The Willow Creek Crisis : A Time to Dispense With Protecting the Institutions at the Cost of Integrity – A Reprint By Mel Lawrenz

Courage isn’t a feeling that you wait for. Courage is doing when you don’t have courage. Courage is
doing it scared.” ― Jill Briscoe, Me Worry?

Michelle Van Loon directed me to this excellent op ed by Elmbrook Church’s Minister at Large, Mel Lawrenz. He calls out the arrogance of many churches which seek to manage a crisis by “protecting the institution at the cost of integrity.” He does this by forcing us to confront presumptuous *truisms* that are accepted by many in the Christian leadership culture.

In case there are some out there who believe that their church has a corner on the market when it comes to gospel™ leadership structure, I urge them to think again. No matter the doctrinal stance, no matter the view on gender, no matter which seminary was attended, all Christians, at one time or another, have embraced these truisms which are merely weak platitudes which can easily lead to abuse. Long time readers of TWW will note that we have covered a number of abusive churches in which these truisms were held up as biblical™ standards.

I hold a particular fondness for Elmbrook Church. It is the church in which my beloved, former pastor, Pete Briscoe, grew up in. Stuart Briscoe, his father, became the lead pastor at Elmbrook in 1970. Both he and his wife, Jill Briscoe, transitioned to become Ministers at Large in @ 2000. The church was originally Baptist but dropped that affiliation in 1968 and became a nondenominational church. I have personally benefitted from the ministry of Stuart and Jill Briscoe through the years. I also loved my years at Bent Tree with Pete Briscoe.

I want to thank Mel Lawrenz for permission to post this article. I have a feeling that TWW will long be quoting his thoughtful words.


The Willow Creek Crisis – Time of Reckoning for All Leaders -Opinion by Mel Lawrenz:

The ever-widening scandal of Pastor Bill Hybels’ behavior with women over many years is only the outermost edge of the shockwave. Equally as devastating has been the woeful response of Willow Creek’s leaders. The resignation of Hybel’s successor, Steve Carter, with a stinging rebuke of Willow Creek’s leaders’ response, all before the convening of the Global Leadership Summit, ought to put hundreds of thousands of Christian leaders around the world on notice: This is a time reckoning. And an opportunity to correct.

This teachable moment will not last long before we all move on with the busyness of our work. If this crisis is only seen as one man’s transgressions with women, the bigger picture will be missed. Whenever there is a decades-long ethical and moral failure there is a spiritual reason the sickness of the situation can go on. Institutions are powerful. We need institutions for sustained and long-term influence. But leaders of institutions often try to protect their institutions at the cost of integrity.

Every virtue has a corresponding vice. For leaders, the virtues of conviction and strength are only a short step away from pride and arrogance. Pride comes before the fall. This time is an opportunity for all Christian leaders to ask God’s help in cleansing from arrogance.

Arrogance also blinds us. We don’t see clearly. Some principles are embraced and repeated with little awareness that they are just wrong enough to steer us toward a cliff. Here are seven untruths that are widely passed on in Christian leadership circles.

Untruth #1: Crises need to be “handled.”

When a church is in a true crisis, its leaders should not go running to a PR firm, its lawyers, and its communications experts to figure out a path forward. When you’re in the middle of an earthquake, you do not “handle” the situation, it is handling you. In the Willow Creek crisis, people sniffed out the spin. The highly crafted statements inched forward. Church leaders need to know this: people don’t want to be “handled.” That is fundamentally disrespectful. People know that true crises must be faced with courage and wisdom, truth and grace. Not “handled.”

Untruth #2: The only way God works is through leaders.

This oft-repeated mantra has often been fueled by arrogance. Bad behavior is excused because a “strong leader” gets impressive things done. The ends justify the means. Why have pastors not emphasized their roles as servants of God, as ministers of the gospel, as proclaimers of God’s truth, and instead focussed on being really “successful” leaders? The answer is not far away. It is more satisfying to be viewed as successful than faithful.

Untruth #3: People are a means to an end.

