false converts in Christianity and in churches, but I don’t think the suggestions by the person who wrote that page are on the mark.

    Some of his suggestions under his “Five Responses” were arrogant.

    And this one suggestion was creepy, over stepping, and kooky:
    “Leaders must get into the homes of all our erring church members…”
    (and by “erring” I think he meant people who had skipped some church service or stopped going completely)

  134. @ Daisy:
    I don’t think a pastor would make it where I live if they blathered on about men and women roles like that!

    I wonder if it is economics that allows this to go on in the US? Here are my thoughts (but I am not sure of the taxation structure in the US). First, a stay at home spouse is a tax deduction, correct? Secondly, in the US, a 25 year mortgage is also a tax write off. These things favour a nuclear family model. This is not true for other western countries. So, since I need simple numbers in math, in the US, a man making $100,000 could write off his stay-at-home spouse and only pay taxes on $50,000 (am I correct). See, in the rest of the western world, a man making $100,000 would get taxes on that full $100,000. Kids are a small write off, but more if you pay for day-care or sports, pre-school, etc. Don’t pay for it, don’t get a tax break. So, in Canada for example, two spouses working for $50,000 are taxed less than one spouse working for $100,000 (in BC you jump income tax brackets at $100,000, so not only is the whole hundred grand taxed, but it is taxed at a higher percent than the two spouses at $50,000. Canada has not yet started adding spousal salaries together, so my measly salary (I work part time) is barely taxed. This means, the stay-at-home wife model is financially beneficial to the families in the US, and, therefore, the pastors. See where this “money talk” is going?

    US society bolsters the 1950s Leave it to Beaver home model.

    Now, in Canada, many couples both work. Sometimes (if the wife is union, and more women are union then men now), her job can actually earn more. Stepping out of a Union job is never a good idea, so many times it is the dads who cut hours when the kids are young, so the wife won’t lose her position. I’m in a great union and able to drop to PT with full benefits (gotta love unions), but if I weren’t I think my husband would have taking a lesser workload and helped with the day-care. This gives the govn’t more people to tax – Dad, Mom and childcare worker. We don’t bother with “under the table” childcare, because we get a great tax write-off for childcare. If we’re paying for it, we want credit for it. This way, the government is collecting from three employees (in most cases the total of the three employees is the same as one dad working full time). I would think the US is taking a pretty big tax hit with it’s “Leave It to Beaver” tax structure. But more for the pastors, I guess.

    So, we never ever hear sermons about wives catering to husbands – most moms are beat when they come home, and wouldn’t put up with a demanding husband. But, it lurks – pre-marital counselling is all about submitting, women aren’t elders, etc., etc. But the pastor is on a self-imposed gag-order in churches if he wants a salary.

  135. Val wrote:

    That said, given the decline in church attendance, coupled with the rise of women breadwinners and essential earners in a family, there won’t be much growth. Any pastor on record as saying (or supporting) the extreme views on manhood/womanhood will drive away newcomers – talk about ridiculous rules like, the wife needs to make less than 68% of her husband’s salary, for him to feel like a provider. Women have to give their husbands a trump card in any major marital decision. Women can’t appear to have any influence on a man at church (so, she can’t read scripture, or a man might accidentally learn something from her). And, and this is crazy, the younger men coming up seem to be more patriarchal and sexist than the older TGC guys

    Very interesting.

    We have the same situation in the USA right now. Women are earning more than a lot of men, many single women are having kids…
    Record 40 percent of US households have mother as primary breadwinner

    I don’t believe the Bible teaches what gender complementarians think it does about men and women and their roles, and if they keep on as they are, they are shooting themselves in the foot.

    I’d guess that many women, who are now big money earners, won’t attend a church that teaches gender complementarianism, which means those churches won’t be getting any of their money.

  136. Daisy wrote:

    When you eject a lot of the rules and legalism of Christianity, or stop feeling like you have to live by them and be condemned by them, life becomes more enjoyable to live.
    Since I’ve departed from the faith a little bit, I don’t feel like I’m under bondage anymore. Maybe this is what Christianity was supposed to be and feel like, but Christians have been teaching it incorrectly?

    I think, Daisy, that you have hit the nail on the head of the elephant in the room there. As Steve Taylor wrote: “Since I gave up hope, I feel a lot better”. And as many of us have found: Since I gave up The Faith, I’ve had a lot more faith. Incidentally, while we’re on Steve Taylor, his “I want to be a clone” has the telling tagline “If you wanna be one of His, gotta act like one of us“.

