Steve Bradley at Stonebridge Church Role Models How to Deflect Responsibility While Chris Conlee Loses His Job at Highpoint

If you have a good community behind you and a good family supporting you, then, when the buck stops with you, there is the strength of that community and that family to draw upon. Janet Reno

As you all may have heard, Chris Conlee got the boot, ummmm, was told to resign and the resignation would be accepted forthwith. We have heard from a number of people that the church has been losing both members and money. Perhaps that was the reason that a satellite for Highpoint had to close. These issues had been facing the church since January when the Jules Woodson story came to light. The response of the church, and Conlee’s poor leadership of that response, led to the death knell, not only for Savage and Conlee, but for the coffers of the church.

The church leadership, until recently, did not appear cognizant of the fact that every detail of their response was being scrutinized by the media which was learning how a typical *evangelical* church dealt with a pastor who molested a high school student. The day he did that was the last day he should have been a pastor. Teachers, physicians, police, etc., all lose their jobs and their licenses for such actions. Highpoint, under the leadership of Conlee and Savage, proved that their church had lower standards than those of secular institutions.

What Highpoint did wrong:

  • The standing ovation for Savage’s admission of sin, prompting a response from major news outlets around the world.
  • A second standing ovation this past Sunday for Chris Conlee who had admitted he knew about Andy’s molestation of Jules.
  • A worship leader who sobbed and screamed that “You are worthy, Andy. You are worthy.” Good night-this is a Christian church. Only Jesus is worthy. That should have been corrected immediately. A thoughtful leader would have done so.
  • Andy (with Conlee’s approval, I’m sure) blamed the victim, Jules Woodson, for the assault, calling it an organic experience. (I still cannot shop at the grocery store without shaking my head while looking at organic produce. As I said, “The only thing organic that a pastor should share with a student is a salad!”)
  • Stating that Savage had moved on from the experience and they wanted to help Jules to do the same. They did not seem to understand that there is a significant difference between an abuser and the recipient of the abuse.
  • They suddenly removed the church from membership in The Gospel Coalition and the Southern Baptist Convention. This gave the impression that the theology and affiliations of the church could be changed in the twinkling of an eye.
  • Chris Conlee appeared to be cozying up to the IHOPKC. He even received a prophecy that he was supposed to be some sort of awesome leader.
  • They blamed bloggers and media for delivering the bad news instead of realizing that they were the ones that were ignoring their issues.
  • Had they responded appropriately to Jules Woodson, they would have been hailed as an example instead of a failure. Apologies go a long way in stopping the train.
  • Always answer an email from a victim.

What Highpoint should do now:

Find a nondenominational church that has a pastor who has been around for a long time. Find one that has handled an abuse situation well. Read their statement of beliefs and approach the church and ask them for help in restructuring the paradigm that has been in place for years at Highpoint. I would highly recommend that they take a look ay Bent Tree in the Dallas area with Pete Briscoe as pastor. They have a strong board of elders aptly led by Mitch Little.

The church must also decided if they are going to be charismatic or not charismatic. Do not dabble in theology. State who you are theologically and stick to it. Offer classes in theology and understanding the Bible so you don’t have worship leaders who go off message on stage or have people trying to make inept and theologically off track comparisons between King David and Savage. Also, tell the worship leader who has an unsavory nickname to lose it immediately or quit!

Rethink the motto “the perfect church for imperfect people.” First of all, anyone with a basic understanding of the gospel should realize that we are not just imperfect, we are sinners. Imperfect means making a wavy line when trying to make it straight. Sinfulness runs far deeper. That means all of us, including the pastors. Maybe misunderstanding what this means is what led to the standing ovation for Savage. One cannot have a perfect church for sinners. One can have an imperfect church filled with sinful people. That means the pastors can make some awful decisions and that is why the church needs good elders and thoughtful members who all contribute to the church. Remember the following (with thanks to my former pastor, Jim):

We are functionally sinners while being positionally righteous.  

What the media is reporting about Highpoint:

According to the Commercial Appeal in Chris Conlee Resigns From Highpoint Church After Andy Savage Scandal; Sex Abuse Victim Rejoices:

“Over the last couple of months Chris and the trustees have been praying and discussing the direction and future of our church,” the letter reads. “We love and respect each other and pray God’s best for Highpoint and Chris and the way God’s leading him.”

The letter includes a joint statement from Conlee and the church’s trustees that thanks Conlee and his family for the “outstanding ministry” they have given the church over the years.

“After much prayer and counsel, the trustees and Chris have mutually agreed that the time is now for Chris to pass the baton,” the letter states.

…”We are very grateful for the Godly example of a loving father and husband that Chris is — always upholding and teaching the sanctity of marriage and family as a reflection of Christ and the church,” the letter states.

It is obvious to me that Conlee was let go from his position which seems wise in light of the poor leadership exhibited over the past few months. A lead pastor needs to know how to shepherd a church through a rough time. Those times an inevitable because the church is filled with sinners.

Conlee’s odd statement to the Commercial Appeal on Sunday

He refused comment to the media but had this to say.

Conlee declined an interview on Sunday, but did offer these words: “Jesus. Honor. Gratitude.”

Huh? This is an example of the problem.

What one member wrote to me:

There are some great folks still at Highpoint which gives me hope for the future.

I suppose everything is what it is. I guess I would want people to know that for the most part, the church family at Highpoint is ready to move past this. We aren’t a cult. We aren’t pastor worshipers. We are a family trying to deal with loss and shock and the feeling of being kept in the dark. At the same time we are simply trying to be there for each other. Personally, I see this as an opportunity to correct a lot of things that needed to be corrected while learning where the “blind spots” in the church were.

Questions fo Steve Bradley who does not allow the buck to stop with him at Stonebridge Church. He is ducking responsibility, an unworthy position for a pastor, and his church is complicit in allowing him to do so.

Shame on Steve Bradley who has demonstrated to us just what is wrong with many leaders today. They claim to be role models and real men but hide when the going gets tough.

Steve Bradley was the lead pastor at Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church (now called Stonebridge Church) when Jules was molested. Andy Savage and Larry Cotton worked for him. Let’s look at his initial statement.

“We will be issuing a formal statement but thought that it was important first to discuss this matter with our church family, which I did Sunday during our worship services,” Bradley said. “This happened twenty years ago and though I was not a part of every meeting to suggest that I or anyone else on the staff at Stonebridge Church participated in a conspiracy to cover-up this sexual misconduct is simply not accurate. After Andy Savage confessed and asked for forgiveness from the victim, her parents, her discipleship group, and the church staff, he was terminated. We were heartbroken twenty years ago when this happened, and we remain heartbroken for Jules, her family, and all those impacted.”

Bradley has watched the two men who worked for him resign from the pastorate. Yet, he still refuses to take any responsibility for what happened. He has yet to call Jules Woodson and apologize to her for his decided lack of concern for her well-being for the last 20 years.

I called the church today and asked if he would make a statement. I spoke to a Julie who simply said, “No.” Can you imagine working for a boss who would let you get thrown under the bus and deny not being present for *some of the meetings?* You mean he didn’t ask what happened?  Julie better make sure she does her job right, bless her heart.

Here are the questions that I intend to send to the church since Bradley is cowering in some corner. Maybe one of his underlings can answer for him? They better be careful since Bradley will be sure to protect Number 1 in any conflict. My guess is that some of them already know that.

Questions:for Bradley:

  1. Does your role as senior or lead pastor mean that you supervise the assistant/associate pastors in your church?
  2. Does being the lead/senior pastor mean that the buck stops with you when your assistant/associate pastors do something wrong?
  3. As the former senior/lead pastor in charge of Andy Savage and Larry Cotton, are you claiming that you didn’t know that they told her to remain quiet? Why not?
  4. Did you grieve for the pain that Jules Woodson experienced as the direct result of inadequate pastoral care rendered unto her or do you believe you did everything possible to assist her to deal with her pain?
  5. Did you ever contact her when she stopped coming to church? How many times?
  6. Do you have weekly meetings with your subordinate pastors in order to understand what is going on in your church?
  7. Does it bother you that your former subordinates, Andy Savage and Larry Cotton, lost their jobs due to the mishandling of Jules Woodson’s molestation? Why haven’t you lost your job? Did you do something better than they did?
  8. Did you ever seek to defend Savage and Cotton in their actions? If not, why not? Don’t you care about them  as their former supervisor?
  9. Given what happened under your watch to Jules Woodson, why should the attendees of Stonebridge Church believe that you would handle any report of sexual abuse any differently than you did 20 years ago? Have you changed in how you view things and, if so, why?
  10. Does you lack of defense of Savage and Cotton indicate that you would throw your current staff of pastors under the bus in order to protect yourself?
  11. Do you believe that you should repent and consider taking a leave of absence for your lack of concern for Jules Woodson? Of does she even matter to you?

Frankly, I am startled by the lack of concern Bradley has shown in this situation. That lack of concern could indicate his possible actions in the future if there was ever a sex abuse situation at Stonebridge. Folks, call the police first before you tell Bradley.

Steve Bradley: It sure looks like you are passing the buck. I am curious if there are any other *passing the buck* stories…

So, it’s a new day for HIghpoint Church and the same old, same old for Stonebridge Church. Keep an eye on Stonebridge. I predict that things could get messy in the future.

Repeat after me: “Jesus, You alone are worthy!”


