The ‘Jesus Makes Me Look Good, Feel Good’ Generation

A very well written article in the Weekend Australian reports: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/jc-and-the-cool-gang/story-e6frg8h6-1226015838817

JC and the cool gang

Christine Jackman, From: The Australian, March 05, 2011 12:00AM

Christians Erica and Jim Bartle with the JC Epidemic motocross and BMX crew. “Extreme sports are an excellent way of capturing kids’ attention,” Jim says.

NOT so long ago, Erica Holburn’s life seemed like a chapter ripped straight from a chick-lit novel. For a start, she had the sort of ostensibly glamorous job enjoyed by the Bridget Jones posse.

Recently promoted from beauty editor to deputy editor of a glossy young women’s magazine, Holburn was actually being paid to stay abreast of fashion trends and celebrity gossip, and enjoyed such a ready supply of luxe freebies, she confesses now she had no idea what the over-the-counter price of shampoo was.

On Sunday mornings, she would take her place amid the beautiful people – blonde, honey-brown and rail-thin – scanning the social pages over coffee at a Bondi cafe. Many of the A-listers in the gossip columns were people she knew personally or had spied over her champagne glass at the same red-carpet events.

She was engaged, too. But while her fiancé, Jim Bartle – an appropriately chisel-jawed, piercing-eyed extreme-sports aficionado – lived interstate, she was free to pursue the hectic life of a Sydney career gal. There was just one fly in the La Mer. Holburn was falling in love with another man.

And while love gone wrong – or, at least, led astray – tends to be a key plot device in the best chick lit, the target of Holburn’s affections was not the type to be played by Hugh Grant or Matthew McConaughey when Hollywood buys the screen rights to the bestseller. You see, Erica Bartle (née Holburn) loves Jesus.

“I’ve had intense, passionate moments, feeling close to God,” she says. “It’s a wonderful fulfilment that surpasses any other relationship, even my relationship with Jim.” But unlike any modern-day Mr Darcy, Bartle doesn’t seem to mind playing co-star to the Messiah. Indeed, it was Jim, the son of a pastor, who encouraged the woman who was to become his wife to be born again.

Today, the almost impossibly beautiful 20-something couple live in Queensland’s Mt Tamborine, in the Gold Coast hinterland, and continue to pursue passions dripping with Gen Y cred and 21st century savvy – Jim promotes his troupe of motocross, skate, surf and BMX enthusiasts through a website replete with hard-rocking YouTube clips, and Erica writes Girl With A Satchel, a popular blog full of sharp observations about fashion, celebrity and the media – but they dedicate their actions and their words to Christ.

Not so long ago, the Bartles might have been dismissed as Jesus freaks; but freak implies something out of the ordinary, and these two are far from alone. Whether it is on burgeoning Facebook pages celebrating Jesus or in the moshpit at the Easterfest Music Festival, chasing waves at the Jesus ProAm or texting Australian Idol en masse to ensure a gospel singer wins, young Australians are expressing their faith in God across all realms of pop culture. Which prompts the question: some two millennia after a son of a carpenter inspired a counter-cultural movement, is Christianity finally becoming cool again?

Jesus comes with a large production crew these days. If you doubt it, simply Google churches like Planetshakers, in Melbourne, or Paradise Community Church (Adelaide), or the grand-daddy of them all, Hillsong, which now boasts a global reach to cities like London, New York and Cape Town from its base in Sydney’s Hills district. (And if you don’t know what Google is, good luck understanding this phenomenon; like most of their peers, hip young Christians frame much of their day and establish much of their identity via the internet). Lined up beside each other, it is hard to ignore the similarities between the churches’ websites. From their home pages, each promotes a funky, urban feel with sophisticated graphics, high-quality video clips, stadium-style rock and pop music, and an emphasis on connection not just through Sunday services but an array of smaller social groups and through blogs, Facebook and Twitter.

Harder still is any attempt to locate the churches’ denomination on the traditional spectrum, such as that used by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. As it turns out, all of the churches named above belong to the Assemblies of God tradition, a Pentecostal group which renamed themselves the Australian Christian Churches in 2007. But if their websites are any indication, affiliation with an overarching denomination is far less important these days than cultivating your individual church identity – or brand

To old-school Christians – particularly those aged over about 40, who grew up in the dominant Christian traditions of the Anglican and Catholic Churches – worshipping this way might seem, at best, disconcertingly unfamiliar and, at worst, somewhat offensive; a bit like serving up cool Jesus with a side order of fries at a convenient and groovy drive-through.

