(Updated ) Willow Creek: It’s Not Over Till It’s Over and It Ain’t Over

The Cartwheel Galaxy as pictured by the Webb telescope. NASA/Webb

“True, it’s not over till it’s over. And even when it’s over, it just begins again.” ― Kate McGahan


Vacation Note: Dee is going on vacation, exploring the west coast of Florida. It’s so nice to have a local family who can live in our house and care for the pugs. Posts should continue as usual.


Some things never die, especially when ginormous, awesomely cool, mega-church pastor Bill Hybels had to hit the pavement due to his unfortunate penchant for molesting women. Did you think things would die down while Willow Creek proceeds humbly into that dark night? Of course you didn’t. You read TWW and are instantly suspicious of the razzamatazz in today’s post-evangelical wilderness.

Rob Speight started a blog called, appropriately, Rob Speight’s Blog and began with a bang by posting Why Bloggers Continue To Write About Willow Creek.

Even better, one of the many pastors at Willow Creek decided to respond in the comment section. Dee would like to offer a piece of free advice to pastors. Don’t do it if you ever get it into your head to snottily respond to a negative post! Such responses only benefit bloggers, making them seem all prophetic and such.

Stop with the negative comments!

Rob was aware of an uptick in negative comments about Willow. So, Rob got an appointment with Dan Dummit, which was canceled. Then Dummit proceeded in the usual way.

Then on July 24, Dummitt again referred to people making negative comments during his sermon. “… why don’t we get rid of gossip and turn it into a good word. If you wanna talk about people, turn your gossip into a good word. … Let’s replace destructive criticism with constructive criticism or coaching … Some septic ways that we use our words – complaining … Let’s replace our complaining, our grumbling, with gratitude … “

His message, again, seemed clear: Complaining bad; gratitude good. But apparently, we hadn’t fully understood Dummitt’s point. It was really this: Don’t talk about issues in public – and don’t talk about them in private, either.

…We think it’s because he knows we’re not looking to “come against people.” We are looking to hold leaders ACCOUNTABLE.

What do you do when a leader refuses to meet personally to discuss legitimate concerns? Just have an attitude of gratitude? How phony is that?!

And my favorite line of the post!!!

When leaders refuse to be held accountable, bloggers blog.

Rob discusses what he would have asked if Dummit had met with him.

What about your fancy vacation home purchase when you laid off at @100 people?

Dave, how do you justify purchasing a vacation home for $1,060,000 in the midst of your plans to terminate 30% (approximately 100) of your staff?

Dummitt closed on his vacation home on April 8, 2022 while he was deciding which staff he would terminate the following month. To make matters worse, his family advertised the purchase of the vacation home as God’s blessing in May on Facebook within days of 100 staff having to find new jobs. How tone deaf can a leader be?

In Dummitt’s 2.5 years as pastor of Willow Creek Community Church he has overseen 2 mass layoffs and he purchased a million dollar second home to accompany his principal residence valued at $1,000,000.  Not a good look.

Why didn’t you thank Matt Lungren publicly?

Why didn’t you thank Matt Lundgren for his 25 years of service to Willow Creek at Matt’s last worship service on May 22?

It was truly bizarre. Everyone in that auditorium expressed their gratitude to Matt during that service … except for one person: Dave Dummitt. Why wouldn’t he thank Matt? Was it just an “ooops, I forgot?”

…In fact, Dave Dummitt didn’t even stand with Matt when other leaders surrounded him and prayed for him and his family regarding their uncertain future.  At that “tender moment” (to use a favorite Willow phrase), Dummitt was nowhere to be found.  More than a few onlookers noticed his blatant snub

Willow’s dire financial situation does not appear so “dire,” does it?

If you go to the post, you will see the “Consolidated Statement of Financial Position.” It looks like Willow has enough money to “begin again.” However, there are other factors that we may not know about.

Rumors have swirled for years regarding the church’s financial reserves. Was it $12M? $18M? The latest rumor pinned it even higher, at $30M. Although Willow leadership has been reluctant to say publicly what that number is, they are required to reveal their finances to those that request their end of year financial statements.

