Thinking Out Loud

February 25, 2019

“Harvest Could Never Happen At Our Church”

 

Harvest Bible Chapel Elgin Campus

It’s easy to sit back and self-righteously congratulate ourselves on not attending a megachurch with a megalomaniacal pastor. If your weekly attendance runs 200, or 400 weekly and your pastor is a grandfatherly type trying to build God’s Kingdom and not a personal empire, it’s somewhat comforting to be able to relax and say, ‘That could never happen here.’

Harvest Bible Chapel – Elgin campus

But I would argue that on closer observation it can, and possibly does.

In the last six months, we’ve seen people at various levels of leadership at Harvest defend the institution and its pastor or both. While at least one former Harvest elder has stepped forward and apologized, there are no doubt others who will want to defend its decision-making processes, past and present.

I would suggest that this practice of putting spin on things is alive and well in many of our congregations. People get hurt because leaders have some agenda probably contrary to God’s, but are able to make it seem somehow correct and appropriate for the situation at hand.

A few days ago I re-ran something that Ruth wrote in which a church which is always telling people to know and employ their spiritual gifts pulled her aside and told her that this somehow didn’t apply to her and gave her a cease-and-desist order because she dared to demonstrate pastoral compassion in the face of a situation facing a particular family that a new pastor could not have articulated.

Years later, she asked if she could have a reprise of her former worship leadership role, not regularly, but just for a single Sunday; as an opportunity for healing all round. The elder she met with concocted the most foolish of all reasons for saying no, simply because otherwise he had no grounds for so doing. “We don’t have guest worship leaders.” Again, I gave opportunity for her to explain how this was both insulting to her and the congregation.

In my mind, it was a case of spiritual abuse; an example of an elder putting spin on a situation.

And guess what? Not three weeks later, they had a guest worship leader; a recording artist whose commercial success gave him a pass on their unofficial rule. In a postscript to her article, I wrote,

“At the center of this was one particular individual who is otherwise greatly admired and respected by the people of that church. In hindsight what he did at that meeting at night constituted spiritual abuse, not to mention certain aspects where we now know he was lying through his teeth. He continues in a leadership role that leaves me totally mystified.”

In her case, the woundedness was overshadowed by ministry opportunities elsewhere. The Bible states that a person’s gift will make a way for them. Just this weekend, I saw those gifts affirmed in her life on a level which is unprecedented. But the Harvest situation reminded me of the lengths that some in leadership will go to in order to fulfill a role they believe God gave them to keep things orderly. That reminded me of another article I wrote where I asked the questions below.

1. How long does a person attend your church before they are considered for service?

2. When someone who was a former member of your church returns, does their past experience count for anything?

3. Is someone who has only been part of a church for a short time truly fit to reprimand, discipline or judge someone whose history with that church goes back several decades?

4. Are the elders in your church really Biblically qualified to be called “elder,” or were they chosen by some other standard?

5. What about Church leaders who will look you right in the eye and lie through their teeth? Is that ever justified?

6. Is the elders’ board of a church even truly where the heart of ministry is taking place? Or even in touch with the real ministry happening?

7. Do people in your church get hurt or wounded or abused?

8. Can a church leader be doing “the Lord’s work” and at the same time be about “the Devil’s business?”

9. Why do we keep coming back?

10. Is it possible that it’s just time to step aside and let another generation have their turn?

Remember, I wrote this in a small-town context and long before we had the colossal present-day failures involving churches pastored by Perry Noble, Tullian Tchividijan, Mark Driscoll or James MacDonald. But the presence of spin is identical in both, until you reach the point where you just can’t keep pretending.

Unfortunately my wife never got to see such vindication in terms of that church, but was able to find it elsewhere.

 

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May 28, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Our pastor drew this on Sunday morning. Any guesses? I know it cleared everything up for me.

Our pastor drew this on Sunday morning. Any guesses? I know it cleared up everything for me.

It appears that all my news gathering algorithms were no match for the slow news cycle of a Memorial Day weekend. Nonetheless, we have a great list for you, but our deal with PARSE is that you need to click through to their site and then select the story you want to see. Click anything below to link.

