Worship Porn: When “church” becomes a staged performance designed to manipulate the innate desire for self-gratification and emotional intensity among an assembled audience.
“Missional” seems to have become yet another buzz word used by gifted leaders to rally God’s people around their own callings and motivations.
It all sounds so good, but it becomes a trap when the Great Commission is reduced to one man’s vision and mission – especially if all the other gifts, callings and Kingdom imperatives in the New Testament then get pushed aside or made to play second fiddle.
When tolerance becomes an absolute, intolerance is the inevitable result.
Working in my flower gardens is one of my favorite delights. I love to watch them change from mere soil into beds filled with beautiful flowers. I believe that the Lord is the Master Gardener. He delights in transforming dry, dead, dismal gardens into works of art.
The Lord frequently speaks to me through prophetic pictures and many years ago He showed me that I was like a lifeless, desolate garden. His picture was not pretty.
In the Lord’s picture I opened a garden gate expecting to find a beautiful garden, but instead what He showed me was a brown, dried up, dead enclosed garden that did not have even one sprig of green. I was not instantly encouraged by the Lord’s picture!
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.
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.
“Progressive Christians” seem to think it’s fine for government to:
Ban street preachers from public places, because open evangelism is “offensive”.
Bar side-walk counselors outside abortion clinics, because pro-life activists are “judgmental”.
Prohibit a fourth grader from reading her Bible in class, because she might become “close minded”.
Censure God from a valedictorian’s speech, because he can’t be “disrespectful” of other view points.
Force a bakery owner to cater homosexual weddings, because he’s an “intolerant” fundamentalist.
Compel an evangelical adoption agency to place babies with unmarried couples, because “discrimination” against other lifestyles is wrong.
Penalize churches that support marriage integrity referendums, because they’re engaged in “hate speech”.
Have you ever experienced the thrill and excitement of going down a giant water slide at a water park?
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the joy the Lord and I experience by plunging down the slides He places in my life.
The plunge comes towards the end of the journey, after lots of preparation.
First, I need a destination by choosing which water park. I can’t just hope to arrive without knowing where I’m going.
On my spiritual journey I also need a purpose. I can’t wander aimlessly hoping that somehow I will make a difference in God’s kingdom.
Once I have chosen a location, I must pack a few essentials for the trip. Suntan lotion, beach towel and swim suit are the bare minimum.
I believe that the Lord only has one essential for my journey with Him. I need to pack the attitude that I am willing to do whatever He asks.
That is a tough one to fit into the pool bag because self often wants something very different. Sometimes it seems like I have to keep shoving the desire to be obedient back into the bag when it tries to escape.
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.
Fortunately, 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.
Those who think that proper church methodologies and structure will solve all their problems are just as naïve as those who think that wrong church methodologies and structure don’t contribute to their problems.
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.
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.
If you don’t like being knocked down, then stand for nothing:
“Are they servants of Christ? (I am talking like I am out of my mind!) I am even more so: with much greater labors, with far more imprisonments, with more severe beatings, facing death many times.
“Five times I received from the Jews forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with a rod. Once I received a stoning. Three times I suffered shipwreck. A night and a day I spent adrift in the open sea. I have been on journeys many times, in dangers from rivers, in dangers from robbers, in dangers from my own countrymen, in dangers from Gentiles, in dangers in the city, in dangers in the wilderness, in dangers at sea, in dangers from false brothers, in hard work and toil, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, many times without food, in cold and without enough clothing.
“Apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxious concern for all the churches.
“Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not burn with indignation?”
~ Paul, 2 Cor. 11:23-29 (NET)
If your life is generally free of conflict and opposition, then are you honestly standing for what’s true, right and real?
On the other hand…
You can’t change what you won’t confront: Courage and sacrifice are the price we pay for virtue, while evil thrives on apathy and fear.
Because these are not fictional people or fictional scenarios. These are my brothers and sisters in Christ who I have the honor of knowing.
Because God is at work yet today in countless ways, through countless men and women who love Him enough to live holy lives and heed His call to go make a difference.
Today I was with a group of men in the jail. One of them was very troubled because his son was getting into all kinds of trouble. He couldn’t understand why, because (he claimed) he loved his son and was always telling him he loved him.
I felt something stir in my spirit, looked him straight in the eye, and said that was a lie. He didn’t love his son, he loved his drugs more – and thus had not cared enough to be part of his son’s life as his son was growing up. This deeply wounded his son, who felt unloved and worthless because of it – and was now acting out.
I’m more interested in going, and letting Christ come alive among you and your friends, than expecting you to come and find Him among me and my friends.
Such is the heart of the Great Commission.
Existential Deceptions: Claiming ambiguity to justify rebellion against the clear meaning of God’s authoritative written Word, and thus against God Himself.
This 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
Jesus used every day events to help his followers understand more about the kingdom of God and I believe that He still weaves our daily activities into teachable lessons for us.
Since I broke my elbow in February, I have been going to physical therapy (PT). This has been my first experience with PT and I have been thinking about it a lot.
The reasons someone needs to have PT are varied. Usually it is one step in recovery from an accident or disease because the body has been injured or harmed and is not working up to its full potential.
The therapist uses many methods to help the body return to maximum flexibility and efficiency. But it takes time.
There are no quick and instantaneous exercises that will miraculous restore your health; however, with much patience and diligence your body does become whole again.
So it is with our walk with the Lord. There are many times when we are emotionally hurt and spiritually broken. Sometimes it feels like we have been mutilated and destroyed. Other times our pain or confusion is less severe, but we are still broken and need repair.
When people become pawns to advance your vision, mission or agenda, it never turns out well – for you, or them.
Genuine Seeker-Friendly Church is Simple (Organic), by Steve Sims
This is a short, wonderful blog by my friend Steve Simms that captures very nicely what real church (regardless of whatever label you want to put on it) is all about.
What I like about Steve is that, unlike so many who pontificate on how to be the church, he’s actually doing it!
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.
Grace and repentance: Emphasizing one to the exclusion of the other does violence to both.