Reflection Time… Discerning The Way Forward

I would like Signposts02 to go in a new direction. May I be more accountable to the things I say and the way I respond to people (except Facelift). The following articles are a fascinating read. Dan Kimball writes:

TruthaA call for Christian discernment web sites to lovingly discern each other

I am on a book writing retreat and need to get back to that. So please excuse any grammar as I am typing fast. But had a couple things I wanted to express as someone I know has been hurt from a recent series of inaccurate things reported on Christian “discernment” web sites and in the comments on those web sites. In fact, many people get hurt from these web sites all the time. So often from misrepresentation and those posting not having facts correct about people. I wish I would have said something earlier, but I have tried to generally not pay too much attention to them because many of them (not all) are not accurate in what they generally report. When something is true, we totally need these web sites to help us learn. But when they aren’t credible, then they aren’t helpful and in fact hurt people and lead people in incorrect ways.

** here is a link to the interview I did with Chris Rosebrough about discernment web sites

For those that don’t know, a “discernment” web site is when a ministry focuses on looking out for what is wrong (in their opinions) in the Christian world and if false teaching happens. We do need to be careful about what is being taught and out there today. As local church leaders, I fully believe we need to be constantly and lovingly holding each other to the teachings of Scripture such as in 1 Timothy 4:16 where it says “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”  As a local church leader, I know in our church we try our best to ensure that all those serving in leadership roles are on the same page with historic orthodox doctrines of faith. As a local church we can have differing opinions on such things as end times beliefs (whether one is premillennial or amillennial etc.)  And that is  healthy thing to have differences on things like this. But then on historic doctrines of the church (Apostle’s Creed, Nicene Creed and even further developed statements such as the Lausanne Covenant) it is  necessary to unite people around doctrines.  Doctrines do shape our churches. Doctrines shape what we focus on and our living day to day values and ethics. Doctrines even define who we think Jesus is or isn’t based out of Scripture. So they are very important.

I do believe that discernment and guarding doctrines is very important and biblical. But one of the saddest things I have experienced in the Christian world, is when Christian discernment web sites go overboard and take it upon themselves to discern the whole world and guard the planet (is what it feels like). And as some do, it is often done in the harshest and meanest non-Jesus like ways. Jesus had hard words to say to people and it was generally the very people making inaccurate judgments against others. Again, I know as a local church leader, we need to guard doctrine and teaching. We need to be discerning. We need to carefully make sure that those in leadership understand core doctrines and theology. As I teach in our church, I am always open to correction and have people all around me on staff and in the church whom I believe will ask questions or challenge something I say if not making sense or inaccurate. I believe in the church, we even need to judge each other. I preached a few weeks ago about the importance of actually “judging” each other as a local church in the way Scripture guides us to. We walked through what it looks like to be holding each other accountable in the church as taught in Matthew 18 and also Galatians 6: 1-2. But the Scriptures also teach how the church should NOT judge the world and those outside the church (1 Corinthians 5:12). There is guidance given in how to do that as we need it.

I can’t repeat the whole sermon here, but I shared an important point of how Jesus never said not to judge each other (those who follow Him). But He said to “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment” (John 7:24). It is far too easy to judge by mere appearances than to actually know what is happening inside someone or inside a church. It is far too easy for people to make judgments, so incredibly often it is by those who have not even read the books by the very authors they judge. Or taken the time to look at the accuracy of web sites who may quote a sentence or two but never look at the context it was written from.

I think that some (not all, but several) of these Christian discernment web sites and the people who comment on them and follow them don’t take these words of Jesus seriously. They judge by mere appearance. Not just the people who run the web sites, but also the people who make comments on them or link to them etc. They judge by appearance. They judge by guilt-by-association. They judge by taking sentences out of context to build a case for what they already pre-believe to prove their point. Almost cult-like actually, in how things can be twisted to make a point. They judge by not actually taking the time to ask the person if what they are seeing as “appearance” may be true. And even if some are proven wrong, I have experienced that some (not all) even refuse to even admit they are wrong. It is the strangest thing. I just was told that one discernment web site was using a page from a web site that I had closed down 4 or 5 years ago. Some of the links on the links page were web sites I no longer could endorse or agree with from the time I initially posted them.

I truly think there is a total need for discernment web sites. We need people to help look at the broader church and teachings that develop which may stray from historic doctrines of the church. I loved Walter Martin’s writings and turn to discernment and apologetics ministries that are trustworthy. But the internet has allowed people to have voices whom didn’t build credibility over years and have trust. Their might be a developed inward trust with other discernment folks – but the credibility of their reporting would never make it to be trusted in the scrutiny of larger examination. There are trusted ministries like a Walter Martin. Or like Greg Koukl and Stand To Reason whom I frequently go on their web site and trust Greg. Or like a Josh McDowell or Lee Strobel. These are leaders and apologists you can trust as they have shown over time they do their homework and aren’t judging by mere appearance.

I have recently met with Chris Rosebrough from a discernment ministry called Pirate Christian Radio. I was in Indiana and contacted Chris since he lives there and we met up and he saw me preach in a chapel at a university. And then we hung out and went to James Dean sites in James Dean’s hometown. Chris seems to be searching for truth and instead of just drawing conclusion against me, he took the time to ask me specific questions and explore our ministry and my beliefs. We disagreed on methodology issues and what it meant to be on mission as a missionary and about church growth issues. But we both agreed on the core doctrines of historical Christian faith. Chris then posts he hung out with me and called me a “Christian brother” and then some (not all, but a vocal few) in the Christian discernment camp and on comments by people on his own Facebook page turned on him like piranhas in a frenzy feeding. It is the strangest thing. It is heartbreaking reading things like that. And as Chris and I have corresponded since, he is experiencing what it is like on the other end of things now! A discerner is experiencing improper discernment from his own people. It’s funny and sad at the same time.

