Mourning the Death of True Pastors in an Era of Corporate Leadership and Walking Podcasts

The Deebs wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving with your loved ones. We shall also pray for those of you who are alone and hurting during the holidays. We are so glad you are here.

I have read a number of books that Tim Keller has written. I’ve even listened to a couple of his podcasts along the way. A number of unchurched people in New York City have come to listen to him speak and a few have become Christians. I have also read a number of works written by Martin Luther as well as the Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin (and I am still not a Calvinist).

Yet none of these men are/were my pastors. As you will see, Tim Keller would agree that he is not the real pastor of his people as well.

I attended a mega church in my area. I thought the putative pastor did a decent job on some of his sermons. I listened to some of his podcasts and thought a few of his ideas for ministry had merit. I do not think I came within 10 feet of him in the 1 1/2 years I attended the church. I noticed he once smiled in my direction but I am not sure he was looking at me. He seems like a nice guy but I couldn’t say for sure..

He was not my pastor but I guess you could say he was the one running the church services I attended. I don’t believe that he ever intended on being my pastor.

I joined a church with about 650 members after attending it for 2 years. I’ve listened to the sermons which I have enjoyed. The two pastors started calling my husband and I by name after we had been attending for a few months. They would often shake our hands and ask how we were doing without being intrusive. They stood by me when an awful letter was sent about me to many church members and our synod. The pastor contacted us specifically to ask if we would consider being confirmation guides. I was able to do so but my husband couldn’t due to his schedule.The pastors show up to lots of gatherings in the church and walk around to talk to the folks. They will pray for you BY NAME if you wish during the actual church service.

They are my pastors.

A dear person suggested I audit a class on Pastoral Leadership at a Lutheran seminary to understand how they view pastors. They appear to see things very differently than today’s mega site, mega watt, dude bro churches. They believe that pastors should do funerals and weddings and be involved if someone is seriously ill in the hospital. They believe that pastors should get to know the people in their church. They actually want to be real pastors.

Sojourn Network, along with most mega church and groups, sees pastors differently than my church.

Executive pastors and their brand new, super duper lexicon and organizational methods.

In October 2017, the Sojourn Network posted Drinking Jet Fuel w/ Tim Keller. As soon as I read the the title, I knew I was about to be told that things were going to be rapidly changing in churches associated with the Sojourn Network. I attended Ed Young Jr’s Fellowship Church in Dallas for a couple of years. Just as he was about to go megachurch on us, he did a sermon in which he told us to hold onto the tail of a supersonic jet because that was what was going to happen to Fellowship Church. Big money, big buildings and big programs(along with a super big house for Ed) were on the agenda. We quickly left the church, having no intention of letting Ed be the pilot of our Christian walk.

Tim Belz, the author of the article, is (say the following with a serious voice) the strategist for the Sojourn Network. Now, call me naive but I think the strategy for doing church is well outlined in the Scripture by the ultimate strategist-God.

Tim, who was also an *executive* pastor  for two of these churches, and the *consultant* for 80+ churches around the country (we are duly impressed) is all excited about the new *lexicon and organizational model* invented by Tim Keller for growing churches. It appears the lexicon for churches in the Scriptures is not enough. We need a 21st century new and improved lexicon invented by executive type pastors who build big churches.

He erroneously believes that growing churches like his are just like the church in Acts 2.

He says that today’s mega growth churches are like the church of Acts 2:42-47. Did you catch this? Today’s churches are just like the brand new church formed after the coming of the Holy Spirit. Let’s look at those verses.

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.(NIV)

I disagree with his co-opting of the miracles associated with the early founding of the church for his own church network. First of all, most of today’s big churches do not get there by making new disciples. They get there by poaching each others’ church members. The two megas in my area are playing the “You start a church in that new development, and we will start one right around the corner” game. Both of those churches are taking members from church #3, and they are all members of the same denomination. This is absolute madness. The Sojourn Network is in no way similar to the Acts 2 church which involved true conversions not church transfers.

In 2013 I wrote Church Planting: Is It About the Gospel or Acquisitions?


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

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

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

So there it is– about 44% of new members at megachurches are from other local churches– not 60%, not 70%, and definitely not 95%. I hear people saying 90% and I agree that’s a myth. However, look closely at the chart. See if you can spot the difficulties as did David Fitch of Reclaiming the Mission link.

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

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


Belz agrees with Tim Keller that when a church grows, the pastor must cease being pastor and instead be an administrator.

How very odd. I thought that pastors were called to that role. It appears the role should be dumped if the church grows really quickly. Here is what Tm Keller says according to Belz.

For example, let’s say your church is on the cusp of moving from a small to medium sized church. Keller identifies 5 key changes that may need to be made:

1.multiplication options (more than one service, adding groups);
2.adding staff;
3.shifting decision-making power away from the whole membership;
4.becoming more formal and deliberate in assimilation,
5.and moving the lead pastor away from shepherding everyone to being more of an organizer/administrator.

Sadly, Belz goes on and on about all the organizational changes that must take place, which doesn’t sound at all like what happened in Acts 2:42-47. There is not one word about glad and sincere hearts who enjoy breaking bread together while being filled with awe at what was going on. His description sounds like the pharmaceutical company I used to work for. It was successful business, but it wasn’t a church.

As you enact some or all of these changes, they will prompt associated changes in your polity and governance. Specifically, most churches experience the need to separate governance and management functions…that often requires revisions to your bylaws. Beyond Keller – many medium size churches face “mission creep” in the start up of multiple new ministries to attract and retain newcomers.

Do you want pastors or do you want administrators and walking podcasts?

Ed Stetzer once described how he set up his role as a church pastor while also being in charge of all sorts of other more important things. We wrote about it in Ed Stetzer and the Four Fence Posts that Define His Ministry.

Here is what he had to say. It boils down to “the members do the work and leave him alone because he has more important things on his plate.” Needless to say, he didn’t stay there long. He was on to bigger and better things at Wheaton College.

“At Grace Church, there are three things and ONLY three things that I do: I meet with the staff/apprentices, I preach about 70% of the time, and I lead a small group in my home.

One of the benefits this boundary has brought to our church is that we are very clearly not a pastor-centered church. I’m very upfront with my role to my church. I explain I can’t do funerals, visits, phone calls, or meetings. This leaves the door wide open for our congregation to see areas of leadership where they are needed, and to respond accordingly.”

It is perfectly fine to go to your mega church but do not pretend that you have a real pastor. You have a walking podcast or perhaps a professor. However, if you want to be part of a church body where you actually know your pastor, look for a church that has less than 800 people with a pastor who likes being a pastor and is not trying to become just another ho-hum *administrator.*

Just because you go to a 7,000 member church does not mean you are in a successful church. You are merely getting people to transfer to your church because the music is cool and they have climbing walls for the kiddos. The question to ask yourself is this: Does your pastor really care about you? Better yet, does he know your name? Even more important, does it even matter to him? Is he really a pastor or merely a podcast with legs…


Comments

Mourning the Death of True Pastors in an Era of Corporate Leadership and Walking Podcasts — 169 Comments

  1. Pastors – real ones – are a rare and endangered species in the American church. We’ve got an overabundance of church leaders who are preacher-teachers, but not pastors. Mega is overrated … a church is too big if the shepherd doesn’t know his flock … if he doesn’t know his flock, he doesn’t really care about them.

  2. A true pastor can call the names of the members of the church, and generally will know who was not there on a particular Sunday. They will also know who is new in the pews.

  3. I just had lunch with someone I knew from my college years but hadn’t seen in decades. He had been very involved in the church where we met but we lost contact 30 years ago after he moved away. I found he is now a non-believer, his major reason was the church. He had more than his share of pain in life and the church was no help, basically what we see as the “church” had not been the Church for him.

    While I been on record for having little respect for the “pastor” title I am also wary of casting all the blame onto a professional class that was created in large part to fill a void. Looking back on my own history I can see that there were far too many times I relied on the institutional church to cover for what should have been my responsibilities. I repent of the institutional church.

  4. One thing I never get about mourning and grief in faith communities, I do understand that grief can be inconvenient, which in my experience in the real world is a horrid and vile sin. When I first became a “Christian” they would quote cast your cares upon Him, He will dry your tears. Then U join the faith community believing all the love bombs during induction. I get it is, and always should be a buyer beware market, and it is a market, but I really did need. Another sin I constantly try to repent of. Evangelical communities dont seem to handle death very well, which is funny in a way because that is their bread and butter in a strange kind of way. This is silly even stupid on my part but I really did believe it was a family back when I first dove into the industry. This blog reminds me that it still is and I am deeply thankful for that. Please pray I find a new real-world spiritual family. I really want to try again I really do but it is so daunting. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

  5. I guess this is a good place to share this. I took care of a young man at the state facility I worked at many decades ago. He has always been burned into my soul. At one time he ran, played, went to school, and took care of his grandmother. He did have a developmental disability, but he was able to live independently to some degree. He had some event/seizure and suffered severe brain damage. He became a quadriplegic, had constant massive muscle contractions it got so bad with his had contractions that he was digging through his palms all the way to the other side of his hand. He was in a wheel bed so we could transport him. He constantly had violent contractions, he would look at you with such terror at times. He could talk with a great deal of effort on his parts. He was fully aware of what was happening to him.

    I would sit with him wiping his face because the constant muscle jerking caused him to sweat so much. We used to help him eat until that became too dangerous and he had to have a GT, he did seem to miss eating so we would take him with his peers to the dining room to try to give him some continuity. You all must understand this, these people, all of them taught me about Jesus Christ far more than any words in any book, no offense. I was seeing living epistles all around me. I realize I may be Anthropomorphizing such events the Sam Harris side of my soul yells out, then the Joni/Henri Nouwen sides of me. It got to the point where this young man’s autonomic system was failing so his body temperature would elevate then lower so in one moment he would be sweating and in a few minutes, he would be chattering his teeth and shivering. I remember saying silent prayers and trying to bring him up in prayer group at church but that often turned into the I want attention, I want this or that stuff I have spoken about. Nothing changed it, except human intervention ie medicine, postural supports, and behavior interventions on a 24/7 basis.

    Eventually, he passed after literally years of horrid suffering. I guess that is what we all have come because of the fall but that gives little solace. He came down the elevator and I met him, he was in the body bag with the coroner, a sight I often observed, I touched the black bag on the silver gurney and I said, “I’m sorry “person’s name” I wish I could have done more.” Close but not perfect quote. Those memories still stick with me, they defined me, I personally think they saved my soul. So many stories so many memories. I guess I am thankful for that as well.

  6. @ brian:

    Wow. That’s some profound stuff — I think that may be why the others at your old prayer group found it difficult to handle, because most people don’t have that kind of experience and might find it difficult to address or even understand.

    The kind of pain that young man was in is really difficult to accept, especially if one believes God is good. But your actions and the actions of those around you were living displays of love and kindness — and those silent actions are more powerful than any words.

    I’m sure someone has probably already told you this, but in that young man’s eyes you were almost certainly a beacon of hope and kindness and goodwill in the world he was forced into.

    That’s a difficult and uncomfortable thing to talk about, but even if no one else knew about or could even understand your kindness, that man definitely did. I hope you can see that as well.

  7. I went to a semimegachurch for a while (I think that term is appropriate for a biggish church that’s not quite mega) and experienced a funny mish-mash: the pastor genuinely cared about each person, but it was so big that it had to be run like a business. I felt like the pastor genuinely wanted to be a friend (and after a long and painful theological debacle and reconciliation, thankfully we now are), but it was very easy to get swamped in sheer numbers, and get treated like a package at the post office. That wasn’t the intent, but most of the people in leadership or being trained had studied business and marketing. Now, there are certain principles that helped with organizing that many people, but as I said it was a strange mishmash of the disparate elements of friendship and business that only exacerbated some of the problems I was having, which eventually made me have to leave. We reconciled as friends, but I haven’t been back for geographical reasons.