  137. Lynn wrote:

    In the US as recently as 1970 or so the “official” Baptist Hymnal has the statement of faith inside the front cover. And it included a prohibition of alcohol.

    I have an extended family member who is Baptist (I was raised Southern Baptist too) who is vehemently anti alcohol.

    The funny thing is I am a teetotler but don’t give a fig if others want to drink alcohol or not, Baptist upbringing or not.

    I don’t believe the Bible condemns alcohol consumption, but I don’t drink myself because I think it tastes gross.

    I don’t get all judgmental against people who do drink. I don’t know why alcohol is such a huge sticking point for so many Southern Baptists.

  138. @ Val: As Daisy said above, I think the comp types project an extremely skewed picture of what life in the US is really like.

    And to be honest, not all that many people are part of the comp world. It’s a very small minority of the population down here, albeit one that believes it should have huge cultural influence (and doesn’t).

  139. Val wrote:

    But the pastor is on a self-imposed gag-order in churches if he wants a salary.

    That is another interesting post. If the pastors where you live want they pay check, it behooves them to pipe down about gender roles, that women are supposed to stay at home and do nothing but raise kids (which is fine for women who want to do that, but some of us don’t want it or cannot)

  140. Daisy quoted one Jim Elliff as saying:

    Attendance alone does not guarantee that anyone is an authentic believer, but “forsaking the assembling,” is a serious sign of the unregenerate heart.

    Some, and perhaps many, of us “nones” have taken note of how little, and rarely, the many separate assemblies in a given locality actually assemble together. There are congregations I know meeting in buildings less than 100 yards from each other, who never mix. In most towns, the church does anything but assemble together. People drive past one another to scatter to isolated, independent groups each calling itself “a church”. Generally, these churches have little to do with one another; it is not unheard of for them actively to fight one another. They are each, almost by definition, firmly committed to retaining their separateness. (I also know of honourable exceptions – another comment there, though, as it’s bedtime here.)

    Somebody, somehow has to do something different. Now, in so doing, I’m only serving myself? How, exactly?

  141. Swindoll’s church plant was unique in that he was already somewhat of a celebrity in the Dallas area. Most church plants involve assistant pastors, and many aren’t launched from mega-churches. While it’s true that many of their members may come from other churches, I still some merit to the idea that increasing “surface area” (i.e. many small-ish congregations instead of a fewer number of very large congregations) can lead to more effectively reaching the lost.

  142. @ buddyglass:

    “I still some merit to the idea that increasing “surface area” (i.e. many small-ish congregations instead of a fewer number of very large congregations) can lead to more effectively reaching the lost.”
    +++++++++++++++++++

    reaching the lost….. i honestly fail to see how a “church service” (singing/stand up/sit down/stand up/sit down/perfunctory prayer/awkward meet-greet-seat/prepared sermon/perfunctory prayer/singing) reaches the lost.

    these are remarkably tired out, worn out ideas.

  143. “these are remarkably tired out, worn out ideas.”

    Elastigirl,

    I so agree with you that a church service in and of itself will not “reach the lost”. IMO, there should be WAY more to a group of believers than a Sunday morning service.

    Building relationships with other believers, discipling others, being discipled/mentored by others, believers serving others, believers loving others, believers praying together, studying the word together, having a BBQ together, etc should all edify and compel us to get out there and share the gospel to the lost through our actions and our words and make disciples.

    Sometimes I wish more emphasis would be put on the latter than the perfunctory service you cite above—I feel if that happened more–then things would look quite different for Christendom here in America.

    “People drive past one another to scatter to isolated, independent groups each calling itself “a church”. Generally, these churches have little to do with one another; it is not unheard of for them actively to fight one another. They are each, almost by definition, firmly committed to retaining their separateness”

    Nick,

    This is a HUGE problem in my community. I live in the deep south, and we have tons of small churches on every corner all competing in various aspects (and I am even talking about churches competing who are within the same denomination). Sadly, the one thing churches in this community should rally behind is unity in loving the community as Jesus would and sharing the gospel. However–with ALL of the churches in my community, this hardly ever happens. Most churches in my area are isolated, focusing inward, and only concerned with the upcoming Sunday morning service.

