Another Letter From an Employees at Harvest Bible Chapel and a Question: Were Ed Stetzer and Other Pastors Given Cars Paid for by HBC?

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“I have learned now that while those who speak about one’s miseries usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more.” ― C. S. Lewis

(Post 2/2 for today.)

_________

I know who wrote the following letter. This person is well known at HBC and worked there for many years.  The following are comments copied from the letter. No words have been changed but some sentences have been omitted to protect the identity of the individual.


I feel I need to say that I deeply care for Pastor James. I am truly thankful to him for the ministry opportunities and support that he has personally given to me over the years. I have seen spiritual revival happen all around the world as a result of Harvest’s ministry, and this church has played a critical role in my own spiritual development.

However, I write this statement because I have also seen how a lack of repentance, inappropriate behavior and absence of true accountability has had negative consequences for our own church and our domestic and international church plants resulting in church splits, broken relationships and confused/hurting church members all around the world. James himself has said that truth and time go hand in hand, and I believe that now is the time when total truth is being sought after and we are forced to deal with the unpleasant consequences as a result of these truths coming to light.

Fear culture and explosive anger

Dee highlighted sections and pointed out words that jumped out at her.

James is an incredibly smart man and I believe any man who leads a large church or business would most likely be a man who has high expectations of his employees and is a visionary person who pushes people beyond what they believe they are capable of doing. Harvest has always been a culture where we work hard.

(Loyalty/authority)

However, James has created a culture of fear, especially for those who work closely with him. That circle of people has grown smaller and smaller over the years in an effort to minimize the number of people who are in the direct line of fire of James’ anger, but his behavior has remained the same. Loyalty has been prioritized over righteousness and although many of us have witnessed ungodly behavior, we have learned to simply let it go and believe James to be the ultimate authority over us.

(Must never speak about what happened; humiliation; screaming and cursing)

We have learned that talking to our supervisors or even the elders is not only discouraged, but it could cost us our jobs because we are unwilling to go with the flow and are seen as disloyal. James has instilled a culture in his employees that what he wants must happen at that very moment no matter the cost. Failure to do so means being humiliated or reprimanded in front of others – being belittled in a way that no person, especially at a church, should ever feel. The fear of this happening causes upper level staff to then put undue pressure on their subordinates to fulfill last-minute and often outlandish requests in order to make James happy. I have seen multiple occasions where James has lost his temper and has screamed and even cursed at employees because he did not get what he wanted.

(No apologies)

However, of the dozens of stories I have either witnessed or heard, I have never heard of James cycling back to apologize to these people. I believe this is the big picture of why James has so many broken relationships today.

(Men reduced to tears)

I have had to comfort grown men after some of their encounters with James and have seen some of them even reduced to tears because of stress and anxiety.

(Humiliation in front of others; blamed for things they had no control over)

When mistakes were made, people were humiliated in front of an audience in order to shame people to be better at their jobs. It would often happen that people were blamed for things they had no control over or had followed James’ instructions but he did not remember the conversation or had changed his mind and told no one.

(Being blamed when doing what he asked and James didn’t like the outcome.)

We worked at a frantic pace because plans would so often change due to James’ mood or change of heart. But I believe the biggest frustration for people was doing exactly what James said but being blamed for the outcome or realizing that he did not remember what he had said.

(The closing of Harvest Bible Fellowship and MacDonald’s refusal to apologize and reconcile)

Regarding his ongoing conflict with GCC, I believe everyone is in agreement that he should not have shut down HBF the way that he did. I also believe that everyone is in agreement that HBF staff should not have been treated the way they were after the shutdown happened. The impact of how that was handled and the ongoing harassment of ex-HBF employees caused several of them to have medical issues due to stress and it destroyed them emotionally. I believe that so much of that conflict could have been salvaged by a simple heartfelt apology from James, not even necessarily for the decision itself but for how it was handled. Harvest keeps claiming that GCC refuses to reconcile, but the refusal is because James tried repeatedly to send in XLT to deal with the situation. GCC has been saying that they do not recognize XLT as the leadership of the church and they wanted to meet with James and the entire elder board. This request was refused. Our entire network of 175 churches was thrown into utter turmoil because of a refusal to apologize and to reconcile the problem in the right way.

Financial carelessness

(First class travel, lavish excisions and fancy meals)

The World Tour in 2015 took place when our church debt was probably near its peak. James traveled first class or with private planes to every destination and always had at least one person travel with him in first class. He would go on lavish excursions and eat at fancy restaurants and we paid a lot of money in change fees on flights because he was not happy with the itinerary even though it was presented to him prior to leaving for approval.

(Build a new runway to get MacDonald out of Haiti)

At the end of the tour, he wanted to leave Haiti on Sunday night after service to go home, but his flight was scheduled on Monday. He was told that planes would not fly out of Jacmel because the runway was too short. He had HBF staff call the Haitian government to offer money to build a longer runway so that the plane would leave from there. When this request was refused numerous times, he had them call Missionary Aviation Fellowship which flies small private planes. Because they are a Christian organization, they do not fly on Sundays. However, enough money was offered to them to break their long-standing rule to fly James from Jacmel to Port-au-Prince so that he did not have to wait another day to fly home. I do not know the total sum of money that was spent on that tour, but I do believe all of the monies came from HBF funds.

(Were monies designated for international church planting used to upgrade tech at HBF?)

I kept hearing about how funds that were designated specifically for missions had been used for HBC purposes, whether large or small and we were consistently having to fundraise and find more money for projects we had committed to at the beginning of the financial year. The biggest example of this is the $500,000 of HBF money that was used for the tech upgrade at HBC. I know there is some overlap as to who actually benefitted from this upgrade, but the bottom line is that money that was given specifically for international church planting was used for another purpose and HBF staff was put under pressure to raise more money to cover the deficit.

Closing statement

…after seeing the dissolution of HBF, nothing has changed. A plurality of elders still are not involved in major church decisions, James’ behavior continues to go unchecked and the culture of the staff at Harvest remains the same. I was asked to write this statement and it truly grieves me to do so, but being a long-time staff member, I feel obligated before the Lord to share what I have seen in the hopes that the fruit of Harvest Bible Chapel, not just James MacDonald, can continue to grow. Harvest has been instrumental in the spiritual growth of tens of thousands of people and for the sake of these sheep, a close examination of how we have done things and some radical changes need to take place in order to lead the sheep to solid ground and greener pastures.


Ed Stetzer and Harvest Bible Church

Ed Stetzer is one busy man. He held a summit on sex abuse at Wheaton (I had no idea he was involved in sex abuse advocacy until the summit), and will be writing a book on the subject.

According to his website,

holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, serves as Dean of the School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadership at Wheaton College, and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, has earned two master’s degrees and two doctorates, and has written hundreds of articles and a dozen books. He is Regional Director for Lausanne North America and publishes research through Mission Group.

Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited in, interviewed by, and writes for news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He is the Founding Editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum used by more than 1.7 million individuals each week for bible story.

His national radio show, Ed Stetzer Live, airs Saturdays. He also serves as Visiting Professor of Research and Missiology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Visiting Research Professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and has taught at many other colleges and seminaries.

He serves as interim teaching pastor of Moody Churchin Chicago and as teaching pastor at Highpoint Church.

How many of you knew that he is also a teaching pastor at Highpoint Church which is a fairly recent appointment? Did you know that this is a church plant of Harvest Bible Chapel? The current senior pastor, Ron Zappia, changed the name to Highpoint in the last year or so.

Does anyone know if pastors at HBC are given cars for their use? I’ve been informed by some reliable folks that James MacDonald gave Ed Stetzer a vintage Volkswagen Beetle convertible. I’ve even been given the vanity license plate but won’t post that. I was informed that the car was paid for by HBC funds. Given the recent reports out of HBC, I felt that this was worth investigating.

I left a message for Pastor Stetzer today but have not heard from him at this time. I will post an update if I find out. If that car was given to Stetzer(and if other cars were given to pastors) and the cars were paid for by church funds, I believe the car(s) should be returned to the church or the church reimbursed. Goodness knows, they need the cash.

Well, that’s sure enough to keep people commenting this weekend.


Comments

Another Letter From an Employees at Harvest Bible Chapel and a Question: Were Ed Stetzer and Other Pastors Given Cars Paid for by HBC? — 312 Comments

  1. The changing of the mind constantly, not telling anyone of the change, then verbally/mentally berating and shaming them is a tactic of abusers to maintain control. It “sets the bar” so high for everyone that no one can meet it.

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  2. What the f is wrong with these people that lavish praise on Macdonald for rival and other complete BS!!! There has been no rivals for decades now!! There is zero proof that those thousand of people internationally weren’t already believers already getting teaching from other places before fatmac stepped in!! Show me the thousand of new converts from his churches in Chicago?? That’s right you can’t!!! Stop giving him credit that is all made up in all your little sick harvest minds! Fricken CULT

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  3. __

    “Boosted Horrible Habitat, Perhaps?”

    hmmm…

    Whoomp, Whoomp, Whoomp…

    The proverbial sheeple at Harvest Bible Chapel have historically been diabolically pew pastured to pastorally prey upon them and eat them and fortuitously devour their wealth. Fortunately for many, the wheels on this sinister convoluted bus no longer go round and round. The bus driver has now apparently enjoined his exile, traveling to boomtown —Naples, Florida to begin the 501c3 grift again.

    The proper way to call this sad scenario is to get as close to this proverbial premadonna pastoral pounder’s face as possible without touching them and scream BOOST. (Similar to Bull $hit, but slightly different.)

    There is no ‘happily ever after’ for this sad game, I’m afraid…

    Now, who finds the money when these folks try to pay the rent?

    Sêê how they run!

    ;~)

    – –
    – Intermission :
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-bhkmRUj-cI

    -=-

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  4. In response to Ed Stetzer’s message that he paid back for the car when finding out it was from ministry funds: I’m a civil engineer and the idea someone as influential as Stetzer can just take a freaking collector car as a gift is blowing my mind. If a vendor gave me a gift any more valuable than a logo-decorated pen, I’d be fired and lose my license. Every corporate ethics policy would raise a flag on that.

    https://www.engineering.com/Library/ArticlesPage/tabid/85/ArticleID/66/Accepting-Gifts.aspx

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  5. Stan:
    In response to Ed Stetzer’s message that he paid back for the car when finding out it was from ministry funds: I’m a civil engineer and the idea someone as influential as Stetzer can just take a freaking collector car as a gift is blowing my mind. If a vendor gave me a gift any more valuable than a logo-decorated pen, I’d be fired and lose my license. Every corporate ethics policy would raise a flag on that.

    https://www.engineering.com/Library/ArticlesPage/tabid/85/ArticleID/66/Accepting-Gifts.aspx

    Of course, anyone working for a secular corporation that was nothing at all about the Lord and totally about the bottom line net income would know that, would understand the extreme issues this would cause, the conflict of interest. Only the sleaziest sort of people in secular industry woyld accept such a gift. It’d be grounds for immediate firing. Ed Stetzer, supposedly a representative of Christian virtue, is in the same category as the sleaze. He knew darned well he hadn’t earned that, knew darned well that was very likely to have come from church funds. Of course he did.

    No wonder he has allowed himself to be compromised and has sat curiously mum when people asked him what he thought about HBC. Now we know. Indeed, time and truth do go hand in hand–much to MacDonalds’s and Stetzers’s chagrin.

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  6. Stetzer was on my SBC creepy-guy radar when he worked as Executive Director of SBC’s LifeWay Research group – I put him right up there with Al Mohler. Elusive in his exact theological leaning, he helped orchestrate the New Calvinist takeover of SBC by encouraging the new reformers and their church planting program within SBC. One of his last “achievements” at LifeWay was to help launch The Gospel Project – which is subtle indoctrination to reformed theology via SBC Sunday School literature. Stetzer can talk a good line about his church planting background, but my recollection was that he was not very successful as a church planter. I was startled when Wheaton College announced his selection as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center there … I’ve never considered him to be very evangelistic. I would not be surprised if there was some truth to his acceptance of an expensive gift from MacDonald … however, there was obviously a deterioration in their friendship as JMac made some vulgar comments about Stetzer in the Mancow expose’. Good Lord, when will this cast of characters taking the American church for a ride just go away?!

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  7. “How many of you knew that he is also a teaching pastor at Highpoint Church which is a fairly recent appointment? Did you know that this is a church plant of Harvest Bible Chapel?” (Dee)

    I suppose that Stetzer told the good folks at Highpoint that “I can’t do funerals, visits, phone calls, or meetings.” He’s just too busy and important, you know, to do pastoral stuff. http://thewartburgwatch.com/2013/08/09/ed-stetzer-and-the-four-fence-posts-that-define-his-ministry/

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  8. Max: when will this cast of characters taking the American church for a ride just go away?!

    They’re not going away, thus abandoning a constituency that applauds and $upports them.

    Co-dependency. Back in the day there was a bestseller, “Codependent No More”. I like to think of the Bible as the ultimate codependent no more guidebook, as Jesus set that straight some 2K+ yrs. ago.

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  9. Max,

    “Statement from Ed Stetzer about the VW … sounds harmless enough, sort of, maybe:”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    so, he says (in reply to someone named Joe Thorn),

    “Hey Joe,

    Long story short…

    James heard that my daughter and I were wanting to fix up an old VW bug as a father/daughter project. And, he surprised us with the gift of 1971 VW, which I assumed was from his personal funds.

    Last month, after reading some of the news stories about their finances, I reached out to the church to check on the source of those funds.

    The guy at Harvest indicated that the car was purchased with funds through Walk in the Word. So, I then sent a check in March to reimburse Walk in the Word for the full amount. That’s about it.

    Hope that helps…”

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  10. elastigirl,

    “he surprised us with the gift of 1971 VW, which I assumed was from his personal funds.”
    +++++++++++++++++

    it’s weird for someone to buy a car for someone else just for fun. i can only fathom someone doing that who had so much disposable income they would be actively looking for ways to give it away.

    it is beyond obscene for such a person to be a ‘pastor’, since his wealth is other people’s money given in good faith that it is going toward good causes, not the pastor’s personal wealth.

    it’s equally weird that Ed Stetzer doesn’t seem to have had alarm bells ringing off in his conscience that a ‘pastor’ would do this. it clearly didn’t bother Ed that JM would have that much money to just throw around. No big deal, really.

    maybe it’s because Ed got a free cool car so all is well.

    maybe it’s because Ed’s a pastor, too, and feels entitled to a generous salary and other perks.

    he’s a pastor of an HBC church plant — are lavish amounts of money for leaders just the done thing? so much so that it feels normal to him?

    it’s just stinks so much it’s nauseating. it’s amazing to me that he can’t smell it.

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  11. elastigirl: it is beyond obscene for such a person to be a ‘pastor’, since his wealth is other people’s money given in good faith that it is going toward good causes, not the pastor’s personal wealth

    Exactly, when a man is a full-time pastor (as JMac was), his personal wealth = ministry tithes and offerings. I suppose it can be argued that he invested his HBC salary and made “personal” money on those investments, but the source of his investment funds was still church money. Six-figure salary, mansion, summer & winter retreats, perks galore, gifts of vintage cars to buddies … are we sick yet?!

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  12. Ann,

    I’m with you Ann. Where are all these people who supposedly became Jesus followers from the HBC churches worldwide? In the Harvest outlet we attended there were less than five new believers in its first four years. I don’t believe that number changed much in the decade since. And churches they helped plant were the same – just attracted Christians who were changing churches.

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  13. elastigirl: it’s equally weird that Ed Stetzer doesn’t seem to have had alarm bells ringing off in his conscience that a ‘pastor’ would do this. it clearly didn’t bother Ed that JM would have that much money to just throw around.

    I can understand how someone in ministry might have not looked into it. I don’t question people who give gifts to my ministry. To his credit, apparently he looked into it last month and discovered the money came from walk in the word. As soon as he figured it out he paid the money back in full. You can see that story on Julie Roy’s latest blog Post.

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  14. Law Prof: Only the sleaziest sort of people in secular industry woyld accept such a gift.

    Depends on how nice a car it was. We’ve had people donate cars to us and we accepted them. It’s part of a lifestyle of living on full time support. I can’t comment on Stetzers salary or lifestyle but for us, a family living below the poverty line for twenty years and in full time ministry we have accepted gifts in kind like this which have allowed us to carry out our work. I don’t consider that sleazy.

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  15. Fisher: Depends on how nice a car it was. We’ve had people donate cars to us and we accepted them. It’s part of a lifestyle of living on full time support.I can’t comment on Stetzers salary or lifestyle but for us,a family living below the poverty line for twenty years and in full time ministry we have accepted gifts in kind like this which have allowedus to carry out our work. I don’t consider that sleazy.

    Of course, there’s nothing wrong with what you did. Totally different. I’ve accepted two cars from friends, and given three cars to friends. It has happened when one side or the other was down on their luck. That’s a totally different matter from Christian celebs, well-connected, giving each other gifts that theyt know good and well likely came straight from the church coffers, either directly or indirectly.

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  16. __

    Tyranny 501c3 Circus: ™ ; “On The Road Again?”

    hmmm…

    Gone Shakin’ them there smokin’ hot southern pockets, perhaps?

    huh?

    JMac: “Can’t carry you HBC no mo, then this ‘holy boast goon’ ™ is gonna ‘carry somebody else’, down the road I’m gone…”

    What?!?

    SKreeeeeeetch!

    —> Beware of them there false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are nothin’ but stinkin’ proverbial ravening wolves…

    (sadface)

    Sòpy

    Intermission:
    Jack Broadbent – “On The Road Again” (A Canned Heat cover)
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pJxkdmBm0

    ;~)

    – –

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  17. After reading all of these letters, I still don’t get the mindset that could overlook these issues and go on as if everything was normal. Was it a craving for excitement, to be where things “are happening”? Feel like you’re a part of something ‘big’?

