Currently Browsing: Controversy

Should Church Leaders Watch “Game of Thrones”?

OK… how would YOU answer this question?

John Piper says the following:

Piper gives 12 reasons why you shouldn’t.

One of those reasons is that when if watch Game of Thrones, you are essentially, recrucifying Christ.

Christ died to purify his people. It is an absolute travesty of the cross to treat it as though Jesus died only to forgive us for the sin of watching nudity, and not to purify us for the power not to watch it.

He has blood-bought power in his cross. He died to make us pure. He “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession” (Titus 2:14). If we choose to endorse or embrace or enjoy or pursue impurity, we take a spear and ram it into Jesus’s side every time we do. He suffered to set us free from impurity.

What do you think of Piper’s answer?

Do you agree?

An overstatement, or spot on?

Could this be the tipping point for some in the United Methodist Church?

There is no doubt that the subject of homosexuality and same-sex marriage is a hot topic in the church these days, and it have hit fever pitch for some in the United Methodist Church.

Yesterday, suspended UMC pastor Frank Schaefer was reinstated as a pastor.  The Pennsylvania minister was suspended about six months ago after officiating his son’s same-sex marriage.

The move had some cheering; and others mad as, well, you know.

First, he was just suspended by a jury of Methodist pastors… for just 30 days.

But when he refused to promise that he would not ever perform another same-sex marriage, he was defrocked.

This is personal for Schaefer.  Three of his four children are gay.

Now, according to the LA Times, a nine-person panel of clergy and lay members has determined that that ‘defrocking’ was unlawful.  Here’s why: Revoking his credentials “cannot be squared with the well-established principle that our clergy can only be punished for what they have been convicted of doing in the past, not for what they may or may not do in the future” according to the panel.

Schaefer will be moved from PA to the California-Pacific conference where he will work in Student Ministry.

You can tell the amount of acrimony in sectors of the UMC just by reading the Bishop of the California-Pacific Conference’s release on Schaefer’s reinstatement and move to her conference:

I am aware of the fact that these steps on our journey to wholeness may be troubling to some among us.  This burdens my heart, but we must be the church of Jesus that excludes no one.  I will continue to hold up for all of us the need to be servants of Christ of the highest moral character whether we are straight or gay.  At the same time, we must not judge each other on the basis of our gender identity, for we are all created by God and loved by God with the very gender identity God has graciously bestowed upon us.

Rev. Schaefer has much to teach us about what it means to love the children God gives us who happen to be gay.  I pray that we will make space for him and his family in our lives and in our hearts as he comes to labor among us.

For those on the other side of this issue, I doubt they feel that Schaefer has anything to teach them.  She doesn’t seem to understand that there are a good share of her tribe that feel that it is not possible to live under the highest moral character if you are a practicing homosexual.

We have a lot of United Methodists that read this blog… many on both sides of the issue.

My question… will the Schaefer case turn into some kind of a tipping point ultimately for or against gay marriage in the UMC?

Your thoughts?

Todd

Sticking up for the Soup Nazi

Those of you who read my blog here regularly know that sometimes I like to poke a little fun at Pat Robertson… not because I don’t like Pat Robertson… but because he says some goofy things sometimes (or at least presents some things very differently than I would).

Sometimes I agree with him.  Sometimes I don’t.

(And for the record, I’d love to sit down and have coffee with Pat some morning… even though I don’t like coffee. Pat has done some incredible things in his life, and I’ve to pick his brain a little.  So, Pat… have your people call my people and we’ll set something up).

But here, Pat is discussing the question that is coming up more and more in culture. It’s the area of inclusivism and discrimination.

The question:  should a baker be forced to bake a cake and sell it to a gay couple for their wedding if the baker doesn’t agree with gay marriage or thinks that homosexuality is a sin?

One side of the argument is if the baker does not bake the cake, he/she is discriminating.

The other side of the argument is that if the baker does sell the cake that he/she is compromising their beliefs/principles.

Pat feels that the baker should be able to say no to anyone he/she wants to.

And who does he bring out as the example that we can all relate to?

That’s right… the soup nazi.

I only have a couple of problems with this analogy.

1. The soup nazi is an example from 1995. It would be nice if we had a little more current example, at least from the show Friends or Saved by the Bell: The New Class.

