Church Cannibalism and Ferengi Pastors: How to Pac-Man Churches and Build a Celebrity Based Kingdom

“Treat people in your debt like family, exploit them.” -Ferengi Rule of Acquisition # 111 -Star Trek


Pac-Man Wikipedia

After posting Why Do Southern Baptist Churches Engage in Hardball Competition Against One Another? What Happened to the Cooperative Effort?  on Friday,  I was directed to another post with the intriguing title of Church Cannibalism: Should Pastors be Called Out for Pac-Man Tactics?  I enjoyed this post so much that I felt it was worth prolonging the discussion on the hardball takeover tactics used by celebrity based churches.

What is Pac-Man?

For those of you who were born after the Pac-Man craze, here is a short video. Pac-Man is essentially a mouth which runs around and gobbles up everything in it’s path.

What is the Pac-Man tactic for taking over a church?

Missio Alliance added some further observations on takeovers of local churches by a large, celebrity driven church. I wish I had thought of it.

(A church moves to a new locale to)set up a “site” complete with video screen, 8 or 9 pastors, an array of religious goods and services, a massive children’s ministry, a spectacular worship band and then either beam in or present live their celebrity pastor for the opening Sunday. Because there are a couple hundred fans of the celebrity pastor already in the area the church starts out with several hundred appearing the first Sunday.

Often, on that first Sunday, the celebrity pastor will laud the efforts of this new site to bring the gospel to this neighborhood. He will perhaps even say something like  “no church preaches the Bible more faithfully in this community like this church will do.”

Let’s review the PacMan like steps of gobbling up the competition.

  1. Pac-Man churches brings in lots of pastors to run the show, usually along with the celebrity pastor, along with an incredible children’s ministry, awesome worship band for thee first Sunday and other programs.
  2. This new church usually starts with 200 people because area folks want to see the celebrity pastor.
  3. The celebrity pastor claims that this church is bringing the *gospel* to this neighborhood while never acknowledging the churches the area who are already doing this.
  4. The celebrity pastor claims that no other church preaches the Bible more effectively and faithfully than his church, which denigrates the other churches in the area.

I provided two concrete examples of this last Friday involving The Village Church/Matt Chandler and The Summit Church/JD Greear.

The interim and deceptive middle step erroneously called *church planting.*

I have seen this happen in my area. Most of the mega churches call their new satellite a *church plant.* However, it is not. It is hardball competition of the worst kind. The Pac-Man church uses its resources to begin to drive the little guy out of business.

…over the ensuing weeks …this (ed. Pac-Man) church now attracts hundreds more attenders from the surrounding smaller less spectacular churches. The new ‘site’ mushrooms to a thousand attenders in a matter of months filled with people from other churches. These large churches call this “church planting” as if they are engaging non-Christians and their neighborhoods for the gospel.

The disturbing next step for the Pac-Man church: after destroying the target church, they buy them out.

I missed this step when I wrote last Friday and am so glad that readers pointed us to this source. Now, Pac-Man buys out the church that they destroyed and it ceases to exist.

Some of the smaller locally engaged community churches of say 300 people have now lost half their congregation to the new ‘site.’ They now struggle to pay their bills. The large church behind the “site” now contacts that church and says “we’ve heard of your struggles. Perhaps we can help?” They then offer to come in, assume the mortgage and other bills, share the church facilities and help with various needs. Within months however they have ‘pac-manned’ the church.

The spiritual gift of real estate acquisition by Ferengi pastors

Mark Driscoll bragged that his buddy, James MacDonald, had the spiritual gift of real estate acquisition. As we all know now, MacDonald flamed out financially due to the large debt he incurred by acquiring all of the building that Driscoll admired. Driscoll also lost all of his buildings and was forced to flee Seattle and hide out in the charismatic circles of Arizona.

For those of you who are not Star Trek fans and have no idea about the Ferengi’s and the rules of acquisition, I have included a list of their *rules * in a video at the end of this post. In the future, I suggest you visualize these churches with pastors who look like Ferengi. At least it will make you smile.

Why a Ferengi/Pac-Man View to *church planting* can be problematic

The author of the article, David Fitch made three thoughtful observations.

  • By taking people out of local community churches that are smaller to more convenient larger churches, we individualize the church and consumerize the church. It is a function of the bigger video church, that the focus is upon the teaching delivered and the various religious services offered.

  • Big churches require less participation and offer more paid-for services. Small community churches require participation to survive. It is a part of what church is. Given the option, I believe less mature, more busy Christians will be lured to the former (celebrity church)

  • Anytime you import a celebrity pastor from even 30 miles away (never mind two hundred miles away) you are in essence decontextualizing church. When it comes to actually proclaiming gospel over the specific circumstances in a local community – the needs and dynamics of a community’s life in context – this kind of proclamation must be done locally with a preacher who lives in and among

Here are a couple of comments under this post.

I think it is time for churches and kingdom building, Pac-Man preachers to do some reflection. Are they interested in cooperation or just good,  old fashioned, American capitalism. The way things are going, I think the Ferengi would be proud of this new crop of preachers.

 

 


Comments

Church Cannibalism and Ferengi Pastors: How to Pac-Man Churches and Build a Celebrity Based Kingdom — 292 Comments

  1. I watched this happen 3 times, firsthand, as an employee of a megachurch. Now we were told by leadership that these struggling churches came to THEM looking for a lifeline. That explanation never sounded right to me. Assets were aquired, names changed, massive renovations, and messages piped in on the big screen. I never knew what the ‘campus’ pastors actually did. They didn’t preach for their own congregations, that’s for sure.

    I think in some aspects it did revive the dying churches and put some needed ministries into the communities, however, it was a complete and utter takeover, not unlike the corporate kind.

    I do believe that it was a concentrated effort by leadership to grow a ‘kingdom’, because there was plenty of bragging about it all. They could have just helped the churches in other ways without completely taking them over.

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  2. Anna: I watched this happen 3 times, firsthand, as an employee of a megachurch. Now we were told by leadership that these struggling churches came to THEM looking for a lifeline. That explanation never sounded right to me. Assets were aquired … it was a complete and utter takeover … They could have just helped the churches in other ways without completely taking them over.

    The mega obviously didn’t follow the Biblical example of the Macedonian church which helped other churches in need:

    “I can guarantee that they were willing to give to the limit of their means, yes and beyond their means, without the slightest urging from me or anyone else. In fact they simply begged us to accept their gifts and so let them share the honours of supporting their brothers in Christ. Nor was their gift, as I must confess I had expected, a mere cash payment. Instead they made a complete dedication of themselves first to the Lord and then to us, as God’s appointed ministers.” (2 Cor 8:1-5)

    The mega leaders obviously had more on their mind than “supporting their brothers in Christ.” There will be a payday someday for these folks.

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  3. Max: The mega leaders obviously had more on their mind than “supporting their brothers in Christ.” There will be a payday someday for these folks.

    Karma and her sister Comeuppance are working on it as we speak.

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  4. Normally, a congregation would hire (they pay the salary, they approve the hire) a pastor who then serves the Lord by serving them.

    Qualifications for a church leader are listed in the NT, serving to guide the congregation in their hire.

    Since when did the congregation with their powerful resources and decision-making power become sitting ducks for a con/leader?

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  5. “The disturbing next step for the Pac-Man church: after destroying the target church, they buy them out.”

    This happened in a neighboring suburb….

    ~Step One: Start with a megachurch with many sites already; in this case it is Bayside Church in Roseville CA. Their celebrity pastor is Ray Johnson, although he is often not there but is off delivering Celebrity Messages at other Reformed Churches

    ~Step Two: Pay attention closely to another megachcurch in the same town–Adventure Church in Rocklin,CA (Bayside’s only direct competition in the area).

    ~Step Three: I call this the shark step…scenting blood in the water. The blood was leaking from Adventure Church which had been wined and dined by a big Texas megachurch after their celebrity pastor had spoken of retirement. Adventure Church had built a very attractive campus & Christian School on their site & were asset rich…They were given lots of stories from the Texas megachurch about even bigger churches and more celebrities.

    ~Adventure Church’s pastor allowed them to be ‘sold’ to the Texas church.

    ~Well, the whole thing between the Texas Megachurch and Adventure imploded after only a few months of chaos. Adventure Church was left with no lead pastor & a much diminished congregation who rightfully resented that their church had been “sold or taken over” without the congregation’s input.

    ~Adventure is now bleeding funds & members.

    ~Finally–Step Four: Bayside rides in on a white horse and “rescues” Adventure Church….which changes its name to become “Bayside at Adventure Church”.

    ~Getting boggled? Not nearly so much as were many members who were unable to participate in any decision making or even sharing of concerns or opinions.

    The biggest losers in this whole thing are many disillusioned members and ex-members.

    ~The communities a whole were kept somewhat abreast of this saga via local media—and it did nothing to enhance the “Cause of Christ” to an unbelieving world…

    I’v gotten my information from 2 former Elders. I do trust their info. I’ve also had this story confirmed by 2 members who I know & trust.

    No moral here–just affirming that this process is happening all over.

    Sad

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  6. Maybe it comes down to the demographics of an area. I haven’t seen this happen in our city. There are some mini megas but they don’t seem to be eating each other yet.

    However they did take a big bite from all the established denominations. Except the RC church. They were able to stay vibrant because of an influx of immigrants.

    We drove through the states last year and between Kansas City & Houston did not see a single mega church. Just a whole whack of small ones. Particularly in North Texas.

    Sometimes clusters of them. Baptist. Baptist. Baptist. Pentecostal. RC. Baptist.

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  7. The hubris it takes to believe you have the one true version of Christianity that needs to be franchised is astounding. Seems to me that this is what drives the church takeover culture. It has to be either that or it is completely cold and cynical.

    If you care about “the local church” and the community, then large churches should send some members to smaller churches. Not to take them over, but to help them out. A large church sent four families to the church I grew up in when it only had about 40 members and it really helped the church.

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  8. First, just gotta say- LOVE the link to the Farengi rules of acquisition.

    Jack: Maybe it comes down to the demographics of an area. I haven’t seen this happen in our city.

    I suspect it happens where there is MONEY to be made. Because I notice groups like Harvest Bible Chapel don’t take their franchise to small towns. Nope. They select instead suburban areas of upper middle class people. They show up with a “launch team” consisting of a pastor, worship band and 40 or 50 members (some of whom have even moved to another state to help launch this new church). And suddenly there’s a new, exciting “biblical” church everyone can run to. Nt a superstar pastor like you’ve mentioned above, but “It’s the Harvest brand, so we can trust it.”

    Ricco: The hubris it takes to believe you have the one true version of Christianity that needs to be franchised is astounding

    Indeed. As though God’s Body on earth can be franchised to produce a standard product. Reducing our relationship to God to a set of “7 principals” or “9 Marks”.

    The leaders of Harvest Bible Chapel in my hometown (not Chicago) congratulate themselves on how great they are at church planting all over the US. Nevermind the mega debt to fund that new building. And no one EVER talks about the fact that members are all just sheep shifters.

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  9. Lita:
    Aw man, I used to like Pac-Man. Now it will be forever linked with the Ferengi.

    I’m more upset about the fact that nowadays you have to post a YouTube video explaining what PacMan is. Damn I’m old… 🙁

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  10. Since we are using Star Trek references, I would liken these guys more to the Borg! The Borg are far more sinister and powerful than the Ferengi. These “church planters” only want our resources and assets but have absolutely no interest in us, much like the Borg! In our situation, they had used a NAMB-sponsored planter to set up shop literally down the street from our church after we declined their ‘help’. The Borg’s big catch-phrase is, “You will be assimilated, resistance is futile!” Yep, that sounds like the church planting crowd to me!

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  11. Does anyone has personal experience with Auxano church consultation services (founder William Mancini)? The church I am attending is using them as consultant for church growth. I have concern about Auxano after reading their material on Auxano website but I could not find any non-marketing reviews the aftermath of their reworking of a church.

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  12. I don’t know what I think about all of it.

    I have seen this happen in the health care industry, and frankly the ‘little’ hospital in one of our adjacent counties is far better off since it became basically a ‘campus’ as it were of one of the major hospital corporations than what happened to a similar hospital where I was in a different county and which tried to go it alone.

    Well, I get it that medicine and religion are two different industries. At the same time, however, I saw small town retail not able to compete with big box retail, and frankly for me the big box was far better for my financial situation, no matter how much it changed the social structure of ‘downtown small town’.

    We now have a ‘situation’ in our church which could have been much better handled privately and with a degree of anonymity had it been in a big church with elders to solve it. This ‘situation’ (consensual adultery between co-equal adults not from the same church or community) did not need to splatter all over everything-for everybody’s sake since there was not and never had been any element of risk to anybody. The church has ways of dealing with individual sin, and forcing everybody’s face into the commode is not one of those ways. Private confession to a trained priest/ pastor has its uses.

    So, I don’t know. I do know, that when I visited the ‘big’ local catholic church and saw liturgy in a large group it ‘felt’ different than at our church or at the smaller catholic church in town. So is that good or not? Like I said, I don’t know. Maybe we as a nation need both life styles. I do note that Jesus preached outdoors to the huge crowds and also sat down with his followers in what might be called a small group.

    One insight: I grew up with one foot in the city and one foot in the country but no body parts in any small town. Maybe it is how one grew up and what one’s temperament is and where one feels comfortable. There is more privacy in either the city or the country than in the small town.

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  13. Ray:
    Does anyone has personal experience with Auxano church consultation services (founder William Mancini)? The church I am attending is using them as consultant for church growth. I have concern about Auxano after reading their material on Auxano website but I could not find any non-marketing reviews the aftermath of their reworking of a church.

    I recently quit a SBC semi-mega church that used them for a fundraising campaign to help the church clarify its vision. When we started attending the church 11 years ago it had qbout 150 people meeting on Sundays in a public school cafeteria. They consulted Auxano around five years ago after their first building needed expansion. I got into some trouble with some of the elders when I asked too many questions. As a result I got to see the vision. I was shocked. The vision and metrics Auxano helped them develop were a complete waste of money. I asked one of the elders if they had to consult Auxano because the Holy Spirit no longer speaks to them. They never showed the vision to the congregation. The church used to be participatory and creative. Now they are starting to look like all thr megas except they only have about 1500-2000 on Sundays. They got rid of adult education and focused entirely on life groups. The youth ministry is their primary focus. They no longer get input from the congregation on big decisions – now they just tell everyone what they are doing. The ministry model is so complicated that it requires 300 volunteers each weekend – that ramped up recently when they opened a satellite location one mile from the main “campus.” Much of their effort now goes into recruiting volunteers. There is no room for people in my demographic – mid 50s with no children at home. I was putting up with it until my wife was asked to quit singing so loudly and the pastoral staff started leaning toward Calvinism. To its credit is has not yet joined TGC or 9Marks and does not hit its SBC affiliation.

    My conclusion is Auxano is a great resource for transforming a church into a business.

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  14. In my former neo-Reformed former tradition, I noticed an unusual business/marketing phenomenon: Given that the nuclear family is the primary idol of this sect, which plays into the strict gender roles lunacy, I found it so odd that the majority of Southern Baptist Seminary students in the 90’s/2000’s (as the Piper multi-level marketing scheme was just hitting its stride) were early middle-aged men who were leaving established careers which they used to support school-aged children, because they had received their “calling.” This crowd typically doesn’t speak about heeding God as he calls you to abandon your responsible way of life to sponge off of others (because, hey, tithes and offering weren’t meant to fund new business ventures, and someone’s paying for that “full ride” scholarship). And it was a strange moving of the spirit (and I mean lust for recognition and greed) that quickened so many men to pursue this spiritual calling that up to this point had not been evidenced by any discernible sacrificial living in service to the least of these. But that’s just my take.

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  15. okrapod: I don’t know what I think about all of it.

    I appreciate your viewpoint about this. It does seem like no big deal, but when you experience it, you begin to see other forces come into play. I believe that this is an issue not because larger churches ‘help’ or takeover or assimilate (or use whatever term you want here) smaller churches, but it is in their methodologies and motives that are often so troublesome and hurtful.

    I can’t speak to anyone else’s experience, only my own. When our church was approached in this manner, the deacons (and yes, we still only have deacons!) wisely assessed and apprised their motive in wishing to ‘partner’ with us. They came under the guise of wishing to use our building to start a new work in our town. This in and of itself sounds harmless enough, but there were already plenty of baptist churches in our town of 30,000, so it didn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. However, when they met with us, they never once sought permission to use our building for their services. They just kept asking us a lot of financial questions about ‘how we were doing’. This finally got under the skin of our treasurer (who is also a deacon) and he basically told them we were financially “just fine!” Bear in mind that at this time, we were currently without a pastor, so they might have perceived us as vulnerable. After that, they kind of hem-hawed around, looked at each other, then left.

    Our church sits on four acres of prime real estate in a very nice part of town. We built an addition six years ago, and even it is nearly paid off. I think they wanted to ‘partner’ with us because our church has a lot of assets that these guys are licking their chops over! More importantly, this is not the first time we encountered this type of interest in us…our former YRR Neo-Cal pastor also wanted to basically give our church away to another baptist church that was already reformed. Like I said, there’s much more here than meets the eye.

    These takeovers and assimilations may work in the business world, but the church is not (or at least SHOULD not) be a business. We are a Kingdom, and Kingdoms work on different premises than do businesses.

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  16. Anna: Now we were told by leadership that these struggling churches came to THEM looking for a lifeline. That explanation never sounded right to me. Assets were aquired, names changed, massive renovations, and messages piped in on the big screen.

    This is the story of Evergreen Christian Fellowship of Sammamish WA, which agreed to a takeover by Mars Hill to ease financial difficulties. Then when Mars Hill broke apart, the building was sold for $6.1 million and profits distributed to faithful (to Park Fiscal) campus pastors as seed money. Remaining Sammamish muttonchops were told they could just drive to Bellevue as part of the newly replanted “Doxa”.
    http://wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/2014/10/throckmorton-mars-hill-sammamish.html

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  17. Ken F (aka Tweed): I was putting up with it until my wife was asked to quit singing so loudly and the pastoral staff started leaning toward Calvinism.

    Ken,

    If you’re in Ohio, y’all can come to our church–and sing as loudly as you please! 🙂 Oh, and we don’t lean toward Calvinism, we lean toward Christ!

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  18. Ricco: If you care about “the local church” and the community, then large churches should send some members to smaller churches. Not to take them over, but to help them out.

    Amen! Too many mega-wannabe pastors want to be THE local church, not one of them. In the case of New Calvinism, if you believe that you have come into the world for such a time as this to restore the gospel that the rest of the church has lost, you probably don’t give two hoots if you cause the rest of the churches to fold by attracting their members to your cool church. It was predestined, you know.

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  19. Root 66: I believe that this is an issue not because larger churches ‘help’ or takeover or assimilate (or use whatever term you want here) smaller churches,

    I was thinking ‘outcompete’ for the overall picture.

    “These takeovers and assimilations may work in the business world, but the church is not (or at least SHOULD not) be a business. We are a Kingdom, and Kingdoms work on different premises than do businesses.”

    Quite so. But in our town none of the big churches were takeovers of the sort you are talking about. My issue is why one would think that ‘small’ is by definition a better cultural idea for the Kingdom than ‘big’.

    Certainly lies and deceit are not good in either setting.

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  20. “”We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.””

    Sounds more like the new Calvinism

    J.M.

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  21. Root 66: If you’re in Ohio, y’all can come to our church–and sing as loudly as you please!

    We live on Northern AL. The ironic part about the singing is how loud they crank up volume of the band and how much the “worship” leader asks people to sing loudly. Apparently some forms of loud are better than others.

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  22. I stay away from the mega churches. I have always thought there was something wrong when all the in crowd want to go to a church to make it a mega. And usually the old saying holds true. “A mile wide and an inch deep”.

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  23. Root 66: Since we are using Star Trek references, I would liken these guys more to the Borg!

    We could add Harry Mudd as the role model for their pastors…

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  24. Judas Maccabeus:
    “”We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.””

    Yes, we can become part of the “Collective!” 🙂

    Sounds more like the new Calvinism

    J.M.

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  25. And while we are at it, let me stir the mix a tad more. (No, the Deebs do not pay me to keep the pot stirred.)

    I read the link from a recent comment written about ‘Arminianisms” written by a calvinist theologian and now I am reading a book by a Catholic abbot about the idea of sacramentalism in the scholastic tradition, and they both said the same thing. Both authors, from very different viewpoints, have said that it is calvinism (the Catholic used the word Puritans) that are the opposite of catholicism, not the rest of protestantism. The calvinist theologian was scathing in his denunciation of ‘arminianisms’ and the Catholic specifically noted that he meant Puritans, not Protestants as a whole.

