Thom Rainer on Church Membership Decline and My Defense of Church Power Groups

"As a general rule, I would say that human beings never behave more badly toward one another than when they believe they are protecting God.” ― Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith link
 

 

Recently, I read Seven Common Reasons Churches Have a Dramatic Decline in Attendance which was written by Thom Rainer on his blog and then linked to by The Gospel Coalition.

Who is Thom Rainer?

 According to his website:

Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period.

He has also authored a number of books. His focus appears to be church membership, church issues, and church membership/attendance. I read his posts regularly so let me give him props for one thing. Although he appears to be in the camp in which "the pastor can do no wrong," he does allow for comments which disagree with his perspective and he often replies to comments under his posts.

That being said, his perspective appears skewed towards "The pastor is always good always good (especially if he is a Calvinist.) and "Naughty church cabals always make life difficult for good, Calvinist pastors, especially if they are from SBTS." This perspective was quite evident in Seven Common Reasons Churches Have a Dramatic Decline in Attendance

Thom Rainer's 7 Reasons for serious attendance decline in a specific church.

(My numbering system is different than Rainer's system).
A few of these reasons are common sense and need little explanation.

  1. A church scandal
  2. The departure of a major employer in town. Think about a military base which closes.
  3. A new church moves into town with all the bells and whistles like children's programs that the older church doesn't have.

These next four reasons should be of particualr interest to TWW readers.

4. A sudden departure of a pastor or staff person.

Look at the example he gives. 

 I am familiar with a church where the average attendance dropped from 1,250 to 850 in just a few weeks when a malevolent power group in the church forced the pastor out. The congregation never heard a reasonable reason for the departure because there was none. 

Why doesn't he mention the pastor who suddenly get a *call* from God to go to a new church which is offering him much more money, seminary appointments and increased national exposure on the conference and book writing circuits?  Why the drama? Malevolent? Seriously?

5. The church changes its position on a major biblical/moral issue.

He claims tmembership declines occurs when there are major doctrinal changes, especially if they involve moral issues. We discuss this more indepth in the rest of the post. Look at how he words this. "The church changes its position." Unfortunately, it is not usually the church that is changing its position. It is usually the new pastor and a few key people who are forcing a change on doctrinal and/or moral issues. Often times, the church membership have no idea about the games that are being played behind their backs. They are not included because "they just don't get it." That is why we write this blog. We think that the Spirit is in the lives of the members and, in fact, by overriding them, the pastors are harming the chuch.

6. A power group continues to wreak havoc in a church. 

Rainer claims this is a common occurrence which cause pastors to leave the church and then, eventually, lots of people to leave the church.

The same power group opposes any change again and again.

This particular claim should be backed up with real life experiences. Of course, there are churches with power groups. Some of them can be bad. However, if they are really bad, decent members and pastors will leave and the church will die. The free market exists for the church as well. Why fight it? Shake the dust off your feet and move on. Go somewhere where you are wanted.

However, some power groups made up of church members are actually good.

Long time members who have the best interests of the church at heart should take ownership of the church and protect it when a rogue pastor or a small group of people appear suddenly and attempt to change the entire doctrinal emphasis of the church.

We know of 4 churches in our area, with good power groups, which did just that. The good power groups were there to protect the church and the agreed upon doctrinal stance of their church. There were 4 new pastors who did not disclose the fact that they intended to change the entire direction of the church from Arminianism to Calvinism. They were not straight with the church search committees. (Can we say deceptive?) One pastor succeeded and you know the story-Andy Davis and First Baptist Church, Durham. Two of the churches we cannot discuss at this time. The fourth was First Baptist Church Rocky Mount.

If you read those stories, you will find that the pastors claimed that the church members who opposed them were wicked, unregenerate, gossips, unBiblical, and on and on. I guess Rainer's term "malevolent" would sum up their descriptions. However, is it a fair assessment? TWW believes that the so called *power groups* in those churches were attempting to do the right thing.

I would contend that Rainer is (deliberately?) overlooking the biggest power group of all-the pastor and his friends. I believe that this is the real problem that is not discussed in Rainer's post. Why are we assuming that the guy behind the pulpit holds the *good* power and the people who love and serve the church but disagree with the pastor hold the *bad power?* Until Rainer addresses this, his assessments are *skinny* and incomplete, to say the least.

7. A highly contentious business meeting. 

Apparently, conflict is roiling under the surface, a business meeting comes up, it blows up and people walk out. If this happens, I would say it was bound to happen at anytime. In my opinion, everybody, including the pastor, just let things go too far for too long. This is an example of profound leadership mismanagement. Maybe that is a church that deserves to die.

What is missing from Rainer's post

I bet you know what I am going to say. Declines in membership can occur when the pastor has an agenda that is not supported by many in the church, knows it and proceeds with it anyway. He then expects everyone to submit instantaneously to his superior knowledge because he spent 3 years in seminary, was a youth pastor for 2 years and is now, at the ripe age of 28, the purveyor of all that is godly.

Frankly, I am becoming weary of the same old meme. "Godly pastors are being run down by members who are the tools of Satan." Pastors sin as much as the members of their churches. Sadly, church leadership structures and teaching makes it obligatory for members to *submit to the pastor" even if he is a jackass.

This commenter on the post discussed the change in doctrine to Calvinism and the subsequent church membership covenant problem.

Here is another person who brings up a church discipline problem that tore a church apart. Why should we assume that the church discipline was justified? Can we say "Karen Hinkley? Maybe it was abusive and abusive church discipline can cause peopleto flee a church.

Final thoughts:

I think that some church power groups can have a positive effect on churches. I think the *researchers* out there need to look into groups that work and why they do.

I think some pastors are fearful of members who do form alliances since those alliances can be powerful. Why are pastors afraid of sharing their power? Is that perspective Biblical?

I believe that many churches are currently experiencing turmoil due to the insistence of doctrinal and membership changes by young Calvinist pastors. Are these young pastors unable to compromise their *playbook* and still minister effectively? If not, why not? I bet that an Arminian pastor could effectively pastor a Calvinist. I have been in churches where this is true. Can't the reverse happen? 

Here is a question that I have for Thom Rainer and those who read him.

Do you want to really dig into all of the reasons why rapid declines occur in churches or only the ones that make you feel better?


Comments

Thom Rainer on Church Membership Decline and My Defense of Church Power Groups — 287 Comments

  1. dee wrote:

    @ Ian:
    While I have you, what are your top 3 favorite British TV shows?

    Most of the shows I’d regard as favourites at the moment are actually American – like NCIS, CSI, and Numbers. I also occasionally enjoy Star Trek.

    In years gone by, there have been some excellent British shows – I really liked Taggart (that’s actually Scottish), Inspector Morse, Prime Suspect, and Spooks.

    No prizes for spotting trends in the above. I’m not really into the costume dramas like Downton Abbey which I think are very popular over the pond.

    I’m sure there must be others but I think it’s time to try to get to sleep again 🙂

  2. In regards to #5, one of the local Lutheran churches fell apart when its denomination embraced same-sex marriage. A large portion of the congregation left and went elsewhere. I suspect that has and will repeat itself multiple times in the coming years.

    Also, there is such a thing as “power groups” in churches, particularly in smaller rural ones. I think the closeness of a community inside and outside the church plays a big part of this. A pastor may or may not be a part of that group, though in my experience usually isn’t. More often than not I’ve seen that whoever comprises them, they are personality, not doctrinally motivated.

  3. How about relevancy? When the focus becomes biblical literalism (read young earth creationism, focus on secular issues like gay marriage or general intolerance toward anyone who isn’t them) and then they wonder why their numbers aren’t growing. Most of us don’t want to hate our neighbours, coworkers and non-christian (at least by their definition) family members.

  4. “Declines in membership can occur when the pastor has an agenda that is not supported by many in the church, knows it and proceeds with it anyway.” (Dee)

    This could very well be the #1 reason for church membership decline within SBC right now! Young, restless & reformed pastors are taking over and splitting traditional SBC churches all across America. There is a good reason why Rainer didn’t include this in his list … he is in Al Mohler’s pocket and would never cast a negative spin on the New Calvinist movement.

  5. I think one of the biggest things that drove me away from church, and I know most of this is on me as it is not really a big deal. I got tired of people lying to my face about things. They did it for apologetic reasons and that seems to be justified but it always bothered me. During the end time rhetoric of the 70’80’s I really started to believe Jesus was going to come back, right down to my very soul. I know that’s stupid and pathetic on my part but the rhetoric and constant banter of end time theology were overwhelming. It was always on the back burner where you going to be left behind would you take the mark would you be one of the ones that did not believe right up during the end and in a twinkling of a thought you doubted God for one second on one issue and bang your soul was trapped in the grip of Satan. I always figured we should have this stuff nailed down by the time we are four or five maybe six but in your teens or even early twenties was horrible, that was supported by the often rebukes concerning my lack of faith.

    It toned down a bit after so many fake end time “profit sees” did not come true. It was even more damaging than the satanic ritual abuse children being kidnapped scares of the same time. I get people need a hook but it does mess up peoples lives I know I was stupid enough to believe it all back when I was younger, deep down. That is totally on me all of it.

  6. I am guessing my former church was one of those 4 churches. 🙁 It still hurts my heart that not one person saw the deception in the whole search process. I was there. I remember. Nobody had any idea.

    Pastors and elders definitely can be part of a “power group” and often are in Baptist circles. Anyone who says otherwise is probably selling a book with a Lifeway logo on it.

  7. On a related note, my son-in-law (a bi-vocational SBC pastor) recently experienced Reason #6 up close and personal: “A power group continues to wreak havoc in a church.”

    (Rainer claims this is a common occurrence which cause pastors to leave the church and then, eventually, lots of people to leave the church. The same power group opposes any change again and again.)

    A preacher-eater church, my son-in-law was forced to resign two week ago.

  8. Jack wrote:

    How about relevancy? When the focus becomes biblical literalism (read young earth creationism, focus on secular issues like gay marriage or general intolerance toward anyone who isn’t them) and then they wonder why their numbers aren’t growing. Most of us don’t want to hate our neighbours, coworkers and non-christian (at least by their definition) family members.

    It’s a good question. I think it’s true to some extent. Though I’ve seen SBC churches present a more politically correct face to the public and then you find out they believe something very different. I’m also sad to say that many people who call themselves Christians are often more worried about fixing everyone’s morals than loving them. Please don’t believe all Christians are like that. It’s not true. It’s just that those are often the loudest ones while the ones who are practicing love are quietly doing so.

  9. The main reason I’ve experienced for declines in attendance is abuse from church leaders who take advice from people like Thom Rainer.

  10. True story:

    I went to a big church with a well-known pastor for 7 years before I moved here. It claimed to be more egalitarian, but like many large churches, they had staff to do almost everything. So I became a greeter on Sunday mornings because that’s pretty much the only thing they would let me do as a single woman with a day job besides miss the service to work in the nursery.

    Once, someone asked me how blessed I was to go to church under this famous pastor and hear him preach every week. That was the biggest blessing of that church, right? I thought about it, and finally had to say, no, it wasn’t.

    There was an elderly gentleman who was also a greeter. Not only had he been a greeter since the church opened, but he had been a greeter at the church that planted this church for something like 15 years before that. He said his favorite thing about church was seeing everyone come in smiling every week. He remembered everyone’s names even though it was a big church. Everybody would hug him going into the service.

    Those are the people that show true faith. Those are the people making a difference. He didn’t get paid to be a greeter. He had to come early every week and stand for an hour as people came in. He was the biggest blessing of that church. Not the famous pastor with the TV ministry.

  11. ishy wrote:

    True story:
    I went to a big church with a well-known pastor for 7 years before I moved here. It claimed to be more egalitarian, but like many large churches, they had staff to do almost everything. So I became a greeter on Sunday mornings because that’s pretty much the only thing they would let me do as a single woman with a day job besides miss the service to work in the nursery.
    Once, someone asked me how blessed I was to go to church under this famous pastor and hear him preach every week. That was the biggest blessing of that church, right? I thought about it, and finally had to say, no, it wasn’t.
    There was an elderly gentleman who was also a greeter. Not only had he been a greeter since the church opened, but he had been a greeter at the church that planted this church for something like 15 years before that. He said his favorite thing about church was seeing everyone come in smiling every week. He remembered everyone’s names even though it was a big church. Everybody would hug him going into the service.
    Those are the people that show true faith. Those are the people making a difference. He didn’t get paid to be a greeter. He had to come early every week and stand for an hour as people came in. He was the biggest blessing of that church. Not the famous pastor with the TV ministry.

    It sounds to me like the actual pastor in your story, at least per biblical standards, was the kindly greeter, and probably not the one who stood under the spotlight and strutted about with the title “pastor”.

  12. i know of three cases in which Godly men and pastors left their pulpits because they did not want to deal with power struggles and bureaucracies . All three went to the mission field and all three have been very successful . Not as far as power and prestige, but in getting involved in the culture and forming relationships. All three churches have been poorer for letting thes men of God go.

  13. Joe Reed wrote:

    In regards to #5, one of the local Lutheran churches fell apart when its denomination embraced same-sex marriage. A large portion of the congregation left and went elsewhere. I suspect that has and will repeat itself multiple times in the coming years.

    I wonder how happy they’ll be elsewhere when they discover that the pastor behaves like a tribal chieftain and wants to micro-manage way more than one’s individual beliefs on human sexuality.

  14. Lydia wrote:

    http://fbcjaxwatchdog.blogspot.com/2016/01/scam-alert-thom-rainer-offers-to-mentor.html
    Talk about milking and taking advantage of SBC tithers. Seems he doesn’t have enough to do at LifeWay so uses his position to milk churches more.

    That is disturbing. And Rainer’s son runs that part of the business? Hm. I am in a FB group that was talking the other day about how rampant nepotism was in the SBC.

    Though, they’ve dropped the prices and the features so much they must not have gotten the response they wanted.

  15. Law Prof wrote:

    The main reason I’ve experienced for declines in attendance is abuse from church leaders who take advice from people like Thom Rainer.

    Great point! Reckon Thom would add this to the list (as written) if we sent it to him?

  16. Law Prof wrote:

    It sounds to me like the actual pastor in your story, at least per biblical standards, was the kindly greeter, and probably not the one who stood under the spotlight and strutted about with the title “pastor”.

    I don’t disagree. I think I am the only one who attended that church who ever thought so, though. Even the person I said that to kinda went on to lecture me: “Well, you should appreciate the pastor’s sermons more.” Totally didn’t get it.

  17. brian wrote:

    the rhetoric and constant banter of end time theology were overwhelming. It was always on the back burner where you going to be left behind would you take the mark would you be one of the ones that did not believe right up during the end and in a twinkling of a thought you doubted God for one second on one issue and bang your soul was trapped in the grip of Satan.

    brian, me too. I was converted in the early 80s into an evangelical group that believed the rapture was right around the corner. Probably 1987 or 1988. So I really didn’t plan for the future, and I didn’t date because there wasn’t time to actually find someone and do the whole dating thing and the wedding thing, and after all, why bring children into a world that’s ending. It was like living with a terminal disease. They stole my future.

    And really, that’s one reason I stay away from some churches. Once someone says something about how we are [obviously] living in the End Times, or mentions names like Hal Lindsey or Jim Bakker or Johnathan Cahn or even Ken Ham with a straight face, I check out. I can’t take them seriously, and I won’t let them infect my kids.

    [Someday, I really should tell my kids that their existence is largely due to me getting past End Times Mania.]

    Maybe it’s a minor reason people leave churches.

  18. There will always be power struggles as long as there are people alive. But just once I’d like to see a Calvinista write passionately about how pastors can be just as guilty of seeking power as anybody else.

  19. “Why are we assuming that the guy behind the pulpit holds the *good* power and the people who love and serve the church but disagree with the pastor hold the *bad power?* Until Rainer addresses this, his assessments are *skinny* and incomplete, to say the least.”

    Pivotal and key to your piece Dee. In my opinion it’s because much of Protestantism is still struggling with the Enlightenment, The Rights of Man, and the whole concept of self rule and rule by consent of the ruled.