Comments

Steve Bradley at Stonebridge Church Role Models How to Deflect Responsibility While Chris Conlee Loses His Job at Highpoint — 111 Comments

  1. “Repeat after me: ‘Jesus, You alone are worthy!’”

    Repeated.

    Excellent questions raised in your post. A lot to think about, for church people. Leadership, followership, responsibility, follow-through of all concerned. It seems that “leadership” expects victims – who were children at the time – to “grow up and get over it” while they continue in their incompetence – when they were supposed to be the professional adults all along. Something missing in this picture of grand titles of authority accompanied by actions of little to no integrity.

    Sadly, with this level of incompetence, though a leader may continue with title and salary, in truth it is possible that God and His Holy Spirit have put that same leader on the shelf – at least for “a season” as they say. Pew people beware, the wheels may have left the temple, or at least the stage or the pulpit. Thus regarding church, it is like that decaf non-fat skinny latte called, “Why Bother?” Nothing there there.

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  2. Why did both Savage and Conlee lose their jobs?

    “Andy Savage was named in the sexual assault of a teenage girl 20 years ago while he was a youth pastor in Texas … Woodson reported the incident to church leadership. Savage quietly left the Texas church and returned to Memphis. He was hired by Germantown Baptist Church and eventually Highpoint. Leadership there knew about the incident in Texas when Savage was hired.” (Memphis Commercial Appeal, 15 July 2018)

    How should Highpoint members have responded when both Savage and Conlee addressed them?

    Not with a standing ovation! In such cases, weeping at the altar would be appropriate.

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  3. Is there a TWW Seminary Symposium yet? What not to do, what to do, what they did, what happened then. What they said versus what they did. Theology vs. practice. Under the rug, then outed, by their OWN media presence (nothing secret about youtube standing ovations and family meetings). Church branding. Emergent, insurgent, resurgent.

    Plus commentary from every which way. When are we going to be able to submit TWW engagement for sem credit? Like grad research? Hmmm… Plus with the scholarly input from TWW’s own
    drstevej,
    the #1 scholarly guy preeminent in what is happening, seems there should be academic advancement here somewhere… with researchers like Jerome, global perspective from Nick across the Pond and someone teaching in Japan, etc.

    Do we need to do a term paper, a thesis? Or, can we simply combine our comments for an anthology of a decade of church-done-none-etc. as our Capstone Project?

    TWW is the reality that seminary doesn’t teach. Maybe the academics are requiring TWW reading and not telling. Or, covert reading, computers under the covers at night to know what really goes on. Lots of links, here too, to history, current events, legal proceedings. Law and Ordination.

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  4. I wonder if the Southern Baptist Convention 2018 and the uproar over Paige Patterson had any bearing on Conley’s “resignation”?

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  5. I had to look up the meaning of tha nickname of the Highpoint Worship Leader
    –not too up on urban slang—but WOW—that is more than unsavory….

    It’s crude & just has no no no place in the mouths of anyone who is a “Worship Leader” or really anyone attempting to model ethical Christianity.

    How tacky…how far too many will go to attempt to make Jesus’ Sacrifice into a Hip new thing….

    Fits right in with the rest of the cool, hip,macho Mark Driscollesque posturing of the New Calvinistas.

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  6. Max: Not with a standing ovation! In such cases, weeping at the altar would be appropriate.

    Clear demonstration of whom they worship in that “church” as well as the “leadership”.

    “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” – John 4:23-4

    As Dee noted, godly leaders would have halted the standing ovations right then and there. The disciples REFUSED to accept adulation:

    “But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out and saying, ‘Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God.'” Acts 14:14-15

    Acts 12: Herod accepted adulation and honors due a god with dire, fatal consequences.

    We – our country, our culture – are clearly doing church all wrong and should take heed to Herod’s consequences. Serious stuff.

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  7. “We have heard from a number of people that the church has been losing both members and money.”

    As with Driscoll at Mars Hill, the motivation for ejecting Conlee has everything to do with money and little with doing the right thing.

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  8. I should also add that Highchurch losing members is a sign of hope. It is a positive sign that mass insanity such as the disgraceful standing ovation did not keep its hold on a significant number of members.

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  9. “Shame on Steve Bradley who has demonstrated to us just what is wrong with many leaders today. They claim to be role models and real men but hide when the going gets tough.”

    Yep, and then they whine about not being “respected”!

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  10. I am always curious why “repentant” molesting pastors are compared with King David. They seem to forget that he lost his firstborn son, Absalom tried to take over the kingdom and raped his wives in full view of everyone in Jerusalem, and he never returned to being the glorious king that he once was. God did grant mercy in allowing Solomon to be the next king, but the rest of his reign was quite horrid for David and his people. The kingdom deteriorated immediately after Solomon’s death and broke into two. in other words it wasn’t just a, “God, I’m so sorry that I lusted after a woman, took her to myself, and had her husband murdered” confession…it was judgment on heinous sin. God tends to take these things rather seriously when the leaders of His people are involved. There is mercy and grace, but consequences are usually more severe for those in leadership.

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  11. Linn: There is mercy and grace, but consequences are usually more severe for those in leadership.

    There are also consequences when responsibility for the church is delegated to a few in “leadership”. I missed the part where Christ taught this as the model for his Church.

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  12. jyjames:
    We – our country, our culture – are clearly doing church all wrong and should take heed to Herod’s consequences. Serious stuff.

    I do understand what you are trying to say but I’ve really come to dislike the much overused phrase “doing church” or “do church.”. We don’t “do” church, we ARE the church. Its not some kind of “method”, its who we are supposed to BE.

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  13. The apparent lack of concern for the suffering of abuse victims suggest deficiencies in empathy and conscience, traits of sociopathy. Martha Stout, in her book “The Sociopath Next Door”, asserts that about 4% of the population is of this personality type, and that the upper reaches of organizations tend to be enriched in them, because they seek power over other people.

    It’s a chilling thought, that many self-described christian churches may be led by sociopaths who are serving their own lust for power rather than God.

    I have read that the reduced activity in the brain areas responsible for conscience and empathy can be detected in brain scans, and it may be that in future certain kinds of jobs will explicitly require (in the job description) demonstration of functional capacity for conscience and empathy (analogous to, say, a warehouse job requirement of “must be able to lift 50 pounds”), documented by fMRI.

    The churches should take this lead in this, IMO.

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  14. Samuel Conner,

    If I may add: pastoral search committees generally will not consider candidates who do not exhibit some evidence of functional competency in bible exposition and other tasks associated with the job description of “pastor” (though the evidence may in some cases simply be a credential from a respectable educational institution). Most of them would agree that they would not consider candidates whom they knew to be deficient in conscience or empathy.

    Given the risks of placing a sociopath in the top spot of a large church, it would be a sensible investment to pay for candidates’ fMRI scans as part of the search process. Perhaps fMRI screens for conscience and empathy will eventually be part of the standard diagnostic procedures offered at diagnostic imaging clinics.

    —-

    I’ll also note that Paul’s habit of appointing as overseers people who were well-known to the members of the congregation and who had well-earned reputations for good character is a way of avoiding the problem of sociopathy at the “top”. His approach is not a good match for modern approaches to “church” that more closely resemble large businesses than extended families.

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  15. jyjames: Clear demonstration of whom they worship in that “church” as well as the “leadership”.

    Such behavior is a consequence of doing church without God in America. From my ole man observation, it began with the seeker-friendly movement and its various offshoots over the years. When you serve a people what they want (cool preachers, entertaining music, come as you are, etc.), they miss the stuff if it’s taken away from them. Put them under anointed preaching of the Word of God and require them to pick up their cross and follow Christ … and you will empty a church. I’ve often said that we need such preaching to right the ship again, but the multitude drawn to easy church will flee. The end result, however, will be worshipers which worship the Father in Spirit and truth … only they would stick around. Finding such a place in America right now is like looking for a needle in a haystack; but travel where Christians are persecuted throughout the world and you will find it.

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  16. Samuel Conner,

    Re sociopathy, I read an article in The Atlantic about such people and their careers. They appear in disproportionate numbers in both top and bottom positions. Those at the top may be at greater risk of loss. Lack of support from those under them puts them at greater risk if they make a major mistake, and employees may revolt.

    My former pastor’s misrule created growing problems and pressures until they blew the lid off. Three outside men with status in the his church were called in to help, and over the course of a “wild weekend” the pastor and his wife stepped down. (I remember that man’s comment about a [since disgraced] visiting televangelist who had said that churches should fire their pastors who are not Spirit-filled. “You don’t fire pastors!” he said harshly [Leave instead].)

    If you come to a church etc voluntarily, you have a right to leave the same way. The pastor had been invited to oversee the original five members, at least one of whom was a relative, first meeting in his living room. By his own account, he had been unjustly disciplined by his Apostolic church/denomination and needed a job. He should therefore have been subject to an “invitation” to leave if necessary: checks and balances.

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  17. Nancy2(aka Kevlar): I wonder if the Southern Baptist Convention 2018 and the uproar over Paige Patterson had any bearing on Conley’s “resignation”?

    That should have received attention by Highpoint elders, but I suspect their decision was a scramble to reverse declining attendance and giving. Or giving them the benefit of the doubt, they may have actually decided to do the right thing because it was the right thing.