I recently came across the church’s 2021 consolidated financial statement prepared by Batts, Morrison, Wales & Lee, Certified Public Accountants. (See a screenshot of this statement at the end of this post.)  It gives definitive insight to the question regarding financial reserves.  The statement points to $35M+ of reserves against a mortgage note(s) of $21M.  So any claim by Willow leadership that their finances are dire is simply not true.  They have a safety net, the likes of which would be the envy of 99.9% of churches in America.

To be fair, Willow’s finances are not all rosy. The trajectory of Willow’s donation income is not headed in the right direction,

Kurt Donnan says all is well, and Chicagoland needs Jesus more than ever, proving that theological memes are still in play.

Kurt, brother, this was a poor response, totally lacking in love. You are a pastor, after all. You represent your church as a long-time member and IT person.
I highlighted a few things that jumped out at me.

  • I haven’t seen you around, so you ain’t worth it.
  • Pastor Dummit has had other jobs from which he benefitted.
  • The staff has not received COLA.
  • Matt didn’t deserve to have a sendoff from Dave. Heck, Kurt has only met Dave in the flesh once. Ouch! You pastors are a close bunch, aren’t you…
  • Every staff member I know is being asked to do more and rely on God more. Love God. Love People. Change the world. Chicagoland needs Jesus more than ever!

This last thing irritates me the most. Chicagoland continues to need Jesus as much as it always has. Chicago is no different than 1st century Rome with more needs. Humans have not changed. If this keeps up, Willow Creek will not change the world except to make folks more suspicious of churches. Jesus changed the world. Willow needs to incorporate some humility. I really don’t know what sort of theology is being taught in those Zoom meetings.

Kurt Donnan
August 2, 2022 at 7:12 pm
You say: “We are looking to hold leaders ACCOUNTABLE”. Is Dave your leader? It does not seem so. Have you participated in any Willow event post-pandemic? Other than watching the YouTube stream how have you been a participating member? Are you even part of the dollar club? What is your commitment to the future of Willow? I feel that your concern disingenuous.

I’m currently on staff. I have been so for 25+ years. I don’t care that Dave has a summer house. He has had other jobs than pastor and benefited from those. What he does with his own money for his family is his own business. The staff hasn’t received so much as a COLA adjustment since 2018 (not complaining, just the facts). In the latest staff reductions we lost three in our department. We were all sad that season had ended. All found new jobs. And Bonus, they still attend Willow! (looking forward to the follow-up lunch). Do you want their names so that TRR can call them out to return their severance package?

As to Matt…Why do you require the “rock star” pastor to say something, seems like your putting him on a pedestal. I was more disappointed that it wasn’t broadcast to the other sites. When I go, I’ll be happy with a small tray of cookies. Full disclosure: I’ve only met Dave once briefly in the parking lot his first month and another time I asked him a question on a zoom meet-and-greet. This does not bother me.

As to your explanation of Willow finances…I had to laugh. You think you can sum it all up in a paragraph and two images. There is a whole department that manages Willow’s finances along with numerous volunteers. I’m feel insulted for them. Maybe you should have had a meeting with the head of finance (was that bridge burned in a previous blog post)?.

Dave took on a staff and congregation that had been traumatized by the events of 2018+. What timeline were you expecting for healing? I give Dave credit for implementing a regular weekly staff chapel. A time for the staff to worship and pray. That never existed in the “he-who-must-not-be-named” era.

As to the whole 2018 events. I am saddened and sorry to those that were hurt. Even though my apology is a pittance compared to the one that should be given by those who are no longer in leadership/attend Willow. I will never say their apology for them.

Every staff member I know is being asked to do more and rely on God more. Love God. Love People. Change the world. Chicagoland needs Jesus more than ever! Nothing about your blog appears to reflect that. In fact it gives me more of a “christians-who-shoot-their-wounded” vibe.

Sorry-not-sorry we don’t measure up to your expectations.

Matthew 13:24-30.

The Parable of the Weeds
24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
—————————————-
>>>Although I am an employee of Willow Creek Community Church, these opinions are my own and may or may not be representative of others. This was not reviewed by any Willow management or communications prior to posting.<<<

Some questions from the comments.

Rob is happy to meet with Kurt and wants to hear about the destruction of Hybels’ cell phones.