Nobody says this out loud. But leaders treat their followers as a means to accomplish their “vision” all the time. In Christian ministry people are not a means to an end, they are the end. This is fundamental to the idea of human dignity. People on the staff of a church should feel as though, at the end of the week, something was added to their humanity, not taken away. Churches should live way above corporate values when it comes to hiring and firing people. We have the biblical principle of “calling” which should make our hiring very serious and firing infrequent. 

Untruth #4: Vision is the highest form of leadership.

Divine calling is more important than personal vision. It’s wonderful when leaders can see new, good possibilities, but vision should be about spiritual advances, not just about building bigger, doing more, piling up numbers. The best scenario for a church is when its leaders (not just one leader) perceive how God is moving a whole body of people toward a particular purpose, always defined within the overall mission of the church. Jesus said, “make disciples.” He defines the mission, not us. At the end of our work and lives we will have had more joy in being part of accomplishing God’s mission than pursuing our own ambitions.

Untruth #5: Image is everything.

Churches that obsess about the personal physical appearance of people in the spotlight, essentially saying only “beautiful” people need apply, are projecting corrupt values. Perfectionism that makes things appear better than what they are sets congregations up for disillusionment when they see the reality. Sooner or later someone always pulls the curtain on the wizard of Oz.

Untruth #6: Leaders are above the rules.

People would be shocked how many Christian leaders preach about humility, kindness, and respect, and behind the scenes mistreat, abuse, and shame ordinary people. Worse, such leaders really enjoy manipulating others. It makes them feel powerful and important. The only thing worse than worshiping an idol is to act like an idol.

Untruth #7: The local church is the hope of the world.

Only Jesus Christ is the hope of the world (Col. 1:27, 1 Pet. 1:3-6, etc.). Always, only, ever. Jesus Christ. Get that wrong, and we are perpetually at risk of the chaos of presumption. We should be excited that the local church can proclaim the hope, embody the hope, live the hope. But if we say the local church is the hope of the world, what happens when a church’s leaders fail miserably?

The Global Leadership Summit will begin in a few days, just at a time when the credibility of Christian leaders in and around Willow Creek is badly damaged.

Leaders and consultants are surely hard at work crafting the best possible words to “handle” the situation. What would be helpful to hear is: This is a time for reckoning for us all. We ask God to humble us. We repent of leadership arrogance. We need fresh starts.

We all do.

_____________

Mel Lawrenz is Minister at Large of Elmbrook Church and the author of Spiritual Leadership Today(Zondervan) and Whole Church: Leading from Fragmentation to Engagement (Leadership Network/Jossey-Bass).


Comments

The Willow Creek Crisis : A Time to Dispense With Protecting the Institutions at the Cost of Integrity – A Reprint By Mel Lawrenz — 51 Comments

  1. I’ve been reading this blog, and others for a couple years now. I’ve noticed many of these truisms popping up pretty regularly.

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  2. The author’s wise statement, “vision should be about spiritual advancement, not just about building bigger…” absolutely makes my day. Thanks for posting this.

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  3. “Nobody says this out loud. But leaders treat their followers as a means to accomplish their “vision” all the time. In Christian ministry people are not a means to an end, they are the end. This is fundamental to the idea of human dignity.”

    This is what finally woke me to the fact that my former pastor was a narcissistic spiritual abuser. As person after person, family after family, was bruised and sometimes broken under his care, either to leave or be excommunicated, it became increasingly clear to me that he simply did not care about people.

    He cared about everything being in order. Everything looking, sounding and functioning smoothly. The pianist who hit a wrong note, the elder who misquoted a scripture, knew that the pastor was not pleased. So controlling, so perfectionist and for what? Such a mindset almost always suggests that it is all about that person, their vision, their agenda . . . and their image.

    As I struggled to make sense of how it seemed like everyone who entered the doors eventually left worse off than they came, a friend wisely suggested that, to this man, they were ‘disposable people’. He did not see himself as a shepherd, called to care for hurting people. He saw himself as the great ‘kingdom-builder’ – and anyone who sullied that image was dispensed with in whatever way required.