    Now I’m part of a pretty small church that meets in a converted apartment building in a place where non-cultural, non-Roman Christians are considered rather strange — so this makes it a little more like a “we few, we happy few, we band of brothers” environment (to quote Henry V). I am happy to say it no longer feels like a business, but my situation is a little abnormal…

  8. In the OP Dee wrote, “Tim (Beltz), who was also an *executive* pastor  for two of these churches”
    Mr Beltz fails to mention in the article that the first church was Mars Hill. In late 2011 churches began splitting with Acts 29, led by Sojourn Community Church of Louisville. http://thewartburgwatch.com/2012/03/29/mark-driscoll-21st-century-humpty-dumpty/
    Shortly thereafter Tim Beltz, as with many pastors, vanished from Mark’s Hill without a trace. Beltz resurfaced in Louisville in 2013– much like CJ Mahaney.

  9. An Attorney wrote:

    A true pastor can call the names of the members of the church, and generally will know who was not there on a particular Sunday. They will also know who is new in the pews.

    Mega churches are getting better at that. They take credit cards so they can call whoever didnt donate last Sunday and remind them lol

  10. An Attorney wrote:

    A true pastor can call the names of the members of the church, and generally will know who was not there on a particular Sunday. They will also know who is new in the pews.

    My last snarky post aside-
    I went to a small church like that. It was close knit and several of the members also did what you mentioned. If someone wasnt there on a Sunday that person often got a call either from the pastor or a church member that knew them well just to make sure they were ok. Sometimes they would find that an elderly member that hadnt shown up was in hospital and they would get together and make sure they had care and food etc when they got discharged. I miss churches like that!

  11. brian wrote:

    Please pray I find a new real-world spiritual family. I really want to try again I really do but it is so daunting. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

    Amen and for me too, a church that ‘bears one anothers burdens’ and weeps with those that weep.

  12. brian wrote:

    Those memories still stick with me, they defined me, I personally think they saved my soul. So many stories so many memories. I guess I am thankful for that as well.

    What you shared is very very similar to what Mother Teresa often said. Her experiences with the sick and dying that were outcasts no one else wanted to have to deal with were where she was closest to Jesus. For that poor soul that you ministered to, you were Christ’s love. A love he may never have had without your selfless giving of not only your hands but your heart. It costs alot emotionally to love like that. If i ever had to be in that man’s shoes i dont know what i would do if no one ever cared but instead treated me with sanitized proper care that had no compassion or love…which is what many disabled people receive.God bless you for daring to stick with him during his time of need.

  13. brian wrote:

    I guess this is a good place to share this. I took care of a young man at the state facility I worked at many decades ago. He has always been burned into my soul. At one time he ran, played, went to school, and took care of his grandmother. He did have a developmental disability, but he was able to live independently to some degree. He had some event/seizure and suffered severe brain damage. He became a quadriplegic, had constant massive muscle contractions it got so bad with his had contractions that he was digging through his palms all the way to the other side of his hand. He was in a wheel bed so we could transport him. He constantly had violent contractions, he would look at you with such terror at times. He could talk with a great deal of effort on his parts. He was fully aware of what was happening to him.

    I would sit with him wiping his face because the constant muscle jerking caused him to sweat so much. We used to help him eat until that became too dangerous and he had to have a GT, he did seem to miss eating so we would take him with his peers to the dining room to try to give him some continuity. You all must understand this, these people, all of them taught me about Jesus Christ far more than any words in any book, no offense. I was seeing living epistles all around me. I realize I may be Anthropomorphizing such events the Sam Harris side of my soul yells out, then the Joni/Henri Nouwen sides of me. It got to the point where this young man’s autonomic system was failing so his body temperature would elevate then lower so in one moment he would be sweating and in a few minutes, he would be chattering his teeth and shivering. I remember saying silent prayers and trying to bring him up in prayer group at church but that often turned into the I want attention, I want this or that stuff I have spoken about. Nothing changed it, except human intervention ie medicine, postural supports, and behavior interventions on a 24/7 basis.

    Eventually, he passed after literally years of horrid suffering. I guess that is what we all have come because of the fall but that gives little solace. He came down the elevator and I met him, he was in the body bag with the coroner, a sight I often observed, I touched the black bag on the silver gurney and I said, “I’m sorry “person’s name” I wish I could have done more.” Close but not perfect quote. Those memories still stick with me, they defined me, I personally think they saved my soul. So many stories so many memories. I guess I am thankful for that as well.

    This sounds like such a hard experience. I’ve heard others testify like you, that in caring for the sick or vulnerable in some way, they have felt closer to Jesus than in “normal” church settings. I guess if you think that we are the church, not the building, then that makes a lot of sense. God bless you for caring for that person like that.

    I resonate with what you and SandyC said about wanting to find a church that is willing to bear one another’s burdens. Sometimes the church wants to help but is clueless, and shies away when it comes to what that actually means in real life, practical terms. They don’t know how to react when it comes to situations that are beyond the normal run of life. And yet those things are life as well.

  14. Three years ago I lived in a town with population of about 15,000 people that had apx 80 denominational christian churches and a handful of non christian churches as well. An Acts 29 church started up and by year 2 they boasted of 500 members that met in the towns convention center. I noticed the orginization way they began and increased membership, It was very much run as a business instead of ‘church’. One of the first things they did was send the hip pastor and dude bro ‘elders’ (30-ish yrs old) to a couple of the largest most sucessful businessess in the area. They got a couple of ‘converts’ from the upper management of those businesses and advertised their ‘salvation’ as headlines in their church and used that to get more people to join the effort to ‘save’ the town. One of the converts was well known in the community and he had been pretty much a cad before. Alot of people from other churches joined when this church played up the ‘no more dead church’ ‘come join us and fulfil the great commision! we know how to do it right!’ stuff they were putting in flyers and ads all over town. From talking to people in town that went to this new church I estimate that of the 500 members, 97% were people that had been members of other churches. Also many said they were bored in their old churches and it was something new to do! As far as marketing skills it was very profitable. Oh and on that note- one couple that invited me to go with them said ‘they dont even take offerings!’ i really had to check that statement out and asked a couple that had been going for a year. They explained that part of the form they had to sign to become members included a legal document about tithing and that they mailed their tithes regularly once a week or payed for the whole month with a credit card auto bill pay! I never did go, but hey, hella advertising/corporation building plan! Oh also they had exclusive meet the head dude bros gatherings during the week at the swankest bars/resturants in town!

  15. I saw a facebook meme with a picture of a young pastor in a church on his cell phone saying- “Hey Heavenly Father, I healed the money changers and threw the sick and lame out of the temple, tripling 4th quarter profits!”

  16. One question that would need to be addressed is why the megas can set up shop and draw from the established churches.

    I get the analogy to Wal-Mart but if the smaller churches were so awesome then the mega wouldn’t be a threat.

    I grew up attending a smaller church and I remember it got pretty cliquey. So much so, my dad quit going and my mom wound up going to a different one.

    My wife’s church would be classed as a mini mega, about a thousand. It does offer a modicum of anonymity. I can sit in the foyer and read my book without any hassle. Maybe people don’t crave community in the traditional sense anymore?

  17. At last, all is clear and Tim Keller demonstrates how far removed he has become from The Great Commission. The seeds were sown a long time ago when he was attracted to social justice, the Marxist philosophy of The Frankfurt School, contextualising the Gospel. You’ll find it all in his books The Reason for God and Generous Justice.

    I recommend everyone reads the following to get a true idea of the scale of the change he is proposing. The pastor, no longer a pastor, small churches give too much power to their members, move the decision-making process to a small group of those who know best. It’s truly shocking but at least we can now see the wolf underneath the wool.

    http://seniorpastorcentral.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2016/04/Tim-Keller-Size-Dynamics.pdf

  18. Liz wrote:

    Sometimes the church wants to help but is clueless, and shies away when it comes to what that actually means in real life, practical terms. They don’t know how to react when it comes to situations that are beyond the normal run of life.

    That’s pretty much me. I never know how to react other than just be available.

    We call transfer growth Musical Churches and we are careful to only say churches are growing if they have new converts. It’s funny though, once we started talking about evangelism behind the pulpit and gave our members evangelistic challenges, people started leaving. It’s really depressing, but I don’t think a lot of Christians want to share the Gospel. They may want the Gospel shared, but they don’t want to do it. At least that’s been our recent experience.

    You really do need the whole church to be pastoral though. The leaders should know names and general information, but ideally the whole church would really be a family and pastor each other.

  19. @ Jack:

    Jack

    When you talk about sitting in the foyer and reading a book, I always imagine a man sitting in the hallway of an arena outside one of the many entrance doors on some kind of structural ledge. The aesthetic environment is very white and sterile, while the man is fairly generic and undefined. I wonder if anyone ever stops to have a real conversation with you. I wonder if you’ve seen them “love one another” in a way that sets them apart from all other gatherings of people.

    I think it is absolutely amazing how you still make the effort to be with your wife when she attends church. I’m always thankful that you post your comments here.

  20. @ What Happened:

    The other side of that is what I/we experienced in the lobby. RE was too fed up to endure SBC mega any more and she already knew she was leaving-for excellent reasons. But the kids were still going to Wed night kids stuff, which they both disliked but RE was trying to not stir things up too much for them while she looked elsewhere, so she sat out in the lobby while the kids did their thing and the Wed night people did their thing and she asked me to go with her. So we sat in the lobby on Wed night. People did not intrude on us. Periodically uniformed security walked by on their appointed rounds, and we nodded and spoke as did they. Periodically the kids from ethnic other church were herded past with their leaders, and periodically the bitsy ones were wheeled past with their care givers. We sat and discussed various and sundry and waited for the kids. It was all very pleasant, and nobody challenged our choice to do just that. I have to hand them that-they did not make us feel bad in any way about being in the lobby.

    It can be called manners, you know. Respect for other people’s decisions. There are two sides to most coins.

  21. Lowlandseer wrote:

    At last, all is clear and Tim Keller demonstrates how far removed he has become from The Great Commission.

    I understand the fact that many people do not like the large size model for church. I do not like the small church size model because of one two many-okay several too many-really ugly church dust ups. But I do not think that the Great Commission is a process model as compared to a just-get-out-and-get-it-done ‘commission’.

    I am thinking that Peter preaching to the crowds on the one hand and Philip one on one with the Ethiopian eunuch on the other hand are both consistent with the great commission. Then there was Jesus preaching to crowds in the thousands and then going off alone with the inner circle-both methods which he used.

    What can be wrong with that as far as the great commission is concerned?

  22. According to Johnny Mac, passages like Acts 2 prove churches grow too quickly because there isn’t a healthy ‘biblical’ fear of getting killed that would prevent unsaved people from entering through the doors.

    Excerpt taken from: https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/GTY114/a-biblical-response-to-the-churchgrowth-movement

    “There are a lot of sick people, lots of people who were infirm, diseased, disabled. Miracles were going on in there. Signs and wonders were going on in there. Listen, this is beyond a light show. This is beyond a rock band. This is beyond a skit or a drama. This is the real deal and the fear in the church was that unbelievers would come in and they already knew that the Lord said that the devil would sow tares. The church was in danger of being leavened by the world. So the wonder of it all had to be mitigated with fear. In fact, the fear had to be so powerful and so great that it stopped non-Christians outside the door. This is absolutely upside down from modern church growth strategy. They could really draw a crowd if they chose to. But there had to become such a deadly dread and fear that unbelievers wouldn’t dare go in to the church.