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  18. Linn:
    I am always curious why “repentant” molesting pastors are compared with King David. They seem to forget that he lost his firstborn son, Absalom tried to take over the kingdom and raped his wives in full view of everyone in Jerusalem, and he never returned to being the glorious king that he once was. God did grant mercy in allowing Solomon to be the next king, but the rest of his reign was quite horrid for David and his people. The kingdom deteriorated immediately after Solomon’s death and broke into two. in other words it wasn’t just a, “God, I’m so sorry that I lusted after a woman, took her to myself, and had her husband murdered” confession…it was judgment on heinous sin. God tends to take these things rather seriously when the leaders of His people are involved. There is mercy and grace, but consequences are usually more severe for those in leadership.

    Linn,

    This is an excellent point. These guys like to dwell on David’s “Psalm 51” moment, but they don’t want to see that his actions resulted in severe consequences that followed him the rest of his days! Yes, God forgives our sins, BUT He doesn’t excuse the consequences of them. When this principle is coupled with James’ teaching of “Let not many of you be teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment”, pastors or church leaders who commit these sort of things, or cover them up, should not be allowed in a position of leadership again!

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  19. B Badger,

    One problem is the law of moral attraction: above, below, or both. I have read that abusers blame their victims; victims blame themselves; other abusers cover the perpetrator. After I was “disciplined”, there were those who kicked me when I was down. One particularly vicious one was the leader of the small group that I had wanted to transfer to (met down the block from I lived vs a good walk away); others were equals, even “friends”.

    There were also people ready to sing the pastor’s praises, reinforce what was taught. I have also read that such leaders do not need to directly influence followers: the latter’s friends will do that for them.

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  20. Max: That should have received attention by Highpoint elders, but I suspect their decision was a scramble to reverse declining attendance and giving.Or giving them the benefit of the doubt, they may have actually decided to do the right thing because it was the right thing.

    I suspect that a lot of people came to Highpoint to watch “The Andy Savage Show”.

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  21. Max: That should have received attention by Highpoint elders, but I suspect their decision was a scramble to reverse declining attendance and giving.Or giving them the benefit of the doubt, they may have actually decided to do the right thing because it was the right thing.

    Nancy2(aka Kevlar): I suspect that a lot of people came to Highpoint to watch “The Andy Savage Show”.

    I suspect, honestly, a combination of all of these (yes, even the “right thing to do” reason). However, this also highlights a problem with a lot of these celebrity driven churches – there is no foundation underneath. To whom does the congregation turn to with Savage and Conlee gone? Is there any structure to their beliefs and faith besides the feel good moment, now that the feel good moment has been taken away?

    Does the church humble itself, and truly serve the people, or does it collapse?

    I have a lot of criticism for these types of churches, and I can justify it by saying I attended one for many years, rather than take the arrows of “you just don’t like modern worship”. But I also truly hurt for those who were sincere (if sincerely wrong), and the congregants, who were not truly taught, and raised up as strong believers, and pray that they may be surrounded and led by people who can do so.

    It’s easy to pooh-pooh things, and we should absolutely and certainly rail against evil, and call it down (or as my old south roots want to say “pray for a rain of hellfire on the sin”), but we must also pick up the pieces, bandage wounds, teach properly, and be Christ’s body.

    (Please understand I’m NOT protecting the wrong-doers. Nor am I ignoring the abused. I’m thinking of the naïve rest of the population in these churches. I apologize – I’m not a priest/pastor/clergy, or a wonderful champion like Deb and Dee. My spiritual gifts, I’ve learned, are organization. My heart, head, and soul are asking – “what next? What needs doing?”)

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  22. Rambler: To whom does the congregation turn to with Savage and Conlee gone?

    Wherever cult of personality exists, in order to maintain it you have to look for another personality. This is so contrary to the way the Church of the Living God is to operate. There are no human personalities in the Kingdom of God; only the person of Christ … no celebrities, only Jesus is to be worshiped. Certainly, we need pastors and teachers in the Body of Christ, but the true ones among them are called by God to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. Whose job is the ministry? Every believer has a part! Church should not be a spectator sport where the audience shows up to be entertained. We are desperately off-track in many corners of the American church.

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  23. Rambler: pick up the pieces, bandage wounds, teach properly, and be Christ’s body

    Amen! This is a season for the true Body of Christ to rise up and minister to those who have been disappointed and disillusioned by that which has called itself “church” in America. This is a season for believers to be the Church to those who have been deceived by the church. How that manifests itself in a local community will have to be a God-thing, not another model of men.

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  24. The apparent lack of concern for the suffering of abuse victims suggest deficiencies in empathy and conscience, traits of sociopathy. Martha Stout, in her book “The Sociopath Next Door”, asserts that about 4% of the population is of this personality type, and that the upper reaches of organizations tend to be enriched in them, because they seek power over other people.

    Recent research in Canada and the USA, and previous research in the Netherlands and Poland, empirically demonstrated that a staggering +30% of pastors scored sufficiently high enough in narcissism to be categorised as having Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). A key trait is their inability to empathise with the hurts of their congregational members, and a blind spot to their direct culpability in causing major emotional distress by their words, actions and attitudes. The research is available to be read in the book, Let Us Prey: The Plague of Narcissist Pastors and What We Can Do About it by R Glenn Ball & Darrell Puls.

    A report in the UK newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, on Saturday 14 July 2018, suggested the the Church of England is considering administering personality assessments to all future ministers to identify those with potential NPD before they are ordained and allowed to pastor any church.

    It would not surprise me if Driscoll, Conlee, Patterson, Molher, Mahaney, Hybels, etc. were diagnosed with NPD. Their track records in “ministry” read like case studies of extreme narcissists.

    It’s a chilling thought, that many self-described christian churches may be led by sociopaths who are serving their own lust for power rather than God.

    I have read that the reduced activity in the brain areas responsible for conscience and empathy can be detected in brain scans, and it may be that in future certain kinds of jobs will explicitly require (in the job description) demonstration of functional capacity for conscience and empathy (analogous to, say, a warehouse job requirement of “must be able to lift 50 pounds”), documented by fMRI.

    The churches should take this lead in this, IMO.

    Samuel Conner:
    The apparent lack of concern for the suffering of abuse victims suggest deficiencies in empathy and conscience, traits of sociopathy. Martha Stout, in her book “The Sociopath Next Door”, asserts that about 4% of the population is of this personality type, and that the upper reaches of organizations tend to be enriched in them, because they seek power over other people.

    It’s a chilling thought, that many self-described christian churches may be led by sociopaths who are serving their own lust for power rather than God.

    I have read that the reduced activity in the brain areas responsible for conscience and empathy can be detected in brain scans, and it may be that in future certain kinds of jobs will explicitly require (in the job description) demonstration of functional capacity for conscience and empathy (analogous to, say, a warehouse job requirement of “must be able to lift 50 pounds”), documented by fMRI.

    The churches should take this lead in this, IMO.

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  25. Rambler: To whom does the congregation turn to with Savage and Conlee gone?

    Or phrase it another way “To whom does the congregation turn to with ___________ gone?” This is happening across America as one church leader after another fails or falls. There are numerous “Highpoint” churches across America, where congregations struggle when a trusted leader is removed.

    Who should they turn to? What should they do?

    A good place to start: Humble themselves, pray, repent, seek God’s face.

    ‘IF’ my people … ‘THEN’ Will I (2 Chronicles 7:14)

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  26. Root 66: Linn,

    This is an excellent point.These guys like to dwell on David’s “Psalm 51” moment, but they don’t want to see that his actions resulted in severe consequences that followed him the rest of his days!Yes, God forgives our sins, BUT He doesn’t excuse the consequences of them.When this principle is coupled with James’ teaching of “Let not many of you be teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment”, pastors or church leaders who commit these sort of things, or cover them up, should not be allowed in a position of leadership again!

    I believe that we need to distinguish between temporal (earthly) consequences and eternal consequences. In the latter case, there will be a difference between those whose sins have been eternally forgiven and those whose sins have not been. (Might the sin against the Holy Spirit [blasphemy] actually be a total and lifelong rejection of God’s authority, including rejecting His gift of salvation?) Christ died to pay for the eternal consequences of sin, since the alternative is paying for them ourselves forever in a place more horrific that we can fully imagine.

    Christ did not die to pay for the temporal consequences of sin since we can do that ourselves. (Once we die, the debt is paid in full.) There is therefore no difference between Christians and Non-Christians in that respect. God’s child who is lazy will experience the painful consequences thereof; Satan’s child who is diligent will be rewarded on this life. Both Christians and Non-Christians have been famous and influential, and both have been ciphers, now forgotten, for example. You could say that the fear of God, in a literal and temporal sense, has a place in the lives of believers!

    Repentance and restoration can only alleviate some consequences, e g (to David) “The Lord has put your sin; you shall not die”. Every temporal consequence predicted for his sin nonetheless came to pass. It has been said (My Utmost For His Highest) that if we close doors that have been opened for us, they will remain shut although others will open on our behalf. “The unfathomable sadness of the ‘might have been'”. “Arise and do the next thing”.

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  27. Gary Boswell: A key trait is their inability to empathise with the hurts of their congregational members, and a blind spot to their direct culpability in causing major emotional distress by their words, actions and attitudes.

