I Offer Devotion! I Offer Devotion!

We complain. We look at some doctrines and have considered some local ministries either a cult or cult-like. We also look at some bigger churches and the question mark is raised with them too.

So should we be grateful that Hillsong and other huge ministries aren’t this extreme? Or is subtlety more deceptive, therefore just as dangerous?

I encourage everyone to watch the other episodes. 10 altogether. After watching these, what are your thoughts on all this? Are we too tough on big church ministries? Or are we picking up on the early warning signs?


51 thoughts on “I Offer Devotion! I Offer Devotion!

  1. You what?! Shut the school and other imams will be empowered to start a school shutting process nation wide. More violence.

    Are you aware that this is not a new problem? Militant, imam inspired groups burn down churches and then the churches are not allowed to rebuild without the full permission of almost all the neighbourhood, which includes… you guessed the Muslim population. Neither are they allowed to meet in house groups.

    And…are you being serious?

  2. “Why not focus on some current affairs reality, such as the persecution of Christians by other religions, in our own time?”

    Yrrr. FaceLift. Your very first post is important to talk about but irrelevant on this subject.
    Post it up in another board. I’ve deleted your comment because you purposely and seriously derailed this thread.

  3. So you exercised your authority, and provided a covering for everyone else! Well done. You’re starting to get it!

  4. Lol! FaceLift! Me silencing dissenting voices? Yeah sure!
    Your very first post was completely irrelevant and derailed the entire discussion of the thread. I was SO dissenting that I even said to you:

    “Your very first post is important to talk about but irrelevant on this subject.
    Post it up in another board. I’ve deleted your comment because you purposely and seriously derailed this thread.”

    So please. Just create a new thread so we can discuss it there.
    I will delete any other comment of yours that doesn’t stick to this particular subject on this thread.

  5. So I’ll post the questions again with some others:
    So should we be grateful that Hillsong and other huge ministries aren’t this extreme?
    Or is subtlety more deceptive, therefore just as dangerous?
    After watching these, what are your thoughts on all this?
    Are we too tough on big church ministries?
    Or are we picking up on the early warning signs?

    In one of these episodes, one cult leader earned huge profit by exploiting it’s members by getting them to work, (the labourers are few), for Him, God. The followers were treated poorly while he swam in wealth. Other cult leaders made their followers dependent on every word they say.

    Interestingly, on the original Signposts, there was an article posted about Tanya Levin. She mentioned how she still loved the sound of Brian Houston’s voice. How she was addicted to his personality. She mentioned how people called him “Father” Houston. Are these all warning signs? The fact that a person is going to the extreme as to officially brand themselves with Hillsong’s name I think is a real worry.

    Why are we encouraged to support these Christian “movements”? Are they biblical? Is this healthy? The questions can keep on coming…

  6. s&p,
    ‘I will delete any other comment of yours that doesn’t stick to this particular subject on this thread.’

    Now that’s taking authority. And personal responsibility. Did you seek the counsel of others on an executive or servant team, or make that decision independently, as blog leader? I’m sure they’d agree that my comments potentially were off-thread, and required censorship of the highest degree, but this is a real example of how to run the organisation from a senior leader’s perspective – taking executive decisions without consultation.

    I don’t have a problem with this, but it seems to run contrary to some of the opinion about leadership issues expressed on Signposts.

  7. I know this is a side track too… but do people _really_ call BH ‘Father’ Houston? Has anyone come across this to confirm what Tanya Levin said?

  8. BTW – exercising authority is not the same as teaching about the necessity of covering. Covering is however a doctrine which reinforces authority structures. Still, many churches exercise authority without the covering doctrine, so FL’s comment is disingenuous

    As for exercising authority here – well, that is at the discretion of each administrator, isn’t it. Personally, while I utterly understand why FL’s comment was deleted, I also think that once we start doing that sort of thing, we become open to people pointing the finger about hypocrisy – where do we draw the line, without a stated policy? (And if there is a policy, its a lot more work for the administrator if consistency is to be maintained.) We can always just ignore any diversions we don’t like. This site does have a history of tolerating digressions in the past, irritating though it can be at times. Sometimes the digressions are very interesting.

    S&P – I haven’t commented re the actual post yet, because 10 videos is a lot to get through first, and one has to allocate the time to do it. That might put some people off, even if the topic is interesting. I found that youTube videos didn’t get a lot of views when I was doing the administering, that’s all. Still worth posting them up though, for those who do have the time and interest.

  9. Censorship is always a problem. The fact that my comment was simply removed without prior warning is an authoritarian act, rather than moderation.

    I support s&p’s action, but it has to be seen in the light of how leadership discretion is exercised.

  10. Now that this has derailed to the topic of how to exercise authority, I will take advantage of it to comment further – having just read FL’s latest. (Ha ha!)

    The case of the blog may be different from a church, unless the blog is viewed in the same way as a church. I like Viola’s way of looking at some churches as ‘missions’. A mission has a purpose and a vision, but is not necessarily the type of community that we are all called to be a part of as Christians. A mission might be an extra to that type of community, and the real community is the ‘family’ of Christians that the believer goes back to, who help support and equip that believer for their work in the ‘mission’ – whatever it is. Our churches have sometimes become missions more than families. Just my opinion, and it doesn’t apply to all churches or all missions.

    This blog has a purpose. When I administered it, I stated what I understood that to be on the ‘Welcome’ page. Since I handed that over, I don’t control it, and S&P may have a different focus, which he may also choose to define at some stage. My personal view was that it was never ‘my’ blog, as it grew out of an online community, and I prefer to see what the Lord may do with such a thing, without imposing my vision upon it – of course if I have a vision, the community may confirm that. (Plus everyone behaved respectably towards oneanother, and there was no need to go further than I did at that time.) However, that is also an expression of my own personality, and I saw myself as providing a service to those here, which I also enjoyed, rather than spearheading an exclusive mission.

    It may be that S&P is called to something different from myself – most likely in fact – and he may view things differently. If this is now a ‘mission’ (I’m not saying it is or not), he may choose to define that mission in some way, or alter things to suit the agenda of that mission, including controlling the content further. Some blogs do this to ensure their purpose is achieved without being derailed by the plentiful opposition. Those of us who agree with his mission, if there is one, would still participate.