    And with saying all of that, I think sometimes it is NECESSARY to plant a church where there is a sea of other churches. Sometimes there are far too many churches who are focused on a Sunday morning service rather than being the hands and feet of Jesus in their community.

    And if a group of believers want to plant a church to try to change the course of that in a sea of other churches who haven’t—so be it. I am fortunate to be part of a church plant such as this (Going on now for 12 years)…

    I thought about sharing the origin of it because the reason it was planted goes much deeper than “we need another church here with a different style”…I will say this, in the south, deep seated racism often exists among people in so many churches, especially in my area. This often leads to exclusive churches who are only caucasian, African American, or Hispanic. When people in those exclusive churches try to minister/serve those of a different race, sometimes major resistance arises from other members. Resistance filld with a lot of hate.

    The church I am a part of now was born out of a passion to reject this foul hate in the church and be a place where ALL could be welcome, no matter what race. It would also be a place where the church would do MORE than have a Sunday morning service—it would be a church who would try to love/serve the community in the name of Jesus.

    After 12 years, we are not perfect, but I can say with confidence we are more focused on sharing the Gospel, loving/serving others, not acquiring new members..and we are 1 of 2 multiracial churches in a small community that has over 100 churches of various denominations.

    In fact, today at my church I was able to talk to a young man who I have been praying with/sharing the gospel with for over a year. A few weeks ago I took him to watch the new Star Trek movie and eat at Buffalo Wild Wings. On the way home, we talked a lot about Jesus. Today, he came up to me after church and said to me..”I need Him”. I watched the young man turn to Christ for the first time today!

    This young man comes from a low-income family, and is one of many people who all so often are overlooked due to his financial status and the color of his skin. Many churches in my community(even some of the biggest) would reject his presence in their church simply because he is poor and black.

    So I do think there are some church plants that are necessary for the expansion of God’s kingdom, no matter how many churches are already present in the community.

    And I do think some church plants and churches are doing what Jesus asked of us, and I see people coming to Christ through the witness of believers in those churches.

    I just wish more would do what was asked by our King.

  144. @ Daisy:

    Hi, Daisy.

    Your comment spurred on some thoughts of my own.

    “The oddest thing is that while the Bible says the fruits of the Holy Spirit (which one receives if one accepts Christ) is peace and joy, I never really experienced this myself, and yes, I was “saved.””

    –my thought is that the Holy Spirit is like a tree growing in us, with fruit taking time. An initial encounter with HS can be powerful, like lights suddenly being flicked on in a room that had been unlit. But the radical charge of it is temporary (but not the continuing reality of the HS). There may not be a powerful encounter like this, but the HS is just as much of a reality. in either case, fruit comes in time as the vine or the tree is allowed to grow, and nurtured. Some fruit comes easily. But I would say that most fruit is a process of time and nurturing.

    I, too, have found peace and joy quite scarce. Even though it was very obvious to me that God as spirit was active in me. While there have been occasional powerful encounters with residual joy and peace that lasted for a number of days (the way a special-occasion day at the beach leaves your skin sunkissed for days), i have been very perplexed as to why the so-called joy and peace fruit haven’t grown.

    i need to get to the point here… there are a whole host of things that contribute to lack of peace and joy — lonliness, unrealistic expectations from relationships, too high expectations of our own self, lack of exercise, not enough sunshine, thinking habits of glass being half-empty instead of half-full,…. and of course the chief culprit (ironically) can be church culture itself (never good enough, judgementalism, inferiority, ostracising, keeping up with the “spiritual joneses”, & all manner of messing with people’s minds [controlling them, manipulating them]).

    i do not think joy and peace are going to grow well off the holy spirit vine when these things are in operation.
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    “Christ said part of the reason He came was so that we could have an “abundant life.” I never felt as though I had an “abundant life.”

    –same here. But perhaps the notion of “abundant life” produces unrealistic expectations. And then we never able to recognize it should it begin or continue to develop.
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    “Since I have tinkered with the idea of walking away from most, or all, of the Christian faith, ironically, I’ve felt more free, content, happy, and better about myself.”

    –me, too. For me, I walked away from christian culture and the mindset which church has engendered in me. The distance i put between myself and church for a few years was absolutely freeing. I am the happiest i’ve ever been. my relationships are the healthiest they’ve ever been. i have more self-confidence than i’ve ever had. i have inner peace for once. I am the most relaxed i have ever been. I feel closer to God than I ever have before.
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    “I’ve learned it’s okay to make mistakes. I’m not as hard on myself anymore, and I don’t care near as much as I used to of other people’s opinions of me.”