    Acts 5, God Himself provides the horror. I like this story. “A certain man named Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property. Kept back some of the price for himself with his wife’s full knowledge.” In other words, they didn’t have to sell it, as the story tells, they didn’t have to give it all but they did sell it and they did say they were going to give it all and they didn’t, kept back some…deception. “Bring in a portion of it,” verse 2, “Laid it at the Apostles’ feet.” That’s how they took the offering, the collection in the early church in Jerusalem, they laid it at the Apostles’ feet.

    Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?” He acts like an unbeliever and that pollutes the church. “While it remained unsold, didn’t it remain in your own. After it was sold, wasn’t it under your control? Why is it that you have conceived the deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God. And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last. Huh, he dropped dead. Of course, the next line, “Great fear came on all who heard of it.” That was the reason for it. Ananias was a sacrificial lamb to send a message to anybody who thought he could willy-nilly roll into the church and live anyway they wanted to live. You’re liable to drop dead in there. ”

    Well, I think J Mac, in attempts to follow his idea of ‘biblical’, should post plenty of Phil. 3:2a signs (available at your local Ace Hardware) all over the parking lot. This would be a good step in keeping the numbers down inside the building.

  23. There is also the problem at many mega churches of a distorted me-centered gospel. In sales, the important itch to scratch is to answer the question “WIIFM?” What’s in it for me? At an Acts 29 church I attended, the mission was to tell people where they can find “satisfaction.” When I read the preaching in the book of Acts I see more of the nature of “flee from the wrath to come” preaching. So even the 10% who are unchurched are probably drawn to the church by a false gospel.

  24. dee wrote:

    @ Dave A A:
    Whoa! I need to add that to my post. Thank you!!! You want a great research job, no pay?

    You already have that job. Unless you’re planning to retire……
    Really, the first few months of 2012 were a fascinating time in the church-planting-network, gospelly-coalition, and elephant-room world. The news and shake-ups came fast and furious. And there must have been abundant acrimony and ill-will behind the scenes. And this bitter strife produced, among other things, the Sojourn Network now strategerized by Beltz (with a t, which you may want to edit in the OP).

  25. Realistically, the sociological studies say that 150 people is about the capacity of a single pastor as far as knowing their people. That is why churches with solo pastorates rarely grow larger than that number.

    As much as I disagree with the “I’m too cool to pastor the ‘common people'” crowd, I do not think it is fair to castigate them for a structural reality. They HAVE TO become more like an executive or administrator in order to grow beyond the 150 mark. Of course, that raises other questions:

    -Should we have megachurches?
    -Should we be hiring at a level where people could have an ACTUAL pastoral relationship with church staff?
    -Is it anti-biblical for such a role shift in a pastor’s career as he or she works at a larger and larger church?

    Like an engineer taking on more and more management roles in a growing company, that does not mean he is no longer an engineer or never uses his engineering skills again. However, his leadership and management skills are needed as the company grows and requires leadership.

    Finally, I would point to the medical world. I grew up in Rochester, MN–home to the Mayo Clinic. This organizations has doctors at the helm. Do we then say those individuals aren’t doctors now that they lead a multi-million or billion dollar organization? They likely aren’t functioning as ones with much frequency, but that does not mean they aren’t doctors.

  26. A few random thoughts:
    1) The “classic” local church is a different thing entirely from the large church. It is about community and bearing each others’ burdens.
    2) The “mega” church affords the consumer a certain status based on being associated with a corporate brand.
    3) As such, the mega church is both the natural consequence of unthinking American consumers gobbling up marketing propaganda, as well as a fundamental failure of American Christians to approbate the nature and values of the Christian faith.

  27. Interesting what Tim Keller said about how the Pastor’s role is administrative not shepherding! Here’s more of his quotes on how he believes that wounded people should be counseled:

    Tim Keller writes in the Meaning of Marriage:

    “There are many reasons that we cannot see our own self-centeredness. One of the main factors that hides it from us is our own history of mistreatment. Many people come to marriage having been seriously hurt by parents, lovers, or former spouses……Then there are the dating relationships or former marriages in which the other party wronged and betrayed you.” (p. 59-60)

    “Woundedness makes us self-absorbed.” (p. 60)

    “Woundedness is compounded self-doubt, guilt, resentment, and disillusionment.”
    (p. 60)

    “Our hurts and wounds can make our self-centeredness even more intractable.” (p. 61)

    “This is not hard to see in others, of course. When you being to talk to wounded people, it is not long before they begin talking about themselves. They’re so engrossed in their own pain and problems that they don’t realize what they look like to others. They are not sensitive to the needs of others. They don’t pick up the cues of those who are hurting or if they do, they only do in a self-involved way……They get involved with others in an obsessive and controlling way because they are actually meeting their own needs though they deceive themselves about this.” (p. 60)

    “When you point out selfish behavior to a wounded person, he or she will say…….the wounds justify the behavior.” (p. 61)

    “There are two ways to diagnose and treat this condition.….In this (secular) view of things we give wounded people almost nothing but support, encouraging them to stop letting others run their lives, urging them to find out what their dreams are and take steps to fulfill them. That we think is the way to healing. But this approach assumes that self centeredness isn’t natural……only the product of some kind of mistreatment…..That is a very popular view of many people in the West but this view of things simply doesn’t work.” (p. 61)

    “Christian approach…….(is that) we believe that as badly wounded as persons may be, the resulting self-absorption of the human heart was not caused by the mistreatment. It was only magnified and shaped by it. Their mistreatment poured gasoline on the fire and the flame and smoke now choke them but their self-centeredness already existed prior to their woundedness.” (p. 61-62)

    “All people need to be treated gently and respectfully, esp. those who have been wounded…….Nevertheless, all people must be challenged to see that their self-centeredness hasn’t been caused by the people who hurt them its only been aggravated by the abuse.” (p. 63)

    “The woundedness makes us minimize our own selfishness.” (p. 63)

    Now keep in mind that according to Ezekiel 34—the pastor’s role is to:

    1) Strengthen the weak
    2) Heal the sick
    3) BANDAGE THE HURT
    4) Bring back the ones that wandered away
    5) Look for the ones that were lost
    6) Feed the sheep (see verses 2-3)

    Do those quotes sound like fulfilling the pastor’s Biblical role of “bandaging the hurt?”

  28. Jack wrote:

    My wife’s church would be classed as a mini mega, about a thousand. It does offer a modicum of anonymity.

    I guess my town of about a thousand offical full-time residents can call itself a mini-mega!
    But there’s precious little anonymity. The town could be serve as a church-growth parable. At the start of the last century there were 3 towns here. The railroad came througb bypassing all 3. So an entrepreneur planted the new town by the tracks. Soon folks were cannibalizing the 3 old towns for building materials or moving whole houses, and the 3 old towns ceased to be.

  29. I have lowered expectations from any local church. As a father, I have tried to teach my family members to bring their own metaphorical bag lunch of joy in Christ and expect to share.

    If the local congregation can add to the meal, that’s just a bonus. This is not a full cure but it helps. I got these ideas from Bonhoeffer (Life Together) , George Muller, Precept Ministries, and living through much harsh treatment from well meaning churches that Christ has called me to forgive and love.

  30. Happy Thanksgiving to Dee, Deb, and the Wartburg Watch community. I’m having a different kind of Thanksgiving in Houston, helping my parents hang drywall in their Harvey-damaged home.

    I’m no fan of TKNY since the “cute” video of him being chauffered around Manhattan in a Volvo luxury SUV, but there are churches that are big because they’re in a populated area, so all the churches are big, and there can only be one pastor. So I can see that a pastor needs to do something. But, while I could go on, it’s what’s been said on this blog before, people want the distant superstar pastor who preaches vague generalities too.

  31. Here is the mission statement from the Acts 29 church I attended:

    “To help unfulfilled people find genuine satisfaction and life in Jesus Christ for the glory of God and for the good of our city and world.”

    This teaching has become known as the “therapeutic gospel.” The lead pastor and visionary has, by no coincidence I think, a doctorate in counseling and has a thriving practice on the side.

  32. Many of the lead pastor’s counseling referrals came from a famous megachurch in Charlotte (Elevation). Killing two birds with one stone. A truly symbiotic relationship.

  33. An Attorney wrote:

    A true pastor can call the names of the members of the church, and generally will know who was not there on a particular Sunday. They will also know who is new in the pews.

    Possibly, but the same observation can be made about a bartender or a waitress. I went to a small restaurant about once a week or so. The bartender remembered my drink – diet Coke – and the waitress remembered what I usually order. I’m just one of many customers.

  34. Let me see if I understand correctly about christians.

    The people who go to big churches are only there because they like the drivel which they hear instead of the gospel.

    The people who go to small churches are only there because they get ego strokes from the pastor who remembers their name.

    Really?

  35. The thing is, there are people cited in the Bible as being administrators, it’s called out as a spiritual gift. But that is not necessarily the role of pastor. Nothing in the Bible indicates this.

    I tend to believe that many leaders are neither pastors nor administrators nor true leaders t all, but people who want to make lots of money and receive lots of acclaim and do not have the natural talent to get either in the secular world, so they proclaim themselves anointed leaders of the church and if they’re ruthless enough to do whatever it takes to get there (as so many are) there always seems to be a ready group with itching ears willing to prop them up and support them. The itching ears crowd usually gets the so-called pastors they deserve: phony, proud, money-loving, power hungry, cold, hateful.

  36. okrapod wrote:

    Let me see if I understand correctly about christians.
    The people who go to big churches are only there because they like the drivel which they hear instead of the gospel.
    The people who go to small churches are only there because they get ego strokes from the pastor who remembers their name.
    Really?

    Perhaps it’s all true, and just an indication of the massive hypocrisy that exists in much of so-called christendom.

  37. Dale Rudiger wrote:

    At an Acts 29 church I attended, the mission was to tell people where they can find “satisfaction.”

    Your first mistake was attending an Acts 29 church. How funny that what Mick Jagger sang about 50 years ago and was criticized as being ungodly, heathen stuff, is now pretty much front and center as the reason for the contemporary church. By the way, to those taking sides on this forum on the mega/small fellowship debate, I’ve been to my share of both massive megas with nearly 10,000 members and/or regular attenders and tiny fellowships of less than 50, and the meet the need, satisfy the urge, provide instant satisfaction attitude can be found in both.

  38. sandy c wrote:

    One of the first things they did was send the hip pastor and dude bro ‘elders’ (30-ish yrs old) to a couple of the largest most sucessful businessess in the area. They got a couple of ‘converts’ from the upper management of those businesses and advertised their ‘salvation’ as headlines in their church and used that to get more people to join the effort to ‘save’ the town.

    Just like the high school youth group strategy of getting a couple varsity quarterback/head cheerleader/cool kid “converts” under Screwtape’s principle of “get the celebrity, get all his groupies for free”. Unfortunately, this backfires over the long run, as the Cool Kids only want to hold court with the other Cool Kids, AKA “Oh also they had exclusive meet the head dude bros gatherings during the week at the swankest bars/resturants in town!”

  39. Divorce Minister wrote:

    Realistically, the sociological studies say that 150 people is about the capacity of a single pastor as far as knowing their people. That is why churches with solo pastorates rarely grow larger than that number.

    That’s the human troop-size limit, the size of a nomad tribe or infantry company; once you get over that number, some sort of organization and heirarchy is inevitable.

  40. kin wrote:

    According to Johnny Mac, passages like Acts 2 prove churches grow too quickly because there isn’t a healthy ‘biblical’ fear of getting killed that would prevent unsaved people from entering through the doors.

