How to Analyze Churches Via the Internet

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"Do you have any advice regarding which church I should attend/join?" It's a question we sometimes get here at TWW — mostly through e-mail — and it is an excellent one

In recent years, there have been major shifts in Christendom, which we often discuss in this forum.  It seems that quite a few congregations are jumping onto the Neo-Calvinist bandwagon and when they do the pastor and/or elders tend to consolidate power while marginalizing the parishioners.  That's our observation after nearly five years of blogging, and we're sticking to it!

A good number of Christians want to belong to congregations that hold to the five solas, and we have absolutely no problem with that.  The problem comes when a church's theological bent is not made crystal clear.  How can one investigate a church to see whether it might be a good fit?  In this post we will attempt to provide some suggestions for analyzing a church via the internet so that you can make an informed decision about whether to get involved.

Allow me to share a true story.  Not long ago a friend of mine was attending a non-denominational church.  This well-established congregation had members whose beliefs ranged from Arminian to Calvinistic.  Theological preferences had never been a problem.  Then a new pastor was called.  It became apparent shortly after his arrival that he intended to move the church in a Calvinistic direction. 

Perhaps it was divine providence that I happened to notice the name of this church on the The Gospel Coalition website under the heading 'New Churches '.  I called my friend and shared the news which came as quite a shock.  My friend informed some long-time members, and they had no idea that their church had recently aligned itself with The Gospel Coalition.  The pastor was challenged by some parishioners, and not long after that, the church's name disappeared from The Gospel Coalition website.  However, it was short-lived.  Not long after my friend left the congregation, the church was added back to The Gospel Coalition's directory of churches without a good number of members being made aware of it. 

I believe we are fortunate to be living in the internet age, where so much information is right at our fingertips.  A whole new world has opened up for those willing to conduct research.  I'm old enough to remember the jingle "Let your fingers do the walking (through the yellow pages)".   Dee and I want to encourage you to use your fingers to click on those computer keys and investigate the church(es) you are considering attending and/or joining.  

If I were contemplating a certain church, I would first check the following links to see whether it is listed.  

Acts 29 Network Churches

The Gospel Coalition Church Directory

9Marks Churches

No doubt there are some good churches aligned with these 'reformed' groups.  However, if you tend toward Arminianism, you may have serious issues with the theological bent of the church. 

Next, I would look specifically at the church.  Because so many have their own websites, you can discern fairly quickly a church's theological trajectory.  

Since we have been discussing Mark Driscoll quite a bit, let's take a look at the Mars Hill website.  In case you didn't know, Mars Hill is counting down the days to when it will plant and replant FIVE churches.  Should you consider attending one of those church plants?  Given what happened to two MH elders, Bent Meyer and Paul Petry as well as a member named 'Andrew', you might want to search some terms like 'discipline' to learn more about the church culture.  Here are some recommended articles on the Mars Hill website:

Church Discipline in the Bible

A Response Regarding Church Discipline

Is there an unhealthy focus on discipline at Mars Hill in order to keep the parishioners in line?  You be the judge…

We recommend that you spend some time reading the church's membership covenant if it is available.  Mars Hill has theirs posted online.  We urge you to read all of it and pay close attention to the lingo being used.  We believe submission to authority is overly emphasized.  For further reading, you might want to take a look at these TWW posts:

Membership Covenant Red Flags

Spiritual Abuse Final Exam – Analyze a Membership Covenant

Membership Covenants Are Primarily Legal Protection for the Church

Mark Driscoll/Mars Hill and Acts 29 aren't the only ones hyper-focused on the behavior of members.  We have also written on numerous posts on 9Marks, such as:  Mark Dever / 9 Marks – You Cannot Resign W/O Permission.  Furthermore, you might want to check out the following 9Marks article – Pastors, Don't Let Your People Resign into Thin Air.  We have previously shared the testimony of Todd Wilhelm who had an unbelievable experience trying to leave his 9Marks affiliated congregation.

If your church is considering joining one of the networks listed above (A29, TGC, and/or 9Marks), It would behoove the congregation to figure out what sort of help they will receive – primarily books and conferences (which are money-makers for Acts 29, 9Marks, and TGC).  When things go bad, these organizations may not be there to appeal to. 

Finally, do not believe everything they say on their website is true. 

We will have more on this topic in the New Year because it's important that you not be caught off guard by churches who either misrepresent themselves or fail to provide adequate information to prospective members.

Lydia's Corner:   Isaiah 30:12-33:9  Galatians 5:1-12   Psalm 63:1-11   Proverbs 23:22

Comments

How to Analyze Churches Via the Internet — 206 Comments

  1. Found a trifecta: a church in my area is listed on Acts 29, TGC and 9Marks.

    http://citylightchurch.org/

    They are probably perfectly lovely people there, but I can’t help it: Hipster Christianity gives me a headache. All this rebranding and merchandising of the faith is wearisome. Makes me glad I’m in a “boring” old denomination that’s been around 500 years.

    Oh, nice – now I sound just like my grandmother!

    PS: first 🙂

  2. I will look at how they identify female staff and steer clear of churches that designate men as “Pastors” and women as “Directors” (like the Acts29 network does).

  3. @ Evie:
    Totally agree. No matter what one’s stance on complementation vs. egalitarian is, if the only women on staff are the kids ministry director and the secretary… there is a problem! Especially when there are tons of non-pastoral positions which are always given to men.

  4. I like churches were the pastor, every Sunday. works thru the Scriptures verse-by-verse, chapter-by-chapter, book-by-book.

  5. I happened to notice Redeemer Church of Arlington in Rosslyn, Virginia listed as a recent church plant and on the list of churches within the Acts29 Network.

    Formerly an SGM church, it’s pastored by Eric Simmons. Bob Kauflin’s son Jordan is listed as the Associate Pastor.

    Out of the frying pan and into the fire!

    I wonder how many other former SGM churches have or are thinking about joining Acts29? Seems the perfect move to make for SGM trained monkeys to make. I wonder how long Bob Kauflin will hang tight with Mahaney & SGM. With son Jordan in a different network of churches, I can’t help but think Bob is eyeing greener pastures.

    He’s got to be. The turnout at his WorshipGod2013 conferences was dismal. The SGM brand has lost credibility. His career is tanking along with it and my guess is he’ll be making his move soon. Problem is, his music has been adversely affected by his devotion to CJ & SGM. Or has he always been so drear?

    CJ probably has him under contract though, that’s my guess. I can’t see any other reason for him to have followed Mahaney like he did if not for a dangling carrot being continuously wagged about in front of him. Mahaney needed Kauflin in the move to Louisville, and I’d wager Kauflin’s enthusiastic willingness to defend and follow him was handsomely paid for.

    Is there enough money for Bob to continue to follow through his attachment to CJ & SGM? Are the opportunities to expand his music in and through the SBTS panning out? Is it enough that Steve & Vikki Cook are still on board with SG Music? He’s got to be feeling antsy. He knows it will be a terrible blow to his mentor and to the person who has “the most influence upon him next to his wife” – deposed SGM President, CJ Mahaney. But what if he were to say his wife was influencing him away from SGM toward something else? Or maybe his eldest son now in the Acts29 Network? I’m sure he’d find a good excuse.

    I’m guessing the upcoming lawsuit will be a good reason. After all, there he is in ministry in Loyisville with two of the main troublemakers: Gary Ricucci and CJ Mahaney. That’s not going to look good for anyone there when all this goes to court and hits the fan.

    No, I’m guessing the Kauflin’s are eyeing the exits, and that Mahaney is keeping a hawk eye on everything they say and do, looking for any hint of insubordination as we know he’s want to do. Nothing but complete devotion satisfies the Mahaney’s and anything less than that and they view you as a suspect, marked as a potential infidel, kept outside the inner circle of those ready at a moment’s notice to swig the poison kool-aid.

    How humbling it would be for CJ to not be able to weild his power and influence over Kauflin and threaten him if he stepped out of line, lowering his rank and influence, or degifting him. How difficult it would be to not be able to send out mass emails to all his loyal SGM henchman he once lorded over, telling them to stand with him against Kauflin if Bob ever broke rank, ordering everyone to mark him as a divisive person like he did to Detwiler.

    The problem for Kauflin, however, is he was involved in all that dirty dealing. His hands aren’t clean. He’s clearly chosen the corner he’s backed himself into, and the only option besides completely coming clean and making a clean break, is to lie keep his true motivations for leaving obscured. It’s a Catch 22 he’s in, imo. Or more like a rat that’s caught in his own trap!

  6. @ Jenny:
    Oh my! That church is on all three lists?

    As our readers can tell from our EChurch, we enjoy contemporary music; however, the blaring stuff they play in some of these hipster churches is just too much for me.

  7. @ Evie:
    Absolutely agree! I’ll be doing a follow-up post soon in which we will examine churches that get rid of any female leaders and put only men in leadership roles. It’s a tell tale sign of an imbalanced (and in my opinion unhealthy) church.

  8. @ Evie:
    I was aware of the fact that Eric Simmons and gang jumped ship and now are an Acts 29 church, but I didn’t know Kauflin’s son was a pastor there. Fascinating!

    Thanks for that interesting info on Bob K. I think T4G was also a big factor in his move to Louisville. We’ll keep an eye on any developments. I saw that the SGM church in Louisville now has ‘official’ members.

  9. @ Deb:
    Ty Deb, great post! I’m hoping for a fresh move of God’s Spirit that will leave these rigid, dogmatic, hierarchical groups behind that “pastors and/or elders tend to consolidate power while marginalizing the parishioners,” as you pointed out. Not that I want to see that happen, it just seems likely it would given the way they amass power unto themselves and away from the people, turning a deaf ear to the complaints people are making while remaining self-focused and intent on maintaining their status quo. If they refuse to open up and listen, and remain hellbent like a Furtick or a Driscoll on building their own little kingdoms, seems likely they’ll miss seeing the actual Kingdom come because it will look and sound very different than what they’ve trained their eyes and ears to believe and receive!

  10. @ Evie:
    Jesus repeatedly talked about servant leadership – He came to serve, not to be served.

    Where are the servant leaders in the Neo-Cal crowd?

  11. Jenny wrote:

    All this rebranding and merchandising of the faith is wearisome. Makes me glad I’m in a “boring” old denomination that’s been around 500 years.

    Hmm… I know what you mean, and I’ve been involved in both new and long-standing denominations and love them both.

    But when you join a denomination long after it was founded, you miss certain things. Specifically, you miss the valuable learning experience you get from being around when something is started. It’s easy to forget that the Church of England (where I started out), the Lutheran Church, the Church of Rome, and everything else besides were all new once.

    Many (perhaps most) centuries-old church traditions were actually brought in after Christianity was made the official religion of the Roman empire, and they were brought in to make Christianity hip and palatable to pagan Romans. The same conversations/debates/arguments that are happening now, were happening then too. So we shouldn’t be too quick to judge today’s generation of hipsters. They’re not the first generation of hipsters – not by a very long way. Equally, we shouldn’t be too quick to assume that God is as much in love with our traditions as we are.

    I know we’ve seen some shocking behaviour from some of the new stuff. But there was also some shocking behaviour from established denominations centuries ago, too. If anything, the explosion of new denominations and church groups here in the UK in the last 50 years has been very good for the C of E and other old denominations. The older churches have had to face the fact that people won’t just walk through the door like they used to, generations ago, when everybody went to church.

  12. Yes, do not believe everything they say on a website is true. http://www.fellowshipchurch.com/give

    At the 48 second mark you see Ed Young greeting a black couple as they come into church. That was definitely one of those “hey we need to get a shot of you greeting a black couple for a video” from their marketing people. You will never see Ed Young out with the commoners unless it is to promote himself in some way.

  13. Deb wrote:

    Jesus repeatedly talked about servant leadership – He came to serve, not to be served.

    I beg to differ, Debs. Well, to be scrupulously pedantic, I beg to nit-pick, since I’m certain we’re barking up the same hymn-sheet here.

    Jesus never talked about servant leadership. He talked about servant greatness – or just about serving.

    You can’t make an unbiblical CEO-like role biblical just by adding the unbiblical label “servant leadership”!

  14. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    Jesus never talked about servant leadership. He talked about servant greatness – or just about serving.

    Amen, Nick! The term "servant leadership" has become one of those buzz words that seek to elevate one over another without using the much-disputed word "authority".

  15. Exactly Deb! (regarding your 8:33am post)

    We know how SGM, the Neo-Cals, Acts29 “do leadership.” They define what they do as “serving” no matter what because they’re on staff, “serving” full-time, and they’re the “called-out” ones among us, right? As leaders who are called to positions of authority over others in the body, they must exercise control over the members, or so they think. Any rogue serving that hasn’t been dictated or approved by the super-servants may likely be viewed as a challenge to their authority, an act of insubordination, especially if performed without permission. They then must be “guided” to be humble and to take a back seat, lest their initiative be seen for what it is: Pride!! Authority is maintained by controlling what the members of the church can and cannot do, and in that way the credit is never truly bequeathed to anyone else; all thanks, praise (and let’s not forget tithes) go to the men who lead, and secondarily to the women who pack their sandwiches.

    This is how Redeemer Church of Arlington puts it:

    In the Bible, one of the images that the New Testament(NT) writers used to define Jesus’ leadership over His church was that of a shepherd. Jesus is the Shepherd of his Church and he has called, qualified, and gifted certain men to imitate Him in the delegated task of caring, guiding, and teaching His people.

    A shepherd is not something that we can culturally relate to in our part of the world, so if I could reduce the role of a shepherd to a simple and relatable definition, it would be this: a servant-leader.

    This definition of a leader in the church may at first seem counterintuitive, or even like an oxymoron, given our predisposition to think of a leader more like a CEO, general, or president.

    Yet everything about the gospel is counterintuitive, including its application to leadership.

    We follow a King/Shepherd/Leader who became a baby, died on a cross for the transgressions we committed, and was raised to life–and He asks us to follow Him in laying down our life for others.

    Jesus led his people by dying, and now He asks His shepherds to lead by serving. In the Kingdom of God the “org chart” is flipped: leaders serve.

    Sounds good doesn’t it? I practically weeped, it was like poetry. But like you wrote in your post “Finally, do not believe everything they write on their website is true.”

    http://redeemerarlington.com/about/leadership/

  16. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    Deb wrote: Jesus repeatedly talked about servant leadership – He came to serve, not to be served. I beg to differ, Debs. Well, to be scrupulously pedantic, I beg to nit-pick, since I’m certain we’re barking up the same hymn-sheet here. Jesus never talked about servant leadership. He talked about servant greatness – or just about serving. You can’t make an unbiblical CEO-like role biblical just by adding the unbiblical label “servant leadership”!