Got a suggestion for next week’s links? Find the contact page at Paul’s blog, Thinking Out Loud or via @PaulW1lk1nson and make some noise by noon on Monday.

Roger Bucklesby

January 29, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Bible is like a software license
A lot of people are critical of short-term missions, but right now, a plane ticket to somewhere warm would look really appealing. In the meantime, here are some links to keep you warm, clicking anything that follows will take you to PARSE at Christianity Today and then you can click through from there.

We leave you today with “the thrill that’ll gitcha when ya get your picture on the cover of the Rolling Stone.”  In this case, Pope Francis in the current issue; click the image to read the story.

Pope Francis Rolling Stone Cover

Paul Wilkinson is based in Canada — “You liked the first Polar Vortex so much we’re sending you another one” — and blogs at Thinking Out Loud and Christian Book Shop Talk

June 26, 2013

Wednesday Link List

So, is Pope Francis a revivalist?

Saved - Pope Francis

Now, on to the links…

Some very, very high profile Christian sites and at least one radio show get their news stories here. We know who you are…

The Wednesday List Lynx might be getting a new home as early as next week.

The Wednesday List Lynx might be getting a new home as early as next week.

Stop the presses! Is this the last link list?

We’re cooking up a partnership that could mean more people than ever would get to share in what we’ve been doing here for five years. Just think of the larger number of people who would get saved just clicking on these same stories. They might not even have to click; conviction might come just by reading the teasers. 

Really, why are we considering this? It’s about power and the ability to take bribes to promote various blogs and websites.

So stay tuned. Same bat time. Same bat channel. But maybe not actually same bat channel.

April 4, 2011

An Apology

While hunting, gathering and collecting all the ingredients of this blog’s midweek “best of the Christian blogs” list, I came across something too good for the list.  I don’t like stealing other posts, I’d prefer to just link to things and watch the stats show that you’re clicking.  But the stats don’t always bear out that taking place.  This is from Joe Boyd at the blog Rebel Pilgrim


I ask your forgiveness for the ongoing corruption of the church at large since the early days of the church, for I believe that it is a sin to use the church for personal or political gain.

I ask your forgiveness for every boring church event, church service, or sermon since the creation of the world, for I believe that it is a sin to bore people with really good news.

I ask your forgiveness for the silence of a significant percentage of the European church during the Jewish holocaust and of the American church during the years of slavery, for I believe that it is a sin for the church of God to stand by while innocent people die.

I ask your forgiveness for the unimaginable violence done in and through and with the blessing of the church throughout history, for I believe Jesus died once for all of us to put an end to violence.

I ask your forgiveness for the weight of rules and legalism that has shackled the church, making it oppressively fear-based and guilt-centered, for I believe that it is a sin to deny people their freedom in Christ.

I ask your forgiveness for every power-crazed political zealot who has ever advocated hatred against people in the name of Christ, for I believe that it is a sin to judge in the place of God.

I ask your forgiveness for every sidewalk and soap-box preacher who has so much as cracked upon a Bible with anger or pride in his heart, for I believe that it is a sin to misrepresent the character of a loving God.

I ask your forgiveness for every cult leader and extremist group leader who has ever led people astray in the name of Jesus, for I believe that it is a sin to desire the position of Jesus as the head of the church.

I ask your forgiveness for every pastor or priest who has ever served the church to get money, fame or sex because I believe the church is Jesus’ Bride, not some random guy’s mistress.

I ask your forgiveness for the millions of men in the church who have somehow stretched the Bible to validate their own sexist views, for I believe that it is a sin to dishonor a woman.

I ask your forgiveness for the thousands of church splits and denominational factions that have ripped the body of Christ in every direction except heavenward, for I believe that Christians loving and forgiving each other is the best way to show people who God is.

I ask your forgiveness for the thousands of churches who are set up as extravagant social clubs, for I believe that it is a sin to ignore the poor among you.

I ask your forgiveness for every misspent dime that was ever placed in an offering plate, for I believe that it is a sin to waste an old lady’s tithe.

