Why Do Southern Baptist Churches Engage in Hardball Competition Against One Another? What Happened to the Cooperative Effort?

“Number one, cash is king… number two, communicate… number three, buy or bury the competition”.
-Jack Welch

When I lived in Dallas, I watched, befuddled, the beginning of an instant megachurch, Stonebriar Community Church, with Charles Swindoll at the helm. Swindoll is also the Chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary. Now, the Dallas Christian crowd loves a celebrity and Swindoll, at the time, was a bona fide celebrity.

I remember the day it opened. I was told by an enthusiastic *I was there* person that there were 2500 people who attended. These were not new followers seeking a deep experience. The people who showed up were people from surrounding churches. This church devastated some area churches which didn’t have a *name* in the pulpit with which to attract/keep celebrity hounds.

I remember listening to the conversation at the Christian school where my kids attended. Comments like “Were you there? I was.” “There were thousands there. Can you believe it?”  When I asked some of the breathless attendees why there was a need for another church in that location, they looked at me like I had lost my mind. In their minds, since 2500 people came, this was evidence of success. Not one person considered the fact that the church was merely sucking up people from other churches. The people who came were not seeking a deep experience. They wanted to be part of *the experience.*

The churches experiencing competition are not “old timey” Baptist churches with old ladies and organs.

Recently, I’ve been watching  *in your face* competition that is occurring in Southern Baptist churches all over the place. Before I begin, I want the reader to understand that these startup/satellite churches are not bringing anything to the table. The churches with which they are competing are solid SBC churches with good music, relevant teaching, coffee bars, etc. Some even have fog machines…

What I learned from a conservative Lutheran pastor

Last year, I had the opportunity to speak with a thoughtful, semi-retired ,conservative Lutheran pastor whose sermons I have enjoyed. I asked him how the Lutherans plant churches. He spoke about how my church got started. In his leadership role, he saw the need for a Lutheran church in a rapidly developing community. He met with the other churches of the same synod in the area and together they decided a church was warranted.

The churches cooperated in bringing this new church into existence.This church did not start by sucking members out of other Lutheran churches. It started with a small group of people in the area and was supported by the surrounding churches.

Southlake, Texas and The Village Church: Going where the money is?

Everyone knows about Matt Chandler’s The Village Church. It is a large Reformed SBC church and Matt Chandler is a huge name. Fewer people know about know about Southlake Baptist Church. This is a sizable SBC church in Southlake. Their statement of beliefs seems to mesh, in general, with those of The Village Church.

Now Southlake has something that is a draw for The Village Church. It ranks  6 out of 10 of MSN’s 10 Richest towns in America. So, is cooperation between churches of the same denomination ithrown out the window when there is money to be had? Matt Chandler wasn’t even subtle. He put his satellite church right across the street from Southlake Baptist. Is “In your face” is a new gospel phrase?

You can see it clearly in the map below.

I wonder if we will get glowing reports of how many people are showing up to TVC’s church? I wonder if they will bother to do a count as to how many people are showing up to the TVC satellite from similar Baptist churches?  They may all be *brothers* in the SBC but Chandler and TVC plan to win at this ballgame. After all, Gospel competition is the name of the game…

Why is this a good idea?

Raleigh/Research Triangle and JD Greear’s Summit Church

I invite all of you to come visit me and let me take you on a ride through areas near my home. I live in North Ralegh, close to Wake Forest. This area has lots of nice homes and a ton of churches-mostly SBC churches. We live near Southeastern Baptist Seminary which is pumping out young Reformed Baptist pastors as fast as they can. Many of them have discovered what a nice area this is-close to mountains and ocean-along with well to do residents who attracts all sorts of goods and services.

Besides seeing new supermarkets appearing on every corner, one trips over a number of covert Reformed Baptist churches with cutesy names like Restore. Just about every strip mall has these start up churches. if one reads their statements of belief, etc. one will find that they are essentially clones of one another.

I use the term *covert* because none of these churches wants to cop to their membership in the SBC. Being a member of the SBC apparently is a net negative these days. Even JD Greear hid the fact that The Summit was a Baptist church until he got nominated for President of the SBC. Go figure.

This area has a number of successful (if one counts success by numbers…) Reformed Baptist churches.These are not your grandmother’s Baptist church. These are lively church with the band up front, *relevant* sermons, small groups, coffee bars, membership contracts, the works.

Did you know that there are two behemoth covert Reformed SBC churches in the Triangle? This is besides the plethora of large, covert Reformed Baptist churches. One is JD Greear’s The Summit Church. The other is Mike Lee’s Hope Community Church. You can confirm they are SBC churches at this link. Both churches claim attendance or membership in the area of 7,000. Recently I received a call from Hope stating that they were considering starting a satellite in North Raleigh and asking us if we were interested. I started to laugh since the last thing we need is another SBC church in our area.

Let’s take a look at what JD Greear is doing. He has purchased 70 acres of land right down the street from me in back of a bunch of car dealerships. He plans to locate his main church campus along with his administrative offices here. From the Triangle Business Journal: Summit Church buys 70 acres in north Raleigh for $6.9M.

According to CBRE-Raleigh, which represented the buyer, the church plans to build a 65,900-square-foot facility. Summit Church has 10 locations in the Triangle.

His current facility is located in Research Triangle Park (Durham) and is located near universities in the area. University students and singles are in the majority at his present location. So why is Greear moving his main campus 19 miles away to the new location?

He might try to say he is moving closer to an indigent area to serve but he is already close to one in his Durham location. What is different is that he is moving closer to the wealthy area of north Raleigh. He is also moving closer to a group of successful SBC churches.There are at least 5 large, thriving SBC churches near his new location. These churches are filled with well heeled members.

Why in the world does this area need another SBC church? Here is what Greear said.

Our desire is for everyone in our community (the Triangle) to be no more than 15 minutes from a thriving evangelical church or a Summit congregation.

Yet he is moving into an area with a plethora of church and he will need to compete directly with *thriving* SBC congregations. Those thriving congregations better get ready. Hardball competition for their money is about to commence and The Summit intends to win.

If anyone thinks this these church plants are going into areas that do not have churches that are bringing the *Gospel* to those who are lost, please think again. From my vantage point, this is about getting the money by taking members of other churches and making them (along with their bank accounts) members of Summit.

We will be keeping an eye on how The Summit does when it opens its new, behemoth church. We will attempt to keep a count of membership of the other, currently thriving churches in the area. We predict that these church will experience a precipitous drop in membership. Yet, they will be told to keep a stiff, upper lip for the *sake of the Gospel.*

If anyone is a member of one of those churches (you know who you are), please contact us. We would like to keep accurate counts of the shift in membership in the coming invasion.We will keep your contact confidential.

Conclusion:

I am left with a question. Why don’t local SBC churches cooperate instead of compete with one another? They look more like Coke and Pepsi going after the same people. But, then again, isn’t free market, American competition amongst churches a value found in the Bible? It’s got to be somewhere…


Comments

Why Do Southern Baptist Churches Engage in Hardball Competition Against One Another? What Happened to the Cooperative Effort? — 210 Comments

  1. Ugh. I work right by the new 70 acre lot. They already have a campus no more than a mile or so down the road on Departure.

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  2. I hope these mega-entertainment churches are carrying huge insurance policies on their superstars. If wonder-man loses his voice or implodes, the crowd will shift to the next venue and who will be paying for that huge stage and all that equipment?

    No wonder there’s so much pressure to ignore any sins. The show must go on. Sigh…

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  3. “The churches with which they are competing are solid SBC churches with good music, relevant teaching, coffee bars, etc.”

    Sorry, but that line offends me, as I don’t consider these “new” type churches to posses good music or relevant teaching. Though, I will say their coffee isn’t bad.

    “I use the term *covert* because none of these churches wants to cop to their membership in the SBC. Being a member of the SBC apparently is a net negative these days. Even JD Greear hid the fact that The Summit was a Baptist church until he got nominated for President of the SBC. Go figure.”

    If the word Baptist isn’t good enough to put in the name, then they shouldn’t accept Baptist funding, and they shouldn’t attend a Baptist seminary. That is hypocrisy.

    I’ve been saying for years, there IS NO REASON for all the focus on church planting, especially by the SBC in the Southern US. It is getting to the point where SBC churches are going to be like Circle K convenience stores are in my area, where we have can have one intersection with two or more Circle K stations, then another two less than a mile down the road, which is just ridiculous.

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  4. When I was a Religion major at Liberty, I was often hit on by pastoral majors. Because, of course, you can’t be single and be a Baptist pastor. Inevitably, they always had the same pickup line: “I’m going to plant a megachurch.”

    I remember one memorable guy who started with, “I’m going to plant a megachurch in Alpharetta, Georgia.” He seemed particularly pleased with himself. I asked him why Alpharetta? He said, and I quote, “It’s an affluent area that’s growing quickly.” I asked him who he was planning to reach? He looked puzzled and said, “The affluent people in that area” like that was a dumb question. So I said, “So you’ll just move people around churches? How will you compete with the five other megachurches in this area?” He got angry and snapped, “How do you know there’s five other megachurches?” I said I was from Alpharetta, and then I named them, including Northpoint. Dude turned around and just took off.

    There are a lot of lessons from that, but primarily that many of these church planters are planting their cushy dream job where they will become rich and famous. God is just a tool for them to be that. And being a Christian celebrity has always been lauded in conservative Baptistland, both inside the SBC and out.

    Another lesson might be to never brag about planting a megachurch to a missions major…

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  5. I should note that the megachurches were/are all different denominations, only one at that time was affiliated with the SBC (there’s another now in that area, Redeemer). One is PCA. So this isn’t just limited to Baptist churches. It happens wherever there is rich people who can pay the big bucks.

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  6. Jarrett Edwards: If the word Baptist isn’t good enough to put in the name, then they shouldn’t accept Baptist funding, and they shouldn’t attend a Baptist seminary. That is hypocrisy.

    Yes! To this I say “amen!” And as you have also pointed out, the SBC’s new president’s church, “Summit” was also ashamed to put “Baptist” in their name. As a Baptist myself, I find that extraordinarily hypocritical!

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  7. To answer the question posed in the post’s title, there is no cooperation because the name of the game is all about “control”. When a Southern Baptist mega church (who was ashamed to have “Baptist” in their name) wanted to start a satellite in our community, they approached our little church. They came under the guise of wanting to “help” us, but we had seen what happened to other churches they had “helped” in the area. Basically, we told them we weren’t interested.

    Fast forward a year…that same church started a new plant (most likely with NAMB dollars) not even a half a mile from our church! I believe this was mostly done out of pettiness and spite, but I know it was done so that their reformed theology and “elder-led”, iron-fisted control over people can be further promulgated in the area. At the time, we had just been nearly destroyed by a reckless YRR Neo-Cal pastor, and we might have been easy pickin’s for them. However, many folks in our congregation are beginning to connect the dots and see how destructive and ugly these takeovers can be.

    The attacks have come from without and from within our little church! But God has preserved us and protected us from their authoritarian desires to “reform” us! I’d rather be transformed by the Holy Spirit, thank-you-very-much!

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  8. If church membership is in decline in general then it’s just transferring water to a bigger leaking bucket.

    But unlike Lutherans, aren’t SBC churches independent anyway? SBC doesn’t seem to be big on accountability at the leadership level so why would anyone expect loyalty?

    Everyone is upset but this is apparently what the membership wants. But with membership contracts and authoritarian leadership the norm at most of these churches, I’m having a hard [time] feeling sympathy for the congregations that are losing out. There are no good guys here.

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  9. In our area Lutheran churches are on the ropes. There have been more church closures than new Lutheran church plants. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a new Lutheran church spring up. Same thing with Anglican and United churches.

    Existing Roman Catholic churches are thriving due to immigration but I haven’t heard of any new ones opening up.

    There was a spate of mini megas opening up in nineties and early 2000s but that seems to have stabilized. I guess that was just a shift from the established denominations.

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  10. But why go to a brick & mortar building at all? There’s nothing in a church that I can’t find online. Sermons, music etc…all on YouTube, and I don’t need to dress up or even do it on a Sunday. Look at echurch at TWW.
    Retail shopping has already gone down this road. Small local stores to big box to empty.

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  11. Jarrett Edwards:

    I’ve been saying for years, there IS NO REASON for all the focus on church planting, especially by the SBC in the Southern US. It is getting to the point where SBC churches are going to be like Circle K convenience stores are in my area, where we have can have one intersection with two or more Circle K stations, then another two less than a mile down the road, which is just ridiculous.

    It wouldn’t be so ridiculous if these were smaller congregations which served their immediate neighborhoods.

    I’m thinking that the imperative of scale is going to bump up against sustainability limits of some kind, but perhaps that will take decades to fully play out.

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  12. Why would Summit go to North Raleigh when there are already SBC churches there? What could be their thinking? Well…a few ideas come to mind.

    Part 1 of 2

    First one must answer some questions about Jesus. Was Jesus poor and did he come from a poor family?

    I read something a few years back on this topic, and got interested at the time. If you look at just a whole lot of things in scripture one can come to the conclusion that there is sufficient evidence in scripture to conclude that he was not poor nor did he come from a poor family. What??? Heresy!!!. Well, check it out. Look at what we know about his life and his family and ask yourself who paid for that, and how?

    A problem with reading scripture is that for those of us who grew up hearing not just scripture but also interpretations and understandings of scripture when we were way too young to question what we heard somehow have ideas stamped on our thinking which feel like very truth of very truth but which actually may be inaccurate.

    Hint: the issue of ‘born in a stable’ is not about poverty but about how to connect Jesus with Bethlehem for purposes of prophecy; and it explains why the relationship with Bethlehem was brief and fleeting. It does not remotely say that Joseph was poor.

    So, which of the twelve came from poor families? Before you say ‘fishermen’ remember that somebody’s daddy owned and ran a commercial fishing business.

    There are lots more evidences and hint when you start asking the questions.

    I say this merely to mention that there are ideas about Jesus and money, about religion and money, about the obtaining and uses of money to accomplish religious tasks, that conflict with some of the fables? about poverty and Jesus.

