Monday, March 31, 2014

Battered Pastors (3)

Over at Ref21 I have posted part three of a series entitled "Battered Pastors." In this particular post I
examine what happens when followers become toxic.
Much ink has been spilt examining what happens when pastors fail to lead, lead poorly, or behave wickedly as leaders. So much has been made of the failure of pastors that I fear an assumption of pastoral guilt has been established to explain every problem in a church. What is easily forgotten is just how influential followers are within the church...
The church seems to be wired to lay most if not all of its dysfunctions at the feet of the pastor. It makes sense. "The buck stops here" Harry Trueman famously claimed. Because of this, many pastors seem predisposed to believe that every failing in the church is somehow their fault. If the staff stages a "palace coup" then, it is usually assumed, there must be something wrong with pastor. Perhaps. But what if this is not the case? What if a church is truly experiencing a mutiny on staff?

The Balda's, describing the case of a leader named "Warren," offer insight that is frighteningly close to my own experience in the past:
The hornet's nest situation Warren faced resulted from pre-existing cliques, the removal of a fomenting former executive who then remained within the organization, ambivalent leadership further up the food chain, and continuing irresolution. The entrenched toxic clique perceived that lack of directive leadership higher in the hierarchy permitted their ongoing behaviors (p. 59).
The first time I read that paragraph a chill went up my spine. It reads like a firsthand account of the situation in which I once found myself. If you are serving as an elder in a church where the pastor is embattled then do not rush to the conclusion that the problem must be his. Perhaps it is! But it may not be. You may be witnessing a palace coup. You may have a battered pastor in your midst.

I include in the post a series of 7 questions that elder sessions may want to examine. Read the entire post HERE.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Dazed and Confused

On the latest edition of Mortification of Spin: Bully Pulpit, Carl, Aimee, and I take on the issue of marijuana use. It's worth listening to just to hear Carl pronounce marijuana and Aimee demonstrate her expertise in THC.

True Revival and Controversy

Timely words from J. Gresham Machen:
Again, we are told that our theological differences will disappear is we will just get down on our knees together in prayer. Well, I can only say about that kind of prayer, which is indifferent to the question whether the gospel is true or false, that it is not Christian prayer; it is bowing down in the house of Rimmon. God save us from it!

Instead may God lead us to the kind of prayer in which, recognizing the dreadful condition of the visible church, recognizing the unbelief and the sin which dominate it today, we who are opposed to the current of the age both in the world and in the church, facing the facts as they are, lay those facts before God, as Hezekiah laid before him the threatening letter of the Assyrian enemy, and humbly ask him to give the answer.

Again, many say that instead of engaging in controversy in the church, we ought to pray to God for a revival; instead of polemics, we ought to have evangelism. Well, what kind of revival do you think that will be? What sort of evangelism is it that is indifferent to the question what evangel is it that is to be preached? Not a revival in the New Testament sense, not the evangelism that Paul meant when he said, “Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel.”

No, my friends, there can be no true evangelism which makes common cause with the enemies of the cross of Christ. Souls will hardly be saved unless the evangelists can say with Paul: “If we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel than that which we preached unto you, let him be accursed!”

Every true revival is born in controversy, and leads to more controversy. That has been true ever since our Lord said that he came not to bring peace upon the earth but a sword.

And do you know what I think will happen when God sends a new reformation upon the church? We cannot tell when that blessed day will come. But when the blessed day does come, I think we can say at least one result that it will bring. We shall hear nothing on that day about the evils of controversy in the church. All that will be swept away as with a mighty flood. A man who is on fire with a message never talks in that wretched, feeble way, but proclaims the truth joyously and fearlessly, in the presence of every high thing that is lifted up against the gospel of Christ. (J. Gresham Machen, Selected Shorter Writings, 147-148)

HT: Kevin DeYoung

Yes, there are false teachers...

Tim Challies has been writing a series of posts entitled "The False Teachers." They are quite good and important given the fact that the church increasingly seems to believe that the only heresy is believing that there is heresy.

Today he has posted an article on Harry Emerson Fosdick, one of the great popularizers of theological liberalism in the early 20th century.
He quickly gained a reputation as a leading Christian voice, and hundreds and then thousands descended on First Presbyterian to hear his sermons [Fosdick was a Baptist]. It was here, on May 21, 1922, that he preached the sermon that came to define him: “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” In this sermon he proclaimed that there was a great battle in the church between the fundamentalists and the modernists or liberals, and that he was going to stand firmly on the side of the liberals. Because of his desire to modernize the Christian faith, he soundly rejected belief in a series of traditional Christian doctrines including Christ’s virgin birth, the inerrancy of Scripture, and the literal return of Jesus Christ. He decried the fundamentalists as being intolerant for demanding adherence to doctrines that science, reason, and a modern world could no longer sustain. John D. Rockefeller enjoyed this sermon so much that he had 130,000 copies printed and mailed to every Protestant pastor in the nation.
Read the entire article HERE.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Worldliness in Their Gospel

Kevin DeYoung has written an excellent piece on the World Vision flap. If you have not been following the story, Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision announced that the Christian charitable organization has decided that homosexual sex (inside "marriage") is not sinful and that one can be a practicing homosexual and faithful follower of Jesus. For some reason, World Vision still believes adultery is a sin, presumably because the Bible says so. Why they don't believe what the Bible says about homosexuality is anyone's guess.