  20. Dee – I have written a few posts on Tom (Sorry, I meant “Thom”) Rainer over the years.

    Thom Rainer Shows How Not to Answer Questions from Critics

    http://fbcjaxwatchdog.blogspot.com/2011/06/thom-rainer-shows-how-not-to-answer.html

    Crybaby Pastors Part 1: Thom Rainer Issues Call to Church Members to Deal With Critics

    http://fbcjaxwatchdog.blogspot.com/2011/02/crybaby-pastors-part-1-thom-rainer.html

    Crybaby Pastors Part 2: Drying the Eyes With An Alternative Message to Pastors About Criticism

    http://fbcjaxwatchdog.blogspot.com/2011/03/crybaby-pastors-part-2-drying-eyes-with.html

    Scam Alert: Thom Rainer Offers to “Mentor” Your Pastor – For $249.97 a Month

    http://fbcjaxwatchdog.blogspot.com/2016/01/scam-alert-thom-rainer-offers-to-mentor.html

    SBC Mega Church Compensation for Sr. Pastors – As Malachi Said in Mal 3:10, the Pastors are Robbing God, Not the Pew Sitters

    http://fbcjaxwatchdog.blogspot.com/2015/10/sbc-mega-church-compensation-for-sr.html

  21. I knew people at Liberty Baptist Church in the ’80’s who were not having children becaus they were convinced the rapture was coming any day.. I wonder how many people missed out on having children because of this false teaching. My hubs and I must be heathens . We have 6 children. href=”#comment-333872″ title=”Go to comment of this author”>GSD [Getting Stuff Done]:

  22. Several years ago my church hired a younger senior pastor with sublime preaching skills, but 0 people skills. People started going to other churches (we have three excellent, 500+ attendance churches within 10 square miles, all connected by freeways in a large urban areas) because he just couldn’t relate. He then forced through the dismissals of two staff members, per his own reasons, who were quite relational. That was the death knell, and he resigned within a year. Thankfully, my church did better with the second choice and some people are returning. I almost left, but I have of “sweat equity” invested in our smaller Hispanic congregation and channeled all my efforts there. Thankfully, the leadership board did better with the current pastor, who is a good preacher/teacher and highly people-skilled. So, it’s not just power groups. Sometimes pastors just aren’t cut out for the task they feel “called” to.

  23. Max wrote:

    Law Prof wrote:
    The main reason I’ve experienced for declines in attendance is abuse from church leaders who take advice from people like Thom Rainer.
    Great point! Reckon Thom would add this to the list (as written) if we sent it to him?

    Oh yeah, likely. He’d probably use us as an object lesson on malevolent power groups on the blogs.

  24. George Whitefield received a good bit of criticism of his ministry during his lifetime. His tombstone reads, “Here lies G.W. What sort of man he was the great day will discover.”

    This assessment of a ministry is the one that counts.

  25. brian wrote:

    I get people need a hook but it does mess up peoples lives I know I was stupid enough to believe it all back when I was younger, deep down. That is totally on me all of it.

    Brian

    We’ve all bought into some things in in our church history that seem ridiculous now. When I allow myself to look back at it all honestly, I’m ashamed at the way I promoted unimportant foolish things while I had a huge beam in my own eye. I still have a long way to go before I can speak with authority about many the things that separate people from God, but I no longer try to convince others of things I’m not sure about. Thanks for sharing.

  26. deeI would contend that Rainer is (deliberately?) overlooking the biggest power group of all-the pastor and his friends.

    I’ve checked out some of Rainer’s stuff before, went over to his site and read over it a couple years back. This is his absolute mantra: Pastors are the courageous, the strength of the church, the heroes–but at the same time, these great, strong men also need coddling, comfort, and constant praise.

  27. I’m sitting here thinking about the fact that of the 3 churches my husband and I have attended in the last 35 years, only the last is still in existence, and that with 3/4 of the people gone. It’s hard to say that the situations fit neatly under any particular category – some were more a leadership problem and some more a people problem, or both. We’re now in a different church with all signs pointing to it doing things well, but still feel skittish about deep involvement like before.

  28. Sorry, Dee, I posted a previous post with some links to my blog on Thom Rainer pieces, but this is the one I think that is most pertinent to this current Thom Rainer piece you are discussing:

    http://fbcjaxwatchdog.blogspot.com/2011/02/crybaby-pastors-part-1-thom-rainer.html

    It shows the heart of Rainer, how he views critics of the pastor as the great hindrance to pastors. If you read my post, you will see how he has things 180 degrees backwards.

    In my blog post above, there is a link to Rainer’s 2011 article on critics, but the link doesn’t work. Here is the current link to the piece I critiqued:

    “The Great Distraction to the Great Commission” – Thom Rainer

    http://thomrainer.com/2011/01/the_great_distraction_to_the_great_commission/

  29. Arlene wrote:

    I’m sitting here thinking about the fact that of the 3 churches my husband and I have attended in the last 35 years, only the last is still in existence, and that with 3/4 of the people gone. It’s hard to say that the situations fit neatly under any particular category – some were more a leadership problem and some more a people problem, or both. We’re now in a different church with all signs pointing to it doing things well, but still feel skittish about deep involvement like before.

    We’ve attended two churches and a home fellowship in the last nine years; of those, the first church went defunct after years of abuse from leadership, the home fellowship went defunct due to an emotionally disturbed member who kept pitting one person against another and abusing attenders, and the final one, the other church, lost about half the attenders over the course of a few years due to a pastor who boasted of his own goodness, lied regularly, systematically elminated moist fellowship events that didn’t center on his preaching, and manipulated everyone. Been my experience that fellowships come and go.

  30. Just met two new folks at our church today at our mid-week bible study. How about this reason for church attendence decline? They left their church right down the street from us because they had enough. A new teaching series from Ephesians about the “proper” roles for women drove them out. Our church has women pastors, majority women board and teaches an egalitarian view of marriage.
    Their college senior daughter sees a reason to come to a church that values women as a full and equal partner in God’s Kingdom. Good luck with that one Thom Rainer!

  31. @ Loren Haas:

    This one is not going away. It’s not just “feelings” about inequality of women or the dubious concept of “roles” but their entire scholarship presented to undergird Patriarchy, is faulty. And these says anyone with the will can do some serious research and find the massive holes in that doctrine.

    It’s just not going away.

  32. @ Lydia:
    Yes you are right.
    While it will be described as “bowing to popular culture”, a fair appraisal is that complementarian theology reflects the culture of early church father’s and not the teachings of Jesus or even Paul.

  33. “The Voices Research Group” just released the results of their own study into declining church attendance. According to “The Voices”, people point to the following factors outside the local church.

    1. Colin Hansen looks like Chris Farley. When his books are recommended by church leaders, congregants associate the name Colin with coolness like Colin Farrel. When they see the real Colin, they associate him with living in a van down by the river.
    2. The quizzical look on the face of Trevin Wax. Once again, it’s a confidence issue.
    3. Forty years old Kevin DeYoungs tweets make it clear that people can’t be trusted with their own spiritual walk.
    4. Al Mohler’s tie. It’s the confidence thing again.
    5. Mark Dever’s seems to be hiding something from himself.
    6. Francis Chan epiphanies. How could he have led so confidently before the epiphany.
    7. Piper’s Piperisms.
    8. Driscoll.
    9. Chandler and Platt look like seniors at BYU.
    10. Discernment.

    “The Voices” is staffed by my imaginary friends who sometimes share important information with me.

  34. He definitely only wants to look at reasons that makes him feel better. All one needs to do is read his writings to come to this conclusion.

  35. In my experience of over 50 years being adult enough to follow the happenings in churches of which I was a part or attended for a few months or more: An organizational structure that makes congregationally elected church leadership is a key to a lasting church, coupled with a pastor who realizes that he is not the only person with a relationship with the Savior and a calling to serve the congregation. A church my family helped to start had a long term membership. People who were there when I was a teenager are still there or their children are. Pastors come and go. A strong lay leadership, seeking to serve God through their church is a key to long life, with the exceptions being FBC of Wherever if Wherever does not have a seriously shrinking population.

  36. Well, the guy may be a crank, but at least he had the good sense to go to Bama. Roll Tide! (It’s almost football season…yeehaw!)

  37. ___

    Consequential Quagmire: “Religious Might Makes Doctrinal Right?”

    hmmm…

    With a ‘Calvinism makes right pastoral attitude’ , and a miss-informed, un-knowledgeable congregation, –an environment of ‘systematic theological railroading’ ™ will continue.

  38. Lydia wrote:

    The commercial profitable Jesus.

    Unfortunately church is just another business venture for so many of these guys.

    On another note, I am no scholar, but was wondering if someone who is could comment on what the perception is of someone who holds a Masters and Doctorate from Southern. Does it hold much weight with those who are outside of the SBTS faithful? It seems like those pursuing a Doctorate might wish to broaden their education a bit.

  39. Todd Wilhelm wrote:

    was wondering if someone who is could comment on what the perception is of someone who holds a Masters and Doctorate from Southern. Does it hold much weight with those who are outside of the SBTS faithful? It seems like those pursuing a Doctorate might wish to broaden their education a bit.

    No, definitely not. And SBTS has become much less reputable outside SBC circles since many of their grads have adopted ESS.

    Having both says “Mohler indoctrinated” which only is a shoo-in for SBC jobs. Being that one of their classes is how to “revitalize churches”, I doubt that would fly over well anywhere else.

  40. Some helpful observations in this post correcting some lack of balance in Thom Rainer’s blog. However, to be fair to him he did put this on his blog a while ago about responding well to critics: http://thomrainer.com/2014/11/five-reasons-thankful-critics/

    Also, if the Southern Baptist church is anything like the denomination I am part of, there can be power groups of nominal Christians who are definitely not interested in the gospel of Christ and who have their own agendas. They can cause all sorts of problems for a godly pastor. I’ve seen that cause decline in numerous places – normally because the pastor tries to keep them happy rather than address the problem. I’ve also seen decline caused in a number of cases by an over controlling pastor who had no vision for every member ministry. My view on Thom’s blog is that people can read it selectively and those who want to pick and choose the parts that suit their power plays can do so (especially if they ignore what he says about listening to people), but if their hearts are in the right place, much of what he says is helpful – see for example: http://thomrainer.com/2017/02/ten-ways-pastors-can-be-bad-bosses/

  41. Law Prof wrote:

    I’ve checked out some of Rainer’s stuff before, went over to his site and read over it a couple years back. This is his absolute mantra: Pastors are the courageous, the strength of the church, the heroes–but at the same time, these great, strong men also need coddling, comfort, and constant praise.

    Boy this is true. I have observed how often pastors, especially the mega-church pastors, seem to make themselves out to be victims, martyrs and warriors of the faith. Criticism is so very difficult for them to endure.

    Check out this gem from a 2014 Rainer article entitled “Five Reasons Your Pastor Should Take a Sabbatical”:

    “Pastors who have sabbaticals view the time off as an affirmation from their churches. I have heard from many pastors who share with me a sentence similar to this one: ‘I know my church loves me because they give me a sabbatical.” Pastors need affirmation. Sabbaticals can accomplish that goal.'”

    Get a load of that, “pastors need affirmation”. Why not “doctors need affirmation”, or “engineers need affirmation”, or “electricians need affirmation”. And do feel affirmed, we should give them a month or two off from time to time.

  42. @ Tom R:

    The sabbatical necessity really annoys me too. Gee whiz, who doesn’t need a rest from work? Except we peons call it a, vacation.
    As for the affirmation plea. Again who doesn’t need affirmation from time to time. Generally speaking in the real world, one gets that in their, annual review from their team leader, or boss.
    A friend of ours SBC ( reformed ) pastor recently went on a five week sabbatical. It was sickening to read on his FB page, all the sheeple extolling how much he and wife deserved the time off. I wanted to ask the flock how many of them got 5 weeks off with pay?

  43. I think Mr. Rainer is failing to see the 500 pound gorilla in the room:
    Churches are declining because pastors are taught in seminaries to lie to search committees in order to “reform” that church, the 9Marx way! Granted, we lost a few people when we confronted our former pastor, but not as many as would have left had he been able to change our polity and force us to sign a covenant in order to keep our membership. Rainer probably doesn’t want to address that issue because there is too much money to lose by speaking out against Dever, Mohler & Co.
    Another trend I am seeing, at least in our area, is that larger churches seem to be setting out to gobble up smaller churches in order to establish “satellite” churches. Churches have attempted to do this to our congregation on a number of occasions and I find it quite alarming.

  44. Another reason people are leaving the church is because pastors no longer preach from the Bible. They preach from Piper books and whoever else is the latest and greatest published pastor that has a big following. I have been there…I was under Dennis Darville from First Baptist Rocky Mount. We were lulled to sleep while he preached from everything BUT the Bible.
    I should of stood up and shouted when I looked around every Sunday and Bibles were closed. People still brought them to church, but they were closed tight on our laps. Why were they closed you ask? Because we allowed this man to stand in the pulpit and preach out of everything but what truly matters, The Bible.

  45. Mae wrote:

    The sabbatical necessity really annoys me too. Gee whiz, who doesn’t need a rest from work? Except we peons call it a, vacation.

    Mae, it is usually the mega church pastor who gets the sabbatical, but the one that needs it the least. They preach one or two times a week, travel 30 to 50 times a year to go somewhere and recycle a sermon and get paid a couple grand, and in their minds they are just so over-worked. They have staffs who likely ARE over-worked who do the real ministry. I saw the peeps at Bellevue collecting $$ for Steve and Donna to get away. And boy, do the peeps love to see their megachurch star on sabbatical; makes them proud. And if they post on FB while away, the peeps get to send them their admiration and affirmation real time. Yuck.

  46. Definitely #5 is why we left.( were given the left boot of fellowship)
    I remember the new pastor citing “carnality” in the flock. When we asked him what carnality there was, he claimed it was the flock being less then biblical in it’s worship. What he really meant was he was changing church constitution so women could not be deacons,and could not be on any boards, position of leadership, etc..Apparently, that was his definition of , carnality.
    Of course the other changes were specifically the reformed dogma. ESV bible, Tulip, Piper books and so on.
    Our church didn’t, change. The new pastor and his followers were forcing changes on the Congregation. Either you agreed, or you were told it might be best if you left.
    Thankfully, we gave our written grievances to the elders, and left. It was a very hard , heartbreaking decision. We had been members for,twenty seven years. Lot of memories there. But, after a while of mourning,the Lord led us to another church, where we are happily in fellowship with other believers.

  47. @ Tom R:
    The local SBC church I’ve observed, is a missions plant. Five years old. Pastor and wife have had vacations as well as this, sabbatical.
    I don’t get why the congregations swoon over their pastor warranting a, sabbatical.As if that is proof of how dedicated the Church is in their ministry.
    What single mother of two or three children, or elderly woman/man caretaking endlessly, to their Alzheimer’s spouse’s needs, or the spouse working two lousy paying jobs to meet the family’s needs, doesn’t need a, paid sabbatical? But no, it is only the, ” overworked ” pastor and wife, who is bestowed with such a reward.

  48. To clarify, LifeWay does not receive any tithe or offering money from SBC churches. Rainer’s salary comes entirely from LifeWay not from offerings sent to the Cooperative Program. Additionally, LifeWay is the single largest contributor to the Cooperative Program. LifeWay tithes back to support SBC missions. @ Lydia:

  49. Tom R wrote:

    Mae, it is usually the mega church pastor who gets the sabbatical, but the one that needs it the least. They preach one or two times a week, travel 30 to 50 times a year to go somewhere and recycle a sermon and get paid a couple grand, and in their minds they are just so over-worked.

    Rest isn’t the main purpose of megachurch pastor sabbaticals. They write books which will make them more money and also speak at conferences.

    And let’s not forget that many of these pastors use sermon writing services or have a “resource pastor” to write sermons for them.

  50. @ Root 66:
    Hmmm, that’s interesting. Wondered how all these satellite popped up. I live in the Northeast and have not seen too much of that. Have observed reading about other areas of the country where satellite churches are abundant. Happy to read your church hasn’t given in, to the requests, to affiliate.

  51. Muff Potter wrote:

    I wonder how happy they’ll be elsewhere when they discover that the pastor behaves like a tribal chieftain and wants to micro-manage way more than one’s individual beliefs on human sexuality.