    –absolutely, me too. It cannot be overstated how much church culture fosters each of these things.
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    “When you eject a lot of the rules and legalism of Christianity, or stop feeling like you have to live by them and be condemned by them, life becomes more enjoyable to live.

    Since I’ve departed from the faith a little bit, I don’t feel like I’m under bondage anymore. Maybe this is what Christianity was supposed to be and feel like, but Christians have been teaching it incorrectly?”

    –yes. I think it’s like this: “Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.” not a perfect analogy, but i have found that the more i “just be”, the easier it is to tune in to God. To tune in to happiness, and peace. As if it was there all along.

  145. @ elastigirl:I can only say "amen" to all of this. Another thing (one that's been freeing for me, along with what you've written about) is going back to the tradition in which I was raised, which is more about liturgical worship (and communion) than about trying to "reach" people. While I have to confess to not loving church services of most any kind (I tend to fall asleep and have heard WAY too many sermons that made me feel worm-like), I do find a lot of relief – and some peace – in simply being in an atmosphere where nothing is being demanded of me, and where the most important thing is the "communion" portion of the service. There's also a sense of peace and consolation for me in responsorial (congregational) reading of the Psalms, which is something that happens in every service. And definitely in the music (Lutherans are usually pretty good at that). but overall, I would rather be looking at things outside – the mountains, the sky – or listening to birds and the wind in the trees.

  146. numo wrote:

    As Daisy said above, I think the comp types project an extremely skewed picture of what life in the US is really like.

    And to be honest, not all that many people are part of the comp world. It’s a very small minority of the population down here, albeit one that believes it should have huge cultural influence (and doesn’t).

    Numo — I looked it up just now. The U.S. has a population of about 300 million. There are about 60 million married couples and of those couples only 13 million have a husband-only in the labor force. The stay-at-home-mom scenario is a small group: of the 11.5 million married couples with children under 6 years, those with the husband-only in the labor force amount to only 4.1 million.

    These numbers get tricky, and it’s best to look at the census table:
    Source: “Table 601. Married Couples by Labor Force Status of Spouses: 1990 to 2010″

  147. Val wrote:

    So, since I need simple numbers in math, in the US, a man making $100,000 could write off his stay-at-home spouse and only pay taxes on $50,000 (am I correct).

    Nope, this is not how it works. Every member of the household gets an exemption. I think it is about $3000 each. So if you have two parents and two kids, $12,000 is exempt from taxes. Couples can file jointly (most common) or separately. Most couples file jointly because filing separately means you can’t take certain deductions. My impression is that filing separately is more for legal reasons, like not wanting to be held liable if your spouse intends to cheat on his or her taxes.

    In an case, for a couple filing jointly, it doesn’t really matter whether the income is earned by one person or both. The income taxes would be the same whether one earns $100,000 and the other nothing or they each earn half. There is a tax credit for kids under 17, but no special deductions for stay-at-home spouses.

  148. Val wrote:
    <blockquote Canada has not yet started adding spousal salaries together, so my measly salary (I work part time) is barely taxed. This means, the stay-at-home wife model is financially beneficial to the families in the US, and, therefore, the pastors.

    It sounds like your system is set up to make it financially beneficial for the wife to work at least part time, since her income won’t be taxed much. In the US, since the salaries are added together, when the wife works, the bump up into a high tax bracket, plus costs of child care, work clothes, more meals eat out, etc, often mean the family doesn’t benefit much financially from having both spouses work. The opportunity cost is much higher here for mothers of young kids to work, unless they have a good paying job.

    One thing that is likely to lead to more American women giving up staying home with their kids is needing jobs with good health care benefits. Many either need the extra money to pay the premiums, or their husbands’ jobs don’t come with good insurance. On one forum I go to, many people report that the employee has to pay $400-1400 per month (depending on the state and insurance plan) on top of whatever the employer is already paying. Often these outrageous rates are for plans with high deductibles $2000-5000 per year, so they don’t actually get used.

  149. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Re Scientology, look up “Fair Game Law” and “Operation Freakout” sometime.

    “Fair Game Law” is a policy that all SPs (“Suppressive Persons”, enemies of Scientology real or imagined) are “fair game” and anything may be done to them.