Jesus says we will be held accountable to our words (Matthew 12:36). And that out of the overflow of our heart our mouths speak (or our fingers type) – (Matthew 12:34). So what is in us and our hearts, comes spewing out easy through our fingers as we type.  So what we read on blogs and in comments – the tone, the love or lack of love, the manner and truthfulness of what is written – is a reflection of our hearts and what is inside us.

What I am trying to say is that I really feel that discernment web sites need to start discerning each other. If their ministry is 100% focused on that very thing (pointing out wrongs and inaccuracies) then it seems like they should be doing it on each other more. Perhaps some health would happen in the discernment camp if they spent more time researching and evaluating the truthfulness and accuracy of what they report on. And also be evaluating each other out on how loving (or not) each of their approaches they take are. what each of them writes is. Jesus said to first take the log out of your own eye, then you can make a healthy judgment on another. So what if these discernment web sites started to look at each other with the same intensity and scrutiny they do at other people. What would they find if they really did start checking sources and going deeper than “mere appearance”? I understand that some do actually do their research properly and do talk to individuals and seek out the actual truth. But not all of them do.

This goes for those who are the fans of discernment web sites and write comments and say these types of things too. So many commenters can quickly type of fierce words about people they don’t know and never even read their books nor talked to them. Perhaps it is time, like seen in 1 Corinthians 5 for Christian discernment folks and commenters on these sites to look inward and turn the lens they use on others on each other to probe themselves deeply for truth and accuracy. To see if they tolerate inaccuracy or are guilt-by-association and even conspiracy theories. To see how loving or not they are. I know by writing this, they may not change at all and may never change. But I am horribly saddened by seeing when Christians devour each other….. “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other”(Galatians 5:15).

For those who read these web sites, remember on the internet, anyone can post anything. You wouldn’t have something like is written on some of these sites ever seriously published (it can be self-published like some are) or reported  and taken seriously in recognized credible magazines or books. Without screening people can wrongfully hurt and those who read these things seriously misled. We need to check sources and do research if we really care about those we are discerning.

And again, don’t misunderstand me. I need discernment web sites to help me. I want to be guarding doctrine. But I want to turn to sources I can trust. Ones that report accurately. One that may call out things, but do not slander. Ones that are still loving, and not ones that do not show love. If you are someone who likes going to these discernment web sites, please check their credibility. Don’t just read a sentence pull-quote but go to the source and read the whole thing. I would suggest even asking yourself why you find yourself wanting to keep going to them. What about them draws you into that world?  As often as you go to these web sites, please ask yourself when is the last time your life has intersected with someone in need of knowing the love and grace of Jesus?  Do you spend more time feeding on reading bad things about people on these web sites or do you spend more time heartbroken and spending time with those in need of a Savior? Some of these web sites are like the National Enquirer for Christians. Not all, but some! And some can even people into false beliefs about other Christians. Jesus said that some will “strain out a a gnat but swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:24). We have to be careful in what we post about other people and how we lead others.We need discernment. We need to be carefully guarding doctrine. We need to judge each other like Jesus told us too. But from my experience in looking at some of what happens out there, it is not following the direction of the New Testament in how it is done.

I just think it is time for Christian discernment web sites to turn their focus on each other for a while. Like they do for “false teachers” in examining them, maybe they need to look out for “false discerners”. Figure out which ones are credible and which ones aren’t. Discernment web sites need to be discerning each other. I wish they would develop some sort of screening system or a code of discernment tools to hold each other accountable to that.

Use your discerning skills and truly discern each other for a change to weed out the false discerners from the true discerners. Don’t be in a piranha feeding frenzy, which often seems the case from observing the tones of comments and interaction and how quick people are to judge. But discern with broken hearts and winsomeness and accuracy. Follow biblical direction of Matthew 18, Galatians 6 if you truly care about someone’s teaching. Otherwise, it comes close to gossip and slander if you don’t. Call out sin and false teaching if you find it. But check with the people and do research to see if what you even suspect is true. There are always two sides to stories and especially in missional churches you may not understand the why’s of what happens from the outside.

And above all, as you do discern anything or anyone, love others including fellow discerners. Jesus said we are to love even our enemies (Matthew 5:44). And no matter what type of ministry we are in, we need to love. As Paul said “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (I Corinthians 13:1). Jesus said by our love people will know if we are His followers. By our love. (John 13:35). Love. Truth and love.


A probably even better article on discernment can be found here:

12 thoughts on “Reflection Time… Discerning The Way Forward

  1. @ Specks – Thanks for posting this, I consider Chris Rosebrough a friend, someone you can email and get a response. Over the last few years he has been producing a daily podcast that has been part of my daily diet of good biblical teaching helping to move away from the bondage (Law) I found myself caught up in.

    His ability to have friendships, with those he doesn’t agree with theologically, shows a tremendous Christian maturity I admire deeply.

    If FL takes the time to read the article, he may learn from it and realise that it’s men like Chris that make a difference in fulfilling the great commission rather than paint him (and men like John Macarthur) as ignorant fools because he doesn’t like the way they FAIRLY hold pentecostalism/seeker sensitive/WOF/Emergent up to the light of God’s Word.

    Chris’ approach has always been in light of the full context of Scripture. He is not an ODM but a Christian apologist with a great talent for clear exegesis.

  2. A FB friend of mine, Ben Mordecai, posted this under Dan’s article……..

    “As someone who has been deeply ministered to by Chris Roseborough’s ministry (I have listened to every episode he has produced), I feel like there is a legitimate difference in Pirate Christian Radio as opposed to other discernment ministries. I don’t go to him to hear negative things about others but to hear the gospel yet again for myself and to know what is going on in the Christian world.

