“I was a lawyer for ten years – a short time, but it molded me into who I am. My clients were little people fighting big corporations, so it was a natural thing to not only represent the little guy but also to pull for him – it’s the American way.” John Grisham
The subject post has been on my mind for a few months. I have tried to find an easy answer to my question but have yet to see it, so I’m asking for your help. In the title, I used the word “Third Estate which can be defined as:
A group of individuals considered to be subjects of a person in charge
Other synonyms are also descriptive:
riff-raff, plebeians, the proletariat, the great unwashed, and the commons.
In many of today’s celebrity-based churches, there is a split between leadership and the plebs. These celebrities do not need to be famous, only held up by the local church members. These guys are elevated because they are presented to all as having superior knowledge and a mysterious calling by God with which the proletariat is not graced. I do believe some receive a special call. Still, I have a hard time believing that all of these pastor leaders have it.
This exalted position is so ingrained in their psyche that these leaders can inadvertently reveal their true feelings. In one of my posts about Chapel Hill Bible Church, I mentioned an incident in my adult Sunday School class. The new pastor, who would go on to be fired, described the supposed role differentiation between the pastors and the membership. He held his hands out side by side. As he said that both positions are equal, he inadvertently put the hand representing the membership at a lower level than the pastors. I turned to my husband and said, “We’re screwed.” Oddly enough, even though my comment was “tongue in cheek,” it would prove more accurate than I could imagine. Shortly afterward, we got out of Dodge. Some left behind would allegedly be victims of a pastor who acted as a king.
I spotted a problem with this pastor because I had been writing about abuse in the broader evangelical church since 2009 and have been reading about the issues for three decades. I am not a pastor and have not received that particular call to be a pastor. In the eyes of some, I am just one of the great unwashed. Yet, members of the riff-raff class are the ones who called “Foul” when there was trouble in pulpit paradise.
These musings started when I listened to The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill podcasts. Did you know that there are 22 episodes? I found this episode helpful. At the beginning is a segment featuring Joe Rogan. Rogan and his guest were shown this linked picture of Lentz. As you will hear, they immediately saw the problem. Yet they were not part of the evangelical set and certainly had no pastoral ambitions. However, Joe Rogan is well known, so he will attract the attention of the New Calvinists from time to time.
To whom does church leadership listen?
Their knee-jerk answer is: the pastors listen to the elders. That is a problem in many churches. The elders are explicitly chosen to be “yes men” for the pastor. Authoritarian pastors are pretty adept at selecting elders who agree with them. In my former SBC church, the senior pastor said to me:
I have been here for 28 years and the elders have only diagreed with me twice.
Good night! Only two times in 28 years! There was something wrong, and I would discover the problems with how they handled the sex abuse of teens. This reminds me of an old saying in Boston that goes something like this: The Cabots and Lodges were wealthy leaders of Boston Society in early 1900s.
In Boston, the home of baked beans and scrod,
The Cabots talk to the Lodges and the Lodges talk only to God.
The elders are the Cabots, and the pastors are the Lodges. The elders in many churches are “prominent” members of the community. How many of them have an elder who is a postal clerk or a construction worker? The elder position has turned into a Christian version of the Rotary Club. Only the very well-healed are allowed.
Even worse, many pastors only talk to men since women in some of these churches cannot be elders. So they never hear from what is usually 60% of the congregation.
What about the average Joe/Joelle member?
Now I’m getting around to what I want to say. Does the average person have a say? Do church leaders pay attention to the giftings of the proletariat? In 2009, I wrote about Mark Driscoll coming to the University of North Carolina to speak to students in a Christian group. We heard from one student who said that he allegedly talked about anal sex during a Q+A. As soon as I heard about the question being asked and Driscoll answering them in his usual shock-jock way, I knew we had a problem. Yet Driscoll was admired by church leaders all over the planet.
From that moment on, I watched Driscoll. I kept asking why this guy was being followed by many well-known Christians, such as John Piper, and seminary students who began to imitate his disturbing preaching style. Danny Akin endorsed Driscoll’s controversial book, Real Marriage. The Gospel Coalition featured some posts by him or about him. Here is one by Justin Taylor interviewing Mark Driscoll.
I was one of the nobodies actively exposing the problems with Mark Driscoll. Julie Anne Smith at Spiritual Sounding Board wrote about him. Rachel held Evans wrote this post in 2011. Mark Driscoll is a bully. Stand up to him.
Godly men stick up for people, not make fun of them.
Godly men honor women, not belittle them.
Godly men love their gay and lesbian neighbors, not ridicule them.
Godly men celebrate femininity, not trash it.
Godly men own their sexuality, not flaunt it.
Godly men pursue peace, not dismiss it.
Godly men rise above violence, not glorify it.
Godly men build up the Church, not embarrass it.
Godly men imitate Christ—who praised the gentle and the peacemakers, who stood up for the exploited and abused, who showed compassion for the downtrodden, who valued women, and who loved his enemies to the point of death.
If this Facebook status were Pastor Mark Driscoll’s first offense, it might not warrant a strong response.But Mark has developed a pattern of immaturity and unkindness that has remained largely unchecked by his church. In evangelical circles, he’s like the kid from high school who makes crude jokes at every opportunity, uses the words “gay” and “queer” to describe the things he most detests, encourages his friends to subject the unpopular kids to ridicule, and belittles the guys who aren’t “macho” or “manly” enough to be in his club.
Here is one video of Driscoll enjoying the pile of dead bodies under the bus. Listen and ask yourself if this is a man you would follow.
Rob Smith, with whom I had a great lunch at Cracker Barrel, wrote Giving Mark Driscoll a platform props up his abuse.
Dan Kellogg, from Gold Creek Community Church, said that he had done his homework on Driscoll before he invited him to speak at his church recently. I am not sure what homework he did, but Dan Kellogg contacted none of the abused ex-members or pastors. Driscoll spoke of how he is learning to forgive those who hurt him. He did not speak of the hundreds of families hurt by his abuse.
Robert Morris, who gave Driscoll his first public appearance where Driscoll skillfully made the audience feel sorry for him, said that he knows the “behind the scenes story“,yet failed to speak to any of his accusers or those shunned by Driscoll’s abusive church.
Ray Johnston, of Bayside Church, gave Driscoll a platform where he was able to again repeat the lie that he moved from one house to another because of fear – the second to the last move being simply across the street from his previous home.
Average blogs like this one received many comments from average people who complained about Driscoll’s abusive behavior. Oddly, it was the New Calvinist pastors and seminary students who stood up for him and began to imitate his bullying style. Even today, we still see the effects Driscoll had on future pastors. Those up-and-coming pastors were given the go-ahead by the seminary leaders and TGC, who supported Driscoll until it got so bad they couldn’t.
The little people knew and were speaking out on blogs, Reddit and Facebook.
In my opinion, this is one point that The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill overlooked. The average people, especially those abused by Driscoll or one of his acolytes, spoke up and got the ball rolling. The small blogs, some of which no longer exist, spoke out against Driscoll. Yet the little people were ignored by the fabulous New Calvinists who found a way to theologize a reason to support Driscoll and to back those who adopted a Driscoll-like style. They were not paying attention to the very people they were being called to serve.
My question: Why do the local church or church movements point to the celebrity pastors, the fancy elders’ boards, or the institution boards made up of prominent people as the ones with God’s unique calling? I contend God is calling the riff-raff to illuminate the problems the celebrity crowd ignores. Do these leaders truly recognize God’s movement in ALL of his people? Yet this week, I featured an email from an elder who was put out with me when I wrote about the problems at Chapel Hill Bible Church. The plebs are to shut up and give money so the real leaders can carry on.
I don’t know, but I think many catch my drift. Can you help me? Do you believe that today’s church culture actively ignores the movement of God in the great unwashed? I think the celebrity crowd overlooks the average person, hurting the local church and the broader church movements. These leaders miss out on God’s leading in the majority of church members.
I guess my best example is from this blog. I called for Paige Patterson’s resignation in 2009, and all I heard from my betters were chortles as they gleefully skipped off to dedicate Paige Patterson Hall at SEBTS. Think of it: all the seminary leaders and local and national church celebrities were present. They knew about the infamous recording of Patterson telling a woman to go home to be abused. Yet it took them a decade to get rid of him. They eventually had to spend money to get his name removed. They would not listen to the little people. The question is, “Why not?” And if one person says I needed to present my case more “winsomely,” I will say they wouldn’t have listened to me no matter how I said it. They will not listen to anyone not part of their closed club.
It’s time to reconsider how some church leaders view their members. Do they hear them? Maybe the question is, “Do they want to hear them?”
They way for the common to stop this is STOP GIVING! This monster needs and runs on money. Look them in the face and tell them I ain’t giving you a dime until xyz changes or is dealt with”. Enough people do this, you’ll get their attention IMHO.
Make that the common man or woman
I don’t know of any denomination which chooses its leaders by lot, but it seems to me the most obvious way. Whether you view it as chance or the divine doing it, and as long as the person chosen can refuse a role, it means the church would get the potential for lots of surprises.
It already has disasters and disappointment so doesn’t really have much to lose except the current racket.
“I am just one of the great unwashed.”
Whatever, but preferable to being one of the great whitewashed. Tombs, that is.
“You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” Jesus talking, as recorded in Matt. 23.
‘Why Did the Third Estate Get It While the Anointed Were Late to the Dance?”
You are talking about the anawim – Hebrew word in the OT. They are the 3rd Estate, as you describe it.
“The anawim of the Old Testament were the poor of every sort: the vulnerable, the marginalized, and socio-economically oppressed, those of lowly status without earthly power. In fact, they depend totally on God for whatever they own. The Hebrew word anawim (inwetan) means those who are bowed down.
“Mary of Nazareth belonged to the anawim.”
“Like Mary, Joseph of Nazareth also belonged to the anawim.”
“As model parents, Mary and Joseph raised Jesus in the spirit of the anawim.
“He preached with moral authority instead of with temporal power, and the Sermon on the Mount makes the ultimate counter-cultural statement.”
By Sr. Joan L. Roccasalvo, C.S.J: “The Anawim: who are they?” Catholic News Agency
The anawim are the most needy, most desperate for God, through no fault or decision of their own. Therefore, they are also the closest to God. They seek God to the extreme. In their intense need, they are all in with God, no matter how long they have to wait for God’s answers. They are the extreme faithful even when they are in extreme circumstances.
Yes, the anawim know and see things whereas the posh and plush are clueless.
Dee, this is the question I have posed for years. And as I said in a recent post to the Wartburg Watch, people are not being encouraged to read the Scriptures on a regular basis for themselves. Nor are they shown how to draw sustenance from it. For many, it’s only one more chore and they don’t want to take the time. Sadly, it’s easier to listen to an engaging, charismatic speaker spouting garbage.
Chalk me up as another member of the third estate that had a small blog of little consequence. I posted on that blog all the time about how Driscoll was unfit to teach and pastor. But no one paid any attention to me either.
I have trouble wrapping my head around pastor-appointed elders.
But, I have always (up until 2016) attended small, country SBC churches. Potential church pastors preach several trial sermons and do a q&a with both the deacons and the church body….. then it’s a 2/3 majority vote by secret ballot by all participating church members.
We have deacons, not elders. Potential new deacons are already members of the church, and have been for some time, who are nominated by other members. If the person accepts the nomination, the church votes, same as with a pastor.
After all of the stuff I’ve read about “elder-led” churches on TWW, I think church elders would serve more as a U-turn sign for me than just a red flag. I would have the same problem with a church ran by the “founding pastor”.
“Do they want to hear them?”
In so many cases the obvious answer is no. Nor will they even deign to listen.
Burn Down The Mission.
What, what your choice church has actual elders?
BTW, excellent thought provoking article.
The idea of member nomination/vote for deacons finds NT precedent in Acts 6 — the apostles seem to not have been involved at all, leaving it up to the congregation to pick suitable candidates to manage the daily food distribution to the congregation’s widows.
Pastor appointment of elders does not, AFAIK, have any precedent in the NT. There is an argument that new elders should be appointed by current elders (the concept of “laying on of hands”). In principle, this should make it harder for congregations to be taken over by factions, but a lot depends on the integrity of the people who are already serving as elders.
Membership voting for elders or pastors has no precedent, AFAIK, in the NT, but as a practical matter I think it makes a lot of sense in that it would be unwise to appoint someone to a responsible position who was not wanted by a majority of the group.
How important is it that “how churches function” map closely onto biblical precedents? The only clear view into “what NT church meetings were like” that we have is in 1 Corinthians, which gives a picture of a highly participatory meeting in which many individuals speak up during the course of the meeting; these meetings do not seem to have been dominated by a single person holding forth at length on a text of Scripture.
Most congregations today don’t organize their meetings according to this precedent, so it’s not clear to me why one would insist on close conformity to other precedents.
Perhaps we should “judge by the fruits.” IMO the current “big-man pastor”-centric model is not producing obvious good fruits. Perhaps it’s a case of “more is actually less.”
You received clarity from God but the church leadership wasn’t paying attention because they were attending conferences on how to by another Driscoll.
I completely agree with you…. So much of fundamentalism and evangelicalism has a deep, anti-intellectualism at its core…. Which makes sense, given Fundamentalism was formed in reaction against the rise modern science and “intellectualism” of late 19th early 20th century which questioned so many “truths” of the Bible and traditional Christianity..
I think this approach is very obvious with good old “Papa” Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel fame that called seminary “cemetery” and minted new preacher boys from his devout followers that listened to Papa’s tapes on the Bible and read his books…. Heck, no need for College or cemetery!! just read the Bible and preach it… but of course, there is the rub…. There are as many “ways to read the Bible” as there are people that read it! ( just look at the “lack of credentials”, or dare I say “fake credentials” of so many of these “preachers” we read about….
Keep the sheep ignorant… you can then teach them almost anything!
“Do these leaders truly recognize God’s movement in ALL of his people?”
The short answer: NO.
New Calvinists and other authoritarian leaders work to diminish and eliminate Bible truth about soul competency and priesthood of ‘the’ believer from their pulpit message. If they let it get out that the “little people” are just as important in the Kingdom of God as they are, they lose their advantage to control the living daylights out of them. They don’t want you to know that every believer is a priest and that the pulpit is called to serve the Body of Christ not be overlords. If their weakness controls your strength, they own you.
The early church was set up with congregational governance, not elder rule, for this very reason … to protect the Body of Christ from rogue leaders not called by God, to make sure that aberrant clergy/laity separation did not take root, to allow ALL members to exercise their unique spiritual gifting, to mobilize the Body of Christ to work together to fulfill the Great Commission, and to preserve the Truth from eisegesis abuse.
Wolves in sheep’s clothing? Nah … the wolves have found it to their advantage to wear shepherd’s clothing.
The flip-side of that was exemplified in Bill Hybel’s ministry. In his Christianity Lite Willowcreek model, he essentially asked people which way they wanted to go and he got out in front of them to lead … thereby, continuing the money stream by giving them what they wanted. That seeker-friendly model produced a generation of church members who were left swimming in shallow water, prayerless and Biblically-illiterate, never maturing in faith.
“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
“The last will be first, and the first last.”
Jeffrey, a few days ago I needed to research dispensationalism. You probably already know it was created in the 19th century and permeates churches today. Their exegesis of Scriptures makes little sense. Are you familiar with the book by Mark Noll, “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind?” Hint: there is no mind.
You nailed it: there’s a strong anti-intellectual bias, combined with discomfort with educated folks asking questions, especially women. Thank you. Finally, somebody else gets it.
There is a church in Murfreesboro, TN whose “pastor centric” personality has taken over. He has revamped the church, made the deacons merely “visitors” and has hand-picked his leadership corps. On the church’s internal Facebook page, the pastor has created a SurveyMonkey questionnaire on his leadership as a pastor. You MUST give your name, and all surveys will go to two “trusted” members of the leadership who will of course, NOT, reveal your name or comments to the pastor, thus, EVERYONE may be totally honest. Any surveys submitted anonymously will not be read and will be discarded.
No better way than to set yourself up as the absolute best pastor that the church has ever known! But the majority of the membership will kiss a part of his anatomy and anoint him as wonderfully spiritual.
Part of the problem is powerful pastors; the other part of the problem are church members who, when asked to “jump” by their pastor, respond by saying “How high?”
Jesus said, “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses…they tie up heavy burdens and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as their finger.And they do all their deeds to be noticed by other people; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. And they love the place of honor at banquets, and the seats of honor in the synagogues, and personal greetings in the marketplaces, and being called Rabbi by the people.”
Sure sounds like the Calvinistas have moved into Murfreesboro.
Hahahahahaha … “if” it is a NeoCal church, this won’t happen. Yes-men elders squeal on members who question the pastor or NeoCal belief and practice. Weekly “LifeGroup” small group meetings also have hand-picked leaders who report any dissent within the membership back to the pastor.
The scribes and the Pharisees have taken up residence in Christian churches, too.
He gestured BUT CLERGY ARE MORE EQUAL THAN LAITY.
It’s how you Prove Your LOYALTY to get into the Inner Ring.
Just like the Mean Girls’ Table in High School.
“Whatever would God ever do without MEEEEEEEEE!“
The “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind” had a big impact on me… given I am an academic, and have always liked to ask questions, and try to understand things, I always felt ostracized, or worse.. in fundy and evangelical world…. Mark Noll’s book help to realize why….
Now, add to all of the cover up of abuse, which TWW is focused on, and one really begins to get quite a “picture” of the fundy/evangelical world….. sigh..
An interesting thing about Christianity is that intellect has very little to do with spiritual wisdom and understanding. With the latter, even those who aren’t very smart can detect aberrant belief and practice and pastor-imposters … while intellectuals can be fooled by them if they are not spiritually astute.
Dee, when we lived in the four corners region our then pastor, SBC, flew out to a meeting where the plans were said to be laid to move being “the preacher” from an equal state to above the laity. Oh, they did not quite phrase it that way. What he said was “If we want to raise the pay of the average preacher we have to move from preaching being a gift and call from God that any man (this was SBC) can receive to a profession. The way to do that is take authority in the local church, require more education before ordination so we are on educational level ground with lawyers and doctors, and then exert our authority.” He did, and we walked not long after that.
The NT lists gifts to the church, and it lists roles. But I have yet to find where anyone but Jesus is the authority in the church. And Jesus did not get all His disciples at the local rabbi schools either. The thing is, the church was not designed to be clergyless, but laityless. All are priests.
Stop feeding the monkey by attending their dog and pony shows, and stop giving them money. We can function as the church without them. They are Judaizers, trying to return to the temple system where we can only access God through them.
Full stop. Don’t do it. Plenty of lay led Bible studies around to continue fellowshipping with if you want to do so.
But just as there will always be those that abuse their families, and always be family members who stay and accept it hoping somehow things will be different, there will always be shysters behind the pulpit and pew sitters who stay and get abused hoping things will turn out ok. As long as they stay codependent, we cannot help them.
This is where, IMHO, “get thee out from among them and be ye holy” comes into play. You can witness with your mouth, your typing finger, or your walking away tootsies.
I agree. Too many people have completely twisted the purpose of the Bible and misled others
…..the NT in particular ….. the reason Jesus lived and died for us.
How can people who do this dare to call themselves “men of God”?
……..Makes me think about the old sitcom, “Maude”: “God will get you for that, Arthur!” …..except this is not a comedy.
When you make your theology the gospel and fail to preach ‘the’ Gospel, you will stand in judgment before God for misleading His children. Twisting the epistles to support aberrant belief and practice, while ignoring the words in red will cost you dearly. (generic ‘you’ pastors/theologians)
Amen! Jesus is the ultimate authority. Unfortunately, Christ has little authority and influence in much of the 21st century church. Mere men rule the roost, wielding illegitimate authority to decide what the religious and moral standards will be, as well as the message and method to achieve them. The end result is doing church without God, bringing spiritual death to all who embrace such “ministry.”
Another dispatch from the ancient civilization where I dwell, a local church.
Our congregation elects the lay volunteer leaders. Voting by members age 16 and up takes place anually. Candidates are men and women. A term of service lasts three years, and we replace one-third of the group each year. Rules stipulate that there must be more candidates than open positions. When a term ends, those volunteers—typically one-third of the group—must wait one or more years before running again. Taken together, these rules encourage more people to get involved, and prevent an unchanging group from holding all lay positions for years on end.
This model has been in use for decades, and any church is welcome to try it out.
Whatever happened to pastors grieving for their congregation? To visiting the sick, caring for the weak/disabled? Why do the wealthy always rule? Why would the unbelieving world be attracted to this type of “show”?
I agree with all of you who stated part of the problem is the sheep: they keep going there and giving their money. Hide their heads in the sand. Don’t want to know what is going on behind the curtain. We attend a small church and I think that is part of the problem in society too: bigger is better. Not always. There is a church in southern CA that dumped its pastor recently and the pastor didn’t go quietly. He was there for about a year. Where were the elders? Why didn’t they check out this guy before hiring him? Again, bigger and more money is not necessarily better because it was the sheep who started coming to the elders just a month or so into his time as pastor saying “this and that is not right.”
You have hit two key dynamics of the kind of church where abuse can go unchecked. Leaders cannot get to the inner circle unless the lead pastor thinks he can count on their loyalty. Then prestige of being a member of the inner circle is a powerful force tends to hold that loyalty in place . Charges that threaten the lead pastor also at a minimum threaten to disrupt the status quo where they are comfortable. No one likes church disruption. But they have the power to bury truth that threatens their comfortable status quo. And apparently it is easy to tell themselves that they are protecting “the church.”
Pastors – real ones – still do … but they have become a rare and endangered species, as pulpit-actors take their place.
A pastoral candidate can have excellent references, particularly if they have been an associate pastor in a church that has an authoritarian structure. If they have been loyal, there will be nothing but positive things to say.
If they are an abuser, they will also be quite polished in the art of deception.
A search team can do a lot of due diligence, but few have any idea they should be on the lookout for lying, deception, narcissism, or someone who is looking to re-form their church in his own image, and change its theology and polity.
The Neo-cal movement supports covert work behind the scenes to change church theology, polity, and culture, which is called “reforming.” In other words, a candidate is not likely to say out front which parts of the church he is planning on “reforming” before being hired.
There is even an actual playbook. The Founders of the Conservative Resurgence have placed their book online:
Here is some of their advice to a pastor out to reform a church he’s been hired to serve.
“Restraint. Remember the principle of restraint. Don’t tackle the whole church at one time. [in other words, don’t be up front about what you plan to do. People will act as a group and you’ll be out of there. ]
“Choose a few men who are sincere, teachable and spiritually minded and spend time with them in study and prayer. They will help you to reform.”
[ In practice, they are gradually building support behind the scenes for overhauling the church into the Neo-cal image. They do it by careful probing for men who will be open to their persuasion and then studying Scripture together through a Calvinist interpretive lens (Or maybe Grudem instead of or in addition to Scripture). Working behind the scenes is very effective in changing church polity as many congregationally led Baptist churches have discovered this after the fact.]
“Clarity. In the pulpit, don’t use theological language that is not found in the Bible. Avoid terms such as Calvinism, reformed, doctrines of grace, particular redemption, etc. Most people will not know what you are talking about. Many that do will become inflamed against you. Teach your people the biblical truth of these doctrines without providing distracting labels for them.”
[in principle, it makes sense to preach in plain English. But notice that they are actually recommending that new pastors avoid declaring themselves to be 5 point Calvinists so that it doesn’t “inflame” church members against them.
Once a Neo-cal reformer has been hired as senior pastor, congregants can expect new staff hires to be 5 pointers, and men appointed to the elder or deacon board to have “studied” and come to that perspective. But no need to “distract” the people in the pews before all the plans are laid and the pawns in place. ]
Thank you for this playbook from the Founders.
Are you talking about the NM, AZ, CO, Utah area?
I actually first learned about it in the comments section of this blog 🙂 several years ago. Gram3 was around, but I don’t think she was the one who mentioned it. It wasn’t online back then, though.
Stealth and deception have been modus operandi of young New Calvinists which have taken over countless “traditional” (non-Calvinist) SBC churches. I suppose they try to justify such behaviour for the good of their movement, to please the NeoCal elite, to get on their list for the Inner Ring. Few pastor search committees would think to consider that a pastoral candidate would sin in this way to gain a pulpit.
Used successfully by both the “Old” Calvinists (aka Founders) and the “New” Calvinists (aka Mohlerites) to deceive God’s people at numerous traditional (non-Calvinist) SBC churches.
Dee–yes I am. That 4 corners.
We have some Mennonite neighbor groups that do select their leaders by lot, and some Amish that do so also.
Rhetorical question: How is “christianity” through stealth and deception Christ-like???
And 9Marks dedicated a journal to it:
Jesus said “I am the way, and the TRUTH, and the life.” Truth and deception don’t mix. To be Christlike is to be truthful.
I just read that as “the scribes and the flatlines”.
Verbal Plenary Inspiration or Freudian Slip?
Why is your assessment of this 9Marks article? Does it emphasize truth telling or stealth and deception?
Rhetorical answer! I honestly don’t think half of them know they are doing this. It’s just their unconscious mode.
If they did not know to ask the right questions they will get the wrong answers. In the case of stealth Calvinism, candidate pastors are trained to exploit stupid questions. They will deny being Calvinists if the people asking the question don’t define Calvinism correctly. And they will affirm they truthfully denied being Calvinist.
Ken F (aka Tweed),
^ Like the guy you wrote the article you referred to for assessment.
I read the article in it’s entirety. My take: the author’s bottom line is that Calvinism and the Bible are one and the same. If you don’t believe in Calvinism, you can’t believe the Bible.
The author admitted that he denied being a Calvinist.
Article: “Are you a Calvinist?” asked the interim pastor who was guiding the pastoral search committee considering me. “If you’re a Calvinist, then this candidacy is over now.”
How would you answer that question? As a seven-point Calvinist I answered, “What do you mean by Calvinist?” He replied, “By Calvinist, I mean you only share the gospel with the elect and you don’t need to pray for people’s salvation because it’s already determined.” Based on that definition, I replied, “No, I am not a Calvinist.” Four months later, I was installed as their pastor. “
Comment: He could have answered simply and truthfully, “I don’t believe either of those things.” Instead, he flat out lies by saying he is not a Calvinist, when in fact he thinks of himself as a 7 point Calvinist. Would you buy a used car from this man?
Article: ” Their “Calvinism” turned out to be Hyper-Calvinism. Instead, I gave them my understanding of how God’s ultimate choice and our penultimate choices were compatible to which they agreed. I pointed to their statement of faith and told them I wholeheartedly affirmed what they confessed.”
Comments: Did he believe exactly what their statement of faith said or did he “wholeheartedly affirm” additional pieces of theology that were not in their doctrinal statement? In other words, was their statement of faith wholly consistent with 5 or 7 point Calvinism? Or were they maybe 4 point Calvinists? His initial lie raises the question.
He makes clear that he has no doubts that Calvinism is essential to understanding the Bible correctly. Although he advocates allowing a passage to speak on its own, I think he overestimates human ability to keep his system of theology from coming through as he preaches. Those convictions may also influence which passages he chooses to preach on. A congregation ought to know that before they vote. If they want to be wrong (in his opinion) and reject “Calvinism” wouldn’t it be better to let them be wrong and go on his way rather than lie so that you can later teach them the truth?
He skims over a key fact that he thought he might not get the job he wanted if he told the truth. The fact that he chose to answer a question with a broad lie when he could have answered simply and truthfully calls into question his character. Christlike character is paramount in a pastor. And Jesus names himself “The Truth.” What else will he lie about later in order to advance his ability to “serve the kingdom?”
The contemporary Neo-Calvinist movement is also associated with patterns of behavior that a church body might want to avoid whatever they think of his specific theology. Having him be honest from the beginning would be fair to those worshiped there.
True. But a New Calvinist just ain’t going to take that risk. He wants to capture your church for the movement; his stealth and deception was predestined, you know.
I posted this a few weeks ago on a private social media discussion site. Most agreed with me that he was deceptive and should have clarified what Calvinism really believes. But some insisted I falsely accused him based on incomplete info. I was able to contact the author privately and ask him when he clarified he was actually a Calvinist. The only answer I got so far is him confirming he told them what he actually believes about a few topics. I asked for clarification on when he told them he is a Calvinist. I am still waiting for a reply. I agree with you – he should have corrected their misunderstanding of Calvinism and then told them why he believes Calvinism is true.
In the article he claims to be a seven point Calvinist, two whole points better than average Calvinists, but denied it when asked. I would have had more sympathy if he had caveated the article by saying he does not like the term Calvinist. That would have given his answer a bit of credibility.
Yes. And all are gifted: Rom 12, 1 Cor 12, Eph 4. 18 gifts given by the HS to the Body of Christ, walking in the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5) and all under the authority of Jesus only, no middleman (Bk of Hebrews).
We are enjoying Reading the Bible Chronologically with Traci Rhodes and 1000+ others. No paywall. Connecting on FB. More than enough materials to study, as well as comments to read. And fully free to make comments. Voice.
It’s the standard NeoCal mumbo-jumbo … if you preach the Bible, the hearer will be convinced that reformed theology is truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Of course, a reformer’s preaching is slanted Calvinistic by stealth and deception to indoctrinate rather than lead a believer to rely totally on the Holy Spirit to teach them Truth. Buyer beware.
Uh-oh, now John Piper will claim he is an 8-point Calvinist … he has to stay ahead of everyone else, you know … those with the most points win the crown.
The last statement in Dee’s post:
“ It’s time to reconsider how some church leaders view their members. Do they hear them? Maybe the question is, “Do they want to hear them?”