    “Operation Freakout” was an application of Fair Game Law where Scientolgy forged evidence to bring Federal felony charges against a reporter who was investigating them. This was only discovered after-the-fact, when the FBI seized Scientology records after Scientology operatives were caught in an IRS office after hours running official records through the photocopier.

    Actually, “Operation Freakout” was Scientology’s action against Paulette Cooper (a fabulous woman with ovaries of titanium). It wasn’t until the government busted Scientology’s “Operation Snow White” (where Scientologists were going in and making government files “snow white”) that Paulette Cooper got out from under a really heavy cloud of suspicion. Her story is unbelievable but true. This was in the late 1970s.

    And, for the record, if you were to Google my legal name, you’d learn from the first hit that I’m a terrible, terrible, awful religious bigot because I’ve been opposed to Scientology. *shrug* Nobody cares any more. Scientology may end up being the first religion laughed out of existence. I hope.

  150. Daisy wrote:

    It does not follow from this that Christianity itself or God Himself supports or condones slavery or are the causes of slavery.

    I don’t want to do this, but I feel like I have to. This is the conundrum you’re in: if you believe the Bible is somehow God’s word, then you have to deal with the fact that slavery as a system is regulated and condoned all the way through it. There’s no revelation AT ALL that people shouldn’t own other people as chattel property. And those scriptures about slavery were quoted over and over and over again, ad nauseum, ad infinitum for centuries. And then, when slavery was outlawed by the 13th Amendment, NOT by turning to the Bible, but by a secular government, the preachers just turned to scriptures about How Awful Ham Was and How He Was Cursed to justify Jim Crow for another hundred years.

    Let me be blunt here: for nearly 1800 years, slavery in its various forms was considered acceptable by Christians. It took brave Christians like John Woolman to raise the issue to the fore (and Woolman was one of those heretical Quakers). He was viciously attacked, too, as being against the Bible.

    I personally don’t have this problem because I see the Bible as a historical document I can learn from, but I am not wedded to its inerrancy and I don’t have to accept all of its moral standards as my moral standards. Because some of the moral standards in the Bible are appalling, and Christians need to come to grips with that fact. :(

  151. Southwestern Discomfort wrote:

    And, for the record, if you were to Google my legal name, you’d learn from the first hit that I’m a terrible, terrible, awful religious bigot because I’ve been opposed to Scientology.

    Good for you. I’ve had run-ins with them too, but nothing like yours. Thank goodness for the Internet and for brave people to shine the light on these guys.

  152. elastigirl wrote:

    i honestly fail to see how a “church service” (singing/stand up/sit down/stand up/sit down/perfunctory prayer/awkward meet-greet-seat/prepared sermon/perfunctory prayer/singing) reaches the lost.

    For one, in the scenario where the sending church is growing, doing a church plant could allow the sending church to remain in its original building (and continue to serve the geography to which it has been historically been committed) rather than relocating. Contrast this with what most churches do, which is to move as soon as they outgrow their facilities, often spending a boat load of money on bigger/nicer facilities in the suburbs.

  153. @ buddyglass:

    i guess i’m just wondering what the point is of a “church service”, other than to perpetuate something old & stale which for a while now has seemed like a caricature of itself.

    it makes church people *feel* productive, and look productive to their peers.

    what is the yield, exactly?

  154. @ elastigirl: while I agree, I also think that *anything* can get stale after a while. but I’ve also found that most non-liturgical services (especially the kind where “contemporary worship” is key) get older faster.

    fwiw, I was part of a “worship team” for 10 years. It was a lot more fun playing that stuff (boring though it often was) than being out in the pews, having to sing along.

    One thing that drove me crazy – and made me repeatedly think “Why am I here? Why am I saying these things?” was the so-called “charismatic” worship element of all the services i attended over many years’ time. I went through the motions for several decades and got burned out on it all – especially when I felt like I was “supposed” to somehow be praying out loud but couldn’t think of a single, solitary thing to say – that meant anything, that is.

  155. @ numo: That’s not to say that liturgical services are the be-all and end-all, either.

    But there is a depth and richness to the way the Scripture readings and prayers are set up for each year in the calendar, and there are long, long arcs in all of the readings, in terms of how they’re chosen and how each passage relates to the others. (one each from the OT, epistles and Gospels; also one of the psalms as a something the congregation recites aloud.)