    Yes, we're definitely singing the same tune. Scratch the word leadership. 🙂

  17. My favorite Bible scholar Gilbert Bilezikian wrotein his book “Community 101”:

    Jesus did not condemn as wrong the desire to be first. Leaders are needed, and the desire to use one’s gift of leadership is legitimate. But Jesus transformed the concept of leadership by redefining its style and the motivation for doing it. The style demands that roles of leadership be fulfilled not with the pride of one who comes first, not with the self-glory of one who wins a competition, but with the humility of one who comes in last. The motivations should not be the desire to rule, control, or command, but to support and assist others, just as a servant does.

    I recently attended a lecture he gave in Chicago, and in it he described how the Pharisees would parade out in a row, with the lead Rabbi in front and his students following behind him in a descending pecking order, with the least being at the rear.

    He explained that being first among others doesn’t mean you take the rear position. It means you work you way to the back. How you do this is you come along side the person behind you, serve and equip them to lead so they are able to go out front, and then you do the same thing with the next person and the next person and so on, right down the line. So in that manner you end up being the last.

    Jesus was saying the greatest to least pecking order the Pharisees maintained, was not how he was leading his disciples and not how he expected them to lead. Leading others in the church isn’t an authority based thing, it’s “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” And it’s not intended only for those whom those in leadership who have recognized “leadership qualities” in – something that then becomes the right of some while others are sidelined or benched because they didn’t make “the team” of the ones who “got the call.”

  18. Evie wrote:

    I happened to notice Redeemer Church of Arlington in Rosslyn, Virginia listed as a recent church plant and on the list of churches within the Acts29 Network.
    Formerly an SGM church, it’s pastored by Eric Simmons. Bob Kauflin’s son Jordan is listed as the Associate Pastor.
    Out of the frying pan and into the fire!
    I wonder how many other former SGM churches have or are thinking about joining Acts29? Seems the perfect move to make for SGM trained monkeys to make. I wonder how long Bob Kauflin will hang tight with Mahaney & SGM. With son Jordan in a different network of churches, I can’t help but think Bob is eyeing greener pastures.
    He’s got to be. The turnout at his WorshipGod2013 conferences was dismal. The SGM brand has lost credibility. His career is tanking along with it and my guess is he’ll be making his move soon. Problem is, his music has been adversely affected by his devotion to CJ & SGM. Or has he always been so drear?
    CJ probably has him under contract though, that’s my guess. I can’t see any other reason for him to have followed Mahaney like he did if not for a dangling carrot being continuously wagged about in front of him. Mahaney needed Kauflin in the move to Louisville, and I’d wager Kauflin’s enthusiastic willingness to defend and follow him was handsomely paid for.
    Is there enough money for Bob to continue to follow through his attachment to CJ & SGM? Are the opportunities to expand his music in and through the SBTS panning out? Is it enough that Steve & Vikki Cook are still on board with SG Music? He’s got to be feeling antsy. He knows it will be a terrible blow to his mentor and to the person who has “the most influence upon him next to his wife” – deposed SGM President, CJ Mahaney. But what if he were to say his wife was influencing him away from SGM toward something else? Or maybe his eldest son now in the Acts29 Network? I’m sure he’d find a good excuse.
    I’m guessing the upcoming lawsuit will be a good reason. After all, there he is in ministry in Loyisville with two of the main troublemakers: Gary Ricucci and CJ Mahaney. That’s not going to look good for anyone there when all this goes to court and hits the fan.
    No, I’m guessing the Kauflin’s are eyeing the exits, and that Mahaney is keeping a hawk eye on everything they say and do, looking for any hint of insubordination as we know he’s want to do. Nothing but complete devotion satisfies the Mahaney’s and anything less than that and they view you as a suspect, marked as a potential infidel, kept outside the inner circle of those ready at a moment’s notice to swig the poison kool-aid.
    How humbling it would be for CJ to not be able to weild his power and influence over Kauflin and threaten him if he stepped out of line, lowering his rank and influence, or degifting him. How difficult it would be to not be able to send out mass emails to all his loyal SGM henchman he once lorded over, telling them to stand with him against Kauflin if Bob ever broke rank, ordering everyone to mark him as a divisive person like he did to Detwiler.
    The problem for Kauflin, however, is he was involved in all that dirty dealing. His hands aren’t clean. He’s clearly chosen the corner he’s backed himself into, and the only option besides completely coming clean and making a clean break, is to lie keep his true motivations for leaving obscured. It’s a Catch 22 he’s in, imo. Or more like a rat that’s caught in his own trap!

    With regard to Bob Kauflin’s career,, I doubt Bob is that concerned about it with him being around 60 or close to it. Maybe if Bob was younger he might be more concerned. Also, he bought quite the large house in Louisville so doubt he has any aspirations to move any time soon.

    Thanks for the heads up on what the Arlington church is doing.

  19. @ That Guy:
    I think that is the most important area to look at. I think I will do exactly that and do a post on that in the new year. I would like to go point by point through a couple of sites and point out what they say and how that might affect how things are done at a particular church.

  20. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    Deb wrote:
    Jesus repeatedly talked about servant leadership – He came to serve, not to be served.
    I beg to differ, Debs. Well, to be scrupulously pedantic, I beg to nit-pick, since I’m certain we’re barking up the same hymn-sheet here.
    Jesus never talked about servant leadership. He talked about servant greatness – or just about serving.
    You can’t make an unbiblical CEO-like role biblical just by adding the unbiblical label “servant leadership”!

    Yep, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: In my experience, when someone refers to himself (and it always seems to be a “him”) as a servant leader, what he means is, “You be the servant, I’ll be the leader.”

  21. emr wrote:

    “In my experience, when someone refers to himself (and it always seems to be a “him”) as a servant leader, what he means is, “You be the servant, I’ll be the leader.”

    Ha! Exactly.

  22. In other news: Liverpool are top of the Premiership! At least until Monday, when an Arsenal win (over Chelsea) would return the Gunners to top spot. That’s far from guaranteed, though; Chelsea will fancy their chances.

  23. Evie wrote:

    emr wrote:
    “In my experience, when someone refers to himself (and it always seems to be a “him”) as a servant leader, what he means is, “You be the servant, I’ll be the leader.”
    Ha! Exactly.

    Ha ha! Exactly exactly.

  24. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    In other news: Liverpool are top of the Premiership! At least until Monday, when an Arsenal win (over Chelsea) would return the Gunners to top spot. That’s far from guaranteed, though; Chelsea will fancy their chances.

    Go Gunners! 🙂

  25. Whatever else we might say about arrogant and abusive leaders (and there is much), let us not ignore that the Bible does prescribe for elders to lead the church.

    In 1 Tim 3, they are required to be able to manage their own household as evidence that they can manage the household of God. In 1 Tim 5:17, they are to rule well, and thus be worthy of double honor. In 1 Thess 5, they are to have charge over. In Heb 13, they are to be obeyed because they watch for their souls. In 1 Peter 5, they are to exercise oversight (same word as in Acts 20 and 1 Tim 3:1).

    So while a great many leaders are arrogant and unbiblical in their leadership style (they lord it over the flock, 1 Peter 5), the Bible has no place for a church without leaders. Such a church is disregarding God’s commands. Not to mention it is impossible. Someone always leads. The question is whether they will be judged by biblical standards of leadership or not.

  26. Evie wrote:

    Leading others in the church isn’t an authority based thing, it’s “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” And it’s not intended only for those whom those in leadership who have recognized “leadership qualities” in – something that then becomes the right of some while others are sidelined or benched because they didn’t make “the team” of the ones who “got the call.”

    I have great respect for Bilezikian, but that’s not how leadership is being presented in churches today. Jesus expressed Himself as a servant by washing the feet of His disciples. Paul explained the edification and maturing of the body like this:

    1Co 12:23 and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable…

    …so that the body is harmonious and unified in it’s care for one another.

    Today, it seems that the system the Pharisees employed still exists and the division is the person behind pulpit leads and all others follow.

  27. This is excellent, Deb. I’m going to add it to my resource page and refer to it. I think it will benefit many.

    The funny/sad thing about Bob K. He was in the Philippines “serving” at a worship conference and was there during a major earthquake. It was interesting following his tweets after a 7.2 earthquake, saying “God is good” for getting him out of the country quickly – meanwhile Filipinos were struggling to stay alive. Yea, God is good for Bob, but not for the Filipinos? It makes me sick to think he charged these Filipinos a comparable price for Americans to attend his conference. For Filipinos, it was an exorbitant amount of pesos with their cost of living. If he wanted to serve in the Philippines, an impoverished country, he should have done it for free.

    Maybe I’m just a little sensitive to this issue because I lived in there for 2-1/2 yrs and was there during a 7.9 earthquake and know what it takes for these people to get back on their feet. I just get tired of this type of showy “ministry.” I want to see how they were benefited spiritually/physically.

  28. @ Steve240:
    I appreciate your opinion but have you seen him? The guy is built like an ox. Retire soon? I’m not seeing that.

    Also, I found what he said on his blog last year a little curious, about his living in Louisville. He didn’t say he completely uprooted everything where he was living in Gaithersburg, MD under questionable circumstances to follow his hero to Louisville in order to assist him in establishing SGM’s new headquarters there, and to serve as a Pastor in the new church that CJ was planting, and that he planned on putting his roots down there forever, etc. Rather he wrote this:

    While Covenant Life Church has been a superb location for the past 10 conferences, the Sovereign Grace Ministries staff has moved with its offices to Louisville, and that also happens to be where I live now. Both factors will make hosting the conference in Louisville easier.

    http://www.worshipmatters.com/2012/10/12/worshipgod-2013-update/

    It “happens to be” where he lives now? Two things:

    Who is he kidding? There is nothing happenstance about him living in Louisville! And secondly, why make it sound like it was some kind of casual, temporary thing? “It’s where i happen to live for now.” Didn’t come come across to me like that’s where he planning to put his roots down, remain in definitely, and retire.

    Nope. I’m sticking with my prediction. I think he’ll be out of there as soon as possible, if a possibility arises. But we’ll see! Im not setting this to music and singing it like some kind of Bob Kauflin prophetic song!

  29. @ Victorious:
    Right, I know, I agree, it’s totally messed up. And these networks of churches aren’t helping. Plus, I know we’re talking about something that’s largely characterized the churches have been governed in a general sense.

    But there such a ground swelling going on. I can feel it. Like something new is groaning to find expression. I mean look at the kinds of conversations we’re having here. And I’m feeling more and more restless; there’s an ever increasing hunger within me growing to create and participate in what I envision as an authentic expression of “church” that’s free from the trappings of oppressive, controlling leadership structures, where a body of believers is defined and shaped by the individuals that are presented, rather than on some prefab formula concocted in the laboratory of a half-baked Pastor’s College, and rolled out like some kind of one-size-fits-all deal.

    Oh, and Btw, the part you quoted (not that’s it’s a big deal or makes any difference) were my words and wasn’t part of what Dr. B taught. That was just me running away with it! I should have clarified. His lecture contained only what I shared about coming alongside the person in line and serving to advance them, working backwards until as the first, you become the last, having promoted all those that were behind to take the place ahead of you.

  30. @ Nick Bulbeck:
    Exact-i-mo!

    From the 3 pt line, nothing but net!

    Game on! (but I won already under the rules of Calvin Ball)

    (sorry for you)

    (and I’m not talkin John Calvin either) 😀

  31. @ Julie Anne:
    I know Julie Anne! What an opportunity that would have been to add flesh to the gospel he claimed he and his team traveled there to share. Instead, when disaster strikes, they hightail it out of Bohol and Cebu asap while the place is completely DEVASTATED. Where were the works you would expect to accompany a team of Christians who went there to share their faith?!? The theme of Kauflin’s WorshipGod conference in the Philippines was “Called to be Faithful.” More like “When our faith is called upon, rather than serve and give our lives as ransom to help those suffering all around us, we instead thought only of our own safety and gave glory to God for keeping us safe!”

    Whaaaaaaat??

    Unbelievable

  32. Deb wrote:

    Absolutely agree! I’ll be doing a follow-up post soon in which we will examine churches that get rid of any female leaders and put only men in leadership roles. It’s a tell tale sign of an imbalanced (and in my opinion unhealthy) church.

    Do you think a sign of an imbalanced (unhealthy)church may be one that puts only married leaders (male or female) with families in leadership roles? There are no single never married (male or female) in leadership roles.

  33. Gene wrote:

    they are to rule well, and thus be worthy of double honor.

    Unfortunately, they get double, tripe and gazillion honor and mansions even if they do not lead well.

  34. @ Julie Anne:
    And that “showy” ministry went on in Nepal too. Eighth poorest country in the world, when I was there, and these western “healers” (snake oil salesmen from what I saw) showed up at huge cost and did very little. It is so hard to be a Christian witness when everyone can point all these abysmal examples and say “where is this power for good?” I feel like we need a new Reformation, to overthrow stupidity and realign the church with compassion and love. It will basically take weeding out CEO type leadership mentality.

  35. Evie wrote:

    @ Steve240:
    I appreciate your opinion but have you seen him? The guy is built like an ox. Retire soon? I’m not seeing that.
    Also, I found what he said on his blog last year a little curious, about his living in Louisville. He didn’t say he completely uprooted everything where he was living in Gaithersburg, MD under questionable circumstances to follow his hero to Louisville in order to assist him in establishing SGM’s new headquarters there, and to serve as a Pastor in the new church that CJ was planting, and that he planned on putting his roots down there forever, etc. Rather he wrote this:
    While Covenant Life Church has been a superb location for the past 10 conferences, the Sovereign Grace Ministries staff has moved with its offices to Louisville, and that also happens to be where I live now. Both factors will make hosting the conference in Louisville easier.
    http://www.worshipmatters.com/2012/10/12/worshipgod-2013-update/
    It “happens to be” where he lives now? Two things:

    Evie

    Good points. Shocking how Bob “whitewashed” the reason for his moving to Lousiviille but then “whitewashing” it typical whith Sovereign Grace Ministries. We all know the only reason the group relocated to Louisville was to save money. 😉

    It will be interesting to see what happens with him. I understand when Bob was on the verge of exhaustion down in Charlotte C.J. brought him back up to SGM Headquarters in Gaithersburg. Thus there may be some debt or obligation that Bob feels toward C.J.