    All I can say about “a healthy Biblical fear of getting killed” that is you can only take God holding his Hell-gun to the back of your head (with one up the spout, hammer back, and safety off) for so long before you kill yourself, go crazy, or run like hell from that Cosmic Monster and never look back.

    If God’s waiting for a chance to kill you, what refuge do you have?

  41. Dale Rudiger wrote:

    Many of the lead pastor’s counseling referrals came from a famous megachurch in Charlotte (Elevation). Killing two birds with one stone. A truly symbiotic relationship.

    One Hand Washing The Other?

  42. Dave A A wrote:

    At the start of the last century there were 3 towns here. The railroad came througb bypassing all 3. So an entrepreneur planted the new town by the tracks. Soon folks were cannibalizing the 3 old towns for building materials or moving whole houses, and the 3 old towns ceased to be.

    The railroad-era version of an Interstate bypass.
    Ask any of the ghost towns along old Route 66.

  43. brian wrote:

    Those memories still stick with me, they defined me, I personally think they saved my soul. So many stories so many memories. I guess I am thankful for that as well.

    Because that was REAL.

    No weaving complex theological/doctrinal minutiae within minutiae in your third-floor study, ringing wifey to bring you tea.

  44. Law Prof wrote:

    Perhaps it’s all true, and just an indication of the massive hypocrisy that exists in much of so-called christendom.

    That is a sobering thought.

  45. I attended Ed Young Jr’s Fellowship Church in Dallas for a couple of years. Just as he was about to go megachurch on us, he did a sermon in which he told us to hold onto the tail of a supersonic jet because that was what was going to happen to Fellowship Church. Big money, big buildings and big programs(along with a super big house for Ed) were on the agenda.

    As were Seven-Day Sex Challenges, delivered from a bed where (in my church) the altar would have been.

    We’re coming up on the anniversary of that. You see, this coming Sunday on the Western-rite Liturgical calendar is the Feast of Christ the King. The same day Grinning Ed delivered his Seven-Day Christian Sex Challenge.

  46. okrapod wrote:

    Law Prof wrote:
    Perhaps it’s all true, and just an indication of the massive hypocrisy that exists in much of so-called christendom.
    That is a sobering thought.

    Yep.

  47. But the real point is, Okrapod, Tim Keller does not preach the Gospel, which is the Great Commission. His paper I referred to above makes that abundantly clear.

  48. Lowlandseer wrote:

    But the real point is, Okrapod, Tim Keller does not preach the Gospel, which is the Great Commission. His paper I referred to above makes that abundantly clear.

    The paper is not a sermon. I don’t know what you are talking about. It is about organizational structures based on church size models with discussion of changes at each step of size increase. It looks like an excellent term paper for some class in church administration.

    Are we reading the same paper?

  49. okrapod wrote:

    Law Prof wrote:

    Perhaps it’s all true, and just an indication of the massive hypocrisy that exists in much of so-called christendom.

    That is a sobering thought.</blockquote

    Reminds me of this-
    31 The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?

  50. sandy c wrote:

    Reminds me of this-
    31 The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?

    That’s exactly what I think.

    We have a lot of false prophets out there, fake leaders. People who are greedy, disturbed, sick individuals. They want power and authority by dint of their self-proclaimed titles.
    They believe they deserve the good life right here and now, and they will make up false narratives to part you from your wealth so they can get it. They have a general contempt for humanity and a hatred for God Himself. They want a trusting group of followers upon whom they can direct their narcissistic rage. They set up power structures not in the Bible to give themselves false authority.

    There are also a lot of weak-willed people who want to feel good rather than facing the truth. They want the good life right here and now also, and while they’re not full of contempt for humanity in general, with no narcissistic rage to vent, they’re not exactly full of passion for Jesus. They don’t want the responsibility that comes with being a high priest; they want the fake Jesus that their leader makes up for them, the one that affirms them and makes them feel cool and relevant. They worship men and power structures not in the Bible to make themselves feel important.

    These two groups are made for each other, and they will almost invariably find one another. They’re destroying each other, and are more than happy to destroy you if give their systems any credence. They’re the false church, and it’s my opinion that they represent the majority of the visible so-called church today.

  51. First, when i look at the book of Acts. They had their issues (see the appointing of deacons in Acts 6). They couldn’t handle all the issues that came up. The Pauline pastoral epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) stress the need to be constantly training leadership. I don’t think you could ever, in all respect to Keller, use Acts 2 for a model of how to grow a church. It was too fast and too many. A persecution issue that occurred in Acts 8 scattered many of the believers out of the Jerusalem area so that the churches could keep growing.

    With that said, I’ve been in two fairly successful mega churches that succeeded due to having pastors for different groups of people who were accessible. I tried a mother mega that was a disaster for me as I could never find my group. I’ve been in three small churches that fell apart due to pastoral moral failing. So, I don’t think there is any magic size (although my current church has fluctuated between 400-60o over the 15 years I’ve been there, and it’s reasonably healthy.) I have friends in the mega churches in my area, and they are quite happy with their choice. I think you pray about it, and find your best fit.

  52. I live in a combined statistical area of 1.6 million consisting of three cities and several towns and lots of people just in the area. We have many large, but not all actually mega, churches, right many large enough to have church schools up through high school. We also have large universities and large medical centers and large public school systems. I see no value in tearing that down, including no value in abandoning the idea of large church. There are a gracious plenty small churches for people who prefer smaller size.

    Reform when needed, certainly, but to label something bad just based on size is a really bad idea, in my opinion.

  53. Dee Deb: I am using a small not terribly smart phone so i cant revert back to posts days ago with over 200 comments, if its ok can i make a comment regarding Roy Mooore here, if not please let me know because i dont want to take current discussions off track.
    I saw a comment online about the woman with the lawyer that is accusing Roy, and i think it had some merrit- commenter said “who gets their school yearbook in December?!” (apparently the accuser said she had just gotten it and took it to work and he signed it merry christmas”
    I cant open the wa post article (pay wall) to see if thats true or not but if so she does have a point- unless Alabama does release yearbooks in middle of year while nearly every other HS in US does that at year end. Doesnt mean i dont believe other accuser…

  54. @ Law Prof:
    I agree! What is sad to me is that in that small town i lived in some couples that joined the Acts 29 church had a desire to follow the Lord but bought into the control thing via missuse of scriptures. Husbands having submissive wives and kids morphed into “i have to be a misogynist or i am not following the Lord” without thise exact words being used. And “i have to submit to pastor/elder authority or i am out of Gods will” Destroys families really quick. As you pointed out though its a desire to be fed something that they seek-power and control, and it shows both the ‘pastor’ and the ‘congragent’ arent seeking the Lord so much as seeking self righteousness and popularity and power

  55. brian wrote:

    Those memories still stick with me, they defined me, I personally think they saved my soul. So many stories so many memories. I guess I am thankful for that as well.

    They stick with you because you have a real heart. You come across as so awesome, & so Christlike in your dealings with people like these.

  56. sandy c wrote:

    its a desire to be fed something that they seek-power and control, and it shows both the ‘pastor’ and the ‘congragent’ arent seeking the Lord so much as seeking self righteousness and popularity and power

    I am saying this because thats what i was doing when i fell for it- going to a church for what was in it for me, not for serving Jesus.

  57. okrapod wrote:

    Reform when needed, certainly, but to label something bad just based on size is a really bad idea, in my opinion.

    I agree. However I think that most megas we see these days arent based on following Jesus even though they sometimes use His name, and are built on offering ways to satisfy self and feel good about self and not the gospel.

  58. Law Prof wrote:

    want the good life right here and now also, and while they’re not full of contempt for humanity in general, with no narcissistic rage to vent, they’re not exactly full of passion for Jesus.

    Wartburgers will be familiar with Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. There’s a difference between

     having a taste for something,
     having an appetite for it, and
     having a hunger for it

  59. http://www.sojournnetwork.com/blog-feed/drinking-jet-fuel

    “Remember the first time you were impacted with fresh revelation or knowledge? Wow, what a feeling! It’s like drinking jet fuel that launches the mind to new heights and perspectives.

    I recall this happening in 2007 after reading Tim Keller’s article on church size dynamics. Dr. Keller had created a fresh lexicon and organizational model. The previously unnamed and amorphous ideas now had a name, shape, and form, and his work highly influenced our church’s senior leadership team as we dealt with decade-long exponential growth.”

    So would that have been Mars Hill, where Tim Beltz was an executive elder for a while? Because while it did experience meteoric growth for ten years that was one of the reasons presented for why governance had to change in 2007, and yet by 2014 meteoric growth had turned into meteoric decline.

    At the risk of simply bringing attention to previous coverage, folks who want to read about Tim Beltz’ role within Mars Hill can find stuff here:

    https://wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/search?q=tim+beltz

  60. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    All I can say about “a healthy Biblical fear of getting killed” that is you can only take God holding his Hell-gun to the back of your head (with one up the spout, hammer back, and safety off) for so long before you kill yourself, go crazy, or run like hell from that Cosmic Monster and never look back.

    This. These people are sick and perverted. That’s Calvinism, though. I just read the Gospels, and it rinses away all this crud.

  61. This megachurch thing freaks me out – seems more like a Las Vegas show, or a rock concert, than church. I can’t help but think of my original church as a child/young adult…

    When I was a child, I contracted a bad case of pneumonia. The pastor of our church came to my home and visited with me at bedside for quite some time. He was a tall man, with a very calm and pleasant voice, reassuring. And with a face that radiated care and concern. He was THERE for sure. And he knew who I was.

    If a ‘church’ becomes so large that the ‘senior pastor’ doesn’t even know people’s names, and who flat out refuses to do any pastoral things – weddings, visit the sick, etc. (because he’s too important) – this is a sign that the church needs to split into pieces, into a human size.

    The idea of a megachurch, run by corporate management techniques, etc., just leaves me cold. To tell the truth, it makes me want to vomit.

  62. sandy c wrote:

    @ Law Prof:
    I agree! What is sad to me is that in that small town i lived in some couples that joined the Acts 29 church had a desire to follow the Lord but bought into the control thing via missuse of scriptures. Husbands having submissive wives and kids morphed into “i have to be a misogynist or i am not following the Lord” without thise exact words being used. And “i have to submit to pastor/elder authority or i am out of Gods will” Destroys families really quick. As you pointed out though its a desire to be fed something that they seek-power and control, and it shows both the ‘pastor’ and the ‘congragent’ arent seeking the Lord so much as seeking self righteousness and popularity and power

    Those churches have some who genuinely do have a desire to serve the Lord and are looking for people really serious and passionate about their faith. They have others who are just looking for something cool or searching for meaning. You usually can’t tell the difference from the outside, they all smile and on the surface do all the proper “Christian” things. Then you have a third category, the leaders who know what they’re doing all along in their lust for power and desire to conceal their maneuvers to consolidate it.

    Either way, at some point the real Church, the ones who do actually love Jesus, can’t take the fraudulence of it all anymore and things start falling apart as they question leadership and the knives come out or just walk out and never return. The church ends up in something like what economists refer to as a race to the bottom, as mainly what’s left are the frauds and the Holy Spirit is largely gone. A church may still appear to thrive at this point because the collapsible seats are full of hand-raising worshipers, but it’s not often Jesus being worshiped, and the true leadership, the ones who serve in the name of Jesus, they’ll be long gone. A lot of big churches are empty shells.

  63. This issue is a perfect collision couse/intersection of two sad things…..parishoners who want anonymity and pastors who crave money and fame. Tragic.