I ask your forgiveness for the prostituting of the American church and the American church leader to the American dream, for I believe that it is a sin for the church or her leaders to love money more than God.

I ask your forgiveness for every self-centered, self-proclaimed “miracle worker” who has sold people counterfeit hope and light and fluffy theology for $19.95 plus shipping and handling, for I believe that it is a sin to spit in the face of God.

I ask your forgiveness for every sin of every priest, pastor, minister, reverend, teacher, elder, deacon, pope, nun, monk, missionary, Sunday school teacher, worship leader, and for every Christian who has ever come into your life for any other reason than to love you. If any of us came to you and hurt you, we are the ones at fault. On our behalf, let me say that I am very sorry. It’s not who we are supposed to be.

And lastly for me. I am no better than the rest. I am no role model. I’m misguided. I get confused a lot and I have hurt people in my misguided attempts to be “Christian.” I have not always loved God or the people around me. I am ashamed of me much of the time. I am ashamed of my people who have hurt you.

But I am not ashamed of the gospel. I am not ashamed of the good news that God has come near to you and is right now available to you through Jesus. I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is power from a loving God who can save you. He can save us all, even us Christians.

~Joe Boyd

April 19, 2010

ReChurch: A Book About Healing, Restoration and Renewal

After more than a decade of writing about the lives of others, author Stephen Mansfield looks at his own experience, and in the process delivers what must certainly be his most significant book to date.

ReChurch:  Healing Your Way Back to the People of God is aimed directly at the all-too-common condition in which individuals find themselves estranged from a local church they love, and had found a place of service.   The book is also written in such a way that it functions on another level for pastors who find themselves in this identical situation.

If the book offers one thing — and it certainly offers much more — it is empathy.   Mansfield has been there personally and also offers the examples of history as well as Biblical stories of people who know what is like to be wounded, or to be outcast.

I’m reminded of an experience I had in the Syrian Desert.  I was speaking with an Arab friend of how foreign the desert is to me and how — raised as an Army brat in Germany and now living in Tennessee — lush hills and flowing rivers are more to my liking.  My friend took humorous offense and began extolling the glories of the “desert under God.”   Waving his arms in what I am sure were ancient ways, he said, “There is as much life in the desert as there is in the sea, but you must know where to find it.”

I cannot judge whether he was right about the physical desert because I have worked hard to spend as little time there as possible.   I am sure, however, that he is right about spiritual deserts.  In other words, during our dry and painful spiritual seasons, there is much life to be found, be we have to find it in places we have never considered before, digging for it in ways we have not yet tried.

Using a masterful economy of words, he allows also that sometimes we are victims of things beyond our control, while at other times we form recurring patterns in our journey.   He also avoids situations where want to lash out at those who have ambushed us, realizing that God may have had a part in all that happened; all the while recognizing that these choices may run counter to our natural instincts:

I grew to hate sermons on forgiveness, even my own.   They convicted me, true, and I did the things I was asked to do to deal with my offense and hurt.  But it seldom worked and I soon came to understand that there was a stronghold in my soul.  It seemed as though my inner life was coated with Velcro that trapped hurt and offense and held it tight.   Though I thought of myself as a fairly loving person, I could never let the impact of being wronged go.  I fed it.  I fantasized about it.  I even used it to fuel my intensity in sports or my efforts to rise in the world.  Because I could not let what offended me go, I used it as fuel and this only caused it to attach more firmly to that Velcro of my soul.

Relate?  I know I do.   The final chapter, “Coming Home,” deals with the recovery process, using covenant theology as a way of rethinking what the Church is and what should guide our decisions to reconnect.

ReChurch is available in hardcover from Tyndale under the Barna imprint, and in the foreword, George Barna shares his own personal experience with all that this book entails.   My one regret is that the book was so concise that I have liked to dwell longer in some of its subjects rather than the 166 digest-sized pages; however this work is really a pivotal, transitional title for Mansfield, and I’ll grant him a very high recommendation, on the condition he promises to write more of the same.

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