Archive for Category: ministry

Pagan Christianity? Hope or Hype?

Pagan Christianity? is a win-win for the “co-authors” and the “co-author’s publisher. A well known pollster discovers a book written several years ago by a lessor known, touches it up, and uses his name to promote it. Ultimately though, all of us win whenever truth is revealed, errors are exposed, and the church is brought closer to her Lord and to each other.

In actuality, George Barna and Frank Viola team up in PC? to inform us how to meet, where to meet, how to sit, how to dress, how to speak, how to sing, when to speak and sing, how to read the Bible in the proper order, how to discover Paganism under every stone – in the church bulletin, the windows, and even in the carpet – how to finally get it right in a world where everyone else got it wrong. If this book represents the house church movement then it has chosen to go negative.

One almost gets the idea that church meeting/leadership structure is the beginning, middle, and end of the faith. So much so that if outward things aren’t configured accordingly – “God’s eternal purpose is defeated” and it becomes your privilege and obligation to pack up, per the “Final Challenge” section.

In summary, small groups are vastly superior to large ones and those outside the institutional churches now possess the higher moral ground and the deeper Christian life.

The book’s perspective is that Jesus, rather than making good on his promise to build and guide his church despite the gates of Hell, somehow long ago lost control, became dependent upon humans, is now lonely, hands tied, looking for freedom, romance, and a place to go. In contrast to that sickly figure is the apostolic proclamation of Jesus – now exalted, reigning, the self-sustaining King who stands in need of no one, no thing, ruling and over-ruling in all things which come to pass above and below, adding to his church daily, his word not returning to him without effect, seeing the former travail of his soul and being satisfied, always in the midst of those gathered in his name. Neither is He worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things. Acts 17:25.

The authors point the reader to an impotent Jesus one would rather pity than worship and serve: “The Protestant order of worship strangles the Headship of Jesus Christ. …. Where is the freedom for our Lord Jesus to speak through His Body at will? … Jesus Christ has no freedom to express Himself through His Body at His discretion. He is held captive by our liturgy! He too is rendered a passive spectator!” page 68.

False dichotomies, strained analogies, historical distortions, private interpretations occur throughout but valid points also abound. The readers’s challenge is sorting it out… Most chapters leave the reader in a state of reasonable doubt, to muse: “So what?” , “Yea, but…”

PC is truly an in-your-face book with an in your face cover containing an in-your-face message. The father’s have truly eaten the sour grapes this time and the children’s teeth are set on edge. Heading off the grape list – I mean the gripe list are:

Pastors who interfere with, subvert and usurp the headship of Jesus That’s apparently ‘pastors’ as in all pastors. Now why must this be when it is Jesus, the Chief Shepherd, is the very one who has appointed and ordained shepherds in his church? 1 Peter 5, Acts 20. Jesus and pastors are not competitively opposed but complementary in purpose. True, there are bad eggs out there just as was forewarned. No surprise.

An overseer/pastor/elder is required to be a teacher. Scripture is clear that all Christians are not teachers and that pastor/teachers are God’s special gifts to his church. No doubt there exist pastors who are domineering but most would be delighted to see others engaged in ministry. It is likewise true that for every controlling pastor there are countless lazy “laymen,” not looking to get involved – certainly not being suppressed. There’s plenty of blame to go around.

Meetings in which everyone participates Viola, the real author of the book, must be unaware that most churches offer participatory and interactive Sunday School classes where spontaneous and vigorous dialogue is invited and all are encouraged to say their peace. Not to mention home meetings which lately have been adopted by churches of all varieties. Add congregational singing, special music – solos, duets, etc, responsive readings, church suppers, the Lord’s Supper, prayer meetings, picnics, and just hanging around in the parking lot or lobby. Sounds rather ‘participatory’ to me. I’ve been there and I was not a “passive observer.” Who is to suggest that these participants are not seeking the glory and fullness of Jesus Christ in these activities?

