Stories of Redemption

Yesterday, after a seven month hiatus to care for my dad and deal with some of my own health issues, another local elder and I visited the jail to check on a church I previously had been helping.

taking-up-your-crossThe first thing I noticed was around twenty new men were now in that fellowship, with only two of the original brothers still around (the others, as is normal in a jail environment, had been released or transferred).

The church, I was thrilled to see, had not only survived but thrived during my absence – with them showing a wonderful continuity of life from when I last saw them.

As I then listened to them openly share their hopes and struggles in the Lord with each other, and watched them encourage one another to love and good works (Heb. 10), I cried silent tears of joy.

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I Love Church!

Participatory church? I do that.

I sit and stand when the worship leader tells me to and sometimes even sing along, do the happy clap or raise my arms with my eyes closed when prompted;

pew

Yup, I love church!

I shake hands with the guy in the pew ahead of me when the associate pastor says to greet one another;

On occasion I say “amen” when the senior pastor asks us to say “amen” during his sermon;

I put money in the plate when its passed down my row by the ushers; and

I even bow my head when told to do so during the invitation for folks to raise their hands and receive Jesus.

So yes, I participate when I go to church, thank you very much!

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House2House: RIP

snake-oil-salesmanIt looks like House2House Ministries and Magazine have closed shop once again.

What an unfortunate, checkered history of organic/simple church failure after failure.

How many times will it take before Felicity Dale and gang finally figure out that you can’t start and sustain healthy local churches – simple, organic or otherwise – by promoting phony self-appointed “apostles”:

- Who ain’t livin’ what their sellin’, with private lives that don’t match up with their finely-honed public persona;

- Who have no consistent history of successfully forming, maintaining or being part of sustainable local churches that look anything like what they promote in their books, blogs and conferences;

- Who deny that the Great Commission has general relevance today;

- Who proclaim that scripture is not the written word of God and that those who affirm scripture are committing “treason against Christ”;

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Organic and Simple Church Snares

More and more people are legitimately desiring to move towards organic/simple church and away from the institutional church.

A Snare for the Unwary

A Snare for the Unwary

Unfortunately, there are major snares for those on that journey. Too often, they fall prey to books and blogs on organic/simple church by those who either reject the plenary authority of scripture or outright deny that the Bible is the written word of God.

Although such authors talk a good talk, they typically have no consistent history of actually finding, creating or sustaining in their own lives the kind of local “organic” or “simple” church they are selling to others.

Increasingly, it seems that those who live it seldom sell it, while those who sell it seldom live it.

This makes it very hard to move forward, because there’s a lot of crazy being peddled to the unwary out there in organic land.

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Folly and Ruin

Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill

Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill

Mars Hill, a network of churches in Seattle, is shutting down as more and more accounts keep surfacing of behind-the-scenes abusive behavior by their otherwise publicly charming and inspiring founder, author and senior pastor, Mark Driscoll.

I’ve seen this happen many times over the years as churches and Christian movements of all stripes rise and fall.

When a church or movement organizes around a gifted man and his individual vision or mission, it will grow rapidly at first but then stumble as it eventually hits up against his limits.

This is not how it should be.

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Being The Church

This morning, I’m not going to some high-cost building to find a parking space, be greeted by ushers I barely know, sit in a pew, be psyched up by a loud worship band, or inspired by some finely honed monologue sermon from a front podium.

Rather, my wife and I are opening our home to those who want to come and share breakfast at our table as we talk, sing, teach, disciple and encourage one another in the Lord. Our time together is not scripted or directed – except by the Holy Spirit.

Joining us will be folks with graduate degrees and fancy houses, along with folks living in the woods, and just about everything in between. We are very diverse yet know and honor one another – while welcoming others with open hospitality – as we learn to be co-heirs and co-participants together in Christ.

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House2House Ministries and “Apostolic” Networks?

House2House Ministries: Because there's always room for one more book, blog or conference telling us how to, by those who don't do.

It’s time for the organic and simple church community to move beyond unbiblical mutual promotion networks by self-appointed “apostolic workers” and “church planters” who write enticing books and blogs, but generally have no consistent history of being in any functional local fellowship themselves or actually creating sustainable, healthy fellowships among others. Rather than buying into their books, blogs and conferences at House2House Ministries, maybe we need to learn some things instead from Paul’s own life and ministry: http://www.crossroadjunction.com/2012/03/17/modern-day-pauls/

Real Organic Church Discussion

ROCD

For those who are involved in simple organic churches, there’s a great Facebook discussion group which I recommend. It’s called Real Organic Church Discussion.

Unlike most of the other “organic” church forums on Facebook or elsewhere, it has not swayed off into crazy doctrines and agendas that have nothing to do with actual functional churches. It is moderated (for the sake of disclosure, I’m one of the moderators) to keep it safe and on track, and the discussions are civil, focused and reality based.

It’s found at https://www.facebook.com/groups/realorganicdiscussion/

Take a look at the group’s description below, then hop on over and join the discussion!

~ Jim Wright

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Truth, Justice and Church Sex Abuse

Finally, the truth comes out and justice prevails.

Over the last several years, Marianne and I have ministered through Nathan’s Voice to five families devastated by abusive church leaders at Sovereign Grace Ministries and it’s network of churches – including Covenant Grace.

Now one of the abusers has received a 40 years sentence, after years of denial, cover up and shunning of his victims by the leadership structure at SGM. See Child Sex Abuser from Gaithersburg -area Sentenced to 40 Years in Prison.

House2House Ministries and Magazine

Lies, Cover Up and Abuse

Let this be a warning to all who respond to leadership abuse in the Body of Christ with the same kind insular mentality that “circles the wagon” through denials, cover up and attacks to preserve their own power, influence and ministries.

Just like what we saw over the years with SGM, the so-called “apostolic workers” and their “Beyond Cult” over at House2House Ministries (including Felicity Dale, Jon Zens, Milt Rodriquez and Keith Giles) have done the same thing.

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Mission, Discipleship and Fellowship: Life Reproducing Life

Last Friday was a holiday here in the United States, and Marianne and I opened our home, yard and pool for a day of family, friends and fellowship.

plantingFortunately, following my heart operation and extended hospital stay two weeks ago, several brothers in a couple of fellowships we relate to stepped forward and organized things – including a great cookout.

Afterwards, Marianne and I both said that this was one of the nicest days we’ve had in years – not because the past few years have been bad (they’ve been challenging due to some of my health issues, but not “bad”!), but because we’re seeing solid maturity arise among those we’ve been pouring our lives into.

Although we’ve always loved them deeply, now it’s actually fun to spend time with them!

In addition, we now have the profound pleasure of watching them reproduce their life in Christ among others.

As they step forward and do the work of mission, discipleship and strengthening our various fellowships, it seems more and more that God’s role for Marianne and me is to step back and serve through simple hospitality, unassuming encouragement and quiet mentoring.

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Felicity Dale, Hypocrisy and Power

Author and “simple church” advocate Felicity Dale over at House2House Ministries is personally charming, and I generally agree with her views regarding simple church and gender equality within the Body of Christ.

But my own experience with her over the last year has been very troubling – especially when it comes to the contradiction between her public positions and private actions.

Sex abuse and cover up: C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries, Frank Viola and his band of "apostolic workers", Bill Gothard and his Institute of Basic Life Principles... When will we ever learn?

Felicity Dale: Do as I say, not as I do.

Felicity Dale is part of the self-appointed accountability team of Frank Viola, who is an author, an itinerant church leader and one of her fellow so-called “apostolic workers”. He also has a troubled history of sexual predation against young women and teenagers.

After Frank Viola rebuffed all efforts to communicate directly with him by those with detailed knowledge of the facts, some of us contacted Felicity Dale last year in an effort to resolve our growing concerns about Frank Viola’s history of abuse.

She also was given a lengthy private statement on behalf of one of Frank Viola’s multiple teenage victims, with details about how he abused that young woman and others.

That victim’s statement fully confirmed the separate warnings issued against Frank Viola by his former church. Among other things, his past church established through multiple witnesses and documents his pattern of predation and abuse – including his long-running exploitation of a teenager in that church who was half his age and a former high school student of his.

This new written statement, however, involved an additional teenage victim.

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Bart Breen and Frank Viola – An Update

Bart Breen and Frank Viola: Lies, Sexual Abuse and Cover Up

Bart Breen

Bart Breen

After remaining quiet for over a year, it is time to expose – and name names – the ongoing campaign by Frank Viola and his fellow self-appointed “apostolic workers” at House2House Ministries as they use proxies like Bart Breen to attack and try to silence victims of their abuse and cover up.

In this exposé, I update an earlier blog to address what’s been going on – both publicly and behind the scenes – over the last year as they desperately try muzzle the truth at the expense of their victims, rather than openly confess and repent.

Their “Beyond” cult has run its course. It is now time for men and women of good will to speak up and confront their lies, abuse and cover up.

Celebrating Redemption

graduationThis afternoon, I’m driving to Richmond, Virginia, to attend the graduation of a young man I first met in jail years ago. He’s receiving his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, with honors, from Virginia Commonwealth University. From jail to now has been an intense journey as Marianne and I stood with him during the hard times and refused to let him fall through the cracks. Now, we get to rejoice with him as he achieves this major milestone.

Following God’s Presence is something I wrote five years ago about him, and the church he was part of in the jail. In fact, he’s one of the brothers who asked to pray for me, as I recount in that piece.

I’m not going to use his name, because he is very humble and doesn’t like publicity. But you know who you are, and I am so very, very proud of you! Even as I write this, I’m tearing up thinking about the honor it’s been to be part of God’s plan of redemption and restoration in your life.

~ Jim Wright

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Hospitality and the Kingdom of God

Playing Chicken Feet

 
Yesterday, like we often do, we had family and friends – some old, some new – over for supper and fellowship. Marianne cooked the main dish, I put on a big pot of coffee, and they brought everything else.

Because it was Easter, we opened our home to folks who didn’t have family in the area and invited them to spend the day with our family. They included guys from several fellowships we’re linked to, and some not in any church.

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Dopeless Hope Fiends

While visiting one of our indigenous fellowships in the local jail yesterday, a brother blew me away with this comment:

“On the outside, we were hopeless dope fiends. In jail, God is turning us into dopeless hope fiends.”

I liked that, and love how God brings hope to the hopeless.

~ Jim Wright

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Recovery Homes

Several of our fellowships want to open additional recovery homes in the county for those putting their lives back together following abuse, imprisonment, addiction, economic distress or other major disruption. Over the last several years, we have teamed up with another ministry to support this local need, but its focus is only on addiction – which is very much needed. However, we also need similar homes for those dealing with other issues.

Our desire is to create transitional, peer recovery homes where there is functional, Christ-centered community within each house. This would involve mutual support, encouragement and accountability among the residents – with appropriate outside support and oversight.

Our experiences to date have confirmed that such a focus is essential for real change to occur among those in each home. Otherwise, the houses become little more than a warehouse for knuckleheads, and become a detriment rather than an asset for those seeking to put their lives back together.

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Phony Apostles and Real Elders

PhoneyThe 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.

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Year in Review

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:

My 2013 Year in Review

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.

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Organic Cults and So-Called “Apostolic Workers”

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.

house2house

Self-Proclaimed “Apostles”

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.

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