  156. @ HoppyTheToad:
    It is weird that Christians won’t get behind some form of universal access to health care. I have arthritis and the medicine alone would cost $36,000 a year if I didn’t have the govn’t kick in some of it (it was not tested on my particular type of arthritis, so the insurance co. don’t cover it unless the govn’t covers it first). People with Cancer must fare far terribly in the US – all my doc. visits are free, so it is just the medicine I have to get covered – but having arthritis doesn’t really require many doctor visits. Cancer on the other hand would sink a family if each visit and hospitalization was out of pocket.

    Why won’t Christians rally for at least protection from catastrophic costs for US citizens?

  157. elastigirl wrote:

    @ buddyglass:
    i guess i’m just wondering what the point is of a “church service”, other than to perpetuate something old & stale which for a while now has seemed like a caricature of itself.
    it makes church people *feel* productive, and look productive to their peers.
    what is the yield, exactly?

    So is your complaint not with church plants per se, but the whole idea of corporate worship in a building? I can only speak to how things work at my church, but some of the “yield” I see from Sunday morning:

    1. I get to worship with a community of believers,
    2. Some teaching is presented which can at various times be challenging and/or encouraging,
    3. There’s the opportunity to be prayed for (and to pray for others),
    4. I get to hang out (before and after the service) with some some folks with whom I enjoy spending time.

    You seem to have strong opinions about the subject, though. How do you think church should work?

  158. @ Anon:

    Would that be like joining an empire or the Reich? Neither one seems on par with what Jesus had in mind.

  159. Val wrote:

    Why won’t Christians rally for at least protection from catastrophic costs for US citizens?

    Because they have more important things to rally against:
    Homosexuals
    Evolution
    Homosexuals
    Abortion
    Homosexuals
    End Time Prophecy
    Homosexuals
    Complementarianism and Submission
    Homosexuals
    Effeminate Anatomical Males
    Homosexuals
    Seven Day Sex Challenges/Bed-Ins
    Homosexuals…

  160. Southwestern Discomfort wrote:

    nd, for the record, if you were to Google my legal name, you’d learn from the first hit that I’m a terrible, terrible, awful religious bigot because I’ve been opposed to Scientology.

    Poor little clams (snap snap snap)
    Poor little clams (snap snap snap)
    ELRON IS XENU!

  161. HoppyTheToad wrote:

    One thing that is likely to lead to more American women giving up staying home with their kids is needing jobs with good health care benefits. Many either need the extra money to pay the premiums, or their husbands’ jobs don’t come with good insurance. On one forum I go to, many people report that the employee has to pay $400-1400 per month (depending on the state and insurance plan) on top of whatever the employer is already paying. Often these outrageous rates are for plans with high deductibles $2000-5000 per year, so they don’t actually get used.

    I kept getting hot investment tips for health insurance.
    “The money will come in in buckets!” type of hot investment tips.
    I got the same tips for car insurance when my state made it mandatory and the insurance companies immediately doubled to tripled their premiums. “The money will come in in buckets!”

  162. Daisy wrote:

    And this one suggestion was creepy, over stepping, and kooky:
    “Leaders must get into the homes of all our erring church members…”
    (and by “erring” I think he meant people who had skipped some church service or stopped going completely)

    Didn’t Calvin do the same in Geneva?

  163. Seeker wrote:

    he church I am a part of now was born out of a passion to reject this foul hate in the church and be a place where ALL could be welcome, no matter what race. It would also be a place where the church would do MORE than have a Sunday morning service—it would be a church who would try to love/serve the community in the name of Jesus.

    This is the type of church that is needed. I agree. The churches that I mentioned in the post are ones that are planting in the midst of decent churches who are actually reaching out to others and trying to be involved in racial reconciliation etc.

    I contend that there is predatory church planting in upper income areas in order to access the “wealth” inherent in these communities.

  164. @ Anon: So, have you seen the appeal from Driscoll for money because they are behind in their overall giving? This sort of thing is well outlined in Wicker’s book quoted above.

  165. It is weird that Christians won’t get behind some form of universal access to health care.

    There is already universal access to health care in the US, and your doc visits aren’t free. Someone else pays for them. The question is about the most efficient way to run health care and pay for health care.

    What is happening in the US right now is not improvement in health care (most doctors I have talked to seem to think it will get worse), and it certainly is not making it more affordable (costs are rising). What is happening is simply shifting the burden of payment to others. Whether that’s good or bad is a point of discussion, though if it were good, why don’t you just write a check to me to pay for my health costs (which costs me about 35% of my monthly take home pay). I think most people think it’s bad, which is why they don’t pay for their neighbors health care out of pocket.