The priesthood of all believers, contrary to the unrelenting drumbeat of the author(s) is not associated with participation in Christian gatherings or the lack of such participation – it’s about an all-inclusive lifestyle of direct access to God. Furthermore, “Jesus-led meetings” or “meeting under the headship of Jesus” are also unknown to the scriptures because every aspect of life, 24-7-365, has already been claimed under his headship. His presence is explicitly guaranteed to each individual and groups meeting in his name, seeking to draw near to Him. No conditions are attached.

George Barna sought to demonstrate in chapter one of Revolution that a Sunday morning round of golf with a golfing buddy is a perfectly legitimate form of “doing church.” Now, the authors in PC are inquiring if the rest of us are really “meeting by the book.” Unbelievable. As their book unfolds, “meeting by the book” translates into one-size-fits-all house churches with a 1 Corinthians 14 type of open meeting. That sort of meeting, however, is a tongue-speaking meeting and a direct revelation prophetic meeting, much to the delight of our Pentecostal brethren. Do the authors insist on those elements as well?

Orders of worship or liturgy The apostles appointed order – not merely spontaneity. Order beats disorder. Boredom, sadly, happens in every sort of meeting. Many if not most house churches follow a regular order of doing what they regularly do. Although unwritten, it is just as real. Formal meetings are not for me either – others find them beneficial, even awe-inspiring. Let each decide.

Buildings which suppress body life Where does the scriptures warn us against such? Why didn’t Jesus and his apostles enter the temple and synagogues and command everyone to vacate the premises, go back home, and sit in a circle “without any human leadership” in order to “just share”? If the end of the Temple meant the end of the legitimacy of buildings for any Christian purpose, the apostles would have received and conveyed the message. They would have ceased to preach, teach, fellowship, and operate in the synagogues and the temple courts. The end of the Temple meant the end of animal sacrifices and the accompanying Levitical Priesthood. The authors keep repeating that “we are all priests now” as if that somehow proved their case. Exodus 19:6 demonstrates that all were always a “kingdom of priests.” As priests, the saints have forever been a separated people having direct access to God, able to mediate for one another. The priesthood of all does not and has never precluded the existence of physical structures or official leaders. Our Lord made it plain via the conversation with the woman at the well that true worship depended not upon location but upon “spirit and truth.” Be it a church house or a house church, it’s still bricks, boards, and mortar.

The OT contains references to a highly detailed and artistically appealing tabernacle which Jehovah gave the plans for, an ornate and colorful temple which his glory filled and which Jesus called “his Father’s house.” Choirs, full-time musicians, chief musicians, instruments of every description were employed in public worship. The idea that these forms of expression originated in Paganism is an absurdity beyond imagination. The thought that NT saints now have less freedom to employ these forms in their worship than their OT counterparts is unsustainable as well.

I can’t help but notice that church buildings, at present and throughout history, have been the community centers in many localities. Why would not the attendees desire to look and smell their best when they arrived? What business is it of others? I am familiar with churches which have owned their buildings debt-free for more than 250 years. These are often used for public events which would totally overwhelm the private home of any member. Things like food and clothing storage and distribution, home school cooperatives, athletics, day care, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, dance instruction, music instruction, plays, concerts, movie viewings, marriages, funerals, family reunions, burials in church owned cemeterys, youth events, senior activities – even local house church meet-ups.

The Jewish people had a long tradition of meetings in large groups which extended backwards in history for thousands of years. Every Sabbath was a holy convocation. Our Lord is aware that folks really do draw strength by being in a crowd of like-minded ones just as in smaller groups.

In fairness to history, it should be noted that in some localities early Christians were severely persecuted – even thrown to wild beasts. Some were forced to meet secretly in private dwellings – even in caves. The fact that neon church signs from the apostolic age have not been unearthed should surprise no one. Many priests are said to have been converted in the apostolic age. Whole synagogues may have been Christianized over time – we don’t know for certain. A believer in this era would have attended public and private meetings, just as recorded in Acts 2.

