Thinking Out Loud

February 16, 2018

Movement Caught in Freeze-Frame

Which one would you buy a used car from?

It’s those same old guys again.
Where are the up-and-coming leaders and teachers?
Does the movement have a succession plan?
Are there any rising stars?
If so, would they get an opportunity; a chance to gain a platform; or is it a closed shop?

Part of the payoff in doing this blog for ten years has been introducing people to communicators whom they might not have otherwise encountered to that point. I’m always interested in hearing what new people have to say; how they take the classic truths of scripture and breathe something fresh into it.

Right away I can hear some people thinking, ‘If it’s new it’s not true.’ This instant dismissal of the unfamiliar is valid if someone is propagating a different doctrine, but if it’s just a matter of clothing the gospel with different terminology, there should be no issue with that. God has gifted multiplied thousands of people, many of whom are exercising those gifts even as you’re reading this. I like to see a shared platform.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the perceived new-or-true dichotomy, we get emotionally bonded to certain words and phrases. I’ve told the story before of Bruxy Cavey speaking for 40 minutes on “the King-ship of Christ” and then being raked over the coals by a woman because he never once mentioned “the sovereignty of God.” She was in bondage to that phrase, and if she didn’t hear it, she tuned out everything which was said, even though it was exactly the same thing.

The same is true with authors and speakers. People get into a rut where they have their favorites, and it’s a closed set. There’s no room for succession. Sometimes these same people will stay home if it’s not the pastor preaching that Sunday. They might tell you they’re longing for “a fresh word from the Lord,” but they’re not interested if the Lord uses a fresh voice to make the delivery. Sometimes an entire movement can be failing to think in terms of succession. Or how frustrating it is to be a pastor in a particular movement with decades of experience and hundreds of stories, and yet never even be considered to share in that forum.

Which brings us to the picture above. Personally, I can’t begin to imagine why people would go back, year after year, to a convention with the same speakers as the year before, and the year before that. If you get it then you understand something important about the Together for the Gospel (aka T4G) mindset. If not, I’ll leave you to figure out what’s really taking place here; why the club is closed to new members.

(Even Bob Kaufflin, the music guy — one guy at a piano, not pictured above, for the entire weekend — is making his sixth consecutive appearance. Is there no one in this movement capable of bringing something different to that aspect of the conference? Trip Lee will be there to lead a seminar. That would be interesting.)

I look at the picture and I ask myself, ‘Which of these people would I buy a used car from?’ Chandler, maybe. Mohler looks like he’d be the one who owns the dealership. Platt looks like he just got promoted from the Service Department into sales; at least he’d know if the car is good mechanically. But DeYoung knows something about the car he’s not telling me. And Dever is charging me about $1K too much; I need to switch sales reps. Anyabwile was the first rep I talked to, but when I came back to ask for him, I couldn’t pronounce his name

Yeah, we’re better to stay with the used car analogy, because if we cross over from analogy to truth, it gets ugly. You’ve got a guy there who even people within the movement say needs to address things in his past before being a featured speaker. You’ve got a guy who has been tweeting nonsense, some of which makes Trump look sane by comparison. You’ve got a guy who’s got so much hate toward people outside the club. You’ve got people who’ve got to be part of this club by an accident of circumstances, and might have done better had they aligned with a different tribe.

But in April, they will gather; five Sola’s in one hand, five TULIP parts in the other, to declare the supremacy of The Gospel™, which of course they all agreed on before they arrived; and then head out to the bookstore to purchase the latest title from Crossway which will then be placed on their bookshelves, but not before they blog or tweet about how exciting it is to see a new release from ________ with some phrases copied and pasted from an online review and an overview of the Table of Contents.

Okay, that was over the top cynicism. I just have a passion for younger leaders, and there’s nobody on the T4G schedule that would cause me to board an airplane and fly to Louisville, Kentucky in mid April.

If you’re into this and you’re going, enjoy the convention. Tickets are now on sale.

From an outsider perspective, it looks like a bit of a yawner.


In 2014, I did a much longer article about T4G — after watching several days of the live feed — which you can read at this link. It resulted in the creation of this graphic; asymmetry is intentional.

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September 26, 2015

Some People Want Their Gospel Served A Certain Way

So it all started when our friends at Flagrant Regard posted this graphic image on Facebook.

Ligon Duncan on Preaching the Gospel

At first, I kinda tensed up because Ligon Duncan is very highly revered among traditional Reformers and New Calvinists alike. You’re very likely to see him speaking at things like the Together for the Gospel Conference. So my immediate reaction was, if he hates it, I’m probably for it.