I would like part of our discussion to be your involvement with the destruction of 2 of Bill Hybels’ cell phones. What were you thinking when Bill asked you to destroy his iPhone and Blackberry circa 2016 when Hybels was being investigated by the WCA Board and the WCCC elders. Were you not suspicious why he asked you to do that? Did you share that you destroyed his phones with the Independent Advisory Council investigation back in 2019? What was their response / reaction? If you did not tell the IAC what you did, why didn’t you? I hope to hear from you soon, Kurt.

Benjamin Ady wants to know about the disappearance of hundreds of emails.

’d be curious to know what role, if any, Willow Creek’s network engineer/IT infrastructure manager for the past 25 years, Kurt Donnan, played in the disappearance of hundreds of emails containing evidence of sexual malfeasance by unrepentant sexual predator founder and 42-year-leader– never yet de-ordained by Willow Creek–Bill Hybels. I’d be curious to know what Kurt Donnan knew or didn’t know about the highly dubious “security” policy unrepentant sexual predator founder Bill Hybels implemented whereby his emails instantaneously disappeared forever, along with any evidence they contained of his decades of cruel sexual assault and sexual harassment. I’d be curious to know, in light of these questions, whether Kurt Donnan, infrastructure/IT manager/network engineer has ever privately or publicly apologised to Hybels’ victims for the role he played in their horrific public shaming and betrayal in March 2018–a betrayal never yet repaired or corrected by Willow Creek leadership–a betrayal during which private emails were used to viciously publicly attack these victims.

Well, that about sums it up. It sure sounds like there needs to be a bit more transparency on the part of Willow-Dummit and Kurt included.

Bloggers sure need to be blogging, don’t they?


Comments

(Updated ) Willow Creek: It’s Not Over Till It’s Over and It Ain’t Over — 77 Comments

  1. “When leaders refuse to be held accountable, bloggers blog.”

    What a great line.

    Lack of accountability results in people feeling voiceless and powerless. They’re going to take those feelings to a place where their voices are heard and their power is felt. That place is the internet.

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  2. Send Me Another Legal Letter Willow: Willow Creek is reminding me more and more of Enron.

    Apt comparison. “The Smartest Guys in the Room” doc film spotlights interesting Enron characters:

    4 Enron smart guys:
    1. Ken Lay or Kenny-boy, founder, nicknamed by Bush
    2. Jeff Skilling, CEO
    3. Andrew Fastow, CFO, architect of offbook partnerships
    4. Lou Pai, CEO of Enron Energy Services retail unit, left Enron six months before collapse, pocketing over $265 million. (What did he know? slipping out the door.) With his fortune and off the radar, Pai left his wife to marry an ex-topless dancer and bought a ranch in Colorado.

    So, the Willow Creek guys? Major players?

    The Enron guys seem to have preferences for deception, money and ladies, as well as a grand corporate entity.

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  3. Ava Aaronson,

    I think that the fat lady is gonna’ sing pretty soon, and when she does, there just might be an investigation into Willow Creek’s financial picture.
    This might be the time that one of these guys goes down for racketeering, and that some enterprising prosecutor can make the RICO laws apply and stick (in a landmark case).
    An additional good that can come out of it, is that the law can be changed so that ‘churches’ can no longer exempt themselves from filing IRS form 990.

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  4. Muff Potter: I think that the fat lady is gonna’ sing pretty soon, …

    An additional good that can come out of it, is that the law can be changed so that ‘churches’ can no longer exempt themselves from filing IRS form 990.

    Hybels doesn’t like fat ladies…his “A-type”, his term, is slim and trim, etc.

    Re: taxes, transparency and religious orgs, many seem to be calling for changes, those not on the dole.

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  5. Cynthia W.:
    “… [Dave Dummit’s] family advertised the purchase of the vacation home as God’s blessing in May on Facebook …”

    That’s so weird, yet so typical.

    and so unlike Our Lord’s example:

    “57 As they were walking along the road, someone said to Jesus,
    “I will follow You wherever You go.”

    58 Jesus replied,
    “ Foxes have dens and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man
    has no place to lay His head.”

    (from the Holy Gospel of St. Luke, chapter 9)

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  6. Cynthia W.,

    yup… even if this “lead pastor” had $$$ from other sources, it is just “bad optics” to talk/fluant “G$d’s blessings” like that… espcially while laying off worker bees….

    but then, just hit pew peons over the head with “gossip 2by4” if they grumble…
    glad my hard earned $$$ not contributing at Willow Creek…..