What I do know is that liberty in Christ entitles Christians to own and use whatever they will for his glory, be it a house, meeting house, house boat, or tree house. Yes, if something such as a building becomes a financial ball and chain or is seldom utilized, it should be dispensed with. It shouldn’t take the study of Paganism to figure all this out. I have yet to meet the person who claims that a building is necessary for church. It’s simply a matter of convenience.

Elders? Deacons? Overseers? These seem to get swept aside in the name of a contrived definition of the priesthood of all believers. Why are these characters minimised when there is line upon line concerning their appointment, moral requirements, duties, and connectedness to the first churches? To posit, as do the authors, that “the word ‘pastor’ appears only once” doesn’t take into account the other uses of the word and the other synonyms for it. (1 Peter 5, Acts 20, Titus 1, 1 Tim 3, 1 Tim 5, etc.).

And why, pray tell, do the very ones who so devastated by “main speakers” and chairs alligned in the same direction, etc. regularly participate in conferences and workshops where they are the “main speakers” – chairs aimed forward, carpet on the floor, money exchanging hands, worship leaders and bands up front “leading the music,” recording machines capturing their “monologues” to be later converted into articles of commerce? Are the authors bemoaning the priesthood of every believer being violated, spontaneity being pillaged, and Jesus being robbed when the attention is upon them?

Viola has stated that he really wants everyone to read this book. OK, why not do that which Christians writers could not have done in the past and put the book on the internet where anyone, anywhere can access, read, print, or email it? That was his practice in the past, I recall. Barna should make it his, too – then they can open up meaningful, much needed dialogue about “paid ministers”, “love of money” and “making merchandise of the word of God.

This is remarkable: George Barna doesn’t believe that the traditional church or the traditional pastor has any warrant to function and that church today has zero impact on the community but he is all but stumbling over himself to sell his wares to traditional churches and their pastors. The authors drone on that the Christianity is too cerebral and academic. Why do they fuel those fires by publishing “must read” books and educational materials one after the next with more “cranium-swelling” works on the way?

Hey, how is that “simple church” requires reading one book after another?

Viola in the original edition of PC, page 294, writes: “Take note, the NT is not a manual for church PRACTICE.”

George Barna, in like manner, wrote in Revolution: “The Bible does not rigidly define the corporate PRACTICES, rituals, or structures that must be embraced in order to have a proper church.” page 37

And: “We must also address one other reality: The Bible never describes “church” the way we have configured it. The Bible goes to great lengths to teach us principles for living and theology for understanding. However, it provides very little guidance in terms of the methods and structures we must use.” page 115

Such quotes would seemingly dismiss questions of church governance and style, leaving them open for expediency and preference according to one’s conscience before God. Furthermore, according to Revolution, a true Christian needn’t attend nor be attached to any local assembly. Take it or leave it. So, I must inquire, why would Barna have the least scintilla of interest in the methods of others? How could anyone get it wrong?

What of the extensive footnotes? The primary sources are conspicuously missing in a book alleged to be a historical study. Likewise missing are word studies of the original terms in question. Taken as a whole, the notes, however interesting, do precious little advance the conclusions of the book. An equal sized collection of notes could be gathered to demonstrate the Pagan roots of the model of church/spirituality/mysticism/individualism/allegoricalism which the authors advocate. Few – microscopically few – of those cited did/would sign off on the core message of this book which, I suppose, is why “no such book was ever written.” If it were a real historical work, historians and theologians would be endorsing it in significant numbers, which they aren’t.

In short, this book is about externals, most of which are erroneously linked to Paganism and to an all-powerless Jesus who isn’t available, isn’t around unless everything specs out. In their attempt to champion freedom and simplicity in Christ, the authors actually do the opposite. While being assured that they “have both scripture and history on their side,” neither is in the end.