    Therefore this blog may or may not echo behaviours seen in churches that have a missional focus and agenda, and therefore limit behaviours that don’t help achieve their ends. Whether this is healthy behaviour in a ‘family’ situation, is another matter. Churches that act in this way are not acting as families, but as missions in my view.

    This blog changes its nature whenever the administrator changes. I am happy with it, and am glad I can still do posts. S&P may have deleted a comment, but still allowed FL the freedom to post the comment up in a new post – authorship rights – so he’s not controlling things tightly.

  11. RP,
    ‘…he’s not controlling things tightly.’

    Well I fully agree, but nevertheless he is controlling it. He is exercising what cold be seen as rightful authority. Whether that is akin to ‘covering’ principles is open to debate. I don’t think you can call an opinion a disingenuous comment.

    As to censorship as a tool of control. Tanya Levin was, but her own account, asked to leave a women’s meeting because she set out to disrupt it with a personal agenda. She was censored because her actions were seen as inappropriate to the meeting which had been organised, but not told to leave Hillsong, the church, at that time anyway. But this guardian action, on the Women’s Conference organiser’s part, was seen as an authoritarian act, and widely condemned.

    I don’t see a difference.

    I invaded a post with a completely different subject, albeit one that I saw personally as very important, and it was politely and efficiently ‘managed’ out!

    And yes, I have the right to make a post as a contributor, but not the right to make a protest about the content of a post by offering a counter-post as a comment.

  12. FL, I know that you don’t agree with covering doctrine, yet you support rightful exercise of authority, hence I saw your equating of the two as disingenous. If it is not, OK, and it is then just a valid remark which I disagree with.

    As for the Tanya Levin example, I don’t have an issue with people being asked to leave meetings of any kind to maintain order, where they have been asked to desist and have not. None of us have a ‘right’ to impose our agenda upon a group of people meeting for a different purpose.

    Your comment could have been seen as an attempt to censor or make difficult discussion on S&P’s post, so yes, he was maintaining order, at his discretion.

    I do not believe in censorship for this blog, personally, because of the nature of the topics we address, since many of us feel debate is stifled in other places, so to ‘stifle’ it here can be seen as hypocritical, undermining our own points. Whether what S&P did is censorship or ‘maintaining order’ is a matter of opinion, I guess. He did ask you to repost it elsewhere, so I’m happy to say its maintaining order, since he’s not actually stifling the subject.

  13. Perfectly correct, RP. He’s showing leadership. He’s showing that leadership is a necessary thing. And sometimes it requires censorship.

  14. OK – semantics. I am in favour of censorship if the material is offensive _and_ is not an attempt to engage in genuine debate. Eg: spam; obscene references etc. This type of thing however is not censorship of debate. Censorship of obscenity or intentional disruptive behaviour (such as deliberately disrupting a genuiine debate with unrelated material for the purpose of derailing the debate) is fine in my book. However, censorship that suppresses freedom of speech, that suppresses free and genuine debate, is not OK – it is manipulative.

    Your attempt to derail the topic was intentional disruptive behaviour. Tanya Levin’s scenario that you describe also sounds like intentional disruptive behaviour. Stopping those things on their own does not constitute suppression of genuine debate.

    Regular attempts to derail genuine discussions are attempts to limit those discussions and are an attempt to censor (suppress the opinions of others) by someone without power to exert their authority.

    Leadership may censor offensive material, but if they define offensive material as anything that does not hold to their way of thinking, then they censor debate in a church context, particularly if the differing view is scripturally arguable, but portrayed by them as sin or rebellion.

    The thing is, Tanya Levin obviously felt she couldn’t express her views within the organisation she’d grown up in – her family. Very painful. She may have reacted out of that. You, on the other hand, have complete freedom to post whatever you like and are not operating in an environment which restricts your freedom of expression. The two may not be the same, although they look similar.

  15. I understand FL to be a brother – stated that before on a number of occasions – when the hounds were descending on him.

    However his ability to stonewall and dismiss criticism of fellow “pentecostals” – implied or express – especially churches and those in “authority” without regards to actually dealing with the merits of the point at issue is without peer.

    The comments deleted which I saw – to wit my black response – is a classic case of a diversion from the issue at hand – and all too familiar.

    This strategy – basically to change the subject if you don’t it or things get too hot – has been around since Adam.

    Now I acknowledge a point that is implicit in a lot of the comments on this and gazillions of other blogs etc – which is it is pretty easy to criticise and throw mud – dealing with truth or getting to it is not – most of us run from it, because it is too confronting.

    Which is a roundabout way of responding to SP’s queries without watching the videos which I don’t have time for:

    “So should we be grateful that Hillsong and other huge ministries aren’t this extreme?
    Or is subtlety more deceptive, therefore just as dangerous?
    After watching these, what are your thoughts on all this?
    Are we too tough on big church ministries?
    Or are we picking up on the early warning signs?”

    Anything which does not seek truth, or at least demonstrate integrity in struggling find or understand the same is dangerous. Revealing or finding truth is also dangerous because there is a response implicit in that.

    Honestly I think the issue is less what is wrong with an institution – they can be found anywhere and under any rock you want to lift – the issue is what is right.

    From a Christian perspective perhaps that starts with does the church concerned understand who God is, who Jesus is and what He has done for us? Is there something to work with or not? If not, stay and see if you can change it, or minister to those who want that in that place, or move on.

    If at a church’s heart what is really sought is control, or a clear Gospel understanding of the triune God, the effect and impact of sin, and what God has gone thru to restore us is not consistently clung to like a limpet – then whether subtle or in your face – people will be damaged. The thing is people gravitate to the particular form of darkness they like or are comfortable with – whether it be subtle (so as to not be clearly wrong or offensive) or in your face.

    Again I while I think it is important to know what to avoid – and for people to be able to give sound advice – it is more important to know what to seek and embrace.

  16. Very well said MN.

    “Anything which does not seek truth, or at least demonstrate integrity in struggling find or understand the same is dangerous.”