DeYoung writes:
But the overriding issue is this: World Vision has decided that to be a practicing homosexual and a practicing Christian is no contradiction in terms. Despite the claims of neutrality, Richard Stearns and World Vision are not neutral. They believe what the Bible calls an abomination is not a big deal, not a serious issue like adultery, not a life threatening concern like malnutrition, not something that the Bible addresses clearly or warns against urgently. Before we get embroiled in a throw down about whether Jesus would love to take coffee breaks with World Vision employees, before we allow the issue to be reframed as “Jesus was nice; the Pharisees were mean; you are mean and not nice; so you are a Pharisee and not like Jesus,” before we accept that calling someone a bigot is the same as making an argument, before we write off every opponent of this policy as a Calvinist fundie inhabiting a hermetically sealed little house on a Christian prairie somewhere in flyover country, let us establish if the following is true:
Jesus Christ is coming again to judge the living and the dead (Acts 17:31; Rev. 19:11-21). Those who repent of their sins and believe in Christ (Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38; 17:30) and those who overcome (Rev. 21:7) will live forever in eternal bliss with God in his holy heaven (Rev. 21:1-27) through the atoning work of Christ on the cross (Mark 10:45; Rom. 5:1-21; Cor. 5:21). Those who are not born again (John 3:5), do not believe in Christ (John 3:18), and continue to make practice of sinning (1 John 3:4-10) will face eternal punishment and the just wrath of God in hell (John 3:36; 5:29). Among those who will face the second death in the lake that burns with fire are the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, the murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars (Rev. 21:8), and among the sins included in the category of sexual immorality is unrepentant sexual intercourse between persons of the same sex (Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Jude 5-7).
I realize a paragraph like this has become highly controversial, even offensive, perhaps someday criminal. But the question for the Christian is whether the Bible teaches it. If the Bible does not teach these things, or if we no longer have the courage to believe them, let us say so openly and make the case why the whole history of the Christian church has been so wrong for so long. But if the Bible does teach the paragraph above, how can we be casual about such a serious matter or think that Jesus would be so indifferent to the celebration of the same?

The good news of the gospel is that the sin of exchanging natural relations for those that are contrary to nature, like every other sin, can be forgiven, and that homosexual offenders, like every other kind of sinner, of which I am profoundly one, can receive grace, mercy, and peace in the name of Jesus Christ and be justified, sanctified and glorified by the power of God. To treat these straightforward truths as beyond the ability of confident hermeneutical inquiry or altogether as a thing indifferent is not to unify Christians in the gospel but to sacrifice the gospel for a togetherness that will not hold and a shortsighted vision that is sure to fail.
Read the entire post HERE.

You can read my thoughts over at Ref21.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I preached part 7 in our series through Acts. It is entitled A Sign of Things to Come and can be listened to HERE.

World Vision endorses homosexual practice

Sad news from Rich Stearns who announced that World Vision (the organization he serves as President) has now changed its hiring policy. The Christian charitable organization will now hire practicing homosexuals. What a tragic endorsement of that which destroys the bodies and souls of so many. In this decision Stearns inexplicably claims that World Vision is not taking a position on the issue of same-sex marriage. He goes on to justify the decision by saying that various theologians and denominations disagree about homosexuality.

I have written a post over at Ref21 on this unfortunate news.

Check out the responses from Franklin Graham and Russell Moore.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Grace Upon Grace

The latest Mortification of Spin is up and running:
Sin. Loss. Deprivation. Law. Grace. Aimee, Todd, and Carl are joined by author and counselor Barbara Duguid on this installment of Mortification of Spin. Barbara is author of the book "Extravagant Grace," and grace is the topic at hand. How are Christians to reconcile on-going, indwelling sin with Christ's unrelenting "extravagant" grace? Listen in to learn more.