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  7. christiane: Jesus replied,
    “ Foxes have dens and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man
    has no place to lay His head.”

    He also said, “Beware! Keep yourselves from covetousness, for a man’s life doesn’t consist of the abundance of the things which he possesses.” (Lk 12:15)

    (“Gah, people! Get over your *&*8 STUFF already!”

    I suppose having a vacation house isn’t, of itself, “covetous” or “greedy,” but proclaiming it to the public as “God’s blessing” seems like it could have no point other than a desire to inspire envy, which would be throwing stumbling blocks before people’s consciences, in a way.

    I guess I don’t understand this religious subculture.

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  8. Cynthia W.:
    “… [Dave Dummit’s] family advertised the purchase of the vacation home as God’s blessing in May on Facebook …”

    That’s so weird, yet so typical.

    Just like Televangelists’ Private Jets (Creflo Dollar even has TWO!) “See How God Blesses His Faithful?” Net Tithe collections of Blessing Seed Money and all.

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  9. Cynthia W.: It’s funny that so many people still believe a private jet or several fancy houses or expensive clothes would make them happier than they are.

    A sermon illustration from way back was attributed to either John D Rockefeller or Henry Ford:
    “How much money is enough? Always just a little bit more than you have.”

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  10. Cynthia W.: In the specific circumstances, double-plus weird: almost seems to be intentionally giving the ex-employees a poke in the eye.

    What do you mean, “almost”?
    The Righteous are never happy unless they can count coup on their Inferiors.

    Just like a Biblically Manly Pastor showing off his Smokin’ HAWT Trophy Wife from the pulpit,
    “See What I’ve Got that YOU CAN’T HAVE!”

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  11. Headless Unicorn Guy: Alpha Male

    with trophy lady (ladies) and toys (airplanes, Air Jordans, & Ferraris) … (a plane, a Porsche, & a yacht).

    Followers of the Real Jesus. Real Cool. 4 Real.
    The Jesus Update. Upscale. Upbeat.

    This would be hilarious if it weren’t true. It’s true.

    The Alpha Pastor is the deal nowadays. Alpha Preacher Boy brings in the crowds that he snakeoils, in the name of god, to fund his ladies and toys. Tragic, neither funny nor fun – unless you’re the Alpha Preacher Boy or one of his Gal-pals.

    The funders are duped. When they see what’s on the platform (the performance show) and the cool guy running the show, they oughta know that every part of that show and every shiny toy of Preacher Cool Guy is coming out of their pocketbook. They are the providers of planes, yachts, Porsches, and playgirls.

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  12. Cynthia W.,

    “… double-plus weird: almost seems to be intentionally giving the ex-employees a poke in the eye.”
    +++++++++++++++

    yeah, that’s how it came across. struck me as a “gospel brag”.

    ascribe anything to God (or slap “gospel” in front of what it’s called) and it’s suddenly a license, a clearance, special permission, a tool, a weapon, let alone God’s will.

    all the while maintaining the appearance of humble man/woman of god (or whatever trendy self-descriptor is being used on twitter these days)

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  13. Ava Aaronson: They are the providers of planes, yachts, Porsches, and playgirls.

    People that shop at Walmart but provide their pastor with the plane/Porsche/playgirl lifestyle are super-duped.

    Re: Corporate moguls with upscale lifestyles – What are they paying their workers? Do they pay their fair share of taxes for public services and the perks of operating in a free market society? When God blesses with much, there is much responsibility. Does a corporate mogul fund a greedy pastor for a ticket to Heaven? Good luck with that.

    Will there be oligarchs in Heaven? Not asking for a friend or anyone that we know.

    Hybels loved to showcase the rich and famous, in other words, the Hybels definition of success. Nothing to do with Jesus. Never understood why our local mega churches sponsored his Global Leadership Summit. We would see the marketing and wonder why in the world this was happening in churches. What was the draw, from a Jesus or biblical point of view? That ship sailed and we, as well as any of our friends and family, never hopped on.

    It’s happening right now: “What If An Event Can Change Your Life? Experience The Global Leadership Summit Aug 4 -5. Get 2 Days With 12+ World-Class Speakers & Ignite Change In Your Life. Register Today! Premier Leadership Event. August 4 -5, 2022.”

