The Caner Event at FBC Woodstock Points to a Deeper Ecclesiological Problem in SBC Churches

Pine-Springs

By now, most anyone who follows the Ergun Caner saga has heard about the situation that occurred at FBC Woodstock on July 27th, 2014. It was a sad ending to the announcement back in May that Johnny Hunt would be having Caner preach in his pulpit. This came as a shock to many of us who held Dr. Hunt in high esteem. It came as no real surprise that Pastor Hunt had been silent on the Caner situation; he simply followed the path of many pastors in the SBC who have no stomach for calling Caner to repentance or are unwilling to even take five minutes to investigate the facts about Caner’s lengthy trail of lies and deception. What was stunning was that Johnny would choose to promote Caner back to a level of prominence that he hasn’t seen since his fall from Liberty University

My ultimate concern is not that Dr. Hunt would be willing to restore a brother who has fallen. Galatians 6 makes it very clear that we should gently restore those who have been “caught in any transgression,” and to do so in a spirit of humility knowing that we too are susceptible to temptation. However, this assumes a full confession of sin and complete repentance. Not only has Caner never repented, he has boldly claimed that he has done nothing that even requires repentance. Recently he declared, in public forums and on multiple occasions, that he has been “exonerated” of all charges. His followers and defenders attack and malign anyone who put forth the evidence of his decade of lies and deception. Their claim is never that Caner has already repented, but that he never did anything wrong. And to top it off, Ergun sued two Christians in order to squash a video that presented some of the most conclusive evidence of the charlatan that he truly is. Caner lost both of these lawsuits and was found to have been using the court system as a means of bullying those who would criticize him along with trying to cover up the evidence that he had been living a lie for over a decade. What leaders in the SBC refused to see and confront, two judges could see his deception with incredible clarity and ruled accordingly.

In spite of all of this, Johnny Hunt invited Ergun to speak in his pulpit. I, along with many others, hoped and prayed that something more was in the works. Perhaps Dr. Hunt was using this opportunity to give Ergun a platform to once and for all confess his sin and publicly repent for his overt deceptions. Ergun Caner had himself written, in his book Why Churches Die, that public sin demands a public confession. As the date got closer, it became more and more clear that no such confession would be coming. This led to many people crying out for Pastor Hunt put a stop to all of this. Why would he use the great influence he has to promote Caner? If he truly loved the man, he would help Caner end the deception that endangers his very soul.

Even among the membership of FBC Woodstock there were those deeply concerned. They went to the leadership and did everything they believed they possibly could to call for the leaders to act with integrity in this situation. But it was all to no avail. Sadly, the final outcome wasn’t a complete surprise. Several people predicted exactly what took place – right down to a church member being escorted off campus who had been vocal about his concerns.

There is so much that could be said about what took place yesterday, but I believe there is a critical element that desperately needs consideration. This situation exposed a much deeper ecclesiological problem in many of our SBC churches. I remember the day when pastors rightly railed about the unbiblical situation where deacons ruled the church and would often oppose the pastors from carrying out their God-given role in the church. But my how the tables have turned. In many cases, we merely exchanged one unbiblical ecclesiology for another.

For the sake of full disclosure, I believe the biblical leadership structure of the church is one that is led by a plurality of elders with the final authority given to the congregation. This calls for mutual love, trust, and respect between the elders and the congregation, along with both being fully submitted to the headship of Christ and authority of the Scriptures. The congregation is to follow the leaders who have been charged with the sober task of watching the souls of the congregants (Heb. 13:17), and the elders are to lead as loving shepherds who are not domineering over the sheep who ultimately belong to Christ (I do believe that having one of Christ’s sheep escorted out of the church is a violation of this duty. It is shameful and they will certainly give an account to Christ for this). Together, the congregation and leaders work together to follow the voice of Christ as they submit to his Holy Word in carrying out the church’s task of making disciples and equipping the saints.

With that said, I am aware the topic of elders leading the church is a hot button in many SBC circles. One concern, which I share, is the unbiblical model of pure elder rule where the congregation is not the final authority in the church. I believe one of the strongest evidences in the New Testament of the congregation being the final authority is Paul’s words to the congregation in Galatians 1:6-8. It is the congregation who has the responsibility of being the last stop to prevent false doctrine from infiltrating the church. Paul gives the congregation final authority for protecting the purity of doctrine, even over an apostle gone rogue.

Ironically, congregations, who resist a plurality of elders in the fear of that group ruling over them, have given sole authority to one man who generally leads the church without question. In this model, the Senior Pastor essentially functions as a single-elder with little to no accountability for his decisions or actions. The church is run like a business where he is the CEO and is looked to as the one who “hears from God” for the direction the church should go. In larger churches, the argument is given that the staff is to run the church. But, in reality, staff members often simply defend every decision the Senior Pastor makes as they are judged solely by their loyalty to him. Any divergence from that path will quickly lead that staff member looking for another place of employment. If a church member has a genuine issue and tries to raise it in a biblical way, they are simply reminded of their need to trust and obey the leadership. As already stated, Heb. 13:17 clearly teaches the need for the congregation to obey the leaders, but this assumes that the leaders are truly acting in a way that is “keeping watch over your souls.” The passage is not a club to beat members into submission or a “get out of jail free” card to support every decision a pastor makes. While accusations are not to be easily brought against an elder, we must not forget that an elder who persists in sin is to be publicly rebuked (1 Tim 5:19-20).

So what is a congregant to do if the leadership begins to steer the congregation in a dangerous direction and will not listen when privately confronted? Can they humbly go before the congregation to bring a concern? Well, it has been my experience that in these models the congregation has few, if any, opportunities to publicly address their concerns. Many of these churches have only one members meeting a year, often simply to approve the budget. Practically, the role of the congregation is reduced to funding whatever the Senior Pastor is calling upon the congregation to do. And since the language used by the Senior Pastor is couched in what he believes the Lord has told him to do, to oppose him is to oppose the Lord. The ecclesiological deck is stacked. I contend that this model is not only as dangerous as a church ruled by deacons, it is potentially much worse.

So what is the church member to do in such a system? Well, they can leave the church, which is what they will most likely be asked to do because loyalty to the single-elder is the first priority, or they can begin to talk to other members about their concern and be accused of gossiping and being a troublemaker. One thing you can be sure of: a single-elder will always believe in practicing some form of discipline when his authority is being challenged. There is no greater sin than “touching God’s anointed.” Could it be that some of the problems we experience from our congregants as pastors are due to our own unbiblical ecclesiology that protects us as a type of demi-god?

What happened yesterday at FBC Woodstock was sad on many levels. But it sheds light on one of the biggest needs of reformation in our churches. Church polity is interesting in that you don’t see the malady of your “system” until a problem arises. Everything can run fairly smoothly in a good church with relatively godly men even with a bad ecclesiology.

(I don’t think these pastors, for the most part, are wicked men. I believe they love the Lord and want the gospel to advance. But unbiblical polity will lead to sin in the church, just like any other deviation from Scripture. The absolute power is corrupting absolutely right before our eyes)

It is when problems or sin arises in the church that either the health or sickness of our ecclesiology is exposed for what it truly is. I think what we are seeing is a symptom of a deeper and more serious problem. I contend if FBC Woodstock had a biblical model of leadership that the events of this weekend would have most likely never occurred. But the runaway train could not be stopped because the passengers have no access to the emergency cord; the very system is designed that way.

I pray we will have a reformation in our churches to care about ecclesiology as much as we do soteriology. Senior Pastors have a responsibility to shepherd Christ’s church in the way that he commands in his Scripture. I believe much of what is taking place with many Senior Pastors is a violation of 1 Peter 5:2-4, which reads:

“shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (Emphasis mine)

Let us be reminded, pastors, that this is not OUR church. It is Christ’s church and we will give an account one day to Him for HIS flock. In addition, congregations need to remember that they too have a responsibility before God. Yes, they are to obey their leaders as they watch closely over their souls. But they should not – they MUST not – allow the ecclesiology of the church to be a system that allows for anyone, whether it be pastor or deacon, to rule over the church with unquestioned authority. You too will give an answer someday as a part of HIS church.