    Harvest has been instrumental in the spiritual growth of tens of thousands of people

    These megachurches get started, appeal to the flesh, market themselves, and start luring people in. Word of mouth says it’s ‘the place to be’ and Christians play musical chairs and move over to the mega. Is that really “spiritual growth”? To me it looks like the spiritual equivalent of Walmart moving into a community and all the mom & pop shops going under. I support anyone’s right to go to a church of their choosing but let’s not pretend these churches are bringing some kind of huge wave of new believers into the fold. They are just concentrating church goers into one group.

    Jesus said God could raise up children of Abraham from the stones if he wanted to. These guys are not as indispensable to God as they think they are.

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  18. Law Prof: Of course, there’s nothing wrong with what you did. Totally different. I’ve accepted two cars from friends, and given three cars to friends. It has happened when one side or the other was down on their luck. That’s a totally different matter from Christian celebs, well-connected, giving each other gifts that theyt know good and well likely came straight from the church coffers, either directly or indirectly.

    In my experience, such gifts do not come free of strings attached. You accept the gift, you’ve been owned.

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  19. Max,

    “…but the source of his investment funds was still church money. Six-figure salary, mansion, summer & winter retreats, perks galore, gifts of vintage cars to buddies … are we sick yet?!”
    +++++++++++++++++++++

    well, yeah, WE are, cuz we’re sober.

    it takes a special kind of person to be oblivious to it all.

    to mistake the sick for normal.

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  20. Fisher,

    “I can understand how someone in ministry might have not looked into it. I don’t question people who give gifts to my ministry.”
    ++++++++++++++++++++

    huh.

    well, the VW bug was a personal gift to Ed, not his ministry.

    perhaps in Ed’s eyes he is the ministry, and the ministry is him.

    do you see it that way?

    would you receive unquestioningly any gift that came from anyone? whether a personal gift that enriches you, or a gift that funds your ministry activities?

    you wouldn’t question an extravagant gift that came from another minister/minstry?

    so,…. donations to ministry come from people working hard and giving a portion of it up to the point of hardship.

    they do this with the belief that their hardship is worth it since they believe their $ is directly helping those in serious need, whether physically, materially, or spiritually.

    they believe this because that is what the minister told them. since the minister does what he does in the name of God, they trust him to tell the truth.

    when the minister uses their money to enrich his friends, he lies and betrays the people who took him at his word and sacrificed.

    you… realize and understand this, i hope?

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  21. Fisher,

    ” I can’t comment on Stetzers salary or lifestyle but for us, a family living below the poverty line for twenty years and in full time ministry we have accepted gifts in kind like this which have allowed us to carry out our work. I don’t consider that sleazy.”
    +++++++++++++++++++

    hi, fisher. i hadn’t seen your comment here when i typed my previous comment. i apologize for making any assumptions.

    i suppose my question still stands, but i’ll rephrase it:

    since the donation represents a sacrifice, isn’t it right, honest, and honoring to the giver to allocate it where the giver expects it to go?

    isn’t it wrong to accept cash or gifts from other ministers/ministries when the people who gave sacrificially to them were told their money would be going elsewhere for a different purpose?

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  22. elastigirl,

    It’s totally wrong to accept gifts from other ministries which were given for a different purpose. People gave money to WITW for radio broadcasting and that is where the money should have gone. Period. I don’t give JMAc any pass here – I hope he is held accountable for his misuse of funds. All I meant to say is that as a receiver I don’t ever ask someone “Where did you get that money/car/vacation home you gave or loaned to me?” But then we’ve never been given a car worth more than a few thousand dollars so we never felt uncomfortable either.

    It’s also worth noting that some of our donors are other full time workers who make as little as we do. For the simple reason that pastors, missionaries and other full time workers don’t usually tithe back to their own church/mission/etc- they give to one another. All this to say it isn’t unusual for Christians in full time ministry to give things to one another including cars.

    The real question worth asking- what was the value of the VW that was given to Ed? The context says it was a fixer upper. If so and it was only worth a few thousand then I can see why maybe Ed thought nothing of it and just thought a fellow worker was being generous.

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  23. elastigirl:
    elastigirl,

    “he surprised us with the gift of 1971 VW, which I assumed was from his personal funds.”
    +++++++++++++++++

    it’s weird for someone to buy a car for someone else just for fun.i can only fathom someone doing that who had so much disposable income they would be actively looking for ways to give it away.

    it’s equally weird that Ed Stetzer doesn’t seem to have had alarm bells ringing off in his conscience that a ‘pastor’ would do this.it clearly didn’t bother Ed that JM would have that much money to just throw around.No big deal, really.

    Two thoughts that bubble up:

    “He who is kind to the poor lends to YHWH”

    The wisdom of the OT, which of course Jesus’ teaching was shot through and through with — recall that He commanded to show kindness to those who could not reciprocate (if one wanted to be more righteous than the “tax-collectors and sinners”)

    When public light is shined on concealed misdeeds, believer perps seem to take comfort from comparison with the sufferings of Job. IIRC, Job was a defender of the fatherless and the poor. But the odd thing about Job is that he embraced his troubles as “from YHWH”, which is not a concept one ever hears from the great men of the present day; they attribute their difficulties to “the Satan.”

    Another thought, from a fictional character (Sirius Black)

    “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”

    Jesus said, “the great men of this age exercise their authority … it shall not be so among you”

    Is there any doubt what Jesus’ assessment of the great men of the present-day churches is?

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  24. elastigirl (quoting one Mr Stetzer): James heard that my daughter and I were wanting to fix up an old VW bug as a father/daughter project. And, he surprised us with the gift of 1971 VW…

    The reason for restoring the old VW was not to have a car, but to work on something as father and daughter. I get that, and it seems obvious to me that they’d still have wanted to work on the old one because it was a means to a more important end.

    So… the idea was to end up with two old VW’s?

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  25. Fisher: We’ve had people donate cars to us and we accepted them. It’s part of a lifestyle of living on full time support. I can’t comment on Stetzers salary or lifestyle but for us, a family living below the poverty line for twenty years and in full time ministry we have accepted gifts in kind like this which have allowed us to carry out our work. I don’t consider that sleazy.

    I was pondering your comment, Fisher, when a thought struck me. I wonder whether, in true ministry, God keeps the pay low in order to attract the best people.

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  26. Julie Roys is doing some great things. She also gives too much deference to evangelical elites.

    Shes pulling her punches on Ed on this. She’s not following wartwatch on twitter and didn’t reference dee in her twitter post on this..and dee brought this to light. Seems she doesn’t want to be seen connecting with this community.

    She also interviewed a sovereign grace defender in reference to James Macdonald and seemed unaware of the controversy there.

    Wake up, Julie! The evangelical elite world you still want to believe in has much corruption…even the guys you have personally respected. Please turn your research and skepticism to your evangelical friends in power as well! They need to hear your voice!

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  27. Call a gift like this-both the giving and receiving-what it is.

    CORRUPT

    Period. It’s not simply “who at witw approved.” It’s the fact that Ed gladly received it.

    CORRUPT

    It’s not the same as giving a car to a missionary in need. Not even close. It’s giving a car to someone in power.

    CORRUPT

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  28. Nick Bulbeck: I was pondering your comment, Fisher, when a thought struck me. I wonder whether, in true ministry, God keeps the pay low in order to attract the best people.

    This is very likely Nick. I know some really quality men and women who sacrifice everything to make disciples, train them to gather in lay led groups in homes and then train them to do the same, to start simple new groups. They and we fly under the radar because there’s no cash, no flash. In this kind of movement people follow Jesus because they’ve actually experienced relationship with the risen savior, and aren’t following some hip rock band or trendy preacher.

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  29. elastigirl,

    Hey there elastagirl, I wrote a response agreeing with you that money donated for one purpose should never be used for another. And I hope JMac is someday brought to justice. However my longer comment got lost in the ether, probably because I accidentally typed the email wrong. Oops. Maybe it will post later. Meantime, know that we’re on the same page.

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  30. Mike Daniels: It’s not just cars, pastors were gifted with Harleys as well.

    I can see them now … all wearing black leather jackets and sporting goatees, with Vertical Church tattoos just like JMacs … revving up their Harleys in unison at the corporate staff meeting! They probably think Jesus and His disciples would do that if they lived in the 21st century … not!

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  31. Fisher: We’ve had people donate cars to us and we accepted them … a family living below the poverty line for twenty years and in full time ministry

    I think the Wartburgers would consider that a totally different situation than JMac’s gift to Stetzer … both are living well above the poverty line. And the folks who lovingly gave you those cars did so out of their personal assets, not from the tithes and offerings of the church.

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  32. SiteSeer: “Harvest has been instrumental in the spiritual growth of tens of thousands of people”

    One mile wide and one inch deep. They came to see the show. The pastor at the little church near them who was faithfully preaching the Word of God, living a sacrificial life before them, just wasn’t enough.

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  33. SiteSeer: To me it looks like the spiritual equivalent of Walmart moving into a community and all the mom & pop shops going under.

    Sums it up pretty well. Then, when the family-supporting businesses are gone, all you have is a warehouse full of cheap junk under bright lights.

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  34. “If that car was given to Stetzer(and if other cars were given to pastors) and the cars were paid for by church funds, I believe the car(s) should be returned to the church or the church reimbursed.” (Dee)

    Yes, but would Stetzer have reimbursed the church for the VW if the HBC scandal had not broke? He surely knew that JMac’s personal funds were derived from church funds … he’s been in ministry long enough to know that.

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  35. Max: JMac’s personal funds were derived from church funds

    I include book sales and conference income in this. Even that money came indirectly from his HBC stage, which he turned into personal profit. His HBC exposure sold his books … his HBC exposure drew folks to his conferences. The Christian Industrial Complex is a money-making machine for “pastors” with a gimmick, empowered and funded by gullibles who support their charades.

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  36. And then there’s this:

    “Camp Harvest: Invite your friends! This is a guided hunt with the opportunity to shoot trophy whitetails valued at more than $15,000 each. Because they have been raised at the camp, hunt cost is just $6000-8000 per deer.”

    https://www.harvestbiblechapel.org/2018/10/30/deerhunt/

    The poor deer can’t get away – they are fenced in – easy targets. Yep, macho HBC members can “Act Like Men” and kill animals so children can have “Christ-centered camp experiences.” Ministry is such fun!! Do you reckon that JMac, the big-game hunter, also harvested his share of deer? Just another perk. When will this madness end? Perhaps at HBC, it already has.

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  37. Max: however, there was obviously a deterioration in their friendship as JMac made some vulgar comments about Stetzer in the Mancow expose

    MacDonald apparently dissed his friends regularly behind the scenes when he thought he was safe. The only one safe from MacDonald was MacDonald himself.

    Stetzer did not answer me but he answered someone else that he decided to pay back the church for the care bought bu Walk in the Woads funds In March…. So, it happened. I’m so mad I’m planning rant post for Monday.

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  38. “I have had to comfort grown men after some of their encounters with James.” Those weren’t grown men. Those were little boys afraid to stand up to a bully. And for what? To keep their jobs? You work for a church but don’t believe God can find you another job? I can’t believe nobody stood up to this goon.

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  39. Max,

    What these men wear or drive or even if they have facial hair or tattoos is insignificant. Their corrupt practices and unbiblical messages are what we should be focusing on. The Day of the Christian elite – whether it is JM, Bill H (who actually dresses quite conservatively), Franklin Graham, and now, Ed Stetzer – must be exposed for who they are.

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  40. All our works will be tested by fire ultimately.
    It is so sad that the “evangelical elites” are acquiring longer and longer titles behind their “name” : various degrees from this and that place, chairmanship of this and that department, leader of this and that mission society, pastors of this and that big church, speakers of this and that conference, writers of this and that book, ….you wonder how they manage to serve Jesus in the same 24 hours a day life with such busy agenda?

    It seems that we have found emptiness in the spiritual vanity world, so we look to specialty cars, bikes, houses, vacations, casinos, ….for excitement and thrills. And such things drive our hearts to hunger for more and more money, more power connections….

    Men may be teaching “truth”, but they are not of the truth. Somewhere the root system has shifted, even gotten corrupted. People of the church, we are to be harmless as the doves, but we must be alert and sharp in testing the teachers to see if they are of the Holy Spirit even if the doctrine may sound good on the surface. (Matthew 7:15-20)

    As Oswald Chambers put it: It s appallingly easy to pretend. (Sermon on the Mount)

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  41. birdoftheair,

    Good point. Check out the multiple titles and degrees on Ed Stetzer’s resume – not to mention his vast experience as a teacher, church planter, and author. I am much more impressed with the resume of a small- congregation pastor who has served in the same place and same capacity for decades. Not much impressed with ladder-climbers.

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  42. Max,

    That’s the link. I also found this reference about the car in JDPayne’s blog, dated Dec 2018.
    “I am with a great group of missiologists this week at Wheaton College. I recently received an invitation to join the Send Institute’s Missiologists’ Council, a partnership between the Billy Graham Center and the North American Mission Board.
    While the highlight of yesterday was riding around in the back seat of Ed Stetzer’s classic VW Bug, a close second was seeing this page from John Eliot’s “Indian Bible” in the Billy Graham Center Museum.”

    If you click on the highlighted words “classic VW Bug” you’ll get a view from the back seat of the car!

    https://www.jdpayne.org/2018/12/first-bible-printed-in-north-america/

    I never realised how embedded the VW Bug is in the consciousness of the Neos, most of whom were still in diapers when it was in its heyday.

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  43. dee: I’m googling and not finding anything.

    Funny thing, that. Not that it’s new. As a lay researcher, I jumped onto Google in its earliest days, but recall with great nostalgia when there were many search engines, and one could tailor ones searches, or search on multiple engines to broaden one’s returns.

    Sadly, Google has gradually put in place a dictatorial control over access to information, and this has really ramped up in the last few months. People can disbelieve all they want, but I know full well the difference in the results I have been able to achieve ranging from thirty, twenty, ten and one year ago. And believe me, I know all the tricks. The worst, and most disstressing, is how, increasingly, anything that does not uphold the mainstream, orthodox, p.c. viewpoint is wiped from the net, as if it never existed. Poof, and if you did not happen to see it in passing, you will never know it existed. This is the worst kind of tyranny, as you do not even know you are being controlled.

    The fact that religious leaders have connections that allow them to do this as well, also became clear to me some time ago.

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  44. Yup they got us for suckers. I guess I am one of the so called sheep. Brought to slaughter. Thought I was doing going by giving my money to the church so it could be used for good. Giving my money away so I had less for the house, food, vacation, – fun stuff. All so that I could enable MacDonald and the HBC leaders to get their fun stuff. Ok – ya got me – you played me good. I was played the fool. Never again with this megalopolis church business model raking in millions so that what – maybe 10% is used for good?

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  45. David,

    Sorry you had to learn it so painfully. Don’t let it stop you from doing real good on your own. You can help a friend or neighbor in need, or give to local assistance programs that you can verify with your own eyes, after checking out their bookkeeping practices.

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  46. dee,

    My thot is that Stetzer has been somewhat compromised re: objectivity – especially as it relates to MacDonald. A word-smith like Ed will be able in print to excuse or minimalize his actions but, personally, I will read what he writes with some scepticism. Like you, I appreciate Julie Roy’s and admire that she called-out Ed with the possibility of a conflict of interest.

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  47. Law Prof: Of course, anyone working for a secular corporation that was nothing at all about the Lord and totally about the bottom line net income would know that, would understand the extreme issues this would cause, the conflict of interest. Only the sleaziest sort of people in secular industry woyld accept such a gift.

    Same goes for the vast majority of government workers. They cannot and will not accept any gift above a specific dollar value; I have seen them turn down a rather ordinary lunch.

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  48. elastigirl: it is beyond obscene for such a person to be a ‘pastor’, since his wealth is other people’s money given in good faith that it is going toward good causes, not the pastor’s personal wealth.

    Such a good point. Often wondered why this isn’t more scrutinized or examined with care.

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  49. “I have seen spiritual revival happen all around the world as a result of Harvest’s ministry, and this church has played a critical role in my own spiritual development.”

    The end justifies the means.

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  50. Lowlandseer,

    And this from Mr Stezer’s FB on 21 April 2018: “Got me a 1971 VW Beetle. My 16-year old daughter and I are going to restore it together. I’ve rebuilt three Bugs, so this is going to be awesome. First…”

    So maybe the VW isn’t an issue.

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  51. Friend,

    When I worked in aerospace, visiting our customer, the DoD, the military personnel wouldn’t let my supervisor buy them lunch. In regards to my employer, a challenge coin and a coffee mug from the unit would exceed the money limit. So we had to buy them so we didn’t have to turn them over to our employer. The unit would take that money and donate it to a local cause.

    I would like to learn more on how honest ministry financing works.

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  52. LeRoy,

    Sadly, Ed has probably heard the vulgarities that MacDonald used in regards to him on the audio on this blog. Which means MacDonald expected to get something back from Stetzer. Stetzer was part of a quid pro quo. MacDonald was not his friend.

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  53. Dave,

    Don’t think that wasn’t part of a bigger plan (the name change). These men are good friends. JMac recently attended both of Ron Zappia’s daughters weddings. They are close. Ron and Ed’s silence on the Harvest situation is highly suspect.

