Friday, October 22, 2010

Patriarchy and the Family Integrated Church Emphasis in SBC Seminaries: A Potential Embarrassment for the SBC

There is a growing movement within far right conservative evangelical circles called the Family Integrated Church (FIC). The goal of the Family Integrated Church movement is for churches to conduct family worship, so as to not separate families into "age-group" ministries or worship (i.e. children, youth, married adults, etc . . . ). Family Integrated Churches desire "fathers to take their God-ordained role of spiritual leadership" and for a family to worship with their father, the spiritual authority and covering for all the family members. While the goals of the Family Integrated Church sound fine when one first hears them, it is the philosphical underpinnings of the Family Integrated Church that give the potential for future embarrassment to the evangelical church, particularly the Southern Baptist Convention.

The FIC movement is built upon the the principles of patriarchy. Patriarchy is a Greek word which means "father rule." In essence, patriarchy teaches that the male in the family (i.e. the progenitor or originator of the family) has the inherent authority over - and the power to rule - the entire family. In short, patriarchy is the belief in male dominance. Bill Gothard spiritualized patriarchy by proposing what he called "an umbrella of protection" provided by the father for the entire family, and any family member who remains under the "authority" of the father is protected from harm. Gothard's views express the the extreme logical conclusions of patriarchy within Christian circles.

Patriarchy Is NOT Necessarily Biblical

It is unnecessary to believe the Bible to hold to patriarchy, and it is possible to believe the Bible and renounce patriarchy and male domination. For example, Dr. Steven Goldberg, chairman of the Department of Sociology at the City of New York College, wrote a book entitled The Inevitablity of Patriarchy. Dr. Goldberg is not an evangelical Christian or Bible believer and says of his book:

"This book is not concerned with the question of whether male domination of hierarchies is morally or politically 'good' or 'bad'. Moral values and political policies, by their nature, consist of more than just empirical facts and their explanation. 'What is' can never entail 'what should be', so science knows nothing of 'should'. 'Answers' to questions of 'should' require subjective elements that science cannot provide."

Dr. Goldberg believes that the world will be male dominated because of biology - in short, testosterone. Goldberg believes patriarchy is the way the world is because males seek "attainment," "domination," and "power over others" because they are biologically bent to do so.

Likewise, many evangelical Bible-believing Christians who understand biology and the tendency of all men to dominate, renounce patriarchy or "this inherent desire to rule" as the anti-thesis of the Christian life as revealed by Christ and the New Covenant Scriptures. For example, the conservative theologian Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, author of the article I Believe in Male Headship writes that . . .

The word head is used five times in the New Testament to define the relation of Christ to the church. As will be shown below, the use of head is consistent in all of those texts.

Eph. 1:22-23. The passage that immediately precedes this text exalts the supremacy of Christ in his session. But in relation to the church, the role of Christ is described as being appointed as head for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. The headship of Christ is never over the church in the New Testament. Here, it is for the church. As head, Christ gives the church fullness. He provides for the church's growth. The function is not one of authority but of servant provider of what makes the church's growth possible.

Eph. 4:15-16. Christ is the head from whom the whole body grows and builds itself up. The function of the head in relation to the body is to provide it with growth. Headship is not an authority role but a developmental servant function.

Eph. 5:23. The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which is the Savior. As head of the church, Christ is its Savior. If head had meant authority, the appropriate designation for Christ would have been "Lord" instead of "Savior" which is consistently a self-sacrificing, life-giving servant role in the New Testament.

Col. 1:18-19. Christ is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead. Through his blood, shed on the cross, all things are reconciled to God. In a passage that celebrates Christ's supremacy over all creation, this text describes Christ as the source of the life of the church through his resurrection from the dead and because of the reconciliation obtained through his self-sacrificing servant ministry at the cross. Headship is not defined in terms of authority but as servant provider of life.

Col. 2:19. Christ is the head from whom the whole body grows. The function of head in relation to the body is not one of rulership but of servant provider of growth. Christ as head to the church is the source of its life and development.

This survey indicates that head, biblically defined, means exactly the opposite of what it means in the English language. Head is never given the meaning of authority, boss or leader. It describes the servant function of provider of life, growth and development. This function is not one of top-down oversight but of bottom-up support and nurture.

The Implications of Demanding Southern Baptists All Be Patriarchal

It's fine for individual Southern Baptists and Southern Baptists to hold to patriarchy if they choose, and it seems from the connections here that at least two Southern Baptist seminaries have chosen to advocated patriarchy and Family Integrated Churches. Faculty at Southern are currently being asked to begin the process of converting all "Leadership and Christian Ministry" degrees over to "Family Integrated Worship" degrees. The problems, and potential embarrassment for our Convention, come when self-appointed spokesmen for the Southern Baptist Convention act to the media as if all Southern Baptist churches and Southern Baptist individuals hold to and advocate patriarchy.

While some Southern Bapitsts cherish patriarchy and believe "complementarianism" is a compromise word, there are a number of Southern Baptists who believe the advent of patriarchy and Family Integrated churches could be detrimental to our Convention if it is ever allowed to be presented as the ONLY biblical, conservative, evangelical model for ministry and worship. We must remember that we are a cooperating Convention, not a conforming Convention.

The Problems of Family Integrated Churches

Southern Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky announced the hiring of Dr. Randy Stinson in the fall of 2006 as the dean of Southern’s School of Leadership and Church Ministry. Stinson also continues to serve as executive director of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. In the statement that Dr. Albert Mohler, Jr. made concerning the appointment of Randy Stinson as dean and the school's Family Integrated Church (FIC) specialist, he says that Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) holds to a “family-centered vision of church ministry.”

We commend Southern for their emphasis on "the family" but would like to caution all Southern Baptists about the dangers of accepting patriarchy as the "only" Biblical view of church ministry. Cindy Kunsman, a highly intelligent conservative, evangelical female inerrantist is writing on her blog about the connections between Family Integrated Ministries, patriarchy, and Southern Baptist seminaries, including Southern Theological Seminary. It takes persistence and concentration to work your way through her research at her blog, called Under Much Grace, but the end result is a gold mine of understanding of the potential embarrassment patriarchy could cause the SBC if left unchallenged from a Biblical New Convenant perspective. Cindy writes about the effects of patriarchal views in the local church:

The church, per the hierarchical view, becomes a family of many, many families over which the local elders preside. Men, as the heads of their families, become the focus of ministry in the local church, and ministry then proceeds from men to their individual family members. Church ministry is thus mediated by the federal head. As a consequence of this form of government, the wife holds no independent relationship to the church that is apart from the family or male headship.

