David Platt and Ed Young Jr. Live in Alternate Universes

"When humans should have become as perfect in voluntary obedience as the inanimate creation is in its lifeless obedience, then they will put on its glory, or rather that greater glory of which Nature is only the first sketch." CS Lewis





From Biblical Recorder



Today, we want to leave you with a challenge. Well, at the minimum, you can read about my challenge. I believe that some in the evangelical church in America have gotten the Bible mixed up with the American definition of success. This definition of success includes lots of money, lots of toys and lots of fame and a chronic sense of entitlement. If anyone steps on the toes of Mr. Success, who is in pursuit of the dream, they are to be crushed. Said smooshing can take the form of dressing down a waitress who doesn’t bring our eggs fast enough or giving a lowly church member a well deserved swat when he gets out of line.

Many in the church define success in a decidedly unbiblical fashion. For example:

  • My church has 5,000 members.
  • My pastor is in demand all over the world. Do you know how many books he has written?
  • My pastor lives next door to Chuck Norris.
  • We just built a $120 million dollar addition to our church.
  • You wouldn’t believe the important people who come to our church.


Digression alert: I laughed recently when I was told the Rainn Wilson of The Office (who doesn’t know Dwight Shrutte III?) attends Rick Warren's church-a sure sign of success as I have ever heard! You Tube video example to follow for the uninitiated.

Many people have expressed their dismay of the direction of the American church on this blog and others. However, I am here to offer a glimmer of hope. There are people jumping out of the status quo and challenging the socks off of self satisfied American Christians.

Years ago, there was a book called Blinded by Might written by Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson. You can read about it at this link. They had a simple basic premise. They believed that many in the church equate success by the election of conservatives at the ballot box. However, the greatest successes of the church have occurred in service to others, often under hostile governments. That is why the world admires a Mother Theresa over a Jerry Falwell. Mother Theresa dedicated her life in service to others and had only two changes of clothing. She was out to give; not get.


Our world is tired of rich and smug Christians who point their fingers at the sins of the world while implying that Christians are somehow better than others. Meantime they look at our fancy houses and cars and realize that few of us represent the sacrifice of the Savior who chose to be born into poverty. In other words, they accuse us of not following the example of Jesus. They might have a point.

The Christian community has welcomed, into its midst, the prosperity Gospel which has replaced Jesus who lived a modest life. These charlatans have even redefined the Savior, stating He was wealthy. It is a travesty that Joel Osteen and Ed Young Jr are the new faces of the evangelical faith. No wonder America is bored with us. We look like any other self-serving politician or CEO.

But there is a glimmer of hope. A few courageous pastors are stepping up and putting their money where their mouth is. And it is attracting the attention of the world. You may read our last post called  David Platt and Francis Chan: Two Calivnistas I Could Grow to Love  at this link.


Recently, David Brooks, writing for the New York Times, features David Platt and his redefinition of the issue of wealth. In a column entitled The Gospel of Wealth, 9/6/10, Brroks makes the following observations. There are many, many pastors and church members who need to open their ears. Here is a link to the story. 


Brooks remembers the last couple of decades as a time for conspicuous, big wealth which has succumbed to the current economic reality. Interestingly he sees Platt as offering a new paradigm not only for the church but for America.


“Platt earned two master’s degrees and a doctorate from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. At age 26, he was hired to lead a 4,300-person suburban church in Birmingham, Ala., and became known as the youngest megachurch leader in America. Platt grew uneasy with the role he had fallen into and wrote about it in a recent book called “Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream.”

Minichurch not Megachurch


In this book, Brooks sees Platt taking on the megachurch with its excesses.

“Americans have built themselves multimillion-dollar worship palaces, he argues. These have become like corporations, competing for market share by offering social centers, child-care programs, first-class entertainment and comfortable, consumer Christianity.


Jesus, Platt notes, made it hard on his followers. He created a minichurch, not a mega one. Today, however, building budgets dwarf charitable budgets, and Jesus is portrayed as a genial suburban dude. “When we gather in our church building to sing and lift up our hands in worship, we may not actually be worshipping the Jesus of the Bible. Instead, we may be worshipping ourselves.”


