Art Azurdia – A Tree Is Recognized By Its Fruit.

“Spiritual wolves are men or women with authority and/or influence within a church, ministry, Christian group or organization who use that authority and/or influence for the primary purpose of advancing their own selfish desires and agendas by exerting destructive control over those under their care, attacking anyone who questions them and doing anything necessary to maintain their profitable and influential positions or advance to greater ones.  Further, spiritual wolves are false prophets/teachers because they justify every selfish act through an appeal to a self-proclaimed, “god-given” authority and/or to Scripture and through the teaching influence of their words and deeds lead weak people away from loving and following Jesus by creating disciples to themselves who will do their will, which means promoting their success and defending their actions. Through both subtle and overt abuse and disobedience to God’s Word, spiritual wolves bring disrepute to the Name of Jesus and to His Body the Church. While advancing themselves, they stand in the way of sinners and emasculate the work of the Church in its task of carrying out the Great Commission.  In all of this, they refuse righteous accountability and Godly leadership.  When caught and unable to escape the consequences of their actions, spiritual wolves will lie, blame others and even appear to display deep repentance, but all of this is a sham designed to save themselves and re-establish their former positions.  No matter how great their public success and no matter how “godly”, powerful and “fruitful” it appears, these men and women are not servants of the Lord. The true, evil fruit of their lives will be visible in the damaged people closest to them and the mauled victims of their predation. Spiritual wolves are either conscious or unconscious servants of Satan and without true repentance, which includes humble restitution and the willingness to follow instead of lead, they are lost forever.”

Luck, Coleman. Day of the Wolf: Unmasking and Confronting Wolves in the Church (p. 280). The Sandstar Group. Kindle Edition.

This is a recording of Mark Driscoll speaking at Grace City Church in Wenatchee, WA in February, 2016.

In early May I received a comment on a blog article I had published in 2016. The subject of the article was Mark Driscoll. I mentioned that Driscoll spoke at Grace City Church in Wenatchee, WA, and was good friends with Josh McPherson, the senior pastor at Grace City Church.

I spent a few of my formative years in Wenatchee attending a small Christian college that was connected to a Charismatic church called Bethesda Christian Center. It was the first of three bad experiences I had in churches. The other two were Sovereign Grace Church of Gilbert, AZ (they have now changed their name to the nondescript “Center Church”) and United Christian Church of Dubai. (The senior pastor is John Folmar, a former assistant pastor of Mark Dever.) Though my experiences at these churches were negative, I did make some good friends at each church and I learned things that have proven helpful to my blogging. As CJ Mahaney would say, “I was well served.”

All this to say that I still know some people living in Wenatchee and some of them attend Grace City Church. Thus my interest in writing the article in 2016 of Mark Driscoll speaking there.

Below is the comment I received last month from Richard Roberts.

Apparently, Art Azurdia is fairly well known in the Northwest, but I must admit I had never heard of him.

Ten days after I received the comment from Richard Roberts I received an email from a journalist who resides in Wenatchee. He had come across the same article Roberts had commented on and was interested in obtaining more information from me about Driscoll, McPherson, and Grace City Church. Below is a copy of the email I received.

I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but it seemed more than just a coincidence that I received these two communications so close together, so I started looking into Art Azurdia. I quickly found out that one of the women Azurdia abused was Katie Roberts, the wife of Richard Roberts. Richard Roberts is the pastor of Emerald Bible Fellowship in Eugene, OR.  While researching this story Julie Roys published a podcast interview of Katie Roberts titled, “My Abuser is Returning to Ministry” that can be heard here.

Richard and I exchanged several emails. He informed me that he knew of only the two women whom Art Azurdia had abused, one, of course being his wife, Katie. But I have read that there were others Azurdia spiritually abused and bullied in Christ Community Church.

The comment below from “notabarbie” was written by a woman who was abused by Art Azurdia while a member of Christ Community Church.  Notabarbie writes a blog by the same name. After being abused by Azurdia she walked away from Christianity and is now an atheist.

[Note from the editor: I have been informed that I was incorrect in statements in the two paragraphs above. Specifically, the second woman who was abused sexually was not from Christ Community Church in Fairfield, CA. I have changed the paragraphs to correct my error.]

Richard Roberts told me that when Azurdia’s bullying and manipulation came to light at Christ Community Church “he left that church to take the professor’s position at Western Seminary.  The church chose to dissolve, which shows what kind of “shepherd” he actually was.”

I came across an interesting blog article from 2005. The author was a fan of Art Azurdia. (Personally, I don’t get the attraction to Azurdia. In my opinion, his actions behind the pulpit are freakish and if you can get by those, his actual message is not earth-shaking. But more on that later.)

In the first of two comments made by “one of Art’s closest friends,” he expresses his displeasure to David about using the term “pissed off.”  Art’s “closest friend” claims David is disrespecting Art, further, he finds his tone “inconsistent.” This good friend of Art has “served in ministry with him since the beginning of Christ Community Church.”  Based on Azurdia’s spiritual and sexual abuse of numerous church members, coupled with this nut who is offended by David’s article, is it any wonder the church folded when Azurdia left?

By the way, David changed the “pissed off” to “bummed.”  Good on him, but I’m kind of “pissed off” that he caved into the request of this narcissistic nut.

Art’s closest friend then transitions to his second language – Christianese!  He tells David that it is very obvious to “us” that Art has been “called by the Spirit of God” to Western Seminary.  Not so fast, close friend of Art. Hindsight being 20/20 it seems to me that Azurdia may have been called by a spirit, but I don’t think it was the Spirit of God.  But wait, “the Sovereign God we serve has made a decision to move Art to Portland.”

Yeah, no. I don’t think so.  I think your close friend, Art was choosing to do what he has likely done all his life – create a huge mess, and then when the chickens come home to roost he cuts bait and runs.

There were then some comments by Danny and his friend Rick, followed by another comment by Art’s closest friend.

More Christianese.

“We are bummed as well, until we take into account that our Sovereign Lord is the One who has orchestrated all the events leading to the decision for Art to relocate to Portland, and for CCC to come to an end.”

“We are now in a position to do more for the sake of the Gospel.”

“We have been given an incredible opportunity because of the way God has superintended our circumstances.”

“This is not a demise, it is a commencement. I hope you will celebrate with us.”

Them there are some fancy words, closest friend of Art. Did you write them yourself, or did you transcribe them from the elegant and polished speech of your hypocritical hero?  Shucks, who cares? Let’s celebrate!