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  13. okrapod,

    Part 2 of 2

    And yes, first ‘win’ the affluent was something I first heard from an IFB missionary to a poor country. That is where the money may come from to finance ‘the work’. And besides, the rich are just as lost as the poor. We all know that, right? And if the rich do not believe exactly like we believe that is proof positive of their lost condition. For crying out loud, of course first and foremost one must evangelize the rich folks. It not just about money, it is about souls. And it may well be, in some folks thinking that God gave that money to his elect specifically for the purpose of spreading the doctrines of ‘grace’ for which we need that money. And where are the affluent elect who may respond to our message? In theologically incorrect churches sad to say.

    Or else, he gave that money to the ‘unchosen, aka unrighteous(?)’ and therefore they have no right to it-He gave it to them so that we could have it. Surely we all have run into that thinking-something from Proverbs I think. And where are the un-elect who may respond to our message/ write some checks? In theologically incorrect churches of course.

    Seventy acres in North Raleigh is just one more step toward the goal. The goal of we are right, and we have the money to show for it, and therefore it is only right that we are in charge. The logic behind that is non-existent but who cares. It is solidly American free enterprise.

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  14. Is there a “central statistical office” for the SBC? Given that they do have an idea of aggregate “number of baptisms”, “number of members”, there must be some admin function that is receiving reports from the local congregations. It would be a relatively straightforward task to assess the impact of new church openings on the reported statistics of pre-existing churches — analogous to the “new store sales” versus “same store sales” metrics that are so important to the national retail corporations.

    If this data exists, it would permit a compelling “natural experiment” comparison between multiyear trajectories of “same church attendance” in areas without and with startups.

    I’m not SBC and don’t “have a dog in the fight”, but it would seem to me that the “home missions” office that assists these startups with funding should be concerned with the well-being of the existing churches and should be looking to preferentially assist new congregations in under-served areas.

    OTOH, perhaps “underserved” is understood to mean “under-neocalvinized”.

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  15. Jack:
    But unlike Lutherans, aren’t SBC churches independent anyway? SBC doesn’t seem to be big on accountability at the leadership level so why would anyone expect loyalty?

    The New Calvinists have been eroding church autonomy for some time. They will still say SBC churches are autonomous, but there’s been some major battles between state and local conventions and the national convention over leadership and how much control they have. Many of these churches also have allowed the entities more and more control over things like finances.

    Add the deceptive church takeovers yes-men pastors, and I would bet there will be a move to remove local church autonomy not too far in the future. If they believe in removing it from church members, it’s not too far of a stretch that they will restructure the whole SBC.

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  16. okrapod,

    Or else, he gave that money to the ‘unchosen, aka unrighteous(?)’ and therefore they have no right to it-He gave it to them so that we could have it.Surely we all have run into that thinking-something from Proverbs I think.

    At least among more traditional Reformed, there is also the concept of “plundering the unrighteous”, which is a theological riff on the Exodus account of the Israelites plundering the Egyptians as they were leaving.

    It’s another instance of the very strong “us” versus “them” ethos that characterizes the Reformed. I think in the end it will limit their ability to “reach” people, but that will not bother them as they will reckon that all the elect have been brought in and the remaining multitudes outside don’t matter.

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  17. ishy: The New Calvinists have been eroding church autonomy for some time. They will still say SBC churches are autonomous, but there’s been some major battles between state and local conventions and the national convention over leadership and how much control they have. Many of these churches also have allowed the entities more and more control over things like finances.

    Add the deceptive church takeovers yes-men pastors, and I would bet there will be a move to remove local church autonomy not too far in the future. If they believe in removing it from church members, it’s not too far of a stretch that they will restructure the whole SBC.

    That’s exactly what is happening when the megas overrun and “partner” with smaller churches! The satellites have little, if any, autonomy.

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  18. Root 66,

    I would love to tell the story of your church. Can you email me? dee@thewartbirgwatch.com

    You all were smart in how you responded. I just got another call from the Boston area about an old church with an historic building that was the target of some Calvinistas. Boston is a well funded outreach from the NAMB. The pastor told this group of 20 people who arrived to *help* the church to get out of their church building now.

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  19. “Besides seeing new supermarkets appearing on every corner, one trips over a number of covert Reformed Baptist churches with cutesy names like Restore. Just about every strip mall has these start up churches.”

    A sampling of cutesy SBC church names in my area: Refuge, Encounter, Mosaic, Discovery, New Wave, LifePointe, LifeQuest, Real Life, The Story, The Bridge … and this one: The Church! There is no clear SBC-affiliation in their church names. You ‘might’ find reference to SBC tucked in a corner of their website, but I suspect that most of the members have no idea they are Southern Baptists (sort of).

    One SBC-YRR church planter down the road did an amazing thing. He hung up a church sign with his cutesy name, but under it he painted “A Reformed Southern Baptist Church.” He then explained what “reformed” means on his website, along with who the SBC is. I may not agree with his theology, but I sure appreciate his integrity. Just tell me who you are! You will always know who I am!

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  20. Jack,

    I really like your comment. Yes, these churches are all a part of the same Neo Reformed Baptist movement. In some of the churches, people don’t even realize they are Baptists!

    I have been observing churches for years-long before this blog started. Some people follow the Kardsahians. I have followed church movements. I find some church trends fascinating. So, even though my church will not lose any members to the Summit behemoth, I still think it is interesting and relevant.

    Frankly, Greear and the others do not seem to be having an impact on the trend of declining church memberships. Instead they build ridiculously large churches and let people think that they are doing something right. Sadly, they are not impacting declining attendance. They merely take members from one church and say that they are growing. Chandler is obviously doing the same thing.;

    As for great, he is a supporter of Mahaney. Look at the books on his website. he recommends two by this man who seriously hurt a bunch of people. Guess that is part of the ethos of the *new and improved* SBC.

    Also, you are correct. Churches in the SBCX are autonomous unless they have a woman pastor and they are out. So, the boys can control it if they want to do so. They don’t. The result is a lot of wasted money on church startups. Come for a drive with me someday and let me show you the North Raleigh plethora of churches.

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  21. L. Lee: Maybe 4th and please pardon if I am off topic, but I thought your readers would want to be aware of this blog post:

    http://www.wadeburleson.org/2018/07/swbts-donors-and-folly-of-funding.html

    Good article–it mentions the “Dead Sea Scroll-like” fragments purchased by SWBTS. A family was convinced to donate $500,000 to buy a fragment but there’s evidence to suggest it’s a clever forgery.

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  22. Jack: In our area Lutheran churches are on the ropes. There have been more church closures than new Lutheran church plants. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a new Lutheran church spring up.

    Let me ask you a question. Which Lutheran churches are on the ropes? Are the ELCA? I bet they are. I am in the conservative wing of the Lutheran crowd. My church was planted in the late 1990s and is a good sized and vibrant church. Last year we had 90 kids attending confirmation classes.

    The seminary affiliated with my synod is now offering to pay for the entire education of new pastors. They then help them find churches who need pastors. In other words, they get employed.

    The same thing is happening in the Anglican tradition. Watch the churches with Anglican in their name which are breakaways from the Episcopal church. Again, in my area, there are three such churches and they are doing very well.

    If you were to look at the way my sort of Lutheran church runs, and look at the Anglicans that I have mentioned, you will see a trend. One of the things that does not happen is the mega church phenomenon. These churches tend to grow into the 500-600 and they start a new church. Pastors in these churches are not simply podcasts on legs. They actually *pastor.* They know your name. They know your family. They pray for you .

    One exception to this is Prince of Peace Lutheran in Dallas which has become a mega church of sorts.They are right across the street from my old church, Bent Tree, and Jack Graham’s Prestonwood. The area was dubbed God’s Green Acres and it takes an army of trafficking cops to handle it on weekends!

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  23. Deb,

    There are also former pastors looking at jobs in one of these churches. Maybe Greear will pick him up on his way to taking over our portion of the world!!

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  24. Samuel Conner: At least among more traditional Reformed, there is also the concept of “plundering the unrighteous”, which is a theological riff on the Exodus account of the Israelites plundering the Egyptians as they were leaving

    Plundering the unrighteous? Now this is one I haven’t heard before. Can you point in the right direction? I would absolutely love to write about it.

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  25. Samuel Conner: it would seem to me that the “home missions” office that assists these startups with funding should be concerned with the well-being of the existing churches

    They are so concerned that they send YRR to struggling churches to help “re-plant” them … with reformed theology, of course. The New Calvinist movement in the SBC is a two-edged sword: church plant (aka theology plant) and re-plant (aka takeover).

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  26. Dee Parsons,

    I don’t know where the reformed are coming from, but when I first mentioned the issue and Proverbs that can be found in Proverbs 13:22 and that is what I heard from the fundamentalists. Entitlement to the money of the unrighteous.

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  27. Max,

    Max: A sampling of cutesy SBC church names in my area: Refuge, Encounter, Mosaic, Discovery, New Wave, LifePointe, LifeQuest, Real Life, The Story, The Bridge … and this one: The Church!

    Max: . He hung up a church sign with his cutesy name, but under it he painted “A Reformed Southern Baptist Church.” He then explained what “reformed” means on his website, along with who the SBC is. I may not agree with his theology, but I sure appreciate his integrity. Just tell me who you are!

    Thank you for your list of names. One amusing thing in my area. There are two new churches with exact same name. They are not related whatsoever!

    Could you point me to the church with that pastor who spelled things out. I agree with you. Tell me who you are.

    In my former church, besides the horrific pedophile incident, there were two other things that were hidden from us. They were rabidly young earth and they were rabidly part of the Calvinista movement. When we held a discussion on Creation in our class, the young earth brigade showed up, causing all sorts of problems. I asked the pastor why he didn’t tell us that only YEC was allowed. He said, and I quote, “We didn’t;t want to prevent people from coming to the church.” I said to him I would never have come to his church if I had known that. I did not want to be part of a bait and switch.

    However, I really thing God wanted me to observe how bad the dhurch is when it comes to the sexual abuse of children. As the Deebs often say, “That experience was the wind beneath this blog.”

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  28. okrapod: I say this merely to mention that there are ideas about Jesus and money, about religion and money, about the obtaining and uses of money to accomplish religious tasks, that conflict with some of the fables? about poverty and Jesus.

    You have to remember that the ancient Roman economy was not like modern economies today. It wasn’t modern capitalism as we think of it. The Roman economy had a very few people on top with enormous wealth and the vast majority below who were one personal disaster away from catastrophe. There wasn’t a middle class as we know it today (that’s a creation of the Industrial Revolution). There was very rich and some variety of poor. Moreover, the poor were being pressured from the bottom by the significant percentage of slaves in the economy. It’s hard to compete with someone in a small artisan sense when there’s a slave of a guy who does the same work and doesn’t have to be paid.

    For example, Peter and his brother may have owned a boat, they may have been running it for their father as part of a family enterprise. But they probably didn’t have the money to replace the boat if it smashed up on the rocks, and they spent days mending their nets after fishing, meaning they didn’t have the money to just go out and purchase another net when their current nets got holes in them.

    As for Jesus, he came from Nazareth and was described as a “tekton”, which has long been translated as “carpenter” or “woodworker,” but has also been translated as “craftsman” or “artisan.” There is no evidence that this indicated Jesus had any sort of wealth. In fact, he may have been a day laborer who walked over from Nazareth to Tiberias to work on the properties of the wealthy. He may have been a very skilled day laborer, but a laborer nonetheless.

    I think if Jesus had had some sort of noticeable wealth, it would have been mentioned in the Gospels. Instead, we have parables like the woman who had 10 coins and lost one, and swept her house carefully to find her one coin, because a denarius was equal to a day’s wages. Or the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, where the earlier workers got into a snit when they discovered the master was paying everyone the same, and they weren’t getting any more for getting there earlier. And when he does talk about the wealthy, he tells the rich young ruler to leave everything and follow him, or has the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

    We have to be very careful about putting modern ideas regarding wealth and poverty on people who lived prior to the modern era. After all, even if you live in an old house but still have internal plumbing and a window A/C, you are living better than even the wealthiest Senators of Rome.

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  29. My son and his family live in a country (which I cannot name) for the sake of sharing Christ and making disciples. He can name every worker (missionary) in that country that adds up to maybe 12. Millions of people and only 12 committed to make disciples. That’s quite a contrast from the way mega churches operate in our country. If these churches are so committed to fulfill the great commission, why don’t they put their resources into sending and supporting those on the front lines of evangelism and missions? I think this article says a lot about why.

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  30. @ Dee

    According to what I saw and heard and read in one of their own publications, LCMS is conservative (your word) and complementarian and no women pastors and has ‘elders’, one of whom I knew and who laid hands on young g’daughter along with the pastor when they prayed for her at graduation, which was announced as the ‘elders’ doing the praying. Also noted is a hierarchy which I have mentioned before.

    So, laying aside the hierarchy issue, what is it about comp and elder and conservative that is different from LCMS on the one hand and elder-led SBC on the other hand?

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  31. Muslin, fka Dee Holmes,

    The issues mentioned include the trip of Mary to see Elizabeth, a dangerous trip which a young woman would not have made without being in a secure group, which would have cost money-think transportation and guards for the group.

    Also, the fact that Joseph was able to support a large family, regardless of who one thinks was the mother of the ‘brothers and sisters’ of jesus.

    The evidence that Jesus was educated as the teachers at the temple questioned when he was 12 and also evidenced by the fact that he was literate in the religious Hebrew read in synagogue, which not everybody was, and his familiarity with the scriptures. Education took time and money, there not being a public school system. And note, that if people considered this all miraculous they neglected to mention that they thought it was some miracle that he was literate and taught in the scriptures.

    The issue that usually the bodies of criminals were not buried, but the authorities granted the body of Jesus to Joseph of A, a man of wealth because tombs of that sort were expensive, and the idea that perhaps they gave him the body because he was a relative of the family. Which was a tad odd since they were concerned enough to post guards but let the body be buried none the less.

    The fact that Jesus was well dressed (the robe) regardless of how He got it, which may have indicated that he may have been from a stratum of society in which something like that was expected/ accepted.

    The fact that his ministry was apparently well financed, either from resources not specified or else from contributions from some sources which were mentioned. The disciples were not mendicants outside of the issue of what house to enter/ proclaim peace/ and stay which was part of the culture and law of the day in Judaism, and which was apparently(?) limited to the mission of the seventy.

    The fact that these instances are all the way from birth to death, and do not appear to be isolated instances for only one period of his life.