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  54. jyjames,

    “it is beyond obscene for such a person to be a ‘pastor’, since his wealth is other people’s money given in good faith that it is going toward good causes, not the pastor’s personal wealth.”

    jyjames: “Often wondered why this isn’t more scrutinized or examined with care.”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    ha… it’s funny, isn’t it.

    professional christians concerned with doctrine pore over it, go through it with a fine-toothed comb, to make sure that it’s water-tight so their eternal destiny is safe, or so it can be enforced and argued (for laudable or scuzzy reasons).

    as soon as money is concerned, “Oh, i didn’t know!” (you mean you kept yourself in the ignorant dark on purpose)

    “it’s perfectly legal” (you mean you stopped your thought train right there and then and got off, and didn’t ponder is it fair? is it even ethical?)

    funny how the ability to analyze data on vast spiritual and moral levels that are so ‘critical’ to the kingdom of God completely shuts down to a few wide-eyed burbles when it’s money.

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  55. SiteSeer: In my experience, such gifts do not come free of strings attached. You accept the gift, you’ve been owned.

    Had this sort of thing offered to us. A couple years ago, we briefly attended a small group Bible study put on by another professor at the university where I teach. It was affiliated with a local “mega”, about 1,000 regular attenders (a mega for a largely rural county with under 50,000 people). One time at the prayers that they’d have at the end of each small group, we mentioned how our septic system was breaking down and we’d been told by a contractor it was likely to cost over $10K. We were not asking for a handout, just prayers.

    A few days late,r my wife got a call from the wife of the husband-wife team (with the professor) who ran the study. Said she’d talked to her head pastor and they wanted to pay for everything. My wife turned her down and said she’d feel guilty accepting such a huge gift from a church she’d never attended, especially when we weren’t really in any kind of serious financial straits, and she didn’t want to be put in the awkward position of having to owe anyone anything. My wife said the lady got very snippy with her at this point. The husband called me the next day and when I told him the same as my wife had told his wife, he told me I needed to deal with my pride issues. The wife then called my wife and asked if we could come over and talk.

    So we went and after having a nice enough dinner the wife told us she was very offended that we’d turned down her pastor’s offer, that we only thought the worst of him, that we needed to repent of our judgmental attitudes, etc. Now let me tell you, we’d never accused her pastor of anything untoward (we’d thought it, sure, but never once said a word to these people). The husband then started in, talking about the same, they kept taking turns, shouting us down every time we tried to explain that in all honesty, the offer from a stranger, especially when it came from donated money of people who very possibly had it worse than us, made us uncomfortable. They just kept getting more shrill and angry and shouting us down.

    Finally, I’d had enough and raised my voice louder than theirs’ and refused to be shouted down and told them just what I thought (which I should’ve done days before), I figured their pastor was trying to land a couple academics and their large family for his church and thought he could make us feel obligated and I thought it was a rotten thing, frankly, to use other people’s money, donated money, to do it. I told him his mega had a lot of red flags of being a cult and there was no way I was interested in it or continuing a relationship with him or his wife. At that point, my wife and I got up and walked out on them, grabbing the kids and telling them we weren’t interested in another word they had to say, didn’t want their prayers, etc.

    Any person even half decent in their position, when politely rebuffed (which is all we did at first), would’ve said “Oh, of course, we get it, very sorry to put you in that position, we understand.” But it’s obvious that they weren’t even half decent, at least their behavior wasn’t at that time.

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  56. Max: Mike Daniels: It’s not just cars, pastors were gifted with Harleys as well.

    Thinking about those cars and Harleys… I can’t help remembering the story of that poor lady who asked HBC for a mattress for her son who was sleeping on the floor. “Nope. Let’s make her wait to see if her need is genuine. Don’t want to waste $ on a mattress for a kid.”

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  57. Paul: I saw Ed Stetzer several years ago on the Phil Vischer Podcast and that was enough for me. Arrogant. Obnoxious. Rude to the co-host.

    OK. That might answer my question about Stetzer’s theological leaning. When he was an executive with SBC, he was rather elusive on whether he was a New Calvinist or a traditional non-Calvinist. With those characteristics, he is most likely a New Calvinist.

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  58. Friend: Same goes for the vast majority of government workers. They cannot and will not accept any gift above a specific dollar value; I have seen them turn down a rather ordinary lunch.

    I had a government auditor at a laboratory I worked at once turn down my offer to buy him a soda, saying he couldn’t accept gifts. Throughout my 70 year tenure as a Southern Baptist, I sensed a certain entitlement attitude among some of the SBC clergy. I never once had a pastor refuse my offer to buy his lunch, but most of those were gracious souls not out to take advantage of the pew.

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  59. Lowlandseer: If you click on the highlighted words “classic VW Bug” you’ll get a view from the back seat of the car!

    Yep, that’s Ed Stetzer in the rearview mirror. Now, I have to remember why we were creeping on him … oh yeah, he’s driving the VW gifted to him by the infamous James MacDonald. That creeps me out!

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  60. Mary27: I can’t help remembering the story of that poor lady who asked HBC for a mattress for her son who was sleeping on the floor. “Nope. Let’s make her wait to see if her need is genuine. Don’t want to waste $ on a mattress for a kid.”

    “Whoever shuts his ears at the cry of the poor, he also will cry himself, but will not be heard.” (Proverbs 21:13)

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  61. Friend:
    Law Prof,

    What an awful experience! Even the MLM folk who tried to hornswoggle us had better manners.

    Once had the leader of a phone calling ministry at a mega I attended (a real mega, 6,000+ attenders on any given Sunday) try to hornswaggle me into joining his MLM. My mother-in-law was herself hornswaggled into joining an MLM by the pastor of her church–who used the same MLM used to take advantage of several parishioners (he was eventually run out of the church). It’s not like Jesus didn’t warn us that dirtbags and frauds would try top take advantage of us as time went on.

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  62. Law Prof,

    It’s amazing how many church folks call themselves Christian, but don’t act like it. Somewhere along the line of doing church in America, we’ve lost touch with the gentle loving Savior who believers are to emulate. Christlikeness is not a pursuit the average church member has on his to-do list. The folks you encountered were downright mean-spirited!

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  63. Max: Yep, that’s Ed Stetzer in the rearview mirror.Now, I have to remember why we were creeping on him … oh yeah, he’s driving the VW gifted to him by the infamous James MacDonald.That creeps me out!

    Stetzer knows that was unethical. It’s also possibly illegal. Perhaps this is why he has remained silent on many of the foibles of MacDonald, even though Ed is allegedly a journalist. I have no respect for the man at all now. I consider him just another liar, no better than Driscoll, MacDonald, MacArthur. Just another unethical dirtbag enriching himself at the cost of the truth.

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  64. Pardon my audacity but aren’t pastors supposed to be servants? Not all about greed and amassing ginormous sums of money? There’s a coverup here people. Ed may think we all “fell off the pumpkin truck yesterday” but he is sorely mistaken. I believe the prayer of exposing the darkness to the light is beginning to come to fruition. The church is only going to be as strong as it’s leaders and anyone with two licks of sense can see a huge problem here. I’m going to liken it to a spiritual ponzi (sp?) scheme. And throw in a little spiritual blackmail with that too. Most of all I’m saddened for the black eye these shenanigans are putting on the cause of Christ and all believers worldwide. It needs to be rooted out and get back to the basics of sharing the Good News.

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  65. S. Stroup: Most of all I’m saddened for the black eye these shenanigans are putting on the cause of Christ and all believers worldwide. It needs to be rooted out and get back to the basics of sharing the Good News.

    Amen! It’s time to take the axe to the root of the tree. Pruning here and there just ain’t cutting it! Each time one of these charlatans is exposed, a lost world has yet another reason to say “See, there’s nothing to it.” As long as the pew is satisfied to live with an unholy pulpit, things won’t change. “IF My People … THEN Will I” … but will we?

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  66. Law Prof: Once had the leader of a phone calling ministry at a mega I attended (a real mega, 6,000+ attenders on any given Sunday) try to hornswaggle me into joining his MLM. My mother-in-law was herself hornswaggled into joining an MLM by the pastor of her church–who used the same MLM used to take advantage of several parishioners (he was eventually run out of the church).It’s not like Jesus didn’t warn us that dirtbags and frauds would try top take advantage of us as time went on.

    About 5 years ago, I decided I would never buy another thing from a MLM, even a reputable one (like Avon) because various MLMers were becoming so abusive in the church. MLM Watch states that 99% of people lose money on MLMs because they end up spending more to stay in the MLM’s good graces than they sell. Then they alienate everyone they know.

    I still get harassed, and have made some people very mad when I tell them I will never buy anything from a MLM. That business model has done horrible things to people.

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  67. dee: Stetzer did not answer me

    Dee, it appears from the following post on Stetzer’s Twitter account that he’s been crazy busy of late:
    “My staff mostly posts. Pls forgive me as I don’t see or reply much to msgs as I am on a book deadline & not checking”

    As a “pastor”, he told his congregation that “I can’t do funerals, visits, phone calls, or meetings.” His time is so much more important than ours; I guess we should just leave him alone. The world (and his bank account) are waiting anxiously for his new book. He is probably alone somewhere in his VW cranking out the last chapter … it will be inspirational, I’m sure.

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  68. Lowlandseer: I also found this reference about the car in JDPayne’s blog, dated Dec 2018.

    “I am with a great group of missiologists this week at Wheaton College…the Send Institute’s Missiologists’ Council, a partnership between the Billy Graham Center and the North American Mission Board…the highlight of yesterday was riding around in the back seat of Ed Stetzer’s classic VW Bug

    Check out what JD Payne titled his back-seat snapshot: “Stetzer’s Mean Machine”!

    https://www.jdpayne.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Stetzers-Mean-Machine.jpg

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  69. ishy,

    “I still get harassed, and have made some people very mad when I tell them I will never buy anything from a MLM. That business model has done horrible things to people.”
    +++++++++++++

    the “moses” model for business, perhaps?

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  70. Max,

    “Pls forgive me as I don’t see or reply much to msgs as I am on a book deadline & not checking””
    ++++++++++++++++++

    wonder if this is the book deal for #churchtoo / sexual abuse in church which he swooped in and hijacked, standing on the shoulders of everyone who had already done the work, with one foot on their faces as he ignored and silenced them.

    well, i’m going to make a fuss…

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  71. Law Prof: Had this sort of thing offered to us. A couple years ago, we briefly attended a small group Bible study put on by another professor at the university where I teach. It was affiliated with a local “mega”, about 1,000 regular attenders (a mega for a largely rural county with under 50,000 people).One time at the prayers that they’d have at the end of each small group, we mentioned how our septic system was breaking down and we’d been told by a contractor it was likely to cost over $10K.We were not asking for a handout, just prayers.

    A few days late,r my wife got a call from the wife of the husband-wife team (with the professor) who ran the study.Said she’d talked to her head pastor and they wanted to pay for everything.My wife turned her down and said she’d feel guilty accepting such a huge gift from a church she’d never attended, especially when we weren’t really in any kind of serious financial straits, and she didn’t want to be put in the awkward position of having to owe anyone anything. My wife said the lady got very snippy with her at this point.The husband called me the next day and when I told him the same as my wife had told his wife, he told me I needed to deal with my pride issues.The wife then called my wife and asked if we could come over and talk.

    So we went and after having a nice enough dinner the wife told us she was very offended that we’d turned down her pastor’s offer, that we only thought the worst of him, that we needed to repent of our judgmental attitudes, etc.Now let me tell you, we’d never accused her pastor of anything untoward (we’d thought it, sure, but never once said a word to these people).The husband then started in, talking about the same, they kept taking turns, shouting us down every time we tried to explain that in all honesty, the offer from a stranger, especially when it came from donated money of people who very possibly had it worse than us, made us uncomfortable.They just kept getting more shrill and angry and shouting us down.

    Finally, I’d had enough and raised my voice louder than theirs’ and refused to be shouted down and told them just what I thought (which I should’ve done days before), I figured their pastor was trying to land a couple academics and their large family for his church and thought he could make us feel obligated and I thought it was a rotten thing, frankly, to use other people’s money, donated money, to do it. I told him his mega had a lot of red flags of being a cult and there was no way I was interested in it or continuing a relationship with him or his wife.At that point, my wife and I got up and walked out on them, grabbing the kids and telling them we weren’t interested in another word they had to say, didn’t want their prayers, etc.

    Any person even half decent in their position, when politely rebuffed (which is all we did at first), would’ve said “Oh, of course, we get it, very sorry to put you in that position, we understand.”But it’s obvious that they weren’t even half decent, at least their behavior wasn’t at that time.

    Glad to hear that you all had your eyes open and didn’t allow them to use what appears to likely have been emotional manipulation. Brings to mind a couple of films — Serpico, when the dirty cops were desperate to have Serpico join in so he became beholden to the corrupt system and couldn’t expose it, and It’s a Wonderful Life, when George Bailey astutely observes with them ankmis offering cash 50 cents on the dollar for building and loan shares that Potter’s not selling, Potter’s buying!

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  72. I see (Sharayah) Colter & Co. finally got Dorothy Patterson’s website back up and running after it being offline and ‘under construction’ since the ordeal of last year:

    https://mobile.twitter.com/SharayahColter/status/1110678265260331008

    Sharayah Colter on Twitter Mar 26: “How do you honor a woman who co-created study Bibles for women, was only female on founding CBMW board, pushes for theological training for women & opens her home in hospitality to thousands? I’m starting w/ creating her website.”

    https://mobile.twitter.com/ColterCo/status/1112489808591577089

    Colter & Co. on Twitter Mar 31: “Pleased to share and celebrate the launch of this new website. Congratulations, Dr. Dorothy Patterson!”

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  73. Gone from SWBTS’s chapel: the ‘Heroes of the SBC Conservative Resurgence’ Stained Glass Memorial Windows, according to reports today from ‘The Baptist Blogger’:

    https://twitter.com/BaptistBlogger/status/1114521712245264385

    “Our sources tell us the SWBTS stained glass windows have been removed. Waiting for pictures”

    then, photos of the new, plain windows:

    https://twitter.com/BaptistBlogger/status/1114527089045180416

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  74. Mary27: I can’t help remembering the story of that poor lady who asked HBC for a mattress for her son who was sleeping on the floor. “Nope. Let’s make her wait to see if her need is genuine. Don’t want to waste $ on a mattress for a kid.”

    But Lord! Lord! didn’t we lead many to you so they could get ‘saved’???

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  75. Max: “Whoever shuts his ears at the cry of the poor, he also will cry himself, but will not be heard.” (Proverbs 21:13)

    The Prophet Isaiah also had stuff to say about those turn their backs on the hurting and the needy.

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  76. Jerome: Gone from SWBTS’s chapel: the ‘Heroes of the SBC Conservative Resurgence’ Stained Glass Memorial Windows, according to reports today from ‘The Baptist Blogger’

    That was a bad idea from the beginning … talk about idolatry! Patterson and his band of yes-men trustees at SWBTS put the elder boards at Mars Hill, Willow Creek and Harvest Bible Chapel to shame by pulling that one off! How could anyone worship in the SWBTS chapel with an image of Patterson looming over you, not to mention assorted other SBC elites staring at you – including some of the “heroes” who have fallen from grace for one reason or another. Wonder what in the world they will do with those huge windows?! Maybe they could break them all (seminary students would love to do that), mix all the pieces together, and reassemble them into regular stained glass windows – perhaps a cross or two. Come Lord Jesus … we are about to lose our spiritual minds in the American church!

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  77. Ann,

    Easter weekend of 2014 I gave my life to the Lord because of what happened to me at Harvest in Elgin. I was baptized there. That church will always have a special place in my heart because of Jeff Donaldson, not James MacDonald, but because of what James did, I can no longer continue to attend

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  78. Max: That was a bad idea from the beginning … talk about idolatry!Patterson and his band of yes-men trustees at SWBTS put the elder boards at Mars Hill, Willow Creek and Harvest Bible Chapel to shame by pulling that one off!How could anyone worship in the SWBTS chapel with an image of Patterson looming over you, not to mention assorted other SBC elites staring at you – including some of the “heroes” who have fallen from grace for one reason or another.Wonder what in the world they will do with those huge windows?!Maybe they could break them all (seminary students would love to do that), mix all the pieces together, and reassemble them into regular stained glass windows – perhaps a cross or two.Come Lord Jesus … we are about to lose our spiritual minds in the American church!

    Yep! These were pictures of CR “heroes”. IMO just a few of the people who destroyed the SBC myself and many others loved.

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  79. Anthony: So the deed is done Max. SBC has joined The Gospel Coalition. See BP

    No need for SBC’s young reformers to hide in the shadows. Calvinization of the SBC – by stealth and deception – is now largely accomplished. The Gospel Coalition = The Calvinist Coalition … the SBC fits in well with that crowd now.

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  80. birdoftheair: you wonder how they manage to serve Jesus in the same 24 hours a day life with such busy agenda

    “I can’t do funerals, visits, phone calls, or meetings.” (Ed Stetzer)

    SBC’s New Calvinist “lead pastors” in my area don’t make hospital and nursing home visits, do funerals, make calls to shut-ins, nor go to the homes of members to get to know them. They delegate that dirty business to the elders (maybe) – pastor is so busy you know. But the young pastors find plenty of time to tweet their lives away at the local coffee shop. Welcome to the new and improved (?) 21st century SBC church.

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  81. Anthony: So the deed is done Max. SBC has joined The Gospel Coalition. See BP

    “Some 7,000 evangelicals — including a significant contingent of Southern Baptists — gathered around an evangelism theme at The Gospel Coalition’s National Conference April 1-3 in Indianapolis.”
    http://www.bpnews.net/52693/gospel-coalition-conference-focuses-on-evangelism

    Speakers: Piper, Keller, Mohler, Duncan, DeYoung, Platt, Carson, Moore, Akin, and assorted other New Calvinist who’s who. The architects of the new reformation sweeping through the American church.