In a PBS interview,link here, we read:


The pastor calculates that Christian churches in the US spend $10 billion a year on buildings and own property valued at $230 billion. He says too many churches are acting like big corporations, but Brook Hills is now constantly looking for ways trim its budget.”


In the same interview, Platt says “The reality is when Jesus got to the end of his time on earth there were only 120 people who had actually stuck around and done what he told them to do in Acts chapter 1. I mean, that’s not a megachurch, that’s a mini-church.”


God’s Dream Is Not the American Dream

In the article by Brooks, he says,“When Europeans first settled this continent, they saw the natural abundance and came to two conclusions: that God’s plan for humanity could be realized here, and that they could get really rich while helping Him do it. This perception evolved into the notion that we have two interdependent callings: to build in this world and prepare for the next.


Platt is in the tradition of those who don’t believe these two spheres can be reconciled. The material world is too soul-destroying. “The American dream radically differs from the call of Jesus and the essence of the Gospel,” he argues. The American dream emphasizes self-development and personal growth. Our own abilities are our greatest assets.”

During the same interview at PBS Platt says “I don’t in any way want to come across as anti-America. At the same time there are some ideals and values that are at the core of the American dream that are really contrary, even antithetical to the gospel that Jesus preached, and then the American dream obviously leads us sometimes in pursuits of money and possessions and pleasures in this world.”

The Kingdom of God Should Emphasize Downward Mobility


David Brooks goes on to quote Platt:


“But the Gospel rejects the focus on self: “God actually delights in exalting our inability.” The American dream emphasizes upward mobility, but “success in the kingdom of God involves moving down, not up.”

Keep $50,000 a year, he suggests, and give everything else away. Take a year to surrender yourself. Move to Africa or some poverty-stricken part of the world. Evangelize.”

Platt Strikes a Chord in the Heart of America


Although I disagree that the SBC has jumped on the bandwagon, it is interesting to note Brooks’ perspective.


“His renunciation tome is selling like hotcakes. Reviews are warm. Leaders at places like the Southern Baptist Convention are calling on citizens to surrender the American dream.I doubt that we’re about to see a surge of iPod shakers. Americans will not renounce the moral materialism at the core of their national identity. But the country is clearly redefining what sort of lifestyle is socially and morally acceptable and what is not. People like Platt are central to that process.”


It’s a Gospel of Adversity not Prosperity


Continuing with the interview at PBS , we read the following response to the prosperity gospel


What troubled him was the material comfort of his congregation and the multimillion-dollar megachurch they worship in. This was not the picture he had of the humble ministry of Christ.


PLATT: This idea that if you believe God, have enough faith, that he will give you health or wealth or prosperity, I don’t think, first of all, that it is a gospel at all. It’s not the good news that Jesus preached. More than health and wealth, Jesus I think gives us a picture more of a homeless and wounded gospel, and even the New Testament church is not a picture of prosperity theology. It’s a picture of adversity theology, persecution, struggles, poverty, helping one another out.”


Platt Implores People to Give It Up

In the beginning, Platt lost a number of members. However, his church is now back up to its original membership of about 4300.

In the PBS interview we read:


“ One of the sacrifices Pastor Platt challenges members to make is to go serve in places where there is vast physical and spiritual need—places like India and Africa. Over 250 members have moved to Third World countries to serve for three months, a year, or more to evangelize and to lend a hand. It was places like these that deeply influenced Platt’s theology.

PLATT: I remember one moment even locking eyes with this five-, six-year-old girl who was standing in her front yard, but it was basically a pile of trash and with a little blue tarp for a home, and I remember thinking my life is created for something much more than just a nice, comfortable Christian spin on the American dream.

SEVERSON: Some members choose places closer to home, like Chuck and Margaret Clark and their three children. They sold their large home in a well-heeled Birmingham suburb and moved to the inner city, though not without trepidation.