    I agree. If I see integrity in a church or person struggling to find or understand truth, then they have my respect, whether we agree or not. That’s the kind of environment I can handle, whether it be a big church or small group. One of the hallmarks of that integrity would probably be a demonstrated willingness to take on new or revised understandings even at a cost to the organisation or group. (For example, giving up teaching tithing as a requirement, or changing from a one man leadership structure to one with more community accountability might both be costly in different ways.)

    I agree that people will be damaged if the centrality of the gospel becomes subservient to the structures needs.

    Since Jesus command to us is that we love one another as He has loved us, I also believe that if the church puts its organisational needs ahead of loving its members at all levels, it will definitely damage people – at all levels. Particularly since God is love, and love covers a multitude of sins. So embracing love is more important than getting every detail right.

    All that applies whether a church is a megachurch or a small group.

    Re early warning signs – I don’t know that the warning is that early! All of these issues have been around longer than the megachurches. Church history over the centuries has an abundance of issues similar to those we see today, and worse.

  17. “So should we be grateful that Hillsong and other huge ministries aren’t this extreme?
    Or is subtlety more deceptive, therefore just as dangerous?
    After watching these, what are your thoughts on all this?
    Are we too tough on big church ministries?
    Or are we picking up on the early warning signs?”

    So a person has a ‘Hillsong’ tattoo, and suddenly there is a post suggesting some subtlety or error inherent in the Hillsong modus operandi. This is objectionable posting and worthy of ambush, especially in light of the intensity of attacks on Brian Houston and Hillsong on this site recently.

    If Hillsong was forcing its members to have piercing and tattoos, or some similar enforced religious fanaticism, they would certainly be implicated, but where is the evidence that Hillsong even condones this practice?

    The fact is that attenders are free to come and go at will. How often have we heard some claims of revolving doors at mega-churches? Isn’t this as good as saying there is no control on people who choose to attend? Of course, employees are bound by contract, but don’t they have equal rights to all employees in our democracy? So the evidence is that fanaticism is not enforced.

    If a person makes a personal choice to have an “I love Brian” tat, who’s to stop them? And what say does Brian Houston have in it, anymore than someone’s mother does when he get a ‘Mum’ tat?

    Implied subtlety isn’t the same as proven control. Show us the facts. When Hillsongers are no longer free to do as Tanya Levin did – write books, and make money out of the story, about their former church ‘family’, you may have something of a case.

  18. Majoring on the minors again I see.

    Neither RP from what I can see or myself are HS fans, but I think we both bypassed that.

    Why can’t you?

  19. MN, is your bypass minors technique related to the suggestion that schools in Jakarta should shut down to avoid violence? Some minors uphold majors, don’t you know.

    I was commenting on the implication in the post, coming back on thread in an attempt at a repentant attitude, even if I don’t agree with the implications.

  20. FaceLift. I don’t intend to delete peoples comments. I am glad that you decided to put the article up now. I was indeed hoping that you’d respect my decision and put your article up. Order is now restored and we can both be happy.
    I’m not a fan of ‘censorship’ either and do not wish to censor comments made by anyone.

    For a fact, I know that Frank Houston was called ‘Pop’. I can understand to a degree, why people would call Brian ‘Father’. Creepy I know, but somewhat logical.

    What I found really disturbing with the first video was the entire thing. It sounded as though the place was on Hillsong territory. I guy is bobbing to the beat, possibly singing to God (or enjoying the music), getting burnt into him a Hillsong tattoo while repeating ‘all I am is yours’.

    So by saying ‘all I am is yours’, he is branding himself with a corporate image. What name is he operating under? Hillsong or Jesus Christ? What ‘ministry’ is he operating in? The Corporate Hillsong ministry or Jesus Christ’s Ministry of Reconcilliation?
    Does anyone find that at all unsettling? This is what some fantasy futuristic movies are based on.

    “If not, stay and see if you can change it, or minister to those who want that in that place, or move on.”

    I’ve tried this. At one church I got kicked out. Why? I never intended to be divisive. My intentions were pure. I saw a need, I met the need. I tried to talk to leadership about meeting this need. They didn’t want to talk about it. So I struggled between a fine line meeting people’s needs and keeping leadership happy. Then the next thing I knew they found an excuse to get rid of me (age segregation limit) and showed me the door. They. Didn’t Give. Me. A Reason.

    Later I found out they were jealous of something I was doing in the church.
    There are churches whose leadership doesn’t want you to actually function. And I have found this to be quite common.

    You can get on well with everyone else and find your place among the saints, but when jealousy or gossip in the leadership start to find an excuse to tear you down, what do you do? Something needs to be addressed yet the ‘flock’ is helpless and defenseless.

    I gave myself as an example, but I have seen fantastic people in the body of Christ torn down because of leadership in the corporate structures. This is in both Pentecostal, Lutheran, Baptists, Anglican, Uniting, Catholic and Oneness Pentecostalism ( OP is cult I know) denominations. I just saw this again happen in an Anglican Church where the leadership’s motives were just intentionally pure evil.

    So lets say those in need in a church environment are not being fed by the ‘pastors’ there and they enjoy what you offer, what is this? Should we get out? This has been my dilemma I continually face to this day. This “change or move church” policy, I have found, never worked.

  21. Well, s&p, the demise of Starbucks tells us that you can market and hype all you want, but if the product being purveyed isn’t up to scratch all your marketing is futile and expensive. Coffee connoisseurs ant the real deal.

    Hillsong didn’t become Hillsong because of marketing and hype. It was a move of God. The Hillsong Conference became a vehicle for bringing increase to Christian Life Centre, which was and still is the original name. Hillsong the identifying tag was a natural progression. But the church already existed, and was already successful long before it became Hillsong.

    I don’t deny that marketing is involved. But the product must be good, or the promotion is pointless.

    Which dents the whitewashed walls theory.

    How blessed on the mountains are the feet of those who publish [promote, advertise, herald, declare] good news…

  22. FaceLift said:
    “Hillsong didn’t become Hillsong because of marketing and hype. It was a move of God. The Hillsong Conference became a vehicle for bringing increase to Christian Life Centre, which was and still is the original name. Hillsong the identifying tag was a natural progression. But the church already existed, and was already successful long before it became Hillsong.

