My Visit to The (it takes a) Village Church

9/11/2022
The Wartburg Watch, sparring no expense to bring you, our readers, the latest news and insights sent me on assignment to Flower Mound, Texas in an attempt to discover how Matt Chandler and The Village Church are coping with their latest scandal.

Enjoying a short, two-week sabbatical in lovely Oklahoma City I decided to make a short, 2 1/2 hour road trip south to the Big D (and I do mean Dallas!)

Before I update you on my time at The Village Church let me put in a short plug for a beautiful area in Oklahoma – Turner Falls Park south to the Texas border. I35 winds through an area of heavily wooded deciduous trees that ascend to a high rocky ridge-line.  There are many giant fans along the ridge-line producing electricity. Once on top you have a nice view of the surrounding area. I bet the Chickasaw Retreat & Conference Center on the right side of the photo below is a beautiful place.  Maybe I will book a stay there on my next sabbatical!

Back to the task at hand – The Village Church holds two services on Sunday morning – one at 9:00 and one at 11:00.  I decided to attend the earlier service as I figured it would be less crowded. I pulled into the parking lot around 8:30 and was surprised to see volunteers already stationed around the strip-mall parking lot, directing TVC attenders where to park.  It was reminiscent of parking at Disneyland, minus the $25 fee. Many cars were already parked and people were streaming towards the entrance like thirsty cattle to a watering tank. (I threw that analogy in for the benefit of Matt Chandler who owns a nice cattle ranch producing “clean” steaks from Texas cattle, except Chandler’s ranch is apparently in Oklahoma.}

Rumor has it that Chandler provides the beef to an exclusive and popular restaurant not far from TVC (The Village Church), so I imagine that keeps the Chandlers in tall cotton. (You keeping up with the agricultural references?) The name of the restaurant escapes me, so if anyone is aware of this rumor feel free to advise us in the comment section.

Once inside the large building I made my way to the stairs leading to the church offices and the balcony. At the base of the stairs was a volunteer distributing pre-packaged “communion” items containg a small wafer and a little cup with grape juice. I mindlessly took one as he held it out in front of me, but when the time arrived in the service to drink the cup and eat the bread I didn’t partake. The short amount of time carved out of the service to squeeze in the ritual of communion just didn’t do it for me, besides I was afraid  I might get struck with a bolt of lightning if I “celebrated” communion in Chandler’s church.

So I found my place in the middle of the back row of the balcony with a man on one end and a woman on the other end of the row. (It actually wasn’t a proper balcony because you could walk down the stairs to the lower level of seating.) I figured I would be out of the way during the service and wouldn’t bother anyone if I took some photos.  I was wrong. The building quickly swelled to near capacity and my row was nearly full, with the only empty seats on either side of me.

I honestly was surprised by the massive turnout and wondered if maybe the Dallas folks were all going to the early service so they could watch their Cowboys open the NFL season, but then I recalled the Cowboys were playing the Sunday evening game.  Maybe Texans are just early risers. I didn’t stick around for the second service, but I would guess it was just as crowded as the first. So it does not appear that what seems like a constant stream of scandals at TVC has impacted attendance at all.

Were I to characterize the church service I would say it was run very professionally, the music was very well done by some highly skilled musicians (it reminded me of Hillsong), the preacher was very competent, though not on par with Chandler, the sermon was kept to about 30 minutes (which seems to be about the length all the pastors hold to), and it seemed very sterile to me.

Not a soul said hello to me, which was fine by me, but seems rather unusual for a crowd of Texans. There were not a lot of older folks in attendance, though there were many middle-aged couples with 3-5 kids, I saw a few families who were racially mixed, and several were white couples who had adopted kids from different races. (I thought that was cool.) By my rough estimate there were about 30% of the people that raised their hands while singing. I don’t know if they were of Charismatic bent, or if they just do that now in Baptist churches.

At the end of the service there were two people baptized.  One was an 86 year-old woman who was baptized by her daughter. The second was a child who was baptized by his father.  I don’t know if TVC always has a relative do the baptizing, but I found it unusual. I know many believe only a pastor should do the baptizing.  (I’d love to hear Mark Dever’s thoughts on this!)

I did not see Matt Chandler, nor was he mentioned. (Perhaps he too was taking a sabbatical in OKC!)

Another thing I find weird is the announcement woman up front was pushing the idea of going on “prayer walks” around your neighborhood with a group of people. I am not sure where this originated, but I always felt it came from the Charismatic camp. Personally I would not participate because it seems like more for show than for serious prayer. I recall the words of Christ:

” And when you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they will be seen by people. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But as for you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
Matthew 6:5-6 NASB

But, I guess prayer walks have found their way into the Evangelical crowd now. Navigators, which I always thought to be a mainstream Christian group, has endorsed it, and indeed are promoting it.

Below is a song from Sundays worship service at TVC. The song went on for about 8-9 minutes. I have edited the clip to make my point, but nothing has been repeated.  Go ahead and sing along once you get the words down.

Finally, I would like to end on a positive note. Here is something I would like to see more of at churches – reading of the applicable passages of Scripture in front of the assembled church!

To summarize my visit to TVC – on the surface all seems well. If any members have decided to leave after this last “whatever it is” scandal it must only be a very small number.  The crowds are still very large and I am sure the money continues to fill the coffers.


Comments

My Visit to The (it takes a) Village Church — 114 Comments

  1. Hi Dee, I am in favor prayer walks but mine are just me walking in my neighborhood along with my wife. No one should be able to tell what I am doing. I pray for believers that live in the homes, for nonbelievers to know the joy of our Lord, and for any struggling whether drugs, abuse or whatever. I believe that God hears my prayers and answers them in His sovereign ways. I feel that I can make a difference. A large group could attract attention, I guess it depends how you do it and as thr scriptures teach, your motive.

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  2. One other thing , did you get an opportunity to talk to anyone about what is going on or was that something you chose not to do? I am sorry that no one greeted you, that’s why I don’t attend large churches, I know about 70 percent of my fellow members, their families, their jobs and many of their struggles.
    I was thinking too, the personalities of large mega church pastors must be more like a business CEO than a servant leader ( I guess I am painting with a large brush). I just don’t hear many positive from people who have worked in mega churches.

