Welcome to Carnivorous Caribou

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Gospel Graphs

Nothing terribly profound today, but I thought I'd leave you some charts for the weekend. A friend of mine gave me some sermons to listen to, and I was listening to Steve Lawson preach "Bring the Book." It's a great message about the importance of preaching God's Word. As I'm listening to Pastor Steve exhort us to exalt God in our preaching, I started to think of preaching in visual terms. These charts are a very uninspired representation of my thoughts about preaching.

[One note. There is a limited amount of exaltation that can be made. For every minute (or ounce of energy) that is exerted for one cause, limits the amount that can be extended for another.]A current trend in evangelism is to bring people to Christ by encouraging them about how special they are. Notice, however, two obvious trends. The exaltation of man automatically limits the amount that God may be exalted. Second, grace actually becomes a condescension, working its way down. One has to ask, Why would I need grace? God would be foolish to not want me.An attempt to "balance" this perspective has been made by many. We will not exalt man, making him the center of the universe, but we will attempt to leave him in a neutral position. However, even in the person's attention, if they are not made little of, there isn't a great deal of room for God to be made much of. Therefore, notice how grace is shortened. Again, God's grace is diminished as I may see myself as a sinner, but without much being made of God (and much condemnation being made of my sin), I still don't really comprehend why I would ever have been an enemy of God. I'm not really that bad, am I?But notice what happens when man is not exalted. Actually, when man is presented as the sinful wretch each of us is (contrary to our self-esteem society), God is exalted all the more. Notice how great grace is, as it reaches high above us and is great in length. As I truly see myself as unworthy, I see God as truly merciful, loving and gracious. Much should be made of God, and man should be made low, for then grace is exalted.

But does God want grace exalted? Paul believes so. For he stated: He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Dever on Evangelism

Like Dan Phillips' work, I'm starting to wonder if everything Mark Dever writes is gold. Writing about evangelism on the T4G Blog, Dever states:
One part of clarity sometimes missed by earnest evangelists, however, is the willingness to offend. Clarity with the claims of Christ certainly will include the translation of the Gospel into words that our hearer understands, but it doesn’t necessarily mean translating it into words that our hearer will like. Too often advocates of relevant evangelism verge over into being advocates of irrelevant non-evangelism. A gospel which in no way offends the sinner has not been understood.

Look at Peter at Pentecost in Acts 2. He wanted to be relevant. But that relevance gave his words more bite, not less. How did Peter witness to those he wished to see saved? He said to them, among other things, “let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ,” (Acts 2:36).

Relevant? Yes. Pleasing? No. Clear? Undoubtedly.

Be clear about the fact of sin (Isa. 59:1-2; Hab. 1:13; Rom. 3:22-23; 6:23; Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5; I John 1:5-6). Be clear about the meaning of the cross (Matt. 26:28; Gal. 3:10-13; I Tim. 1:15; I Peter 2:24; 3:18). Be clear about our need to repent of our sins and to trust in Christ (Matt. 11:28-30; Mark 1:15; 8:34; John 1:12; 3:16; 6:37; Acts 20:21). What would it mean to evangelize without being clear about what the Bible says about these issues?
You can check out the whole article here.

What About Surveys?

Last week, I had the opportunity to survey some people practically in my backyard. I've posted the survey results, both statistical and testimonial. But there are other observations I'd like to share.
I've made the same excuse in my head before to keep from doing "survey-type evangelism" at public events...God wants me to reach my neighbor, family member or friend I know. Evangelism with total strangers isn't really that hard. Then, I would continue to sit on my couch, not reaching my neighbor or the stranger walking by. Do I think I am totally fulfilling the Great Commission if I place tracts in public bathrooms, hand them to waiters and confront total strangers at events? No, God also desires for me to proclaim the gospel boldly, both in my front lawn and behind the pulpit. But I have to ask a second question:

I may not be fulfilling all of the Great Commission by passing out tracts or doing surveys, but am I fulfilling less of it if I don't? The answer: yes. Frankly, it is easier to talk to the stranger. Somehow, I let the fact that it is easier (and the fact that I haven't been as bold with our neighbors as I should) prevent me from doing any evangelism. I somehow easily get deceived into thinking God will make me an evangelist first, and then I will evangelize. Yet, the pattern seems to be that the one who evangelizes is an evangelist! Here has been the very slow, pathetic transformation in my life in the last four months:

I bought some tracts. (They sat on my desk for a while)
I started carrying tracts. (They sat in my wallet for quite a while)
I started leaving tracts in my trail. (I'd set them out in places to be found, but without my having to interact with anyone)
I did some surveying. (I entered gospel conversations with people that were planned)
I passed out tracts. (Typically after the conversation)
I start handing service people (waiters, hairdressers, guy at Staples) tracts.
I noticed that the guy delivering our couch makes a comment about coffins. I actually try to get a conversation about death started, seeking his words as a transition.
I am aching for our neighbor across the street and daily looking for an opportunity to speak to him. (Guests at his house have made that difficult to this point.)

I'm tired of waiting until I feel like this robust evangelist. I want to start sowing and let Him take care of the harvest.

    Law in Evangelism
During BNYC, a faithful brother in our fellowship introduced Ray Comfort and Way of the Master as a way of doing evangelism. I have to disagree. As I read the Scriptures, it appears to be the way of doing evangelism. When Paul summarized the gospel in I Corinthians 15:1-6, he says it was for our sins that Christ died. Any "evangelism" that doesn't deal with man's sin and Christ as the atonement is a complete dog's breakfast.