    So, family, education, contacts, life style and burial all fit with someone who was not shown to be poverty stricken. Could he have come from poverty? Maybe. Is poverty the most reasonable explanation? I don’t think so, but this is not a hill on which to die.

    I may have forgotten some things, it has been a while. But this is the general idea of what I am talking about.

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  32. Dee Parsons: Plundering the unrighteous? Now this is one I haven’t heard before. Can you point in the right direction? I would absolutely love to write about it.

    I encountered this concept repeatedly expressed by leaders in a conservative Presby congregation that I affiliated with for the better part of decade. The original sense appears to go back to Augustine who used it in the sense of appropriating valid ideas from the world of unbelief, sort of a counterpoint to the intellectual separatism of the “What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?”
    perspective.

    In that church context, I encountered this meme in its original sense, but also in a much more earthy and hostile sense in terms of “taking money from (people we reckon to be) God’s enemies.” I don’t know whether that sense is as widespread (or as explicitly affirmed; it is a rather unappealing “look” to outsiders, after all) as the original, but I suspect that it is not rare (the basis of my above note).

    If you wanted to explore this, I think that the place to start might be Reformed reflection on Common versus Particular Grace. For the Reformed, God’s common grace goodness toward the non-elect is not predicated on any kindness in God toward them per se (contra texts such as “YHWH has compassion on all He has made”), but is rather the incidental and unavoidable overflow of His goodness toward the elect. For Calvin, God is not in Himself “love” — He is that only toward the elect; toward the reprobate God is actually “hate.”

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  33. Matt Chandler in a 2012 sermon, “The Demonic Danger of a Church on Every Corner”,

    https://www.tvcresources.net/resource-library/sermons/the-demonic-danger-of-a-church-on-every-corner

    About 10 years ago, I sat down with the deacons of Highland Village First Baptist Church, which is this place. Surprise! I had already, you know, had several meetings with the personnel committee (as it was called), and I was sitting down with the deacons of the church. They were kind of wondering where I thought we were going and what my heart was, and so we met at The Village Grill, right across the street here.

    If you live in the area, they used to put butcher paper down over their tables, and there were crayons there. I picked up a crayon, and I drew a circle and kind of wrote “HVFBC” on it. I had to get my letters right, and then I drew a bunch of lines out from there and said, “My hope would be God would do something significantly bigger than just this, that we might be used to actually plant a lot of other churches. That really, our heart would be for DFW and not just for ourselves. Our heart would be for the kingdom of God and not ultimately just to build one big church but to build up the church in the Metroplex and to the ends of the earth.”

    A 2017 Christianity Today article, “Matt Chandler never wanted a big church”.

    https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/december/matt-chandler-interview-village-church-multisite-dallas.html

    Lies make Baby Jesus cry, Pastor Matt.

    It seems like JD is trying to replicate the business plan, and he has much better universities to operate near.

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  34. okrapod,

    The only countervailing detail that I can think of is a remark in NT Wright’s “Jesus and the Victory of God” (IIRC) that Joseph’s occupation, “tekton” (builder) was not a high status or well compensated line of work in the 1st Century. Wright seems to regard Jesus’ family as being what we would call “working class.” Not destitute, but not high status, either.

    There is also a possibly relevant incidental note in the Gospel of John that the people were surprised by Jesus’ teaching because He had not been a formally trained student in the schools of the day.

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  35. Thank you, Dee. To be fair, he is JD Greaer, sorry The Summit, is relocating his its current NORAL (my designation, not theirs) location a little further north on Capital Boulevard. Currently they are located in a quasi-industrial area near the Buffalo Lanes bowling alley. (I have never attended there but have friends who do on a regular basis.)

    Like you, I would be interested in whether the shiny new location will have a negative impact on area congregations, but with SBC churches (especially), getting an accurate attendance count is nearly impossible. I know that one of the relatively close churches that does not include the word Baptist in their name, located on Burlington Mills Road between Raleigh and Wake Forest, inflates their attendance numbers by selective double counting; I am certain they are not alone in that practice.

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  36. Unepetiteanana: Ugh. I work right by the new 70 acre lot. They already have a campus no more than a mile or so down the road on Departure.

    Yes they do, but it is not visible from the high end car dealerships like the new one will be. Sure they are moving away from the Rolls Royce, BMW and Mercedes franchises, but what good is being near those showrooms when the church campus cannot be seen from them. Besides, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Leith organization doesn’t eventually move those to join the Audi and Infiniti showrooms by the new Summit campus.

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  37. Samuel Conner,

    Well, I am about fed up with some of NTW’s ideas, but he should be in a position to know something about what you have cited. I have heard before that the word would not have applied to carpentry alone but would probably also have included stone masons, that being the primary building material for some of the Roman area construction in Judea. But NTW I am thinking would have checked it out relative to economic status, so that is worth hearing.

    But clearly Jesus kept saying stuff that people would ask ‘where is he getting this stuff’ right along with ‘who does he think he is’. I wish the gospel writers had said more about that. What strikes my eye is the repeated ‘as one with authority’.

    Thanks for the info.

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  38. Southern Baptists then and now:

    Then, southeastern nm and west texas oil fields: most towns had a 1st Baptist church, centrally located. Should the footprint of the town grow, folks would decide (sans preacher input) to start a “Love Avenue” or “West Second” Baptist church. Or the preacher would for example preach about the rapture and maybe a third of the people were not dispensationalist, so they would quietly withdraw and start a church with “their” beliefs. Folks in outlying villages, or oil field camps, would start churches out there where there were none. You didn’t expect to get rich preaching

    Now: preaching is a career called “senior pastor” even if you are the only person on staff. You are not building Christ’s kingdom, but your own, although you will never admit it. You preach the storehouse tithe so you can self appoint yourself rightful minister in an area (aka church plant) and teach that if the pew peons don’t pony up to you they rob God. You studied all the gurus of the church growth movement and are sure if you land in town a. knowing more than the peons (whatever their theology is you need a new one) just like the dispensationalists did in the 20th century and b) if you follow the right techniques lots of people will join.

    If you need a building asap don’t plant, just renew, renovate, or replant aka take over an existing church and its building. What if people don’t rush to join? Can’t be that the church growth movement is wrong even if Jesus did warn AGAINST having everyone saying good things about you and even if He did make clear the high cost of discipleship. You are following the system and need the extra money, so it must be the fault of peons. Maybe they just aren’t elect. (This could be true, too!) Maybe they don’t like your theology, or like you, or just plain don’t want to change. Shake the dust off your feet and move on.

    The difference in the two SBC’s is this: in the first, Christ is Lord over the church and delegates authority to the congregation. Makes them Baptist. In the second, the pastor is lord over the church and delegates authority to no one else. Makes them, well, not Baptist.

    Go back to the first way and there were healthy modified Arminian, healthy dispensational, and healthy Calvinist SBC churches. (Not all were healthy but most were.)

    Do it the second way and no matter the theology you cannot have a healthy BAPTIST church.

    Just my btdt opinion.

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  39. Samuel Conner,

    When I read Paul Johnson’s “The History of the Jews” one thing that really stuck out to me was the long time Jewish ancient tradition of education/teaching. It wasn’t always formal as we think of education.

    One of the characteristics I have heard some Scholars talk about are how the 12 disciples were found “working” and that tells us a lot about them. The typical trajectory was a Jewish boy would start studying at 7 and by the time he was 13/14 it was decided whether he would continue on that path or go to the family business. So the 12 were not the rabinnical cream of the crop– but Paul was.

    I also read something interesting somewhere, a long time ago, that the gifts the wise men brought (some Scholars think they arrived when he was about 2 years old) probably helped the family who were simple Carpenters. We also know that between the time of Jesus’ ages of 12 to 30, Joseph died. there also seems to be evidence that his brother James was educated at least until age 14.

    None of this is definitive but I do find it fascinating to look at all angles. from what I could tell from research, Jesus’s family were simply working class which in that day and time meant respectable enough but not much more. A path to respectability was when a son became a rabbi. Lol.

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  40. Dee Parsons: Plundering the unrighteous? Now this is one I haven’t heard before. Can you point in the right direction? I would absolutely love to write about it.

    Sounds like something I heard about an Islamic teaching once.

    Didn’t Dever get a large contribution from a non-churchgoer? l’m half-inclined to go so far as “unbeliever” but am not completely sure of the facts.

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  41. The churches experiencing competition are not “old timey” Baptist churches with old ladies and organs.

    What if they were? Would it be okay then? Why even say this? God loves these “old” ladies. If someone wants to worship in an “old timey” fashion, what’s wrong with that? I’ve been in both types of churches. I enjoy both. It’s about worship. Talk about competition. Bigger, shinier, foggier, and louder doesn’t equate to better worship.

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  42. refugee: Didn’t Dever get a large contribution from a non-churchgoer? l’m half-inclined to go so far as “unbeliever” but am not completely sure of the facts.

    Fortunately, 9Marks has a video that describes it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VNz714D6kw. 3:39 is where they describe this donor, and 4:28 is where they state he is a non-believer. Matt Schmucker seems to be the one pulling all the financial strings in both 9Marks and T4G.

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  43. There has always been a type of church competition. It was doctrine or better preacher, today it’s a dog and pony show. Got to get those rears in the seats, got to get those offerings up. Not much sin or repentance. We need to be entertained and feel good….

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  44. drstevej: Ironically, I have a friend who is planting a church in Alpharetta currently. https://verticalchurchatl.com/

    I have never before seen this as a statement of faith: “Each member of the Godhead, while executing distinct but complementary roles in redemptive history…”

    But but I googled it and it seems to be a very popular statement.

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  45. Muslin fka Deana Holmes: Now why would a non-believer give 9 Marks money? There’s something hinky about that.

    The “non-believer” who bankrolled 9Marks for three years and was a corporate officer with Dever and Schmucker was a wealthy lawyer and “serial entrepreneur” who lived next to them, behind the church. He cashed out of one of his tech businesses in the late 1990s, and I’m guessing there were tax benefits to making these large charitable contributions over several years.

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  46. Louisville trendychurch Sojourn launched its own church planting network several years ago. The first targets for Sojourn franchises? Chattanooga, Tenn. and Woodstock, Ga., of course!

    https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/108298299/

    “Rusty McKie often gets a puzzled response when he tells people he is leading a group of about 18 people moving from Louisville to launch a new church in Chattanooga, Tenn. McKie doesn’t have roots there, after all, and the city already has a fair supply of churches.”

    “McKie and another pastor are the first to be commissioned to launch new churches under the new Sojourn Network, a church-planting organization based at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville. The other, Trent Chambers, is launching a similar church in Woodstock, Ga., near Atlanta.”

    “The Sojourn church, a Southern Baptist congregation founded in 2000, draws nearly 3,000 people weekly at four campuses in Louisville and Southern Indiana. It has drawn a largely young-adult crowd and has a mix of high-energy worship, community service, support for arts, small-group fellowships, discipline of members and a conservative theology strongly influenced by Calvinist doctrines”

    “It may be surprising that a group of laypeople would volunteer to move to another city for the express purpose of forming a church, but McKie said it’s an ‘easier transition’ for members who have known each other for years…Some have already moved to Chattanooga, while others are still in Louisville while seeking work and housing there. He hopes to have the church launched later this year. Chambers, also 28 and a Southern Seminary graduate,…[is] in Woodstock…with a small group of people…planning a more public launch of the congregation soon.”

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  47. drstevej: Ironically, I have a friend who is planting a church in Alpharetta currently.https://verticalchurchatl.com/

    There’s about 7 or 8 megachurches in that area now. And there’s been hundreds of church plants that came and went. With NAMB in town, there’s no way they would want Northpoint to hold the market, but they haven’t really been all that successful in their hometown.

    It is unlikely that any new church plant will be able to survive, much less compete.

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  48. Northpoint has successfully planted satellite churches in most of the affluent areas of north Georgia. And they claim to be “all for the unreached”? Right.

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  49. okrapod,

    When Jesus was born Mary and Joseph couldn’t afford a lamb, so they sacrificed either doves or pigeons (compare Luke 2 with Leviticus 12). So they certainly weren’t wealthy.

    Also, Luke 8 says that several women were financially supporting Jesus’ ministry. He did have help and patrons.

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  50. Of course, Jesus also has that weird parable in Luke 16 and at the end he tells people to use unrighteous wealth to make friends. I haven’t studied it, but it has always been odd to me.

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  51. Dear Wartburg People,

    Please pray for the 12 children and their soccer coach trapped in a bubble of air in a flooded cave system in Thailand. Their situation is quite dire, and it is far from certain that they can be rescued.

    With God all things are possible. If it be His will, let these poor souls come to the light of day again…

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  52. ishy</strong
    “Ishy” story explains it all…… what I have trouble putting my hands around is how they say this is “all the Lords’s leading” when, at best, there is very mixed motivations….

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  53. Jerome,

    I don’t know much about the Atlanta area, but Chattanooga is a much nicer area than Louisville!
    Nice vacay spot too, lots of things to see and do ……… Hmmmmmmmm……

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  54. roebuck,

    Don’t forget the parents/families of the soccer team (and the family of the Thai former Seal who lost his life in the cave system). My heart aches for all of them.

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  55. Jack: Existing Roman Catholic churches are thriving due to immigration but I haven’t heard of any new ones opening up.

    Catholics have a parish system so wouldn’t deliberately set up competing churches. I suspect their main bottleneck is a lack of priests and a priest must be present for the mass so they go for multiple services in one church.

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  56. Why Do Southern Baptist Churches Engage in Hardball Competition Against One Another?

    Zero-Sum Mentality.
    Since there’s only so much to go around, the only way to get more for Me is to take it away from You.

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  57. Samuel Conner: At least among more traditional Reformed, there is also the concept of “plundering the unrighteous”, which is a theological riff on the Exodus account of the Israelites plundering the Egyptians as they were leaving.

    Reminds me of Massachusetts Puritans LARPing the Book of Joshua.

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  58. ishy: autonomous, but there’s been some major battles between state and local conventions and the national convention over leadership and how much control they have

    Just like Calvary Chapel.
    Autonomous Independent Fellowships(TM) when it’s to CC’s advantage (like damage limitation for scandals).
    A Single Monolith in Lockstep for The LORD when that’s to CC’s advantage.
    Disperse for Defense, Concentrate to Attack.