    – teen telling the lead pastor of the youth pastor’s indiscretions
    – the parents of the boy assaulted by the youth leader report it to the administration
    – the wife of a domestic abuser seeking advocacy from her pastor

    Handwave. Get over it. He didn’t mean to. You misread him. What were you wearing? Submit to your husband, so he gets better. You are overreacting. That was years ago. Why are you ruining this man’s career? Move on. Consensual. Organic. Forgive. Reconciliation.

    And the congregation puts money in the plate & gives a standing ovation.

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  28. jyjames: Handwave. Get over it. He didn’t mean to. You misread him. What were you wearing? Submit to your husband, so he gets better. You are overreacting. That was years ago. Why are you ruining this man’s career? Move on. Consensual. Organic. Forgive. Reconciliation.

    And the congregation puts money in the plate & gives a standing ovation.

    Is that what God said?

    No, but we have this counsel from Paul:

    “Those outside the church it is not my business to judge. But surely it is your business to judge those who are inside the church — God alone can judge those who are outside. It is your plain duty to put away from yourselves that wicked person.” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13)

    Even those who are called “pastor” don’t get a pass on this. The reputation of the Church of the Living Christ is at stake; keeping the Main Thing the main thing is more important. Even a watching world – lost and undone without God or His son – wonder when the church will get this right.

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  29. Living Liminal: “Shame on Steve Bradley who has demonstrated to us just what is wrong with many leaders today. They claim to be role models and real men but hide when the going gets tough.”

    Sociopaths are incapable of feeling this “shame”.
    Only Exaltation of Self By Any Means Necessary. Because They Can.

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  30. jyjames: Handwave. Get over it. He didn’t mean to. You misread him. What were you wearing? Submit to your husband, so he gets better. You are overreacting. That was years ago. Why are you ruining this man’s career? Move on. Consensual. Organic. Forgive. Reconciliation.

    And the congregation puts money in the plate & gives a standing ovation.

    Very well-groomed and well-trained Domestic Animals, ain’t they?
    Like the Delphic chorus of sheep in Animal Farm.

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  31. Max–you do know some of the success of the seeker driven church is drug abuse, right? As in they use music, lighting, temp, tempo, etc to cause the release of specific endorphins and inhibition of others.

    It sickened me to read (just google it. Lots out there.)of how with the loud beat driven music there is auditory pain. Ramp that up with discordant music and the body feels sooooo goooood when it ends it releases a lot of happy brain juice. Of course by midweek folks are coming down from that natural high and need another shot–just enough to make it to weekend.

    Taking that away from them is literally psychically akin to meth or cocaine withdrawal. Seems to me I remember a strong warning somewhere in scripture about pharmacopeia. Yet we use it to “build the church.”

    Gag. Wretch.

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  32. Rambler,

    Yes, we should have a problem with any church that fits your description. Back in the 90’s I read that that people who attend megachurches consider themselves regular attenders if they come twice a month. They give little, serve less, yet they expect full service and support. When I passed this on to my senior pastor at the time, he seemed to have a problem believing it. He wanted to grow our shrinking church, partly through being at times “seeker-sensitive” (for those who want to be entertained but not confronted). On one occasion, trying to motivate us to invite guests for a planned service of that sort, he told us that they would not be offended [nor convicted and possibly converted either, I suppose].

    As far as “worship music” (entertainment) went, there was a partial reprieve under that pastor’s father (born too early to have developed a taste for rock/rock influenced music). Once his oldest son took over, it came back. One of the times I walked out of the sanctuary to find a refuge from the distorted music, I came across a woman of about my age who told me (truthfully or not) that she had come there because she couldn’t stand what she had been hearing.

    At the next church, I first heard it during this or that presentation by the youth. Then the music director told that we would be having blended services: some traditional some contemporary. Soon traditional music became an occasional visitor. Under one of the director’s sons, the problem worsened. A set of songs after the message was added to the set that came before. Even the Christmas Eve service was desecrated. One Sunday morning such music was piped into the fellowship area where we were socializing before the service. (It never happened again, allegedly due to complaints). The increasing dominance of the loud, unbalanced music in the services, making them more inhospitable for me, was one reason I pulled up stakes, ending up at my current church.

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  33. In my recent experiences of “church” involving Baptists, something called itself “Ascent”, Foursquare and Calvary Chapel not one reached out with empathy but instead for “tithes” .
    In describing any of them it was not God that was job one but the job of “sustaining the business” of keeping the 501C3 employment of the pastor and his family as number one in focus with “thou shall not touch my annoited ones ” and ” two witnesses ” required to accuse any of wrong that were emphasized and stated seemingly every sunday.
    The “Mystery” of religion was also stated often and not once was I ever seen as anything with a brain of my own but as an expendable asset to be exploited and not as anyone that could possibly be there to actually worship the God that sees me.
    Sit and never question, listen but never listened to, it reminded me of the three monkeys “hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil ” for WE ARE GOD IN THE FLESH AND YOU OWE US ANYTHING WE DESIRE FOR GOD HATH ANNOITED US”

    In Jeremiah 9:3 They bend their tongues like bows with lies and know not God.

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  34. linda,

    There is indeed a lot of stuff written about music and the brain, loudness and the brain, rhythm and the brain.

    When I was in Africa one of the missionaries who worked in the bush took me with her to a ceremony which was where adolescent girls were trying out for priestess-rather like auditions. We had to promise not to take pictures, but I tried to do it with no success. Anyhow, the drummers beat the drums and the girls one at a time would come out of a tent, ‘dance’ around in a circle, and eventually collapse in what appeared to be a trance of some sort. Then the women would literally drag the girl by the arms into a tent and the next one would come out. After a relatively short period of time and one by one the girls in the trance state would walk out of the tent, a bit unbalanced but on their own, and join the crowd.

    The few times that I visited SBC mega here and they turned up the music and established some driving beat and had the lights low and everything turned purple I ‘saw’ that bush ceremony in my memory. But the girls in Africa went into trance a lot easier than the Baptists, so maybe it takes practice. It has been a while; I don’t know what results they are getting in baptistville down the road from here now. But the brain is the brain, so i am thinking that something similar may be going on for some people down the road, absent the necessity to have to be dragged out of course.

    Anybody think I am being ugly? Nope. Cultural anthropologists do this sort of thing all the time. In the back of the older DSMs they used to describe apparent syndromes which were normal in other cultures but would be abnormal in our culture. It happens.

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  35. Gary Boswell:
    The apparent lack of concern for the suffering of abuse victims suggest deficiencies in empathy and conscience, traits of sociopathy. Martha Stout, in her book “The Sociopath Next Door”, asserts that about 4% of the population is of this personality type, and that the upper reaches of organizations tend to be enriched in them, because they seek power over other people.

    Recent research in Canada and the USA, and previous research in the Netherlands and Poland, empirically demonstrated that a staggering +30% of pastors scored sufficiently high enough in narcissism to be categorised as having Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). A key trait is their inability to empathise with the hurts of their congregational members, and a blind spot to their direct culpability in causing major emotional distress by their words, actions and attitudes. The research is available to be read in the book, Let Us Prey: The Plague of Narcissist Pastors and What We Can Do About it by R Glenn Ball & Darrell Puls.

    A report in the UK newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, on Saturday 14 July 2018, suggested the the Church of England is considering administering personality assessments to all future ministers to identify those with potential NPD before they are ordained and allowed to pastor any church.

    It would not surprise me if Driscoll, Conlee, Patterson, Molher, Mahaney, Hybels, etc. were diagnosed with NPD. Their track records in “ministry” read like case studies of extreme narcissists.

    It’s a chilling thought, that many self-described christian churches may be led by sociopaths who are serving their own lust for power rather than God.

    I have read that the reduced activity in the brain areas responsible for conscience and empathy can be detected in brain scans, and it may be that in future certain kinds of jobs will explicitly require (in the job description) demonstration of functional capacity for conscience and empathy (analogous to, say, a warehouse job requirement of “must be able to lift 50 pounds”), documented by fMRI.

    The churches should take this lead in this, IMO.

    Gary Boswell: Recent research in Canada and the USA, and previous research in the Netherlands and Poland, empirically demonstrated that a staggering +30% of pastors scored sufficiently high enough in narcissism to be categorised as having Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). A key trait is their inability to empathise with the hurts of their congregational members, and a blind spot to their direct culpability in causing major emotional distress by their words, actions and attitudes. The research is available to be read in the book, Let Us Prey: The Plague of Narcissist Pastors and What We Can Do About it by R Glenn Ball & Darrell Puls.

    I just had to quote the whole paragraph. I’ll definitely be getting that book when I can afford to. What is even sadder is that the NPD pastor passes his inability to empathize on to the members when he preaches from the pulpit and tells people personally that they are not to sympathize with the person going through a trial, such as an abused wife separating from her husband, effectively silencing her. Whatever happened to weeping with those who weep? But he thinks it will just encourage her in the wrong path she has chosen. Thanks for sharing this research and book.

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  36. linda:
    Max–you do know some of the success of the seeker driven church is drug abuse, right?As in they use music, lighting, temp, tempo, etc to cause the release of specific endorphins and inhibition of others.

    It sickened me to read (just google it.Lots out there.)of how with the loud beat driven music there is auditory pain.Ramp that up with discordant music and the body feels sooooo goooood when it ends it releases a lot of happy brain juice.Of course by midweek folks are coming down from that natural high and need another shot–just enough to make it to weekend.

    Taking that away from them is literally psychically akin to meth or cocaine withdrawal.Seems to me I remember a strong warning somewhere in scripture about pharmacopeia.Yet we use it to “build the church.”