    But, if you served his purposes; if you were the friendly face that kept people coming back, or the people who provided the finances to pay his salary, you got ‘the treatment’. You would be convinced (because he told you) of what a fine, humble, giving, caring person he was, devoting his days to selflessly serving others. In reality, most days you could find him out in his boat. I more than suspect he pulled most of his sermons off the web and simply tweaked them a bit.

    If people are not being helped, encouraged to become more Christlike, assisted in developing the strengths and skills to minister to others and consistently growing in grace and maturity, can this thing even be called ‘the Body of Christ’? Oh, it can be called ‘The Church’ all right, because The Church is an institution built by men, based on the traditions of men, ruled by men to achieve the goals of men. But where men, women and children are growing in love for God and one another, as well as a desire to reach the needy and lost – that is where you have the Body of Christ.

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  4. https://soundcloud.com/christianitytoday/august-8-2018

    CT Podcast about Hybels, WCC, & WCA.

    – Skip the first 10 minutes or so of blah, blah.
    – CT editor/writer Mark Galli says he was envious of the NYT that they got to break the story this past weekend regarding allegations by Hybels’ former executive assistant Pat Baranowski. Why not CT? he asks.

    Note to this CT editor: Why in the world would a victim want to tell their story to CT or any evangelical publication, when the evangelical media for the most part seems to be the fox guarding the henhouse.

    A victim is not a scoop or a story or a headline or tantalizingly sensational journalism.

    As others have commented on TWW, most victims have repeatedly attempted to tell their story in the evangelical community, only to be further abused. Why take the risk of being beat up one more time, particularly in a public forum – from the inside of the evangelical community.

    TWW and the Deebs stand out as *Christians* doing the right thing with regard to victims, their safety and personal integrity. Indeed, because of the Deebs respectfully listening to Jules Woodson, her story became known and then went out via the NYT. It was reported here at TWW first, then on to the secular audience of the NYT. Dee traveled with Ms. Woodson to NYC.

    Dee pointed out that the NYT staff was extremely sensitive and respectful. Noted – Dee found this important enough to mention, and the NYT was empathetic. Care about victims, and not using them one more time.

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  5. “People are a means to an end” –

    At my most pessimistic, religion is a business that sells salvation.

    Act now, for only 10% of your gross yearly income, you too can avoid being immolated.

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  6. jyjames,

    I agree, the track record of “evangelicals” as documented her on TWW is pretty pathetic with respect to how “the system” treats victims… I find it esoecially pathetic when you see, as again documented time and again, how the knee jurk of “the sytem” is to side with the “leaders” but with time, it comes out how messed up the leaders are, and they subsequently resign… time and time again….
    but then again, we blogers are just “bitter” and slanderous people!!

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  7. Jack: Act now, for only 10% of your gross yearly income, you too can avoid being immolated.

    Too funny Jack, and yeah, and when it comes right down to it, much of the sales pitch is a fear based saved-from-hell contractual agreement.

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  8. Good article. Reminds me of Dallas Willard’s words when I heard him speak once. He said the church and its leaders (not just the people in the pews) needed to focus much more on followership and a lot less on leadership.

    His words are still true today. Probably more than ever. That makes me sad.

    Getting leaders who have the real love of Jesus and display the actual fruits of the spirit should not be that difficult. There are people like that out there. But today’s churches seem to largely ignore them.

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  9. “vision should be about spiritual advances, not just about building bigger, doing more, piling up numbers”

    Reckon how many 21st century leaders get that?! In all our building and doing, the spiritual gets lost. “Those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and Truth” … yet, we find little of either in the organized church in America. Whose kingdom are we advancing?

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  10. John: He said the church and its leaders (not just the people in the pews) needed to focus much more on followership and a lot less on leadership.

    If you listen to today’s CT podcast about WCC, WCA, & Hybels, they claim the exact opposite of Willard. It’s all about leadership. Thus, the GLS.

    https://soundcloud.com/christianitytoday/august-8-2018 (Skip the 1st 10 minutes.) The last half focuses on Leadership – be interested to hear your reaction.

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  11. More than ever I am convinced the Bible teaches a whole different system than we have for the church.