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  3. Prayer walks appear to be a more benign offshoot of the “spiritual mapping” that was pioneered by a guy named George Otis, Jr. in the 1990s. What you were supposed to do was walk around in neighborhoods and determine where the evil forces were and then use spiritual warfare against them. Otis put out a couple of videos claiming to show how cities were transformed by these tactics, and yes, they were called “Transformations” and “Tranformations II”.

    One of these videos featured Hemet, California and was made during the time when Scientology was renting out two apartment complexes (late 1990s). Otis claimed that their “spiritual mapping” had driven all the demonic forces out of Hemet, which was completely untrue. Yeah, Scientology moved out of Hemet, but it wasn’t until the mid-’00s. And they didn’t move very far, just up to Gold Base, about seven miles north.

    Headless Unicorn Guy has a better memory about this stuff than I do, and he remembers an incident called “Operation Ice Castle” where some “prayer warriors” went up to the Mt. Everest base camp in 1997 to “intercede against the Queen of Heaven.” These people went there at the behest of C. Peter Wagner. Unfortunately there are few traces of this on the Internet, it having happened really before the Internet was a thing, but yeah, this is where “prayer walking” goes.

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  4. ChuckP:

    I am in favor prayer walks but mine are just me walking in my neighborhood . . . . .

    I haven’t walked around the neighborhood praying in a while since I have a bothersome ankle, but would engage in very similar prayers.

    No one would know what is going on, but I do believe that God uses that in some fashion.

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  5. ChuckP: One other thing , did you get an opportunity to talk to anyone about what is going on or was that something you chose not to do?

    Chuck,
    To be honest I never even thought about speaking with members. If I had it would have been tough to do, IMO. The talking would have taken place in the lobby and it was filled with people and the decibel level was loud. My hearing isn’t what it used to be and I have trouble making out anything said in a crowd.

    It would be very interesting to speak to a group of 2-3 at a time and ask them some questions, but I imagine I would have to tread lightly.

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  6. Muslin, fka Dee Holmes: Prayer walks appear to be a more benign offshoot of the “spiritual mapping”

    That’s it! Thanks for the information Dee. I thought prayer walks had a sketchy origin, but couldn’t recall the details.

    I don’t have any issue with what ChuckP and Afterburne on are doing, but organized prayer walks with a group of people seems contrary to the passage of Scripture quoted in the article.

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  7. R,

    “I was hoping maybe people’s enthusiasm for megachurches would finally begin to wane because of all the scandals, but it sounds like it’s just business as usual.”
    +++++++++++++++

    my dallas story:

    in my outsider observation, it seems Dallas is its own extra-unique culture.

    like, when i was there for a week (a long time ago), i learned buyers for clothing chain stores choose clothing for their Dallas stores that is different from what they buy for their stores in other areas. perhaps more glamour or stylized in a more heightened way.

    i’ve heard christian culture in Dallas described as a status thing, with powerful controlling connections with news media to do its bidding (squashing stories / promoting stories).

    i hated driving there. it’s like everyone has made a pact not to let anyone into their lane.

    i got lost on every freeway — it all looks the same — the exact same franchise restaurant clusters every 8 minutes or so.

    the end.

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  8. I’m concerned about your choice not to have communion. To refuse communion in a church where everyone else is doing it is tantamount to saying that you don’t believe these people are Christians.

    You can certainly disagree with the leadership of the church. But when you’re together to remember the death of Christ and his body and blood, and eat and drink the elements in a way that goes back to Jesus’ words himself, you do so regardless of whether the pastor is good or bad.

    I’m sure that, in your heart, you’re not rejecting all the members of Chandler’s church. I don’t think you’re the type of person who would do that. But refusing to have communion with them can communicate such an attitude.

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  9. Interesting to debrief here, away from the hierarchy, about what goes on in “church”.

    Imagine that most hierarchies don’t approve: the underlings sharing and ruminating.

    OTOH, some pastors (few) welcome group discussion and facilitate group discussion right there on Sunday morning.

    In the NT: the Bereans. So apparently the Heavenly hierarchy approves of, even encourages the group share, discern, discard, embrace, learn, practice. So as Asians put it: Orthopraxy.

    Orthopraxy: Asia
    The term orthopraxy means “right practice,” and stands as a contrast term for orthodoxy “right belief.”

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  10. Neil Cameron (One Salient Oversight): But refusing to have communion with them can communicate such an attitude.

    It’s not a simple matter. It also matters what you reckon the people would want; it’s possible to offend by participating as much as, or more than, by not participating. I stopped participating in communion observance (in a dying OPC congregation) when I realized that my status as a “communicant non-member” was a problem for the elders — it’s a category that didn’t exist for them and they didn’t know what to do about it. I had previously been asked to participate by a teaching elder who was functioning as pulpit supply and who was not troubled by my non-member status, but after his departure the ruling elders were uneasy due to the “not by the book [of Church Order]” character of the situation.

    Had I been present at TVC, a concern I would have had is “would these people welcome me to participate if they knew me well?” If not, it would be an expression of respect for their scruples (even if one does not agree with them) to refrain. It’s not just, “do I consider these people to be believers?” I think it’s also “would they consider me to be a believer eligible to participate in their observance?”

    In the present day, far removed from the relative simplicity of the early churches, there can exist good reasons, beyond Paul’s Corinthians “examine yourselves”, to refrain. I think that Todd’s expressed reason, that the way the thing was done was not conducive to his own worship, is a valid one. That’s not an assessment of the faith status of the people, but rather a disagreement with decisions made by the leadership.

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  11. Neil Cameron (One Salient Oversight): To refuse communion in a church where everyone else is doing it is tantamount to saying that you don’t believe these people are Christians…

    …But refusing to have communion with them can communicate such an attitude.

    I think you are wrong. In my old church, the table was so heavily fenced that someone choosing not to take communion was assumed to be one of two things: 1) someone who did not think they themselves were a Christian. 2) someone who for whatever reason, felt that their current sin situation precluded them from taking communion.

    I am severely gluten intolerant. Cross contamination at communion can mean I take a sick day on Monday. I also find my allergy very disruptive to the general service if I try to sort it out during the service. When I am visiting a new church, there is a really good chance I will abstain until I have had a chance to figure out if their practices can accommodate me. Some churches have it all written out in the bulletin and I know I can partake, but others do not. I have never had anyone take it personally. I’ve had numerous people ask why, but it has always been to determine if I needed a special accommodation, and if they could provide it. I suspect in a few instances, it has actually been to determine if I was unsaved and needed witnessing to.