    Gag. Wretch.

    Greek: pharmakeia (sorcery, magic) Galatians 5:20

    I remember going to the annual humorous concert (GRONK) put on by the UBC School of Music that I once attended (University of British Columbia). What I most remember is a series of vignettes portraying the history of music and dance. First scene: savage drumming, cavemen dancing as though to rock music. After some others, ending with the fading disco craze (1980), there was a glimpse into the future: back to the cavemen. “The sons of this age are wiser in their generation than the children of light”.

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  37. An article today in the New Yorker discussed government leaders who are interested in power but not in government.

    Thought about this post. Perhaps there are pastors who seek pulpit, platform, and power but are not really that interested (ADHD) in shepherding. Hmmm… could be part of the problem when someone shows up in their office with a real situation. There, there, moving right along now.

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  38. jyjames: when someone shows up in their office with a real situation. “There, there, moving right along now.”

    And, regarding a real situation showing up, “That’s no fun!”

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  39. A New Problem:
    I know this was just a sidebar, but what nickname are we talking about? I couldn’t find it anywhere.

    I pulled this quote from the Patheos blog link. Even when I was far from acting as a Christian I would have never found that nickname to be funny.

    Just before Lead Pastor Chris Conlee began his statement today, the worship team led by Josh Maze (known among Highpoint regulars as, and I am not making this up, “Jizz”) led the congregation in this commercial “worship” song, One Thing Remains by Jesus Culture.

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  40. Brother Maynard: I pulled this quote from the Patheos blog link. Even when I was far from acting as a Christian I would have never found that nickname to be funny.

    Just before Lead Pastor Chris Conlee began his statement today, the worship team led by Josh Maze (known among Highpoint regulars as, and I am not making this up, “Jizz”) led the congregation in this commercial “worship” song, One Thing Remains by Jesus Culture.

    Gross

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  41. Brother Maynard,

    Yes, the name I provided was given to Andy Savage by a good friend to describe his passion and giftedness in certain areas of work in that church. Oops.

    Yes, Josh’s nickname if disgusting.

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  42. Maple Lady:
    I just had to quote the whole paragraph.I’ll definitely be getting that book when I can afford to.What is even sadder is that the NPD pastor passes his inability to empathize on to the members when he preaches from the pulpit and tells people personally that they are not to sympathize with the person going through a trial, such as an abused wife separating from her husband, effectively silencing her.Whatever happened to weeping with those who weep?But he thinks it will just encourage her in the wrong path she has chosen.Thanks for sharing this research and book.

    I have read that when a bully leaves a workplace, some infection remains in others. How many times have I seen an alpha male bully with one or more beta males who watch and listen. If the bully gets verbally beaten up by someone older and correspondingly more resilient, one of them might react:”Hey, that’s my friend!” If the young alpha cannot stand up to the chewing out, the hanger on won’t be able to either.

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  43. Commenters have provided plenty of grist for my mill, more than I can reply to, even though I am not working at this time. Before I can finish, a new thread starts and the old one soon becomes dormant.

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  44. A New Problem:
    I know this was just a sidebar, but what nickname are we talking about? I couldn’t find it anywhere.

    I googled the guys name after I found it on the church website….and then had to look it up for the meaning….interesting but really quite disgusted when I found out….

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  45. linda,

    A basic problem, I would guess the basic problem with rock and related music is its lack of balance. Traditional music is its various forms has the melody dominant, followed by the harmony and finally the rhythm. There is a lesser amount of tension (rise in melody, dissonance in harmony, regularity in rhythm) and a greater amount of relaxation (fall in melody, consonance in harmony, irregularity in rhythm). Stress is mostly on the first and, as applicable, the third beats. As far as I know, this has been the basic pattern in classical music from the early Baroque through the Romantic Periods and can be found in traditional country, bluegrass, folk, and Celtic music as well. (There is nothing new under the sun: a Renaissance composer [Gesualdo] composed music more dissonant than any prior the 20th century; some Medieval music is rhythmically more complex [polyrhythms] than anything prior to the last century).

    Rock and its cousins distort this pattern to one degree or another.

    It seems that rock can never a happy medium. If it isn’t obvious, aggressive, crude, raw, and raucous, it may be wimpy. I have heard that blues was rhythmically free. When
    a steady rhythm was added, it became rhythm and blues. When the stress moved from the first and third beats to the second and fourth, it became rock and roll.(Some early “rock and roll” is actually rhythm and blues that otherwise sounds the same.)

    Neither blues, jazz, rhythm & blues, nor rock is known for its subtlety of expression, unlike traditional music. I think that you are also unlikely to find natural, relaxed, and pleasant voices in those genres. Rock voices tend to range from distorted and unpleasant to outright evil sounding. Someone observed that rock music is loud because it has little else to offer. A former CCM worship leader made these observations: “Without drums and electric guitars to influence you, it will be very hard to choose the wrong music. De-emphasize the beat and you will often find that there is not much left in a CCM piece.”

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  46. B Badger,

    remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

    people hear and experience different things in music. it’s kind of like walking through a museum. people are moved by different things. one person is moved by a painting, and his or companion might find it boring. someone sees tremendous beauty in one piece, while someone else finds it grotesque. a piece of modern art can seem utterly pointless, yet some find great meaning in it. i was out of my mind with excitement at the Musee D’Orsay, and my kids said “Can we leave now?” while looking at a Monet.

    music is subjective, like comedy or food. the experience of it is individual. it is different from person to person, and no less powerful for each. there is no one right form of comedy, no one right style of food, and no one right style of music.

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  47. B Badger,

    My last exposure to contemporary styles of church music was nearly a decade ago, in a church that was not yet mega scale but aspired to be. The music seemed to me loud enough to damage hearing with prolonged exposure and I sat as far from the sound sources as I could.

    It struck me as a bit paradoxical that a ministry notionally centered around “hearing the Word of God” would intentionally do things that might progressively deafen people.

    Is this an idle concern?

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  48. B Badger: Neither blues, jazz, rhythm & blues, nor rock is known for its subtlety of expression, unlike traditional music.

    I respectfully disagree. These forms of music have their own nuances, particularly when you consider their improvisational nature. For example, what distinguishes a great guitar solo in an instrumental break of a contemporary worship song from just filler while people clear their throats? For me, it is in the shaping of the phrases so that energy is added to the piece and propels it satisfactorily into the next section and further engages worshipers in the message of the song. This takes a high degree of musical intuition, virtuosity, discipline, creativity, and God given talent. These, by the way, are the same qualities that make an organ interlude between the third and fourth verses of a hymn effective.

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  49. FW Rez: This takes a high degree of musical intuition, virtuosity, discipline, creativity, and God given talent. These, by the way, are the same qualities that make an organ interlude between the third and fourth verses of a hymn effective.

    So let us hope that the pew persons in the congregation all have that ‘high degree of ….all that stuff…’.

    But there is one issue in the music wars that (a) was the primary issue for me when the music wars all began and which (b) is not being discussed much. The content of the lyrics is very limited; it is not a teaching device but rather an expressive device.

    So what? Well, as it played out first the preachers forsook substantive preaching, but we still had the hymns which were still substantive. Then ‘they’ took the hymns away and the instructive function of the hymns was thus gone. Then, when the upcoming generation was adequately ignorant of the great themes and doctrines of the church they preached trivia and practiced manipulation and taught people to doubt and even despise themselves. This kept the people in such a state of spiritual dryness and foundational ignorance that they, in their state of semi-starvation just kept coming back for their next ‘fix’ of happy juice, as someone has noted regarding how the human brain tends to do.

    The enemy of man’s soul is very clever, and man is not very clever. Once the churches had basically taught man to distrust himself, and once the churches had forgotten both Jesus the Holy Spirit, then man had little way to access cleverness much less spiritual discernment and was dependent on the celebrity in the pulpit and the music on the stage and the coffee in the lobby.

    It looks like a clever ‘gotcha’ to me.

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  50. Samuel Conner,

    Your concern is not at all idle!

    I have worked in construction (and hope to start again soon). I normally wear earplugs due to noise. Even if the background noise is not particularly loud for the moment, you never know what might happen. If a brief noise is loud enough, even it can damage hearing. Hearing tests are mandatory (supposed to be once a year) and we are required to carry the results with us for possible inspection. Every retest has resulted in a worse score, first through damage and now through age as well. Both background noise and earplugs can make it difficult for me to hear people.

    What wholesome motivation would prompt the destructive behavior you described?

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  51. okrapod,

    Excellent! As children the words were memorized easily as every mom knows you teach your child your phone number or the multiplication tables in song. It sticks. then one day you realize you know the words to a passage in Lamentations because you sang it as a child. It has substance.

    We called the new music “Jesus is my Boyfriend” songs.

    To each his own, though. I will take the old hymns, the Spirituals and the classical. In secular vocal performance they do quite a bit of spirituals along with classical. Recently the college Honor choir did “David’s Lamentation” which will break your heart.

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  52. okrapod: The content of the lyrics is very limited; it is not a teaching device but rather an expressive device.

    Well said, okrapod. This is the best stated criticism of the “seven-eleven” songs (singing the same seven words eleven times over) that I’ve heard. I was thinking the other day of how much I miss texts like “Ask Ye What Great Thing I Know” and how they engage me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. While we make frequent use of hymns in our “blended services” at out church, there are very few actual texts in the rotation compared to the days when we wouldn’t repeat a hymn more than once or twice a year.