    I am convinced the Bible teaches holiness is part and parcel of being saved. Not that we try to make ourselves or anyone else for that matter behave in a holy manner, but that the truly saved will be behaving in ever a more holy manner. Not that we are perfect, no, but then again if we claim salvation and live like the devil or in defiant sin we are probably not saved.

    And rather than appointed clergy we are to be aware of the lives of those who profess faith. And only listen to or follow or appoint to office those whose lives exhibit real holiness.

    I am becoming convinced a faulty theology in the evangelical world for the last 50 or so years, one where one was to “get saved” and never question that even if choosing a lifestyle of consistent sin has paved the way for this current rapid down fall of “the church.”

    And beginning to think those who have taught the necessity of a cleansed heart were correct. It might be that 90% of the church are unsaved.

    We need an old time Holy Ghost revival within the church before we can expect another great awakening among the lost.

    Not going to be popular with the “give me a worship feeling, stroke my ego, assure me God loves me, don’t talk about sin” crowd though.

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  12. My realization: the guy on stage telling you week after week that God will take care of you doesn’t believe the same about himself. He is constantly working to protect his position.

    Not sure about “Divine Calling”. wouldn’t that look closer to something like Paul or Peter?

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  13. jyjames,

    I just listened to the CT podcast.

    Speaking here as a journalist’s daughter, I tend not to think of Mark Galli’s journalistic jealousy so ominously. Excellent journalists are ambitious, and will want to break stories. (Anyone remember the scene in the movie Spotlight, when Michael Rezendes panics about the possibility of the Boston Herald breaking the news of Cardinal Law’s child sexual abuse coverup first?)

    That doesn’t necessarily mean that Galli doesn’t care about the victims. And perhaps Galli is thinking, wouldn’t it be great if we had more Christian journalists serving likewise as whistleblowers?

    Also, I would give Galli credit for calling for an independent investigation into SGM on the pages of CT, back in March. I wish that The Gospel Coalition would do the same!

    I am so very thankful for the work the Deebs do here at TWW.

    I would also like to uphold another evangelical journalist for high praise: Sarah Pulliam Bailey at the Washington Post. She did a terrific job covering the Paige Patterson story, and broke some substantial news.

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  14. jyjames: The last half focuses on Leadership – be interested to hear your reaction.

    I don’t think you want to hear my reaction, especially if you’re eating.

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  15. Lydia: My realization: the guy on stage telling you week after week that God will take care of you doesn’t believe the same about himself. He is constantly working to protect his position.

    Truth. Finally, someone called this out. Yes.

    A couple weeks ago on eChurch, they had a Hope Ministry outreach admin telling how a lot of what they do for those wanting a hand-out is simply give them emotional support. I commented with the question of, “Does this also work for supporting a pastor, if a congregant doesn’t have material resources to drop money in the plate, give the pastor and his family emotional support? Like verbal appreciation for what they do?” It was a real question. Not that the church is just for hand-outs and beggars.

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  16. Eli,

    Nice but no need, IMHO, to defend journalists. They’re good people. Galli himself asked the question (“Why didn’t we get the scoop?” or “Why didn’t she come to us?”) and I noted what could be the answer. You recognize Sarah Pulliam Bailey at the Washington Post. Like the NYT, secular press.

    What is “ominous” has nothing to do with a particular journalist, but rather how victims are treated and defended in any arena when they go public. Victims are extremely mindful. They feel the fall-out.

    It’s victims, IMHO, that really need defending here, and that is generally my own personal focus – what is happening with victims, not who gets the story out there first. How are victims treated matters most. NYT had the track record of how they treated Jules Woodson, and Dee witnessed this. It is extremely important in regard to where the next victim who has a story will go.

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  17. This point:

    People would be shocked how many Christian leaders … behind the scenes mistreat, abuse, and shame ordinary people. Worse, such leaders really enjoy manipulating others. It makes them feel powerful and important.

    Looks to me like a trait commonly associated with sociopathy.

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  18. jyjames: If you listen to today’s CT podcast about WCC, WCA, & Hybels, they claim the exact opposite of Willard. It’s all about leadership. Thus, the GLS.

    https://soundcloud.com/christianitytoday/august-8-2018 (Skip the 1st 10 minutes.) The last half focuses on Leadership – be interested to hear your reaction.