It’s also a book about unsubtle guilt manipulation. It closes with a ‘now that you’ve heard the real story for the first time you need “to step out” of the toxic wasteland known as the institutional church.’ The passage about “voiding the word of God by traditions” is evoked as support as the guilt gets piled higher. What is conveniently overlooked is the fact that Jesus is dealing with unbelieving Pharisees in the context – not believers and not about matters of church practices. Twice on the same page we are reminded that externals count for little. Mark 7:6 “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Mark 7:15, Nothing outside a man can make him unclean by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean.” Or as another puts it: To the pure, all things are pure.

Furthermore, if Christianity had adopted Paganism to the extent of this book, the Pagan world would have noted that fact and gloated in it.

Personally, I’m into house type churches and I disdain overt institutionalism, clergyism, and commercialism wherever I encounter it. Most of all, I’m into the church – one, holy, and universal. The bottom line is that there is but one faith, one Lord, and one church. You’re in or you’re out irrespective of your meeting format and leadership setup, however important. We’re obligated to love every other saint enough to die for him or her. In that context alone, Christians should inquire how God might further reform their church structures and roles according to Scripture. The book, along with hundreds of others out there, is right on in that certain foundational elements are amiss and that changes are in order, past due. The book, however, is grossly mistaken that “most every practice is rooted in Paganism.”

Meetings are but a means to the end of conveying the hope, love, and fellowship of Jesus who is all and in all. Getting the externals right, though highly desirable, is not the end. Truth is, due to the lingering effects of sin, alternate forms of church have unique problems to overcome despite all the romantic idealism dripping off the exaggerated reports and bogus statistics.

Very soon, Jesus the Judge will inquire of us what we did each day in his name for others, not if we had perfectly ordered meetings.

The arrogant talk by Viola of certain parties having “no right to exist” is but a shameful echo of an unlearned lesson from the past: “What need have I of you?” 1 Corinthians 12. Far away may be it driven, readers! (In the newer edition, it does appear that “right to exist” has been changed to “right to function” but the condescending, self-righteous tone of the book remains.)

Despite the failings of men and all those misconfigured churchs, Jesus has indeed been preached worldwide and has emerged as the most influencial person of all time, His church is the most influential institution of all time on planet Earth. For the most part, house churches have played a non-existent or lesser role thus far. That may change if God wills. The number of those needing Jesus now is greater than existing structures can hold.

Even in China where house churches are touted as pristine Christianity, few remotely resemble the model set forth in PC – things like human leadership and distracting wooden benches, you know. The history of the church reminds us that God is willing to use whom he will, despite how they meet.

What’s the house church movement in America accomplished so far? Where are they – those tens of millions of super Christians, “growing exponentially” in number? They should be highly visible on every street in every town in America. And since, according to Barna, Revolutionaries give more than a tithe, the effect of 10’s of billions of dollars in charitable donations should be apparent.

It’s been several years now since Barna’s Revolution came out. I’m starting to suspect that his Revolution is rather his hallucination about the way things ought to be. ‘Announce the Revolution – they will come.’ Another house church advocating guy, interviewed by Time Magazine, reported (elsewhere) that a thousand house church planters had been trained in two months in the USA but… later he wasn’t sure what country this training actually occurred in. Be that as it, it does speak volumes that when it’s time for this movement to get its message out via the big league media, the message is not a positive, transformational ‘we’ll show you because we’ve done it – not just tell you’ message about what God has truly accomplished but rather a winding diatribe about how the institutional church has failed because of Pagan influence.

Ancient Paganism, the term loosely used, espoused beliefs about an omnipresent diety, a son of god in human form, an invisible god-spirit, a world-wide flood, expiation of sin by blood sacrifice, a priesthood, laws from a diety, future punishments below, glory above – why not just dismiss the whole Bible as Pagan? Some do, of course. Pagans also drank milk, took wives, and raised children. Where does it end?

Give me a few minutes and I can, with merely a one dollar bill, demonstrate (I speak as a fool) the Deistic, Masonic, Egyptian, Zoroastrian roots of modern American practices. Then you’ll be given the opportunity to renounce your citizenship and to leave the premises. Interested?