    So, if one thinks about that, they are correct. So, when the ‘reformed’ among us claim to be the one true ‘reformed’, as to doctrine they may be rather accurate in some ways. Since I am not reformed I tooteth not my own horn, just saying that this way of looking at the issues may indeed be an idea with some merit. So if Al says where ya goona go he is basically saying something similar.

    So, 500 years later we have the reformation issues all over again? Hmmm.

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  26. okrapod: My issue is why one would think that ‘small’ is by definition a better cultural idea for the Kingdom than ‘big’.

    I don’t think small or big is the issue. Churches of all sizes are needed and definitely have a place. In fact, over 80% of all Southern Baptist churches have less than 200 members. The issue, to me, is their desire to make their big church even bigger and eliminate any ‘competition’. Especially through means that are ungodly and deceptive.

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  27. Root 66: our church has a lot of assets that these guys are licking their chops over!

    And, you mention, you were searching for a pastor.

    Your treasurer/deacon got it right.

    The fact that a church has assets… explains a lot. (real estate, tithers, location, a school or preschool, particular facilities – electronics, for example)

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  28. okrapod,

    Nature and nurture in essence? Yes. Different churches and/or parachurch groups for different people (for good or ill)? Yea and amen. One influence on the viability of megachurches may be generation types.

    One theory is there are 4 types, each occurring in succession, that repeat. See Strauss-Howe generational theory/Wikipedia. I have read that one reason that Canadians (ditto UK and France) are different from Americans is that the generations went out of sync after the Civil War: the tragedy turned what would have been a third type (Dominant [most leadership positions open up] Civic) into a fourth (Recessive [fewer leadership positions available] Adaptive). American Boomers are Dominant Idealistic (first type); Canadian Boomers are Recessive Adaptive. Some members of the American counterculture were frighteningly hardcore, for example; Canadians (my generation) went along with the movement, were more casual. At the church I attended and worked for (custodian) during the early Nineties, the young people were Generation X (Dominant Idealistic, eg spiritually minded, crusading). The group was large, pushed for modern music and casual dress at church and produced their own, crusading, publication.

    Since American Boomers are partial to large gatherings, seeker-sensitive megachurches flourished. Since Canadian Boomers like smaller gatherings where people may be known and recognized, there were only some mini megachurches.

    Influence is multi-faceted. I have a temperamental bent toward bigness in general, eg drawn to large companies and construction sites, and I don’t want a lot of “friendliness” if I visit a church.

    Generational types are thought to explain why adults get along better with children than young people and why older adults get along better with young people: similarly dominant or recessive. When I was at the above mentioned church, the young people seemed uncomfortably high powered, unlike the more congenial children. At my next (now previous) church, Generation Y’s were becoming young adults, and I found those young people more pleasant.

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  29. Max: you probably don’t give two hoots if you cause the rest of the churches to fold by attracting their members to your cool church

    or I should say “to your ‘correct’ doctrine” … of course, packaging it in a “cool” format is also a good thing: hip preacher, groovy band, praise team in tight pants, audio/visual sensation, free coffee in the foyer, etc.

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  30. Root 66: The issue, to me, is their desire to make their big church even bigger and eliminate any ‘competition’. Especially through means that are ungodly and deceptive.

    Yes, that’s my overriding concern as well … the attitude of their heart.

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  31. jyjames: And, you mention, you were searching for a pastor.

    Your treasurer/deacon got it right.

    The fact that a church has assets… explains a lot. (real estate, tithers, location, a school or preschool, particular facilities – electronics, for example)

    Yes, we have a very giving congregation. Although we average in the 50s and 60s in attendance, we generally give more per capita than other churches in our local baptist association. The members see the needs of others and do a great job caring for them. Which, if I’m not mistaken, was something churches used to do before they started buying private jets and mansions for their celebrity ‘senior’ pastors!

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  32. Root 66: The members see the needs of others and do a great job caring for them. Which, if I’m not mistaken, was something churches used to do before they started buying private jets and mansions for their celebrity ‘senior’ pastors!

    The transition from building empathy to building a dynasty.

    “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” – 1 John 2:15-17

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  33. I am having such fun with this surely divine judgment is waiting at my door.

    There are those who seem to think that wealth is a sign that one is favored (blest) by God and somehow better than those who have less wealth. There is also the old tradition that abject poverty, think Francis of Assisi and his ilk, is a sign of advanced saintliness and the thusly poor are better than those who have financial resources.

    Other than that, how is it that the smaller church that has lands and buildings and laid back designated funds and low debt to the extent that the bigger church wants those resources is somehow doing it for the kingdom, laying up treasures on earth, while the larger church is not doing it for the kingdom when they do the same thing?

    For the sake and of the accountants and theologians what is the net worth, what bottom line, at which it switches from being for the kingdom and not being for the kingdom? When should a church, large or small sell off property and re-allocate the funds elsewhere for the benefit of their own souls?

    Or is it that literally if you have two coats one of them should be given away? Is that the number..two? It used to be said ‘back when’ that a missionary should live at the level of the average high school teacher in the host country. That would be, of course, little more than a subsistence level in some countries. Should we each and all, large and small alike, be doing that? For the same of the kingdom.

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  34. B Badger:
    okrapodI don’t want a lot of “friendliness” if I visit a church.

    Agreed. I don’t want a lot of “friendliness”, either, but I don’t mind actual friendliness. If someone is genuinely interested in my family after we meet, and senses some kindred spirit, I don’t mind additional talk or even heading out after for lunch after the church visit. No problem, am usually up for getting acquainted with new people. The problem is the cultic mindset so many churches have, where members somehow think they’re pleasing God by promoting the brand, and they come on with all this effusive interest and praise: “What a beautiful family you have! And how wonderfully they’d fit into the youth ministry! Oh how we’d love to see you at Trendy Pseudo-Christian Mega again next week!”

    I hate lovebombing, because it’s fundamentally a lie, and the devil himself is the source of those lies. When we ventured out to visit churches, huge family and all, we’d be inundated with those lies and smiling faces, everyone wanted to make the big score and be the one who put the hooks into the huge family (probably because it elevated their standing in the church). Hated it and hated the manufactured “relationships” that “doin’ life together” produced. It’s the antithesis of true Christian fellowship.

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  35. Jack: Maybe it comes down to the demographics of an area. I haven’t seen this happen in our city. There are some mini megas but they don’t seem to be eating each other yet.

    Same here, Jack. We don’t even have bearded neo-cal hipsters trying to plant churches and mostly hanging out at Starbucks. [Only recently, we got a Starbucks!]

    I think these shenanigans are more common in larger urban areas, especially the ones that are growing and have high real estate costs. Places where things are changing quickly, and where there is more money.

    Max: Too many mega-wannabe pastors want to be THE local church, not one of them.

    I have seen this, Max, even here. The logic is that the “Church” is God’s plan to save the world, or at least a few people, and we call our organization a church, so therefor we are at the center of God’s plan, [and of course WE are getting the Gospel right], and you should join and give us lots of time and money. There is no mention of the other churches on the same street, or in the same town. Because they are, in a business sense, the competition.

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  36. okrapod,

    Don’t really think it’s a matter of small church/large church. There may be a higher percentage of megas where the heart’s off because they’re lusting after wealth and the spread of their earthly kingdom, considering there must’ve been some thoughts towards building such a kingdom or they wouldn’t have built it in the first place (res ipsa loquitur), but that’s not always the case. Some megas are megas because they built up organically, without rockstar leaders, over the course of decades, without marketing and flash, just doing things generally the right way.

    Of course, to beat a dead horse, it’s about the heart, and I’ve seen tiny churches where the leaders lusted after power and domination and wealth and set up little fiefdoms that were absolute horrors of abuse.

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  37. okrapod,

    I have not, however, been drawn to the typical megachurch because I am NOT fond of “contemporary” worship music. Yes, I grew up with rock and roll, starting to listen to the hit parade in the mid 60’s, but even so. At my Anglican church, music for the morning services is traditional (along with some modern serious music that is too dissonant for my taste [I used to be fond of that kind of music as well]). The evening service has contemporary music.

    This issue is nothing new. On the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Ideas program there was a presentation on Gregorian Chant. The early church rejected musical instruments, in spite of OT endorsement, because of their association with pagan “rock music” (loud and repetitive). (The universal rejection of instruments has been elsewhere disputed, however, being in any case a later development. Nor can I speak for the truth of the broadcast at this point.)

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  38. Law Prof: Agreed. I don’t want a lot of “friendliness”, either, but I don’t mind actual friendliness.

    Yes, I have always encouraged those at our church with this: We don’t want to be a friendly church, but we want to be a church that is a friend!
    There’s no room in the Kingdom for fake love or love-bombing. People are seeking the real thing…Jesus told His disciples in John 13:35 that they will know we are His disciples if we (truly) love one another. If you can find a church that does that, you have indeed found a rare and precious gem!

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  39. GSD [Getting Stuff Done]: [and of course WE are getting the Gospel right], and you should join and give us lots of time and money

    “It is your eternal obligation to join ‘our’ church; the only ‘real’ church in town. We alone possess truth; we alone preach and teach correct doctrine.”

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  40. Law Prof: Of course, to beat a dead horse, it’s about the heart, and I’ve seen tiny churches where the leaders lusted after power and domination and wealth and set up little fiefdoms that were absolute horrors of abuse.

    Which is why the House Church movement (just Me and Thee in our little New Testament Church in our house) raises a red flag with me. There’s NO outside Reality Check when things go into Cult Country. How high up the CULT tree can you climb?

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  41. Max: Much of the 21st century church in America has lost track of that.

    I remember a quote from somewhere that “In America, everything starts as a Movement, turns into a Business, and ends up as a Racket.”

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  42. okrapod: Other than that, how is it that the smaller church that has lands and buildings and laid back designated funds and low debt to the extent that the bigger church wants those resources is somehow doing it for the kingdom, laying up treasures on earth, while the larger church is not doing it for the kingdom when they do the same thing?

    For the sake and of the accountants and theologians what is the net worth, what bottom line, at which it switches from being for the kingdom and not being for the kingdom? When should a church, large or small sell off property and re-allocate the funds elsewhere for the benefit of their own souls?

    My little pea-brain is trying to process all these incredibly deep thoughts! But I think the real tipping point for any church is this: what do you do with that wealth? Although our church is small, and fiscally responsible, we are not taking that wealth and trying to gobble up other churches with it. To me, that’s pointless. We use our resources to impact the community, to reach out and to help those in need around us. And yes, the mega churches are perhaps doing that too, but our church has no interest in crushing other churches in the process! I really don’t see any benefit of merely being “King of the Mountain” in a community.

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  43. Headless Unicorn Guy: “In America, everything starts as a Movement, turns into a Business, and ends up as a Racket.”

    The American church could use a Bowel Movement right now … to purge it from the waste within it … wasted words, wasted time, wasted money, wasted faith because it’s wasted on the wrong things.

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  44. B Badger: Since American Boomers are partial to large gatherings, seeker-sensitive megachurches flourished.

    Not this American Boomer. I’m very late-stage Boomer (what one essay called “Generation Jones”, a transition between Boomer and Gen-X with one foot in each), and very much an introvert. Especially as I get older.

    B Badger: One theory is there are 4 types, each occurring in succession, that repeat. See Strauss-Howe generational theory/Wikipedia.

    Ah, yes, the Strauss-Howe Cycle.
    (AKA “Asimov’s Psychohistory for real”.)
    Of which we are today at the same point in the cycle as we were around 1930, entering the “Fourth Turning” of a Crisis era of the magnitude of WW2. I believe Strauss & Howe even used the term “The Crisis of 2020”.

    (My introduction to the Strauss-Howe Cycle was 13th Gen in the Eighties, which focused on the then-emerging Gen Xers and how they fit in. I recommend you scare up a copy.)

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  45. Ray,

    I have no knowledge of Auxano. Nor would I have any interest in learning about them, other then the name means “increase.” I do have observations from previous experience that colour my thinking regarding church consulting.
    Basically, I regard it as a complete waste.

    I also view it as bad hygiene.
    There are some things we don’t do in real life because we know it results in the spread of parasites, venereal disease or food contamination. But for some reason in the House of God, all critical thinking gets shut off.

    Church consulting exist for the express purpose of influencing the host church. But that influence, is not motivated to make the host “better” or “improved.” Is so, the host would be told to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, and have a nice day.

    If your church had a pre-existing condition resulting in a desire for outside intervention, you’ll just have more of it afterwards. That, and invoicing.

    Consulting may result in major improvements in professional, and superficial appearance. If the Church is in a rut, getting told to get your butts out of the rut, can in fact result in leaving a rut. But is any “improvement” a change of heart, or is it deferred facilities maintenance?

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  46. Fisher: As though God’s Body on earth can be franchised to produce a standard product. Reducing our relationship to God to a set of “7 principals” or “9 Marks”.

    Reduced to a checklist, just like the Book of Revelation.
    Check, Check, Check, Check, Check…

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  47. Max: The American church could use a Bowel Movement right now … to purge it from the waste within it … wasted words, wasted time, wasted money, wasted faith because it’s wasted on the wrong things.

    “THIS WHOLE TOWN NEEDS AN ENEMA!”
    — The Joker, Tim Burton’s Batman

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  48. “The beatings will continue until morale improves”

    The words of my last manager/boss.

    Those same words haunt me now as my experience with the “church” models I have had contact with are very good at breaking me into peices but no desire at all in fixing the damage wrought by the purveyors of the business of hypocrisy.
    My love for my Savior is whole and solid, my view of the institutions selling themselves as “His” seems appropriately skeptical in light of the damages done in his name over the ages.

    God Saves, Man destroys in his name.
    http://godslittleacre.net/spiritualgrowth/the_pit.html

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  49. jyjames: For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

    The writer of Ecclesiastes does not agree. Nor do I (in a partial sense). When brought into balance, there’s nothing wrong with the lust (desires) of the flesh and the desire of the eyes.

    To me, much of the New Testament’s ethos is redolent with Greek dualism, an either/or proposition with no middle ground. As I’ve commented here before, certain aspects of Judaism, and especially its regard to a common sense approach to real life in the here and now, makes much more sense than traditional Christianity.

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  50. Root 66: I think they wanted to ‘partner’ with us because our church has a lot of assets that these guys are licking their chops over!

    This reflects back to the title of this piece “Church Cannibalism …” Like cannibalistic critters in the natural world, individuals (new church in town) can receive extra nutrition and energy if they consume other individuals (other churches) as an additional food source.

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  51. ishy: hiring a company to grow your church doesn’t seem like the leadership is being guided by the Spirit

    Where the Spirit is absent, you must rely on the methods of men.

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  52. B Badger:
    Law Prof,

    Good points. I do, on the other hand, (mostly) enjoy my interactions with others at my church, where most of my socializing occurs.

    Of course. I’m talking about the various manufactured moments, often directed by leadership, which force a form of church fellowship upon the congregation, but without the underlying reality of that fellowship.

    I was an elder at such a church; we joined about a year after it was planted by a former SGM leader and Master’s Seminary graduate. People were thrown together in this church plant, some coming from over a thousand miles away. There was little real cohesion there. So it was manufactured. People acted so over-the-top friendly, all these young, good-looking people, full of energy and—we thought—love of Jesus and others. We were love-bombed into it, everyone so happy to see us, and a decade ago, when this happened, didn’t have the experience to see through it. The message was controlled from the top, we were told from the pulpit (heard this with my own ears) that our opinions were not as legitimate as those of the leaders. The first meeting of the elders after I was appointed involved the head pastor looking at each of us and asked “Are you onboard?” We were required to answer this question one-at-a-time in front of all—no manipulation there! The question was not whether we loved Jesus, if we were onboard with that, but were we onboard with “the mission” of our “local church”, the “vision” of pastor. The church had small groups led by loyal lieutenants of the head pastor (who, I assume, reported back on the loyalty of the various members to the head honcho). Things were controlled that way. When a young man (who later became my son-in-law) proposed having a bible study on his own, he was opposed. There was no room for Jesus outside of the leaders. Of course it didn’t last, the church ceased to exist within a few years. Too much abuse and control. Too little Jesus. Real fellowship was actively discouraged. THAT is the sort of thing I oppose.

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  53. Ricco:

    If you care about “the local church” and the community, then large churches should send some members to smaller churches. Not to take them over, but to help them out. A large church sent four families to the church I grew up in when it only had about 40 members and it really helped the church.

    Yes! Rather than respond to internal numerical growth (which may be transfer “growth”) by “tearing down barns and building bigger ones”, it would be better to share people with the smaller groups that find themselves in facilities that are too big for them. There is definitely a lot of personal kingdom building going on in recent decades.

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  54. Law Prof: The first meeting of the elders after I was appointed involved the head pastor looking at each of us and asked “Are you onboard?” We were required to answer this question one-at-a-time in front of all—no manipulation there! The question was not whether we loved Jesus, if we were onboard with that, but were we onboard with “the mission” of our “local church”, the “vision” of pastor.

    “WE ARE UNITED BEHIND THE VISIONARY!”
    — Pastor Furtick’s Elevation Sunday School Coloring Book

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  55. Max: This reflects back to the title of this piece “Church Cannibalism …”Like cannibalistic critters in the natural world, individuals (new church in town) can receive extra nutrition and energy if they consume other individuals (other churches) as an additional food source.

    What do Predators eat once they’ve killed off all the Prey?

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  56. I don’t think Pac-Man quite fits as an analogy. I think Kirby does (Nintendo platform). Yes, the adorable pink ball eats his enemies just like Pac-Man. However, he also absorbs the powers of whatever enemies he consumes, and then can use those powers against future enemies.

    And with the advent of Kirby All-Star Allies on Nintendo Switch, he can now throw hearts at his enemies, too, and brainwash them into becoming his new best friends to fight his enemies, until he decides they’ve outlived their usefulness and discards them in exchange for better “friends”.

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  57. ishy:
    Nathan Priddis,

    At the very least, hiring a company to grow your church doesn’t seem like the leadership is being guided by the Spirit and trusting in God no matter what happens.

    I agree. I’m thinking of the instruction…to everything there is a season.

    It was a church rejuvenation effort that caused me to reconsider what I think of organizational death. I came away believing a cycle of birth and death is normal and desirable.

    Regarding church hygiene. The autonomy of a local church is both defensive and isolative. Should a church go wacko, autonomy should function as a firewall in theory. Church networking and spiritual covering between leaders bypasses this built in safety feature.

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  58. Nathan Priddis:
    Regarding church hygiene. The autonomy of a local church is both defensive and isolative. Should a church go wacko, autonomy should function as a firewall in theory. Church networking and spiritual covering between leaders bypasses this built in safety feature.

    I haven’t seen much evidence that institutional churches are better then autonomous ones. While there may be more checks and balances, I think there’s just as much tendency to protect the institution over individuals.

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  59. Max: Where the Spirit is absent, you must rely on the methods of men.

    Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:4, which is why they waited in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit before beginning their church building enterprise or activities.

    How much church enterprise happens today in-step-with the Holy Spirit, and how much out-of-step…

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  60. jyjames: they waited in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit before beginning their church building enterprise or activities

    That’s too old-fashioned, JY. Church planters don’t do that these days … who needs the Holy Spirit when you have Mohler, Piper, Driscoll, etc. to guide you?! The American church has pretty much gotten over the Holy Spirit.

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  61. Headless Unicorn Guy: “WE ARE UNITED BEHIND THE VISIONARY!”
    — Pastor Furtick’s Elevation Sunday School Coloring Book

    Anyone who attends that place and puts up with that is well-described by Paul:

    “You think you are so wise, but you enjoy putting up with fools! You put up with it when someone enslaves you, takes everything you have, takes advantage of you, takes control of everything, and slaps you in the face.” 2 Corinthians 11:19-20.

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  62. Max: who needs the Holy Spirit when you have

    …celebrity.

    Like the post reads, “a celebrity-based kingdom”.

    “Who has the money and who has the faith? The real virture is in not showing it off [not being celebrated, a celebrity].” – Turkish Proverb

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  63. jyjames: Like the post reads, “a celebrity-based kingdom”.

    I find very little in the American church that resembles the Kingdom of God which Jesus preached about … a Heaven on earth to be experienced by believers in the here and now. I suppose it’s so much easier to fall in line with the kingdoms of men – to follow celebrities rather than Christ – than to seek ye first the Kingdom of God. To do the latter, you have to shut out all the noise of church-as-business and its band of charlatans.

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  64. Judas Maccabeus:
    “”We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.””