    Yep, the dastardly deed is done. The silver has been exchanged. The SBC, a once-great evangelistic denomination, has surrendered its birthright for a bowl of doctrines of men. “Evangelism” to a New Calvinist is harvesting the elect, not reaching the lost of every tribe, tongue, and nation with the Gospel of Christ. There’s a vast difference in that, regardless of how the new reformers spin it. I’ve heard all the arguments – they just don’t stack up with Truth.

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  82. Max: harvesting the elect, not reaching the lost of every tribe, tongue, and nation with the Gospel of Christ

    Recently attended a sporting event at a Christian college. Prayer before the game and prayer after. In between, the home team’s fans behaved like a pack of animals. The visitors were mostly freshmen, really no match. But the Christian college coach kept playing his seniors and stars while the Christian college crowd bayed and shrieked. They didn’t just want to win, they wanted to destroy.

    I spent the second half of the game standing as close as I could to the visiting team. Cheered myself hoarse for the inexperienced young visitors from a small secular college. I shouted how proud I was of their character, ethics, teamwork, strength, grit, determination, speed, focus. Every time I praised them by name, the Christian college fans jeered them by name.

    Really, who are the lions and emperors in the coliseum these days?

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  83. ishy: MLM Watch states that 99% of people lose money on MLMs because they end up spending more to stay in the MLM’s good graces than they sell.

    Reminds me of most churches I’ve been part of. [Sorry, I get really snarky on Sunday mornings.]

    I’ve ridden in the back of a vintage VW bug, although it wasn’t a convertible. Not an experience I would want to share with the world. But I’m guessing that the point was that it was Stetzer’s VW. Again, not a name I would drop.

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  84. Jerome:
    Gone from SWBTS’s chapel: the ‘Heroes of the SBC Conservative Resurgence’ Stained Glass Memorial Windows, according to reports today from ‘The Baptist Blogger’:
    https://twitter.com/BaptistBlogger/status/1114521712245264385“Our sources tell us the SWBTS stained glass windows have been removed. Waiting for pictures”then, photos of the new, plain windows:https://twitter.com/BaptistBlogger/status/1114527089045180416

    Good. They had a real problem with the Pressler window. Can you imagine having that guy up in a church looking at you? Gives me the creeps. Just so long as they don’t replace it with Mohler and his BFFs. What in the world is wrong with pictures of the Apostles in action?

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  85. Fisher:
    Law Prof,

    Words fail me. About the people who tried to “buy you” that is. On the other hand there are many words for your response- all of them good beginning with “yes and amen”.

    Thing about it is they didn’t care one bit about us as human beings. We were marks. We were a score for them so they could get some kind of elevated status because they landed a husband and wife team of academics and their big family. Maybe they’d also get the warm buzz from knowing they’d taken part in getting our septic fixed and would feel good about themselves for that (even though it didn’t cost them a penny). Probably the head pastor, who gave the OK for this, would feel good about his generosity also—while simultaneously “building the kingdom” by expanding the reach of his mini mega and adding another family (that would be another revenue stream of tithes) to it (and of course it wouldn’t cost him a penny either). We were an investment that would provide a stream of payments in return. We were a cost accounting calculation. To them, we sure weren’t human beings of great value, made in the image of God. If we were, couldn’t tell by our experiences with them.

    They were all shocked when we didn’t fall all over ourselves in gratitude. Maybe our response even caused a little twinge inside them causing them to question their own motivations. Maybe that’s why they erupted in such anger at us, why they were so over-the-top defensive when neither my wife or had (at least to that point) attacked them or what they did or their church or pastor in any way. Or maybe they had no circumspection at all, maybe they were just ripping angry because we were thwarting their attempts to get brownie points and solidify a power position in the church.

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  86. Max,

    The “predestination” as interpreted by most theologians today really are toxic to the gospel and the missions. The truth is : Only “IN CHRIST” has any of us been “chosen”. Outside of Christ no one can be chosen or elected by his/her merit or luck! What arrogance for us to think that we are so lucky to be the elect because we know a few bible verses and read a bunch of commentaries, and manage to preach up a storm to a big American crowd?

    Somebody needs to shout from the mountain tops that only the Cross should be lifted up to draw souls to Jesus, not human intelligence or fame.

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  87. RE: The SBC joining TGC.

    Even if the SBC holds title to some of the church property, referencing past post, why don’t the remaining SBC member churches not effected by the neo-Calvanist reforms break away from the SBC, start a new convention?

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  88. dee: They had a real problem with the Pressler window. Can you imagine having that guy up in a church looking at you? Gives me the creeps.

    Yeah, I suspect that image of Judge Pressler was particularly creepy to chapel worshipers. You sure didn’t want to go in there at night. Whew! What a crew on those windows!! I wonder if they will gift them to the donors who paid for them? “Come get your window, Judge.”

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  89. dee: am now in a denomination that wouldn’t know John Piper if he got up and started waving his hands around.

    This is such a great image.
    Poor guy, lost his podium in that crowd. There are more that could stand to lose their footing on their podiums. Pun intended, stand to lose their footing.

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  90. Brian: why don’t the remaining SBC member churches not effected by the neo-Calvanist reforms break away from the SBC, start a new convention?

    That’s possible, I suppose, but this ole guy is done with the bunch (after 70 years as a Southern Baptist). A split of that sort happened once before when the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship was formed. Southern Baptists have always been fussing and fighting about something … with member churches dividing over things ranging from the color of the carpet to the color of the preacher! With the New Calvinist takeover, I became weary with them … and discovered there’s life after SBC!

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  91. dee: I got out and am now in a denomination that wouldn’t know John Piper if he got up and started waving his hands around.

    Er – is that the sort of thing he would do, then?















    (Ken F beat me to it.)

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  92. Law Prof,

    “We were marks. We were a score for them so they could get some kind of elevated status because they landed a husband and wife team of academics and their big family. ”
    +++++++++++++++++++++

    blimey, it’s just like a board game. “Oh goody, i just drew the “Shame on your opponent” card! i love this part!”

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  93. ION: Cricket

    Wartburgers will, of course, be keen for updates on the National Sport of Wartburg on Day 3 of the County Championship.

    Joe Clarke, who bagged the season’s first century on Day 1, has just got his half-ton in the second innings as Notts remain in command against Yorkshire. They’re currently 229-3, a lead of 346. Incidentally, this is Clarke’s debut in County cricket. Bad light has stopped play between Northants and Middlesex with the visitors following on on 109-2, and needing 65 to avoid an innings defeat. Things are interesting at Taunton; Somerset were skittled for just 171 in their first innings, with Kent 84-2 at one point in reply. But Somerset rallied, dismissing the visitors for 209 to concede a narrow first-innings lead. They didn’t keep it up, though, and are currently 90-5 in their second innings, a lead of only 53.

    IHTIH

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  94. Max,

    “With the New Calvinist takeover, I became weary with them … and discovered there’s life after SBC!”
    ++++++++++++++

    bet it’s like shaking the sand and pebbles out of your shoes, and taking the visor off.

    “so that’s what was bothering me… and wow, the headache’s gone, too!”

    or maybe that’s putting it mildly.

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  95. Muff Potter: What’s there to be surprised about?
    Seeing that much of the theological bent in the Christian religion is anti-human.

    At least as often practiced. I find the real deal Christianity to be distinctly pro-human, especially considering I worship a God Who is human, at least in part. But it does seem if there’s one thing you can count on happening in a corrupt, only pseudo-Christian organization like we apparently encountered and like Dee is forever exposing here, it’s that they will deny the beauty of humanity, they will try to stamp out our individuality and intrinsic value. Cultic organizations want to kill the individual and refuse to celebrate their great worth, they try to stamp out their voices and value only conformity to the system.

    So James MacDonald sets up his brutal place, and over time, more and more elders and wannabe leaders start sporting goatees. And Mahaney sets up his little kingdom, and the young turks with beautiful heads of hair start shaving them so they can look old and creaky like their leader. People in cults start using the same catchphrases, quoting the same Bible verses (occasionally), quoting the same brainless catchphrases from their mega leaders (often). They all come to think and act and often look alike. That is how I can tell there’s a cult that doesn’t serve Jesus, because He absolutely loves diversity, He made us all so different.

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  96. elastigirl: bet it’s like shaking the sand and pebbles out of your shoes, and taking the visor off.

    “so that’s what was bothering me… and wow, the headache’s gone, too!”

    Yep, that’s pretty close! I guess I’m a slow-learner, but I finally came to this conclusion about much of the organized church:

    “But alas for you, you scribes and Pharisees, play-actors that you are! You lock the door of the kingdom of Heaven in men’s faces; you will not go in yourselves neither will you allow those at the door to go inside.” (Matthew 23:13)

    You pretty much have to go outside the camp to find Jesus these days – they have locked him out, too!

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  97. Max: “I can’t do funerals, visits, phone calls, or meetings.” (Ed Stetzer)

    SBC’s New Calvinist “lead pastors” in my area don’t make hospital and nursing home visits, do funerals, make calls to shut-ins, nor go to the homes of members to get to know them.They delegate that dirty business to the elders (maybe) – pastor is so busy you know.But the young pastors find plenty of time to tweet their lives away at the local coffee shop.Welcome to the new and improved (?) 21st century SBC church.

    Meanwhile, our pastor (another priest from Cameroon) is stretched thin between two parishes, *always* does hospital visits (including emergencies), and is deeply engaged in parish renewal.

    He doesn’t tweet or do Facebook AFAIK.

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  98. For traditional, noncalvinist Baptist churches, a healthy and happy future seems unlikely
    within the SBC. While resisting the Fundamentalist for so long the reformers were sneaking in the back door.
    The practical and fiscal loss would be enormous for what is now “the remnant.”
    Max or someone please address this factor?

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  99. Law Prof,

    Wow, what disgusting behavior…. maybe they felt “gulity”, or at least know somthing was “not right” about their system, and it is why they immediately started attacking you and your wife…
    I have seen non-financial manipulation myself, but this story is incredibly blunt…
    these stories need to be told… in fact we need to know, in general, which churches they are… maybe having their dirty laundary “out there” will reduce this disgusting behavoir..

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  100. ishy,

    I had a Bible school professor in the 80s who was always criticizing what he called the gospel according to Amway. Back then it was mostly Amway and Avon. What I find really sad is when the pastor’s wife is selling some sort of MLM. It means either the pastor isn’t getting paid enough, or they don’t know how to budget. I was always busy on candle party night.

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  101. Linn,

    yes — being on a church or bible study roster means being invited to so many candle, or jewelry or cookware ‘parties’. why do christian women opt for these as ways to make money? why not an actual job with paycheck? are they not allowed?

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  102. elastigirl:
    Linn,

    yes — being on a church or bible study roster means being invited to so many candle, or jewelry or cookware ‘parties’.why do christian women opt for these as ways to make money?why not an actual job with paycheck?are they not allowed?

    Last time visiting long time Christian friends in another part of the state the wife tried the hard sell on my wife with her Plexus. Told her “I only need to add one more person by the end of the day and I’ll get a big bonus!” It may have been the truth, in which case I’d say it was an obnoxious thing to do to a friend, or it may have been a lie, in which case it was an unethical and evil thing to do to a friend. We haven’t visited since.

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  103. Anthony: For traditional, noncalvinist Baptist churches, a healthy and happy future seems unlikely
    within the SBC … The practical and fiscal loss would be enormous for what is now “the remnant.”

    It’s a strange thing in SBC. The majority of Southern Baptists (numbering in the millions) still hold to non-Calvinist theology. The denomination distanced itself from its Calvinist roots after the Civil War and remained distinctly non-Calvinist in belief and practice for the last 150+ years … until Al Mohler began his campaign to Calvinize the SBC. Unfortunately, the SBC majority has been a silent, slumbering majority while the New Calvinists progressively gained control of most SBC entities, including leading seminaries, mission agencies, publishing house, and a growing number of churches – taking them over by stealth and deception. The “remnant” of whosoever-will-may-come Southern Baptists would not be able to salvage much of the denominational infrastructure at this point … the New Calvinists are too entrenched. The best they could do is to split from local churches which have surrendered to the new reformation and start their own non-denominational non-Calvinist works. Many are already doing just that, joining other non-SBC churches, or entering the “Done” ranks. Sad, but as you note “For traditional, noncalvinist Baptist churches, a healthy and happy future seems unlikely within the SBC.” I held on as long as I could … 70 years in fact! But most of those were good years, serving in churches that preached the Cross of Christ for ALL people.

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  104. elastigirl: why do christian women opt for these as ways to make money? why not an actual job with paycheck? are they not allowed?

    That would be correct – they’re “not allowed”. It doesn’t go with the “keepers at home” required of women in the conservative churches if you’re going to be “spiritual” (and thus be in the in-girl crowd). Married with children is pretty much a requirement to be in the in-girl crowd as well, unless you’ve made the “single female missionary” requirement. O’ course, when the brown stuff hits the spinny thing, then not having an “actual job with a paycheck” becomes a serious liability.

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  105. Law Prof: Last time visiting long time Christian friends in another part of the state the wife tried the hard sell on my wife with her Plexus.

    We invited a professor and his wife from a local Christian college over for a visit one evening, thinking we could have some spiritual fellowship with them. They promptly started promoting Melaleuca products. We kindly turned down their offer, but remained friends.

    I suppose New Calvinism is sort of like a pyramid scheme when you think about it. Only a few elites ever reach the pinnacle, with an army of minions promoting their wares. Only Al gets a pink cadillac.

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  106. GreekEpigraph,

    I think it can also reflect education level. I have church friends who work from to have more time with their kids, but they have a minimum of junior college training. There just isn’t much out there for women who only have a high school education, especially if it’s Home School High. I think it’s great for one of the parents to be home with the kids, but it’s not economically feasible in many parts of the country-certainly not in the San Francisco Bay Area where I live.

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  107. Maze,

    You assume too much. One can only quote so many people in a tweet. I referenced Thorn because he got a statement directly from Stetzer. And as a journalist, I can only report what has been confirmed by on-the-record sources. That being said, I plan on mentioning Dee in my upcoming article on the topic. Believe me, I know plenty about the corruption among the evangelical elite. I’ve seen much of it first-hand.

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  108. Friend: Every time I praised them by name, the Christian college fans jeered them by name.

    That kind of sounds like a present-day instance of “knowing them by their fruits.”

    I seem to recall Jesus saying something about “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart.”

    Do these people read the Scriptures?

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  109. dee: What in the world is wrong with pictures of the Apostles in action?

    There are (or were) paintings of the apostles in the conference center at SWBTS. They struck me as kind of pointless; IIRC kind of fanciful imaginations of what the men might have looked like had they had European ancestry. Judas was quite scabrous; it seems obligatory to portray him as visually unappealing. I like the idea of “in action”; visual depictions of bible stories have utility as teaching aids; these were basically simply like studio portraits.

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  110. Linn: What I find really sad is when the pastor’s wife is selling some sort of MLM. It means either the pastor isn’t getting paid enough, or they don’t know how to budget. I was always busy on candle party night.

    I knew a pastor’s wife who I know didn’t push MLM stuff because they really needed the money. It was one of the essential oils ones, and they really wanted to believe those oils were solving the world’s problems. So much for Jesus.

    In the end, they are cults who lie and ruin relationships as much as any other cult. The history behind the EO MLMs is pretty sordid and involves multiple deaths. The Atlantic Institute has also done reports on thousands of injuries due to the lies of EO MLMs. I am in one of those reports–I’m deathly allergic to lavender and a representative tried to forcibly “prove” I wasn’t to their oil. She was wrong.

    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/10/09/how-essential-oils-became-the-cure-for-our-age-of-anxiety

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  111. ishy,

    Scary! I always find it interesting how Christians get mixed up in stuff like this and eschew modern medicine as a gift from God. I have had a lifelong interface with modern medicine due to a birth defect. 60 years and nine surgeries later, I’m gimpy, but I walk. I think some natural remedies can be helpful or physically comforting, but I want antibiotics for an infection.

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  112. elastigirl: isn’t it wrong to accept cash or gifts from other ministers/ministries when the people who gave sacrificially to them were told their money would be going elsewhere for a different purpose?

    And if they had so much extra money that, after meeting expenses, they were using surplus to buy expensive gifts for friends, maybe they should have stopped harping on listeners to send money money money money

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  113. dee: What in the world is wrong with pictures of the Apostles in action?

    I have been going to a church plant in my community that is growing rapidly and emulating these megas. One thing I have noticed: the brand is on everything, but very rarely does one see symbols of Jesus (like the cross….nowhere to be seen week after week), or the Holy Spirit, or the trinity. At Christmas, there was a small nativity, but it was hard to find among the presents, Santa Claus, lights and glitter. I guess the marketing gurus of MegaChurch(TM) have found that the old symbols are old and don’t sell? Or, would it remind people of the true reason?

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  114. Mati: I guess the marketing gurus of MegaChurch(TM) have found that the old symbols are old and don’t sell?

    Here’s a good site to search for some background on what is going on: https://auxano.com. I learned about them when my SBC church used their services. Also do some searches on Will Mancini. It’s all about branding and selling the brand. SBC and Lifeway use Auxano, but lots of other denominations and churches also use them.

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  115. From the OP:

    I feel I need to say that I deeply care for Pastor James. I am truly thankful to him for the ministry opportunities and support that he has personally given to me over the years. I have seen spiritual revival happen all around the world as a result of Harvest’s ministry, and this church has played a critical role in my own spiritual development…

    …being a long-time staff member, I feel obligated before the Lord to share what I have seen in the hopes that the fruit of Harvest Bible Chapel, not just James MacDonald, can continue to grow. Harvest has been instrumental in the spiritual growth of tens of thousands of people and for the sake of these sheep

    So, among other things, I’ve been pondering these two statements, variations of which we’ve seen in most if not all such statements. That is, Pastor James is so gifted and special and we love him, and HBC is a work of God and we love it. There is ample testimony now on what MacDonald is. So I find myself asking: what is HBC?