Hey, maybe Pagans got their best ideas from us. It is the genuine article which gets counterfeited, is it not? Imitation, the best form of flattery?


William Wilberforce and “the ministry”

He was in his twenties when converted to Christianity and felt led to enter “the ministry.” John Newton, his song-writing friend, forbad such a course and encourgaged him to remain in politics where he eventually had huge influence with regards to the abolishment of slavery and – of all things – the encouragement of good manners.

‘Minister’ is the same word ascribed to government officials by Paul in the book of Romans, by the way. The abolition of slavery – I’d call that a ministry.

Anyone seen the recent movie about William Wilberforce?

No Comments

Taking back the streets of Philly

Ordinary caring people and older ones (elders) doing what is usually done by professionals. Hmmm… Do you see any parallels with church life? Are you a volunteer or do you expect professionals to take care of everything? Looks as if most folks in Philadelphia don’t want to get very involved despite it being the City of Brotherly Love.

Still, it’s is a great idea – perhaps the start of something permanent.

“10,000 Men, A Call To Action” kicked off on some of Philadelphia’s meanest streets Tuesday night, near 19th and Federal in the 17th District on the city’s South Side.

It wasn’t thousands that showed up, but dozens … all African-American males, most in their 40s and 50s, some pushing 70, fathers and grandfathers hoping to make a difference.

“We’re doing this for the children,” one told me. Showing they care, patrolling block after block in reflective “Town Watch” vests, talking to residents and drivers, handing out fliers, chanting, “It’s a new day, a peaceful way” and “10,000 strong can’t be wrong.”

We walked with them from a local community center to a gritty area a mile away, where they canvassed six square blocks, two-way radios and fliers in hand, talking to anyone who would stop and listen.

I saw curious stares from behind curtains, skeptical looks from some young people on corners, and honks and hugs of gratitude from others.

The all-volunteer effort is designed to reassure folks in the crime-plagued neighborhoods that people still care about their problems, spreading the word help is available for jobs, financial services, youth programs and more. The fliers have phone numbers on the back and words of explanation and encouragement on the front.,2933,313564,00.html


No Comments

clergy, happy as clams

My purpose in writing today is to highlight the contradictory reports about the job satisfaction of the clergy – not to consider whether such a class of people should exist.

Over the years I have heard voices in the house church community speak of the great dissatisfaction of clergy as we sought to advance our own cause. Naturally. To hear some of us speak and write, most clergy persons were ready to jump off the next available bridge. And we had the statistics to prove it…

But according to a recent and major survey the total opposite is being reported. From the Christian Century:

Survey says clergy have highest job satisfaction

If you want to be rich, get an MBA. If you want to be happy, go for an M.Div. Members of the clergy rank highest in job satisfaction, according to a report released April 17 by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. More than 87 percent of clergy said they were satisfied with their jobs, followed by firefighters (80 percent) and physical therapists (78 percent).

Cynthia Lindner, directory of ministry studies at the university’s divinity school, said that in her opinion the findings rang true. People come to the ministerial field with no expectation of getting rich and every expectation of being able to make some difference in the world, she said.

“People are not going into the profession out of some sense of ‘I want a lot of power and prestige,'” she said. “Most of all my students would say, ‘We want to help heal the world.'”

The rankings are based on information collected in the research center’s General Social Survey over almost two decades from more than 27,000 people.

Religion News Service

And, you ask, who might be on the bottom of the heap of happiness?

At the bottom of the job satisfaction scale were roofers, followed by waiters. Roofers were also the second unhappiest workers; garage and service station workers ranked as unhappiest.

No Comments

More US women than not say “I don’t.”

An amazing but not an unsuspected trend:

Jan. 16, 2007 (UPI) — A new report says 51 percent of women in the United States are living without a husband.

A New York Times analysis of census results found that in 2001, more than half of U.S. women said they were living without a husband, compared to 35 percent in 1950 and 49 percent in 2000, the newspaper said.