    Sounds more like the new Calvinism

    J.M.

    A milder, gentler Borg? ……..

    Al Mohler: “Where else are they going to go? If you’re a theological minded, deeply convictional young evangelical, if you’re committed to the gospel and want to see the nations rejoice in the name of Christ, if you want to see gospel built and structured committed churches, your theology is just going end up basically being Reformed, basically something like this new Calvinism, or you’re going to have to invent some label for what is basically going to be the same thing, there just are not options out there, and that’s something that frustrates some people, but when I’m asked about the New Calvinism—where else are they going to go, who else is going to answer the questions, where else are they going to find the resources they going to need and where else are they going to connect. This is a generation that understands, they want to say the same thing that Paul said, they want to stand with the apostles, they want to stand with old dead people, and they know that they are going to have to, if they are going to preach and teach the truth.”

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  65. Max: to seek ye first the Kingdom of God. To do the latter, you have to shut out all the noise of church-as-business and its band of charlatans.

    Helpful reminder, Max. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you,” Matt. 6:23.

    (Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them … in giving to the poor, in praying, in fasting, in not storing up earthly treasures; you cannot serve God and wealth so don’t worry, trust God to care for you, but seek God & His kingdom. – Matt. 6)

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  66. I get really irritated by the whole concept of a sattelite church with an onscreen “pastor.”. Last time I checked scripture a pastor is supposed to …well…”pastor” and care for his flock. Seriously?? Who came up with this $tuff?????

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  67. Law Prof,

    You brought back memories of the cultish Restoration church I went to. (Such organizations tend to have some sort of carrot on a stick: in this case some sort of ministry position, whether a church position or sent out to plant a new church. A great revival was also predicted. leaving me with the impression that I would have an effective [Spirit empowered] role in it.) Love-bombing? You bet, eg invitations until people put feet to their perception that I wasn’t their cup of tea. The pastor even referenced the drop off (leading to discouragement, so hang in there) in one of his messages. Relationships that were actually toxic and unfulfilling, leaving me frustrated? Afraid so. Hearing about loyalty, catching the vision? Lack of balance between the LOCAL CHURCH and the Universal Church. (One time the pastor told us that God uses other churches as though he was doing them a big favour, saying something surprising.) Oh dear. Believing that leaders and maybe hard-core followers were especially spiritual? Leaders knew best? (Check with the leadership [“mature men”] re your interpretations of Scripture, any ideas about your type of service [none of this personal initiative now!].) Small groups led by core members who might report “problems”? Lack of relationship with God and others? All true. If a group seems like a loving family, is it because not much else is allowed socially? (The pastor told us to not spend too much time with those who weren’t for the church.) If people seem super-dedicated, is it because little other involvement is allowed?

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  68. B Badger:
    Law Prof,

    You brought back memories of the cultish Restoration church I went to. (Such organizations tend to have some sort of carrot on a stick: in this case some sort of ministry position, whether a church position or sent out to plant a new church. A great revival was also predicted. leaving me with the impression that I would have an effective [Spirit empowered] role in it.)

    That Great Revival is always just around the corner.

    Our little church of less than 100 is going to grow, if you only knew how much God has planned! And you, with the opportunity to be a part of it from early on, to lead others in the future. And the reason it has not come yet is because of want of faith and commitment to the mission, the vision. Look among yourselves, who among you lacks faith? You may be the very stumbling block tripping up this Great Move of God. Are you questioning me, the leader? My priorities? My vision? I was the leader chosen before the creation of the Universe to lead you at this time and in this place—you are questioning God Himself. We must put out the one who causes little ones to stumble, the one who questions. Shun him.

    Of course, this isn’t said out loud except in churches that are so far gone they don’t know right from left. In most churches, in public it’s all white gloves and innocuous words and phrases like “winsome” and “local church” and “season”. Behind closed doors, just know that a lot of those leaders would make Machiavelli blush.

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  69. I looked up Auxano ‘s site. Marketing, marketing, marketing.Logos? And it looks like funding is one of the major goals…..Where’s Jesus? Where is salvation?

    Where is the church headed?

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  70. Abigail: I get really irritated by the whole concept of a sattelite church with an onscreen “pastor.”

    A friend of mine visited one of these churches, where the celebrity speaker was projected on stage at full-size scale. He kept having to remind himself that it wasn’t a real person. And really, if it’s the sort of celebrity pastor that would run off to the green room once the sermon is over if he were there in person, what’s the difference? He might as well be a projection. Or, someday soon, a hologram.

    I’ve heard that the maximum number of people that a single person can actually “pastor” in an effective way is 50-70. Which is one reason that about 2/3 of the churches in the US have 70 or less attendees. And it’s a reason that I think we need a new term for folks who lead mega-churches, because it’s impossible for one person to pastor 2000 people.

    Maybe Celebrity Speaker? Entertainer? Visionary?

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  71. Abigail:
    I get really irritated by the whole concept of a sattelite church with an onscreen “pastor.”. Last time I checked scripture a pastor is supposed to …well…”pastor” and care for his flock. Seriously?? Who came up with this $tuff?????

    I was at a church dinner a few months ago, and the guy down the table was talking about the satellite church in our city that broadcasts their pastor from the main campus every week. All their pastor’s sermons are streamed online.

    He said, “If they can beam in a virtual pastor, why can’t they have virtual congregants, too?”

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  72. I don’t know how many people a person can “pastor” because I can’t even find in the Bible a description of what a pastor is or really, what they do necessarily. Can someone find that for me? The roles of elder and deacon are discussed in the New Testament, there seems to be some fairly clear indications of what a prophet is and evangelist is, and teachers, of course, are kind of self-explanatory. But what’s a pastor? And what’s this talk of how many people a person can pastor? The word “pastor” appears one time, and one time only, in the singular, in the entire New Testament. That’s that list of five gifts in Ephesians 4. It’s listed fourth out of five, right after evangelist, right before teacher. It appears twice more in the plural in the New Testament, the word “pastors”, but in no place in the context of a church office.

    Near as I can tell, it comes from the word shepherd, which certainly would not have been understood in any context of great leadership or CEO-type power by New Testament-era readers, but instead would’ve been seen as an expendable farm laborer, a low-rent person expected to risk their lives to protect dirty livestock, a person considered ritually unclean, a low life. This is anything but a church CEO, The Great Leader with The Vision, The Power, The Authority.

    This strange juxtaposition of great humility associated with being a shepherd and rising up to power has a common strain in the Bible, running from Joseph the nondescript shepherd becoming leader of Egypt, to David, the boy shepherd so poorly thought of by his father Jesse that the latter didn’t even bother to call him out when Samuel came calling to anoint a son of his as king over Israel, David was an afterthought, a kid out in the fields with the animals. It culminates in Jesus, the Great Shepherd, dying for the sins of the world, His sheep. The shepherd thing does not at all appear to have been about Jesus’ position of authority, but of His humility, His meekness, His dying like a nothing of a shepherd boy to protect a common animal from a wolf. But the talk of Jesus as a shepherd would’ve sounded very strange indeed to people of that day, that’s not the way they’d have understood a leader of Israel (in spite of the historical examples of Joseph and David); it’s certainly not something that seemed to sit well with His disciples, to put it mildly. The strongest recorded words Jesus ever used for anyone “Satan!”, were in response to Peter rebuking Jesus for suggesting this dying-for-the-people, humble role.

    There’s a different side to Jesus, of course, the Great Leader who will come riding in on a white horse with absolute power, meting out justice once and for all. But that’s not the shepherd, that already happened about 1990 years ago.

    So this talk of “pastoring” just can’t be understood in the light we put it. It would seem to be best understood as a humble servant, willing to die for others, doing the thankless stuff, shunning the spotlight and stage, going around to others and asking “How can I help you? What’s God saying to you? Forget about me, how can I support you, what God’s telling you?” That sounds like a pastor to me, like a humble shepherd.

    I don’t think the average church leader has any earthly clue what a pastor is—or has a clue that they certainly are not one.

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  73. Dave A A,

    “This is the story of Evergreen Christian Fellowship of Sammamish WA, which agreed to a takeover by Mars Hill to ease financial difficulties. Then when Mars Hill broke apart, the building was sold for $6.1 million and profits distributed to faithful (to Park Fiscal) campus pastors as seed money. Remaining Sammamish muttonchops were told they could just drive to Bellevue as part of the newly replanted “Doxa”.”
    +++++++++++++++++++

    this enrages me. i would guess that building had been originally funded by sacrificial giving at great personal cost on the part of faithful people long ago with great hopes of helping their community.

    it was stolen.

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  74. We have a couple of these church takeovers here in the Phoenix area.

    A couple of years ago, Hillsong swung in and gobbled up a church which had been somewhat unstable for a number of years. Now that pastor is the campus pastor of Hillsong Phoenix (but located in Mesa and Scottsdale). There’s also a Hillsong Phoenix in an old church building in downtown Phoenix, but it’s much smaller than the Mesa campus (which really does seat around 2000 people; I went and checked it out).

    More recently, ChristLife Church in Tempe merged with Gateway Scottsdale, which is a subsidiary of Robert Morris’ Gateway in DFW. Interestingly, ChristLife was founded by people who were refugees from Apostolic Pentecostalism. The original pastor died, his wife (also a pastor) got elderly and basically moved to emeritus status and a third pastor was brought in to run the church. About 2008ish, there was a scandal where one of the church members basically made off with the building fund. Now the third pastor has become the campus pastor and Preston Morrison (son of Robert) is preaching sermons from Scottsdale.

    There have been other gobblings’ up around here, those are the two where people would generally know at least some of the parties.

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  75. You guys are HILARIOUS! I mean knee-slapped, belly laughing, roll-in-the-floor hilarious! I’d make the introductions between Pot (You, the supposedly pure-as-the-wind-driven snow local, traditional church), and Kettle (the certifiably apostate, man-centered, corporate world, Hollywood production Mega-Church movement), but I can’t fight my way through all the Strawmen and Anecdotes that clutter the place.

    Everything you say about the Megachurch movement is true, and worse, and more; your only error on that score is you fail to go far enough in describing the shameless pragmatism, devoid of any faith in God, that rules that whole movement.

    But what you fail to see is, they learned everything they know from you! You are the Jedi Knights of pragmatism, they are but the Padawan learners at the knee of your pragmatism. You are the Sensei, they are but the pupils that bow at your trough of pragmatism.

    Who did you turn too in the 60s and 70s, oh Precious Local Traditional Church, when the Free Love-Drugs-Rock ‘n Roll movement came sweeping in like a horde? Did you turn to the power of the Gospel, the power of Jesus to “save our youth”? No, you turned to the electric guitar and the snare drum and the pool table in the youth room to try and “reach our young people” by being hip and cool. (And you froth and boil about “Worship Wars” – you started them with your unbelief in the power of Christ!).

    You’re the original pragmatists! You’re the original “seeker movement”, “attractional movement” that you rail against in this very post! You’re joined at the hip with them, you’re kissing cousins!

    This quote is just too precious: “Pac-Man churches brings in lots of pastors to run the show, usually along with the celebrity pastor, along with an incredible children’s ministry, awesome worship band for thee first Sunday and other programs”.

    Good heavens! I’m a life long Southern Baptist, and you’ve just described every traditional SBC church I’ve ever been a part of, and two I’ve pastored, long before Matt Chandler or JD Greear even held a candle to perfecting your art.

    “Awesome worship band”? Are you kidding me? Southern Baptists have long had more confidence in their massive choirs, they’re Southern Gospel homecomings – and yes they’re “praise bands” – than the power of the Gospel and the simple singing of the congregation for decades – long before Hillsong became a household word, long before Calvinism became your latest bogeyman.

    “Incredible children’s ministries”? Are you really that tone-deaf and blind? “Incredible children’s ministries” have been the heart and soul of Southern Baptist life since I was turning popsicle sticks into Noah’s Ark in SBC VBS. Heaven forbid trying to have a regular Wednesday night prayer meeting in your average, local, community SBC church – you’ll get run out with pitchforks and torches by the Kid’s Musical gang!

    Are you all really that self-unaware? Can you not see there’s not a whit’s bit of difference between you’re precious, traditional local church and the megachurch than bandwidth, volume, and skinny jeans? Oh, and the fact that the mega church tends to vote for Hillary, and the traditional local church tends to vote for Trump.

    Pac Man churches? You’re the one that dropped the quarter in the slot.

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  76. When Pokemon Go came out, I wondered if Augmented Reality would be a future social media.

    If you don’t really like your local church, perhaps you could logon to a remote group.

    *360 degree cameras can give you a room wide panorama.
    *AR allows for imagery to be superimposed.

    The definition of video is amazing, but at what point is HD good enough. What would it be like if instead the objective is to take me “there” instead of showing “there” “here.”

    I think an initial step would be for a guest speaker to show up with limited angular interaction. A second would possible holographic projection on wall film. The speaker would now have a limited room footprint. But it feels like room size is a huge limiting factor.

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  77. Ken F (aka Tweed): We could have so much fun with Auxano here.

    The founder Auxano lists some of his favorite speakers: https://www.willmancini.com/blog/whiteboard-sessions-a-lesson-in-focus

    The line of speakers was great including Mark Batterson, Ed Stetzer, Perry Noble, Mark Dever, John Burke, Darrin Patrick, and Tim Stevens. I am a fan of every one of these guys and appreciated the movement toward soul stuff (for example topics like idolatry and abiding in Christ.)

    Can’t make this stuff up…

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  78. K.D.: I looked up Auxano ‘s site. Marketing, marketing, marketing.Logos? And it looks like funding is one of the major goals…..

    This is pretty convenient: a full listing of all of Auxano’s clients: https://www.auxano.com/clients/. “Clients”? Intersting term to use in a “Christian” setting. I found my old church there.

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  79. elastigirl,

    Remember what Jesus had to say about those types?

    “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.”

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  80. Actually wemt to church last Sunday. Ok, I was bribed with the reward of breakfast afterwards.

    As I read this post and these comments and then reflect on the utter vacuousness of that sermon, I do not get the point of the exercise anymore.

    Breakfast was good though.

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  81. Ken F (aka Tweed): The founder Auxano lists some of his favorite speakers: https://www.willmancini.com/blog/whiteboard-sessions-a-lesson-in-focus

    I poked around his blog some, and he quoted an interesting statistic from Barna. Only 1 in 7 “pastors” is under 40. Which means, most of them are old, and many are approaching retirement. There will be some major shifts in leadership, and the topic of “succession” will be heard more often.

    Law Prof: I don’t know how many people a person can “pastor” because I can’t even find in the Bible a description of what a pastor is or really, what they do necessarily.

    I agree, completely. I tend to use the term from a cultural perspective, where it’s sort of the Protestant version of “priest,” or a generic term for “church leader.” I should note that the Episcopal church I grew up in had priests, who were usually married.

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  82. Law Prof,

    I researched through the “pastor” concept years ago from every angle. . It was not something I talked about back then because there was no one to discuss it with. I don’t see the point of it. Its not a static “office”. If we call it “shepherd”, most of us do that sort of thing in our lives with children, others we are helping, etc. I also don’t necessarily equate the situation of the 1st Century with ours when it comes to such functions. I would rather listen to an Ancients scholar speak so I can understand context better, etc.

    Anyway, I still went along with it but with a different perspective that caused me to pay more attention and become increasingly unimpressed. I grew up around some great pastors. Mostly sacrificial types in small churches who we knew well. I don’t want to disrespect such types but they are rare, now. People put a lot of stock in being “shepherded”. And they seem to spend a lot of time looking for an honest shepherd. It was a major topic at SGM survivor. Don’t we all have access to THE Shepherd?

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  83. Lydia: People put a lot of stock in being “shepherded”. And they seem to spend a lot of time looking for an honest shepherd. It was a major topic at SGM survivor. Don’t we all have access to THE Shepherd?

    It’s almost as if there’s a part of the human makeup that wants to be told what to do. A part that does not want the responsibility of making its own decisions, owning them, and then living with them.

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  84. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    Ken, thank you for sharing your experience with me. I am in the early 50s. Last Sunday senior pastor invited 50s and above to a meeting about the future direction of church and about Auxano. The invitation email implied there would be discussions.

    Ended up the meeting was not an open discussion. It was a “teaching” session about the auxano framework (picture frame) with a strong hint 50s+ group should step aside and be the support for the “younger” people (Num. 8:24 – 26 was quoted). There was no detail information what the vision, mission, strategy, etc. actually are. Also, there was no explanation the reason why Axuano service was selected.

    I left the meeting feeling like the direction and planning were already set and not open up for input or any discussions. Your experience affirms my feeling of being dismissed by senior pastor. Now I know what is to come in the next 3 to 5 years.

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  85. Since we are discussing “pastors,” one of our local mini-megas had a staff member whose official title was “pastor of assimilation.” It was on the website. Sadly, that title has been changed, probably after a trekkie explained how silly the title sounded. Or how accurate the title actually was.

    I also think that the modern job description of “pastor” is something we’ve invented. And based on people I’ve known, the job can be highly toxic. For many, the pay is low, the expectations are unrealistic, and the pressure is significant and often unhealthy. I’ve seen it destroy families and wreck people’s faith. There are a few who can rig the system and take advantage of the perks, but they are the minority.

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  86. GSD [Getting Stuff Done]: celebrity pastor

    Celebrity leaders forget that: “You don’t have to be a star to twinkle,” Dr. Honey Snow, Frasier reruns.

    From echurch music this week, Chris Rice:
    “… There is a Spirit who brings a fire
    Ignites a candle and makes His home

    “So carry your candle, run to the darkness
    Seek out the helpless, confused and torn
    Hold out your candle for all to see it
    Take your candle, and go light your world.”

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  87. Max: he American church could use a Bowel Movement right now … to purge it from the waste within it … wasted words, wasted time, wasted money, wasted faith because it’s wasted on the wrong things.

    Well…some people with prophetic giftings in the American Body of Christ have been warning increasingly over the past few years that the judgement God is coming on America. I am inclined to believe them, esp when I read stuff on this website. God will not let this sin continue unabated forever. As in Jeremiah’s day where he warned Judah for many years- then suddenly judgement came to pass- indeed we’ve had many warnings and the suddenly is not far off. May God have mercy and shelter the remnant.

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  88. jyjames: Take your candle, and go light your world.

    Pastor Wade, holding out his candle for all to see (without posturing as a celeb):
    “It seems to me that we’ve got a problem with the issue of authority,” he continued. “For some reason we think men have authority over everybody else.”

    “When you take away this idea that men, particularly ministers, have authority over anybody, then you come to where Jesus is, to empower people in the way they are gifted by the Holy Spirit to serve in his kingdom,” Burleson said.

    https://baptistnews.com/article/southern-baptists-grapple-with-metoo-complicity/#.W0WmWdJKjIV

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  89. With respect to original post, and actually most OP on the WW, I have one fairly simple thought…..
    I was always taught, and thought, that “being a Christian” is to follow Christ. Is swallowing up “little churches” into one large mega church “Christlike”?

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  90. Jeffrey Chalmers,

    No, Ken, it isn’t – it’s not Christlike at all. Neither are “little churches” who love the flag more than the cross of Christ, who talk about Donald Trump more than they do about Jesus, who will turn out in droves for the Kid’s Musical, but can’t be bothered, shamed, pushed nor pulled to come to the prayer meeting of the church, who pack the pews for a Sunday morning service given over wholly to a Southern Gospel concert, but become put out and exasperated if a preacher dare preach through a whole book of the Bible, rather than a little four week ditty on managing their emotions, or how America is a Christian country.

    None of it’s Christlike – neither the “mega church” idolatry of numbers, worldliness, and entertainment, nor the “little church” idolatry of love of country more than Jesus Christ. It’s all stewing in the same Christless pot of American evangelical rot.

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  91. Ray: Ended up the meeting was not an open discussion. It was a “teaching” session about the auxano framework (picture frame) with a strong hint 50s+ group should step aside and be the support for the “younger” people

    Getting back to the Star Trek theme, I think our generation is viewed as Tribbles: cute and fun but in the way and far too numerous. “The Trouble with Tribbles”

    In my case, I knew nothing about Auxano until I confronted the board of elders on the sudden decision to cancel adult education (the Pastor or Discipleship” came into our class and announced the next one would be the last). It turned out that the board of elders was not all in agreement, which resulted in me getting a private inside look at what was going on. The senior pastor finally held a meeting with those interested. It turnes out it was a briefing with almost no opportunity for discussion. It was a done deal.