I've felt that strain before. I try to make Jesus look so attractive to someone. I stab at joy, but they aren't biting. I mention purpose, but they don't care. I threaten with hell, but they feel invincible and are convinced God doesn't want to punish them. Yet, I took God's law before them, and it was different. Several times, a person went from jovial to concerned before we finished going through a couple of commandments. Only a few were still light-hearted when I finally asked if they would be innocent or guilty on the Day of Judgment. It really got to issues of the heart better than anything else I've seen. (I had done this before in preaching or conversations with people I knew. I was shocked at how well it worked with total strangers. We were talking about their sin and hell and that they deserved hell, yet I think they could all tell that I truly cared for them.)

    But You Didn't Seal the Deal
Each night, I went out with one goal in mind: "To glorify God in the proclamation of His gospel." God granted me the privilege of doing just that. I did not go out with the goal (I had the desire, but not the primary goal) "to save" people. It was important for me to make this distinction before I went out for the following reasons:

Preserves the message. If a preacher presents the gospel properly to a group of hard hearted people with whom the Spirit of God is not engaging, his message will not be received. Therefore, if the preacher looks at the lack of results and determines he must change his message, we lose Romans 10 and the gospel is not preached. I can't control a person's response, therefore I should not change the message under the assumption that I can control them.

Redefines success. Closely related, is the thought that success is only found when a conversion takes place. The problems with this perspective are... a) Converts can be counted as MY success. b) A lack of success can lead to changing the gospel to get better results. c) A lack of success can lead to believing I have failed and therefore must not be an "evangelist." Therefore, I neglect the work we were all called to do.

However, if success is gauged by accurately and lovingly presenting the gospel, thus glorifying God, here are the results: a) I worship in the process. I am not reciting a sales pitch but revealing a glorious God. b) Any fruit, including the accurate presentation of the gospel, can not be credited to anyone but God. c) We do not depend on the response of others to determine our Savior's pleasure in us.

0% False Conversion Rate. By preventing myself of leading a person in a prayer, or asking them to pronounce their faith on the spot, no lost person walked away believing they were saved. Of the 66 people who talked to me, I would say I easily could have led 15 of them in a prayer at the end. But even while doing that, I would have doubted that all 15 were truly repenting and trusting Christ alone. Could I have given someone eternal hope that shouldn't have any? Quite possibly.

But what of the person what was ready to repent and trust Christ? You just let them walk away! Isn't a few false converts worth the price of making sure we don't let one get away? I've been asked similar questions to this already. My response, "None get away." If a person would have been willing to pray a prayer declaring their repentance and trust in Christ alone, guess what: They already have repented and trusted Christ! And if they received the message with a broken heart, turning from their ways and have turned to Christ for their salvation, then they won't slide under God's radar. Should God desire I enjoy the privilege of helping in the growth, He will make our paths cross again. Should He desire them to grow in another church, I praise God for the strength added to that church by a true convert walking through their doors.

Bottom line is that our church may not see any numeric growth at all from this. I pray that we are kingdom minded enough to not be bothered by that.

I'm still praying for those who came to an event to eat unhealthy food, ride some rides and waste $5 for a game with a $3 prize and walked away thinking about their sin, God's judgment and God's gracious offer. I may not be gifted in evangelism, but I'm praying this is the beginning of a process to atleast say I act like an evangelist.

What do I do?

I hope it's described here.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Observations from my Jerusalem

As I mentioned Friday, I took some time this week to work on evangelism at a major event in our community. During this time, I surveyed people in a way quite consistent with the style you would hear on Way of the Master Radio. This style is the very biblical approach of using the law to reveal a person's need for Christ. You can click here to see the results of the survey. I'd like to give you a glimpse at just some of the conversations I had this week. The survey was anonymous, so names are made up:
Ok, Tony's name is not made up. He gave it to me, so I figure I can use it. Tony is a genuine brother in the Lord and it was a delight to talk to him. Tony was skeptical about being interviewed, but as soon as I asked him if he was a good person, he jumped on it like a pit bull on a t-bone. Tony began to tell me the last thing he would call himself was a good person, until Jesus took over his life. Tony then began to tell me about the cross, Christ's offer to Him, and the righteousness he has found in Him alone. Tony even had the gall to ask me if I knew Christ! It was a blast. (Tony attends a church called Lighthouse.)
    Alex and Barbara
Alex and Barbara were a married couple who agreed to be interviewed. Throughout the survey they confessed that they had violated all five commandments. Yet, when asked if they would be innocent or guilty, they simply said innocent. When I questioned them how that could work (for they had just confessed to being a liar, theif, blasphemer, murderer and adulterer), they reluctantly (almost embarrassed) claimed Jesus. I then asked what He has to do with anything, to which they fired off several different cliches ("asked Him into my heart," "I've got God," "I've accepted Him," "I'm His," just to name a few). I pressed more and they could not explain what the cross accomplished.

