The next time you are tempted to fall under the influence of some author, blogger or other self-anointed “itinerant” authority on “being the church”, ask first if they have a history of personally being – on a sustained basis – part of the kind of church they promote.
For example, here in the U.S., the number of phonies pontificating on all things organic and missional in various books, blogs, social media posts and conferences is astounding. They talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk.
This is a burning question for the organic church community – as well as other reform movements.
Do we embrace a fabricated Jesus, or the authentic Jesus?
Here’s a montage of my twenty most significant posts on Facebook in 2013.
When Facebook created it, it brought many smiles and a few cringes:
Feel free to take a look.
As this montage shows, it has been a wonderful, yet “interesting”, year.
I think my biggest struggle was seeing the power games, leadership abuses, lies and cover ups in the organic/simple church community at the national level – which far exceed anything I’ve ever witnessed in the traditional, “institutional” church – while still holding firm, despite their hypocrisy, to some related core principles.
T.A.C.O.s Anyone? By Roger E. Olson
This article provides a sober warning by Dr. Olson that increasingly applies, unfortunately, to certain segments of the so-called “organic” or “simple” church community here in the West – which have come under the influence of so-called “apostolic workers” and their books, blogs and magazines.
Often, when you find an evangelical cult, you don’t have scratch very deep to find some self-professed “apostle” just below the surface.
Unfortunately, the “apostolic workers” now peddling their influence, books and conferences in the organic/simple church community – like we’ve seen with other so-called and often dead-end “new apostolic reformation” movements – are self-appointed, self-proclaimed and unaccountable (except to other “apostolic workers” who are part of their own mutual promotion network).
They also have been aggressively seeking to silence – through threats and slander – all who dare mention the history of sexual predation, abuse and coverup among them.
Is Janet Mefferd Being Intimidated by the “Gospel” Mafia to Shut Up About SGM? ~ The Wartburg Watch
Finally, the truth is coming out!
For several years, Marianne and I have been deeply involved behind the scenes in helping victims of the Sovereign Grace Ministries sex abuse scandal. We’ve seen its impact on close friends, while also counseling survivors and their families through Nathan’s Voice.
I also know Boz Tchividjian, who is publicly confronting SGM about its history of sexual abuse and is mentioned in this article.
Although we can’t directly talk about all the underlying facts regarding SGM due to confidentiality, we believe that this exposé by The Wartburg Watch is spot on.
What’s happening in that case is very similar to what’s also happening in the ongoing scandal involving author Frank Viola and his team of self-appointed apostolic “workers” and his additional “accountability team” of other organic church “leaders”.
The problem is not so much that organic church wannabes – who persist in writing, opining and peddling influence on all things organic without actually being part of a healthy, functional, local fellowship – are wrong in theory.
Rather, it’s that their opinions and aspirations lack a sufficient basis for being right in application.
There’s just too much of this going around these days:
Detached, unaccountable and self-appointed “apostles” who find their credentials in mutual promotion networks of other detached, unaccountable and self-appointed “apostles” – rather than a functional local church.
Whether they go by “apostle”, “worker,” “church planter” or whatever – a local church dud telling you how to be the church is a danger to your church.
Among our fellowships, we keep it real.
We have to. We have no choice.
Continually, people are coming to the Lord through us from places of deep bondage and despair.
The other morning a young man stopped by the house.
He had been struggling with emotional pain and bondage, and said he hadn’t come earlier because he didn’t want to be a burden.
I shocked him by responding that he and his problems were a burden – that there were other things I could be doing that morning. But, I explained with a huge grin, it was my joy to be burdened by him.
He paused and thought about it, then nodded as he realized I was being totally transparent and real with him. Thus started an amazing time of talking, sharing and ministry.
Until they stop excusing a history of sexual predation within their ranks, their blogs and books on sexual equality by self-professed leaders in the organic/simple church community ring hollow.
And until they accept local church accountability and warnings about that abuse, their blogs and books on how to be the church likewise ring hollow.
Finally… Someone is saying what needs to be said in the ongoing sex abuse scandals involving Frank Viola within the organic church community, C.J. Mahaney within Sovereign Grace Ministries, and others – and those who support them.
Like Marianne and me, licensed mental health counselor Carl Austin (the author of this piece) has ministered to many “perps” and seen amazing grace and redemption, but never without full and open confession and repentance. This is why we remain so resolute in opposing the proud abusers who never come clean. Unlike those who openly confess and repent, they are a blight on the church and remain a threat to others.
Originally posted on Diospsytrek's Blog:
Part of the Christian life is being loving and forgiving. These are qualities I pray for daily because they are so much not a natural part of me. In my effort to distill down doctrine and make sense of it for me personally I go with the statement from First John 4: “God is love.” Likewise, I understand that if we don’t forgive others (Mt. 6:14-15) then we are not forgiven. For me, these are two basic tenets of the faith that I have to remind myself of daily. Keeping statements like this utmost in my thoughts simplifies things for me. However I wonder if one can go overboard in trying to live out certain important aspects of the gospel like love and forgiveness, and are there some situations where those qualities were not meant to be applied?
I haven’t read the recent Rob Bell book Love Wins but I know it’s sparked a whole lot of commentary and controversy. I have read the some of the blogs and commentary about the book. I gather he’s been charged with preaching “universalism”–the “heresy” that in the end everybody will be saved–even folks like Hitler. The idea that individuals who have caused millions to suffer could somehow be redeemed in the end offends my sense of justice–and that of most folks.
One of the client populations I currently work with is juvenile sex offenders. I see them in groups and individually, and in the past I’ve counseled adult sex offenders as well. Most of the juveniles are just sad, needy kids from lousy families who did something dumb–horny, powerless young boys who committed a crime of opportunity like fondling their younger sister, cousin or neighbor. With one or two notable exceptions they are not likely to become dangerous, serial adult predators. But the whole going to court and going to treatment rigmarole is definitely something they need to have happen to convince them of the seriousness and consequences of what they’ve done. In some cases I think the punishment is truly restorative.
On Saturday, over sixty people gathered for a mass baptism at our house, involving various fellowships and ministries relating together here in Virginia.
After we buried lots of old natures, and lifted lots of new believers up into that same resurrection power that raised Christ from the dead, we enjoyed a cookout and just hangin’ with each other.
The Christian Pundit published an interesting article, Young Evangelicals Are Getting High.
It claims that the trend among young people now is towards “high church”, including Catholicism and Anglicanism, where they can find “a holy Father who demands reverence, a Saviour who requires careful worship, and a Spirit who must be obeyed. They are looking for true, deep, intellectually robust spirituality…”
This a clear reaction against the recent fad of Christian existentialism – in all its many forms.
Among the fellowships relating together here in Virginia, we’re seeing a deep hunger for mature discipleship, in-depth training and sound doctrine.
That hunger was reinforced earlier this year, when Miguel Labrador visited several of those fellowships. Miguel, with his wife Claudia, has been a catalyst for the rapid spread of the gospel in Ecuador – where they’ve helped birth many generations of new believers and fellowships over a relatively short time.
Like us, they have a “go and sow” approach – where we go and sow the gospel in existing communities, thus allowing local fellowships, believers and leadership to emerge indigenously within those communities.
This stands in stark contrast to the more common “come and gather” approach, which urges people to organize around a single church with its central building, programs and pastor.
Do we minister “to” the poor, despised, destitute and abandoned…
Or do we open our lives to each other, in mutual ministry one to another?
Do we have programs “for” the poor, despised, destitute and abandoned…
Or do we open our tables to each other, in mutual fellowship one with another?
Do we “go” to the poor, despised, destitute and abandoned…
Or do we hang with each other, in mutual friendship one for another?
Do we “fix” the poor, despised, destitute and abandoned…
Or do we need each other, in mutual humility one with another?
In this journey of faith and fellowship, I keep coming across books and blogs by authors who decry this or that perspective in the Body of Christ, while then arguing that we must see things through the glasses of their own unique perspective – often under very enticing rhetoric.
In essence, their books and blogs express unrealistic aspirations – as they promote some theoretical concept of church and community that looks, thinks and acts just like them.
If truth be told, we’re all guilty – to some extent – of trying to do the same thing.
Critique of the Center Church by Tim Keller [Part 3], by Neil Cole
I like Tim Keller’s books. We even went to the same seminary and share many similar influences. But Neil Cole provides a needed critique on Keller’s latest book, which views churches as institutions.
What is the church and it’s purpose, what is God’s grand design, and what is our calling in Christ?
Talking about those questions often is muddled by all the either/or, false dichotomies touted by various voices in the Body of Christ who want:
- the Living Word without the authority of His written Word
- grace without transformation
- relationship without discipleship
- fellowship without accountability
- favor without sacrifice
It often seems that these either/or false dichotomies are rooted in the prevailing existential, post-modern perspective of this age – which heavily influences many Christians and seems to stunt us from growing up and reaching out.
This produces a very self-content, “I’m OK, you’re OK” mentality that seldom breaks out of its insular cocoons.
With them, Jesus seems little more than a friend with benefits.
Elitism and racism in the Body of Christ are very ugly things. Lately, they’ve reared their ugly heads in some very nasty ways that hit close to home.
Over the last several months, we’ve been promoting Crossroad Junction through some very limited, non-targeted ads by Facebook on Facebook.
During the same period, we also have received a high percentage of new followers from the Philippines and other overseas places. Whether it’s due to those ads or not, we don’t know.
Regardless, this heightened overseas interest is not due to any directed or targeted effort on our part, and Marianne and I are thrilled to connect with other believers from across the globe.
Now, however, our increasing readership is provoking a very elitist and racist series of attacks – directed against us, our fellowships, and our new Filipino followers.
Some of our Filipino brothers and sisters have seen those attacks, and have been deeply offended.
In the face of those attacks, I want welcome to you to our blog – and offer my apologies for the ugly efforts by some of my countrymen to discredit you by questioning your motives and capacity to follow the somewhat intellectual and substantive articles found here.
Lately, I’ve been hearing more and more from folks who are frustrated because they are wanting, but not finding, participatory fellowship rooted in ongoing community.
In our area, we’ve been seen such fellowships emerge over the last several years. Many of my blogs arise from what God is doing among us.
Those fellowships typically involve anywhere from eight to as many as twenty-five people intentionally meeting at least weekly to encourage and minister to one another.
More importantly, folks in those fellowships are relating together and supporting each other throughout the week.
Such fellowships don’t look anything like traditional “church” or even appear on traditional organizational radar screens – often because they are informal (even though intentional) and functioning within communities on the fringes of society.
Rather than come together for directed meetings or spectator “services”, the folks I relate to are learning to allow Christ in them to be expressed among them and through them – both in our gatherings and in existing communities.
Lately, though, things have become somewhat comical as we watch others try to figure us out.
“Years of sitting in traditional church has not prepared us to do church in the manner described in the New Testament. We have been taught to come, to sit, to watch, and to listen to what others have prepared. This is Spectator Church.
By contrast, the church described in the Bible invites us to engage in a kind of Participatory Church, where everybody talks, laughs, eats, worships, in an atmosphere where all learn, all minister, and all grow.
These groups are not cell groups, or even just Home Groups. They are real churches, complete and autonomous.”
~ Graham Cooke and Gary Goodell, Permission Granted to Do Church Differently in the 21st Century