2.  I’m not sure if you’re endearing people to your point of view by invoking the soup nazi.  After all, half of his name is nazi, which doesn’t have a good connotation the last time I checked.

But in reality, in today’s culture, Christian bakers who refuse to bake a cake for a lesbian couple are actually seen exactly this way… as a ‘no cake for you’ unloving, ‘I don’t need you’ personality.

So, maybe the analogy was the perfect one, Pat.

Whether you think the baker should or should not bake the cake, the bigger problem is how Christians are viewed in society.

The ship has sailed, culture-wise, on the gay marriage issue. More and more Americans are agreeing that marriage equality should be a right. How we as Christians respond to that says much about us.  It also says much about how we are perceived in the culture from this point on.

I’m not saying this is not a difficult issue for everyone to work through. It is. But let’s be sure that we don’t lose all of our voice in speaking into people’s lives because of a cake.

Thoughts?

Todd

Jerry Jenkins, Gambling, Moody, and one of the last evangelical taboos.

You know Jerry Jenkins, the author and current chairman of Moody Bible Institute.

But do you know Jerry Jenkins, the professional gambler?

An article over the weekend at World Magazine focuses on Jenkins, who has admitted that he enjoys playing in professional poker tournaments.

Jenkins says he’s just a recreational player, but that he realizes that people have an issue with that.

(In August, Moody Bible Institute changed their policy to now allow staff members to use tobacco, consume alcohol and gamble while off duty… but the school says the change was not made because of anyone’s personal habits or lifestyle).

Jenkins says that he’s won a little over $8,000 at two casinos, but that he usually about breaks even.

He also says that he won’t gamble any more near Chicago (the home of MBI) because “It’s too close to Chicago.”

According to the interview and quotes, Jenkins doesn’t look at his poker playing as gambling:  ”I don’t play for what I would consider significant amounts of money. And I wouldn’t gamble, either. I mean, I don’t play slots,” he said. “I consider poker a skill game.”

Here’s an interesting paragraph:  Jenkins, 64, declined to state his income on the record, but said he is a “high-income person” and has enjoyed a few “pretty flush years with the Left Behind series. … You can do the math. I’ve sold 70 million books. So to break even making $8,000 playing poker, it’s kind of pocket change for me.” He gives most of his income away, he said.

And here’s another paragraph from the article that asks some good questions:

Some evangelicals see no problem in playing for small amounts of cash. Others have tended to avoid poker because of its association with gambling. From the Westminster Larger Catechism in the 1640s (which criticizes “wasteful gaming” in its question 142) to the present, many have seen gambling as a violation of the 8th commandment, “You shalt not steal”—but debates about what is wasteful, what is gambling, and what is stealing have also raged. Does a particular game create hardship to losers and their families? What is the motivation involved? What is moralism and what contributes to human flourishing or diminishing?

So… what do YOU think?

1.  Is gambling wrong?

2. Is poker ‘gambling’?

3.  Is the evangelical taboo of gambling now becoming a thing of the past?

What do YOU think?  Leave a comment below.

Todd

 

Mark Driscoll crashes John MacArthur’s Conference. Says books were confiscated.

So… you can’t make this stuff up.

John MacArthur holds a conference in California to try to set the record straight on the charismatic movement (turns out that most involved in the charismatic movement are not even believers according to MacArthur).

Mark Driscoll (who has described himself in the past as a charismatic calvinist) is speaking at a conference at the same time a few miles away on how to act like a man.

It was the perfect storm.

Here’s how it went down.

Driscoll (and his friend James MacDonald) decided to join the party and make an appearance during a break at the Strange Fire conference on MacArthur’s campus.

Driscoll brought a few boxes of books to give away (and evidently sign) to conference attendees.

But conference officials (Driscoll said security) asked him not to pass out books, because all resources given out at the conference needed to be approved.

Driscoll said… no problem… I just want this to be a gift to the conference.

So… they took the boxes of books (since they were a gift), and secured them in the conference offices.

Driscoll then tweeted that his books were confiscated.

It’s really a great story.  And a great thing to do to promote a book or get headlines.  (Hey, we’re talking about it here!)

But a couple of thoughts (then a couple of links if you want to drill down a little for some other perspectives).