But consider this. Between 1996 and 2006 (the date of the last census), the number of Australians formally identifying themselves as Christian continued to decline – in all denominations except those defined as “Pentecostal” and “other churches”. In other words, in a sea of secularism in Australia, the groups most often derided as “happy clappers” by more mainstream Christians are actually the only ones swimming successfully against the tide.

“The growth was very small but, compared to the others that went backwards, particularly the Anglican Church, it’s worth noting,” says Dr Andrew Singleton, a senior lecturer in sociology at Monash University. “And it mainly came [not from new converts] but from within existing churches. That is, you often had young people leaving the church they used to go to with their parents, and moving to the funky big church up the road.”

The so-called “megachurches” that bring congregations of thousands together in high-tech auditoria are only part of the phenomenon. More recently, they have been joined on the Christian landscape by what are called “emerging churches” of much smaller groups of young Christians, meeting in cafes and bookshops, in bars and even online.

In 2007, Singleton published The Spirit of Generation Y: Young People’s Spirituality in a Changing Australia with the Australian Catholic University’s Michael Mason and Ruth Webber, after the trio of academics spent five years conducting in-depth interviews with young Australians about their beliefs, priorities and practices.

The project added some valuable background to the raw data routinely provided by the census, which does not have the capacity to examine religion beyond the “label” with which householders most readily identify – nor the ability to determine when a Gen Y-er has been recorded as a Catholic or Anglican simply because that’s what Mum ticked on the form.

If spiritual health is measured by belief in God, then the news was dire. Almost half of all Australian Gen Ys told the researchers they either did not believe (17 per cent) or were unsure about God’s existence (32 per cent). Less than half (46 per cent) called themselves Christian and only 17 per cent actually practised any active form of Christianity.

But again, evangelical Christian groups were chief among those proving the exception to the rule. “Gen Ys from conservative Protestant denominations manifest much higher levels of religious belief and practice than Catholics and Anglicans, and also higher levels than their ¬parents’ generation within the same denominations,” the report found. “Gen Ys from conservative Protestant denominations [also] show higher levels of social concern and involvement than members of more liberal denominations.”

Another striking finding was that a majority of all denominations agreed it was “OK to pick and choose your religious beliefs”. Among those Gen Yers who do identify as Christians, this openness about specific beliefs – what some critics would call moral relativism – might go some way to explaining the new fluidity around church attendance and the related reluctance to affiliate strictly with any particular church.

In the US, this trend has been tagged the “Love Jesus, Hate Church” syndrome; a disenchantment with old-style churches that lock followers into “us-versus-them” mentalities, both internally, in the form of ancient hierarchies dividing the clergy and laity, and externally, in sometimes bloody rifts with other Christian denominations. In Australia, it manifests among Christian Gen Y-ers as an overwhelming focus on one’s personal connection with Jesus Christ, with attendance at a bricks-and-mortar church seen as only one of many means of honouring that connection. Actual denominations are seen increasingly as irrelevant – if they are recognised at all.

“For me personally, I don’t believe you have to go to church to be a Christian,” says Abe Andrews, the Gold Coast zone coordinator for Christian Surfers, who serves as chaplain on the men’s professional world surfing tour. “But it is important to have a fellowship, whether you meet in church or with a group you might meet every day, to celebrate the Word and keep faith with. I go to church on Sunday, but not ritualistically – and I couldn’t tell you what denomination the church [Beachside Christian Church at Palm Beach] is.

“Christian life is about more than that. I run a Bible studies group on Wednesday, my wife Lize and I spend a lot of time talking about it… and Christian Surfers is almost an arm of the church [because] we just focus on getting out into the community every single day, volunteering, doing what needs to be done, glorifying God.

“Some of my best times with God are in the water,” says Andrews. “Surfing has given me some of my most spiritual experiences. It is a free feeling; it allows me to empty myself of the selfish, everyday-world things that clutter up your head, to separate myself from the flesh and connect with God and just enjoy His creation.”

Similarly, when I ask Erica Bartle to name some Christian churches around Brisbane that are popular with Generation Y-ers, she is eclectic with her denominations, nominating City Life, a Pentecostal church aligned to Australian Christian Churches, and Bridgeman Downs Baptist, where she says “the kids look cool but love Jesus”

“Christianity really has an image problem,” she adds. “Too shrouded in ‘religion’, too depleted by doctrine, too much focus on the Catholic Church and its reluctance to get with the times and atone for its crimes. I grew up in the Catholic Church and, while there are elements of Catholicism that have stayed with me and that I’m grateful for, looking back on it, there was more guilt than grace. I don’t think I ever knew who Jesus was. I don’t think I was encouraged to have an appreciation of who this extraordinary man was, even though He is why we call ourselves Christian… I feel that there’s a real getting-back-to-basics movement now based on the character of Christ and a personal relationship with God.”