    All that being said, I am excited to see what a friendship between you and Chris could kindle. Truthfully, all discernment should start with the premise: the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

    The gospel. The gospel. The gospel. It’s the main thing, and when discernment take their eyes off of it bitterness can really break through. The whole point of discernment ministry is to minister to those who are not getting the gospel.”

  3. @s&p… Great article. He is right. Discernment ministries seem oblivious to the amount of hurt and harm they can do to people, and ministries, and reputations, although that is not such a big deal, especially when they recycle old news, or information proven to be baseless. There may be some good ministries in this vein, but who are discernment ministries accountable to? As he says, they are all subject to the same judgement they meet out. Who is holding you accountable? Do you have an overseer you seek advice from, or correction?

    @teddy… If you don’t write lies about me I won’t comment. I have never called any of these people ‘ignorant fools’. They are wise and godly men in many ways, but in some areas they are in error. They are not greater than you or I. Only Jesus has the full handle on truth.

    This what I actually said about them on another thread, in my words:

    ‘I like Piper. He, at least, is not a cessationist. I disagree with some of his doctrine, that is all. I have never commented on Driscoll. I have critiqued McArthur for being a cessationist. He is also sometimes antagonistic in his approach. Disagreeing with someone isn’t claiming theological superiority. I agree with many things he says, and have no personal vendetta against him. If he wrongly criticises someone, I put up a case. If he wrongly teaches something, I say what I think. That is the nature of blogging. Rosbrough is a radio/blog critic. I have only twice criticised his criticism. I would like you to show me where he discloses his theological background, training, and church affiliation on his site, because I can’t seem to find it to see where he is coming from. I don’t actually have time to listen to his entire programs. I know he was wrong about Wagner’s doctrine on one segment, and pointed it out, with scriptural references. That is blogging! It’s what some of us do!’

    Best to leave me alone. If you check the history of this blog, you’ll see I generally only return if I’m mentioned first without right of reply. I consider it an invitation. Don’t tell lies about me.

  4. So many of FL’s words of disdain about these men or more particularly John Macarthur, were contained within the comments deleted by Specks.

    As Specks has requested, he would like to see this blog move on and as long as FL continues to switch his IP addresses (at least 50 so far) to prevent being blocked, and continues with the cyber-bullying, there seems not much chance of that.

    Looking back over the past year, there has been some great dialogue, heated at times, but still stimulating. really appreciate the time Specks (and RP) have put in to this and hope it can continue.

    interested to hear other’s thoughts on Dan’s article.

  5. No, teddy. Tell the truth. You attack a person’s character, and you give the right of defence. It’s a simple as that. It was Reformed theology which turned people off. They were tired of it. It was cessationism which was the error.

    Without the Spirit there is no gospel, only law.

  6. Your need to use over 50 IP addresses to overcome banning says more about your character than my appreciation of reformed theology.

  7. You want to stop people defending what you attack.

    It would be worth 50 if that were even remotely true. Let FL go, and he’ll go.

  8. I think you are one of the most manipulative liars I think I have ever met Facelift. If I ban you now, this will be the 55th time!

    You accuse Teddy of baiting but set the snare by wanting her to email you to discuss civilly? It’s the same reason why I’ve never emailed you in case you got my IP address.

    I finally see what kind of person you are when King David wrote Psalm 58.

  9. Back on topic, I loved this bit:

    ‘I can’t repeat the whole sermon here, but I shared an important point of how Jesus never said not to judge each other (those who follow Him). But He said to “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment” (John 7:24). It is far too easy to judge by mere appearances than to actually know what is happening inside someone or inside a church.’

  10. Found part of the F4tF transcript here with the conversation between Kimball and Rosebrough here:

    I read and absorb better then when I listen. Here’s the transcript:

    It’s time, for another addition of Fighting for the Faith; Monday, November 15, 2010. Get your thinking caps on, it’s interview day today. Thank you for tuning in, you’re listening to Fighting for the Faith. My name is Chris Rosebrough, and I am your servant in Jesus Christ; and this is the program that dishes up a daily dose of biblical discernment; the goal of which, help you to think biblically, help you to think critically, and to compare what people are saying in the name of God to the Word of God. There is no shortage of crazy things being said out there in the name of God; and we cover them here, and well, use the Bible to offer a corrective.

    Now, today’s addition of Fighting for the Faith, will be a controversial edition and the reason why it is—why it’ll be controversial is because, ah, I have, ah, an interview that I’ll be playing that I recorded earlier today with Dan Kimball. Dan Kimball is the, ah, pastor at Vintage Faith Lutheran—not Lutheran—Vintage Faith Church in, ah, Santa Cruz, California. And, ah, he is, ah, one of the guys who early on was part of the “emerging church conversation,” and, ah, last week I created controversy—not intentionally but I knew it would be controversial—controversy, ah, regarding the fact that, ah, I met with Dan, spent six hours with him—we went to the, ah, grave of James Dean—and we talked, ah, quite a bit theology in that amount of time. And my assessment after coming back, and meeting with him, was that, ah, what we’re dealing with in Dan Kimball is a gentleman who is a brother in Christ; that he (pause) preaches, teaches, and confesses, historic orthodoxy. Does that mean, that ah, that I agree with all of his methodologies? No. Does that mean that if we have a difference of opinion as to what the Scriptures say, and teach, regarding, ah, the methodologies that we are to approach him as a Christian brother? That’s exactly what it means; it means we approach him as a Christian brother.