    The move of God which Frank was the willing participant, saw thousands come to know God. When he ran for cover under the name of AOG, God had departed. This is FACT. The elders dispersed. A few remained loyal, but they spoke that the Spirit had left due to Frank relying on man’s covering rather then God’s.

    Brian picked up something that was dead. Brian obviously liked what he saw his dad accomplishing. But from then on, it was more indoors and institution. That was when my parents left.

    What Christian’s fail to understand is that wherever or whatever Christian’s do for the Lord, the Lord will be with them. But never has CLC operated again that powerfully, except in home groups.

    FaceLift said:
    “I don’t deny that marketing is involved. But the product must be good, or the promotion is pointless. Which dents the whitewashed walls theory.”

    I’m sure you can find a scripture to back that up. Marketing doesn’t work. I know. I really know. Believe me.

    Also, Frank Houston used to organize rally’s where praise and worship would take place at Town Hall. All churches were invited. Unbelievers were healed, witnessed signs and wonders and were prophesied over and added to the rally numbers. They had freedom of choice as to what church they wanted to go to.
    It wasn’t about CLC. Some booklets and flyers don’t even have their name on it.

    However, many significant key Christians found their gifts and calling in this time and were dispersed throughout Sydney, NZ, NSW, Melbourne and up the coast of Queensland. These people also led many to Christ. I heard one evangelist led an entire homeless community to Christ in the 1970’s and 80’s. Wherever he preached it never rained, so the homeless gathered wherever he preached in parks and stayed dry, while hearing the gospel message. Hundreds were saved.

    The promotion of the church should never have to be through marketing but rather through the Holy Spirit’s interaction with the community WHEN WE ARE OUT THERE. This is why Frank Houston’s ministry was so profound. His goal wasn’t on advertising. I could tell by the dodgy flyers they passed around. His goal was to see people get excited about what God was going to do next in the city through the power of the Holy Spirit.

    So lets see:
    Spirit Power or product?
    Holy Spirit or advertising?
    Signs and wonders or branding?
    Streets or building?

    FaceLift:
    “How blessed on the mountains are the feet of those who publish [promote, advertise, herald, declare] good news…”

    The postmodern Good News being:
    Come to Hillsong this Sunday for a time of awesome worship where you can experience God. Bring your unsaved friends and they too can see how God increases their wallet size. See you soon!

    The upcoming 2009 Hillsong conference is going to be a life changing event for all who attend. There will be some fantastic speakers that will impact your world. Come to this event and see how your stagnancy and gullibility to advertising is changing the world for Jesus!

    Unlike Brian, Frank, he had those who were so willing to do whatever it took to make the event possible so that God could be among them all. Numbers were fun but irrelevant to him to Christians who showed up. He was carefree with who cam and left except those leading worship (but he was pretty relaxed with that too).

    The contrast between Brian and Frank (before joining AOG), is HUGE. While you say the product must be good, what’s better then the ‘good product’ by far is seeing God accomplish things.

  23. I… may have misread you FaceLift. I should go to bed. But what do you mean by ‘product’.

    I’ve NEVER let the advertising affect me, accept to make me aware of a products existence. If the product is good, then I’ll get it. By good, I mean, if the product is highly praised by word-of-mouth then I’ll consider.

    A classic example of this when people are all buzzed because their night at Hillsong was fantastic. But when another person informs me how a lot of people are finding some local baptist church moving heavily in the Spirit, you can guess where I’ll be heading.

    If Hillsong or another church advertised that all can come and experience the power and presence of God, I wont believe it unless through word of mouth. If enough people confirm the reports that the Spirit of God is operating powerfully, I’ll go. When others say it’s good, I’ll go. That’s more accurate then a flyer.

  24. Many good church meetings are closing down on Sunday nights because Christians are enticed by advertising to watch a show of some kind, entertainment, sport, life-style program. The meetings they are missing are vital and God is present. In some ways churches do compete with the world.

    We have never shut down our night meetings. They are well attended, but on occasion attendance drops because there are so many competing events people can attend, which are well promoted in the community, so we have to promote again, to remind people that there are better things to do than be entertained by the world.

    So on this basis, promotion is wise in our era.

    The product is the fruit of the Spirit, salvation, redemption, peace, joy, righteousness, grace, faith, sound teaching, etc. All the good stuff people need spiritually.

    The problem we face is the unquenchable hunger for food which stimulates the flesh and soul.

  25. To me, Jesus went to other’s functions. He didn’t compete with the world. He went to weddings, to festivals, to parties and was accused of being sluggard. Signs and wonders followed and people heard of him. Held a few meetings, did a few talks, etc.

    I remember reading somewhere that the church fails to see the local community as a blessing. Through these jaded spectacles, we put up walls, have a hierarchy, and make up our own community. By doing this, we condemn the local community because we are telling them they are not good enough unless they join our community. Now we’re competing to show who’s better?

    “The product is the fruit of the Spirit, salvation, redemption, peace, joy, righteousness, grace, faith, sound teaching, etc. All the good stuff people need spiritually.”

    So that’s why we tell them to get into their cars and come every Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday to keep getting this product? Then they arrive and ‘experience’ worship, throw away money, hear a message and go home. Geesh! Sounds like the product is really functioning in a place that really needs it.

    I have seen unbelievers have a great time on a Sunday morning. They’re out surfing, having a picnic, enjoying the sun, enjoying strangers and enjoying the view. Each restaurant and cafe are crammed down at Manly. Kids are playing sports while their parents watch on. Young adults are playing volley ball and teens are down on the ramps. They will not be affected by church advertising anyways. What the church needs is less manipulation in add campaigns that target’s it members to stick religiously to their programs and encourage people to be out in the world.
    That is manipulation and cult-like. Repetition, reinforcement mixed with exaggeration is the danger.