As a troubling side note, midway through the conversation, the wife acknowledged that her husband's "goofy" behavior (it was somewhat odd) was probably due to the fact he had too much to drink. (As far as I know, alcohol is not permitted on the property, so this must have happened before they arrived.) At one point, the wife began to preach at me, telling me I needed each of the cliches she offered me (see above). At the end she asked what church I attend. I told her and then asked for their home church. She explained they don't attend anywhere right now. Here was a couple--slightly inebriated, with no clear understanding of the gospel and no desire to be a part of a fellowship of believers--who walked away quite confident of their salvation because they can speak Christianese. It broke my heart.
There was a strong correlation (at least this time in the survey) between those who denied even lusting for someone and those who deemed themselves innocent before God. It was also abundantly clear that a if a person only claimed to be guilty of 3 of the 5 questions (or less), they were not going to conclude that they were guilty before God.
Charlie is the only person in the entire survey that admitted to adultery before they were shown Jesus' words, yet Charlie denied even having an angry thought toward someone. Ironically, Charlie was probably the rudest, most abrupt person I interviewed. When I asked, "Innocent or Guilty," he claimed innocent. He said he was innocent because of Jesus. When I pressed how that works, he told me "Jesus is my Redeemer." When I asked what that meant, he looked at me, told me he didn't know but he doesn't question God and walked away from me, waving his hand. Clearly, we were not experiencing sweet brotherly fellowship.
    Dawn and Edgar
Dawn and Edgar admitted to violating all of God's standards and confessed they would be guilty on the day of judgment. Dawn appeared broken, tears in her eyes, hanging on my every word. Her husband however, looked bored and frustrated. Like a question I've heard Todd Friel ask so many times, I asked him if he would sell both his eyes to me for $1,000,000. He of course said no (as everyone did who I asked) because his eyes are important to him. I then encouraged them to consider that their souls were more valuable than their eyes. I told them they both need to consider their eternity. He wrapped the conversation up and proceeded to escort his wife away from me. Then I did something probably unfair. I pointed to her obviously-pregnant-belly and told her that her baby's soul is worth more than her eyes too and she'd want to make sure she could tell it about Jesus. Obviously, I'm praying they are still thinking of it.
Festus had a buddy (we'll call Gary) along with him. Festus admitted guilt, as did Gary, but Festus wanted to try to be philosophical to avoid issues. He claimed we all have God in us (including animals) but also believed we are more valuable than the animals. Festus continued to back himself into corner after corner but would deny his inconsistencies. The true annoyance was that Gary was listening. Finally Festus had heard enough (when he asked if I actually believed in the devil and I confessed I do) and grabbed Gary's arm and walked away. Before he turned, I got a chance to make eye contact with Gary's tear filled eyes. Festus' "wisdom" not only kept himself from seeing Christ, but he was doing all he could to keep others from seeing Him too.
On this night, I didn't really feel like going out. Yet, I reminded myself of the committment I had made (see: Ecclesiastes 5:1-6) and decided I'd atleast give it a shot. I walked over to "mic tent" and saw a man standing there. He was in his forties (and people over 30 had the higher rate of turning me down) yet was wiling to talk. We walked through the law, to which he concluded he'd be found guilty...except God was obviously OK with him. When I asked why, this man proceeded to tell me countless miraculous things that had happened in his life. According to his own accounts, his life had been spared by divine intervention several different times. He concluded by saying, "Obviously, God is alright with me and has a purpose for me. I'll figure that out some day." Fortunately for me (and I believe for him), I had just read this excellent article and was prepared for a different perspective. "Perhaps God is being patient with you, giving you time to repent." We began to talk about how we can tend to abuse God's grace as a means to excuse our living. I began to be brutally honest with Henry, yet it was as if he couldn't get enough. We did not pray a sinner's prayer. I have no idea if Henry truly repented and trusted Christ. But Henry promised me he was going to go home and talk with God about this (and I believe him). As he walked away he asked, "Have you ever been in a situation where you know God put you there because there is no other explanation?" My response, "Like tonight? Oh yeah!" I'm praying we have a new brother and thanking God for a handful of other conversations very similar to this.
    Family of Grace
It was incredibly encouraging to see people from our church walk by. Those who noticed what I was doing would give me a smile, wink or wave. I was encouraged, believing that they were also praying for me. It was truly a lift during some very heartbreaking conversations.

(More thoughts tomorrow on what I thought of the survey process.)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

A Complete Dog's Breakfast

I heard this quote from Alistair Begg while listening to Way of the Master Radio:
As Paul says, "Now Timothy, c'mon. I want you to guard this." It's the same word you'll find, incidentally, if your Bible is open to verse 14, of the first chapter of 2nd Timothy...guard the good deposit. God has, if you like, put a deposit in Timothy. He has deposited with Timothy. "Now Timothy, you look after that. When God asks about it, you better be able to produce it instantaneously and intact. Not meddled with. Not fooled with. Not dressed up. Not diminished. Intact." That he know the difference between an approach which sells the gospel as a commodity. Which goes to people and says essentially, "Would you like to have Jesus in your life?"

The person says, "Well, why exactly do you have this in mind?"

"Well, are you interested in joy?"

"Yeah, I like to be happy."

"What about peace?"

"I like peace."


"I'm a purposeful sort of person."


"I like fulfillment. Oh, I see, if I just, where I am right now want joy and peace and direction and fulfillment I have Jesus in my life, is that it?"

"Yes," says the person.

They think they are doing a great job on the gospel now. They think they're explaining it very well.

The person says, "Well, what do you have to do?"

"You have to believe."

The person says, "Well, what do you have to believe?"

"You have to believe that Jesus is God's Son."

The person says, "Well, I already believe that Jesus is God's Son."

At this point the person will get in deep difficulty if they don't know the gospel, because by their definition this person is actually a Christian already. You see, because they want joy, peace, fulfillment, everything. They're happy to get it from Jesus Christ. You're supposed to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and they already believe that. The thing is a total dog's breakfast.