[Contributed by Tom Buck]

Full Video of Ergun Caner speaking at Johnny Hunt’s Church

CanerWS2

Here we have the full video of both sessions preached by Ergun Caner at Johnny Hunt’s Church on July 27, 2014. In an introductory video conference call, Johnny Hunt identifies and commends Ergun as a godly man to his Church and listeners.

“We’re delighted to have you…I’m grateful for the way God has used you and is using you. Thank you for your humble spirit and for the way you’ve just desired to serve. And so just know that Woodstock welcomes you this morning and I’m praying, and have prayed, that God would greatly use you as he always has…”

Ergun starts speaking at the 29 minute mark and his whole sermon is really characterized by stand-up comedy. I would peg about 2/3rds of his sermon to be that very thing- observational humor and personal anecdotes designed to make the congregation laugh and chuckle. Several times you could tell that he was waiting for a punchline, and it really did overshadow his whole presentation and anything poignant of theological he was trying to stay.

If nothing else Johnny Hunt, in having Ergun invited to speak despite the fact that he is an openly unrepentant chronic liar who is actively engaged in the process of trying to suppress those very lies [think King David in the process of plotting Uriah's doom] has unfortunately tarnished and damaged what had up to this point generally been considered a solid, faithful, ministry and reputation. In trying to give legitimacy to Ergun he has illegitimatized himself.

And for what? Instead of using the word of God to “pierce to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” and give a great, deep, powerful message, Ergun Caner blunted it and dulled it through irrelevant inanities and theological frivolities. There was no substance. It was one laugh line after another.

When the dust settled and after all was said and done, all that was left was a sprinkling of bibley talk and 35 minutes of stories and abject silliness from the life of Ergun, -stories might I add which we don’t even know if they’re true or not, and no reason to suppose that they must be.

[Contributed by Dustin Germain]

Twitter Empathy and Hashtag Slacktivism

NEW

More than one million people — including First Lady, Michelle Obama  — have tweeted the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. But whether they’re helping the roughly 250 schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria or hopping on some kind of first-world digital bandwagon depends, frankly, on whom you ask.

These stinging words are from a May 8 article in the Washington Post. The words are harsh, but are they true? Could most public displays of empathy for the last (no doubt, important) cause be nothing but a peer-pressure induced digital bandwagon that accomplishes little more than providing a badge of empathy for those who don it? The Washington Post’s article providing Twitter screenshots from a Nigerian-American woman characterized these displays of support for the recently-kidnapped Nigerian school girls as “a recent wave of global sentimentality” that “simplifies nothing, solves nothing.”

This recent fad, the idea that awareness equals action, is defined in the Urban Dictionary as the following:

The kind of activism undertaken when you “do something” about a problem by tweeting or posting links to Facebook, without any intent of ever actually doing something. Nothing more than a nonsense feelgood gesture so that one can say they “did something about” whatever trendy cause they’re pretending to care about. Usually only lasts a week or two before the cause is completely forgotten (i.e. it stops being cool to forward/retweet on the subject). // Use: I forwarded a video about some unspeakable atrocities in a country I didn’t know existed until I watched the video. My hashtag activism is going to accomplish something!

And frankly, nobody – and I do mean, nobody – loves hashtag slacktivism as much as Christians. For those of us who think that voting for the candidate least supportive of abortion every four years is activism and real civic involvement, posting a Facebook status or tweeting a hashtag is downright radical. But what does it accomplish? Does awareness equal action?

As you might have heard, Islamic ne’er-do-wells have wreaked havoc on the facade of religious liberty in Iraq and nowhere more brutally than in the epically violent city of Mosul (where five IMB missionaries were gunned down in 2003). Of course, keep in mind, most of the purported Christian refugees and victims of ISIS are not Christians, but Roman Catholics. Nonetheless, Mosul is home to some orthodox Christians and they are facing extreme danger and are in perilous jeopardy. So, Christians across the world are using the hashtag #WeAreN and replacing their profile photos with the Arabic letter “N”, which is reportedly used by ISIS to mark homes occupied by Christians.

Does all the self-sacrifice required to tweet a certain hashtag or change one’s profile pic really make a difference, or does it make ordinarily apathetic and, generally speaking, ignorant and uninvolved virtual tourists feel like they’ve accomplished something of value?

One reported Christian (again, the great majority of those identifying as Christian in Iraq are Roman Catholic) from Mosul told Christianity Today that it’s “encouraging to see all the people around the world supporting us.” The kind of support of which she speaks is no doubt moral support, maybe prayer support, and even though it’s intangible doesn’t mean it’s altogether worthless. But beyond the intangible, what does a tweet or profile icon from an otherwise ill-informed, disinterested slacktivist accomplish? Typically, it makes them feel like they’re not a generally ill-informed, disinterested slacktivist.

smhOf the multi-million dollar budget in the Southern Baptist lobbying arm, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, how many dollars have they now invested in lobbying State Department officials or the Obama Administration directly to ask for military intervention by the United States or our allies to end the persecution?

How much of Russell Moore’s (more than) 300k salary has he set aside to help displaced Christians from Mosul? There are sixteen million Southern Baptists. We can only find six million of them, but if all six million Southern Baptists not missing-in-action were to give twenty-five dollars a piece, we could provide the fleeing Mosul Christians 40 million dollars to help rebuild their lives and seek refuge elsewhere. Of the estimated 3000 Roman Catholics and Christians in Mosul (the number is probably far smaller), that would add up to over 13k per person and upwards of 50k-60k per household. Wow. That would be something at least.

But what does the ERLC plan on doing? Well, they’ve changed their logo.

Maybe it’s not about jumping on the latest digital bandwagon, as the Washington Post calls it. Maybe it’s about sincere people seeking to make an actual difference and are looking for ways to financially donate, prayerfully give, or sacrificially serve. Or, maybe it’s about doing the closest thing possible to nothing that makes you feel like you’ve done something.

Long after the ERLC has changed it’s logo back, or maybe adopted a new one in defense of Duck Dynasty or some new cause that plays well for publicity, there will be persecuted orthodox Christians in Iraq. Long after people have tired of getting Facebook updates on ISIS and Mosul, evangelical Christians will still be in the prisons of China, where some of them have been for decades. Long after we’ve replaced our #WeAreN with #IStandWithHobbyLobby in the next Supreme Court fight, groups like Voice of the Martyrs will still be doing the same thing they’ve done all along.

Hopefully, all the folks engaging in social media slacktivism will begin to contribute something tangible to the cause of persecuted Christians around the world. It probably depends on how many Facebook likes they’ll get.

[Posted by  Dustin Germain]

Theological Abuse [And what to do about it]

TR

Anyone who knows me will know I am passionate about truth. I love the Word of God, I love sound doctrine, I love books, sermons and lectures which present the truths of God’s Word and their application to every area of life.

A major vehicle for much of that learning has been the Internet but with every day that passes, I am growing more and more convinced that some use theology to abuse and demean others. I am also worried that a lot of us see it happen and let it slide because the ones doing it share our theological positions and so it’s all above board.

I’m keenly aware of this because I hold to a number of theological positions which, in the minds of some, are contradictory. Allow me to use the most charged example I witness regularly.

I’m a dispensationalist of sorts (though I am loathe to discuss it in public for some of the reasons I will talk about in a moment) and a thorough-going Calvinist. Arguably, it has never been more acceptable in some online circles to engage in “whack-a-dispy” antics. Now that is nothing new – dispensational and covenantal thinkers have been at each other’s  throats for decades.

But as someone who spends a little time in the world of social media, I am regularly confronted with a hubris against my belief in dispensationalism that borders on hatred. Yes, you read me right – hatred. I’ve seen accusations of being in unrepentant sin, being a heretic, being responsible for the anti-intellectualism which pervades evangelicalism. We’ve been made the butt of jokes, treated as second-class citizens and frankly, we’ve been refused the common charity that should be characteristic of believers’ treatment of one another.