So I was pleased when some people I know immediately weighed in, the first being my wife:

There are a few places in the Bible where God says he reveals himself, wordlessly, through creation. If he can do that, he can certainly show who he is through our grace and love and giving. It’s our job to then answer when asked, and to speak when the opportunities arise. Maybe the problem is the word ‘preach’, which can be narrowly interpreted by some. It might be better to ‘live’ the gospel. This quote strikes me as being a melodramatic over-correction to people who never speak Jesus at all.

The next was our friend Carol:

It seems, understanding the Biblical intent initiated by St.Francis d’Assisi in the top statement, one would see the incongruity of the the second. When Jesus said to Peter “Feed my sheep”, he did not expect Peter to run out and give hay to a flock of sheep. His intention was more inclining to nurture persons to learn of God’s love through actions and example. “Nurture” and “Nourish” come from the same Latin verb root “nutrire” so actual giving of food is not excluded But St.Francis seemed to be alluding to the spiritual side. We can “preach” the Gospel without words by our actions and attitudes toward others. Matt.5:16 “Let your light so shine……..”. Mark 12:31 “Love thy neighbor…..”. Matt. 6:14-15 “For if you forgive…..”. + many many more examples. These, to me, seem to portray the concept to which St. Francis was alluding.

These 2 statements do not belong together !!!

To that, I say a hearty “Amen.” (We’re not sure if St. Francis of Assisi gets the credit for this, though; but that detail is trivial.)

But on the FB page from which my friends at FR obtained the graphic, there was some support.

I’ve heard the above-the-plate nonsense spewed by evangelicals. You have to wonder just how this anti-biblical Pabulum made it into the mainstream?

Notice the difference in the tone of that remark versus the two above. But even there, this comment:

…The meaning though isn’t that you should never preach, but that your actions toward others should be consistent with the Gospel. It’s a paradoxical statement meant to make a deeper point.

For my part, the quotation appeared in my Twitter feed:

Ligon Duncan quote exchange with Eric Carpenter
I suggested reading the two responses at Flagrant Regard, and got the answer you see above. I looked up the person with whom I found myself in this rather heated exchange (that’s not my usual style) and noted that they seemed to have an affinity to other writers that would tend to want to support Ligon Duncan at all costs. We have an earlier blog post here devoted to the fact it is in the nature of people within a certain doctrinal strand to protect the brand at all costs.

But alas, the doctrinal strand to which I refer is a version of Christianity that is all about words, and words only. To their credit, these are the people who founded many Christian publishing companies. To their detriment, these are the people who dominate the Christian internet with their cheering for the home team and endless re-blogging of articles written by their heroes in that movement.

For me it always comes back to the rhetorical question, “Why are there no Salvation Army bloggers?” (Actually there are a small few.) The answer to the question is, “While everybody else is writing about it, they’re out doing it.” I raised that point in this post, where I also noted that those on one particular side of the fence seem to have a militant wing that doesn’t exist on the other side. Worse, this internet domination and barrage of words often becomes the only thing people see.

I guess the thing that ticked me off the most, was the guy in the above exchange on Twitter saying, “Sorry, but I don’t have time to read rebuttals.” Reminds me of the number of bloggers in that same doctrinal system who no longer accept comments.

I just fail to see anyone would be attracted to that brand of Christianity.

Ligon Duncan is not one of my spiritual heroes. I’m not part of that movement, he doesn’t speak for me, though I did take some time to listen to him in one of the T4G live feeds in the interest of open-mindedness. His remark may make for a nice Twitter or Facebook graphic, but it’s a great adventure in missing the point. It has an air of logic and spirituality but is actually a giant put-down of people who don’t fit his extremely narrow view of who God is and what God can use.

To which I say, “Preach the gospel, and then if necessary, know when to shut up.”

February 26, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Chocolate Pope - NBC News Photo

The link list knows no borders, so you won’t find any gloating about Canada’s Olympic hockey wins here. Click anything below and you’ll be redirected to PARSE, the blog of Leadership Journal, a ministry of Christianity Today; then click each link there.

If you’re not busy this week snapping up Son of God movie tickets, you can check out Paul Wilkinson’s other writing at Thinking Out Loud.

"Jonah Leaving the Whale" by Jan Brueghel the Elder, 1600

“Jonah Leaving the Whale” by Jan Brueghel the Elder, 1600

April 20, 2011

Wednesday Link List

I chose this particular WordPress theme for its wide margins, but inherited a rather tiny default typeface in the process.  For years  I’ve been bumping it up manually with HTML codes, but last week WordPress changed the rules, and I would now have to do it paragraph by paragraph.  [Update: Which, now having the time, I’ve just done! Which renders the rest of this paragraph redundant.] So… if you can’t read what follows simply press Ctrl and while you’re holding it down press the “+” sign, although technically you’re pressing “=” sign, because it’s done without holding down the shift key.  But nobody thinks of it that way…

As a bonus today, excerpts from the links are included in red.