    Listened to enough to get the gist. My reaction: partly meh, and partly horror. They don’t get it. Horrible sins were almost certainly committed over a long, long span of years, decades even, and all we hear is nearly an hour of evangelical navel-gazing that’s almost wistfully nostalgic.

    What we need to see is real soul-searching and some sackcloth-and-ashes repentance.

    But by now I guess I should know better than to expect that.

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  19. Appreciated the content of Mel’s message.

    Only the life and presence of Jesus in us imparts new life to souls. The self-centered soul produces carnal fruits when leaders perform from human strength. We are all prone to going our own way. Read some of the teachings by Oswald Chambers, and we will feel purified to some degree.

    May all of the body of Christ take notice from such crisis and walk the humble path.

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  20. Heather Larson, lead pastor, and the entire elder board are stepping down. That’s probably about right and appropriate. Who knows what happens in he future? One thing I can almost guarantee, though, is that WCC apologists will not likely be rushing to TWW and other blogs to apologize for throwing mud at Dee and Deb and others here and for impugning the integrity of the women whom he’d abused.

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  21. Law Prof: Who knows what happens in he future?

    WCC and WCA = A Church Teaching Model: How NOT to handle Clergy Sexual Misconduct (CSM).

    It’s a good guess they promote themselves as a model. Well, there it is. Videos of bad behavior on youtube. Articles with quotes from the key principals all over the internet in the news media. Textbook case of what not to do.

    Someone can write a book or produce a documentary. Include interviewing real authorities like Boz, and with the research of social scientists like Dr. Diana Garland.

    Bottom line: money and popularity do not produce integrity.

    Include lessons learned in the future GLS.

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  22. Bridget,

    From the article:

    “We made a mistake,” he told the crowd gathered for the 2008 Global Leadership Summit (GLS). A detailed Willow study had found that the church had helped many people find new faith in Jesus, but had failed to teach them how to practice the spiritual disciplines needed to grow their faith.”

    I remember this very public announcement and the campaign that followed. A great way to interject a much needed boost. Seen such before. The masses just go right along. Such manipulation masquerading as the spiritual.

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  23. Samuel Conner:
    This point:

    People would be shocked how many Christian leaders … behind the scenes mistreat, abuse, and shame ordinary people. Worse, such leaders really enjoy manipulating others. It makes them feel powerful and important.

    Looks to me like a trait commonly associated with sociopathy.

    “DANCE, MONKEYS, DANCE!”

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  24. Bridget: https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2018/august/willow-creek-bill-hybels-heather-larson-elders-resign-inves.html#storystream

    “We want to be the kind of church God is calling us to be,” said Rasmussen. “A church that learns lessons, grows through healing … and demonstrates the love of Christ. We believe that God is still building his church.” (WC Elder Missy Rasmussen)

    Yes, Missy, God has been building ‘His’ Church throughout the world, while Bill Hybels was building ‘his’. There’s a distinct difference between the Church and the church. I’m praying that all the churches affiliated with the Willow Creek Association will make the Main Thing the main thing going forward. You might start by putting a Cross in your sanctuaries as a declaration of that – whether the “seekers” like it or not.

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  25. Bridget: https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2018/august/willow-creek-bill-hybels-heather-larson-elders-resign-inves.html#storystream

    “Tom DeVries, president and CEO of the Willow Creek Association (WCA), also issued an apology on Wednesday. He sent an email to host sites of the GLS addressing the behavior of a sales representative for the WCA. That representative had “made disparaging comments” about the women who have accused Hybels of misconduct.”

    Good Lord, this outfit is a mess! I know that we shouldn’t “judge” an organization by the behavior of a few … but the few are becoming many with each passing day. An organization will eventually take on the personality of its leadership … or should I say the “spirit”of its leadership in the case of Willow Creek. The enemy of the Cross of Christ is out and about to kill, steal and destroy … we have certainly seen his work within the Willow Creek “model” in recent months.