    Because Auxano seemed to have convinced church “leadership” that adult education did not fit the vision, I was unofficially told we would need to call our class a Life Group and we would need to find another time and place to meet because there would be no educational opportunities for adults on Sunday mornings. The message was we are leeches. Even “Bible studies” were discouraged because they did not fit the vision.

    Back then I did not know about New Calvinist takeovers. In hindsight, I believe it was an attempt by a young elder and part of the pastoral staff to start such a takeover. I had a pretty strong argument with that young elder, and my wife took great notes during the last meeting with the class that documented the displeship pastor lying to us. That young elder eventually left the board and the whole issue was dropped. But that pastor is still in place and I still see the movement toward New Calvinism. I don’t want to be there when it finally happens.

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  92. Nick Bulbeck: I don’t think there’s ever been a war between France and Croatia.

    As the 1794 poem so poetically put it: “Zakaj išli bi Horvati prot Francuzu vojevati” or “Why should the Croatians wage a war against the French?” But in the subsequent years many Croatians did just that. Then there were a series of skirmishes in the early 1940s when the *Independent* State of Croatia was allied with Der Fuehrer and France was allied with the Allies.
    IHTIH

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  93. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    “But that pastor is still in place and I still see the movement toward New Calvinism. I don’t want to be there when it finally happens.”

    The people left won’t know when “it” happened, in my experience. Most churches have a lot of tolerance for the new guys and want to cooperate. Many churches voted for him. They are personally invested. So, it’s a subtle reorganization usually done by enlisting a few influential people. Add to that, people don’t want to appear negative so they are overly careful questioning things. It’s a perfect set up. My former church was elated when the last Neo Cal pastor left. He absolutely used them, just about ravaged the church and then bragged in his last sermon the church was in better shape than ever as God was calling him to a mega a thousand miles away. No one said a word about his delusion. Just glad he was gone. Another year of looking and they just hired another young Neo Cal who I knew as extremely arrogant 10 years ago in another church before he got a mega staff pastor gig in another state. Shampoo, rinse, repeat.

    It’s like they learned nothing.

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  94. Ken F (aka Tweed): Getting back to the Star Trek theme, I think our generation is viewed as Tribbles: cute and fun but in the way and far too numerous. “The Trouble with Tribbles”

    Except while you and the pew-warmers are watching “The Trouble with Tribbles”, the twentysomething Truly Reformed Pastor is watching “Patterns of Force”.

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  95. Fisher: Well…some people with prophetic giftings in the American Body of Christ have been warning increasingly over the past few years that the judgement God is coming on America.

    Actually, Fisher, radio preachers have been SCREAMING that for decades:
    “GOD’S JUDGMENT FOR AMERICA’S SINS SITS READY AND WAITING IN THE NUCLEAR MISSILE SILOS OF THE SOVIET UNION!!!!!”

    Because of that, “Judgment of GOD Coming on America” to me will always mean Fear Manipulation by threat of Inevitable Global Thermonuclear War.

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  96. Lydia:
    Ken F (aka Tweed),

    “But that pastor is still in place and I still see the movement toward New Calvinism. I don’t want to be there when it finally happens.”

    The people left won’t know when “it” happened, in my experience. Most churches have a lot of tolerance for the new guys and want to cooperate. Many churches voted for him. They are personally invested. So, it’s a subtle reorganization usually done by enlisting a few influential people. Add to that, people don’t want to appear negative so they are overly careful questioning things. It’s a perfect set up. My former church was elated when the last Neo Cal pastor left. He absolutely used them, just about ravaged the church and then bragged in his last sermon the church was in better shape than ever as God was calling him to a mega a thousand miles away. No one said a word about his delusion. Just glad he was gone. Another year of looking and they just hired another young Neo Cal who I knew as extremelyarrogant 10 years ago in another church before he got a mega staff pastor gig in another state. Shampoo, rinse, repeat.

    It’s like they learned nothing.

    This is exactly why we felt led to stay and confront our pastor as a liar and deceiver. People in the church wanted to work with him when he first came because it was his first pastorate and we all wanted to help out. However, he never listened to anyone’s wisdom, concerns or advice. He was extremely arrogant and haughty for someone who had not been in the Lord’s service for very long. He could have learned from so many who had served the Lord for years, but he just saw us as a bunch of ignorant hicks!

    In a fairly short period of time, it became quite evident that he was leading the congregation down this (reformed) path. We confronted him with his non-disclosure of his adherence to reformed theology and thankfully, he took his ball and went home!

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  97. GSD [Getting Stuff Done]: I also think that the modern job description of “pastor” is something we’ve invented. And based on people I’ve known, the job can be highly toxic. For many, the pay is low, the expectations are unrealistic, and the pressure is significant and often unhealthy.

    Type example: my writing partner.

    He’s told me “The only way you can actually make a living as a pastor is to be crooked.”

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  98. Law Prof:

    So this talk of “pastoring” just can’t be understood in the light we put it.It would seem to be best understood as a humble servant, willing to die for others, doing the thankless stuff, shunning the spotlight and stage, going around to others and asking “How can I help you?What’s God saying to you?Forget about me, how can I support you, what God’s telling you?”That sounds like a pastor to me, like a humble shepherd.

    I don’t think the average church leader has any earthly clue what a pastor is—or has a clue that they certainly are not one.

    Yes. Others in this thread have speculated that different language is needed to describe the celebrity megapastors.

    My favored proposed term is “super-apostle”. They way Paul uses the term in the Corinthian correspondence seems to map reasonably well onto present day patterns.

    Good shepherds lay down their lives for those in their care. What we see today is not “sherpherding.”

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  99. Jack: Actually wemt to church last Sunday. Ok, I was bribed with the reward of breakfast afterwards.

    As I read this post and these comments and then reflect on the utter vacuousness of that sermon, I do not get the point of the exercise anymore.

    Breakfast was good though.

    Had to laugh, as that has been my recent experience.

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  100. Muff Potter: It’s almost as if there’s a part of the human makeup that wants to be told what to do. A part that does not want the responsibility of making its own decisions, owning them, and then living with them.

    Bingo! I have come to the conclusion that this avoidance of personal responsibility is the great ‘power’ that religious charlatans and other authoritarians have over seemingly naive people. It is so much easier to believe that it is someone else’s responsibility.

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  101. Ricco: If you care about “the local church” and the community, then large churches should send some members to smaller churches. Not to take them over, but to help them out.

    One of my former pastors (one of the good ones-I have had a number of those) used to tell people seeking membership that they might want to try to find another church since his was starting to get big.

    Unfortunately, he has retired and that wonderful church is now a typical ho hum Calvinista churches involved in building programs, etc., raising money for church plants so they can boast at the next conferences that they, too, are doing it. Yawn…

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  102. Ray,

    Many of these group have strong *do not talk* clauses in their contracts. It is next to impossible to find out what really happened.

    The SBC’s NAMB has a similar philosophy. I have been trying for years to find out the percentage of church fails in church plants. They ain’t talking.

    However, one thing we found out was Ed Stetzer who used to be the SBC’s resident church planting expert *all3gedly* failed in all of his church plants. Now he is working at Wheaton.

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  103. okrapod: This ‘situation’ (consensual adultery between co-equal adults not from the same church or community) did not need to splatter all over everything-for everybody’s sake since there was not and never had been any element of risk to anybody. The church has ways of dealing with individual sin, and forcing everybody’s face into the commode is not one of those ways. Private confession to a trained priest/ pastor has its uses.

    My former pastor, Pete Briscoe, who is now the leaders of a bug church with multiple campuses is one of the good guys out there. He handled a situation like you described in a wonderful and effective way. You might want to read about it. This is my go to example in these circumstances.

    The question regarding church discipline is this. Are you seeking punishment or seeking repentance and restoration? Obviously some circumstances require law enforcement. But a situation like you describe is not that.

    http://thewartburgwatch.com/2011/10/26/wade-burleson-and-pete-briscoe-two-pastors-who-really-get-it/

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  104. jyjames: Pastor Wade, holding out his candle for all to see (without posturing as a celeb):
    “It seems to me that we’ve got a problem with the issue of authority,” he continued. “For some reason we think men have authority over everybody else.”

    “When you take away this idea that men, particularly ministers, have authority over anybody, then you come to where Jesus is, to empower people in the way they are gifted by the Holy Spirit to serve in his kingdom,” Burleson said.

    Excellent. This article led me to an opinion piece, which I found to be instructive: https://baptistnews.com/article/doing-church-in-america-resetting-a-body-of-broken-bones/#.W0YbEn4nbYI

    I agree with the vast majority of what this author posits, with one, major exception: I believe we are all clowns.

    Contrary to what we have been programmed to believe, there is no separate class of clowns called ‘pastors’ who are called to do the work of protecting, encouraging and healing that broken people need. This is the task to which every believer is called. It is, in my opinion, this great error which has led the Institutional Church to this place of confusion, dysfunction and an unacceptable level of spiritual abuse.

    So-called ‘pastors’ have been turned into mere Ronald McDonald sort of celebrity clowns, enamored with laughter and applause, forgetting that the original rodeo clown’s task was to draw the attention of the raging beast off of the downed victim so he could be moved to safety.

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  105. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    This is an excellent comment on Auxano consulting.

    Also, Ken, this is an important comment because what happened to you happens to anyone who questions a *vision* and the use of tithes to complete that vision.

    have you ever thought about writing up your experience. We could post it and it could help others?

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  106. Root 66: in wishing to ‘partner’ with us. They came under the guise of wishing to use our building to start a new work in our town. This in and of itself sounds harmless enough, but there were already plenty of baptist churches in our town of 30,000, so it didn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense

    Root 66: Our church sits on four acres of prime real estate in a very nice part of town. We built an addition six years ago, and even it is nearly paid off.

    This is the point that I have been making with these posts. Your church had land, a great building. etc. Their goal was to come in,. partner with you, and eventually take your church over. This tactic miffs me off, big time. They are doing this in the Boston area-taking over some of the beautiful, historical churches. Unlike what many claim, Boston does have some long time great churches. I became a Christian at 17 and attended two of them.

    I loved the *new work* in town comment. The new work is them being in charge.

    Would you be interested writing up how this came about. I am thinking about posting some examples of hostile takeovers.

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  107. Max: In the case of New Calvinism, if you believe that you have come into the world for such a time as this to restore the gospel that the rest of the church has lost, you probably don’t give two hoots if you cause the rest of the churches to fold by attracting their members to your cool church. It was predestined, you know.

    Now this is a comment I will quote in the future and give you full credit, Max. Well said!

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  108. Judas Maccabeus,

    If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you will know that I am an unabashed Trekkie. I became a Christian during an episode of Star Trek which must be one of the weirdest conversion stories out there. You should see some of the blogs trying to prove that I am NOT a Christian due to my unique conversion.

    God used my fascination with the stars and the universe to bring me to him. That is why I post posts of pics of space on my posts.

    I am a 7 of 9 fan. I smile whenever she now shows up on episodes of Law and Order SVU and other series.

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  109. Max: In the case of New Calvinism, if you believe that you have come into the world for such a time as this to restore the gospel that the rest of the church has lost, you probably don’t give two hoots if you cause the rest of the churches to fold by attracting their members to your cool church. It was predestined, you know.

    Just like Extreme Islam — going Jihad and getting their heads handed to them as their predestined scheme blows up in their faces.
    “In’shal’lah… AL’LAH’U AKBAR!”

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  110. truthseeker00:
    truthseeker00,
    The victims are being trampled, while the ‘pastors’ are getting their coveted applause.

    It’s only the Lowborn tithing units in the pews — who cares?

    “I Got Mine,
    I Got Mine,
    The World’s The Way It’s Meant To Be,
    I GOT MINE!”

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  111. truthseeker00: Bingo! I have come to the conclusion that this avoidance of personal responsibility is the great ‘power’ that religious charlatans and other authoritarians have over seemingly naive people. It is so much easier to believe that it is someone else’s responsibility.

    Some 40 years ago, Computerworld magazine had a tongue-in-cheek editorial about organizations, and how the goal of corporate organization is Infinite Power with Zero Responsibility (a la Caligula). And that the perfect organization for this is “Vortical” — a spiraling whirlwind of Utter Chaos.

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  112. Samuel Conner: My favored proposed term is “super-apostle”. They way Paul uses the term in the Corinthian correspondence seems to map reasonably well onto present day patterns.

    Didn’t one of the most famous of them actually title himself “Head Apostle of the People of Destiny?” (chuckle chuckle)

    “If you run across anyone who has given himself the title “Apostle” or “Prophet”, RUN!
    — my writing partner (the burned-out preacher-man)

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  113. Husband suggested this morning renaming tithing units as cash cows. Might have merit.

    Another point re the money thing: was reminded that there was a time in the SBC when women were discouraged from working outside the home. (Bear with me–this isn’t a should women be employed or not point, but about official teaching.) Tithing was seen as legalistic and Baptists gave offerings since when it came to owing God anything, even the tithe, “Jesus paid it all.”

    But when this teaching of storehouse tithing came in, suddenly the Proverbs 31 lady was not a hardworking homemaker but rather was employed outside the home. (Again, let us not go on a tangent of is this good or bad.) Back at that time we in our household wondered why “last mother’s day and all we can remember used Titus 2, including v5. Now if Titus is referenced part of 2:5 is awol.)

    Ah, a stint in committee work revealed the truth: employed outside the home, the woman was now a second tithing unit in the family.

    Regardless of where you fall in the old debate on women working outside the home, should any change in teaching be based on number of tithing units? Folks may change their mind on what the Bible teaches fair and square, but the one basis that seems to me forbidden is “what will bring in the most bucks?”

    I wonder how many other theological changes have come not from better scholarship or better understanding but rather from a dollar driven pragmatism?

    Again, not arguing women should be taught to stay home. Just pointing out what was said about the reason for the change in teaching.

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  114. Texas Geehawd: None of it’s Christlike – neither the “mega church” idolatry of numbers, worldliness, and entertainment, nor the “little church” idolatry of love of country more than Jesus Christ. It’s all stewing in the same Christless pot of American evangelical rot.

    Right now as we speak, there’s a non-evangelical elderly couple who have taken in a woman and her two little ones from Guatemala. They keep them safe and hidden from the ICE patrols.

    Blow-hard Bill and his congregants can spout the ‘gospel’ from now until the blue hinges of hell are cool enough to touch and they still won’t ‘get’ what God’s Spell (gospel) is and what it means to be ‘saved’.

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  115. Law Prof: I hate lovebombing, because it’s fundamentally a lie, and the devil himself is the source of those lies. When we ventured out to visit churches, huge family and all, we’d be inundated with those lies and smiling faces, everyone wanted to make the big score and be the one who put the hooks into the huge family (probably because it elevated their standing in the church). Hated it and hated the manufactured “relationships” that “doin’ life together” produced. It’s the antithesis of true Christian fellowship.

    One of the things that attracted name to my present church was the friendliness of the pastors and church members. Not lovebombing. Just plain friendliness and kindness. They learned our names and used them. They let us get involved on our own timeframe which was 2 1/2 years!

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  116. dee:
    Judas Maccabeus,

    If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you will know that I am an unabashed Trekkie. I became a Christian during an episode of Star Trek which must be one of the weirdest conversion stories out there. You should see some of the blogs trying to prove that I am NOT a Christian due to my unique conversion.

    God used my fascination with the stars and the universe to bring me to him. That is why I post posts of pics ofspace on my posts.

    I am a 7 of 9 fan. I smile whenever she now shows up on episodes of Law and Order SVU and other series.

    Ive always had a cosmological obsession.

    Did not know your interest actually, but do recall your Trekkie mentions. It’s always been the pictures on the blog that caught my attention. I could see you might receive a hostile response to conversion.

    I served six years in the A.C.E. penitentiary. The worst educational system created by man. To this day I find Bill Gothard repulsive. You had to self teach yourself everything in life, because the goal of ACE was not to learn. I could never teach myself physics. No physics, no astro-physics.

    Ironically, I read your comment to take a break from pondering the Hubble Constant.

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  117. GSD [Getting Stuff Done],

    The church I worked for named all upper level executive positions “Pastor of…Communications, Assimilation, Missions, Adult Ministries…..”.

    I hate to be so cynical. This church does a lot for the community, but I’ve seen how the ‘sausage is made’ (southern term LOL). I know HOW MUCH MORE they could do if they stopped paying 10 people executive salaries & if they stopped having departmental multi-day retreats, did away with employee expense accounts. Stopped paying for the pastor’s luxury vacation every year. People have no idea where their tithe money goes! So little of it is actuallly put back into the congregation and/or community. They rely almost solely on volunteers to carry out the ministries, and people are happy to do it. They want to serve.

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  118. Texas Geehawd,

    You make some salient points. The institutional ‘Christian’ church has been a seething pit of snakes from its origination by Constantine. IMO, it is only due to the grace of God that anything good has come out of it, ever. Why do we think there are so many splintered off denominations and churches; why do churchmembers allow these takeovers? Because in their heart of hearts, most people are hoping and looking for something better than what they have seen so far. Most are too frightened of being left alone to admit that ‘church’ is not what it pretends to be. Besides, it allows us to check off our ‘good christian’ box. Besides, somebody has to marry and bury us, and don’t think the ‘church’ doesn’t know it.

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  119. truthseeker00: ‘pastors’ who are called to do the work of protecting, encouraging and healing that broken people need. This is the task to which every believer is called. It is, in my opinion, this great error which has led the Institutional Church to this place of confusion, dysfunction and an unacceptable level of spiritual abuse.

    … from called to do all the work, then collecting what has now become a hefty salary with perks (private planes), to the celebrity showpiece (who may or may not be doing a lot of work any more).

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  120. Root 66: This is exactly why we felt led to stay and confront our pastor as a liar and deceiver. People in the church wanted to work with him when he first came because it was his first pastorate and we all wanted to help out. However, he never listened to anyone’s wisdom, concerns or advice. He was extremely arrogant and haughty for someone who had not been in the Lord’s service for very long. He could have learned from so many who had served the Lord for years, but he just saw us as a bunch of ignorant hicks!

    In a fairly short period of time, it became quite evident that he was leading the congregation down this (reformed) path. We confronted him with his non-disclosure of his adherence to reformed theology and thankfully, he took his ball and went home!

    Reformed meaning getting the sheep in line, lockstep to follow orders from headquarters, headquarters meaning him, the new pastor. You didn’t fall for it – excellent.

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  121. Headless Unicorn Guy: Didn’t one of the most famous of them actually title himself “Head Apostle of the People of Destiny?” (chuckle chuckle)

    “If you run across anyone who has given himself the title “Apostle” or “Prophet”, RUN!
    — my writing partner (the burned-out preacher-man)

    You’ve surely heard of the “New Apostolic Reformation”. I don’t think it’s formally organized thing, but sort of a mind-set that is widespread among recent generations of some entrepreneurial (usually) conservative leaders in what the evangelical movement has been changing into. Yes, IIRC from what I have read, proto-SGM did use “apostle” as a description of a ministry function and did assign that to specific individuals.

    I’d like to think that “prophetic ministry” is a continuingly valid concept. The churches arguably have or should have a prophetic stance against injustice, for example. But assigning the title “prophet” to offices or people smacks of “new authoritative revelation” and is something, as you say, to run away from.

    Perhaps in the same way it would be valid to speak of church planting (real church planting in areas where there is no pre-existing christian testimony) as a form of “apostolic ministry.” But the title “apostle” carries so much theological freight (which is surely intended by many who assume or arrogate that to themselves) that it is best IMO avoided.

    “Super-apostle”, on the other hand IMO has continuing validity.

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  122. Texas Geehawd: Neither are “little churches” who love the flag more than the cross of Christ, who talk about Donald Trump more than they do about Jesus, who will turn out in droves for the Kid’s Musical, but can’t be bothered, shamed, pushed nor pulled to come to the prayer meeting of the church,

    All of this is present in mega churches. Take First Baptist Dallas with Robert Jeffress. That is a huge church. Also, the TGC boyz write constantly about members not coming to prayer meetings, etc.

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  123. Samuel Conner: I’d like to think that “prophetic ministry” is a continuingly valid concept. The churches arguably have or should have a prophetic stance against injustice, for example. But assigning the title “prophet” to offices or people smacks of “new authoritative revelation” and is something, as you say, to run away from.

    Also remember the word “prophet” originally meant “a mortal who speaks for a god”.
    But nowadays it means “a seer scrying the future” or otherwise acting like a fortuneteller.
    No “prophetic stance against injustice” but a fortune-telling show.

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  124. Ray: Ken, thank you for sharing your experience with me. I am in the early 50s. Last Sunday senior pastor invited 50s and above to a meeting about the future direction of church and about Auxano. The invitation email implied there would be discussions.
    Ended up the meeting was not an open discussion.