  • Brant Hansen continues to blog, albeit not at Kamp Krusty.  He recently explained to WAY-FM listeners why he doesn’t tithe. People like me who no longer believe we are bound to tithing are not arguing for less giving.  Oh no.  We’re arguing for more, for those who have it.  Much more.
  • In a related post, Christianity Today asks if people receiving unemployment benefits should tithe on that “income.” Tithing is not a luxurious option achievable only by those whose financial security is assured. It is the ancient spiritual practice that God uses to begin setting our priorities right, to heal our hearts of greed and fear, and to draw us ever closer into his own boundless generosityJoin the conversation at CT.
  • Followers of Judaism are fighting declining numbers by modernizing many of its practices, including an enhanced use of creative arts. Every branch of Judaism has seen membership drop digits. Interfaith marriages… continue at a pace of 50% for Jews.  Look for parallels between their efforts and what Evangelicals have done in the last few decades in this USAToday story.
  • Tom at the blog Living in the Beauty of  Dirty Faith has a concise summary of the objectification of our children:  So this is the message young daughters around the country (and world) are getting:  don’t be measured by what type of person you are becoming, how you treat others, etc. but rather be measured by your measurements.  Check out Girls Gone Wild.
  • Just so everybody’s clear, Shaun Groves makes it clear that Facebook friends are not true friends: I have friends. You’re probably not one of them.  Not everybody likes this news, but they’re now redirected to a fan page.
  • With all the attention being given the new NIV revision (and the new NAB revision) it’s easy to miss the Josh James Version.  Having appreciated the many opportunities that the web has to offer, I decided in 2008 to begin using web space to publish some of my Bible study, sermons, instruction in the Greek language, my Greek translation of the New Testament, and various other bits of information. The individual pages take forever to load, but I admire his diligence!  Check out Josh James’ translation page.
  • Readership at Christianity 201 — my other blog — is growing faster these days; so I thought I’d scare everyone away with a really, really, really, really long post by Steven Furtick.    We could be judgmental, but the truth is that there are things that are just as elementary that you and I still don’t get. And it’s these things that keep us in a state of inertia in our walk with God and the calling He has placed on our lives. Check out this reposting of his three-part series at Maybe You Just Don’t Get It.
  • If you’ve been avoiding the magazines at the grocery store by doing the self-checkout thing, you may have missed out that Rob Bell has put the issue of hell on the cover (see above) of Time Magazine.  Bell’s arguments about heaven and hell raise doubts about the core of the Evangelical worldview, changing the common understanding of salvation so much that Christianity becomes more of an ethical habit of mind than a faith based on divine revelationThe article is long, but well-researched.
  • Meanwhile, Barna Research shows that one in four “born again” Christians subscribe to universalist beliefs.  For many evangelicals, the idea of Christians holding universalist ideas is particularly disturbing because it nullifies the need for Christ to die on the cross and the message of Jesus that he is the only way, truth and life… A 2008 Pew Forum survey revealed that 57 percent of evangelicals agreed with the idea that other religions than their own can lead to eternal life. Read the story at Christian Post.
  • Speaking of the above, Adam Powers blogs a few quotations from the Gospel Coalition’s special session on responding to Bell.  Crawford Loritts on people who have cut their spiritual teeth on Bell: We all need to be careful when we talk about these things not to overcorrect. We are to love unbelievers and we are to preach the love of God. I would encourage this person, not only to pursue right exegesis on this issue, but to the study of the nature of God altogether. Look at the wholeness of who God isRead more at the blog Pleasing Pain.
  • Speaking of responses, a reader is trying to get me to recant of my earlier support of Bell’s alt interpretation of Peter and Jesus walking on water.  I reply, Bell’s alternative reading on this stops short of the kind of fantasy scripture that his friend Peter Rollins would conjure up. It’s not the main point of the story, but, a year later, I still think Jesus is saying to Peter, “I chose you, I invited you to step out of the boat, I have faith you can walk on water; do you trust my choice?” And then, I refuse to withdraw my endorsement on this particular bit of Bell’s teaching.
  • When it comes to preaching, I know what I like; but not as well as Darryl Dash knows what he doesn’t like.  I’ve observed that there are countless ways to preach well, but there are only a few key steps you need to master if you want to preach poorly.  Check out his guest post at Soren’s blog, Six Keys to Poor Preaching.   (BTW, Darryl’s brother is a neighbor of mine who sends me hilarious e-mail forwards by the truckload.)
  • The Seventh Day Adventists, which make up a large majority of the population in Loma Linda, California are losing their unique Sunday mail delivery.  Carrier supervisor Duane Hubbard told the paper that the postal service’s computers don’t recognize Sunday as a workday, meaning the local office is unable to communicate with any other agency offices then.  Now only two communities in the U.S. are left with the unique delivery situation.
  • The “gone wild” reference earlier reminded me of this t-shirt concept available at Kaboodle.com