Therefore, with the FIC emphasis, what does the local church do in terms of:
(1). Ministry to singles, particularly single women?
(2). Ministry to the divorced and widowed?
(3). Ministry to children whose parents are lost?
(4). Ministry to women who come from abusive homes?
(5). Ministry to families who are fracturing?

Obviously, FIC could provide answers to the above questions, but I am uninterested in the specifics and very interested in the principle, suggested by FIC as a "Biblical principle" that the father alone is the "head" and "authority" in the home. This type of "covering" provided by the male, seems to be a direct contradiction to the teaching that in Christ there is "neither male or female" and the head of of all individuals is Jesus Christ Himself. Further, there will be NO marriage in heaven, and the concept of the nuclear "family" with the male providing the authority needed for "Family Worship" is foreign to the New Covenant concept of Christianity. As Cindy Kunsman astutley observes . . .

Our natural relatives do not take precedence over our relationships within the Body of Christ.

The body of Christ is composed of divorced, widowed, orphaned, single, abandoned, outcast, rejected people - as well as families with a traditional father, mother and children. Demands that all Southern Baptist churches be Family Integrated Churches and offer only Family Integrated Worship, even if it occurs through producing pastors who graduate from seminaries that teach the Family Integrated Church concept, will eventually cause our Southern Baptist churches to lose their ability to minister to a dysfunctional and fractured society. The church of Jesus Christ transcends culture, and in heaven there will be neither marriage nor the giving in marriage. A slice of heaven on earth is when men and women are treated equally in the church of Jesus Christ and neither one gender, or the other, are viewed as the "authorities" or "rulers."

I sometimes wonder if our Southern Baptist seminaries teaching of male domination is the reason why Southern Baptist women are being bypassed for, or removed from, positions on seminary faculty, administrative positions at the IMB and NAMB, and other various positions where a woman has "authority" over a man.

I also wonder what some Southern Baptist leaders are saying publicly (and in private) about Sarah Palin?

Stay tuned.

In His Grace,


Thursday, October 21, 2010

One of the Costs of Real Leadership Is Being Misunderstood and Misperceived

By all accounts President Abraham Lincoln was a Christian man full of mercy and compassion. Several anecdotes from his life reveal a genuine love for his fellow man, even his enemies, including the ability to forgive and pardon those who personally wronged him. The United States Department of War complained of an increased lack of discipline within the ranks because troops knew that President Lincoln often pardoned soldiers who deserted the army. Lincoln spent the last week of his life granting hundreds of pardons to both Confederates and Union soldiers, sparing many from a death sentence.

However, Lincoln could also be tough as steel. Word reached President Lincoln that the Confederate States of America had issued orders that any black Union soldier captured in Confederate Territory was to be executed instead of taken as a prisoner.  The Confederates were furious with the January 1, 1863 implementation of Lincoln's "Emancipation Proclamation" and the resultant recruitment and deployment of black soldiers within the Union army. Upon hearing of the CSA's orders to execute black prisoners of war, President Lincoln issued his July 1863 "Order of Retaliation" which stated in part:

"The government of the United States will give the same protection to all its soldiers, and if the enemy shall sell or enslave anyone because of his color, the offense shall be punished by retaliation upon the enemy's prisoners in our possession.

It is therefore ordered that for every [Black] soldier of the United States killed in violation of the laws of war, a rebel soldier shall be executed; and for everyone enslaved by the enemy or sold into slavery, a rebel soldier shall be placed at hard labor on the public works and continued at such labor until the other shall be released and receive the treatment due to a prisoner of war."

It seems to me that principles of justice demand that when people full of grace are faced with the prospect of the weak and defenseless being unjustly harmed, the only appropriate response is an "eye for eye" approach to the abuser. That kind of tactic is not easy. It requires both moral discipline and strong leadership. In addition, when people don't know their leader personally, as was the case with most regarding President Lincoln, they will often base their opinions of the leader on his public writings alone. This would have led to a false impression. But being misunderstood is one of the costs of leadership. Those who lead should know this. It is also a sign of weak leadership when one is constantly trying to correct false perceptions of himself (or herself).

I consider President Lincoln one of the best leaders our nation has ever seen.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Case Study in How Fundamentalists Can Kill a Convention (Part 2)

During the aftermath of Peter Lumpkin's ridiculous post about Southeastern Theological Seminary and Peter's baseless accusation of a problem with rampant "drunkenness" on the campus of SEBTS, Dr. Danny Akin, the President of SEBTS, signed in to "comment" (comment #113) on Peter's baseless post. Dr. Akin was gracious but firm in his denial of Peter's charges. Peter Lumpkins responded to Dr. Akin by writing:

"Dr. Akin did not really address the main point of the two posts I’ve written."

I find that statement ironic since Peter invited me to debate him on the subject, but subsequently deleted every single one of my comments. Peter did not have the ability to delete Dr. Akin's comment, so he simply dismissed Dr. Akin as someone who "did not really address the main point of the two posts I've written." So,I will dialogue for a moment on Peter's assumptions in a place where he cannot delete what I write.

Question: What is the "main point" of Peter Lumpkins' posts? Here it is in Peter's own words:

Main Point:  "When one makes the consumption of intoxicants for pleasurable purposes, a consumption of which is widely accepted within our culture, into a mere unimportant, insignificant third-tier, non-gospel-centered, libertarian, amoral issue, what under the blue sky do you think is going to happen?"

Peter is perturbed that some faculty members and administrators at SEBTS have either taught moderation of alcohol from the Bible and/or have invited speakers to the seminary who hold to personal "moderation." Peter believes they are not only wrong, but they pose a danger to the SBC. To Peter and Southern Baptists of his ilk, total abstinence is a first-tier, gospel-centered, foundational moral issue. You either agree with his position of total abstinence, which is the ONLY "official" Southern Baptist position, or you are "immoral." If one dares teach "moderation" as the biblical position, as some professors at SEBTS do, then one can expect the sin of drunkenness to be rampant on the campus among the students.

Wade's response  to Peter's main point - Hogwash.

Let me be clear. What is hogwash is not Peter's personal conviction for total abstinence. I respect that and affirm him in it. What is hogwash is Peter's demand that every Southern Baptist conform to his interpretation of Scripture and accuse those who don't, as in the case of some at Southeastern, as immoral Christians or at best on the verge of rampant immorality. That kind of condemning spirit is legalism; or it could be called Fundamentalism with a capital "F."

Dr. Gresham Mechan, the great conservative Biblical scholar was once asked if he considered himself a "Fundamentalist" or liked being called a "Fundamentalist." Listen to his response:

"I regret my being called by a term that I greatly dislike, a "Fundamentalist?" Most certainly I do. (Stonehouse, J. Gresham Machen, p. 337).

John Piper gives seven reasons why Machen never spoke of himself as a Fundamentalist. To Dr. Machen, Fundamentalism meant. . .

(1). The absence of historical perspective;
(2). The lack of appreciation of scholarship;
(3). The substitution of brief, skeletal creeds for the historic confessions;
(4). The lack of concern with precise formulation of Christian doctrine;
(5). The pietistic, perfectionist tendencies (i.e., hang-ups with smoking, drinking alchohol, etc . . );
(6). One-sided otherworldliness (i.e., a lack of effort to transform the culture), and,
(7). A penchant for futuristic chiliasm (or: premillennialism).

The SBC should avoid Fundamentalism. It will kill us. We should never take third-tier issues of fellowship and place them in the first-tier category. I have written before on the freedom Christians should give one another on the issue of alcohol consumption. The Biblical command is to "abstain from drunkenness." Whether someone in the Southern Baptist Convention drinks wine, or beer, or alcohol--unless it is a violation of the law (such as "underage drinking" or "drunkenness")--should be none of our business.

The "main point" of Peter Lumpkins should be vociferously resisted by all Southern Baptists, vocally and in writing, because if the spirit of Peter Lumpkins is allowed to become the predominant and prevalent spirit of the SBC, our great Convention will die a slow death as it is strangled by Fundamentalism. Remember, the issue is NOT whether or not someone should be free to follow a personal conviction to abstain from alcohol, but the issue is whether or not one's personal conviction should be forced onto the entire Convention. Fundamentalism says it should.

God says it shouldn't (Col. 2:16; I Cor. 10:31; I Timothy 5:23 ).

In His Grace,


Monday, October 18, 2010

A Case Study in How Fundamentalists Can Kill a Convention (Part 1)

If one wishes to know the reason behind the numerical, financial and evangelistic decline in the Southern Baptist Convention, one need look no further than at a Fundamentalist Southern Baptist blog called SBC Tomorrow, owned by Southern Baptist Peter Lumpkins.

Mr. Lumpkins recently wrote a post entitled "Here Come Those Boozin' Baptists: A Problem for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary?" In the post, Mr. Lumpkins suggests that there is a problem with "boozin" and "drunkenness" at Southeastern Theological Seminary among students. Peter writes:

"Could it possibly be Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is facing a crisis...perhaps a crisis where students are, shall we say, a bit more corinthianistic than they would like?

Is this possible? After all, when one of the faculty members rhetorically asks, over the cyberways, "Is alcohol a good thing? Sure! If it is taken in moderation," would it be surprising if a crisis were brewing amongst the student-body? Not from my side of the creek.

When one makes the consumption of intoxicants for pleasurable purposes, a consumption of which is widely accepted within our culture, into a mere unimportant, insignificant third-tier, non-gospel-centered, libertarian, amoral issue, what under the blue sky do you think is going to happen?"
Fundamentalist Peter Lumpkins has taken the five basic steps Fundamentalists use to destroy gospel cooperation:

(1). Make a third-tier, non-gospel doctrine a first-tier doctrine upon which without agreement no Christian fellowship will occur.
(2). Suggest that any "professing believer" who disagrees with the Fundamentalist's intrepetation is immoral ("corinthianistic") or perhaps "unsaved."
(3). Shut down debate on any questionable interpretation of Scripture by engaging in destructive personalized attacks against those who disagree.
(4). Delete or ignore any comment that places the Fundamentalist's logic in a poor light.
(5). Become so worked up over tertiary issues that eventually the power of the gospel is ultimately lost.

When I revealed the poor logic of Peter Lumpkins' post regarding Southeastern Seminary and their President Danny Aiken, and when I showed Peter and the readers how one of Peter's own commentors on his blog had suggested that he (Peter Lumpkins) had a "secret alcohol problem," I argued that the same tactic Peter uses against Southeastern was now being used against him. I suggested to Peter that his kind of writing (and his commentor's) was as David Miller suggested,  "the worst kind of blogging."

Peter's response to my comment was as follows (verbatim):

You conclude: "I have to agree with Dave Miller that this style of writing is the worst kind of blogging."

Know I've had a pretty rough day dealing with some necessities out and about Atlanta. I had much time to think about the last couple posts and whether what I wrote crossed the canons of moral reasoning I employ for so many daily decisions.And, I must say there were moments when I wondered if my many critics were correct. But then, Wade, I get home, fire up the computer, and upon doing so, my eyes crossed the short phrase from your inspired moment I quoted above...

it was...

it was a...

a bolt of lightening, a truly pentecostal moment, I say...

when I heard as Moses from the mountain...


like Elijah's whisper, it came to me...

with the Apostle Peter's confidence...

for sure, for sure, I tell you...

it was suddenly affirmed I did the right thing. I followed the hard path but nonetheless the right path.

Know, my Wade, your words pushed me toward a verse in God's Word which sealed within me the security I needed to know I did the right thing by posting as I did.

The verse is an Old Testament obscurity but as inspired as any word in the Sacred Book.

It reads, and I quote...

"And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass..." (Num.22:28)

Thank you, Wade Burleson. I am now in perfect peace.

With that, I am...


Posted by: peter
2010.10.16 at 06:05 PM
Ignoring the personal insult, I attempted to engage Peter, at his request, on the fallacy of his writings about a drunkenness problem at Southeastern Theological Seminary. Peter "unpublished" (he does not like to call it "delete") my comments, a practice that is common with him. After attempting to engage Peter regarding the his charge against the students of SEBTS, challenging him to rethink his uncharitable suggestion of "drunkenness" among the students because of the beliefs and teaching of certain faculty at SEBTS, and trying to dialogue on this matter at his invitation, I gave up after my comments were deleted and left a final comment that he also deleted.

My last comment began with a quote from Peter that appears at the bottom of Peter's most recent post where he attempts to justify his accusations against SEBTS students and faculty:

"The reader will note I have the comment posted on my own page. It’s becoming more significant that important links be cached since they too frequently disappear into cyberspace."

Peter, one might suggest that in light of you "unpublishing" (deleting) my most recent comment, a portion of which you quote in your 4:09 PM comment above, you ought to consider removing your statement, italicized above, from your most recent post.

"A hypocrite is in himself both the archer and the mark, in all actions shooting at his own praise or profit" (Thomas Fuller in Holy and Profane States--The Hypocrite (maxim I, bk. V, ch. VIII).
It is people with a spirit like that of Peter Lumpkin that cause the Southern Baptist Convention to fracture and shatter. I no more wish to be identified with the harsh, bitter and condemning spirit of the Pharisees than I do the theological liberalism of the Sadducees.

Every Southern Baptist keeps cheering the "victory" over theological liberals in the Southern Baptist Convention, but if we don't do something to shut down the Fundamentalists who possess the spirit of Peter Lumpkin, there will be no Southern Baptist Convention left within a generation.  Neo might have stopped all the bullets aimed at him, but when Fundamentalists begin aiming their six shooters, they don't stop till all those who disagree with them are dead.

Thank God not all Southern Baptists have the kind of spirit demonstrated at SBC Tomorrow. However, if the majority of Southern Baptists don't begin to speak up and out against the deceptive and ungodly practices of Fundamentalism, we might as well shut the doors on the SBC and turn out the lights.

Bill Hicks: When the Laughter Ends, Then What?

On January 30, 2009, David Letterman apologized to a national television audience for the one and only time he ever censored a guest comedian on The Late Show

Fifteen years earlier, on October 1, 1993, 32-year-old stand-up comedian sensation Bill Hicks found his routine entirely edited out of that night's Late Show broadcast. 

The censorship, approved by Letterman himself, rankled Hicks enormously.

The show would have been his twelfth and final appearance on Letterman. 

Hicks died of pancreatic cancer four months later, on February 26, 1994. 

Letterman's apology this past January, complete with an appearance from Hick's elderly mother, made for fascinating television.

Who is Bill Hicks?

While most people have never heard of him, many professional comedians idolize him. 

In 2005, 12 years after his death, Hicks' act was ranked in the top twenty comedic acts of all time by fellow comedians.

Comedy Central ranked Hicks 19 out of the 100 top comedians in the history of the world

In a poll taken just two years ago, the people of Great Britain ranked Bill Hicks #6 on the list of the top 100 comedians of all time. 

His act was edgy, vulgar, and "so ahead of his time," Rodney Dangerfield once quipped, "his parents haven't even met yet." 

Hicks glorified drug use and incorporated most of his experiences while high on cocaine, heroin, and LSD into his routine. He mocked all things sacred, southern, and sure. 

One of his favorite acts, introduced in 1984 during his first appearance on The Late Show, revolved around a fictional character named Elmer Dinkley from Enid, Oklahoma - a character Hicks continued to develop until his last public performance.

Bill Hicks and I had in common: We both were...

(1). Born in December of 1961.
(2). Raised Southern Baptist.
(3). Given "William" as our first name.
(4). Teenagers when we began speaking in churches.
(5). Fond of telling others about Enid, Oklahoma.
(6). Censored by peers in our respective fields. 
(7). People who like to make others laugh.

But there was one massive difference between Bill and me. Bill enjoyed mocking the sacred. He once placed in his routine this little bit:

My dad would say, "I believe that the Bible is the literal word of God." And I'd say, "No, it's not, Dad. "Well, I believe that it is." And I'd say, "Well, Dad, you know, some people believe they're Napoleon. That's fine. Beliefs are neat. Cherish them, but don't share them like they're the truth."

As Bill Hicks died of pancreatic cancer, he tried to get his Southern Baptist father to inhale mushrooms.

Bill Hicks died pushing artificial highs on his father.  Bill's laughter ended on February 26, 1994.

Today, my father and I laughed together over the phone. We're having fun, sharing joy, and talking about Christ and what He's doing in our lives and in the lives of others. We get excited about showing people the joy of knowing Christ and being enjoyed by Him. 

I share Christ with others because I know Him to be the way, the truth, and the life.

As I reflected on the life and death of Bill Hicks this evening, I couldn't help but ask myself the question:

"What makes me different from Bill Hicks, a man with whom I share much in common?"

There is only one answer.

God's grace.

Nothing inherent in me makes me different from Bill Hicks - I'm not inherently more intelligent, I'm not inherently better, I'm not inherently more enlightened. 

I, too, could have found my life wasted in a haze of drug-induced imaginations and razor-sharp confident humor - but God intervened and brought me to faith in Him. 

Therefore, I can't get angry at people who love a Borat/Bruno/Hangover, an x-rated atmosphere that trivializes sin, excoriates the sacred, and embraces every poor and temporary substitute for lasting happiness that only Christ brings. 

I would love the same things were it not for God's grace. 

Christ makes me laugh, but it is the kind of laughter that springs from a heart full of gladness, not the empty laughter of irony, vulgarity, or silliness - what Paul calls "behaving unbecomingly" (I Corinthians 13).

I have compassion for the Bill Hicks of this world. 

They cannot stop laughing long enough to ask what happens when the laughter ends.

Maybe you've read this blog because you are curious about Bill Hicks, so you Googled his name for more information about Bill's life and comedy.

If so, my prayer is that by God's grace, you will awaken to your need of God and come to faith in His love for you by sending the Messiah to obtain an authentic life of joy and purpose that lasts forever. 

The laughter rooted in the profane ends one day. 

The laughter and joy that comes from God lasts forever. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

What Sends a Person to Hell and Takes a Person to Heaven? It's Not What You Might Think

The answer most evangelicals give to the question that frames the title of this post is "Faith in Jesus Christ takes a person to heaven and a lack of faith in Jesus Christ sends a person to hell."

That answer is technically incorrect. A person is sent to hell or is taken to heaven based upon whether or not God considers them absolutely morally perfect in character and deed.

For example, listen to the Apostle Paul in Romans 2:7: "To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life." The phrase "persistence in doing good" is interesting. It's difficult to see in English the verb tenses of Greek. Paul's grammar refers to a continual, perfect conduct that includes right inner motives (i.e. "glory and honor" for God). In short, eternal life is the reward for absolute moral perfection while living on earth. The first three chapters of Romans is drilling into the minds of people that nobody, even the Jews zealous for obedience to the law, consistently, perpetually and perfectly obey God.

Be Ye Perfect!

God's demand for moral perfection is consistent with the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:48: "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." It is often said by preachers that "perfect"in this verse cannot mean "moral perfection," but rather "completeness." Not true. The demand of a holy God upon His Creation, specifically for those He created in His image, is absolute moral perfection. Without a perfect holiness and righteousness "no one will see the Lord."

Where do we find this standard of moral perfection? God stamps within the heart of each of us an understanding of morality. Theologians call this "natural law." One may go to the darkest locales in the most uncivilized parts of this world and find the most basic moral codes (i.e. "don't murder, don't steal, etc..."), but as in all societies, compliance to natural law is incomplete and corrupt.  God has written His standard in the hearts and minds of all men, but all men choose to transgress that standard (Romans 1).  It is the violation of this natural law--going contrary to conscience and the inner witness of what is right--that sends a person to hell. What's worse, because the standard of God is both inward and outward moral perfection (i.e. "motives, thoughts and deeds"), just desiring to murder someone (i.e. "hate") sends a person to eternal judgment. That corrupt desire of hate is contrary to original design of God for man.

Sin Against the Creator Sends One to Hell

Let me state the above principle as simply as possible: What sends a person to hell is NOT the rejection of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior but one's own sin against His Creator. God will send you to eternal judgment if you live a morally imperfect life, inconsistent with His character and His image which are stamped in you. But He is a also a just and equitable God. He will also give eternal life to any human who actively,  continually and perfectly lives a life consistent with the character of God (Romans 2:7).

At various times throughtout history, particularly with the nation of Israel,  the transcendent God condescended to man and codiefied His standard (i.e. "law") in order to further reveal mans' moral corruption. The ancients spoke of moral perfection as "light" and the lack of moral perfection as "darkness." The Bible is clear that the world is dark and God is "light." Jesus of Nazareth,  the incarnate God ("Emmanuel") come to earth, has "no darkness at all" (I John 1:5).  In these last days God has spoken to us through His Son, revealing the ultimate standard of moral righteousness. We see God's moral perfection in the person and conduct of Jesus Christ. Our sin, what the Bible calls "transgression against the law of God," is living a life that is inconsistent with the character, motives, and actions of Jesus Christ. The Son is the fullest revelation of God's standard of moral perfection. Christ came to "fulfill" the work of the Father on our behalf. We are imperfect people in need of a Savior. We are "transgressors" and "sinners" because our disobedience to God is real and personal. Christ's presence on earth gives greater light to the character of God and further condemns those who are not as they ought to be.

God will one day judge each and every sinner for living life short of His moral standard of perfection. Ancient theologians believed the only humans excluded from this impending "day of God's wrath" are those who die as "infants or imbeciles." The latter word is definitely not appropriate in today's world, but what the old theologians meant was "God's judgment will fall on every single sinner except those who die in a state of infancy and imbecility." The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message affirms this ancient belief by declaring: "Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin. Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation." (Article III Man).

Hell Is the End of Willing Sinners

The point seems clear. God sends people to hell because of their own volitional sin. Though creation and the universe fell into a state of imperfection because of Adam's sin, and though humans are born in a state of imperfection because of Adam's sin, and though babies who die in infancy have received the penalty of physical death because of Adam's sin, God sends to eternal judgment only those who have personally and volitionally violated His moral standard.

That's pretty doggone bad news. Why? Because there is no single human being--not the Pope, not the Virgin Mary, not Mother Teresa, not Billy Graham, not anyone--who has ever lived a continuous morally perfect life. All have sinned and fallen short of God's standard and God's glory. We are all destined for hell because of our personal sins.

God Need Save Nobody

If God never intervened to save sinners He would remain just, holy, righteous and all the other attributes that you could ever think of that speak of His moral perfection. In other words, He would remain God. Sending sinners to hell is not the devil's work. It is the work of a holy, righteous God. Pharoah will be in hell because he disobeyed God. I deserve hell because I have imperfectly kept the standard of God's morality. Hell is not Dante's inferno. It is the withdrawal of God's gracious hand. It is total and complete darkness and isolation from people and from God as a punishment for moral imperfection. Those who loved darkness will be turned over to darkness. Though God is present in hell, He is present as Judge, and the punishment and righteous vengeance toward lawbreakers will be meted out righteously. "God will give to each person according to what he has done" (Romans 2:6). There will be various degrees of punishment in hell. The child sexual abuser will be punished far greater than the person who lived his life caring for children. For this reason, the person who is morally imperfect ought to be as good of a person morally as possible, for it is a "fearful and dreadful thing to fall into the hands of a living God" (Hebrews 10:31).

God's Blessing Are Reserved for Those With Absolute Moral Perfection

But what about heaven? What takes us there? Again, the only thing that takes you to heaven is complete, perfect morality and righteousness in thought, deed and character. You must be perfect. You can have no blemish on your record in regards to God's standard. There can be no sin. Your life must have been lived for the glory and honor of God. Every single thing you have done on this earth must be unselfish, peformed in love for the good of others and glory of God, and morally unblemished. What takes you to heaven is absolute perfection in compliance with God's standard of what is right (righteousness).

You don't have this perfect morality. I don't have this perfect righteousness. Nobody does. "There is no one who is righteous, no not one." Only God has perfect righteousness. Man lost his moral perfection when he rebelled against God by living contrary to His standard of moral perfection. For us to be taken to heaven, we need God. That's why the good news is so good. God came to earth (Emmanuel) and lived the perfect life required. He then promised to give all the blessings that come with perfect righteousness to anyone who will trust HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS TO TAKE THEM TO HEAVEN. When the righteousness of Christ is credited to the account of the believer through faith, God treats that believer as perfectly righteous. It's why the ancients used to say "God sees no sin in His people" judicially. It's why the Bible calls believers "saints." We have a perfect righteousness that is not our own, but comes from God, and is received by faith.

Listen to the Apostle Paul: "Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss. What is more I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness that comes from (my obedience) to the law, but a righteousness that comes from God and is found by faith in Jesus Christ" (Philippians 3:8-11).

The Great Transaction

I tell people that when one trusts the person and work of Jesus Christ, a great transaction takes place. God has given to Christ all the righteous judgment due my sin, and God has given to me all the blessings due the righteousness and obedience of Christ through His moral perfection in relation to the law of God. My faith in Christ makes me a "co-heir" of Christ. The rewards I receive for eternity, whatever they may be, are all the result of the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ on my behalf.

Heaven is different from hell in one regard. What I receive in hell I have earned. What I receive in heaven Christ has earned.

So, let's answer the question of the title of this post - "What sends a person to hell and takes a person to heaven?

Imperfect obedience to God's moral standard sends a person to hell.
Perfect obedience to God's moral standard takes person to heaven.

The Importance of a Christ-Centered Gospel

Until we Southern Baptists learn to teach people that absolute perfect righteousness takes a person to heaven, we will be prone to the error of telling people that "their decision" or "their commitment to God" or "their walk down an aisle" takes them to heaven. That kind of error is prevalent in Southern Baptist evangelism, and in my next post I will show how prevalent that has become.

What takes a person to heaven is the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. What takes a person to heaven is not election, not faith, not commitment, not anything but the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. Everything else has its place, but the perfect and absolute moral perfection of Jesus Christ is one's ticket to heaven. Reject the only Savior God gave to obtain a perfect righteousness in the place of undeserving sinners, then you will answer to God for your own moral imperfections.

That's the gospel truth.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Tribute to Debbie Kaufman

Debbie Kaufman, Southern Baptist blogger extraordinaire, is laying down blogging. Her last post at Ministry of Reconciliation explains the reasons, all good ones,  for her decision to quit blogging. Debbie has been a tenacious writer in uncovering deception in the SBC, including corruption and cover-ups in child abuse cases and the sexual exploitation of women, as well as being a bulldog while confronting a host of other issues. Many problems that would not have seen the light of day have actually been addressed and resolved because of her penchant for truth. She has been called names by those whom she has exposed, ridiculed by friends of those whose true character has been revealed by her writings, and has paid a high price for wanting to see truth and righteousness in the kingdom of Christ. She is a modern prophet.

She also happens to be a member of the church I pastor in Enid, Oklahoma. Our church is stronger because of her presence among us. Debbie ends her last post by writing:

"Something I have yet to see in my church are any of the unhealthy things I have dealt with while digging deeper into the SBC. I would like to concentrate on my church. There it is a place of sanctuary. It’s a place of spiritual health. A place of integrity. Something I need right now. Women are thought of highly and their talents are used as God gives them. Children are precious and people to be protected from harm. There we can disagree on things non-essential and it is taken seriously while treated with respect. You will hear no name calling or labeling because we disagree. I can feel safe sharing ideas, concerns, things I see in scripture, without retribution or without dictating one’s life. We also stress the Holy Spirit bearing fruit, which is patience, love, truth telling in all things, aiding people in need. Missions is a big part of who we are. We believe in people being Holy Spirit lead. All this is in response to the Holiness of God and that we are accepted by God because of what Christ has done not anything we have done. We are accepted by God. Period. It’s a great place to be, and where I want to spend all my time and talents."

See you in worship Sunday, Debbie.

We are glad you are a part of our family, and we will miss your writings.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

As a Fan of Christian Unity When Will the SBT Reconcile with the BGCT as It Did the BMA?

The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) and the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas (BMAT) have announced an historic agreement (see Southern Baptist Texan, Baptist Progress) bringing two groups of Texas Baptists together who have been separated denominationally for a century.

Dr. Bart Barber, a Texas pastor who also serves as a trustee and adjunct professor at Southwestern Theological Seminary, calls this announcement "progress toward good biblical unity." Dr. Barber also mentions that no "doctrine" is being compromised in the merge.

What do churches of the Baptist Missionary Association believe? Examining the doctrinal statement of the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas, one notices that there are three short statements about God and creation, one statement about man's depravity, four statements about salvation, and SEVEN lengthy statements about the "true" church.

Google "Landmarkism" and "BMA" and you will have a supply of interesting reading material. I have written many articles on the infiltration of the tenets of Landmarkism into the Southern Baptist Convention. I have stated publicly that I don't mind at all cooperating with Landmarks in the Southern Baptist Convention, but most Landmarks would have a problem cooperating with many of our SBC churches. Why? Landmarks believe ...

(1). There is only one "true" church and it is the local Baptist church structured on proper polity.
(2). There is no legitimate baptism unless an "authorized" official from the "true" church baptizes.
(3). Gospel cooperation is attained only when "true" churches cooperate with each other in evangelism.
(4). Closed communion is a tenet of the New Testament and essential for proper church polity.
(5). There is no such thing as a "universal church." The local Baptist church of Christ is the true church.

Dr. Paige Patterson has served as a board member of BMA organizations and universities, and is sympathetic with Landmark beliefs. A prized first edition of Landmark founder J.A. Graves' tome The Great Iron Wheel sits on the coffee table in the Presidential mansion at Southwestern Theological Seminary.

Again, I commend the Southern Baptists of Texas for their step toward Christian unity by seeking reconciliation with the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas. My question is "When will the efforts toward Christian unity be extended toward the Baptist General Convention of Texas?"

One might answer my question by saying, "When the doctrine of the Baptist General Convention of Texas lines up with the doctrine of the Southern Baptist Convention of Texas and the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas, that's when."

If that indeed is the answer, then I suggest that the merging of the SBT and the BMA has nothing to do with Christian "unity" but the merging of two groups with similarly narrow and ultimately unbiblical ideological views of the local church. That's not "unity."
The Conservative Resurgence was said to have been about the inerrancy of the Bible, but the continuing fundamentalist domination within the SBC has led some to go far beyond the argument over the nature Scripture to only cooperating with those who agree on tertieary interpretations of Scripture. The SBT reconciling with the BMA and not the BGCT confirms what I've been writing for five years, but my hope is that the spirit of unity will extend toward the BGCT as well.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Judging Christians Who Practice Yoga as Theologically Incompetent Reveals a Bias

A recent essay by the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., warned Christians that yoga is contradictory to Christianity. Pastor Mark Discroll went even further.

"Should Christians stay away from yoga because of its demonic roots? Totally. Yoga is demonic," Driscoll said. "If you just sign up for a little yoga class, you're signing up for a little demon class."

Mohler received heavy criticism for his article calling yoga "contradictory" to Christianity. He responded to all the letters, emails and rebutal editorials by pointing out the following:

(1). Not one protest against his article contained a "theological" argument.
(2). More than 90% of the protests came from women.
(3). Those who protested are replacing Christianity with a religion of their own invention.
(4). Women who argue for yoga have no reference to "biblical Christianity."
(5). The evangelical world is in "worse shape" than he ever thought.

Even a casual attempt at research would have caused both Mohler and Driscoll to find websites such as Holy Yoga, which places their doctrinal statement on the front page. Under a detailed confession regarding the person of Jesus Christ, Holy Yoga is as theologically orthodox, if not more, than the Abstract of Principles of Southern Theological Seminary.

There are two main issues with Mohler's and Driscoll's comments about yoga. First, the spirit in which the comments are conveyed seems haughty. It sounds as if Mohler and Driscoll are saying those who oppose their statements against yoga are theologically incompetent. One of the tell-tales signs of spiritual arrogancy and an unhealthy debate is for one side to act as if the other side has no ability to counter one's arguments. Second, Mohler and Driscoll seem to be confusing a cultural bias with a theological argument. Instead of investigating what Christians who practice yoga actually believe, there is an assumption that Christians who practice yoga can't believe correctly.

One of these days we will realize that culture evolves, civilization's habits change, and peoples' perspectives alter over time. It used to be that culture considered fat people rich, prosperous and educated because people with access to an abundance of food became  fat and were the elite of soceity. Now, culture often discriminates against fat people, believing them to be inferior to the elite of society. Those kind of judgments are wrong. In my opinion we Southern Baptists should be very careful about judging a fellow believer who practices yoga by assuming they aren't theologically sound. It would akin to judging a fat Southern Baptist pastor as theologically unsound before we ask him what he believes.

The best way to discover whether or not Christians who practice yoga are involved in a "dangerous" practice or participating in a "demon class" is to ask the yoga participants what they believe about Jesus Christ. Any judgment against Christians practicing yoga before this happens is at best premature or at worst reveals some sort of cultural bias.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

If a Man Believes a Lie It Will Not Be Long Until a Man Lives a Lie

"No doctrine is so calculated to preserve a man from sin as the doctrine of the grace of God. Those who have called it a licentious doctrine did not know anything at all about it. Poor ignorant things, they little knew that their own vile stuff was the most licentious doctrine under heaven. If they knew the grace of God in truth, they would soon see that there was no preservative from lying like a knowledge that we are elect of God from the foundation of the world. There is nothing like a belief in my eternal perseverance, and the immutability of my Father’s affection, which can keep me near to him from a motive of simple gratitude. Nothing makes a man so virtuous as belief of truth. A lying doctrine will soon beget a lying practice. A man cannot have an erroneous belief without by-and-bye having an erroneous life. I believe the one thing naturally begets the other. Keep near God’s truth; keep near his word; keep the head right, and especially keep your heart right with regard to truth, and your feet will not go far astray."

Charles Spurgeon, The Holy Spirit--The Great Teacher

Thursday, October 07, 2010

A Visual Reminder That What Is Important In Life Is Internal and Eternal

We live in a world obsessed with beauty and trying to stay young. We who live in western cultures, encouraged by the media, put a premium on the body and those things that are temporal. TIME Magazine profiled the first "supermodel," a woman named Veruschka, by placing her on the cover of the magazine in 1967. It is reported that Hollywood director James Cameron and his special effects team were inspired by Veruschka and modeled Navi in Avatar after Cameron's memory of seeing Veruschka in magazines when he was  a boy of 16.

Veruschka, pictured to the left as she appeared in October of 1965, graced the cover of many major magazines in the 1960's and 1970's. She started the "waif" figure among models, and earned superstar status as a model, earning a fortune in the process.

Today, Veruschka is 71 years of age. The core person we know as Veruschka is the same. Her soul remains intact. She is a human being, created in the image of God--but the effects of a world cursed by sin have been felt by Veruschka, as it will be by us all. Veruschka modeled today for the first time in many years. One has to admire her presence on the model runway, and the courage she exhibited. Her appearance this October 2010 illustrates the truth of two verses of Scripture.

"Charm can be deceptive and beauty doesn’t last, but a woman who fears and reverences God shall be greatly praised" (Proverbs 31:30 TLB)

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (II Corinthians 4:16 ISV).

I too am growing old. I can't run like I used to, play softball as well, or hit the golf ball as far. My eyes are weak, my skin is dry and getting winkled, and my hair is thinner and more brittle.

That's life.

I don't get discouraged. The older I get the more I appreciate the grace of God in my life. He renews me inwardly every day. My outlook is more positive, my understanding of God's goodness is deeper, and my appreciation for His blessings in Christ Jesus far outweigh any discouragement over a decline in physical health or appearance. We are in the middle of a series on Sunday morning at our church entitled "The Difference Christ Makes." It seems to me one of the major differences He makes in the lives of those who trust Him is the ability to not draw our worth and signficance from outward beauty. Anyone who does is doomed to end their life in failure. But those of us who know Jesus Christ don't despair when we lose what we once had, including our physical beauty.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Quit Agonizing Over "Finding" the Perfect Will of God and Just Get On With Your Life

There is not one verse, not one,  in the New Testament that exhorts the believer to “seek the will of God.”  Every command regarding seeking God's face or God's will is in the old economy. Christians who emphasize seeking the will of God for their lives are operating under a broken system of assumptions, not the least of which is that God's will is actually "lost" and needs found or "hidden" and needs revealed or "best" and can be missed.

The teachings of Jesus Christ and the writings of the apostles make clear that we experience God's will passively and daily. A.W. Pink once said that nothing ever happens but that God "either promotes it, permits it, or prohibits it." God is on His throne and He does as He pleases, only as He pleases and always as He pleases in us, for us and through us. The good news for us is that we are His kids, and He delights in us and is always orchestrating the events of our lives--even the mistakes we make and the afflictions that arise--for our ultimate good.

Sometimes the most benevolent thing God does for His people is to withhold knowledge of His "perfect will" (i.e. "that which we will experience in life") until the time we actually experience it. What if God had revealed to Deitrich Bonhoeffer while at Union Seminary in New York that he would be executed by the S.S. when he returned to his homeland of Germany? Was it not better for Bonhoeffer that he not know of his fate for the future but experience the reality of God's presence in his present?

Author Steve Crosby writes in his article entitled Just Ride the Bike (published in the August 2010 Global Communion e-newsletter) that "the will of God is revealed incarnationally and relationally."  That means that as I begin to understand who I am and the relationship that I have to my Heavenly Father, I begin to appreciate the gifts, callings and desires He has freely given me through the new birth.  I learn to just get on with living as His child, delighting in knowing He sings over me and He smiles upon me! I don't attempt to discover God's will about "this or that, right or left, north or south, for it doesn't matter." The kingdom becomes an ever-present reality, in me and through me, learning to live under the smile and "Amen" of God in Christ Jesus.

Obsessive praying about the will of God is not a sign of healthy spiritual desire or spiritual maturity.  Slaves need constant instruction and direction and can only function by explicit permission. Sons are released to live because of the trust that has been established through relationship. Slaves walk by instruction and information. Sons walk by faith and trust. As heretical as it seems, sons don’t need constant instruction.

Crosby gives a parable to cement the idea that the will of God is bound up in relationship.

A benevolent father determined to give his son a bicycle for his 11th birthday, which fell on a Monday. Here’s how the week unfolded:


He gave his son the bike and the son asks: “Dad, can I ride it?” and the father says, “Of course son, that’s why I gave it to you. It’s to be ridden.”


The son comes into his father timidly, sheepishly, with eyes down cast and says: “Dad, I am really not worthy of this bike, are you sure I can ride it?” The father says, “Of course son, ride it.”


The son comes in crying and pleading: “Oh father, I fell off the bike yesterday, can I have your permission to ride the bike?” The father gets a tad annoyed and says, “Quit bothering me. Get out of here, and ride your bike. Falling off is part of the process.”


The son comes in on his hands and knees, wailing and moaning: “Oh Dad, I know you are a great dad, full of mercy and kindness, and you have given me this bike that I am unworthy of . . . can I ride it today?” The father says, “Son, I gave you the bike because I expect you to ride it. Please, don’t do this anymore, just ride it.”


The son comes in, throws himself prostrate on the floor before the father, and with wailing, moaning, and tears: “Oh father, is it your will for me to ride the bike today, can I have your permission?” The exasperated father has had it, loses his cool and says: “Quit bothering me and ride the &^%$##$%^&*(*&^$#@ bike!”

Allowing for the limitations of the parable, Crosby concludes that it illustrates exactly how most Christians pray about the will of God. We believe if we are somehow earnest enough about how unworthy we are, God will somehow be persuaded to reveal something He is otherwise not inclined to reveal. We’re funny in this way, because we would react strongly to pagans who view their gods as having to be assuaged or conditioned to make their will known, but in our own prayer practices, we act like pagans instead of sons.