    When we are out in the world, that is when the ‘product’ can advertise itself. With, or without our help. This happened a few weeks ago. Me and a mate walked past a homeless mob and decided to talk for a while with them. One of the homeless pointed a finger at us and said we were Christian- he could tell because our eyes and faces were glowing light. Then they all declared they knew Jesus and the entire drudgy atmosphere turned all cheery. We talked and joked for ages, each talking about the love of God and how only Christians know what the true love of God is. one of them

  26. Yep, they’re all out enjoying the broad way.

    I notice the Acts Church getting around one another, being organised and following the Apostle’s doctrine. Maybe you can get that into the pubs & clubs on a regular basis, but I’m not sure how you’re going to help gather them all into the kingdom that way, or keep them for the 20,30,40, 50 years of the rest of their lives.

    Nothing wrong with recreation, but very hard to instil sound teaching in people who are distracted.

    We go in through the narrow gate, and walk the narrow way.

    Gathering one a day a week is probably sufficient for most people. Sunday isn’t the only time we could gather, but it’s convenient because it’s a day off, and we can gather together, and bring our children.

    You say, ‘throw away money’! You insult thousands of good Christians right there. Don’t confuse your attitude as the attitude of the majority of people who really, really enjoy being together on a Sunday morning or evening.

    Don;t confuse willingly gathering at a specific time with being ‘cult-like’. Again you insult thousands of good Christians who thrive on this.

    Do Church y=the way you want to do it, s&p, but don;t be insulting to those who do it a different way, and enjoy he experience, by calling them cultish.

  27. S&P, today I was chatting with a couple of non-Christian friends with young kids, whose respective husbands are either leaving/emotionally deserting them. Both are positive women who care deeply for their kids, and have given up their careers to focus on caring for them. Both very candid about their feelings in the matter, since there are no expectations upon them to conform to appearances. This makes it easier for them to find emotional support amongst other women, without fear of condemnation that they might feel could happen in a ‘religious’ environment. These women are just not in a situation right now where going to a hyped up church would appeal to them. Its probably the last place they’d see themselves, and they might percieve it would just place additional demands for commitments of time, money and behaviour upon them – the last thing they need right now.

    The way they will meet Christ is if He reveals Himself to them where they are, and perhaps through relationship with people who know Jesus but don’t burden them with any additional expectations such as regular church attendance etc. If they met Christ, then perhaps they would attend a church service for teaching etc. Still, I can really only see them being reached by those out there with them, as they won’t be coming ‘in’ to another community any time soon, particularly if they think (rightly or wrongly) that they may be judged.

    So I think your approach has much merit.

  28. I think what you’re talking about is actually evangelism, not church life.

    Jesus indeed went out into the highways and byways preaching the imminent kingdom, but he also grabbed a group f people and told them to give everything up and follow him. He trained them, and taught them, and showed them how to win the lost, gather them in and train them.

    He went into the world, not to join the world, but to rescue the world, and gather it in.

    As often as we meet we remember his death. Gathering together is implied. They continued daily with one accord in the Temple, and breaking bread from house to house. This was accepted church life. It wasn’t just a weekly event. It was a daily meeting, in he Temple, and in the homes. And the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved.

    Paul says, “I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shown you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house.”

    So the meeting of the Church for teaching, communion, and fellowship is somewhat different to the other responsibility of the Church going out into the world to gather the world.

    When we get that, then, yes, the advertising will be redundant.

  29. Thinking of those women in their current circumstances, doesn’t it seem ridiculous that they would be asked by many churches to attend every week, and tithe in order to ensure they receive God’s blessing and help? As if Jesus would demand that from them!

  30. Long time ago, now, but we were in a church which taught tithing, including the five minute offering message, but it was over a year before a couple from the church carefully and tactfully suggested to us that tithing would be beneficial, as we were financially strapped at the time, and they knew it. The result was that it definitely helped us, but the point is that there was no pressure put on us to give anything, and I’m certain most Pentecostal churches are the same.

    Regular attendance, or connection, anyway, is certainly beneficial to improved welfare for any new Christian, or prospective believer. Jesus talked about taking up our cross daily, or we’re not in. There isn’t really a soft approach to this.

    I would have every confidence in our church being able to help people in similar trouble, and would have no qualms about them being involved in the life of our church. There are quite few new people going trough this now, and they are growing onthe experience, and not at all put off by the times when we take up offerings. God’s grace is on hem, after all, and they are being led gently into church life by the Master through the Holy Spirit, who knows exactly what he is doing.

    The fact is that most of the population who go through similar things are in their plight because they are separated from God and his Word. The best place for every person is in the body.

    The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to those who believe.

  31. The body is not only the organised church. There are other valid forms of church, which may be well suited to different people.

  32. ‘The body is not only the organised church. There are other valid forms of church’

    Like…?

    “But now God has set the members, everyone of them, in the body, as it has pleased him…”

    That’s my definition of ‘organised’. I’m not discussing what is considered ‘traditional’ church necessarily, but the body is certainly organised.

    “And let us consider one another to provoke one another unto love and good wrks: not forsaking he assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching…”

    “And they continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And far came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles…”

  33. Church can be organic, held together by the relationships between brothers and sisters rather than a more formally delineated form, and this is often the expression in forms of emerging church. Table fellowships and so forth are another form which is very traditional, yet not the typical evangelical/protestant form. Some people may feel much more at home in these settings, than in big meetings.

    I’ve also witnessed work settings for forms of community which work as the body of Christ (church). There is no prescription for exactly how we gather – but ideally we do gather, and are not meant to be isolated.

  34. So you are saying we don’t all need apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers? Why did Jesus consider these ministries important?

  35. The body is all Christians. Whether it is ‘organised’ or not, does not make it more or less the body. You can’t stop being part of the body. There are different types of gathering, and all are part of the body. The gifts are in place across the body, where God puts them.

  36. ‘held together by the relationships between brothers and sisters rather than a more formally delineated form’, in the bond of love, yes?

    Well that is partly correct, but what do you call a ‘formally delineated form’, and where does the Shepherd, or Pastor come into it. I know many people, at this point say, well jesus is the Chief Shepherd, he can take care of ta, but the truth is that he gave gifts, including under-shepherds.

    Aren’t apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers gifted to the church by Christ, under Christ, to equip and train the saints for the work of the ministry, to edify, or build, the church, to help us all grow up into the fulness of the stature of Christ? Are they not there to assist us to no be pulled about by every wind of doctrine? Is this not organised, as God pleases?