    Maybe there are other POVs here at TWW about the Global Leadership Summit.

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  14. Muff Potter,

    You wrote about what you term as the notorious bad ladies in the Bible, your preference. I think we get the point. However, I would argue that the bad girls are actually great women who do great things – but not for the approval of any guy or of anyone for that matter. They have their own convictions, motives, and what I would deem as higher purposes as they do extraordinary and courageous things.

    So I thought about this and did a post about Jael, letting Judges 4 tell the amazing story about Jael and Deborah, Barak, Sisera – all the characters of a truth-is-stranger-than fiction drama. https://wildmustangmall.com/blog/f/icing-a-mans-approval

    Thanks for your ideas, Muff.

    (And thanks to Hybels of Willow Creek for making known his degrading ideas about women so we can put Warning signs out there about his type of guy.)

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  15. Jeffrey Chalmers:
    Todd Wilhelm,

    Ah… the “sea shell” message!

    Nice to hear such a judgemental screed against someone he knows nothing about. How does Piper know what their life was about?

    What if God was calling them to do that? What if God planned to direct them across the path of someone who might otherwise never have heard the gospel?

    Maybe they were just like so many other people – lost without Jesus. Is collecting seashells so horrible an end? Better than drugs.

    The biggest problem with Christianity is Christians judging individuals and entire groups of people whom they have no business judging.

    Perhaps Piper should try judging the church rather than any group outside of the church. Maybe start with all the bad boy church guys he is closely associated with.

    What a hypocrite.

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  16. Afterburne,

    Are puzzles OK? His son owns a company that produces puzzles.

    How about attending NFL football games? Hear tell Piper took a private plane with a son or sons across country to a Packers game. Whether or not it’s true doesn’t matter cuz there is nothing wrong with it. As guests of a donor, so a gift. (Tax deductible for donor? so there’s that.) But not from church coffers.

    Pastors on the dole in coffeeshops? Pricey coffee? Is that OK or do we look away?

    Judging people’s pastimes, is that the job of a pastor or spiritual leader?

    Overreach.

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  17. Afterburne: How does Piper know what their life was about?

    Even more, for being such a strict divine determinist, he should have believed the shell hunters could not have freely chosen to do otherwise. Why complain about what God is actively bringing about?

    Here is a quote from Piper from his website:

    Here the Greek word for “works” is energeø, which indicates that God not merely carries all of the universe’s objects and events to their appointed ends but that he actually brings about all things in accordance with his will. In other words, it isn’t just that God manages to turn the evil aspects of our world to good for those who love him; it is rather that he himself brings about these evil aspects for his glory (see Exodus 9:13-16; John 9:3) and his people’s good (see Hebrews 12:3-11; James 1:2-4).

    This includes — as incredible and as unacceptable as it may currently seem — God’s having even brought about the Nazis’ brutality at Birkenau and Auschwitz as well as the terrible killings of Dennis Rader and even the sexual abuse of a young child: “The LORD has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil” (Proverbs 16:4, NASB). “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other” (Ecclesiastes 7:14, NIV).

    Those evil and wicked shell hunters could not have done otherwise…

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  18. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    So basically he is making God out to be the author of sin.

    The phrase from the 70’s was apparently all wrong. The Devil didn’t make me do it. God made me do it! What blasphemy these knuckleheads have fallen into!

    Too bad he doesn’t make this prominently visible on all of his online properties, all other other publications, seminars, conferences, etc so that folks know where he is really coming from and how bankrupt his theology is.

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  19. christiane: Piper makes God out to be satanic…..

    Unfortunately, it’s not just Piper. Quotes like this are abundant among his theological tribe. When one’s theology makes Satan pretty much irrelevant other than as a means to an end, one should reexamine their theology. In their theology, God meticulously sets up all the dominoes. But when they all fall, God is not at fault because he only pushed the first domino.

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  20. Ken F (aka Tweed): In their theology, God meticulously sets up all the dominoes.

    When I was a young kid, our pastor preached a sermon about a local woman, whose husband and child died within weeks of each other. The facts of the story were awful; I won’t share. The pastor said something like, “Enough, God! This is far too much suffering for one person to endure.”