    Since I always enjoy your comments but seldom engage you in conversation, I’d like to ask you a question: is there a back story to your moniker that you could share?

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  53. I was a cantor in an Episcopal Church with a magnificent organ, a multi-instrumentalist in a folk/bluegrass worship music band, and a worshipper in a modern rock style church. I’m now in a church that plays a lot of ancient and modern hymns along with carefully chosen “praise and worship music.” I play only occasionally now. I am close to musicians in mega churches but have never even visited one.

    I can tell you that the dismissive attitudes towards other styles are always ignorant and (usually unintentionally) culturally biased. Often, they’re ethnocentric. If someone insists that western art music (read: organs and choirs) is objectively better or more spiritual or better for congregational singing, or more musically whatever, they are generalizing out of ignorance. I have been in churches where the organ and choir quite effectively shut up the congregation. I’ve sung in church choirs where half of us were paid non-christians. I’ve also played in a rock & roll setting where Scripture was taught and sung with great skill and God-centeredness.

    Often, we know a type of music best because we love it, and appreciate the *type* of excellence that is cherished in that style. Because another style doesn’t emphasize that type of excellence, we don’t see or celebrate the kind of excellence it has. As a result, we think it’s dead, crude, or false.

    I’m not saying all music is equally excellent. But I am suggesting that there are good things in the styles you don’t like, and those good things mean something to the people who cherish them.

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  54. FW Rez: is there a back story to your moniker that you could share?

    Sort of. I am Nancy in real life, but then when Nancy2 started commenting it got complicated so I looked for something else. Okra is southern, and so am I. I once tried to grow okra but was not successful, so using the word sort of pulls some sort of success out of my ill fated okra experiment. I like okra. I grew up ‘out in the county’ where my dad in his spare time did what we would now call urban farming, on a small scale. I spent my youth outdoors, and in college undergrad I did a major in biology with extra semester hours in botany; it was what I planned to do if I did not get into med school. Many is the time that I thought I made the wrong choice. Witness my history with my ‘back 40’ of little renown.

    So I chose okra for my botanical patron saint, to use an analogy. I may have failed her but I did not forsake her-okra that is. My dentist says that ‘in heaven’ he want to just cut the grass; no more teeth. I get that. ‘In heaven’ I want to work out in the yard and grow stuff and understand stuff that grows and be a friend to stuff that grows.

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  55. A New Problem,

    a bonus idea – i think the music people gravitate towards as they come of age (12-18, perhaps) remains the most powerful music for them for the rest of their lives. music that will forever excite, move, and stir them.

    the longer a person lives the more music they are exposed to and the more wonderful discoveries are made. yet, it’s the music from those early years that stays with them.

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  56. okrapod: So what? Well, as it played out first the preachers forsook substantive preaching, but we still had the hymns which were still substantive.

    I’m probably nearly as old as you (and Max). I am still a member of and attend a traditional SBC church that is barely hanging on. Sunday School and the music are what keeps me going. The traditional hymns have content. I sing in the remnant of choir where fortunately the anthems also still have content. The preaching is expositional but only so-so and seems to stay clear of the four gospels by design. At my age I don’t look forward to changing churches or denomination.

    I think today’s Christianity needs proponents of the spiritual caliber of the NT writers not business school marketeers if it is going to make a difference in today’s culture rather than being a part of it.

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  57. okrapod: ‘In heaven’ I want to work out in the yard and grow stuff and understand stuff that grows and be a friend to stuff that grows.

    You want to be a Hobbit?

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  58. okrapod,

    Nancy,

    Thanks for sharing. I’m not a fan of okra but understand the passion. Curiously enough, I once had a cat that went bonkers for fried okra. You would have thought that there was catnip in the frying pan.

    Your perspective of heaven reminds me of when C.S. Lewis discusses in “The Problem of Pain” how we each approach God with a different appreciation of His various aspects based on our unique experiences. It sounds as if you would have really enjoyed Eden had Adam not messed up.

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  59. okrapod: This kept the people in such a state of spiritual dryness and foundational ignorance that they, in their state of semi-starvation just kept coming back for their next ‘fix’ of happy juice, as someone has noted regarding how the human brain tends to do.

    And as Social Media apps are increasingly designed to do.

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  60. Lydia: We called the new music “Jesus is my Boyfriend” songs.

    During the Age of Twilight mania, I went a little farther:
    “Jesus is My EDWARD Cullen — Sparkle Sparkle Sparkle SQUEEE!!!”
    (And some of the “Sloppy Wet Kiss” school of CCM actually went there!)

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  61. Re the music comments: I have also served a bit as a church musician. The gag wretch point came when the worship pastor started openly teaching the manipulative mechanisms to get the response the pastor wanted.

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  62. elastigirl: the longer a person lives the more music they are exposed to and the more wonderful discoveries are made.

    https://www.om.org/us/en/news/igniting-new-worship-music
    “Heart Sounds International (HSI) is a ministry of OM Arts that helps churches all around the world to create new worship songs, using their own local expressions of music and arts. In April 2018, a team of five travelled to Kosovo to hold a songwriting workshop for local believers. Participants came from different cities and towns with a heart for leading their church communities in worship in their own language.”

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  63. B Badger:
    Samuel Conner,

    What wholesome motivation would prompt the destructive behavior you described?

    Trying to be sympathetic, one could reckon that if church leaders even know that their music is gradually deafening the congregation, they might still consider it a defensible trade-off if the spiritual benefit to the participants is reckoned to outweigh the biological damage. I would like to think that the latter is not a necessary cost of the former.

    My sense is that the music serves something of an emotional manipulation agenda. Okrapod has noted the vacuity of much contemporary hymnody.

    This is arguably a dis-economy of scale and a negative feedback loop. Beyond a certain size, you need amplification for the preacher to be heard throughout the meeting room, but that will generally expose some of the hearers to sound loud enough to damage hearing over time, and those people may need amplified sound in the future.

    Before I finally stopped attending the loud would-be almost mega-congregation, I started arriving late to avoid the music. One of the nice things about “sermons over internet” is that you can control the volume.

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  64. Lydia: To each his own, though. I will take the old hymns, the Spirituals and the classical. In secular vocal performance they do quite a bit of spirituals along with classical. Recently the college Honor choir did “David’s Lamentation” which will break your heart.

    For the most part I agree. I have an old Lutheran hymnal (Concordia 1941) with all the old favorites, and even their time and key signatures. What a concept huh?

    I just can’t get excited over David’s Lamentation, and yeah you’re right, it really does boil down to the purely subjective thing of whatever floats one’s own boat.

    Over the years I’ve become increasingly disillusioned over the lionization of King David. I mean David this , and David that, it gets tiresome, and they completely ignore the much larger life lesson in the prophet Nathan’s parabolic narrative of the poor man having the joy of his hard life taken from him by a powerful chieftain who has everything and still wants more.

    For me, 2 Samuel 12:1-4 is the real tear-jerker and probably best described in music by Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings

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  65. elastigirl: the longer a person lives the more music they are exposed to and the more wonderful discoveries are made. yet, it’s the music from those early years that stays with them.

    AMEN.

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  66. okrapod,

    Insightful and eloquent!

    Re bullies making themselves feel and look superior by demeaning and belittling others, leaders who want more respect, honour, trust, and being depended on than they deserve (appear bigger than they are) tend to give less of these things to their followers than they deserve (make them look and feel smaller than they are/could be).

    The leaders you described are an example of abusers coming between God and the people.
    Think of the ape Shift in “The Last Battle” refusing access to the presence and direct voice of (his false) Aslan, enabling him to dictate to, abuse, and oppress the Narnians in Aslan’s name.

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  67. Alice is a drag queen, Bowie’s somewhere in between
    Other bands are looking mean, me, I’m trying to stay clean
    I don’t dig the radio, I hate what the charts pick
    Rock and roll may not be dead, but it’s getting sick
    All over the world disc jockeys sound the same
    And every town I play is like the one from where I came

    The Rolling Stones are millionaires, flower children pallbearers
    Beatles said All you need is love, and then they broke up
    Jimi took an overdose, Janis followed so close
    The whole music scene and all the bands are pretty comatose
    This time last year, people didn’t wanna hear
    They looked at Jesus from afar, this year he’s a superstar

    Dear John, who’s more popular now?
    I’ve been listening to some of Paul’s records
    Sometimes I think he really is dead

    It’s 1973, I wonder who we’re gonna see
    Who’s in power now? Think I’ll turn on my TV
    The man on the news said China’s gonna beat us
    We shot all our dreamers, there’s no one left to lead us
    We need a solution, we need salvation
    Let’s send some people to the moon and gather information

    They brought back a big bag of rocks
    Only cost thirteen billion. Must be nice rocks

    You think it’s such a sad thing when you see a fallen king
    Then you find out they’re only princes to begin with
    And everybody has to choose whether they will win or lose
    Follow God or sing the blues, and who they’re gonna sin with
    What a mess the world is in, I wonder who began it
    Don’t ask me, I’m only visiting this planet.