  64. In the interest of fairness and balance you all might note this.

    http://www.uscatholic.org/church/parish-life/2012/03/where-20-000-or-30000-are-gathered-life-catholic-megaparish

    Wiki says that Elevation Church in Charlotte reported 25,000 average attendance. This article says that St. Matthews Catholic Church in Charlotte has 30,000 on the roll. The article also says that the average size of a Catholic Parish in the US in 2010 was 3,277 on the roll.

    The article goes on to discuss the growing size of Catholic parishes in the US and what some priests had to say about being a priest to that many people.

    I believe that large is here to stay as part of the landscape for both protestants and catholics for the foreseeable future.

  65. @ okrapod:
    Even in rural areas, one location connects with many locations to form a network of rural fellowships. Satellites. (Sounds like the former Soviet Union.) Different locations, one leadership.

    Back in the day, there were synods as networks. When the leadership disagreed, there were spin-offs.

  66. What Happened wrote:

    When you talk about sitting in the foyer and reading a book, I always imagine a man sitting in the hallway of an arena outside one of the many entrance doors on some kind of structural ledge. The aesthetic environment is very white and sterile, while the man is fairly generic and undefined. I wonder if anyone ever stops to have a real conversation with you. I wonder if you’ve seen them “love one another” in a way that sets them apart from all other gatherings of people.
    I think it is absolutely amazing how you still make the effort to be with your wife when she attends church. I’m always thankful that you post your comments here.

    My wife and I respect each others beliefs and so it works.

    Actually where I sit is a cozy little bench near the church library. It’s got good lighting, the church is a wood/brick motif so not white and sterile. Typical for it’s vintage – built in 1972. No one engages me in conversation – but I’m reading a book. I’m pretty cool with that. My wife knows a few folks to say hi/hello to and we sometimes chat with them after the service. They’re friendly enough but we don’t have deep conversations.

    Have I seen them “love one another” in a way that sets them apart? Not really. There are church programs so maybe that’s where they do it. I’ve only ever gone to the Sunday service.
    Truth be told, seems like a bit of a social club – but again I may be judging the book by its cover. I’m sure they get up to other stuff – they have Wednesday kids programs, English as a second language classes, bible studies, the church has an old folks home they run.

    I’m sure they would be thrilled to engage, if I was up for it. Unfortunately in my experience with the evangelical church, engagement means telling me about Jesus and converting me to their way of thinking.

    I already know about Jesus (in his many incarnations, I’ve read the bible cover to cover, and the apocrypha and the Book of Mormon, and even the Koran). I was raised an Anglican and spent about 4 years attending a Pentecostal church (ironically the one that I now sit in foyer and read in).

    I could never get fully engaged in Pentecostalism. They’re a bit “my way or the highway” – when I met some friends of my wife for the first time, they wanted to know what my faith was. When I stated “Anglican”, they kind of got this “look” on their face and the wife stated “They’re as bad as Catholics!”. Awk-ward!

    There were a few other incidents like that, and intolerant sermons. It really wasn’t a good fit.

    I currently class myself as NFR (no fixed religion) and I define myself as egalitarian, universalist and liberal. Not feeling particularly left out or lost.

  67. sandy c wrote:

    I saw a comment online about the woman with the lawyer that is accusing Roy, and i think it had some merrit- commenter said “who gets their school yearbook in December?!” (apparently the accuser said she had just gotten it and took it to work and he signed it merry christmas”
    I cant open the wa post article (pay wall) to see if thats true or not but if so she does have a point- unless Alabama does release yearbooks in middle of year while nearly every other HS in US does that at year end. Doesnt mean i dont believe other accuser…

    When I was in high school, about the same age as this young woman, we got our yearbooks at the end of the school year (May), which was considered *unusual* because obviously everything had to be shoved in months beforehand. Obviously, our high school baseball teams got short shrift and basketball was barely a mention. Football was king.

    At other high schools in our area (Houston) they didn’t get their yearbooks until school started in the fall. I could see a small school district like Etowah County, Alabama, being bumped down to the bottom of the list for yearbook publishing in those days. Remember, it’s not at all like today–yearbook layout at my high school in the middle 1970s was still done by hand with pictures and text being laid out with waxers (a device that would deposit a thin layer of wax on the back of a piece of paper or a photograph and made it easy to peel up the paper or photo and reposition it). Then the layouts would be shipped off, photographed and plates made for offset printing. It was time consuming and tedious.

    I believe what she said, but that’s based on my own experience. Your mileage may vary.

  68. WenatcheeTheHatchet wrote:

    So would that have been Mars Hill, where Tim Beltz was an executive elder for a while? Because while it did experience meteoric growth for ten years that was one of the reasons presented for why governance had to change in 2007, and yet by 2014 meteoric growth had turned into meteoric decline.

    Hey hatchetman- your coverage was very wonderful in opening my eyes to what was actually going on and instrumental to me getting my eyes back on Jesus before i was totally suckered into the Driscoll Acts 29 movement. Never got to say thanks. THANK YOU!!

  69. okrapod wrote:

    I believe that large is here to stay as part of the landscape for both protestants and catholics for the foreseeable future.

    The Catholic church with all its faults has a large number of actually trained ‘assistants’ deacons etc. I still dont think there can be any comparison to a 30something guy that has no theological training whatsoever using a best market practices guide to ‘growing a successful business’ throwing a few scriptures around to get a 501 3c and hiring some friends of his when the numbers get too big and getting rid of everyone that has an eye for financial responsibility so he can become a mega church celebrity.

  70. Muslin, fka Dee Holmes wrote:

    I believe what she said, but that’s based on my own experience. Your mileage may vary.

    My mileage is the same old school technology with everyone getting yearbooks about one to two weeks before graduation so they included late year sports.

  71. roebuck wrote:

    This. These people are sick and perverted. That’s Calvinism, though. I just read the Gospels, and it rinses away all this crud

    I agree, but the problem I’ve had is — How do I read the gospels cleanly after years of being taught only the Calvinist way to read them is true, and I’m a worthless piece of skubala if I try to read them any way else? That’s been my biggest frustration — my emotions were so conditioned to accept it that I find I now have to fight them.

    It’s not a rational problem; it’s a deep-seated emotional torture device designed to even prevent you from trying to escape after its power to destroy is gone — even after intellectually rejecting it, the emotional entrapment takes a long time to untangle.

  72. GMFS

    News item 1 of 2: Cricket

    The first test remains finely poised at stumps on Day 2. England had a couple of good stands, but also clusters of quick wickets, and failed to capitalise on strong positions. Australia had a poor start, but their middle order has consolidated and they’re 120-odd behind with 6 wickets remaining.

    You’d have to say Australia are favourites to win the test unless they lose quick wickets tomorrow. England have a habit of conceding a lot of runs to the middle/lower order. Indeed, in the previous Ashes in Australia, known as the Pomnishambles, England were undone as much by Brad Haddin’s repeated steadying of the Australian innings as by Mitchell Johnson’s multi-wicket spells of bowling.

    News item 2 of 2: Hunting

    A very thought-provoking article on the Beeb this morning on hunting in Alaska. It’s quite short; Wartburgbers may be interested in reading it. Some points:

     It’s titled “I love animals but I kill them too”
     It centres around an interview with a lassie
     She addresses hard-line liberal anti-hunting attitudes as well as the hunting-for-sport stereotype
     She points out that she and her partner hunt for food, not ego, and they don’t collect “trophies”
     More women are taking up hunting in the US than men

    IHTIH

  73. WenatcheeTheHatchet wrote [Quoting one Tim Beltz who played a significant role in the ongoing re-org of Mars Hill]:

    “Remember the first time you were impacted with fresh revelation or knowledge? Wow, what a feeling! It’s like drinking jet fuel that launches the mind to new heights and perspectives.
    I recall this happening in 2007 after reading Tim Keller’s article on church size dynamics. Dr. Keller had created a fresh lexicon and organizational model. The previously unnamed and amorphous ideas now had a name, shape, and form, and his work highly influenced our church’s senior leadership team as we dealt with decade-long exponential growth.”

    Rhetorical question: when does “a fresh lexicon and organizational model” become “heretical extra-biblical false revelation”? Answer: AWWBA, it all depends on whether I personally agree with it. If it tickles my imagination and points in a direction towards which my existing mindset is favourably disposed, then it’s exciting revelation. You know what I mean…

    Human beings, in all known cultures since time immemorial, have written poetry, sung songs and told stories. Our love of these “new ideas” is, I think, routed in the same thing as our love of stories, music, songs, poetry an’ a’ tha’. It’s why point-of-view blog posts, LinkedIn articles and similar are produced in such vast quantities and why memes and hashtags can become so popular. I don’t mean it’s a bad thing; it’s part of what it is to be human, and if (as I think) that’s God-given then it’s a good thing.

    But any good, God-given thing can be misused. (Jesus himself did miracles that attracted a crowd for the wrong reason, which is why he had more than one contingency strategy for avoiding/escaping crowds.) The false signs produced by Driskle, especially the sign of crowd-gathering around a nominally Jesus-y brand, deceived a lot of honest people but also fed a lot of carnal ambition.

  74. My exposure to mega churches is non existent. None in my country setting anyway. Still, when we lived in larger metro areas, we didn’t try them out. Never been to bond one…Maybe they fill a void for people different from me.
    I agree though the personal interaction in a mega must be missing, how can one know or interact with thousands of people? I wonder how long communion must take?
    As for mega pastors….perhaps they view themselves more in the role of an Apostle, specifically Paul. I say this in jest, as I do not believe in present day apostles. Yet, with all these leaders writing books, travelling around, too busy teaching doctrine/ dogma, I wonder what they think of themselves? How/where do they view themselves in the body of Christ?

    Meanwhile, we continue to get to know our little church of 175 ….lots of hearts to yet know, lots of needs ( including my own ) to minister to. It comforts me to know our Pastor knows every person by name….he cares for the flock.

  75. sandy c wrote:

    The Catholic church with all its faults has a large number of actually trained ‘assistants’ deacons etc.

    They do, but a large number of trained ‘assistants’ is precisely one of the things Keller was proposing- a large staff. What you have said is true, and it is encouraging to me that protestantism may be headed in that direction. The idea of a one man show is one of the problems that I have with the small church/single pastor model also, too much importance vested in one person.

  76. @ okrapod:

    AWWBA means As Wartburgers Will Be Aware. This is probably not a widely-circulated meme, if I’m honest – none of mine are – which would explain why it didn’t surface on google.

    It has nothing to do with empowering women through the right to bear arms. Though I’d quite like to see a group of said lassies rally round wee Mr Piper to protect him from an angry bear. It would create a paralysing dilemma:
     He would need to stop them from compromising his manhood by saving him
     But he would be unable to protect either himself or them
     Nor could he prevent them from protecting themselves and him
     To cap it all, the angry bear might well be a female (I’m thinking bear-cubs here)

    On a slight tangent, baby bears are perhaps the cutest, and most dangerous, animals in nature. They themselves might not be dangerous; their mother is another matter.

  77. okrapod wrote:

    The article goes on to discuss the growing size of Catholic parishes in the US and what some priests had to say about being a priest to that many people.

    I believe that large is here to stay as part of the landscape for both protestants and catholics for the foreseeable future.

    Our neighborhood was built in the late fifties/early sixties. There are a lot of church buildings in the area of the same vintage. The same architect must have designed them as they’re all triangular. So is the neighborhood fire hall. Guess they were trying to be futuristic. It’s kind of cool but none of these buildings are really large.
    I’m guessing most people walked to church.
    So the mega church probably was spawned in the same environment that gave us the mall & the big box stores.
    Multiple services for convenience, programs for kids & adults. Free parking. Most families I know have 2 cars. So greater mobility, rise in mass media (and now social media), as much or as little engagement as you want.