In case you're wondering, here's an explanation for a dog's breakfast.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Survey of my Jerusalem

I've been anxious (which isn't a good thing) lately about my position as Teaching Pastor. Our church has had a very biblical heritage of reaching the lost. Anyone who knows our planting pastor is probably quite quick to tell you that he is much better with making connections outside the church than I am. I discussed this concern with some guys last week and then last Thursday night it hit me. If I want our church to continue to reach out, and I'm worried that my leadership my hinder that, then I need to be the kind of pastor who reaches out. This last week, thousands upon thousands of people have been across the street from my house, and I decided to try to reach out to them.

Here was my game plan. Every night, I stood near "the mic tent" and watched for people standing around. I would approach them and ask them if I could do a survey. (I said the survey was for my blog, which for integrity, is one reason I am publishing the responses here.) At the end of each interview, provided we had a chance to wrap it up, I paid the participants with one of these. Here are the results of the survey, followed by some general observations:
93% of the people I asked to take the survey participated (66/71)
Of those surveyed:
98% said they were a good person (65/66)
98% admitted that they had lied (65/66)
91% admitted they had stolen something before (59/66)
85% admitted to using God's name in vain (56/66)
0% admitted to committing murder initially (0/66)
However, when confronted with Jesus' words, 91% admitted to having a murderer's heart 59/66
2% admitted to committing adultery (1/66)
However, when confronted with Jesus' words, 77% admitted to having an adulterer's heart (51/66)
Then, just like the guys on Way of the Master (and just like the prophets, apostles, church fathers and Jesus Christ, if you are keeping score), I asked them, based on their confession, if God would find them innocent or guilty on the day of judgment. Here were the answers:
53% stated they would be guilty (35/66)
30% stated they would still be innocent (20/66)
5% still were undecided (3/66)
3% said they would be both guilty and innocent (2/66)
Of those who claimed innocence:
60% had no idea why He would find them innocent (12/20)
15% claimed God forgives everyone (3/20)
15% made vague allusions to Jesus (3/20) (more comments on this tomorrow)
5% claimed his baptism created salvation (1/20)
5% gave a clear presentation of the work of Christ for salvation (1/20)

Just to make sure you got that:
1 man (5%) of those who claim innocence claimed Christ as his reason.
1 man (2%) of those interviewed could present the gospel in a clear and understanding way.
1 man (1%) of the people I approached at the fair this week had a clear understanding of the gospel.

This is the rural, conservative, church attending community that I live in. More thoughts Monday...

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Church Discipline

I don't normally refer people to sermons I've preached, but there have been several questions about a series we just finished. If interested, you can download the following messages about church discipline:

Matthew 7:1-5
Matthew 18:15-17
Matthew 18:18-20

Let me know what you think.

Book Review

Today's Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic? by Walter J. Chantry

I received this book from a friend of mine. It sat in my computer bag for a few days, then made its way to my desk, and eventually found itself in my hands.

As I mentioned in my return post, the concept of guarding and guiding has been on my mind a lot lately. This appears to again be the genius of the illustrations God uses. A CEO does not convey the work of a pastor, nor does a coach. There is more involved than these illustrations can provide (as helpful as they may be at times). To this date, despite its cultural obscurity, nothing expresses pastoring better than shepherding. Not only must a shepherd both guard and guide, he must also know when each is appropriate. You cannot guard your sheep to still waters. It is equally futile to guide them from a ravenous wolf.

Evangelism is a perfect example of this. Years ago, evangelism seemed to be very strong in guarding, but lacked something in guiding. We warned people of hell and told them Jesus could protect them from it. Last night, I spoke with a gentleman who "came to Jesus" years ago because he was scared of hell. Yet, he was never actually guided to God. He had no concept of God's righteousness. He was not aware of God's mercy. He didn't desire to know God. He just wanted to be guarded from hell.

So, the pendulum has swung. Today, our evangelism is largely marked by guiding. We turn to a person and offer them happiness, peace, joy, comfort, blessing and reason for existence. We attempt to guide them directly to Jesus, showing them how He can improve their life. Sure there is sin, but we all sin, they don't really need to dwell on that. Then we scratch our heads and wonder why people are not convicted and why "carnal christianity" (I don't believe that exists, but that's a later post) is so rampant.

Could it be that we swung from one extreme to the next?

Thanks to examples like Todd Friel and Ray Comfort on Way of the Master Radio, I've begun using the words "repent and trust" much more in my preaching and evangelism. Chantry's book helps us realize that truly this is the way of the Master. Chantry takes the reader through the interaction of Jesus and the rich young ruler. Chantry shows the reader how Jesus "did evangelism," questions whether we have a right to change it, and then shows us the results of doing so. It's a very short book, but is exegetically superior and very practical in nature. I would love to buy a book for every pastor I know. (But sadly realize that we pastors rarely read books that others dump on us.)

To evangelize as Jesus did we must guard. We must call a person to turn from their sin. We must help them see the destructive nature of their sin. We must help them see they need rescued from the wrath of God. But we don't just sweep the room clean and leave it empty. We then take them to the cross. We show them their Savior crucified, buried and risen! We show them that they can not only be saved from God but also to God. We call them to trust in the One who is so merciful. Jesus certainly preached an authentic gospel, and His gospel certainly had both elements in it.