The newspaper said women are marrying later or living with unmarried partners. Women are also living longer as widows and delaying remarriage after a divorce, the report said.

The Census Bureau said only 30 percent of black women are living with a spouse, compared with 49 percent of Hispanic women, 55 percent of non-Hispanic white women and more than 60 percent of Asian women.


God meets us where we are, as always. No situation is perfectly ideal. Not having a husband didn’t keep Lydia from hosting the saints in her home. Acts 16:40: After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and encouraged them. Then they left.

By the way, God has a very keen interest in the fatherless and widows. Do we?

No Comments

debt-loaded troops as security risks

SAN DIEGO — Thousands of U.S. troops are being barred from overseas duty because they are so deep in debt they are considered security risks, according to an Associated Press review of military records.

The number of troops held back has climbed dramatically in the past few years. And while they appear to represent a very small percentage of all U.S. military personnel, the increase is occurring at a time when the armed forces are stretched thin by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We are seeing an alarming trend in degrading financial health,” said Navy Capt. Mark D. Patton, commanding officer at San Diego’s Naval Base Point Loma.

The Pentagon contends financial problems can distract personnel from their duties or make them vulnerable to bribery and treason. As a result, those who fall heavily into debt can be stripped of the security clearances they need to go overseas. From Fox News, October 19, 2006

First, I do not view soldiers with debt as having done anything amiss whatsoever. Tours of duty are longer than ever and the cost of living keeps going higher especially when the main wage earner isn’t present. Many were in the Guard prior to the War as a second or third job in order to pick up some extra cash. The issue here is being overly indebted.

I do happen to see something in this account which reminds me of how debt – often based upon greed – can paralyze some of the opportunities which we might have been able to sieze for the Kingdom. Debt can even leave us as a risk to ourselves and to others. Think of all the marital disharmony which has been precipitated by money matters… Christians not excluded.

My Dad, who experienced the Great Depression, used to say to his 6 sons: “You can’t spend it but once.”

Larry Burkette used to teach that the greatest hindrance to Christians missions was DEBT. Of course he would be a little biased as a debt counselor, still he may be right. God knows.

2 Timothy 2:4 No man that WARreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a SOLDIER.

1 Comment

voluntary eldering vs. hired coaching

My “tentmaking” way of living out my passion is by “Coaching” people on how to start and/or lead a Simple/House Church. I also coach people regarding their personal issues, and helping them move towards their dreams and goals.

If you’re new to the process of “Coaching,” it is a powerful process that helps you get clear about what God is up to in your life. It is a process of discovery achieved through dialogue and by wrestling with clarifying questions.

I have 20 years of experience helping to disciple (mentor, coach, teach, train, counsel) men and women into wholeness and life (with a capital “L”). I am a Professional Coach as well as a Church Planter, focusing on simple expressions of church.

I charge $150 a month for three (30 minute) sessions conducted over the phone. If you’d like to give coaching a no obligation “test drive” with me, email me and we’ll schedule a free session, to see if it’s a good fit for you, and for me. If you’re ready to get started, email me using the link at the top of the page.

The info above is from a house church site which can be located via if one so desires. I am considering this person’s methods today, which I believe are unscriptural and antiscriptural – thus counterproductive. I am not considering his motives which I doubt not are noble and intended to advance the kingdom of Jesus.

First, being a true biblical tentmaker would exclude charging for ministry. If this person is a real Professional Coach and I don’t doubt that he is, would he really need to be collecting money from small churches to the tune of $100 per hour? And why capitalize these titles? Why withhold needful information to a brother until you are paid for it, making it an article of commerce? What happened to “Freely received, freely given?” What happened to “We don’t seek yours, but you.” Matthew 10:8 and 2 Corinthians 12:14: Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children (you Corinthians) ought not to lay up for the parents (we apostles), but the parents for the children.

If this is about “simple church” does one really need to be coached three times a month???