1.  I’ve been around large Christian conferences.  Both Mark and John promote big conferences (Driscoll’s is coming up soon).  Neither would let anyone walk in off the street and start handing out stuff… for a couple reasons: you really do want to have some control over what is handed out at your event; and more importantly, you have sponsors that have paid a high price to the conference to have the luxury of handing that kind of stuff out.  I doubt that if John MacArthur shows up at the Resurgence event with his Strange Fire book, that it would be met with any more enthusiasm.

2.  This is a classic match up of two really big personalities… two guys that, while they have more in common than the disagree with, will make it a point to spar publically to prove their point.  Sometimes it’s better to be right and be quiet… but it’s not in either of these guy’s nature to do that.

I respect John MacArthur for all that he’s contributed to the Kingdom.  Same with Driscoll.  But let’s put aside the public theatrics.  Do the one-on-one reconciliation thing that men should do as brothers.

What do YOU think?

Todd

Here are a couple of other blog posts with some different perspective… Here and here.

What do you think?  Leave a comment.

Knock it off, John MacArthur

Well… that’s the message from Michael Brown (who writes for Charisma Magazine) to John MacArthur.

It seems that MacArthur is holding a “Strange Fire” conference right now in Southern California to help pastors ‘evaluate the claims of those in the charismatic movement’ and help those in attendance immerse themselves ‘in the Word of God and sweet fellowship of like-minded believers’.

But it appears that charismatics are not what MacArthur would consider ‘like-minded believers’.

In fact, a response to Michael Brown’s original article asking MacArthur to reconsider the conference was quite pointed in a blog post on MacArthur’s site entitled “Leveling Charges Against John MacArthur”.

(Never mind the fact that MacArthur is doing a conference leveling charges against a whole host of his fellow believers).

Fred Butler writes: I believe Brown is wildly off-target with his critical remarks against John MacArthur.  In fact, I am deeply troubled by such a profound lack of discernment–though Dr. Brown has written so thoughtfully on important aspects of apologetics, he dismisses the serious theological errors prevalent within the charismatic movement as mere “excesses.”

Yeouch.

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if everyone just fell in line with MacArthur?

For one thing, there would be no more flat screen screen preachers.

Oh wait.

For reals, isn’t it possible to disagree with someone on a theological matter without casting them to the wolves?

Do we really need a conference to gather church leaders AGAINST a certain theology or viewpoint or movement?

Let me go on the record.  I DO believe that someone is ‘wildly off-target’ here.  And you don’t even need an interpreter to figure out who that might be.

But don’t worry.  I’m not planning a conference.

In fact, I agree with John MacArthur on much more than I disagree with.

So I’m praying for John today, and for the attendees of the Strange Fire conference… that they will have discernment, and that they won’t leave as a more powered up anti-anything crowd.

(We already have enough of that to go around).

Thoughts?

Josh McDowell: The greatest threat to the Body of Christ in 2,000 years is…

A very provocative Josh McDowell says that pornography is the greatest threat to the body of Christ in 2,000 years, according to quotes reported in the Christian Post.

Here is part of the article.  WARNING:  It is graphic.

McDowell emphasized that young people are increasingly becoming addicted to pornography, adding that it is the greatest threat to the body of Christ in 2,000 years.

“This is destroying pastors, youth pastors and more Christians than anything by far in history,” said McDowell. “The number one demographic is 12- to 25-year-olds, there’s no difference in and out of the church.”

He added that 50 percent of fundamental, evangelical pastors watch porn while 80 percent of youth pastors have a problem with porn as well. McDowell pointed out that porn provides only a momentary satisfaction and porn addicts often seek other opportunities to satisfy their sexual desires.

“The average person starts with heterosexual sex then after a while, that no longer satisfies, then there’s anal, from anal there’s oral, from oral to homo, from homo to bestiality then to children,” said McDowell.

He continued, “The sad thing is, after child pornography doesn’t satisfy, where do you go? Pornography is why sex-trafficking, sex abuse and rape are major issues, they (addicts) end up living it out, it becomes a reality.”

He also advised parents to not shelter their children from “what’s out there” but rather prepare them for the first time they will inevitably encounter information overload on the Internet and porn.

“You cannot protect your child from watching pornography, if you think you can, then you’re the problem, mom. If you’re sitting there thinking, ‘I can protect my child,’ then you’ll end up losing them and the stats are on my side.”