    At least one of the families I know is very happy in their new church family, with a widely respected, kind, and much loved pastor of 35 years who holds to the long-standing interpretation of scripture on these matters.

    I don’t think your either/or paradigm is necessarily accurate

  52. Mae wrote:

    It’s preaching the merits of Calvin this, Piper that. You are right, the bible comes in as a distant companion.

    Especially considering how much they brag about being “more biblical” than everybody else.

  53. When I read the title to Rainer’s article, I assumed the list was going to include items like music program changes such as the lead guitar guy switched from a Fender Stratocaster to a Gibson Les Paul or repeating the bridge on a song one too many times before going back to the verse (only quieter this time). I was glad to see it was more substantive than that. TWW, however, does a good job critiquing the article and pointing out some deficiencies. I found this paragraph in the OP particularly significant:

    “Long time members who have the best interests of the church at heart should take ownership of the church and protect it when a rogue pastor or a small group of people appear suddenly and attempt to change the entire doctrinal emphasis of the church.”

  54. Most organizations are over-managed and under-led. Poor pastoral leadership is more common than most would admit. Seminary training needs more emphasis on leadership so that pastors are better equipped in this area.

  55. An Attorney wrote:

    In my experience of over 50 years being adult enough to follow the happenings in churches of which I was a part or attended for a few months or more: An organizational structure that makes congregationally elected church leadership is a key to a lasting church, coupled with a pastor who realizes that he is not the only person with a relationship with the Savior and a calling to serve the congregation. A church my family helped to start had a long term membership. People who were there when I was a teenager are still there or their children are. Pastors come and go. A strong lay leadership, seeking to serve God through their church is a key to long life, with the exceptions being FBC of Wherever if Wherever does not have a seriously shrinking population.

    Congregational polity is essential. Yes, occasionally a few people can run that too. Yet, overall I too believe a strong lay leadership, is the best defense in maintaining a strong church.

  56. Law Prof wrote:

    The main reason I’ve experienced for declines in attendance is abuse from church leaders who take advice from people like Thom Rainer.

    Touche! 🙂

  57. Tom R wrote:

    … Rainer … dismissed an honest question at an SBC Annual Meeting Q&A, and did so by belittling the questioner

    When you are a member of an elite authoritarian group taking over a once-great denomination, you can treat pew-peons any way you want to. The strange thing is, the pew keeps sending their money to keep them on the throne.

    Regarding LifeWay products, it continues to amaze me that the average Southern Baptist will defend their publishing house to the last breath … while it sells materials contrary to mainline SBC belief and practice (e.g., New Calvinism).

  58. Root 66 wrote:

    Another trend I am seeing, at least in our area, is that larger churches seem to be setting out to gobble up smaller churches in order to establish “satellite” churches.

    They call that “replanting” in SBC ranks. Taking over struggling traditional churches, they will send in young reformers with the “true gospel” to get them back on their feet. New Calvinism has various tentacles as it reaches into SBC life.

  59. Mae wrote:

    Happy to read your church hasn’t given in, to the requests, to affiliate.

    Yes, we’re one of those “malevolent power groups!” 🙂 Our church is small, but it sits on prime property and the building is nearly paid off. All these large churches are desiring to “partner” with us to “help us grow.” Riiiiiight…I was born at night, not last night! I’ve seen what happens to churches that get swallowed up in their “Borg Collective.” No thanks!

  60. Max wrote:

    They call that “replanting” in SBC ranks. Taking over struggling traditional churches, they will send in young reformers with the “true gospel” to get them back on their feet. New Calvinism has various tentacles as it reaches into SBC life.

    Yes, our church has been attacked from the inside (by a reckless YRR pastor, who wanted to give the church away) and outside (large churches wanting to “partner” with us.)
    Whatever happened to the SBC hallmarks of church autonomy and the priesthood of all believers?!?
    These are troubling times, but Jesus said in John 16:33, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

  61. Pingback: Rainer, TWW, and Church-Killers | 1st Feline Battalion

  62. Tom R wrote:

    Another glimpse into Rainer – how he dismissed an honest question at an SBC Annual Meeting Q&A, and did so by belittling the questioner. The high and mighty Thom Rainer thought it beneath him to answer an honest question of Lifeway:
    http://fbcjaxwatchdog.blogspot.com/2011/06/thom-rainer-shows-how-not-to-answer.html

    Wow! I watched that video and Rainer’s response was very demeaning, and he blew him off as if that man had no business asking those questions. If a politician answered a question like that, he’d be out a job! Our SBC church is becoming increasingly wary of LifeWay materials and almost to the point of brooming their Sunday School material entirely. We have already refused to use the reformed-bent “The Gospel Project” and now they are touting a “new and improved” “Explore the Bible” series this Fall. I fear that they’ve monkeyed with it as well. Hawking reformed theology materials will be LifeWay’s undoing.

  63. All of the churches I’ve attended have a big divide and conquer approach to members. They established cliques/special groups and made big shows of those who were members (y’know, the ones that have all kinds of paperwork and training to prove it!) in comparison to those who were not.

    And always, everyone was afraid to question the pastors, the pastors’ wives, the pastors’ children/relatives, the elders, the elders’ wives/husbands, the elders’ children and so on and so forth.

    Seriously, I think “power groups” are okay by me. It prevents division (which, come to think of it, is what Satan feeds off of).

  64. Track art
    Fight The Power (From “Do The Right Thing” Soundtrack)
    Public Enemy
    Buy for $1.29
    SUBSCRIBESTART FREE RADIO
    Subscribe to Google Play Music and listen to this song and millions of other songs. First month free.
    Lyrics
    1989 the number another summer (get down)
    Sound of the funky drummer
    Music hittin’ your heart cause I know you got soul
    (Brothers and sisters, hey)
    Listen if you’re missin’ y’all
    Swingin’ while I’m singin’
    Givin’ whatcha gettin’
    Knowin’ what I know
    While the Black bands sweatin’
    And the rhythm rhymes rollin’
    Got to give us what we want
    Gotta give us what we need
    Our freedom of speech is freedom or death
    We got to fight the powers that be

    Lemme hear you say
    Fight the power
    Lemme hear you say
    Fight the power

    Lemme hear you say
    Fight the power
    Lemme hear you say
    Fight the power

    Lemme hear you say
    Fight the power
    Lemme hear you say
    Fight the power
    We’ve got to fight the powers that be

  65. @ Root 66:
    Borg initiative for sure.
    Our former church ( taken over ) 150+ year old church, had no mortgage, had good upkeep/ maintenance, a good rainy day account, and a substantial memorial gift.
    It still pains me the new crew got all those, hard worked for thru generations of, assets. They earned nothing but took everything.
    Hang in there with your,” malevolent “, parishioners!!

  66. Sam wrote:

    All of the churches I’ve attended have a big divide and conquer approach to members.

    Sam

    I’ve seen this too; It really destroys the independent functioning of the body.

  67. scott hendrixson wrote:

    1989 the number another summer (get down)
    Sound of the funky drummer
    Music hittin’ your heart cause I know you got soul
    (Brothers and sisters, hey)
    Listen if you’re missin’ y’all
    Swingin’ while I’m singin’
    Givin’ whatcha gettin’
    Knowin’ what I know
    While the Black bands sweatin’
    And the rhythm rhymes rollin’
    Got to give us what we want
    Gotta give us what we need
    Our freedom of speech is freedom or death
    We got to fight the powers that be
    Lemme hear you say
    Fight the power
    Lemme hear you say
    Fight the power
    Lemme hear you say
    Fight the power
    Lemme hear you say
    Fight the power
    Lemme hear you say
    Fight the power
    Lemme hear you say
    Fight the power
    We’ve got to fight the powers that be

    Sorry, I inadvertently posted too much.

  68. The reason I am a none now is that the Holy Spirit is ignored and Jesus only gets honorable mention once a blue moon. I have been making tally marks on my program for months – more like years – on how many times I hear Jesus mentioned with regard to what He has already accomplished on my behalf, or how often the Holy Spirit is mentioned in a positive way. Most Sundays I come away with zero tally marks. Lot’s of “God-talk” but very little about Christ, my position in Christ, love, or any of the things I really need. Politics, current events, etc are all spoken of regularly. We get lots of reminders about what we are not doing and how displeasing we are to gawd, even to the point that if we don’t shape up or we screw up too much, gawd is going to kill us.

    It used to be a good church, but is now in the midst of a stealth takeover like I have read about here. Elder rule now, clandestine meetings of only the invited, Calvinista take over of the worship ministry, etc. Most are completely unaware of this happening right under their turned up noses. Sad…

  69. Mae wrote:

    @ Root 66:
    Borg initiative for sure.
    Our former church ( taken over ) 150+ year old church, had no mortgage, had good upkeep/ maintenance, a good rainy day account, and a substantial memorial gift.
    It still pains me the new crew got all those, hard worked for thru generations of, assets. They earned nothing but took everything.
    Hang in there with your,” malevolent “, parishioners!!

    One church that wanted to “partner” with us seemed upset and disappointed when our treasurer told them “We’re in fine shape” financially. They left with their tails tucked after that. They were hoping that we were struggling so that they could come in and “save” us. I think this trend is gaining ground because it’s much easier to take over a small church with an older congregation than it is to start your own new church work. As I have discovered through this journey, most of these Millennials are too lazy to bother with that!
    Thanks for the encouragement. We are hanging in there…most of our congregation now “get it” and understand that these other churches are playing for keeps. They don’t really want to “help” us. They’re just licking their chops over the church’s assets and solvency!

  70. brian wrote:

    I got tired of people lying to my face about things.

    I think bad experiences with people in the church should be on the list. Maybe he didn’t include it because he was looking at a specific church and it’s more of a general problem (or he isn’t aware).

    I left a church because all my friends who went there started getting really clicky and I wasn’t feeling it.

  71. ishy wrote:

    Though I’ve seen SBC churches present a more politically correct face to the public and then you find out they believe something very different.

    I think politics is a huge issue, liberal or conservative. Churches in general should stop trying to shove their politics down people’s throats.

  72. Root 66 wrote:

    They don’t really want to “help” us. They’re just licking their chops over the church’s assets and solvency!

    I just can’t fathom what these “men of god” are thinking when they do this to Jesus’ Church . . . .

  73. Tom R wrote:

    Platt’s quivering voice and pseudo-crying

    Jimmy Swaggart cried without tears, too, and had a tremendous following for years. Gimmicks work.

    Platt’s persona and New Calvinist icon status captured him a key SBC position, President of the International Mission Board (IMB). He promptly recalled 1,000 foreign missionaries (predominantly non-Calvinist), citing a funding shortage. If/when those missionaries are replaced, I wonder what theological flavor they will be? At the same time that IMB had a funding shortage, the North American Mission Board spent $60 million annually to plant 1,000 new churches … guess what theological leaning most of those young church planters are? If mainline Southern Baptists don’t see this, they are blind indeed.

  74. Law Prof wrote:

    systematically elminated moist fellowship events that didn’t center on his preaching

    I think ‘eliminating longstanding events/ministries’ should be on a list of church red flags.

  75. Sorry about the late approval of comments. My mother is sick, my stepfather’s nurse arrived and needed me, and my husband has a serious cellulitis of his forearm-?MRSA. My morning has been hectic.

    However, all is well.

  76. Bridget wrote:

    Root 66 wrote:
    They don’t really want to “help” us. They’re just licking their chops over the church’s assets and solvency!
    I just can’t fathom what these “men of god” are thinking when they do this to Jesus’ Church . . . .

    They’re hardly “men of God.” Jesus pegged them right when He was addressing the Pharisees in John 8:44–“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

    Much of the impetus behind the Neo-Cal/9Marx movement to take over churches and “reform” or “revitalize” them is based on deception and clandestine operations. I don’t think Jesus would approve!

  77. Joe Reed wrote:

    More often than not I’ve seen that whoever comprises them, they are personality, not doctrinally motivated.

    There are always going to be groups that form over personality and similar interests. Pastors do the same thing. For example, a young NeoCalvinist pastor is going to hang with the millennials

    In my former church, a small group of people got together and were into the John Piper cultism. They hung out together, made sure that the elders and people in position of leadership were the same way. In so doing, they changed the entire dynamic of the church. They were a *power* group and functioned as such.

    In another former church, a group of us, appalled at the handling of a serious pedophile situation banded together to bring truth and compassion to a situation that seriously lacked with of those traits. Our *power* group shook things up. People ended up leaving the church as things were exposed.

    There are many reasons for power groups and some of them are just plain normal.

  78. Loren Haas wrote:

    How about this reason for church attendence decline? They left their church right down the street from us because they had enough. A new teaching series from Ephesians about the “proper” roles for women drove them out.

    As an adult, I pretty much stopped trying Baptist churches because every program had 15 male ‘pastors’ and a handful of women ‘directors’ and I just decided it was nonsense. That’s without a ‘proper roles’ sermon.

    So yes. Valid.

  79. Jack wrote:

    How about relevancy?

    I have watched this happen in a few churches. For example, on church I belonged to emphasized your heart creationism. They taught the kids this every year for 6 weeks a year as well as having classes for adults. if I had know that up front, I would not have joined the church. The pastor has this idea that once you trap into joining, they will put up with nonsense.

    I know one young man who has turned his back on the faith over this issue. His parents and teachers at church claimed that you must believe in a Young earth to be a Christian. They refused to bend and they lost their son. The dad told me that he refused to compromise even if it meant losing his son!

    Sadly, these churches are losing an entire generation of young people.

  80. Max wrote:

    There is a good reason why Rainer didn’t include this in his list … he is in Al Mohler’s pocket and would never cast a negative spin on the New Calvinist movement.

    I suspect that might be true. However, if they really want to solve the issues, they must be ruthlessly honest. I wonder if there are any *real men* out there?

  81. ishy wrote:

    Pastors and elders definitely can be part of a “power group” and often are in Baptist circles. Anyone who says otherwise is probably selling a book with a Lifeway logo on it.

    I am so sorry about what happened at your church. Deception is a sin but their leaders try to spin it as *being true Christians.*

  82. Max wrote:

    A preacher-eater church, my son-in-law was forced to resign two week ago.

    I am sorry to hear this. However, it is good he is out of there. If that church continues in that vein, it will die.

  83. @ Tom R:
    I love this quote from one of the links.

    “Rainer says criticism leaves pastors with “little energy to do anything else” when they have to suffer through criticism. Poor babies. One commentor on Rainer’s blog, an anonymous pastor named “Bob Smith”, says he is ready to quit the ministry because: “Well, I average one criticism a day, over 300 a year. It’s wearing me out.” I did the math, and he’s right, one criticism a day is over 300 in a year. How DO they bear such a heavy burden? I think I passed the 300 mark on January 5th, and that’s just from my teenagers”

  84. Law Prof wrote:

    I’ve checked out some of Rainer’s stuff before, went over to his site and read over it a couple years back. This is his absolute mantra: Pastors are the courageous, the strength of the church, the heroes–but at the same time, these great, strong men also need coddling, comfort, and constant praise.

    It seems that way to me as well.

  85. dee wrote:

    I wonder if there are any *real men* out there?

    We are a rare and endangered species, and reaching threatened status in the American church. 🙂

  86. dee wrote:

    If that church continues in that vein, it will die.

    My son-in-law was naive when he entered the ministry. He thought all church folks loved God and each other, were of one mind and Spirit in Christ, and that the only agenda they had was the Great Commission. He knows better now.

  87. dee wrote:

    “Rainer says criticism leaves pastors with “little energy to do anything else” when they have to suffer through criticism. Poor babies. One commentor on Rainer’s blog, an anonymous pastor named “Bob Smith”, says he is ready to quit the ministry because: “Well, I average one criticism a day, over 300 a year. It’s wearing me out.” I did the math, and he’s right, one criticism a day is over 300 in a year. How DO they bear such a heavy burden? I think I passed the 300 mark on January 5th, and that’s just from my teenagers”

    It really does say a lot about their worldview, doesn’t it? They can’t handle any pain or difficulty.

    There are times when your job can drag you down. But to act like pastors (and denominational leaders) should never have to face any criticism at all makes me believe these guys aren’t worth their salt.