    — Larry Norman

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  68. I think the bullet points about Highpoint’s failings are very apt, particularly the point about responding to an email from the victim. When, for example, I consider the multiple times the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and Bishop Shannon have tried to sit in regal silence when I have asked them for help with my former priest, Bob Malm, I can draw only one conclusion, which is that there is neither accountability, nor a desire to fix things. That said, the diocese is quick to reach out when it feels its reputation is at risk, which, from my vantage point, is not because of us pesky bloggers; it’s because of the diocese’s bad conduct.

    All of which is a long way of saying that abusers are suprisingly consistent over time, whether Evangelical, Catholic, Episcopal, or any other denomination or theological perspective.

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  69. OldJohnJ: Sunday School and the music are what keeps me going. The traditional hymns have content. I sing in the remnant of choir where fortunately the anthems also still have content.

    This almost sounds like our church! (Except for the expositional preaching part!) How in the world are churches supposed to share the Gospel when they don’t preach from the Gospels?!?

    Anyway, as music director, I try to pick out hymns and songs that really mean something (at least to me). For about a year or so, I have been featuring “Hymns that aren’t in the Hymnbook anymore”. Our congregation really enjoys it and for many reasons. For some, they will recall pleasant memories that an old hymn might bring to mind. For others, they might be learning it as a “new” hymn that they didn’t know before. I even like to put the words of one hymn to the tune of another. Sometimes that helps people focus on the words afresh.

    Music engages the mind in ways very differently from the spoken word. The Word spoken and the Word sung ministers to us at various levels spiritually and both are desperately needed.

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  70. linda:
    Max–you do know some of the success of the seeker driven church is drug abuse, right?As in they use music, lighting, temp, tempo, etc to cause the release of specific endorphins and inhibition of others.

    It sickened me to read (just google it.Lots out there.)of how with the loud beat driven music there is auditory pain.Ramp that up with discordant music and the body feels sooooo goooood when it ends it releases a lot of happy brain juice.Of course by midweek folks are coming down from that natural high and need another shot–just enough to make it to weekend.

    Taking that away from them is literally psychically akin to meth or cocaine withdrawal.Seems to me I remember a strong warning somewhere in scripture about pharmacopeia.Yet we use it to “build the church.”

    Gag. Wretch.

    Drug?! Addictive?! Induced dependence?! Nonsense! (smile)

    You are definitely on to something and have gotten to the heart of the matter as far as I am concerned.

    Characteristics of addiction that I have read:
    Denial (I can quit any time I want to. “Giving up smoking is easy…I’ve done it hundreds of times”.- Mark Twain).
    Sacrifice of relationships for the addiction (e g people in church who react to the music there or some of it being told in so many words to leave if they don’t like it).
    Compulsion to engage in the addiction at any time (e g need for a constant supply [at work, in vehicle, mobile audio device]. At one time the only relief from the loud music day and night in the apartment above mine was a 2 hour broadcast each evening.On the other hand, the only music I brought to work, almost always portable, was an attempt to mask undesirable music there.).
    A practice of secrecy until others accept it (e g hiding music from disapproving parents etc).
    The creation of an appetite that is never satisfied (e g wanting to listen a song just one more time?).
    Unusual efforts to feed the addiction (time and effort)
    Using any money necessary for the addiction
    A readiness to defend the cause of the addiction (We tend to believe what we do and call right. If we fail to realize that we are enslaved and/or are being harmed by what we are doing, we will reject any arguments against our addiction. Would this be a major reason for the contention over this subject?).
    A need to involve others in the addiction (e g justified in this case by supposedly needing it to reach young people, playing it in stores etc [even playing it outside the store]. An article written by a youth leader that recommended CCM certainly sounded it. I read a similarly motivated article promoting music at work. He even suggested speakers in the parking so that worker could begin and end their day with music [!]).
    Reaction to those who disagree with the addict (“Don’t you like music?” “I like my music!” “It’s my radio!” “What’s wrong with the music?” etc.

    Just as smokers tend to have no nose, e g smoking in a bus shelter and/or upwind to those nearby, so music addicts seem to have no ear for distortion and volume. Have I never an audio unit turned up to the point where even spoken words had a penetrating intrusive quality, even punching through a concrete wall. I have seen supervisors struggle in vain to control volume at their sites, gaining only temporary relief before it starts to creep up again. On three sites I was at, radios were eventually banned. (As an aside, there was a time when CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) workers were on strike and its then all classical music was interspersed with much less talk. One of the worst offenders listened to their classical music during this time.)

    Another problem with such music is dominating, consuming intensity. At times such music has seemed like an entity that was trying to take me over.

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  71. Root 66: I even like to put the words of one hymn to the tune of another. Sometimes that helps people focus on the words afresh.

    Best example I’ve actually heard of that kind of mash-up was an informal (not service) performance of “Amazing Grace” to the tune of “House of the Rising Sun”.

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  72. Headless Unicorn Guy: Best example I’ve actually heard of that kind of mash-up was an informal (not service) performance of “Amazing Grace” to the tune of “House of the Rising Sun”.

    Haven’t tried that one yet…maybe on my last Sunday as worship leader, I’ll give it a whirl! 🙂

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  73. Muff Potter,

    “For me, 2 Samuel 12:1-4 is the real tear-jerker and probably best described in music by Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings”

    I will be checking that out. I agree with you about David this and David that. OT characters are totally overblown to excuse all sorts of heinous deeds. I’ve been away from that for long enough now that I can actually appreciate things in a different way. What struck me about the lamentation was his realization and sorrow.

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  74. Muff Potter: …and they completely ignore the much larger life lesson in the prophet Nathan’s parabolic narrative of the poor man having the joy of his hard life taken from him by a powerful chieftain who has everything and still wants more.

    Hits a little too close to home?

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  75. molly245: B Badger: “the Smoke and Soul guy”

    I had to google the guys name once I got it from their website….and then look it up online for the meaning…..

    I did a search on it and found that “Smoke & Soul” is apparently a popular name for BBQ eateries/caterers.

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  76. linda:
    Max–you do know some of the success of the seeker driven church is drug abuse, right?As in they use music, lighting, temp, tempo, etc to cause the release of specific endorphins and inhibition of others.

    It sickened me to read (just google it.Lots out there.)of how with the loud beat driven music there is auditory pain.Ramp that up with discordant music and the body feels sooooo goooood when it ends it releases a lot of happy brain juice.Of course by midweek folks are coming down from that natural high and need another shot–just enough to make it to weekend.

    Taking that away from them is literally psychically akin to meth or cocaine withdrawal.Seems to me I remember a strong warning somewhere in scripture about pharmacopeia.Yet we use it to “build the church.”

    Gag. Wretch.

    Another trait of addiction is an increasing tolerance, requiring stronger of stimulation to get the same effect. Would this explain the historical trend toward ever harder (even “primitive”) and louder music. Could the same progression be seen in some listeners and musicians?

    Re lack of deference, an addict might be willing to turn offensive music down but not off.

    Distorted music addicts may react to, denigrate music that fails to give them a high.
    I started to listen to the hit parade in 1964 when music was milder on the whole. Even so I remember that when a folk song was played (Michael Row the Boat Ashore), it failed to give me the usual euphoria. Think of pursuing excitement until it turns into depression that makes you want to avoid the source for a while (e g can’t quit, can’t drink cycle). It was the same with the music: Every so often I would get the urge to listen to the hit parade station. I would do so for maybe 2 days or so until I had my fill of it for a while.

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  77. B Badger: Every so often I would get the urge to listen to the hit parade station. I would do so for maybe 2 days or so until I had my fill of it for a while.

    Same thing happened with me when I first got cable in 1984. Tuned in to MTV and burned out on it in a couple days. Six to eight Twisted Sister videos every hour does that to you.

    I found changing pace and variety in genres (and volumes) headed off that effect. At the time MTV had a Top 40 AM format (of which half must have been Twisted Sister) while USA’s Night Flight was more like an underground FM station of the time, doing a great variety of offbeat stuff. Dr Demento (novelty song format) every Sunday was also a help. Keep rotating among several different genres when you burn out on one.

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  78. linda: Taking that away from them is literally psychically akin to meth or cocaine withdrawal.

    Or hiding their Smartphone.

    All Dopamine pumps, timing their fix of happy juice just right, over and over and over and over and over.

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  79. As I at least partly said in an earlier comment, we are given needs, aptitudes, and instincts. Given our fallen lower nature and our corresponding bent for believing and doing the opposite of what is true and right, all are easily misused, misdirected. None of them can be used as a final guide to theory and practice. The lodestone is balance, neither too strict nor too lenient, neither anything goes nor nothing goes. To ban all music would be abusive, to permit all music is abusive in another sense.

    Some may say that they do have musical restrictions: some lyrics are bad. If someone says that sex is only for children and that this is not an extreme position, that person is mistaken. Children is a related but different and banning sex altogether would in effect be a comment on the morality of having children. Lyrics is also a related but different issue from structure, and only restricting the words is in effect saying anything goes structurally.

    Does structure matter? The former organist-choir director of our church thinks so. At our Learner’s Exchange, a Sunday morning class where different speakers present various topics, he has spoken on a number of occasions about how certain classical music makes religious texts more effective. He can’t seem to resist making digs against rock music each time, eg cracking about Christian leaders ‘plugging into’ the latest trend. He was the program director of the CBC Disc Drive program for 9 years. It was his job, at least in effect, to influence the listeners through his musical selections.