MARGARET CLARK: I had probably two primary concerns, and one was giving up my earthly comforts, and then secondly was just the fear for my children. We were aware of the drugs and the alcohol and the sexual promiscuity downtown, and it was just causing me a great deal of fear.


PLATT: Sitting here in the office one day with a very wealthy man in our faith family. He comes in and he says, “Pastor, I think you are crazy for saying some of the things you are saying.” And I said, “Okay,” and he said, “But the reality is you’re only saying what Jesus said,” and so he begins to share about how he is selling his home and cars, and with tears in his eyes this man looks at me and says, “I want my life to count.”


At the blog called Muddling Toward Maturity, link here, we learn about his book called:


Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream.


In this book, Platt has advice for those who are just beginning to “radicalize” their lives.

“The first of is five point plan is to read through the Bible in one year. Most Bible read through plans involve reading no more than three chapters a day, about 15 minutes.

Step 2 is to pray for the world. He refers to a website which directs the participant to pray for different parts of the world organized so that you can pray for a different part of the world every day.

Step 3 is to give some money away to poor people.

Step 4 is to go on a one week short-term mission trip.

Step 5 is to be involved in a local church congregation.


Platt is challenging the church in America. Some in the church do not like it. They like their comfortable lives and their fancy churches. They make charges of this as being the “New Legalism” or the “New Monasticism.” Methinks they dost protest too much. I, for one, have decided to take him up on his challenge. TWW offers a read through the Bible in a year plan at the bottom of each post. I am also planning on beginning to volunteer with seriously handicapped children. TWW will also look into praying for the world and see if we can link to such a site from our blog.


I think that Joel Osteen, Ed Young Jr., and others have a lot to learn from this pastor who calls all of us to live a life of sacrifice for our Lord.

We leave you with a humorous video from the ever intriguing Dwight Shrutte III. Due to copyright considerations, we were unable to embed the video. You will need to travel to this link which takes you directly to the video on You Tube. So, for a laugh, go see "Dwight Shuns Andy." 


Lydia's Corner: Genesis 48:1-49:33 Matthew 15:29-16:12 Psalm 20:1-9 Proverbs 4:20-27


David Platt and Ed Young Jr. Live in Alternate Universes — 19 Comments

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    Wow — how encouraging! Really and truly, this is the first good feeling I’ve had about this subculture of American Christianity (to which I am required to belong) in a very long time.

    I’ve felt much o’ that “cognitive dissonance” for many years in that I know God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are real and true (to boil it down completely for the sake of space), but find all the cultural stuff (music, language, way of acting and speaking, the christian marketplace, etc.) absolutely nauseating. Certainly the lifestyle issues described on this blog, as well. To me it has seemed that church exists simply for the purpose of existing. To serve itself.

    To my complete surprise, after reading this entry I am actually feeling a bit of pride in the fact that I’m a “christian” (hate that label, though).

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    Thank you for your response. Be sure to read about Francis Chan as well. Both Platt and Chan remind me a bit of the saints of old. They are bucking the trend and making people like me feel a little less sure of themselves. That is the discomfort in which God can change us. When we are comfortable with ourselves and out faith, I fear things have gotten a bit moldy.

    Also, don’t forget that the term “Christian” was counter cultural in the Roman era. American Christians have made it the status quo. Platt is shaking us up and asking us to be countercultural in our lives as well as our beliefs. Talk is easy. Actions are the hard part.

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    The church growth movement started in the 70’s and mega’s came on the rise in the 80’s becoming quite mainstream in the 90’s. We are now starting on the downturn…slowly but it is coming, I pray.

    The point is, we have an entire generation of people who think this focus on sucess, church growth movement and churchianity is mainstream Christianity. It used to be mainly the seekers but now it is even the reformed who are liking the income from books, speaking gigs, positions of celebrity etc.

    Only the Holy Spirit can lead someone away from that…especially one who has the position and celebrity of success.

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    Nice article!

    This brings hope, true hope, that God is about to “wake up” this generation and the next!