    Now, ah, when I posted that information up, ah, there was, ah, a bit of controversy that occurred on my Facebook wall. Dan saw it, and ah, and asked if he could help; and I said, “Sure, I think a way that you could help would be if you came on the program so that people can hear from you, yourself—in your own voice—what you believe, teach, and confess.” That being the case, you need to understand that the purpose of this interview was not to address every single issue, ah, brought up by the Emergent Church or every single question, ah, regarding everything that Dan has written. The purpose of this interview was really to focus in on, and give Dan an opportunity, for him to say what it is that he believes, teaches, and confesses; and during the interview Dan does that in spades. There should be no question at the end of this as to what—ah, as to what Dan Kimball says that he believes, teaches, and confesses. And Dan also, ah, took some time to offer his thoughts and opinions, ah, regarding the need for discernment in the discernment camp; and ah, and ah, he spoke regarding his own experiences there. And ah, and so, I-I-I think you’re going to get, ah, you’re going to get a program today that, for some of you, might be challenging; for others of you it might be refreshing, for others of you—I don’t know there might be weeping and gnashing of teeth—I don’t know. But what I do know is this, that we are called by Scripture to speak truthfully of others; and if in the process of defending the Christian faith we make errors, then because we’re defending the Christian faith—which tells us that we are to not bear false witness against our neighbors—that we are responsible to Christ with what we say. So, even on this program I take great lengths to exercise discernment in the discernment that I do. Do I pull it off successfully 100% of the time? No. Where I make errors I have to repent and change what I do.

    So, that being the case, that kind of frames the tone for which, ah, you’ll be listening to my interview with, ah, Dan Kimball who’s one of the early leaders in the “Emerging Church,” not Emergent, but emerging church movement, that began in the 1990s with the, ah, with Leadership Network—Dan was part of that. And ah, in this interview you’re going to hear him—in his own voice—tell you what it is that he believes regarding key aspects of Christianity; so at the end of it, you should have no questions as to, you know, what it is that Dan believes, teaches, and confesses. Here we go; here’s my interview with Dan Kimball:

    Chris Rosebrough: Alright, on the line I have Dan Kimball of Vintage Faith, ah, Church in Santa Cruz, California. Dan is historically one of the guys who was there in the beginning of the “emerging church movement,” and “the emerging conversation,” going back into the 1990s. Ah, he’s a prolific author and public speaker. Dan thanks for coming on Fighting for the Faith.

    Dan Kimball: Certainly.

    Rosebrough: Alright, so, ah, you and I—we went to see James Dean, ah, last week.

    Kimball: Yes, we did; had a great time doing it.

    Rosebrough: Yeah, and ah, I wanna thank you, ah, publically for uh—first of all—for contacting me and giving me the opportunity to spend some time with you. We ended up spending six hours together; and, ah, an’ part of that was, ah, doing historical site seeing and, ah, a large portion of that was getting to know each other theologically. And ah, I’ve taken some flak as a result of making the public claim, ah, that, ah, that you’re not a heretic, and that, ah, you actually, ah, believe, teach, and confess, historic orthodoxy; so I think that’d probably be a good place to start our conversation. What do you think?

    Kimball: Okay, whatever is helpful; I will, I will, talk about anything.

    Rosebrough: (laughing) Oh boy, okay. Alright, uh-let me start with a little bit of history. Um, now I-I’ve been somebody who’s been writing about—and critical of, ah, (pause) for lack of a better way of putting it, the “Emerging/Emergent conversation,” which when it first came out, it was very difficult to see any theological gradations in it. And if somebody had asked me a couple of years ago what I thought of Dan Kimball, I would have, ah, hemmed and hawed and said, “Yeah, I’m not so sure there.” But then two years ago, on your blog, ah, you came out and basically said you were working on a project with other church leaders—and I think Scott McKnight was one of ‘em—and that you all had agreed upon using the Lausanne Covenant as kind of like your theological common ground; and one of the things you said on your blog was that you were, ah, working with other church leaders who had a high view of Scripture. And, ah, an; so when I saw that, uh, that was—I’ll be, I’ll be blunt—that was, ah, that sent shudders, ah, through many of the emerging circles and, an’, kind of changed a little bit of the conversation; you could feel there was a little bit of tectonic shift taking place, and so my question for you right off the bat is, “Do you personally hold a high view of Scripture?”

    Kimball: Yeah, [clears throat] I always have, and I’m sure if you ask me—you have to define what this “high view” of Scripture means because most people will say they hold a high view of Scripture. Um, you know, I look at it—the Scripture—as the inspired, authoritative, truthful, Wor—Word of God. Um, and so I guess, um I—absolutely—absolutely do. An’ that’s why we picked the Lausanne Covenant too, cuz it talks about Scripture; it talks about atonement, salvation, some of the, the, core historical doctrines of history—church history.

    Rosebrough: Right. Well let me read what the Lausanne Covenant says about the authority and the power of the Bible. It says: “We affirm the divine inspiration, truthfulness and authority of both Old and New Testament Scriptures in their entirety as the only written word of God, without error in all that it affirms, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice.” Eh, that’s what you believe regarding Scripture?

    Kimball: Sure. I mean, I never have changed that; I always look at, you know, what God inspired, ah, through human beings—from the beginning—is, is, exactly what He wanted, in ah, for us to have today; and so, you know, my view has not changed, ah, in most things. That’s what’s interesting, is that probably, I don’t—I haven’t had some, like, some great theological shifts in doctrine or I’m not now repenting back to a, ah, “boy, now I’m believing this.” Ah, I-I-I’ve been pretty consistent; and I just think people have, you know—an’ I say in your circles—have probably not, I don’t believe, have done the right research or, ah, taken the time to ask me—like you have—or, or others, um, to actually ask what do I believe—what does our church teach about this stuff.