    (J I Packer is the founder, chair, and coordinator of Learners Exchange, holding the post for 45 years. He has spoken to us on a number of occasions. He is now over 90 and doesn’t look as though he has much time left on this earth. Re the earlier reference to Roman Catholic involvement in astronomy, one of our speakers talked to us about her time spent in at least one of their observatories [Arizona].)

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  80. linda: Max–you do know some of the success of the seeker driven church is drug abuse, right?

    I don’t know about that, but I have felt like drinking whiskey after attending some of these displays of church as entertainment! 🙂

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  81. All I am going to say about the topic of music is that some of you might be shocked if you knew Christian music history a bit better. Like the part where church organs were destroyed and why…..worship wars are not a new thing by any means.

    As for me….why should the devil have all the good music?

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  82. Samuel Conner: It struck me as a bit paradoxical that a ministry notionally centered around “hearing the Word of God” would intentionally do things that might progressively deafen people.

    Is this an idle concern?

    I used to visit a church like this when visiting a family member- they actually had a basket of earplugs at the entrance for those of us who value our hearing. The irony of having to wear earplugs in church always struck me.

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  83. SiteSeer: I used to visit a church like this when visiting a family member- they actually had a basket of earplugs at the entrance for those of us who value our hearing. The irony of having to wear earplugs in church always struck me.

    Noises of any sort that are too loud and too close for too long just aren’t good for your hearing. It doesn’t matter if such noise is delivered as “music”, it’s a church experience than can hurt you rather than help you … another irony that you shouldn’t encounter in church.

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  84. A New Problem: I’m not saying all music is equally excellent. But I am suggesting that there are good things in the styles you don’t like, and those good things mean something to the people who cherish them.

    If you look around and see the majority not singing then I wonder who the music is chosen for.

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  85. B Badger: What wholesome motivation would prompt the destructive behavior [very loud music] you described?

    One motivation is just tradition, ironically. Not all traditions are centuries old, of course. We briefly attended one church of just a few people meeting in a small community centre – that had 30 minutes of very loud music where half the people in the room were in the band. Importantly, the people were a decent bunch. I think the music format just came from habit – i.e., this is what church music is these days, isn’t it?

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  86. David: How did the discussion morph into all the things you don’t like about contemporary church.

    David, I don’t have a problem with form as long as there is some substance to it. If a church’s music – regardless of style – is employed as the primary means to attract folks, then I have a problem with it. I have no problems with contemporary church, as long as the Main Thing is the main thing … after all, Jesus is the eternal contemporary!

    David: I hope that leaders will be held accountable for their actions or lack thereof.

    And everybody shouted “AMEN!”

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  87. Thersites: If you look around and see the majority not singing then I wonder who the music is chosen for.

    The Egos of Pastor and those Onstage, of course.
    (Like the Cher impersonator owner in that episode of Hotel Hell…)

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  88. Max: I don’t know about that, but I have felt like drinking whiskey after attending some of these displays of church as entertainment!

    As in “After that, you’ll NEED a drink!”

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  89. To the post topic and denial of accountability : the firewalls of denial for misprison of felony are everywhere and protect the system first.
    As a survivor try seeking someone to answer a phone or getting past the first layers of the firewalls put up by the state attorneys or the churches it becomes obvious that nobody really gives a rats ass about the victims of yesterday anymore that they will care about the victims of today in the future.
    Every system is built to defend the host at the expense of the victim whether it be a church or a city or a nation that decided to protect the pedophiles preying on the kids, in every case the “Buck is passed” in hopes you just give up and die again and again. The “fellowship” so pushed by the church is nothing less than a paddock for the molesters to choose the next “sacrifice” .
    Try pushing against the walls of insanity of Romans 13 that claim you must worship the state and sacrifice your children to the state of Baal because God says he did it too.
    The state of Alaska committed the crime of misprison of felony by covering up and not prosecuting kidnapping and rape as much as the church and my own parents did. The city of Seward in 1968 was no less or more corrupt than it exists today in putting up firewalls of endless voice mail drops and minimum wage phone flunkies whose only job is to deflect and deny.
    Forgive seven times seventy times? I don’t think Christ had this in mind when he spoke of a trespass against me.

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  90. No matter what genre of music a church does, a good test is what happens when you cannot do it for ONE WEEK. I’ve seen churches go bananas, like, “we cannot have a service the sound system is down” when you can hear the preacher just fine. Actually seen people get up and leave because a drummer was absent.

    A good test of music addiction might be to sneak in a no music service now and then. Or as one liturgical Lutheran pastor did, a service without the organ, just voices.

    If people either enjoy it or do fine but only comment they missed the instruments or music, no prob. But if you have a full blown rebellion on your hands (btdt) then there is a problem, big time.

    Or tell the worship leader you are considering or learning about music’s role in the service and ask to be a church mouse in the corner for a practice or two. If the leader says no, suspect and issue. If yes, and you hear some of that “let’s inhibit dopamine here and release it there” or “a this point we want everyone standing and hands lifted”(inhibits blood flow to the brain) RUN.

    And curiously, the bad happens with all genres and the good can also. But it seems to have morphed again into hymns vs contemporary, with a bit of implying stupidity if you don’t like the new stuff. Usually some accusations of racism will surface.

    Why is this? Why is the assumption always it is anti contemporary, unless the purveyors of ccm have something to hide or defend.

    Curious.

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  91. Max: Noises of any sort that are too loud and too close for too long just aren’t good for your hearing. It doesn’t matter if such noise is delivered as “music”, it’s a church experience than can hurt you rather than help you … another irony that you shouldn’t encounter in church.

    But don’t make the mistake of asking if they’ve ever considered lowering the volume for the sake of people’s health- you would have thought by the offense taken that I had suggested Jesus Christ was a fraud or something! I have learned that people’s feelings about music run very deep. It seems irrational to me but what do I know.

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  92. The above article repeatedly mis-labels Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church (The church at which the incident took place which is now called Stonebridge Church) as “First Baptist Church”, which is an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT CHURCH in the community. My community.

    This underscores one of the core problems with this article and with taking aim at Steve Bradly: You don’t know what happened and you don’t know what you’re talking about. I knew Steve Bradly. I knew Andy Savage. I knew Julie Woodson. I knew her family. The story being reported in the press is not accurate. I’m not saying Jules Woodson is lying, per se, but the story she is telling is her version of events with absolutely no counter-information being able to be provided to better contextualize what happened. Such is the problem with the current climate.

    When so much of the information being reported about this case is outright wrong, how can people be so sure of who is to blame and what should happen?

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  93. JazGalaxy: The above article repeatedly mis-labels Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church

    You are correct and I am updating the info. Now, let’s go back to the original post. We did write the original name of the church correctly. We are now referring to it as Stonebridge Church which is correct or have a gotten that one wrong as well?

    JazGalaxy: how can people be so sure of who is to blame and what should happen?

    Quite simple. 3 pastors have already resigned over this situation. Larry Cotton, who was in the original discussions when Jules reported her assault said it happened and everyone agrees now that it should have been reparted to the police.

    JazGalaxy: I’m not saying Jules Woodson is lying, per se, but the story she is telling is her version of events with absolutely no counter-information being able to be provided to better contextualize what happened

    Ummmm, you mean all of the media which reported what Savage and Conlee were saying wasn’t enough? You don’t care that Savage and Conlee had a huge microphone in their church and used it to disparage Jules and the bloggers who they called *Satan?*

    Jazz, you are wrong. Your boys had the microphone and had it for years. Now everyone is all bent out of shape that the victims can access a huge microphone as well. Both sides of the story were told-can you ever forget the “organic experience” statement? Finally, both sides of the story were told and the pastors were called out.

    Sorry about the church name but I bet you knew what I was taking about, didn’t you?

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  94. dee,
    Dee, Dee.
    You should know that even a one-letter typo in the church’s name is enough to Totally Invalidate EVERYTHING You’ve Said About It Unto All Eternity.

    Old debater’s trick (twirl those pens!) — get the Enemy sidetracked onto something irrelevant (like exact spelling or Tone Policing) and away from the “uncomfortable” main subject. Like decoying a pursuer into a quicksand pit, with you there to keep pushing them back in with another “Point of Order!” Until they give up and you can give yourself a Standing Ovation. “I. WIN.”

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  95. linda: A good test of music addiction might be to sneak in a no music service now and then. Or as one liturgical Lutheran pastor did, a service without the organ, just voices.

    And vocal music has a long and fine tradition in a lot of faiths and cultures.

    Or tell the worship leader you are considering or learning about music’s role in the service and ask to be a church mouse in the corner for a practice or two. If the leader says no, suspect and issue. If yes, and you hear some of that “let’s inhibit dopamine here and release it there” or “a this point we want everyone standing and hands lifted”(inhibits blood flow to the brain) RUN.

    Because then it’s crossed over into Deliberate Calculated Manipulation.

    Like the Symp & Parasymp organs of The Heirarchy (utterly corrupt religious regime) in Fritz Leiber’s Gather Darkness.

    Or the Silicon Valley Seminars where for $1700 a seat you can have biochemists and psychologists who are specialists in addiction lecture you on how to tune your Social Media Dopamine Pump App to be as addictive as possible — an “Adult Diaper App” where the sucker can’t tear himself away from even to sleep or go to the bathroom.

    “An addict is a man with low sales resistance.”
    — attr to C.S.Lewis

    “From the shadow of Heaven’s Gate
    I MANIPULATE!”
    — Steve Taylor, “I Manipulate”

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