Husband Jim does most of his own preaching about Jesus wearing motocross leathers in rural and regional showgrounds, parks and schools, after the riders and skaters of JC Epidemic attract a crowd with their stunts. “Extreme sports are an excellent way of capturing kids’ attention,” he says. “And ever since I became a Christian again [prompted by a near-death experience after a bike accident], I’ve had an overwhelming desire to tell other people that they were created for a purpose, and to encourage them to live life without excess…

“There’s a scepticism around that evangelical side of things. And I don’t like to call what we do a ministry or a church because I don’t want to be sitting over there in a club. We’re not there to hang out with Christians, we’re there to hang out with people… Jesus was not the guy hanging out in church, he was the guy down at the pub with the guys who were getting drunk, and with the marginalised.”

Empire of Oprah

But can anyone this cool really be the Messiah? If Jesus returned to Earth today, he might blitz the finals of Australian Idol – indeed, there is already a burgeoning international Christian movement aligned around the catchcry “Make Jesus Famous” – but would his popularity last longer than a few ratings seasons?

The pull towards celebrating Jesus the man, while rejecting other traditional Christian rituals, is not a new one. Sociologist Singleton points out hippies calling themselves “Jesus people” were part of a broader counter-cultural movement in the late 1960s and early ’70s, about the same time as the Catholic Church was grappling with its own attempt to respond to the changing times, through Vatican II. But the 21st century obsession with celebrity imbues this new rejuvenation of Jesus with an added potency – and, according to some, greater pitfalls.

“The danger begins when we begin repositioning Jesus,” says Mark Sayers, a 37-year-old minister with a so-called ‘emerging church’ in Melbourne (Red, in Box Hill), who also works as a pop culture commentator with a specifically Christian perspective. His book, The Trouble with Paris: Following Jesus in a World of Plastic Promises examines how churches are struggling to exist in a “hyperconsumerist” world.

“When, in their quest to remain relevant to young people, churches begin to turn him into a cool Australian, latte-loving guy who hangs out with his surfboard and is cool with everything we do… kids will come [to church] because they are attracted to that. But then they discover they’re not going to be turned into a superstar and they read the Bible and they discover Jesus dies at the end.”

Along with a consumerist ideology in which ‘cool’ is the motivating force, Sayers says another dominant culture factor troubling the church is the triumph of the self-help movement, which preaches a message that life should be about self-fulfilment, not suffering.

“So the quest for salvation has been replaced by the quest for wellbeing. And the danger is Christianity will end up looking like the empire of Oprah, in which God is a sort of cosmic butler who delivers things for us… We need to return to a biblical world view that grapples with suffering, rather than avoids or denies it, and that recognises that man is not the focus. God is. And that God is not going to transform you into this buff entrepreneur with a beautiful wife. There is a much deeper reality than that.”

Singleton agrees: “A lot of these new churches are presenting a highly individualised form of religion, with a God who is intensely interested in the minute details of you and your life: your sex life, your finances, your aspirations… It’s a bit of a Pentecostal sleight of hand. The traditional, mainstream churches are stuffy and old-style, whereas they’re giving their [followers] a Jesus who fits with their lifestyle preferences. One’s life is enhanced by this new, personal relationship with someone who is totally focused on you.”

But can such a one-sided and self-serving relationship last? Singleton says there has been little concrete research done on the turnover of the Australian megachurches, while the “emerging churches” are, by definition, even harder to quantify. “But we do know one of the difficulties facing the megachurches is there is a fairly large back door. The population does change quite substantially over time.”

Power of the passion

Still, at a time when most parents are worrying about what drugs their children are taking and who they are “sexting” in the middle of the night, it might seem a little churlish to criticise the faith of a group of young people simply because they look too good, or because their hymns sound more like Lady GaGa than Ave Maria, or because they love Jesus, well, just a little too effusively.

“There are some incredibly positive things coming out of the emerging church scene particularly,” minister Sayers says. “It might be hard to pin these new Christians down in terms of some of their theology, but there’s a large passion about social justice, things like refugees, and living the message by taking it out to [impoverished] suburbs.”

