The Pen

Does Christianity Need a Chris Rosebrough?

No. Christianity does not need Chris Rosebrough. God is self-sufficient, Gospel is complete, and Jesus needs nothing and no one. So, please forgive the question. Perhaps a better question would be, “Is there a need in the Christian church for Chris Rosebrough and the work of discernment ministries?”

Chris is best known for his program, Fighting for the Faith [click here], on the radio network he created, Pirate Christian Radio [click here]. Chris also is the curator for the hilarious (and equally sad) Museum of Idolatry [click here]. On top of that, Chris was a speaker at the 2013 Reformation Montana Conference along with myself, James White and Phil Johnson. At RefMT2013, Chris conducted his first ‘live’ sermon review of a message ‘preached’ at Narrate Church in Helena – which if you’ve been reading the Pulpit and Pen for several years, you know I’ve addressed numerous times in the past, beginning with my assessment of their rather sacrilegious Christmas video from 2011 that they then edited, removed, re-posted unedited, and then edited again (and now it seems to have been removed from the internet altogether). You see, that’s what Chris does. He reviews sermons.

Chris begins his program each weekday by telling us his goal to “help people think biblically, think critically and help you compare what people are saying in the name of God to the Word of God.” Playing excerpts from the obviously insane at the beginning of each program like William Tapley [click here] or Patricia King [click here], the real heart of Fighting for the Faith is in the sermon reviews that challenge the preaching of many of today’s most popular preachers. Considering Joel Osteen or Joyce Meyer to be ‘low-hanging fruit,’ Chris instead focuses on those that mainstream evangelicals tend to laud and applaud as solid (you know, the type that Lifeway is likely to sell). And as a Southern Baptist, I can’t help but grimace that a good number of Southern Baptists are counted among the those that Chris has had to address; Ed Young, Andy Stanley, Stephen Furtick, Perry Noble, and Rick Warren just to name a few. Typically, Chris plays the entirety of their message to assure it hasn’t been taken out of context and adds his own commentary, pointing out their hermeneutical blasphemies, exegetical fails, and in general, the twisting and contorting or just plain ignoring of Scripture that is common in evangelical preaching. And for it, I would suspect that Chris Rosebrough is among the most hated men in American Christendom.

Mean-spirited, evil-intentioned, sarcastic, bombastic…you know the drill. And yet, Pirate Christian Radio is the #1 Web-Base Christian Radio Station in the world – and growing. I rarely meet a like-minded fellow that isn’t listening to Fighting for the Faith – and enjoying it. If they’re not listening, I tell them they must. How could a mean-spirited, evil-intentioned, sarcastic, bombastic program have such popularity? The truth, of course, is that neither Rosebrough nor his program are any of those things. If this Scripture is true (and it is), which tells us that “love hath no man than this; that he lay his life down for his friends” (John 15:13), I assure you that Chris has committed institutional suicide in the Christian realm. Although not to be compared to the sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross (to which that verse refers), Chris has sabotaged any hope of being invited to the big conferences and being given a clean spiritual ‘bill of health’ like Mark Driscoll gave TD Jakes at the latest Elephant Room Conference. In fact, when Chris shows up to a conference, they’re likely to threaten arrest [click here]. I’m sure Chris has counted the cost to personal reputation and sacrifice, and chosen to proceed in the work of discernment – and that’s no small matter. In short, I believe that Fighting for the Faith is among the most loving programs on Christian Radio.

But isn’t the “tone” unchristian or unloving? As Phil Johnson told me during the 2013 RefMT Conference, “I tire of the tone police.” Indeed, those that can find nothing sinister about the Scripture-twisting regularly employed by America’s favorite pastors, are somehow able to lock onto a  a hint of sarcasm like a heat-seeking missile and then condemn it to hell upon impact. Those that apparently have no discernment to test the spirits coming from America’s pulpits and are entirely unable to examine the Scriptures as modern-day Bereans can discern the evils of discernment ministry from a thousand miles away. While evangelicals are bringing Beth Moore into their home Bible Studies and playing Rob Bell’s Nooma Videos to their youth groups, their discernment somehow becomes wide awake towards others who dare to practice discernment. It’s odd – at best. As pastors who eschew judgment and yet are quick to judge discernment ministries practice an intellectual schizophrenia, those in the pews are turning to discernment ministers like Rosebrough to help them do exactly what his goal suggests – to help people think biblically, think critically, and compare what people are saying in the name of God to the Word of God.

The fact is, and let this serve as a warning to those who view discernment ministries as troublesome, caustic or sinful…your pew-sitters are turning. They are turning away from the shallow and anemic Gospel preaching. They are beginning to detest the Scripture-twisting and purpose-driven pandering taking place in the pulpit. They are beginning to tire of being called babies for wanting to be taught doctrine or being told that they “officially suck as a human being” for disagreeing about man-centered worship styles [click here]. They are beginning to find out that the seeker-friendly growth strategy is a Ponzi scheme perpetrated by mega-church pastors that is filling their auditoriums and emptying Christ-centered ones. They are beginning to discover the cold, hard desperation that comes in times of unquenchable sorrow because their pastors have given them life-tips on living instead of enriching them with a theology of suffering. They are being told that church is about vain and vapid celebration rather than heart-felt and contrite worship. They are beginning to investigate their pastors with the Word of God in hand. And they are beginning to figure it out.

It’s hard to tell now. It’s hard to tell because of the frenzied excitement that occurs with lost people flooding buildings called “churches” and leadership teams are congratulating themselves on the converts that are twice the sons of hell that they are. The reality of the people turning is being lost in a sea of numbers and statistics and a rain-shower of eggs being dropped out of helicopters [click here]. It’s hard to tell because the exodus of believers that is currently taking place is being replaced with lost people eager to be reaffirmed in their life choices. It’s hard to tell, but things are changing. It’s hard to tell, but the tide is turning. I and many more like me are seeing – one by one – true believers leave these churches because their pastor not only lacks discernment, they detest it. And they trickle in, little by little, into sound churches where the Gospel is preached without contortion, where the Scripture is revered, where the Holy Bible is respected.

What will remain in these fun-houses of worship will not only disturb these blind guides one day, it will haunt them. When for what they thought was for the good of Christ along with all the ways they replaced a blood soaked cross with a purpose-driven slogan, they will one day look around at a building packed from wall to wall with excited people, and realize what stares back at them is not the called-out church of God, but gaunt and skeletal souls of spiritually-dead corpses peering back at them through fleshly veils, awaiting the next dose of spiritual adrenaline laced with self-esteem. And as they look around in horror for another believer that will come to their rescue, being so far greatly outnumbered by the condemned, they will see that each and every last one of God’s people has left the building.

Yes, there’s room for discernment. There’s room for the love that it comes from and through which it goes out. There’s not only room for discernment, it’s essential. It is the single most lacking element of spiritual discipline in today’s evangelical church. Discernment is penicillin to the so-called preaching that plagues American religion; it is the antibiotic to this disease and a vaccine for the cancer of vapid and empty religion. Discernment and discernment ministry is not only tolerable, it is irreplaceable.