    I am sure SGM will have another deficit year this year and that deficit spending can only go on so long. Maybe as money gets tighter with SGM Bob will jump ship. Will have to wait and see.

  36. Wouldn’t a better title for this article have been “How to Avoid Neo-Calvinistic Churches via the Internet”? 🙂

  37. Joe wrote:

    Do you think a sign of an imbalanced (unhealthy)church may be one that puts only married leaders (male or female) with families in leadership roles? There are no single never married (male or female) in leadership roles.

    Coming from a church with mandatory celibacy for its clergy, all I can figure is this is fallout from the Reformation Wars, where single or married clergy was a public declaration of Whose Side Are You On. Since Enemy Christians have single clergy, WE HAVE TO HAVE MARRIED CLERGY! NO EXCEPTIONS! NO POPERY!

  38. emr wrote:

    Yep, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: In my experience, when someone refers to himself (and it always seems to be a “him”) as a servant leader, what he means is, “You be the servant, I’ll be the leader.”

    i.e. “I hold The Whip, you feel The Whip!”

  39. Deb wrote:

    Where are the servant leaders in the Neo-Cal crowd?

    They’re the ones holding The Whip.
    And were Predestined to hold The Whip, just as the rest of us were Predestined to feel The Whip.

  40. @ Nick Bulbeck:
    I agree with everything you’ve said.

    I’m not judging them – like I said, I’m sure they’re perfectly lovely people – I just find that the showmanship and the attempts at “ironic” Christianity painfully distract me from focusing on God. YMMV. Every tradition has cobwebs, but IMO innovation in the Church is only as good as the number of faithful believers it doesn’t leave behind.

  41. That Guy wrote:

    I like to look at the “about us” “what we believe” and “bios” sections

    Those are pages that are usually very enlightening. Except I have noticed one glaring omission on almost all church websites — they will never come right out and say they do not believe in women holding positions of church leadership. Maybe they’re afraid people won’t come and visit them if they know that up front.

  42. dee wrote:

    Unfortunately, they get double, tripe and gazillion honor and mansions even if they do not lead well.

    Most do not. Most live really lean, oftentimes bivocational. There are a few who make big bucks and live lavishly, but don’t think that all or even most are like that.

  43. Leila wrote:

    they will never come right out and say they do not believe in women holding positions of church leadership

    Agreed. I’m certain there are other “don’t tell” aspects that are absent and maybe kept under wraps until the need to expose them presents themselves. And maybe not even then. Who knows? Because it appears questions are considered suspicious and even rebellious in some circles.

  44. Junkster wrote:

    Wouldn’t a better title for this article have been “How to Avoid Neo-Calvinistic Churches via the Internet”?

    I was trying to be subtle. This was the first installment, so we'll consider your blog title for the second installment in the New Year.

    Blessings, Junkster!  It's great to hear from you. 🙂

  45. Just adding some levity, Deb. It is good for people to know the affiliations of churches and what they stand for if they are looking for a church. Some neo-Cal churches are very up front about their distinctives, and others, not so much. They use words like five solas, the doctrines of grace, gospel-centered, etc. that sound like good things, but people who aren’t familiar with neo-Cal churches and their lingo often don’t understand the additional baggage that can come with them (authoritarianism, patriarchy spiritual elitism, etc.). Good for people to be informed to make wise decisions that fit what they actuially believe or are looking for in a church.

    Hope you and Dee and your families have a great Christmas and New Year.

  46. @ Evie:

    That makes complete sense to me. In this manner of serving you have now made disciples that can go do the same thing that you have done 🙂

  47. @ Leila:

    There are a lot of things that don’t get placed online and don’t necessarily need to be. Many churches don’t really have in depth information on their sites because they don’t have the time, resources, or drive to make a super informational and awesome website. It is just basic information on a website that was set up and is maintained by a part time volunteer.

    From my experience, women not being “pastors” is pretty much the default position of most congregations. Unless you happen to see a female with the title of pastor on the website of the church, I would consider it a safe bet that they are not in those official pastoral positions. Of course this is pretty much only accurate for non denominational type or “hidden denominational” churches (like my old one). Most denominations are pretty clear on where they stand.

  48. Gene wrote:

    Whatever else we might say about arrogant and abusive leaders (and there is much), let us not ignore that the Bible does prescribe for elders to lead the church.

    In 1 Tim 3, they are required to be able to manage their own household as evidence that they can manage the household of God. In 1 Tim 5:17, they are to rule well, and thus be worthy of double honor. In 1 Thess 5, they are to have charge over. In Heb 13, they are to be obeyed because they watch for their souls. In 1 Peter 5, they are to exercise oversight (same word as in Acts 20 and 1 Tim 3:1).

    So while a great many leaders are arrogant and unbiblical in their leadership style (they lord it over the flock, 1 Peter 5), the Bible has no place for a church without leaders. Such a church is disregarding God’s commands. Not to mention it is impossible. Someone always leads. The question is whether they will be judged by biblical standards of leadership or not.

    The question to me is, “How will they serve?” Will they serve as Jesus advised or something else.

  49. Leila wrote:

    Those are pages that are usually very enlightening. Except I have noticed one glaring omission on almost all church websites — they will never come right out and say they do not believe in women holding positions of church leadership. Maybe they’re afraid people won’t come and visit them if they know that up front.

    I recall hearing a discussion some years ago regarding this in response to complaints from people who joined churches who excluded women from positions of leadership but had never mentioned that either in any of their statements of faith and practice, or during membership classes, etc.

    So, there was a change from keeping it hidden to stating it plainly somewhere, whether it be just a line or two or a more thorough explanation, that complementarian churches believed in excluding women or, as they like to say, “the bible says that leadership is male only, and we stick to the Bible – plus we’re awfully fond of John Piper and although he’s a pretty scrawny guy, we like what he says about Christianity being muscular and we are especially enamored with Mark Driscoll who says he would take in subordinates into the Octagon and punch them in the nose as punishment. John Piper added that if Mark ever slapped a woman in the Octagon that he would tell her what happens in the Octagon should stay in the Octagon. But I digress…

    Here is what they state on the Acts29 Network site. Just click on the link in Deb’s post “Acts 29 Network Churches” then go to the “About” tab at the top. From there select “Doctrinal Distictives” at the right and check out #4. (I’d repost it but it’s lengthy. I also disagree with their interpretation and don’t feel like giving it space within my comment!)

  50. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    In other news: Liverpool are top of the Premiership! At least until Monday, when an Arsenal win (over Chelsea) would return the Gunners to top spot. That’s far from guaranteed, though; Chelsea will fancy their chances.

    Nick, A) Did you know that as of this year they are showing the Premier League on a major American network? ( NBC). I’ve been watching.
    B) But there’s just one little problem Nick that I’m hoping you can take care of since you’re over there. They Jerseys do NOT tell you what team they are and neither does anything else. You have to wait for a score to know what jersey represents what team. PLEASE give the Premier League front office a call and get them on this problem PRONTO. I’d like to know whom I’m rooting for ( or in my case, rooting against.) Tell ’em, in America they write the teams names in BIG LETTERS so you can tell who is who. Your assistance will be appreciated. [ Go Fulham].

  51. @ Bridget:
    Exactly Bridget. And the fact The Apostles continued to turn the world upside down after Jesus ascended and the Day of Pentecost had come is proof that Jesus did a masterful job of training and equipping them for what was to become their amazing works of service that we all remain indebted to them for to this day!

    And it’s a funny thing, but I never once read in any of the gospels about Jesus threatening to rough up any of the guys UFC style, did you?

  52. If the city or town has a Christian bookstore, check it out and if the sales associate seems like someone you’d want to ask, get a recommendation from them. Theoretically, they hear a lot about what’s going on in local churches.

  53. Jenny wrote:

    @ Nick Bulbeck: I agree with everything you’ve said.

    Words to live by!

    But seriously, your comment “innovation in the Church is only as good as the number of faithful believers it doesn’t leave behind” is brilliant and should be widely tweeted.

  54. Evie wrote:

    @ Bridget: Exactly Bridget. And the fact The Apostles continued to turn the world upside down after Jesus ascended and the Day of Pentecost had come is proof that Jesus did a masterful job of training and equipping them for what was to become their amazing works of service that we all remain indebted to them for to this day! And it’s a funny thing, but I never once read in any of the gospels about Jesus threatening to rough up any of the guys UFC style, did you?

    Or keep His disciples from asking questions. 😉

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dSA5Vs9huc

  55. Seneca “j” Griggs. wrote:

    Nick Bulbeck wrote:
    In other news: Liverpool are top of the Premiership! At least until Monday, when an Arsenal win (over Chelsea) would return the Gunners to top spot. That’s far from guaranteed, though; Chelsea will fancy their chances.
    Nick, A) Did you know that as of this year they are showing the Premier League on a major American network? ( NBC). I’ve been watching.
    B) But there’s just one little problem Nick that I’m hoping you can take care of since you’re over there. They Jerseys do NOT tell you what team they are and neither does anything else. You have to wait for a score to know what jersey represents what team. PLEASE give the Premier League front office a call and get them on this problem PRONTO. I’d like to know whom I’m rooting for ( or in my case, rooting against.) Tell ‘em, in America they write the teams names in BIG LETTERS so you can tell who is who. Your assistance will be appreciated. [ Go Fulham].

    I know this is a theological blog, but I must weigh in….this old “redneck” from the woods of East Texas has become hooked on the EPL…and my satellite carries all the matches….I got hooked last year watching the Boxing Day games….became an Arsenal fan after speaking with my wife’s cousin who lives in London….okay, back the theology….;)

  56. Leila wrote:

    Those are pages that are usually very enlightening. Except I have noticed one glaring omission on almost all church websites — they will never come right out and say they do not believe in women holding positions of church leadership. Maybe they’re afraid people won’t come and visit them if they know that up front.

    My church (RCC) has a long-standing (as in over 1000 years) of not ordaining women as formal clergy, based on interpretations of Apostolic Succession and the Sacraments. (Though I suspect we might eventually return to the even earlier policy of ordaining Deaconesses but not female priests and bishops.) It’s all out there in public, everyone knows Catholics (and Orthodox) only ordain men (though women can hold non-ordained offices and/or positions), nothing hidden.

    The beef with all these Stealth Calvinista/Stealth Male Supremacist churches and groups is that they’re sneaky about it. Like a principle of Doublethink, never letting on officially what they’re really about or what they’re really doing. At least with the RCC, the policy is public and you know what you’re getting into from day one.

  57. That Guy wrote:

    Many churches don’t really have in depth information on their sites because they don’t have the time, resources, or drive to make a super informational and awesome website. It is just basic information on a website that was set up and is maintained by a part time volunteer.

    The problem is what is said on the web sites of many churches, especially the newer growing ones, could appear on the web site of a RC, CofC, SBC Landmark, FWB, or whatever and all be accurate. Just not very complete.

    And when you show up to see how things go many of these churches almost hide the details till they get you to commit at some level or join up. Then you discover that you have joined a YEC, men can only teach church which thinks you should quit your job as a scientist at the local university in the area of geology and your wife needs to quit her job teaching a class in comparive religion part time at the local community college.

  58. In my area, most “non-denominational” churches seem to be some variety of Southern Baptist, from what I can tell. At the very least, they don’t have women in leadership. I won’t go to any church that has, say, ten pastors/elders/deacons and all of them are men. In my area, only the mainline denominations (and maybe black congregations?) have women doing anything other than running the church pre-school. Unfortunately, 90% of the churches are “non-denominational” or Southern Baptist, and we aren’t Calvinists, so it really only seems to leave Methodist churches to pick from.

  59. I mentioned Calvinism because that eliminates Presbyterian churches from the list. There aren’t many Luthern or Nazarene churches in the area.

    We’d really prefer a house-church type setting with the service being very participatory (instead of listening to a long sermon) but they are hard to find. We left the last one we went to because of a pedophile attending.

  60. NC Now wrote:

    nd when you show up to see how things go many of these churches almost hide the details till they get you to commit at some level or join up. Then you discover that you have joined a YEC, men can only teach church which thinks you should quit your job as a scientist at the local university in the area of geology and your wife needs to quit her job teaching a class in comparive religion part time at the local community college.

    Three words, NCNow:
    BAIT AND SWITCH

  61. Evie wrote:

    My favorite Bible scholar Gilbert Bilezikian wrotein his book “Community 101″:
    Jesus did not condemn as wrong the desire to be first. Leaders are needed, and the desire to use one’s gift of leadership is legitimate. But Jesus transformed the concept of leadership by redefining its style and the motivation for doing it. The style demands that roles of leadership be fulfilled not with the pride of one who comes first, not with the self-glory of one who wins a competition, but with the humility of one who comes in last. The motivations should not be the desire to rule, control, or command, but to support and assist others, just as a servant does.
    I recently attended a lecture he gave in Chicago, and in it he described how the Pharisees would parade out in a row, with the lead Rabbi in front and his students following behind him in a descending pecking order, with the least being at the rear

    Evie, thanks so much for these quotes. Just brilliant, and they explain so much about why the disciples were often arguing about who was the greatest. I look forward to reading more from this fellow.

    Reminds me of the quote that you don’t know if you have a servants heart until someone treats you like one. Hopefully someone can figure out who said it.

  62. HoppyTheToad wrote:

    I mentioned Calvinism because that eliminates Presbyterian churches from the list. There aren’t many Luthern or Nazarene churches in the area.
    We’d really prefer a house-church type setting with the service being very participatory (instead of listening to a long sermon) but they are hard to find. We left the last one we went to because of a pedophile attending.

    I’d certainly love to hear “the rest of the story” about the house church and the pedophile.

  63. @ Seneca “j” Griggs.:
    @ K.D.:

    I must say, it comes as a great surprise that Association Fitba’ has any kind of footprint in the USA given the opposition to it from The Simpsons. Regarding the shirt colours – I’m afraid that’s out of my control. The PL has long passed the tipping-point whereby there is so much money in the game that the game is about money. Changes of kit are commercially-driven. One way of doing it is keeping tabs on who is the team’s main sponsor. Equally, every team is historically associated with a particular colour kit, so the fans wear scarves of that colour. Thus, an indirect approach is to try and see which set of fans gets more enthusiastic when a team is attacking. Or, of course, to take note of the team-sheet before kick-off; the players have their names on their shirts. As it happens, that hasn’t always been the case; in the days when every team had one home kit and one away kit (to ensure that you wouldn’t have a game with both teams playing in the same colour), there were no names. That’s been brought in from American sport, driven in part by the demands of television.