    Paul wrote to the church in Philippi that, even though some people praught Christ for bad reasons, he (Paul) rejoiced, because hey, they’re preaching Christ. He and others – including Jesus himself – warn about wolves: evil people (not “stray sheep”) whose whole purpose is to prey on believers. Separately, John draws attention to Diotrephes who “loves to be first” and had built his own sect which was isolated from the Church at large, and in which he answered to no-one. ISTM that we need to confront the question: what happens when a wolf preaches Christ?

    Certainly a wolf can do this. At least, he can stand in front of a crowd and talk about christian doctrines, and make an altar call and invite people to pray a formulaic prayer. And people can respond with great conviction and joy. Signs and wonders to deceive even the elect if possible, remember.

    It’s tempting to think that anyone responding to MacDonald’s preaching can only be deceived by a false gospel. At the same time, I have to think that this is too simplistic. Charlatans attract honest seekers as well as fellow-wolves and HBC is not the “fruit” of MacDonald only. But it cannot have escaped being severely poisoned by the years in which the leadership persistently called good, evil, and evil, good.

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  116. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    It’s pretty sad when ‘church’ becomes just another brand to market. I remember when I naively thought church was about learning more about God, and serving others. Was it really always about indoctrination and serving the hierarchy?

    I really tried to go to a local Episcopal church yesterday, it being Easter season and all, but the more I read of their historical building and celebrity former members, I just couldn’t. I’ll just have to keep ‘doing God’ on my own for now.

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  117. Nick Bulbeck: what happens when a wolf preaches Christ?

    I agree that God, in his amazing wisdom and mercy, can speak to people even through charlatans handling his word. But you can bet that these followers have been brainwashed with a lot of faulty, destrucive ‘obey mindlessly’ nonsense. The day comes when such either move on to healthy teaching and living, or morph into idolatry.

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  118. TS00:
    Ken F (aka Tweed),

    It’s pretty sad when ‘church’ becomes just another brand to market. I remember when I naively thought church was about learning more about God, and serving others. Was it really always about indoctrination and serving the hierarchy?

    I really tried to go to a local Episcopal church yesterday, it being Easter season and all, but the more I read of their historical building and celebrity former members, I just couldn’t. I’ll just have to keep ‘doing God’ on my own for now.

    We are two peas in a pod. A lot in common.

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  119. TS00: It’s pretty sad when ‘church’ becomes just another brand to market.

    Auxano is slippery. They used to post a list of all the ministries that hired them. Not they only show a few. My old church hired them for a capital campaign. I got to see the vision statement and branding graphics before they were ready to publish. What a complete waste of money.

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  120. mot:
    Serious question.For those of us that are done with religion.Does their exist any hope of a church home in our futures?

    Be in your own life and family a better manifestation of “the continuing presence of Jesus in the world” (my understanding of the meaning of Paul’s “the body of Christ” language) than the current churches. And pray that something better than the current institutions will come into being.

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  121. mot: Serious question. For those of us that are done with religion. Does there exist any hope of a church home in our futures?

    Well, the way I look at it … there has always been the Church within the church. In my past church experiences, I asked God to reveal the genuine amongst the counterfeit in both pulpit and pew. After a season of listening and watching, He was faithful to do so. I admit I’ve been deceived a few times, but that was my fault for not paying closer attention and testing the spirits about me. So – long story short – I suppose you could still find a church home just about anywhere, even if you only identify spiritually with a handful of the folks attending a particular church (and that may or may not include the pastor!).

    I keep reminding myself that this world is not my home, that I’m a citizen of another world, but like any Christian I desire true fellowship with other believers. The fact that you can’t find that at just any church in your community, is evidence that the American church is in need of correction in the path it is on. I don’t think we will see that as long as the pew is satisfied to live without revival among God’s people and a spiritual awakening in the nation. If/when we see a great multitude of church folks humbling themselves, praying, repenting, and seeking God’s face … we will see God hear our prayers, move in our midst, forgive our sins, and heal our land (his promise to us in 2 Chronicles 7:14). Unfortunately, I don’t see much movement in that direction yet. In the meantime, I will just pray that God will reveal His remnant to me in my area – they call it “remnant” because it is a small remaining quantity, a needle in a haystack, a rare and endangered species. I suppose there are at least 7,000 in my neck of the woods that have not bowed a knee to Baal … I’ve found a few of them already and we have “church” when we meet!

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  122. Ken F (aka Tweed): ministries that hired them

    Auxano has a video case study about Harvest Church in Billings, Montana, with this written intro: “After a period of rapid growth, followed by a difficult pruning season and vision confusion, watch how Harvest Church experiences real church growth after walking through our Visionary Planning process.”

    Soooo many things wrong with this (including logic; my seventh-grade English teacher would have asked why I needed to go through the rapid growth and difficult pruning before I watched and perhaps walked).

    The case study video includes an interview with somebody called a “Growth Pastor.” I wonder if that was part of the problem. The video keeps saying that Auxano taught this church how to articulate its identity, but in one viewing I did not hear anyone clearly state that identity. Jesus did get a mention, and there was much coffee.

    I don’t know when the video was made, but in the run-up to Easter 2017 the Postal Service refused to let Harvest Church of Billings MT send out 38,000 mailers printed with the words, “We’re gonna have to kill Him.” It was about the plot to kill Jesus:

    https://billingsgazette.com/news/local/killer-mailer-won-t-get-to-public-through-the-post/article_2d10636f-1c95-5821-8d56-a03ce5419cc7.html

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  123. singleman: I noticed this post at Charisma News. I’m guessing this will provide more material for Dee, Julie Anne and others.

    https://www.charismanews.com/opinion/75859-are-these-christian-bloggers-tearing-down-the-body-of-christ

    OK … let me get this straight. Author Greg Gordon criticizes Christian bloggers who inform and warn about wayward ministers and ministries, but takes the opportunity in his article to promote the teachings of Francis Chan?! In a magazine that uses Mark Driscoll as a content contributor, as well as publishing his books?! No thanks, I’ll stick with TWW as a more credible source of information about the condition of the American church … they are doing an excellent job at informing and warning the Body of Christ not tearing it down.

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  124. Max,

    Charisma News has its share of strange material, that’s for sure. And yes, their promotion of Mark Driscoll has left me shaking my head more than once. However, there are other authors at Charisma who are worth reading such as former editor Lee Grady, who’s spoken out against charismatic excesses as well as spiritual abuse. Jennifer LeClaire, another former editor, has also spoken out against spiritual abuse. (I must admit a number of LeClaire’s other writings have left me with some facepalm moments, but she’s solid on the topic of spiritual abuse.)

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  125. Samuel Conner: Be in your own life and family a better manifestation of “the continuing presence of Jesus in the world” (my understanding of the meaning of Paul’s “the body of Christ” language) than the current churches. And pray that something better than the current institutions will come into being.

    Amen!

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  126. singleman,

    The Christian blogosphere is a better avenue to check and balance issues than magazine content, which tends to be more biased slam-dunk. For example, TWW commenters often have contrasting views on a topic which are sorted out in the exchange. Commenters come at an issue with various perspectives shaped by personal experiences – a format that provides valuable input to help arrive at the truth of a matter. I have to admit some Christian bloggers are long on blog and short on Christian, but there are many with integrity who sincerely desire to inform and warn as watchmen. I suppose Charisma attempts to provide a balance, as well, with its various contributors … but Driscoll?!!

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  127. mot,

    I relate to your struggles and what Max said on this topic.
    My own journey might offer a suggestion here. I visited different churches for a season or a year , including

    – an African American church led by Dr. James Ford, Jr. who has a radio program called Treasured Truth you can access online. They also have Bible studies on weekdays.

    – churches of diverse population that totally function in English or have an English speaking ministry/ congregation. They can include Korean, Chinese, and other Christian churches with mission focus. Some of them support “American” missionaries that go to foreign lands. Many have web sites that have archived sermons you can access at home. Visiting in person does help though. You will be warmly welcomed.

    – Try to attend an Awana ministry training conference and you may meet Christians who are more into serving Christ in the background. Then you can find out what churches they go to. At least you can make some meaningful connections.

    These places exist in big or small cities, including The coasts and the Midwest. They are not perfect. But they can offer fresh perspectives on faith and serving. If you don’t want to get too involved, you can still benefit by such exposure, and catch the pulse of God’s church outside of the “showroom”.

    May God bless you in your adventure!

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  128. Samuel Conner: Be in your own life and family a better manifestation of “the continuing presence of Jesus in the world” (my understanding of the meaning of Paul’s “the body of Christ” language) than the current churches.

    Indeed! “As He is so are ‘we’ to be in this world” (1 John 4:17). If our families can’t see that in our lives, no use dragging them to church.

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  129. Nick Bulbeck,
    “So I find myself asking: what is HBC?”

    I’m pondering this question too. They say that “HBC is a work of God.” The question is, which god? People are so good at conjuring up images of God that have nothing to do with the true revealed God that I am inclined to say that HBC is a work of a god, but not THE God.

    And as I read here about all of these stories, I think we should be calling these places “worship centers” rather than churches. They are worshiping a god alright, but that god is more likely to be JM or Driscoll or some other celebrity. And the people who attend these worship centers appear to be caught up in a false religion.

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  130. Nick Bulbeck,

    ” ISTM that we need to confront the question: what happens when a wolf preaches Christ?”
    ++++++++++++++++++++

    only because my brain totally shuts off with most christianese words, i need some remedial tutoring:

    what is a wolf?

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  131. elastigirl:
    Nick Bulbeck,

    ” ISTM that we need to confront the question: what happens when a wolf preaches Christ?”
    ++++++++++++++++++++

    only because my brain totally shuts off with most christianese words, i need some remedial tutoring:

    what is a wolf?

    This is one of those Christianese words that doesn’t bother me because it’s literally Christian, it comes from Jesus when he talked about what we’ve come to refer to as wolves in sheep’s clothing in Matthew 7. Refers to people who pretend to be all about Jesus, but at bottom are all about power, prestige, control, money, or looking for easy marks that they can abuse. He warned us repeatedly about these types of people, so I guess it should surprise no one that lots of leaders in the church are exactly what Jesus said they would be.

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  132. elastigirl:
    Nick Bulbeck,

    ” ISTM that we need to confront the question: what happens when a wolf preaches Christ?”
    ++++++++++++++++++++

    only because my brain totally shuts off with most christianese words, i need some remedial tutoring:

    what is a wolf?

    I think that if one substitutes “predator” for “wolf” in the Pauline language one gets an accurate sense of both what he was worried about and what the present-day churches are facing.

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  133. dee: I’m so sorry. This is such a painful time for many people in the Chicago area.

    LOL!! I would never have heard of him had my older son not been “love-bombed” by the Navigators at Alabama (and then rather nastily shunned when it became clear he wasn’t going to Go Calvie).

    The Navs were all about Piper IIRC. He was their hero.

    BTW…I knew nothing about Stetzer before reading posts here, but now he is showing up in my Google News Feed.

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  134. elastigirl:
    Nick Bulbeck,

    ” ISTM that we need to confront the question: what happens when a wolf preaches Christ?”
    ++++++++++++++++++++

    only because my brain totally shuts off with most christianese words, i need some remedial tutoring:

    what is a wolf?

    From Samuel Conner’s and my comments,
    when you read “Wolf” think “Predator”.
    It’s probably a better translation of the meaning.

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  135. Noevangelical: They say that “HBC is a work of God.”

    “If this doctrine or purpose or undertaking or movement is of human origin, it will fail; But if it is of God, it cannot be stopped” (Acts 5:38-39).

    Driscoll has a smaller footprint in Christendom; Hybels is gone; MacDonald has disappeared. Mars Hill has been dissolved; Willow Creek is on the decline; Harvest Bible Chapel is in chaos.

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  136. Ken F (aka Tweed): Auxano is slippery. They used to post a list of all the ministries that hired them. Not they only show a few. My old church hired them for a capital campaign. I got to see the vision statement and branding graphics before they were ready to publish. What a complete waste of money.

    But Auxano probably make pretty good bank on your old church.

    “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
    — P.T.Barnum

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  137. Max: “If this doctrine or purpose or undertaking or movement is of human origin, it will fail;But if it is of God, it cannot be stopped” (Acts 5:38-39).

    Driscoll has a smaller footprint in Christendom; Hybels is gone; MacDonald has disappeared.Mars Hill has been dissolved; Willow Creek is on the decline; Harvest Bible Chapel is in chaos.

    How about their spreading spawn (what Dee calls “their church DNA”)?
    And the continuing collateral damage?

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  138. mot,

    “Serious question. For those of us that are done with religion. Does their exist any hope of a church home in our futures?”
    +++++++++++++++++

    ok, it must be remedial day for me, but my first thought is what is a church home?

    if it’s ‘community’, then i’ve wondered the same thing.

    however, at present i’m too full of the joys of spring, and flying around for joy with the wings that sprouted the day i said “I’m done”…

    too full of the joy of liberation (and of new leaves and flower buds in the sunshine) to want to do anything other than whatever i darn well feel like on a sunday morning.

    BUT, in wondering and pondering, i’ve thought about simply putting a notice up somewhere (whether virtual or an actual piece of paper), simply inviting anyone in the neighborhood (it’s a very large neighborhood) over who would want to, perhaps, pray for our community.

    an invitation to a bible study from a total stranger would rightly scare anyone and everyone. and who knows what kind of dogmatists would come. eesh!

    but prayer…

    most people pray, even if merely a highly occasional “oh, please, God”, or simply meditating on beauty and hope.

    who knows the response i would get, but if there is one i imagine it would be a very eclectic assortment.

    (I have a prayer group of people from very different christian backgrounds, and have learned to simply focus on what we have in common. i would love to pray with people from different world faith backgrounds, again focussing on what we have in common: maybe it’s just hope and a desire for peace, personally and interpersonally.)

    …but out of that, i would imagine there would be at least a few folks who have an interest in a humble pursuit of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. seems to me that’s enough raw material to build some kind of simple community.

    there would need to be ground rules… most importantly keeping it simple & focussing on the few main things.

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  139. wolf…

    thanks for the input.

    hmmm…. i’ve seen the word thrown around way too much. it seems that it’s the go-to word for anyone whose motives we’re uncertain about. even if it’s a one-off occurrence.

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  140. Max: No thanks, I’ll stick with TWW as a more credible source of information about the condition of the American church … they are doing an excellent job at informing and warning the Body of Christ not tearing it down.

    I will too Max (stick with TWW).

    Basically, Gordon’s article is saying:

    Sit down and shut-up, you’re a sinner too!

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  141. elastigirl,

    If you could find another believer to do the outreach with you via prayer and humility before our Savior, who knows what God may do in your neighborhood? !

    You may get a garden of flowers and fruits even if you have to deal with weeds here and there. A good season to sow seeds !

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  142. Headless Unicorn Guy: But Auxano probably make pretty good bank on your old church.

    I was never told how much the church paid for that fiasco. The problem was the church went with the new vision, which is one of the reasons I had to leave it. Will Mancini (leader of Auxano) appears to be thriving. Here is a list of some of his favorite speakers:
    Mark Batterson, Ed Stetzer, Perry Noble, Mark Dever, John Burke, Darrin Patrick, and Tim Stevens (see:https://www.willmancini.com/blog/whiteboard-sessions-a-lesson-in-focus)

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  143. Muff Potter: Basically, Gordon’s article is saying:

    Sit down and shut-up, you’re a sinner too!

    That’s why the church is in the mess it’s in today. Too many of us sinners have sat down and shut up, scared speechless by “touch not my anointed.” Well, there is little evidence these days that the anointing is resting on the American church, so it would be best to speak up before we get farther off track … time to both comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

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  144. elastigirl: however, at present i’m too full of the joys of spring, and flying around for joy with the wings that sprouted the day i said “I’m done”…

    Me too elastigirl, me too.
    Last night I heard a Nightingale singing in my pepper tree.
    It’s song was sweet and clear, the voice of God himself.
    Way more so than any ‘praise and worship team’ could ever conjure up.

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  145. elastigirl: an invitation to a bible study from a total stranger would rightly scare anyone and everyone. and who knows what kind of dogmatists would come. eesh!

    I may step on toes in saying this, but I have grown wary of group bible studies, whether in formal church or informal home settings. The difficulty from my perspective is that generally the people organizing these in formal church contexts are pursuing an agenda that generally will involve “communication of dogma” (of whatever flavor). The text will not be engaged on its terms, but for the purpose of promoting or defending the dogmas that the organizer wants to be embraced. At the other extreme, a highly informal kind of study — “let’s just try to ‘hear from God’ ” — is IMO likely to degenerate into complete subjectivity.

    My private study agenda in recent years has been in pursuit of what one might call a “wisdom”/”understanding” agenda, trying to understand “how the present state of the Churches has come to pass”. That involves Scripture in the sense of “the history of how the churches have interpreted the Scriptures”. It involves dogma in the sense of ‘the history of the development of theology’.

    Early on in this process, I imagined that I might be able to discern a “primitive christianity” that might be translatable into the present context, and I imagined that it would be desirable to do that. I’m no longer so sure that, even if one could accurately discern a “primitive”/”pure” early form of Christianity, that it would be either possible or desirable to re-instantiate that into the present context. (In that sense, I’m not a biblicist or big on “the regulative principle” — I view Paul’s counsel about the organization of the congregations he founded to be simple “good sense” — you want your visible manifestations of christian community to be led by people of good character).