    Turn that around to John Piper’s bizarre post about female police officers and how any direction given by a woman to a man can offend his delicate masculine sensibilities…

    Even if I did believe in complementarianism and authoritarianism, why would I want a man like that in charge of making decisions?

  88. ishy wrote:

    Turn that around to John Piper’s bizarre post about female police officers and how any direction given by a woman to a man can offend his delicate masculine sensibilities…

    But WE are the emotional ones!!! *eyeroll*

  89. ishy wrote:

    Please don’t believe all Christians are like that. It’s not true. It’s just that those are often the loudest ones while the ones who are practicing love are quietly doing so.

    I know all Christians aren’t like this (present company included!). I have Christian friends (and people very close to me – my wife) who are devout Christians.

    I daresay that it’s a silent majority. I would be surprised if anyone in this forum would advocate killing for so-called “moral” crimes or having our armed forces wipe out enemies to the last man, woman, child, camel, cow and donkey – and then enslave any survivors – to obtain their “God Given” land.

    But in essence this is exactly what those of us in the secular world are hearing!

    I don’t visit SBC Today but did swing by to see what it was about – it’s been talked about here and elsewhere. The article that came up was one in which the old “homosexuality agenda” argument was espoused. And one of the first response comments was the “put to death” quotes from the OT.

    We live in a pluralistic society and as I mentioned earlier, this crud just doesn’t fly anymore. I don’t believe my Hindu co-worker who brought lunch for us all last week and his family are going to heck. I won’t hate them. And those “loudest voices” seem to be in control of the Christian infrastructure.

    It’s not just Baptists – I used to attend a Pentecostal church. Same message, just more hand waving. The RC church? They are more measured but same message. Even mainline protestant friends that I have discussed this issue with cannot refute the bible. It’s the elephant in the room for all the good and bad that Christians do.

    With this push toward a more authoritarian church – like patriarchal Calvinism, complementarianism and similar doctrines you will moderates leave, not the church but the faith as well.

    I know that our society isn’t perfect. I know that political correctness can run amok. But I would take our liberal democracy any day over any religious theocracy.

  90. Lea wrote:

    ishy wrote:
    Though I’ve seen SBC churches present a more politically correct face to the public and then you find out they believe something very different.
    I think politics is a huge issue, liberal or conservative. Churches in general should stop trying to shove their politics down people’s throats.

    Amen corner here! I am a big girl. I don’t need to be schooled on how to vote. My new rule is to simply leave and not go back when that stuff comes up. Right or left. Ok. There are no churches left! Hahaha. But that is how bad it is on both sides. Must have something to do with being a pew sitter and captive audience they take advantage of…no interaction in the moment. I just can’t do it anymore. They take advantage of their position.

  91. Max wrote:

    On a related note, my son-in-law (a bi-vocational SBC pastor) recently experienced Reason #6 up close and personal: “A power group continues to wreak havoc in a church.”

    At least he’s bi-vocational.
    He has a fallback position; it isn’t a choice of Take it or Leave It, the pulpit or the cardboard box and the dumpster.

  92. ishy wrote:

    Please don’t believe all Christians are like that. It’s not true. It’s just that those are often the loudest ones while the ones who are practicing love are quietly doing so.

    Listen to the guy with 30 years in Furry Fandom:
    LOUD CRAZIES HAVE A WAY OF DEFINING AND BECOMING THE PUBLIC FACE OF A GROUP. BECAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE JOBS OR LIVES TO TAKE TIME AWAY FROM BUILDING THEIR BRAND AND PURGING THE GROUP INTO THEIR OWN IMAGE OR FETISH.

  93. dee wrote:

    Sorry about the late approval of comments. My mother is sick, my stepfather’s nurse arrived and needed me, and my husband has a serious cellulitis of his forearm-?MRSA. My morning has been hectic.
    However, all is well.

    You have a lot on your plate. Prayers for you and your family.

  94. @ Jack:
    You should read up on Tim Ferron, a former liberal British MP and Christian and what PC did to him. He resigned even though he voted liberal but that was not good enough for the PC crowd.

    I think the real problem comes from thought policing. People are going to disagree. It’s how we handle it that’s important. If the thought police insist that people must believe homosexuality was Gods intention, then there is going to be a problem as we see. Or if they insist people fund what they disagree with that is a very personal thing like hormone therapy for transgender then that is going to be a problem because disagreeing with paying for that is not hate. Same with abortion. It’s legal but the thought police want it publicly funded or you are positioned as a hater who wants to control women’s choices. But they have the choice. It’s really about money. Always follow the money.

  95. dee wrote:

    @ Tom R:
    I love this quote from one of the links.
    “Rainer says criticism leaves pastors with “little energy to do anything else” when they have to suffer through criticism…”

    My Widdle Snowflake,
    My Speshul Snowflake…

    Law Prof wrote:

    This is his absolute mantra: Pastors are the courageous, the strength of the church, the heroes–but at the same time, these great, strong men also need coddling, comfort, and constant praise.

    My Widdle Snowflake,
    My Speshul Snowflake…

    But what happens when Speshul Widdle Snowfwake hears the word “No”?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YersIyzsOpc

  96. ishy wrote:

    I think I am the only one who attended that church who ever thought so, though. Even the person I said that to kinda went on to lecture me: “Well, you should appreciate the pastor’s sermons more.”

    Following and Marvelling and Worshipping, saying “Who is like unto The Pastor? Who can stand against Him?”

  97. @ Max:
    The great commission is dead for the institutions. You know, this probably sounds dumb but I often ask myself how many people are there in the US who have never heard of Jesus? I bet it is few. yet, our religious institutions act like it’s most people while they compete for tithing sheep.

    I think It’s beyond that now. The question, in my mind, is more about WHO is Jesus and what that means.

  98. @ Jack:

    I have no desire for either. Both liberal democracy and religious theology, have too many negatives for me. I’ll take the middle of the road, nothing in excess path, any day.

  99. Jack wrote:

    Even mainline protestant friends that I have discussed this issue with cannot refute the bible. It’s the elephant in the room for all the good and bad that Christians do.

    A big problem involves translations and culture. A lot of churches don’t acknowledge that translations are often biased and concepts like marriage, homosexuality, and even church as we think of them now did not exist when the Bible was written. Marriage was often political or financial, not based on love or romance. Your wants, desires, or sexual orientation were irrelevant.

    Slavery and prostitution colors the words translated to homosexuality because often people would visit pagan temples to have sex with slaves of either gender who had no choice. Some of those slaves were children. Violence was common. STDs were rampant. Most would already be married and they’d pass those STDs to their spouses. Prostitution was and is truly heinous, particularly child prostitution. Whatever someone’s belief about gay marriage, the culture the Bible was talking about was something very different. A lot of this stuff I learned in Latin and classics classes before I ever studied koine Greek.

    Bible translations sum up these giant concepts in single words to which we give modern connotations but never question how those words and connotations might be different.

  100. brian wrote:

    During the end time rhetoric of the 70’80’s I really started to believe Jesus was going to come back, right down to my very soul. I know that’s stupid and pathetic on my part but the rhetoric and constant banter of end time theology were overwhelming. It was always on the back burner where you going to be left behind would you take the mark would you be one of the ones that did not believe right up during the end and in a twinkling of a thought you doubted God for one second on one issue and bang your soul was trapped in the grip of Satan.

    GSD [Getting Stuff Done] wrote:

    I was converted in the early 80s into an evangelical group that believed the rapture was right around the corner. Probably 1987 or 1988. So I really didn’t plan for the future, and I didn’t date because there wasn’t time to actually find someone and do the whole dating thing and the wedding thing, and after all, why bring children into a world that’s ending. It was like living with a terminal disease. They stole my future.

    Yet more survivors of The Gospel According to Hal Lindsay.

    When the Bible had only 3 1/2 books (Daniel, Revelation, the “Nuclear War Chapter” of Ezekiel, and Late Great Planet Earth), Henry Kissinger and/or the King of Spain were PROVEN from SCRIPTURE to be The Antichrist, all the plagues of Revelation were Plainly the effects of Global Thermonuclear War, and the demon locust plague was Plainly helicopter gunships loaded with chemical weapon “stings” and piloted by long-haired beared hippies. IT’S PROPHESIED! IT’S PROPHESIED! SCRIPTURE! SCRIPTURE! SCRIPTURE!

    (P.S. Mix Jack Chick in with Hal Lindsay and things really get Intense and “Interesting”…)

    “END TIME PROPHECY IS BEING FULFILLED EVEN AS WE SPEAK! WE MIGHT NOT HAVE A 1978!!! OR EVEN A 1977!!!!!”
    It is now 2017.

  101. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Following and Marvelling and Worshipping, saying “Who is like unto The Pastor? Who can stand against Him?”

    Excuse me? Just what Bible have those people been reading? (Last time I checked, that was NOT in there! But hey, what do I know, I’m a woman. I could be leading you all astray right now…)

  102. @ dee:

    Can’t imagine what your criticism count meter is up to now!

    One would have to live in a cave, if one wishes to escape criticism.

    Not all criticism is negative either. I’ve learned to pull up my big girl panties, when it comes to criticism. Heck, my hubby may not like what I cook tonight for dinner. Big deal. We’ve been married for forty-four years. I can’t imagine the amount of criticisms we’ve placed upon one another. To live life is to experience and cope with criticisms.

  103. Root 66 wrote:

    I think Mr. Rainer is failing to see the 500 pound gorilla in the room:
    Churches are declining because pastors are taught in seminaries to lie to search committees in order to “reform” that church, the 9Marx way!

    The Party (with its Perfect Ideology) Can Do No Wrong.
    Ees Party Line, Comrades.

  104. Todd Wilhelm wrote:

    Lydia wrote:
    The commercial profitable Jesus.
    Unfortunately church is just another business venture for so many of these guys.
    On another note, I am no scholar, but was wondering if someone who is could comment on what the perception is of someone who holds a Masters and Doctorate from Southern. Does it hold much weight with those who are outside of the SBTS faithful? It seems like those pursuing a Doctorate might wish to broaden their education a bit.

    I can speak to the experience of a couple friends, husband and wife, who told me they’d gone to the same seminary 15 years ago when we first met. I asked them where and they said “Uh, SBTS…but BEFORE the crazies took over.” So outside the echo chamber, I don’t think it has much pull anymore, at least for those in the know. Back in the 80s, when I was thinking about going to seminary, it has a pretty good reputation for being conservative Christian, open to different perspectives within conservative christendom, and academically sound. Sadly, a very ignorant and monumentally arrogant young man (who has now become a middle aged man) destroyed that to feed his ambition.

  105. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    At least he’s bi-vocational.

    His “seasoned” father-in-law advised him to consider that route for a while. I’ve known too many Southern Baptist pastors who “resigned” without another income stream. A lot of SBC churches – particularly in rural areas – aren’t going to get any better until the old deacons die! I hate to be blunt, but SBC deacon bodies in traditional churches exercise too much authority … when they have, in a word, NO authority Biblically. I’m certainly not a fan of the YRR movement in SBC ranks, but I can see why the young folks want to do church differently than their parents.

  106. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Root 66 wrote:
    I think Mr. Rainer is failing to see the 500 pound gorilla in the room:
    Churches are declining because pastors are taught in seminaries to lie to search committees in order to “reform” that church, the 9Marx way!

    The Party (with its Perfect Ideology) Can Do No Wrong.
    Ees Party Line, Comrades.

    These guys remind of a toddler standing in the middle of the room with her hands over her eyes yelling, “You can’t see me, you can’t see me!” Blind guides leading the blind, for sure.

  107. Lydia wrote:

    The question, in my mind, is more about WHO is Jesus and what that means.

    Jesus?! The Name above all names is seldom mentioned in New Calvinist works. I visit churches and often leave wondering “What happened to Jesus?!”

  108. Jack wrote:

    I don’t visit SBC Today but did swing by to see what it was about – it’s been talked about here and elsewhere. The article that came up was one in which the old “homosexuality agenda” argument was espoused. And one of the first response comments was the “put to death” quotes from the OT.

    Christians in online comment sections are the worst! (I kid, I kid, ok, well, maybe I don’t kid just a little…)

    Now, to be clear, I’ve never heard anyone in the real world calling for the death of people like myself. In the garden variety Southern Baptist church that I attend, I’ve just heard things like “The gays are destroying America,” “We need to boycott Hallmark because they sell cards for *****s,” “I can’t stand to be around homosexuals,” and “Christians have never persecuted the gays, but because they’ve rejected God, they relentlessly persecute us.” Those are just a few statements off the top of my head.

    So let me say, as a member of that hated minority myself, I will give a flying rip what the [traditional] church has to say about how I live my life when they start showing a hint of caring about the consequences of consigning us to lifelong celibacy in an environment that idolizes marriage, orients all of its community and care efforts toward couples, and beats up on single people. In the meantime, I’ll try to love God and love my neighbor to the best of my ability, and let the rest sort itself out between God and myself. In other words, if you’re not going to be a part of the solution, quit whining when I look for solutions on my own.

  109. Max wrote:

    Lydia wrote:
    The question, in my mind, is more about WHO is Jesus and what that means.
    Jesus?! The Name above all names is seldom mentioned in New Calvinist works. I visit churches and often leave wondering “What happened to Jesus?!”

    But, the Apostle Paul is surely mentioned. Intertwined with what Calvin and Piper think of him. I think Paul would be appalled by all the adoration heaped up him.

    Jesus is our Savior. That thought should be paramount in our hearts. When times have been particularly tough for me, it’s Jesus who I call out to.

    Who else knows us like Jesus? We don’t call out for help to Peter or Paul, Calvin or Piper. From the beginning, to the end, it’s Jesus who we place our heart and hope in.

  110. Mae wrote:

    Max wrote:
    Lydia wrote:
    The question, in my mind, is more about WHO is Jesus and what that means.
    Jesus?! The Name above all names is seldom mentioned in New Calvinist works. I visit churches and often leave wondering “What happened to Jesus?!”
    But, the Apostle Paul is surely mentioned. Intertwined with what Calvin and Piper think of him. I think Paul would be appalled by all the adoration heaped up him.

    He’d tear his clothes and lose his mind at it. The only way of understanding what the Lord inspired through Paul is through the filter of Jesus.

  111. Law Prof wrote:

    The only way of understanding what the Lord inspired through Paul is through the filter of Jesus.

    AMEN! If you read Paul first, you might read Jesus wrong … but if you read Jesus first (the Gospels), the writings of Paul come into perspective. That’s why I counsel young folks to read the words in red before they try to figure out what Paul is saying.

  112. Jack wrote:

    I would be surprised if anyone in this forum would advocate killing for so-called “moral” crimes or having our armed forces wipe out enemies to the last man, woman, child, camel, cow and donkey – and then enslave any survivors – to obtain their “God Given” land.

    I have no problem with it…3,400 years ago in that particular place and time under those particular circumstances. Some of those moral crimes involved publicly torturing infants to death to appease imaginary gods–and the Lord was pretty clear that if the Hebrews didn’t wipe those cultures out, they’d in short order become just like them (and as we discover, they didn’t wipe them out and did become just like them). I have no problem with letting God be God, because He knows the infinite number of different results that would occur given infinite courses of action. He knows everything, loves everyone, knows who is and isn’t beyond all hope and knows precisely the best course of action to bring out the greatest possible good. And of course, that is not the path we’re to take today in the age that began with Jesus–we’re to love our enemies (though that’s an OT concept also, interestingly).

    One reason people’s struggle with brutal things that happened at the command of God millenia ago is I think they imagine a god who has great power to do things but is otherwise like us, just an entity taking sides, not the actual God who loves everyone and knows everything. If I were in the shoes of my great, great grandfather in Germany in the 1800s and the Lord told me to kill an innocent boy, I better do it, I might be killing Hitler.

  113. Jack wrote:

    I would be surprised if anyone in this forum would advocate killing for so-called “moral” crimes or having our armed forces wipe out enemies to the last man, woman, child, camel, cow and donkey – and then enslave any survivors – to obtain their “God Given” land.