I highly recommend you check out the book.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

God's Love

Way of the Master Radio has ocassionally been using an introduction that has these words from James MacDonald:
Well I've heard people say that they think what God is doing in this world is He's loving everybody. That's God's thing. We're all together and God's just loving us. (Spoken in a syrupy sweet tone)...NOT. God loves us. Oh yeah, absolutely. But it's not some pampering love. Listen, it's a perfecting love. It's a love that wants our highest and best usefulness for His purposes.

[Addendum to my new blog rules. I do not subject short posts, mostly directing you to something else, to the same 2 day waiting period...but I'm open to that if Godly counsel would advice that I should.]

Caribou 2.0

I’ve decided to give this blog thing another shot. However, it is abundantly clear that it would not be healthy for things to continue as they were. Semper reformanda should apply to blogging as well. Before I share the changes, I thought I’d answer the two biggest questions I have received:

Why did you shut your blog down?

I received many polite emails, a few personal comments, and a couple of you logged words on the site about the blog. Most of the private conversation, however, came from very caring people that worried for me. Shutting down the blog was not an act of rage, depression or of defeat. It simply was a time to reassess things and determine if blogging was good for ministry. I know I’ve been called to preach. I don’t doubt one bit that God has called me as a pastor of our flock. Yet, I don’t have that same conviction about blogging. The last thing I wanted to do was allow my blog to get in the way of the ministry to which I know I am called.

So why keep blogging?

This was rarely ever the first question out of the gate. Typically, someone would ask this question as a follow up to the first one. If blogspot shut me down tomorrow, or my church leadership asked me to the stop the blog, it would be gone. However, it is a form of media that can be redeemed and I believe we can discuss the principles of His Word to help transform us into His image. As we’ve examined in our church the last couple weeks, we can speak with the authority of Christ, but to do so, we have to be speaking His Words, in the way He desires us to do it. I believe God can use this blog in such a way, provided there are a couple of adjustments:

1. No anonymous comments
    I’ve had enough conversations with others to find that anonymous comments don’t really bother other people. But they drive me nuts. (If you want to know why, you can click here.) It didn’t make sense to keep a feature open that was probably going to start me off with a wrong attitude. (If having to register intimidates you from commenting, let me know, and I can help you with that process.)

2. Using the save as draft feature.
    Blogspot allows for this wonderful feature called “save as draft.” Contrary to my typical action, I am not required to publish an article the moment it is written. From here on, I plan to write an article, save it as a draft, and not publish it till I’ve slept on it for two days and then reviewed it. (Incidentally, since I said I wouldn’t start the blog back up until August 21, that means I didn’t write the article until August 21, meaning it won’t show up on my site until August 23.)

3. Less “light stuff”
    A few people have lamented the change in the blog. What started out as a potpourri of life, theology, sports and humor has become much more about theology and practice. This is not a philosophical change, but something that has just happened. I’ve quit writing about sports lately, not because I think they are wrong, or it is foolish to talk about, but just because I haven’t been following sports lately. I find my life getting much more focused which probably means more boring to the world. (But as one friend told me, “My wife doesn’t find me boring, and that’s all that matters.”)

4. More guiding, less guarding.
    I don’t even know if it was Brian’s intention or not, but this article really got me thinking about my blog. A shepherd must guide. A shepherd must guard. My personality probably lends itself to wanting to guard in situations where guiding is probably most prudent. I’m going to make an effort that this blog may do more guiding than in the past.

I appreciate those who have interacted (in person or on line) about this blog. I would also encourage you to think of this blog not as a finished document, but rather as a rough draft. For after all, that also perfectly describes the author.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Blogger Break

Quite briefly stated, I'm shutting down the blog for a couple of weeks...maybe longer. Here's why:
    1. I don't want to be a negative guy. Anyone can be the person who simply points out problems in everyone else. I fear this blog may be turning me into that guy.
    2. Yet, I have a passion to see the Church become more discerning. As a pastor, it's difficult to figure out what your role is when people in your church are reading/listening to/watching things you wish they weren't. Are you shepherding them if you ignore things you find dangerous?
    3. Blog comments can be used to open dialogue and allow people to see different perspectives. A blog can different than a written paper in that people can help formulate a view as it is in process.
    4. However, it appears that most of my commenters view things pretty similar to me. And while I appreciate all of you (and of course feel you are right when you agree with me!), I worry that if I may be becoming more critical, am I making you so as well? Are we feeding off of one another? (Of course, the other possibility is that I have chased away all people that disagree with me. And if so, I'm not proud of that.)
Bottom line: I don't really like myself right now and I'm not sure if the blog is contributing to that.

However, I am not fishing! HONESTLY!

I'd be interested in your feedback. It may help me work through these thoughts. However, it still is my blog, so there are some ground rules:
    1. No anonymity! Sorry, mom (and lg), but you'll have to register. I'll even come over to your house and do it for you if you want, but I'm sick of people making strong comments while hiding behind a shield.
    2. No empty comments. Again, I am not fishing for compliments. If you're going to comment about my blog, please do so in these four ways:

    a. Does this blog actually help stimulate your spiritual growth? Do you find yourself more passionate about Christ, or exhibiting character that would grieve our Lord after reading this blog?
    b. Does this blog help you think critically without getting overly critical?
    c. Can a blog even be a place for honest discussion? Can it foster communication or simply turn into a one way conversation?
    d. Do the blog posts make you think, "Yikes, I'm glad I'm not in that guys church" or "This pastor cares about his congregation."

If you are uncomfortable replying via the blog, you can also email me here.