The apostle Paul confessed that “he had the care of all the churches upon him” yet he never solicited fees, offerings, tithes, or gifts for himself or his ministry. He was not selling anything, either, thank God. Nor did he offer freebies up front in order to market something else later. That’s what drug pushers do.

If anyone could have exempted themself from the workforce, would it not have been Paul? As a traveling, itinerant evangelist/apostle/missionary he was entitled to support but that is a far different situation from the settled “local pastors/elders” who were enjoined to work just like he did. See Acts 20 below for this little known text. Most students of the Word know the “more blessed to give” part but the context of the local leaders being exhorted to follow the apostle’s example of tentmaking seldom registers.

Of course Paul did occasionally recieve aid but that isn’t the same as “services for fees.” So, are we really wiser than he? I doubt it. Has not the commercialization of the church adversely affected it? I believe, I know that it has and that the gospel should not be an article of commerce anymore.

By the way, when I was an unregenerate person one thing that greatly influenced me toward the gospel was the fact that the Jesus and his apostles were not money grubbers nor were they covetous, Judas excepted. I also was familiar with a true man of God who always volunteered his services in the churches as a guest speaker. His habit was to quietly put the checks given to him by the churches back into the collection plate with a gift of his own. God used these things to slowly melt my stiff heart. When I observed up close this volunteer elder, I knew the gospel was real.

I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work WE MUST help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Acts 20:33-35.


2 Thessalonians 3:6-13: Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.

“Be not weary in well doing.” Now that’s another pithy saying which is often taken out of it’s original context which is OK because it can stand alone. Still, the context is that of an apostle who paid his own way.

I hear today a lot of fantasizing about wanting to be “apostolic” but little or nothing said about this aspect of it.

If I interpret these words rightly, Paul is saying that unless one is following his counsel, example, and tradition concerning a lifestyle which includes being gainfully employed then he is guilty of “disorderly” conduct and should be “withdrawn from” that he might be ashamed and repent.

Truly, the first will be last and the last first when it’s all over on planet earth. But it’s sad to see those in the house church community adopting the fund-raising practices of the world. Why? Because we have total freedom to do what is right. Sorry, but I cannot see a true apostle promising that for “an offering in any amount” he would send the first portion of his next book. Nor would he have collected names for a “free” newsletter, calendar, or magazine intended to milk donations out of the recipients. Nor would he have charged for “coaching sessions.” Rather he:

… dwelt two whole years in HIS OWN HIRED house, and received ALL that came in unto him. Acts 28:30

By the way, several years ago the leading “Christian counselor” admitted that that industry would be better left to volunteers.

Why would a man redirect his life’s work at its zenith?

Two years ago, in an interview with Christianity Today, Larry Crabb, a Christian psychologist and best-selling author, announced, “In the end, all counseling—intentionally or not—deals with issues of sanctification. The primary context for healing, then, should be the Christian community, not the antiseptic world of a private-practice therapist.”

Put simply, Crabb has had a conversion experience, and his new thinking has direct implications for pastoral work.

Crabb coined the term ‘eldering’ to describe what he believes ought to go on in the local church between older, wiser members and younger, struggling men and women. He believes this interaction can often be more redemptive and healing than traditional psychotherapy.


Bucking the Clergy Mystique

Charles “Chuck” Swindoll is a popular radio and TV preacher. I, for one, heartily agree with many if not most of his teachings.

On his radio broadcast of 3/22/06 brother Swindoll noted that he was a frequent conference speaker. He went on to say that of the conferences he regularly attends the “pastor’s conferences” were, by far, made up of the most depressed delegates.

I can see why. To think that one person is essentually responsible for pastoring an entire church would bring just about anyone to a very low level indeed. It’s like giving a person a pick and a bucket and saying to him: Go over to that mountain and remove it.

If a church has several hundred members, most pastors wouldn’t know all their names, much less be able to minister to their personal needs. How could he/she spend time with each one in order to establish a working relationship with them? And if you don’t know someone, how are you going to love them, council them, and “one-another” them?