    I have been reading radical, and I must say, it is a “gut-wrenching really make you feel uncomfortable type of book—but in a, “I really need to take Jesus seriously kind of way.” (Encouraging thought— all the proceeds of the book go to missions)..

    Here is a hunch of mine..just a hunch, but I feel that it could possibly be coming our way soon in this Nation–(warning–the following might become a rather long response!)

    For years, we have had guys like Joel Osteen, Ed Young Jr, and an innumerable amount of other leaders who have been teaching a prosperity gospel. It is a disgusting trend which seems to have no end.

    We have had “seeker types” who seem to be more about growing the numbers on the board, facilitating sermons that “tickle the ear” in which most of the time have nothing to do with the “radical gospel” of the Bible, and who also build multi-million dollar buildings that look like some weird “Christian twilight zone” filled with coffee shops, gyms, amusement areas, and sanctuary’s built for the programs of man. Within this, the Holy Spirit is stifled…Teaching goes on, Programs go on, but the power of God is missing.

    Then you have your “new and trendier” emergent church types who pretty much throw the “baby out with the bathwater” when it comes to the Gospel. Sure, they are smaller, more “missional”, and more community-like…but they end up looking more like the red-cross than the church..simply because they ignore the weight of the Gospel presented in Scripture.

    Within this fray, are hundreds of declining and dying churches because they have forgotten that we need to “be in the world/not of the world.” They lock themselves in their sanctuaries, protect their families from the “evils” of this world by avoiding it, and preach a judgmental self-righteous message that destroys the beauty of the Gospel. These churches are dying because they are not living missionally in the world (So many of these churches are involved in the SBC, the denomination I am involved in, and they are increasingly declining day by day.)

    SO here is my theory. God raises up people from all over and guys like David Platt, Francis Chan, and in my opinion–Matt Chandler—He places them in these “mega-church” type situations (in which for years have been in the above mentioned “seeker” or “prosperity” type scenarios)…and BOOM—God shakes it up…The Holy Spirit’s conviction comes over them and compels them to do things no one expects!

    David Platt guides, along with many others, the Church at Brook Hills to do what is uncommon and unthinkable in the American west–to be counter-cultural, to be radical….So many of American churches want to do the weird “Christamericana” that reeks of being “of the world.” Platt is urging others to be “in the world” as radical Christians, counter-cultural, and point the world to the Glory of Christ!! Not your typical mega-church pastor!

    Francis Chan is doing the unthinkable as well. I saw an amazing scene of brokenness on him at a pastor’s/leaders conference about a year ago. There was not a fiber of pride in that man—and now, I understand that God was dealing with him in a sense of stepping out in faith by leaving a church I am sure he felt quite comfortable in–He is doing just that. Not your typical mega-church pastor!

    Matt Chandler is another pastor as well that is not your typical “scene” in the mega-churches. While so many are teaching health/wealth/God will grow your church–He leads people away from that…

    It is interesting to note the exponential growth that has happened at the village, but Chandler does not make that his “banner”. While so many guys might be writing a book on “how to grow your church “this” way”—Chandler is telling guys like me (at the same leaders conference Chan was at a year before) that God may want you too love, care for, and lead a small congregation. Sometimes, it may become a “spiritual wilderness”, and we may feel like Moses. He taught us that God may not ever take you too a place of “success” that the world perceives (numbers, big buildings, etc)….but what we would get is God Himself! (He taught from Hebrews 11:32- 12: 2)

    Matt also has taught trusting and fearing God no matter the circumstances–that we are not promised anything that equates to “health and wealth” but we are promised the fullness of God and joy in Him.

    About a year ago around this time—Matt’s world was changed when he passed out holding his baby. He discovered he had a dangerous form of brain cancer. He has been battling it since…His response? He is still joyful in the Lord, still trusts the Lord, and has an amazing testimony that is considered “radical” by so many. IN fact, the outside press has taken notice, and they just don’t “get” why Matt can have so much peace with knowing he could die in the midst of all this perceived success..He just points to God, to the Glory of God…and the Joy he has in HIm…over and over..consistently. Not your typical mega-church pastor.