Well, why? Allow me to present a handful of reasons why this is the accepted norm online:

  1. We’ve forgotten that theology is intended to humble us: Too many people believe they have the understanding of doctrine they have is like a badge of honour they should wear proudly and those who don’t have it should feel bad. Like c’mon – why haven’t you attained the euphoric heights of great theology I have reached, you sad, sad person.

Brothers and sisters, it should not be so! In 1 Cor 4, Paul thunders: “For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” The theological understanding you profess to have came from God’s good hand – if someone hasn’t come to your understanding, how about you walk in humility, take your time, pray and then lovingly teach from the Scriptures.

  1. We’ve allowed theology impede fellowship: Now hear me – I am more than conscious that sound doctrine will cause divisions on some levels. As much as I love my Charismatic brethren, the reality is that if we went to plant a church together, it would be all different kinds of frustration. I love my Presbyterian brothers but every time a baby was born, it would be a struggle when one elder wants to baptize the kid and I’m thinking, “Really, brother???”

However, I am convinced that some of us use that legitimate reality to then impede any possibility of fellowship. Suddenly, every nuance of doctrine is such that we can’t fellowship, whether virtually or personally. Oh so you’re X? Yeah, go sit over there and leave me and my Y-type friends alone is the general sentiment I witness day in, day out on a host of  issues. How about some discussion of the things we can unite on?

(On a side note, I have always been heartened with how ministries like Ligonier can invite men of differing theological positions to minister together and enjoy some fellowship together. Yet, for reasons which I will never make peace with until we get to eternity, we can’t manage it on something as basic as Facebook/Twitter? Just saying…)

The end result is that we have a load of people in the church who are guilty of theological abuse – using the gift of God’s Word to demean, belittle and destroy, rather than build up, encourage and edify. We end up with people who are exactly like the people Paul describes in 1 Cor 13:1-2:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

Men and women (because some ladies are crueler than a thousand angry men when they’re in this mode) who can break down the order of decrees and rail on the lack of good preaching but hate their brother or sister and use theology to manifest that hatred – a contradiction if there ever was one!

I feel like I go on and on about this theme of humble orthodoxy (to borrow the phrase from Josh Harris) but my love of the truth is at an all-time high and I am rather sick to my stomach with people bringing truth into disrepute by their terrible example – beginning with myself!

Let’s love the truth, live it out and put theological abuse to bed in our own lives, praying for those who do such things that the powerful God they read about would grab a hold of them!

[Contributed by Kofi]

Bishop Tony Palmer Has Perished: Be Both Joyful And Filled With Sorrow

Tony Palmer

“Brothers and sisters, Luther’s protest is over. Is yours?”  Tony Palmer

News broke today that Tony Palmer, a [questionable] “Anglican Episcopal Bishop” in the Communion of the CEEC, has passed away from a motorcycle accident in the UK. Bishop Palmer gained infamy this past February when he was featured at a conference with good friend, ministry partner, shenanigans-enabler and arch-Heretic Kenneth Copeland. Bishop Palmer also counted Pope Francis as a close friends and leveraged that friendship to get the Pope to give a message at this conference via circumstances and technology. In this way the three of them had gathered to put into play spurious and mischievous intent. Their ecumenical purposes were to suggest that the Protestant Churches give up their divisive ways and to be joined in unity with the Roman Catholic Church. In short order, Bishop Palmer declared that the Protestant reformation was over, and that it was time for all the denominations, led by Kenneth Copeland and his merry band of Charismatics to assimilate back into a visible united [Roman] Catholic Church and “come home”

It was not difficult to see where Tony’s true loyalties were. While he was positioned as an Anglican is a particular schism, he seemed to have been a Roman Catholic in all but name only. He said in a sermon in 2007:

Because of our close relationship with the Charismatic Catholic Church, my wife has returned to her Catholic faith and even our Children desire to be Catholic. I am the only one in my own family that is not Catholic. This is something I have to suffer for the sake of my Mission. As an Anglican I represent a bridge between the Protestant and Catholic worlds, becoming a Catholic myself would mean losing my ability to be a bridge, therefore I suffer being outside the ‘Mother Church’ for the sake of the Kingdom of God. God knows how I suffer internally when I am unable to partake of the Communion that I feel so part of. I am reminded of the Samaritan Women who asked Jesus healing, He told her that He had not come for the Dogs but for the Jews… And she answered…’but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the table’… I have become worst (sic) than a dog for the sake of God’s calling, remember us when you eat?

At the time of the conference, some people had made claims that this was the start of the one world religion,or at least a big step forward. Certainly It was and remains a historic event for how it came together, how the communication happened, and which personalities were involved, but to be frank it’s difficult for me to regard it as a precursor for one world religion. I tend not to put much stock in people who speculate about the formation of one world religion, and generally consider that an exercise in distraction and a profitless endeavor to pursue.

But now the man is dead and question are arising over what this means for the renewal movement; what does it mean for the ecumenical inroads that had begun to be driven by certain pastors and congregations, and what should our response be to this man’s death.

While not one to speculate or engage in conspiratorial thinking, I can see many avenues whereby his death would serve to rally certain susceptible denominations/ groups of people on a small-scale.  If not in outright assimilation then at the very least in working closer, and any time any group drifts towards Rome theologically I consider that a bad thing. Palmer had put forth some effort with his “the protest is over” speech, and I can see parts of that continuing after his death, and his death itself being a catalyst to gel certain factions together. It wouldn’t surprise me to see something like “To honor Tony’s memory and spirit, as a sign of solidarity to achieve his life-long dream, we will unite ourselves with…”

As for the man himself- like any enemy of the faith that breathes their last, we ought to be both saddened and heartened by this news. Saddened because a man is dead and his wife and children are grieving. It’s a surreal, painful time when anyone passes away, especially in such brute circumstances, and we ought to empathize with those in mourning. The Lord takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and neither should we. We can only pray that he repented of his sins before he perished and repudiated Rome and her false gospel.

Heartened? Because a man who was peddling theological and spiritual poison is no longer a direct threat to the Christian Church, though even in death the ramification of those meetings will invariably ripple across Christendom. Tony’s legacy is that he sought to enslave us Children of the Reformation by joining us to the damnable heresies of Rome. He partnered with and promoted Kenneth Copeland, a man whose spiritual misdeeds and heresies are legendary in their scope and in their depravity, and sought to have us look to him as a paragon of unity and Christian virtue.

And last he tried to minimize the dividing lines drawn by the Reformers. He tried to get us to stop protesting and lay down our bloody insistence that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ’s work alone, confirmed by scripture alone, to the glory of God alone. He wanted to marry us to a decrepit, whorish, Romanist bride who wears the six sessions of the Council of Trent on her tattered dress with pride and defiance. In that respect it was *good* that he is no longer with us because his death has served to minimize the damage he caused in life.

[Contributed by Dustin Germain]

 

Joel Osteen Likes God…He just doesn’t like Jesus [A Twitter Survey of @JoelOsteen]

article-2578525-1C33220E00000578-774_634x423

I often talk about the Christ-less Gospel of Joel Osteen. Whenever people ask me what I mean by that, I always tell them this; Joel Osteen does not talk about the Christian Gospel. Joel does not follow in the footsteps of Paul and share this message

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you,which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve… 1 Corinthians 15:1-5

Rather, the gospel of Joel Osteen, the “good news” that he brings is that “God loves you and wants to save you from  life of mediocrity and small dreams. Therefore, if you believe in God and be obedient to him, God will give you a plan for your life that includes big dreams,  self esteem, favor, health and wealth, influence, a better job, a positive self image and a fulfilled life free of negativity”. That’s it. That’s what it’s all about. That is the sum of just about every book, every sermon, every media appearance, and every tweet of Joel Osteen, condensed into a few sentences.

That being said, there is something very important to understand about Joel Osteen: He does talk about God. A lot. You cannot accuse the man of not mentioning him because he’s all over that. Here’s the thing though- Its never really in a personal sense. Joel talk about God, but its always in a vague amorphous sense. There is certainly nothing distinctly Christian or Biblical about it. There’s nothing doctrinal or theological about the way he talks about God. Rather is an ethereal, shapeless, formless, customizable, singular being thing that is out there called God that functions like a cosmic vending machine whose sole purpose is seemingly to bless you and make your life better. Even when he mentions God, it’s not ABOUT God, but it’s about what God can do for YOU.