    KD – in most of the UK, football is theology. That’s why fans are obligated to keep supporting their team no matter how bad they get and no matter how expensive their tickets, merchandise and ever-changing replica shirts become.

    I hope this is helpful.

  64. Thanks again TWW for providing us useful resources. There does seem to be “bait and switch” in many of the churches here in Boston. For example, I notice the SBC church plants don’t reveal that association. I find “North American Mission Board” instead, and when I directly ask pastors of these churches to tell me about women’s role, I get canned responses. If you all would like to see what I mean, check out:

    http://www.bostonchurchplanting.com/

    A common theme is how God-forsaken Boston is, and how little we know about THE GOSPEL here. It is a great place to practice your internet inquiries that Deb shared with us.

    Also, does anybody here at TWW know anything about “Reality” churches? They started in California as an offshoot from Calvary Chapel because of differences with the authoritarian leadership. Britt Merrick, Tim Chaddick, and Dave Lomas are some of the pastors in Reality network.

    I agree with Evie that more and more people are having their worlds expanded. Information is power. We owe it to each other to make sure everyone has access.

  65. @ Bridget:
    I’ve heard and read a lot about Driscoll but I gotta tell ya, that video was so blatantly abusive in nature that it provoked what I can only describe as pure anger. I think it was evil.

    I find it extremely difficult to sort out my thought and emotions sometimes I’m regards to some of this stuff, not to even mention how spiritually confusing it can be.

    I mean, there stands a guy, on stage, holding a mic, talking at and not with people, claiming to be declaring God’s truths as a “minister of the gospel.” And he’s taken something holy and made it profane.

    So, there he stands with his jaws flapping away, proclaiming “truths” about Jesus while living those truths out in such a way, in a context that he has created that puts him center stage that is insupportable to the message of the cross, that is such a distortion that I find it difficult, logically, to make sense of.

    Guys like that need to be steadfastly resisted. It’s no wonder he just throws people out of his church and shames and embarrasses his detractors. He needs to quell any attempt by some to create a majority opposition because that is what needs to happen. He keeps doing what he’s doing only because people are dumb enough to sit there and listen to him instead of storming the stage, arresting the microphone out of his greedy paw, and putting a full stop to his tyrannical rule.

    There’s nothing in the Bible that instructs Christians to tolerate that trash. His ministry needs to be consistently and loudly protested, and the water he needs to be in should be HOT

  66. @ Erik:
    I like how you put that: “Having their worlds expanded” and that “knowledge is power.” Yes!
    People get turned off from Christianity and the Bible because they see all these preachers engaging in so much mind-control, and so many people following them without question. And they’re right in the sense that’s there’s something very wrong with that picture!

  67. @ Erik:

    I'm grateful this information is helpful to you. The SBC is making a big push to expand into New England, which was covered by the press earlier this year.

    Southern Baptists expand in New England with multi-million dollar church-planting push

    The Southern Baptist Convention is making a multi-million dollar push to plant more churches in New England, a region skeptical of the South and increasingly indifferent to religion.

    Since 2002, Southern Baptists have spent roughly $5 million to plant churches around the region. Another $800,000 is committed this year.

    They've started 133 new churches in that time, a nearly 70 percent increase that brings their regional total to 325.

    We have 'hip' SBC-affiliated churches here in the South that do their best to conceal their true identity.

    I'd love to hear more about your experience either in a comment or by email – deb@thewartburgwatch.com

  68. @ Patrice:

    There’s nothing like being hit with a MANcentric page right off the bat. Looking at that opening page is like viewing the pages in the yearbook of a ‘men only’ club.

  69. Deb –

    Did you happen to see the Furtick article in recent World magazine? It’s titled “The House That Steven Built.”

  70. Imagine someone looking for a Baptist church to visit today in the SanAntonio area. They might find a website for a family-oriented one in the country. Deebs say to analyze– OK— Good News of Jesus. Meeting time and directions. Fellowship meal after meeting. London Baptist Confession. So far, so good…. Wait– only 1 Elder, 1 Deacon, and 1 Provisional Elder? Must be really small– well– we don’t like impersonal Megas…. Let’s check out a sermon– only two from 2008? And who’s the preacher? Not one of the elders or deacons… Here are some articles– click Read More– wait–some unconnected Ministry closed after the sermon-preacher resigned in disgrace? Did he used-to-be an Elder, or something? Let’s see– Letters– maybe they explain— 2008 again— all about disciplining and excommunicating some disgruntled members? What about discommunicating the wayward Elder? Can’t seem to find. Moving on from http://boernechristianassembly.org/home/ to http://sacornerstone.org/ Oh– John Hagee! Seen him on TV!!

  71. Patrice wrote:

    @ Erik:
    I see what you mean, per link: http://www.bostonchurchplanting.com/

    After clicking “Partnerships”, there is a vid called “Embracing Your Role” and I know what that means, but many won’t.

    From the same link under blogs:

    Liberty Church Planting Network agrees to formalize partnership with Boston Church Planting

    LYNCHBURG, VA – God is calling men to plant churches in Boston. And whether by convention, association, network, or by blood, sweat and tears, Joe Souza is praying every day for God to deliver also the relationships that result in support for those who are called.

    and

    “We have a good thing going,” Souza said. “We just want to see more church planters coming to Boston. And we are prepared now, better than ever, to receive them and plug them into our training; to help them figure out what they need to know about the New England culture. Contextualization.

    “We will let those guys know what is available, and work with them to make our funds available to them, but be sure, all of our guys have committed to the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 and are contributing at least six percent to the Cooperative Program.”

  72. Deb wrote:

    @ Erik:

    I’m grateful this information is helpful to you. The SBC is making a big push to expand into New England, which was covered by the press earlier this year.

    Southern Baptists expand in New England with multi-million dollar church-planting push

    The Southern Baptist Convention is making a multi-million dollar push to plant more churches in New England, a region skeptical of the South and increasingly indifferent to religion.

    Since 2002, Southern Baptists have spent roughly $5 million to plant churches around the region. Another $800,000 is committed this year.

    They’ve started 133 new churches in that time, a nearly 70 percent increase that brings their regional total to 325.

    We have ‘hip’ SBC-affiliated churches here in the South that do their best to conceal their true identity.

    I’d love to hear more about your experience either in a comment or by email – deb@thewartburgwatch.com

    Live in NE CT……small town. SBC started a church here back last Spring. Had to dig to find out it was SBaptist. Oh, and it “caters” to the young.

  73. Evie wrote:

    People get turned off from Christianity and the Bible because they see all these preachers engaging in so much mind-control, and so many people following them without question. And they’re right in the sense that’s there’s something very wrong with that picture!

    My experience tells churches are all about power, control, authority, money and empire building. Some pastors may be more benevolent than others, but the end game is still the same. And people very willingly give them their hard earned money without question. George Whitefield would be proud – having people pay for the opportunity to work on their plantation.

  74. @ Joe:
    I totally think that is unhealthy.

    It bugs me when churches exclude women and singles from positions of leadership based on 1Tim. And if they’re going to do that, then they must literally exclude a married man with only one kid, married men with kids too young to profess faith in Christ, married men with kids who refuse to eat their peas or blow spit balls at the youth leader. That’s it, full stop. But of course they usually make all kinds of exceptions but if it wears a skirt, has impeccable credentials, education, experience – nope. It’s a no, no. And single people? Sorry guys and gals. Please go back to your leper colony, thanks.

  75. In other news: that’s us back fae seeing The Desolation of Smaug.

    Musings on where Jackson is taking the story: Tauriel has been introduced “from thin air”, as it were, and seems to have fallen somewhat for Kili. As she uses athelas to heal him from a morgul-arrow wound, he tells her about a dream he has had of someone – unspecified – whom he has seen walking in another world, but says to Tauriel, “you could not be her”.

    Hypothesis: we know that Fili is killed in the book, in the final battle of the story, defending Thorin from Bolg who is killed by Beorn. Also in Tolkien’s writings, Azog is dead long before the events of the Hobbit. Thus, neither Bolg nor Azog is likely to survive the third film. My guess is: Kili is killed by either Bolg or Azog, and Tariel is killed trying to save him. Legolas then kills either or both of the giant orcs in revenge. Subsequently, Kili and Tauriel are shown in some form of Tolkienesque “after-life” and thus Tauriel is indeed the person Kili dreamed about.

    I hope this is helpful.

  76. @ dee:

    Well, you might need to put Nick in moderation mode until the rest of us get out to see the Desolation of Smaug 😉

  77. Erik wrote:

    Also, does anybody here at TWW know anything about “Reality” churches? They started in California as an offshoot from Calvary Chapel because of differences with the authoritarian leadership. Britt Merrick, Tim Chaddick, and Dave Lomas are some of the pastors in Reality network.

    The Reality network of churches grew out of Reality Carpentaria which was founded by Britt Merrick, the son of surfing legend and ace board shaper Al Merrick. It may have been an offshoot of Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara originally.

    They seem upfront and honest about their ecclesiology:

    http://www.realitysb.com/carpinteria/about/our-ecclesiology/

    They have posted sermon recordings about their theology, mission, and community structure here:

    http://www.realitysb.com/carpinteria/about/this-is-reality/

    My son attended Reality LA a few times. He’s 22 and says the worship was way too rock’n’roll for him (that’s from a guy who listens to KROQ), but he didn’t detect anything unbiblical in the sermon. Reality LA is on TGC’s list, btw.

  78. @ Jenny:
    Wow Jenny that is just totally weird because it doesn’t look like any of the women are ordained to the task, only the men can give birth.

  79. @ dee:
    You could serve me by continuing to be awesome together with Deb, and for you ladies to have an excellent Christmas and a Happy New Year!

    Much love 🙂

  80. Someone pointed out on another blog that the former Arlington VA Sovereign Grace Ministries (Redeemer Church of Arlington) posts this as the church’s history:

    Redeemer Church of Arlington was planted by a team of about 50 people from four regional churches. We had one clear mission: build a gospel community in the city, and live in community in the place that God has called us to reach.

    As a church plant, we had the opportunity to build a church from the ground up. We opened our doors in May 2010, appointed our first elders in April 2012, and approved the church constitution in June 2012.

    Somehow this church conveniently “forgot” that they were originally a church plant sponsored by Sovereign Grace Ministries. I guess the group is now embarassed about their history or for some reason can leave this part out?

  81. Jenny wrote:

    Reality LA is on TGC’s list, btw.

    Scarey. I know some young people going to Reality churches. Thanks for the warning.

  82. Reality Church. Wow. Makes me want to start a network called Fantasy Church. Like fantasy football, but you create your own pretend ministry team. And worship band! Imagine the possibilities. I’m already picturing a church plant in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

  83. While the guidelines you give are great for looking at a church before you join, a much more difficult question is how to tell when to leave a church. Perhaps you would comment on that? A church I was thinking about joining recently got a new pastor, who concentrated on sermons about the sinfulness of heroes of the faith, then joined the T4G site (and it was said that was a mistake by a secretary, but a year later it was done by the pastor himself, after he had managed to stack the elders with his followers). Then he changed the bylaws of the church so that members had to agree “to respect” the pastor (not the elders, you note – just the pastor). I decided not to join. But at what point along that long transition, if you had been a member would you resign as opposed to trying to fight the changes?

  84. Evie wrote:

    @ Jenny:
    Wow Jenny that is just totally weird because it doesn’t look like any of the women are ordained to the task, only the men can give birth.

    ++1 😀

  85. @ me:
    Imo it’s a matter of discernment. If you believe you can make a difference then by all means try to. In my experience in an organization like SGM, by the time I decided to leave and had discussed my issues with one of the pastors to no avail, it became a matter of just leaving. But in the process I fought back because once the cat was out of the bag and my intentions to leave became clear, things got “interesting” (let’s say).

    Afterwards I ended up leaving a church because, frankly, I didn’t care enough to attempt to change anything. I met several times with the pastor, but the thing is, I had changed during my time there, which had nothing to do with the effect the teachings of the church had on me. It was something God was has done, and the pastor simply didn’t recognize it, do I didn’t fight against his unwillingness to hear me He wasn’t open to receive, so I wasn’t open to give, and ended up leaving.

    So, I think you’ve got to weigh in the balance where you stand and judge where the leadership of the church is headed. If there’s too much of a discrepancy then do what you need to do, say what you need to say, keep it classy, and either stick around or make your exit.

  86. Deb wrote:

    @ Janey:

    I’ve already started looking into them. Another church planting network…

    Remember, Deb – they’re birthing churches, not planting them, because …

    “Birthing is more labor intensive and relational than the planting metaphor suggests.” (direct quote from their website)

    It looks like part of ironic hipster Christianity is using feminine metaphors for actions that are only allowed to be carried out by men. o-0

  87. @ Jenny:

    Okay, now they’re usurping women’s domain?!?!? I won’t stand for this. We need Beekerj (sp?) to help sort this nonesense out!

  88. Victorious wrote:

    From the same link under blogs….God is calling men to plant churches in Boston.

    And because believers are familiar with Bible saying “men” for “humans” or “people”, most won’t notice. But there’s a hint at the end, when “men” turn into “guys”: “We will let those guys know….all our guys have committed…”
    Bridget wrote:

    Looking at that opening page is like viewing the pages in the yearbook of a ‘men only’ club.

    It is! But since most church leaders are men, how many would notice it as possibly problematic?

    Clearly these men understand that most people wouldn’t go for their wrathful god and authoritarian structures. So (“for the sake of the gospel!”) they act like car salesmen down at the second-hand lot. “Omission for a commission.” Disgusting!

    These are dishonest people.

  89. me wrote:

    But at what point along that long transition, if you had been a member would you resign as opposed to trying to fight the changes?

    It’s tempting to fight, but in reality it’s best to slip away unnoticed. (This is a great time of the year!) I decided to leave my church this year, and that’s what I did.

    As we’ve seen from other comments on this blog, if you put up a fight, the pastor will go on the offensive and may attack you behind your back. It’s not worth the trauma, especially when you want to use your time and energy on getting to know people at your new church.

    I strongly recommend contacting Christian friend from the past, and finding out which church they attend now. It makes the transition much easier. You cannot fight City Hall, even if you attended all your life and were a leader. It’s best to disappear.

  90. I agree, SCOUR that website and read between the lines if the Holy Spirit nudges you to. But when all is said and done, from 35 years experience in several denominations and non-denoms, even the best looking website can’t give you a full enough understanding of where the leader/s are really at, or the congregation, especially if you find yourself “love bombed” the first several visits, which is sad, because real agape love is the hallmark of authentic Christian community. Even attending regularly for months is often not enough, imo. Maybe I don’t have as much discernment as I’d like to think, but I’ve found that it takes at least a year. I appreciate a church which doesn’t push membership, but then, as was brought up on previous posts, not being a member in authoritarian churches doesn’t shield you from the pressure to conform or be “disciplined”.