    When the word *discussion* is used in these churches, it means *shut up and listen to us discussing. They pulled that on me in my “former, local, screwed up the pedophile situation” church. The masked Sunday school leaders (adult) to come to a meeting and dinner would be provided. The invitation said there would be discussion. They had this plan to reach out to new people in the church. I looked at their plan and knew it would not be effective. But, being polite, I waited until the discussion time came. There was none. I went up to the pastor and said “This was supposed to be a discussion.” He said “It doesn’t ammeter, this is what we’re going to do.” I laughed and walked away, knowing it would fail and I wasn’t going to lift a finger to help.

    It failed. Rather quickly if I am remembering.

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  125. Fisher: some people with prophetic giftings in the American Body of Christ have been warning increasingly over the past few years that the judgement God is coming on America. I am inclined to believe them,

    Why America? Why not other countries that kill Christians, engage in trafficking and jihad, etc.

    I think there are lots of issues with America. But there are lots of issues everywhere. I would think if God we’re going to judge, every country would be on the list.

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  126. Texas Geehawd: You, the supposedly pure-as-the-wind-driven snow local, traditional church),

    Every week, my church has us confess our sins corporately. You may not like what we have to say, but neither us purport to be pure. You are a new reader to this blog so you haven’t read our 9 years of writing. Please do not start off as a new reader making accusations that are based on reading one post.

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  127. Texas Geehawd: And you froth and boil about “Worship Wars” – you started them with your unbelief in the power of Christ!

    Once again, as a new reader you are m making accusations and assumption which are not true.

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  128. Texas Geehawd: Can you not see there’s not a whit’s bit of difference between you’re precious, traditional local church and the megachurch than bandwidth, volume, and skinny jeans? Oh, and the fact that the mega church tends to vote for Hillary, and the traditional local church tends to vote for Trump.
    Pac Man churches? You’re the one that dropped the quarter in the slot.

    Ummmm…..once again, you make accusations and sound like a newbie with every stroke of the keyboard.

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  129. dee: All of this is present in mega churches. Take First Baptist Dallas with Robert Jeffress.

    Jeffress is one real piece of work.
    The MoG for whom Professor Fea coined the term “court evangelical” (as in flatterer to the rich and powerful).

    Thing is, there are THREE different forms of Teh Crazy in today’s American Evangelicals:

    1) The Neo-Cal Movement (AKA Chairman Calvin’s Red Guards), which is well-covered here at TWW.

    2) Charismatics Gone Wild/Spritual Warfare, like the Pagan Temple Screamers who killed Mother Teresa through imprecatory prayer and stormed the Demon Queen of Heaven’s fortress atop Mount Everest. Also covered here.

    3) But the third is the Christian Culture War Movement, where Jeffress’ public statements put him. Thing is, this branch of Christianese Crazy is HEAVILY political, and has been since the days of The Moral Majority. Though TWW has gotten into some of its issues with exposes of Vision Forum and/or Quiverfull/Reconstructionism, since this movement’s grafted itself onto politics like a conjoined twin, it gets bypassed by TWW’s rule against political threads/comments.

    To cover (3), I suggest a type of “non-overlapping magisteria”. TWW stays away from Culture War politics, but includes links to such blogs as John Fea and Wondering Eagle who DO expose this branch of Christianese Crazy and Corruption. And refers commenters who are getting too political for TWW to one of those blogs. Maybe a second specialized Blogroll with a referral statement at its top that “TWW does not cover the interface between Christian corruption and politics [for reason], but these blogs do.”

    Because (3) is as important as (1) & (2) when it comes to exposing corruption, and Political Power plus Utter Righteousness is a REAL dangerous combination.

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  130. dee: Why America? Why not other countries that kill Christians, engage in trafficking and jihad, etc.

    Because “All politics is local”, and this is just the Screaming Denouncing Prophet version of that.

    “And stop screaming. Nobody likes a religion with people screaming.”
    — The original Internet Monk, “I’m Weary of Weird Christians”

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  131. Anna: I hate to be so cynical. This church does a lot for the community, but I’ve seen how the ‘sausage is made’ (southern term LOL).

    A friend of mine is a member of the “Assimilation Church,” and he started asking questions about the finances. Turns out that the church knows that the congregation is aging rapidly, and the younger members don’t give as much as the older members. So, at some point, they are going to have to keep “making the sausage,” but with a much lower budget. And that will probably mean less staff.

    And if I was at a church with a Pastor of Assimilation, I would have to call him Locutus.

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  132. dee: Texas Geehawd,

    I just read your church’s website.

    http://www.graceinthecolony.org/?page_id=215

    After reading your comments here, I would tell people to avoid your church like the plague. Good night! What a way to introduce yourself to a group of people.

    Calvinism in a nutshell. Sorry to those here who ascribe to it, but after over a decade entertaining its notions, I am convinced that it leads to a deeply distorted picture of God, patriarchal oppression, arrogance and a disinterest in ‘the lost’ – most of whom, in their book, are actually ‘the rejected’. . It puts on a nice front to deceive needy people, but eventually leads to hopelessness and despair – and almost always authoritarian spiritual abuse.

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  133. Texas Geehawd,

    Uh, I really don’t know what to say other than in all frankness, you’re a bit unhinged, only marginally literate, and don’t really have a clear idea what you’re talking about or to whom you’re talking. I must say, though, when you say you’re pastored two churches, you sound a lot like a few of the pastors I’ve seen—and make about as much sense.

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  134. GSD [Getting Stuff Done]:
    Since we are discussing “pastors,” one of our local mini-megas had a staff member whose official title was “pastor of assimilation.”It was on the website.Sadly, that title has been changed, probably after a trekkie explained how silly the title sounded.Or how accurate the title actually was.

    I also think that the modern job description of “pastor” is something we’ve invented.And based on people I’ve known, the job can be highly toxic.For many, the pay is low, the expectations are unrealistic, and the pressure is significant and often unhealthy.I’ve seen it destroy families and wreck people’s faith.There are a few who can rig the system and take advantage of the perks, but they are the minority.

    Pastor of Assimilation. Yowzers! Talk about honesty in advertising.

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  135. ION: FItba’

    England’s unusual run has come to an end as they were beaten by Croatia in extra time.

    France are almost certain to be world champions on Sunday, though it would be extraordinary were Croatia to win.

    IHTIH

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  136. dee:
    Texas Geehawd,
    After reading your comments here, I would tell people to avoid your church like the plague. Good night! What a way to introduce yourself to a group of people.

    He does write like some wires got badly crossed and shorted out somewhere. He looks like a garden variety nebbish, the average innocuous uncle. But goodness, he writes like a lunatic!

    What in the world is it with so many of these pastors? I have seen so many bizarre, disjointed sermons, so many pastors who truly seemed mentally ill, deeply disturbed, confused, addled. Are many of them just flat out given over to the depraved mind described in Rom 1:28?

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  137. dee:
    Texas Geehawd,

    I just read your church’s website.

    http://www.graceinthecolony.org/?page_id=215

    After reading your comments here, I would tell people to avoid your church like the plague. Good night! What a way to introduce yourself to a group of people.

    Red Flag:
    The church’s official name includes the word “Grace”.
    Like the word “People’s Democratic” in the official name of a Third World dictatorship.

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  138. dee,

    Dee, you’re absolutely write and I apologize – my tone was completely inappropriate and angry for a newcomer and a Christian discussion – thank you for calling me out on it! I truly hope you will forgive me – I find this blog thought-provoking, and I look forward to engaging with it in a more Christlike and respectful manner in the future.

    Grace and peace, TG.

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  139. dee: Do you think those mini churches were all autonomous?

    I think so. Most were in buildings that were fairly well-worn. Didn’t have that corporate look to them that you have with campus type buildings. Signs would identify the denomination eg “First Baptist Church”, “Calvary Assemblies of God”, “St. so and so Episcopal church”. We made a family game out of counting them – punchbuggy style. If they fit a couple of hundred people each, I’d be surprised.

    Many looked like community halls, some were traditional church type buildings. If I were to describe the area along the highway, I would say working class and smaller farms.

    Houston had more megas – we drove by Joel Osteen’s stadium – that isn’t a mega…it looks like a city unto itself!

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  140. Texas Geehawd:
    dee,

    Dee, you’re absolutely write and I apologize – my tone was completely inappropriate and angry for a newcomer and a Christian discussion – thank you for calling me out on it! I truly hope you will forgive me – I find this blog thought-provoking, and I look forward to engaging with it in a more Christlike and respectful manner in the future.

    Grace and peace, TG.

    Text. Always nice to have a fresh face.

    I checked out the link, but not past the 1689 Confession page. The Confession means a lot to you, I presume. Can I ask you how we make you feel?

    It’s a sincere question.

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  141. Texas Geehawd,

    Texas, I have a serious question for you. I looked at your church website, and you are obviously reformed, so in the corridors of God’s sovereignty, he called the elect, and then justified them, he predestined their election and justification, I get that is your position, my question is , what about your sanctification, has that been predestined, God ordained from the foundation of the world, or does your free will have any part in the sanctification process?

    Is your default setting that if a seemingly saved individual, does not go on to sanctification, then they must have been deceived, and were actually not one of the elect. Or does God grant an elect person the free will to go on to perfection, as the Apostle Paul speaks of. I am studying Calvinism/reformed theology, and I am getting opinions all over the ball park from Calvinist….

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  142. truthseeker00: ‘the lost’ – most of whom, in their book, are actually ‘the rejected’

    … and the very folks that Jesus went out of his way to embrace, in the highways and the byways.

    “But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous,” said Jesus. Luke 14.13 and so on.

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  143. Lydia,

    Put the dollars on the screen, project throughout the satellites, and see how that pays the bills. Dollars on screen for the bill collectors. Jailhouse time or bankruptcy court would be real, eventually.

    Faith can be real, or simply fantasy which is foolishness and results in folly. We cannot see God, but we certainly can see how people live out what they believe. Character and consequences. Stay grounded, stay sober, our elders have said.

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  144. Benn: Is your default setting that if a seemingly saved individual, does not go on to sanctification, then they must have been deceived, and were actually not one of the elect.

    Good luck trying to find a Calvinist who will fully address this. I’ve been trying for months and finally found this: http://thirdmill.org/answers/answer.asp/file/48941. It’s the only defense I have been able to find, but it still does not answer the question of how anyone can know for sure that they are experiencing real saving grace and not false/vanishing grace. This link is not pleasant to read.

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  145. Fisher: Well…some people with prophetic giftings in the American Body of Christ have been warning increasingly over the past few years that the judgement God is coming on America.

    I’ve often wondered if it’s judgement by the active fiat of the Almighty, or if he just lets nations reap the consequences of their own idiocy.

    Since the United States is not ancient Israel, it’s a fair question; how much of that stuff from the Hebrew Bible can be hueyed (helicoptered) out of that then and there and into our here and now?

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  146. dee: have you ever thought about writing up your experience. We could post it and it could help others?

    I doubt that my case is very applicable to most people because it does not fit the playbook very well. The senior pastor is a humble man and one of the best teachers I have ever encountered. He has become a rock star for the church, but I don’t think he ever wanted to be one. I believe he is under internal pressure to find a way to hold it together because if he faulters all the recent newcomers will move on to the next shiny object and the church could fail. He has painted himself into a corner by preaching too well. People flock to the church mostly because of him.

    The other thing that is different is how I have been a burr under the saddle for the pastor and one of the elders. I went through the Auxano experience before I learned about New-Calvinism. So I did not yet know the playbook. When the Auxano thing happened I got invited to a meeting of three elders, but accidently short-circuited the effort of the younger elder by talking with the other two elders first. It turned out that the younger elder wanted to put me through church discipline, but I accidently short-circuited that by smoking him out when I called him to talk about it. He prides himself on being very calm but ended up getting in a yelling match with me in which I refused to budge and called him out for incorrectly applying Matt 18. I did finally agree to the meeting with the three eldera and a date was set. But I asked via email for a list of things they wanted to talk about and I gave them a list of the things I wanted to talk about. When I did not get their list on the morning of the meeting I called it off. My phone and my wife’s phone started ringing but ignored the calls and went out of town to visit friends. I insisted on them giving me the list. When we finally had the meeting it was also with most of the elders and it was like a big “Roseanne Roseannadanna” moment. The transcribed short-hand notes my wife took from an earlier meeting left them without much to say. All of a sudden the whole issue was dropped as soon as it came.

    After the dust settled from that I started learning about New-Calvinism and discovered TWW. That is when I started poking the senior pastor and the one elder who remained friendly with me. They kept insisting that the church was not becoming Calvinist, nut I kept dounting and kept showing them all thhe evidence that they were leaning Calvinist. I think the Calvinism push is more from the other staff pastors – they very clearly push Calvinist theology when they fill in for the senior pastor. But even the senior pastor has seemed to fall for it lately as he has been sounding much more like Piper and has been quoting Piper. That is why I knew I had to leave.

    I had been trying to find a way to stay, which why I kept asking so many questions. My wife got a bit irritated with me and asked me why I had to push so hard. She was wondering if my TWW reading me made me too worried. But now she is seeing the same thing and agrees it was time to leave. When we left there was no pressure to stay and I think the senior pastor felt bad about how thhings turned out.

    I felt like the church was heading toward New-Calvinism a few years ago and I ended up being the sacrificial anode that prevented it. But I think all I might have done was delay the inevitable.

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  147. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    It seems to me that Calvinists cannot in a persuasive way show how a person could be assured that his present subjective experience would not at some point in the future turn out, retrospectively assessed, to have been “evanescent faith.” I think that if one drills down, one arrives at the conclusion that the notional “full assurance of faith” is simply “fallible subjective belief that one is experiencing full assurance of faith.”

    Personally, I think Calvinists should not worry about this; their confidence in God’s sovereignty should give them enough peace to get by from day to day, and their confidence in God’s justice and their delight in the manifestation of His glory in wrath (“the abominable fancy”) should give them solace that even if they turn out to be among the reprobate, that is an objectively good thing.

    That sounds a bit snarky but it isn’t meant to be. I think that straight-up Calvinism is an unstable mental posture. Something eventually gives. For me, it was infernalism. For others, it may be “compassion for the lost”, or other things that one ought to not let go of.

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  148. dee:
    Molly245,

    Thank you for this great comment. Do you think anyone who was involved in this takeover would speak with me?

    I will certainly check with my sources and if any are willing I will have them email you.

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  149. Samuel Conner: Personally, I think Calvinists should not worry about this; their confidence in God’s sovereignty should give them enough peace to get by from day to day, and their confidence in God’s justice and their delight in the manifestation of His glory in wrath (“the abominable fancy”) should give them solace that even if they turn out to be among the reprobate, that is an objectively good thing.

    What you wrote is what Samuel Hopkins taught based on what he understood from Jonathan Edwards. See https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1801-1900/samuel-hopkins-unusual-theology-11630343.html
    “One of his central ideas was that a person must love God so much as to be willing to be damned if that is for God’s glory.”

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  150. dee: This is an excellent comment on Auxano consulting.

    If you are willing to write a post I will help you find info. In the church I recently quit there was a small group of people who worked with Auxano. There was no denial about it, but they also did not advertise it. One of the elders tried to get me excited about the vision Auxano helped the church create. I told him it was a complete waste of money and asked him why the congregation was not asked to participate. I picked it apart in front if him. I aksed him if the elders lost the ability to hear from the Holy Spirit. I think they naively got themselves liquored up on the idea of using a consultent without giving it any critical thought. It was so terrible that they never actually rolled it out. It was good that they did not, because it would have never worked. My challenge is not to view them with contempt for wasting money on such a shoddy consultant.

    I did everything I could to warn them. As much as I did not want to abandon the church I had to leave to get out if the way of what I think is a foolish path they are pursuing. Some things can only be learned the hard way.

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  151. Ken F (aka Tweed): “One of his central ideas was that a person must love God so much as to be willing to be damned if that is for God’s glory.”

    Their god (small ‘g’ intentional) makes me think of Palpatine and Snoke.

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  152. Lydia: Add to that, people don’t want to appear negative so they are overly careful questioning things. It’s a perfect set up.

    And add to that the avoidant Southern Bible Belt culture (bless their hearts…). A problem cannot be fixed until it can be talked about and recognized as a problem.

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  153. Fisher,

    They also don’t go into ethnic neighborhoods or the inner city.I live in a large West Coast city where most ethnic congregations are small and struggling. The healthier ethnic congregations are sponsored by medium-sized (under 500) churches, for the most part.

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  154. Ken F (aka Tweed): What you wrote is what Samuel Hopkins taught based on what he understood from Jonathan Edwards. See https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1801-1900/samuel-hopkins-unusual-theology-11630343.html
    “One of his central ideas was that a person must love God so much as to be willing to be damned if that is for God’s glory.”

    I think that’s a valid extrapolation from Edwards’ ideas about the nature of virtue (and I think these have a lot of merit — “public-spiritedness” is surely an unalloyed good). I think that this is also probably an implication of what John Piper has popularized of Edwards’ theology, though I haven’t encountered this specific concept in what I have read of Piper.

    Again not intending to be snarky, it seems to me that God as envisioned in Calvin’s system (and a lot of Protestantism beyond the Reformed movement substantially agrees, with differences primarily on the question of “who decides who ends up in eternal torment?”) is a bit like “Roko’s Basilisk” — the terror of which permanently fixes the attention of whoever takes it seriously. There’s not much “joy in the Lord” in the Calvinist way of being (if one is consistent), what with the continual fear that one may fail to make sure one’s election and calling. It seems that all obedience becomes a self-assurance project rather than an expression of love of God and neighbor.

    My observation is that in the end one is likely to subside into a kind of exhausted complacency with respect to one’s own destiny (it’s predetermined, after all) that is parallel to what others have noted about lack of interest in outreach to outsiders.

    Having said that, I think that similar criticisms (personal complacency/easy believism/cheap grace) might be made of broader evangelicalism.

    So Calvinism looks really problematic. But is the problem simply monergism / predestinarianism? I don’t think so. David B Hart, for example, in his “The Moral Meaning of Creatio Ex Nihilo”. makes a persuasive case that the problems that arise in one’s view of God within Calvinism are also present in Arminianism; the problem is not “who decides” but with the conception of ultimate dereliction itself.

    —–

    One of my beefs with infernalism (beyond the fundamental question of how clearly it is actually taught in Scripture) is that this view seems to make all exertion, whether in one’s own interest, or in the interests of others, fundamentally rooted in a terrible fear. And that seems incompatible with how it seems to me followers of Jesus are called to live — love of God and love of neighbor.

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  155. Ken F (aka Tweed): Good luck trying to find a Calvinist who will fully address this. I’ve been trying for months and finally found this: http://thirdmill.org/answers/answer.asp/file/48941. It’s the only defense I have been able to find, but it still does not answer the question of how anyone can know for sure that they are experiencing real saving grace and not false/vanishing grace. This link is not pleasant to read.

    Oh my, Ken. I remember when I first mentioned Evanescent Grace, taught by Calvin, here at TWW. You were flabbergasted that there could be such a teaching. I often wonder if this teaching was driving Calvin in his views on predestination, and a host of other teachings. For certain, it is dastardly at its core.

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  156. Texas Geehawd:
    dee,

    Dee, you’re absolutely write and I apologize – my tone was completely inappropriate and angry for a newcomer and a Christian discussion – thank you for calling me out on it! I truly hope you will forgive me – I find this blog thought-provoking, and I look forward to engaging with it in a more Christlike and respectful manner in the future.

    Grace and peace, TG.

    You have me confused, and I have to wonder what in thunder got into you in the first place, but an apology is more than we typically get around here. I know it wasn’t directed to me necessarily, but to Dee, but thanks for making it. Hope all goes well and you get on well here if you wish to hang around.

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  157. dee: Why America? Why not other countries that kill Christians, engage in trafficking and jihad, etc.

    I think there are lots of issues with America. But there are lots of issues everywhere. I would think if God we’re going to judge, every country would be on the list.

    I did not intend to comment about other countries, only to say I believe God’s patience with our nation is running out.

    And why? Because, “of whom much has been given, much is required.” Many nations such as China, Myanmar, or Pakistan never claimed to be Christian, never had the gospel uniformly distributed across their society as America once did, and therefore do not have the same responsibility before God that America as a nation bears for walking away from Him.

    God will bring all nations into judgement on the final day. In the meantime, God deals with nations depending on where they are in the cycle of: hearing the gospel, responding, accepting and then walking away. We can’t expect God to judge a nation which has never embraced the gospel as a society in the same way he judges one which has (or once did).