He added, “It’s as dumb as saying, ‘you can’t ever listen to music,’ in our culture. You can’t go through life without listening to music, and now, you’re not going to go through life without watching porn. Those mothers who say they’re going to prepare their child will win, those who say they will protect them will lose.”

Wow.  There’s a lot to unpack there.

A lot.

But I’d like to first hear what stands out to you from this little excerpt.

What stands out, and do you agree?

Please leave your comments below.

Thanks!

Todd

Pastors who Twerk (and innovate)

Agree or disagree?

The next time I hear a pastor argue that what the church really needs is more innovative pastors I might lose my hair. Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against innovation or against innovative pastors in principle. The church certainly needs transformation and we desperately need folks with new ideas. My problem is with our temptation to locate innovation with the clergy and the way it perpetuates a savior mythology, one that oppresses them as much as it does us we lay folk.

That’s a quote from Patrick Scriven, Director of COmmunications and Young People’s Ministries for the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Methodist Church.

He continues:

When a skilled pastor brings a new idea to an existing community I imagine they would have little problem getting that group of early adopters to agree to how amazing their innovation is. Together, they might plot out a course for those new small groups, or for that trendy evening service, but how many of you can relate to the difficulty of getting the pragmatists on board? Might we consider that this is Moore’s chasm at work?

When the pastor is the chief innovator of the church they are less able to apply their authority and influence toward helping the community to bridge this chasm between the early adopters and and early majority because they’ve already expended it by advocating for the idea originally. It stretches a pastor’s credibility to keep saying how amazing their idea is in the face of some resistance. Gifted pastors, or new pastors, may be able to push such change through but eventually their social capital comes to an end unless they’ve found a way to bank some more.

If we are to move forward, what the church really needs are innovative lay people; willing to adopt, suggest, and try new things. When a lay person puts forth a new idea and builds their group of advocates (early adopters), their innovation, particularly if it challenges the church culture, will still hit Moore’s chasm. The difference however is that now the pastor is free to insert their authority and influence to help good ideas to bridge this gap. And when they do so, they also create goodwill and affirm the gifts of their laity to boot.

Our churches need, desperately, to become places of change. While the occasional new idea from the pastor can be good modeling, the pastor that innovates continuously sucks the air out of the church and leaves no room for innovation elsewhere. Our churches would be better served by clergy who excelled at creating and nurturing cultures of innovation.

I would expect that some might say that this sentiment is nice but they know, or serve, churches where creating a culture of innovation is impossible. Where we find this to be true we should be quick to lock the doors and shutter the windows. Before we do this however, we should consider that there is a difference between a church that continuously rejects its pastor’s new ideas and one that refuses to create their own when given a chance.

The Spirit of God is the church’s true innovator. Relocating the process of innovation where we know the Spirit resides – the community – is our most faithful path forward.

What do you think?

What is the lead pastor’s role in innovation in the church?

Read more here.

Todd

FIRED! Church fires pastor after officiating same-sex marriage

I guess Rev. Ken Kline Smeltzer from the Church of the Brethren in State College, PA wanted to take a stand.

But that personal stand cost him his job.

Kline officiated the same-sex marriage of two men in PA, even though same-sex marriage is not legal in the state.  (One county started issuing same-sex marriage licenses even though it’s not legal in the state as of now).

After finding out their pastor had officiated the ceremony at the Mayor’s home, the board called him in and fired him.

What did he really expect?

What would YOUR church do if you attempted such a ceremony?

This is where it will get sticky… when the unlawful termination lawsuits from pastors like this start to hit the court system.

Hopefully it won’t come to that in this situation.

Meanwhile… Rev. Smeltzer is looking for another church to serve at.  (Good luck inside his denomination or state at this point).

Thoughts?

More here…

Todd

Church Sucks. (according to pastor)

A Eugene Church is spreading marketing all over town saying that “Church Sucks”.

In case you’re wondering… the church actually did take one tip from me (though they didn’t ask permission!)… a 30 minute service.  That’s the first church I’ve seen that’s doing that (which I’ve thought was a winner for a church that is trying to be really targetted to people who don’t normally attend church).

Watch the story… I’d love your input…

Great way to reach people in Eugene?

Would you do a series like this in your town?  Why or why not?

Todd

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