Why do I say “singular being”?  Simple. While mention of a “God” may be plastered all over his twitter feed, Jesus is Not. Joel Osteen rarely, if ever, mentioned Jesus. He rarely, if every, mentions Christ. This is true when you listen to his sermons, read his tweets, and listen to him on whatever talk show he’s touring. Let me give you some basic numbers

Just for kicks I did a quick survey of all Joel Osteen tweets in the last year. I can’t go further back, so we’ll stick with going back to July 8, 2013, which is a little more than a year ago. Out of Joel Osteens 806 tweets, not including any of his replies to other people, he mentions “God” 334 time.

Want to guess how many times he mentioned “Jesus”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once.

One time.

 

I figured that number seemed a little, so I exchanged the word “Jesus” for “Christ”? And know how many times Christ was mentioned?

Twice.

Two times.

 

In the spirit of generosity I though perhaps Joel was more comfortable using his real name “Yeshua” and searched accordingly.

No times.

 

How about “Lord?”

One time. And it was referring to God.

So this is where we’re at. This means that Americans most influential pastor, the guy with the biggest Church [43,000 members]. One of the most well-known and most recognized pastors with the biggest platform, out of 806 tweets this last year, in a Twitter feed that is not about his personal life, but rather serves to communicate his version of theological truths about Christianity and Faith for his 2.6 million followers…Joel Osteen mentioned Jesus in some capacity 3 times.

I don’t have access to the rest of his twitter account, but if you extrapolate the numbers, going back to 2009 when he joined, out of his 11300 tweets, he mentioned the name Jesus, God in human flesh, our great God and savior who was fully man and fully God who excruciatingly bore the wrath of the father on a cross and died and rose again in propitiation for our sins- yeah that guy… he likely only got mentioned 24 times. On a Twitter feed designed to share truth about the Christian life from a supposed Christian leader who tweets 2-4 times a day.

And know what? All three were at Easter. Nothing for the rest of the year. Which of course made me wonder “Didn’t he even mention Jesus at Christmas?” Nope. These were his four Christmas eve and Christmas tweets

Now of course if you look up to some of Joel’s favorite topics and main message he likes to communicate, he references to “dreams” as in to quote a recent tweet “You’re closer to seeing that dream come to pass than you think. You may not be able to see it, but it can see you.” 48 mentions.

How about “great/greatness?” as in “You have the seeds of greatness, don’t allow something small to keep you from God’s best” 365 mentions

Or how “favor” as in “Go get your favor, your dream, your victory. It has your name on it.” 32 mentions

And you can put any othe rof his favorite buzzwords in a search bar, and you’ll get scores of hits.

 

But talk of Jesus..and his death and resurrection…his salvation…his shed blood and sin….the forgiveness he offers….his grace and mercy…his loving kindness- there’s nothing even remotely like that there.

Like I said, Christ-less

[Contributed by Dustin Germain]

Fahrenheit Highway 411: Matthew LeHew, Shorter University, and Ergun Caner

10426705_642413162496346_1567590518028886922_n

 “It was a pleasure to burn.” Guy Montag, from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451

Matthew LeHew Calls Out Ergun Caner

Matthew LeHew

It’s simply important for all BPC stakeholders, especially the faculty and staff that make their living at the institution, to realize how serious the situation is[1] – Matthew LeHew

On or about the 10th of July, Matthew LeHew published an article on his personal website entitled “Ergun Caner is Wrong About Brewton-Parker’s Accreditation”.  LeHew was responding to a video (see below) in which Caner assesses the ramifications of the recent decision of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) to strip Brewton-Parker College of its accreditation (Caner is the President of that school).  In the video, Caner makes a number of claims with which LeHew takes exception, most notably the claim that “(Brewton Parker) won’t lose (its) accreditation, not for a moment.”

At first blush, someone posting yet another criticism of Ergun Caner doesn’t seem like big news; I’ve done itMark Lamprecht has done itJames White has done itJD Hall has done it,Tom Rich has done itothers have done it; Caner and Brewton-Parker are criticized weekly, if not daily, by many.  So what’s new?  What is significant about Matthew LeHew writing an article critical of Caner?  Matthew LeHew’s criticism is very significant because of where he works and what he does for a living.  Lehew is an “Assistant Accreditation Liaison” at Shorter University, which, like Brewton-Parker, is a Georgia Baptist Institution.  According to Shorter’s website, LeHew worked as “as an accreditation compliance officer at The Baptist College of Florida” before coming to Shorter.  So, not only is Matthew LeHew the first (to my knowledge) employee of a Georgia Baptist cause to publicly criticize Ergun Caner and Brewton-Parker, he is a Georgia Baptist insider with expertise in matters of institutional accreditation. LeHew’s article was, to say the least, very damning of Ergun Caner’s claims.   The article was also very well written.  Such quality is to be expected from LeHew, who is also an “Instructor of Communication Arts” at Shorter University and teaches a class entitled “Media Law & Ethics.

To summarize: A Georgia Baptist college communications instructor who works in the area of institutional accreditation and teaches a class called “Media Law and Ethics” wrote and published an article for the whole world wide web to see in which he stated:

Ergun Caner, president of BPC, has (deliberately or not) misrepresented the security of his institution’s accredited status to his faculty and staff.”[2]

LeHew is not an accountant (like me), a financial services professional (like Lamprecht), an apologist (like White), or an electrical engineer (like Rich); he is a communications professional employed by a Georgia Baptist Institution that works in the area of institutional accreditation and has proclaimed Ergun Caner’s statements about Brewton Parker’s accreditation status to be “egregious”[3] and “very, very wrong.”[4]

I don’t know how many page views LeHew’s website received after he posted his article, but I do know he website stopped working for a time, perhaps because it was overwhelmed by server traffic.  Now, his article is gone.  It was removed almost as quickly as it was posted.  The critical article has been replaced…by an apology.

Not only has the article been removed but LeHew has demanded that Tom Rich remove a copy of it from his blog.  Rich, with LeHew’s persmission, had posted a copy of LeHew’s article during the time in which LeHew’s website was down.  Now, LeHew has demanded that Rich remove the copy. Rich has done so.

I am left thinking that LeHew removed the article and posted an apology because his job at Shorter University was threatened.  LeHew’s critical article, it appears, has been censored.  Did the powers that be at Shorter and the Georgia Baptist Convention consider it dangerous?  Having read LeHew’s article and observed the candor with which LeHew wrote, I’m convinced that they did.  If Mathew LeHew was under the impression that he possessed a certain degree of academic or personal freedom while in the employ of Shorter University, it appears as if that impression was a mistaken one.

As LeHew took down his article and issued (what I believe to be) a contrived apology, I wonder, did he think his words were a pleasure to burn?  Did LeHew take stock of his situation and come to the realization that he worked for the thought police?

To those familiar with recent events at Shorter, a situation like LeHew’s should not come as a surprise. Shorter University is no stranger to controversy.  It recently had accreditation and faculty problems of its own but it seems to have come through them.  Shorter has been target of criticism from those outside of the Georgia Baptist Convention for some time and, now, one of its own, Matthew LeHew, seems to have caused, from within, a stir.

LeHew’s Assessment

Caner not only downplays the seriousness of the situation, but goes so far as to make a pivotal false statement regarding the outcome of BPC’s upcoming appeal.”[5] Matthew LeHew

In his criticism of Caner’s statements, Matthew LeHew did not even make a specific assessment about the charlatanry of which Caner has been accused.  Rather he focused solely on Caner’s claims about Brewton-Parker’s accreditation.  LeHew addressed the following claims made by Ergun Caner:

(1) The claim that Brewton Parker remains accredited and will continue to be accredited.