    Rosebrough: So in a sense, ah, they saw that, uh, that, you know, that when your book came out on the Emerging Church in 2003 [The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for New Generations]—and there’s a group of people in there that, ah, have a different view of Scripture than you do, but that’s really not the point of this ah, con—of this interview—ah, but ah, they-tha-it seems that people “lumped” you in with them in their view of Scripture. You’ve also contributed to other books that, ah, have been more in the Emergent Village camp, and so I-I can see tha- on the one hand, it would be easy, ah, to put you in that camp. But yet you’ve publically—I mean, an’, an’ ya, you know, I-I saw it in 2008—ah, affirmed a high view of Scripture u-using the definitions of the Lausanne Covenant, which would basically put you in a completely different theological space than many in the—I-I don’t want to say “Emergent” conversation because as, as, as people study “Emerging” then they understand that yo—over the past few years—it’s kind of fractured into maybe five or six different, distinct camps, and so it’s really difficult to pin it down; but you on the other hand, ah, you know, it’s clear that, ah, if you’re affirming the authority of Scripture—and-as defined in the Lausanne Covenant—that we’re dealing with a horse of a different color when it comes to you.

    Kimball: Yeah, again, if you’d have asked me this in 2002 I would have said the same thing; so that’s why I would, um, that’s what’s just so fascinating about some of this—and you have to remember, like, the whole Emerging Church world, in my perspective—in my experience—ah, historically was—back in the mid-1990′s— it was, “How do we reach, what was then known as Generation X?”

    Rosebrough: Mm hmm.

    Kimball: And I was part of a—I’ll say—middle-of-the-road, evangelical church based, you know, the senior pastor was from Dallas Seminary; and it was about how do we—and we noticed Generation X—we don’t use that terminology now—now it’s the generation after that—was missing from the church and they were dropping out of the church. An’, an’ there was, ah, a group that said, “You know, let’s figure out how do we reach the next generation?”

    Rosebrough: Mm hmm.

    Kimball: And that is why, you know, some communication methods—or using art—you know, not in place of sermons, but in addition to sermons—or just, it was re-thinking all of those things, yet still, um, holding onto the core doctrines of historical Christianity in that way. So I think what happens too, is like when Hudson Taylor, you know his story of when he went over to China.

    Rosebrough: Uh huh.

    Kimball: And, ah, when he got over there from, you know, England, and where he was based out of initially, he then was, ah—he changed his dress, he changed how he looked; he changed, he adopted cultural distinctives of a specific culture, over there, to then teach about Jesus, and, and make disciples. And—cause he then was in that culture—and what—the people that criticized him were the people from his home base that said, “Why are you doing it like this? We don’t understand you.” And then he eventually had to break off and form the China Inland Mission; you know, because—and I think so much in this, at least in my particular case—I think a lot of it was, y’know, looking in and saying like, “Why are they doing this? Why is he using words like this, or whatever; without actually stopping—like you did—and saying, “What is it that you actually teach about in your church? What is it that you are—how do you view Scripture? How do you view atonement? All of these different things; so, ah, I-I think it’s, ah, pretty—as simple as that, and also sad that, I don’t believe people did specific—uh—specific homework on individuals. And ya also have to remember this, back in the early days of the Emerging Church, there wasn’t the controversy; and the controversy was about, “Should you dim the lights? Should you serve coffee?” I mean that was, that was sort of the controversy; the co—the controversial things developed later on, uh, as different people started, you know, viewing more—um, all types of different theological views and pushing different things theologically—that developed later, not in the very, very early years—at least in my personal experience—and then it did develop, for sure.

    Rosebrough: Now it’s-it’s my understanding—through our conversations—that when you were involved in, ah, the research and best practices stuff that was being discussed in the mid-90′s at Leadership Network, that ah, you were really focusing on the practitioner portion of it and you were not, you were not, really a part of the greater theological conversations that were going on; you were more, you were more, involved in the leadership discussing methodology and what it meant to “be missional.”

    Kimball: Yes, there was a theological, ah, um, group—I think it was called Terra Nova? Church—(unintelligible)

    Rosebrough: Uh huh.

    Kimball: But I was not in that group. I was definitely involved in, y’know, the practitioner—at that time it was, “How does churches start a alternative worship gathering within their church?” That was my primary, um, entry into it, because we had a young adult ministry of around 800,000 young adults in a sma—rather small town—so it was ho—what’s going on there, and that was sort of my entry into it, because it was—that was my niche—having an alternative gathering within a church for the next generation; how that plays out.

    Rosebrough: Un-kay. Now, uh, I mean, you and I are both Gen Xer’s—I think. Um, ye—ah, they ah, it was clear in the 1990′s—early 1990′s—it was really startin’ to come out, ah, this, ah, postmodern deconstructionism. Ah, Jacques Derrida, [Michel] Foucault, and others; ah, that, uh—you know, they had a completely—it wasn’t just that they had a different way of looking at the world, but they had a very deconstructive way of, of, ah, looking at the foundations of Western civilization. What was your exposure to, ah, that type of, ah, of philosophical, and deconstructive thinking; and, ah, did you have any answers to it at that time or did you know to reject it? Wha—I mean, what were your thoughts about it?

    Kimball: Yeah, I-I read, ah—the primary book I read—was a book that was popular at that time called A Primer in Post-Modernism by Stanley Grenz.

    Rosebrough: Right.

    Kimball: And, I mean, that was kinda—probably was as depthful as I personally studied it. Um, but what it allowed me to do was—I was in a—I was in a great, Bible-teaching church; um, th-the pastor’s from Dallas Seminary—and I’m not a, I’m not a dispensationalist in that way, um, as ma-as the pastor was at that time—but, you know, but the core theology and everything of the church was, w-was there. But what I noticed was I started listening to the local natives—so to speak—of, like a missionary does when they go to a, a new town, or whatever, and I started listening like, like a missionary would to local natives, which being th-a-the next generation. And I started realizing that there were some aspects of how we went about church that did need deconstruction; so I actually was deconstructing methodology of church to say, “Why do we, you know, why do we give a sermon particularly like this? Is it from the Bible or did it develop through history in certain cultures? Why does—how does a church leadership structure—and I’m not just talking about a church having elders or a church having, you know, shepherds and that; I’m talking about, like, almost tones of leadership—a CEO model, a, um—how you define community in, a, one culture might be different than how you define community in another culture. And so, those were the types of things about the local church that I, I was deconstructing.