I would think Art’s closest friend who has been with him since he started at CCC would know the truth about Art Azurdia’s abusive behavior towards church members. Yet, in my opinion, he lies about the reason Azurdia was fleeing to Western Seminary and has the nerve to chastise David for using the term “pissed off.”  What is a weightier matter – covering up abuse or using the term “pissed off?”

I did a little investigating and found the email address for “Art’s closest friend.” I sent the following email to him, not expecting a reply and I did not receive one.

So, after a smoothly delivered yet insincere and incomplete apology Azurdia moved from Christ Community Church in Fairfield, CA to Western Seminary in Portland, OR.  Leaving behind numerous victims of abuse who attempted to put their lives back together, with varying degrees of success.

Soon after beginning his work as a professor at Western Seminary, Azurdia planted Trinity Church which eventually met at the chapel on the campus of Western Seminary. Azurdia implemented signed church membership contracts modeled after Mark Dever’s 9Marx plan.

I will take this occasion to once again speak out against such signed contracts. They are implemented to protect church leadership and I have yet to see a pastor face church discipline under one of these contracts.

Here is a statement on Art Azurdia from Trinity Church of Portland. They did the right thing in removing him from all pastoral ministry at their church but they stopped short of excommunicating him. I am unsure as to why. Perhaps since Azurdia had already fled the church they saw no point in further church discipline, or perhaps the cease and desist letter from Azurdia’s lawyer caused them to refrain from further action, or perhaps they were simply giving the pastor preferential treatment.

This comment from Richard Roberts would seem to indicate that the letter from Azurdia’s lawyer prevented them from taking further action. Whatever the case, I believe it’s safe to say that Azurdia was not acting in the spirit of the membership contract he had required all would-be members to sign.

“Trinity’s elders were so unconvinced of his contrition and so wary of his manipulative capabilities that they did not allow him to address the church that week.  So, he lawyered up, sent a cease and desist letter to threaten any public statements from Trinity about him, and left the church and posted his own “confession” online.  In that letter he claimed to care about people and to respond to any who contacted him.  None of the people I know who tried to reach him at the email listed in that letter ever heard from him.”

Bob Schilling was correct, as we can see from the following screenshot:

Here are two brief clips of the “brilliant expositor,” Art Azurdia speaking at the Shepherds Conference. The first one he thanks John MacArthur for the honor of speaking at the conference. The second shows his absurd “hocus-pocus” hand gestures, complete with a little jump! Who thinks this guy was a great preacher? I find his actions distract from his message, but perhaps that is his intent. Knowing what we do now, we can see the absolute hypocrisy of his words.

While checking into some of Azurdia’s sermons I came across this series on the Song of Solomon. It consisted of 13 sermons spanning a 10 month time period. Does this raise a red flag for anyone but me?  It seems bordering on the excessive, but I’m no Mark Driscoll.

I wanted to make it clear that Art Azurdia is, in my opinion, a wolf that should never be back in ministry of any kind. Again I quote from my communications with Richard Roberts, who does a good job in describing Azurdia:

“The reality is that Azurdia did considerably more damage than my wife and I’s statements in 2018 could convey.  In fact, it was much more than we actually understood at the time.  Azurdia was a carbon copy of Ravi Zacharias.  It’s like there is a sexual abuse manual for spiritual wolves.  He is a master manipulator, a true wolf in shepherd’s clothing, who spent years grooming my wife.  She ended up deluded about many things, not merely about sexual things, because of his deceitful Scripture-twisting, gaslighting, fear-mongering, flattery, and the like.  She is now, by God’s grace, free from his delusions and his grip, and is standing strong again by walking in the light.”

He has never repented for what he did to my wife.  He has not repented of his sexual abuse of her, his abuse of spiritual authority, or the way that he treated Trinity.  Now he is teaching a young adults class at Grace City Church and is on staff there to lead 18-24 year olds, women included.  It’s a disaster in the making because Grace City’s leadership refuses to listen to those whom Azurdia has harmed, taking it upon themselves to grant him authority.

Dee also called Grace City Church. She was unable to speak to a live person but did leave a message, asking them to call her. They never returned her call. A few days after her call the screenshot below, showing Art Azurdia as a faculty member at Vector Academy and Mark Driscoll, Douglas Wilson and Wayne Grudem as guest lecturers was removed from their website. I do not have any reason to believe that they have removed Art Azurdia from their faculty; more likely they are embarrassed by the negative publicity their hiring of Azurdia has generated.

Finally, I leave you with this quote from “Let Us Prey – The Plague of Narcissist Pastors and What We Can Do About It.”

“Christians are often eager to assume the best of others, to trust leaders, and to quickly seek reconciliation when there have been conflicts and problems. These commitments are often spiritual strengths, but narcissistic leaders can find a longer leash in some religious settings than they would find in other contexts. Narcissists are unlikely to change unless they have gotten into trouble, have received significant consequences, and are facing robust accountability that leads to a rigorous multi-year treatment plan. There is often a small window of time when initial interventions can have any chance of efficacy, namely when the narcissist is in a vulnerable position and their supporting cast had agreed changes are needed. But many narcissistic pastors are resourceful, charismatic, and talented enough to find ways of temporarily glossing tensions in their own congregations, or if the problems are serious enough, able to locate a new congregation that will give them a fresh start with few probing questions about their prior difficulties.”

Comments

Art Azurdia – A Tree Is Recognized By Its Fruit. — 112 Comments

  1. The second video with hand gestures is hilarious. Is he trying to hypnotise the crowd or what ?

  2. It’s very interesting to see the same names always popping up. Maybe that’s good, if it indicates that there really aren’t all that many of these creeps, just the same ones recycling?

  3. Emmanuel: The second video with hand gestures is hilarious.

    I agree. He’s like that in every video I watched of him. I would be interested in hearing what a professional body language interpreter would have to say about him.

  4. Emmanuel,

    The personas taken on by pastors in pulpits can be surreal. What happens to these “men of god” when they get an audience, a platform above the audience, and a microphone? Very odd behavior. They seem almost no longer human.

    Growing up we saw this in our home church. One would never want to have a normal conversation with this person because they did not seem normal. Voice, gestures, tone & timbre, not human. Not like the rest of us.

    They raise their voice, they dart their hands, they jump around, drama-kings. Yet they are addressing adults who WANT to be there. Voluntarily. Why the vitriol, the shaming, the mad monkey performance? College professors stand at platforms while addressing an audience and they don’t act like this.