In response to this claim, LeHew noted that while technically true, it is also “disingenuous”[6]. LeHew observed that, since SACS has already voted to remove Brewton-Parker from membership, its “continued accreditation is a mere technicality pending an appeal in August (2014).”[7] LeHew claimed that the truth is as follows: “(Brewton Parker’s) accrediting agency has voted to kick (it) out, but (it’s) got an appeal coming up that is literally (it’s) last chance.” LeHew pointed out that Brewton-Parker, despite its loss of membership, continues to assure (students’) parents that situation is fine.

(2) The claim that removal of Brewton-Parker’s accreditation is a long process.

In response to this claim, LeHew pointed out that while accreditation removal is a long process, Brewton-Parker is at the end of it.  The hearing in August is the final part.  LeHew, showing his expertise on accreditation, pointed out that SACS Principles of Accreditation “forbid an institution from being on Probation for over two years, even with good cause.”[8]

(3) The claim that Brewton Parker will maintain its accreditation even if the appeals process does not go well.

In response to this claim, LeHew remarked, “…that portion of the video (where Caner makes the claim above)…must be seen to be believed. I confess I’ve never seen Caner in person, nor have I heard him speak in public. I don’t know if what I’m interpreting in the video as supreme levels of condescension and smugness are misattributed aspects of his regular speaking tone.”[9]  LeHew made it clear that if the appeals process does not go well, Brewton-Parker will have no more opportunities. Interestingly enough, this is the very same claim that Caner himself made in an interview with Gerald Harris of the Christian Index in March of 2014.  When asked by Harris about the SACS accreditation review, Caner stated, “…this is the year we are going to hit it out of the park or strike out.”  Now, upon learning that his college has swung and missed at strike three, Caner is claiming that there are more innings yet to play!  Once again, Caner has been caught making “factual statements that are self-contradictory.” The ever-enabled Caner, it seems, just can’t help himself.

(4) The claim that every Brewton-Parker degree transfers

In response to this claim, LeHew noted that, if accreditation is lost, credits earned at the school will not be guaranteed transferable and undergraduate degrees granted by the school cannot be guaranteed to count towards graduate school.

(5) The claims that Brewton-Parker has “all the financial resources, including federal aid.”

In response to this claim, LeHew noted that, if accreditation is lost, students will lose the ability to receive federal financial aid through Title IV.

(6) The claim that Brewton-Parker will not lose its accreditation for a moment.

In response to this claim, LeHew pointed out that even if Brewton-Parker files and injunction to delay its loss of accreditation, it will be unaccredited during the time before the injunction is filed.  Of course, if the injunction fails, it will certainly lose accreditation.

(7) The claim that Brewton Parker is in the black and has a balanced budget for next year.

In response to this claim, LeHew stated, “(Caner) said that (Brewton-Parker College) isn’t in deficit, but doesn’t mention debt. Caner’s justification of BPC’s financial situation is actually very restricted, and his response doesn’t actually indicate compliance with the Principles of Accreditation at all…And if Caner refuses to change anything leading up to the August appeal, then it’s a virtual guarantee that it will be denied, and there’s little reason for a judge to issue any kind of preliminary injunction.”[10]  As an accountant, I can appreciate LeHew’s appeal to hard numbers here.  LeHew observed that Brewton-Parker’s liabilities were a little over 50% of the size of their assets.  In accounting parlance, this is called a going concernproblem.  When an organization’s financial statements indicate a doubt in its ability to continue, it’s usually a sign of impending doom.

“…I know I’m an idiot.” Ergun Caner

To conclude his criticism of Caner, LeHew stated:  “A selfie video from the president doesn’t change the fact that an adverse decision will result in the devaluation of all active students’ degrees, as well as their inability to pay for their education. Private colleges without any other institutional accreditation don’t simply ‘bounce back’ from those circumstances.”[11]LeHew also offered a seemingly token statement encouraging Christians to pray for Brewton-Parker and its faculty, staff, and students.  However, he also calls upon his readers to “…remember that (SACS) isn’t an enemy or a persecutor. The institution isn’t facing an external adversarial organization, and there should be no rallying cry for Christians to ‘stand’ against such. Rather, the institution is coming to terms with the consequences of its own internal decisions…”

Unfortunately, for LeHew, he is coming to terms with the consequences his own internal decision to post a criticism of a Georgia Baptist Institution.  His job may now be in jeopardy, while the future and security of men like former Brewton-Parker Preident Mike Simoneaux and Georgia Baptist Convention President and Former Brewton-Parker Trustee Don Hattaway, who have managed Brewton-Parker into the ground, seem quite secure.  Unfortunately, Shorter University itself, also managed (to a degree) by Hattaway is no stranger to the consequences of its own internal decisions.

Shorter College and the Georgia Baptist Life Style

“I want to take personal offense to Caner’s insinuation when he said ‘School after school after school has had to deal with this, including our Baptist brothers and sisters, even those here in Georgia.’ No GBC school has faced a revocation to its accreditation. If he’s alluding to Shorter being placed on Warning in 2013 (and removed in 2014), then it betrays his thorough lack of understanding of the accreditation process. Shorter did NOT go through what BPC is going through.”[12] Matthew LeHew

Just a short drive to Rome on Highway 411 from my home in Cartersville, Georgia is Shorter University. Shorter is a Georgia Baptist institution that boasted a Fall 2013 enrollment of 2,636; it offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in a variety of disciplines.  The University, established in 1873, is a familiar site to anyone traveling along Shorter Avenue. “A twisting driveway leads up from a busy street, past a gatehouse to the Georgian quad where twin gates stand. The gates are emblazoned with mottoes: ‘ENTER TO LEARN’ faces outward; ‘GO FORTH TO SERVE’ faces inward.” In 2002, the college was the scene of a battle for institutional control.  Shorter’s erstwhile board of trustees voted to sever the Universituy’s ties with the Georgia Baptist Convention.  A legal contest ensued.  In 2005, through a decision of the Georgia Supreme Court, Georgia Baptist Convention control was solidified. The board of trustees was soon to be filled with supporters of Georgia Baptist Convention control.

In Late 2011, Shorter issued a four-point “lifestyle statement” that all faculty and staff are required to sign if they wished to remain employed. It reads:

shorter lifestyleThe issuance of the statement resulted in vociferous protests from many liberals and academics.  As a Georgia Baptist, I supported the statement…and still do.  The fact is there were some professors teaching material in a way that contradicted a biblical worldview.  Furthermore, former Chairman of the Shorter Board of Trustees, Nelson Price, lamented that Shorter had a reputation as “a hotbed of homosexuality since the late 1970s.”  Such activity and such a reputation have no place in a Christian college…period…end of discussion.

As it became apparent that the lifestyle statement would not be scrapped, faculty and staff left in droves.  I kept a careful watch of the activity, reading the comments of dissenters and even watching an on-line video of protestors outside the college.  I carefully took notice of the names of protestors and dissenters.  I Googled them and searched for them on Facebook.  My purpose in doing so was to contact them and witness to them.  That’s one of the things I love about the digital age.  Information and people are closer than ever before.  Here in the Bible belt White (and Black) southerns all look like Christians.  Public statements against biblical standards help flush out lost people better than a traveling evangelist who tells congregants to bow their heads and raise their hands if they aren’t sure about eternity.

I tried to strike up a conversation on Facebook with one of the alumni protestors, Brentz Turner, to no avail. I tried to contact Cory Lowe, another protestor, through his website, also to no avail. I emailed Melissa Bugg, another dissenting shorter alumnus.  Melissa did respond to my attempts at communication. After telling Melissa that the lifestyle statement seemed fair given that Shorter was run by Southern Baptists, she responded:

“Southern Baptists are not running Shorter. Fundamentalists are”

The Southern Baptist Confession of Faith is a fundamentalist confession. I’m fundamentalist. Critics like Melissa found little sympathy with me.  Sadly, I believe Melissa and many others who would protest such a lifestyle statement to be lost.  I was satisfied with the stand that Shorter and Georgia Baptist Convention were taking.  At the time, I was a member ofTabernacle Baptist Church.  Three members of that church were on the Shorter Board of Trustees.  One of those members was my Pastor, Dr. Don Hattaway, who is now the President of the Georgia Baptist Convention. In addition to serving on the board at Shorter, Hattaway was formerly the chairman of the Board of Trustees at Brewton-Parker College, his alma mater.  At the time, I was unaware of the troubles at Brewton-Parker.  I did not know that my own pastor was involved in running what I’ve come to think of as an inept and corrupt institution (Brewton-Parker).  I’m thankful that the Georgia Baptist Convention took a biblical stand with regards to the situation at Shorter; however, there is no excuse for its failure to uphold its own standard of righteousness.  The Georgia Baptist Convention held the liberals employed at Shorter accountable but it hasn’t done so with Ergun Caner and Brewton Parker College.  If you’re thinking that Georgia Baptist Convention Leadership is going do the right thing where Brewton-Parker and Ergun Caner are concerned, you might want to think again.