    I’m not saying that this makes congregants less Christian but certainly they are the product of their times.

    It will be interesting to see where social media and the internet will take things.

    I could easily see people eschewing the brick and mortar church for an online environment.

    We have echurch here. Maybe there will be an evolution of believers who connect that way.

    It may become mega in a virtual community but at the expense of the physical church. Big retailers are falling left and right here. Will the same happen to the mega church?

  78. @ WenatcheeTheHatchet:
    I enjoyed now, as back then your “Where are they now?” series. This led me to formee Acts 29 leader Scott Thomas. Sevrral months after he mysteriously left Mars Hill and Acts29 back in 2012 it came out he’d been quietly called to pastor at The Journey. A couple years later he vanished from The Journey. I think he went to plant a church in Phoenix but can find no info. Perhaps it failed. Long story shorter– he’s now at the helm of yet another church-planting network called C2C. Not sure how it differs from Acts29 and Sojourn except in size.

  79. @ Jack:

    “….a mini mega, about a thousand. It does offer a modicum of anonymity. I can sit in the foyer and read my book without any hassle. Maybe people don’t crave community in the traditional sense anymore?”
    +++++++++++++++++

    the potential for hurt and devastation is greater in smaller groups, i think. (hurt isn’t even the word). after my time at 1st Church of Dysfunction, followed by 2nd COD, i went to ‘the big church’ (several services, a few thousand attending each) for some weeks.

    anonymity was definitely what i wanted.

    but then i wondered, what is the point of all this? to me it was like ‘church’ with all the bothersome toxic things taken out (essentially relationship with people, if not mere contact with people).

    people went in, they came out. it was just like an errand — like going to get a haircut.

    why have this huge structure and huge parking lot occupying an enormous piece of expensive real estate with such trumped up words like “CHURCH” “CHANGING THE WORLD” “CHANGING THE COMMUNITY” for something that is the equivalent of an errand but with God points?

    (well, i think the real reason is jobs & personal significance for professional christians — and tax advantages)

  80. @ elastigirl:

    and my next question is why does “church” have to be one extreme or the other?

    Either smaller-scale with too many cooks in the kitchen of one’s life, or too big, sterile and impersonal?

  81. @ Preacher’s Wife:

    “The leaders should know names and general information, but ideally the whole church would really be a family and pastor each other.”
    +++++++++++++++++++

    hmmm… here’s my thought. my own experience is that a person’s family is complicated enough. church taking on that kind of role can make a persons’ life crazy.

    too many cooks in the kitchen of one’s life. too many people imposing expectations — expectations of

    –being welcomed into the inner sanctums of a person’s life

    –being able to help, care for and love on (honestly, sometimes it feels invasive & just too much)

    –having the right to advise a person

    –a person welcoming that advice

    –the right to share personal information & feelings/issues about the person with others (like immediate family do)

    –assumed close relationship

    A person can become a thing to be used to create ‘family’, to fulfill the ideal espoused by others.

  82. @ Mike:

    “I have lowered expectations from any local church. As a father, I have tried to teach my family members to bring their own metaphorical bag lunch of joy in Christ and expect to share”
    ++++++++++

    that’s neat

  83. @ The Man Who Wasn’t Thursday:

    “even after intellectually rejecting it, the emotional entrapment takes a long time to untangle.”
    ++++++++++++

    never been to a calvinist anything, but i’ve had similar experiences with other “brands”.

    yes, a long time to untangle.

    a detox plan: a long period of time with the bible on the bookshelf, reading fiction for pleasure and self-enrichment (not christian), Sundays spent bike riding or hiking or camping, and time spent with loved ones eating drinking being merry laughing and playing games.

  84. elastigirl wrote:

    @ elastigirl:
    and my next question is why does “church” have to be one extreme or the other?
    Either smaller-scale with too many cooks in the kitchen of one’s life, or too big, sterile and impersonal?

    Argh…..human nature I guess. Prone to excesses of one type or another.

  85. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    If God’s waiting for a chance to kill you, what refuge do you have?

    I suppose one can find comfort in famous sermons such as the one that contains this nugget:

    The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood.

    The full sermon is chock full of more of the same. Yuck.

  86. @ Headless Unicorn Guy:
    I tried to reply with a quote from Jonathan Edwards, but my reply got held up in customs. That should tell us somerhing about the rot of that kind of teaching.

  87. Max wrote:

    Pastors – real ones – are a rare and endangered species in the American church.

    Not really. They are just being overlooked for the sake of breathless headlines and comments such as this.

  88. @ Dave A A:
    As best I can tell Thomas’ departure from both MHC and A29 leadership might not have been voluntary. He vanished around the time Turner came into executive eldership and while a handful of sources referred to the new and traumatic “Sutton Turnover” phase it’s possible Thomas exodus fit into that phase in some way. Can’t be certain but the timing seems to be right if that’s how it played out.

    Thomas, Beltz and House all migrated in that Journey/Sojourn general direction, though I might be fuzzy on remembering this. Thomas is up in Canada these days, last I checked. I would advise believers in the Canadian Christian scene to be cautious about the guy since he presided over the kangaroo court that Meyer and Petry were subjected to ten years ago.

    sandy c, glad to have been of help.

    Nick, one of my siblings recommended Jacques Ellul’s Propaganda to me a few years back, saying it was the creepiest explication of MH culture he’d read that wasn’t intended to be that. Ellul was writing about what we’d call political propaganda but reading through the book was illuminating because everything Ellul described about propagandists as a class clarified what American megachurch pastors are. They’re not shepherds, they’re propagandists. I would venture to say that MD and RHE are both variants of the celebrity Christian propagandist that we need less of across the board.

    What became clearer about MD in light of reading Ellul was that MD set himself apart not so much by being a propagandist but by explicitly saying his goals were social engineering and lampshading the methods he was using in terms of mass and social media. Most megachurch leaders don’t get so detailed about how when you start using a media stream you have to keep using it to retain its influence, for instance. Even in the WW2 phase MD was clear that he was trying to agitate people and then see if they would integrate into the mission he had in mind. I’ve written extensively on that sine the formal demise of MH but I don’t want to bore people with repetitions of that in comments here. Folks can swing by the WtH blog if they want to do further reading on stuff like that.

    Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving.

  89. (sorry to be so present, here — having a slow morning, recovering from a day of cooking)

    facing the pebble-in-my-shoe cognitive dissonance: why, exactly, do i need a pastor?

  90. @ elastigirl:

    George MacDonald is a refreshing antidote — he grew up in a very strict 19th century Scottish Calvinist home, and showed both remarkable patience to the Calvinists around him (his grandmother snatched up his brother’s fiddle and smashed it as an “instrument of the devil), but also an incredibly deep and personal view of God — all the more remarkable given his culture upbringing. “The Wise Woman” I think is one of his best works of fantasy, and started helping my emotions get over Calvinistic perfectionism.

  91. sandy c wrote:

    I saw a comment online about the woman with the lawyer that is accusing Roy, and i think it had some merrit- commenter said “who gets their school yearbook in December?!” (apparently the accuser said she had just gotten it and took it to work and he signed it merry christmas”

    There has been quite a bit of information posted about the yearbook you mentioned. Roy Moore’s lawyer wants the actual yearbook released so it can be authenticated. I think that is a reasonable request. The lawyer that is accusing Roy won’t release the yearbook so it can be examined and authenticated by experts without having a lot of strings attached. And when asked whether the accuser actually saw Roy Moore write the inscription, the lawyer gives a vague response rather than a definitive, Yes, she did. That writes volumes for me. You can read all about it here,

    http://heavy.com/news/2017/11/roy-moore-yearbook-forged-signature-inscription/

  92. Law Prof wrote:

    There are also a lot of weak-willed people who want to feel good rather than facing the truth.

    And Now For Something Completely Different:

    When I was between grade & high school in the Sixties, “Feel Good” pronounced with a strained intensity was the local kids’ slang for sexual arousal. As in “He goes into the attic, gets out his secret stash of Playboys, and Feeeels Gooood”.

  93. I grew up in a time and culture where church was a voluntary association for the propagation of the gospel. I liked that then and still do.

    Sure, you may make friends there, very close friends. But that isn’t it’s purpose.

    The preacher is to spread the truth about Jesus, as are the teachers and the congregants. I’m not there for a feel good moment with Jesus, or for that to be my family or social life, nor am I there for church to meet my needs.

    Just tell me about Jesus. He and I will handle the rest (yes, along with family and those good friends. But don’t make church my shrink or get tooooo invasive.)

    Church isn’t a social service agency, a mental health clinic, a place where the socially inept find all their needs met, nor a place to make you feel good about yourself.

    Big ones can do it well, small ones can do it well, and it really doesn’t matter if the preacher is my buddy. As long as he preaches the truth:)

  94. roebuck wrote:

    This. These people are sick and perverted. That’s Calvinism, though.

    That sort of Worm Theology on steroids might have started with the Sons of Calvin, but by the time I’d encountered it, it had spread to Fundagelicalism in general. Possibly through the Shepherding Movement — both sound like they’d go together real well.

  95. Ken F (aka Tweed) wrote:

    The full sermon is chock full of more of the same. Yuck.

    Yuck is right. Sounds more like the gods of Egypt and the gods of the Canaanites. I don’t believe that The God of Abraham is anything like them.

  96. elastigirl wrote:

    a detox plan: a long period of time with the bible on the bookshelf, reading fiction for pleasure and self-enrichment (not christian), Sundays spent bike riding or hiking or camping, and time spent with loved ones eating drinking being merry laughing and playing games.

    Now that’s what I call my kind of ‘Sanctification’!
    Seriously.

  97. Jack wrote:

    Our neighborhood was built in the late fifties/early sixties. There are a lot of church buildings in the area of the same vintage…

    I think there’s a lot of truth in the observation that “churches” are a product of their time. Even in the situation you describe, there were multiple “churches” and people would pick one. Before a certain point in time they might pick it mainly because they were brought up in it, but it would still suit them; just in a more subtle sense.

    We shouldn’t be surprised that churchgoing displays so many of the traits of consumerism; it has done for a long time.

  98. @ Preacher’s Wife:

    re: my comment earlier — i’m cynical and jaded (maybe realistic is a fair descriptor), but not so much that i don’t recognize your heart of gold. i wish you the best in your endeavors.

  99. The Man Who Wasn’t Thursday wrote:

    I agree, but the problem I’ve had is — How do I read the gospels cleanly after years of being taught only the Calvinist way to read them is true, and I’m a worthless piece of skubala if I try to read them any way else?

    That’s a hard thing. I was not brought up Calvinist, so it’s not an issue I had to deal with. Maybe try a different translation from what you’re used to. After many years (well, decades) of trying this and that translation, I have come to be comfortable with the King James Version.

    I concentrate on the words of Jesus – it is quite clarifying to the mind.

  100. roebuck wrote:

    I concentrate on the words of Jesus – it is quite clarifying to the mind.

    Reading the words in red has a way of putting everything back in perspective.

    The New Calvinists like to camp out in the epistles of Paul. It’s as if the Gospels don’t exist. When I have the opportunity, I tell young and restless reformers that if they read Paul first, they might read Jesus wrong … but if they read Jesus first, the writings of Paul come into perspective. I counsel them to shut out the noise of the new reformation for a season, and to read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John … to read the red and pray for power to overcome the aberrations of New Calvinism.

  101. Preacher’s Wife wrote:

    we are careful to only say churches are growing if they have new converts

    “Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day–about 3,000 in all.” (Acts 2:41)

    Peter preached one sermon and 3,000 came to Christ. Today, it takes about 3,000 sermons before one comes to Christ.