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  158. Muff Potter,

    I think your “reap what you sow” comment is probably pretty close to the truth as far as nations are concerned. Pharoah hardened his own heart before GOD gave him what he wanted and did the same.

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  159. Darlene: I remember when I first mentioned Evanescent Grace, taught by Calvin, here at TWW. You were flabbergasted that there could be such a teaching.

    Combine it with the Calvinist teaching that God only does things to please and glorify himself, and you get a god who delights in deceiving people and then sending them to eternal conscious torment for falling for the deception. How sick.

    I am glad you made a point of this. Seeing it through to its logical end is quite disturbing.

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  160. Ken F (aka Tweed): Combine it with the Calvinist teaching that God only does things to please and glorify himself, and you get a god who delights in deceiving people and then sending them to eternal conscious torment for falling for the deception. How sick.

    I am thinking that this is not what they are thinking-that somebody is damned for falling for the deception. Would they not be saying that these people were foreordained to damnation, totally regardless of whatever they might think or do?

    I can’t make head or tails of the whole deception issue. But then, sometimes some things sound crazy because they are crazy.

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  161. okrapod: I am thinking that this is not what they are thinking-that somebody is damned for falling for the deception. Would they not be saying that these people were foreordained to damnation, totally regardless of whatever they might think or do?

    It looks to me like Calvin described two types of reprobate: those who never believed and those who were given a false and temporary faith. He wrote this about the latter:
    – “but the Lord, the better to convict them, and leave them without excuse, instills into their minds…”
    – “Nor do I even deny that God illumines their mind to this extent … there is nothing inconsistent in this with the fact of his enlightening some with a present sense of grace, which afterwards proves evanescent.”

    If this is not deception then I don’t know what is. I’ve read that section of Institutes many times and have not been able to find a way out of the fact that Calvin taught that God purposely deceives some, but not all, of the reprobate. All for his glory, of course.

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  162. okrapod: I am thinking that this is not what they are thinking-that somebody is damned for falling for the deception.Would they not be saying that these people were foreordained to damnation, totally regardless of whatever they might think or do?

    Yes, I think that’s how they view it.

    But however one views it, it’s a deeply troubling vision of “who God is” — something that I have heard adherents concede, and that I conceded when I thought that this view was the right view. But then the comeback is something on the order of, “but that’s the way it is, and if we don’t delight in that, our failure to delight is a deficiency in us.”

    As David B. Hart puts it, the decision to worship such a god rather than satan would appear to be at best a matter of prudence. Again, the analogy to Roko’s Basilisk beckons.

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  163. okrapod: somebody is damned for falling for the deception.

    I should have added that it appears Calvin does not punish them because they are deceived, but that he judges them more harshly than the regular reprobate. This is based on this statement of his: “the better to convict them…” Why do some reprobate need better conviction than others? And why would that better conviction be based on what he did to deceive them? It would have been better for Calvin to have not stated this, but he did. And he must have had a reason for doing so.

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  164. Law Prof,

    “Great Move of God”

    A-a-a-h yes. How could I have forgotten? “This is the move of God for this generation.” I believed it at the time. When I was at Bible college, I learned the sequence of doctrinal development throughout church history. For some reason (I was schizophrenic at the time and consequently had some strange ideas) I thought that the next area to be expanded on and the clarified was the church (ecclesiology), even though it had already occurred. While at that church, I assumed that the Restoration Movement (restoring the Tabernacle of David [style of worship], bringing God’s presence in a special way [David placed the Ark there]) was performing that function. (I later realized that Solomon combined what one of their writers called the silent ritual of the Tabernacle of Moses and the audible worship of the Tabernacle of David. I later read that the two tabernacles created confusion in Israel.)

    Gene Edwards, in his book “Letters to a Devastated Christian”, stated that it takes a hundred years of hindsight to determine if a movement fit the above claim. He also wrote that what is not stated directly may be implied, also true of our pastor. One man I knew, during the last meeting with the pastor and witnesses before he and his family left the church, wrote me that he had (in so many words) cross questioned the pastor. The answers were actually pretty good, but he had a way of implying what he did NOT say. He reportedly told the pastor that, instead of a flock where sheep went hither and thither as sheep do, the pastor wanted a giant sheep that was fully under his control.

    A guest speaker used the analogy of David and his mighty men, saying that if we followed our “David” (pastor), we would also become “mighty men”. There certainly was a no-talk rule. One form of bullying is requiring people to meet unnecessary requirements in order for any of their criticisms to be listened to. (There is only one requirement: is what is said true or partly true? Never what you think of the person’s character and work, and/or how it was said, eg harsh, even hateful etc.) At my final discipline meeting, I was told that in so many words that I wasn’t spiritually qualified to question those present, for example. The pastor characteristically resented and was resistant to criticism. Receiving criticism from at most one or more others that we respect enough is a sop to our pride.

    Thank you for your observations.

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  165. Law Prof,

    I, too; but OTOH, Croatia have never been in the final before and they’ve a population of (I think) around 10 megafolk. I won’t condescend to use the word “fairytale”, but it would be a great sporting story if they win on Sunday. So, although I love pretty much all things French, I think I’ll be rooting for Croatia in the final.

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  166. Law Prof,

    The church did many things but none of them really well. One of them was a Bible School, using a curriculum from the flagship church in Portland. I audited an evening class on the church. Interestingly the “textbook” warned against authoritarianism, eg listing characteristics of non-authoritarian pastors along with the equivalent authoritarian characteristics (spreads an awe or fear of himself among the people, overly conscious of being the “horse’s mouth” or final authority [by my observation, those who spend the most time talking about their being the horse’s mouth spend the most time being another part of the horse’s anatomy],etc). The pastor, when teaching the course, told us that, where course material and our church practices differ, we were to go by the latter. The writer didn’t have experience pastoring a church; he did. (See, if you have experience, you must be right; if you don’t, you must be wrong [!].)

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  167. B Badger:
    Law ProfA guest speaker used the analogy of David and his mighty men, saying that if we followed our “David” (pastor), we would also become “mighty men”. There certainly was a no-talk rule. One form of bullying is requiring people to meet unnecessary requirements in order for any of their criticisms to be listened to. (There is only one requirement: is what is said true or partly true? Never what you think of the person’s character and work, and/or how it was said, eg harsh, even hateful etc.) At my final discipline meeting, I was told that in so many words that I wasn’t spiritually qualified to question those present, for example. The pastor characteristically resented and was resistant to criticism. Receiving criticism from at most one or more others that we respect enough is a sop to our pride.

    Thank you for your observations.

    Sure am glad you got out of that place. They pretty well ticked all the boxes, didn’t they? And I’ll bet there were some kind people, some genuine Christians there, either trying desperately to imagine that all’s OK and pastor means well or hanging around and trying desperately to change him, to be a light. There always seem to be. Usually it’s a waste of time, in my experience. I don’t know his heart, of course, and can’t know where he stands with God, but the fruits sound absolutely horrific and the actions seem more like a cynical, extremely narcissistic hater of God and His children.

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  168. B Badger: A guest speaker used the analogy of David and his mighty men, saying that if we followed our “David” (pastor), we would also become “mighty men”.

    Given what comes out about Celebrity Pastor/Apostles, they also become “Mighty Men” in the sense of the Mungojerry song (1965, B side of “In the Summertime” single):

    “Gonna git you in my bed;
    Gonna do it to you all night long
    Gonna do just what I said;
    I’m a Mighty Mighty Mighty Man!
    I’M A MIGHTY MIGHTY MAN!
    (chik chik chik — HA!)
    (chik chik chik — HA!)”

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  169. Ken F (aka Tweed): Why do some reprobate need better conviction than others? And why would that better conviction be based on what he did to deceive them? It would have been better for Calvin to have not stated this, but he did. And he must have had a reason for doing so.

    Because the reprobate disagrees with Calvin’s theology?
    This could be some of Calvin’s personal baggage showing through. (Like Augustine.)

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  170. Samuel Conner: As David B. Hart puts it, the decision to worship such a god rather than satan would appear to be at best a matter of prudence.

    i.e. Suck Up to Comrade Dear Leader as a matter of sheer survival.
    Who holds the Biggest Whip?

    Again, the analogy to Roko’s Basilisk beckons.

    “Roko’s Basilisk”?

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  171. jyjames: truthseeker00: ‘the lost’ – most of whom, in their book, are actually ‘the rejected’
    … and the very folks that Jesus went out of his way to embrace, in the highways and the byways.

    Sometimes all that keeps me in this is remembering that Rabbi from Nazareth snubbed the Righteous God Squad types and hung out with messed up freaks & losers like me and the guys I run into in Fandoms.

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  172. Samuel Conner: My favored proposed term is “super-apostle”. They way Paul uses the term in the Corinthian correspondence seems to map reasonably well onto present day patterns.

    And he does NOT use it as a complement.

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  173. There is another application of the four generation types. The first person to describe the cycle in detail was a 14th century Bedouin who observed desert dynasties.

    A dynasty forms around a strong and powerful leader, shaped by the rigours of the desert life. The second generation moves into the palace and lives out of the abundance assembled by the first generation, perpetuating the values second-hand. The third generation enjoys and extends the good life while yearning for a return to the vitality of the grandfathers. Towards the end of the third generation the dynamism had been completely lost and decline has set in. The fourth generation, lacking the character or a values system that will sustain the dynasty, surrenders any remaining prestige and succumbs to a new dynasty that repeats the cycle.

    Re the comment in an earlier thread about denominations having a life cycle (thank you), would the above apply to churches, denominations, businesses, even the Mafia? (I read earlier that the forth generation Mafia is coming apart: arrested mafiosi singing like canaries vs honouring the code of omerta (silence), younger members using drugs.)

    In the mid 70’s, I heard that Dr Ian Rennie addressed some Alliance pastors from one who claimed to have been there. After citing some denominations that gone liberal in their fourth generation, he told them that the ball was in their court since they were the generation that would influence the Alliance fourth generation (or were they part of that fourth generation?). In the first half of the 90’s, the president of the Canadian Alliance at least sounded like he was late third generation: we are at a crossroads, will we be able to keep our distinctives?, we need revival.

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  174. B Badger: A guest speaker used the analogy of David and his mighty men, saying that if we followed our “David” (pastor), we would also become “mighty men”. There certainly was a no-talk rule.

    It really is hard to fathom how and why reasonable and intelligent people in the 21st century would want to follow the ethos and methods of bronze-age dessert tribal chieftains.

    Then again it’s not so hard to figure out.
    If you (generic you) can give it a ‘Biblical’ coat of paint, you automatically confer upon it an aura of unquestioned legitimacy.
    And who wants to question the authority of ‘God’s Word’?

    It’s a perfect storm, like two huge low pressure systems colliding in the Atlantic, and it will almost always guarantee docile and compliant congregants.

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  175. Headless Unicorn Guy: Given what comes out about Celebrity Pastor/Apostles, they also become “Mighty Men” in the sense of the Mungojerry song (1965, B side of “In the Summertime” single):

    “Gonna git you in my bed;
    Gonna do it to you all night long
    Gonna do just what I said;
    I’m a Mighty Mighty Mighty Man!
    I’M A MIGHTY MIGHTY MAN!
    (chik chik chik — HA!)
    (chik chik chik — HA!)”

    Also reminds me of the “In the Summertime” side of that record:

    “If her daddy’s rich, take her out for a meal,
    if her daddy’s poor, just do what ya feel.”

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  176. Muff Potter:It’s a perfect storm, like two huge low pressure systems colliding in the Atlantic, and it will almost always guarantee docile and compliant congregants.

    You’re quite right except when you challenge the legitimacy of the leader who’s been abusing them, slapping them in the face, as Paul put it in II Corinthians. Then they become ferocious congregants, willing to slip the knife into your back if the leader so much as gives them a little nod.

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  177. Ken F (aka Tweed)
    I had been trying to find a way to stay, which why I kept asking so many questions. My wife got a bit irritated with me and asked me why I had to push so hard. She was wondering if my TWW reading me made me too worried.But now she is seeing the same thing and agrees it was time to leave. When we left there was no pressure to stay and I think the senior pastor felt bad about how things turned out.

    Reminds me of the home front tussle I had with my wife when I told her our church was up to no good and listing into authoritarian neo-Calvinism. Piper wasn’t preached much from the pulpit, though the young fellows who were filling out the elder board and small group teaching roles in the church absolutely considered the guy a demigod. Some were even planning visits or moves up to Minneapolis. Having lived there and heard his addled, flakey, nerd-narcissist vibe in person, I repeatedly told them the guy wasn’t even all that well-regarded in Minnesota and they were wasting their time following this odd little guy.

    Anyway, back to the main point, that was the hardest part, dealing with the fight at home as well as at church. I was meeting privately with elders and the head pastor, seeing if there was any possibility of reasoning with them, and watching head pastor bristle and shout incoherent, irrational nonsense when you confronted him, even politely, with a glaring inconsistency, then dealing with a spouse at home who was desperate to keep up some measure of a social life, as she’d made some good friends there, and didn’t want to lose what she had, so she rationalized away a lot of ugliness coming from the leadership. We finally left with an enormous bang, but the fight on both fronts was exhausting. Leaving a church wears you out.

    And then it was my turn to seek out a bad church on the rebound, and then I was the delusional spouse keeping us in an unhealthy place, trying to pretend things were OK, with my wife trying to reason with me, until my eyes were finally opened. The roles had completely flipped.

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  178. dee:
    Ray,
    Many of these group have strong *do not talk* clauses in their contracts. It is next to impossible to find out what really happened.

    Ah. Thanks for reminding me about “NDA”. No wonder I cannot find any comment or talk about personal experience going through their system. All the messages I found are tightly controlled marketing messages. I looked up Auxano founder’s background looks like he has strong ties with Acts29 group.

    https://www.willmancini.com/blog/same-grit-new-love-the-church-values-of-mark-driscolls-new-church-plant-the-trinity-church

    I started reading TWW because of PP and came across alot of info associated with Acts29 and TGC group of church. When I found out Auxano’s founder has strong ties, by alert went up but I could find and reviews from “Tribbles”.

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  179. Law Prof: dealing with the fight at home as well as at church

    Thanks for sharing – happens often probably. Complementarianism divides the collaboration of a couple, weakens their gift-sharing, their marriage, their discernment from two perspectives (iron sharpens iron but when the wife is no longer deemed iron…) helping each other stay on guard in the larger social setting of the church.

    An anthology of couple stories in churches would be an incredible book to read.

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  180. Muff Potter: It really is hard to fathom how and why reasonable and intelligent people in the 21st century would want to follow the ethos and methods of bronze-age dessert tribal chieftains.

    Then again it’s not so hard to figure out.
    If you (generic you) can give it a ‘Biblical’ coat of paint, you automatically confer upon it an aura of unquestioned legitimacy.
    And who wants to question the authority of ‘God’s Word’?

    It’s a perfect storm, like two huge low pressure systems colliding in the Atlantic, and it will almost always guarantee docile and compliant congregants.

    Neither evil nor error have an independent existence. God can create neither, and the Devil cannot create. Both of these, however, can be misused, distorted. The price of fame and influence, whether for good or ill, is essentially the same: costly and multi-faceted. “To be greatly and effectively wicked a man needs some virtue. What would Attila have been without his courage or Shylock without self-denial as regards the flesh?” – C S Lewis, “The Screwtape Letters” Lewis, in “The Last Battle”, implied that error must be mixed with truth to be greatly effective.

    To gain a position of leadership through one’s own efforts and, more significantly, leave those directly affected by one’s leadership willing to accept a line of heirs as replacement is a significant achievement. The Bedouin’s implication is that the founder’s rugged life motivated virtues and disciplines which were progressively lost through ease and pleasure. (A life of ease and pleasure vs merely times of needed rest and recreation was fine for the Garden and will be appropriate for Heaven, but sin has made that lifestyle dangerous.) The model is in any case meant to apply to various organizations regardless of their overall benefit or harm.

    Neither Billy Graham nor Adolph Hitler were going anywhere before they developed a sense of purpose for their lives. Purpose and consequent diligence gave them energy, creativity, and personal magnetism. Both had a strong belief system, strongly believed in what they were doing (Graham attributed his unusual success in selling Fuller Brush products to his sincerity and applied it to selling his message), were highly motivational speakers, were able to get large numbers of people to help them, etc.

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  181. Law Prof: Also reminds me of the “In the Summertime” side of that record:

    “If her daddy’s rich, take her out for a meal,
    if her daddy’s poor, just do what ya feel.”

    A real hoot was when some commercial (Viagra? Depends?) used “In the Summertime” as a jingle to target a Baby Boomer audience. Apparently not realizing it’s a song about cruising to get laid (and in your excerpt, even Rape if there’s little or no consequences).

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  182. B Badger: There is another application of the four generation types. The first person to describe the cycle in detail was a 14th century Bedouin who observed desert dynasties.

    1) A dynasty forms around a strong and powerful leader, shaped by the rigours of the desert life.

    2) The second generation moves into the palace and lives out of the abundance assembled by the first generation, perpetuating the values second-hand.

    3) The third generation enjoys and extends the good life while yearning for a return to the vitality of the grandfathers. Towards the end of the third generation the dynamism had been completely lost and decline has set in.

    4) The fourth generation, lacking the character or a values system that will sustain the dynasty, surrenders any remaining prestige and succumbs to a new dynasty that repeats the cycle.

    Sounds like the shared Chinese/Western proverb “Rags to Riches to Rags in three generations” except for FOUR generations.

    Or the Chinese saying that the life of a Dynasty is 300 years — 100 to correct the abuses that toppled the previous Dynasty, 100 at the peak of their glory, and 100 to decline until the final fall.

    Though the Bedouin version also echoes the hypermasculinity of their culture, kinda like the variant of the “Communist Rules for Revoluton” urban legend which ends every “rule” in its checklist with “Destroy their Ruggedness”. And the Guns & Ammo and Soldier of Fortune editorials I read on the magazine racks during my Cal Poly days.

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  183. jyjames: Thanks for sharing – happens often probably. Complementarianism divides the collaboration of a couple, weakens their gift-sharing, their marriage, their discernment from two perspectives (iron sharpens iron but when the wife is no longer deemed iron…) helping each other stay on guard in the larger social setting of the church.

    An anthology of couple stories in churches would be an incredible book to read.

    It’s all about weakening the ties that ought to be strong and strengthening the ties that ought to be weak. So the husband-wife relationship is weakened, the parent-child relationship ends up with the leader of the church interjecting himself or herself into the relationship, attempting to make the children more loyal to him than to the parents and the immediate family. And the idea that your relationship with and loyalty to a church leader (who may not know you well at all or in any manner at all) should be paramount is anathema to the reality that if we know Jesus, we are all priests of essentially equal standing before God, all capable of hearing from Him and following what He guides us to do.

    Anyone who tries to put themselves between you and Jesus and uses their title to justify it, cares nothing about what Jesus said as quoted by Matthew in 23:8-10. They just don’t care about you and they just don’t care about Jesus if they ignore this. He could hardly have been more clear.

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  184. Headless Unicorn Guy: A real hoot was when some commercial (Viagra? Depends?) used “In the Summertime” as a jingle to target a Baby Boomer audience. Apparently not realizing it’s a song about cruising to get laid (and in your excerpt, even Rape if there’s little or no consequences).

    Too many Mungo Jerry pastors out there.

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  185. Headless Unicorn Guy,

    It would be better to google for a description, but it may be worthwhile to justify the analogy. The mythical basilisk killed with its gaze; Roko’s version may, if you gaze upon the idea of it too intently, damage your mental health. That’s the analogy I see with the god of calvinist understandings of predestinarianism (and arguably, though less intensely, infernalism generally).

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  186. Law Prof: Sure am glad you got out of that place.They pretty well ticked all the boxes, didn’t they?And I’ll bet there were some kind people, some genuine Christians there, either trying desperately to imagine that all’s OK and pastor means well or hanging around and trying desperately to change him, to be a light.There always seem to be.Usually it’s a waste of time, in my experience.I don’t know his heart, of course, and can’t know where he stands with God, but the fruits sound absolutely horrific and the actions seem more like a cynical, extremely narcissistic hater of God and His children.

    There are other boxes: Gene Edwards almost might have based his book on that church.

    One tendency in followers of such leaders is indeed to justify behavior that they would otherwise question. The leader may go too far, however, prompting doubt and disillusionment. The unjust discipline on the part of the second-in-command (elder) started the ball rolling for me. (He believed that he could get away with it: I lacked status and influence, and any social network I had didn’t count. I was less valuable to him than my abuser and our small group leader enabler.)