  5. Ava Aaronson: The personas taken on by pastors in pulpits can be surreal. What happens to these “men of god” when they get an audience, a platform above the audience, and a microphone? Very odd behavior. They seem almost no longer human.

    Possession?

  6. Ava Aaronson,

    Maybe the “mad monkey performance” (that’s a great description) is a way to express “authority.” As in, “I’m the big monkey in the room, you will obey my authoritay.” I didn’t see that he had a Bible – he could thump it to pieces, with all his gestures.

  7. Ava Aaronson: What happens to these “men of god” when they get an audience, a platform above the audience, and a microphone? Very odd behavior. They seem almost no longer human … Why the vitriol, the shaming, the mad monkey performance?

    Actors would have no stage if it weren’t for an audience willing to buy tickets to their show. Warning: never give the microphone to the Devil!

    Touch of charisma + gift of gab + bag of gimmicks = Art Azurida

    There’s been an outbreak of vitriol, shaming and mad monkey performance in the American pulpit … from A to Z (Azurida to Zacharias), another spirit is speaking to the masses.

    “The prophets prophesy falsely,
    And the priests rule on their own authority;
    And My people love to have it so!
    But what will you do when the end comes?”
    (Jeremiah 5:31)

  8. Did AA leave Western Seminary on good terms? Just wondering how much the seminary principals might have known.

    I suspect that churches would in many cases be better served to cultivate in-house talent in terms of teaching from the Scriptures, and to rely less on outsiders whose character may be impossible to discern and which will only become manifest after they are granted a difficult- or disruptive-to-unwind authority status.

    That would probably be less of a “draw” and a less effective way of pursuing numerical increase.

    It’s arguably a tradeoff — if you want a shiny preacher who will pack the pews, you may end up sacrificing some of your more vulnerable members of the congregation, as well as potentially damaging the governance culture of the group. If you are willing to rely on people of known good character — which means recruiting pastors, teachers, elders and deacons only from among long-serving members whose character has been manifested over time — you will probably have a pulpit ministry that is not as big a “draw”, but the group and its members may be much healthier.

    I think that one would almost never reach “mega-church” status in such a ministry “regime”, and IMO that would be a good thing.

  9. Samuel Conner: rely on people of known good character — which means recruiting pastors, teachers, elders and deacons only from among long-serving members whose character has been manifested over time

    Which was the New Testament model for selecting church leaders.

    “Select from among you men of good reputation, with godly character and moral integrity, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3)

    In 70+ years of doing church in America, I’ve known only a handful of church leaders (including pastors) who fit those qualifications.

  10. “Spiritual wolves are men or women with authority and/or influence within a church, ministry, Christian group or organization who use that authority and/or influence for the primary purpose of advancing their own selfish desires and agendas by exerting destructive control over those under their care, attacking anyone who questions them and doing anything necessary to maintain their profitable and influential positions or advance to greater ones.” (Coleman Luck)

    The authority and influence of Jesus is waning in the American church. In the absence of the genuine, the counterfeit sets up camp.

  11. This is a hard one for me personally as I really did like him as far as listening to his sermons on Hebrews and Revelation. I had not listened to him for a long time and decided to Google his name a couple weeks ago and I read all this stuff. What really is worrisome is that I was not shocked. I am disappointed but not surprised. There are just so many of these stories. Are people like this so sick and deceived that they really think the story will not come out?

  12. George: This is a hard one for me personally as I really did like him as far as listening to his sermons on Hebrews and Revelation.

    Welcome to The Wartburg Watch … a community of believers many of whom have fallen for stealth and deception, use and abuse … who have trusted untrustworthy church leaders because they were such good preachers/teachers. The problem with deception is that you don’t know you are deceived because you are deceived. Even Satan knows Scripture.

  13. Jacob: Maybe the “mad monkey performance” (that’s a great description) is a way to express “authority.” As in, “I’m the big monkey in the room, you will obey my authoritay.”

    Jumping around, swinging from the overhead, showing teeth and screeching, throwing their turds at their adoring audience?

    Remember when laughing like demented hyenas was PROOF of Anointing?
    Welcome to the New Anointing.

  14. Max,

    In English, sociopaths and manipulators are masters of camouflage and misdirection.
    What that Rabbi from Tarsus called “appearing as an Angel of Light”.

  15. Max: “Spiritual wolves are…

    This guy ain’t a wolf.
    More like a spiritual chimpanzee overdosed on bath salts.
    Wolves have more class than that.

  16. Todd Wilhelm: I agree. He’s like that in every video I watched of him. I would be interested in hearing what a professional body language interpreter would have to say about him.

    It was so distracting. I suppose he intends it to underscore his words, but IMHO it distracts from them. I had a hard time following what he was saying because those gestures got in the way. And hey, I’m half Italian, so if I am freaked out by hand gestures, just think how most folks would feel.

  17. Max: “Spiritual wolves are men or women with authority and/or influence within a church, ministry, Christian group or organization who use that authority and/or influence for the primary purpose of advancing their own selfish desires and agendas by exerting destructive control over those under their care, attacking anyone who questions them and doing anything necessary to maintain their profitable and influential positions or advance to greater ones.” (Coleman Luck)

    From the OP: Spiritual wolves are either conscious or unconscious servants of Satan and without true repentance, which includes humble restitution and the willingness to follow instead of lead, they are lost forever. -Coleman Luck

    Max: The problem with deception is that you don’t know you are deceived because you are deceived. Even Satan knows Scripture.

    (And in the second video, Art Azurdia looked like he is over-acting a role he has watched someone else play….)

  18. Max: Out of control.

    I don’t think “out of control” is the right framing, as if the man suffers from “gestural Tourette’s syndrome.”

    It looks to me like the gestures are synchronized with the phrasing and inflection of the words. Perhaps the purpose is to give the audience something to look at that is more dynamic than a stationary speaker.

    It might be a form of audience manipulation, and perhaps not even intentional or conscious.

    I can imagine that one could acquire a complex gestural vocabulary over time, in response to the way that the audience responds, sort of the way that some professional baseball players have developed odd rituals.

    IOW, maybe “it works for him.”

    Or, as you have often mentioned, maybe it’s a “gimmick” that grabs audience attention and contributes to success with that kind of audience.

  19. Samuel Conner: success with that kind of audience

    “That kind” of audience has taken the American church greatly off track … “that kind” in the pew explains why we have “that kind” in the pulpit … if it weren’t for “that kind” financing “that kind” of preaching, we might see purity and holiness return to church.