    I’ve been to a variety of churches: Baptist (Missionary and Southern), Presbyterian, Lutheran, United Brethren, Non-denominational, Dutch Reformed, Methodist, Catholic etc.

    I can’t take communion in a Catholic church because they consider me non-Christian and the Pope has said that the host MUST be wheat based and that the cup must be shared (so I cannot even have the wine, unless a priest were to make and exception in more than one way).

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  12. This was very helpful! I appreciate you describing the context of this type of Christianity…how the church conducts itself from the parking lot to how the service is ordered. It gave me a better picture of the situation that the preachers preach in. And of course, the in-person journalism was very effective!

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  13. Samuel Conner:

    I think that Todd’s expressed reason, that the way the thing was done was not conducive to his own worship, is a valid one.

    My background is more “low” church as opposed to “high” which is often criticized, not without reason, of short shrifting communion.

    That said, I would potentially have some reservations if I felt communion was being “squeezed in” as Todd put it. I prefer, and scripture rather demands, that thought and reflection be part of communion.

    Why should someone feel compelled to participate if that is not provided for?

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  14. “At the base of the stairs was a volunteer distributing pre-packaged “communion” items containing a small wafer and a little cup with grape juice.
    I mindlessly took one as he held it out in front of me, but when the time arrived in the service to drink the cup and eat the bread I didn’t partake … I was afraid I might get struck with a bolt of lightning …”

    Reminds me of a communion service at an SBC-NeoCal church plant in my area. At the beginning of the new reformation, I visited such places to see why the dudebros were so popular. At the end of his stage performance to a large audience of mostly 20s-30s, the young “pastor” proclaimed “Oh yeah, pick up some crackers and grape juice on the way out. I got the cheapest stuff I could find at Walmart!” The audience roared in laughter. My wife and I grieved and did not partake of this sacrament-sacrilege.

    It is clear that the New Calvinist movement does not honor Christ as they ought. He is hardly mentioned in their “sermons” and subordinated by their theology to a position lower than the Calvinist God.

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  15. You aren’t supposed to draw attention to yourself when you do a prayer walk. I’m Charismatic so I could (quietly and unobtrusively) pray in tongues under my breath, or I could very discreetly pray in English as I walked. If you have folks with you you can pray in a fashion that looks like you are talking to each other. Thanks to the pandemic/mask wearing I was able to pray the whole time I was waiting in line to vote during the last presidential election! One reason I didn’t complain about the mask mandate!

    I was around back in the days when people did a lot of that (In the 90s.)
    Just because something is not a spiritual practice you do does not make it wrong. I do think ostentatious public prayer can be problematic but along with everything else context matters.

    Jesus was more than likely condemning the spiritual practice of those who would stand on a street corner and pray to be SEEN. Prayer closets are fantastic and I do recommend them but we are also taught to pray without ceasing so….walking your neighborhood and praying for your neighbors is not a bad thing. Again, QUIETLY without drawing attention. But if you happen to strike up a conversation with someone while walking you can pray for them if they desire too!

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  16. Afterburne: I haven’t walked around the neighborhood praying in a while since I have a bothersome ankle, but would engage in very similar prayers.

    No one would know what is going on, but I do believe that God uses that in some fashion.

    I take Rosary Walks, but they’re always around our own property. (We live deep in the woods.) It’s always just me and my dog.

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  17. Muslin, fka Dee Holmes: Prayer walks appear to be a more benign offshoot of the “spiritual mapping” that was pioneered by a guy named George Otis, Jr. in the 1990s. What you were supposed to do was walk around in neighborhoods and determine where the evil forces were and then use spiritual warfare against them.

    You mean Smelling Out the DEMONS by Divine-ation and setting/casting Wards?

    Somebody should have turned this Otis guy on to D&D; then he could play a high-level Cleric/Paladin without dragging the rest of us in to be his red shirt Mobs.

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  18. Max: Oh yeah, pick up some crackers and grape juice on the way out. I got the cheapest stuff I could find at Walmart!”

    i.e. “Let’s stick God with all the cheap sh*t and save the REAL goodies for Ourselves!”
    Just like giving the canned goods that expired last year to the food bank.

    Oh, and GRAPE JUICE – Must stay Dry!

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  19. ES: I think you are wrong. In my old church, the table was so heavily fenced that someone choosing not to take communion was assumed to be one of two things: 1) someone who did not think they themselves were a Christian. 2) someone who for whatever reason, felt that their current sin situation precluded them from taking communion.

    I am severely gluten intolerant. Cross contamination at communion can mean I take a sick day on Monday. I also find my allergy very disruptive to the general service if I try to sort it out during the service. When I am visiting a new church, there is a really good chance I will abstain until I have had a chance to figure out if their practices can accommodate me. Some churches have it all written out in the bulletin and I know I can partake, but others do not. I have never had anyone take it personally. I’ve had numerous people ask why, but it has always been to determine if I needed a special accommodation, and if they could provide it. I suspect in a few instances, it has actually been to determine if I was unsaved and needed witnessing to.

    I’ve been to a variety of churches: Baptist (Missionary and Southern), Presbyterian, Lutheran, United Brethren, Non-denominational, Dutch Reformed, Methodist, Catholic etc.

    I can’t take communion in a Catholic church because they consider me non-Christian and the Pope has said that the host MUST be wheat based and that the cup must be shared (so I cannot even have the wine, unless a priest were to make and exception in more than one way).

    Catholics do not consider you non-Christian. Really and truly. See the Vatican II Decree on Ecumenism, available online.

    We have closed Communion because most non-Catholic Christians (with the exception of Orthodox) do not believe as we do — that it is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus under the appearance of bread and wine. It is also a sign of unity. Why would you want to receive something you don’t believe in?

    Moreover, we do have accommodations for parishioners with gluten intolerance. After informing the pastor, they are allowed to receive the Cup only. The fullness of Jesus’ Real Presence is there under either species (Bread and Chalice).

    I hope this clarifies. You are definitely a Christian in Catholic eyes!