Ergun Caner with Don Hattaway at Brewton-Parker in 2014

Financial Instability or Religious Persecution?

“Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling.” Proverbs 16:18

Rather than taking accountability for and coming to terms with the consequences of Brewton Parker’s internal decisions, Brewton-Parker trustee Bucky Kennedy went on the TV news claiming that SACS is persecuting Brewton-Parker because it is “small, rural, and faith based.”  In the light of the real religious persecution that has recently been perpetrated upon Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood, and Jake Phillips, Kennedy’s straw man appeal to religious persecution is especially despicable. Rather than take responsibility for the inept management of men like himself, Hattaway, Ergun Caner, and Mike Simoneaux, Kennedy is trying to gin up anti-intellectual sentiment against SACS amongst the South Georgia country folk.  This is, very plainly, bad form.  Either Kennedy is a buffoon or a deceiver.  In either case, he’s proved himself unqualified to run an institution of higher learning.

This raises the question of the general competence of professional pastors to lead colleges in the state of Georgia.  Exactly what are their qualifications?  Shorter was recently put on warning with SACS.  Truett-McConnell College, a Georgia Baptist institution run by Ergun Caner’s brother Emir, was recently labeled a “dropout factory” with a 14% graduation rate by Time Magazine.   Brewton-Parker has been removed from SACS membership for “failing to appropriate control over all its financial resources.”  Think about it, the federal government is going to stop giving financial aid to students to attend Brewton-Parker.  The federal government…thinks funding Brewton-Parker…is wasteful.  Yet, hundreds of Georgia Baptist Churches continue to fund it every week through the cooperative program.  Those same churches pay the salaries of the pastors who have taken it about themselves to become educational administrators.

Let’s recall what got Brewton-Parker into its financial mess in the first place (the one is tried to solve by hiring the charlatan Ergun Caner).  It wasn’t religious persecution.  As I’ve discussed elsewhere, it was a financial scandal (involving the misuse of federal student financial aid) and its immoral treatment of the whistle-blower, Martha Faw, who called the scandal to light.  Brewton-Parker paid $4 million to settle a lawsuit related to the financial scandal

Brewton-Parker Appeals to Mammon

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”Matthew 6:24

Rather than just admitting failure, cutting its losses, and advising students and faculty to seek educational fulfillment elsewhere (like Shorter or one of the other hundred or so college in Georgia), Brewton-Parker has announced “Stand with Brewton Parker Day.”  Brewton-Parker has released a statement (likely worded by VP of Communications Peter Lumpkins) reading, “Brewton-Parker College (BPC) has been an icon of southeast Georgia for well over a century. Few people living in the region remain unaffected by this Georgia Baptist institution. Tens of thousands of college graduates have literally served all over the globe as pastors, missionaries, church-planters, teachers, scholars, business owners, farmers, lawyers, you name it. Our past is glorious because our God is glorious. Our future will be no less glorious because our God is no less glorious!” Apparently such a statement isn’t enough; it’s website lists three why people should stand with Brewton Parker:

(1) We make no apologies to anyone for being a Christian college founded on a Christian worldview. 

It also makes no apologies for the gross incompetence of its leadership and its complete and total lack of accountability. This statement is clearly intended to stir the pot with regards to perceived religious persecution.  Stop and think about this for a minute.  I’m as Baptist as they come.  I’m writing a polemic against Brewton-Parker.  In fact, most polemics I come across about Brewton-Parker and Ergun Caner are from Christians who demand the Georgia Baptist Convention clean up its act.

(2)  Brewton-Parker College remains an economic mainstay of the Mount Vernon region. Every business and livelihood in the area would be negatively affected with many failing were Brewton-Parker College to fail.

Wow! Every business and livelihood would be affected? Brewton-Parker enrolls less than 1,000 students.  It’s not the KIA Plant in West Point!  Furthermore, positive economic impact is not a good reason to support an evil institution.  Doing so puts money above God.

(3) BPC has literally changed communities and regions all over the globe for the past century.

Here’s an experiment for you when you go to church next Sunday.  Ask people if they’ve ever heard of this world-changing “icon.”  Most Georgia Baptist I’ve talked to don’t even know it exists, yet they continue to give wasted tithes and offerings to support it.

Should We Pray For Brewton Parker?

“Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us?”Deuteronomy 31:17

I don’t think, for one second, that God is with Brewton-Parker College or the Georgia Baptist Convention.  Just because a place or organization is “Baptist” in name, doesn’t it make it a God-ordained holy cause.  When I examine Brewton-Parker, all the way from the financial scandal to a board of trustees who were obtuse (or crooked) enough to appoint the charlatan Ergun Caner as a school President, I don’t see a God-honoring institution.  I see a whitewashed tomb whose iniquity is nearly complete. Let the accreditation removal be the straw that broke the camel’s (that was too big to fit through the needle for being puffed up with pride) back.  Good riddance to Brewton-Parker College.  I pray that young people will become world changers for Christ despite the machinations of the good ole boys in the Georgia Baptist Convention.  I pray that Caner and company will repent and turn away from their wicked ways.  Great is the fall of the house whose foundation is built upon the sand.

Fearing God and not Man

“Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, And whose heart turns away from the Lord.”  Jeremiah 17:5

Aside from the apathy of every day church-goers, one of the things that disturbs me most about the culture of the Georgia Baptist Convention is the fear of man amongst the pastorate.  These stories I’m telling you aren’t secrets.  They are well documented.  Why aren’t more pastors speaking out?  Is it because they are afraid they won’t get invited to the next big preaching conference?  Is it because they are afraid they will not considered for the next posh Georgia Baptist post? (Georgia Baptist College presidents, for example, make six-figures to run very small colleges).  Are the pastors running the show more concerned with making money and looking out for their friends that looking after their flocks?  Pictures speak a thousand words, so I’ll let these pictures do the talking.

Gerald Harris, interviewing Ergun Caner, Harris is the editor of the Christian Index, a Georgia Baptist Convention news service.

Gerald Harris preaches a conference with Don Hattaway

Influential men like Don Hattaway and Ergun Caner seem to be doing just fine no matter what, but who’s looking out for the little guy like Matthew LeHew?  Matthew LeHew told the truth in a helpful way and now he is afraid of losing his job.  Matthew LeHew is an ordained minister with a wife to support.  Why should he have to live in a culture of fear to keep his job?

It’s just not fitting.  It’s just wrong. Now, because of the culture of fear and secrecy in the Georgia Baptist Convention, I believe Matthew LeHew has taken the first step (taking down his article) in a life of compromise.  It’s a step I was tempted to take.

Matthew LeHew with his bride.

I know that people often wonder why I spent so much time on the computer lamenting the problems in my local denomination.  I’ve three great jobs, a beautiful wife, three lovely children, and seminary classes to study for.  Why do I spend my time doing this?  Well, look right there at that picture of Matthew LeHew.  That’s a man with smiling bride and handsome dog who set out to the right thing and was threatened with job loss…from a Christian institution.

One day, my little daughters, God willing, are going to be brides just like Matthew’s wife.  They’ll have a family to look after and their husband will be responsible for supporting it.  I don’t want my daughters and their husbands to feel pressure to compromise God for money…but I know they will feel that pressure.  I hope, when they think of their father, they’ll see an example of a man who resisted it.

Do you know I’ve had a Baptist leader try to get me in trouble at one of my jobs for speaking out?  I have.  I’m quite certain that calling out the people I’ve called out will limit my options when I graduate seminary.  So be it.