    Rosebrough: Okay.

    Kimball: In that way I found that very helpful because it was like, “Why do we do what we do here?” And, if you were a missionary going into another culture would you then deconstruct, you know, um, American suburban, ah, methodology of church and wouldn’t you deconstruct it so that when you went into another culture you were then—again—keeping your doctrines, but you were then reconstructing, ah, how you would go about the mission in a different, specific context. So, in that way, deconstruction was a good thing. Ah, but again, in my particular experience it was all about, you know, ah, tones, defining community, ha—what does membership look like? How does—what is spiritual development look like for a 21 year old versus maybe a 60 year old or a 50 year old? You know, ah, how’s their thinking? What about learning styles; a lot of the stuff that, in the church that I was at, was not necessarily spoken about, and I think that’s why it was losing connection to the ext Generation; and so that—in that way I found deconstruction very helpful.

    Rosebrough: Okay. So you-you-you basically created a “missions” church is what you’re saying to, to people who had more postmodern ideas and that grew up in the Gen X culture. They, ah—I mean, ah, I mea-I’ll be blunt—I’m very different, ah, than my mom is, ah, on many different things; there are certain things that are key to me, that ah, my parents didn’t, ah, really share values-wise. In fact, I think I’m more, I have more in common with my grandparents than I do with my parents when it comes to some cultural values. Is that what you were finding when you were, ah, doing your deconstruction of church methodologies?

    Kimball: Ab-absolutely. You know, it’s the sa-because ya-I was deconstructing a, a 1980′s 19 models-style of suburban ministry—an’ in a—so I was in a very contemporary church, but that’s also like being in such a contemporary church some of the contemporary methodology of, you know, um—high, felt-need preaching, three, four points of application, ah, the mu-the way the music was done—everything’s lit up bright—you know, some of those values what I started listening to, like, that wasn’t the best environment for learning—everything was a program to the millet; so those were the types of things you deconstruct. Just like, you know—and I find this fascinating—that, like say, the musical instrument, the organ; when it was first brought into the church, the church fought it, to keep it out because it was known as pagan, musical instrument that was used to usher in pagan kings. So the church said, “How dare you bring in an organ into our church building? It’s a pagan instrument with bad influence that, you know, deifies kings”; and so, therefore, there is that fight. Then the organ became in the church and “accepted,” and then it becomes like, “This is God’s instrument.”

    Rosebrough: Mm hmm.

    Kimball: “This is the best instrument of all”; when initially it was fought to be-to keep—ah, to be kept out. So I think you’ve got to be always thinking like that, never assume what we’re doing is even Biblical. You always have to go to the Scriptures to say, “What is—is our methodology, ah, in alignment or is it—is there any disharmony with Scripture? You always have to go back to the Scriptures to say, “Can we change forms of how we go about are the—on the mission?” And, and then that can then shape it as long as we’re not compromising Scripture.

    Rosebrough: Nn-kay. Let me, ah, let me see if I can translate this into Lutheran-speak, cause I’m a Lutheran. Um, we—ah, the congregation that I’m a member of here in Indianapolis, ah, they have a missions church that they support financially in Haiti. And, ah, and we have teams from our church that, ah, visit our mission church in Haiti, ah, several times a year; and when they bring back reports, and show the church service that takes place in Haiti, ah, it takes place pretty much in a building that doesn’t have any walls, has a dirt floor, some, ah, cobbled-together chairs, ah, something that looks like an altar, and, ah, they don’t have an organ, they sing pretty much a capella with a drum. And yet, we embrace them as a missions congregation, yet culturally their songs—even though they may have the same lyrics—ah, they’re, they’re sung in, in Creole-French, and, ah, done a capella without, ah, without an organ. Um, i-is, I mea—is—an’ it really reflects more of the Haitian culture, ah, than the American culture. Yet the core in the liturgy, and the Gospel that’s being preached, is the same Gospel; the sacraments that a-are being administered are the same sacraments. Um, i-is that what you’re trying to describe here?

    Kimball: Yeah, a-a-absolutely! So say you’re to bring that same context, [clears throat] or that same, that same methodology of people sitting on the floor, and a bongo drum, right; and you brought that to, to ah, Indiana—where you’re at now—and then plopped into a building here, and the same thing was going on and then people could come in—depending on your circles—you know, an’ say like, “That’s so disrespectful; they are using, a-a-an instrument that has demonic origins of jungle beats; and like you know, that stuff you read online that can be a thing—“Look what they’re doing that’s—or look at, ah, um, look at—w-why are they disrespecting things? They’re not sitting in rows of pews; they’re choosing to sit around in a circle.” Whatever it might be, like, then you, then you hear criticism, and make assumptions, that those things that people are seeing from the outside are disrespectful or—because you’re not doing it in the, the way that maybe, traditionally, a-a church or a denomination—or someone grew up accustomed to—and then that becomes a threat and then all of the sudden, you know, “They’re not following God. They’re not following scripture.” And, these criticisms can arise because of those very things.

    Rosebrough: Nn-kay. Well, l-let me take—le-me-let me push it a little bit beyond that because there were some who adopted these more Gen X cultural trappings in their church services, ah, changed the name from church to cohort and then went, ah, and then began deconstructing Christian doctrines itself. And ah, it was very clear early on, ah, that, you know, who some of these folks were, and tha-they, they were not just stopping with methodology, but they were rethinking Christianity itself, ah, and the very Word of God and the doctrines that have been confessed by the hoor—historic Christian faith. Would you think that those went, those folks, you know, went beyond, ah, Christian liberty and freedom in that sense and, and were beginning to deconstruct things that have no business being deconstructed?