    I remember this because it challenges the easy, bland message that “God is in charge,” and the far worse idea of “God’s perfect plan.” Humans do have agency, as well as responsibility. Yet some Christians, like Pontius Pilate, just want to wash their hands of everything.

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  21. Friend: When I was a young kid, our pastor preached a sermon about a local woman, whose husband and child died within weeks of each other. The facts of the story were awful; I won’t share. The pastor said something like, “Enough, God! This is far too much suffering for one person to endure.”

    I remember this because it challenges the easy, bland message that “God is in charge,” and the far worse idea of “God’s perfect plan.” Humans do have agency, as well as responsibility. Yet some Christians, like Pontius Pilate, just want to wash their hands of everything.

    Brings to mind something that happened recently, as a woman we know well had her mother-in-law — with whom she was very close and for whom she would become a primary caregiver — die. Just a few hours after the mother-in-law had been buried, the woman was apparently informed that her daughter who had school-aged children reportedly died unexpectedly through an accident.

    We saw the woman the day after this, and her reaction as she chose to share seemed remarkable. She didn’t seem to be questioning God (she is a professed Christian) or putting the focus on the multiple tragic circumstances. The full details of the accident weren’t known, and while she acknowledged that some things like this can happen, she did express her thoughts concerning processing all of it that everyone has the time that God is going to take them.

    It didn’t seem to me to be born of a “we’re walking corpses and nothing can be done“ theological viewpoint rather than things happened the way they did. From that and the rest of what she shared, her outlook certainly seemed to be better than her either of going into accusatory mode or to checking out.

    This also brings to mind her daughter’s funeral, as I recall some of those brought in to speak — I don’t recall who went by pastor, minister, or what — who knew they were conducting this funeral before people of many different backgrounds actually using much of the time usually reserved for remembering the deceased and celebrating her life instead for discussing the speaker’s ministry, the urge to turn this into a preaching moment, and so forth.

    One of the things that I recall as a focus was not wanting to have a worldly focus extending to the danger of the vanity of women, their clothes and “dancing“ — as I seem to recall the speaker imitating them and eliciting laughs. (Of course, this was while the woman’s husband and two daughters were sitting there.)

    This was followed by an call / prayer in which I recall the one speaking saying something to the effect of if you’re sitting and praying along the lines of the call rather than standing, you’re not saved.

    I recall that comment especially, as if this guy can look into people’s souls and determine their standing before God because of their posture of worship rather than the posture of the heart that only God can see? I wondered if somebody who might’ve had mobility issues was also included in that. Given the occasion, I thought it wise to content myself for the day to expressing condolences to the mother and husband of the deceased and trying to offer words and sentiments appropriate for the time.

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  22. Friend: Yet some Christians, like Pontius Pilate, just want to wash their hands of everything.

    I think they sincerely want to find a way to explain how God can allow evil and still be all the omnis described by classical theology. It’s the question Job asked, but Job never got an answer. Trying to explain away mystery often makes the problem much worse, as in this case. They have immersed themselves into their diabolical doublespeak for so long they cannot recognize how sick it is. They really think they are doing us a favor.

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  23. “Willow Creek: It’s Not Over Till It’s Over and It Ain’t Over”

    It’s definitely not over for one of the CSA survivors, Anne Lindberg. Her story: https://julieroys.com/podcast/sex-abuse-victim-of-willow-creek-co-founder-speaks/

    Today on twitter she writes of what is happening even now, what she lives with day-to-day, the never-ending “gift” of Willow Creek failed leadership. It’s a thread found at @AnnLindberg5 . Excerpts:

    “I thought I was over the GB [Willow Creek Community Church co-founder, Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian] versus WCCC stuff, until I had a delayed reaction today. As I was seeing my eye specialist & thought about all the specialists I have, & I’m blessed to have ‘some of the best in the country,’ I’m very angry that ALL of my specialists have said the diseases & disorders I’ve acquired are ALL stress-induced. The Fibromyalgia, 2010, beginnings of talks with WCCC. 2011, breast cancer. 2015, cerebellar stroke. 2016, uncontrollable coughing & then uncontrollable vomiting.

