April 16, 2014

The uselessness of an ECFA accreditation

I recently wrote to the Evangelical Center for Financial Accountability.  I had learned recently that they gave accreditation to Mars Hill  church in Seattle in Sept 2012, despite the fact that they used $210K of church funds in 2011 and 2012 to buy Mark Driscoll a spot on the New York Times' Bestseller list.  How did this escape their notice at that time?  Did they not have access to Mars Hill's financial records then?

Here is what I sent them:

Message
Buying a place on the NYT bestseller list, and having supposed 'independent' people on the Board of Accountability who sell their books at Mars Hill Seattle and speak at their events? How is that not a conflict of interest? This violates your code of conduct for the organization. So having them accredited makes your accreditation look pretty hollow.


But I got a response from one Michael Martin who handles legal issues I guess.

The letter had a disclaimer at the end that said this:


I recently wrote to the Evangelical Center for Financial Accountability.  I had learned recently that they gave accreditation to Mars Hill  church in Seattle in Sept 2012, despite the fact that they used $210K of church funds in 2011 and 2012 to buy Mark Driscoll a spot on the New York Times' Bestseller list.  How did this escape their notice at that time?  Did they not have access to Mars Hill's financial records then?

Here is what I sent them:

Message
Buying a place on the NYT bestseller list, and having supposed 'independent' people on the Board of Accountability who sell their books at Mars Hill Seattle and speak at their events? How is that not a conflict of interest? This violates your code of conduct for the organization. So having them accredited makes your accreditation look pretty hollow.


But I got a response from one Michael Martin who handles legal issues I guess.

The letter had a disclaimer at the end that said this:
This text is provided as general educational information and with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional. This communication and any attachments may contain sensitive, confidential information for the use of the designated recipients named above. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender by reply email and destroy all copies of the original message.

So, since I don't know if that means I can't share it,  I'll paraphrase.  They reassured me that Mars Hill has been a member in good standing, in compliance with their "committed to our high standards" since September 2012, and that their BOAA is also in compliance with their standards for board governance.

And then he went on to tell me that they also buy the whole non apology thing for the ResultSource/Mars Hill/New York Times bestseller fiasco.  They've apparently swallowed it hook line and sinker.   I guess it really is true that it's easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission. If you just admit it was poor judgement (a la Bill Clinton) then everyone accepts it as OK.

To me, this says that everyone's accreditation at ECFA has just lost all value.  Good to know that pastors and churches and para church ministries who have worked hard to do everything above board are now just as trustworthy as Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill.  Inspiring.

Steve Lawson's train wreck at Shepherd's conference 2014

I listened to Jordan Cooper take this apart but he didn't play the whole thing. I listened to the whole thing. TOTAL TRAIN WRECK. LAW LAW LAW.

http://vimeo.com/89619924

He called out Tullian Tchividjian explicitly by quoting and then paraphrasing several portions of his book Jesus Plus Nothing Equals Everything. And Tullian's preaching prof Steve Brown from his book Scandalous Freedom.

I have issues with both those guys sometimes and how they sometimes shy away from naming specific sins except self righteousness... and virtually no third use of the law (which we really do NEED to hear) but the characterization Steve Lawson employed was unbelievably skewed and twisted. It was shameful.

At one point he *actually* said "good grief, "How often *should* you have to look back at your justification?" All of us in this house were pretty much agog at that. He also used himself as an image of drive to perform (his sports career in college).

I felt so many times through this message that if I took him seriously then I could never measure up to the standard of perfection embodied by ... not Jesus, but Steve Lawson and if I didn't, well then... am I even really saved?

I heard all Tullian's Jesus Plus Nothing sermons, but I'm going to have to get ahold of the book now so that I can see exactly how Lawson quoted the beginning of one portion and then seamlessly seems to have lapsed into 'paraphrase and caricature' of the rest without indicating where the end of the quote was.  I would also like to see how 'in context' the passage was.  Tullian is of course speaking about justification so it would be silly for Lawson to apply what he was saying to sanctification.  Such would be a confusion of Sanctification and Justification, exactly the same thing of which  he was accusing Pastor Tullian.

He even had to acknowledge (though it was done very cursorily) that one's salvation was secure in Christ.  But then he took such peace away again by going back to Jonathan Edwards and his drive to be the theoretical "Best Christian" on earth and demanding we answer to ourselves whether we are fully surrendered to Christ.  The answer, if you are human and honest, is no, to all those questions he posed.  Jonathan Edwards' line of prayer speaking to God and telling him he's fully surrendered to God's will is just silly and self deluded.  Yeah, I know, everyone thinks well of him.  I guess I don't follow the conventional wisdom, I'd rather go with Scripture.  Paul admits he is the chief of sinners, at the end of his life.