  91. dee wrote:

    Nick Bulbeck wrote:
    In other news: that’s us back fae seeing The Desolation of Smaug.
    Should i put a warning on your comments? Spoiler alert?

    Oops. Do you know, that literally didn’t occur to me – I just assumed we were the last people on earth to see it, since we usually are.

    Sorry to anyone who hasn’t seen it yet!

  92. me wrote:

    While the guidelines you give are great for looking at a church before you join, a much more difficult question is how to tell when to leave a church. Perhaps you would comment on that?

    Then he changed the bylaws of the church so that members had to agree “to respect” the pastor…

    When one person can initiate the changing of the bylaws, and one person is at the apex of a pyramid, it ain’t no church, nor any authentic expression of the Church.

    You can’t leave it – it has left you.

  93. Deb wrote:

    @ Steve240:
    I seem to recall that C.J. Mahaney left out parts of SGM’s history. Maybe they learned from their leader?

    CLC’s history for a while was rewritten as if Larry Tomczak wasn’t a cofounder. The history made it sound like C.J. Mahaney was always the Sr. Pastor. I even heard some of the pictures they showed had Larry Tomczak “photoshopped” out of pictures.

    When C.J.’s sin and hypocrisy came out 7/2011 I hear members at CLC brought up this history not being correct and was updated last time I looked on their site (been a while).

    Thus it wouldn’t surprise me if Redeemer Arlington learned this type of action from C.J. Mahaney. It may be part of their culture that remains with them even when they leave SGM.

  94. Miss Scarlett, I don’t know nuthin’ ’bout birthin’ no churches!

    I do recall talking to a very good leader\counselor guy in our o!d church about some ideas I was struggling to grasp, and how uncomfortable it was. He reassured me that I was simply pregnant with an idea, which ended up being my current career.

    Birthing a concept — no problem. Seems like birthing a church could be seriously painful. Especially for dudes, who struggle with something as small as a kidney stone.

  95. RB wrote:

    specially if you find yourself “love bombed” the first several visits,

    RB wrote:

    Even attending regularly for months is often not enough, imo. Maybe I don’t have as much discernment as I’d like to think, but I’ve found that it takes at least a year. I appreciate a church which doesn’t push membership, but then, as was brought up on previous posts, not being a member in authoritarian churches doesn’t shield you from the pressure to conform or be “disciplined”.

    I am going to add these points into a post in January. They are so true. And, i wish I had learned in one year what was going on in a former church. It took me 5 years to begin to see the problems.

    Thank you and welcome to TWW.

  96. @ Janey:
    Sometimes, when the issue surrounds a pedophile situation that was drastically mishandled, it is worth causing a bit of an uproar. It was that experience which finally birthed this blog.

  97. @ dee:
    However, I did quietly leave a church in which the pastor, in the midst of transition a church, said something along the lines of “I am soooo bummed that John Piper is retiring. I can’t imagine the church scene without him.” Good night!

  98. @ dee:
    Yes, good night and please turn the lights out on John Piper because I can totally imagine not seeing him in the picture, including the one with a skyscraper in the background that he declares will be destroyed.

  99. dee wrote:

    @ Nick Bulbeck:
    You nut! I was teasing you! No red face needed. Plus, most of us have read the book .

    Ah ken fine yeez’ve a’ read the book! ‘Twas the bits that aren’t in the book whereof I spake, unto which bother did accrue.

    Right: I’m going to make the Christmas cake.

  100. @ Nick Bulbeck:

    Since I started this, yes, most of us have read the book. The ribbing was all in good fun, Nick. Lool at it this way . . . you aren’t the last one you know to see it this time 🙂

  101. Bridget wrote:

    @ Jenny:
    Okay, now they’re usurping women’s domain?!?!? I won’t stand for this. We need Beekerj (sp?) to help sort this nonesense out!

    Oh, now, you know it’s only women’s domain if the men don’t want it. 🙂

  102. Janey wrote:

    It’s tempting to fight, but in reality it’s best to slip away unnoticed. (This is a great time of the year!) I decided to leave my church this year, and that’s what I did.

    As we’ve seen from other comments on this blog, if you put up a fight, the pastor will go on the offensive and may attack you behind your back. It’s not worth the trauma,…

    I agree, here is my experience. At my former church, the pastor stated he would begin a series of several sermons focusing on singles, their role in the church, etc. He thought the sermons would be most appropriate for the evening service. All well and good, but when the time came for the sermons he kept delaying and something else became more important. I asked one of the elders if he could find out just when the pastor plans on the promised sermons. The elder said he was very much interested in the sermons too and would make an inquiry. Eventually, the elder told me he couldn’t get any information. I asked the elder if he could set up a meeting with me and the pastor so I could tell the pastor how important the sermons would be to me (as a single) and whether there is something he might be able to share with with me. Big mistake! I had a meeting in the pastor’s study and the normally affable gentlemen had a complete change of personality. He was cold, calculating, nervous, visibly irritated, kept looking at his watch, etc. He was accompanied by two other elders who functioned more like muscle aka bouncers. I was told that he was the “man of god” and that I needed prayer. Nothing got accomplished, except the creation of a lot of stress.

  103. william hamel wrote:

    A good number of Christians want to belong to congregations that hold to the five solas, and we have absolutely no problem with that.

    Have you truly read our blog? if you had, you would not find the need to say this.
    We have no problem with anyone wanting a church that teaches the 5 solas. In fact, the pastor who does our E Church is Reformed in his thinking minus the gender and authoritarian thing.

    Our point is this. If you hold to the 5 solas, say it loud and clear. If you are charismatic, say it loud and clear. If you think that women cannot even speak aloud in church, say it. Tell the truth and stop playing games.

  104. Joe wrote:

    He was cold, calculating, nervous, visibly irritated, kept looking at his watch, etc. He was accompanied by two other elders who functioned more like muscle aka bouncers. I was told that he was the “man of god” and that I needed prayer. Nothing got accomplished, except the creation of a lot of stress.

    I am so sorry. Your pastor was a weak man.

  105. Sigh. The last non-denominational on our list to visit – the egalitarian EFCA with such promising leanings towards a historic faith (thus away from any sort of neo-junk) – is on the gospel coalition list. I am so bummed. Is there nothing unspoiled in the evangelical wilderness?

    We are bugging out of a place that is heavily 9Marks (and was added to that list without any announcement to the membership or note of it on the church website). The EFCA I’ve been investigating and have even visited lists its GC affiliation nowhere on its site, either. I understand that Acts 29 churches supposedly receive administrative assistance from that network. But what are the benefits of aligning with 9Marks and/or GC? Do they get rights to music or something? I just can’t figure out the point of “membership” therein.

  106. @ Gene:

    Gene

    You write -@ Sat Dec 21, 2013 at 12:14 PM
    “let us not ignore that the Bible does prescribe for elders to lead the church.”

    Could that be said a little differently?
    “let us not ignore that the Bible does prescribe for elders to “SERVE” the church.”

    Because, I Can NOT find one of His Disciples who called themself leader? Leading a Church?

    And – I can NOT find in the Bible – Lead one another… 😉
    But – I can find – By love SERVE one another. Gal 5:13.

    1 – Aren’t His sons to be “Led” by the Spirit? NOT Mere Fallible Humans?

    Rom 8:14
    For as many as are “Led” by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

    2 – Aren’t those, born of the Spirit, to be like the wind, pneuma, Spirit, coming and going?
    And NOT always going to the same place, Weak after Weak, to hear the same person.

    John 3:8
    The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof,
    but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth:
    *so is every one that is born of the Spirit.*

    3 – Aren’t WE, His Ekklesia, His Church, His Disciples, His Kids…
    His Sheep – to Hear His Voice – and Follow Jesus?
    NOT follow a human Leaders Voice?

    Luke 6:46
    And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which *I say?*

    John 10:27
    My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

    Why follow Mere Fallible Humans who Mis-appropriate, and Elevate themselves as – Leaders?

    When you can be one of His Sheep, His Disciples, Hear His Voice and – Follow

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  107. Hmmm?

    A question lots of folks ask…
    “Do you have any advice regarding which church I should attend/join?”

    Well – Wouldn’t The Bible be a good place to start? 🙂

    Today I recommend printing out every verse with the word church, Ekklesia in the Greek…
    And read them, over and over again. And ask Jesus what He means when He says…
    I will *build MY Church? The greek for build is also 7 times as edify…

    Ask Jesus – What is Your Church? Your Ekklesia? How will I know it?

    In the Bible, did any of His Disciples – Go to Church? Attend Church? Join a Church?
    If, In the Bible, NOT one of His Disciples would GoTo Church? Join a Church?
    How did WE, His Ekklesia, His Sheep, His Kids, learn to do that?

    In the Bible, are there buildings with Steeples, stages, pulpits, pastors, called church?

    In the Bible, are there “Church Leaders?” “Spiritual Leaders?”

    So many questions…

    And you certainly should check out those who promote themselves as pastor/elder/overseers.
    And see if they Qualify… 😉

    What is popular is NOT always “Truth.”
    What is “Truth” is NOT always popular.

  108. Out of the many comments I have not seen (I could have missed it) anyone mearly suggest simply going to a local church and talking to the elders/pastor. I understand past experience can cause one to not want to do this. But since when has church become an online experience that negates the need to engage with fellow believers, in person.

  109. And yes, I know the topic was about evaluating a church “online”, but why should that even be an option. Of course you will never learn what you need to know about a church just by staring at a computer screen.

  110. John Cochrane wrote:

    anyone mearly suggest simply going to a local church and talking to the elders/pastor.

    That is actually the problem. I tried to ask a new pastor if he was a Calvinist. The people running the meeting would not let the question be asked. It was a simple question and it could have had a simple answer.

    If you read story after story, you will see that some pastors will not answer the questions asked, instead getting mad at the person who asked.

    Not all pastors are like this but we are hearing about this sort of response more and more. That is why we are doing this series. So people can actually figure out what in the world is going on!

  111. @ me:

    Yes, I know about that church. I appreciate your recommendation and will make that the topic for a post in the New Year. What you described is straight out of a play book.

  112. @ John Cochrane:

    I am not at all suggesting that someone limit their church investigation to online searches. By all means they should attend prospective churches and ask the leadership LOTS of questions. If any of our readers have done this, we’d appreciate them letting us know what happened.

  113. A. Amos Love wrote:

    In the Bible, did any of His Disciples – Go to Church? Attend Church? Join a Church?
    If, In the Bible, NOT one of His Disciples would GoTo Church? Join a Church?
    How did WE, His Ekklesia, His Sheep, His Kids, learn to do that?

    I can see where this line of reasoning is headed, because I used the same reasoning when I tried to justify my not wanting to go to church. I can appreciate that you strive to hold the Word of God as the final authority in this, but just because Jesus didn’t use the term “local church” as we know it today does not mean it is unbiblical. We have many examples of what the disciples did do, and what they did required them to “meet together”.

    First I want to point out that the disciples were at church every time they “gathered together” with Jesus, sat under His authoritative teachings and finally when the 12 gathered for the very first Lord’s Supper.

    Next, on the day of Pentecost after Peter’s preaching what did those who were added to the number of the church do?

    Acts 2:42-44
    “42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe[e] came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common.”

    Notice also, they submissively place themselves under authority of the teaching of the Apostles, which would require someone to stand in authority over them and teach them.

    What about the books to the Corinthians? Or to the Thessalonians? Why are they addressed to the “local church” of that city? Why did Paul address the Corinthians on their abuse at the corporate worship at the Lords Table (1 Corinthians 11:17-34) if he did not expect them to meet together on each Lord’s Day? Of course those letters were not just for Corinth or Thessalonica, but for all the Church past, present and future. But originally it was addressed to that church. The entire epistle section of the New Testament is filled with directives/imperatives/motives of how a believer is to be when meeting together with fellow believers along with how we are to be with the Ecclesia worldwide.

    If a person has been hurt by a local church I can understand the suspicion and lack of desire to be in a position to be hurt again. I hope you take this challenge in love, not in a desire to be right.

  114. @John Cochrane
    My husband works in a field that has required our family to make a half dozen out of state relocations. The internet is a wonderful tool for evaluating churches in a new location. There are many that can be ruled out with a quick browse of the posted doctrinal statement.

    Another step, for us, has been to listen to online sermons. Not one, but many. That’s where a pastor’s heart is often revealed. That this can be done from a remote location, on a faster time schedule than one day per week, has been extraordinarily helpful. I cannot imagine how many Sundays we would have spent over the years out of regular fellowship, church shopping, because we did not have the internet as a tool for church searching.

    Of course the final step is to visit and personally speak with the pastor, to ask questions and have them answered honestly. To rub elbows with the body and test the aroma. But please do not discount the value of internet research.

    The troubling issue, the one that the original post reflects, is when the church/pastor – neither by website nor personal interview – does not fully disclose affiliations with groups such as Acts 29, 9Marks, SGM and/or GC. It smacks of bait & switch advertising. Those affiliations, just like denominational ties (do you hear me, SBC?), should be clearly displayed on a church’s website. That’s truth in marketing.

  115. dee wrote:

    If you hold to the 5 solas, say it loud and clear. If you are charismatic, say it loud and clear. If you think that women cannot even speak aloud in church, say it. Tell the truth and stop playing games.

    This is why, all birthing jokes aside, I respect the Reality Church folks. Although their church isn’t my cup of tea, they seem upfront and honest about who they are, what they believe and how they do things. Good on them. In the long run that can help them and prospective attendees find the right fellowship “fit”.

  116. dee wrote:

    Lucy Pevensie wrote:
    is on the gospel coalition list.
    There are some on that list who do not know what they are signing up for. So, they could be clueless.

    I hope that the pastor will have a good explanation of the reason for the affiliation. Here’s the funny thing. Once we asked a pastor about an association with another similar group (the old Willow Creek Association, which has undergone changes in the past few years, I believe). His response was that they just joined to have access to some music and publications, they didn’t really agree with all the association represents and were not accountable to them. Can you imagine what a 9Marks pastor would say if a member made such a statement about church membership?