God’s plain plan for his church is that elderS (plural) be the shepherds of the flock. Acts 20. 1 Peter 5. Oh, I know that many groups give lip service to the plurality notion but sqirm loose of it in their practice.

Can we look at the great animal and plant kingdoms, beholding their perfect order, and then dismiss the idea that God also has definite arrangements for his own Kingdom? No doubt having a smart and smooth “teaching elder” in place simplifies things BUT the price is that the other elders never develop their own teaching gifts. If I’m not mistaken, the most detailed instructions of a church meeting in 1 Corinthians 14 call for several speakers rather than a single sermon by one person.


Wonder if Chuck is really satisfied with his clergy persona. Wonder how his wife likes being the typical preacher’s wife who has to look and act so much like the typical preacher’s wife. Were his kids the typical hell-raiser PK’s?

Chuck seems to enjoy bucking the clergyman image now and them. On the cover of his “Laugh Again” he’s perched on a new Harley in a black leather outfit. Here’s a paragraph or so from Chapter One:

Cynthia and I are into Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

I know, I know…it doesn’t fit our image. Who really cares? We stopped worrying about our image years ago. We should be ashamed of ourselves? We aren’t. We’re having a mutual mid-life crisis? We hope so. We should be better examples to the youth? They love it! Actually, it’s only a few crotchety adults who don’t. What are we going to say to our grandkids? “Hey, kids, wanna ride?”1 And how are we supposed to explain it to the “the board?” They don’t care either.

We are having more fun than anybody can imagine (except fellow Harley riders). One of the best things about the whole deal is that those guys and gals down at the bike shop don’t have a clue as to who we are. We have finally found a place in our area where we can be out in public and remain absolutely anonymous. If anybody down there happens to ask our names, we’ll just tell ’em we’re Jim and Shirley Dobson. Those Harley hogs don’t know them either.


When we came back to our senses, we realized that somehow we were sorta misfits. I mean, a responsible senior pastor and radio preacher in a suit and tie with a classy, well-dressed woman who is executive vice president of Insight for Living perched on a Harley-Davidson in a motorcycle showroom. Everybody else was wearing t-shirts, torn jeans, boots, black leather stuff, and sported tattoos. I saw one guy who had a tattoo on each arm…one was a snarling bulldog with a spiked collar and the other was a Marine insignia—the eagle, globe, and anchor of the Corps! A few folks were glancing in our direction as if to say, “Get serious!” And Cynthia leaned up again and whispered, “Do you think we ought to be in here?”

“Of course, honey, who cares? After all, I’m a Marine! What I need is a pair of black jeans and leather chaps and all you need is a tattoo, and we’ll blend right in.” The jeans and chaps for me, probably someday. But Cynthia with a tattoo? I rather doubt it. Somehow I don’t think it would go over very big at formal church dinners and the National Religious Broadcasters banquets.

Hey, glad to hear somebody’s having fun out there. All I do is work. Oh well, it seems that way. Ditto for my home-schooling wife and mother of six. LOL. Me, I’m not jealous, no way. I’m glad for folks that can throw down 25 grand for a motorcycle and a membership in the elite Harley club. LOL. Chuck wants us to laugh, doesn’t he?

While we’re laughing … What about all those folks who sport the Harley shirts, jackets, and decals on their cars and trucks? Most of the ones I know don’t own the genuine article. Reminds me of how we can have the appearances of a true profession of faith in Christ and yet have no actual possesion of Him.

What, btw, would have been the value of 10 grand invested in H-D back in say 1986? Oh, don’t take my word on it. Just go to the link below as you probably wouldn’t believe me anyway:

“If you had invested a mere $100 (one hundred dollars) in Harley-Davidson, Inc. common stock at the end of 1986, the year of our IPO, and reinvested all dividends, the value of your investment on December 31, 2005, would have been approximately $16,140.”