    I have no problem with it…3,400 years ago in that particular place and time under those particular circumstances. Some of those moral crimes involved publicly torturing infants to death to appease imaginary gods–and the Lord was pretty clear that if the Hebrews didn’t wipe those cultures out, they’d in short order become just like them (and as we discover, they didn’t wipe them out and did become just like them). I have no problem with letting God be God, because He knows the infinite number of different results that would occur given infinite courses of action. He knows everything, loves everyone, knows who is and isn’t beyond all hope and knows precisely the best course of action to bring out the greatest possible good. And of course, that is not the path we’re to take today in the age that began with Jesus–we’re to love our enemies (though that’s an OT concept also, interestingly).

    One reason people’s struggle with brutal things that happened at the command of God millenia ago is I think they imagine a god who has great power to do things but is otherwise like us, just an entity taking sides, not the actual God who loves everyone and knows everything. If I were in the shoes of my great, great grandfather in Germany in the 1800s and the Lord told me to kill an innocent boy, I better do it, I might be killing Hitler.

  114. Mae wrote:

    Who else knows us like Jesus? We don’t call out for help to Peter or Paul, Calvin or Piper.

    Those who put their faith in mere men, will call out to Jesus some day but not be heard. He will only say I never knew you.

  115. @ Law Prof:
    Add to that a once renowned Music program that was totally trashed by Mohler to become the SGM Kauflin worship style department. It’s a joke in professional musician circles. But the now old timers who made it through back in the day have been some of the best around.

  116. Todd Wilhelm wrote:

    I am no scholar, but was wondering if someone who is could comment on what the perception is of someone who holds a Masters and Doctorate from Southern.

    I am no scholar, either, but I do have the perspective of having attended a sister institution in a by-gone era and still live close by. The primary difference I see from then to now is that instead of teaching students HOW to think theologically the seminaries are more focused on teaching them WHAT to think. That is probably an oversimplification but it reflects the impact that authoritarianism has had on these institutions.

  117. @ ishy:
    It’s shocking to learn how marginalized women were. Many Greek warriors preferred little boys and even took them to war. Women were strictly for breeding. Babies they did not want were thrown on garbage heaps. The cultural backdrop is shocking.

  118. FW Rez wrote:

    The primary difference I see from then to now is that instead of teaching students HOW to think theologically the seminaries are more focused on teaching them WHAT to think. That is probably an oversimplification but it reflects the impact that authoritarianism has had on these institutions.

    I think it sums it up perfectly.

  119. Jack wrote:

    know that our society isn’t perfect. I know that political correctness can run amok. But I would take our liberal democracy any day over any religious theocracy.

    Agreed! In trying to make his kingdom of this world, religious folk are at war with the expression of his Kingdom in this world. I’ve gone through the painful process of losing some of those beliefs that were so comfortable to me, but I’m left with a much richer faith that has the power to really change me.

  120. Lydia wrote:

    @ ishy:
    It’s shocking to learn how marginalized women were. Many Greek warriors preferred little boys and even took them to war. Women were strictly for breeding. Babies they did not want were thrown on garbage heaps. The cultural backdrop is shocking.

    Anybody who takes this ‘good old days’ thing too far makes me doubt they have ever picked up a history book. They are often massively uninformed or oblivious!

  121. Sam wrote:

    Excuse me? Just what Bible have those people been reading? (Last time I checked, that was NOT in there! …)

    It’s a filk of Rev 13.4. I’ve been getting a lot of mileage out of it in the past few months.

  122. Lydia wrote:

    a once renowned Music program

    I had a great campus visit there with Don Hustad but ultimately decided on SWBTS.

  123. @ Lydia:
    Wikipedia wasn’t very explicit about what happened to him nor were the articles I was able to find on a google search. Except that he could not be “leader of the liberal democrats and a Christian”. Sounds to me like he disagreed with his party and they voted him out. Politics as usual. Do you have any specific material?

    The transgender issue is way outside the scope of this blog but suffice it to say the same mechanisms that the PC crowd use are available to Christians as well. If you don’t like what’s happening, get involved, get out and vote. It ain’t the perfect system but if we feel strongly about a given issue, we still have freedom of speech. Everyone from the Communist Party in Canada to the KKK has a website. They just can’t condemn anyone to death.

  124. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    ishy wrote:
    I think I am the only one who attended that church who ever thought so, though. Even the person I said that to kinda went on to lecture me: “Well, you should appreciate the pastor’s sermons more.”
    Following and Marvelling and Worshipping, saying “Who is like unto The Pastor? Who can stand against Him?”

    “Hundreds followed Jesus, but the pastor leads thousands.”

  125. ishy wrote:

    A big problem involves translations and culture. A lot of churches don’t acknowledge that translations are often biased and concepts like marriage, homosexuality, and even church as we think of them now did not exist when the Bible was written. Marriage was often political or financial, not based on love or romance. Your wants, desires, or sexual orientation were irrelevant.

    This goes a long way to addressing the elephant. Context is everything and those who wrote the bible were writing from a perspective that we cannot understand with the modern mind. We need to understand the history to understand the context. Biblical literalists tell us that every single word is true and inspired. You either believe all of it or none of it. With eternal souls at stake, too many aren’t willing to take the chance. Of course you throw in the fact that groupthink plays a huge role. When all your family and friends are part of the church, that goes a long way to squelching doubts.

  126. @ Josh:
    Josh, thank you for your comment. I feel the same way. I am not about to judge another person because he or she is not heterosexual like I am. There are too many out there in the christian world who will, and I will leave it to them. The old saying is that when I point a finger at you, then I have 3 fingers pointing back at me. It is between you and God, not me. I am not about to get on my “Moral High horse” and preach condemnation to you.

  127. Mae wrote:

    I have no desire for either. Both liberal democracy and religious theology, have too many negatives for me. I’ll take the middle of the road, nothing in excess path, any day.

    “Liberal” has too many connotations, maybe I should have used constitutional democracy. Majority rule with the constitution to protect all citizens. I agree with you.

  128. Lydia wrote:

    You should read up on Tim Ferron, a former liberal British MP and Christian and what PC did to him. He resigned even though he voted liberal but that was not good enough for the PC crowd.

    But does not the exact same thing happen in conservative circles? Let’s not pretend that this is a malady that afflicts only the left, when anyone with conservative evangelicalism who ceases to toe the party line on the culture war issues du jour is summarily de-platformed.

  129. @ Law Prof:
    “….through the filter of Jesus….” Good counsel.
    When I get confused over theology or discouraged over the State of the church, the world, I start reading through the Gospels. The gospel of Luke is my favorite.

  130. Lydia wrote:

    @ ishy:
    It’s shocking to learn how marginalized women were. Many Greek warriors preferred little boys and even took them to war. Women were strictly for breeding. Babies they did not want were thrown on garbage heaps. The cultural backdrop is shocking.

    And basically their parents sold and bought daughters and daughters-in-law for money and status.

    And there was no “hot wife” syndrome in the church like there is now with the trendy complementarian pastors. They married who was bought for them by their parents so their parents could make money or connections. I can’t imagine some of these flaky pastors who go on and on about gender roles would be into it if they had to marry whoever their parents chose.

  131. Josh wrote:

    So let me say, as a member of that hated minority myself, I will give a flying rip what the [traditional] church has to say about how I live my life when they start showing a hint of caring about the consequences of consigning us to lifelong celibacy in an environment that idolizes marriage, orients all of its community and care efforts toward couples, and beats up on single people. In the meantime, I’ll try to love God and love my neighbor to the best of my ability, and let the rest sort itself out between God and myself. In other words, if you’re not going to be a part of the solution, quit whining when I look for solutions on my own.

    It comes down to knowing right from wrong. I know what’s right…. to paraphrase a famous American. We do these things not because they are easy but because they are hard. I don’t think most Christians realize what they promote and say and how that sounds to non-christians. I guess every Christian should live by the golden rule not the old testament ones.

  132. dee wrote:

    One commentor on Rainer’s blog, an anonymous pastor named “Bob Smith”, says he is ready to quit the ministry because: “Well, I average one criticism a day, over 300 a year. It’s wearing me out.”

    So, this makes me wonder if any of these Precious Darlings have ever had a job in the Real World. I think not. Or perhaps they have had one and discovered that they could not make a living there.

  133. Lydia wrote:

    Snowflakes. Let’s send them coloring books.

    Or therapy dogs to to support them when they are not on sabbatical or on their 4-5 weeks of paid vacation or conference leave.

  134. Gram3 wrote:

    So, this makes me wonder if any of these Precious Darlings have ever had a job in the Real World

    I think I get 300 criticisms a day!!!

  135. @ Headless Unicorn Guy:

    Those were the crazy prophecy days. I used to buy into some of that craziness…it drove me nuts. So, I decided to take Jesus at His word and trust when I need to know when the end time has come, the Holy Spirit would prompt me. No promptings as of yet. 🙂

  136. Law Prof wrote:

    One reason people’s struggle with brutal things that happened at the command of God millenia ago is I think they imagine a god who has great power to do things but is otherwise like us, just an entity taking sides, not the actual God who loves everyone and knows everything. If I were in the shoes of my great, great grandfather in Germany in the 1800s and the Lord told me to kill an innocent boy, I better do it, I might be killing Hitler.

    You get 1000 pts for honesty.

    I get what your saying regarding what was acceptable 3400 years ago and what’s acceptable today are not the same. Back in the day if you didn’t do it to them, for sure they’d do it to you. It was the culture of the time. And that’s what the bible reflects.

    But it wasn’t “right”. Ignorant? yep, but not right. Not then, not now, not in the days to come.

    Now we have the “great commission”. Evangelize rather than wipe out. The Chinese and Europeans were worth sending missions to but the Canaanites weren’t. Go back to the early emperors of China and human sacrifice was a done thing, and my ancestors routinely strangled people and threw them into bogs.

    I worked in a mental health centre for 8 years. I heard of “God” telling all sorts of people all sorts of things.
    I’m pretty sure that if your great grandfather killed a child in 1800’s Germany and informed the magistrate that “God” told him to do it, he’d be on a one way trip to the sanitarium.

    I sincerely hope that if God is telling anyone out there to kill, they go to an emergency room and inform the triage nurse what God is telling them to do. They need to be incarcerated and treated for their own safety and that of others.

    Law Prof – I’ve read your other posts and I think I get where you were trying to go. I know that you do not advocate genocide or infanticide. But these are the mental gymnastics that Christians use to address the dichotomy of living with 21st century AD human rights and revering an 18th century AD document. I don’t have any easy answers to this one.

  137. Max wrote:

    “What happened to Jesus?!”

    The Person of Jesus who spoke real words and worked real works has been replaced by the placeholder of “gospel” which can then be filled with whatever meaning the speaker or writer desires in order to serve his/her own purposes. I wish I were not being serious.

  138. Whoops I meant 18th century BC document – which will make a whole lot more sense when my comment clears customs.

  139. ishy wrote:

    Bible translations sum up these giant concepts in single words to which we give modern connotations but never question how those words and connotations might be different.

    BINGO.

  140. Mae wrote:

    @ Headless Unicorn Guy:
    Those were the crazy prophecy days. I used to buy into some of that craziness…it drove me nuts.

    Same here. Flashbacks didn’t stop until the late Eighties (just in time to bypass Whisenhaunt’s 88 Reasons Rapture Scare) but some of the scars remain. My writing partner (the burned-out preacher) credits John Nelson Darby and Hal Lindsay with “destroying Protestant Christianity in America”.

  141. Lydia wrote:

    @ dee:
    Snowflakes. Let’s send them coloring books.

    Don’t forget Pacies and diaper changes.

  142. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Mae wrote:
    @ Headless Unicorn Guy:
    Those were the crazy prophecy days. I used to buy into some of that craziness…it drove me nuts.
    Same here. Flashbacks didn’t stop until the late Eighties (just in time to bypass Whisenhaunt’s 88 Reasons Rapture Scare) but some of the scars remain. My writing partner (the burned-out preacher) credits John Nelson Darby and Hal Lindsay with “destroying Protestant Christianity in America”.

    When 88 Reasons came out, I did read it. However, by then I was pretty much out of the prophecy stuff. Besides, I didn’t agree with date setting. I never got into the Chick tracts. Those images literally made the hair on my head stand up…Too creepy for me.

  143. @ dee:

    Hi Dee

    Here are a few good British TV shows (especially if you like detective programs): Line Of Duty (SO good, especially Season 2 & 3); Shetland; The Missing (esp S02); Inspector Gently; Endeavour; Vera; and (not British) the Swedish Wallander is very good. That should keep you going for awhile.

  144. New (research) book with a “macro” take on church decline: THE END OF WHITE CHRISTIAN AMERICA by Robert Jones, CEO at Public Religion Research Institute, who says, “This book mostly focuses on the last 100 years of the white Protestant legacy in this country.” “It’s notable in the U.S., particularly thinking of the evangelical world, to pay attention to the fact that those institutions of power are themselves declining.”

    An interviewer of Robert Jones says: “This book is perfectly positioned to explain this era of American Christianity. It presents research that has massive implications for how we think about the future of Christianity and the future of the entire country. Drawing from his work at PRRI, Jones examines the numerical decline and waning cultural influence of white Christians in the U.S. He explores the anxieties of white Christians and the ways in which they are responding to a shifting national landscape.”

    Here’s an interview with Jones about his book/research:
    https://sojo.net/articles/how-changing-church-will-define-future-us-politics

  145. @ Max:
    My small town got one of those plants five years ago. Young pastor and wife, assistant pastor of music/arts, and his wife. Not self sufficient yet. Oh, and the young pastor and wife, just went on a sabbatical, for all their loooong and arduous labor. Bleh!

  146. Josh wrote:

    Lydia wrote:
    You should read up on Tim Ferron, a former liberal British MP and Christian and what PC did to him. He resigned even though he voted liberal but that was not good enough for the PC crowd.
    But does not the exact same thing happen in conservative circles? Let’s not pretend that this is a malady that afflicts only the left, when anyone with conservative evangelicalism who ceases to toe the party line on the culture war issues du jour is summarily de-platformed.

    That’s true. Yet, I can walk out of a fundy church, no one can make me attend. I can’t disengage from a left leaning government….they can dictate what my choices will be.

  147. Half my church, including almost all of the ministry leaders and all of the elders, left because the New Apostolic Reformation came into our church when one of their top apostles told our pastor, who was in sin at the time and needing to step down, that he was an apostle and none of the elders were on his level of authority.

    Two issues have finally completely exasperated me with the Evangelical/Pentecostal Church: the constant drumbeat about revival while the church itself is sick. I have finally concluded revival has more to do with the pastor’s ambition than feeding the flock; and the political support by a large percentage of white evangelicals for a man none of them would consider qualified to sit on their local school boards.

  148. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    scott hendrixson wrote:
    “Hundreds followed Jesus, but the pastor leads thousands.”
    And The Beast(TM) will lead millions to billions.

    The generals have their well disciplined armies ready.

  149. ION:

    It was overcast on Emerald Isle this morning, which is perfect weather for a trip to the NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. When we arrived we saw several camp buses in the parking lot, which was a bit of a discouragement, but we located a parking space fairly easily. We bought a one year family pass, which includes free trips to the NC Zoo, as it was only $27 more than a one day pass to the aquarium. The kids (4 & 5) did great until we reached the gift shop where things went pear shaped for a moment or two as Brooke and I said “No” to a (another) plush stuffed mermaid and river other, but quickly righted themselves in the car on the way back to the cottage.

    This afternoon the sun came out and the weather was perfect for time on the beach, which we all (daughter in college and her friend included) enjoyed. Now it’s time to throw some chicken on the grill and get the jambalaya started.

    Here’s to “wasting your life” at the beach. I love God’s creation.

    (HT Nick)

  150. one of the little people wrote:

    Shetland; The Missing (esp S02); Inspector Gently; Endeavour; Vera; and (not British) the Swedish Wallander is very good.

    I was excited to see a new season (3) of Hinterland dropped into Netflix this week.

    Looking forward to the new Vera when it reaches our shores.

  151. Mae wrote:

    That’s true. Yet, I can walk out of a fundy church, no one can make me attend. I can’t disengage from a left leaning government….they can dictate what my choices will be.