    Or, to put it another way, I suspect that the OT pattern of privileging “wisdom”/”understanding” as the highest “under the sun” good may be a better approach than studying in the hope of filling out the blanks in one’s private systematic theology. In saying this, I’m echoing Andrew Perriman who IMO makes a strong argument that we should read the Scriptures more as ‘history’ than as ‘theological system’

    The hermeneutical challenge then becomes discerning our place, at this “present-time, remote-from-the biblical-events”, in the story of ‘God and His people’ that the Scriptures relate.

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  146. Laura:
    Dave,

    Don’t think that wasn’t part of a bigger plan (the name change). These men are good friends. JMac recently attended both of Ron Zappia’s daughters weddings. They are close. Ron and Ed’s silence on the Harvest situation is highly suspect.

    “One Hand Washes the Other…”

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  147. Lowlandseer: While the highlight of yesterday was riding around in the back seat of Ed Stetzer’s classic VW Bug, a close second was seeing this page from John Eliot’s “Indian Bible” in the Billy Graham Center Museum.”
    If you click on the highlighted words “classic VW Bug” you’ll get a view from the back seat of the car!

    A little momento from classic Dr Demento:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khf3t1GQZMw

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  148. TS00: Sadly, Google has gradually put in place a dictatorial control over access to information, and this has really ramped up in the last few months.

    Google got their long-desired access to the Chinese Web market, and one of the ironclad rules of that market is “Must Encourage Social Harmony”, i.e. implement ALL Chinese Government Censorship.

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  149. My understanding is a wolf is “white.”(lykos)
    This is how Paul addressed the Elders in Miletos. He was directly addressing the men as Elders, and identified some of them as being wolves.

    I interpret this to mean they are older and leading men in the Faith. They have aging signs such as white hair. An example is an aging teacher, like Abraham Kuyper. He brought Spheres Theology to America and taught it at the Stone Lectures. Young men sat in the audiance and militantly engaged the Church and Society after receiving teaching, and the cycle continued.

    Or they may be younger, but are “Elders” in that they possess natural leadership from youth. Example here is a Mohaney. He functioned as a “Elder” early on. This is reported to have started when he encountered the Give and Take study group. Give and Take evolved and eventually Soveriegn Grace appeared. Young men sat through his teaching and replicated his work as the cycle continued.

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  150. Samuel Conner,

    “I have grown wary of group bible studies, whether in formal church or informal home settings….

    Or, to put it another way, I suspect that the OT pattern of privileging “wisdom”/”understanding” as the highest “under the sun” good may be a better approach than studying in the hope of filling out the blanks in one’s private systematic theology.”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    i think i love this comment.

    yes, in fact i absolutely hate bible studies, too.

    aside from the fact that i haven’t been in one in decades that i didn’t feel the material was moronic or simply an assortment of words to fulfill the publishing contract, there are so many “biblicals” that the point of the exercise is either heated argument or sitting there passively and thinking “no, that’s not what it means and i can’t believe you bought into that!”

    the most enjoyable and worthwhile ‘bible study’ has been just a few friends sharing their thoughts on a portion of the bible. but then who’s to say we were totally off the mark ourselves?

    my conclusion: we inform ourselves on our own, privately. the group thing is to do something practical — pray, serve the community somehow,…

    (no more time to further develop my thoughts…)

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  151. Brian,

    elastigirl,

    I’ve never read Roseria Butterfield’s books. But, I’ve listened to her on the radio, doing outreach from the home.

    John Wycliffe wanted to put His word into everyone’s hands.

    Now with the so-called covenants, they are now trying to take away the freedom found in His word.

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  152. elastigirl,

    “i would love to pray with people from different world faith backgrounds, again focussing on what we have in common: maybe it’s just hope and a desire for peace, personally and interpersonally.)

    …but out of that, i would imagine there would be at least a few folks who have an interest in a humble pursuit of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. seems to me that’s enough raw material to build some kind of simple community.”
    ++++++++++++++++

    well, found some time to flesh out this thought (procrastinating on what i need to do….)

    on second thought, i’d absolutely love a community of folks who simply are after the higher ideals of God: kindness, generosity, helpfulness, respectfulness, patience, humility

    my observation is that most world religions aspire to these things.

    i simply want to work with others in making the world a kinder, cleaner, healthier place. (doctrine and theology don’t accomplish these things — they should, but they don’t.)

    and i have to believe that this kind of pursuit with like-minded fellows (regardless of the name they use for God), will in and of itself be a pursuit of God/Jesus/Holy Spirit.

    there’s far too much information out there, and staring at it in the petri dish. not enough simple doing of what is good and right.

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  153. Brian,

    “I’ve never read Roseria Butterfield’s books. But, I’ve listened to her on the radio, doing outreach from the home.”
    ++++++++++++++++

    outreach….

    (how we go again….. please someone give me the remedial definition of outreach)

    in the meantime, i’m having a hard time imagining Ms. Butterfield’s ‘outreach’ as not being some kind of indoctrination. she seems too much the product of the institution. a company woman.

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  154. Law Prof: Finally, I’d had enough and raised my voice louder than theirs’ and refused to be shouted down and told them just what I thought (which I should’ve done days before), I figured their pastor was trying to land a couple academics and their large family for his church and thought he could make us feel obligated and I thought it was a rotten thing, frankly, to use other people’s money, donated money, to do it. I told him his mega had a lot of red flags of being a cult and there was no way I was interested in it or continuing a relationship with him or his wife. At that point, my wife and I got up and walked out on them, grabbing the kids and telling them we weren’t interested in another word they had to say, didn’t want their prayers, etc.

    Any person even half decent in their position, when politely rebuffed (which is all we did at first), would’ve said “Oh, of course, we get it, very sorry to put you in that position, we understand.” But it’s obvious that they weren’t even half decent, at least their behavior wasn’t at that time.

    Whoa, they obviously had their plan all set but you had the gall not to respond as desired! How bizarre and manipulative.

    I wonder how many young and inexperienced believers would have fallen for it.

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  155. I will never forget the day I became a “done”. Since that day I have not attended church in a church building except at the invitation of my grand children. What I’ve been doing since that day is working back through the things I was taught (and much of it was very good) while making my beliefs and my faith my own. In the past I had taught Bible studies, attended conferences, and read much on my own. From birth right up until the day I left home at 19 the Bible was read after meals together. My church experiences up until the year before I became a “done” was not all bad. Suddenly though, everything changed. The “what” that changed made no sense to me until I started reading here (TWW), and learning that our new “pastor” had a plan that didn’t involve me or my family unless we were deemed to be “on board”, which we weren’t. Although I’m now a “done” I’m always thrilled when someone finds a community of believers to gather with. Yet, I do not need that. Two or three gathered in Jesus’ name is all I require, and not necessarily on a schedule. I was involved in church “work” the first 50 years of my life in such a way that I failed completely at understanding that what I was doing was not even biblical, it was just the “done thing”. So in keeping with that, I’m now a Done One.

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  156. elastigirl: yes — being on a church or bible study roster means being invited to so many candle, or jewelry or cookware ‘parties’. why do christian women opt for these as ways to make money? why not an actual job with paycheck? are they not allowed?

    I remember during the 80’s coming to the realization that all get-togethers had become sales presentations. A lot of times you were given no clue until you got there, ugh. Do people ever get together just to enjoy one another’s company anymore? I have seen so many of these MLMs come and go, I have never seen anyone’s investment in it pay off. But there’s a new crew of hopefuls ready to start in every day, motivated by visions of wealth and ready to alienate all their friends and family.

    We had an aggressive couple at one church selling vitamin supplements for outrageously inflated prices and their whole spiel was filled with false medical information. They’d invite anyone new over for lunch after church then hit them with the sales presentation. One of the nails in my church coffin.

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  157. SiteSeer: Whoa, they obviously had their plan all set but you had the gall not to respond as desired! How bizarre and manipulative.

    I wonder how many young and inexperienced believers would have fallen for it.

    We might have had we been younger and less experienced.

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  158. Back to Stetzer and the VW.

    What should Stetzer’s response have been when offered the car by MacDonald?

    (1) Gee, thanks!
    (2) Oh no! Thank you, but please sell it to buy a mattress for that poor kid.

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  159. elastigirl: a community of folks who simply are after the higher ideals of God: kindness, generosity, helpfulness, respectfulness, patience, humility

    Yes. And I imagine that such a community, to the extent that it did have dogmatic commitments, would be less concerned that people’s ideas conformed to those than that their lives resembled “humanity according to the true image of God.” This seems “back-to-front” from the viewpoint of historic protestantism (and, I suppose, catholicism). But I suspect that it is right; it is much closer to the way Old Israel was (this is not to ignore the very great flaws that were there), and much closer, seemingly, to what Jesus seems to have been aiming at in His teaching.

    Paul seemed to have two essential, sine qua non, dogmatic commitments: “Jesus is Lord”, “the one true God raised Jesus from the dead.” I suspect that all else is decoration.

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  160. Done One:
    …everything changed. The “what” that changed made no sense to me until I started reading here (TWW), and learning that our new “pastor” had a plan that didn’t involve me or my family unless we were deemed to be “on board”, which we weren’t.

    The beginning of the end for me was when the pastor got all us new elders into a room and went around the room, one by one, asking us “Are you on board?” Not “Do you love Jesus…are you passionate about serving others…do you want to be the last, not the first?”

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  161. Max:
    Back to Stetzer and the VW.

    What should Stetzer’s response have been when offered the car by MacDonald?

    (1)Gee, thanks!
    (2)Oh no!Thank you, but please sell it to buy a mattress for that poor kid.

    “Heck no, James, so kind of you and all, but you know I can’t take this, I’m a journalist, we cover your church in news and opinion pieces, for goodness sakes. Can you imagine the stink? And anyway, just wouldn’t be right, bro. Just give it to some teenage kid who needs a car.”

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  162. Max,

    I saw your post from a different thread describing the LifeWay groups.

    When I was in college in the late 1980’s, I wrote a paper on unions for a management course.

    Similar types of groups were being used to prevent unionization in high tech.

    I remember reading the comments on an Elephant Debts thread that Bible study groups at HBC were being used in the same manner.

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  163. For reference, I did a quick Auto Trader search for vintage 1971 Volkswagen Beetles. They range in price from $6000 to $20,000, depending on what kind of shape they are in. Of course, some ’71 VW’s aren’t worth their scrap metal price.

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  164. Law Prof,

    Any bets that Stetzer will wiggle his way out of this? The VW news has been circulating in cyberspace for a week without a peep out of the religious press. Paying for the car after he was exposed may have got him off the hook, despite the fact that he shouldn’t have taken it in the first place for the reasons you cite. These guys are elusive.

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  165. ishy: I knew a pastor’s wife who I know didn’t push MLM stuff because they really needed the money. It was one of the essential oils ones, and they really wanted to believe those oils were solving the world’s problems. So much for Jesus.

    In the end, they are cults who lie and ruin relationships as much as any other cult. The history behind the EO MLMs is pretty sordid and involves multiple deaths. The Atlantic Institute has also done reports on thousands of injuries due to the lies of EO MLMs. I am in one of those reports–I’m deathly allergic to lavender and a representative tried to forcibly “prove” I wasn’t to their oil. She was wrong.

    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/10/09/how-essential-oils-became-the-cure-for-our-age-of-anxiety

    That was a great article, thanks for posting. I, too, have been on the receiving end of an earnest friend who was sure essential oils were the answer for everything.

    “The love of money is the root of all sorts of evils”

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  166. Samuel Conner,

    “Yes. And I imagine that such a community, to the extent that it did have dogmatic commitments, would be less concerned that people’s ideas conformed to those than that their lives resembled “humanity according to the true image of God.””
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    i’m thinking that in such a group the starting point for everyone is a given that we all have different ways of seeing the details on *how* and *why* we live out our lives and our faith…

    and a given so what? what does that have to do with anything? we’re let’s convening, working together, and enjoying each other’s company to do something 100% good and productive.

    i’m sure i’m repeating myself to some degree… (just kind of tickled with the ideas we’re discussing)

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  167. TS00: I really tried to go to a local Episcopal church yesterday, it being Easter season and all, but the more I read of their historical building and celebrity former members, I just couldn’t. I’ll just have to keep ‘doing God’ on my own for now.

    In the end, we’re all actually ‘doing God on our own,’ really. Our faith is within each of us and will be put to the test throughout life. Even if we have found supportive, honest churches and friends, it is our own faith that must evolve and endure as life hits us and we learn and grow. I think we all seek a community of other believers who will rejoice with us when we rejoice, mourn with us when we mourn, and be companions through the journey of life. But I have heard more often than not, that churches have failed to be of real support to persons going through vicious trials, that church friends tend to turn away, as well. This was my own experience. Its nice to have a place to go to celebrate holidays, to hear an encouraging word, to connect with others trying to live the life of faith, to feel like you’re ‘doing the right thing,’ to feel like your kids are getting a good foundation. I wonder how much of it is an illusion we cultivate. In the end, whatever is not genuine gets stripped away.

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  168. Max:
    Law Prof,

    Any bets that Stetzer will wiggle his way out of this?The VW news has been circulating in cyberspace for a week without a peep out of the religious press.Paying for the car after he was exposed may have got him off the hook, despite the fact that he shouldn’t have taken it in the first place for the reasons you cite.These guys are elusive.

    Don’t know, Max. Seems random, some get busted, some don’t, but seldom does anyone get in too big trouble like Jim Bakker. There are a few potential reasons why no one in the Christian press has touched this. First, maybe it’s all just a big buddy-buddy club and they have this sort of crooked cop/mafia/Enron attitude that everyone just shuts up and protects each other. Second, it could be that many others in Christian media have accepted gifts from celebs also, maybe some of them from MacDonald himself (does anyone think Stetzer was a total one-off?). A third possibility, that they genuinely think it’s just fine to accept huge gifts from the subjects of your reporting and that you can be objective and completely above board even while so doing, I think very unlikely.

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  169. Max: Uhhh, I don’t know … Where is this ship going?Is Jesus on board?

    And I, the fool, looked around, felt the pressure of those eyes on me and all my friends sitting round in the circle, and muttered “Uh…yeah.” It was only later that I grew a spine and finally stood up to the system and the pastor and became persona non grata, thrown out on my bum, first from the elder team, then finally from the church.

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  170. ION: Astronomy

    Two events of interest are scheduled for this week: the first commercial launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket, which is ready but somewhat weather-dependent and may be delayed, and an announcement from the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) team.

    The EHT has been working for the last two years on a project to image, hopefully, the event horizon of the supermassive black hole believed to be at the centre of the galaxy. Excitement is building about the announcement, which is scheduled for Wednesday.

    The word on the street is that the EHT have actually proved that the earth is flat. But through the deceiving stannic power of stan, they’ll pretend otherwise.

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  171. Max: Back to Stetzer and the VW.

    What should Stetzer’s response have been when offered the car by MacDonald?

    (1) Gee, thanks!
    (2) Oh no! Thank you, but please sell it to buy a mattress for that poor kid.

    Definitely #2 then followed up by some serious thought on why he would do that and what am I getting myself into being involved with him?

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  172. Max: SBC’s New Calvinist “lead pastors” in my area don’t make hospital and nursing home visits, do funerals, make calls to shut-ins, nor go to the homes of members to get to know them.

    Which is incredibly sad – what better way for a young/new leader to grow, mature, gain real experience, and learn to actually care for people? In fact, before they got to speak from the pulpit and pretend to ‘lead’, they should apprentice for a few years on the front line of sheep life.

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  173. Law Prof: A third possibility, that they genuinely think it’s just fine to accept huge gifts from the subjects of your reporting and that you can be objective and completely above board even while so doing, I think very unlikely.

    Well, let’s see, as a journalist covering MacDonald… on the one hand, you’ve got gifts of automobiles, on the other hand, you’ve got threats of child porn being planted on your computer… such a dilemma…

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  174. mot: Serious question. For those of us that are done with religion. Does their exist any hope of a church home in our futures?

    Hey, Mot. I had retired from commenting but did a Max-like comeback special because this is very much a question I struggled with for quite some time.

    I can tell you from my experience –

    If you want to stay with the faith then maybe “church home” needs to be redefined. If you mean people like you who just don’t go to church but still consider themselves Christian then you can probably find a group outside the traditional church (including “home church”) structure. For example there’s eChurch here, you can connect with like minded individuals in parachurch groups that help others but aren’t connected denominationally, or by twitter or facebook. Just keep yourself safe if you do the online thing.

    Unfortunately absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder and I eventually found it challenging to engage in the faith in any meaningful way. It’s very limited only insofar as I’m married to Christian and respect her beliefs.

    I suppose that’s the pitfall of disengagement (I suppose a virulent atheist would say I deprogrammed – whatever).

    Just remember (and this may not apply to you but certainly to others), whatever a pastor or church did or didn’t do is not your responsibility if you were part of that community in good faith (no pun intended – ok maybe a little intended). Everyone can get taken whether by a bad investment, a slick car salesman or a snake oil pastor. It’s what you do once you know that matters.

    Peace out.

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  175. BL: In fact, before they got to speak from the pulpit and pretend to ‘lead’, they should apprentice for a few years on the front line of sheep life.

    Which is essentially the way it used to work in the SBC. Young “associate” pastors would serve under senior pastors for a few years, being mentored in the faith. It just seemed Biblical. Then along came the New Calvinist movement which put young men fresh out of seminary into “lead” pastor positions at church plants and “replants” (= non-Calvinist church takeovers by deception). Many are inexperienced and arrogant, wreaking havoc in SBC life as they force reformed theology on a denomination that didn’t ask for it.

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  176. Jack: I had retired from commenting but did a Max-like comeback special

    Welcome back, Jack. I’ve “retired” a few times, but just when I think about vacating the blogosphere permanently along comes another charlatan, wayward ministry, or false teaching that demands my seasoned input. I don’t know how special my comeback has been … guess I’m done but just haven’t quit yet.