  102. @ drstevej:
    Ha i found a trick to get to the bottom of the comments when there are too many for my phone memory to scroll through! Reply to the first comment and it takes me to the end and i can scroll up from here! Hi Dr Steve- thanks hehe

  103. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    There’s a difference between

     having a taste for something,
     having an appetite for it, and
     having a hunger for it

    Great point

  104. The neo-Cals may live here in Louisville, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we claim them 🙂

    I went to Sojourn once upon a time. I saw great emphasis on the ‘vision’; Brad House and Tim Beltz arrived there after I left. I haven’t walked through the doors of a Sojourn campus in years and I don’t plan on it anytime soon.

  105. roebuck wrote:

    If a ‘church’ becomes so large that the ‘senior pastor’ doesn’t even know people’s names, and who flat out refuses to do any pastoral things – weddings, visit the sick, etc. (because he’s too important) – this is a sign that the church needs to split into pieces, into a human size.

    I often wondered about this. If a church sees such huge growth, why dont they split up into diff churches. Adding more services still means the pastor cant be there for all, and i wondered was it pride in having such a great following that kept them from having Assoc pastors become Pastors and just start services in a new building or what. Also there is a definate shift in having churches in out of town areas and many senior and disabled people cant get to church like they used to. Mega churches need huge lots and huge parking areas. Some of that might be zoning laws, i dont know, but i remember as a child seeing lots of people walking to church on sunday mornings. This may be part of the loss of community in churches also, people would stay after church and visit with each other instead of zooming up in their cars listening to a pastor talk and zooming home again.

  106. Law Prof wrote:

    Those churches have some who genuinely do have a desire to serve the Lord and are looking for people really serious and passionate about their faith. They have others who are just looking for something cool or searching for meaning. You usually can’t tell the difference from the outside, they all smile and on the surface do all the proper “Christian” things. Then you have a third category, the leaders who know what they’re doing all along in their lust for power and desire to conceal their maneuvers to consolidate it.

    When i first gave my life to Jesus i was so naive and i got really hurt because i didnt think it ever possible for a pastor in a church to have no interest in serving Jesus and that anyone would use scriptures and could be so convincing just to make fame for himself and lots of money. Some people tried to warn me about it but i didnt listen and called them heathens. Then i apologized later when i left that church and they were helping put me back together again.

  107. The Man Who Wasn’t Thursday wrote:

    It’s not a rational problem; it’s a deep-seated emotional torture device designed to even prevent you from trying to escape after its power to destroy is gone — even after intellectually rejecting it, the emotional entrapment takes a long time to untangle.

    Yes! I was in an addiction recovery group once and the leader said ‘everyone has heard the pavlovs dog experiment where he conditioned the dog to salivate everytime he rang the bell?’ we all said yes. She then said ‘did anyone ever tell you that after that experiment Pavlov taught the dog not to have to do that anymore, because he did, he untrained it from doing that’ we never had heard that part but we sure got hope again!
    It is painful and deep seated but keep going, it gets better

  108. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    More women are taking up hunting in the US than men

    Lol washington state recently legalized pot and more women here are taking up hunting because they are hungry and their spouse is often stuck on the couch all day with a big grin and glazed eyes!

  109. okrapod wrote:

    They do, but a large number of trained ‘assistants’ is precisely one of the things Keller was proposing- a large staff. What you have said is true, and it is encouraging to me that protestantism may be headed in that direction. The idea of a one man show is one of the problems that I have with the small church/single pastor model also, too much importance vested in one person.

    Absolutely agree. One thing that happened when Mars Hill got really large is that they opened satellite branches but those satellites watched Driscoll live on big screen t.v. in their sanctuary. It will be intersting to see if keller goes that route- assistant administrators to set up places where all can watch the famous pastor, or if the church is really teaching a doctrine that an assistant might be able to also teach. Someone here once said that protestants love to speak ill of the pope and the infallible claim, but they often see themselves as the true pope and consider themselves infallable.

    I think its definately about the heart of a pastor more than size but i miss small neighborhood parishes and churches.

  110. elastigirl wrote:

    the potential for hurt and devastation is greater in smaller groups, i think. (hurt isn’t even the word). after my time at 1st Church of Dysfunction, followed by 2nd COD, i went to ‘the big church’ (several services, a few thousand attending each) for some weeks.

    anonymity was definitely what i wanted

    Very good points. Often in a small church if a person wants to go and hear the sermon but doesnt feel like being particularly social that can be construed as them having serious problems and then they are the target of the ‘fixers’ in the church.

  111. Max wrote:

    When I have the opportunity, I tell young and restless reformers that if they read Paul first, they might read Jesus wrong … but if they read Jesus first, the writings of Paul come into perspective. I counsel them to shut out the noise of the new reformation for a season, and to read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John

    Great point. And newcomers to calvanista churches would maybe have never read the bible yet but are being fed constant epistles..

  112. sandy c wrote:

    often wondered about this. If a church sees such huge growth, why dont they split up into diff churches.

    The early church saw huge growth, of course, and a point about it that is often overlooked is that the founder wasn’t physically present! That is, if Jesus was content not to hog the limelight, how much more should a man less than Jesus avoid it if at all possible. Moreover, the apostles to whose teaching the church devoted themselves numbered twelve, not one. Neither were they the last.

    Moreover, the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, not their leadership strategy. Still moreover, they all preached the gospel, not just the gurus on the platform. The apostles were the first to be persecuted, and this persecution did not take the form of being reproved on social media for their questionable behaviour or stance towards a subset of society, but being flogged for declaring Jesus as the son of God. But even then, the first martyr wasn’t one of them (though most of them were eventually martyred).

    So, one response to church growth is to share the responsibility of leading, first bearing in mind that to lead is to set an example, not call the shots.

  113. sandy c wrote:

    newcomers to calvanista churches would maybe have never read the bible yet but are being fed constant epistles..

    And what’s worse … they are being fed New Calvinist interpretations of selected passages to defend the aberrations of their faith and practice. The church at large is in a mess because church members follow the teachings and traditions of men rather than the commandments of God, and Jesus warned us not to do that. Church folks really need to read their Bibles and pray for the Holy Spirit to teach them; they have no protection against error otherwise.

  114. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    sandy c wrote:

    often wondered about this. If a church sees such huge growth, why dont they split up into diff churches.

    The early church saw huge growth, of course, and a point about it that is often overlooked is that the founder wasn’t physically present! That is, if Jesus was content not to hog the limelight, how much more should a man less than Jesus avoid it if at all possible. Moreover, the apostles to whose teaching the church devoted themselves numbered twelve, not one. Neither were they the last.

    Moreover, the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, not their leadership strategy. Still moreover, they all preached the gospel, not just the gurus on the platform. The apostles were the first to be persecuted, and this persecution did not take the form of being reproved on social media for their questionable behaviour or stance towards a subset of society, but being flogged for declaring Jesus as the son of God. But even then, the first martyr wasn’t one of them (though most of them were eventually martyred).

    So, one response to church growth is to share the responsibility of leading, first bearing in mind that to lead is to set an example, not call the shots.

    Well said!!!

  115. Max wrote:

    And what’s worse … they are being fed New Calvinist interpretations of selected passages to defend the aberrations of their faith and practice. The church at large is in a mess because church members follow the teachings and traditions of men rather than the commandments of God, and Jesus warned us not to do that. Church folks really need to read their Bibles and pray for the Holy Spirit to teach them; they have no protection against error otherwise.

    The same was true in an AG church i briefly attended so i am thinking that its a pattern in many denominations/churches.preaching the dead letter and not the Living word.

  116. After 14 years in an ARC mega then two years in a Fellowship mega…

    We took the path Dee did, slightly different route we went Anglican. And actually confirmed this past weekend. And if you knew my past this was really a crazy move. I’m still somewhat a little hesitant to tell my friends.

    We now go to a congregation of about 600 with three Pastors. When we first started attending we noticed something different about the folks. It wasn’t that they were not friendly, it was different in the fact there were no “high five” super overt friendly gesturing. It was more like my neighbor type thing. I told one of the Pastors “people talk to us here”.

    One time were told kind of quietly from someone we knew there “you know these are real pastors… they come to the hospital”. All three Pastors list their cell phones and direct emails that go to them and not their “assistants” for filtering. Coming from my background and now entering a liturgical way I had a lot of questions. Without hesitation one Pastor took his time walking us through things. I’ve enjoyed two lunches with him that have lasted way too long.

    Another thing… this Pastor looks me in the eye and says “This is the Body of Christ broken for you” as he places a wafer of bread in my hand. And I love saying… “Amen”.

    I know it kind of sounds like “what can you do for me” type thing. No. I feel I have found a place where I can bring folks that maybe closer to what a church might be like. That makes me happy.

    I could talk about why we made such a radical move, I think it has been illustrated quite adequately. I just wanted to say there are real Pastors out there.

  117. sandy c wrote:

    a pattern in many denominations/churches.preaching the dead letter and not the Living word

    That’s why you find very little spiritual life in most churches.

  118. @ A.Stacy:

    Hi, Stacy. I made a radical change when I ended up in an anglo-catholic episcopal parish. My experience of what it feels like is similar to yours.

    …………………

    And to the rest of you I want to show you something, just for your own information if you have not seen this form of being a pastor or this idea of religious observance. This video is my pastor talking about thanksgiving in the first of the video and talking about men taking leadership (trust me here) in the second half of the video. The entire thing is 1.39 min long, and what he says to the men starts at 0.36 min. Father S is apparently nervous before the camera-that thing with his hands.

    You need to know that this particular pastor comes from parents who both were ‘in charge’ people, judging from their occupations, and this pastor is very much a take charge guy on as needed, but he is an Episcopal priest and a Southern gentleman both of which seem to carry a certain ‘feel with them. He has an earned D Min from an accredited anglican seminary about which he makes no pretenses that it is anything but what it is-practical. And his wife, who is not in the video, is an RN (Yes!) and one of the nicest people you could hope to meet.

    Those of you from elsewhere geographically and elsewhere denominationally may find this interesting.

    Okay, this man reminds me of my son in a lot of ways, and I feel motherly toward these people. Get beyond that and see what you think.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyhj8YuIaZs&feature=youtu.be

  119. @ Divorce Minister:
    Yes, that is the conumdrum. I left a mega and now go to a very small church…the truth is what I was longing for was community. Which I have now. If I have a problem I do not always have to call the pastor-although I certainly can and have-but I have mature friends there who I can call and who can pastor me quite well themselves-and I them. WE are supposed to take care of each other-but the key is the leadership patiently discipling and making disciples who can themselves disciple-which means that going for numerical growth immediately is a mistake. Let me say that again-growing TOO FAST can ruin a church. Now do we want to grow? Absolutely! But we want to have the resources and the people-yes, even the socalled laity-who can disciple and spiritually parent newer believers. If we do this right we will be able to grow and be healthy at the same time!

  120. @ linda:
    Ugh.

    Sorry, does not sound that appealing. My view is that my church family is like actual real family. We are there for each other. My church family is more family to me than my real one-and my real one is okay..

  121. question: what does it mean to pastor? to be pastored?

    the word is so loaded. my brain can no longer compute many such christian words.

  122. Max wrote:

    sandy c wrote:
    a pattern in many denominations/churches.preaching the dead letter and not the Living word

    That’s why you find very little spiritual life in most churches.

    Sandy, Max —
    Beware of becoming TOO spiritual; the classic Gnostics took that route and ended up losing what made them human.