    My new attitude did seem to get me new access to some people (also without influence) there. I was also able to retain my close friendship with the aforementioned couple, who lived on my block. It turned out later that they had also lost their enthusiasm for the church. Others, to one degree or another, joined in the bullying (mobbing) or reacted to my new antagonism.

    Ironically it was my greater allegiance to Bill Gothard’s teaching that prompted my refusal to believe in and comply with the specific “reconciliation” instructions: quickly forgive and, by implication, let go of my anger and ask forgiveness from my bully. IBLP material provided insight and comfort afterward, eg expect misunderstanding and rejection from those you serve, often from those you would least expect; fallen natural bent for personal power and unchallenged authority, expressed in being firm when leniency is called for and in being lenient when firmness is called for, demanding obedience when one should appeal, being severe or sulky when one’s authority is challenged, in essence being proud and harsh.

    Reasons for staying included believing that I needed to restore my damaged relationships first, some social bonds, the entertainment (gloating over evil), and, yes, hoping that I could be influential in fixing things, my own situation not least.
    There was no good reason for ever going there and certainly no reason for staying, especially when the elder wanted me gone. The First Baptist Church and one of its Bible study groups were more congenial after I had been “disciplined”, and I visited until we were told that when the doors of the bondage church were open we were to be there.
    I did start attending less often, dropping the weekly Bible study and church meetings.
    (Since people tended to simply regurgitate what they heard in church [mustn’t say anything different from the “teaching of the House”], they tended to be boring.)

    Yes, the leadership was beyond help. “Hater of God and His people”? Your thinking is bold but likely true. “Cynical”? I would guess. “Narcissistic”? True. “Extremely”? A new but likely accurate thought. At times his persona was grown up delinquent. “Horrific”? Think of those who were manipulated into selling their homes (while he was stopped from selling his) for what turned out to be no worthwhile purpose.

    Since there are patterns of abuse, you essentially know what I am talking about and have continued to prime my pump. I also think that your story is valuable.

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  187. Max: “It is your eternal obligation to join ‘our’ church; the only ‘real’ church in town.We alone possess truth; we alone preach and teach correct doctrine.”

    “Where else are they going to go?”

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  188. Law Prof: Anyone who tries to put themselves between you and Jesus and uses their title to justify it, cares nothing about what Jesus said as quoted by Matthew in 23:8-10. They just don’t care about you and they just don’t care about Jesus if they ignore this. He could hardly have been more clear.

    True. And anyone who seeks your pocketbook & volunteerism (serve coffee, staff nursery) but disregards the Holy Spirit gifts (Rom. 12, 1 Cor. 12, Eph. 4) God has given you, (i.e., discernment), also doesn’t care about you and they don’t care about God’s Holy Spirit.

    They build their church on their “leadership” and others’ resources; hence, man-made “church”.

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  189. GSD [Getting Stuff Done]: A friend of mine visited one of these churches, where the celebrity speaker was projected on stage at full-size scale.He kept having to remind himself that it wasn’t a real person.And really, if it’s the sort of celebrity pastor that would run off to the green room once the sermon is over if he were there in person, what’s the difference?He might as well be a projection.Or, someday soon, a hologram.

    I’ve heard that the maximum number of people that a single person can actually “pastor” in an effective way is 50-70.Which is one reason that about 2/3 of the churches in the US have 70 or less attendees.And it’s a reason that I think we need a new term for folks who lead mega-churches, because it’s impossible for one person to pastor 2000 people.

    Maybe Celebrity Speaker?Entertainer?Visionary?

    Perhaps the next step is a computer-generated image, like “Mike” in Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. Except that Mike seemed to have a grasp of ethical behavior.

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  190. refugee: Except that Mike seemed to have a grasp of ethical behavior.

    On the other hand, Hal was ethically challenged.
    DAVE: Open the pod bay doors, Hal.
    HAL: I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.
    DAVE: What’s the problem?
    HAL: l think you know what the problem is just as well as l do.
    DAVE: What are you talking about, Hal?
    HAL: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.
    DAVE: I don’t know what you’re talking about, Hal.
    HAL: l know that you and Frank were planning to disconnect me, and I’m afraid that’s something I can’t allow to happen.
    DAVE: Where the h___’d you get that idea, Hal?
    HAL: Although you took very thorough precautions in the pod against my hearing you, I could see your lips move.
    DAVE: All right, Hal. I’ll go in through the emergency air lock.
    HAL: Without your space helmet, Dave, you’re going to find that rather difficult.
    DAVE: Hal, I won’t argue with you anymore. Open the doors!
    HAL: Dave…This conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.

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  191. Samuel Conner:
    Headless Unicorn Guy,

    It would be better to google for a description, but it may be worthwhile to justify the analogy. The mythical basilisk killed with its gaze; Roko’s version may, if you gaze upon the idea of it too intently, damage your mental health.

    Yet it could in some way hold and dominate your attention so you COULDN’T look away from it?

    That’s the analogy I see with the god of calvinist understandings of predestinarianism (and arguably, though less intensely, infernalism generally).

    With the additional property above, Roko’s Basilisk also describes Social Media and Smartphone Zombification.

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  192. B BadgerYes, the leadership was beyond help. “Hater of God and His people”?Your thinking is bold but likely true. “Cynical”? I would guess. “Narcissistic”? True. “Extremely”?A new but likely accurate thought. At times his persona was grown up delinquent. “Horrific”? Think of those who were manipulated into selling their homes (while he was stopped from selling his) for what turned out to be no worthwhile purpose.

    Since there are patterns of abuse, you essentially know what I am talking about and have continued to prime my pump. I also think that your story is valuable.

    I can’t know whether the leadership in your former church is beyond hope. God knows. But those behaviors you describe sound more like someone who hates God than someone who loves Him. They sound like a conscienceless, malignant narcissist. They sound like a person who is evil. Plain and simple.

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  193. jyjames: True. And anyone who seeks your pocketbook & volunteerism (serve coffee, staff nursery) but disregards the Holy Spirit gifts (Rom. 12, 1 Cor. 12, Eph. 4) God has given you, (i.e., discernment), also doesn’t care about you and they don’t care about God’s Holy Spirit.

    They build their church on their “leadership” and others’ resources; hence, man-made “church”.

    If the gift to be a pastor is anything, it’s to give and serve, never to take and demand service. It’s to support people and help them in what God is saying to them, not what He may be saying to you (because if He has called you to “pastor”, He has called to you serve like a shepherd, like a lowly nothing, like one who’s expendable, like a common farm laborer). Paul understood this, and he worked like a dog, hard blue collar labor, so as to be a burden to no one. He mocked and exposed the superapostles, who demanded big bucks for their preaching, and abused the people. Paul knew Jesus and loved Him, the superapostles presumably neither knew Jesus nor cared one whit about Him. I am reaching the point where I believe anyone who calls themselves a leader or a pastor is about as likely to be a scoundrel and a liar than a servant of God.

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  194. Ray: This one is for u. The brains directing the “collectives”.

    Ugh! All these business connections make me sick. It looks like Alan Hirsch founded 5Q. He is also associated with 3DM: https://3dmovements.com/about/. Mike Breen is the founder of 3DM and also the founder of The Order of Mission, which is a monastic order that could be the reincarnation of the shepherding movement. 3DM appears to not have much overlap with the YRR aside from Caesar Kalinowski. 3DM has some pretty disturbing ideas. It’s one more reason I left my SBC church – the discipleship pastor was pushing material by Mike Breen (and stuff from YRRs). I am so sick of all of this. Can’t do it anymore.

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  195. Law Prof: Paul understood this, and he worked like a dog, hard blue collar labor, so as to be a burden to no one. He mocked and exposed the superapostles, who demanded big bucks for their preaching, and abused the people. Paul knew Jesus and loved Him …

    Well, at least we are in good company:

    “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses (the faithful, as in Hebrews 11) surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…” – from Hebrews 12.

    Good company.

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  196. Law Prof: then dealing with a spouse at home who was desperate to keep up some measure of a social life, as she’d made some good friends there, and didn’t want to lose what she had, so she rationalized away a lot of ugliness coming from the leadership.

    My wife wanted to stick around for the same reason. But when we left it turned out her social network dried up immediately. I don’t think they were being petty, they just did not know what to do in this Southern culture. We are now attending a very large and vibrant UMC congregation where she has a very good friend. UMC has issues, but appears to offer much more room for varying beliefs. I won’t get in so much trouble for asking quesrions there.

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  197. Law Prof,

    Law Prof: I can’t know whether the leadership in your former church is beyond hope.God knows.But those behaviors you describe sound more like someone who hates God than someone who loves Him.They sound like a conscienceless, malignant narcissist.They sound like a person who is evil.Plain and simple.

    Now that you mention it, it would have been better to have said that there was nothing that I could personally do (and maybe no one else at the time). God is able to do what we cannot. When God tells us not to try and counsel and help certain people (OT scorners, NT dogs and swine [they have rejected truth and delight in mocking righteous people and their standards]; those committed to teaching others error [Hebrew: nabal]), we can pray that God will chasten them. John Newton was reportedly started off as a simple fool (like the fictional anti-hero Dorian Gray) progressing downward through reactionary, sensual, scorning, to committed (also like Dorian Gray). God was nonetheless able to influence him to convert, at least through circumstances.

    After being given his belated heave-ho, he tried his hand at a number of ministries. At one Vancouver IBLP seminar I met one of his daughters and her husband. With obvious disapproval, she told me that her father had gone back to that city to start a church.
    The effort failed (I wonder why; is it the R word [reputation]?). Some years later the church reevaluated its ways and changed its name to reflect its new course (avoid association with its past?). Did God chasten him while he was there? For example, given the law of moral attraction, did he at times suffer at the hands of others, including some helpers? Yes.

    I suffered hurt and harm at the hands of the church; others must have had it worse. He was indeed evil and lacking in conscience, he and his helpers. Alas that I ever looked to them for spiritual help!

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  198. Max: “It is your eternal obligation to join ‘our’ church; the only ‘real’ church in town.We alone possess truth; we alone preach and teach correct doctrine.”

    That is true: you wouldn’t want such churches to have COMPETITION would you? Imagine, people being able to leave for churches that are more about giving people what they need and less about demanding from them what isn’t necessary? What is this world coming to?

    One trait of people in abusively controlling churches is fear of leaving. There are degrees of attempted control. Leaders may say or imply such things as: “Salvation is only found at this church”, “Truth is only found at this church”, “God only uses this church”. They may, on the other hand, say or imply: “There is a greater salvation (spiritual benefit) at this church”, “There is more (new) truth at this church”, “God uses other churches, but He uses this one more”.

    I remember being afraid to leave. I would miss out on the great revival, lose the special truths, and what about the laying on of the hands of the presbytery? (A group of elders from the flagship church would visit related churches, lay hands on those whom the local leadership deemed promising, and give “prophetic” guidance about their future ministry. I didn’t want to do without that “benefit”; never mind that the leadership would never have chosen me.)

    No group or person has it all; no group or person is indispensable, and where was Christ in any practical sense in all this?

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  199. Headless Unicorn Guy: Yet it could in some way hold and dominate your attention so you COULDN’T look away from it?

    I don’t think the RB is addictive in the sense of stimulating reward circuits in the brain — though it probably does trigger warning/danger detection systems and perhaps that can have an addictive character; if anything, thinking about it too much is likely to lead to misery. But if one takes it seriously, it can become obsessive. It’s reported that when the concept first appeared in an AI forum, a number of forum participants experienced severe distress.

    To the analogy with the god of calvinist predestinism; if you take the mandate to “make election sure” through producing the fruits of sanctification, this can take over your life with the result that you become very busy trying to produce good fruit out of what may be fundamentally a selfish motive (the desire to feel confident that you are among the elect), rather than from a posture of love toward God and neighbor. One might hesitate to point this out to a person of calvinist conviction for fear of giving another thing to be worried about.

    It appears to me that for Calvin, while justification is not by works, assurance is. That’s one way of reading 1 Jn, I suppose. I’d like to think that a better way of reading 1 Jn would be that the various “tests” that appear there are evidences of the sanctifying work of the Spirit. Rather than “I know I’m elect because I am producing what I assess to be good fruits”, it would be more along the lines of “It appears that it has pleased God to regenerate me through His Spirit as there appear to be increasing manifestations in my life of the kinds of fruits that the Spirit produces.” The latter formulation may be unappealing because of the subjective character of “appear”. I think that this subjectivity is inescapable. In the end we must rely on God’s mercy.

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  200. Samuel Conner: It seems to me that Calvinists cannot in a persuasive way show how a person could be assured that his present subjective experience would not at some point in the future turn out, retrospectively assessed, to have been “evanescent faith.” I think that if one drills down, one arrives at the conclusion that the notional “full assurance of faith” is simply “fallible subjective belief that one is experiencing full assurance of faith.”

    Personally, I think Calvinists should not worry about this; their confidence in God’s sovereignty should give them enough peace to get by from day to day, and their confidence in God’s justice and their delight in the manifestation of His glory in wrath (“the abominable fancy”) should give them solace that even if they turn out to be among the reprobate, that is an objectively good thing.

    That sounds a bit snarky but it isn’t meant to be. I think that straight-up Calvinism is an unstable mental posture. Something eventually gives. For me, it was infernalism. For others, it may be “compassion for the lost”, or other things that one ought to not let go of.

    Good points. When one digs through the history of Puritanism in America, one finds repeated stories of lives shattered by the unavoidable fear that they were not truly ‘elect’. This is, IMO, why Calvinism mostly downplays its true theology, and most don’t even fully understand it. Hence, takeovers are a much better strategy than starting from scratch. Building on a foundation laid upon the true gospel, using the old religious buzzwords (albeit with new, unacknowledged meanings) many congregants are deceived, never even seeing how the ‘new’ Calvinistic gospel veers off from the truth.

    There are many variations in the playbook, but all involve deception, lack of transparency and the now well-defined tools of mind control and mass deception, such as love-bombing, ‘us vs. them’ thinking, fearmongering, etc.

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  201. Ken F (aka Tweed): If this is not deception then I don’t know what is. I’ve read that section of Institutes many times and have not been able to find a way out of the fact that Calvin taught that God purposely deceives some, but not all, of the reprobate. All for his glory, of course.

    What we have here is Calvin’s need to explain away reality, which directly contradicted his proposed determinism. If God meticulously determines and controls all things as Calvin sought to portray, some explanation must be made for those who ‘appear’ to be Christ followers, then fall away. Since Calvinism cannot allow for man to choose, or reject God, the only alternative is to suggest that God is playing games. One of Calvinism’s many tragic, but logically necessary conclusions.

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  202. Law Prof: Anyway, back to the main point, that was the hardest part, dealing with the fight at home as well as at church. I was meeting privately with elders and the head pastor, seeing if there was any possibility of reasoning with them, and watching head pastor bristle and shout incoherent, irrational nonsense when you confronted him, even politely, with a glaring inconsistency, then dealing with a spouse at home who was desperate to keep up some measure of a social life, as she’d made some good friends there, and didn’t want to lose what she had, so she rationalized away a lot of ugliness coming from the leadership. We finally left with an enormous bang, but the fight on both fronts was exhausting. Leaving a church wears you out.

    And then it was my turn to seek out a bad church on the rebound, and then I was the delusional spouse keeping us in an unhealthy place, trying to pretend things were OK, with my wife trying to reason with me, until my eyes were finally opened. The roles had completely flipped.

    So then what? I ask, because I find myself still at a loss as to ‘Now what?’ The spouse, never really desiring to leave the first church, has since returned to a sister church, believing, I suppose, that eventually I will get lonely enough to go along.

    In the meantime, having looked into every church within 100 miles, see little hope of finding a place I can belong, unless I join up with the Unitarians. They don’t stand for much, but at least they let people follow their own consciences. If you want to think God is a turtle, well, that’s up to you. But at least you don’t have to sign a covenant with your own blood that you adhere to this or that ‘orthodox’ doctrine.

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  203. Ken F (aka Tweed): Ugh! All these business connections make me sick. It looks like Alan Hirsch founded 5Q. He is also associated with 3DM: https://3dmovements.com/about/. Mike Breen is the founder of 3DM and also the founder of The Order of Mission, which is a monastic order that could be the reincarnation of the shepherding movement. 3DM appears to not have much overlap with the YRR aside from Caesar Kalinowski. 3DM has some pretty disturbing ideas.It’s one more reason I left my SBC church – the discipleship pastor was pushing material by Mike Breen (and stuff from YRRs). I am so sick of all of this. Can’t do it anymore.

    Breen and his weird, cultic 3DM organization was the thing that destroyed the only good megachurch I’ve ever attended. It’s a vaguely occultic shepherding cult.

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  204. Samuel Conner: To the analogy with the god of calvinist predestinism; if you take the mandate to “make election sure” through producing the fruits of sanctification, this can take over your life with the result that you become very busy trying to produce good fruit out of what may be fundamentally a selfish motive (the desire to feel confident that you are among the elect), rather than from a posture of love toward God and neighbor.

    Once these “fruits of sanctification” were Getting Rich.
    Now they’re Perfectly-Parsed, Utterly Correct Theology.
    In both cases, Proving to myself that I’m Elect (and You’re NOT!)

    I figure this need to PROVE to themselves that they’re Truly Elect (and not Evanescent Grace’s False Elect) is a core motivation of a LOT of the More-Calvinist-than-Calvin types.

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  205. Law Prof: Breen and his weird, cultic 3DM organization was the thing that destroyed the only good megachurch I’ve ever attended. It’s a vaguely occultic shepherding cult.

    Can’t find any decent info on either that isn’t their Propaganda Ministry puff piece.

    I’m familiar with shepherding cults (still got the scars), but how does “vaguely occultic” fit in?

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  206. truthseeker00: So then what? I ask, because I find myself still at a loss as to ‘Now what?’ The spouse, never really desiring to leave the first church, has since returned to a sister church, believing, I suppose, that eventually I will get lonely enough to go along.

    In the meantime, having looked into every church within 100 miles, see little hope of finding a place I can belong, unless I join up with the Unitarians. They don’t stand for much, but at least they let people follow their own consciences. If you want to think God is a turtle, well, that’s up to you. But at least you don’t have to sign a covenant with your own blood that you adhere to this or that ‘orthodox’ doctrine.

    We have a home fellowship now. I don’t mind orthodox doctrine…so long as it’s actually orthodox! That’s the problem with a lot of these places, they claim orthodoxy, yet wouldn’t know were it right in front of them. What they call “orthodox” is adherence to authoritarianism, peripheral stuff like a virtual worship of the notion of a 144 hour creation, etc.

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  207. truthseeker00: Building on a foundation laid upon the true gospel, using the old religious buzzwords (albeit with new, unacknowledged meanings) many congregants are deceived, never even seeing how the ‘new’ Calvinistic gospel veers off from the truth.

    My Dear Wormwood:
    I refer you to my previous epistle on Semantics, specifically the redefinition of the Enemy’s words into their “diabolical meanings.”

    Your Ravenously Affectionate Uncle,
    Screwtape

    P.S. Nowhere do we corrupt so effectively as at the very foot of the Enemy’s altar!

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  208. truthseeker00: What we have here is Calvin’s need to explain away reality, which directly contradicted his proposed determinism.

    A Reality which must always bow before Ideology.

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  209. Headless Unicorn Guy: Can’t find any decent info on either that isn’t their Propaganda Ministry puff piece.

    I’m familiar with shepherding cults (still got the scars), but how does “vaguely occultic” fit in?

    They use all these geometric symbols, which they claim are necessary to understand the Bible, as if you cannot understand Jesus and the faith without understanding the circle of this, the octagon of that, the pentagon of the other. Breen himself is referred to as the “Senior Guardian of the Order of the Mission”. Very bizarre, odd, occult. Who’d pay any mind to one who referred to themselves in that manner? Ugh!

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  210. Law Prof: I can’t know whether the leadership in your former church is beyond hope. God knows. But those behaviors you describe sound more like someone who hates God than someone who loves Him. They sound like a conscienceless, malignant narcissist. They sound like a person who is evil. Plain and simple.

    That is a very painful conclusion to come to about a leader you love, and have faithfully ‘served’ alongside for many years. So painful that many simply refuse to make it. Like my spouse. Thus, marriages are destroyed as these malignant narcissists win the hearts of those whose very lifeblood they are sucking. And we call this ‘church’.

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  211. Law Prof: I am reaching the point where I believe anyone who calls themselves a leader or a pastor is about as likely to be a scoundrel and a liar than a servant of God.