See you again around August 21st...maybe.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Spiritual Benchpress

On the flight back from BNYC, I sat next to "Jerry." As Jerry and I continued to talk, he mentioned that he played offensive line for Long Beach State University. Clearly, he noticed my great physique [/sarcasm], and we began to talk his strength regimen. Jerry mentioned that he eventually bench pressed over 405 pounds. As we continued to talk, he mentioned he had no use for steroids or any chemical help.

How ever does a person get to being able to bench 405 pounds?

Jerry explained it was his strength and conditioning coach. "He believed if you never felt it, you'd never lift it."

(There was an awkward pause as I wondered what Jerry meant, and he wondered how someone as buff as me [/2nd sarcastic comment] didn't already know what he meant.)

Jerry went on to explain. Even though his maximum lift was only 385 pounds, shortly after arriving on LBSU campus, the strength coach had him try 405. Jerry said he thought his chest was going to tear. He thought his arms were going to be crushed under the enormous weight. The first several times he "lifted" 405, the spotters did all the work, Jerry arms just traveling on for the ride. However, after a couple of weeks, he noticed he was doing more and more of the work, until he finally even moved beyond 405. He wrapped up the explanation by telling me, "Had I never felt 405 on the bar, there's no way I ever would have lifted it."

Weighty Theology

Jerry's weight lifting seemed to correlate with other things I had been thinking. Do we avoid certain doctrinal issues or teachings because we are convinced "the people" can't handle it? Have we focused so much on our audience, that we don't really push the congregation? Is it possible that one reason teens walk away when they get to college is because they enter college with the same spiritual strength they had in third grade?

I know I experienced this phenomenon in Greek class. The author of the text book referred to it as "the fog." I remember working through a chapter in the book and feeling like I didn't retain a thing. I would feel so frustrated that the professor would move on, even though I felt the entire class did not understand a bit. However, a week or two later, "the fog" would lift, and you suddenly realized you understood after all. If the professor has stopped, and tried to make sure we were all on board, I seriously wonder if the fog ever would have lifted.
    What is the nature of the cross?
    Why is penal substitutionary atonement such a big deal?
    What about the doctrines of grace?
    What about people who've never heard the name of Jesus?
These questions, and many many more like them, are "controversial" questions or too deep for many people to tackle. Pastors, fearful of being to heady or not connecting with their congregation, tend to avoid these issues then. Then, questions that children used to learn the answers to, are now questions adults still haven't had answered. But we as pastors think they aren't ready (and often they tell us they aren't ready) so the congregation continues to sit...

unable to do the heavy lifting.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Vic Young Interview Recap

A few weeks ago, Vic sent every registered active pastor in the FGBC the paper he is presenting to Oxford. (I reviewed his paper here). The day before BNYC, I called Vic and interviewed him. Then, I posted the interviews during our national conference.

Therefore, here's a recap of the interviews:

Vic's conversion and the beginnings of Fountain of Life
Faith and Reason Defined
Reason in the Modern Church
Reason in the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches

Lest anyone think that Vic is actually me, I also asked him this question:

CC: Do you primarily preach expository messages, or do you tend to preach topically?


I was just asked that this past week. On Sunday mornings, I basically do topical. The reason being, there are so many things that relevant in our society and I like to address them from a Biblical perspective. But on Sunday evenings and Wednesday nights, I do expository, exegetical preaching.

So there you have it, Vic and I are not cloned from the same cell, but we clearly are brothers.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Vic Young Interview 4

A few weeks ago, Vic sent every registered active pastor in the FGBC the paper he is presenting to Oxford. (I reviewed his paper here). The day before BNYC, I called Vic and interviewed him.

You can find out more about Vic and Fountain of Life Bible Church by following the links. You can read about his conversion and the beginnings of Fountain of Life in and also his answers about the difference between faith and reason. Vic has also shared why he is concerned about some of evangelicals current popular trends.

CC: I found the four points that you took from Hybels’ sermon in 1990 to be pretty interesting. I thought what I could do is take those four points and just name it, and you tell me what the concern is with each of those points:

a. Anonymity:
People want to just come in and not get involved. For example, here’s one from two-three weeks ago. I went in to see my eye doctor. He said, “Hey, are you the fellow I see on TV and read about in the newspaper?” I said, “Yes, sir.” I said, “Do you go to church anywhere?” He said, “I go over here to Grace Fellowship.” Now Grace Fellowship is a very large church in this area that really utilizes the Rick Warren Purpose Driven Philosophy. Yet, I know the pastor is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. I know he loves the Lord, believes the Bible is inspired and inerrant Word of God. But they really adhere to the Purpose Driven Church Growth Movement. I said, “Well, they teach a good theology there. I know what they teach. I’ve been to the church on my vacation time. Are you a member?” He said, “Oh no, no, no. I’m Jewish. My kids like to go there because they’ve got all these neat programs. I’d rather be out on the golf course. But it’s a good atmosphere.” So here’s a cat that can go in there, get lost in the crowd, take advantage of the entertainment factor, the wow factor, the fun factor, and not have anything required of him. I can come in, be anonymous and go back out.
b. truth presented at an introductory level: Yeah, don’t deal with sin harshly. Don’t get up there and say homosexuality is sin. It’s just like Rick Warren, when he was asked on Dateline if he preached on abortion. He said, “Oh no no, that just upsets people.” We need a positive message. Introductory level. Let’s bring them in, give them a positive message, so they can go out with a warm, fuzzy feeling. Maybe later down the road, when we get them in a class or something we’ll start to deal with hamartia, maybe a little bit. But not now or we’ll run them off.
c. time to make a decision: Let me look at Christianity and see if it fits into my lifestyle. Don’t rush me. Don’t push me. Don’t preach on sin. It goes hand in hand with the sin factor.
d. excellence in programming, creativity, humor, contemporary worship, relevancy: Obviously, this is a paper, not a book. I could have expounded on each of these topics in depth. This format doesn’t afford that. Here at our church we have great music during our worship. We’re always doing different things. But the whole idea behind the church growth movement is the fun factor. The wow factor. Whatever it takes. We are instructed in I Corinthians 10, whatever we do, do it to the glory of God. We see the same thing in Colossians 2 and 3. But in the church growth movement, it’s about the wow factor, the fun factor, the entertainment factor.