  117. @ dee:

    I grew up going to Calvary Chapel(CC) churches. Not sure if they are up in the North East or not. Regardless, here on the west coast they are a Non-denom denomination (try to figure that one out). Anyway, they are truly the ones who popularized a form of church leadership called the “Moses Model”. Though there are still good churches within the CC movement, this model has ruined many because of their motto of “Touch not mine Anointed” when anyone comes to question the doctrine or actions of pastor/elders. The model is one where the Pastor is on top and power flows from there , i.e. Harvest Bible Church and James Macdonald. This should not be, and I will agree with most on this site that it is an egregious affront to Christ’s headship of the Church worldwide. My concern is with the abuses that are uncovered there tends to be an utter abandonment of the local church for fear of being duped again. We must remember that every church along with every true Christian is still tainted with the effects of sin and therefore our best efforts to be faithful to God and others are still a massive failure, hence the need for grace from God and from/towards others.

  118. Lucy Pevensie wrote:

    My husband works in a field that has required our family to make a half dozen out of state relocations. The internet is a wonderful tool for evaluating churches in a new location. There are many that can be ruled out with a quick browse of the posted doctrinal statement.

    I am sorry that I was unclear. I have no opposition to the use of the internet for research, what I was noticing was that for the large part of the comments there was nothing that just said “go talk to them”. The church I just started going to I looked on line, listened to a couple of sermons but did not make my decision until I went and talked to them. Talking to them will be the ONLY way to know their heart and see what is of uttemost importance to them.

  119. I feel stupid. When I read the original post, I guess the whole page did not load. Now I see the context that Dee was starting from when she wrote, “The problem comes when a church’s theological bent is not made crystal clear. How can one investigate a church to see whether it might be a good fit? In this post we will attempt to provide some suggestions for analyzing a church via the internet so that you can make an informed decision about whether to get involved.”

    Sorry Dee.

  120. John Cochrane wrote:

    But since when has church become an online experience that negates the need to engage with fellow believers, in person.

    Engaging with fellow believers can be done in a multitude of ways; scripture does’nt limit the method I don’t think. After all, Paul often fellowshipped via letters to others. Phone calls, letters, internet, in-person activities, etc. are all valid ways to connect with others.

  121. I know someone who wrote a public review on a former church. Instead of saying negative things, they wrote a glowingly positive report on how wonderful the pastor was to mention the calvinista celebrity pastors and how women were banned from church leadership positions. Better than writing a negative review (may get removed or exaggerated rebuttal) yet as effective as a warning people who are checking the church out.

    Thought I would share it, since many of the commenters hear could do the same thing on internet reviews of local churches they have attended. Just pretend to like all the authoritarian, celebrity pastor-driven, sexism and write a glowing review highlighting all of this. They won’t touch the review and it will be a red flag for seekers.

  122. dee wrote:

    Sometimes, when the issue surrounds a pedophile situation that was drastically mishandled, it is worth causing a bit of an uproar. It was that experience which finally birthed this blog.

    I agree that if the circumstances involve major financial mishandling or criminal situation, we are required to speak up.

  123. Joe wrote:

    He was cold, calculating, nervous, visibly irritated, kept looking at his watch, etc. He was accompanied by two other elders who functioned more like muscle aka bouncers. I was told that he was the “man of god” and that I needed prayer. Nothing got accomplished, except the creation of a lot of stress.

    I’m glad you cut your losses and got out. Pastors who do not have warm loving people skills are more of a liability than an asset to their congregation. Perhaps they should have gone into business instead.

  124. @ me:

    “…a much more difficult question is how to tell when to leave a church”
    ++++++++++++

    aside from it becoming torturous, perhaps when it ceases to be time well-spent?

  125. Hi, Dee, glad that it will be brought up again. I’ve been praying for your health situation. I’m the same old gal who has commented in the past, just prefer some anonymity. I was thrilled to see folks making the indirect? connection of racial bigotry to some of Neo Cal and Patriarchy on previous threads, although I have mixed feelings about the DD comments. Having grown up in the South, I’m not sure if he realized how the racial comments might have sounded. People can be quite clueless sometimes or really put both feet in the mouth while intending the meaning to be taken as just the opposite. I haven’t followed any of that except on here, has he recanted or rephrased his original comments on that issue? I hope so.

    I’m also one who was asking for prayer for our grandson last year. Thanks to all of you who prayed, he is so much better now! In his young boy way, he received Jesus Christ, and I’m sure constantly hearing how much Jesus loves him and is with him from some family members has helped a great deal. Prayer for protection and for his parents is still appreciated, but I know God is faithful. Merry Christmas to all!

  126. Not Telling wrote:

    I know someone who wrote a public review on a former church. Instead of saying negative things, they wrote a glowingly positive report on how wonderful the pastor was to mention the calvinista celebrity pastors and how women were banned from church leadership positions. Better than writing a negative review (may get removed or exaggerated rebuttal) yet as effective as a warning people who are checking the church out.

    That’s a very interesting idea. I’ll have to write the review and have someone else post it.

  127. John Cochrane wrote:

    If a person has been hurt by a local church I can understand the suspicion and lack of desire to be in a position to be hurt again. I hope you take this challenge in love, not in a desire to be right.

    John – I think the crucial difference here is between “a local church” and “the local church”. Every one of the scriptural contexts you cite is addressed to the entire church in a locality. The existence of separate groups, with different role-models and theological heroes, was rare, and when it occurred it was roundly condemned. The current setup of isolated denominational groups, all calling themselves “churches” but having abandoned assembling together and sometimes even steadfastly divided against one another, presents (to my mind) a remarkable picture of well-intentioned sinfulness and rebellion.

    The fact that so many believers have been taught to love this form of sin, to the point of holding it to be needful, and to treasure and protect it and teach others to join them in it, does not make it right. This unbiblical model of “local church” is so prevalent that finding biblical local fellowship is hard, but that does not mean nobody should try it. One of the greatest protections from abusive leadership would be a biblically functioning local church. (It would be almost impossible then for ambitious and gifted individuals to build their own private fiefdoms, comfortably sequestered from real accountability.)

    Which leads to a second point: there are many reasons for stepping out of the patchwork of “local churches” other than running away from hurt. Numbers of us have moved on in search of something that we know must exist because Jesus himself prayed for it and promised it.

  128. @ Nick Bulbeck:

    Which leads to a second point: there are many reasons for stepping out of the patchwork of “local churches” other than running away from hurt. Numbers of us have moved on in search of something that we know must exist because Jesus himself prayed for it and promised it.

    Being curious and considering a leave from our current church, what do you do as one of the numbers in an effort to meet with believers as defined in the NT?

  129. Deb wrote:

    @ Evie:
    Jesus repeatedly talked about servant leadership – He came to serve, not to be served.
    Where are the servant leaders in the Neo-Cal crowd?

    Andy Crouch had an interesting piece in CT in October about the dangers of covert power in the American church. There was some interesting discussion about low-power differential cultures and how many American pastors want to be perceived as not being powerful at all, which can be more dangerous than when power is overtly recognized. Your quote reminded me of his take on “servant leadership,” which was a perspective I have not heard before. He said, “We remember the story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet in the Upper Room as a story of humility and servanthood, which is entirely true. We often retell that story as if it involves Jesus “giving up power,” as if power were the opposite of humility and servanthood. But the footwashing, like John’s whole gospel, is shot through with signs of power. “Do you know what I have done to you?” Jesus asks. “You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am” (John 13:12–13, NRSV). There are no more powerful roles in the disciples’ world than rabbi and Kyrios—the titles given to Jewish leaders and the lordship ascribed to Caesar himself. Jesus claims them both. He has “come from God and is going to God.” He is, John wants us to see, completely at home with power. What he is entirely indifferent to, indeed averse to, are the privilege, status, and perquisites that preoccupy powerful people who have forgotten what power is for.” http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/october/andy-crouch-its-time-to-talk-about-power.html?paging=off
    It is that last line, “people who have forgotten what power is for” that sums up many of the complaints I have heard around here with your favorite neo-Reformed pastors.

    I am one of those people who always used to think that power was the problem, and powerful pastors were somehow by definition, not Christ-like. That article challenged me to think some new thoughts on the whole issue. Power is still a negative term for me that is fairly inextricably linked in my mind to coercion and oppression, but maybe that is just my issue. I can’t argue with the assertion that Christ was powerful. I just have a hard time picturing what a Christ-like powerful person looks like.

  130. Bridget wrote:

    Being curious and considering a leave from our current church, what do you do as one of the numbers in an effort to meet with believers as defined in the NT?

    In three words: whatever we can.

    We have recently started attending Sunday mornings again, because we were missing gathering with other believers to “give God the glory due his name”. We’ve taken every opportunity we could over the last few years to meet local Christians – learning as we’ve done so that you get wolves in sheep’s clothing among Nones too; that is, people who merely want the comforts of religion without the responsibility and who will sponge off you for company and attention.

    The less-obvious thing we’ve learned to do is to look for what we call “kingdom people” among non-Christians. While Paul was in Corinth, Jesus said to him that “I have many people in this city” (Acts 18). In context, it is highly likely that Jesus was referring to people he had called and chosen, and whose hearts and minds were being drawn towards him, but who hadn’t yet heard the gospel or recognised themselves as his followers. We’ve certainly met people whose priorities are all about justice for the poor and/or oppressed, or similar; in other words, people who are set on things that are close to God’s heart too. You might say that they’re our mission-field and that for them, the good news is: God is on your side.

    It’s a work in progress, though; we don’t have enough experience to write the book yet!

  131. @ Christy:
    Interesting points Christy thanks. I intend to read the article. Your thoughts about power and Jesus were interesting. I agree Jesus was aware of his influence and aware of the power he was invested with. He knew he had come to serve and was focused on the mission he was sent to accomplish. Often the latter part of the verse gets dropped, “I have not come to be served but to serve and give my life as a ransom for many. And the person who is first isn’t being encouraged to give up their power to be last, but rather use their influence to help train and equip others that they, along with the whole body, can be strengthened and built up. Instead we see individuals who like to be followed, submitted to and obeyed as though their position is the thing to be protected, maintained, respected and honored when that’s not the model of leadership Jesus taught – being one of those guys that like to be seen, enjoy the best seat, and put their selves on display.

  132. Christy wrote:

    I am one of those people who always used to think that power was the problem, and powerful pastors were somehow by definition, not Christ-like.

    Although I agree with Crouch in principle, there are few “powerful pastors” who live life like Christ. In fact, the more I write this blog, the more I believe that “power” is a problem for most of mankind. Unfortunately, many of them surround themselves with yes men who also worship, and access, that power.

    What is the solution? Darned if I know. I think it will be a problem until Jesus comes again.

    Thank you for the link.

  133. John Cochrane

    I like your idea @ Mon Dec 23, 2013 at 01:21 PM….
    “simply going to a local church and talking to the elders/pastor.”
    This could be quite an adventure. Even though “local church” is a Non-Biblical, term. 😉

    And I would recommend when talking – To see if they Qualify to be a pastor/elder/overseer.
    Every believer has this right – to check out the pastor/elder/overseers to see if they Qualify.

    1 Thess 5:12 KJV
    And we beseech you, brethren, **to know them** (to perceive, notice, discern, discover)
    which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;

    I had to learn this the hard way. Many years and many tears.

    Checking out “Pastors who Abuse” “Pastor addicted to Exercising Authority” Will take some time. They Do NOT answer questions honestly. Or, they say one thing and DO another. “…do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.” John 23:3. The only test is a test of time. 🙂

    These guys want you to “Pay, Pray, Stay, and Obey.” Will talk often about, and mis-use Heb 13:17, and “Church Discipline.” They’ll speak a lot about, God Ordained Authority, Submitting to Authority, Church Leaders. But don’t spend a lot of time with, or “Ignore,” or “Twist,” other verses. Like, Submitting “One to Another?” Eph 5:21 KJV, 1 Pet 5:5 KJV. NOPE, most of today’s pastor/elder/overseers don’t care much for submitting to one another. 😉

    Oh, and be sure to ask, face to face, so you can see into their eyes.

    Hey pastor, Why do you have the “Title/Position” – pastor/leader? When, in the Bible…
    NOT one of His Disciples had the “Title/Postiion” – pastor/leader?
    NOT one of His Disciples was called – pastor/leader?
    NOT one of His Disciples was Hired or Fired, as a – pastor/leader?

    These questions should at least get you noticed if you’re new to this group. 🙂
    .

  134. John Cochrane

    Here are some other qualifications I found for pastor/elders, to protect me, and the other Sheep.

    I now recommend the wounded folks, ALL folks: Before trusting a “Mere Fallible Human” who claims “Special Authority from God.” And – If you must Go someplace, take your time, even years, these guys are crafty. Elders are to be “examples” to the flock. 1 Pet 5:3. Observe the example of the pastors/elders/overseers, and ask yourself and them…

    1 – Are they living examples of – NOT lording it over “God’s heritage?” 1 Pet 5:3 KJV
    2 – Are they living examples of – Lowliness of mind? Phil 2:3 KJV
    3 – Are they living examples of – Esteeming others “better” than themselves? Phil 2:3 KJV
    4 – Are they living examples of – Submitting “One to Another?” Eph 5:21 KJV, 1 Pet 5:5 KJV
    5 – Are they living examples of – Prefering others before themselves? Rom 12:10 KJV
    6 – Are they living examples of – Being clothed with humility? 1 Pet 5:5 KJV
    7 – Are they living examples of – NOT “execising authority” like the Gentiles?” Mark 10:42-43.

    And – Ask them, Face to Face. Because, if these Pastor/Elders do NOT like you asking these questions – Run. Run for your life. – and – If you’re afraid to ask face to face – Well – run for your life. 😉

    Just imagine mentioning these verses to any “Senior Pastor/Leader/Elder/Overseer” today?
    And saying to them….

    If it’s okay with you? I’d like to get to “Know You” a little better. As I’m asked to do in 1 Thess 5:12 KJV? Before I consider you to be a Qulified pastor/elder.

    If it’s okay with you? I’d like to see if you are actually “watching over my soul,” in good times and in bad times. As it says your supposed to be doing in Heb 13:17? That might take some time – I’m NOT sure how long – I want to see how you react if I ever dis-agree with you. 😉

    If it’s okay with you? I’ll also need some time to see if you match up with this list of 7 every-day Qualifications for WE, His Ekklesia, His sheep, that I have for who Qualifies to be a pastor/elder/overseer.

    You see, God has asked me to “Follow Jesus” and to “Trust Him.” And I am warned in the Bible, again and again, NOT to “Trust” in man. Because the Bible says, if I trust in a “Mere Fallible Human” I will most likely be cursed.