  • …which in turn reminded me of this backprint/frontprint T-shirt concept also at Kaboodle

  • Today’s quote:
“People ask, ‘How could a loving God send people to hell?’ but I believe that a loving God put a blood-stained cross on the pathway to hell and if someone ends up going to hell they had to step over that blood-stained cross to get there.”
~Perry Noble, April 15th

March 23, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Intro, intro, blah, blah, blah… [nobody reads this paragraph anyway…]

  • Opening and closing cartoons today are from Sacred Sandwich
  • So what do you when you’re Rob Bell and everybody who has read Love Wins and everybody who hasn’t read Love Wins is asking, “What’s up with that?”  Answer: You do what you do best and go on tour renting large auditoriums in places like New York.
  • Though I’ve never been able to visit his church, this five-minute clip demonstrates why Pete Wilson is one of my favorite pastors.
  • Honestly, I don’t make these links up.  The choir members at the big glass church must sign the “Crystal Cathedral Worship Choir and Worship Team Covenant” affirming the church’s stand against homosexuality.   Yet oddly: “John Charles, a spokesman for the cathedral, said this does not mean gays are banned from the choir.’This contract is to educate choir members about what our church believes in,’ he said.”  Read for yourself.
  • My prediction:  Within 3-5 years a segment of Calvinists and neo-Calvinists will complete their breakaway from the rest of us and form an isolated denomination called The Gospel Coalition that will separate them from both Protestantism and Evangelicalism.  They’re already building concensus for their own hymnbook.
  • The Message Bible translator — and I do mean “translator,” not “paraphraser” — Eugene Peterson has a new book out, The Pastor, A Memoir (HarperCollins) and it’s reviewed at Christianity Today by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, co-editor with Shane Claiborne on the recently released Common Prayer liturgical resource.  The review contains this quotation from the book: “”North American culture does not offer congenial conditions in which to live vocationally as a pastor. Men and women who are pastors in America today find that they have entered into a way of life that is in ruins.” The impression one gets of a book that is half autobiographical and half prescriptive.
  • Ryan Dueck asks the musical question, “Why Should We Then Blog,” which should be must-reading for those of us who blog.
  • Hannah Goodwyn at CBN News has a list of the top ten current Christian bestsellers you should read, though I personally disagree with her #1 choice, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  All are recently released except for Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis.  And no mention of Crazy Love which we covered here yesterday.  Not sure why people do these lists.  Not sure why I just linked to it.
  • Speaking of books, Jason Hood writes at Christianity Today that Eric Metaxas’ book on Bonhoeffer may lead to misunderstandings as to where, from an Evangelical perspective anyway,  the subversive/pastor “fits in” theologically.
  • Meanwhile, Sherry at Semi Colon blog recommends using Bonhoeffer‘s Cost of Discipleship this year for Lent.
  • If you watched the Grammy Awards, or have an awareness of current music, you may be somewhat aware of a song that was performed as “Forget You,” but also has another similar, but different title that can’t be printed here.  So here’s an equally disturbing parody of the song from a Christian perspective, “Bless You.”
  • Mark Almlie at Out of Ur asks the question, “Is being a Protestant single pastor like being a married Catholic priest? Is it an oxymoron?”  Okay, that was really two questions.  If you’re an Evangelical, have you ever known or had a pastor who was unmarried?
  • Zac Hicks’ worship blog reviews a Neue magazine article and carefully differentiates between traditionalism and tradition.
  • The original Friendly Athiest (the one that’s not Matt Caspar) breaks out the list of the Ten Most Religious and Ten Least Religious U.S. States.  By the way, is it just me or is “Utah Jazz” a rather conflicted name for a sports team?
  • Anthony Bradley says the best apologetic is simply to live a radical Christian life, and that’s how believers in earlier generations understood it.  “Being different is a struggle for American Christians who often find it desirous to be as much like our society in every way except for the occasional Sabbath from culture for religious activities.”
  • Thom Rainer, CEO of Lifeway, which regular readers know is one of my favorite Christian publishing company in the whole world [Note to not regular readers: That was a lie] offers four principles for pastors and leaders who find themselves in a change-resistant church.
  • For Lent he went on an all-beer diet.  Seriously.  It’s a long story. He’s now up to day 15 of 40.  Personally, based on yesterday’s post, I’m not so sure that J. Wilson is going to go the distance.  The above link is to his blog, this one to a media story about him.
  • Link suggestions are always welcomed.  Here’s another from Sacred Sandwich (click images to link).


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