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  26. Max: Yes, Missy, God has been building ‘His’ Church throughout the world, while Bill Hybels was building ‘his’. There’s a distinct difference between the Church and the church. I’m praying that all the churches affiliated with the Willow Creek Association will make the Main Thing the main thing going forward. You might start by putting a Cross in your sanctuaries as a declaration of that – whether the “seekers” like it or not.

    Max, you hit the nail on the head, once again.

    Perhaps, dare I hope, that the exposure of false shepherds and false ‘Churches’ like the implosion of Willow Creek will serve to wake more people up? Like the many well-meaning family members who simply cannot understand how anyone (meaning me) could call themselves a ‘Christian’ and not go to church. How about if I even stop calling myself a Christian?

    Oh, I know, that’s an even greater blasphemy than dissing The Church! I want to stand on the highest steeple and shout ‘Wake up, people!’ You do not need The Church or The Pastor, or the Right Theology to know, love and walk with God. When I ask people, ‘What if The Church is the whore of Babylon’, they look at me as if I have two heads. As if they could not possibly question their beloved institution. Okay, so they have left five different churches; but somewhere, out there, there is a good one, right? Because ‘Church’ is what serving God is all about, right? And in the meantime, bombs are dropped, people’s homes and land are stolen, children go hungry, the elderly are stacked, forgotten, in sterile institutions . . . but we go to Church, so all is well.

    I truly do not know whether to be happy that this great evil is being exposed, or sad that it will probably not be the end of a nearly endless parade of false religion masquerading as loving God and others.

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  27. linda: More than ever I am convinced the Bible teaches a whole different system than we have for the church.

    I am convinced the Bible teaches holiness is part and parcel of being saved. Not that we try to make ourselves or anyone else for that matter behave in a holy manner, but that the truly saved will be behaving in ever a more holy manner. Not that we are perfect, no, but then again if we claim salvation and live like the devil or in defiant sin we are probably not saved.

    And rather than appointed clergy we are to be aware of the lives of those who profess faith. And only listen to or follow or appoint to office those whose lives exhibit real holiness.

    I am becoming convinced a faulty theology in the evangelical world for the last 50 or so years, one where one was to “get saved” and never question that even if choosing a lifestyle of consistent sin has paved the way for this current rapid down fall of “the church.”

    And beginning to think those who have taught the necessity of a cleansed heart were correct. It might be that 90% of the church are unsaved.

    We need an old time Holy Ghost revival within the church before we can expect another great awakening among the lost.

    Not going to be popular with the “give me a worship feeling, stroke my ego, assure me God loves me, don’t talk about sin” crowd though.

    I’m with you Linda. This whole fiasco started with – sorry for stepping on any toes – the easy believism and churchianity spread by Billy Graham. All it takes, or so the world was told, was a walk down the aisle, a raised hand or a signed card and – boom – you had your ticket to heaven. The circus simply grew ever more elaborate.

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  28. Max: Yes, Missy, God has been building ‘His’ Church throughout the world, while Bill Hybels was building ‘his’. There’s a distinct difference between the Church and the church. I’m praying that all the churches affiliated with the Willow Creek Association will make the Main Thing the main thing going forward. You might start by putting a Cross in your sanctuaries as a declaration of that – whether the “seekers” like it or not.

    Comment disappeared?

    You hit the nail on the head again, Max. When (ever?) will people get it that The Church is not the same thing as the Body of Christ? In fact, it may very well be Satan’s invention, his imitation thereof to deceive and wreak havoc, as is always his way.

    So many family members look at me as if I had two heads when I suggest that The Church just might be the whore of Babylon of which scripture speaks. Horror of horrors, who would dare diss The Church? It appears there is no greater blasphemy, unless it is to say, ‘I’m not so sure I would even call myself a Christian’! Oh, rent the garments in two! Who can possibly enter heaven without their ‘Christian’ label and Church membership card?

    I guess I’ll take my chances, and just try to love God, meet needs as I see them, and try to learn a little more every day to put others before myself. I’ve played Church for decades, and I am increasingly seeing people like Hybels, manipulating and abusing others for their own purposes. I just don’t want to waste what’s left of my life on such nonsense.