    Jer 17:5
    Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm…

    And – The Bible warns about 1-False apostles. 2- Many false prophets. 3- False teachers. 4- False brethren. 5- False Christ’s (false anointed ones).6- Decietful workers. 7- Evil workers. 8- Dogs and Swine.

    Psalm 118:8-9
    It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.
    It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.

    2 Peter 2:1
    But there were false prophets also among the people,
    even as there shall be false teachers among you,

    2 Peter 2:3
    And through covetousness shall they with feigned words
    make merchandise of you:

    Yeah – Lots of guys with “Titles,”NOT found in the Bible, makin merchandise of the folks. 😉

  135. @ Gene:

    Gene

    You write… “the Bible has no place for a church without leaders.”

    I think when you say church and I say “Church” it ain’t the same thing. Are you referring to…
    The 501 (c)3, Non-Profit, Tax $ Deductible, Religious $ Corporation, the IRS calls church.
    Should His Disciples call an IRS Corporation – The Church of God. aaaarrrrggghhhh 😉

    And what about Jesus? Who calls Himself – The ONE Leader?;-)
    See, The Church of God” does have a Leader. His name is Jesus.
    Why isn’t what Jesus said – Important?

    You might want to “Ask Jesus” about these verses…
    Where Jesus teaches His Disciples NOT to be called Leaders…

    Mat 23:10-12 NASB – New American Standard Bible.
    Do NOT be called leaders; for “ONE” is your Leader, that is, Christ.
    But the greatest among you shall be your “Servant.”
    Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled;
    and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

    Mat 23:10-12 TM – The Message.
    And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them.
    There is only “ONE” Life-Leader for you and them—Christ.
    **Do you want to stand out? – Then step down. – Be a servant.**
    If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you.
    But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.

    And – Jesus, as man, gives WE, His Ekklesia, His Church, His Sheep, His sons, an EXAMPLE.
    Jesus, as man, humbled Himself, made Himself of NO reputation,
    And took on the form of a “Servant.” Phil 2:7-8 KJV

    Seems, when someone takes the “Title/Position” Pastor/Leader/Reverend…
    They NOW have a Reputation, whether they want it or NOT. 😉

    And – In the Bible, NOT one of His Disciples was called, or called themself – pastor/leader. 😉

    Exclusive – Being a Church Leader is “Exclusive” – Only avaliable to a Special Few…
    Inclusive – Being His Ekklesia, His Church, His Servant, His King and a Priest, His Ambassador, His son, His Sheep, His Disciple, is “Inclusive” – Available to ALL.

    Seems His Disciples believed what Jesus taught them. And followed His Example…
    In the Bible, **His Disciples** all called themselves **Servants.**
    None called themselves “Leaders.” – Or, “Servant-Leader.” Or, “Pastor/Leader.”

    If Jesus instructed **His Disciples** NOT to call themselves “leaders?”
    And someone calls them self a “leader?”Or thinks they are a “leader?”
    Allows others to call them Leader?

    Are they one of “His Disciples?”

    Why isn’t what Jesus said important? 😉

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall **hear MY voice;**
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice – One Leader

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  136. @ dee:

    How does a church sign up for The Gospel Coalition? What do they sign up for? Do they give up the teaching? And agree to start teaching their material? I would love ot hear a story of a church that signed up for TGC that didn’t know what they were signing up for.

  137. @ Christy: Interesting, but where is the aprt about Christ having emptied himself and taken on the form of a bondservant (aka slave)? Or not seeing equality with God a thing to be grasped at?

    jesus’ kind of power is not anything that fits our definitions of that word. God became man in order to serve (not to be served by others) and give his life as a ransom for many. (As Jesus is recorded as saying.)

    I doubt very many church “leaders” throughout history have come anywhere close to the kind of “power” coupled with humility and self-sacrifice that Jesus showed us in his life, and in his death. We have a *long* way to go.

  138. Nick wrote:
    “Which leads to a second point: there are many reasons for stepping out of the patchwork of “local churches” other than running away from hurt. Numbers of us have moved on in search of something that we know must exist because Jesus himself prayed for it and promised it.”

    Amen….good thought.

  139. I think using the internet to research a church is a wise move, but if you are relying on the church website itself, be cautious.

    This is not as severe as checking for spiritual abuse, granted, but it kind of makes my point…

    I used to scope out churches by what type of singles ministries they claim on their sites to provide for adults ages 35 – 45 (when I was in my mid / late 30s).

    One church’s site (a church in my area – this is when I was new in the area) said they had real happenin’ singles ministries, with tons of singles my age group, male and female, who attend.

    Based on that information from their site, I went to one of their singles classes and walked in to find mostly males over the age of 45.

    I was expecting some male singles, Brad Pitt- to- average- looking men around my age, but I was confronted with white haired, age 60ish guys, or men over 45 with comb overs and thick glasses and the physique of bean poles.

    One guy was about 200 pounds over weight.

    (No offense to any males here reading that who fit those profiles – I am sure you are lovely people, but do I find myself physically attracted to bean poles who wear thick glasses, or who are 25 years my senior, or who are balding? No.
    One of my goals for going to church at that era of my life was to get a Christian boyfriend/spouse.)

    I found out at the class, that contrary to the church’s site, that getting the adult singles there together for social functions was next to near impossible. The social events always fizzled out, because none, or too few, of the singles would actually attend anything.

    Anyhoo, I felt very misled by that church site, which looked professionally designed.

    I assumed they kept their site up to date, if they cared enough to have it professionally designed.

    I went to their church two or three times in person, once on a Wed. night, and on a Sunday morning or two.

    Their site said that adult singles meet in Room 101.

    I looked on the church map for Room 101 (the maps were printed on paper and on a table in the church’s lobby) and did not even see a 101 on the map.

    I asked around for help, said I was lost, and I could not find room 101, and I was told,
    “Where did you get that info from?? Singles have not met in 101 in two years!!! There is no more room 101 after our building re-model.”

    Me: “I got the info from your web site. Here’s the print out from your web page that says, “adult singles ages 35 – 45 meet in Room 101, at such and such a day and hour….”

    The guy handed my print out to another guy:
    “Ralph, we gotta get Joe the Church Web Master to update the church site!! Holy smokes! How long has it been since the site’s been updated?????”

    I was miffed about the whole thing. I had to get someone to drive me all the way down there a couple of times to visit. I get there to find out there was no class there that day, among other things.

    This church was sort of presenting their singles ministry as this hot and happening, stocked- to- the- rafters- with- age- 35ish- 45sh hottie Brad Pitt look alikes, but no. No, they were far from Brad Pitt look alikes, and not even an Average Joe in the bunch.

    At least there were male there. Most churches have an over abundance of females and no males, or very few males.

    I realize that most of what I wrote reads like comedy, but when you are mid/late 30s and wanting to marry, there ain’t nothing funny about a church promising on their site that a plethora of Christian single male equivalents to actor Brad Pitt attends, but you show up and what men are there are more like Welcome Back Kotter’s Arnold Horshack.

    Or like ‘Screech’ from Saved By The Bell. Or Steve Urkel from Family Matters.

  140. @ John Cochrane:

    John Cochrane

    You seem to think it’s a good idea to “Go To Church” “Join a Church?”
    Even thought NOT one of His Disciples would “Go To Church” or “Join a Church?”

    Well, would you recommend for His Sheep to “Go To Church?” And “Join a Church?”
    Where the pastor/elder/overseers DO NOT Qualify? To be pastor/elder/overseers? 🙂

    I’ve noticed, most congregations looking to hire a pastor/elder/overseer, and most who desire to be a pastor/elder/overseer usually “Ignore” or “Twist” the Qualifications in 1 Tim 3:1-6, and Titus 1:5-9. So they can obtain for themselves this position of pastor/leader/reverend that today comes with, Power, Profit, Prestige, Honor, Glory, Recognition, Reputation, Celebrity, etc.

    Titus 1:5-8 KJV
    5 …ordain elders in every city…
    6 If any be *blameless,* the husband of one wife,
    having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.
    7 For a bishop “must be” *blameless,* as the steward of God; not self willed,
    not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;
    8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, *just,* *holy,* temperate;

    Here are just 3, of over 16, very tough qualifications in 1 Tim 3:1-6, and Titus 1:5-9.
    1 – For a bishop (overseer) “must be” *blameless.* 2 – Just. 3 – Holy.

    1 – That *must be* is the same Greek word as: …You *must be* born again. John 3:7.
    *Must Be* – Strongs #1163, die. – It is necessary (as binding).
    *Must Be* – Thayer’s – necessity established by the counsel and decree of God.
    Seems to be a small word but very important.

    1 – Blameless – Strongs #410 anegkletos – unaccused, irreproachable, blameless.
    Blameless – Thayers – that cannot be called into account, unreproveable, unaccused.
    Blameless – Dictionary – Without fault, innocent, guiltless, not meriting censure.

    2 – Just
    Strongs #1342 – dikaios {dik’-ah-yos} from 1349;
    Thayers – righteous, observing divine laws, innocent, faultless, guiltless.

    3 – Holy
    Strongs #3741 – hosios {hos’-ee-os}
    Thayers – undefiled by sin, free from wickedness, religiously observing every moral obligation.

    Now that’s three tough qualifications for pastor/elder/overseers. Yes?
    How many pastor/elder/overseers today, who honestly examine themselves, seriously considering these three qualifications. (Must Be Blameless, Just, Holy.) can see themselves as Blameless, Just and Holy, innocent, without fault, above reproach, undefiled by sin, and thus qualify to be a pastor/elder/overseer? And, if they can see themself as *blameless?* Is that pride? And no longer without fault? 😉

    Which Qualifications, are WE, His Sheep, His Ekklesia, allowed to “Ignore” and “Twist?”
    Which Qualifications are NOT important?

    If WE, His Ekklesia, His Church, His Sheep, His Kings and Priests, His Body, His Kids,
    Take seriously the many tough Qualifications in 1 Tim 3:1-6, and Titus 1:5-9…

    The potential pool of Qualified – pastor/elder/overseers – is quite small. 😉

    When you believe the lie you start to die…

  141. Eagle

    They literally fill out a short form that says very little on it.  I think we whould sign up the Church of Eagle.

  142. Christy wrote:

    I can’t argue with the assertion that Christ was powerful. I just have a hard time picturing what a Christ-like powerful person looks like.

    The thing is that Jesus did not use his authority to rule over and subdue people (even against the Sanhedrin). Demons, sicknesses and the weather, maybe, but not people.

    Jesus set the example so that his disciples would serve one another, not the “little people” beneath them or elsewhere in the pecking-order. He explicitly banned the holding of power in this sense within the church. The Body never needs more than one Head, and he doesn’t need an individual to represent him as ruler among a body of believers who are all filled with the Holy Spirit.

    I don’t believe there is really supposed to be such a thing as a powerful Christ-like person in any setting for long; rather, there is the church: a powerful Christ-like people. And what we’re supposed to look like is Jesus, so we use both the ability and the authority he has given us to demonstrate the fact that God’s kingship is better news than any alternative they might look to.

  143. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    The less-obvious thing we’ve learned to do is to look for what we call “kingdom people” among non-Christians. While Paul was in Corinth, Jesus said to him that “I have many people in this city” (Acts 18). In context, it is highly likely that Jesus was referring to people he had called and chosen, and whose hearts and minds were being drawn towards him, but who hadn’t yet heard the gospel or recognised themselves as his followers. We’ve certainly met people whose priorities are all about justice for the poor and/or oppressed, or similar; in other words, people who are set on things that are close to God’s heart too. You might say that they’re our mission-field and that for them, the good news is: God is on your side.

    I really like that, Nick. It rings true with my experience.

  144. Joe wrote:

    At my former church, the pastor stated he would begin a series of several sermons focusing on singles, their role in the church, etc. He thought the sermons would be most appropriate for the evening service. All well and good, but when the time came for the sermons he kept delaying and something else became more important.

    My guess would be that he did not do it, because he realized it is impossible. There are no Bible verses on “roles of singles.”
    I can see a way how a Bible reader could come to the conclusion of husband and wife roles, and how they could think the preaching role is only for a minority among men and not for women.
    But gender roles for those who are not married or preachers? It simply isn’t there, and the promise was impossible to keep.

  145. Joe wrote:

    My experience tells churches are all about power, control, authority, money and empire building. Some pastors may be more benevolent than others, but the end game is still the same. And people very willingly give them their hard earned money without question.

    Yeah – Been my experience with today’s 501 (c) 3, Religious Corporations also… Ouch!!! 🙁

  146. @ Joe:

    You write…
    “I asked the elder if he could set up a meeting with me and the pastor so I could tell the pastor… *Big mistake!* I had a meeting in the pastor’s study and the normally affable gentlemen had a complete change of personality. He was cold, calculating, nervous, visibly irritated, kept looking at his watch, etc. He was accompanied by two other elders who functioned more like muscle aka bouncers. I was told that he was the “man of god” and that I needed prayer.”

    This is also my experience with those who Separate and Elevate themselves above His Sheep.
    Taking a “Title/Position” shepherd/leader/reverend, NOT one of His Disiciples had.
    Taking a “Title/Position” shepherd/leader/reverend – That, in the Bible, belongs only to Jesus.

    And it only LQQKS like a *Big mistake!* With the stress, pain and frustration…
    You say at the end – “Nothing got accomplished, except the creation of a lot of stress.”

    But – Didn’t you get to see “The Man of God” up close and real? You saw who he really is?
    You got to see “the normally affable” pastor and how he can turn ugly when under pressure…
    And that is – Priceless… 😉

    Warning – Warning – Danger – Danger
    Questioning, Challenging, Dis-agreeing with self proclaimed “Church Leaders”
    Will most likely be harmful to you, and your Spiritual Health.

    But – Do it anyway. Again and Again…
    Because, the Pain, the Tears, drive you to Jesus. Then comes some real growth in the Lord. 😉

    In my experience, with “Pastor/Leaders,” having been ordained and in “Leadership.” 🙁

    No matter how loving… eventually…
    No matter how humble… eventually…
    No matter how much a servant… eventually…

    The “pastor/leader” will “Exercise Authority” like the Gentiles… A Big No, No. Mark 10:42.
    And “lord it over” God’s heritage. His Ekklesia, His Sheep, His Kids. A Big No, No. 1 Pet 5:3.

    That’s always the beginning of Pain, Tears, and “Spiritual Abuse.”

    “Pastor/Leaders” = exercise authority = lord it over = abuse = always

    I’m in agreement with King David – The Lord is my Shepherd…

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  147. Nick

    Well said…
    “The thing is that Jesus did not use his authority to rule over and subdue people (even against the Sanhedrin). Demons, sicknesses and the weather, maybe, but not people.”