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  20. elastigirl: in my outsider observation, it seems Dallas is its own extra-unique culture.

    Remember this was the setting of that short-lived TV series GCB.
    (Bowdlerized from the original name of “Good Christian B*tches”. According to Wikipedia, they even had an episode written around the Seven Day Christian Sex Challenge.)

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  21. Friend: Is there a church that doesn’t read Scripture at every service?

    All Western Rite Liturgical Churches have at least FOUR resdings, none of which are weaponized. In order:
    * one from the OT
    * one responsorial Psalm (also from the OT)
    * one from the NT (Acts or Epistles)
    * and one from the Gospels (The Biggie)
    And the homily (short sermon) after the Gospel reading ideally has to reflect on the above, in the manner of a Jewish “Commentary on Torah”.

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  22. As far as Prayer Walks, I don’t see an issue, unless you are praying loudly, and/or trying to bring attention to yourself.

    I have done this. With my wife. We pray quietly, and to the casual passerby it probably looks like we are just talking. My purpose is not to let people know I am praying, but to actually speak to the God who hears and answers prayer, and walking the neighborhood helps to bring people to mind. Now, if you prefer to make a list of names and stay in your home, that is your preference. I don’t think that Jesus meant that we are to always literally pray in private, because then Paul would not have said what he said in 1 Cor 14:16 when he appears to be saying that people outside the body of Christ should hear us pray, or at least give thanks.

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  23. Bunny: Jesus was more than likely condemning the spiritual practice of those who would stand on a street corner and pray to be SEEN. Prayer closets are fantastic and I do recommend them but we are also taught to pray without ceasing so….walking your neighborhood and praying for your neighbors is not a bad thing. Again, QUIETLY without drawing attention. But if you happen to strike up a conversation with someone while walking you can pray for them if they desire too!

    I have no issues with what you do, Bunny.

    I do have issues with the way TVC and the Navigators appear to be doing it. It seems to line up quite well with Christ’s admonishment in Matt 6:5 of how not to pray.

    That’s my two cents.

    “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from a sincere faith.” I Tim 1:5

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  24. Max: “Oh yeah, pick up some crackers and grape juice on the way out. I got the cheapest stuff I could find at Walmart!” The audience roared in laughter. My wife and I grieved and did not partake of this sacrament-sacrilege.

    I cannot imagine, nor can I even visualize treating The King of Creation like that.
    I am stunned.

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  25. Todd Wilhelm: That’s it! Thanks for the information Dee. I thought prayer walks had a sketchy origin, but couldn’t recall the details.

    I am confident that certain new forms of prayer walking have dubious origins, especially if the purpose is to make other people’s lives difficult.

    However, I’m not going to give any recent movement credit for inventing the act of deliberately praying while walking. Pilgrimages, processions, and wayside chapels have been around a very long time.

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  26. ES: I also would have been questioning the pastor’s salvation at that point

    Most NeoCal dudebro preacher-boys I know would fall in that category. I guess I’m just an old fuddy-duddy, but I don’t see the God-honoring and Jesus-loving reverence in their gatherings that one would expect in the real Body of Christ.

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  27. TVC started heading in a more charismatic direction in 2019. They’ve always slow-walked any big changes (a wise strategy for a big organization) so the changes don’t freak the bums-in-seats. Behind the scenes they are way more charismatic than what shows in the Sunday morning service.

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  28. Max,

    I agree with all your points. I generally hesitate to attempt to say whether or not someone is actually a Christian. There are times I am sure, but most the time I am aware that they are still alive and while still alive they still have a chance to rethink their behavior. And I am pretty sure God is so merciful that there will be some surprising individuals in Heaven.

    But is their behavior “Christian”? No. And do I put a strong suspicion of not saved on such a flippant attitude towards Communion? Absolutely. I’m kind of surprised, my exposure to Neo-Calvinism and Old Calvinism is that the table is strongly fenced. I’m not sure how you can fence it with such an attitude.

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  29. Muff Potter: I cannot imagine, nor can I even visualize treating The King of Creation like that.

    This was the same YRR “Pastor” who rounded up folks to be baptized on social media by posting “Baptizing next Sunday! Sign up on Facebook!” No visits with baptismal candidates to assess their conversion, no personal phone calls to discuss their decision for Christ, no ministering to them … just a cold crude social media post before they were dunked in an inflatable swimming pool on the parking lot in a party-like atmosphere. Yep, I’ve about had it with the NeoCal movement and all its nonsense.

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  30. Nimander: TVC started heading in a more charismatic direction in 2019.

    Following the “Charismatic Calvinism” lead of Mark Driscoll, no doubt. The potty-mouth from Seattle “sees things” you know, and has been a frequent speaker at charismatic churches. Chandler idolized Driscoll and now has (or did) Driscoll’s old job as head of the Acts 29 network.

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  31. ES: while still alive they still have a chance to rethink their behavior

    Well, the NeoCal dudebros should have seriously rethought their behavior before they assumed the title of “pastor”! They have attempted to mold God into their image and it just doesn’t work that way. I don’t think they were “predestined” to be such poor representatives of Christ.

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  32. “Not a soul said hello to me, which was fine by me, but seems rather unusual for a crowd of Texans.”

    I’ve found that to be fairly common in the NeoCal churches I have visited. Those Texans could have at least slapped you on the back! I asked a NeoCal pastor once why his congregation was so unfriendly – he answered “They aren’t unfriendly, just shy.” To which I responded “All of them?!”

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  33. “… there were about 30% of the people that raised their hands while singing. I don’t know if they were of Charismatic bent, or if they just do that now in Baptist churches.”

    Traditional Southern Baptists don’t raise their hands unless they have a question! You encountered Charismatic Calvinism – the NeoCal movement is heading down that road. You may remember Apostle Mahaney (now a Southern Baptist) leaning that way.

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  34. Friend,

    Quite a lot of churches over here, including some C of E, fragment Bible passages within the “address”.

    One generally doesn’t get as much Scripture that way, as in the old fashioned 4 reading ones (3 on weekdays).

    In both kinds of churches, rushing, mumbling and inappropriate cadences are a danger.

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  35. Samuel Conner: It’s not a simple matter. It also matters what you reckon the people would want; it’s possible to offend by participating as much as, or more than, by not participating. I stopped participating in communion observance (in a dying OPC congregation) when I realized that my status as a “communicant non-member” was a problem for the elders — it’s a category that didn’t exist for them and they didn’t know what to do about it. I had previously been asked to participate by a teaching elder who was functioning as pulpit supply and who was not troubled by my non-member status, but after his departure the ruling elders were uneasy due to the “not by the book [of Church Order]” character of the situation.

    It certainly seems to be a matter calling for thought or consideration, especially given what you mentioned about the call in Scripture to examine yourself prior. It stands to reason to refrain from partaking if somebody isn’t 100% ready to do so in such a situation.

    That may be influenced by the time-sensitive element of going into a different congregation and being handed bread and drink without what the recipient feels is an adequate time to consider the matter. Plus, as mentioned, if the protocols and what the particular body holds doctrinally are not known ahead of time, that seems to be a good reason to refrain for the sake of everyone’s conscience etc., whether or not one is welcomed to participate.

    I personally feel that if somebody leaps to take offense at somebody not partaking rather than leaving it to the individual as to why they didn’t, they might want to re-read 1 Corinthians 11 as well as Romans 14.

    “Now receive the one being weak in the faith, not for passing judgment on reasonings. Indeed, one believes to eat all things; but the one being weak eats vegetables. The one eating, let him not despise the one not eating; and the one not eating, let him not judge the one eating, for God has received him. Who are you, judging another’s servant? To the own master he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to uphold him. For indeed one judges a day to be above another day, but one judges every day alike. Let each be fully assured in the own mind.” (Romans 14:1-5)

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  36. Michael in UK: In both kinds of churches, rushing, mumbling and inappropriate cadences are a danger.

    As a lifelong churchgoer, I have rarely had trouble hearing the readings. Many churches distribute a service leaflet that contains the readings, in case they are difficult to hear. A lot of churches also have Bibles in the pews, so that people can find the passages if they wish to check the context.

    Family worship time at my church (anybody is welcome—this service is highly tolerant of noise and bustle) does its utmost to include youngsters. Sometimes young children will read one or more of the lessons. I find it inspiring to listen to them; most do an outstanding job and look quite happy to be helping out.

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  37. JDV: I personally feel that if somebody leaps to take offense at somebody not partaking rather than leaving it to the individual as to why they didn’t, they might want to re-read 1 Corinthians 11 as well as Romans 14.

    And for those who administer and partake communion so flippantly, beware:

    “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 11:27-30)

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  38. FreshGrace: No mourning or lamentation over sin – or even ‘unhealth’. Seems like a very shallow sort of Christianity, imho.

    = the dudebro form of New Calvinism. Members come for free coffee & pastries in the foyer, dark theater-like sanctuary, laser lights, cool band, accomplished singers, and culturally-relevant preaching. The most important staff position at such places is the “worship pastor” … he coordinates the stage performance to attract the crowd and hands them to the cool pastor. In all the noise, the precious message of Jesus gets lost.

    I’ve been to some of their churches that look exactly like this:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-egY6t9BMGI

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  39. Max: Reminds me of a communion service at an SBC-NeoCal church plant in my area. At the beginning of the new reformation, I visited such places to see why the dudebros were so popular. At the end of his stage performance to a large audience of mostly 20s-30s, the young “pastor” proclaimed “Oh yeah, pick up some crackers and grape juice on the way out. I got the cheapest stuff I could find at Walmart!” The audience roared in laughter. My wife and I grieved and did not partake of this sacrament-sacrilege.

    Is this a REAL ‘denomination’? Or some kind of pre-trumpist rally looking for an ‘Anointed One’ who is one of the ‘lesser’ beings on the Christian Dominionism pantheon?

    ‘Sacrilege’ much – very hard to hear about this kind of disrespect for communion, yes

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  40. Max:
    “Not a soul said hello to me, which was fine by me, but seems rather unusual for a crowd of Texans.”

    I asked a NeoCal pastor once why his congregation was so unfriendly – he answered “They aren’t unfriendly, just shy.” To which I responded “All of them?!”

    Believe it or not, yes, I actually visited a church for several months where that really was true! Not NeoCal and fairly small, but still. We finally left for other reasons as well, but for me one of the main reasons was because it was sooo hard to get to know people. But it really did seem as if they were kind enough people, just a congregation full of introverts.

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  41. I was sort of shocked to read here that prayer walks could be considered weird or fringe behavior. I guess because I consider them to be a part of my expression of my faith, and have found prayerwalking to be very effective. About 20 yrs ago a dear conservative friend lived just a few blocks from a strip club. She and her neighbor would quietly walk around the building and pray for it to be shut down. This was less than 2 miles from an Air Force base, so the chances of that were pretty nil. After several months, however, it shut down! Only God. Another example: my husband and I were overseeing a very large community outreach program for our church which involved many community members coming onto church property to see a drama that moved throughout the various buildings. For 2 months prior to the event, our project prayer team walked the property and prayed for what would occur throughout the buildings, for our guests. The entire program, which involved 200 church members and almost 2000 community members over 2 weekends, was very successful with no problems and no tension between the church members. Which is amazing, if you’ve ever been part of a big event. EXCEPT. The one place the prayer team did not pray was at the spot where guests registered upon entering the property. And we had trouble between church members working that spot. The only place we had an issue at all. At the beginning of Covid, I brought my Mother home out of her facility to take care of her because they would not allow me inside. It was rough. Since my husband was also home and could stay with Mother, every day I spent 30-45 minutes driving my community, past friend’s streets and houses, praying for them during those scary times. It brought me much comfort to know the Lord heard my prayers, that I could do something that made a difference during a dark time.

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  42. Headless Unicorn Guy: All Western Rite Liturgical Churches have at least FOUR resdings, none of which are weaponized. In order:
    * one from the OT
    * one responsorial Psalm (also from the OT)
    * one from the NT (Acts or Epistles)
    * and one from the Gospels (The Biggie)
    And the homily (short sermon) after the Gospel reading ideally has to reflect on the above, in the manner of a Jewish “Commentary on Torah”.

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  43. R: it really did seem as if they were kind enough people, just a congregation full of introverts

    The church in which I experienced this had over 400 people attending … hard to believe they were all introverts … but it was clear that the pastor was setting the example – he wasn’t friendly either! Why that many folks went there, considering the shallow sermon as well, is beyond me.