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  29. Max,

    You hit the nail on the head again, Max. When (ever?) will people get it that The Church is not the same thing as the Body of Christ? In fact, it may very well be Satan’s invention, his imitation thereof to deceive and wreak havoc, as is always his way.

    So many family members look at me as if I had two heads when I suggest that The Church just might be the whore of Babylon of which scripture speaks. Horror of horrors, who would dare diss The Church? It appears there is no greater blasphemy, unless it is to say, ‘I’m not so sure I would even call myself a Christian’! Oh, rent the garments in two! Who can possibly enter heaven without their ‘Christian’ label and Church membership card?

    I guess I’ll take my chances, and just try to love God, meet needs as I see them, and try to learn a little more every day to put others before myself. I’ve played Church for decades, and I am increasingly seeing people like Hybels, manipulating and abusing others for their own purposes. I just don’t want to waste what’s left of my life on such nonsense.

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  30. Sorry if this is a repost – but doesn’t seem to be showing up.

    You hit the nail on the head again, Max. When (ever?) will people get it that The Church is not the same thing as the Body of Christ? In fact, it may very well be Satan’s invention, his imitation thereof to deceive and wreak havoc, as is always his way.

    So many family members look at me as if I had two heads when I suggest that The Church just might be the whore of Babylon of which scripture speaks. Horror of horrors, who would dare diss The Church? It appears there is no greater blasphemy, unless it is to say, ‘I’m not so sure I would even call myself a Christian’! Oh, rent the garments in two! Who can possibly enter heaven without their ‘Christian’ label and Church membership card?

    I guess I’ll take my chances, and just try to love God, meet needs as I see them, and try to learn a little more every day to put others before myself. I’ve played Church for decades, and I am increasingly seeing people like Hybels, manipulating and abusing others for their own purposes. I just don’t want to waste what’s left of my life on such nonsense.

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  31. jyjames,

    “How are victims treated matters most.”

    Oh, I absolutely agree with you on that! It grieves me deeply that the church has so often lost sight of this. And I’m really glad that the NYT treated Jules Woodson with such compassion and respect.

    That having been said, reporters (like police) just can’t be victims’ advocates in the same way that lawyers and therapists can. They have a completely different set of professional responsibilities.

    Journalists have to maintain objectivity and must vet stories very carefully in order to actually go to print. In fact, it is often their very objectivity that allows these victims’ stories to see the light of day, because they’re not blinded by loyalties towards pastors as those within churches so typically are. (And yes, also because journalists are typically very eager to break news and write compelling stories.)

    Experienced reporters will tend treat victims with sensitivity – hopefully, because they are decent human beings – but also because they know that the more they earn the trust of victims (and any valuable source, actually), then the better stories they will be able to write. It is actually part of their journalistic professional responsibility to cultivate good sources.

    Here’s an excellent article in the NYT about what typically motivates reporters:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/03/opinion/03pubed.html

    Anyway, journalists’ motives can be either pure or selfish (or a mixture, like most of us!), but either way, they ultimately wind up performing a necessary public service.

    I am very close to a journalist who covered Catholic abuse stories for decades. It was one of the most devastating stories he’s ever had to cover. He had valuable sources who were victims, and attended some of their support group meetings. He also had valuable sources who were bishops and other higher-ups in the Catholic hierarchy. He needed to give accurate accounts of both groups.

    Several months after Spotlight’s story broke, I organized and performed in a benefit concert for SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests).

    This journalist did not go to my SNAP benefit concert, because he felt that it was absolutely necessary for him to protect his journalistic propriety in public. He felt he could not afford to be seen as pro-victim (anti-hierarchy) in any way.

    My friends thought this was really weird, and didn’t get it. I totally get it. And I respected him for it.

    This is how good, old-fashioned journalism is supposed to work.