    Sigh… and neither can I disengage from the dictates of moral busybodies within a government that leans the other way. Again, everyone who blames this exclusively (or largely) on only one side is completely missing the point. Sorry, not sorry.

  152. @ Josh:

    I am sorry you feel so alienated.
    I don’t believe I lean heavily to any side. Would like balance, fairness, as much as possible.
    Until then, I wish you well.

  153. Law Prof wrote:

    Todd Wilhelm wrote:
    Lydia wrote:
    The commercial profitable Jesus.
    Unfortunately church is just another business venture for so many of these guys.
    On another note, I am no scholar, but was wondering if someone who is could comment on what the perception is of someone who holds a Masters and Doctorate from Southern. Does it hold much weight with those who are outside of the SBTS faithful? It seems like those pursuing a Doctorate might wish to broaden their education a bit.
    I can speak to the experience of a couple friends, husband and wife, who told me they’d gone to the same seminary 15 years ago when we first met. I asked them where and they said “Uh, SBTS…but BEFORE the crazies took over.” So outside the echo chamber, I don’t think it has much pull anymore, at least for those in the know. Back in the 80s, when I was thinking about going to seminary, it has a pretty good reputation for being conservative Christian, open to different perspectives within conservative christendom, and academically sound. Sadly, a very ignorant and monumentally arrogant young man (who has now become a middle aged man) destroyed that to feed his ambition.

    I say the same thing about SWBTS….

  154. Jack wrote:

    ishy wrote:
    A big problem involves translations and culture. A lot of churches don’t acknowledge that translations are often biased and concepts like marriage, homosexuality, and even church as we think of them now did not exist when the Bible was written. Marriage was often political or financial, not based on love or romance. Your wants, desires, or sexual orientation were irrelevant.
    This goes a long way to addressing the elephant. Context is everything and those who wrote the bible were writing from a perspective that we cannot understand with the modern mind. We need to understand the history to understand the context. Biblical literalists tell us that every single word is true and inspired. You either believe all of it or none of it. With eternal souls at stake, too many aren’t willing to take the chance. Of course you throw in the fact that groupthink plays a huge role. When all your family and friends are part of the church, that goes a long way to squelching doubts.

    I do believe all of it, at least as it was intended to be believed. Am I to believe the world was literally created in 144 hours—I don’t have to believe that because the first chapter of Genesis is written in Hebraic poetry format and was never intended to be a science text—yet, it sure does present a remarkably accurate picture of the order of events per our modern understanding. I also know we have translations that are imperfect and cultural understandings that are impossible to recapture thousands of years after the fact. I have a tough time grasping the slang and meanings behind words my teenage children use, how can I expect to understand perfectly what was going on thousands of years ago the other side of the world? But that said, there’s plenty there that is pretty clear, and the message of Christ is right there in one’s face, not a lot of wiggle room allowed when you have a person who claimed to be God in the flesh and to die for our sins.

  155. Mae wrote:

    I don’t believe I lean heavily to any side. Would like balance, fairness, as much as possible.

    The local University has “Social Justice Training” for all incoming students and follows this up with BRT (Bias Response Teams) that investigate reports on fellow students or faculty. I escaped from an authoritarian church but it had nothing like that Orwellian level of control.

    As to the left vs right divide I’m finding many who are socially liberal and socially conservative finding common cause in leaving each other alone and that gives me some hope.

  156. Jack wrote:

    Whoops I meant 18th century BC document – which will make a whole lot more sense when my comment clears customs.

    Ain’t that old. Unless you count the oral tradition handed down from the time of Abraham, which might be about 18th century B.C. I think they got around to writing the whole business about the 10th century B.C.

  157. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Mae wrote:
    @ Headless Unicorn Guy:
    Those were the crazy prophecy days. I used to buy into some of that craziness…it drove me nuts.
    Same here. Flashbacks didn’t stop until the late Eighties (just in time to bypass Whisenhaunt’s 88 Reasons Rapture Scare) but some of the scars remain. My writing partner (the burned-out preacher) credits John Nelson Darby and Hal Lindsay with “destroying Protestant Christianity in America”.

    I can remember being pretty resentful towards God because my wife and I were engaged to be married in ’89 and she refused to marry on minute before she graduated from college. So I can remember there was some day in ’88 when it was all supposed to happen–perhaps in September, but can’t remember for certain–and I held my breath and then fell to sleep that night thinking Jesus was returning before I woke up so the marriage scheduled for the next year was off. The woke up next morning and wondered if there was some kind of mistake…then it dawned on me it would still be that day for quite a few hours somewhere in the world, so I half expected it all to end in hours. When I woke up the day after that, think I’d earned my first real lesson in life about people who claimed to pursue Jesus but really just wanted fame, book deals, and everyone hanging each Sunday on their every word–and the claim the world was about to end will put them on the edge of their seats! And now it’s been 28 years of marriage and nine children and a grandchild and now I know a lot of people in the Christian media/big church complex are liars and full of it. That was just the first in three decades of lessons learned.

  158. Thersites wrote:

    The local University has “Social Justice Training” for all incoming students and follows this up with BRT (Bias Response Teams) that investigate reports on fellow students or faculty. I escaped from an authoritarian church but it had nothing like that Orwellian level of control.

    My neighbor has a child at a local college taking social work courses. A student reported him because he challenged something that was written in a textbook which made the reporting student feel uncomfortable.

  159. “Declines in membership can occur when the pastor has an agenda that is not supported by many in the church, knows it and proceeds with it anyway.” (Dee)
    Declining membership … I hate being part of a statistic but your statement represents my experience. Forty years a member, worked against and then battled an increasingly authoritarian agenda, finally felt compelled to leave and didn’t go quietly. I now decline membership.

  160. Ken G wrote:

    which made the reporting student feel uncomfortable.

    Microagressions. Like a properly functioning church, I thought University was where you went to challenge and be challenged.

  161. Thersites wrote:

    Mae wrote:
    I don’t believe I lean heavily to any side. Would like balance, fairness, as much as possible.
    The local University has “Social Justice Training” for all incoming students and follows this up with BRT (Bias Response Teams) that investigate reports on fellow students or faculty. I escaped from an authoritarian church but it had nothing like that Orwellian level of control.
    As to the left vs right divide I’m finding many who are socially liberal and socially conservative finding common cause in leaving each other alone and that gives me some hope.

    Let’s hope the rest of society does not mimic the, BRT, model. Orwellian indeed!
    Leaving each other alone is a healthy perspective. A self imposed peace treaty.

  162. The spouse and I really enjoyed Shetland. We stumbled upon it when Netflix still had star ratings. Which I miss.

    Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    My writing partner (the burned-out preacher) credits John Nelson Darby and Hal Lindsay with “destroying Protestant Christianity in America”.

    I think he’s largely right about that. The history of Darby and Scofield is… colorful and a little scary, and the impact they had on Evangelicalism in the US and UK is profound.

  163. Gram3 wrote:

    The Person of Jesus who spoke real words and worked real works has been replaced by the placeholder of “gospel” which can then be filled with whatever meaning the speaker or writer desires in order to serve his/her own purposes. I wish I were not being serious.

    Yes, I’m very familiar with that sad development. In my neck of the woods, the reformed church planters talk about gospel-centered this and gospel-centered that (gospel-centered coffee, etc.). One of the young preachers even refers to himself as the gospel! For all the “gospel” preaching they do, they seldom mention the name of Jesus.

  164. Thersites wrote:

    The local University has “Social Justice Training” for all incoming students and follows this up with BRT (Bias Response Teams) that investigate reports on fellow students or faculty. I escaped from an authoritarian church but it had nothing like that Orwellian level of control.

    I find this just as ridiculous as conservative Christians acting like poor little triggered snowflakes because they’re no longer being allowed to deprive LGBT people in secular society of the same rights and responsibilities under the law that they themselves take for granted. I’m not trying to argue who does it worse, I’m just hoping to bring the perspective that often gets lost, that the problem is largely or exclusively with the “them” and never with the “us.”

    As to the left vs right divide I’m finding many who are socially liberal and socially conservative finding common cause in leaving each other alone and that gives me some hope.

    May their (our) tribe increase!

  165. Lydia wrote:

    I am all about the gov not micromanaging me to death and people pretty much leaving each other alone.

    Amen!

    (That also works with “pastor and elder board” in place of “government” IMHO : )

  166. @ Max:
    That is what creeps me out the most –when they refer to themselves as the Gospel because they claim to proclaim it. It’s egomaniacal. (Is that a word?)

  167. I wanted to let everyone know that Good Wilhelm is fine. He actually used to live in that building that went up. Strangely, it is named “The Torch.”

  168. @ dee:
    Thanks, Dee. Prayers for the best for God’s best, answered. Yes, ironic, the name of the building.

  169. Thanks for your concern, I am fine. Actually I used to live right next door to “The Torch.” A vacant lot separated me from that building. I have some good video of the first fire! Living in a building in Dubai called “The Torch” has proven to be about as dangerous as living in a trailer park in Oklahoma! Anyway, I heard there were no injuries, so thank God for that.

  170. @ Josh:
    Tell me about it. It’s everywhere! The gurus and experts that know best for us peasants. Church is voluntary so I can cut that one out.

  171. Thersites wrote:

    I now decline membership.

    Same here. Funny how the 9Marx authoritarians continually push their propaganda about the “necessity” of joining their church, but in my four years of attending the local Anglican Church I have not heard one sermon on the subject. For all their talk about ‘the gospel” I found the local 9Marx pushed membership much more frequently than the good news of our Savior’s atonement.

    As a side note, I actually think it would be best to scrap the term “the gospel’ and “gospel centered” as they have become utterly meaningless due to misuse and over-use in the Gospelly Coalition crowd.

  172. drstevej wrote:

    George Whitefield received a good bit of criticism of his ministry during his lifetime. His tombstone reads, “Here lies G.W. What sort of man he was the great day will discover.”
    This assessment of a ministry is the one that counts.

    If you’re talking about the George Whitefield who was in Georgia in the mid-1700s, he has to answer for why he pushed for the legalization of slavery in Georgia. He was successful. I’m going to be blunt here–he could have preached everything right, but on this one thing, he was so incredibly wrong and caused so much pain for thousands of human beings for generations that it probably overshadows any good he did.

  173. GSD [Getting Stuff Done] wrote:

    The spouse and I really enjoyed Shetland. We stumbled upon it when Netflix still had star ratings. Which I miss.
    Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
    My writing partner (the burned-out preacher) credits John Nelson Darby and Hal Lindsay with “destroying Protestant Christianity in America”.
    I think he’s largely right about that. The history of Darby and Scofield is… colorful and a little scary, and the impact they had on Evangelicalism in the US and UK is profound.

    What a lot of people don’t know, is that Darby was a Calvanist.

  174. Law Prof wrote:

    One reason people’s struggle with brutal things that happened at the command of God millenia ago is I think they imagine a god who has great power to do things but is otherwise like us, just an entity taking sides, not the actual God who loves everyone and knows everything. If I were in the shoes of my great, great grandfather in Germany in the 1800s and the Lord told me to kill an innocent boy, I better do it, I might be killing Hitler.

    You’d better be for darn certain God is speaking to you, because you know as well as I do that “God told me to do it” is not a defense to murder in an American courtroom. If you’re lucky, you might get to spend the rest of your life in a mental institution. If you’re not, you may end up on death row.

    My point is you’re making a huge assumption here, that God is speaking to you and telling you to take the life of someone. Really? Really? Now the Old Testament may talk about genocides, but what we’re learning is that these people didn’t disappear–they intermarried with the Yahweh followers.

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/07/canaanite-bible-ancient-dna-lebanon-genetics-archaeology/

    I have an opinion about the historical veracity of the genocide stories in the Old Testament, but out of respect for the Deebs, I’ll stop here.

  175. Mae wrote:

    That’s true. Yet, I can walk out of a fundy church, no one can make me attend. I can’t disengage from a left leaning government….they can dictate what my choices will be.

    Nor can I disconnect from a right-wing government. It’s a two-way street.

  176. Max wrote:

    In my neck of the woods, the reformed church planters talk about gospel-centered this and gospel-centered that (gospel-centered coffee, etc.). One of the young preachers even refers to himself as the gospel!

    It’s like “People” and “Democratic” in the name of a Third World Dictatorship.

    “The more adjectives about Democracy there are in a country’s official name, the nastier a dictatorship it is.”
    — TV Tropes, “People’s Republic of Tyranny”

  177. Thersites wrote:

    The local University has “Social Justice Training” for all incoming students and follows this up with BRT (Bias Response Teams) that investigate reports on fellow students or faculty. I escaped from an authoritarian church but it had nothing like that Orwellian level of control.

    Done in all Righteousness oozing Moral Superiority.

    “New England Puritans, seven-times-distilled down to eliminate any hint of God, leaving only the Righteousness and Moral Fury.”
    — comment on Social Justice types on an old Internet Monk comment thread

  178. Josh wrote:

    Lydia wrote:
    You should read up on Tim Ferron, a former liberal British MP and Christian and what PC did to him. He resigned even though he voted liberal but that was not good enough for the PC crowd.
    But does not the exact same thing happen in conservative circles? Let’s not pretend that this is a malady that afflicts only the left, when anyone with conservative evangelicalism who ceases to toe the party line on the culture war issues du jour is summarily de-platformed.

    Much of this is well beyond my ability to comprehend, but I can quote an obscure theologian on the subject:

    “The President’s against the Congress
    The Senate is against the House
    People are against politicians
    And I’m against cats in the house
    But I’m for love and I’m for happiness
    And I’m for “if you don’t like it can’t you just let it rest.”

    Another line from the same work says:

    “Hey, I’m for love I’m all for happiness
    And I’m for not looking for something to make us mad”

    Bocephus of Shreveport

    In their Pharisetical arrogance, the leaders of these organizations deem it their duty to take two dimensional stances on issues that effect multi-dimensional human beings.
    Love considers all dimensions. If you find a multi-dimensional pastor, please let me know.

  179. Lea wrote:

    As an adult, I pretty much stopped trying Baptist churches because every program had 15 male ‘pastors’ and a handful of women ‘directors’ and I just decided it was nonsense. That’s without a ‘proper roles’ sermon.
    So yes. Valid.

    We are a Baptist church. An American Baptist congregation.

  180. Law Prof wrote:

    But that said, there’s plenty there that is pretty clear, and the message of Christ is right there in one’s face, not a lot of wiggle room allowed when you have a person who claimed to be God in the flesh and to die for our sins.

    I think if churches focused on Christ and less on all these side issues, we wouldn’t need to discuss this. But they make these moral issues more important than being a witness for Christ. I don’t believe you can moralize other people without giving them the central reason for faith first. There are churches who have a right focus. But the ones with the wrong focus end up being louder and more aggressive and usually they aren’t honest about the issues in the first place. So we have to talk about them.

  181. Loren Haas wrote:

    Lea wrote:
    As an adult, I pretty much stopped trying Baptist churches because every program had 15 male ‘pastors’ and a handful of women ‘directors’ and I just decided it was nonsense. That’s without a ‘proper roles’ sermon.
    So yes. Valid.
    We are a Baptist church. An American Baptist congregation.

    We never thought we would attend a baptist church….until we went to an American Baptist. We call it home now. We have male and female deacons, teachers, pastors.

  182. Mae wrote:

    We never thought we would attend a baptist church….until we went to an American Baptist. We call it home now. We have male and female deacons, teachers, pastors.

    There’s a really good American Baptist church in my city. It’s a bit farther away than I want to go, but I know one of the female pastors there, along with several other people.

    I think ABC churches are not common down here in the south, though. There’s more Cooperative Baptists, but even though they consider themselves egalitarian, they seem a bit behind in hiring female pastors. And there’s just soooo many SBC churches that seem like they take over everything, sometimes. I’ve only lived here a year and have been lectured by a few New Cals. They seem to get around to “proclaiming” their non-gospel “Gospel” at everyone.

  183. @ ishy:

    Sorry, you won’t find many American Baptists down south.
    Years ago, they were known as: Northern Baptists. That’s the name they chose when they broke with Southern Baptists, during the Cival War.
    Some American Baptists are very lean on preaching, “Jesus saves.” It’s kind of a big tent denomination.
    We lived in Georgia for four years. Southern Baptists were dominant. Maybe you could find a good Methodist Church. We ended up going to an independent Baptist Church. It wasn’t a fundy church but it also met in a storefront. Not a lot of support because it wasn’t SBC.
    Hope you can find a church/ people you can fellowship with.