    Why won’t Christians rally for at least protection from catastrophic costs for US citizens?

    I imagine most Christians are in favor of this. Again, the question is about the most efficient way to deliver it.

    So let’s not confuse things here.

  166. I did kind of promise a comment about an honourable church plant. So… a couple we met had planted a separate congregation in Warrington (info if needed: a medium-sized town in the north-west of England). The story of how they became accepted among the wider community of congregations is quite interesting.

    Back in the 70′s and 80′s, there was one thing capable of uniting the existing mainstream denominational congregations in a town. Namely, a phobia about new churches, and especially their alleged habits of “heavy shepherding”, which we’d nowadays call spiritual abuse, but even then was not a euphemism but a strongly pejorative term. By around 1990, just about any time a new congregation set up or was planted, a group of existing ones would band together and denounce the new one to the local press, with an off-the-shelf list of allegations. Sometimes these allegations had some foundation; often they were a combination of exaggeration and out-and-out fiction. Whatever was wrong with the church I was part of (and eventually was “expelled” from!), the pastor did not have the keys to everybody’s front door, for instance. But it’s certainly true that the new churches often brought in some unhealthy stuff.

    Anyway, so the couple in Warrington were on the receiving end of the usual stuff. But they persevered at what God had called them to do, which included respecting and honouring the rest of the church in Warrington. Over time, other pastors realised that this new group weren’t evil and relationships began to grow. At one point, one of them made a point of approaching our friends to seek forgiveness for his hostility and suspicion towards them. But their response was, “actually, you were right to be suspicious, because some unpleasant groups have appeared in the last while and for all you knew, we could have been one of them. You were just guarding against wolves”.

    The point is that, despite initial impressions, the people involved did love God and did, therefore, love one another. And that fact eventually showed itself.

  167. Val wrote:

    Why won’t Christians rally for at least protection from catastrophic costs for US citizens?

    Because the weak are the meat which the strong do eat. Wanna change this? Listen to Pastor Burleson’s message (echurch) on what we extend to others each in our own small little ways. Little drops in a big ocean have immense power to nudge the gear teeth of the future.

  168. @ Nick Bulbeck:
    I could write a whole book about the Semi-church-planting experience we were involved with. I guess our church was a little unusual and maybe a little crazy. It began with our pastor praying for a community 350 miles away for a couple years, then having a literal vision of a pastor on his knees there, praying. He and a couple elders traveled there, and found the man! He’d been praying for years for someone to come there and help bring the Gospel. He asked if some from our group might consider moving there. When praying man invited our pastor and a couple others from our hometown to meet with the ministerial association, things went south a bit. Several ministers became convinced we were mutton rustlers who must be opposed. One told denominationa leaders and got one of our hometown pastor friends fired. Another (fired pastor 2) was dismissed by his congregational congregation for associating with us. Great pressure was put on praying man by his highly-worried fellow ministers, and he took a call across the countey even as several families were preparing to move to help him. 6 couples and 16 children eventually moved. We thought we would plant a whole family of churches, but that never came about.
    But many, many good things came about. Not one leg-o-lamb got rustled! It wasn’t the “ideal” church-planting locale, being the county with the highest unemployment in the US at the time. I moved my family 60 miles away after just 3 years in order to take a decent job. We “commuted” to the church plant all that distance for about a year, a few years later, until the plant withered up. After 10 years, “fired pastor 2 became the pastor at praying man’s former church!

  169. Daisy wrote:

    @ Southwestern Discomfort:
    The United States does have at its historical roots men who believed in Judeo Christian beliefs, and some may have owned slaves, yes.
    It does not follow from this that Christianity itself or God Himself supports or condones slavery or are the causes of slavery.

    Never underestimate the ability to rationalize a Cosmic-level Authority onto your side. Especially when it’s something where YOU personally benefit.

    Specifically re slavery, the type case in North America was the Confederate States of America, which defended their Peculiar Institution regarding Animate Property as God-Ordained for decades before they finally tried to split. The SOUTHERN Baptists even split from the other Baptists and formed their own denom over this issue, defending their Peculiar Institution.

    Even today, it has its defenders who claim the Authority of God — remember that cult leader in Moscow, Idaho with all the Christianese history books? At least the defenders of 200 years ago had a halfway-plausible reason; slavery had been common in human society throughout previous history and a fish doesn’t know it’s wet. Abolition must have looked like an attempt to overturn a Universal Law of Nature.