People might think I have a personal axe to grind with Don Hattaway.  I don’t. He’s a nice man and a fine preacher.  I sat under his preaching for years and had only two disagreements with his exposition.  He thinks there was an eye of the needle gate in Jerusalem.  I don’t.  He thinks Jephthah’s daughter went to serve as a temple virgin, I think she was sacrificed.  Such disagreements don’t even matter!  It was during one of his sermons that I got under conviction to obey God in believer’s Baptism.  It was under his sermons that I got under the conviction to answer the call to seminary…and it was under conviction that I left his church.  Doing what feels right isn’t always easy and sometimes it means calling on nice people to do the right thing.

Don Hattaway…do the right thing.  Matthew LeHew…do the right thing.  Georgia Baptists…do the right thing.

Keep up the Skeer

“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars.” 2 Chronicles 16:9

This isn’t my first article about the Georgia Baptist Convention and its problem of corruption and it likely won’t be my last.   I’m staying diligent in my calls for justice, repentance, and accountability. The confederate general, Nathan Bedford Forest, who saved the city of Rome, GA from an attacking Union force led by Colonel Abel Streight had a saying, “Get ‘em skeered and keep the skeer on ‘em.” That’s what I’m doing.

Little by little, I know I’m reaching people.  People are seeing something. People are saying something.  Soon, people will do something. If the problems upon which I opine are ignored, people will forget.  I conject that scandals in the church have been swept under the rug for years; high-powered preachers aren’t used to having to answer for gross mismanagement of convention funds.  The internet is changing that, for the better, I think.

Nathan Bedford Forest was often outmanned and outgunned when he faced an enemy. This was the case when he faced Abel Streight.  However, Forest defeated Streight (as he did many others) by outsmarting him.  Forest did not play by Streight’s rules.  On top of having my job threatened, I’ve had Matthew 18 misapplied to me twice by Georgia Baptist leaders.  I’m done playing by their rules.  Nathan Bedford Forest told Abel Streight, “All’s Fair in Love and War.”  Well, Georgia Baptist Convention, I’m done playing by your manmade, legalist rules of secrecy and fear-mongering.

I’m sticking to what the Bible says.  The Bible tells me that men like Matthew LeHew should proclaim the truth boldly when they see a wrong that needs to be righted.  I know I will.  How dare you, Georgia Baptist Convention, make Matthew LeHew feel like his job is in jeopardy while at the same time employing that charlatan Ergun Caner.

Remember, the eye in the sky is watching us all.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

 

[1] Per Matthew LeHew’s article “Ergun Caner is Wrong About Brewton-Parker’s Accreditation” as published at MatthewLeHew.com

[2] ibid

[3] ibid

[4] ibid

[5] ibid

[6] ibid

[7] ibid

[8] ibid

[9] ibid

[10] ibid

[11] ibid

[12] ibud

New Website Project Has Launched www.thirdworldosteen.com

joelosteen_endefensadelafe

 

Hey all. Wanted you to be aware of a new website I have launched at www.thirdworldosteen.com.

The purpose of the site is simple- exposing the Christless, gospel-less, fortune cookie-esque, “therapeutic moralistic deism”of Joel Osteen’s ministry, manifested by one of many sources: his Twitter feed. Joel’s blend of quasi-”name it and claim it/prosperity” theology is ruinous. It’s not good news to the poor, the disenfranchised, the desperate, the sick and the struggling, particularly in the third world.

Rather it is enslaving. It is mocking. It is damning. And it must be exposed for the false gospel it is.

The site will be updated daily, and so if you ever get bored, check it out!

Dustin Germain

 

When The Cross Isn’t The Center

munroe-header

Wednesday nights, I teach a class at my home church with another brother in our fellowship working through key Christian doctrines.

Currently, I’m up to bat, tackling the issue of spiritual gifts. With many of my class coming from a Pentecostal/Charismatic background, I’ve used the class as an opportunity to equip them with the tools to answer the inevitable questions that follow when folks figure out you’re not exactly on the same page as them.

Part of that has been a walkthrough of Pentecostal/Charismatic history and in last night’s class, we came to the Word of Faith movement. We walked through the theological tenets of the movement, aided by video clips of the major voices in the movement spelling them out in no uncertain terms.

At the end of my class, I played this clip of Dr Myles Munroe of Bahamas Faith Ministries:

Yes, he just said, “People ain’t worried about no blood on no cross!” It’s a horrific thing for any Christian preacher to hear, let alone open your mouth and speak. How does a man who professes to be a preacher of the Gospel so radically redefine the Gospel message that to any who truly know it, it is barely recognizable?

Well before you say this, “Awww, this is proof right here that the Word of Faith is bankrupt…” (and it is), you may wish to check a little closer to home. How many seeker-sensitive preachers seem to agree in principle with this when they don’t preach the message of the Cross either?

When a pastor allows his church to open their worship service with Pharrell’s Happy or begin their Resurrection Sunday service with AC/DC’s Highway to Hell- and yet you will never hear a solid articulation of the Gospel message or of the great doctrines of the Word of God – is it really any different than a preacher saying that the Gospel really isn’t about Jesus? Can we at least applaud Munroe for being consistent when professing evangelicals say one thing yet do another?

The Bible is clear:

For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. – 1 Corinthians 2:2

But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world has been crucified to me through the cross, and I to the world. – Galatians 6:14

Now I’m not wiser or more spiritual than the Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures – the Cross is meant to be the center and it is an ugly thing when that center is replaced with nonsense – be it “Kingdom” nonsense, much like Dr Monroe’s material or “felt need” nonsense like the Elevations or Newsprings of this world.

A sermon I wrote out for you all “Cut your credit card like the throats of the prophets”

the-rival-sacrifices-of-elijah-and-the-priests-of-baal-1545-2

I want to teach in a Church one day.  In fact, I’ve already prepared a sermon for you all to see. As one who has listened to thousands of sermons in my life I believe I’ve found the key to be able to condense the vast majority of the sermons I’ve listened to  and boil it down in a short, succinct message.  For this reason I wanted to show you the outline I will be using, which it seems is the standard outline for 90% of modern evangelical mainline protestant churches, then offer a brief homily. I got the idea from a Chris Rosebrough post, found here, and riffed on it a bit and used his outline. 

This outline is golden. Its almost a science and I guarantee that it can be replicated over and over again. Stick with it and you are sure to draw big crowds and see “life change” happen in your church. Life change will help you and your members  “do life together” which is the ultimate goal of that the Church is trying to facilitate.

But before we do that, I  need to lay out my primary assumption to my audience, so they know where I, and apparently most of the other bible teachers/pastors are coming from. We work from the understanding that, to quote Rosebrough

” Every Bible story is about YOU, my beloved congregation.  And, since YOU all struggle with setbacks, problems and challenges that keep YOU from achieving YOUR maximal greatness,  that means that the Bible is really all about giving YOU a road map that YOU can follow to achieve YOUR dreams and God-given destiny.”

So in the spirit of transparency, here is the outline and the steps I have taken to create this sermon.

Step 1. Read a bible story. In our case, 1 Kings 18, which is the story of Elijah on Mount Carmel. It’s best if you read it from the Message Bible as that will result in maximum fluidity of textual fidelity. That is to say, you have the most “outs” if any pesky congregation members try to pin you down on any troubling questions on your interpretation . Also, it is recommended that as time permits, you paraphrase the paraphrase. This lets you emphasize the points you want to emphasize in the story and leave out the points that aren’t relevant or that may contradict the point you want to make.  For our purposes we will copy the entire text here from The Message Bible, but as long as the congregation more or less gets the gist of the story, as told by you, that is more than sufficient.

16 So Obadiah went straight to Ahab and told him. And Ahab went out to meet Elijah.

17-19 The moment Ahab saw Elijah he said, “So it’s you, old troublemaker!”