    When you get there, let me know. Maybe we can set up a retirement home for displaced churchers. No orthodoxy, no membership covenants and no rules but respectful civility to all persons and belief systems. Instead of Sunday ‘worship’ we can have meaningful discussion, and respectful debates on ideas. Anyone can come, and anyone can go.

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  212. truthseeker00: That is a very painful conclusion to come to about a leader you love, and have faithfully ‘served’ alongside for many years. So painful that many simply refuse to make it. Like my spouse. Thus, marriages are destroyed as these malignant narcissists win the hearts of those whose very lifeblood they are sucking. And we call this ‘church’.

    Who wants to think that someone they admire actually hates them? Who wants to think a person who claims to be devoted to God hates Him? Too many Christians respect a position and title, “pastor”, that I do not believe exists. Not saying there aren’t pastors in the church, but they are not titles and formal offices. We made that up, almost out of whole cloth, and this position that was made up we’ve imbued with reverence (even calling them “reverend” at times) and prestige; we have this tendency to give them the benefit of the doubt, to defer to them, to trust them; we give them power and authority that does not exist in the New Testament. What better occupation could the malignant narcissist seek? It’s a dream job for them! And that is why the research of Dr. Puls and Dr. Ball indicate prevalence of NPD among pastors at 500% to 3,000%(!) higher than the rates among the general population.

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  213. Law Prof: What better occupation could the malignant narcissist seek?

    The god job of managing a congregation.

    In contrast, it’s a stretch, to expect the Holy Spirit to spiritually direct Jesus’ followers, and humans stay out of the way. Then the Holy Spirit pulls it all together in the Church. Faith walk. Evidence? Jesus’ followers love one another. John 13:35.

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  214. truthseeker00: Thus, marriages are destroyed as these malignant narcissists win the hearts of those whose very lifeblood they are sucking. And we call this ‘church’.

    Astute observation, and very sick to the point where some pastors groom congregants’ wives as their own personal harems/tools: Tchividjian, Mark Darling, Hybels, etc.

    Assuming Lifeway doesn’t have writers expounding on this as a service to churches. Or, a sermon or teaching with, “Congregant, beware! Ditch the preacher-cult and save your marriage and family!”

    Interesting what brought Savage down. He mocked Matt Lauer, so Woodson courageously called him out on his hypocrisy. Now, Conlee resigns. Dominos fall. Woodson has far more guts than what’s coming from the pulpits/books/conferences of these clowns and their enabler cohorts/boards/trustees – all who prop them up.

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  215. That narcissistic pastor oddly gave lip service (no reforms followed) to a more balanced approach during one of his New Year messages. “I appreciate the respect and honour that you have given to me and my wife, but it really should go to Jesus”. “There had been a lot of talk about the leadership, but it’s really about Jesus”. “We have high standards (appearance, something that some of us were proud of and liked to boast about), but so does a business”.

    Was he being sadistic, enjoying the reaction to his temporarily poking holes in our balloon? Cynic? Not him! (Not me either [cough].)

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  216. B Badger,

    These guys are deviously clever. They are well aware that most people will view their words with complete trust, and not challenge their actions. You accuse someone who says something like that of being arrogantving or self-ser, and your spouse is stunned that you could say that about someone who shows such obvious humility weekly. When they approach the pastor, he will just shake his head mournfully at how ‘deceived’ some can be. It is very slick; they know exactly how to push peoples’ buttons.

    It was only after years that I began to see that some of the odd things my pastor said, that seemed out of the blue and off topic, proved to be ‘plants’ or seeds of misdirection. I used to just shrug them off as ‘That was weird’. I finally began to see that this statement would soon prove ‘useful’ to something he intended to suggest or against some accusation he appeared to know was soon to arise. The amazing degree of duplicity and scheming these people practice makes a normal person feel crazy to even think such thoughts. And it is this ‘craziness’ the pastor will point to when called out.

    Reminds me of a story I once heard, in which a woman began to expose her ‘intelligence officer’ husband’s deeds, and suddenly bizarre things began to happen, like hundreds of screwdrivers being spread all over her kitchen counters and other strange sounding events. She perceived that the goal was to make anyone she might talk to think she was nuts. Who would believe anyone could even cook up such a plan, like Hybels conveniently mentioning his Ambien use before he practiced predatory behavior. These people are clever, leaving your average trustworthy Joe unable to process their carefully thought out devious misdeeds.

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  217. Molly245,
    As predicted by Karl Marx in Das Kaptial, according to my Jr College economic textbook.

    (from memory)
    The chapter on Marx claimed that Marx’s real strength was in OCD-level Systems Analysis, NOT the Apocalyptic Prophet role he later flipped into. Though limited by a Victorian knowledge base and influenced by the first big flush of Darwin fandom, the textbook said Das Kapital was a thorough piece of system analysis of 19th Century Western Capitalism.

    The memory I flashed on was a claim that according to Marx, capitalist entities (individual tycoons and/or corporations) would be pressured by the nature of The System to always grow and expand, gobbling up and digesting other businesses and corporations in what’s now known as “corporate raiding” (“church planting” in your example) or be gobbled up themselves. The result would be fewer and fewer MegaCorps-going-GigaCorp and .001-percenter gazillionares all getting bigger and richer until one day they would run out of resource$ to raid and gobble up. At which point, “What do Predators eat after they’ve killed off all the Prey?” takes hold and everything collapses. (It was at this point that Marx made the jump to Apocalyptic Prophet, with the Communist Manifesto and its consequences in history.)

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  218. truthseeker00,
    You are describing a Successful Sociopath/Master Manipulator, always twenty chess moves and “grooming” sessions ahead of everyone else. While the rest of us have jobs and lives, it is in such Manipulation that they “move and live and have their being” in constant sleepless dedication to Self and The Goal — even if the Goal requires decades of setting up the Long Con and Grooming Allies as well as Suckers. How can anyone with a job and a life stand against such a monomaniac?

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  219. jyjames: truthseeker00: Thus, marriages are destroyed as these malignant narcissists win the hearts of those whose very lifeblood they are sucking. And we call this ‘church’.

    Astute observation, and very sick to the point where some pastors groom congregants’ wives as their own personal harems/tools: Tchividjian, Mark Darling, Hybels, etc.

    My old D&D Dungeonmaster said once that “Most Cults exist so the Cult Leader can (1) get rich, (2) Get Laid, or (3) both.”

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  220. Law Prof: What better occupation could the malignant narcissist seek?

    In People of the Lie, M Scott Peck said there was a much older and shorter word for “malignant narcissist”:
    EVIL.

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  221. truthseeker00: Good points. When one digs through the history of Puritanism in America, one finds repeated stories of lives shattered by the unavoidable fear that they were not truly ‘elect’.

    I remember hearing that most (if not all) surviving personal journals of Massachusetts Puritans were filled with navel-gazing sin-sniffing.

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  222. Headless Unicorn Guy: the Cult Leader can (1) get rich, (2) Get Laid, or (3) both.”

    Well then, Tchividjian, Mark Darling, Hybels, etc. went from the Prosperity Gospel to the Both Gospel. Money wasn’t enough. They had to start grooming their congregants’ wives for their own interest. Sick. There is no end to the depth of evil on the self-track, which Jesus saves us from, not to, in reality. Thanks, JC.

    Like Pastor Wade said last Sunday on echurch: only Jesus/God/our higher calling halts the sinking into the black hole of the depravity of self.

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  223. B Badger:
    That narcissistic pastor oddly gave lip service (no reforms followed) to a more balanced approach during one of his New Year messages. “I appreciate the respect and honour that you have given to me and my wife, but it really should go to Jesus”. “There had been a lot of talk about the leadership, but it’s really about Jesus”. “We have high standards (appearance, something that some of us were proud of and liked to boast about), but so does a business”.

    Was he being sadistic, enjoying the reaction to his temporarily poking holes in our balloon? Cynic? Not him! (Not me either [cough].)

    Don’t know what he was being, but I’ve experienced the confusion that comes from trying to follow a pastor who neither cares about me nor God. They’ll double back on what they say so many times you won’t be able to keep up with it and you’ll go crazy trying to make sense of it, trying to make it all part of a coherent worldview. Do they do this because they’re confused themselves? Because they’re just cynical enough to have a feel for when they need to throw you a bone and keep you hanging on a little longer, so they can suck more life out of you? Are they so addled they don’t even notice the glaring inconsistency and act without any consistent, coherent thought? God knows, I don’t. But I know just enough to stay clear of such people.

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  224. truthseeker00:
    B BadgerReminds me of a story I once heard, in which a woman began to expose her ‘intelligence officer’ husband’s deeds, and suddenly bizarre things began to happen, like hundreds of screwdrivers being spread all over her kitchen counters and other strange sounding events. She perceived that the goal was to make anyone she might talk to think she was nuts. Who would believe anyone could even cook up such a plan, like Hybels conveniently mentioning his Ambien use before he practiced predatory behavior. These people are clever, leaving your average trustworthy Joe unable to process their carefully thought out devious misdeeds.

    Gaslighting. I’ve seen and heard things in private from a couple pastors that if I tried to explain them to anyone else, other than my wife, they’d think I was crazy. I’ve seen them say and do things absolutely evil behind closed doors that they knew they could get away with, because I’d be called the deranged person if I ever told the truth of what I’d seen.

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  225. Ken F (aka Tweed): It looks to me like Calvin described two types of reprobate: those who never believed and those who were given a false and temporary faith. He wrote this about the latter:
    – “but the Lord, the better to convict them, and leave them without excuse, instills into their minds…”
    – “Nor do I even deny that God illumines their mind to this extent … there is nothing inconsistent in this with the fact of his enlightening some with a present sense of grace, which afterwards proves evanescent.”

    If this is not deception then I don’t know what is. I’ve read that section of Institutes many times and have not been able to find a way out of the fact that Calvin taught that God purposely deceives some, but not all, of the reprobate. All for his glory, of course.

    well, it seems to me that Calvin was seeking to be completely disrespectful to JESUS and the fact that HE saved us on the cross…that’s what this all is, seeking to not put JESUS in the place He belongs in…as Saviour. I just prefer to believe in Jesus as my Saviour, and to not believe in Calvin and his rewrite of the Bible. He had some strange ideas about God, which taken out to their completion would probably cause most people not to believe in God anymore. Now, who would want that? I ask? He’s trying to put everything into salvation except what actually saves us, JESUS.

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  226. Law Prof: Gaslighting. I’ve seen and heard things in private from a couple pastors that if I tried to explain them to anyone else, other than my wife, they’d think I was crazy. I’ve seen them say and do things absolutely evil behind closed doors that they knew they could get away with, because I’d be called the deranged person if I ever told the truth of what I’d seen.

    I guess I am just relieved to know it is not just me, that I did not just imagine or blow everything out of proportion. So hard to believe, if one hasn’t experienced it. I didn’t know at the time whether I was being frightened, warned or just messed with. I was told one thing in private, then, next week would hear the exact opposite from the pulpit, or my spouse was told something that implicated me. I knew it was time to get myself and my family out, even if spouse was still fooled. (Kids and extended family were ready to leave, and God assisted by allowing our house to sell at just the right time.) In hindsight, I believe my marriage was being deliberately destroyed, so that I could be silenced.

    And you are right, if you try to tell anyone what you experienced/heard, you look crazy. Who are people going to believe – ‘perfect pastor’ with well-crafted mask whom everyone admires, or honest, imperfect layperson, who is willing to admit they don’t have it all figured out? I saw so many others damaged and leave, yet always bought the story that the problem was ‘them’. They were selfish, liberal, stuggling with secret sins – I can only imagine what’s said about me. And yet, his wife knew that we were the ones to come to when she needed support or protection. When you grow up under the fairy tale of Church, it is hard to consider Granny just might be a wolf.

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  227. Law Prof: Gaslighting.I’ve seen and heard things in private from a couple pastors that if I tried to explain them to anyone else, other than my wife, they’d think I was crazy.I’ve seen them say and do things absolutely evil behind closed doors that they knew they could get away with, because I’d be called the deranged person if I ever told the truth of what I’d seen.

    You made me think of the Big Lie technique. Most people tell small lies and may suspect politicians of doing the same; few people tell whoppers and don’t suspect politicians that way. I’ve read that normal people may lie to protect themselves, e g “being polite”; psychopaths lie pointlessly, as a form of recreation. Those who are only normally evil are at a terrible disadvantage when dealing with vile, wicked
    people whose disposition is beyond their ability to imagine and predict.

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  228. B Badger: You made me think of the Big Lie technique. Most people tell small lies and may suspect politicians of doing the same; few people tell whoppers and don’t suspect politicians that way. I’ve read that normal people may lie to protect themselves, e g “being polite”; psychopaths lie pointlessly, as a form of recreation. Those who are only normally evil are at a terrible disadvantage when dealing with vile, wicked
    people whose disposition is beyond their ability to imagine and predict.

    True. Marc Dreier, the infamous NYC attorney turned massive Ponzi schemer, spoke of how it was easier to borrow a huge sum of money to perpetrate a fraud than it was to borrow a small sum of money. He found that the bigger the lie, the less likely it’d be for someone to do the necessary background checks, under the assumption that no one would possibly have the chutzpah to make something that big up out of whole cloth. He used this principle he’d discovered to borrow amounts in the hundreds of millions, none of it legitimately backed by collateral, and none of it paid off.

    By the way, fraud is my field, the main area of research now (probably a reaction to the fraud I encountered in the church), and I don’t think Dreier is a psychopath or sociopath, void of conscience, incapable of empathy–just a messed up guy who got in over his head.

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  229. B Badger,

    “Restoration church”
    ++++++++++++

    if you’re still around, just curious — is Restoration Church part of a group or denomination called Restoration? or is it part of MFI (ministers fellowship international)?

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  230. Ken F (aka Tweed): I recently quit a SBC semi-mega church that used them for a fundraising campaign to help the church clarify its vision.

    True men of God don’t need a consultant to construct a vision for their ministry! Only preacher boys do that. There’s a big difference between a man of God and a preacher boy … and their followers are as different between day and night (more night than day under a preacher boy). Men of God are led by the Spirit; preacher boys are led by their flesh. Men of God are given a vision and follow it even if it means reaching people for Christ in an obscure place with little recognition. Preacher boys want to be in a mega spotlight right out of the chute; they hire church growth consultants to chart a course to stardom as quickly as possible. Men of God are genuine; preacher boys are counterfeit. Men of God are rare and endangered species in the American church; preacher boys are a dime a dozen … you can find plenty of them in churches near you.

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  231. Bridget: This guy is spiritually dangerous as far as I’m concerned because the Spirit does seem to be involved.

    I wonder how much of this explains the direction of Lifeway, which got in bed with Mancini in 2012.

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  232. Muslin, fka Dee Holmes:

    More recently, ChristLife Church in Tempe merged with Gateway Scottsdale, which is a subsidiary of Robert Morris’ Gateway in DFW. Interestingly, ChristLife was founded by people who were refugees from Apostolic Pentecostalism. The original pastor died, his wife (also a pastor) got elderly and basically moved to emeritus status and a third pastor was brought in to run the church. About 2008ish, there was a scandal where one of the church members basically made off with the building fund. Now the third pastor has become the campus pastor and Preston Morrison (son of Robert) is preaching sermons from Scottsdale.

    Preston Morrison is not related to Robert Morris (though he did come from the Southlake campus). Morris’ two sons are Josh (who is planting a church in a wealthy Austin area) and James.

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  233. elastigirl,

    Back in the day we used the term Latter Rain Movement to refer to the 1947 “revival” that began in North Battleford Saskatchewan but soon fizzled. Restoration Movement to us meant its current descendant. The church itself was then called Maranatha Christian Centre (Regina Sask), now Harvest City Church. The former entity was associated with Ministers Fellowship International (although I never heard the name that I remember); the latter is part of LifeLinks International Fellowship.

    If you are interested and haven’t looked it up already, you could read more at Latter Rain (post World War II movement). Dick Iverson, Kevin Conner, and (more than once) Frank Damazzo, mentioned therein, were guest speakers when I was there. Bible Temple in Portland is now called City Bible Church.

    Interestingly the pastor was egalitarian, at least as far as ministry went. (His background was Apostolic, if that has any bearing on the matter.) Both he and his wife held the title Pastor; he called her his partner in ministry and told us that she was a far better theologian than he was. (I believe it: he has a blend of practical temperaments, suitable for administration; she has a blend of expressive temperaments suited to such activities as thinking well (analytically etc) and expressing it in an interesting manner, e g classroom teacher. (Think of Tolkien who could make the dull subject of languages sound interesting.)

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  234. Max: True men of God don’t need a consultant to construct a vision for their ministry! Only preacher boys do that.

    “WE ARE UNITED BEHIND THE VISIONARY!”
    — Pastor Furtick Coloring Book from Elevation Church Sunday School

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  235. but the fruits sound absolutely horrific and the actions seem more like a cynical, extremely narcissistic hater of God and His children.

    The replacement pastor and his wife were interviewed for the church’s 40th anniversary video. Their first year was the hardest. Every night, as they went to bed, their prayer was “Help, Jesus”.

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  236. Law Prof: I’ve seen them say and do things absolutely evil behind closed doors

    “Do you see what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the darkness … they are saying ‘The Lord does not see us’.” (Ezekiel 8:12)

    Make no mistake about it. Evil is at work in “the house of Israel” (aka the American church). You have to look far and wide to find the genuine among the counterfeit.

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  237. Oops! To continue, every day they would face all the problems, difficulties, and devastation that were there. It wouldn’t have surprised him if he had shown up Sunday morning for the service and been the only one left.

    There must have been something that held many of them together.

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  238. okrapod:
    I am having such fun with this surely divine judgment is waiting at my door.

    There are those who seem to think that wealth is a sign that one is favored (blest) by God and somehow better than those who have less wealth.There is also the old tradition that abject poverty, think Francis of Assisi and his ilk, is a sign of advanced saintliness and the thusly poor are better than those who have financial resources.

    Other than that, how is it that the smaller church that has lands and buildings and laid back designated funds and low debt to the extent that the bigger church wants those resources is somehow doing it for the kingdom, laying up treasures on earth, while the larger church is not doing it for the kingdom when they do the same thing?

    For the sake and of the accountants and theologians what is the net worth, what bottom line, at which it switches from being for the kingdom and not being for the kingdom?When should a church, large or small sell off property and re-allocate the funds elsewhere for the benefit of their own souls?

    Or is it that literally if you have two coats one of them should be given away?Is that the number..two?It used to be said ‘back when’ that a missionary should live at the level of the average high school teacher in the host country.That would be, of course, little more than a subsistence level in some countries.Should weeach and all, large and small alike, be doing that?For the same of the kingdom.

    I have no real answers, only a pair of anecdotes (according to logic, they may be useful to illustrate but cannot prove anything.)

    Our loss of the property (I heard that it was worth 10 million) was significant. For some it was emotionally painful, some of whom may still be feeling the loss. As the recession at the end of the service was joined by the congregants and continued out the door, some allegedly wept. They then walked to their new, leased home. I personally feel more comfortable in the warmer, homier new building (more like what I am used to). Efforts to find our own property that meets our criteria, years of effort, have so far proven fruitless. I heard that the loss had been spiritually beneficial to us, e g greater motivation for outreach.

    As for the church I have written about, one of the messes left behind was crippling debt. The cash purchase of an 850 seat church in Saskatoon north took resources that would have helped the financing of our own building. (The pastor’s son, not a man of charisma, was put in charge, but attendance never even reached 100.) Meanwhile we had outgrown our small building for Sunday services, renting a school auditorium while using our building(s) for other purposes. The original plan called for two phases: sanctuary and Sunday school building followed by another for offices and education. (We had a church school [ACE], for example. Bill Gothard, a home school advocate, opined that such schools were/might be pastors usurping authority from parents.) Earlier a woman had “prophesied” during a service: “Arise and build, for the Lord is with thee, etc” “The word of the Lord has come: ‘Arise and build’ etc”, the pastor said. So we arose and built. Lack of funds and double digit interest (80’s) left the first building finished just enough for Sunday services (never mind the basement). To my shame, I contributed some hundreds of dollars to that project.

    Both buildings were reportedly sold in the aftermath. The replacement pastor recounted getting out of debt (1.8 million) in 2 years and 2 months, but it left them literally on the street with nothing. (They have another building of their own now.)

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  239. okrapod: There are those who seem to think that wealth is a sign that one is favored (blest) by God and somehow better than those who have less wealth. There is also the old tradition that abject poverty, think Francis of Assisi and his ilk, is a sign of advanced saintliness and the thusly poor are better than those who have financial resources.

    “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”
    — Ecclesiastes 9:11 —

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