Have you ever been to Saddleback church? (my answer: No.) Oh man, it’s the slickest presentation. You’ll think you’re at a Broadway presentation. You have the best singers, musicians, best orchestra. I believe in doing everything we do to the glory of God. But it’s another thing to try to be competitive to the world and cater our music, cater our art, cater our talents to be comparable to the world. For example, in a lot of contemporary Christian music right now, which I’d cover if I ever expound on this paper to a book. I love contemporary Christian music. However, the secular market has so penetrated the contemporary Christian music market that whatever is big right now in the secular market, the Christian market will find some cat that can sound just like that guy. You would think they just changed the words. When Christians ought to be leading. Christian music ought to be breaking new ground. Instead, we’re taking, and this is indicative of the church growth movement, we’re just copying everything of the world instead of having our own identity.

CC: In your letter that accompanied the paper, you state the FGBC is the most biblical Christian Body you have been privileged to associate with. However, you’re also deeply concerned with the impact the “church growth movement” has had on our fellowship. Can you share any specifics?


This is my last year of being on the Fellowship Council. At National Conference this year they’re offering a class on Purpose Driven. Some of the larger churches have been invited to what they are calling “The Gathering.” Church growth movement has been so pushed and propagated in the Fellowship as well as, when I was on the CE board, a lot of the Willow Creek teachings. And I think these men are sincere. But I think, and I use this term cautiously, but I think ignorant, you know, ignorance is just a lack of knowledge. This is how I refer to it in the paper. They see the numbers in the Fellowship are dwindling. We’re basically an older church and it’s dying out. The stats are there. We looked at them on the Fellowship council. And so it’s almost panicky. What can we do to keep this from happening, to see the church grow and to save the Fellowship? And I think they are reaching out into areas of the church growth movement that they don’t need to. I believe it’s the most biblical [fellowship]. I’ve been associated with the Presbyterian Church of America, the Christian Church, Missionary Baptist. I’ve got a lot of different affiliations in one shape or fashion. That’s why we chose to affiliate with the Grace Brethren. I like the fact that it is not a denomination. It is a Fellowship. I love their unofficial credo, “The Bible, the whole Bible and nothing but the Bible.” I believe they come from a basically reformed background. Not “hyper,” but definitely reformed. Yet, the very thing I think is our Biblical strength, is our biggest weakness. It is because every church is autonomous, other than our basic credo of the basics of salvation. It leaves a lot of wiggle room. For example, I know there are one or two professors at the college who are very weak in their belief of historic, Biblical creation. Particularly dealing with the 24 hour day issues and such. In fact, I had confronted someone about his book that had what I thought were a lot of deconstructionist ideals. It surprised me that a lot of Brethren ministers had never read it, yet it’s being used there at the school. After I made my confrontation, and they brought a bunch of folks down to Roanoke to show me that I was wrong. It was pretty interesting, because after we had that meeting, Dallas Theological Seminary came out with a report stating everything that I had stated. I’m not saying they are extreme liberals, but the seed, the incipient seed. The seed of a more modernistic view is being detected in the Fellowship and that needs to be exposed now before it has a chance to germinate.

CC: Vic, we both love our local churches, and certainly as pastors, can strive to protect our Body from becoming enamored with the “church growth paradigm.” But for a fellowship of autonomous churches, is there anything that can be done to curb this trend in our larger fellowship?


Really, things such as your blog, such as my paper that I sent to every minister in the Fellowship. That’s all you can do. Just like I said in my letter that I enclosed, “the things that bind us are greater than the things that we differ on.” This is not a salvation issue, but it is a dangerous issue. Because, in my affiliation with the Church of the Brethren many years ago. Very conservative, to the right, Christian organizations have often times swung like a pendulum in the course of history to the opposite direction. And when you get on the slippery slope, it can slide exponentially.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Vic Young Interview 3

A few weeks ago, Vic sent every registered active pastor in the FGBC the paper he is presenting to Oxford. (I reviewed his paper here). The day before BNYC, I called Vic and interviewed him.

You can find out more about Vic and Fountain of Life Bible Church by following the links. You can read about his conversion and the beginnings of Fountain of Life in > and also his answers about the difference between faith and reason.

CC: Warren and Hybels have big churches. These men preach from the Bible weekly and claim the name of Jesus. Don’t you think it’s a little mean and divisive to call these guys out? Why not just pastor your church and let them pastor theirs?