    “However, that kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21) … and I don’t see much movement in that direction. Soooo … in the meantime, “that kind” will proliferate.

  20. “Azurdia implemented signed church membership contracts modeled after Mark Dever’s 9Marx plan.“

    Yet Art (and possibly friends of Art) ours are free to just move on when they choose and/or explain it away when it happens? Might that be a takeaway?

    How many times are we’re likely to see invitations by “leaders“ for people to take on the form of winsomely sheared and shackled sheep with direct and/or implied obligations and restrictions aplenty (including $$$$$$$$ provision), while all the “leaders“ appear to have to do is to imply that they were inspired to do something and then feel free move along their merry way — often with a significant portion of enrichment provided by said shackled and sheared sheep?

  21. Great post! I am no body language expert, just as a hobby, the hands say stay back, stay away and the pulpit became a place to hide behind. This wolf in sheep’s clothing showed what was going on his life. I would run from that church after reading their covenant…Miss you TW…

  22. Todd Wilhelm: I agree. He’s like that in every video I watched of him. I would be interested in hearing what a professional body language interpreter would have to say about him.

    Eewwww! I’m just glad he stayed behind the podium so he could only be seen from the waist up. I don’t even want to know what the rest of his body was doing!
    Somebody, please pray that I can get the image of this ‘man of God’ doing some kind of twisted pagan dance out of my mind!
    His verbal delivery is strange, too. He’s creepy; really creepy.

    I’m not a body language interpreter, but …… uhm….. is this how they do a show when the smoke machines and the colored spotlights are broken?

    A world-class preacher, huh??? Yeah, I’d get more of a world-class blessing visiting the Nashville Grassmere zoo, or the aquarium in Gatlinburg. At least there It’s obvious which critters are the snakes and the sharks!
    Ick.

  23. Samuel Conner:
    I suspect that churches would in many cases be better served to cultivate in-house talent in terms of teaching from the Scriptures, and to rely less on outsiders whose character may be impossible to discern and which will only become manifest after they are granted a difficult- or disruptive-to-unwind authority status.

    Even this isn’t foolproof, unfortunately.

    Our last church promoted an associate pastor (who’d been there 20ish years) to senior pastor when the former senior pastor retired. Three months later, “covenant” membership and “true” gospel were being introduced (as though what had been preached at the church for the last 50 years wasn’t “true”). When questioned (by more than one person on more than one issue), he became dismissive and defensive. He turned out to be immature and insecure (a man in his 40s).

    My guess is the elders and hiring committee were projecting their own maturity into him and allowing their familiarity to overlook obvious red flags.

  24. Wild Honey: Our last church promoted an associate pastor (who’d been there 20ish years) to senior pastor when the former senior pastor retired. Three months later, “covenant” membership and “true” gospel were being introduced (as though what had been preached at the church for the last 50 years wasn’t “true”). When questioned (by more than one person on more than one issue), he became dismissive and defensive. He turned out to be immature and insecure (a man in his 40s).

    “Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty”, 2012, authors Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson point this out:

    One can NEVER predict how someone will wield their power once in the top position, UNTIL they assume the TOP position. Even if they have previously been 2nd in command. Absolute power can absolutely corrupt the soul of a leader.

    Acemoglu and Robinson trace this through history. Fact of behavior, as repeatedly evidenced. That top position reveals the moral fiber of a leader.

  25. The intrusiveness of the ‘membership contract’ form of ‘church discipline’ seems, by its very nature, inappropriate from the get-go. No wonder there is abuse that thrives in such an environment of control and power. The opportunities for pressuring, intimidating, and abusing church members seems to be almost obvious in the way people are asked to ‘sign’ and to be ‘open to church discipline’ (whatever that means);
    so I wonder that folks don’t hesitate to get involved in something so obviously seedy. My opinion. It’s just that the ‘membership contract’ structure has got huge ‘red flags’ printed all over it.

  26. Sigh…. World class preacher??? What the “blank” is that suppose to mean?
    He from the video, he hits me as a “odd entertainer”…
    i get that it is hard to listen to a monotone, but are we now suppose to value “hand gestures”…
    Then, there is all the other “stuff” about him..
    Double sigh…

  27. Max,

    You should add “weird hand gestures” to your list which includes “gift to gab”!
    My faith has nothing to do with “World class preachers”… if this clown is what they call “world class”… I am more and more thinking liturgical churches, with short homilies is the way to go..

  28. Jeffrey Chalmers: You should add “weird hand gestures” to your list which includes “gift to gab”!

    That is covered in the “bag of gimmicks.”

    With a working knowledge of the Bible + touch of charisma + gift of gab + bag of gimmicks … you, too, could be a mega-church pastor, Jeffrey!

    Jeffrey Chalmers: My faith has nothing to do with “World class preachers”… this clown is what they call “world class”

    The world measures its preachers by a different standard than the Kingdom of God. Few of the “world class preachers” I know fit the Kingdom model.

  29. Ava Aaronson: They raise their voice, they dart their hands, they jump around, drama-kings. Yet they are addressing adults who WANT to be there.

    They play to people who have no joy in their lives.
    People who cannot enjoy for its own sake, the play of sunlight and shadow under a tree, birdsong, the laughter of kids, and just being glad to be alive.

  30. George: Are people like this so sick and deceived that they really think the story will not come out?

    Yes. They have managed to get this far.

    As long as good people keep listening to their words, they will never ever stop.

  31. Jeffrey Chalmers,

    The reform of England began just like that, short homilies, lots of Scripture, then came the Puritan and their claim to be the voice of God and long preaching. See “The story of the Matthew Bible part 2 The Scriptures then and now” by Ruth Magnusson Davis. The Geneva Bible changed the word of God. Worth reading this research by Ruth. We can read on her blog at Baruch publishing the letter the Puritan sent to queen Elisabeth 1. It is revealing of their thirst of power.

  32. Jeffrey Chalmers: “World class preachers”

    There were “world-class preachers” in Paul’s day — he called them “hyper-apostles” — and it appears that they made good bank taking advantage of the local congregations that Paul had founded.

    By contrast, while Paul’s letters were weighty, in the opinion of the church at Corinth, in person his speaking amounted to very little. Paul’s “hook” at Corinth, per his own writing, was demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit.

    Paul writes (1 Cor 2) of his coming to Corinth in weakness, fear and trembling. In contrast, today’s hyperapostles seek positions of power, financial security and comfort.

    Perhaps “powerful preaching” is not all that it is cracked up to be.