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  32. Truthseeker00,

    That’s a part of it. There is much more such as not understanding metanoia in full which is actually a conditional assertion. Gasp. Then, The problem with the original sin/inherited guilt doctrines. Also, The fact that “faith alone” can’t really true in the sense it’s taught. You can have tons of “faith” and molest kids. Then there is the disastrous Moral equivalency teaching on sin. Or, The idea that born again believers are perpetual sinners, etc, etc. The more I studied, the more I realized that Christianity has been over complicated and/or dumbed down to absurdity. I think it’s simpler to think in terms of good and evil, right and wrong. . It’s not evil to question a pastor even if he doesn’t like it, for example. 🙂 We all have our particular bents when it comes to Christianity. The best thing we can do is discuss them and learn from one another. I wish Western Christianity had kept the more Hebrew form of scholarship and debate questioning.

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  33. linda: I am convinced the Bible teaches holiness is part and parcel of being saved.

    Which begs the question, “What is Holiness?”

    Because if Holiness is defined (as it often is) by outside behavior and Thou Shalt Nots, you end up with Kirk Camerons trying to keep their noses squeeky clean (at our expense) out of fear of missing the Rapture and Great White Throne Litmus Tests.

    Plus the constant danger of Holier-than-Thou One-Upmanship and/or “I don’t need to outrun the bear; I only need to outrun YOU.”

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  34. Lydia,

    I agree absolutely. The Church has twisted nearly every aspect of who God is, what he has done and what he desires for us, until people cannot even read the words of scripture without seeing faulty pictures that have been painted by false men.

    Lydia: I wish Western Christianity had kept the more Hebrew form of scholarship and debate questioning.

    This is exactly where we went so wrong. I do not believe for a moment that the early ekklesia was set up like a megachurch, with one of the apostles doing all the talking and everyone else just nodding and throwing their shekels in the plate. People spoke. People asked questions. Respectful debate was allowed. One of the main causes of our issues today, IMO, is due to the very dangerous set-up we have inherited of one man telling everyone else what to think. The power that creates; and the danger for any who dare stand up to it. History documents that this has been the ongoing battle throughout the centuries, as the ‘official’ Church sought to garner control over the masses, and force their authority (whichever won got the help of the state to be in power) upon the defenseless people who simply wanted to know their precious babies would go to heaven if they died.

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  35. Truthseeker00: I suggest that The Church just might be the whore of Babylon of which scripture speaks

    Oh, I’ve thought that for years! Not the Church (capital “C”) – the Body of Christ … but the institutional church (little “c”) which has been crafted by mere men.

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  36. Lydia: I wish Western Christianity had kept the more Hebrew form of scholarship and debate questioning.

    Me too. It would be way better than the ubiquitous teacher and teachee model, in which the teacher indoctrinates the teachee that the Bible can only say this, and this only, never that, and certainly not the other.

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  37. Headless Unicorn Guy,

    In practical living, I think “holiness” is not a state of our behavior, but a mindset and heart constantly moving toward our Savior Jesus Christ, the Redeemer and abide in the Holy Spirit. Although we can’t expect others or ourselves to be really perfect in this life, we can allow God to perfect us in every way He chooses to. Here is the trick: Most of the time we do not see where we need to be changed! Other times we simply resist changing. An author that illustrates this well and offers deeper understanding in this area is Oswald Chambers. A big volume of “Complete Works of Oswald Chambers” can be purchased for less than $40 these days. Best value anywhere! It will change the way we think and live the Christian life. It will change the way we serve our God.

    On page 697 of the big book, he mentions: “The power of an evangelist over men and women who do not think is a dangerous thing….yield to nothing and to no one unless you know it is the Lord Jesus Christ to Whom you are yielding.” “The insight that relates us to God arises from purity of heart…”

    We can grow into holiness without thinking we are “holier than thou” for the holiness of Jesus overwhelms us all!

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  38. Max: Not the Church (capital “C”) – the Body of Christ … but the institutional church (little “c”) which has been crafted by mere men.

    I guess I look at it slightly differently. I view the Big C Church as the whore of Babylon which Satan has passed off as the Body of Christ. One is authentic, the other an impostor. Little c churches are the prey, and can consist of mostly, some or no members of the actual Body of Christ. It seems that it is perhaps time for God to expose the impostors, and is calling the members of his true Body to come out from amongst the pretenders. That is simply a stab at understanding what we have seen and are seeing. No claims of all knowing on my part. 😉

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