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  59. okrapod: Seventy acres in North Raleigh is just one more step toward the goal. The goal of we are right, and we have the money to show for it, and therefore it is only right that we are in charge. The logic behind that is non-existent but who cares. It is solidly American free enterprise.

    Jesus Christ:
    God of the Rich and Powerful and ONLY the Rich and Powerful.
    What about all the other 99% of us?

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  60. Dee… If you would have left out “SBC” I thought you were talking about ARC. Their church openings depend on people leaving other churches to be successful (In their terms) of course they deny it… but it is the elephant in the room.

    I know of an ARC church that is putting 50 churches in its own state but out of the blue they put a church in one of the richest counties in FL. (another state far far away) Where in FL there are other successful (in their terms) ARC churches exist.

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  61. okrapod,

    As always you bring up some fascinating points. I don’t buy into the poverty stricken to the barely middlin’ traditional model of the Holy Family either.

    They fled into Egypt with a King’s ransom so to speak, and my guess is that it was Alexandria where they sojourned.

    Alexandria was probably thee cosmopolitan hub of the Greco-Roman world at the time and also a center of intellectual life centered at the great library.

    I’m guessing that Joseph got into the building trades and became even wealthier than when he and his family first arrived at Alexandria.

    Pure speculation on my part of course, but I love looking through the portal of ‘what if?’ spoken of where John closes his Gospel (John 21:25).

    I also believe as William Blake did that he sailed to Britannia with Joseph of Arimathea.

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  62. Muff Potter: They fled into Egypt with a King’s ransom so to speak, and my guess is that it was Alexandria where they sojourned.

    I first heard that on Coast to Coast AM a couple years ago, and it made a lot of sense.

    Alexandria was the largest city in Egypt, with the largest Jewish population outside of Judea itself. If a Jew (who was also a skilled worker) had to go to ground, Alexandria’s Jewish community would be the place to do it.

    And with Herod the Great being the type of man he was (even the Romans were disgusted by him, but he was useful to the Empire) there was probably steady refugee traffic from Judea into Alexandria. Which would further hide Joseph and his family.

    Now as to how well-off Joseph was, who knows? He may have had the gifts from the Magi, or he might have bugged out with just wife, kid, and whatever he has on hand. Either way, as a skilled worker he would have been able to find work and support himself. Especially with help from the local Jewish community and synagogues.

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  63. A.Stacy: I know of an ARC church that is putting 50 churches in its own state but out of the blue they put a church in one of the richest counties in FL. (another state far far away) Where in FL there are other successful (in their terms) ARC churches exist.

    “Why do you rob banks?”
    “BECAUSE THAT’S WHERE THE MONEY IS.”

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  64. Headless Unicorn Guy: Zero-Sum Mentality.
    Since there’s only so much to go around, the only way to get more for Me is to take it away from You.

    However, what’s missing in this picture – even as they compete for giving units?

    Church stuff can now be fulfilled online (teaching, preaching, music, networking, giving, sharing and reflection) with the exception of face-to-face relationship.

    Ironic that in the mega model, they lack face-to-face, heart-to-heart relationship cultivated (may happen by chance). Instead, giving units are shuffled in, coffeed up, entertained, collected from, signed up for duties, then shuffled out. The formula sustains brick and mortar which in turn sustains the “leader” and his special wife with their lifestyle.

    My husband and I identified our spiritual gifts. No church interested. (We exercise them in the Body of Christ, parachurch.) Churches seek pocketbooks and duties (run carnival Sunday, the nursery, VBS, couples night, youth game night, etc. – like the local YMCA – only all volunteers).

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  65. jyjames: My husband and I identified our spiritual gifts. No church interested. (We exercise them in the Body of Christ, parachurch.) Churches seek pocketbooks and duties (run carnival Sunday, the nursery, VBS, couples night, youth game night, etc. – like the local YMCA – only all volunteers).

    I hear you.

    I think that all skills and abilities and opportunities are from God, so I use the word ‘spiritual’ in that sense rather than the more common use. That said, I exercised my gifts in the secular world. IMO it is ultimately to the entire world that gifts are directed-not just to the church. Paul was talking about the church specifically but I am thinking not exclusively. Besides, ‘the church’ mostly gets up and goes to work so ‘the church’ is more apt to be everywhere than just in the pew or prayer room.

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  66. linda,

    This is correct. Baptist churches are congregation led, not elder or pastor ruled: this is the distinctive character of Baptist church polity. It has been eroded to such an extent that it is hard to find a ‘real’ Baptist church.

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  67. Preacher’s Wife:
    Of course, Jesus also has that weird parable in Luke 16 and at the end he tells people to use unrighteous wealth to make friends.I haven’t studied it, but it has always been odd to me.

    That is definitely an intriguing and puzzling parable. I recently encountered the suggestion that in the steward’s write-downs of the debts, he was forgiving not the owner’s principal and accrued interest but his own “placement fee” which he would have kept for himself when the loan was repaid. If that’s right, the owner of the assets was not defrauded. That removes the discomfort one might experience in Jesus’ apparent commendation of what looks like the defrauding of the owner of the assets. In that case, the steward was giving up something of his own (though perhaps unrighteously added to the amount due at the time the loan was negotiated) in exchange for something more valuable.

    OTOH, even if one assumes that the owner is defrauded, perhaps the point of the parable is relatively narrow. We tend to think that wise/prudent/shrewd employment of money results in “more money” (and that imperative is on the surface of other stewardship parables). Perhaps the point of this story is that a better way of thinking about “investment” is in relationships that will endure into the Age to Come.

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  68. Dee Parsons,

    Chris Rosebrough of the AALC, and also the LCMS, are hierarchical, priest-led churches. No women can become priests. Rosebrough is strongly Young Earth, anti women in the pastorate, and complementarian. The Lutheran view of the priesthood of all believers is similar to what is being promulgated in the SBC now by the Neo-Calvinists. For Baptists it is the priesthood of each believer – a subtle but vital difference.

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  69. Grainne: priesthood of all believers … being promulgated in the SBC now by the Neo-Calvinists. For Baptists it is the priesthood of each believer – a subtle but vital difference

    The average Southern Baptist has no idea that the Baptist Faith & Message, their statement of faith, was quietly changed in that regard in a 2000 revision … Al Mohler was on the revision team. Two distinctive long-standing SBC doctrines that characterize Baptists were diminished in 2000: soul competency and priesthood of ‘the’ believer. The BFM2000 contains other changes which trend the denomination toward Calvinism in belief and practice. As you note, these were subtle changes; Mohler is slick.

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  70. Samuel Conner,

    One way that we may be missing some of what Jesus was saying is that we want what he said to look ‘good’ to us through our own ethical (cultural) lenses. We need to ask first what his hearers at the time would think he meant, and there be those now who say that the question is what did the Jews, of which Jesus was one, think on this subject. Amy-Jill Levine, for one, has looked at Jesus’ parables through Jewish eyes and has said some things that make a lot of sense, to me at least. She is not the only one looking at the Jewish Jesus, by far, but she is easy to understand because of her concurrent understanding of Christian thinking and her communication skills. For anybody interested check her out on you tube re the parables of Jesus.

    Example: the parable of the father with the two sons (the prodigal son in Christianese). Levine says that the Jews of Jesus’ day would have understood it quite differently. Her explanation makes more sense to me than the standard Christian understanding, but I am no scholar of first century Jewish thinking.

    Then there is the issue of the workers in the vineyard, another difficult parable. She also addresses this.

    Note: inspiration of scripture applies only to what is written. It does not apply to how we understand scripture. Considering that perhaps we have misunderstood is not an denial of inspiration, and for most of us it is not a denial of claimed church authority to interpret scripture.

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  71. Jackie Newton: You

    I call it the American Evangelical church to distinguish it from real Christian churches (sorry for the offense, but it’s a business model and has zero resemblance to the NT church, and the only model that the NT gave us was one of care and connection). America makes a buck off of anything, including Christ. We can’t seem to help ourselves. It’s part of our heritage now, and it’s in our DNA. Thankfully, Christ can redeem anything.

    I think of franchises as passing on the family fortune. Franklin Graham’s dynasty bears no spiritual resemblance (IMO) to his father’s, but the financial potential and incentive were just too much to pass up. Plus you can play the prodigal son card to maximize market outreach. See Tullian Tchividjian. And the cousin of the family franchise is the “family” franchise, where, for example, members of the Gospel Coalition flatter, endorse, and create savvy business opportunities to enrich each other, ostensibly “brothers in the faith,” but really just a multi-level marketing system, with *down lines” elbowing each other to inch a little closer to the top-tier icons. You can call it whatever you like, it just ain’t Jesus.

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  72. A.Stacy:
    I know of an ARC church that is putting 50 churches in its own state but out of the blue they put a church in one of the richest counties in FL. (another state far far away) Where in FL there are other successful (in their terms) ARC churches exist.

    It’s lesson 1 in planting a megachurch, except that most of these places have megachurches by now. Having lived in one of those areas, it’s the church plants from out-of-state that were most guaranteed to fail. The ones that succeed have planters that came out of one the other big churches and have lots of connections already.

    A lot of church planters look at these areas just for their financial status, but try to copy the same things someone else has already done. They don’t know the area, don’t know the people, and they can’t keep the church plants afloat.

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  73. Grainne: Baptist churches are congregation led, not elder or pastor ruled: this is the distinctive character of Baptist church polity. It has been eroded to such an extent that it is hard to find a ‘real’ Baptist church.

    Agreed. While most Southern Baptists in the pew don’t really give two hoots about theological jots and tittles (allowing Calvinism wiggle room), there are two things that will stir them up if you mess with them: (1) taking away congregational governance, and/or (2) taking away their potluck dinners! Maneuvering a church to elder-rule polity will precipitate much weeping and gnashing of teeth after a young reformer lies his way past a pastor search committee and begins to change everything. Only the bold among them will take on this challenge; the rest opt for church-planting rather than church-takeover.

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  74. I found this a good overview of this issue. In my experience (half a century as a Baptist of one sort or the other plus three years with the Catholics and completed RCIA) there is poor understanding between those two groups as well as between protestant groups.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_priesthood

    For those who see this as an issue it might be a good thing to be sure that one both understands the other ideas and also adequately represents the other ideas, including the history behind the ideas, when presenting one’s own side of the issue.

    It is more complicated than it looks.

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  75. okrapod,

    Agreed — anachronistic readings are to be avoided — and thanks for the “referral” to Prof Levine. I’ll add her to my “must read” list.

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  76. Young son told me that the Air Force said that it was 122 yesterday at Baghdad. My phone did not show it that hot, but I think the Air Force may be more correct.

    Before we bad mouth the military, would you be willing to endure that? For a mission you did not choose and about which you may or may not agree? YoungSon is a middle aged lawyer, mostly an indoor job. What must the mostly outdoor folks be doing? I know what they are doing, their job. Bless them. As bad as conflict is, should it flare up now or later, bless them.

    My thoughts after the Fourth. F-r-e-e-d-o-m is not free.

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  77. Grainne: Chris Rosebrough of the AALC, and also the LCMS, are hierarchical, priest-led churches. No women can become priests. Rosebrough is strongly Young Earth, anti women in the pastorate, and complementarian.

    I prefer listening to or reading Jordan Cooper at his Just and Sinner blog on Patheos or the podcast. He’s an old earther, which unfortunately makes him something of an anomaly among conservative Lutheran pastors. I also find him enjoyable to listen to; he never comes across as aggressive the way Rosebrough can.

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  78. Lydia: The typical trajectory was a Jewish boy would start studying at 7 and by the time he was 13/14 it was decided whether he would continue on that path or go to the family business. So the 12 were not the rabinnical cream of the crop– but Paul was.

    So, was Jesus the rabinnical cream of the crop? It sounds as if He was known as a craftsman, a tekton, not a Rabbi. So, what kind of student was He? Why didn’t He go on to further education? I’m guessing He was bright, but maybe a little too radical and confrontational. Or maybe His education was interrupted by Joseph’s untimely death.

    I wonder about these things.

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  79. okrapod: My thoughts after the Fourth. F-r-e-e-d-o-m is not free.

    Only generations in America who have experienced war understand that – who have been engaged in battle themselves or had family who were, who have lost loved family and friends fighting for freedom. As sad as it is, the best Americans have lived through the conflict of nations warring against nations – warring to remain free has a way of screwing your head on straight about freedom and honoring those who paid the price to keep it. We need to recognize patriots wherever they are found in America … yes, even in church!

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  80. “Why don’t local SBC churches cooperate instead of compete with one another?

    I think you get at a significant portion of the answer here:

    Dee Parsons: Frankly, Greear and the others do not seem to be having an impact on the trend of declining church memberships. Instead they build ridiculously large churches and let people think that they are doing something right. Sadly, they are not impacting declining attendance.

    It’s about the demographics, as with any business model. We’re well into the Baby Boomer retirement era, with the general number of paying people in brick and mortar church systems trending downward both in giving totals and number of attendees. The number of new church members following intentional evangelism and discipleship are likewise not appearing to turn the tide in current trends.

    So how do you stem the losses? Focus on the in-pew resources. Young Singles need to meet and mate (we have a church down the street that reportedly trumpets this approach), so cater to that. Marrieds need various levels of daycare and a place to get away from the kiddies and coffee talk, so sew that up — maybe have a book club featuring a new, hip pastor who has something new and radical to say.

    But this is church, so people feel they need to be doing something. The new radical plank of the NeoCals is apologizing for injustice and serving the community. If in reality it involves positioning groups for inner-city inroads to populations whose churches can be replanted by the appropriate authoritarian, so much the better, right? Then your ministry from the affluent burbs can be sending a youth group down to help the inner city church distribute coats, or have adult groups help refurb replanted churches. Videos can show amazing outreach — no matter how surface level and circular it is, and in every scenario, pastors and staff get paid.

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  81. JDV: But this is church, so people feel they need to be doing something. The new radical plank of the NeoCals is apologizing for injustice and serving the community. If in reality it involves positioning groups for inner-city inroads to populations whose churches can be replanted by the appropriate authoritarian, so much the better, right? Then your ministry from the affluent burbs can be sending a youth group down to help the inner city church distribute coats, or have adult groups help refurb replanted churches. Videos can show amazing outreach — no matter how surface level and circular it is, and in every scenario, pastors and staff get paid.