    “The worst was the start of the meetings with the head of the Elder Response team. I was watched by security, kicked out of lay ministry, put on watch, forced to go through ‘rehabilitation’ for my suspected crimes against the church, all of which was garbage. Attacked by the leaders of several ministries, all under SV’s authority. Still trying so hard to protect Willow, to be silent before anyone but the Elder Response team & not being given the choice of going higher, I began to literally choke from my silence. …

    “I let a married man tell me his life-secrets & promised to stay silent. On more than one occasion, he suddenly pushed me behind trucks or store doorways to gropingly kiss me. And I stayed silent. So, some would say that all that has followed was a consequence. My therapists have helped me to see otherwise.

    “I do wish I’d never met him. I also am forever grateful that I chose to tell my story to Steve Carter. 2018, right before the Tribune Article came out about BH [Bill Hybels], I was able to get in touch with Steve and cried through my story on the phone.

    “Steve immediately went to to a meeting of the execs, telling them there was an emergency & when he told them my story, SV and HL both said they already knew.”

    They already knew!!!

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  24. JDV: It didn’t seem to me to be born of a “we’re walking corpses and nothing can be done“ theological viewpoint rather than things happened the way they did. From that and the rest of what she shared, her outlook certainly seemed to be better than her either of going into accusatory mode or to checking out.

    Such a sad story. All of that is for the bereaved person to experience and articulate. What I don’t like is a prescription of any kind; there’s no one right way to grieve or to think of God’s role in a death. Responses to a death will change over time, too, at each person’s speed.

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  25. JDV: I recall that comment especially, as if this guy can look into people’s souls and determine their standing before God because of their posture of worship rather than the posture of the heart that only God can see?

    A lot of Christians claim that ability as a Gift of the Spirit.

    Years ago, I remember reading on some blog comment thread (don’t remember which one) about a guy who claimed that as his Gift of the Holy Spirit; he’d attend funerals to preach about the Deceased’s REAL Salvation Status. (I don’t think this went over well.)

    With some of then, I wonder whatever would God do on J-Day without Said Pastor/Prophet at His right hand to tell Him who is REALLY Saved (besides himself, of course). “ME SHEEP! HIM GOAT! HIM GOAT! HIM GOAT! HIM GOAT!…”

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  26. Ken F (aka Tweed): I think they sincerely want to find a way to explain how God can allow evil and still be all the omnis described by classical theology. It’s the question Job asked, but Job never got an answer.

    I don’t think anyone has foound an answer to that one.
    I remember that was (and is) Eagle’s main question that gave him so many problems.

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  27. Headless Unicorn Guy: I remember that was (and is) Eagle’s main question that gave him so many problems.

    It’s a problem and a mystery that will give everyone problems who tries to solve it. I think Peter has the right approach: “Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God are to entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.”

    Sometimes trust makes no logical sense. Maybe faith is trusting in God’s goodness in spite of the evidence.

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  28. Ken F (aka Tweed): they sincerely want to find a way to explain how God can allow evil and still be all the omnis described by classical theology. It’s the question Job asked, but Job never got an answer.

    I no longer think too hard about all the omnis. Humans have power and responsibility described in the Bible. Hebrew Scripture gives God credit when military victories or natural disasters help the people of Israel. Did God really win the battle or send the frogs? Or did people pray fervently, live faithfully, struggle, and thank God when they got more freedom or power?

    My own Christian faith follows that pattern. When I have been gravely ill, I have prayed and even tried to behave myself (with uneven results). As I have recovered, I have thanked God while also noting my adequate health insurance and some good doctors. The Bible asks us to promote justice and mercy—enough work for all humankind, if only we all took it more seriously instead of wondering why God isn’t preventing war, heart disease, and volcanic eruptions.

    What sustains me is not God’s awesome power in smiting my personal ailment, but God’s steady presence with me, no matter what happens.

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  29. Headless Unicorn Guy,

    Headless Unicorn Guy,

    As long as in the heart, within,
    The soul of a Jew still yearns,
    And onward, towards the ends of the east,
    An eye still gazes toward Zion;

    Our hope is not yet lost,
    The hope of two thousand years,
    To be a free nation in our land,
    The land of Zion and Jerusalem.
    – Hatikvah

    We have worshipped with Messianic Jews, another POV:

    Humankind chose the Taste-and-See option way back when.
    Humankind therefore threw all of creation off-kilter.
    God didn’t blow everyone, deservedly, to Smithereens back then.
    All creation suffers through the aftermath.