  184. Mae wrote:

    We lived in Georgia for four years. Southern Baptists were dominant. Maybe you could find a good Methodist Church.

    I live in Athens, GA and do attend a Methodist church. It has a female pastor and is wonderful. It just makes me sad there aren’t more egalitarian churches down here. Most of the ones that are egalitarian are tiny and do not have the influence that the SBC churches do.

    I think I would have left the SBC much earlier had I found a more egalitarian church. Might even be ordained by now. And then, I ended up on the frontlines several times in seeing the SBC taken over by the New Cals and that was quite disturbing. I see nothing of Christ in authoritarianism, only pride and greed and other selfish sins.

  185. Josh wrote:

    Sorry, not sorry.

    I lean libertarian because I have strong desire to leave everybody alone to live their lives, and be left alone myself, as much as is practical. [not fully libertarian, because the party is pretty much crazy]

  186. ishy wrote:

    I think I would have left the SBC much earlier had I found a more egalitarian church.

    I completely understand this. I think there is a great peace to knowing I am in a church that respects women and accepts them completely as people.

    I know a lady at church who left the SBC and came to our church over this issue and she is somewhere in the process to become ordained. I don’t have any stats for this, but I wonder how many women have entered into this process later in life because when they were younger they did not see it as a possibility?

  187. @ Mae:

    My aunt was a deacon in an American Baptist church in the 60’s and 70’s. It just wasn’t a big deal.

  188. Josh wrote:

    (That also works with “pastor and elder board” in place of “government” IMHO : )

    It does indeed!

    I got into some conversations about divorce the other day in which I basically said ‘let the spouse decide’ when there was abuse, adultery, ‘every man’s battle’, etc, and people (well, generally men) could not handle that at all! OMG, what will happen if we let people make up their own minds about their own marriages? Chaos! Irritating.

  189. Loren Haas wrote:

    An American Baptist congregation.

    I am aware of them (my friend went to seminary at a ‘yankee’ Baptist school 🙂

    But they aren’t exactly thick on the ground down here.

  190. Lea wrote:

    I got into some conversations about divorce the other day in which I basically said ‘let the spouse decide’ when there was abuse, adultery, ‘every man’s battle’, etc, and people (well, generally men) could not handle that at all! OMG, what will happen if we let people make up their own minds about their own marriages?

    Why, their own wives might Get Ideas!

  191. Lea wrote:

    I know a lady at church who left the SBC and came to our church over this issue and she is somewhere in the process to become ordained. I don’t have any stats for this, but I wonder how many women have entered into this process later in life because when they were younger they did not see it as a possibility?

    And (unlike Preacher Boyz who were born into Seminary and given a Church Plant Lead Pastorate at 20) such “Second Vocation” ordainments have Real World Experience.

  192. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    And (unlike Preacher Boyz who were born into Seminary and given a Church Plant Lead Pastorate at 20) such “Second Vocation” ordainments have Real World Experience.

    I wish experience counted for more when churches chose pastors in any denomination, but often trendy is what they choose.

  193. ishy wrote:

    I wish experience counted for more when churches chose pastors in any denomination, but often trendy is what they choose.

    I think there is something here related to true elders having more years in the faith, and with it hopefully the wisdom and experience to teach well, compared to men who have checkered pasts and suddenly renounce them and open up a church.

    If I had a blog I might work something out with a bunch of examples of how this has turned into a huge problem – with both bad teaching and scandals as a result?

  194. Lea wrote:

    If I had a blog I might work something out with a bunch of examples of how this has turned into a huge problem – with both bad teaching and scandals as a result?

    That sounds both scary and necessary….

  195. Ken P. wrote:

    @ Lea:
    There is a grand total 2 American Baptist Churches here in the great state of South Carolina.

    Actually, I am surprised there are two that exist! 🙂 Good on them!

  196. ishy wrote:

    Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
    And (unlike Preacher Boyz who were born into Seminary and given a Church Plant Lead Pastorate at 20) such “Second Vocation” ordainments have Real World Experience.
    I wish experience counted for more when churches chose pastors in any denomination, but often trendy is what they choose.

    Real life experiences, in which a more mature person would have. It would be good if employment, of at least a year, were a requirement before ordination.

    My former ( retired ) pastor who was a true shepherd, was a barber/real estate agent, before he went to seminary at age forty.
    Our present pastor was a high school music teacher, before he felt led to go to seminary, at age, 45. He just retired from teaching and became our full time pastor at age, 55. We feel blessed that he also is a caring shepherd, who has the ability to teach from the bible. Our church has all ages attending too. As well as troubled souls and MDs.

    Employment aside from pastoring, seems to make for a more healthy individual in the pulpit.

  197. Ken P. wrote:

    @ Lea:
    There is a grand total 2 American Baptist Churches here in the great state of South Carolina.

    I found only 1 in my state!

  198. Muslin, fka Dee Holmes wrote:

    If you’re talking about the George Whitefield who was in Georgia in the mid-1700s, he has to answer for why he pushed for the legalization of slavery in Georgia.

    He believed he was doing the Lord’s will and had Scripture to back it up with.

  199. From the Telegraph article

    He added: “If you feel called to plant, we need you on the outer estates, we need you in our northern towns, we need you in areas where a majority of people come from other world faiths, we need you in those areas where the trendy coffee shops and artisanal bakers are hard to find.

  200. I also think so much in ministry culture often really stems from fear and control and decorating that control and fear with theology and phrases and programs and tribes – and it’s not often really about Jesus himself, not *really*. Though God language may often and sometimes be tediously used.

    And identity issues in that the issue is someone’s identity is primarily anchored in a demonination, doctrine, job, label, etc and not really in Christ*. So typical group think and almost rabid like self-preservation and mob mentality to keep and sustain your false “identity” and the outfit you must dress in to keep the appearance. That false identity supersedes and prevents discovery, discerning and approaching reality and nuance in life and people, and ultimately God.

    *Which is hard to do. I do not say this as “Oh Great One” who has no identity issues herself, lol.

  201. *Denomination

    Adding also onto the women discussion, I have found much freedom and a coming home and better rest with Christ after leaving complementariansim (soft) behind. I was always in complementarian churches and ministry settings, and I *always* operated in cognitive dissonance with it. Serious cogntive dissonance! It took awhile and lots of bad things intesecting to get me to see the problem inherent to the doctrine itself and to finally move forward.

  202. Max wrote:

    Yep, never listen to a man who can’t even spell Tom right.

    Sorry but this seems a bit over the top to me. Our names come from our parents. How he spells it was decided years before he could spell.

    Let’s talk about real issues.

    I was just at a remembrance service for someone whose first name was Euth. Same as his father’s. And neither of his sons had any idea of the story behind it. He went by his middle name. Ed.

  203. NC Now wrote:

    Our names come from our parents.

    Pretty sure this was a joke, for starters, however I had a friend in high school who basically changed the spelling of his name, for kicks. So who knows?

    The vast majority of the thread is about real issues!

  204. Sidenote on abuse and how it isn’t just churches that practice CYA…just saw a very passionate video regarding a guitar store that does lessons with kids, apparently did no background checks and thus hired someone with prior charges, and when the man was arrested for child abuse, was unwilling (according to an employee who resigned in protest) to notify any other parents of this teacher and tried to keep it all quiet. Can’t verify this story, but it sounds quite familiar.

  205. emily honey wrote:

    *Denomination
    Adding also onto the women discussion, I have found much freedom and a coming home and better rest with Christ after leaving complementariansim (soft) behind. I was always in complementarian churches and ministry settings, and I *always* operated in cognitive dissonance with it. Serious cogntive dissonance! It took awhile and lots of bad things intesecting to get me to see the problem inherent to the doctrine itself and to finally move forward.

    Forty years ago hubby and I attended a church where women could pray out loud, read scripture and request hymms. That was considered ” liberal ” back then. But, I bought into soft comp too. I just accepted women couldn’t be elders, pastors.

    Next church we joined ten years later, had female deacons, board members, financial officers but was still soft comp, no female pastors. Finally, four years ago we started attending a church , where everything was open to women.

    I used to struggle with the submission stuff, husband leading home, etc. because at home, hubby and me did not operate that way. I used to stress out that I wasn’t a godly woman because I couldn’t operate under the comp stuff.
    Finally at sixty, I became liberated in understanding male and female are equal spiritually in God’s construct. It has been wonderful to be free in Christ.
    I think comp dogma will die but in the meantime, it hurts a lot of marriages, with all it’s phony rules.

  206. @ NC Now:
    @ Max:
    Sorry, too, since I enjoyed Max’s comment, about name spelling. Read as humor, not serious.
    Actually the name Thomas given by the parents can be shortened by the son in different ways. Kids will do that, so maybe the parents aren’t responsible after all. Maybe the son is a creative type or enjoys being different, unique.

  207. http://nyti.ms/2vsQttG This week in a NYT’s article, completely unrelated to the church, the writer used the phrase:

    “… I was seduced by the possibility, by the clean, Calvinist logic, …”

    Wondering about the phrase, “clean, Calvinist logic”… and how it “seduces”. Calvin’s way of thinking, his seductive logic, has made it into our vernacular?

  208. http://bit.ly/2wfdNrS Frank Schaeffer reveals the path from sincere faith to nefarious empire by some leaders in churches. Although I don’t share Frank’s theology necessarily, his insider journey is an expose of right gone wrong. He says he gets letters from pastors who want out but don’t know how to support their families. Frank struggled with this, too.

  209. @ Mae:

    “The sabbatical necessity really annoys me too…. A friend of ours SBC ( reformed ) pastor recently went on a five week sabbatical. It was sickening to read on his FB page, all the sheeple extolling how much he and wife deserved the time off. I wanted to ask the flock how many of them got 5 weeks off with pay?”
    ++++++++++++++++++

    i’d say this reflects how much people love having a group to belong to.

    for whatever strange reason, the church ‘group’ no longer feels secure if there is not that one smiling man figurehead in a dark suit & white shirt / polo shirt & dockers / tight T-shirt & tight jeans & sneakers.

    that’s what it comes down to. the feeling of a safe & secure group to belong to.

    i’m beyond annoyed that this is spiritualized ‘every which way til Sunday’. i call it co-opting God for all manner of self-involved things.

  210. @ emily honey:
    Once you see it, you can’t unsee it. You can tolerate it, treat it as secondary issue but it gnaws subconsciously because there isn’t even doctrinal justification for it —if one has done their homework. Therefore, any sermon quoting the supposed ‘no girlz allowed” verses is excuriating to sit through as a spectator. It wouldn’t work so well if real interaction was part of the venue.

  211. Mae wrote:

    A friend of ours SBC ( reformed ) pastor recently went on a five week sabbatical. It was sickening to read on his FB page, all the sheeple extolling how much he and wife deserved the time off. I wanted to ask the flock how many of them got 5 weeks off with pay?

    Overlords, clergy, serfs. It’s always been this way. Serfs toil to bring forth bread from the earth and the clergy toil for their souls.

  212. Lea wrote:

    Ken P. wrote:
    @ Lea:
    There is a grand total 2 American Baptist Churches here in the great state of South Carolina.
    I found only 1 in my state!

    There are 5 ABCs in Kentucky, but they are in the central and northern parts of the state. The closest one to me is. 110 mile driven each way.

  213. Mae wrote:

    Employment aside from pastoring, seems to make for a more healthy individual in the pulpit.

    I agree, Mae. Aside from the valuable life experiences, and a greater ability to relate to parishioners who work in the real world, Pastors with skills outside the church world are also less vulnerable to Mr. Ranier’s “power groups.”

  214. @ Muff Potter:
    Seems like it’s the majority. Thankfully, our Pastor does not take Sabbaticals. He does have vacations, and occasionally we have a guest in the pulpit.

  215. Lydia wrote:

    @ elastigirl:
    The neo Cal boys are the most vacationing lot I have ever seen. All for the Gospel, of course.

    Don’t you know a sabbatical is much holier then a vacation? ( sarcasm )

  216. GSD [Getting Stuff Done] wrote:

    Mae wrote:
    Employment aside from pastoring, seems to make for a more healthy individual in the pulpit.
    I agree, Mae. Aside from the valuable life experiences, and a greater ability to relate to parishioners who work in the real world, Pastors with skills outside the church world are also less vulnerable to Mr. Ranier’s “power groups.”

    It’s just a healthier construct all around.

  217. Dee and Deb,
    You probably know this, but I doubt Rainer’s adherence to New Calvinism is particularly sincere. He was a big advocate of the church growth movement back in the day. If New Calvinism was not currently prominent in the SBC, I doubt he’d support it. From what I’ve seen of both Stetzer’s and Rainer’s publications, they are intelligent enough to probably realize New Calvinist approaches to church growth are not working in the SBC and also cynical enough not to care. By the way, Rainer had some pretty interesting connections to C. Peter Wagner, back in the day, though he appears to have distanced himself from Wagner. At times I have wondered if this is because Rainer wanted to claim the mantle of leadership in church growth circles, though by now, with the church growth movement dying, I suppose that’s a non-issue.

    Regards,
    John Weaver

  218. John Weaver wrote:

    If New Calvinism was not currently prominent in the SBC, I doubt he’d support it.

    Mr. Weaver points out something I have observed in over 60 years of SBC life. The big dogs run with the most popular bone at the time. During the Conservative Resurgence, moderates became conservative to keep their jobs. State and associational leaders step over the fence when necessary to greener pastures. And in the current environment, previous non-Calvinists are now leaning to the reformed side. You just can’t trust folks like that. It’s called compromise for the wrong reasons and God hates it.

  219. In the interest of fair disclosure, I am a Calvinist and a complementarian. Hopefully I am a nice one!

    There are just are not enough mature, humble men in leadership in most churches. I am referring specifically to unpaid, volunteer leadership positions. We used to call them elder boards or deacon boards, but I guess that term is not cool so we do not use it nowadays. It opens the door for some of these young immature wannabes to find their way into leadership. In other words, they are millennials that cannot find a real job or do not bother looking for one. ( I know I am generalizing )

    In my own career I know several men who are very experienced and want to retire. The funny thing is, their companies keep talking them out of retirement because it is tough to find good replacements that are younger. They are over 65 and very capable leaders. In these cases, the compensation is phenomenal. These men can be trusted to work and not sit on their smart phones all day.

    I see in my own church three or four men who really are qualified but very burdened with other responsibilities. Their businesses are trying to do more and more with fewer people. So men who would otherwise be serving as lay leaders are working 55 and 60 hour weeks. Many have a heavy travel schedule. These men would be very qualified to lead many ministries, but they simply turn it down. They could also serve to hold paid leadership accountable, or perhaps simply mentor them.

    I am not suggesting that this is an excuse for not serving. We will all be held accountable to God for how we spend our time. However, once you are entangled in a career, it is very difficult to unwind it all.

    I point this out because I believe a lot of the issues discussed on this blog, would be resolved if the grownups were in charge.

  220. George wrote:

    a career

    Some of those established successful careers potentially support the brick ‘n mortar, salaries, outreach and missionaries of the local church, on behalf of the young families just getting going.

  221. George wrote:

    In the interest of fair disclosure, I am a Calvinist and a complementarian … There are just are not enough mature, humble men in leadership in most churches … I believe a lot of the issues discussed on this blog, would be resolved if the grownups were in charge.

    AMEN!

    George, your comment crosses theological lines – thank you for providing your perspective. Church is supposed to be comprised of multi-generations in their proper Biblical roles … older men teaching younger men, older women teaching younger women. In many corners of the New Calvinist movement, congregations are populated primarily by Generation X, Y, and Z … older folks are missing. When you have a pastor in his 20s-30s and an “elder” team of 20-30 year olds, the youth group is running the church! I’m not saying that all folks in their 20s-30s are not spiritually mature, but age sure helps get to that point. Our churches need the wisdom of older folks coupled with the energy of youth; young folks to speed things up, older folks to slow it down … balance.