    This is the best theory I have heard so far as to WHY this is happening. I see it on TGC and hear guys like Russ Moore talking about it, but this is a possible explanation as to why. I have a hard time believing that people who hurt people in their own community so much would help others out of the goodness of their heart. Extending control is a possible explanation.

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  82. Max: after a young reformer lies his way past a pastor search committee

    Seems inconceivable but then the young reformer “knows better” so he must cajole his way.

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  83. Janet: the only model that the NT gave us was one of care and connection

    Yes, and everything else you wrote. Including about the Franklin Graham Enterprise vs. his dad. It was just too good to pass up.

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  84. Headless Unicorn Guy: Now as to how well-off Joseph was, who knows? He may have had the gifts from the Magi, or he might have bugged out with just wife, kid, and whatever he has on hand. Either way, as a skilled worker he would have been able to find work and support himself. Especially with help from the local Jewish community and synagogues.

    Which is why I was careful to include in my comment that it was purely speculative. But given what we know from Scripture and the ancient Greco-Roman world of that time, my speculative thoughts are reasonable and not just kook-o-rama nonsense.

    Muff Potter: Alexandria was probably thee cosmopolitan hub of the Greco-Roman world at the time and also a center of intellectual life centered at the great library.

    I like to think also that the learned Rabbis at the temple in Jerusalem (as recorded in Scripture) were not the first bunch of learned men who were taken with and totally impressed by Jesus as a kid.

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  85. JDV: The new radical plank of the NeoCals is apologizing for injustice and serving the community. If in reality it involves positioning groups for inner-city inroads to populations whose churches can be replanted by the appropriate authoritarian, so much the better, right? Then your ministry from the affluent burbs can be sending a youth group down to help the inner city church distribute coats, or have adult groups help refurb replanted churches. Videos can show amazing outreach — no matter how surface level and circular it is, and in every scenario, pastors and staff get paid.

    JDV:Can you give us evidence of NeoCals apologizing for injustice?

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  86. Ricco: I have a hard time believing that people who hurt people in their own community so much would help others out of the goodness of their heart. Extending control is a possible explanation.

    So do I.

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  87. GSD [Getting Stuff Done],

    Ha ha. I think an often ignored point of “God in the flesh” was to DEFY that sort of thinking. We seem to play down the Human part of Christ to our own detriment. It’s almost a footnote instead of the front and center example. Look at how “mean” He was to the Pharisees! I did note that Prof Levine played that down in one part of a book of hers I read. I wish I could remember exactly what she said. I need to go back and visit that.

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  88. GSD [Getting Stuff Done],

    It seems a bit unlikely to me that Jesus would have made a good religion pupil by the standards of the time. If post-AD70 practices are representative of precursors in the pharisee movement, rabbinic students were meant to imitate their teachers (Jesus’ remark “when a student is fully trained, he will be like his teacher” suggests that this was the pattern in His day as well).

    NT Wright’s “Jesus and the Victory of God” contains a number of thought-provoking chapters on Jesus’ self-conception and intentions, something that we tend to not think much about — it’s treacherous terrain and it feels safer to stay within the bounds of the relatively flat “man in the pew” conceptions of the meaning of the Incarnation (at least that’s how it looks from the corner of Evangelicalism I have inhabited).

    A (perhaps radical) speculation (going way beyond NTW) that I have only encountered from one other person (though he was a conservative seminary trained person) is that Jesus may have wrought His mighty works through prayer. This helps to make sense of some otherwise puzzling details of the synoptic narratives, and makes good sense of the otherwise obscure public prayer in Jn 11:41-42 (and its context in Martha’s implied appeal in 11:21-22). That Jesus was widely perceived to be a prophet is plain in the gospel narratives, and that at least some interpreted His healings to have been wrought through prayer is indicated in the extended dialogue in Jn 9:17-33, especially v31.

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  89. JDV,

    We will see how it plays out. it hasn’t played out too well for a certain megachurch. They opened a campus in a lower-income area and used the social justice shitck to grow it. What ensued were lines of people begging for help.

    They are now in quite a pickle. All of their other campuses are in middle to high-income areas. So, How can they close down that campus that loses money without bad PR? They can’t.

    Btw, the Pew sitters that attend all campuses for the satellite sermon have no clue and I’m not supposed to even know about the current elder hand wringing over the “mistake” they made.. Lol.

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  90. NJ,

    J.W. Wartick’s blog Always Have an Answer is also worth reading. He is Lutheran and is conservative in his theology, but is an ‘old earther’ and an egalitarian.
    Even though I disagree with his Lutheran views I appreciate his blog and always check it out.

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  91. okrapod: That said, I exercised my gifts in the secular world. IMO it is ultimately to the entire world that gifts are directed-not just to the church. Paul was talking about the church specifically but I am thinking not exclusively. Besides, ‘the church’ mostly gets up and goes to work so ‘the church’ is more apt to be everywhere than just in the pew or prayer room.

    Like! Like!

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  92. Samuel Conner,

    “It seems a bit unlikely to me that Jesus would have made a good religion pupil by the standards of the time.”

    Especially since He chose JtB! He was an outlier who completely ignored the Temple.

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  93. Lydia,

    Actually, Jesus asserted authority over the Temple. That’s arguably what precipitated His arrest, trial and execution (this is not to ignore the many other factors that aggravated the antagonism of His opponents). NT Wright reckons that Jesus knew this would be the outcome, and that He intentionally timed His challenge to the priests to coincide with Passover in order that His death would be associated with the Passover celebration.

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  94. Lydia: They are now in quite a pickle. All of their other campuses are in middle to high-income areas. So, How can they close down that campus that loses money without bad PR? They can’t.

    They really are pieces of work aren’t they?

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  95. Samuel Conner: Dee Parsons: Plundering the unrighteous? Now this is one I haven’t heard before. Can you point in the right direction? I would absolutely love to write about it.

    I encountered this concept repeatedly expressed by leaders in a conservative Presby congregation that I affiliated with for the better part of decade. The original sense appears to go back to Augustine who used it in the sense of appropriating valid ideas from the world of unbelief, sort of a counterpoint to the intellectual separatism of the “What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?”
    perspective.

    In that church context, I encountered this meme in its original sense, but also in a much more earthy and hostile sense in terms of “taking money from (people we reckon to be) God’s enemies.” I don’t know whether that sense is as widespread (or as explicitly affirmed; it is a rather unappealing “look” to outsiders, after all) as the original, but I suspect that it is not rare (the basis of my above note).

    I heard similar concepts in my Conservative Presby church. It simply affirms my belief that Calvinism is nothing more than cloaked Judaism. They have the same chilling, ugly belief that the wealth and production of the heathen is being created for their benefit. A belief that there are lesser men, created simply to serve and do the dirty work for the elite has led to oppression of others considered ‘lesser’ for centuries. My former pastor spoke often of his conviction that he would someday enjoy the wealth of the nations – supposedly as promised by God to his ‘chosen’ ones.

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  96. truthseeker00: It simply affirms my belief that Calvinism is nothing more than cloaked Judaism. They have the same chilling, ugly belief that the wealth and production of the heathen is being created for their benefit. A belief that there are lesser men, created simply to serve and do the dirty work for the elite has led to oppression of others considered ‘lesser’ for centuries.

    This idea about Judaism came from the fact that moneylending was one of the only jobs they were allowed to do in Christian Europe.
    All faiths believe that they are superior to the “unbeliever”. From old testament Israel wiping out the canaanites to Islam conquest of north Africa and the middle east to the Catholic vs protestant vs other protestants of Europe to scams like Scientology.
    Nothing is simple. Some soft pedal it to varying degrees but every religion does it. Never mind quasi religious beliefs like communism etc etc.

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  97. truthseeker00: I heard similar concepts in my Conservative Presby church. It simply affirms my belief that Calvinism is nothing more than cloaked Judaism. They have the same chilling, ugly belief that the wealth and production of the heathen is being created for their benefit. A belief that there are lesser men, created simply to serve and do the dirty work for the elite has led to oppression of others considered ‘lesser’ for centuries. My former pastor spoke often of his conviction that he would someday enjoy the wealth of the nations – supposedly as promised by God to his ‘chosen’ ones.

    About a decade ago I heard a helpful series of lectures on “history of christian theology” by Phil Carey (teaches theology at Eastern University (Phila, PA)). The lectures were a DVD series by “The Great Courses” corporation. Given the breadth of the subject, it was of necessity only a cursory survey, but still helpful. Carey is an engaging and sympathetic teacher. At the time I was fairly convinced of the basic validity of the Calvinist soteriological system (since then I have grown highly skeptical of infernalism but remain persuaded of the validity of monergism; this is a trajectory that I suspect for many ends up at universalism, though I remain agnostic at that point). Carey is Lutheran in conviction but has an appealing appreciation of alternative views of things.

    I think it was in his thumbnail sketch of Barth’s ideas that Carey pointed out that in the OT, the idea of election is not so much about being chosen to receive blessing but being chosen to be God’s instrument of redemption for the sake of the world.

    This meshes beautifully with NT Wright’s ideas that the narrative arc of the story of the entire bible, from Creation through the restoration of all things, is about God calling successive servants who were to be His instruments by whom the world would be blessed. They all fail in one way or another, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, David and his successors until, finally, God Himself appears in the form of a living man, Jesus, and proves to be incorruptible.

    In their focus on the good that God intends to shower on them (in contradistinction to the evil that is reserved to everyone else), the Reformed IMO don’t “get” election in its largest sense, that Christ’s people are God’s elect FOR the world, meant to be agents of (small “r”) redemption as Christ, their Head, is subduing all things and bringing them into subjection to the Father.

    It looks like a rather sterile way of relating to the rest of the world.

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  98. I was talking with my mother today. She’s… older, and attends the local SBC mini-mega church. It’s one of those SBC churches that doesn’t have “Baptist” in the name, but to be fair, it hasn’t been overrun by neo-cal hipsters either.

    Anyway, she attends Sunday School faithfully, and is very close the people there. Really, that’s her church, and I think a lot of Sunday School classes are like this. She started skipping “big church” at times, and now she rarely goes to “big church.” Something about them plunking around on their guitars and the music being too loud.

    What I didn’t know until today is that most of her Sunday School has stopped going to “big church.” They get fellowship and teaching. What’s the point of going to the production? And I wonder how many people are like them in churches across the country, done with the production, but still on the membership rolls.

    To answer the question of the blog, we are seeing more competition between churches as more churches transition from denominational institutions with deep historical roots to independent, entrepreneurial 501c3 non-profits that provide a weekly production that’s half rock concert, half motivational speech. As that competition intensifies, it becomes an arms race, to see who can have the best concert with the thumpiest bass, the best and most emotionally moving speaker, and especially the most amazing recreation area for the kids. Consumer Christianity. It’s the most effective way to attract people who have been conditioned by years of marketing and consumption.

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  99. GSD [Getting Stuff Done],

    From your description, it sounds like actual substantive teaching and interpersonal ministry is happening in the smaller group setting. So the point of the “big production gathering” is to draw people in, in hope that they will get connected to something more substantial (and which is on offer)?

    IMO that could be a valid ministry model, though the arms race aspect sounds unsustainable. US is littered with vacant retail spaces; will the purpose-built mega-meeting places also go that way in coming decades?

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  100. Samuel Conner,

    ” election in its largest sense, that Christ’s people are God’s elect FOR the world, meant to be agents of (small “r”) redemption as Christ, their Head, is subduing all things and bringing them into subjection to the Father.”
    +++++++++++++++++++++

    1. practically-speaking (in living daily life, weekly life, monthly life, yearly life, years of life), what does (small “r”) redemption that you mention look like?

    2. practically-speaking, what does Christ subduing all things and bringing them into subjection to the Father look like in this life?

    (i have a degree in religious studies with a lifetime in church, until a few years ago when i simply couldn’t do it anymore… kind of like muscles giving out.

    i used to think i had all the answers until i realized i didn’t — well, more correctly, until i realized that i had long ignored my frustration over the lack of satisfactory answers.

    the only thing i know now is that God/Jesus/Holy Spirit love[s] me — and that’s enough.

    but still, it’s worthwhile to explore it all — hence my questions)

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  101. Dee Parsons: One exception to this is Prince of Peace Lutheran in Dallas which has become a mega church of sorts.

    That 8 story glass atrium has to win a lot of soles to Christ. Just google it and do a sat view.

    I drive by it at times on my way to Costco. 🙂

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  102. Jerome: McKie doesn’t have roots there, after all, and the city already has a fair supply of churches.

    But are they really Christian churches? Think back to Piper’s “barely a Christian” comments. These folks really do believe that everyone else is just flat out wrong and need to be told the truth. You can find this attitude is various blog posts and comments around the web. But it is the message that is not to be spoken in public least the people doing it wrong decide they don’t want the fix.

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  103. “But are they really Christian churches? Think back to Piper’s “barely a Christian” comments. These folks really do believe that everyone else is just flat out wrong and need to be told the truth.”
    ++++++++++++++++++

    my childhood church (which i haven’t attended in decades) now has new leaders. they’ve joined “The Gospel Coalition” and added “A Gospel Church” beneath the church’s name.

    as if no other christian church in town has any clue what the gospel is.

    unbelievably smug, condescending, self-important.

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  104. The Village Church. … He put his satellite church right across the street from Southlake Baptist.

    Interesting. I’m in that area a lot and never noticed. So I did some mapping. Maybe the draw was the Islamic Center a few hundred feet down the road. Or the HUGE Gateway church 1000 feet away.[1]

    Now this IS an affluent area. Sort of like a Dallas Beverly Hills. Toniest area with an Apple Store I’ve seen. City offices are intermingled with the Apple store and other similar ones. And Costco, Lowes, Home Depot, all in the neighborhood.

    [1]After getting more involved in local zoning and development issues I’m wondering if these big (and not so big) churches are being pushed to the localations they are picking as area homeowners fight tooth and nail against them being built ITBY. (In Their Back Yard)

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  105. elastigirl:
    Samuel Conner,

    ” election in its largest sense, that Christ’s people are God’s elect FOR the world, meant to be agents of (small “r”) redemption as Christ, their Head, is subduing all things and bringing them into subjection to the Father.”
    +++++++++++++++++++++

    1. practically-speaking (in living daily life, weekly life, monthly life, yearly life, years of life), what does (small “r”) redemption that you mention look like?