“It’s not I who has caused trouble in Israel,” said Elijah, “but you and your government—you’ve dumped God’s ways and commands and run off after the local gods, the Baals. Here’s what I want you to do: Assemble everyone in Israel at Mount Carmel. And make sure that the special pets of Jezebel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of the local gods, the Baals, and the four hundred prophets of the whore goddess Asherah, are there.”

20 So Ahab summoned everyone in Israel, particularly the prophets, to Mount Carmel.

21 Elijah challenged the people: “How long are you going to sit on the fence? If God is the real God, follow him; if it’s Baal, follow him. Make up your minds!”

Nobody said a word; nobody made a move.

22-24 Then Elijah said, “I’m the only prophet of God left in Israel; and there are 450 prophets of Baal. Let the Baal prophets bring up two oxen; let them pick one, butcher it, and lay it out on an altar on firewood—but don’t ignite it. I’ll take the other ox, cut it up, and lay it on the wood. But neither will I light the fire. Then you pray to your gods and I’ll pray to God. The god who answers with fire will prove to be, in fact, God.”

All the people agreed: “A good plan—do it!”

25 Elijah told the Baal prophets, “Choose your ox and prepare it. You go first, you’re the majority. Then pray to your god, but don’t light the fire.”

26 So they took the ox he had given them, prepared it for the altar, then prayed to Baal. They prayed all morning long, “O Baal, answer us!” But nothing happened—not so much as a whisper of breeze. Desperate, they jumped and stomped on the altar they had made.

27-28 By noon, Elijah had started making fun of them, taunting, “Call a little louder—he is a god, after all. Maybe he’s off meditating somewhere or other, or maybe he’s gotten involved in a project, or maybe he’s on vacation. You don’t suppose he’s overslept, do you, and needs to be waked up?” They prayed louder and louder, cutting themselves with swords and knives—a ritual common to them—until they were covered with blood.

29 This went on until well past noon. They used every religious trick and strategy they knew to make something happen on the altar, but nothing happened—not so much as a whisper, not a flicker of response.

30-35 Then Elijah told the people, “Enough of that—it’s my turn. Gather around.” And they gathered. He then put the altar back together for by now it was in ruins. Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes of Jacob, the same Jacob to whom God had said, “From now on your name is Israel.” He built the stones into the altar in honor of God. Then Elijah dug a fairly wide trench around the altar. He laid firewood on the altar, cut up the ox, put it on the wood, and said, “Fill four buckets with water and drench both the ox and the firewood.” Then he said, “Do it again,” and they did it. Then he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time. The altar was drenched and the trench was filled with water.

36-37 When it was time for the sacrifice to be offered, Elijah the prophet came up and prayed, “O God, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, make it known right now that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I’m doing what I’m doing under your orders. Answer me, God; O answer me and reveal to this people that you are God, the true God, and that you are giving these people another chance at repentance.”

38 Immediately the fire of God fell and burned up the offering, the wood, the stones, the dirt, and even the water in the trench.

39 All the people saw it happen and fell on their faces in awed worship, exclaiming, “God is the true God! God is the true God!”

40 Elijah told them, “Grab the Baal prophets! Don’t let one get away!”

They grabbed them. Elijah had them taken down to the Brook Kishon and they massacred the lot.

 

Step 2. Identify the hero and the villain(s) in the story.

Hero= Elijah.

Villain= Prophets of Baal.

Step 3. Identify yourself with the hero (who also happens to be on a journey toward greatness and achieving his God-given destiny, just like you).

Hero= Me

Villain= Debt, negative people in your life, a boring job, marital challenges, unfulfilled dreams, broken relationships, etc.

Step 4. Identify the key action taken by the hero to defeat the villain. 

Key action- Built an altar. Covered it with water and then called down the fires of God. Also slaughtered the  prophets.

Step 5. Allegorize that action by calling it a ‘principle’ and then challenge people to ‘apply this principle’ in their lives in order to defeat the problems, challenges, and setbacks in their lives so that they can achieve greatness.

Here’s how it comes together

“Today I want to tell you a story about a guy named Elijah. He was a prophet of God who lived in the Old Testament, and he’s probably most famous for defeating the prophets of Baal. The story is that there was a famine in the land, the people had forgotten about God, and there was an evil king named Ahad who brought a challenge to Elijah to end the famine. So Elijah went to Mount Carmel, and both he and the prophets each built an altar with the idea that whoever’s altar caught fire first, without getting  lit, would demonstrate whose God was real.

The prophets of Baal went first, and they chanted to their gods for half the day to set fire to their altar and prove he was real until they were all sweating in the sun. When nothing happened, Elijah started taunting them and mocking them, so they tried all the harder and even cut themselves to show their sincerity.  After a while Elijah got sick of this, and built his own altar, drenched it with water, then prayed to God, and “Whoosh!” the fire of God came down and burned up everything, proving that The God of Elijah was the one and only God.

You know, what we see in this story is that Elijah had a problem. He knew he was called to be a prophet, but guys like Ahab kept him down and was keeping him from reaching his highest potential. Elijah had a dream to serve God and be a Godly man, but Ahab made him question himself and caused him to doubt the vision that God gave him for his life. Elijah knew that God had a plan for his life, plans for good and not for evil, plans to prosper and give him a hope and a future. However, Ahab and Jezebel were so powerful, and in that moment Elijah must have felt so helpless. In that moment Ahab issued an impossible challenge- “let’s build two altars, one for you and one for me, and we’ll see which God is real.”

Do you have an impossible dream in your life nobody says you can do, but you feel in the depths of your heart it is from God that you’re just aching to fulfill? We all have impossible things in our life. Maybe you’re in a ton of financial debt, you have fifty thousand dollars on the credit card, and you don’t know how you’ll get out of it. Maybe you have a broken relationship, and the two of you have been fighting for so long that it seems impossible you’ll ever reconcile. Maybe you’re stuck in the daily grind of a dead-end job, and you think it’s impossible to ever get promoted out of it. Well Elijah was in that same situation, and what did he do? He stepped out in faith and built an altar to God.

Sometimes you just have to put it out there and build your altar. If Elijah hadn’t built it, the fires of God wouldn’t have come down and he wouldn’t have gotten out of that impossible situation. He had to put himself out there and try something out even though he had no idea if it would work or not. And I’m sure the people of Israel were laughing at him, and were thinking he was nuts when he poured water all over it, but he had to create a place for God to bless him in the midst of this impossible situation.

What’s the shot in the dark that you need to take to go out on a limb to overcome the setbacks in your life? Maybe for some of you, you’ve been fighting with your wife for years now, and you’re only sticking together for the kids. Maybe you need to put yourself out there and send her flowers in the mail, or write her a nice note, anything to get the ball rolling. Maybe for some of you, stuck in that job, you need to write out your resume and submit it for the Managers position as an act of obedience. God wants you to bless you, but you need to build an altar of opportunity and possibility so that he can.

After that in the story we see the fire come down which represents God’s blessing. God wants to bless you financially, emotionally, and relationally, and if you build that altar he’ll be able to. God has equipped you with all that you need, He’s just waiting for the “ok from you”

Finally, the last key is that after he is blessed, Elijah kills all the prophets. That’s an important step. After you build your altar, you need to get rid of all the people and situations that oppose you. You need to get rid of the doubters, and haters, and people who are discouraging you from your impossible dream and are keeping you mired in your problems.

Because if you let those things live, they’ll just fester and grow and make you doubt what God’s helping you achieve. You need to un-friend those friends on facebook who are keeping you down. You need to stop hanging around those co-workers who are lazy and have no plans to better themselves. You need to cut up the credit card bills just like Elijah cut the throats of the prophets of Baal so that you don’t use them again.

And so I want to ask you- what’s your altar that you need to build today so that you can defeat your personal prophet of Baal?

Let’s pray.”

That’s the meat of the message. I know it seems short, but I’ll punctuate it with personal life stories as well as a few funny anecdotes about my week, which will add another 30 minutes to the sermon so that it will cIock in at the 40 minute mark. I hope you all like it. If any Churches in the SBC need a guest speaker, I’ll be more than happy to fill in and preach it. Based on what I know about you guys, I should be in very high demand. Conferences here I come!

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 394 other followers

%d bloggers like this: