Monday, July 30, 2018

Six Strategies for Hearing Rather Than Being Heard

The saying, "God gave you two ears and one mouth, so you should listen twice as much as you talk" rings true in my experience.

I see relationships fall apart because each partner worries more about being heard than hearing.

Businesses go bankrupt because managers focus more on getting their point across to customers than getting to know and listen to their customers. 

Churches shrivel in membership because pastors spend less time listening and more time talking.

Google the subject and you'll find much more emphasis on how to effectively make a point than how to efficiently receive a point made.

I'm working hard on properly hearing because listening is not natural to me.

Truly hearing others involves discipline, self-control, selflessness, and a host of other characteristics defined in Scripture as "the fruit of the Spirit." 

In other words, good listeners are of God.

When I am focusing on being heard, I pay special attention to make sure I am understood. It's all about me. 

If I don't feel heard, I get louder. I'm not sure why that is - maybe my personality - but I've learned that the volume of my voice is directly proportional to the content of my character.

Self-centeredness isn't something I hide well. It's attached to the tightness and tenor of my vocal chords.

But not everybody is like me.

Others will pull away or shut down when they feel they aren't being heard.

Instead of pressing in like me, others would rather shut down. 

However, shutting down also guarantees that the other person isn't being heard too.

So a greater desire to be heard than to hear will manifest itself in multiple ways. But each manifestation springs from the same root disease.


Every one of us consumed by selfishness doubles down to get our point across by either pressing in loudly or shutting down quietly. 

I'm working on becoming a good listener.

I want to be selfless in communication.

Below are six strategies - mental and practical - that I'm working on to better hear others instead of concentrating on being heard by others.

Take a few moments to consider these carefully. I really believe every relationship you have will improve by remembering and working on these six principles:

Strategy 1:  My working on listening is an exercise in trusting.            
My need to be heard arises from my harmful desire for control. God is in control. I am not. When I seek to control the conversation by making sure I'm heard rather than ensuring I'm hearing, I exalt myself to the position of God. It is idolatry for me. I worship myself. Listening well is a sign that I trust God to work all things for good instead of trusting myself to control all things for good. 
Strategy 2: Transformational change is caught, not taught. 
Typically I find myself getting louder and trying to get my point across when I want someone else to change. I want them to go my direction or stop their petition. I'm convinced that I'm right, and I'm prepared to fight. It's taken me a long time, but I've finally come to the realization that leadership is modeled, not messaged. The reason Scripture gives character qualifications for church leaders is that people change by the imitation of what they see modeled, not by the dictation of what they hear messaged. In other words, good listeners begat good listeners.

Strategy 3: My need to be heard reveals a pressing need for validation, but hearing well flows from an inner and settled sense of validation.
"I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am." (Philippians 4:11).  Those are Paul's words to the Philippian Christians. The two words "whatever circumstances" are not in the original. The words are added by English translators because Paul would in the next verse (Philippians 4:12) describe all kinds of different circumstances. Paul's content if he's "poor, or in prosperity; hungry, or not."  I would add "heard, or not heard." My contentment in life comes from who I am, not from how others feel about me. Paul would later declare:  "I am who I am by the grace of God" (I Corinthians 15:10).  Working harder on getting my point across reveals my need to be validated by others rather than resting in the validation that comes from God's grace in me (e.g., "I am loved; I am forgiven; I am guided; I am blessed; I am ...).

Strategy 4: I must drive out all other "ings" when listen"ing."
Since I am who I am by the grace of God (and not my own merits), when people are talking with me, I must trust that only God can bring about any needed change in their lives (not me), and because I am confident in who I am in Christ, I will listen even to those who wish to show me where I need to change. In my trust in God, I will drive out all other "ings" when I am listening. I will drive out shaming, judging, moralizing, directing, warning, advising, persuading, agreeing, defending, shifting, and every other "ing" so that I can become a powerful and potent listener and connect with you.

Strategy 5: A solid connection is a source of safe direction.
I will sometimes hear parents say, "But my kids. They aren't listening!" Usually, the pain in a mom or a dad springs from a desire for their kids to avoid making the same mistakes that their parents made as teenagers. But listen, mom; pay attention, dad. Tires fly off a car on the highway when the connection is broken. Work on tightening the bolts of good listening and kids will find themselves attached to parents motoring in a safe direction on the highway of life. This principle of connection applies to any ministry, business, or non-profit leader.

Strategy 6: I must ask sincere questions and remember answers to hear well.
While working on these strategies of listening well, I met a man at a social luncheon for a civic organization. He introduced himself to me and through the course of the lunch, seated with six other men, I listened intently as the new acquaintance detailed how his wife was getting along through her cancer treatment. A couple of weeks later, I met the man in a parking lot, greeted him by name, and then mentioned his wife by name and inquired how she was doing in her cancer treatments. He updated me. I met once again a few weeks later, called his wife by name inquired whether she was responding well to her new round of treatments because I knew they'd started that week. He looked at me carefully for a few moments and said something I'll never forget: "You really care for me, don't you?"
I've discovered through implementing these six listening strategies that my two ears are a much better prescription for loving people than my one mouth.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The King, Chris Clayman, and a Trashy Parking Lot

I'm reading the autobiography of missionary Chris Clayman. The book is called Superplan.

It's excellent. 

Many of us spent a few of our early years as a Christian fearing that God might call us to the mission field. "From here to Timbuktu" was the phrase we'd use to illustrate how far we feared God might send us.

Chris Clayman actually moved to Timbuktu, Africa to share Christ with the Bandogo people. 

How does a 23-year-old caucasian from Georgetown, Texas wind up in Timbuktu? 

In the book, Chris describes how he grew up in a "strong Christian family, a supportive community, and a modest but well-provided lifestyle." He attended a Christian university (Abilene Christian).

Chris assumed the safe and secure Christian experience of American evangelicalism.

In college, however, Chris came to understand what it means for Christ to be King.

It happened like this.

Chris was in a local park in Abilene, reading his Bible and praying. He noticed a man sitting in a van nearby. Chris felt God telling him to go talk to the man about Jesus.

Uncomfortable at attempting to converse about Jesus with a complete stranger, Chris rearranged his Bible so the man could see the cover (Holy Bible) and quietly told the Lord, "If You want me to talk to this man, prompt him to leave his van and start a conversation with me on the bench."

Within minutes, "the man rolled up his window, started his car, and drove away."

While many Christians might not be bothered by an experience like this, Chris was crushed.

Chris felt dissonance in his life. His beliefs aligned with the Bible. His Christian peers and church family would call Chris a "committed Christian." But Chris realized in that park that he'd sanitized the radical Jesus of Scripture into someone who would never ask His followers to do anything uncomfortable.

Like many evangelical Christians in America, Chris considered Jesus as a life coach who's guidance and instructions are more like a suggestion. Rather than serving the King of Kings and doing what Jesus said without hesitation, Chris worshipped himself.
"You want me to go talk with that man, Lord? It's too uncomfortable for me. If You really want this man to know You, make him come to me." 
Chris realized that his Christianity had become more about himself than Christ.

So Chris called a friend and asked if he could pick him up and go to a local coffee shop to talk. The friend, a fellow college student, named Sam, agreed. The two drove to the coffee shop, but they didn't make it inside. There in the parking lot, seated in the car, Chris poured out his heart to Sam.

He confessed his half-hearted devotion to Christ and his love for comfort more than the Kingdom. He told Same that he was only giving lip service to Christ as Lord.

As Chris shared, he "began to see that knowledge of God and the Bible is only as useful as the obedience that results." Verses like "If you love Me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15) began to come to his mind. And, more importantly, these verses began to make sense to Chris.

What it meant to be a follower of Christ was becoming clear.
"If anyone would choose to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me" (Matthew 16:24).
That night was life-transforming for the Abilene college student named Chris Clayman.

When the conversation ended, the coffee shop had closed. It was time for Christ and Sam to leave the parking lot and go home.

What happened next is why Chris wound up in Timbuktu. Chris explains in his own words:
"As we exited the parking lot, my eyes fixed on the trash strewn across the lot. "Pick up the trash,' God commanded. 'Pick up all of it.'
Did I hear an audible voice? Was it a deep impression or stirring within me? All that I can say is the command was clear--if not audible, clear enough to be audible. I had spent the last few hours ranting about the radical nature of following God and vowing to follow and obey Him even if doing so seemed crazy. I assumed such vows related to talking to strangers at parks, choosing where to live, or making social and vocational decisions. But picking up trash in a parking lot?!
I did not turn the car around. Who would know anyway? I proceeded onto the street, my mind and heart racing - wrestling - with the command I had received. "It doesn't make any sense! This is crazy! Who does this? What will people think? The parking lot will just be dirty again the next day!"
I advanced no more than 30 yards when a confident resolve won the short, intense battle in my soul. I knew God was testing me. Would I do what he asked me to do even if doing so seemed crazy? I turned to Sam in the midst of the sudden U-trun and said, "I can't explain this to you right now, but I have to clean up the parking lot."  I parked the car.
On my hands and knees in a parking lot that could fit several hundred vehicles, I began picking up cigarette butts and other trash. I cannot remember how long I cleaned. Two hours? Three?
About halfway through, thinking who knows what, Sam joined me and, without a word, began picking up trash with me. By the end, our hands were stained and dirty. For some reason, we knew teh cleaning needed to be done by hand. After we had disposed of every cigarette butt and fast food wrapper, Sam and I sat and stared at the trash-free parking lot. We knew the ground would be littered again in a few hours. We knew our work was meaningless to the world - but for us, the space had become holy ground. 
I think we even took off our shoes."
When we speak of the Kingdom of Christ, we mean the place where Christ the "King" has "Dominion."

Kingdom means "The King's Dominion."

Chris' story is a fresh reminder to us all that Christ is King.

And history is His Story unfolding.

Let's be the kind of Christians who love people unconditionally, serve others sacrificially, and follow Christ radically.

That's what it means to be Kingdom people, from here to Timbuktu. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Robert Moffat, Setswana, and the Information Age

Robert Moffat (1795-1883) was one of the earliest and most extraordinary evangelical missionaries to the dark continent of Africa.

Robert, his wife Mary, and their ten children settled at Kuruman, to the north of the Vaal River, among the Batswana people. Here Robert lived and worked passionately for the cause of Christ.

Robert endured many hardships, including once going for days without water. His mouth became so dry he was unable to speak. Often he bound his stomach to help him endure fasting when he could not find food to eat.

Robert translated the whole of the Bible and The Pilgrim's Progress into Setswana language of the African tribes to whom he ministered.

Robert Moffat was an extraordinary missionary to the African people. He communicated the results of these journeys to the Royal Geographical Society. While in Great Britain on furlough (1839–43), Robert wrote an account of his family's experiences, entitled Missionary Labours and Scenes in South Africa (1842).

It was in London during his leave (1839-1843) that he met a doctor named David Livingstone. That meeting was influential in leading David Livingstone to leave his safe and secure medical practice and go to Africa as a Christian missionary. 

Livingstone would later marry Moffat's eldest daughter, Mary. 

While in London, on June 20, 1842, Robert Moffat penned a note to a pastor friend named Rev. Edward Jenkings (see picture above). 

I have Robert Moffat's note to Rev. Jenkings in my private collection in my home office. 

At the bottom of the note, Robert Moffat writes: 
Behold the Lamb of God
Underneath, Moffat writes something that I didn't understand. 
Bonany Kusena la Mossino
So, I went to the Internet. 

I assumed the words were in Setswana. 

I typed in the words..,


Behold the Lamb of God in the Setswana tribal language. 


We who have the privilege of living in the 21st century have the world at our fingertips. Even twenty years ago it would have taken me time, energy, and effort to find a BOOK that translated English into African Setswana. 

It took me 30 seconds with the Internet.

Let's not waste our days. 

The Internet makes learning a lifelong hobby. 

Thank you, Lord, for the privilege of living in this Information Age.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Abortion, 12 Boys in a Cave, and a Profound Riddle

This week's announcement that Brett Kavanaugh has been selected as Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's replacement has many expressing fear and anger that Roe v. Wade might be overturned and that abortion in America will be outlawed.

Juxtapose those negative emotions with America's collective joy over 12 boys being safely rescued this week from a Thai cave.

It's confusing to me how many Americans can feel such happiness over boys being dramatically rescued from death in Thailand, while at the same time express such anger over the possibility of Americans being unable to bring intentional death to babies. 

I may be the only person who thinks along these lines, but I'd like to point out the similarities between the boys in Thailand and babies in American mothers' wombs.

Both babies and the boys are alive.
Both babies and the boys are in a dark place.
Both babies and the boys are surrounded by water.
Both babies and the boys are in need of oxygen from others.
Both babies and the boys are in need of nourishment from others.
Both babies and the boys are completely dependent on other people.
Both babies and the boys will survive with preparation and careful removal.
Both babies and the boys have people around the world who are willing to help.

Those who know me recognize there's not a judgmental bone in my body. I listen to people. I can change my mind when sound, logical reasoning convinces me of my faulty thinking. 

I'm listening. 

I'm looking for an answer to the riddle. 

I have friends who've had abortions. I've spoken with them about their decisions. Typically, an abortion seems to be a way out of the consequences of poor choices made in life.

Not always. 

Sometimes there are mitigating circumstances (e.g. rape, potential deformities, etc.). 

But during mitigating circumstances, sorrow is the emotion of all involved. Sorrow is never the endpoint. God has a way of turning sorrow into joy. 

But that's another post. 

I'm confused over choosing death for healthy American babies to relieve the consequences of unwise choices 

Let's go further in comparisons of the Thai boys' dilemma with those of babies in American wombs.

The coach made a poor choice to go exploring with his soccer boys during monsoon season when caves often flood. 

But did we kill the boys because of the soccer coach's poor choice? 

No. We saved the boys' lives. 

Again, I'm confused. 

In seeking to resolve the riddle some might conclude that expectant American mothers' could say:
"It's my cave. It's my decision. It's my life. I want to abort the baby and end its life, and anybody who tries to stop me is my enemy."
I'm thinking. Give me a moment.

That argument makes me want to find the owner of the cave in Thailand and ask him if anyone sought his permission to enter, or if the government asked for permission to save the lives of those boys. 

I would think, though I don't know for sure, that the cave owner was not involved in the decision to save lives. 

Saving lives is not an individual choice; it seems by necessity to be a societal responsibility. Prizing life is evidence of civilization. When society wishes to bring intentional death, it means the downgrade and eventual collapse of civilization (e.g. "war"). 

Maybe somebody believes babies in the womb are not human until they can breathe, eat, and live without help from others. 

But that doesn't answer the riddle over differences either. The boys in the cave couldn't breathe, eat, or live without help from others. 

What's the difference between boys in a cave in Thailand and babies in wombs in America? 

Why did so many Americans rejoice over saving the lives of the Thai boys but angrily demand the right to kill American babies? 

I seriously want to know the answer to the riddle. 

I'm not stupid. 

I'm just confused.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Einstein, Creativity, and the Battle with Conformity

Without hesitation, we who follow Christ affirm the unchangeable nature of His message.

However, the methods by which we deliver this fixed message should constantly be evaluated and often changed for advancing Christ's Kingdom in an ever-changing culture.

Fluid methodologies with a fixed message are the ticket for creative, thriving institutions.

Unfortunately, many institutional leaders reverse the pattern and find their institutions becoming increasingly irrelevant.

When methodologies are fixed and the message is fluid - whether it's a business, a team sport, or a church - the institution slides into a slow, irreversible death.

Within 10 seconds of walking into a building, one can tell the direction the institution is headed. If the building looks and feels straight out of the 60's, 70's, or 80's, and even 90's,  then it is dying. Methodologies for reaching people must change.

Leaders insecure about who they often find their identity in the things they do. That's why organizational change can become very personal.

Authoritative people demand conformity to established methodologies for their self-preservation. An organization must rid itself of authoritative, controlling, insecure leaders prior to realizing institutional advancement.

Take science and mathematics for examples.

One learns science or math through learning established, constant truths that never change. But it is often as difficult for creative geniuses to rise out of the institutional centers of science as it is for Christian leaders to rise out of the institutional and denominational conformities of religion because the methodologies of the institutions rarely change.

Albert Einstein was seventeen years old when he entered the German science and mathematics schools of Munich. Most German schools, including Albert's school, were run with a Prussian sense of military style and efficiency. The students were like privates while the teachers acted as authoritarian officers. Learning was regimented and mechanical with an emphasis on rote memorization and repetitive lessons.

Just like religious institutions.

Rewards were based on conformity and creative learning methodologies were stifled.

Einstein struggled.

Albert found the style of teaching - rote drills, impatience with questioning, and corporate conformity - to be repugnant. His beloved sister, Maja, made this observation of Einstein's feelings:
"The military tone of the school, the systematic training in the worship of authority that was supposed to accustom pupils at an early age to military discipline, was particularly unpleasant to Albert."
According to biographer Walter Isaacson, in his book Einstein, Albert developed a deep contempt for the authoritarian style and militarist atmosphere of German schools. One day when troops in a parade marched down the street where Einstein lived, and all the children came pouring out of their apartments to watch, Einstein refused to join in. He told his parents . . .
When I grow up, I don't want to be one of those poor people. When a person can take pleasure marching in step to a piece of music it is enough to make me despise him. He has been given his big brain only by mistake.
The Reason Einstein Began to Flourish Academically

In 1895, when Einstein was seventeen, his family moved to Switzerland for reasons associated with his father's business. Einstein enrolled at the cantonal school in the village of Aarau before his entrance into the Zurich Polytechnic School.

Aaru was a perfect school for Einstein. According to Isaacson,
The teaching was based on the philosophy of a Swiss educational reformer of the early nineteenth century, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, who believed in encouraging students to visualize images. He also thought it important to nurture the 'inner dignity' and individuality of each child. Students should be allowed to reach their own conclusions, Pestalozzi preached, by using a series of steps that began with hands-on observations and then proceeded to intuitions, conceptual thinking, and visual imagery. It was even possible to learn - and truly understand - the laws of math and physics that way. Rote drills, memorization, and force-fed facts were avoided.
Einstein loved Aarau. Maja, Einstein's sister, said of the school,
Pupils were treated individually. More emphasis was placed on independent thought than on punditry, and young people saw the teacher not as a figure of authority, but, alongside the student, a man of distinct personality.
It was the exact opposite of the German instruction Einstein hated. His love for Swiss education and the freedom of individuality eventually led Einstein to renounce his German citizenship. Of course, the German system of worshipping human authority eventually led to the rise of one of the world's worst dictators just a four decades later.

Einstein later said of his year at Aarau,
When compared to six years' schooling at a German authoritarian gymnasium, Aarau made me clearly realize how much superior an education based on free action and personal responsibility is to one relying on outward authority.
Application for Evangelicals

(1). Young evangelical pastors and leaders need an institutional atmosphere where they are free to think and flourish in their own, individual, and creative ways according to how God has gifted each of them.

(2). Demands to submit to authoritarian control by blindly giving allegiance to established methodologies of ministry will thwart any Kingdom creativity and restrict new and more effective methods of reaching an ever-changing world.

(3). Effective missions and ministries come from the hands-on experience of doing new and creative things rather than hearing others declare how it ought to be done. Mistakes will be made, but mistakes of motion are always better than stagnation of status-quo. Methodologies should be fluid.

(4). The threat to the future of any religious institution does not come from more freedom. On the contrary, institutional death springs from authoritative leadership, tight controls, and fixed methodologies.

Ask Albert Einstein.

Friday, July 06, 2018

SWBTS Donors and the Folly of Funding Scrolls and Museums Instead of Scholars and Ministries

Offices of Square Mile Energy (Gary Loveless) in Houston
The new leadership of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is worthy of Southern Baptist's full confidence.  College graduates from our church who are interested in ministry are now considering enrolling at Southwestern, the first time SWBTS has been a viable option for over a dozen years. The future is bright.

However, there remain a few people who need to completely sever ties with Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Some of them are employed by the school. The new administrative leadership will handle the resolution of their employment with professional courtesy and class.

Others who need to completely sever ties with the school are financial donors. Seventeen donors to Southwestern to be exact

These SWBTS donors have made a tragic mistake that could have ongoing consequences for both the school and for them personally.

They have signed a letter written by Houston oilman Gary Loveless, a letter in which Mr. Loveless lambasts the Executive Committee of Southwestern for their unanimous vote to sever ties with former SWBTS President Paige Patterson. Mr. Loveless is a close personal friend of Paige Patterson, a former trustee at SWBTS, and a previous multi-million dollar donor to SWBTS. 

Many news outlets have published Gary Loveless' letter.

I have three serious questions that I'd like to ask Mr. Loveless about his letter. I've called his office in Houston (twice) and left my personal cell number. I've not heard back from him  I have friends in North Carolina who have also read the letter. Megan and Vincent Lively have asked me what I thought of it. I told them that before I wrote a response, I wanted to speak with Gary Loveless. Another friend from North Carolina, a man named Wade Smith,  has also visited with me about the letter.  I think Mr. Loveless and the other SWBTS donors would rather this Wade (me) ask questions more so than the other Wade

Meet Gary Loveless

Gary and Stephanie Loveless
Gary and Stephanie Loveless seem like a nice couple. They are members of Second Baptist, Houston, Texas. They are involved in philanthropic work around the world. They are people who give evidence of desiring to serve Christ and His Kingdom.

But they seem to me to be a tad naive. 

Or, to be more specific, Gary and Stephanie Loveless may be guilty of "hero-worship,"

Hero-worship is the deadly disease that plagues many Southern Baptists, particularly since 1979 and the beginning of the Southern Baptist Conservative Resurgence.

Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlisle (1795-1881) says hero-worship is a part of human societies throughout the world:
"Society is founded on Hero-worship. Human association rests on what we may call a Hero-archy (a Government of Heroes). Society everywhere is some representation, not insupportably inaccurate, of a graduated Worship of Heroes—reverence and obedience done to men."
Carlyle is correct about societies in this world.

But Christ's Kingdom is not of this world. Christians are called to worship none but Christ.

Gary Loveless gave over a million dollars to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to purchase fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls. He also assisted in the fundraising required to permanently display those fragments at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Gary did so because Paige and Dorothy Patterson told Gary that the scroll fragments were real Dead Sea Scroll fragments. The Seminary, the Pattersons told Gary Loveless, would benefit from having them.

Gary believed his heroes.

The Houston Chronicle reported six years ago how Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary came into possession of the scrolls. It all started when Gary and Stephanie Loveless were on a tour of Israel with Paige and Dorothy Patterson in 2009.
Gary Loveless said they were busy visiting the usual sights of Holy Land travelers, and the group stopped at Kando's Shop, now run by Mr. Kando's son, William Kando Jr. Stephanie Loveless purchased a small oil lamp, and the couple returned to the tour bus, with her husband thinking he'd just gotten out of a pricey store with way more money in his pocket than he expected.
Then the Pattersons waved at him to return to the shop. Kando had just made them an offer they couldn't refuse: His family had decided that their Dead Sea Scroll fragments, locked away in a Swiss vault for decades, should be on public display. And they wanted them to be exhibited with his treasured friends at Southwestern Baptist.
The Lovelesses knew it was time for the important work of Christian charity - and they ultimately became the major sponsors of the exhibit with their $1 million donation.
 Let that visual sink in.

Khallil Kando at his Jerusalem Shop
The President and First Lady of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary are running out of a souvenir trinket shop in Jerusalem with hands raised, shouting at their millionaire friend (Mr. Loveless) to come and hear of "Dead Sea Scroll fragments locked away in a Swiss vault for decades."

Cynthia Loveless must have been rubbing her recently purchased oil lamp and a Hebrew genie popped out.

Gary Loveless didn't seem bothered by the fact Mr. Kando kept these artifacts a secret for decades.

Nobody seemed to question why a souvenir gift shop owner, known for "making deals" might suddenly want to make a deal with a rich Texas oilman.

The Hebrew scrolls were real. The Pattersons said so.

I've considered running into Square Mile Energy in Houston with my hand raised, breathlessly shouting:
"Mr. Loveless, the Ark of the Covenant is hidden in my basement in a safe I bought from Lowes and I'm wondering if you'll buy it from me for two million dollars? If you position it properly at SWBTS, you may be able to replicate the Shekina glory as the sun shines through the stained-glass windows"
Think I'm being harsh?

Do you think that questioning the authenticity of SWBTS Hebrew scrolls is off-limits to proper Christian decorum?

CBS News doesn't think so.

Hebrew manuscript scholars don't think so.

The Research Project administered by the University of Agder, Norway, doesn't think so.

But Paige and Dorothy Patterson say they’re real. Dorothy Patterson authenticated them on five trips to Zurich.

Her son, Armour Patterson, wrote the story of the intense negotiations for the scrolls in a self-published e-book entitled Much Clean Paper for Little Dirty Paper.

Southwestern Seminary Buys Hebrew Scroll Fragments (Thanks Gary!)

In 2011/2012, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary - through the generosity of donor Gary Loveless and under the leadership of Paige and Dorothy Patterson - dedicated a 3,500 seat chapel with stained-glassed images of the Pattersons and other SBC Conservative Resurgence leaders, opened an exhibt space for the recently purchased Hebrew scrolls, and began charging $25.00 per person to come see what God has done.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary would later deem the Dead Sea Scroll Exhibit a success.
Self-proclaimed successes always remind me of the Iraqi Minister of Information.

SWBTS was in serious financial trouble during the years 2008-2012, the same time seminary donors and trustees like Gary Loveless were busy building monuments and dedicating museums. For example:
1. SWBTS student enrollment declined to historic lows.
2. Southwestern Seminary stopped contributing to professor's retirement to save money.
3. The SWBTS Counseling Program was closed in 2010 due to a budget shortfall.
4. Faculty positions were cut.
5. The Dead Sea Scroll fragments eventually cost the school millions of dollars. 
As Gary Loveless was contributing millions of dollars to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to build museums and monuments in honor of the Battle for the Bible led by the Pattersons,  the seminary contined to struggle financially. Even if the fragments were actually real, is it wise for seminary leaders to lose focus of the school’s chartered mission?

Fiduciary responsibility for Southwestern Seminary and oversight of ministry training at SWBTS didn't seem nearly as important to SWBTS trustee Gary Loveless as purchasing and displaying the Dead Sea Scroll fragments.

I wrote about Southwestern trustee Gary Loveless over eight years ago. In a post dated January 29, 2010, I expressed concern over the closing of the SWBTS Counseling Program, a center for training pastors how to effectively counsel those in emotional and spiritual need. In that post, I directed readers to an interview with CBS News (link now removed), Gary Loveless revealed his motive for giving the money to purchase the Dead Sea Scroll fragments (quote):
"One day, when we are all standing before Him (Jesus Christ), and we got millions of people out there, when I hold my hand up, He will know who I am. That's really, for me, you know, what it is all about."
Mr. Loveless, there's a lot more people besides Jesus who now know who you are.

Additional information regarding Gary Loveless and his connections to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, including how he led the capital campaign for the now-defunct SWBTS Houston campus (note: the facilities, not the school), can be found in this SWBTS article (page 43).