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  44. Max,

    The conversation about prayer walks brought to mind my old Baptist pastor, Douglas McBain who introduced the practice of walking down the pews praying for a blessing on whoever would sit there during the upcoming service. This was in the 1960s when the Charismatic Movement was taking hold in Scotland. He went on to become a prominent leader of the movement in the UK and it was further developed by Gerald Coates of the House Church Movement and Graham McKendrick, singer songwriter. John Wimber favoured it, and the Navigators and Campus Crusade have handbooks on how to do it.
    But I wonder if it isn’t more productive and more biblically based to preach and live the Gospel. (I don’t think walking round the walls of Jericho counts as an example).

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  45. Lowlandseer:
    Max,

    I don’t think walking round the walls of Jericho counts as an example.

    The OT and NT are both replete with weird and fringe behavior. The walls of Jericho being one of too many to count.

    A prophet marrying a prostitute? Yep, pretty weird.

    Hankies for healing is pretty wierd right? Scratch that story from the NT.

    How about all the things that Jesus did (and said His followers would do even more of)?

    The history of the church is also one long string of “weird” things going on.

    Anabaptists selling themselves into slavery to reach slaves in the Caribbean.

    What Mother Theresa did in India looked pretty weird to those in India (not to mention the west).

    If you removed all of the “weird” out of the Bible and church history you would have very little left that is recognizable.

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  46. Afterburne,

    God doesn’t orchestrate “weird” things, only things that our finite brains can’t comprehend. They may look weird, but only because we can’t see through the weird to the purpose. Bible “weird” always had underneath it a test of obedience: walking around Jericho seven times to see if the children of Israel would believe and do it as He commanded … a prophet marrying a prostitute to fully understand God’s heart when Israel prostituted itself to seek other gods … etc. etc.

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  47. dee: Is God going to answer a prayer more quickly or due to walking around and praying in spots as opposed to a person who prays quietly for the same things at home?

    Years ago (actually decades now), I was honored to meet a U.S. Senator from my state at an outdoor event in Washington D.C. After we had a nice conversation, I asked him if he had anything specific that I could pray for. I’ll never forget his response. He walked closer to me, took off his sunglasses, looked me in the eyes, and asked “Do you pray, really pray?” I replied “Yes, Senator, I meet with a prayer group weekly – I would be pleased to take back your prayer request to them.” He responded “In Congress, we are dealing with some ungodly legislation right now that I can’t talk about openly. Just ask your group to pray for me and for wisdom as I debate this issue in Congress. I believe in the power of prayer and that we could turn this nation back to God. But, we don’t appropriate the resources we need from Heaven to do so because God’s people don’t pray as they ought.” I agreed with that and still do today. I assured him we would pray for him as he walked away … and we did for all the years he served in the Senate and in other government capacities.

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  48. dee,

    maybe it has something to do with the connection the prayer makes to who/what they are praying for?

    when we pray in my prayer group, we pray for each mom’s kid – i make an effort to picture the person in my mind. it helps me focus and target my prayers, my faith.

    i have a connection to that person, in praying on their behalf to the God of the universe. it helps me exercise my faith for them.

    same with laying hands on someone when praying — an extra special focus,

    and really — why should we have any difficulty believing that if God/Jesus/Holy Spirit is with in us, ‘they’ can reach a person physically through our physical self.

    certainly not mandatory to do it that way, but if it’s helpful to someone or the circumstances, why not?

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  49. Lowlandseer:
    Afterburne,

    A bit like Redding folk visiting graves to raise the dead (and failing)

    I hadn’t heard about that. I guess you could say that I wouldn’t be caught dead doing that. 😉

    There is a line somewhere between what is comfortable for us and what is not. There is also a line between uncomfortable and ridiculous.

    One difficulty is that it might not always be entirely clear where the line is. Another problem is that it seems clear that some folks have difficulty recognizing where the lines are. Another issue might be with those who take it upon themselves to define where those lines are for someone else. It seems pretty clear to me (OK pretty much anyone other than them) that the cemetery praying folks have crossed the line into the ridiculous.

    An example from the other side of the line though. Within the context of a church service, one of our daughters once felt really strongly that she was supposed to go sit by a complete stranger and give them a hug. Sort of weird! As it turns out, that person was suicidal and told my daughter that they had asked God to have someone come give them a hug. Sort of a last chance sign that God cared about them or they would go home and end their life since they had reached the end of hope in their life.

    Was it uncomfortable for my daughter? Yes. Did it cross the line into the ridiculous that she felt that? Without knowing the whole story some folks would certainly think so.

    There is an obvious difference between that example and a group of folks noisily going about the neighborhood drawing attention to themselves just because they can (cringe).

    What is less obvious, and what we don’t (and generally can’t) know, is what kind of effect we might have praying by ourselves in our house vs praying where the need is.

    It seems that most of the examples of praying in the NT happened where the need was – not from someone’s house. There was one exception I am aware of. Ananias, who was praying at his house, was told to go where Paul was to pray for him. Ananias just remaining in his house praying for Paul was not sufficient.

    Personally, I would find more comfort in someone praying with me in person for some need because it is encouraging and helps build my faith (if ever so slightly). However, I certainly won’t discourage any prayers when they are at home, nor would I say that their prayers are ineffectual.

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  50. I believe we have great freedom in Christ and some may feel led by the Spirit to do a prayer walk and others may not. I don’t normally raise my hands in church but I have friends who do. I think we just need to be led by the true Spirit and not the false ones. Our Christian faith allows us so much individuality, we all don’t have to face Mecca or pray 5 times a day, we have freedom to worship kneeling, sitting or standing. Unless something is forbidden or violates scriptural wisdom, go for it!

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  51. Max: In Congress, we are dealing with some ungodly legislation right now that I can’t talk about openly. Just ask your group to pray for me and for wisdom as I debate this issue in Congress. I believe in the power of prayer and that we could turn this nation back to God. But, we don’t appropriate the resources we need from Heaven to do so because God’s people don’t pray as they ought.”

    Usually any legislation defined as ungodly involves one two things, the “unborn” or expanding of gender rights like same sex marriage. This is scary actually.

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  52. How people pray doesn’t bug me but the concept that god is some sort of cosmic vending machine does.