If the recent revelations made about abuse and cover-ups in the Catholic Church and Southern Baptist churches are indicators, I would say that some church leaders don’t want to hear anything unless a revelation of serious criminal offenses made to and through the secular world forces them to.
Really, how much has changed in the Catholic Church and the SBC in the last 4 years? So, what should we expect in situations where church leaders’ behaviors aren’t actually crimes?
The very first thing that I noticed that was wrong in typical churches was the fact that they ignore the passages in Timothy and Titus about the qualifications of elders or leaders whatever title you give to them. This was decades ago when I first noticed. I grew up in what is now Driscoll-Land next to his cult. Scottsdale is a very rich area. The churches I went to as a young adult only appeared to have one criteria for choosing board members/elders: are you a successful, wealthy businessman? That was and remains all that matters. F all that stuff in the Bible. We are a business and these businessmen will help us to compete with all of the other businesses! Screw God and anyone else who says otherwise.
I grew up in a church in one of the most wealthy areas in the country. There were millionaires there in the early 70’s. Were any of them not in positions of power in that church? I do not think so. This is the system that we have. We have classes just as firm as the UK. They are just not codified in all of the laws of the land, but are the cultural norms. This lack of concern about qualifications just creates the environment where all the nonsense happens that are highlighted here every week. This could be changed if the common people stopped giving to such corrupted systems, but we love the nests of sin we call our home church.
Likely the greatest of my own giftings is logic. I cannot agree with you more. The logic makes no sense. That is why I refer to it as Dispensensationalism. It is really what it is. Forget Christ. The anti-Christ gets all of the focus. Stir up fear and paranoia in order to make a few bucks. It makes no sense, but you cannot be a Calvary Chapel pastor without it. What part of the Bible did that come from?
Michael in UK,
Nancy2(aka Kevlar): “Rhetorical question: How is “christianity” through stealth and deception Christ-like???”
Eyewitness: ““Choose a few men who are…spiritually minded”
Michael: “Rhetorical answer! I honestly don’t think half of them know they are doing this. It’s just their unconscious mode.”
as i see it, there are many forms of deception, manipulation, dishonesty, and neuroses baked in to Church Leadership 101: Methods & Materials.
(whether learned in a classroom, by reading about it, or by simple emulating what other pastors are doing)
my most recent church was the best one — truly good and decent human beings at the helm.
if they only knew how manipulative their practices are… how cruel and destructive their content is…
how they’ve been primed to be scared spitless of imaginary goblins…
they have no clue.
and they’re intelligent, educated people.
i think they’re simply in a bubble of rarified air, and they let big big names tell them what’s real and what to do.
really, their careers depend on it.
Illogic is very entrenched in all walks of life and televangelists gave it sacred legs. In Dewey and Rorty it is called “pragmatism”. Bertrand Russell, an agnostic, accused Dewey of “cosmic impiety”.
Do as you would not be done by the police.
And be aware, this can happen with an internal candidate, as well.
This is a topic that appears often in the Bible. Who listens to whom. Who is called by God for what, and then how do others else react.
Who listened to the OT prophets?
Who listened to God regarding the coming of the Messiah? Mary. Joseph. Shepherds. 3 border-crossing kings.
What did Anna and Simeon do when they saw Jesus? How did Simeon know that Jesus was the Messiah?
Twelve answered the call – from many walks of life – to be disciples, with one becoming a traitor.
Who else listened to and followed Jesus?
Who called Jesus a liar, and then executed him?
Who announced Jesus’ resurrection? Mary, to the disciples who didn’t believe.
Each follower of Jesus has a gift from God, through God’s Holy Spirit, to the Body of Christ. Who acknowledges, recognizes and honors these 18 gifts given to the Body? If pastors are in charge, is there even one pastor that acknowledges, recognizes, and honors the 18 gifts sent by God through the followers of Jesus? 1 Thessalonians 5 says to quench not the Spirit.*
(“Desiring God posts that church leaders are given the power to restrict or release what the Spirit does in the local church. There it is, first the Bible says the Holy Spirit is going to do something, and then a church leader declares himself the middleman. Too bad the very same middleman does not intervene regarding Domestic Violence, Child Sexual Abuse, and Clergy Abuse in local churches. But they sure do want to restrict the gifts of the Holy Spirit, while allowing the church to be Epstein’s Island Hunting Ground for Predators. Double-talk. https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/seven-ways-to-quench-the-spirit)
Somehow, TWW allows an audience to read, ruminate, then comment and share. The rules are to be polite about it. Surely, the Holy Spirit is sharing spiritual gifts here among Jesus’ followers. No middleman, just a Guy Behind the Curtain to check civility and morality.
Basketball games have refs on the sidelines while players play the court. Even the coach is not on the court. I believe we only have one spiritual coach and that is God Himself: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Spiritual Gifts designate our position for our team, the Body of Christ, on the court.
And each camp will claim that theirs is the only ‘right’ way to read it.
TWW is one of the few places that has an open ‘Glasnost’ type of atmosphere.
Many others are run by authoritarian types who believe in control freakery.
lead … or model.
The disciples were role models following Jesus their leader.
I believe that reading the Bible for oneself helps in listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and helps us assess the voices of others.
There are some meaningful parts of the Bible that I’ve never personally heard discussed or preached.
Read it for oneself. We don’t chew each others’ food. We serve ourselves and enjoy the meal. Meat vs mother’s milk, as mentioned in Hebrews 5.
Reformation can be good. Change, growth, evolution, in the right direction.
Here it is out front, plain and simple, with neither blush nor brag:
My personal reformation over the last few years has come about in part with the work of three historians and one incredible researcher/journalist:
Jesus & John Wayne by Kristin Kobes Du Mez, Calvin University, Grand Rapids, released 2020
The Making of Biblical Womanhood by Beth Allison Barr, Baylor, released 2021
Golden Handcuffs by Nina Burleigh, released 2018
Strongmen by Ruth Ben-Ghiat, NYU, released 2020
Previously, my reformation was taking place with influences from:
The Wartburg Watch blog, with Dee Parsons, recently Todd Wilhelm, & all of the commenters sharing over the years, from about 2015 for me
Researching, writing a novel: Legal Grounds by Ava Aaronson, released 2019
Before that, there were many positive engagements with the senior ladies from church. These women were older, wiser, biblical (reading, studying & praying for themselves), experienced, and with sayings such as “I bend my knee to no one but Jesus,” (a quote from one of the women).
How about you? What have been your reformations? Your turning points? How is God moving positively, (no-never-mind-the-so-called-“reformers”)? Maybe seeing these “reformers” for who they really are is personal reformation – like personally reformed to not get suckered into the latest and greatest shiny new new thing “reformation” that comes along…
“Remember… It’s not a lie if YOU believe it!”
Dr. Ruth Ben-Ghiat, NYU historian, terms them, “Strongmen”, and traces their movement globally over the 100+ years across institutions. The strongmen all use the same playbook, stealthily transforming democratic free societies and institutions into fascist dynasties. Ben-Ghiat exposes their playbook in her well-researched book, “Strongmen”.
I agree, yet therein also lies a paradox…. Christ taught many concepts in parables that require significant reflection/life experiences, dare I say knowledge and wisdom? So yes, faith does not require much “learning”; but long term, lifetime maturity, requires significant studying, reflection…..
I would suggest that my lifetime of scientific study has made me even more in “awe” in all aspects of the physical world…. And since I have faith that G$d created it, I have even more “awe” of G$d…. I definitely do not try to put G$d in a “box” like so many preacher boys do…. I could get specific about what I consider to be arrogant, and simplistic “theological positions” that are routinely discussed on TWW, but I will not…
… while also teaching that “He who has ears to hear, let him hear and understand” (Matthew 11:15). Paul put it this way “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
A simple man with a limited education can discern the things of God if he has the Holy Spirit to teach him … while intellectuals without the Spirit consider them foolish. “Now when the men of the Jewish High Court saw the confidence and boldness of Peter and John, and grasped the fact that they were uneducated and untrained ordinary men, they were astounded, and began to recognize that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Walking with Jesus made the difference then, as it does today, in one’s ability to grasp spiritual things.
Some of the most gifted Bible teachers I ever sat under never went to college; they immersed themselves in the Word under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and were able to teach others Bible truth. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against education – I even have some, having spent a long career as an environmental scientist. But education does not produce one ounce of revelation in the Kingdom of God in the here and now.
Agreed. Most preachers keep preaching the same sermons over and over, changing a bit here and there, from familiar texts that the pew has heard all their church lives. There are some GREAT untapped sermons in the Bible that I’ve never heard proclaimed during my church experience. It’s a great book!!
New Calvinism is a perfect example of what can happen when you turn a few intellectuals without the Spirit loose on the church (Piper, Dever, Mohler, Keller, etc.).
Not “getting you wrong”… This kind of back and forth is desperately needed today.. not just in discussion of “religion”, but it seems in all aspects of our society!!!
“They will call upon the Strong Man. And the Strong Man will come.”
— Demonic villain brag from a Seventies spiritual-warfare novel
It looks like the danger of Mr Dever’s Polity was highlighted a good few years ago by Robert Wring of the Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, Germanstiown in the “Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry Vol. 3 No. 1 (Spring 2005): 188-212
Elder Rule and Southern Baptist Church Polity although it looks like no one listened to him.
You can read his article here
Jeffrey J Chalmers,
In replying to Eyewitness, let me note that I too am an eyewitness to these search committee missteps. Church leaders would do well to add a simple clause to their contracts with Pastors: “Removal for Cause–if it can be shown that a pastor misled the search committee in any way, the pastor will be removed for cause, without severance.”
Speaking of Keller, I had read and benefitted from a couple of his books. But then came the Driscoll implosion and in the aftermath I read this quote from Keller.
“He was really important — in the Internet age, Mark Driscoll definitely built up the evangelical movement enormously.
“But the brashness and the arrogance and the rudeness in personal relationships — which he himself has confessed repeatedly — was obvious to many from the earliest days, and he has definitely now disillusioned quite a lot of people.”
Keller found Driscoll useful to his movement and knew he had repeatedly confessed without change (no repentance). Yet, to the best of my knowledge, never spoke out publicly in public rebuke of a fellow elder and as warning to the church at large.
How much did Driscoll’s “usefulness” figure into Keller’s silence? I think exploiting the abusive person because he is useful (to your movement, to keeping things steady and comfortable for leaders and onlookers at your church, etc.) is a large part of what keeps wolves in power. Those who protect wolves are complicit in the harm done to the sheep.
I am not aware that Keller ever said a word about all those harmed by Driscoll. I guess they are not important to the movement? But they are important to the Good Shepherd.
Great article, Dee. In my own journey I’ve had to move past examining the abusers (which is very, very useful) to examining my own heart. I internalized all the messages that proclaimed, “The only people that matter to God are the people with influential stage ministries.” Therefore, I submitted to these people and tried to become one or get as close to them as possible. As Taylor Swift sings, “I’m the problem. It’s me.” As Jesus says, “You accept people who come in their own authority but you refuse to accept me.” I’ve definitely been mistreated and subjected to abuse that wasn’t my fault. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about accepting responsibility for internalizing the messages I was taught, so that I can repent.
I do not believe the church was ever pure or will ever be – there’s no magical purity example from the past. If Jesus, Paul, and Eusebius address wolves in sheep’s clothing, you know it’s been a problem that’s always been with us…and always will be. What individuals need to do is wolf-proof themselves and then try to wolf-proof the institutions they belong to or form. But wolves will always get in one way or another to bite and devour; ironically, one way to wolf-proof oneself is to accept this and lay down any demand for total purity or total safety. I believe we can and should work with all the resources available to us to keep ourselves and other people safe, but we have to accept we live in a world in which total safety is not available but that Jesus is present with us, noting everything that is happening, full of justice, full of mercy, and will put everything to right in the end, even when we find we can’t do that completely in the here and now.
Unfortunately my experience has been that most Christians (roman catholic or otherwise) are on board with the leadership.
A lot of mega churches have membership in the thousands, the Roman Catholic Church millions.
From the obscene wealth of Vatican city to Kenneth Copeland’s multiple private jets, Christians love it!
And they defend the indefensible.
This is not a few bad apples, this is systemic rot deep to the core.
Heck if it was just beliefs like transubstantiation, or talking in tongues, strange to me but mostly harmless, no problem.
But we had Pope Frank come visit this summer. His whole blinking trip cost would have paid the compensation to residential school survivors that Catholic Church in Canada told a court they couldn’t afford in 2005.
And no Catholic clergy called this out to my knowledge.
Sorry but for the vast majority church = god.
Good idea. A very specific written contract is critical as you suggest. It cannot be an oral agreement based on trust.
In thinking about preventing a takeover by a wolf in shepherd’s clothing, I’ve wondered about asking candidates to answer questions in writing about what their ideal church polity is, to specifically say what they would add or subtract to the church’s statement of faith, to specifically say what they consider major issues of doctrine, and which they would tolerate other views on for staff, church officers, and members. Those written answers could serve as a record.
There is a lot of hard-won wisdom here on TWW. Any other ideas that search teams should consider to filter out wolves ahead of time, before they’ve sunk their claws into the church and developed their own “pack”?
The biggest question I have when I read the stories you cover is “how the heck did the other elders allow this to continue”? The answer sadly, is many are desperately backslidden or worse….. simply not Christians.
The second question is almost tied with number one: “why the heck do people stay”? Maybe the sunk cost fallacy or just denial. I can relate to some of that when I stayed too long at a church of 800+ some years ago. Something was off but it took a while to make the move.
That being said, I have a hard time only blaming the skinny-jeans pastors when 50% of the congregation should know better. It is easier for me to believe that these are not real churches, they are clubs. The leaders and many congregants are being exactly what they want to be.
Church and denominational leaders seem to get all starry-eyed with leaders who bring in “results”. I’ve seen it locally with a former church hiring a pastor who showed red flags in the hiring process. I’ve also seen it with denominational leaders who have a “very important” ministry while the character issues are ignored.
Jesus hung out with the outcasts and marginalized. I think that’s where the Spirit is most active, especially among those of us who are calling the church to address the sin of leaders who harm others.
Religious leaders try to vilify blogs and social media probably because the commoners can talk. Leaders would much rather us be isolated and unaware of their tactics.
Some may not be actual believers, but believers can do similar things through the self-deception that the Bible warns all of us about. Leaders can allow it to continue often because they have been able to convince themselves that they are acting righteously.
–Leaders wrongly apply Scriptural teachings of forgiveness, repentance, and restoration. They will rush to “forgive” an offender and ask the congregation to do so. They believe that if the victim will just forgive, then she or he will be healed of all the damage, so their job is done. The victim gets pressured to forgive and desire for justice or to protect others will be interpreted as “lack of forgiveness.” Depression, anxiety, etc. will be interpreted as not really having forgiven and having a “victim mentality” and the victim will become the culprit.
–Leaders know that an offender should be repentant, but also over-estimate their ability to recognize true repentance. Offenders are good at saying the words and even turning on the tears. Leaders should be looking for fruit over time.
–A truly repentant pastor can be restored to the church, but not to leadership if his pattern and severity of sin have disqualified him from leadership. But using words like forgive, confession, repentance, and restoration can convince leaders themselves and the congregants that they are acting biblically.
God gives grace to the humble and lowly of heart. James 4.6.
Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of God. Matthew 5.
I don’t know about you, but I was raised with a loud, bossy, boisterous, brassy Gospel … shiny and glitzy. At this point in time, that doesn’t seem right. It’s a bit off.
Even Confucius said a seed produces a great oak tree in silence but crashes “timber” to the Earth loudly with fanfare, signifying a grand difference between creativity and destruction.
Wow, what an experience, and good for you for seeing the problems.
Although I did encounter abuse later on, my earliest church experiences happened in small and lovely congregations. The kind, loving, respectful atmosphere at worship was not much different from the atmosphere in quiet moments at my grandparents’ home.
Oh yeah, several of the New Calvinist elite put up with potty-mouth Driscoll because he was good for the movement, drawing in a radical group of followers who brought funds to the revolution (conference attendees, book buyers, offering plate contributors, etc.). Piper adored him at one time. The Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel depended on Driscoll to attract a crowd at their conferences. I’m sure God was pleased with all this … not.
When Driscoll became too hot to handle, he fell from darling to doofus. For Keller and other NeoCal elite it then became “Driscoll who?” These guys use each other until their liabilities exceed their assets. It sounds so Christlike doesn’t it? … not.
Agreed. However, there is a segment of the American church which desires “pastors” who act and talk no differently than they do … it makes them feel better about themselves.
Toss in some big screens and fog machines with those skinny jeans and you have Christianity Lite at its best! Millions of churchgoers love swimming in shallow water with no demands on their lives to pursue holiness.
Shoddily thought out religion imposed lack of logic on education systems, and a template that is called “holy” (and isn’t in Bible meanings) is their only yardstick again st itself.
Or even with my staying seated rear, by not joining the communion queue as is expected in one of my old churches (one can conveniently excommunicate oneself from its sacraments if one skips that for a year) (though I now don’t go in at all because I was still being accosted by the nuisance element).
Chesterton once wrote that the appeal of Black Magick is that in the Unseen world it is the Dark Powers who have the reputation of Getting Things Done. They Get Results.
Only thing is, in order to attract their attention and get those Results you want, you have to become like Them.
Not sure that’s as big a reason as you think, but I’m also not sure I could explain why.
When I was in-country that exact idea was Weaponized and used on me.
The ideal of the Holy Nincompoop, where the more stupid and ignorant you are, the more Godly you must be. “He has NO book larnin’ and HE IS LOUD!”
This does not end well.
This sort of thing used to be true but now, college unlearning has destroyed inference and knowledge, and gets passed on to the public and / or parishioners, annulling curiosity, imagination and empathy altogether.
Honesty comes from (actual) logic, and respect meets identity (which is in ontology), hence we get ought from is. There aren’t going to be the old men you describe, because prayer, Holy Spirit and providence got airbrushed from the pecking order, especially during our lifetimes.