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  177. SiteSeer,

    wolf

    A predator.
    +++++++++++++++

    i love the movie Babe. the little pig befriends everyone on the farm. the sheep are on the paranoid side, and they cry “Wolf!” when any creature that looks and moves and sounds different than they do approaches them. (if i’m remembering correctly)

    the concern amongst either the more senior sheep or the old and wise other farm animals is that they won’t be believed when it’s a real emergency and the real wolf comes.

    so, my question is how to tell a true predator from someone who just dons certain behavior?
    what does a predator in church do? what are they after?

    (my brain long ago shut off to christian vocabulary — it would take a lot of energy and revisiting a miserable previous life to get it going again… don’t feel like doing it)

    it seems to me, to some degree, the word wolf is tossed around a bit indiscriminately.

    i’ve observed some people described as ‘a wolf’ who are simply emulating behavior of others. and those others could very well have been emulating behavior, too. as we’ve discussed here at TWW, church culture is thick with its own style of procedures, speech, facial expression, body language, voice intonation…

    (now i’m really repeating myself)

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  178. SiteSeer: We had an aggressive couple at one church selling vitamin supplements for outrageously inflated prices and their whole spiel was filled with false medical information. They’d invite anyone new over for lunch after church then hit them with the sales presentation.

    Well, if it quacked like one, paddled in the pond like one…
    It probably was a Ponzi scheme.

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  179. mot:
    Serious question.For those of us that are done with religion.Does their exist any hope of a church home in our futures?

    I am looking at churches again, but it’s discouraging.

    I like going to church, but not being expected to fulfill someone else’s idea of what a Christan should be. It’s not even that I care much what others think, but they get so harassing about everyone else matching their concept of Christianity.

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  180. Max: What should Stetzer’s response have been when offered the car by MacDonald?

    (1) Gee, thanks!
    (2) Oh no! Thank you, but please sell it to buy a mattress for that poor kid.

    I’ll go with (2)!!! Thanks for the laugh!!!

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  181. Brian:
    Nathan Priddis,

    Pain/anxiety too high today, unable to absorb the Spheres Sovereignty theology and understand it’s impact. How did it impact Christianity here in the U.S.?

    Sphere Theology was very embryonic when Kuyper gave the Stone Lectures at Princeton, in 1898. The Modernist-Fundamentalist struggle was already underway, but Kuyper introduced another ingredient.

    He claimed Christ’s demand to the World was, “Mine!” Every square inch of society must be dominated by Christ.

    Fundamentalism was unraveling by the 1940’s and Neo-Evangelicalsim emerged in 1947-48 to achieve two objectives:

    -Defeat Pre-Mil Dispensationism that emerged in 1827.
    -End the Fundamentalist segregation and re-engage society with historical Protestant traditions.

    Seven Spheres legacy is both general and specific, and is affecting us everyday. Such as…

    General- Neo-Evangelicalism. It sought influence over all facets of life, to create a New World Mind.

    Specific-Court Evangelicals. Engagement of society with political power is a logical effect. To not attempt the enactment of laws, would be against the will of Christ.

    Specific- Dominion Theology and Reconstructionism, where direct decendents.

    Specific- Charles Colson/Betsy DeVos/Pat Robertson are typse examples of what I consider a Kuyper decendent to look like.

    Spheres will attempt a culture war to force external changes to human behavior. There will always be a heavy emphasis on gender roles and sexuality.

    Seven Spheres lacked a Devine Leader. It was incomplete without a man to follow towards a new Kingdom of God on Earth.

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  182. elastigirl,

    Wonderful film! The tale of a gentle heart and how it changed a valley forever.

    The sheep in “Babe” have vivid memories of tragic encounters with wild dogs that prey on the nearly defenseless flock.

    The behavior of the somewhat better-behaved, but still violent when they reckon it to be necessary, sheepdogs is sufficiently similar to that of the wild dogs that the sheep warn each other of the presence of wolves whenever a sheepdog is near.

    Bad memories tend to be more memorable than good ones; the sheep in “Babe” are in that sense (perhaps others too) a bit like traumatized former churchgoers.

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  183. Max: Whew!His head must be spinning!

    Will Mancini apparently thinks highly enough of James MacDonald to list his church as a model:

    Contemporary Examples
    Vertical Church is an association of worship-centered churches pioneered by James MacDonald. He begins his book Vertical Church by asking, “Is your church experiencing a window-rattling, earth-shattering, life-altering encounter with the living God? That’s not a common experience in North America today. But it should be. And it can be.” Worship that seeks and welcomes God’s presence is a priority for churches like this.

    http://www.willmancini.com/page_id-5861-preview-true

    I don’t know how much of contemporary evangelicalism is being shaped by Auxano or whether Will Mancini is merely riding a wave. Someone with more time and skill than me could probably figure it out.

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  184. Christian Post site is carrying that Gordon editorial.

    This is 2019, and these guys are STILL complaining about bloggers covering abuse cover-ups by churches, or abuse BY churches / pastors?

    I think the expiration date for Christians complaining about “Average Joe’s” with blogs that cover spiritual abuse should’ve been several years ago.

    Blogs are not going anywhere.
    They need to accept that and acclimate to it.

    Renegade Christian bloggers and the fascination of failure by Greg Gordon
    https://www.christianpost.com/voice/renegade-christian-bloggers-and-the-fascination-of-failure.html

    Snippet:

    But it gets worse. Many modern Christian news outlets find their sources with independent renegade bloggers who start blogs in order to criticize and find fault with others, especially a ministry or pastor that has hurt them somehow in the past.

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  185. Headline currently on Christian Post’s site:

    “Pastors on ‘Burnout:’ We Forget We’re Human”

    There may be honest pastors out there doing their best and get burnt out.

    However, the types of pastors this blog covers (and the ones I usually see), their problem is not that they forget they’re human, but they think they are Despotic Deity figures.

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  186. Ken F (aka Tweed): I don’t know how much of contemporary evangelicalism is being shaped by Auxano or whether Will Mancini is merely riding a wave.

    As a side note, it’s hard to find a nefarious evangelical leader not associated with Auxano. Here is Mancini promoting Driscoll’s comeback: https://www.willmancini.com/blog/same-grit-new-love-the-church-values-of-mark-driscolls-new-church-plant-the-trinity-church.

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  187. Daisy: This is 2019, and these guys are STILL complaining about bloggers covering abuse cover-ups by churches, or abuse BY churches / pastors?

    And they don’t see a problem with the fact that they are doing exactly what they are criticizing. If they really believed what they wrote they would not have written it.

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  188. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    The odd thing to my mind is that, per Jesus, one should conceal one’s righteousness, while evil should be exposed. The consensus pattern today is for “great man” church leaders to a) promote themselves as doers of great things for God and b) hide their misdeeds.

    For years I have been wondering whether there is really much of a relationship between “what we are seeing in the name of ‘church’ today” and what we read about in the New Testament. The above oddity might be a piece of evidence in favor of the answer “not much.”

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  189. Ken F (aka Tweed): And they don’t see a problem with the fact that they are doing exactly what they are criticizing.If they really believed what they wrote they would not have written it.

    I take the squealing to be evidence that the criticism is pinching hard enough to discomfit some of the perps. And presumably those who are truly righteous and are unjustly criticized in the ‘blogs are rejoicing that they are being persecuted for, or at least in spite of, their faithful service to God. They will have their reward in the Kingdom.

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  190. Ken F (aka Tweed): As a side note, it’s hard to find a nefarious evangelical leader not associated with Auxano. Here is Mancini promoting Driscoll’s comeback: https://www.willmancini.com/blog/same-grit-new-love-the-church-values-of-mark-driscolls-new-church-plant-the-trinity-church.

    I’ll be keenly interested to see what kind of culture is actually fostered in MD’s new enterprise. One would like to think that harsh, overbearing church leaders are able to change. Is “the Gospel” powerful enough to do that in their hearts? I confess to being somewhat skeptical. Mancini wrote of “lines that one doesn’t want to ever cross again” — as if the bad consequences of things that were done in the past create knowledge of limits that one ought not to exceed in the future — behavior restraints, so to speak. But perhaps the heart is not changed; is simply a bit wiser or more prudent in the way it pursues its goals.

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  191. ishy: https://www.christianpost.com/voice/renegade-christian-bloggers-and-the-fascination-of-failure.html

    “The next time we visit our favorite Christian news website or blog, before we click on the comment button, we should pause to consider whether we are lending our voices to the accuser of the brethren …”

    Do you reckon Greg Gordon considered that he might be an accuser of the brethren by targeting Christian bloggers? Should we wait on him to inform and warn us about the likes of Driscoll, Hybels and MacDonald? Are the news outlets he works for doing as good a job in that regard? Sometimes those who are called an “accuser of the brethren” just might be the person you need to be listening to. Just because a man is a celebrity in Christian ranks, with a mega-ministry, doesn’t mean he is a brother. Some of these “brethren” have been exposed in the blogosphere for what they are, rather than through religious news outlets; they have been “accused” and found guilty.

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  192. SiteSeer: Well, let’s see, as a journalist covering MacDonald… on the one hand, you’ve got gifts of automobiles, on the other hand, you’ve got threats of child porn being planted on your computer… such a dilemma…

    EdStet is a follower of money. He will sell his soul for the cash. He has also received large gifts on stage at Highpoint. These, so-called pastors are very bold!

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  193. elastigirl: i simply want to work with others in making the world a kinder, cleaner, healthier place. (doctrine and theology don’t accomplish these things — they should, but they don’t.)

    This brought to mind some thoughts I loved in Bradley Jersak’s ‘A More Christlike God’:

    “Some thinkers say that even calling God a ‘being’ falls short, or claiming that God ‘exists’ says too little. Rather, God is the very ground of being; God is existence itself, whatever that means. Those who talk this way assert that nearly anything we claim about God already belies our hidden desire to stand over, box in and control him. Language, words, doctrine, theology – aren’t these less than God? And yet don’t they frequently function to shrink the Creator of all into a manageable doctrinal specimen we can pin down and dissect? Isn’t it more convenient to cage him within out tiny, overconfident minds, where he must parrot our own lofty thoughts?
    the stubborn fact is that whatever we say about God or for God with great certitude is sifted through the thick veils of our religious traditions, cultural assumptions and personal interpretations. Skeptics and gnostics ask, “What can we really say for sure about this God?” Rightly so.”

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  194. mot: Serious question. For those of us that are done with religion. Does their exist any hope of a church home in our futures?

    This is a very serious question, and one I have pondered for several years now. It is challenging when you walk away from your entire known world. The church has always been your community, and even your family think you are off your nut. One can feel very, very lonely.

    I haven’t any answer for you. Every few weeks I review all of the church possibilities in my urban area, thinking maybe there is something I missed, or something I could at least give a try. But every search and visit turn up the same troubling issues. How can one go back to the institutional church when one considers the very structure to be not only unbiblical, but unhealthy and destructive of real spiritual growth? I suppose it will take a long time to get past a lifetime of viewing ‘church’ as the only natural habitat of the believer.

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  195. Max: “The next time we visit our favorite Christian news website or blog, before we click on the comment button, we should pause to consider whether we are lending our voices to the accuser of the brethren …”

    Pardon me while I throw up . . . If the brethren are pursuing wickedness, may their accusers come forth boldly. Is this guy planning on shutting down God’s Day of judgment by imploring him to not slander or accuse the brethren?

    Many who call themselves ‘Pastor’ will hear the sad words, ‘Away from me, I never knew you.’

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  196. Samuel Conner,

    you’re right. i do remember those finer points, now that i settle and slow down.

    church go-ers who’ve experienced trauma at the hands of leaders are right to have a guarded & dubious view of professional christians. I do, myself. (old news, of course)

    still wondering about wolf / predator.

    is this the only person in ‘the organization’ who Jesus warned to be careful of?

    i can think of many leaders who destroyed people in church but who weren’t predators. they were stupid and dumb and self-centered, more concerned about their careers than anything else — but as i see it, they didn’t qualify as predators. they were tricked, seduced into behaving they way they did. they’re still responsible, but there are mitigating circumstances.

    …thinking out loud, maybe for too long…

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  197. TS00: This brought to mind some thoughts I loved in Bradley Jersak’s ‘A More Christlike God’:

    “Some thinkers say that even calling God a ‘being’ falls short, or claiming that God ‘exists’ says too little. Rather, God is the very ground of being; God is existence itself, whatever that means. Those who talk this way assert that nearly anything we claim about God already belies our hidden desire to stand over, box in and control him. Language, words, doctrine, theology – aren’t these less than God? And yet don’t they frequently function to shrink the Creator of all into a manageable doctrinal specimen we can pin down and dissect? Isn’t it more convenient to cage him within out tiny, overconfident minds, where he must parrot our own lofty thoughts?
    the stubborn fact is that whatever we say about God or for God with great certitude is sifted through the thick veils of our religious traditions, cultural assumptions and personal interpretations. Skeptics and gnostics ask, “What can we really say for sure about this God?” Rightly so.”

    TS00: This brought to mind some thoughts I loved in Bradley Jersak’s ‘A More Christlike God’:

    “Some thinkers say that even calling God a ‘being’ falls short, or claiming that God ‘exists’ says too little. Rather, God is the very ground of being; God is existence itself, whatever that means. Those who talk this way assert that nearly anything we claim about God already belies our hidden desire to stand over, box in and control him. Language, words, doctrine, theology – aren’t these less than God? And yet don’t they frequently function to shrink the Creator of all into a manageable doctrinal specimen we can pin down and dissect? Isn’t it more convenient to cage him within out tiny, overconfident minds, where he must parrot our own lofty thoughts?
    the stubborn fact is that whatever we say about God or for God with great certitude is sifted through the thick veils of our religious traditions, cultural assumptions and personal interpretations. Skeptics and gnostics ask, “What can we really say for sure about this God?” Rightly so.”

    Main things I know about God are than what He has done (at least the recorded stuff). the fact that He said His name was “I AM” (itself kind of cryptic and mysterious), the fact that He said He was “love” (what human could ever be described with one word?), and the fact that if we’ve seen Jesus, we’ve seen the Father. Not much material for a systematic theology there.

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  198. Samuel Conner,

    “I’ll be keenly interested to see what kind of culture is actually fostered in MD’s new enterprise. One would like to think that harsh, overbearing church leaders are able to change. Is “the Gospel” powerful enough to do that in their hearts?”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    “the Gospel”…. nope, brain shutting down again. no longer computing.

    i know the holy spirit is powerful enough. (that one i can compute)

    however, while holy spirit can change a leader’s ‘heart’, i seriously doubt the hs will change a man’s face to be lifted & so tightly pulled back his eyes look perpetually startled.

    still waiting for an apology & restitution worthy of the apocalypse he caused.

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  199. elastigirl: is this the only person in ‘the organization’ who Jesus warned to be careful of?

    I don’t think that the Scriptures give us an exhaustive manual of everything that can go wrong in the leadership of a congregation, and there is no comprehensive “catch-all” term for people who are not suited to lead in the churches, or toward whom one would be wise to be cautious. There are, certainly, a number of lists of bad behaviors and warnings to both not live this way oneself and to not associate with people who profess to follow Jesus but whose lives are characterized by behavior that suggests that “love of God and neighbor” is not really what they are about.

    Perhaps of more use are the stereotypical motives that appear to underlie bad behaviors. These are not enumerated in one place anywhere, but one can see these “themes” in the lives of the people in the biblical narratives — things like “fear of man” (ie, excessive concern what other people think, which is contrasted with “fear of God”), “love of money”, “love of comfort/pleasure”. There are probably others, but those three come immediately to mind. These are things that are, or ought to be, good in themselves, good gifts of the Creator, to be received with thanksgiving. But if they become what one lives for, “inordinate” love of them can lead to all sorts of bad choices and bad outcomes. I think this might be what is going on in the “wrath dynamic” of Romans 1; God is displaced from His rightful place in peoples’ lives (one can argue what that is; not my purpose here) and inordinate love of lesser things leads to bad choices and ultimately to bad outcome.

    Perhaps it would be sound to say that one should be cautious toward people whose loves/passions/commitments are not properly ordered (and again one could argue what “proper” is). I think that’s a fair “high level” description of the problems in HBC leadership.

    Something that I think comes through at least some of the HBC stories is that people had uneasy feelings about the higher-ups before they were prepared to put a biblical label on what the could clearly identify as a forbidden behavior. I don’t think we need to carry lists around in our heads, though lists can be useful. Generally our God-given good sense is an excellent “early warning” system.

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  200. “…people had uneasy feelings about the higher-ups before they were prepared to put a biblical label on what the could clearly identify as a forbidden behavior.”
    +++++++++++

    well, now i’m just nitpicking, but i don’t think one need look for a biblical label before choosing to disassociate with someone. ‘schmuck’ is enough.

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  201. Dave,

    Thank you for posting this. Yes, this is correct. Please check your facts Wartburg. Everyone is reading your blog like it is “gospel truth” because of all the fall out at HBC. It’s doesnt take long to fact check and find that Highpoint Church has not be affiliated with Harvest for years and the name change did not happen recently.

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  202. Samuel Conner: One would like to think that harsh, overbearing church leaders are able to change. Is “the Gospel” powerful enough to do that in their hearts?

    I don’t know, it may be more like Prov 19:25- Strike a scoffer and the naive may become shrewd, But reprove one who has understanding and he will gain knowledge.

    Due to my experience, I’m skeptical that those with personality disorders can change. I don’t think God changes people’s character against their will and I don’t think they can want to change. It’s between them and God but I wouldn’t put myself in a position of counting on it.

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  203. Daisy: “Pastors on ‘Burnout:’ We Forget We’re Human”

    There may be honest pastors out there doing their best and get burnt out.