    2. practically-speaking, what does Christ subduing all things and bringing them into subjection to the Father look like in this life?

    (i have a degree in religious studies with a lifetime in church, until a few years ago when i simply couldn’t do it anymore… kind of like muscles giving out.

    i used to think i had all the answers until i realized i didn’t — well, more correctly, until i realized that i had long ignored my frustration over the lack of satisfactory answers.

    the only thing i know now is that God/Jesus/Holy Spirit love[s] me — and that’s enough.

    but still, it’s worthwhile to explore it all — hence my questions)

    I don’t have answers, only guesses. My current best guess is that the two questions are intimately interconnected, and a stab in what I hope is the right direction would be something like this:

    Jesus is the true image of God and so is the archetypal human being. He is the pattern into which we are being transformed, and some day will be fully transformed.

    Human vocation is to serve the Creator by manifesting His character in their persons and His wise rule in their stewardship of the creation He has entrusted to them.

    The “evangelistic mandate” of Mt 28 is thus important, but so is the “cultural mandate” of Genesis 1. The conservative/modernist schism separated these two, but they belong together.

    (An intuition that follows from this is that perhaps while we are waiting for Jesus to return and for God to inaugurate the New Heavens/New Earth, we should not simply separate and wait for everything to burn down, but should rather be involved in repairing the damage that we (ie, the entire human race) have inflicted)

    What that would look like in actual lived life will be highly individual- and context-specific. We use our gifts, “spiritual” and “natural”, to do good to neighbor and even to enemies.

    I apologize for not having a clearer vision of this; am still trying to understand (and doubtless failing much of the time).

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  106. Samuel Conner,

    I should add that I have a sense of what it is like to “not be able to do it any more”. It’s not clear to me that the churches are functioning as they were intended to by their Founder, and I sympathize with those who find it more nearly possible to follow Jesus outside of the context of the current landscape of formal religious institutions. While I’m not committed to a posture of “Done”, I do think of myself as being on an extended sabbatical, and the opportunity this has provided to shake off the group-think of my former environments has been helpful.

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  107. Very interesting to hear so much about the Triangle area. I wonder if Hillsborough is also on the “fast-growing” path. Not because I need more churches (Contra and English Country dance are my social outlet) – but I’d love to see more expansion in that area, in the way of maybe a Publix. Thanks for your work, Dee & Deb.

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  108. Where I live there’s a “mega” out near the burbs (I use quotes because this is a relatively small town, and this church has not quite a thousand in regular attendance, so it doesn’t technically qualify, but it’s about as close as you’ll get around here). They used to meet at the local high school, targeted the youth and the university students, and they finally got big enough and got enough collateral to finance the big, profoundly ugly white warehouse-looking monstrosity (of course in the affluent burbs) with the professionally-designed logo on the front. The church has a cutesy name, in the style of “Elevation”, very close. They don’t call their members “Elevators”, of course, but they call them something very similar. Very much about the branding—and cannibalizing their “growth” from area churches. It’s the type of place where the head pastor’s 40 or so and the associate pastor is maybe 30, rock star cute, has oh-so-very-trendy hair, and wears pants so tight you can tell his religion (if you know what I mean). They preach of “coming under authority” from the pulpit—and they’re not talking about Jesus’ authority. But members are getting the relevant sermons, the cool music from the praise band, the rockin’ good coffee, and all the cool kids are there in the audience with you—why worry?

    But there’s trouble. Recently the biggest mega in the nearby city built a satellite campus in our town with an even cooler building and campus, the kind that ends up in the architecture magazine, and they must’ve bought property all the way from their new church building to the bypass where everyone drives around here, because they chopped acres of trees down right down to that bypass so now everyone can clearly see their satellite campus (also with a cool, trendy name, a name strikingly similar to our first local mega mentioned above, in fact) as they drive down the bypass to Walmart. This place is also cool, trendy, with relevant this and that. It was built here not one year after mega #1 got their new campus. And the place Mega #2 chose to build is just down the street from mega #1, about a 45 second drive away.

    Dueling megas in our small town.

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  109. I am left with a question. Why don’t local SBC churches cooperate instead of compete with one another? They look more like Coke and Pepsi going after the same people.

    Perhaps they are selling a commodity, like Coke or Pepsi, and they are doing so to enrich themselves and expand their influence. Perhaps because they are entrepreneurs and not lovers of Jesus. Perhaps because this “Jesus thing” is just a tool to advance their own interests.

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  110. Stan: A 2017 Christianity Today article, “Matt Chandler never wanted a big church”

    Much has been said on TWW and elsewhere about bad habits within New Calvinism: stealth, deception, lying.

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  111. Law Prof: The church has a cutesy name, in the style of “Elevation”, very close. They don’t call their members “Elevators”, of course, but they call them something very similar.

    Please, please, PLEASE tell me it is called Escalate and they refer to the members as either Escalators or, better yet, Escalades!

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  112. Samuel Conner: So the point of the “big production gathering” is to draw people in, in hope that they will get connected to something more substantial (and which is on offer)?

    It does seem to have worked, in the case of these Sunday School folks. But I don’t think the leadership would approve. I remember hearing one of them say that their church is in the business of making disciples. If people would show up for Sunday School, Sunday AM and Sunday PM, they would be a disciple.

    I found out later that one reason the Sunday School class bailed is that the church is in the middle of a marriage series. These folks are retirement age, some widows, some married for decades, and listening to a thirty-something dude talk about marriage just isn’t… relevant.

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  113. Law Prof: The church has a cutesy name, in the style of “Elevation”, very close. They don’t call their members “Elevators”, of course, but they call them something very similar.

    Do they have elevator music there?

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  114. Tennis

    So, Roger’s through to the quarter-finals without dropping a set. Serena’s match has just started; she’s just broken for 2-0 in the first set. Rafa plays Jiri Vesely immediately after that match on Center Court, which has seen a bit of a Parade of Champions today.

    The Kindness of Strangers

    Slight change of topic, but a big shoutout to the lassie from München who stopped and gave me a lift down to Zell am Ziller this afternoon as I plodded down the road berating myself for getting the bus times all wrong. Nice to have a proper conversation in German (even if a little halting on my part!). As a result, I walked into Zell Bahnhof just a few minutes before the Mayrhofen train arrived. So that went well.

    Fitba'

    Nae fitba’ theday. Belgium play France tomorrow in the first semi-final, and the overall winners will probably (though nothing is certain in this Weltmeisterschaft) come from that game. England play Croatia in the second on Wednesday.

    IHTIH

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  115. The biggest answer to why the hardball competition? Because the focus has become building institutions and keeping them going rather than seeing folks born again. Plain and simple, the SBC ceased being evangelistic and became a watery moralistic business enterprise.

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  116. Samuel Conner:
    From your description, it sounds like actual substantive teaching and interpersonal ministry is happening in the smaller group setting. So the point of the “big production gathering” is to draw people in, in hope that they will get connected to something more substantial (and which is on offer)?

    The main problem I encountered in multiple megas was that the groups were constantly changing and often were directed at singular demographics. That wouldn’t be so bad, but they often left certain groups out. They wouldn’t let single and married people combine. Women’s groups did studies only on marriage and kids.

    And it seemed like whenever I did find a group that might be accepting, the leader would quit or they would inevitably narrow the demographic. If you were a kid or a young married couple, you were set. Everybody else might have a group or might not.

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  117. Lydia: Especially since He chose JtB! He was an outlier who completely ignored the Temple.

    Jesus directly challenged the teachers of religion, taught at/outside to the crowd at the temple in direct competition to them, got slap beside himself on the temple steps in a tirade against the leadership. That is not ignoring. That is directly acting in the Jewish prophetic tradition of confrontation of power.

    John the Baptist directly opposed Herod, again in the prophetic tradition, and it is recorded that the people considered John to be a prophet.

    There is nothing at all about any of this that would make either man an outlier. It made them classic for the prophetic tradition, as the populace apparently understood.

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  118. Here is a relevant thought taken from a fine post by TheWeeFlea, otherwise known as the Rev David Robertson of the Free Church of Scotland. He is responding to statements made by Tim Keller which were retweeted by John Stevens of the FIEC and The Proclamation Trust in the UK which seemingly endorse the idea that it’s better to preach the Gospel to the affluent and the educated because it’s too hard to accommodate the poor and illiterate into their churches. (My take on what was said). I saw this in action at a large city centre church which spent millions of pounds renovating premises and then expanding into another affluent area of Glasgow by taking over the building that housed the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. All of this is simply “chasing the money”, in my opinion.

    “Money Talks!

    In an evangelicalism with a weak ecclesiology para church ministries will inevitably go to the wealthier churches who can afford to pay more for them…that’s the nature of the beast. The market determines. But should the church be based on a market economy? The millionaires tithe is more valued than the widows mite. I once spoke at a millionaires conference – designed to persuade wealthy Christians to donate to Christian mission. Even if it was mission to the poor, was that right?

    Personally I’m fed up of churches and organisations who want to come and plant churches in Scotland but who all think that they are going to plant in the centre of Edinburgh, the West end of Glasgow or St Andrews. No one seems called to Kilmarnock or Cowdenbeath. My rejoinder to this type of thinking is simple – Jesus came from Nazareth. And he came first of all to the poor.”
    https://theweeflea.com/2018/06/20/tim-keller-and-middle-class-churches/amp/?__twitter_impression=true

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  119. Lydia,

    I’m afraid I didn’t (and still don’t) get the “JtB” reference; pardon my obtuseness. I was responding to the bit about ignoring the Temple.

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  120. Samuel Conner: “John the Baptist”? I really am slow. Sorry.

    You’re not the only one Samuel, I too get lost in the acronym soup.
    There are times when I feel like an Egyptologist who must excavate another 100 meter grid or so to uncover enough clues to help decipher a cartouche on a plinth.

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  121. ishy: And it seemed like whenever I did find a group that might be accepting, the leader would quit or they would inevitably narrow the demographic. If you were a kid or a young married couple, you were set. Everybody else might have a group or might not.

    One of our long-time commenters here at TWW (Daisy) has done extensive commentary on this phenomena in evangelical-land.
    Not only is it demeaning to those adults who have never married and who have no children, it’s also just plain stupid.

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  122. Law Prof: Recently the biggest mega in the nearby city built a satellite campus in our town with an even cooler building and campus, the kind that ends up in the architecture magazine, and they must’ve bought property all the way from their new church building to the bypass where everyone drives around here, because they chopped acres of trees down right down to that bypass so now everyone can clearly see their satellite

    — “Now I don’t mind choppin’ wood, and I don’t care if the money’s no good
    Ya take what ya need and ya leave the rest
    But they should never have taken the very best…” —

    — From The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

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  123. Headless Unicorn Guy: Considering that Microsoft and/or the Feds have exhausted every possible three-letter acronym, your confusion is understandable.

    Microsoft products have become such a byzantine quagmire of needless complexity and useless glitz, it’s a wonder they work at all.

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  124. Burwell,

    “Law Prof: The church has a cutesy name, in the style of “Elevation”, very close. They don’t call their members “Elevators”, of course, but they call them something very similar.

    Please, please, PLEASE tell me it is called Escalate and they refer to the members as either Escalators or, better yet, Escalades!”
    +++++++++++++++++++

    i’m betting on Erection.

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  125. Law Prof: a satellite campus in our town with an even cooler building and campus, the kind that ends up in the architecture magazine, and they must’ve bought property all the way from their new church building to the bypass where everyone drives around here, because they chopped acres of trees down right down to that bypass so now everyone can clearly see their satellite campus

    We have an Architectural Digest church in town. The architectural visitors can’t keep it going. It is now buried by condo highrises as they desperately sell the land around. So much for the pricey landmark, for the “gospel”.

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  126. Samuel Conner,

    thank you, Samuel Connor, for taking the time to put together a thoughtful reply.

    “Jesus is the true image of God and so is the archetypal human being. He is the pattern into which we are being transformed,…”

    –it’s encouraging. are we being transformed? by what process?

    “Human vocation is to serve the Creator by manifesting His character in their persons and His wise rule in their stewardship of the creation He has entrusted to them.”

    –i’d like to think i can simply live my life with a priority on doing my best, asking God to join me in the process.

    “an intuition….we should not simply separate and wait for everything to burn down, but should rather be involved in repairing the damage that we (ie, the entire human race) have inflicted)

    What that would look like in actual lived life will be highly individual- and context-specific. We use our gifts, “spiritual” and “natural”, to do good to neighbor and even to enemies.”

    –fully agree. i think christians (including me) read too much into the NT mention of “spiritual” gifts, reducing them down to personality tests to slot people into duties to benefit church. far too cute for something as nebulous as “spiritual”, but more importantly insular to a grievous fault. does nothing and no one matter except church?

    i think we can ask God to join us in using all of our gifts, talents, and skills wherever we find ourselves. God’s hand along with our hand, God’s voice along with our voice, God’s understanding along with our understanding. imagine the world problems that could be solved, the suffering that could be eased.

    imagine the art!

    (to clarify, art for its own sake and on its own terms. pen and ink, paint, sculpture, animation, music, theater, film, literature….)

    “I apologize for not having a clearer vision of this; am still trying to understand (and doubtless failing much of the time).”

    –so sweet of you to apologize, but not needed. i love your honest appraisal.

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  127. okrapod,

    I don’t disagree with the evidence you presented. I disagree that John or Jesus followed the traditional rabbinical route of their time as I understand it from my research.

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  128. elastigirl,

    Close. It’s Connection, and they call members “Connectors”. Gives me the hives just thinking about it. The other church is called “Compassion”. I don’t know if they call their members “Compassioners”.

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  129. Muff Potter: — “Now I don’t mind choppin’ wood, and I don’t care if the money’s no good
    Ya take what ya need and ya leave the rest
    But they should never have taken the very best…” —

    — From The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

    From one of one of the best concept albums ever.

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  130. elastigirl: –i’d like to think i can simply live my life with a priority on doing my best, asking God to join me in the process.

    In the fundagelical religion I came out of, your best is not good enough.
    You (generic you) join God, he DOES NOT join you.

    Your sole existence is based on executing his plans and he has no desire or need for your input.

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  131. Breaking Off Topic News:

    “A Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary graduate who recently resigned from the South Carolina Baptist Convention has been charged with sexually assaulting a teenager in Arlington more than two decades ago.