    If a loosely connected group of Christian friends meet now and then for coffee a chat, and to share Bible understanding, how are they being nurtured by Christ’s gifts to the Church as in Ephesians 4:11 on? Do they just Google their teaching, compare notes, and hope they get the right doctrine? Is it relevant for them to be avoiding all forms of eldership or training under Christ through his gifts?

  37. FaceLift wrote:
    “I think what you’re talking about is actually evangelism, not church life.”

    No I’m not. I’m talking about church life integrating with community life. When the church integrates, we and the community are more open to engage one another out of love, support, need, values and convictions. While I’ve seen churches like Hillsong and CCC get bigger, I’ve seen and talked to more people damaged by their ministries. As a result of trying to save face, they seek help and support from smaller ministries and then enter back into the mass to climb their way up the ladders of success.

    This is not a well functioning community- this is a divisive community.

    “When we get that, then, yes, the advertising will be redundant.”

    If you make the advertising redundant now, the dreamscape is broken and people will be woken up. If we encourage people to dream, desire and imagine, we can take them wherever we want. The nightmare of the American Dream is here- magnified on screens. Stop the advertising, make the sheeple aware and don’t give them their Jesus-fix for once. They actually just might seek God and feel His presence in their own time.

    Unfortunately, what advertising does, and you can see this in the majority of advertising, it condemns the audience in style. We’ll never be good enough if we don’t read this book. Our lives wont be changed if we don’t go to a christian conference. We wont be relevant if we’re not informed. Or the most blatant, we wont experience God because we wont or cant go to church.

    You have proven to me through your statement you have been affected by church pervertisements: “When we get that, then, yes, the advertising will be redundant.”

  38. “If a loosely connected group of Christian friends meet now and then for coffee a chat, and to share Bible understanding, how are they being nurtured by Christ’s gifts to the Church as in Ephesians 4:11 on? Do they just Google their teaching, compare notes, and hope they get the right doctrine? Is it relevant for them to be avoiding all forms of eldership or training under Christ through his gifts?”

    While RP uses the word ‘organic’, I prefer the world natural. Through each individual, God lets us see a need a community or persons needs. In this process, God refines certain attributes, characteristics and gifts to those who hope to fulfill peoples needs.

    So naturally, longterm, the individuals in the bible study group will fall into a certain category to help the others in. In terms of gifts, all that needs to be done is have the nights focus more on the Holy Spirit and love so that people can practice all the gifts given to us to heal, prophesy, lead and comfort.

    Heck! You don’t even need to have a proper meeting for this to happen. Two years ago, three Christians bumped into each other who didn’t know know one another. I knew them all. They all talked. The oldest one was enspired by the younger two and decided to pray for them in the middle of the street in broad daylight. She was naturally compassionate towards them and wanted their lives to be blessed.

    Onlookers were amazsed with her boldness and my two friends received words of prophecy. This woman doesn’t usually move in the prophetic at all.

    This was a DIVINE appointment. The most was made out of it. All were in the community. None would see the party again but all left edified by each other and God. I wont forget the beauty of the event and the joy left afterwards. It was contagious. It’s happened to me too on other occasions.

  39. “Aren’t apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers gifted to the church by Christ, under Christ, to equip and train the saints for the work of the ministry, to edify, or build, the church, to help us all grow up into the fulness of the stature of Christ? Are they not there to assist us to no be pulled about by every wind of doctrine? Is this not organised, as God pleases?”

    Yes, absolutely.

    “If a loosely connected group of Christian friends meet now and then for coffee a chat, and to share Bible understanding, how are they being nurtured by Christ’s gifts to the Church as in Ephesians 4:11 on? Do they just Google their teaching, compare notes, and hope they get the right doctrine? Is it relevant for them to be avoiding all forms of eldership or training under Christ through his gifts?”

    Do you think God is limited and can only teach these people in a traditional organised setting? What about people in an organised setting who only listen to one type of teaching and are ignorant of how that teaching is flawed or false – partly perhaps since they don’t hear the gifts outside that particular group?

    God distributes His gifts amongst us, and we have many ways of meeting with the gifts both in person and over the internet.

    Various books have been written, all describing ways that the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers – and elders – may work in non-traditional settings. Two authors from different perspectives include Frank Viola and James Thwaites. Both are scriptural and convincing, yet describe different settings.

  40. s&p,
    ‘You have proven to me through your statement you have been affected by church pervertisements: “When we get that, then, yes, the advertising will be redundant.”’

    There you go again. Accusing me of being brainwashed by a brand. How wrong can you be? I get criticised on here for being forthright, but nothing is said about the subtle, constant accusations of being either brainwashed or hypocritical. Please be more considerate. I am demonstrating to you my willingness to engage with people of other understandings. That should be your proof.

    What you describe with all these encounters is a part of the dynamic of the ekklesia. You are primarily describing evangelism.

    The church is called to gather regularly. You can give testimony of amazing encounters. We have them too, and have for a long time experienced wonderful meetings and happenings with people from other local churches as part of the Body, been sent on exciting assignments to win the lost, seen miraculous events unfold, and they are all part of this wonderful Christian life, but they enhance, and do not replace the need for Christians to gather, or for there to be a pastoral care system in place.

    It is skimming a surface Christianity, when the reliance is on random events taking place. Jesus didn’t have or promote a random minsitry. He had a puposed minstry led by the Holy Spirit. He did nothing that he hadn’t heard from his Father. He was sent for a specific assignment. He gathered the sheep into the fold to shepherd them, and he lost sheep he gathered back in. He gave his life for the sheep.

    Church is community, and there are spectacular moments to be sure, but, mostly, heaps of mundane things take place daily. We care for one another at a higher level than the super-spiritual. We relate to one another and fellowship. We are inclusive, not exclusive. We get to know one another and form a mutually supportive group. We care when someone is hospitalised and purpose to visit and assist them. We help those who are struggling financially, emotionally or physically. We laugh together and cry together. We increase as God adds.

    We are the local church.
    _______________________________

    RP,
    …you continually go back to the ‘traditional organised setting’. I am avoiding this since it is not the thrust of my argument, and I have said this. You would have to define this for me.