    (Though not a Baptist of any sort, my denom was also a late adopter when it came to Abolition.)

    And arguing slavery from the holy book isn’t just a Christian thing; I have heard of one faction in Islam that claims God Commands Slavery because slavery regulations are part of the Koran. (As they were part of Torah; remember, slavery was near-universal at the time and place they were written.)

  170. I personally think slavery as commonly understood (loss of liberty and forced labour for reasons other than punishment inflicted by a legitimate court of law for an crimes committed by the individual in question) is a great evil. It’s perhaps worth considering other countries’ histories in relation to this. In Britain, the tide of opinion began to turn against slavery in the late 18th C/early 19th C, not least because of the campaigning by evangelicals such as Wilberforce. On the other hand, one has to recognise that John Newton, for example, continued to work in the slave trade after his conversion, although very much later in life he made known his contrition for that period. The Slave Trade Act of 1807, and the Slavery Abolition Act 1833, killed off slavery (at least officially) in the British Empire.

    An interesting parallel may be seen in Russia and the emancipation of the serfs. The serfs were not ethnically different from their masters, so this forced labour (effectively slavery) was not based on race for either pseudo-scientific or biblical reasons. Although there was agitation for the abolition of serfdom among the intellectuals in Russia, Emancipation Reform did not pass until 1861.

    Both SWD and Daisy are right in that both sides tried to appeal to Scripture (at least in the English-speaking nations, as I understand it). Interestingly though even in the Reformation period one monk-theologian (if I remember correctly – it’s in the Pelican History of the Church, vol 3) led debates to campaign for the freedom of slaves within the Catholic-controlled areas, while his opponent appealed not just (if at all) to the Bible but to Aristotle.

    There’s a useful Wikipedia article on the whole subject of Christianity and slavery: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_and_slavery

  171. Pingback: Continuing Decline in the SBC

  172. HoppyTheToad wrote:

    I love the Ferengi video. Mr. Hoppy and I sometimes text each other made up rules of acquisition.

    I used to have the book “Ferengi Rules of Acquisition”. I used to quote #43 at the Christian bookstore where I worked…”Faith can move mountains…of inventory.”

  173. Mike wrote:

    I used to have the book “Ferengi Rules of Acquisition”. I used to quote #43 at the Christian bookstore where I worked…”Faith can move mountains…of inventory.”

    Best laugh of the day. I am going to tweet it.

  174. Lin wrote:

    dee wrote:

    I am 62 and really haven’t witnessed many unchurched people being converted since the late 60′s, early 70′s.
    Just my two cents worth from observing our local area churches.

    I remember as a teenager in the early to mid 1970s knocking on doors and inviting the un-churched to Sunday services as part of our youth mission. I remember our minister at the time doing the same….That’s how churches at one time grew, through as Bill Bell, my pastor at the time would call ” Saving Folks.”

  175. Since this is an older post I don’t know when you will see this comment but thought it went along with the general idea. Something else that’s been happening with church planting types is to go into older established downtown churches that are struggling with declining attendance or ones that have made a commitment to staying more traditional in their service styles etc and proposing to make a new plant using the older church’s facilities. While that may look good on the surface there is one catch (as there always is) and it’s a big one. New church plant brings in the staff (ie cool hip pastor, cool hip music guy etc) and they basically take over the place. Current church staff (including pastor) are dismissed and the building pretty much signed over to the plant and in the process any older resistance leaves or is forced out and the “new church” suddenly has a facility that’s debt free though it may need some refurbishing and the choir is gone, screens installed, hymn books gone, pipe organ (*(&)&#!! piece of antiquated junk) silenced or thrown out, theatre/show lighting installed, praise band, praise team lead music which is all contemporary …… well you get the picture. They come in get the building, kick out the existing staff, get rid of resistance and all the “old stuff” and attempt to start a new church….. if you can even call it a church!

    The church where I’m organist now on the south riverfront of downtown Knoxville,TN has had this proposed and the answer to that was absolutely not!
    We’ve already committed ourselves anew to the task of being a church, reaching out to our community not just looking to move sheep around but to actually reach people who need reaching and there’s plenty. We’ve made the committment to refurbish our facility as well….. it will no easy task to begin with but if our focus remains on being the church in our community then I think we will succceed in time.