    Mark Edwin Aderholt, 46, was arrested on July 3 in South Carolina on a warrant issued in the Tarrant County case. He has since been released on bond.”

    https://www.star-telegram.com/latest-news/article214572050.html

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  132. FW Rez:
    Breaking Off Topic News:

    “A Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary graduate who recently resigned from the South Carolina Baptist Convention has been charged with sexually assaulting a teenager in Arlington more than two decades ago.

    Mark Edwin Aderholt, 46, was arrested on July 3 in South Carolina on a warrant issued in the Tarrant County case. He has since been released on bond.”

    https://www.star-telegram.com/latest-news/article214572050.html

    Least surprising news of the day.

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  133. FW Rez: “A Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary graduate who recently resigned from the South Carolina Baptist Convention has been charged with sexually assaulting a teenager in Arlington more than two decades ago … Mark Edwin Aderholt

    If I was an investigative reporter, I would be asking SCBC and IMB what they knew about Aderholt’s past and when they knew it.

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  134. Max: If I was an investigative reporter, I would be asking SCBC and IMB what they knew about Aderholt’s past and when they knew it.

    This is a text book case as to why something needs to be done in SBC life to assure that predators are documented as per Wade Burleson’s recommendations. If it oversteps the boundaries of church autonomy, so be it. Just today, I’ve learned of a case today where a Southern Baptist church washed its hands of a known predator and another where it knew for 15 years that the pastor was credibly accused of assault when previously serving as a youth director without doing much more than requiring counseling.

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  135. Muff Potter,

    “You (generic you) join God, he DOES NOT join you.”
    +++++++++++++

    i remember going through that bible study “Experiencing God”, and thinking how impractical it was.

    a busy, focussed problem solver has to wait until he/she sees God at work… then he/she joins Him… meanwhile, there are problems to solve. how much focus has to be taken away from solving problems before he/she finally thinks they might be observing where God is at work? will the problem solver change course in order to join God in what they perceived God was up to? What problems will end up being shelved as a result?
    ———————–

    “Your sole existence is based on executing his plans and he has no desire or need for your input.”
    ++++++++++++++

    how utterly boring, for us and for God. I fully believe God takes great interest and pleasure in seeing what we’re going to do next, and is just itchin’ to be invited to join in the process. for the pleasure of each other’s company, the adventure of the journey, and to join forces to be super-able.

    i mean, i think generally speaking God does need agents and vehicles through whom to operate. he needs hands and feet and voice (and minds) through whom to do things.

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  136. Samuel Conner… since then I have grown highly skeptical of infernalism but remain persuaded of the validity of monergism; this is a trajectory that I suspect for many ends up at universalism, though I remain agnostic at that point…

    I realise I’m extracting a small quote, somewhat out of context, from your very thought-provoking comment, but I think the idea of a trajectory ending up in universalism is a fascinating one. Specifically, I’m interested in the way in which hell divides professing christians ideologically. There certainly are people who project what could legitimately be described as a fear of universalism: to put it another way, the idea of a God who doesn't send sentient people to hell is more horrifying for them than is hell itself.

    The idea of a God who becomes human and, in so doing, achieves a victory so glorious and complete that every human being is somehow able to share in it is an extraordinary one.

    Most human ideas of forgiveness that are studied here – especially the major cases, where one party has all the power and has used it to violate and abuse another party – aren’t very attractive. As in the abhorrent case of the three-year-old told to forgive her abuser, they revolve around those in power keeping their power, and being able to live out their privileged lives contentedly without being inconvenienced by their victims’ continued existence. Human forgiveness strips the victim of their last shreds of dignity, by rubbing in their faces the claim that they are just as bad as their abusers, and their very claim to have suffered wrong means that they deserve to be re-victimised.

    But what if there really were a God, who really were able to do better than that? Who could, let’s say, bring about true reconciliation, not just between warring factions, but between abusers and victims – and do so in a way that forever destroyed the imbalance of power and invested the erstwhile victim with more strength and dignity than the abuser could ever have taken from them?

    Well, of course, this idea clearly ends up in universalism, which is why it’s loathsome and terrifying to many. But hey; I like to dream!

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  137. Nick Bulbeck: I think the idea of a trajectory ending up in universalism is a fascinating one.

    I was always taught that universalism is heresy. But over the last few years I found that some very “orthodox” Christians have been universalists. Gregory of Nyssa is one of them. Considering his role in finalizing the Nicene Creed at then 2nd ecumenical council, his ideas have weight. Here is a very short summary of his view of heaven and hell: https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/morningoffering/2018/07/eternity-2/. I don’t believe that all Orthodox would agree with him on universalism, but it’s a view that apparently has room within orthodoxy.

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  138. Nick Bulbeck,

    While it is always risky to apply a biblical quotation out of context, I wonder, Nick, whether it may be that you are “closer to the Kingdom of heaven” than many of the people you fled from.

    If you have time to wade through his massive multi-volume historical project, you might find NT Wright’s “Christian Origins and the Question of God” to be thought-provoking and perhaps even encouraging. While Wright explicitly disavows universalism, it seems to me that his vision of the meaning of Jesus and the implied answer to “the Question of God” tends in the directions you express.

    As Paul put it, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself …”.

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  139. FW Rez: This is a text book case as to why something needs to be done in SBC life to assure that predators are documented as per Wade Burleson’s recommendations.

    There is a growing list of text book cases in SBC that would support a “church sex offenders list” … some SBC leaders who either abused or covered an abuser would be on that list. If a municipality has such a list to warn you that a sex offender lives down the street, a church needs to know if pastoral candidates have sexual immorality on their resumes. Indeed, some of these guys need to be in jail rather than the pulpit!

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  140. My old SBC church that we left 7 years ago is advertising a big new “rebranding” announcement tomorrow. I am betting that they will drop the old ____________ Baptist Church name and switch to Relevant or Raincloud or Excite or some such name. In the meantime, almost no one that we know still goes to church there. They have all been pushed out over “leadership” issues.

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  141. Christine: advertising a big new “rebranding” announcement tomorrow. I am betting that they will drop the old ____________ Baptist Church name and switch to Relevant or Raincloud or Excite or some such name

    Oh, please let us know! I keep waiting for some honest young reformer to name their church “Takeover.”

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  142. Nick Bulbeck,

    “There certainly are people who project what could legitimately be described as a fear of universalism: to put it another way, the idea of a God who doesn’t send sentient people to hell is more horrifying for them than is hell itself.”
    +++++++++++++++++

    like, “hey, you’re taking cuts!” (or, line jumping) so petty, but i do think it is true of some.

    or, more seriously, perhaps as you describe further the thought that those who abuse, torture, and kill on purpose escape ultimate consequences is too much to bear.
    ————-

    “But what if there really were a God, who really were able to do better than that? Who could, let’s say, bring about true reconciliation, not just between warring factions, but between abusers and victims – and do so in a way that forever destroyed the imbalance of power and invested the erstwhile victim with more strength and dignity than the abuser could ever have taken from them?”
    +++++++++++

    i love this God!

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  143. Two random thoughts while the green beans I am canning pressure.

    1. Some Baptists, including the Primitive Baptist Universalists were hard core Calvinist BUT believe limited atonement is for this life only. There will be an undifferentiated universal atonement for all. However, they truly are not “no hellers” as they firmly believe in hell on earth, at the very least emotionally, for all who reject Christ and or sin grievously. All are believed to eventually at death see the truth and accept Christ.

    And why did Experiencing God teach us to wait and see where God is at work? Well, the preacher that took us through it did so strategically. Once there was a smidgeon of growth he went to the other SBC churches in town, showed them our growth, told them that “clearly this is where God is working” and suggested they shut their doors and come cooperate with God’s will.

    It is an almost cultic church growth/takeover/blind the sheeple course in my never very humble opinion.

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  144. Nick Bulbeck: But what if there really were a God, who really were able to do better than that? Who could, let’s say, bring about true reconciliation, not just between warring factions, but between abusers and victims – and do so in a way that forever destroyed the imbalance of power and invested the erstwhile victim with more strength and dignity than the abuser could ever have taken from them?

    Like establish a balance of power between Himself and satan? I don’t think there is evidence that either of them is interested in that.

    Or, if there is no evil but only the absence of good, then that would be a balance of power between a thing and the absence of the thing. How does that even happen? Reduce the good by 50% and impute 50% of the formerly good to an absence of good. But then that still leaves an imbalance since the non-good would be non-existant. So the 50% would have to be again reduced by 50% of the 50% and so on until the good would be almost non-existent- at which I suppose the balance would be close enough, except that there would be nothing appreciable left.

    I don’t see it. Looks like it needs to be totally win or totally lose between good and evil, depending of course on whether evil is a real thing.

    Or we could just redefine things so that we call good evil and evil good. I believe that has been and is being done right much, and some people really like that. IMO calvinism does that for some things.

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  145. elastigirl:
    Samuel Conner,

    –it’s encouraging.are we being transformed?by what process?

    I have hesitated to attempt a suggestion in reply to this apparent question as there’s such a vast diversity of views in the different strands of the Church “tapestry”, and my current “best guess” may rub some TWW readers the wrong way. With a measure of trepidation, here are some thoughts:

    That “conformity to the likeness of Jesus” is the ultimate destination for the trajectory on which we (for some definition of “we”; my hope is that in the end it will be found to be an exceedingly broad definition) find ourselves seems apparent from texts such as Romans 8 and 1 Jn 3. Paul seems to see this as not simply being an eschatological discontinuity in each individual, but something that actually happens “under the sun” — being transformed “from glory to glory.”

    As you say, this is exceedingly encouraging.

    What does that look like now? Is there “process”?

    Here there is a large range of opinion (and please correct me as I expose my ignorance; misstatements and elisions in what follows are rooted in my ignorance, not in malice).

    Some speak of a 2nd blessing of “entire sanctification” by the Holy Spirit that follows at some interval after regeneration.

    Reformed speak of “progressive sanctification” in which the Holy Spirit changes us bit by bit as we resort to various means of grace that God provides to us through the ministries of the local church.

    Catholics (and I suppose Orthodox) tend to think in terms of impartation of grace (almost, it seems to me, as though grace is a kind of substance) through reception of the various sacraments that God provides through the ministry of the churches.

    (aside: I think I am right in saying that Reformed and Catholic resemble each other at this point in that they see the official ministries of the institutional Church as being the primary visible instruments by which God effects the sanctification of His people)

    What do Baptists think? I don’t have clear ideas, though exposure to some LifeWay resources a decade ago suggests that at least some advocate a kind of “displacement” theory in which (to simplify) fixing one’s attention on biblical teachings can help to drive out bad ideas or impulses, with a backstop of fleeing occasions of temptation for an extra measure of safety. This looks to me like a kind of intentional approach to the formation of holier habits and may be very useful.

    My current “best guess” sense overlaps a bit with each of the above (except for the “entire sanctification” view). Change toward the likeness of Jesus is generally “progressive” as in “over time” (and not necessarily uni-directional; regression is possible).

    While there are visible consequences in behavior, simple behavior adjustment is not itself change. Change towards Jesus is, at root, change in the affections of the heart. That’s something that God has to do (monergism; Reformed would heartily concur), but the various visible means of grace (which might be more numerous or general than the great institutional traditions reckon) can be instrumental in this. Relationships with other believers in the local church (however one defines that — perhaps “two or three” wise believing friends is enough) can be extremely useful because in that context it can be easier to see ourselves clearly. (Think, for example, of Nathan’s elicitation of an accurate self-assessment from David in the matter of Bathsheba and Uriah. David was struck to the heart and repented.).

    I think it can be helpful to cultivate habits of self-observation and a curiosity about the character of one’s own motives and a measure of self-skepticism. This is not to be morbidly introspective, but to recognize the reality that I am not yet pure in heart, and to be aware that that reality can lead to bad places. From time to time I may get clear evidence of badness in my motives, which can become part of my prayer agenda. Sometimes seeing myself clearly has actually so repelled me that I was thereafter different; I attribute this to the internal working of the Holy Spirit in my heart.

    I hope that may be helpful.

    —-

    imagine the art!

    And the gardens!

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  146. Samuel Conner,

    part 1

    thank you, samuel. yes, helpful in working out my own thoughts. i’ve stopped thinking about all this long ago, but it’s good to do it again. kind of like eating a tasty food after not having had it for a long time.

    re: grace… i get baffled by how this word is thrown around by different christian groups. if grace is “unmerited favor”, it seems to me these different groups understand grace in dimensions that go beyond that. maybe the idea is like a kind of vitamin that we deliberately take, or that just happens to splash on us when we least expect it. i don’t know….

    one of my maxims is mean what you say, say what you mean (to guard against manipulation, but also to aid in cross-cultural communication, even micro cultures like sibling A and sibling B). it would be great if christian culture embraced this. (my loves-to-be-vague from-another-country husband, too :|)

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  147. Samuel Conner,

    part 2

    Transformation, Change….
    i’ve had a few totally supernatural experiences in a God-context which left me truly different. like, i was green, then a God-activity and i’m suddenly blue. well, to be more specific, being in the proverbial dark pit too far down to ever make my way back up, then in response to a unique prayer situation, i’m suddenly out of the pit in bright warm light, my feet not even touch the ground.

    but these are very much the exception.

    truly, any change i’ve seen in myself has been in response to self- or other-imposed discipline, and try-try again & set the bar just a teency bit higher. whether it be growing in patience, kindness, perseverance, or any other character issue.

    in the cold light of Monday morning (after one has sobered up from christian culture on Sunday)…. i have to think a good many would agree with me.

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  148. Samuel Conner,

    ok, a part 3, too

    i had said, ” I fully believe God… is just itchin’ to be invited…to join forces [with us] to be super-able.”

    clearly, i am frustrated with the chasm between what “i fully believe” and what amounts to my daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, years-long experience of reality.

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  149. Samuel Conner,

    and yes, imagine the gardens, indeed! supernatural gardens, i hope i live to be in one!

    i hope i live to be inside a supernatural piece of music.

    i hope i live to see supernatural cures for diseases, hunger, poverty, and a parting of the red political sea to usher them in (following by the drowning of commercial interests)

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  150. okrapod: Like establish a balance of power between Himself and satan? I don’t think there is evidence that either of them is interested in that.