Good point, and I address that in the paper. I say in there that if they were not being recognized in the magazines as having the major influences in evangelical church in the 21st century. When they’re having that type of impact. When they’re offering seminars and teachings, and pastors are going to be buying their literature, books and programs to copy. When the face of the evangelical church is being changed that dramatically, then questions, motives, directions, ideologies, philosophies and theology need to be questioned. Because so many people, ministers in particular, may have good intentions of wanting to see the church grow and fall into the snare and the trap of the numbers game. So if they’re going to put it out there. If they’re going to propagate it. If Time Magazine will say that this man is going to take the place of Billy Graham, then we need to say, “Ok, if you’re going to be a public figure, then your actions and your teachings need to be taken into consideration.”

CC: Are you attacking Warren, Hybels, Barna’s motives? Or is it you believe their motives could possibly be pure, it’s just there practice?


Yeah, I believe their motives are pure. At least in the initial stage. I believe their motives are pure. I have been to Saddleback Church. If heard Rick Warren at Andy Stanley’s church in Atlanta. Rick Warren gives away the biggest percentage of his wealth and income. I believe the man is sincere, but I also believe that he has been so influenced by the numbers and those that have mentored him that I believe he is sincere, but I believe he is sincerely wrong. I think like a lot of good Christian men, somewhere along the way, that very thing that I make reference to, that paradigm shift is a slippery slope til one day the grandizement of the numbers and the figures seem to be more exciting than the purpose initially used.

CC: In your critique of the church growth movement, you state: One can quickly see a pattern of the goal, in Warrens’ case being church growth, being the all and all. Theology, doctrine, hermeneutical integrity, is all sacrificed for the passion of the numbers in church growth. Now someone may read this and think you are some hyper-Calvinist, holy huddle type pastor who doesn’t see the need for evangelism. But your church is largely made up of conversion growth. Isn’t it?


We have been accused of being too evangelistic. We have a three point outline of our ministry. It’s on our t-shirts and everything. It’s: 1. to see the lost saved. 2. To see the saved grow. 3. To be real. We are extremely evangelistic. We average probably in the neighborhood of 130 baptisms a year. We’re always reaching out. We’re always doing evangelistic work. We have a tremendous prison ministry. Tremendous evangelism outreaches. Various ministries within the church. Yes, I come from a Calvinistic perspective. Hyper-Calvinism, no! But we are very evangelistic.

CC: You mention a lot of questionable sources Rick Warren has used to mentor and develop his strategy. (Peter Drucker, Gary Thomas, Bernie Siegel, Robert Schuller). What would you say to the person who responded that “all truth is God’s truth” and he’s just using true things even pagan people have discovered?


To turn your question around: “Is all truth God’s truth?” Definitely. Truth is truth is truth. However, the source and the semantics and the motivation behind that colors the truth as it is presented. So when you look at a New Age philosopher, will he believe in gravity? Yes. I believe in gravity. Does he believe in buying petrol at the local service station? I do too. But there’s a Biblical and non-Biblical way of seeing and perceiving everything. I buy petrol at the local service center to further my abilities to minister, realizing God has put this in His creation to utilize, that I may go about the process of bringing glory to God in everything that I say and do. The New Age, or the pragmatist, or the non-Christian, when he buys fuel at the service station, he sees it, not as God’s creation, but as a creation that is equal to man’s existence and therefore you have organizations such as PETA that go past the point of caring for animal life and put it on an equal basis with mankind. So the semantics and the determination of the Christian mind, as opposed to the non-Christian mind are poles apart.

[Tomorrow I'll post Vince's thoughts about some errors in the church growth movements philosophy, as well as how Vic is concerned this movement has penetrated the Grace Brethren Felloship.]

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Vic Young Interview 2

A few weeks ago, Vic sent every registered active pastor in the FGBC the paper he is presenting to Oxford. (I reviewed his paper here). The day before BNYC, I called Vic and interviewed him.

You can find out more about Vic and Fountain of Life Bible Church by following the links. You can read about his conversion and the beginnings of Fountain of Life in this previous post.

CC: You’re in the airport on your way to England and someone asks what you are doing. You explain and they say, “Faith and Reason in Modern Society?” What’s that all about?


Basically, the utilization of pragmatism and utilitarianism in the modern day church as opposed to faith.

CC: Do you want to explain the difference between faith and reason?


Faith is basically realizing in Acts chapter 2 the Lord added unto them as He saw fit. Faith is not about those who plant or those who water, but about God who gives the increase as 1 Corinthians 3 says. As opposed to reason, which says, “Let’s utilize consumer psychology, market research and man’s intellectual effort to increase the numbers. Faith deals with souls for eternity as God enlightens and gives and draws by the Holy Spirit. Reason utilizes man’s abilities to create a pragmatic experiences to increase numbers.

CC: So how do you explain the difference between focusing on church growth and having a passion to see souls saved?


Good question. I think to be able to summarize that succinctly is going to be difficult. I think today, and this goes back to a reference I make in my paper to Americanization, in America we have the ideology that bigger is better. And I think that’s a trap we fall into. Often times, we’ve Americanized the gospel. For us, growth is incidental. It’s not something we go for. We’re going after seeing people get saved. We don’t utilize programs for church growth. We don’t track church growth. The numbers are accidental, well, not accidental, that’s a very uncalvinistic term, they’re incidental, Because we are interested in the individual soul being saved and growing, the numbers just happen to take care of themselves. But for the church growth movement, that is their main thing. Like with the Willow Creek organization. They have liberal churches. They have conservative churches. But what binds them together, the most important thing, is church growth. It’s the church growth movement. The ideology. The philosophy. The numbers. These have become the goals.

[Still wondering what this has to do with anything? Tomorrow, Vic gets more specific about where he sees the influence of the "church growth movement."]