For some reason we think being sanctified has only to do with outward conformity to house rules or some other moral code.  Well, no, sanctification is far more than that.  And the longer you are a Christian the less likely you are to claim moral progress because your understanding of morality gets deeper and bigger even as you are leaving certain obvious sins behind.  I fear for anyone under a pastor or elder who doesn't realize that.

This past week some bloggers for Pulpit and Pen insisted needing to hear the gospel is a sign of immaturity.  An elder from a Sovereign Grace church in Helena MT actually said "I pity people like you."  So exactly what is the need to hear the law over and over again to tell us how to be good? I find I'm telling little children how to be good more often than my adult family members!  But adults family members still need to be told they are loved, even if you don't have to tell them constantly how to be good or even remind them to be good.

I suppose it might in some cases be a sign of immaturity, or it might be a sign of them being convicted of sin, or it might be a sign of some other struggle in their life, stuff that a large percentage of us are going through at any one time. And because pastors are invested in the lives of their flock, they are going through it ALL the time with the flock, and so probably need to hear the gospel even more!

But what pastor who cares at all for other people would just tell a struggling saint or discouraged fellow pastor to buck up and strive and beat their bodies to submission like he's doing? It should be their pleasure and honor to set the table of God's grace and beckon the weak undeserving people (just like himself) to be filled!

An hour and 20 minutes hammering these guys with the law, and no gospel for them. What encouragement for burned out and despairing pastors. I guess pastors don't need Jesus.  Thank goodness there weren't ANY of those burned out despairing pastors present at that conference.  (Yes, that's a bit of sarcasm.)  If as Lawson says, being a good pastor is all about beating yourself into submission and giving till you have nothing left to give, I guess Rick Warren is doing a bang up job.  Lots of the very pastors he is concerned about dishonoring the name of Christ present a very law/moralistic driven message of personal transformation. (Mark Driscoll, Dough Phillips, Bill Gothard, Steven Furtick) How come it's not working for those guys?

Contrast Lawson's man-centered-performance-driven-pastor message with this beautiful blog post:

Weaning Christians off the Gospel

April 7, 2014

Feeling a bit disenchanted with Tullian

Not just "a bit."  "Quite" a bit.

I have been really excited about him now for a couple years.

He often quotes questionable people. He just quoted Rick Warren favorably in part 8 of his Romans series. Something about "if I thought law could change people I'd have been a politician, but I don't so I'm a pastor."  In a sense that's right.  But unfortunately, the way Rick Warren means that is not the way Tullian was supposed to have meant that.  Rick Warren preaches nothing BUT law-light and moralism and almost never gets the gospel right.  The exact opposite of what Tullian says he is all about.

Tullian does preach some law, and preaches the perfection God requires, yes. But it's not very specific when it comes to how we ought to treat each other.  The laws we break are limited to snapping at our spouses or speeding in traffic and then trying to justify ourselves.  It's "we are all screw ups and all in the same boat" which is true. But we also need to know that certain behaviors aren't going to be overlooked in the church and should not be found among God's people.  Why did Paul bother to write "such things shall not even be named among you" and the letters to the Corinthians shaming them for being proud of tolerating sexual sin in their membership? Jesus, the apostles, and the prophets preached warnings constantly too.  We need to hear it.

I try to listen from the point of view of an abuse victim because I know a gal who grew up being sexually abused by her AFLC pastor father for YEARS and no one knew it was happening until he finally went outside the family once all the kids grew up and left home.  And I dealt with bullying for a long time as well.  It's hell.

I am troubled because I hear nothing in Tullian's sermons that would give someone like a sexual abuse victim or any other victim of crime, or other hidden crimes, or constant bullying, any hope or idea what to do in such a situation.  Are they supposed to call the police? Or are they supposed to 'forgive?'  Are they supposed to tell someone and get the person in trouble?  Or are they supposed to 'turn the other cheek?'  At what point does someone have any right or even responsibility to cry out for justice even if it puts themselves and their loved ones in further danger?  Does Tullian know for sure no one in his local or even larger audience is in such a situation?  How does any pastor know it's not happening in his church?  I know personally a very good and faithful pastor who was for years pastoring an entire family where the father was sexually abusing the children, and physically and sexually abusing his wife. This pastor did not know it until a few years ago, when I told him of the family's history.   I am approximately the same age as the youngest of these children and she was a teenager and confirmed by this pastor who couldn't see it under his nose.  This pastor is about 15 years older than me.   I knew it when I was 18 and met this girl and she told me all about it.  I didn't know I should have told someone, however.  And so the cycle of silence continues.  It makes me angry that I didn't say something and angry that no one told me I should have broken her confidence!

These are the sheep we should be actively seeking out with our words, so that they will know they can and should and even must come forward and be set free from fear and bondage and their abusers held accountable.

"...whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea." Mt 18:6

"It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin." Luke 17:2

We hear endless sermons on gossip, as if that is the thing that is threatening to devour the church.  But when for example sexual perverts and abusers can repeatedly prey on people in the church and successfully hide behind the 'gossip' card, we are obviously not even defining gossip correctly.  This needs to be fixed, unless we don't care that children and women are possibly suffering silently under a na├»ve pastor's watch.  Should they suffer even one more day of such treatment?  The very act of speaking out and offering them hope and courage may make the difference between them thinking Christianity is just a hypocritical facade and so walking away from the faith, and the truth that Christ indeed cares and rescues the helpless, the oppressed and downtrodden in our midst.

"...truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward." Mark 9:41

"...whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” Mt 10:42

It’s always more “forgiveness” for the perp, never any “law” - which is exactly why the mother of an abuse victim is brainwashed to think she should keep allowing her kids to be victimized.  It brings tears in my eyes to think of an abuse victim in a congregation feeling a pastor is speaking hope to everyone (including her abuser) except him or her, feeling even more keenly the depth of their own emotional isolation, and coming to the conclusion that this whole Jesus thing is just meaningless at best, or a desperately cruel joke.

(related: Boz Tchividjian has a great blog post here (though I would NOT recommend Nouwen, who he quotes):
Flashes of light: Reflecting Jesus into the dark places of the church)

I have hated some of the unfair reviews Tullian has gotten, but I'm starting to wonder...he rarely speaks against any specific sin except self righteousness, bickering, silly foibles like blaming others for misplacing your keys, etc. It's almost like he isn't sure whether Jesus' blood speaks to the more egregious sins among us.  And when he has two brothers working as sex abuse prosecutors and running a ministry to help sex abuse victims, he really cannot claim ignorance of the subject.

For some great blog posts about addressing sex abuse in the church, check out the blog at
G.R.A.C.E (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment - www.netgrace.org

April 6, 2014

Updated post on Phillip/Philip Stephen Stallings (Mr-Paradox) the "Calvinist" false convert (screen shots added)

For anyone still looking for evidence, I updated the post from last October, on Philip/Phillip Stephen Stallings. Stallings  apparently is in a race to the finish line with liar Ergun Caner for who can blaspheme the name of Jesus more effectively using different pet sins.  See, Ergun is just lying to cover up other lies because he thought he could make Jesus look more amazing by doing so.  Stallings is lying to cover up his sexual perversion.

There is also another post calling for his repentance at
Design of Providence: A Warning and a Call for Repentance: Philip Stallings

April 2, 2014

So much heresy, so little time (The Noah Movie's Kaballah Gnosticism among a host of other things)

The amount of nonsense going on in evangelicalism in just the last few months has been overwhelming.  Some of the things on my mind:
  1. Mark Driscoll in an ethical death spiral but refusing to admit it.  ("It's just a flesh wound!")
  2. The "debate" (with no cross-examination???) between Bill Nye and Ken Ham, which had many supposedly-Christian talking heads making fools of themselves by telling Ken Ham to quit making a fool of himself.
  3. Michael Brown playing footsy with the snake Benny Hinn then digging in and superbly fortifying his position with straw.
  4. Ergun Caner insisting the liars are those who would expose his lies and protect the sheep from him.
  5. Chris Pinto and Brannon Howse and their crazy attacks on solid Christians who are not moved by Pinto's fearful, conspiracy-minded propaganda films, sometimes including goofy frauds like William Schnoebelen.
  6. Steven Furtick's Napoleon complex and suddenly becoming "pastoral" when Charlotte Mayor was arrested.
There are probably a lot of other issues that are escaping my mind or being blocked out at the moment. I am just so tired of the chaos and confusion in the church. So, last but not least:
  1. Gullible Christians (especially Christian media folks) speaking positively of  "Biblical" movies coming out, when the movies are in fact terribly unbiblical.

John Piper Responds to Pastor David Yonggi Cho's Conviction for Embezzling $12M by Making Plea to US Pastors (Christian Post)

I've been annoyed with Piper for a while because of his blatant dallying with Driscoll, and Warren, etc. in effect enabling some of the dysfunction he's calling out in this article/video:

John Piper Responds to Pastor David Yonggi Cho's Conviction for Embezzling $12M by Making Plea to US Pastors

It's not quoted in the article, but Piper specifically slams the idea that pastors have "accountability" with other peers outside the church and other people with lots of money. Sounds like he’s finally, and rightfully, fed up with all the rockstar unaccountable megachurch pastors we are always hearing about, who systematically drive out anyone who would hold them locally accountable, so no one is able to rein them in.

Some really good advice to pastors or any leaders of any group.