  123. sandy c wrote:

    Absolutely agree. One thing that happened when Mars Hill got really large is that they opened satellite branches but those satellites watched Driscoll live on big screen t.v. in their sanctuary.

    i.e. Big Brother’s Face ten meters tall on all the Telescreens.

  124. Max wrote:

    Muslin, fka Dee Holmes wrote:
    Another outfit based in Louisville.

    The new Geneva … ground-zero for New Calvinism.

    When’s their first Servetus Barbeque?

  125. Muff Potter wrote:

    @ Headless Unicorn Guy:
    I’ve always said that Neo-Cals and Calvary Chapelites are kissin’ cousins.
    Any so-called ‘differences’ are just cosmetic in my opinion.

    And like Communists and Objectivists (and the half-white & half-black aliens in that one Old Testament Star Trek episode), those cosmetic differences keep them at each others’ throats forever.

  126. Muff Potter wrote:

    Ken F (aka Tweed) wrote:
    The full sermon is chock full of more of the same. Yuck.

    Yuck is right. Sounds more like the gods of Egypt and the gods of the Canaanites.

    Or Zeus when Hera would kick him out for messing around…

  127. A.Stacy wrote:

    When we first started attending we noticed something different about the folks. It wasn’t that they were not friendly, it was different in the fact there were no “high five” super overt friendly gesturing. It was more like my neighbor type thing.

    i.e. It was for REAL instead of an overdone Act.

    Problem with putting on an Act is you don’t know when to stop.
    You take it too far beyond the point of maximum realism and into obvious Love Bombing.

  128. elastigirl wrote:

    question: what does it mean to pastor? to be pastored?

    the word is so loaded.

    Whoa there, great question. One of the reasons I left a former church was witnessing something entirely different than the traditional meaning. The definition that fit was:
    Pastored, verb, To be misused, treated badly or abusively.

  129. @ Thersites:

    i believe this is the functional definition of pastor: verb, to invoke God in order to use people to meet one’s own needs

  130. When your pastor’s name is Swindoll, you might just be getting swindled. 😉

    I recall going to very small Calvary Chapels only to find that the pastor might as well have been the pastor of a mega church. He had no desire to meet the new person, even though there were only like 10 people and anyone with a brain who new his flock would know that I’m new. Week after week, he really didn’t say hi to most people. Just gave his “podcast with legs”, said hello to his own friends, then took off. That was true for lots of small and medium Calvary Chapels, none mega churches by a long shot. It’s like they learned that’s how church was done by the Costa Mesa mother ship, and they think it’s normal to “pastor” that way. Sadly, their congregations learn by example, and end up also not talking to each other, unless it’s their own friends. It’s a mentality they can’t snap out of, because it’s all they’ve ever known.

    The contrast between that and two Anglican churches I’ve attended is like night and day. They get to know people’s names, which is an amazing feat given sometimes they’ve got a hundred or more people to keep track of. They run around (or stand by the exit) greeting everybody there. I never want to go back to the mega church mentality. I can even email my pastor for any problem I’m going through, and he’ll be there. I can email him theological questions, or make an appointment, or whatever. He’ll answer. *That’s* a pastor.

  131. elastigirl wrote:

    i believe this is the functional definition of pastor: verb, to invoke God in order to use people to meet one’s own needs

    I once heard someone say, “Pastors do more than lay people.”

  132. elastigirl wrote:

    i believe this is the functional definition of pastor: verb, to invoke God in order to use people to meet one’s own needs

    A good formulation, your definition of the malpractice speaks to the system and the motivation.

  133. @ Thersites:

    “your definition of the malpractice speaks to the system and the motivation.”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++

    it’s largely wrapped up in money. take $ out of the equation and many things would right themselves.

    a pastor has a career of skills & knowledge that don’t transfer well to other industries. they have invested a lot (time, a cultivated lifestyle based on pastor paycheck, and required their marriage partner and kids to do the same). if they went to seminary, then there is that cost (in $ and time, which the marriage partner/kids also had to pay).

    nothing can jeopardize the pastor gig.

    the pastor gig only exists when there are people.

    there are so many ways to manipulate people and use people to protect the pastor gig, and to make it personally rewarding to the pastor. i don’t think most pastors even realize how they manipulate and use people.

    playing the God card is accompanied by a very strong cocktail that dulls judgement and common sense.

  134. Ken F (aka Tweed) wrote:

    I once heard someone say, “Pastors do more than lay people.”

    Well, the way it’s supposed to work in the Body of Christ is for all believers to be engaged in the Great Commission. Whose job is the ministry? Every believer has a part. While the pastor is in a leadership role, he is actually just another member of a local congregation when it comes to ministry in a community. Lay members not engaged in some ministerial activity alongside the pastor don’t understand that they are called to be “priests”, too. However, we “do” because we love Jesus, not to justify ourselves by good works.

  135. elastigirl wrote:

    playing the God card is accompanied by a very strong cocktail that dulls judgement and common sense.

    i.e. The Arrogance of God’s Speshul Pets.

  136. elastigirl wrote:

    another loaded phrase!

    My wife and I were in airports and airplanes all day. I typed that at cruising altitide – so it was probably altitude-induced immaturity.

  137. Clockwork Angel wrote:

    I recall going to very small Calvary Chapels only to find that the pastor might as well have been the pastor of a mega church. He had no desire to meet the new person, even though there were only like 10 people and anyone with a brain who new his flock would know that I’m new. Week after week, he really didn’t say hi to most people. Just gave his “podcast with legs”, said hello to his own friends, then took off. That was true for lots of small and medium Calvary Chapels, none mega churches by a long shot. It’s like they learned that’s how church was done by the Costa Mesa mother ship, and they think it’s normal to “pastor” that way.

    Wow i think i went to that church only it was a tiny AG lol
    Sad thing was that even though the church never grew and the people were cold, if you joined them in worshipping the pastor and the ‘vision’ of where the church was going to go you could fit right in. They were sold on the idea that he was so annointed they would become the next mega church, saving the other churches from false doctrine..

  138. Bunny–yes, we indeed formed and still form very close relationships in our church family. But that is not the same thing as considering the purpose of the church is to meet my social needs. It is wonderful to know that I can call on my church family if need be, and they can call on me. It is something else entirely to have them intrude on my life or for me to feel I have a vested interest in controlling their lives. We have encountered a few preachers who thought pastoring meant ruling your life. And we have encountered a few emotionally needy people who literally come into a church, suck everyone there dry so to speak meeting their constant emotional needs, and then leave for another church all the while trashing the first church for “being cold.”

    In our current church we don’t expect the pastor to know everyone intimately and be everyone’s best buddy. The members of the church have some of the work of the ministry to do also. If Aunt Tilly is in the hospital of course our pastor will try to visit, but not necessarily as quickly as the family may demand. (There are other families also needing his attention.) But one of us will be there, you can bet on that. But the purpose of the church is to take the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ to the whole world. To do that we may babysit your kids, feed you, clothe you, help you with the rent, socialize with you, and genuinely love you. But we won’t be your spiritual parents, your shrink (see a licensed pro), and cannot sacrifice our own family/work/personal lives to provide for all your emotional needs. (Using the word you generically.) We are not a social service agency, a financial institution, a counselling center, or a social club. We are a church.

    Max–we are in the middle of a relo and hunting a church home. I’ve contacted several churches ahead of time in the new area. Out of the several SBC I contacted only one would give a straight answer as to whether or not they are Calvinists. Most waffled around with the “never heard of that, how do you define it, what do you mean by systematic theology” ruse. HMM, if you have a Ph.D. from a seminary, a M.Div. or a D.Min. you should not need me to define either systematic theology or Calvinism. And that one still tried to waffle a bit, defining themselves as in the middle since they believe all can be saved but none can lose salvation.

    Even worse is when you ask about the music. No one wants to say they are contemporary or hymn singing or southern gospel or rock or cowboy church or whatever. All just want to ask what you like.

    And governance? No one seems to want to define elder led, elder ruled, congregational, led by an elected board, or whatever. Act a tad insulted you even asked.

  139. elastigirl wrote:

    where were you traveling? (vicarious traveller with vivid imagination, here)

    Nothing very exciting. We were returning from a family gathering in the Pacific Northwest. I made that comment while in a middle seat in coach on a flight from SEA to ORD. Apparently the weather was nice, but I could not see much from my seat.

  140. sandy c wrote:

    Wow i think i went to that church only it was a tiny AG lol
    Sad thing was that even though the church never grew and the people were cold, if you joined them in worshipping the pastor and the ‘vision’ of where the church was going to go you could fit right in. They were sold on the idea that he was so annointed they would become the next mega church, saving the other churches from false doctrine..

    Oh gosh, I can still hear Chuck Smith say, “Touch not Mine anointed, and do my prophet no harm!” What is it with pastors who act like just because someone disagrees with his vision, that someone must therefore be threatening to beat them up?

    There should only be this vision in a church: To love God, to love one another, and to spread God’s love to others with the Gospel.

    Why can’t “pastors” get this? I guess it doesn’t bring in the bucks.

    But what astounds me is when these very cold churches *do* end up growing. Why are people attracted to that? It’s like watching my fellow poor nerds in high school try to fit in with the “cool” people. It’s just self-destructive in the end.

  141. linda wrote:

    Bunny–yes, we indeed formed and still form very close relationships in our church family. But that is not the same thing as considering the purpose of the church is to meet my social needs. It is wonderful to know that I can call on my church family if need be, and they can call on me. It is something else entirely to have them intrude on my life or for me to feel I have a vested interest in controlling their lives. We have encountered a few preachers who thought pastoring meant ruling your life. And we have encountered a few emotionally needy people who literally come into a church, suck everyone there dry so to speak meeting their constant emotional needs, and then leave for another church all the while trashing the first church for “being cold.”

    In our current church we don’t expect the pastor to know everyone intimately and be everyone’s best buddy. The members of the church have some of the work of the ministry to do also. If Aunt Tilly is in the hospital of course our pastor will try to visit, but not necessarily as quickly as the family may demand. (There are other families also needing his attention.) But one of us will be there, you can bet on that. But the purpose of the church is to take the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ to the whole world. To do that we may babysit your kids, feed you, clothe you, help you with the rent, socialize with you, and genuinely love you. But we won’t be your spiritual parents, your shrink (see a licensed pro), and cannot sacrifice our own family/work/personal lives to provide for all your emotional needs. (Using the word you generically.) We are not a social service agency, a financial institution, a counselling center, or a social club. We are a church.

    Max–we are in the middle of a relo and hunting a church home. I’ve contacted several churches ahead of time in the new area. Out of the several SBC I contacted only one would give a straight answer as to whether or not they are Calvinists. Most waffled around with the “never heard of that, how do you define it, what do you mean by systematic theology” ruse. HMM, if you have a Ph.D. from a seminary, a M.Div. or a D.Min. you should not need me to define either systematic theology or Calvinism. And that one still tried to waffle a bit, defining themselves as in the middle since they believe all can be saved but none can lose salvation.

    Even worse is when you ask about the music. No one wants to say they are contemporary or hymn singing or southern gospel or rock or cowboy church or whatever. All just want to ask what you like.

    And governance? No one seems to want to define elder led, elder ruled, congregational, led by an elected board, or whatever. Act a tad insulted you even asked.

    Well said!

  142. Clockwork Angel wrote:

    But what astounds me is when these very cold churches *do* end up growing. Why are people attracted to that? It’s like watching my fellow poor nerds in high school try to fit in with the “cool” people. It’s just self-destructive in the end.

    The comparison to high school is spot on i think. And one has to wonder if alot of ‘celebrety pastors’ were outcasts in high school, not cool enough to be in the ‘in group’ and are now making their own ‘in groups’ in churches…

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