    Your illness is cured? Ok great. But over 100 000 people starved to death today.

    Prayer brought great peace to my friend who died of cancer. I think it alleviated his suffering which is a blessing into itself. He maintained his faith to the end. Which I think is how it’s supposed to work.

    The bible is replete with fantastic stories, flying people, a man killed 600 soldiers with an ox goad, the dead were raised, the blind see, fire in the sky, amazing beasts with talking horns.

    I set my prayer bar a little lower. I just want the peace my friend had when he was suffering.

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  53. Jack,

    i share your feelings.

    just last week (at the oft-mentioned prayer meeting), someone mentioned the hymn Great Is Thy Faithfulness, and how meaningful the words are.

    it’s just miserable being in the middle of 2 opposing convictions:

    –yes, the lyrics are beautifully meaningful, and anyone would be the better for singing it or mumbling it every day.

    –no, many of the people I sat with or observed on local rapid transit would not be able to sing this song.

    in trying to survive, among other complex problems they’re just trying to find a place to sleep. trying to find enough aluminum cans to cash in to get something to eat.

    I would be very surprised of any of these people would be able to say ‘God has been faithful to me.’
    .
    .
    so, what then?

    i could opt out of praying on principle, because of the heart-breaking inequities,

    similar to how i could opt out of self-care because of the inequities (eating nutritious food, trying to get good sleep, hygiene, maintaining shelter and clothing to keep warm).

    no one is helped, and I deteriorate.

    so, in my thought experiment here, i might as well pray.

    including the large-scale things, like hunger.

    (and for the gifted and talented folks who have the wherewithal to be a part of solving huge problems but who are spending their energy, time, focus, & resources in church, which church uses for itself)

    (a little bonus idea, there)
    .
    .
    and all the while i pray i’ll feel horrendous conflict, agitation, and anger about the problem of evil.

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  54. ChuckP:
    I believe we have great freedom in Christ and some may feel led by the Spiritto do a prayer walk and others may not.I don’t normally raise my hands in church but I have friends who do. I think we just need to be led by the true Spirit and not the false ones. Our Christian faith allowsus so much individuality,we all don’t have to face Mecca or pray 5 times a day, we have freedom to worship kneeling, sitting or standing. Unless something is forbidden or violates scriptural wisdom, go for it!

    Yes, I agree! I would hope my positive experiences I just shared of prayerwalking would be given the same credence as others who share their experiences and beliefs.

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  55. Afterburne,

    I don’t disagree. Luther makes a couple of interesting points in his commentary on the Beatitudes (Mt 7:16-20). He says “ We know that we are in a station where we cannot do wrong so long as we live according to the Word of God and do what we have been commanded to do. In fact, though something wrong might creep in by our excesses, not purposely or deliberately but through our ignorance or weakness, this, too, has to be good and pardonable. In other words, you cannot ruin it, since you are living in the divine office and in the Word. If you remain in that, it cannot be Wrong. Though it might be sin otherwise, it will not be called wrong but will be covered over and forgiven. Such is the wonderful blessing of the Word of God”
    “ So all the works of a Christian are of a good kind because the tree is sound. He lives in such a way that he would gladly bear nothing but good fruit, though sometimes, through the weakness of the flesh or some other obstacle, something wrong creeps in.”

    He also says (and this could be applied to those self-promoting pastors who feature here regularly) “ And He is really giving us wonderful comfort, that we who live according to the Word of God cannot do wrong.
    And so He concludes now: “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” There you have the sentence handed down which will finally strike all those who teach and obey their own works, without any word of God. In doing this, their intention is to make their cause last forever. They imagine that since they are the really valuable trees and plants, God has to spare them, hedge them in and fence them, and take very good care of them. They do not see the sentence that has been pronounced against them. He has already taken hold of the ax and laid it to the tree, as Christ says elsewhere. All they are fit for is hell-fire”
    (Works, Vol 21, p 260 onwards)

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  56. Leah Jacobs,

    I think it is absolutely fine if you want to do “prayer walks.” The Highlands Church (ARC) does prayer walks in downtown Birmingham to help rid it of demons.
    The question is “Why prayer walks? What do they offer that a person praying alone cannot achieve?” I am not being snarky. promise. I am trying to understand the theology behind “prayer walks” however they are performed.
    My question helps me think through things for myself. For example, “What am I missing by not doing prayer walks.” One of my neighbors participates regularly in prayer labyrinths.
    https://www.verywellfit.com/walking-the-labyrinth-3435825
    I do lots of reading during my day surrounding theology which is a hobby of mine. It helps me think through the working out of my faith.

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  57. Afterburne: That is the big conundrum indeed. An incredibly vexing issue. One which I wish I could resolve somehow, but can’t seem to.

    Prayer won’t ‘fix’ things and maybe it’s not supposed to. I believe that if there is a god, then he/she/it works through our hands.

    Reflection on the world and action doesn’t come with a flash of lightning or a burning bush, or grand miracles.

    Our conscience may be how we connect best with the divine. We do the best in our corner of the world.

    While Jesus performed many miracles in the new testament, when the criminal beside him on the cross repented, the response was that he would dine with Jesus in paradise. He still suffered the horrible death of crucifixion.

    Being a believer does not alleviate suffering or explain it. Why we suffer will always be a mystery.

    I think people who expect that faith or church will take that cup from them will be disappointed.

    The best you can hope for is strength to get through it

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  58. Jack: Being a believer does not alleviate suffering or explain it. Why we suffer will always be a mystery.

    Suffering does not always have mysterious causes, and Scripture is full of encouragement to alleviate suffering. There are plenty of verses about caring for widows and orphans. Some people suffer for reasons that are all too clear and all too unnecessary.

    Some people of faith decide to go to nursing school and help patients. They could be scientists who improve cancer treatments. Or lawyers who help out with justice. They might respect wisdom and knowledge, and set out to be great teachers and/or the best possible parents.

    When suffering cannot be prevented or ended, there is still Scripture for comfort.

    I agree that the shopping-list prayer has limited usefulness. A life of following Scriptural guidance, though, can have practical impact.

