A Few More Resources

These are sort of in line with my last post on tithing.  I really intended to extend further, but time is limited.  So I’m just listing some cool links for you all to react to.

There’s a John Eldridge Interview where Jesus is compared to a bearded Mr. Rogers.

This next one is a bit of a shocker, but if you watch the full 13 minute clip, you’ll see the tie-in with tithing.  Yeah, FTN and I aren’t the only one wondering about this stuff.  One of the biggest churches in the country is starting to get it.  Sort of.

Numerous critics of Willow Creek are chiming in.  IMO most of the critics are in no better shape than Willow Creek.

But I give high marks to  the pastors of WC for having the guts to question things and be willing to correct their course.  Sort of.

Anyway, there’s some good thinking material there for the spiritually inclined among you.

D.

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16 Responses to “A Few More Resources”

  1. FTN Says:

    That Reveal video has been the hot topic of conversation among my friends for the past three weeks. There is actually some really interesting stuff there.

  2. Digger Jones Says:

    The John Eldridge interview ties in neatly with the Reveal videos. Both are exposing problems with church life today.

    But Bill Hybels is wrong in his prescription. He wants people to become “personal self-feeders” as they mature. He’s SO wrong in that. People need to interconnect and expand those connections in new directions. The apostolic mission is about multiplication. The apostles did not spend their entire lives at one church or in one community. They moved on and expanded. Church was an *organic* thing that had a life of its own. Budgets, committees, studies, focus groups, surveys; these would have all been foriegn to churches expanding in Asia Minor during the first couple of centuries. The Holy Spirit was in control, not the apostles. The church outgrew the original 12 almost from the very beginning. Believers were already meeting in many cities before Paul even arrived there. It was out of control, which is exactly what God is trying to do today. I believe God wants to take the reigns, and He’s doing it by removing control from the institutions.

    Ever seen God work on this scale as fast as He is? Not in my lifetime.

    I’m close to being a Free Ranger, but I’m still connected to a local institution. Close enough to tell them that God is moving. So are you. People can go or stay. They don’t have to agree or like it, but they WILL have to reckon with it.

    We’re living in some really exciting times!

    D.

  3. Xian Husband Says:

    This stuff with Willow Creek surprises who? When your theology is as wide as the ocean but as deep as a kiddie pool, you can’t expect to create actual disciples. You might get big numbers, but you don’t change lives.

    If there is anything Christ and His Apostles were NOT it is “seeker-sensitive.” Christ talked continually about counting the cost. About knowing what it is you are getting into. He talked at length about the fact that following Him meant a changed life, opposed to the world, and that if done right it would lead to persecution.

    John 6 is interesting here. The crowds following Christ were at their peak. From the original 12 a few years before, He now has thousands following Him. What is His response? “You only follow me because I fed you.” He confronted them with the fact that most of them were not “disciples,” they were just sticking around because He gave them what they wanted. Then He teaches them what He is really about, and gives them some pretty deep theology, and, before the end of the chapter, it says that most of them left Him. So that, by the end, it’s pretty much back to just the 12 following Him — and even Judas had been pushed over the edge.

    Paul did similar things. He’d go to places to teach the Word, but would leave no place for fence-sitters. He confronted people with the Truth and forced them to make a choice one way or the other. That’s why the reaction against Him was so strong — why he was beaten and stoned so often.

    There is no place in Christianity for Christians with anything less than a full life commitment. If you aren’t committed 100% — if you haven’t truly died with Christ, died to self, taken up your cross and followed Him, etc — then it isn’t real anyway. The real marks of discipleship — self-sacrifice, conformity to God’s will and God’s moral law, obedience, humility, etc — are not optional. They are necessary because they are the only possible response of a heart that has truly died with Christ. As 2 Tim 2 says, if we have died with Him, we will surely live with Him, but if we have not died with Him we are spiritually dead.

    You cannot have real disciples without real commitment and you can’t have that without depth, discipline, and all those other non-seeker-friendly things. If you never take a stand on Truth then you can’t expect any of your followers to have any commitment to Truth. If you never hold your followers accountable and truly shepherd the flock then you can’t but expect the sheep to wander off wherever they want, instead of sticking to the straight-and-narrow. If all your effort and time is spent on slick marketing, pop-psychology, and a weekly rock-concert then you have to expect to only attract those followers who want affirmation, entertainment, and slick and easy answers to life’s questions.

    The problem with the answers to this problem being found both by Willow Creek and by you, Digger, is the idea that the solution can still be found within the confines of traditional evangelical protestantism, when the problems are caused by the very essence of that movement. What Willow Creek is seeing is the inevitable outgrowth of what evangelical protestantism IS.

  4. FTN Says:

    Ah yes, of course, the problem is not the institutional church, it’s obviously “traditional evangelical protestantism,” whatever that means.

    I have no idea what “traditional evangelical protestantism” is, but I have a feeling you are going to define it completely differently than I would. The thing is, I really don’t see how Digger or I differ that much from you in our beliefs of the basic principles of Christianity.

    So the essence of being an evangelical Christian is slick marketing, pop psychology, and a weekly rock concert? Strange, I thought it was about telling people about Jesus.

    Guess I need to find myself a new label. Care to loan me another box? The last one I was put into wore out.

  5. Desmond Jones Says:

    Hmmmm. . .

    I suppose I should go ahead and follow the links you gave us here, Digger, but I mainly want to comment on a couple of the comments, if you’ll allow it. . .

    First – Digger, I think the image you’re painting of the apostles and the early church is very romantic. “Church was an *organic* thing that had a life of its own.” “The Holy Spirit was in control, not the apostles.” Well, of course. But, the church grew in Ephesus and other cities, even after the apostles moved on, and the human, this-worldly realities of life together as the church still came into play. And some of those were/are financial. Even among people who are ‘filled with the Spirit’, relationships can go bad; ‘love one another’ is both the simplest and most difficult commandment. I agree that it is tragic when this-worldly financial realities overwhelm the time/energy available for the church to be the church, but those realities aren’t simply superfluous.

    XH, I agree with much of what you say here (minus the blanket indictment of evangelical protestantism), but in response to, “If you aren’t committed 100% . . . then it isn’t real anyway.”, I would only ask, who can honestly say that they are committed 100%? My heart, like all human hearts is ‘desperately evil’, and, even at my very best moments, I still hold back (almost in spite of myself; cf. Romans 7) from ‘going all-out’ for Christ. I pursue Him with as much energy/vigor as I know how to, and I aim to yield myself to His Holy Spirit as freely as I possibly can, but still, I am a fallible man. Can I have a little credit for doing the best I can? I honestly don’t know, from God’s perspective, how really ‘committed’ I am; 90%? 50%? 10%? God knows; I don’t. And all I can do is give myself to Him as best I can, and follow Him as best I can, given the constraints of my fallible humanity. . .

  6. Xian Husband Says:

    “Evangelicalism” as defined by Alister E. McGrath in Christian Theology: An Introduction (and I paraphrase to some extent):

    A transdenominational trend in theology and spirituality which lays particular emphasis on a certain, very limited set of doctrines and Biblical interpretations. All other matters have tended to be regarded as adiaphora upon which a substantial degree of pluralism may be accepted.

    Historically, evangelicalism has never been committed to any particular theory of the church, treating denominational distinctives as of secondary importance. A corporate conception of the Christian life is not understood to be specifically linked with any one denominational understanding. In one sense, this is a minimalist ecclesiology. This has several major consequences: 1) Evangelicalism is transdenominational; 2) Evangelicalism is not a denomination in itself, but is a trend within mainstream protestant denominations; 3) Evangelicalism itself represents an ecumenical movement. There is a natural affinity amongst evangelicals, irrespective of their denominational associations, which arises from a common commitment to a set of shared beliefs and outlooks, and a refusal to allow any specific doctrine outside this common core to be seen as normative.

    Now, from me. Evangelicalism is a natural outgrowth of 18th/19th century European liberalism. It seeks Christian unity through doctrinal relativism, defining everything but a limited core as “unimportant” and so differences of opinion there divisive. The core it considers important is very shallow, and tends to be a simple emphasis on what is touchy-feely in the Biblical gospel.

    This shallowness tends to lead to the acceptance of much of human wisdom in the form of pop psychology, etc even while many evangelicals try to segment themselves off from culture.

    In the end, you are left with a commitment to scripture without a commitment to Truth, Institution without structure (where structure is necessary to keep institution from turning to arbitary power), leaders without leadership and real shepherding, church without community, involvement without commitment, and faith without works. Worst of all, you get a slick sales pitch without the mention of the price-tag. So, no counting the cost. Instead, Christ is presented as if there is no cost.

    So, you end up with massive mega-churches unaffiliated with any larger structure, so the senior pastor is the end-all, be-all, ultimate authority, massive numbers with no commitment, teaching that avoids any mention of duty and obligation and instead ends towards Olsteen-style health-and-wealth theology (which has no place in a Biblical understanding), and compromises at all places where someone, somewhere might find something uncomfortable. It is compromise with the world all in the name of numbers and, in the end, $$$.

    Clear enough?

  7. Xian Husband Says:

    Des: There is a difference between commitment and follow-through. None of us will ever follow through perfectly. What matters is where we are walking.

    If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus His son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

    It’s about walking in the light.

    That is, I think, what Paul was talking about in II Tim 2:

    For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him;
    If we endure, we shall also reign with Him
    If we deny Him, He also will deny us;
    If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself.

    There is a difference between denying Him and just being faithless. Denying Him is not dying with Him and not enduring. Being faithless is not always following through on the commitments we’ve made. The same distinction, I believe, behind the division between mortal and venial sins. Not all sins we do are denying Christ, but some are — as Paul told Titus we can often profess to know God, but by our deeds deny Him.

    Never dying to self. Never taking up our cross to follow Him. Never saying, “Not my will, but Yours be done.” Never pledging ourselves as slaves to God — slaves to the one we obey. This is the definition of NOT being a Christian. Churches who, therefore, do not teach commitment and obligation to God, but instead on some easy, slick, warm-fuzzy “God loves You” doctrine absent of anything else aren’t creating Christians. What they ARE creating are people who take the name of our Lord for themselves in vain.

  8. diggerjones Says:

    XH, you nicely demonstrate why God needs to bring things under HIS control, directly through the Holy Spirit and take it OUT of the control of various church leaders. The institution is corrupt to the *core*, and this extends well past evangelical protestantism. You take a few steps in any direction towards any branch of fundamentalism and you will find the same basic elements: Control through fear, manipulation and intimidation. I don’t care if you are Catholic, Evangelical, Mormon, Jew, Hindu or Muslim. Those basic elements of control and brainwashing are always present in order to maintain the status of the institution and those who hold power there. And none of it is the truth.

    XH, you make much over the master/slave relationship over and over and over again. Jesus Christ, is indeed our Lord. But according to John 10:10, He was not offering bondage. He was offering *kinship*. Kinship with Him and with each other. Our work, our offerings, our goodness (such that it may be) are offered because of *relational* ties.

    As if God needs slaves. If He wanted slaves, He simply could have left them all in Egypt and simply deposed the Pharaoh, thus saving Himself and the world a lot of trouble! But He states over and over that He wanted a people to call His own. He wanted a *relationship*. He reached out, sending His own son, for cryin’ out loud! Does this sound like the actions of one who demands to be Master over obedient and mindless servants?

    Desmond, it’s *because* of the Real Life encountered that made the movement take off. The persecution galvanized the people and they NEEDED the community in order to survive. The apostles never hung around most of the churches they planted for very long at all. So how did they function? Did the elders step in and start taking names and take charge? No. The elders certainly advised, but it was not the centralized theocracy that is envisioned today. Was it tough getting along? Yes! Did organizing and institutionalizing the system during and after Constantine’s reign make these relationships one bit better? Did this organization eliminate the heresies the leaders so greatly feared? Was the body of Christ better off in 300 AD than it was in 100 AD? Did church buildings, church taxes, church hierarchy, church staff, church sacraments, and church political power bring in more people who would becomes disciples of Christ?

    Reproducing the Hebrew cult has done little to change the world. Paul managed to turn at least 3 countries around without a Bible, without a paid staff, without a dedicated building, without mass media and really without being particularly charismatic as a speaker! He had one thing: the Holy Spirit, which is the Spirit of Truth. He lived it by laying down his life for his friends and even his jailers on more than one occasion.

    The ability to transform lives and transform the world does NOT rely on structure. True, God did lay the foundations when He gave the law to Moses. But throughout the period where Mosaic law and structure dominated, the Hebrew culture was very small and localized. They never had the influence other ancient cultures had, like the Egyptians, Persians, Babylonians, Greeks and Romans. It was only when God fulfilled those ancient prophesies, fulfilled the law through Jesus and loosed the Gospel that Christianity spread like fire. God has fulfilled the prophesy of Ezekiel 34, and is reinstating it. It’s not about finding new shepherds or better shepherds. It’s about following ONE shepherd.

    So in a sense, I agree with you, XH. The CGM churches have made serious errors in their seeker sensitive approach. I saw that pretty quickly. However, I give them credit for spotting the deeper error and looking into it. It’s only taken them about 25 years to spot it. The mainline denominations, with their doctrines and dogmas will probably never see it. And even if they do, they will deny it even exists. The CGM churches were very light in their theology, which many have seen as being light in their thinking. Less generous persons would say they were light in devotion to Jesus. I do not necessarily agree with that. I think FTN and his pastoral/staff friends embody some of the best and brightest in that movement. They are truly seeking the heart of God and do so honestly without necessarily seeking the approval of other people. Or no more so than any leader of any other church.

    The answer to this is not going to be found in teachings taught in any building or class. You all are amazingly smart fellows (the smart gals haven’t piped in as of yet). We live in very different parts of the country. And yet most of us can probably sense the Spirit’s restlessness. We aren’t *taught* that there is a problem. Many of us might think we’re teaching others, but we are only giving voice to the unrest others already feel within themselves.

    Hang on to your butts, because it may be a bumpy ride!

    This discussion suddenly got right interesting!

    D.

  9. Xian Husband Says:

    Which all sounds good, but has absolutely nothing to do with the community of God founded by Christ, spread by the Apostles, and taught in the Bible. You doctrine here is not just unBiblical it is anti-Biblical. If you really want to be a Christian — literally a follower of Christ — you have to follow what HE said and where HE leads, not where you wish He would have gone. Because to go your own way is to be a follower of yourself, which is idolatry.

    To be right with Him you are going to have to learn submission. Without it you will never be acceptable in His sight.

  10. Digger Jones Says:

    From Matthew:
    23:1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so practice and observe whatever they tell you—but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

    13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

  11. Xian Husband Says:

    Luke 22:

    Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

    If that response of submission was the necessary and holy response of God’s only begotten son, who is equal to the Father in divinity, do you think He really requires anything less from us mere men, even if we have, by grace been adopted as sons of God and joint-heirs with Christ?

    Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
    Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
    but made himself nothing,
    taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
    And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to death—
    even death on a cross!
    Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
    that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
    and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

    “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”

  12. Desmond Jones Says:

    Wow; Christian flame wars. . .

    This is so edifying I can hardly stand it. . .

  13. Digger Jones Says:

    Funnily enough,Desmond, I have no dispute with any of the scriptures XH has posted. None at all! In fact, he is dead on in a lot of things. Submission to God is not at issue nor should it be for any Christian.

    XH, you are correct in your above assertion, in that it is our kinship with Christ that enjoins our allegiance and our loyalty. Obedience to Christ is not at issue. Doing what Christ told us to do is not at issue.

    What IS at issue is what that obedience looks like. The pharisees were able to hold to the letter of the law and even extended and made up some new ones in order to not offend God. Then they insisted that the laws they made up were from God and insisted everyone else follow their laws. They made a pretty big show of their faith, too. From a totally human standpoint, the pharisees were the most obedient people on the planet. So why did they clash with Jesus? Shouldn’t He have exalted them? Shouldn’t He have rewarded them for their faithfulness and their efforts? Instead He called them vipers, sons of the devil, whitewashed tombs and hypocrites! No one, and I mean NO ONE kept the law better than the pharisees. They understood duty and obligation better than anyone.

    So just what was the problem Jesus had with those people and why did He seem to antagonize them so? Was He just being impolite? And why did they kill Him and stone Stephen? Why did Saul, the scribe and pharisee approve?

    I have a post sitting around, waiting to answer some of these questions as well as addressing some of my present concerns and issues. I haven’t posted it because I’m not keen to really start a flame war. I just laid out scripture in my above reply because I knew there was nothing I could add that would NOT be more inflammatory! So I tried to tone it down. Tried.

    Perhaps the best I can do is to rest in role of heretic, blasphemer and apostate. Better men than i have been labeled as such.

    You are a lover of Truth, XH, and no less a lover of God. I accept that. But you and I are not seeing eye-to-eye on what is happening. I see God where you see the devil. Or I see the devil where you see God! Each of us sees the other as deceived! Or blind.

    I’m willing to let God illuminate.

    D.

  14. FTN Says:

    I’m still having trouble trying to figure out what, exactly, we’re arguing. XH keeps debating how we all need to humbly submit to Christ, and I don’t see where anyone is saying anything different.

    I think the point is that submitting to PEOPLE is different than submitting to Christ. On one hand, XH, you say that evangelical protestant churches have it all wrong, and that you’ve got it right. You say “you have to follow what HE said and where HE leads.” All agreed.

    No one is arguing submission to God, we’re simply debating how to “do” church. Submission to Christ is NOT the same as submission to “the church,” because as even XH pointed out, a lot of churches have it wrong!

    So what is the debate here, exactly? I’m very pragmatic, I need specific action points.

  15. Digger Jones Says:

    What I’m reading from XH is a very steadfastly diligent adherence to the traditional doctrine that people in church leadership derive their authority directly from God and that deviating from that is heresy, thus falling outside of the Will of God. It is akin to rebellion and treason, otherwise known as apostasy. The hierarchy of the church was instituted in order to protect the flock from such dangerous heresies. Afterall, sheep are amazingly stupid.

    Me, being outside of that hierarchy, is like a sheep being alone in the wilderness and therefore vulnerable to the wolves. Even more seriously, I may represent a danger to others with my radical and anti-religious views thus making ME a wolf!

    In any case, my movement away from the institution represents a failure to submit to any authority other than myself, which makes me selfish, lazy, delusional and/or rebellious. I need to find a community with more orthodox beliefs and submit to whoever the leader/authority is in that group before I can again be restored into a state of grace with Jesus Christ.

    I’m thinking that XH wants me to submit to the authority of either Gordon B. Hinckley or Paul Palmieri.

    D.

  16. Xian Husband Says:

    The problem is that, while claiming to be submissive to God you are still wanting to do it on your own terms. You are making yourself the ultimate authority on exactly what it is God is requiring of you. Which is awfully convenient. It’s telling God, “I’ll do what you tell me to do, but first I’ll tell you exactly what it is you are telling me to do.”

    It is making God’s Truth not just subjective but very personally subjective.

    God never promises every individual the ability to understand His will independent of anyone else. That’s why the New Testament spends quite a bit of time talking about the qualifications for, duties of, and reasons for teachers. That’s why Paul says that Timothy’s job in Ephesus (2 Tim 2:15) is to correctly interpret the Word of Truth (the Greek word used is orthotomounta which means literally “to cut straight” and is the root of our word “orthodoxy”). That’s why James can say that not many should presume to be teachers because God will judge them more strictly.

    That’s why Peter can say of Paul and the things he wrote, “as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.”

    That’s why, according to Paul in Ephesians 4, God, “gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastor-teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”

    Out on your own you cut yourself off from the very things GOD gave us to help protect His Truth, which leaves you are the mercy of every wind of doctrine, tossed to and fro.

    Evangelical Protestantism already has this problem. It is a very baptist-based sort of movement, and is a direct out-growth of the radical reformation, the primary tenant of which was that nothing that came before was of any use. That nothing anyone had every taught was worth paying attention to. And that they could do it all on their own. This has led not only to some heretical ideas in the movement, but also a disrespect for any level of God-given authority in teaching. It was built on the “I don’t care what you say, God will just have to tell me what He wants personally because I’m not listening.” It is already built on a refusal to submit to any authority other than itself.

    Going further in the same direction isn’t a solution, it is perpetuating the same thing on an ever increasing scale.

    We all NEED each other as Christians. We can’t do it alone. Especially in the realm of interpreting Truth and understanding God’s will. We need each other. Which is why, as Paul says, “And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”” God gave us a community for a purpose, and he created each of us as individuals to need the community — to be UNABLE to do it on our own without help.

    So, while it is certainly true that the Church Christ created is more than just structure and institution, it has those things and it has them for a reason. He has gifted each of us differently, and to some He has given gifts of administration and organization. To others He has given gifts of teaching and understanding. And to others He has given other gifts. Certainly, He has not given ANY individual ALL gifts, which is why we have a community and structure and polity so that we can work together for each others’ benefit and the glorification of our Lord.

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