Extravagant Grace by Barbara Duguid

Mohler and Spurgeon

Dr. Al Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary recently delivered the second annual Spurgeon Lecture at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. It is well worth the time to listen.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I preached part 6 in our current series through Acts. It is entitled "An Ordinary Church" and can be listened to HERE.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Leon Morris - An Appreciation

The good folks at Matthias Media have posted a nice little article on Leon Morris on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birth. Quite simply, Dr. Morris was one of the most important New Testament scholars of the 20th century. In my own study, Leon Morris is one of the first people I look to for insight. The first time I read The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross I realized that all the hype was well deserved. His The Cross in the New Testament is also what I would consider essential reading as are his outstanding commentaries. If you are looking to read something a little less scholarly but rich in depth then I highly recommend his The Atonement.

For all of Dr. Morris' academic prowess it must not be forgotten that he was a Christian, a defender of biblical orthodoxy, a preacher, and a churchman. May the Lord bless His church with others like Leon Morris.

A small sampling of Dr. Morris' 50 books:
The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross  
The Cross in the New Testament  
The Atonement
New Testament Theology    
The Biblical Doctrine of Judgment 
The Gospel of Matthew  
The Epistle to the Romans 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Piper at Westminster

On March 12 John Piper was the guest lecturer for the 7th annual Gaffin Lectures at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. The title of Dr. Piper's lecture is "The New Calvinism and the New Community: The Doctrines of Grace and the Meaning of Race."

The New Calvinism and the New Community from Westminster Theological Seminary on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Navigating the Christian Bookstore

The latest episode of Mortification of Spin: Bully Pulpit is up and running.
The Spin team hit up their local Christian bookstore to browse the shelves and peruse the contents of some popular books. Based on the message of these books, the American Church is in danger of forgetting the truth of the Bible: we are wretched sinners in need of an amazingly gracious Savior. Along with that, the state of women's literature is abysmal, and lacks robust theology, distilling the reality that women must be learned Christians. It's always imperative for Christians to read quality, biblical literature. Listen in for some reading suggestions and tips for discerning books that are worth your time.

Mega-Pastors and Mega-Money

The air out there in the evangelical atmosphere continues to get more noxious. In recent days it has been revealed that Mars Hill Church in Seattle spent over $210,000 to market the pastor's book Real Marriage.

If you are wondering if it sounds a bit fishy for a church to spend over $200,000 of tax free charitably given money to market a for-profit book in order to enrich the church's pastor then you may be on to something.

Major news outlets are on to the story and once again certain celebrity pastors are lending credibility to the old story that all churches and pastors care about is money. I truly believe that Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church must publically repent. I would also suggest that Mark Driscoll step down as pastor in hopes that some of the damage done to the reputation of Christ and his bride can be repaired.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Meanwhile, over at Ref21...

You ought to check out Carl's latest. I remember when he first began ringing the alarm about the rise of celebrity culture within the neo-reformed movement. He was largely dismissed or ignored completely. Well, the chickens, as they say, have come home to roost.
 The Elephant Room demonstrated that the big names with dollar power, if they could not quite get away with doing what they wanted, could certainly be sure that nobody of any public stature in the reformed evangelical movement was going to call them publicly to account, whatever disciplinary deals were brokered behind the scenes.

More recently, we have witnessed the plagiarism/ghost writing debacle and now the use of not-for-profit money for market manipulation.   The sums involved dwarf many church budgets and indicate the disconnection between the showcase pastoral talent and the everyday experience (and financial circumstances) of most pastors.   Perhaps most disturbing is the way in which we also seem to be living in our own version of that final scene of Animal Farm.  The language being used by the church regarding its behavior ('it is not illegal,' 'it was unwise,' 'mistakes were made') is obviously parasitic on the venal patois developed by secular politicians caught with their trousers down.
Read the whole post HERE.

Also, I have begun writing a series of posts dealing with the sad reality of churches that batter their pastors. You can read the first two posts HERE and HERE.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I preached part 5 in our series through Acts. It is entitled "They Were Cut to the Heart" and may be listened to HERE.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Compassion of Robust Doctrine

The latest episode of Mortification of Spin is up and running.
What is the purpose of a robust theology if it cannot serve to practically help the believer? How does that theology play into God's sovereignty through our suffering? Aimee, Todd, and Carl talk with pastor and cancer survivor Paul Wolfe about his battle with cancer and its impact on his relationships with Christ and the congregation he serves. Paul also discusses the importance of the local church body in helping on cope with trial and suffering.
Recommended Reading:
My God Is True by Paul Wolfe

Monday, March 3, 2014

Battered Pastors

Over at Ref21 I have begun a series of posts on the topic of battered pastors. One of the scandals in the contemporary church is the number of men who are driven out of the ministry every year. My goal in the posts is to both encourage pastors and assist churches in watching for warning signs that their pastor is being battered.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Should you respond to slander?

I posted some thoughts over at Ref21 on whether or not we should respond to slander. I examine Paul's response to those who slandered him. At times he presented a clear and passionate defense. Other times he did not refute the slander against him. Is there a pattern that we can follow or learn from in Paul? That's what I seek to discern.