    I can NOT find, in the Bible, Jesus giving His Disciples “Authority” over another Disciple.
    But – I can find Jesus giveing WE, His Disciples, Authority – to subdue demons and sickness. 🙂

    Luke 10:19 NASB
    Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions,
    and over all the *power (*Dunimis = strength, miracle.) of the enemy,
    and nothing will injure you.

    Luke 9:2 NASB
    And He sent them (His Disciples) out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing.

    Mark 16:17-18 NASB
    These *signs (*signs = semeion = miracles.) will accompany those who have believed:
    in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues;
    they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them;
    they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.

    Mr 16:20
    And they went out and preached everywhere,
    while the Lord worked with them,
    and **confirmed the word**
    by the *signs that followed. (*signs = semeion = miracles.)

    Nick – And again – Well said…
    “The Body never needs more than one Head,
    and he doesn’t need an individual to represent him as ruler
    among a body of believers who are all filled with the Holy Spirit.”

    Jesus taught His Disciples NOT to “Exercise Authority.” Mt 20:25, Mr 10:42, Lu 22:25.

    And Jesus called Himself – The “ONE” Shepherd, John 10:16 – The “Good” Shepherd. John 10:11.

    And Jesus called Himself – The “ONE” Teacher – The “ONE” Leader.

    Mat 23:8-10 NASB… Jesus, teaching His Disciples, and the multitude, said…
    DO NOT be called Rabbi; for “ONE” is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.
    DO NOT call anyone on earth your father; for “ONE” is your Father, He who is in heaven.
    DO NOT be called Leaders; for “ONE” is your Leader, that is, Christ.

    Seems what Jesus said is NOT important to those who seek Authority, Power, Profit, Prestige.

  148. numo wrote:

    @ Christy: Interesting, but where is the part about Christ having emptied himself and taken on the form of a bondservant (aka slave)? Or not seeing equality with God a thing to be grasped at?

    I always had a misconception of that verse because of the NIV word choice of “did not see equality with God something to be grasped.” It’s meaning is clearer in other translations. It really should be “held onto” or “clung to.” The fact was, Jesus was God, the whole time, he WAS equal. (Unless you want to go the route of that Wayne Gruden nonsense about the Son being eternally subordinate to the Father, but that seems to me to be less about true Christology and more to justify keeping women below men.) He wasn’t striving toward, grasping at, some hypothetical equality that was out of his reach (as the NIV sort of implies) But he did not cling to his equality to demand the privileges that equality rightfully afforded him. I think the emptying refers to the limitations he took on in becoming a finite human being. I don’t think Jesus was omnicient or all-powerful in the same way the Word was/is ominicient and all-powerful. I think the incarnate Word’s access to his divine power was via the Holy Spirit, the same as the rest of us humans, only he had no sin getting in the way. Yes, he took the form of a slave. But throughout his earthly ministry he never stopped being powerful in the sense of speaking with the full authority of Heaven. The wind and waves obeyed him. Legions of demons cowered before him. His word brought the dead to life. People left their livelihoods and families just to follow him around and died martyrs’ deaths to spread his message. He had “the microphone” and thousands of people hung on his every word. Over and over in Scripture, he claimed and used his spiritual power.

    How we figure out how to own power well as humans is the tricky part because their are all kinds and some kind you just end up with. You are never going to get around that some people will be powerful. Our society will ascribe power and position to some people, and it’s not necessarily a good thing if all Christ-followers automatically abdicate all positions of power and influence so they don’t screw up and abuse their power. The vaccuum will be filled by others. I don’t think the problem is that certain pastors and teachers have been given positions of power and influence in our existing social structures. Social, economic, political, and institutional power is a fact of life, but these powers are not the same as spiritual power, they come from people/society not God. The problem is when people are ascribed power by people/society because of their talents and positions in existing societal structures, and they confuse that with spiritual power that comes from God. They are supposed to be acknowledging that source of spiritual power and authority is God.

    When the pastors and teachers start thinking that spiritual power and authority (like their social, political, economic or other power) is theirs, not God’s, I think that is when the problems start.

    There was an interesting article in the book Discovering Biblical Equality about the word “authority” in the NT. Authority in the Bible is not something that is exercised over other believers, it is exercised over the spiritual realm. When the disciples (male and female) were given “authority,” it was to heal the sick and cast out demons. Jesus’ “authority” became a problem when he claimed authority to forgive sins.

    It is when spiritual “authority” stops being something the Church exercises as ambassadors of Christ’s present and coming Kingdom over the forces that oppose that Kingdom, and instead becomes what already (socially) powerful people claim as their own to control others and claim even more privileges for themselves that it becomes bad. In Mark 10:41-43 Jesus calls out James and John for wanting to have the kind of “lording it over others” authority that is the way of the world. All the debates in some circles over who has “spiritual authority” and who “leads” and who “submits” are off the mark. The question is not “who” gets authority, because Jesus gave it equally to all his followers in the Great Commission. And it’s not for bossing people around, that’s what worldy authority is for. It’s for defeating sin and evil at the spiritual level. I think this misunderstanding of what spiritual authority/power is really for is at the heart of many of the issues we see in churches.

  149. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    Christy wrote:
    I don’t believe there is really supposed to be such a thing as a powerful Christ-like person in any setting for long; rather, there is the church: a powerful Christ-like people. And what we’re supposed to look like is Jesus, so we use both the ability and the authority he has given us to demonstrate the fact that God’s kingship is better news than any alternative they might look to.

    I agree with almost all of what you said, up to a point. But the fact is, some people in our society (and in our churches which are many ways products of our society and culture) ARE powerful. They just are. Surely there has to be a more nuanced mandate to them than just simply, “power is bad, try to get away from it.” I think there are two separate issues at hand here. One is the misappropriation of “spiritual power” for things other than what God gives spiritual power for (e.g. healing, forgiveness, opposing evil). The other is the proper use of ascribed social power and status in societal institutions (including churches) for the advancing of God’s Kingdom. The latter has been done poorly and wrought with failures throughout history, but does that make it impossible? I don’t think so. And I think there are inspiring and convicting counter-examples of power wisely used for good. But how do we call powerful people to “rule well” if our only rhetoric is “power is always bad” and our default position towards powerful Christians is automatically one of suspicion and distrust?

  150. @ Christy:
    Christy, I really like and generally agree with your understanding of the authority problem in Christianity. Thank you for this. And you clearly demonstrate that the “women don’t teach” people are wrong on many many counts, because your teaching on this matter is clear, concise and biblical.

  151. An Attorney wrote:

    @ Christy:
    And you clearly demonstrate that the “women don’t teach” people are wrong on many many counts…

    Aw shucks. 🙂
    But it wasn’t real teaching. We all know real teaching, the kind women can’t do, involves a “direct and authoritative confrontation.” To paraphrase John Piper, an expert on biblical-ness in these matters, “There’s this interposition of this phenomena called ‘the Internet’ and ‘typing’ that puts me out of your sight and in a sense takes away the dimension of my female personhood…” But I’m glad to hear your masculinity was not strained in any way. (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nakedpastor/2013/04/what-john-piper-sees-when-women-teach/)

  152. An Attorney
    And I guess it was sexist of me to assume above that you were a man. If you are a woman,I apologize, and I am fully aware women can be attorneys too. 🙂

  153. If you follow this blog long, you will know that I am a strongly egalitarian, in all respects wrt rights and opportunities, gender, ethnicity, nationality, etc., etc., male. But no offense was taken. And Paul’s letters were generally addressed to specific problems, in specific churches, in specific cultural contexts, in languages with idioms we do not generally comprehend and must work to understand. So when fallible humans try to interpret scripture as restricting the opportunities of half of the human race, the half scripture says was last created, I suspect human error in that interpretation.

  154. @ Christy:
    Piper and his gender discrimination is the hiding place for his (supposedly) former racial discrimination in my view. They stem from the same root. It’s impossible for him to maintain a consistent stand against racism while promoting sexism like he does. He’s not handling the scriptures accurately because you can’t biblically argue against racism while biblically arguing for sexism.

  155. An Attorney wrote:

    And Paul’s letters were generally addressed to specific problems, in specific churches, in specific cultural contexts, in languages with idioms we do not generally comprehend and must work to understand. So when fallible humans try to interpret scripture …

    Your position really opens up a can of worms. It argues that the message in Paul’s letters is so elusive we will never really know what he meant and whether it has any applicability today. Therefore, there are no absolutes and we can dismiss anything or everything he wrote simply because it is not in accord with our sensibilities.

  156. Joe wrote:

    It argues that the message in Paul’s letters is so elusive we will never really know what he meant and whether it has any applicability today. Therefore, there are no absolutes and we can dismiss anything or everything he wrote simply because it is not in accord with our sensibilities.

    Uhm, no. It doesn’t mean that at all.
    It means that if we do not understand things clearly, since Paul wasn’t always clear (even Peter said so), then we need to hold it up against the rest of scripture especially against the words of Jesus.
    When Paul’s words contradict the words of Jesus, we are NOT to throw out the words of Jesus and embrace the words of Paul.
    We are to interpret Paul’s words with the Bedrock and Chief Cornerstone soundly in place rather than interpret them through the lens of the traditions of men.

  157. @ Mara:

    Thank you, Mara. No can of worms at all. Some logic, reason, and some common sense should be applied, but nothing needs to be thrown out or dismisse. And trust in the work of the Holy Spirit helps as well.

  158. Evie wrote:

    @ Christy:
    Piper and his gender discrimination is the hiding place for his (supposedly) former racial discrimination in my view. They stem from the same root. It’s impossible for him to maintain a consistent stand against racism while promoting sexism like he does. He’s not handling the scriptures accurately because you can’t biblically argue against racism while biblically arguing for sexism.

    I don’t understand. The Scriptures he uses to argue for complementarian gender theology don’t speak to race. It sounds like you are saying he got called on his racism so he focused all his intrinsic need to be a hater on women. I know race and gender discrimination share a lot of societal and cultural roots in terms of existing privilege and power structures. So if you’re saying the root of his racism and sexism is his unexamined cultural assumptions, okay. But evidently, Scripture and his life experience caused him to examine his unjust cultural assumptions about race and repent. Unfortunately, Scripture and his life experiences have not challenged his unjust gender views in the same way, but I don’t think that means he’s hiding his racism behind sexism. Everyone has cultural blind spots that they use Scripture to defend.

    I met John Piper in college, and he really isn’t as big of a jerk as he is painted in the feminist blogosphere. (Granted it was sixteen years ago, and ironically it was because a young woman from his church was the chaplain of Wheaton’s World Christian Fellowship, a missions focused worship service that I was also on the leadership team of. Even though he was a pretty big name even back then, he flew out and spoke at our little meeting, just because she asked him to.) He is not an evil person, and I learned some good things about worship and missions from some of his early books.

  159. Christy wrote:

    I met John Piper in college, and he really isn’t as big of a jerk as he is painted in the feminist blogosphere.

    I know very little about the feminist blogosphere. But, i do object to his characterization of muscular women, how to give road directions to a man, enduing abuse for a night, the need for a man to die to protect a woman who could protect herself because she is a black belt, etc. I find all of this stuff bizarre.

    Now, I have theorized that Piper is having some cognitive problems which could account for such statements. In a way, I would hope that was true because it would make me uncomfortable to imagine that he believe that with his faculties intact.

  160. Joe wrote:

    It argues that the message in Paul’s letters is so elusive we will never really know what he meant and whether it has any applicability today

    Here is my problem with this. We have so many churches interpreting things quite differently. If these theologians are people of good will and careful training, then I do sometimes wonder why we come out all over the place on the role of women, etc.

  161. dee wrote:

    Christy wrote:

    I find all of this stuff bizarre.

    Now, I have theorized that Piper is having some cognitive problems which could account for such statements. In a way, I would hope that was true because it would make me uncomfortable to imagine that he believe that with his faculties intact.

    Well, bad theology does cause cognitive dissonance, maybe cognitive dissonance in extreme forms causes temporary insanity. That would explain a lot about Ken Ham’s website.

  162. @ Joe:

    I see what you’re saying and agree to a point, but I do see where and how some of the stuff in the New Testament was for that time period and the cultures in which it was written.

    Didn’t some male New Testament writer open one or two of his letters to the male readers to “greet each other with a holy kiss?” How many male Southern Baptists go around greeting each other with holy kisses these days?

    I do see how some principles are binding for all time and cultures.

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  164. I am currently seeking a new church. Using the Internet to find out about the church is a great idea. I go to all the obvious pages, “Staff/Leadership” to get an idea where women can serve. Can they lead, or are the secretaries and teachers of little children only. Then I go to the pages detailing their doctrinal statement. Just this past Saturday I was also reviewing pictures of church activities and learned just what I needed to know. Up popped up cute little cuddly picture of a picnic blanket on a hillside, with sparkly stars overhead, two people with the female tucked under the man’s arm. Awww, how cute. NOT! Above the image was a banner that read “Daddy Daughter Date Night”.
    What is so darn wrong with the family today that men are encouraged to relate to their daughters in this way? I had a wonderful relationship with my dad. So did my brothers. He spent time with us, talked with us, related to us as precious family members. And, as needed, he put us back in our place – usually when we treated our mom in a disrespectful manner. My sister and I never had dates with daddy. I cannot agree that the family unit is stronger, that girls grow up understanding their worth because of date nights with daddy. Girls and boys grow up understanding their worth by seeing Mom and Dad relate to each other in the right way, as partners, as a strong unit which conveys security.
    Anyhoo, I’m done with my rant. The daddy/daughter date night is the reason I decided to not to attend that church.

  165. Lori wrote:

    The daddy/daughter date night is the reason I decided to not to attend that church.

    Lori wrote:

    The daddy/daughter date night is the reason I decided to not to attend that church.

    That’s a bit of an overreaction. Our park district(when we lived in the Chicago suburbs)did Daddy Daughter Dances every year that always sold out. When my husband was in the Army before we had kids, the base would hold Daddy Daughter Date Nights for the soldiers. One of the clubs at the public school where I taught had a Daddy-Daughter Banquet as a fundraiser. The concept of men and their daughters getting dressed up and spending time together is not an exclusively fringe Christian sect thing. It is only skeevy when it involves pledging one’s sexuality to one’s father and weird shaving rituals. My daughter had a wonderful time doing the chicken dance, posing for pictures, and drinking punch with my husband at the park district event.