    The early church did not have the division between pulpit and pew that we have today. Whose job is the ministry? Every believer has a part!

  222. Muff Potter wrote:

    Overlords, clergy, serfs. It’s always been this way. Serfs toil to bring forth bread from the earth and the clergy toil for their souls.

    Serfs toil for the enrichment and convenience of their Betters.
    Betters both Temporal and Spiritual.

    “For look who speaks for God —
    The shepherd fleeceth every sheep
    That he guideth with his rod…”
    — Leslie Fish, “No High Ground”

  223. Max wrote:

    Church is supposed to be comprised of multi-generations in their proper Biblical roles … older men teaching younger men, older women teaching younger women.

    My boss is a woman, and she also trained me in my current role. When I was a lab supervisor, I mentored and supervised women and men.

    Maybe this divide between the sexes in churches is contributing to decline in attendance.

    Especially if those roles involve men discussing the business while the’gals’ serve dinner and watch the little ones.

  224. Jack wrote:

    Especially if those roles involve men discussing the business while the’gals’ serve dinner and watch the little ones.

    That is a big part of why I stopped attending church,

  225. Nancy2 (aka Kevlar) wrote:

    Jack wrote:
    Especially if those roles involve men discussing the business while the’gals’ serve dinner and watch the little ones.

    That is a big part of why I stopped attending church,

    I haven’t quit my complementarian SBC congregation yet, but the next time I need to look for a church, the trait mentioned here is one I will take pains to avoid. Starting next time, it’ll be only full egalitarian churches for me (and as you might have picked up earlier, there will be other factors at play in my selection as well, but beyond being … well, Christian … this is of prime importance).

  226. @ George:

    It might be helpful if the circle was wide enough to include all mature Christian adults, not just men . . . but, alas, complementarian.

    I served diligently in churches for 30 years as a volunteer in many areas, while working full time, and having children. I continued serving while homeschooling. I no longer attend a meeting on Sundays. I am working full time again and serving in my community where my services seem much more in tune with helping the needy and less fortunate. Something that seems quite in tune with what Christ calls us to do.

    I was burned out on what I saw going on in churches with people’s resources. It made me sick at heart and I will no longer support the institution of church buildings and meetings. On the other hand, I have no problem with the Church 🙂

  227. @ George:
    George, I do believe that you are a nice Complementarian Calvinist. So, no disrespect intended, but I do believe it is a shame that some capable women can’t step up and fill some of the gaps in your church. We come in grown up versions, too.

    I stopped attending church because our current church is so strict on women —— Sing in the choir, teach women or small children, and bring the covered dishes .,,, that’s it. Can’t speak in business meetings or mixed gender SS classes. There are men’s meeting prior to the business meetings or determine what will be discussed at the business meetings – no gurlz allowed. All of the deacons will come around, shake my husband’s hand and speak to him, but I guess I’m invisible. Two of the deacons constantly insult women drivers……. Half the men in the church almost fainted when they found out my husband didn’t shoot that copperhead — I did. Gasp!

    As a former high school math teacher and a woman who was also very active in our former church, I feel like an outcast in this church, just because God decided to make me a female.

  228. @ George:

    men men men men men

    I expect you are very nice person, indeed….. but if you only know how obnoxious it all sounds.

    i challenge you to open your eyes to all the mature, humble women who can find real jobs because they look for them, are fully qualified for them, and who would insist on doing their work with diligence & integrity while postponing the smart phone.

    These women would be very qualified to lead many ministries, and i bet they won’t turn it down, either.

    I point this out because I believe the leadership crisis you describe as happening in your church & most churches would be resolved if they didn’t overlook all the highly capable women in their midst.

    quite frankly (not that i haven’t been frank already), your church and most churches cannot help but fall short when they suppress the wealth of their resources in human beings who are not the right kind.

  229. elastigirl wrote:

    @ George:
    men men men men men

    I expect you are very nice person, indeed….. but if you only know how obnoxious it all sounds.

    Yeah…it struck me that way too. stop limiting leadership to half your membership, maybe solve some of the problems and more besides.

  230. Jack wrote:

    Maybe this divide between the sexes in churches is contributing to decline in attendance.

    No doubt about it. Scripture also records women having churches in their homes and serving in the offices of prophet and deacon. I have no problem with women preaching and teaching the whole Body of Christ if they are gifted to do so. Any subordination of believers by race, class, or gender is just wrong … we are all one in Christ.

  231. Max wrote:

    Jack wrote:
    Maybe this divide between the sexes in churches is contributing to decline in attendance.
    No doubt about it. Scripture also records women having churches in their homes and serving in the offices of prophet and deacon. I have no problem with women preaching and teaching the whole Body of Christ if they are gifted to do so. Any subordination of believers by race, class, or gender is just wrong … we are all one in Christ.

    Biblical truth!

  232. Mae wrote:

    Jack wrote:
    Maybe this divide between the sexes in churches is contributing to decline in attendance.

    A couple of years back, on a trip out west, we met a young lady from Hong Kong. At some point, she said that back home, at her home church, her mother was the pastor. And I recall thinking, there’s a phrase you don’t hear often in the South.

    In some circles, there is a frequent mention of the underground church in China, and their phenomenal growth in the face of persecution. But there is little mention that in many segments of the Chinese church, female leadership is common. I’ve seen estimates that 60% of leaders are female.

    Maybe there’s a connection.

  233. Josh wrote:

    So let me say, as a member of that hated minority myself, I will give a flying rip what the [traditional] church has to say about how I live my life when they start showing a hint of caring about the consequences of consigning us to lifelong celibacy in an environment that idolizes marriage, orients all of its community and care efforts toward couples, and beats up on single people. In the meantime, I’ll try to love God and love my neighbor to the best of my ability, and let the rest sort itself out between God and myself. In other words, if you’re not going to be a part of the solution, quit whining when I look for solutions on my own.

    Josh, you took words right out of my mouth. I left a church over this and I could not care less any more about their opinion. Especially as they also sell books by Piper and Mahaney. They abused me over the way I chose to live my life and for leaving church. I told them to get their own house in order and stop selling books by pastors that enable child abuse and domestic violence. They were clearly not interested because I sent them the evidence and their facial expressions and vocal tones showed discomfort with “we will look when we get time”. A year later they have not looked, and I have given up asking them about it. I said to them “I have no doubt that you would remove the books instantly if they were written by women”. It really opened my eyes to what kind of people they really are and I have no intention of setting foot in a church associated with the Gospel Coalition again.

  234. Max wrote:

    John Weaver wrote:

    If New Calvinism was not currently prominent in the SBC, I doubt he’d support it.

    Mr. Weaver points out something I have observed in over 60 years of SBC life. The big dogs run with the most popular bone at the time.

    It’s called “Sucking Up to POWER”.
    Or “Riding the bandwagon to the Top”.

  235. @ emily honey:

    “I also think so much in ministry culture often really stems from fear and control and decorating that control and fear with theology and phrases and programs and tribes – and it’s not often really about Jesus himself, not *really*. Though God language may often and sometimes be tediously used.”
    ++++++++++++

    oh, absolutely true. i like that “decorating fear and control with theology and phrases and programs and tribes”. i’m so disappointed in this silly religion of mine — it’s like a rabid virus passed between pastors and parishioners, fear and the need to control and decorating it with “God” words to justify it to oneself and to others. so very dishonest.

    at this point it goes without saying, but it’s the reason complementarianism exists. it’s the premise behind the flood of christian books and the reason why they sell.
    ————————-

    “And identity issues… someone’s identity is primarily anchored in a demonination, doctrine, job, label, etc and not really in Christ*. So typical group think and almost rabid like self-preservation and mob mentality to keep and sustain your false “identity” and the outfit you must dress in to keep the appearance. That false identity supersedes and prevents discovery,”
    ++++++++++++++

    yes, a uniform people put on, based on the identity which people with power determine for them. all based on fear and control. those with power fear losing their power, those without power fear what their influencers have trained them to fear. the group together fears the loss of predictable order imposed by the grid of fear and control.

    yuck

  236. The typical abusive pator divides people up into the leaders versus the followers, divides people up into the pastors versus the pew sitters, divides people up into men versus women, divides people up into those called to lead (they love to stand up on the stage and talk about “My calling”, do they not?) versus those who are not called to lead, divides people up into the professional clergy versus the amateurs whom they rule over.

    And after engaging in all this division…they call anyone who opposes them “divisive”.

  237. Muslin, fka Dee Holmes wrote:

    Law Prof wrote:
    One reason people’s struggle with brutal things that happened at the command of God millenia ago is I think they imagine a god who has great power to do things but is otherwise like us, just an entity taking sides, not the actual God who loves everyone and knows everything. If I were in the shoes of my great, great grandfather in Germany in the 1800s and the Lord told me to kill an innocent boy, I better do it, I might be killing Hitler.
    You’d better be for darn certain God is speaking to you, because you know as well as I do that “God told me to do it” is not a defense to murder in an American courtroom. If you’re lucky, you might get to spend the rest of your life in a mental institution. If you’re not, you may end up on death row.

    Of course you’d better be darned certain. And you better be prepared to be put on death row or killed outright. That’s exactly what happened to most of the disciples of Jesus, by the way. If God tells you to do anything, you’d better be prepared to do it completely without regard to what might happen on this earth. That’s the point. If we’re assuming the true God of the Universe is speaking to you, you do what He says no matter what.

    Muslin, fka Dee Holmes wrote:

    My point is you’re making a huge assumption here, that God is speaking to you and telling you to take the life of someone. Really? Really? Now the Old Testament may talk about genocides, but what we’re learning is that these people didn’t disappear–they intermarried with the Yahweh followers.
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/07/canaanite-bible-ancient-dna-lebanon-genetics-archaeology/
    I have an opinion about the historical veracity of the genocide stories in the Old Testament, but out of respect for the Deebs, I’ll stop here.

    Hey, that was my point. Yes, “really, really?”. Yes, absolutely. If God does truly speak to you, you do absolutely anything, including putting your own child on the altar (see Abraham/Isaac). Of course! Again, this is if God is truly speaking to you. Another point is you’re right, and that’s what I was referring to, the Israelites did intermarry with people from that region, and it was exactly the wrong thing to do. They disobeyed God and as a result became just like those people who were torturing their children to death, with consequences that are still felt to this day. They absolutely should have obeyed God and wiped those people out 3,400 or so years ago. Again, I am making the assumption that God actually told them to do that–the God who knows everything, the God who knows who is and isn’t beyond all hope.

    Of course, you’re making an assumption also, that God didn’t rreally say what the Bible says He said. In all candor, I think that’s a scarier assumption than the one I’m making. My point is simply that there are times when things sound crazy to our human ears but if it’s God doing the talking, assuming He really is the God who knows past, present, future, then you have to assume that He knows best and you follow Him. No. Matter. What. That’s faith, that’s the point. You don’t just get to make up your own theology of right and wrong and follow that. That’s what kills you in the end. Not following God regardless of how crazy it sounds. Note that I’m not saying anyone who claims to follow God is doing so, I’m not saying there aren’t insane people who say “God told me so”–of course there are.

  238. Law Prof wrote:

    The typical abusive pastor divides people up into the leaders versus the followers … pastors versus the pew sitters … men versus women … those called to lead versus those who are not called to lead … professional clergy versus the amateurs whom they rule over

    “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.” (Romans 16:17-18)

  239. Law Prof wrote:

    My point is simply that there are times when things sound crazy to our human ears but if it’s God doing the talking, assuming He really is the God who knows past, present, future, then you have to assume that He knows best and you follow Him. No. Matter. What. That’s faith, that’s the point. You don’t just get to make up your own theology of right and wrong and follow that. That’s what kills you in the end. Not following God regardless of how crazy it sounds.

    Yeah, and the reason I reject the interpretive lens that leads to this ideology is that it leaves me in the position of having no other frame of reference – I can’t think about another person’s perspective, I can’t consider whether it seems cruel or vindictive – with which to evaluate purported commands from God. For example, God literally tells you in scripture to stone me to death (for being gay, BTW). The fact that you’re not doing this either means that you fear the US government more than you fear God, or you may not be taking your stated beliefs to their full logical conclusion.

  240. I don’t know Rainer at all, but as a pastor, I believe that any list like this that only blames the church is really nearsighted and potentially dangerous. I often say in sermons, “As go the leaders, so goes the church.” Even when there are unhealthy power groups, they often grow out of an unhealthy church culture with poor leadership.

  241. anon in the EFCA wrote:

    I often say in sermons, “As go the leaders, so goes the church.” Even when there are unhealthy power groups, they often grow out of an unhealthy church culture with poor leadership.

    I was young and now am old. During my long journey in both business and church, I’ve observed a dynamic regarding leadership that takes place in various institutions, including companies, churches, and homes. After a while, the institution takes on the personality of its leader(s).

    I’ve also come to realize that everything which comes against the church cannot be blamed on the flesh or the world. The devil – the enemy of the church – gets involved at some point and establishes strongholds within the church that are tough to remove. We see the flesh (e.g., prominent families that ‘own’ the church demanding their way), but we fail to discern the spirit driving the flesh … which is not holy. For some reason, these strongholds appear to be most prevalent in rural America, where controlling families and their minions ‘run’ the pastor and deacons. It takes a strong leader to overcome this culture and he better be prepared to intercede for the Lord’s help with focused prayer and wise preaching/teaching to lead the people out of bondage.

  242. Max wrote:

    After a while, the institution takes on the personality of its leader(s).

    Oh, and by the way, I’m not referring only to pulpit leadership here. There is a leadership behind the scenes in many churches where powerful folks in the pew are the real leaders.

  243. I agree, Max, that there can powerful folks in the pews that cause division and heartache. And I appreciate your reminder that we “do not wrestle against flesh and blood…” We desperately need that reminder. However, as a pastor, I am much more quick to lay blame at the feet of the pastor and elders, EVEN when the people in the pews rebel. Some rebel because they are incredibly prideful and power hungry but others rebel because of some form of abusive leadership, however great or small.

    Our small town has a LONG history of terrible church splits. When I helped plant the church 17 years ago, one of my prayers at the time was, “Lord, if this new church is going to cause more harm than good in this community, please kill it.” I’d rather have had a failed church plant and be out of a job than to cause “one of these little ones to stumble.”

    So if I were to write a list like Rainer’s, people in the pews would be on the list but pastor/elder blame would be at the top.

  244. anon in the EFCA wrote:

    When I helped plant the church 17 years ago, one of my prayers at the time was, “Lord, if this new church is going to cause more harm than good in this community, please kill it.” I’d rather have had a failed church plant and be out of a job than to cause “one of these little ones to stumble.”

    With that sort of heart, pastor, you will always lead a church which honors God.

    We are in a leadership crisis in the American church. I’m praying that God will send us leaders who will keep the Main thing the main thing! May He continue to bless your ministry.

  245. anon in the EFCA wrote:

    Our small town has a LONG history of terrible church splits.

    I live in an area that has 18 Southern Baptist churches within a 20 mile radius. Most are splits off of a large “First” church during the last 50 years. One of those recently split again when a young New Calvinist took over the pulpit of a traditional church through stealth and deception. The older non-Calvinist church members started another church to continue preaching whosoever will may come. One of the YRR members in their old church joking tells folks that it is their new church plant! The arrogance of these new reformers continues to amaze me.

  246. @ Max:

    New church plant my foot! They have the nerve to overtake a church, and then call it a new plant. If they had integrity, they would call it what it is, the stealing away of a church.

  247. Mae wrote:

    They have the nerve to overtake a church, and then call it a new plant.

    In this case, they call the church they stole a “replant” since they have brought in the true gospel they say the previous church lost (they mean Calvinism, of course). They jokingly refer to the folks who left to form another church their church plant. These folks are sick.

  248. Apropos people in the pew, I find that folks take their cues from clergy. And if the clergyperson stays long enough, the church even takes on a personality much like him or her’s.

    This paradigm also can come about through inaction. Or as one person said of a clergyperson I know, “I would never belong to [that] church. And it’s because of the way people talk to each other. And it goes right to the top. And I’ll tell you right now, [he] will never say anytbing about it. And because [he] engages in a certain amount of it himself, he shows people it’s okay.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *