Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Child Sexual Abuse in the Church

Today's episode of Mortification of Spin is dedicated to a sober and timely subject: child sexual abuse in the church. We interview Dr. Diane Langberg who has spent years counseling both victims and church leaders concerning this tragic reality. Among the issues we explore with Dr. Langberg are how ought the church respond to allegations of abuse and what ought the church do with those who have offended.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I preached part 14 in our series through Acts. It is entitled "The Honor of Being Dishonored for Jesus" (Acts 5:33-42). You can listen to it HERE.

Pastor OR Movement Leader: Choose You This Day

Liberate (Tullian Tchividjian's latest vehicle) seems to be morphing rather quickly into a denomination complete with a directory of churches.

Pause for a long sigh...

What is it these days with pastors feeling the need to lead movements? In seeing the Liberate site today, a friend asked me what sadly seems to be an increasingly unthinkable question: "Why can't we just serve our denominations?" Silly man.

I serve a church of around 1,000 souls. That challenge is daunting and most days I don't feel as though I'm doing a very good job. Perhaps my gifts are vastly more miniscule than I previously thought. But how does a man pastor a large church and lead a movement at the same time?

Has not the last 12 months or so tended to prove that pastor/movement leader is not a very good combination?

I write this not to pick on Tullian Tchividjian but as a plea to my fellow pastors. Brothers, shepherd the flock among you. Beware the slough of pride. Take proactive steps to avoid making a name for yourself. Don't trust your motives.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day 2014

"A Mighty Battle"

From Fred Zaspel's excellent The Theology of B.B. Warfield:
For nearly a century before Warfield arrived on its faculty, Princeton Seminary had stood out as the scholarly bastion of the historic Reformed faith. And due in large measure to the towering influence of Old Princeton, much of the new liberalizing tendencies in the church had been held back in significant degree. By means of his 2,700 students and his endless literary output, Warfield played an enormous role in this. But the undercurrent was always present, and within a decade after his death, liberal currents of thought would gain prominence in the Presbyterian church and at his beloved Princeton also. Warfield once met the wife of the seminary president J. Ross Stevenson while walking down a Princeton street, and she implored him: “Dr. Warfiled, I hear there is going to be trouble at the General Assembly. Do let us pray for peace.” To this he replied, “I am praying that if they do not do what is right, there may be a mighty battle.”

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Making a spectacle of ourselves...

This is what Carl has to say about the latest Mortification of Spin: Bully Pulpit:
In this remarkable age, where emoting in public comes as standard, where all disagreement is taken personally and requires online histrionics, and where the boundaries between public and private have been eroded to all but nothing, we ask about the role of social media in all of this.  We also speculate on the connection between living lives as public, online spectacles on Facebook and Twitter and the nature of pornography.  And we contrast the approach to public and private in the lives of Martin Luther and John Owen.  Not bad for two grumpy old-ish men and a girl in just over ten minutes.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Protecting our little ones

Over at Ref21 I have posted on the ugly reality of child sexual abuse within the church.
It is a wickedness of massive proportions when children are sexually abused. However, when a child is used for the sexual gratification of a spiritual leader within the church the evil passes into the realm of the indescribable. Sadly this particular manifestation of evil has lurked within the walls of the church for generations. It has only been in recent years, however, that the extent of child sexual abuse within the church is beginning to be revealed. What is more, it is becoming clear that Protestants have nothing to brag about. We cannot shake our finger at the Roman Catholic Church as though priests are more susceptible to this sin than are pastors and ministry directors. Child sexual abuse honors no sectarian boundaries.

At the risk of stating the obvious, churches must take pains to protect the children under their care. We are well beyond the days of politely giving so-and-so the benefit of the doubt because he's been working with children for years. Criminal background checks ought to be mandatory for all persons serving in any capacity with children or youth. In the church I serve as Lead Pastor anyone interested in serving among children must submit to a background check. Unwilling? Tough.

Background checks however are not enough. There must be stringent rules restricting adults from being alone with a child for any length of time. "But we know so-and-so." Not as well as you think. There should be cameras in every hallway and, more importantly in every classroom with the data being stored on computer.

Many churches have welcomed into membership those who have offended in the past but have repented and paid their legal debt. Certainly, the church of Jesus Christ has a message of forgiveness and hope for any sinner who repents. However, let us not be so naive and sentimental that we think it is a badge of graciousness to place a repentant offender into a position of ministry with our young ones. They must never be allowed to work with children or youth in any capacity. If you insist on this standard (and you most certainly should) then you will be accused of "not getting the gospel." That's fine. Just keep reminding yourself that someone has to be the grown-up.

Read the rest HERE.

This week's edition of Mortification of Spin (airing Wednesday) will feature a helpful interview we conducted with Dr. Diane Langberg on what churches should do to protect their children from sexual abuse. You will want to listen in on this one.

Sermon Audio

On Sunday I preached part 13 in our current series in Acts. It is entitled "We Must Obey God" and is taken from Acts 5:12-32. You can listen to it HERE.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Battered Pastors (4)

Over at Ref21, I have posted part four in my series on battered pastors. In this latest post I offer the first three of seven exhortations for battered pastors.
All people experience hurt at the hands of others. But we are all also, without exception, the source of hurt. We are all simultaneously receivers and inflictors of pain. This is true of pastors. What pastor believes that he can somehow be insulated from the sorts of pain we inflict upon each other? He is, after all, a sinner called upon to lead other sinners. Parishioners often project upon their pastor a whole set of expectations that no ordinary man can fulfill. As a result, being criticized is an inescapable feature of being a pastor. If you cannot tolerate being criticized then don't be a pastor.