    However, the types of pastors this blog covers (and the ones I usually see), their problem is not that they forget they’re human, but they think they are Despotic Deity figures.

    Time to get out the world’s smallest violin!

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  204. elastigirl: i’ve observed some people described as ‘a wolf’ who are simply emulating behavior of others. and those others could very well have been emulating behavior, too. as we’ve discussed here at TWW, church culture is thick with its own style of procedures, speech, facial expression, body language, voice intonation…

    (now i’m really repeating myself)

    I think you have to know someone to a certain extent before you can know whether they are sincere or are manipulators and users. In today’s church culture, do we even have that opportunity? I think there is an illusion that we ‘know’ these public figures when we’ve only heard them give presentations or have read their formal writings, which might even be ghost written. Do we have any idea how they treat people in private or how they pull strings behind the scenes to get what they want?

    I’m not really interested in taking spiritual lessons from anyone whose character I don’t have access to discern anymore. First of all, I’ve found it’s unnecessary – spiritual growth is not something that’s imparted by professionals, it comes from humbly trying to live your life developing the fruits of the Spirit, and, secondly, there are so many overblown phonies out there, each one trying to convince us they are indispensable to God. .

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  205. Headless Unicorn Guy: Google got their long-desired access to the Chinese Web market, and one of the ironclad rules of that market is “Must Encourage Social Harmony”, i.e. implement ALL Chinese Government Censorship.

    It is more likely the other way. The PRC got Google’s Search tech to accelerate their ability to censor, to alert authority, and to arrest.

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  206. SiteSeer,

    This! Once the spell is broken, the absurdity is so obvious, isn’t it? Tell me again why God needs to use ‘you’ (Mr. Pastor) as a go-between for him and me? Why does he need to speak to ‘you’ so that you can speak to me? Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that what Jesus came to put an end to?

    ‘The Church’ is simply a reincarnation of false temple religion, filled with the same sort of white-washed sepulchres and sons of their father. It is now much easier to understand why the people were so misled and in their sway. Funny how much The Church might qualify as that which received the fatal blow, yet managed to come back to life.

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  207. Renee:
    Dave,

    Thank you for posting this. Yes, this is correct. Please check your facts Wartburg. Everyone is reading your blog like it is “gospel truth” because of all the fall out at HBC. It’s doesnt take long to fact check and find that Highpoint Church has not be affiliated with Harvest for years and the name change did not happen recently.

    I didn’t know that anyone was making great hay about them being connected. I just thought the point was made that Stetzer apparently received substantial gifts from them also. Maybe I missed the posts where people were oohing and aaahing about a connection. If that post is here, I missed it (but haven’t pored over every post). So I’m not sure what you’re getting at here. In all honesty, it seems possible that you’re trying to find some trivial misstatement that someone made so that you can say “Ah ha!” That is a very common thing, you know, when dealing with an apologist for a church that’s being credibly accused of corruption. Ignore the 10 things that are devastating and well-documented and find one trivial comment that someone makes that’s not even central to the argument and not even entirely inaccurate and seize upon it to discredit the whole. My apologies if you’re honestly trying to be godly about this and warn posters at TWW to be careful so that the above phenomenon doesn’t happen—that may be your motivation, I can’t say.

    Of course, it may be a distinction without a difference, because many churches are connected at the top through the leaders, who go to the same conferences and on vacations together and hobnob and such, and there is a genuine and substantial connection that truly affects the congregation and direction of the church, it’s just not one that the congregants are privy to. This is so common in evangelicalism in the U.S.

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  208. Renee:
    Dave,

    Thank you for posting this. Yes, this is correct. Please check your facts Wartburg. Everyone is reading your blog like it is “gospel truth” because of all the fall out at HBC. It’s doesnt take long to fact check and find that Highpoint Church has not be affiliated with Harvest for years and the name change did not happen recently.

    I went back and checked out the offending quote. Dee said that Highpoint was a church plant of HBC. Is that correct? Because that’s all she said. She didn’t say they were “connected” (though of course, it’s very possible that they are in effect connected as I described above. In any event, if HP was a plant of HBC, then what Dee said about it can be taken as the truth, because it is the truth, and your sniping is completely irrelevant and rather ridiculous.

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  209. ..and if you want to nitpick the timing of the name change, that too, is ridiculous. It wasn’t even central to her point, Renee. Why not focus on the substance of her argument rather than picking at the periphery? Is it because you have no answer for the substance because you know in your heart that the substance is right? That’s what I interpret your behavior as indicating.

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  210. Renee: . Everyone is reading your blog like it is “gospel truth” because of all the fall out at HBC. It’s doesnt take long to fact check and find that Highpoint Church has not be affiliated with Harvest for years and the name change did not happen rec

    Dave: Edit
    It is my understanding that Highpoint Church is independent of HBC & has been for several years.

    Law Prof: Why not focus on the substance of her argument rather than picking at the periphery? I

    Law pro-you get what I was doing. Stetzer has connections to HBC and received a gift from MacDonald. he is a teaching pastor (I assume when he has a moment) at Highpoint along with everything else he does.

    Rene-read my comment, carefully. I didn’t say anything that wasn’t true. I simply said the Highpoint was a church plant of HBC. Therefore, whether or not you like it, there is a connection to HBC.

    You attempted to discredit me for a true statement. I’m sure you are upset over the serious problems at your church and you are hoping to *prove* that lies are being told. Sadly, you come off as someone who is grasping at straws, upset that I have discovered things about your church that you didn’t know and don’t wish to believe. If you want to discredit me, do your homework and prove that I said something that outright wrong. You failed in your first attempt.

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  211. Max,

    Further, if these “Megas”, and “Mega wantabes”, and all the “9-Marks” and Calvanista’s, for good measure, were open and honest with church finances, had independent elder/deacon leadership, and applied the same standards to themselves (leaders) that they do to the pew peons, much of TWW would go away.

    It is these “unaccountable” abuses that fuels the blogs….. leaders that fall, and are heldaccounable, is not really news, or fuel for these blogs…. that would be more of the “whats new, humans being humans”…. it is the “coversups” and abuse of the ABUSED that gets everones dander up…..

    But of course, the critics of these blogs do not mention this…..

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  212. Jeffrey Chalmers,

    “Further, if these “Megas”, and “Mega wantabes”, and all the “9-Marks” and Calvanista’s, for good measure, were open and honest with church finances, had independent elder/deacon leadership, and applied the same standards to themselves (leaders) that they do to the pew peons, much of TWW would go away.”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++

    then we could talk about how to make the world’s best blueberry pie, how to make vegetables delicious, and best BBQ techniques.

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  213. elastigirl: then we could talk about how to make the world’s best blueberry pie, how to make vegetables delicious, and best BBQ techniques.

    I think you get what heaven is going to be like . . . won’t it be grand when all the detritus is washed away and we can get down to joyful, creative living?

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  214. Jeffrey Chalmers: But of course, the critics of these blogs do not mention this….

    No, it seems that the most vocal critics of watchblogs either are duping Christians themselves, or benefiting from it somehow.

    And looking at Mr. Gordon’s article history is somewhat enlightening in that respect, considering he’s clearly a fan of the New Cals, and has written multiple op-eds on how no one is supposed to criticize their leaders.

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  215. Jack<
    Jack,

    Jack,
    TWW has been a community for healing for me and your posted response to Mot is my situation to the absolute letter.

    Your comments were profound and will be reflected on for some time. Thank you for expressing what I have been feeling.

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  216. Pingback: Christianity Today contributor editor under fire for accepting car from megachurch pastor | My Christian Daily

  217. Pingback: New Report Says James MacDonald Spent Nearly $13,000 in Church Donations on Vintage Car He Gifted Professor Ed Stetzer – BCNN1 WP

  218. Pingback: New Report Says James MacDonald Spent Nearly $13,000 in Church Donations on Vintage Car He Gifted Professor Ed Stetzer – BCNN2

  219. Pingback: New Report Says James MacDonald Spent Nearly $13,000 in Church Donations on Vintage Car He Gifted Professor Ed Stetzer | BCNN1 - Black Christian News Network

  220. elastigirl: “I’ll be keenly interested to see what kind of culture is actually fostered in MD’s new enterprise. One would like to think that harsh, overbearing church leaders are able to change. Is “the Gospel” powerful enough to do that in their hearts?”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    “the Gospel”…. nope, brain shutting down again. no longer computing.

    i know the holy spirit is powerful enough. (that one i can compute)

    Needed to think about this a bit before engaging;

    I think we need to recognize that the term “the Gospel” is used with a surprisingly wide range of meanings.

    In the synoptic gospels, “the Gospel” is John’s and Jesus’ announcement of the imminent arrival of “the Kingdom of God.” This is what the people were commanded to believe when the text says that Jesus was calling on people to “repent and believe the good message.” (the question of “repent from what” is a fascinating historical question; I like NT Wright’s proposal that Jesus was calling Israel to repent of its military messianic ambitions that ultimately bore the bad fruit of the disastrous AD67-73 and AD132-135 rebellions against Roman rule.)

    In Acts and in the letters of Paul, “the Gospel” has morphed slightly into Paul’s announcement that the God of Israel has enthroned Jesus as lord and granted him authority to rule and judge humanity (proved by God having raised Jesus from the dead); the call to repent is oriented toward the relinquishment of pagan worship.

    Some time later, in the Latin theological tradition (and especially in recent centuries in Protestantism), “the Gospel” came to be understood as “the good news that there is an easy way you can avoid the bad news”, with the “bad news” being that “you are going to experience eternal conscious torment” on account of your sins (the most grievous of these sins being that you have not embraced the ‘good news’ that Jesus provides an easy way to avoid the ‘bad news.’) “. If that seems a bit circular, I think it is.

    We’ve come a long way from Jerusalem, baby.

    ——-

    In my snippet that you interacted with, I was using “the Gospel” in a still different sense of “the story of Jesus and Israel” (more or less the remarkable narrative that we see in the synoptic gospels).

    My sense of the matter is that this story, when it sits in a heart for a long time, is able to change that heart. The different visions of “the gospel” evoke different responses. The “solution to the bad news” evokes a basically self-interested self-preservation response; IMO that is not a great way to start following Jesus, as he calls us into paths that may involve suffering for the sake of others.

    The “able to change” response that I had in mind was more along the lines of “this is a deeply beautiful story [and all the more beautiful for being true, which I do believe]. I would like my life to increasingly reflect the beauty of this story”. I think that’s a fair “take” on the Romans 8:28-29 vision of God’s purposes to conform people to the likeness of the Son.

    People who are attracted to “the Gospel” out of a self-preservation motive and who stay in a self-focused mode ever after may not be deeply changed by “the Gospel.” That’s more or less what I was suggesting, and I think it’s a fair interpretation of problematic leaders such as MD or JM.

    This is also compatible with Siteseer’s observation (with which I concur) that people with personality disorders may be less able to change (not necessarily their fault, I add — one does not choose one’s hereditary brain structure endowment).

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  221. Jeffrey Chalmers: Further, if these “Megas”, and “Mega wantabes”, and all the “9-Marks” and Calvanista’s, for good measure, were open and honest with church finances, had independent elder/deacon leadership, and applied the same standards to themselves (leaders) that they do to the pew peons, much of TWW would go away.

    I’m sure Dee (& Deb, we miss you) would love to see an end to the use and abuse of the American pulpit, and probably longs for a day when there is no blogosphere fodder coming from the Christian Industrial Complex. Unfortunately, false prophets and false teaching have been with us from the beginning … the Old Testament prophets and New Testament believers warned us they would be in our midst, even appearing as angels of light. Thus, we need to be on the alert, test the spirits around us, and inform/warn others.

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  222. Samuel Conner,

    “In my snippet that you interacted with, I was using “the Gospel” in a still different sense of “the story of Jesus and Israel” (more or less the remarkable narrative that we see in the synoptic gospels).

    My sense of the matter is that this story, when it sits in a heart for a long time, is able to change that heart.”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    thank you, Samuel Conner, for taking the time to respond so thoughtfully.

    do you ever think of The Gospel in different terms, or is this pretty much it?

    so, your view of “the good news” is change for the better through God’s influence?

    do you believe in explosive dunamis power of God? and that God exercises it with people and creation, for good and for help?

    or do you believe that God’s primary way of impacting people is through the process of time as people ponder the information in the story (as you said)?

    (too sleepy to crystallize my thoughts further… other than to say i think christianity has taken a few basic truths and gone crazy conjecturing elaborate belief systems and procedures and requirements)

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  223. elastigirl,

    I agree that we tend to over-think our theologies and in the process we risk detaching them from the biblical narrative.

    I used to embrace the widespread evangelical consensus view of “the gospel” as “the good news about the easy way to avoid the bad news”. As I grew skeptical of the consensus vision of what “the bad news” is, I began to doubt the counterpoint vision of what “the good news” is.

    I think it might be helpful to distinguish the various kinds of “good news” that one can discern in Scripture from “ the Gospel” as that term is used in the NT.

    God is love.

    God is close to the humble, contrite and brokenhearted.

    God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

    God intends to transform people into the likeness of the Son.

    God raises the dead. God will ultimately renew the Creation and be all in all.

    …and on and on and on

    These are all “good news.” They are not “the Gospel” as that term is used in the NT.

    What do I think is appropriate wording for “the Gospel” in our day?

    I’m not sure, and as there are already many variations on that, it might be an act of hubris to suggest yet another.

    Here’s an attempt that I hope is not an “act of hubris”:

    Evangelicals like to speak in terms of “what do you need to believe or do in order to be saved?” and they tend to think that the answer to that question is that is “the Gospel.”

    So I’ll adopt that posture for the sake of argument and then use Paul’s affirmations to “back into” a working proposal for what “the Gospel” is.

    Per Romans 10:9-11, which gives Paul’s minimalist description of “how to be saved”, perhaps one could say that:

    “the Gospel” is the message that “Jesus is Lord and that God raised Jesus from the dead.”

    Believing this message saves people.

    (but the questions don’t end there; one could argue what sense of “believing” is efficacious. I think it is deeper than simply ‘mental assent’, having met a number of mentally assenting sociopaths over the years.)

    This brief “definition” is also a pretty accurate summary of what Paul preached all over the Roman Empire.

    ———–

    elastigirl: do you believe in explosive dunamis power of God? and that God exercises it with people and creation, for good and for help?

    or do you believe that God’s primary way of impacting people is through the process of time as people ponder the information in the story (as you said)?

    Far be it from me to constrain how it might please the Creator to work in the hearts and minds of His creatures. Maybe I’m an unusually hard-hearted person who took a long time to be changed (assuming that I have been changed; maybe I’m self-deceiving). Others may change more quickly, or even suddenly.

    Back to the OP, it does seem that some don’t change at all.

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  224. Samuel Conner,

    “Maybe I’m an unusually hard-hearted person who took a long time to be changed”
    ++++++++++++++++++

    i suspect you are a kind-hearted, good-hearted person who didn’t require a whole lot of change to begin with. no explosions necessary. no long process necessary. you were already pretty much there.

    no parting of the red sea required because you were already pretty close to the other side.
    ———–

    i want to interact more with your comment but i only have *literally* 3 minutes till a work thing starts. so want to get my cursory thoughts out.

    my current working definition of the gospel: the bridge that God, Jesus, Holy Spirit built between us and God so we can know each other now in real time. for the pleasure of each other’s company and to work together for the productive greater good.

    i also see it as the shining sun (or God as the shining sun), that is always there in the beautiful clear sky 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. it is at times deeply hidden by layers of dark storm clouds, or by the milkshake of fog that we get completely lost in. it is at times obscured by filmy mist. it appears to be completely gone for hours at a time in the dark of night.

    “the gospel” is perhaps like the jet plane that takes off and surges upward and breaks through the turbulent menace…

    to the calm skies above it all, where the sun is simply quietly and matter-factly shining in the clear blue and warming us through.

    or that carries us through the night eastward to where the sun is shining, much faster than we could get there on our own.

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  225. elastigirl,

    It took me a long time to change, but from the beginning, it was the beauty of the story of Jesus that held my attention, more than the promise of rewards or the threat of punishments. I think that “aesthetics” is a valid understanding of the attraction of the message of Jesus. “let your light so shine that men may see your good works and give praise to your Father in heaven”

    I think that something has gone wrong in the thousands of years since the story was written down. I suspect that “the power of the Spirit” may depend in some way on the quality of the communities that claim the name of Jesus; that it is not simply an exogenous influence that is applied by God, but that it may in some way be endogenous. “Grieve not the Spirit” is a negative command the other pole of which is “love one another” and all the other “one another” commands that fill the letters of Paul to the congregations he founded. Before Paul set pen to parchment, Jesus commanded to “love one another” and promised to send the Spirit.

    We tend to think of ourselves individually as “temples of the Spirit”, but I think that Paul’s vision of the “temple occupied by the Spirit” was more nearly of communities of “love one another” followers of Jesus being corporate temples in the midst of which God was pleased to dwell by His Spirit.

    I like to try to keep my thinking precise in terms of the “good/joyful” “news/message” being what we can discern from Scripture — “that God has made Jesus ‘Lord’ and that God has raised Jesus from the dead”. But there are all sorts of associated “good news” that accompany this central core message. That is compatible with your vision of the many implications of what God has done in and through Christ.

    One could even say that churches like the “love one another” “Holy Spirit habitation” communities that Paul founded are themselves a kind of good news; communities like that are places where people can find “help in time of need.”

    One of the things that dismays me about the present situation is that “visible christian community” is being discredited by what is being done in the name of “church.”

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  226. Samuel Conner: One of the things that dismays me about the present situation is that “visible christian community” is being discredited by what is being done in the name of “church.”

    Yes. And perhaps this is why God is exposing the false ones who have been defaming him for their own glory.

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