    I am talking about the example of ekklesia given in the texts. Whether you call that traditional or organised I’m not sure, but it seems so to me. I don’t think the ekklesia is a loosely connected group, but a tight knit supportive group.

  41. It is good that you used the words, ‘tight knit’ and ‘supportive’. I’m not entirely sure about ‘tight knit’ – as that can have a range of connotations, however, supportive is very clear.

    When I use the words ‘traditional organised setting’ I mean:

    – traditional as in repeated over generations – sometimes decades, sometimes centuries – until its forms and practices come to be regarded as a tradition. You can usually put a name to the particular tradition. Megachurches have their traditions; house churches have theirs; so do Catholic/Anglican/Uniting etc. I don’t mean to imply anything good or bad by the term, just historic and recognised patterns and practices.

    – traditional organised setting: conventional church settings that have a tradition, like any of those mentioned above.

    I am attempting to avoid the word ‘institutional’ because I know some people object to it, and I’m hoping to use a non-judgemental, neutral description for a variety of traditional approaches to doing church that we know well.

    My point is really that we can gather acceptably in a variety of ways. The form of gathering does not make it good or bad. There are inherent strengths and weaknesses in different forms. All forms contain members of the body of Christ which is the true church.

    For a gathering of any kind to be healthy, I would imagine that it would have strong interpersonal relationships and the members would be supportive of one another, as an outworking of their individual relationship with our Father. The love they exercise for one another would make up for mistakes along the way.

    I believe this can happen in a variety of types of gathering, and that the bonds created by our Father are stronger than artificial bonds put in place by man’s attempts at organisation. Those bonds do form within the organisation, but only when God brings people together through the structure, not when it’s imposed on people. For example, one might attend a home group because you’ve been allocated to the closest one. That is an artificial bond. You may connect in a strong way with none of those people. On the other hand, you may connect strongly with one or two members, and remain closely connected and supportive as real community, long after that home group has ceased to exist. That connection and support is the ‘organic’ connection that can happen in a variety of settings.

  42. Note: ‘tight knit’ – could mean close interpersonal relationships; or it could mean close relationships that exclude those outside; or it could mean close and controlling relationships. So I preferred to use the words ‘strong interpersonal relationships’ above, to avoid the sense of control or exclusivity which is sometimes associated with ‘tight knit’.

  43. ‘Tightly knit’ – ‘the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies’. Connected. ‘According to the effectual working together in the measure of every part’. Energised, self supporting, self supplying. As it ‘makes increase of the body unto the building of itself in love’. Increasing.

  44. Thanks, FL.

    Its usually the misapplication of good things that causes their connotations to change, unfortunately.

  45. Something from Lances Blog:

    ================================

    Four rules…….

    Spiritual abuse shares many common features with other abusive systems. The most identifiable are the unspoken rules: Don’t trust, don’t talk, don’t think and don’t question.

    Don’t Trust

    The power wielded by abusive leadership is generated from the double premise that they alone are God’s “anointed” and that their biblical interpretations alone are to be trusted. Any interpretation or information that does not receive their endorsement is untrustworthy. The “don’t trust” rule squashes the individual’s confidence in their own judgment and their ability to make decisions for themselves. Any personal experience that contradicts the leadership’s teachings is also deemed untrustworthy and an indicator of spiritual immaturity

    Don’t Think

    Leaders of closed systems do not tolerate the study and consideration of alternative interpretations of Scripture. Their viewpoints are considered unquestionable truth. This closed mindset often extends to edicts on personal life; clothing, occupation, ministry location and even marital choices may be prescribed. Independent thinking, particularly any close analysis of the group’s belief system, is considered a sign of dissension and disloyalty

    Don’t Talk

    In abusive systems any discussion of group issues with non members is discouraged. The leadership will not tolerate outside consultation since it could expose the membership to alternative solutions and undermine the leadership’s authority. Often current members are forbidden to talk to or about former members, unless it is to report on their subsequent shame and demise. Former members with relatives still involved in the church may be reluctant to talk about their experiences for fear of reprisal. In some churches, members are commanded to sever communication with non member relatives and to adopt the group as their new family.

    Don’t Question.

    Abusive leadership will not tolerate challenges to its authority. “Don’t question” is a powerful rule. The member who questions the decisions or standards of the leadership is usually ostracised, humiliated or excluded from ministry opportunity. I have met with many individuals and couples who have experienced such treatment when they questioned the leadership in their churches

    Case Study: Jan and Phillip

    Jan and Phillip were talented musicians. They had been active members in their church for eight years, but they were alarmed, two years ago, when their pastor and elders told them God wanted them to leave in three months to assist in a new ministry interstate.

    Jan and Phillip replied that they doubted this was God’s will since Jan’s mother was very sick and relied on them daily.

    In response, they were told that to disobey God by staying would bring dire consequences.

    This was not an isolated case in the church. Jan and Phillip has witnessed several others leave under pressured circumstances. They now felt that same pressure.

    Jan and Phillip did leave, almost immediately, for another church. Sitting in my counselling room, they struggled with deep hurts and concerns. They wondered whether they had overreacted or misread God’s will. Phillip’s parents and most of their friends were still in the church, and, though their new church was biblically sound, it lacked the vitality of the old. As yet, no avenues for ministry had opened.

    Over the next few months I listened as Jan and Phillip detailed their good and bad experiences with the old church.

    They appreciated many fine qualities in the ministry and its people but also saw the control wielded by the leadership.

    Part of their healing involved processing the conflicting emotions of relief and sadness.

    During this time, Phillip renewed acquaintances with Christian friends from university, and he and Jan began reviving their musical ministry in their new church’s Sunday school. They maintained intermittent contact with friends from their old church, meeting in neutral venues whenever possible.

    Phillip’s parents continued to be bewildered. They defended the pastors on occasion but accepted that Phillip and Jan were not returning.

    The pastor of their new church, recognising Phillip and Jan’s need to connect in a closer way, welcomed them into his home group. Their grief lingered for a year or so, but they rebuilt their lives with the help of their new home group, social acquaintances and a determination to live by growing in truth.