    Well, no; we have no accessible evidence on any aspect of what God and/or satan are interested in, nor will we ever, nor indeed can we do more than idly speculate on whether either of them exists.

    On the other hand, human suffering is something that we have direct experience of; as is human happiness. We even have examples of individuals who have forgiven others against all the odds, and who are widely admired for the manner in which they did so. (I often think of Gordon Wilson, who lost his daughter in the Enniskillen bombing.)

    Although I don’t hold to quite the same strong deist philosophy you espouse, I think we probably agree that we cannot, and should not, expect ‘god’ to do anything about broken human relationships; they’re a human responsibility. But since we can imagine what restored human relationships look and feel like, then holding that ideal as a way of working towards it is qualitatively different from speculating on abstractions like ‘good’ and ‘evil’ (or ‘god’ and ‘satan’ if one wants to personify them).

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  151. I looked at the Wiki article “Deism in England and France in the 18th century” to try and understand the direction in which some of the recent comments were going. It made reference to the fact that prior to the Enlightenment definition of Deism, it was more commonly (and I would say, more accurately) called infidelity and atheism and it gave as an example of this Baxter’s “The Arrogancy of Reason Against Divine Revelations, Repressed; Or Proud Ignorance The Cause of Infidelity, and of Men’s Quarrelling with The Word of God”.
    As it happens I have Baxter’s Works and have read said sermon. The opening example he gives is of Nicodemus who asked “How can these things be?” He points out that Nicodemus accepted that Jesus was a teacher sent from God, and that He couldn’t have done what He did unless God had sent Him…But..he didn’t accept it, even though Jesus repeatedly said it was true. Baxter draws this conclusion:”here we’re all these sins together manifested in this answer: great ignorance, even in a ruler; unbelted, doubting of the conclusion, when he had acknowledged the premises; an unreachable ness, in part, when he professed himself to come to learn; an arrogant conceit of the capaciousness of his understanding, as if Christ’s words, or the plain truth, should be sooner suspected, than his shallow capacity.”
    The doctrine following on from this is “The corrupt nature of man is more prone to question the truth of God’s Word, than to see and confess their own ignorance and capacity; and ready to doubt whether the things that Christ revealeth are true, when they themselves do not know the nature, cause and reason of them.”
    He explains the doctrine thus:” They will make everything which they understand not to seem improbable, and all such improbabilities will make it seem incredible, and the incredibility of a part makes the whole seem incredible; and thus men will be infidels, or feed their infidelity by everything that themselves are ignorant of; and make it the chief reason why they will not believe or learn, because they do not already know and fully understand the things to be learned and beliefs and so God must be accused in everything that moles and worms are ignorant of.”
    (The Practical Works of Richard Baxter: Volume 2: A Call to the Unconverted, pp381-396)

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  152. Lowlandseer,

    Yeah, well, I don’t know who is going where, and I have no idea where Nick was coming from with his comment (accusation?) about deistic philosophy, but I associate ‘good’ with ‘God’ and ‘evil’ with ‘satan’ which is consistent with traditional orthodox thinking. And if nobody gets it or likes it or is comfortable with it, that is not my problem.

    My denom has lost its mind, and Father S was talking about this Sunday. The current conference has apparently just passed some resolution to re-write the prayer book in different terminology. It was rumored prior to the conference that the want to quit using the word ‘Father’ as Jesus used it and substitute something else. They apparently and according to rumor want to call Mary of Nazareth our sister Mary (omit the Virgin Mary) and Holy Catholic Church will be renamed the body of Christ. They think this will be more palatable to the unbelievers among us. No doubt it may be.

    Now add to that the idea from NTW that there is no such thing as heaven, not as a place but rather perhaps as a temporary state of being, then it gives us the first line in the ‘Lord’s Prayer’, formerly known in some circles as the ‘Our Father” as, I suppose, this: ‘Hey you, whoever you are and wherever you are, we would respect your name if we knew what it was or if you had said what you want to be called…..’ Nobody has explained how Our Father exists in a temporary state for the purposes of this, but surely one of our renegade bishops can come up with something, or probably already have. The great new issue of the mutability of God, perhaps.

    The great infernal freeze will happen before I go that road, because it sets up the vocabulary for denying the divinity of Christ-and if I read Father S correctly he will also be a refusenik on this. So, if I would not capitulate to my own denom even if it means we go set up a tent in the woods for services, why would I get my underwear in a knot over whatever is is that Nick is trying to accuse me of-the great awfulness of using the words God and satan and good and evil.

    Just saying. I am up early because one of my peeps is sick-again. I have been up with the sick since my childhood and the sick was my mom, and I don’t know who is going to do it when I am gone, but I have hopes for the 12 year old. I think, and a family friend who is a retired nurse thinks, that the 12 year old has the gift. I hope so.

    Meanwhile, ‘Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed by thy Name…and all the theology that goes with it,’ You all have a nice day. Is this being aggressive? You betcha.

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  153. okrapod:
    Lowlandseer,

    Now add to that the idea from NTW that there is no such thing as heaven, not as a place but rather perhaps as a temporary state of being,

    That looks to me to be a mischaracterization of what NTW has been saying and writing for decades.

    He thinks Heaven is real, but he doesn’t think that it is the final destination of the redeemed. He thinks that the New Earth of Rev 21/22 is the final destination, with the nuance that in the final state, Heaven and Earth will intersect.

    “I saw New Jerusalem coming out of heaven to earth…”

    “Now the dwelling place of God is with men …”

    I think that in affirming this, NTW is much closer to the thinking of the writers of the New Testament (and of believing Jews of the 1st Century) than is much present-day popular level evangelical and conservative thinking. I agree that it’s not a good idea to recklessly fiddle with the way the language of the Scriptures is used in the liturgies of the Church — such changes affect the way people think about what the Scriptures teach.

    The idea that the final destination of the redeemed is a non-material spiritual realm is an example of that, and I think NTW’s correctives at this point ought to be welcomed.

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  154. Lowlandseer: Personally I’m fed up of churches and organisations who want to come and plant churches in Scotland

    I’m fed up with them too, and I know some of them who arrived from the US with that very intention. People born and raised in Scotland should be planting churches, not outsiders. Same anywhere else in the world. When any believer goes to another country to “serve Christ” their first order of business should be to help local people own a vision of reaching their city/county/country. Second order of business is (if necessary) to train and coach them so they can do it.

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  155. Fisher,

    why scotland?

    (it is extremely annoying. reminds me of going to Canterbury Cathedral in all its ancientness, and looking at this remarkably ornate arched entry…. and then looking to the right and the next thing attached to it was a Starbucks. so disgusted, embarrassed by my presumptuous culture)

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  156. At the risk of (and I don’t intend to, and I hope that I shall not) irritating one or both parties, I’d like to offer a few thoughts.

    Like okrapod, I don’t “get” what Nick meant by the characterization of “Deist” in what I think was a reply to her comment on his hypothetical vision of universal reconciliation, and my “gut feel” reaction to that was negative.

    I also don’t “get” okrapod’s characterization of Nick’s hypothetical as (what I interpret to be) “armed truce” rather “genuine peace.”

    Perhaps I am misreading Nick’s meditation, but it seemed to me that what he was describing was transformation of both abuser and abused into people who are able to, respectively, deeply repent and deeply forgive. Perhaps that’s a misreading. If not, it strikes me as a beautiful vision and I think that from the perspective of orthodox theology, at least as far as the redeemed are concerned, it’s an accurate vision. And from the perspective of some strands in Orthodox theology it is (as Tweed noted) a viable option of an eschatological vision of the ultimate state of all rational natures.

    I wonder whether perhaps there has been misunderstanding.

    I’ll take my lumps if I have offended either party.

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  157. ___

    “Wartburg, Apparently You Are Mixing Apples And Oranges, Perhaps?”

    hmmm…

    Which are Calvinist SBC 501c3 churches and their products?

    Which are regular Baptist gospel churches, and their products, those that simply share jesus’ gospel —that all men can know Him and be saved?

    Calvinist churches present a core of reformed theology, The Sovereignty Of God, TULIP, The Westminster Confession Of Faith,and The Doctrines Of Grace.

    These two types of churches and subsequent religious products, are simply NOT the same.

    Getting yourself actively engaged in a Calvinist church is an entirely different religious experience.

    See: Advanced Marketing of Calvinist products, eduction, and 501c3 church services:
    Albert Mohler
    Mark Dever
    Matt Chandler
    Ligon Duncan
    John Piper
    John MacAuthur
    Thabiti Anyabwile
    Kevin DeYoung
    H.B. Charles
    David Platt
    Sam Alberry
    Brian Davis
    Curtis A. Woods
    D. A. Carson
    Tim Keller

    Please ensure you have done your homework before entering a 501c3 church building. This could aid in the quality of your religious experience, and further measure this church’s satisfactory performance. This can also reduce dissatisfaction and help remove misunderstandings as to the quality of the religious products you are expecting or wish to experience.

    It is important that you are receiving the 501c3 church experience you are seeking.

    The scriptures can aid in this. Avail your self of them today!

    ATB

    Sòpy

    :~)

    – –

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  158. Sòpwith,

    Several years ago, during my affiliation with a conservative presby congregation, one of the congregational leaders (technical term “Ruling Elder”) put it this way: “The baptists win ’em, and we teach ’em.”

    It looked to me like a parasitic relationship. The presby congregation was not maintaining its numbers through biological means (too much mobility; young people moving to jobs far way) and the state of the local economy did not encourage an influx of people, some of whom might have convictions that aligned with conservative presbyt’ism.

    But there was a slow circulation of people from the local conservative baptist congregations whose views shifted toward the presby vision of God’s sovereignty.

    I wonder whether it might be that the cal- and neocal- churches need the free-will baptists, and will be eating their own ‘seed corn,’ so to speak, to take over these congregations and change their outreach-oriented cultures.

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  159. Fisher: Lowlandseer: Personally I’m fed up of churches and organisations who want to come and plant churches in Scotland
    I’m fed up with them too, and I know some of them who arrived from the US with that very intention. People born and raised in Scotland should be planting churches, not outsiders

    Doesn’t that echo the Imperial/Colonial (White) Missionaries going to Darkest Africa(TM) or Owhyhee(TM) and setting themselves (and their descendants) up as Highborn Dynasties over the poor black nekkid Heathen natives? Forever?

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  160. Lowlandseer:
    Corrections from autocorrect
    We’re should be were
    Unbelted should unbelief
    Unreachable ness should be unteachableness

    Can you turn off autocorrect?

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  161. __

    Samuel,

    Hello,

    Thank-You for your response.

    IMHO Calvinist in 501c3 SBC churches are rather vague in what products they market.

    However, Calvinists in Presbyterian churches by-and-large are rather clear on what religious products they market. Confessions, catechisms, rules of church order, bibles, hymnals, etc. are listed and available. Profitable and meaningful discussion as well.

    Some confusion exists in many SBC churches due to their withholding of the proper information to make an intelligent determination/judgement call. This makes for a difficult process when assessing a church’s doctrine, position, or belief system. These conditions make it somewhat hard to assess religious marketing materials properly.

    ATB

    Sòpy

    ;~)

    – –

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  162. okrapod: Meanwhile, ‘Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed by thy Name…and all the theology that goes with it,’ You all have a nice day. Is this being aggressive? You betcha.

    The Our Father is one of the most beautiful prayers ever.
    Why do the present day PC obsessed Orwellians hate it so?

    I also love “Hail Mary full of grace… The Lord is with Thee…
    There, that oughta’ rattle a few cages.

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  163. ___

    “Calvinism Inserted Into SBC Baptist Churches By Incremental Stealth, Perhaps?”

    hmmm…

    Samuel,

    Hello,

    It is difficult to have a realistic or profitable ‘one another’ biblical type of experience in an 501c3 SBC Baptist church if its theological principles are expressed by pre-conceived conspiratorial stealthy means.

    ATB

    Sòpy

    ;~)

    – –

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  164. Samuel Conner: Perhaps I am misreading Nick’s meditation, but it seemed to me that what he was describing was transformation of both abuser and abused into people who are able to, respectively, deeply repent and deeply forgive. Perhaps that’s a misreading.

    I appreciate your comment, and it’s not a misreading – in fact it’s a rather nice elaboration. A friend of mine with whom I went to school and (by coincidence) university, and with whom I’m still in touch, once put it thus: I make sure I forgive, because if I forgive, I live in freedom. Forgiveness of the sort that I think we’re both trying to describe here, actually maintains the freedom of the abused person.

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  165. We have an epidemic of horrible “church planting” techniques, from corporate takeover tactics to targeting “affluent” customers to make themselves instantly successful as mentioned above. One of the major problems is the church planting book: The Purpose Driven Church which details how Saddleback Church was founded by Targeting the wealthy. Here is a link to my take on the subject: thetrustworthyword.blogspot.com/2018/07/the-problem-with-saddleback-sam-and.html

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  166. Max,

    I was mistaken on the date; it was today (7/15). They did drop the old _____________Baptist Church name and changed it to “Wellspring”. The old name started with a W and their logo for some years has just been a W, so I expect they wanted to keep that. Perhaps the community is full of people who would never set foot in a Baptist church but will flock to Wellspring. I wish them well in any case.

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  167. NC Now: The Village Church. … He put his satellite church right across the street from Southlake Baptist.
    Interesting. I’m in that area a lot and never noticed. So I did some mapping. Maybe the draw was the Islamic Center a few hundred feet down the road. Or the HUGE Gateway church 1000 feet away.

    Plus what he can draw away from the dying Fellowship Church (both the Grapevine and Keller/Southlake campuses).

    By far their biggest competition is, of course, Gateway. Not only due to their sheer size, but also because 1) their music is a whole lot better than most places, 2) whether you agree with Robert Morris’ teaching or not, he seems to use more Scripture than most modern-style churches, and 3) Morris was quite the rebel and openly admits it; those who felt (or feel) like prodigals will relate more to someone like them (as opposed to the Perfect PK Ed Young Jr.)

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  168. Christine: the community is full of people who would never set foot in a Baptist church but will flock to Wellspring

    In which case, Wellspring leadership will do their best to conceal their SBC affiliation to prospective members … a common deception in SBC ranks these days, particularly in Southern Baptist church plants and re-plants (aka takeovers) led by New Calvinists.

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