    We seek God’s mercy and deliverance, humbly and undeservedly.
    We patiently seek, wait, hope, anticipate God’s deliverance.
    Because He is merciful and full of promises – not based on our merit, at all.
    Jesus died and saved us once-and-for-all from sin, satan, death. Done.

    As Jesus’ followers we seek, undeservedly, God’s mercies for our time on Earth.
    Jesus himself suffered a terrible death for us here on Earth.
    We, followers of Jesus, deserve no better, but we seek God’s mercies here and now.
    We humbly ask. God decides. He is still God, worthy of our worship, love, awe.

    The anawim (Hebrew word) in the Bible are those who keep seeking God no matter their circumstances (suffering they personally didn’t cause). They are the closest to God. God is all they’ve got. They are the most faithful. They are the apple of God’s eye.

    My interpretation of Evangelicalism is that the anawim are considered cursed for their lowly circumstances on this earth. The Bible teaches the opposite about the anawim, the least of the least through no personal fault of their own. Creation is cursed from the Fall, but not them. They are blessed by God to keep seeking God through all. Job.

    Here is Hatikvah, instrumentally, as a Christian hymn:
    https://youtu.be/LMjSV6gubLs

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  30. Ava Aaronson,

    1 Peter is about persecution, as I understand it. That kind of suffering is difficult and perhaps even deadly. It’s imposed by humans, like bigotry or genocide.

    That’s different from suffering due to disease, conventional crime, poverty, bereavement, or natural disaster. I wouldn’t say that those reasons lead to suffering according to God’s will.

    Regardless of the source of suffering, God will be with us. The words of comfort are right there in Scripture.

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  31. Friend,

    Hatikvah is not about 1 Peter, in the NT. As noted, the comment references the long view of suffering we witnessed in a Messianic Hebrew congregation, from the Fall to Job. Old Testament. Hebrew.

    Ken & HUG were discussing: “a way to explain how God can allow evil and still be all the omnis described by classical theology. It’s the question Job asked, but Job never got an answer.” Job. OT.

    As noted, the anawim is a Hebrew word from the Old Testament which describes the “lowly” who remained faithful to God in times of difficult circumstances they in no way personally brought on themselves. These humble people became known as the anawim or the “faithful remnant.” They are held in high esteem. Hebrew, not Greek. Messianic, not Evangelical POV.

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  32. Catholic Gate-Crasher: Oh, in my experience, the Word of Faithers have this honed to a science. “Look at my new expensive toy, y’all! Hey, Facebook friends, here’s my big, fancy house that’s so much bigger and fancier than yours! Thank You, Jesus! Glory!”

    (I am being so baaaad. :D)

    Oops, I wasn’t responding to the word “Nazis,” LOL. I guess some of HUG’s comment must have gotten cut off. I was responding to the whole Holy Spirit Bragging comment. Sorry for confusion!

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  33. Ava Aaronson,

    “By repenting sins he did not commit, by justifying a sorrow he did not deserve, he communicates to us that he did not believe in his own confessions; they were nothing but decoys. Job personified man’s eternal quest for justice and truth – he doesn’t d not choose resignation. Thus he did not suffer in vain; thanks to him, we know that it is given to man to transform divine injustice into human justice and compassion.

    Once upon a time, in a faraway land, there lived a legendary man, a just and generous man who, in his solitude and despair, found the courage to stand up to God. And to force Hm to look at His creation. And to speak to those men who sometimes succeed, in spite of Him and of themselves, in achieving triumphs offer Him, triumphs that are grave and disquieting.
    What remains of Job? A fable? A shadow? Not even the shadow of a shadow. An example, perhaps” (Elie Wiesel, Messengers of God: Job: Our Contemporary).

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  34. Ava Aaronson,

    From what I have seen, Messianic Jews tend to consider their beliefs truer than Judaism and other Christian traditions. Sometimes they proselytize among actual Jews—problematic. They also tend to be steeped in end-times beliefs.

    YMMV, I am not talking about your experience, but making my own observations. I am also not trying to argue, merely noting problems I have personally witnessed and heard about from Jewish friends.

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