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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March 18, 2015

Wednesday Link List

I found this at the comics blog, Comic Curmudgeon with this caption: Hmm, Dennis’s teacher takes him aside after class, as if to gently correct him privately, but makes sure to do it while the other children are still in earshot, so that they can snicker at his ignorance! I’d say the menace has become the menaced, except that Dennis managed to get a Sunday School lesson to linger on nudity and shame, so maybe he’s playing a much deeper game here.

I found this at the comics blog, Comics Curmudgeon with this caption:
Hmm, Dennis’s teacher takes him aside after class, as if to gently correct him privately, but makes sure to do it while the other children are still in earshot, so that they can snicker at his ignorance! I’d say the menace has become the menaced, except that Dennis managed to get a Sunday School lesson to linger on nudity and shame, so maybe he’s playing a much deeper game here.

 

Featured Links

Your Church’s Management Culture – Thom Schultz looks at five models, the Family Run church, the Celebrity Centered church, the Deacon Possessed church (I loved that title), the Team Oriented church and the Democracy Weighted church. “Every congregation–and each ministry within it–takes on a style of governance that shapes its work and effectiveness…Sometimes a church’s structure becomes its very focus. People become devoted to the system, rather than to God.”

Navigating a Major Staff Departure – After 16 years of working together, Andy Stanley was so concerned with his friend Joel Thomas’ decision-making conundrum that Andy didn’t initially communicate that he didn’t want Joel to leave. And Joel broke all the rules of disclosure, bringing Andy into the discussion from day one. A 19-minute leadership podcast on what Andy calls Open-Handed staffing.

What Some Christians Think About Christians in Other Tribes – As listicles go, this collection of 10 Myths will make you think. Sample: “Interpretations differ because one party respects the Bible less… [T]his myth rests on the very shaky assumption that respect for Scripture always leads to correct interpretation and application of scripture. Too bad scripture itself doesn’t back this assumption! Apollos fervently respected the Old Testament and teachings of John the Baptist. But his own sermons were off-base enough for Priscilla and Aquila to pull him aside and give him a crash course in the gospel of Jesus.”

Preaching Christologically – Encouraged to “preach Christ in every sermon” hands go up at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with objections to the idealism of this approach because, “my sermon text is focused on a particular doctrinal truth” or “my sermon text is focused on a moral truth and not on Christ” or “my sermon text is focused on a moral truth” or “every sermon begins to sound the same.” The response to these situations is found in something published in 1801.

Confessional Accounts and the Women (and Men) Who Write Them – This precis of an article from The Hedgehog Review begins with Augustine’s Confessions and moves to modern times: “..But now …confessional literature is a consumer product and (usually) female writers are the commodifiers and the commodified… If their work has anything in common, it’s a mixture of self-consciousness and shamelessness… I too have seen Serious Literary Types raise an eyebrow at first-person narrative essays by women as though it was, by definition, evidence of vanity and triviality. When sold or produced as a genre, Women’s Confessional Literature can be a cynical enterprise that capitalizes on voyeurism.”

Parenting with Perspective – Baker Books author Emily Wierenga: “My friend tells me about a family from her neighborhood whose house burnt down in a fire – and they weren’t able to make it upstairs in time to reach their four oldest kids. Four boys. Now in heaven. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever heard. I just weep and weep. Some things are too much and this feels like one of them. No mother should have to outlive one of her children, let alone four … I want to cling to every single one of my children’s moments, good and bad, long and short, messy and smudged with kisses, because I’m never going to look back and miss that Mommy Time.”

Looking Further Down the Worship Road – Songwriter and producer Brenton Brown: “At least two significant challenges face us as worship leaders. The first is that often we become so engaged in the immediate worship needs that we delay beginning the process of developing the leaders around us. Saying ‘yes’ to developing leaders at certain points will mean saying ‘no’ to other ministry opportunities. There will always be need, but if we are to be effective in serving people in worship we need to break out of the survivalist mentality and plan for the long-haul. The second challenge that faces us, more often than not, is our artistic/perfectionist temperaments which seem to rear up at any hint of a possible drop in standards.”

Making Multi-Faith Mandatory in Medicine – Under new guidelines issued this month by the National Health Service in the UK, hospitals would be required to provide atheist chaplains. ““Chaplains already show no discrimination in dealing with patients whatever their background or belief. Providing atheist chaplains is an exercise in pointless political correctness. Taxpayers’ money should not be spent on this misguided attempt to comply with the perceived demands of equality laws, when they are already met by existing services.”

L’Arche Founder Wins Templeton Prize – Americans could be forgiven for not knowing Jean Vanier (or how to pronounce his French name) but are probably more aware of Henri Nouwen who joined L’Arche, the organization Vanier founded, after a career as a Catholic seminary professor. L’Arche, founded over 50 years ago became “an international network of communities for mentally disabled people” and last week it was announced that Vanier has “won the 2015 Templeton Prize worth $1.7 million for affirming life’s spiritual dimension.” Vanier has 22 books currently in print (in English) including the popular From Brokenness to Community and the 10th anniversary edition of Becoming Human and is known for affirming the dignity of developmentally challenged adults.

Rolling in the Deeps – Why anyone would go to the trouble of crafting a religious sculpture and then placing it out of sight underwater is anyone’s guess, though in this collection of five such placements we’re told that two of them were: “placed underwater by local officials to help discourage fishing techniques that use explosives. Since fisherman know the statues are down there, they don’t use dynamite.”

One for the Road – The artist currently known as Prince has covered a 2005 song by Christian artist Nicole Nordeman. Her reaction.

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Short Takes

We end with long-time favorite cartoonist John McPherson:

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