These common sorts of criticisms and pains are not what I have been writing about in this series of posts. Rather, I am seeking to shine a light on the very real problem of toxic followers, those who mob the pastor and seek his downfall. The battered pastors I am writing to and about are competent pastors but have found themselves in churches who, for whatever reason, are pastoral "meat grinders" (I learned that phrase from an elder at a previous church).

At the risk of sounding alarmist, I do believe that the church (in the West at least) is going to see (is seeing?) an increase in the number of churches which batter their pastors. It makes perfect sense. With the demise of the very idea of authority it should not be surprising that more pastors are being driven from their churches. A consumerist church cannot abide a prophetic pastor.
Read the entire post HERE.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Get mom a good book

Mother's Day is coming up. How about you get mom a good book? Often times when we buy books for women we buy "women's books." Don't misunderstand there are a lot of terrific books written specifically for women. In fact, there are few on my list as you will see. But there are also books on doctrine which would be a blessing for any Christian to read.

Housewife Theologian by Aimee Byrd  
18 Words by J.I. Packer  
True Beauty by Carolyn Mahaney
Holding On To Hope by Nancy Guthrie  
The One Year Book of Hope by Nancy Guthrie
In Christ Alone by Sinclair Ferguson  
Taking God at His Word by Kevin DeYoung 
Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full by Gloria Furman  
Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves 
Treasures in Darkness by Sharon Betters

Donald Sterling and Selective Outrage

Racism is sin. It is a denial of the dignity of all peoples as image-bearers of God. Racism is antithetical to the character of God, to the gospel, and to the mission of the church which anticipates the day when men and women from every nation and race will gather before the throne of the Lamb. On this, there should be no waffling among Christians but only clarity. Racism is an ugly remnant of the fall and should be treated as such.

Racism is front and center in the American consciousness once again thanks to one Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers whose racially insensitive words were secretly recorded by his girlfriend. The outrage was swift and strong. He was banned from basketball, for life. He will be forced to sell his team. He will never again be able to show his face in public without hearing the jeers of others (and perhaps worse). One member of Congress called Sterling's words, "the most intolerant thing" he had "ever heard." There are some Christians in Syria I'd like him to meet, but that is another topic. The fact is, more Americans know the name Donald Sterling than they do the names of the four Americans murdered in Benghazi. I have not yet heard a call to have Sterling drawn and quartered, but there is still time.

As others have pointed  out, Donald Sterling's racism is not a new revelation. He has a history of bad behavior in this area much worse than private conversations with his girlfriend. It has been overlooked however for his willingness to give large sums of money to the groups able to provide absolution.

This morning in my car the familiar voice of Tom Brokaw took to the air to denounce Sterling as a "jerk." Not the most imaginative descriptor to come from the lips of a veteran news anchor but true nonetheless. He also encouraged parents to "place Sterling on the dinner table" so as to discuss his wrongdoing with their children. Fair enough. Dinner time is a great place for catechesis. It would also be a great opportunity for parents to instruct their children about the destructive sin of adultery. Of course, Brokaw and, as far as I know, none of the other pundits have yet to even raise an eyebrow at the fact that Sterling is an adulterer.

And herein is my problem with the public outrage over Donald Sterling's sin of racism. It is highly selective outrage. Adultery? No problem. Who doesn't have a few girlfriends on the side? But racism? Why, I never! Suddenly, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, a fierce display of public piety has risen among celebrities, politicians, and various other public figures the likes of which we rarely witness. It's quite blinding really. In this one narrow instance, right is right and wrong is wrong. In this one particular moment, sin has made a comeback. And now the wrong must be punished ruthlessly. The racism, that is. Not the adultery. That part's fine.

Donald Sterling is a married man who makes no effort to hide his vastly younger girlfriend. So sure is Sterling of the rightness of adultery that he has no fear of deportation to the Isle of Sinners. And Sterling's critics seem to agree. After all, I'm sure they do not want to judge. "Judge not, lest you be judged," and all that. And yet the judgment upon Sterling has been swift and merciless. He is a moral leper who must be put away lest we behold his hideous condition and thus be corrupted ourselves.

On what basis does a society which winks at adultery and dishonesty and gives whole-hearted approval to homosexuality and abortion now make moral judgments? Particularly odd is the fact that, in Sterling's case, the sin committed was an attitude given voice in a private conversation. It's a sin to be sure (see the first paragraph). I'm just not sure why Sterling's attitudes about Magic Johnson is worse than his public adultery. Certainly it's not because some sins are more popular than others. It couldn't be that.

If you choose to talk to your children about Donald Sterling and the sin of racism (which is a good idea) do not neglect to talk to them also about the sin of adultery. Tell them about broken families and abandoned spouses. Tell them about terrified and angry children. Tell them about the power of promises and the blessings of purity. Tell them about a God who hates divorce but hates adultery even more (Matt 5:32; 19:9). Teach them to honor the promises they may one day make as their lives are joined till death to another. Point out that the bond of marriage is much like the bond between Christ and his church, his beloved bride. Tell them that one day they will likely marry and that marriage will, like all the others, be intended to give witness to the sacrificial love of Jesus. Be sure they know that the sacrifice made near a garbage heap outside Jerusalem was sufficient to cleanse all sinners be they racists or adulterers or hypocrites.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Trinitarian Gospel

Great stuff from Mike Reeves on the necessity of the doctrine of the Trinity for a proper understanding of the Gospel...

A TRINITARIAN GOSPEL from Evangelical Alliance on Vimeo.

Check out Mike's outstanding book Delighting In The Trinity.