    Kimball: Yeah. Uh, I’m, eh—again, i-it’s the same thing I’m talking about. I’d always—every time we say, like, you know, “those folks” or “this group,” you always want to look at each individual, each individual church, and do that. And I’m—understand exactly what you’re saying. An’ I, and for me, that is why—see, how you view—this is why we, we also started a, ah, a new collaboration and I ended up partnering with some other, um, church leaders is because, you know, how you view atonement also, you know, is how you then view salvation and how you think of evangelism—how you, how you determine, you know, someone’s standing with God. Therefore, how important is the act of Gospel, you know, proclamation—and proclamation can be in different ways that you do it. You know, but it—drive—I’m driven, an-as I think you and I have talked about, I’m driven because I was a sinner saved by grace, putting my faith in Christ and He took on my sin on the Cross, rose again from the dead, you know. And the grace and understanding and thankfulness that I have for that, I then, am passionate to see other people experience and know, you know, know Jesus and what, what’s Biblical. And I say Biblical cause someone else in a different group would say, “Well no, I have the Biblical Christianity.” “No, you have the Biblical Christianity”; so you—even when you say Biblical Christianity someone else will say, “No, um, the way I view it is Biblical Christianity.” So I’m now deconstructing what I just said.

    Rosebrough: Right.

    Kimball: Well, I’m just passionate for people to see Who Jesus is and not, and, and, repent and all of the things that the Lausanne Covenant talks about; and I’ve never—I think for me—I’ve never changed in that way. So I have I—if you would have talked to me in 2002 or 2003 or 2004, probably what I would be saying to you then would be much the same with core doctrines—though now, I would be like, “Oh, I can see how this might be interpreted differently,” or when you’re using, you know, like—I wrote an article once about a labyrinth; and I know that’s got a lot of flak. Leadership Journal talked to me about, um, they said, there’s a-a group publishing, which is out of Loveland, Colorado and it’s a reputable publisher, it’s a pretty conservative evangelical publisher, put out something called, A Prayer Path—and that’s what it was called Prayer Path—and, ah, an’ they set it up at a conference and said, you know, “Dan, would you write a-an article about it?” And so I’m like, “Sure.” And so I went to this thing—never been to a labyrinth before—went to this thing at the conference and you walked into a room—and they did have—you know, I looked, I looked in the room and like well, “it looks like a maze or something” because it had tape on the floor. And then you walked up to one and then you listened—ah, some of them were recorded, some of them were written down, you know, and it’d be like, you know, “Jesus said this.” And there’d be some Scripture about something, and it would be a question it would ask you at one particular station of this prayer path and it would, you know, be just like, you know, ah, “He, He, He died for people across—”; I’d have to go back exactly what the questions were, but each one had some sort of question that was very, you know, Scripturally based or it—it, you know, “What’s the static in your life that stops you from taking time to pray?” And you sit there, like, “Huh, I need to think. What is—I’m so consumed with my Mustang right now and I’m so thinking about that.” [Rosebrough laughs] “I need to just stop, and then, maybe take some time to pray.” Like, it would just ask you questions. And, I wrote this article and then all of the sudden—I-I had no idea that it was such a controversial thing—and then all of the sudden, I’m a mystic, because I wrote this article about a prayer path. And then a woman, who I even know personally locally, who was having, um—w-who is, ah—um, ac-not even part of a church locally, wrote a response article that was absolutely—ah, an’ I use this word, um, nicely—but just pretty crazy to read the response of how she was interpreting everything. So you, um, I ju-again, you always have to look at things—so I’d have probably said, “I don’t know—I have—what’s the roots of this? I don’t know. All I know is that right now I am, ah, I am praying, there was Scripture, there was a Bible open in the middle of this thing” and, um, that’s what I wrote about.

    Rosebrough: All right. We’re gonna pause right there and, ah, pay some bills and when we come back we’ll continue with, ah, my interview earlier today with, ah, Dan Kimball of the Emerging Church and Vintage, ah, Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California. If you’d like to email me regarding anything you heard on this edition or any previous editions of Fighting for the Faith, you can do so at my email address or you can ask to be my friend on Facebook, it’s, or you can follow me on Twitter, my name there—pirate christian. We’ll be right back.


    Chris Rosebrough: (singing) Alright, we’re back. (pause) Warning: Discernment; takes discernment. (pause) Just a reminder Fighting for the Faith is listener-supported radio. That means we depend upon you, and your generous gifts and financial contributions, in order to continue to bring Fighting for the Faith to you—as well as to the world. You can partner with us financially by visiting our website Fighting for the; when you get there you’ll see two friendly yellow buttons. One say Donate, the other says Join Our Crew. When you join our crew, you’re signing up to automatically contribute $6.95 to the on-going work—and mission—of Fighting for the Faith and Pirate Christian Radio. And of course, if you would like to specify the amount that you would like to contribute, you can do so by clicking on the Donate button; or you can make your gift payable to Fighting for the Faith and send it to P.o. Box 508 Fishers, Indiana zip code 46038. All right, let’s continue with my interview earlier with Dan Kimball of Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California. Here is the rest of my interview:

    Well, while we’re on the topic I wanna—I wanna, uh—talk about Lectio Divina a little bit. And lemme me, lemme ah, give a—a just a smidge of history here because, um, I wanna make sure that ah, we’re dealing with similar definitions. Lectio Divina, as it has historically come down to us, has come down through Roman Catholic monastic mystics. And the, and the practice i-itself historically, basically—it’s not just reading Scripture it—you can randomly pick a passage in the Bible and you’re supposed to kind of scan it until the Holy Spirit supposedly makes particular words “pop out” at you; and once those words pop out at you—supposedly by the work of the Holy Spirit—you repeat those words over, and over, and over again, much like kind of a mantra is used in Eastern mysticism to help you get into some kind of an “altered state of consciousness” whereby then you can experience the presence of God, so to speak. Um I-i—wa-i-was that your understanding of Lectio Divina; and was that what you were promoting in the early days of, ah, of ah—you know, your—mm “tinkering with” these different Vintage Faith practices? And ih, you know, if so, ah, why? If not, then why? What was your understanding of Lectio Divina?