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  59. Jack,

    “Prayer won’t ‘fix’ things and maybe it’s not supposed to. I believe that if there is a god, then he/she/it works through our hands.”
    ++++++++++++++

    i agree — God’s hand joining with our hand, God’s voice joining with our voice,…

    an added component (understatement) to make our actions/effort supereffective. (or exponentially more than just on our own)

    in my experience, some things in life are more easily susceptible to change through prayer. some things more stubborn, some things huge and complex and like the slow process of turning a ship around.

    i suppose miracles radically speed all that up.

    just babbling, here…

    cuz a good-willed conversation on the deeper end of things is my favorite pastime. with or without appetizers, beverages, (other things), and a candle.

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  60. dee:
    Leah Jacobs,

    The question is “Why prayer walks?”

    Why I personally might prayer walk is to pray for individuals, that God would bless them and bring them closer to Him. Scant scriptural backing for it other than that we care for our neighbor and that is one mechanism by which we can. Said prayer walks should not replace actual caring by helping in some practical manner of course.

    I think why some groups do prayer walks is based in Dominionist theology and likely draws from different passages which might include:

    – the passage stating ” . . . wherever you place your foot . . . ” referring to the Israelites taking possession of the land they were promised. I would guess this is likely in Deut or Joshua.
    – Daniel praying for 2 or 3 weeks before Michael (the the arch-angel) helped Gabriel get past some spiritual power or authority (can’t remember exactly) to appear before Daniel.
    – Paul talking about principalities and powers, etc. I think Eph, but possibly somewhere else.

    Not that I agree with this theology by any means, but I strongly suspect this is the likely explanation as to why prayer walking has such street cred with certain groups. I know of an event some time ago that promoted people driving around a state, as best as possible given the limitation of roads, for some specified outcome (which I either don’t remember or never knew). At least they were confined to their cars.

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  61. Afterburne: think why some groups do prayer walks is based in Dominionist theology and likely draws from different passages

    Awesome comment. In fact, I can prove that you are correct. Early in TWW history I received a copy of the Prayer Force Manual from the Church of the Highlands which is one of the motherships of the ARC.
    The church immediately removed it from their website. To this day, it is still one of the most frequently requested items.
    Here is a link to the blog post.
    https://thewartburgwatch.com/permpage-the-arc-association-of-related-churches-is-planting-churches-looking-for-flowers-and-scoping-out-demons/
    I ma happy to send folks the file. It is absolutely one of the most bizarre things I have ever read on prayer. I am sure they are still instituting this training in the ARC churches.

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  62. ChuckP,

    I agree with you with one caveat. So long as people think about why they do what they do. I think, and I am guilty of this as well, as going along with something without wondering about why that action is theologically present. Such a question was raised recently about the “standing ovations” given to pastors who confess moral failures. It was becoming routine. I once gave a standing ovation for something similar many years ago.

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  63. Leah Jacobs: I would hope my positive experiences I just shared of prayerwalking would be given the same credence as others who share their experiences and beliefs.

    I think all some are saying is “Why do this from a theological perspective.” That is not saying that what you are doing is “not Biblical.” It is simply thinking about “why we do what we do.” I found it an interesting question and is not meant to take away from your experience.

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  64. Michael in UK: Jesus expected the phenomenon to dwindle after 130 AD

    (quoted for context)

    ES: ?

    An intriguing hypothesis that is definitely not mainstream is that the communion ritual may have served, in the early Jewish churches, as (in addition to its functions for us today) a reminder of Jesus’ warnings to not participate in the coming war(s) against Rome. It was a periodic remembrance of Jesus, crucified at the hands of Israel’s enemies, enemies who were still in power in Israel. That Jesus was concerned that Jewish disciples not get tangled up in militant Judean nationalism should be uncontroversial. The Olivet Discourse, for example, contains a warning to flee Jerusalem at the approach of enemy armies. Historically, the church at Jerusalem fled to Pella and escaped the AD70 Roman siege. Most of their countrymen who remained perished in the siege.

    (Interestingly, memory of the non-participation of Jewish Christians in the AD66-73 war with Rome led to persecution of Jewish believers who did not participate in the AD132-135 war)

    We think of “the purpose of the Communion ordinance/sacrament” in terms of what it means to us today, and that meaning is obviously one that, in order to be directly relevant to us, transcends the historical circumstances of first century Israel. For the first believers, who were living in the shadow of the terrors of the coming war with Rome, there may have been additional layers of meaning which are not significant to us today.

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  65. Jack: There’s many people who take prayer seriously, not as a way to enrich themselves but as a way to unpack what can be an unfair universe.

    For awhile now I’ve thought of the universe as not a fair universe or an unfair universe, but simply a great big roulette wheel that can be as fickle as Forrest Gump’s feather on the breeze.
    Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.

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  66. Muff Potter: For awhile now I’ve thought of the universe as not a fair universe or an unfair universe, but simply a great big roulette wheel that can be as fickle as Forrest Gump’s feather on the breeze.
    Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.

    I agree with you. One of my favorite quotes is from Neil DeGrasse Tyson “the universe is under no obligation to make sense to you”

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  67. Jack: One of my favorite quotes is from Neil DeGrasse Tyson “the universe is under no obligation to make sense to you”

    How about:
    “The universe is not queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.”
    — J.B.S.Haldane, 1927

    (unintentionally funny when reading “queer” in its 2022 American meaning instead of its 1927 British meaning…)

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  68. Neil Cameron (One Salient Oversight),

    Whoa, I actually disagree with your assessment. If Dee didn’t feel comfortable partaking in communion for whatever her reason is God knows her heart and that’s all the matters. Anyone can assume she didn’t take communion for the reason you just stated. To me that’s imposing your belief that she should have done it. Communion is between her and Jesus. Not Dee and anyone else who wants to take what she does or doesn’t personally.

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  69. Neil Cameron (One Salient Oversight): I’m concerned about your choice not to have communion. To refuse communion in a church where everyone else is doing it is tantamount to saying that you don’t believe these people are Christians.

    “No, a man should thoroughly examine himself, and only then should he eat the bread or drink of the cup. He that eats and drinks carelessly is eating and drinking a judgment on himself, for he is blind to the presence of the Lord’s body. Careless communion means spiritual weakness: let us take due care. It is this careless participation which is the reason for many feeble and sickly Christians in your church, and the explanation of the fact that many of you are spiritually asleep.” (1 Corinthians 11:28-34)

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