As someone recently said to me, "Gary Loveless has been the captain of every sinking ship SWBTS has launched in the last dozen years." Gary Loveless' threat of withdrawal from involvement in SWBTS matters may, in the end, be helpful for future seminary accreditation.

Three Serious Questions about Mr. Loveless' Letter to SWBTS Trustees

With that background regarding Mr. Gary Loveless,  I am asking three serious questions of him regarding his letter to SWBTS trustees. The letter is public, so my questions to Mr. Gary Loveless are appropriately public.
1. Who disclosed to you that Dr. Patterson "has no recollection" of the 2003 rape allegation at Southeastern Seminary, that there is "no proof" that he is speaking dishonestly, and that the 2003 "alleged victim" has given "contradictory statements?"
2. Who disclosed to you that the 2015 SWBTS female seminary student you reference in your letter (p. 5) "had engaged in consensual sexual activiites on more than one occasion and those acts had taken place in public buildings at the Seminary, and that campus security were shown the nude pictures she texted to the male student....(and) that she begged Dr. Patterson to not call the police"?
3.  Who led you to believe that "Chairman Ueckert ...acted in a premeditated manner and with malice aforethought to intentionally mislead others, while simulteanerously defaming and disparaging the honorable name of Dr. Patterson"?
Mr. Loveless, these are serious questions. I tried to get a response privately, and it's unfortunate we've not connected.

Your letter causes several concerns. It is possible that some very privileged information in student files may have been released to you without the students' consent. It also seems the letter publicly demeans the character and testimony of an "alleged" (your word) rape victim. Finally, if you are truly concerned about Southwestern Seminary, particularly as a recent SWBTS trustee (2007-2017), then you should know that public statements impugning the motives and character of  SWBTS trustee chairman Kevin Ueckert, while at the same time publicly declaring SWBTS trustee Bart Barber's comments to the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention "false and slanderous," are detrimental to the institution you once served.

I will not presume to answer the three questions for you Mr. Loveless, but after examining your ten-year legacy of serving as a trustee of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, it seems that Dr. and Mrs. Paige Patterson have again waved their hands and asked you to come and listen.

And like all followers in hero-archy societies, you seem to want to believe your heroes to the neglect of both logic and evidence.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Differences Among Christians Matter Not to Pagans

Evan Jones
Most of my heroes are dead.

The Countess of Huntington (1707-1791). William Carey (1761-1834).  Jarena Lee (1783-1864). Adoniram Judson (1788-1850). Evan Jones (1788-1872). Epaphras Chapman (1792-1825). David Livingstone (1813-1873). Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892). Henry M. Stanley (1841-1904). 

They're all gone, only to be met in eternity. It's best for our Christian heroes to be six feet underground before stained glass windows in their likenesses appear six feet above ground.

One of my heroes, Indian missionary Evan Jones and his son John, are called "Champions of the Cherokees" by historian William G. McLoughlin in a book of the same title.

In reading this week about Evan's work among the Cherokees in the mountains of southwest North Carolina, I came across an interesting observation made by the missionaries. A great revival broke out among the Cherokees beginning in 1828 and lasting until 1832. Many Cherokees abandoned their native spiritism (adonisgi), and placed their faith in Christ.

White missionaries among the Cherokees included Moravians, Congregationalists, Methodists, Baptists, Anglicans, and Presbyterians. All of them, regardless of denomination, saw the Lord add to their churches.

Evan Jones made the observation that the differences among Christians mattered not among the Indians.

Everyone who named Christ as Lord was a Christian to them.

No savage shaman who sought to scalp a saint separated the selected sacrifice by sect.

Differences mattered not.

It brought to mind this axiom:
"The greater my concern over the errors of saints with us, the less my compassion over the eternity of sinners around us."
Or, to put it another way:
"Making a secondary thing primary in ministry will result in Jesus Christ being secondary in message."
May it never be.

Enjoy the 4th of July however you celebrate!