In the parable, the father’s will has been revealed in the act of giving the bike. The existence of the bike as a gift, presupposes the intent of the giver that it is to be ridden. The son does not have to ask about his father’s will.

What has our heavenly Father given us and what does it presuppose?

• His smile

• His satisfaction

• His rest

• His love

• His indwelling Spirit

• His “amen” over Christ in us

• His gifts and graces

• His calling

• His blessing on the new creation in us . . . and so much more.

Every moment of life is presenced with Him and His will. We live, and move, and have our being in Him. There’s never a time we are apart. Together we enter into His revealed will by simply living life, turning our hearts toward Him, and relating to Him. If the matter at hand is not sin, then there’s no need to agonize over a mystical idea of the revealed will of God. It will unfold as we experience life together. We do not need advance prescription that any specific activity is, or is not, “His will.”

So much of the “seek God’s will” teaching is based on insecurity, the fear of making a mistake, and a desire for self-protection. We erroneously believe that if we just had the right divine information we could avoid a wrong decision and its temporal consequences.

Steve Crosby suggsests that knowing the specific will of God for our lives is really quite easy:

1. Is it sin . . . yes or no?
2. Is it consistent with my identity, gifts, calling and desires?
3. Is the door open?

If no to #1, and yes to #2 & #3, then quit the guilt laden, religiously motivated, straining, and striving prayer about the will of God and just get on with it!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

THE Greatest Problem In Evangelical Christianity Is Our View of "Authority"

"Touch not mine anointed and do my prophets no harm" (Psalm 105:14-15).
"He that is greatest among you shall be your servant" (Matthew 23:11).

In the mid-1990's our mission team from our church went to Belarus to partner with Christians there to plant churches in the inner cities of the former Soviet republic. We made friendships with many Belarus Christians and the partnership continued for over a decade.

In the late 1990's I received a call one evening from a Belarus pastor who was concerned for a 20 year old  Belarus Christian woman named Natalie. We had met her in Belarus a couple of years earlier, and she had been taken by the Christians in Oklahoma, and through other contacts in the United States, she had come to to Oklahoma to work as an "intern" at an independent, fundamental Baptist church in Oklahoma City. We had no connections with the church, but the pastor said he needed my help. Natalie wished to return to Belarus but was being held captive by the pastor and staff in the basement of the church where she had been given "free" lodging. She had managed to make a short, frantic phone call, where she had pleaded for help from her overseas pastor.

It took me and our missions pastor, John Stam, an hour and ten minutes to get to this particular independent Baptist church in Oklahoma City. I called a couple of police officer friends in the metro and had them meet us at the church. Our missions pastor and myself knocked on the door that had the sign "Church Office" on the front. The fairly large church was locked down because it was after hours, but we saw lights on inside the building. Soon the associate pastor opened the door and I introduced myself and told him that I was there to speak with Natalie from Belarus. He hesitated for a moment and then said that was not possible. I told him that I had received information that Natalie was being held against her will by the pastors of the church, and if they did not produce her within sixty seconds, I would bring every available police officer in Oklahoma City and both print and television news media to their doorstep within the hour. He scowled but went to get her.

When Natalie came to the door her face was tear stained. She sobbed in relief when she saw me. I asked her if it was her desire to leave the United States and return to Belarus. She said yes. I asked her if she was being held against her will. She said yes. I told her that she was to go to the room, collect her belongings, and we would be leaving immediately. We would take her to the airport and buy her plane ticket back to Belarus on the first available flight. I also told her, in the presence of the Baptist pastor, that we would be discussing with the local District Attorney about pressing charges against those who had held her against her will.

The associate pastor was irate. Livid and red-faced from his rage, the pastor verbally harangued me while Natalie collected her things. He told me that the Natalie had willingly come to the church to work for a year. She was only six weeks into her tenure, and her desire to go home was not of God.  The pastors of that church were her spiritual "authority," and her desire to go back to Belarus was spiritual rebellion. I let him talk until Natalie returned with her belongings. He concluded his diatribe against me by pointing his finger in my face and said, "You will answer to God at the judgment seat of Christ for going against the God-ordained authority of this church!" I grabbed his finger, twisted his arm behind his back, and put him face first against the wall and whispered in his ear, "Christ atoned for everyone of my sins at the cross so I will not be answering for them, but I can darn sure guarantee you if you laid one finger on this girl you will answer to the prosecutor and courts of Oklahoma County and no amount of spiritual authority will keep you safe in prison."

 Long story short, we were able to get Natalie back to Belarus and the news media released a story about a year later regarding multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against the pastor of that church, resulting in multiple lawsuits. We would later see Natalie in Belarus and her family expressed their gratefulness for our intervention in the United States.

I tell you that story for one purpose. In my opinion, the greatest danger in the churches of America is that pastors and "leaders" have a warped view of authority. Rather than seeing "servant-leadership" and  mutual submission as the norm for Christian living, pastors have this bizarre view that they are "God's anointed" and if anyone does anything to cross them, then God will avenge them.

I do believe that God is up to something great in the ekklesia. Part of the revival is the tearing down of this notion that pastors have some kind of inherent "authority." We pastors are called by our Lord to be servants of all and our personal desires are to be subordinate to the people we serve. By the way, the "anointed" in Psalm 105 are all of God's people, not just preachers. That's something every pastor should remember.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

The Measure of a True Character Is Never Seen in the Amount of Publicity That Is Given

Lindsay Lohan, 24, was all over the news this past week because she's a celebrity and she's a drug addict.

Justin Allen 23, Brett Linley 29, Matthew Weikert 29, Justus Bartett 27, Dave Santos 21, Chase Stanley 21, Jesse Reed 26, Matthew Johnson 21, Zachary Fisher 24, Brandon King 23, Christopher Goeke 23, and Sheldon Tate 27 are Marines, not celebrities. They all died while defending of our country against terrorism. They, unlike Lindsay Lohan, received little media mention.

I wish to honor these dead Marines by posting their names and expressing my appreciation to their families for the sacrifice they have made in order that my family might remain both free and safe.

Friday, October 01, 2010

One of My Members Believes God May Very Well Be an Oklahoma Sooner Fan

I was sent the following prophecy for today's game from one of the members of our church. It is from Psalm 75:4-6 (KJV). I will reserve my judgment on the prophecy until Saturday at 6:00 p.m. central time.

“I said unto the fools, Deal not foolishly: and to the wicked, Lift not up the horn (Texas?): Lift not up your horn on high: speak not with a stiff neck. For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south [so it seems it comes from the north? Oklahoma?]. But God is the judge: he putteth down one (Texas), and setteth up another (Oklahoma).”

Go Sooners!