    Could it be that God is going against the trend by using leaders who would typically respond with a “health, wealth, seeker-friendly” response because of their mega-church leadership, and convicting them to respond radically? Could it be that God is positioning these well-known leaders to do the “unthinkable” so the American church will take notice?

    I feel as well that God is positioning men and women of God who are not named, not known, to do the unthinkable;radical in their communities. It is happening in mine.

    My hunch is that God is taking the American church to a new era. I am not exactly sure “what” it will look like. I am not saying that mega-churches will close their doors..but I do feel that God may be bringing a sense of “radical conviction” on those churches..both large and small. It starts with the unknown leaders, the well-known leaders like Platt., and the innumerable men and women who serve God throughout this nation.

    Who knows? Maybe what awaits us is a radical “awakening!” Maybe God is about to “wake up” the Bride in America with a sense of conviction and repentance over what we have done. Maybe He is taking us to a place where we will be radical in our world but not reeking of our cultural “American dream.” I hope to see this in our time–Maybe another “great awakening” awaits us!

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    Adam, I sincerely hope what you say is true. But after many years in that world I made a decision that I would never become a soldier in any “movement” because so many that start out sincere go terribly wrong. I get very nervous when it is focused around a “personality” in a human who is held up as the Holy leader. I know, I am weird like that but I have seen it too many times at my age to be impressed.

    My mom told me before she died to view the American church as a mission field. I did not understand what she was saying then but I do now. It is that bad out there…in elevating men over Christ.

    You see, I have family members that ran off to the Piper world 10 years ago because that was the big thing in certain Wheaton circles: Piper.

    I have older family that lined up with Billy Hybels and Rick Warren 20 years ago and their world to help build successful mega’s in other cities.

    Then, we also have the McArthur people, the CJ Mahaney people, the Al Mohler people and so on.

    Do you get my drift? It concerns me.

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    If Young and Platt are in alternate universes, which one is from the universe where Spock has a goatee? Or is one of them from that other alternate universe that has Walternate and Fauxlivia?

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    You, too, follow Fringe! Now, I have to admit I am confused. Who is the real Olivia when one is dealing with alternate universes? I personally like the nutty Walter better.

    Any thoughts on The Event? It seems to me that they may be going for a parallel universe thing as well. See, TWW is up to the minute with trends!

    Spock with a goatee is in poor taste and trendy so I vote Ed in his universe.

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    I, too, hope you are right. I fear that the majority of the American church will hide out in the safe churches. By this I mean the ones who tell you that you are a good Christian if you tithe precisely at 10%. Easy goal to reach in my opinion. Then, one can ignore all the icky problems in dealing with the poor.

    I, too, wonder why Chandler and others allow a man such as Mahaney in their midst? Such legalism and mind games seem out of place in humble men.

    However, may the same Spirit that convicts Platt and Chan continue to find receptive hearts in the others. A revival is always hoped for.

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    From what I’ve read, the mega church began in the mid 19th century with Henry Ward Beecher’s Brooklyn church. Beecher was “The Most Famous Man in America”, the title of a recent book about him, at the time a sort of cross between Elvis and Billy Graham in terms of his following. He comes complete with piles of money and sex scandal.

    The sad thing about all this is that it seems to be about people ignoring the plain example and teachings of Christ and following the Leader Du Jour, whether that person is leading into greedy materialism or away from it. In either case it’s still not following Christ.

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    Ken, Some say it goes back to Spurgeon and his church in London. :o) But let’s face it, the mandatory state churches in Europe were the first mega’s whether protestant or catholic.

    But I was referring to when they began as a “movement” in my earlier comment.

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    I realize that what I am about to say will cause a severe reaction, but I’ll say it anyway.

    The most popular speaker, in my opinion, at the last 2 SBC meetings has been – ta da! – David Platt.

    Platt has also been invited to speak at the 9 Marks meetings after the convention closes each night. Those meetings are hosted by Mark Dever.

    What does it say that the SBC and Dever (and by extension Mohler et al. – the reformed crowd) admire Platt?

    The pastors conference can have whomever they want to speak. They don’t have to invite Platt. Dever, too, can leave him off the list. So, why is it that Platt is included prominently on both speaking lists, and what does it mean?

    My own take is that people respond to genuine leaders, and Platt is a genuine leader. Platt is close to Dever, Mohler and others.

    I don’t know as much about Chan.

    I think that all of this points to healthy trends in the SBC. Not all trends in the SBC are healthy, but this one is. In most large groups there are good things and bad.

    I am for promoting the good and not the bad. I am glad that you have written such good articles about Platt.

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    Anon, no severe reaction at all. But I happen to know that many you mention would have loved to ignore Driscoll but could not. He was way too popular with seminary students, etc. And Driscoll is even SBC.

    I think they learned their lesson and are not about the make the same “almost” mistake because Platt is very popular in certain circles and IS SBC.

    My concern is Platt wanting to be close to these leaders in the SBC. To what end? Frpm what I am hearing about Platt, he is accepting from them the opposite he is teaching his followers. I just don’t get that?

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    And Driscoll is even SBC

    OOPS…Driscoll is NOT even SBC

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    People respond to a genuine leader. Is that why Hitler came into power?

    The SBC trends populist. Whoever the “it guy” of the moment is, the SBC wants “it.” Once in awhile they are bound to hit on the genuine article.

    The SBC in the past, and once agin in the now, tilts legalistic. And I am not a liberal in my theology unless it is defined by the Calvinistas. I am not sure I would agree with Platt on a couple of “B” issues. However, I will listen to any person who is willing to sacrifice his lifestyle. Then it goes from theoretical and cultural pandering to a deep commitment to live out the Gospel.

    If Platt continues in the direction he is going ,he will definitely miff off the big boys, like Brunson, FBC Dallas, and others and he will be relegated a nice corner in which everyone will pat his back and continue to figure out how to get a house like Ed. Somehow, I can’t see Brunson living in the inner city. Then he would really have to worry about stalking.

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    I guess we will see. What I have sensed in the last 2 conventions was a strong presence of younger people who do not necessarily look at the typical mega church pastor as the ideal. Platt, Chan and others have much more appeal.

    I don’t think that the SBC will ever be composed of one type pastor or person. It has been and always will be a collection of different emphases, people and styles.

    Platt won’t become the norm, but he has become a high profile model that even the leaders of the Pastor’s Conference have put in a prime speaking spot two years in a row.

    Time always tells, I suppose.

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    With regard to the 2011 SBC Pastors Conference, I wonder whether CJ Mahaney will be addressing Southern Baptist pastors again like he did at this year’s event in Orlando…

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    One can always hope. However, Driscoll and Harris both expressed dismay at Chan’s radical move. One would think they would be up with the trends. But I think guys like Driscoll likes their home theaters just a tad too much. Seriously, can you see the people at FBC Dallas giving up their luxury addition to live amongst the poor?
    Mahaney?????? Good night! Do these pastors know about the problems reported in SGM? How could they?

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    “I guess we will see. What I have sensed in the last 2 conventions was a strong presence of younger people who do not necessarily look at the typical mega church pastor as the ideal. Platt, Chan and others have much more appeal.”

    My last convention was in 2009. I came away with the impression is was still all about the adulation of man based upon what I kept seeing/hearing on the stage. It was sickening.

    Keep in mind, most of the younger people are indoctrinated seminarians. (The convention has not been a majority of those outside of ministry in many years. Now, it is mostly those in ministry and staffers. There was a time when 30,000 people went and the majority were not in paid ministry!)

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    Shame on us, the pew sitters, for allowing this to occur. Many of us relegate the ‘real” ministry to the paid clergy. It makes life easier on us. Some pastors like it because we are out there earning the dough which they will then guilt us into giving to them to pay for their salaries and fancy office digs. I am beginning to see some of these churches as corporate headquarters instead of a gathering place for the people.