    ——

    Listening to the 2nd AA clip again, the thought occurs that preaching ministry also should not be approached as an experiment in self-indulgence.

  33. Muff Potter: They play to people who have no joy in their lives.
    People who cannot enjoy for its own sake, the play of sunlight and shadow under a tree, birdsong, the laughter of kids, and just being glad to be alive.

    When your whole life is ruled by the idea that God really hates you and still hates you even though he saved you but maybe he really didn’t save you and will throw you into fire to be tortured for eternity, life can’t be too happy.

    I really don’t understand why this movement has so much traction…

  34. Samuel Conner: Paul’s “hook” at Corinth, per his own writing, was demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit.

    IMO, the proclamation of the Gospel was always intended to be accompanied by a demonstration of spiritual power. Peter was able to say “I don’t have silver or gold, but what I have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” Today’s church has silver and gold but can’t say “Get up and walk!”

    Over the last 2,000 years of Christian evolution, the organized church has allowed religious expression to supplant God’s presence. We’ve become so accustomed to doing church without God, we wouldn’t recognize nor accept the real thing if/when it showed up. Theologians will tell you spiritual power left the church when the Apostles died. I figure it left when church folks decided to live in a state far below the spiritual resources available to them … the spiritual equivalent to “Give us a king!”

  35. ishy: I really don’t understand why this movement has so much traction…

    A hypothesis that has long seemed plausible to me is that there is a kind of “Pascal’s wager” dynamic at work — that the consequences of guessing wrong on the matter of ‘individual eschatology’ are potentially enormous and so the only safe guess is to guess, and then believe with all one’s heart, the most terrifying of the available alternatives. When one weights the options in terms of “bad consequences if one chooses wrong”, there is no amount of contrary evidence (for example from biblical exegesis) that one will find persuasive, because there will always remain a particle of doubt that the worst option is the true one. One is likely to remain convinced of infernalism until contrary post-mortem experience gives one reason to think otherwise. IIRC, NT Wright has written, in “The Resurrection of the Son of God,” that many people will be surprised in a happy way by the post-mortem reality.

    I think (well, I hypothesize) that this is why “infernalism” has been such an enduring tradition in the churches, in spite of not being a “top priority” concern of the OT or Paul’s letters. People are betting on the worst option just in case that might be the actual state of affairs.

    I don’t see much of a way out of this, since “fleeing from perceived peril” is a core survival strategy “under the sun.” Perhaps that’s why I am drawn by more fundamental arguments, for example the “argument from the coherence of theological language” made by David B Hart in his “God Creation and Evil: the moral meaning of creatio ex nihilo”

    https://journal.radicalorthodoxy.org/index.php/ROTPP/article/view/135

    This is not an easy read, but if one can persevere, through the polysyllabicity, to the “nut” of the argument, I think one will find it rewarding.

  36. Samuel Conner,

    I’ll add that the difficulties that the churches appear to be facing in terms of “holding on to people’s allegiance” suggest that the “Pascal wager” doesn’t work as well as it used to.

    The Evangelical “gospel” is so dependent on its preferred understanding of “the bad news, to which ‘the gospel’ is the answer”, that if the prevailing culture changes in ways that diminish popular belief in that bad news … the churches will have difficulty recruiting people. This might be part of the “every believer must marry and procreate” emphasis that has been mentioned in prior threads — the churches perceive that they are in a new regime and can maintain their numbers only through biological means, like Old Israel.

  37. christiane: The intrusiveness of the ‘membership contract’ form of ‘church discipline’ seems, by its very nature, inappropriate from the get-go.

    Many churches that use membership covenants are also Elder-Rule. The covenant is a way to “sanction” the illegitimate authority of the elders by getting the members to “sign-off” on it.

    In healthy authority structures, everyone in the structure has someone (or a group of people) who exercises independent authority over him or her. In these structures, it is a much easier and appropriate to ask subordinates to submit to the higher-ups, because the higher-ups themselves submit to their higher-ups. For example, when I was a teacher, I happily (more-or-less) complied with my principal’s requests of me because he also had to comply with the superintendent’s requests of him. If my principal had ever abused his authority (which he didn’t), I could have gone to the superintendent to complain.

    In churches which have a similar structure, nobody has to sign a covenant because this form of hierarchy is axiomatic. However, in Elder-Rule churches, the elders do not have anyone in independent authority over them – it’s exactly what CS Lewis described as the Inner Ring.

    Elders in Elder-Rule churches don’t have any legitimate claim to authority, so they have to get people to “sign-off” on their authority through the use of a covenant. The covenant is similar to a congregational vote (but one cast under undue influence) which attempts to legitimize their positions.

  38. Paul K:
    Elders in Elder-Rule churches don’t have any legitimate claim to authority, so they have to get people to “sign-off” on their authority through the use of a covenant. The covenant is similar to a congregational vote (but one cast under undue influence) which attempts to legitimize their positions.

    Great way to put it! Church leaders who control church members in this way are, in effect, exercising illegitimate authority over them. In such places, the authority of Jesus has been replaced by the authority of mere men. Individual believers are no longer priests themselves, with souls competent to hear God on their own … they must submit to a hierarchy which has enthroned itself. It’s doing church upside down and doing it without God.

  39. Samuel Conner: Perhaps “powerful preaching” is not all that it is cracked up to be

    “Many false prophets will appear and deceive many people” (Matthew 24)

  40. Frences,

    There was no “thirst for power” as you call it and I assume that the Puritan letter you refer to is, in fact, the anonymous dedicatory introduction to Queen Elizabeth in the Geneva Bible, about whose authorship and meaning Ruth Magnusson Davis spends so much time speculating (without much in the way of facts clouding her views, imo).

    “The English Bible: A Sketch of its History” by Rev George Milligan BD, 1895, is informative, factual and historically accurate and is a much more reliable source of information.

  41. Jeffrey Chalmers:
    Frences,

    Interesting….and the Puritans were not very “tolerant” when they “control” their colony..

    Like the Immortal Resurrected Righteous in Left Behind: Volume 13, They KNOW God Is On Their Side, and They Are Just Doing His Will.

  42. ishy: When your whole life is ruled by the idea that God really hates you and still hates you even though he saved you but maybe he really didn’t save you and will throw you into fire to be tortured for eternity, life can’t be too happy.

    From soomeone who’s been there:
    IT ISN’T.
    God and Christ just become The Ultimate Abusers.

  43. Ava Aaronson: Frences: It is revealing of their thirst of power.

    A deadly thirst for naked power that poisons the soul while holding hostages in the community.

    “There is no Right, there is no Wrong, there is only POWER.”
    — Lord Voldemort

    “The only goal of Power is POWER. And POWER consists of inflicting maximum suffering among the Powerless. LONG LIVE BIG BROTHER!”
    — Comrade O’Brian, Inner Party, Airstrip One, Oceania, 1984

  44. ishy: A lot is coming out after Russell Moore’s letter, including private communications between the Executive Committee. One such example makes me very ill:

    https://twitter.com/ThigpenTiffany/status/1402014053552295944

    Soooo … the Devil exposed sexual abuse in the SBC?! The Devil used sexually-abused victims to distract the SBC from evangelism?! If it weren’t for the cries of victims within it, the SBC would still be on track with the Great Commission?!

    Good Lord! These folks have lost their minds!

  45. ishy,

    IMHO, Ishy, God is exposing this stuff in the SBC and crying “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins” (Rev. 18:4).

    For those who have ears to hear … Judgement has begun at the house of the Lord called SBC.

  46. ishy: When your whole life is ruled by the idea that God really hates you and still hates you even though he saved you but maybe he really didn’t save you and will throw you into fire to be tortured for eternity, life can’t be too happy.

    I really don’t understand why this movement has so much traction…

    Because you KNOW you’ll pass the Great White Throne Litmus Test and can watch everyone who dissed YOU (real or imagined) burning in Hell for all Eternity?

    “HAVE FUN IN HELL! HAW! HAW! HAW!”

    A Cosmic-level Revenge Fantasy can get quite a lock on your being.
    Until (like the woman who became a Grumble in The Great Divorce), you become just a Cosmic Revenge Fantasy animating a meat body.

  47. Max: The Devil used sexually-abused victims to distract the SBC from evangelism?!

    The “availability heuristic” jibber-jabber would be funny if it were funny.

    This is just another variation on the old theme of discrediting victims and survivors. “She’s only saying that to bring a good man down.”

    It’s all compatible with the idea of promoting the greater good.

    “Everybody needs to ignore the sexual assaults committed by effective preachers.”

    “Nothing has been proven, so we have to scrutinize the people coming forward.”

    “Women just keep on proving that they are unreliable messengers.”

    “Only one woman has said this, and she’s ugly.”

    “Thirty women have suddenly come forward after all this time? Obviously a conspiracy.”

  48. ishy: I really don’t understand why this movement has so much traction…

    I think it’s because people want certainty, when in real life, there is none.
    They want to be told (and it doesn’t matter if the guru is Christian or non) that if they believe this, that, or this other, the bad poo-poo on life’s roulette wheel will not touch them, or if it does, that only they have the ‘answers’ that will get them through.

  49. Max: Soooo … the Devil exposed sexual abuse in the SBC?! The Devil used sexually-abused victims to distract the SBC from evangelism?!

    Plus big ego-boo for the Anointed Leaders (Priests in all but name); after all, they must be so Holy and Godly the Devil is giving them special attention! POLISH THOSE HALOES!

    When the Spanish Inquisition rolled on a Witchcraft charge, the actual charge they levied was the heresy of “Attributing too much Power to the Devil”. The above sort of halo-polishing sounds like the latest take on that heresy.

  50. Muff Potter,

    You might even back off on “certainty” and just say; people want to be told what to do…. it might seem odd, but after 30 years of teaching engineers, most student do not want to really think for themselves and learn, they just want to be told what to learn to get a “A”, B, or in some cases, just to pass. NOTICE I said MOST, we can argue about the % of students this way, and clearly there is always students that really want to LEARN… they can be a pain at times, but greatly appreciated, at least by me..
    So, I would argue many people want their spiritual lives clearly laid out for them, especially when it aligns with their political flavor…
    The real irony is that Christ taught allot in parables, that are clear, cut and dry, and many people back then did not like it..

  51. ishy,

    Geesh! They’re alk just helpless because . . . the devil!

    They can’t even acknowledge that real abuse exists perpetrated by sick men and women.

  52. Bridget: They can’t even acknowledge that real abuse exists perpetrated by sick men

    Well, some of the abusers and those covering for the abusers are their good buddies…

  53. Off Topic, but of possible interest to readers.

    Rick Warren to retire as Saddleback Church’s lead pastor
    https://www.ocregister.com/2021/06/07/megachurch-pastor-rick-warren-announces-he-will-retire-as-saddlebacks-lead-pastor/

    June 7, 2021
    Mega-church Pastor Rick Warren, who founded Saddleback Church 42 years ago, announced Sunday he will be retiring and the search launches this week for a successor to lead the church that serves a global audience of more than 40,000 people.

    Warren, 67, told his congregation on Sunday, June 6, the search is not the end, but the “beginning of the beginning.” He will serve as the lead pastor until a successor is settled in place.

  54. Azurdia came to teach at Western Seminary as a big proponent of “pastoral authority”:

    https://web.archive.org/web/20071010091508/http://www.westernseminary.edu/Faculty/PDX/downloads/Azurdia_Arturo.pdf

    [2005] “As a pastor, Azurdia has experienced many of the challenges facing pastors today. In his opinion, the three major challenges are biblical illiteracy in local churches, a devaluing of pastoral authority, and the question of how to be relevant without compromising the integrity of the Gospel. His mentoring will focus on developing a vision for ministry within his students that rightly addresses these challenges.”

  55. Nancy2(aka Kevlar): I read Augie Boto’s entire letter ……. don’t know why he went to all the trouble of typing so much when he could have just said, “Who gives a damn.”

    Prolly’ cuz’ he never learned how to rationalize denominators when they contain radicals.

  56. Oh brother. Azurdia’s pet project the Northwest ‘Spurgeon’ Fellowship got a (sort of) sound-alike rebranding: the ‘Sunergos’ Leadership Network, after he (its founder and longtime director) disgraced it.

    https://www.sunergostrainingnetwork.com/about

    “Our Story…Sunergos began over twelve years ago as The Spurgeon Fellowship. The aim was to enhance the personal character and professional competencies of pastors in order to contribute to the renewal of local congregations…an opportunity for fellowship between pastors and ministry leaders from across the Pacific Northwest.”

    “Events in 2018 allowed The Spurgeon Fellowship to pause and think about the future and ask, how might this ministry of Western Seminary contribute to seeing pastors and church leaders flourish even more. Thus, The Spurgeon Fellowship became The Sunergos Training Network”

    here’s the pre-scrubbed website: https://web.archive.org/web/20180706162802/http://www.thespurgeonfellowship.org/about.htm

    a “fraternity of ministers”, a ‘Band Of Brothers”, founded by Art Azurdia

  57. ishy: Well, some of the abusers and those covering for the abusers are their good buddies…

    Which makes the good buddies covering just as depraved as those their covering for IMO.

  58. Two things.

    1) Julie Roys did an interview with Art Azurdia’s victim last month. It’s posted on her website. If you read the comments, you will see a LOT of people who do not recognize predatory behavior and how when someone like Azurdia is in a position of authority, that obviates consent. Instead, the victim is called names and seen to be in the same position as Azurdia. Oh yeah, and the “we recognize God’s law over man’s law” when another person brought up how 14 states have made Clergy Sexual Abuse a crime, one guy popped out with:

    “the Bible trumps mans laws and it says that a Christian woman is to commit and submit to one Christian man, her husband and that a Christian man is to commit to and love one Christian woman just as Christ loved the church. The husband and the husband alone is to be her spiritual authority.”

    So much wrong there! And it confirms yet again that I am not going to ever enter a church again in my life. The cruelty in the comments…NOPE.

    2) As far as Grace City Church’s “Vector Academy” is concerned, I watched a 2 1/2 minute video that is available on YouTube, and what I came away from it was that it was 98 percent culture wars and Christian nationalism. They get two percent for mentioning “Jesus Christ” and “God” once each. “Vector Academy” caught my attention because Driscoll *was* supposed to teach there, and there’s no information about how much bringing all these people in is going to cost students at this unaccredited “Academy” in tuition.

  59. Jerome: 2018 promo video for ‘The Master’s Seminary’:

    https://twitter.com/MastersSeminary/status/994695298197827584

    “sit under the world-class training of @johnmacarthur, @DrStevenJLawson, @DerekWHThomas, and @artazurdia”

    Aces wild! For those unfamiliar with Derek Thomas, he plagarized a commentary on Acts and the publisher had to pull the book. Thomas received a slap on the wrist from his Presbyterian cronies.

    https://thouarttheman.org/2019/04/20/derek-w-h-thomas-plagiarism-the-brand-is-fundamentally-corrupt/

  60. Todd Wilhelm,

    In academia, I have seen people “fired” for serious plagiarism… opps, but I forgot, these “Christian leaders” have proclaimed these clowns as “World class”, so my secular humanists values are irrelevant..
    shaking my head and rolling my eyes..

  61. Jerome: Mark Dever had Azurdia instructing a packed auditorium of 9Marksists

    I suspect Dever is now saying “Azurdia who?” As he did for other fallen New Calvinist darlings … “Driscoll who?” … “Mahaney who?” … “MacDonald who?” … etc. These guys promote and protect bad boys as long as they can until the potato becomes too hot to handle; when their liabilities exceed their assets for the NeoCal movement, they drop them.

  62. Max: The Devil used sexually-abused victims to distract the SBC from evangelism?!

    Wait a minute … I thought he used New Calvinism to do that.

  63. Julie has an article on VP Boto saying of the SBC:

    “Our ‘record,’ taken as a whole, does not justify that sort of priority,” he continued.”

    The priority is fixing the sex abuse problems for good. Boy is he right about their record. This is taken from an email that just makes this guy look as bad of a smuck as any of them.

  64. Friend: What’s the view when I look up?

    LOL, I always have wondered about that “sit under” stuff. I thought these dudes were against the whole idea of hierarchy?

    Here am I in the ultimate hierarchical church, yet I have never, ever thought of myself as “sitting under” my pastor. That whole idea is foreign to me.

    Maybe ditching the altar and focusing all the attention on the pulpit is not such a great idea after all. I dunno. Just a thought. 😉

  65. Max: I suspect Dever is now saying “Azurdia who?” As he did for other fallen New Calvinist darlings … “Driscoll who?” … “Mahaney who?” … “MacDonald who?” … etc.

    DOUBLEPLUSUNERSONS.

  66. Jerome: Azurdia came to teach at Western Seminary as a big proponent of “pastoral authority”:

    AKA Absolute Authority and Absolute Immunity.

    “He shall rule above the law, calling on The LORD.”
    — Rudyard Kipling, “The Old Issue”, 1899

  67. Paul K,

    sounds like these ‘elders’ don’t believe in a person’s God-given private sanctuary of ‘moral conscience’ which is aided by the Holy Spirit to direct the person to avoid evil and recognize good

  68. Muslin, fka Dee Holmes: Oh yeah, and the “we recognize God’s law over man’s law” when another person brought up how 14 states have made Clergy Sexual Abuse a crime, one guy popped out with:

    “the Bible trumps mans laws and it says that a Christian woman is to commit and submit to one Christian man, her husband and that a Christian man is to commit to and love one Christian woman just as Christ loved the church. The husband and the husband alone is to be her spiritual authority.”

    To which I would have replied:

    The Bible is a great and wonderful thing, I get that, just as I get the Apostle Paul where he writes lofty letters with lofty sentiment.
    But I also think that practical reality should guide believers.
    Let’s face it, there are some husbands who are unfit to lead.
    Should Paul then still be regarded with the same gravitas as a kind of Mosaic Law Giver to the Church Universal, with no wiggle room and no exceptions?

  69. Samuel Conner: David B Hart

    When I think of this man what I think of is that Satan has many flavors in the area of the Dark Triad of Personality Disorders. He has got white-washed septic tanks in many different areas with a gift of gab and some weird theology to suit every kind of human desire. The fact that someone who has a huge problem with a certain flavor of these would quote someone of a different flavor and link to some b.s. he wrote sticks out like a sore thumb to me.

    The man has the same kind of character as Driscoll, namely rude and arrogant. He is a celebrity telling everyone what to think who is certain he is right. Does that sound familiar? Are we tripped up just because the flavor is different? Oh and if Infernalism is the ditch on the right side of the road, what could be the ditch on the left? Could it be Universalism? Most men are either way too concerned about hell or they are not concerned at all. Jesus warned about it so I think I will stick with him and consider the teachings that contradict him to be rubbish.

  70. Catholic Gate-Crasher: LOL, I always have wondered about that “sit under” stuff. I thought these dudes were against the whole idea of hierarchy?

    Oh, they are totally in love with the idea of hierarchy, but only so long as nobody is above them.

  71. Catholic Gate-Crasher: I always have wondered about that “sit under” stuff.

    I asked Aimee Byrd about that “sitting under” phrasing, and she said that in the OPC, they view the preaching as a sacrament, with the preacher operating in persona Cristi. However, it’s also subjective: the congregant decides for him or herself whether they’re “sitting under” a particular preacher/preaching on a particular day, or not, based on their view of the preacher or the message.

    It sounds a little like Donatism, actually, but you can see where that view would make it hard for a congregant to go up to the preacher and say, “Pastor, you said *this*, but I don’t think that’s right, because [Biblical citation and/or common sense].”

  72. ishy: Catholic Gate-Crasher: LOL, I always have wondered about that “sit under” stuff. I thought these dudes were against the whole idea of hierarchy?

    Oh, they are totally in love with the idea of hierarchy, but only so long as nobody is above them.

    These pastors would never tolerate being under the authority of a bishop. A hierarchy imposes accountability, and accountability is the last thing they want. True, the type of churches that have a hierarchy also fail and have abuses. It is all about what pastor so-and-so thinks or wants, and God is there just to agree with them.

  73. Jacob,

    A vivid example of this was a recent dustup between JohnnyMac and some other mega pastor guru…. I recently watched a video of this other guy, from the pulpit, talking about how is looking forward to watching JohnnyMac’s Mac’s nose being rubbed in blood of Christ on judgment day…
    It is a deeply disturbing video clip….

  74. Jeffrey Chalmers: some other mega pastor guru … looking forward to watching JohnnyMac’s nose being rubbed in blood of Christ on judgment day … a deeply disturbing video clip …

    I’ll tell you what’s disturbing to me … that there are “pastors” in American pulpits like this! I’m not a JohnnyMac fan, but this sort of stuff should never be proclaimed by church leaders. It’s amazing that such folks reach mega status, but that’s the condition of the American church.

  75. Nancy2(aka Kevlar): I read Augie Boto’s entire letter ……. don’t know why he went to all the trouble of typing so much when he could have just said, “Who gives a damn.”

    “I have come to the conclusion that stepping aside in retirement from my work is the best one” (Augie Boto, July 2019)

    AMEN!! and AMEN!!

  76. Max,

    The “sickest” part of this video I am talking about is the pew peons “cheering” this preachers comment.. I thought really, from the pulpit degrading the “blood of christ on judgement day” like that?? Where is the “reverence”…. it clearly is theatrical…. and given the context, worse than ANY mockery of Christianity by Hollywood..

  77. Jeffrey Chalmers: … pew peons “cheering” this preachers comment … Where is the “reverence” … it clearly is theatrical …

    As I’ve said before, bad actors would have no stage if it weren’t for a gullible audience willing to buy tickets to their show. The Great God of Entertainment sits on the throne. It’s not about being “reverent” but being “relevant” to 21st century churchgoers … and they LOVE bad-boy preachers. Instead of laughing and cheering, we need to be weeping and agonizing over what has become of the American church in many places. Instead of sackcloth and ashes when a popular preacher confesses moral failure, we give him a standing ovation. We are living life upside down in the church.

  78. Catholic Gate-Crasher: Here am I in the ultimate hierarchical church, yet I have never, ever thought of myself as “sitting under” my pastor. That whole idea is foreign to me.

    Probably because Catholicism and by extension,Lutheranism, are not ‘Pastor Centric’.

  79. Max: and they LOVE bad-boy preachers

    I wonder the what the psychological driver is for that attraction. I’m revolted by “bad-boy” anything.

  80. Muff Potter: Catholic Gate-Crasher: Here am I in the ultimate hierarchical church, yet I have never, ever thought of myself as “sitting under” my pastor. That whole idea is foreign to me.

    Probably because Catholicism and by extension,Lutheranism, are not ‘Pastor Centric’.

    Growing up Lutheran, I don’t remember hearing about one being under the authority of the pastor. And yet the office of pastor was seen as a high calling but not a celebrity or personality cult thing.

  81. Jeffrey Chalmers: You might even back off on “certainty” and just say; people want to be told what to do…. it might seem odd, but after 30 years of teaching engineers, most student do not want to really think for themselves and learn, they just want to be told what to learn to get a “A”, B, or in some cases, just to pass.

    Yes. This has been my observation of a lot (not all, but many) women within the more patriarchal complementarian circles, too.

  82. Muslin, fka Dee Holmes: The cruelty in the comments…NOPE.

    It’s ironic. Julie Roys used to allow pseudonyms for comments on her blog. Now full first and last names are required, “to foster thoughtful and respectful dialogue.”

    I don’t notice that it’s helping.

  83. Jacob,

    Same here, I grew up Lutheran too.
    You (generic you) went to church, took Communion, had coffee and shot the breeze with other members.
    That was that, end of story, you went home and did the best you could with what you were given through the week.

  84. Jacob: Growing up Lutheran, I don’t remember hearing about one being under the authority of the pastor. And yet the office of pastor was seen as a high calling but not a celebrity or personality cult thing.

    That. Except I grew up Anglican (where the term “pastor” is replaced with the term “minister” and / or “priest”).

  85. Cynthia W.: I wonder the what the psychological driver is for that attraction. I’m revolted by “bad-boy” anything.

    The psychological driver is called spiritual sickness. There’s a segment of the church that likes bad-boy preachers who behave no differently than them. That way, they feel more comfortable keeping one foot in the world and the other in church, without hearing exhortations to holy living. Some preachers go overboard with being culturally-relevant to the point of living like hell themselves. The Church of the Living God used to be counter-culture to the world … now it is a sub-culture of the world. The Devil is very comfortable attending such places and being active in ministry. We read about his fruit in the church all the time on TWW.

  86. Muff Potter,

    Almost forgot my point.
    Back then Church (in Lutheranism anyway) was never intended to serve as a be all and an end all.
    It was just something you did.

  87. Max: The psychological driver is called spiritual sickness.

    In the “Iron Age” of Superhero comics, this was called “DAAAARK AND EEEEEEDGY”. Which turned into a “Can You Top This?” One-Upmanship game over who could be DAARKER and EDDDGIER.

    In fandoms, the technical term for that style/approach is “GrimDark” and/or “CrapSack”.

  88. Is it just me or does he absolutely make no sense when he was preaching? The hand gestures were strange, and he is supposed to be a great expositor of Scripture?

  89. Muff Potter: Back then Church (in Lutheranism anyway) was never intended to serve as a be all and an end all.
    It was just something you did.

    Jesus is the be all. Church is networking with others on the same path, of Jesus as the be all – others who stay in their lane. If Jesus is not the be all, it’s not church.