    Kimball: Yeah, let’s go back to ah, um, (pause) being on mission in a particular context. So I’m listening to people who, ah, are saying, y’ know—the contemporary—I’m not, ah 20 year olds, “I’m not—I’m not connecting with the contemporary church. It feels”—I mean these are the very words—“it feels like a Tony Robbins business presentation,” I can remember that, “like a pep rally.” Um, “ There’s no time to slow down in this worship gathering; it’s just like, you know, five songs, video clip, move—move,” you know, and I remember listening to that and then hearing about Lectio Divina; and the Latin word means “Holy Reading.” And I was reading the Scriptures, so I’m like, “Wow.” I was at a—I was with about six or seven people once in Colorado, and someone said, “All right, we’re going to do Lectio Divina”; and they opened up to a passage in Scripture—I think it was th—I think it might have been the Psalms, I’m trying to remember, and they, you know, it was like “all right.” And I’d never heard of it before, but then that’s what it was called; sit around in a circle and someone just starts, y’know, and they’ll like open up the Bible and they read a section—I’m opening up my Bible right now—and they read, say, “Psalm” and it was “The Lord lives. Praise be to my rock. Exalted be God my savior.” That’s Psalm 18:, ah, 46. And then, they’d pause for a moment just like that and they’d say, “The Lord lives. Praise be to my rock. Exalted be God my savior.” Er an’ I think they read two or three verses and then w-went around the circle and I’m like, “You know that was refreshing!” We didn’t, you know, w-there was no mystical chanting, of like, losing your mind—it was—you’re reading a Bible verse, three or four times, and it was—it was actually—and y’what I, what Irealized was it was just you were calming down for a moment, in the rush of meetings, and stuff that you were about to go into; and I’m like, “That was, that was, I loved reading Scripture.” It was not the “emptying of mind” or’s going into some weird, meditative state of, you know, whatever. It was, y’ reading a Bible verse three or four ti—what the heck was wrong with that? And that was my experience; and how I defined it as “Holy Reading”—from Latin words—and actually found that it was a refreshing time, like when you pause in a worship gathering and you read a Bible verse or two or three, you know—two or three times before you might even teach it, or as quieting your heart and reading a verse three or four times. So that is what—how I defined it, and practiced it; and then heard later that, you know, it’s about—that some people—and I’ve never, I’ve never experienced it at any worship gathering or any person that I’ve seen do it where you’re, w-you know, you go into mindless chants and you’re—goes on f—I’ve never experienced anything but what I just did—reading a Bible verse three or four times and, and that was it.

    Rosebrough: Nn-kay. Well, one of the things that’s part of my daily, ah, practice is, if you—I hate using the term like that—but, ah, if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter then you know that, ah, I frequently send out, ah, readings for the day in the Scriptures, and there’s three Psalms; and, ah, one of the things I’ve been doing for a long time is praying the Psalms. And so I have a Psalm in the morning that I pray, I have a Psalm that I pray at noon, and I have a Psalm that I pray in the evening. And, ah, it’s not just a couple of verses, but I-I-I try to pray the whole Psalm. I-i-i-is that—does that sound similar to what you’re talking about?

    Kimball: Yeah, see you’re practicing Lectio Divina.

    Rosebrough: Oh no. (Laughing) See, you’re gonna get me in trouble.

    Kimball: Psalm 136. Right, you know? It says, “His love endures forever,” you know, I’m counting it right now—one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-fi—twenty-six times the same thing is repeated in Psalm 136.

    Rosebrough: Well, you do know that Psalm 136 is a responsive song that, you know, that there’s usually—

    Kimball: (interrrupting) But then, but what’s my point is then, you’re saying the same thing over and over in there, right?

    Rosebrough: (interrupting) Right, but it’s not to get you into an “altered state of consciousness” to calm your monkey mind down or something like that, though.

    Kimball: Right, that’s what I mean. So when someone says something—e-I think there’s an expectation of something different like—and I’ll be, I’ll be open here and tell you that the truth about this—I really don’t, if you get to know my character, I don’t, you know, name people—or try to na—it’s nothing hiding, it’s just, like, I speak for myself…

  11. Chris Rosebrough said, “So, that being the case, that kind of frames the tone for which, ah, you’ll be listening to my interview with, ah, Dan Kimball who’s one of the early leaders in the “Emerging Church,” not Emergent, but emerging church movement, that began in the 1990s with the, ah, with Leadership Network—Dan was part of that.”

    I believe it started earlier within the Yonngi Cho’s and Garrat’s of the seventies. CLC in Sydney Australia may have have had some connection to this. Frank Houston and Cho knew each other fairly well and the Garrat’s were over somehow involved in this process.

    The Garrat’s believe God called them to travel the world and call the church in different cultures to return to worship God within their cultural practices, traditions or customs, especially in Japan and other native countries.

    The early CLC movement simply led hippies to the Lord who were skilled musicians, some of them famous. Music was something that Western culture gravitated towards. It was this form of media that attracted people to church and was very effective in evangelism alongside the Holy Spirit.

    At this time Yonngi Cho started the home-group/cell system. This benefited his church greatly. I would say the start of the early ’emerging’ church started way before the 1990’s. People were already looking at different ways to do church in Australia, New Zealand and Korea. They were very effective.

    I think the ‘Emerging Church’ movement became more officialised with the ‘Leadership Network’ in America.

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