    Case Study: Pastor Don

    I met Pastor Don in Dallas. At the time, he was the on air announcer for the MinirthMeier clinic. He had his own story of misguided power and its tragic consequences.

    Don was the pastor of a prominent Texan church when a member’s teenage son committed suicide. In his passion to present Jesus as the sustainer of his people through all trouble, he strongly advised them against any public or private grieving.

    Traumatised, the family struggled through the funeral. They spent the next 12 months trying to suppress their grief until another teenage son, in a deep depression, also chose to end his life.

    This second tragedy prompted Pastor Don to examine both his theology of emotions and the appropriateness of the advice he had given. He realised that, by advising against their grieving, he had contributed to the family’s ongoing trauma and possibly, in some way, to the second son’s death. He repented of his abusive ignorance and sought forgiveness from God and the family. Pastor Don has since dedicated himself to training and a ministry of counselling and care.

    Characteristics of the abuser

    The leaders of abusive systems share a common profile.

    – A need to control
    – An authoritative style
    – A commanding personality
    – An inability to tolerate criticism or dissension
    – A tendency to surround themselves with a small, exclusive clique.

    Often the leader is a self styled Bible expert whose subjective interpretations appeal to the members and reinforce the leader’s “anointed” position. Rarely do these interpretations survive close scrutiny, but, even so, such criticism of their teaching is perceived as persecution. Besides, given the choice, the membership invariably remains with the besieged leader, lest they risk having to face the reality that they were duped.

    Abusive leaders are also quite secretive. Rarely are their financial affairs and family life subjected to the same scrutiny as those of their membership. The demands made on others are not made on self. Spiritually abusive leadership seems to flourish in environments with the following characteristics:

    – Earnest seekers of truth
    – A biblically diluted established church
    – A society that seems to have lost its spiritual way.

    In such cases, the resulting spiritual vacuum is filled by leadership that offers a sense of authority and a security not found elsewhere. That strong sense of “belonging” makes the abuse tolerable. To lose that is to return to insecurity

    The Path Through Spiritual Abuse

    Survivors of spiritual abuse recount how they were left with deep personal issues, particularly an inability to trust.

    Because critical thinking was discouraged, they had no confidence in their own ability to discern truth from error. This led to a distorted perception of God and how a person has a relationship with him.

    Survivors also struggle with the concept of unconditional acceptance. Most spiritually abusive systems are very performance oriented. God’s pleasure depends on submission to the church’s edicts and the total acceptance of the leadership’s authority. This leaves many survivors with a relationship with God based on fear and performance. Grace and unconditional acceptance are ideas that were spoken about but never experienced.

    This lack of trust and confidence also impairs the member’s marital, family and social relationships. It is difficult to share closely with a relative when issues of group loyalty are at stake or to accept another as a brother or sister when they have been labelled, with no uncertainty, as an untrustworthy nonbeliever.

    A lack of selfconfidence will impair most attempts to achieve or to take a risk in life, and a diet of performance based acceptance will make most people vulnerable to emotional and physical burnout as they strive to gain approval.

    For the survivor of abuse, recovery is often long and arduous. Spiritual abuse is no exception. The survivor, having exited the system, needs to begin trusting, talking, thinking, questioning.

    Healing often begins with confronting and dismantling the rules that governed the group. This needs to be done in a safe and confidential setting, and the survivor has to find someone they can trust. Sometimes a neutral Christian therapist is a good place to start.

    By talking about their experiences and expressing the strong emotions they feel, the survivor will discover that the hold the leadership had on them will weaken. Processing the fears and guilt associated with their exit will require sound counsel and caring, accepting friends or a transparent and accountable support group. Once the grief over exiting has been resolved, the survivor needs to immerse themselves in new patterns of relating and living based on the grace of God.

    The need for vigilance

    Christians, even in mainstream churches, need to be alert to the signs of spiritual abuse.

    – Are their leaders open and accountable?
    – Do they encourage critical thinking?
    – Will they willingly consider new ideas and initiatives?
    – Can they tolerate a diversity of opinion and interpretation?

    Any hint of spiritual abuse needs to be addressed through all appropriate channels. In Matthew 18:15, Jesus outlines the process for dealing with those who have wronged us. This involves confronting the abuser in increasingly more public arenas until, as a last resort, the relationship is terminated.

    If the local church leadership is part of the problem, most denominations have a grievance procedure that should be followed. But if the leadership is not accountable to a higher authority, then the members need to question the rules and talk out and challenge as often as they can. If you feel there is no acceptable response, move away. Find a group that is healthy and focus on your own healing.

    Abusive leadership maintains its power and privilege by breeding fear and guilt and rewarding loyalty. Dissension and exposure are what they fear most….”

    From http://www.ccaa.net.au/documents/SpiritualAbuse.pdf

  46. Top work Specks&planks [via Lance]- Yep, Im sure we’re all talking around the same serious & central concerns; as the utube clip said of Cultic practice;

    Power, Sex & Money-

    it may not appear this way at first, yet most of your current threads guys, with perspective, are exactly concerned with these central drives- review “more sick than we thought” for example…

    Sorry Facelift, you dont look to healthy in your exchanges above.Great work Ravingpente; Oh yes, Im seeing many of these behaviours; am patiently waiting to develop forwards…

    Kindest blessings to all,

    Z.

  47. This threadline was like a gift;

    even as I headed into work following writing into the above posts this morning, I walked straight into a Power-conflict involving A sexy character & Money!- I was struck that my awareness of these ingredients present helped me to extricate myself form a very irritating situation —which led to a ‘power-shift’ and freedom- [I hope any of this makes sense!]

    Well, what do you know?; the classic formula for Paranoia:behaviour; power/money/sex may be more broadly applied than I thought- This stuff really helps us unravel these truly problematic and weird religious traps.

    [PARANOIA-a mental condition characterised by delusions of persecution, unwarranted jealousy or exaggerated self-importance, typically organized into an elaborate system-may be an aspect of personality disorder, drug abuse or condition like schizohrenia in which the person loses touch with reality.] [cultish perhaps!]

    Again guys, a gift- worthy of much contemplation; thanks SP & others.

    Z

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