And it’s not like they are pretending they are perfect. “I wanted to have sex on the beach with her,” Jim Bartle says without hesitation when asked about the day he met his future wife, when she approached him at Burleigh Heads to ask for a surfing lesson. “But being a Christian, I wasn’t able to do that. I wanted to do it the way God has told us to.” He pauses to consider the magnitude of that mission. “But still, all I wanted to do is jump this girl.” Little wonder hard-bitten outback kids who have never even seen a Bible still stop to hear this preacher talk about the Holy Spirit.

Erica’s audience may be trickier – they already have a bible, and its name is Vogue – particularly when she admits her fairytale romance with Jim was jolted back to a grimmer reality soon after she posted their wedding snaps, worthy of a fashion spread, to her blog. If there is one thing Bridget Jones and her ilk demand, it is a happy ending – and developing a near-fatal eating disorder after becoming a minister’s wife, as Erica did, is not really in the script. “I did feel some real despair for a great period of time about leaving Sydney and my career behind,” she says. “I was a Sydney girl, over-invested in my career, very self-focused, worshiping at the altars of celebrity and Westfield. So I struggled with the physical isolation of that new way of life and with my identity within the circle, desperately wanting to be a good wife and a good Christian, but also wanting to maintain a career.

“And I’m still trying to work out what success means, still trying to find a balance between business sense and God sense – but I do believe it is honouring God to use your gifts, provided we do so with the right motivation.”


88 thoughts on “The ‘Jesus Makes Me Look Good, Feel Good’ Generation

  1. Interesting article, Specks.

    Liked the way Mark Sayers summarised this:

    “So the quest for salvation has been replaced by the quest for wellbeing. And the danger is Christianity will end up looking like the empire of Oprah, in which God is a sort of cosmic butler who delivers things for us… We need to return to a biblical world view that grapples with suffering, rather than avoids or denies it, and that recognises that man is not the focus. God is. And that God is not going to transform you into this buff entrepreneur with a beautiful wife. There is a much deeper reality than that.”

    But the article is a bit vague about the main people in it really believe – its more about the social phenomenon.

    It’s funny how its still noteworthy when some beautiful and successful person comes to know Christ. So many years (decades) into the megachurch appropriation of fashion and popular culture, it seems strange to me that people still regard Christianity as having to combat a ‘daggy image’ associated with traditional churches. I thought that was old hat.

    I thought its image problems these days might be more to do with the appearances of materialism, cults of personality, churches ‘being after your money’, and the association with the extremes of the religious right in the US.

  2. Man is the focus in much of the seeker-sensitive and emergent movements. Many people boast of how many ‘decisions’ for Christ they are responsible for. People are presented half the truth when they are told how great thier lives will be when they become a ‘christ-follower’. They follow these leaders who promise a better life and worldly ‘blessings’. There is not enough preaching of the Jesus who saves us from sin and death, and who said we must deny ourselves, daily taking up our cross and following Him.

    Luke 9:23-24(KJV)
    And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.

  3. 1. “Many people boast of how many ‘decisions’ for Christ they are responsible for”….

    2.”There is not enough preaching of the Jesus who saves us from sin and death…”

    I have a real problem with both of those statements because they are coming from you.

    Lets be careful to define our terms properly Crypto-Jew boy, especally when you want to practice the shallow Dave Hunt poor scholarship and anti-calvinist rhetoric on the one hand, and then criticise the man-centred seeker sensitive gospel (as if it didnt spring from the contaminated pelagian soil of hyper-arminianism and the idolatry of man’s libertarian free will) on the other….

    It would be more accurate in the context of your man centred Arminian theology (notwithstanding some of the weird kooky things you also espouse) to say:
    “There is not enough preaching of the Jesus who [MAKES MEN SAVABLE] from sin and death…”

    At least be consistent – classical Arminian theology teaches that the Atonement does nothing more than makes all men “saveable” – the rest of the equation really is up to the individual’s “decision”…

    Please dont come the crap that you oppose “decisional” regeneration when it is central to your own aberrant theology….

  4. @ELD-
    I have been praying for you and I hope that you will stop behaving like a child. You comments are far from edifying for anyone reading this blog. You have assumed much about what I happen to believe, and I suspect that your assumptions have clouded your judgement. When one shows opposition to Reformed Theology it does not automatically mean that they are followers of Arminius or Pelagius.

    One can believe in free will and be opposed to the manipulative methods of shallow evangelism. Here is a definition of Quick-Prayerism by David Cloud who explains what I mean when I refer to those who boast of the many ‘decisions’ for Christ they are responsible for:

    “It is an evangelistic methodology whereby people are told that they are Heaven-bound Christians and are counted as such in reports merely because they have prayed a sinner’s prayer, even though they often give no evidence that they have been born again. I call it “prayerism” because it focuses on a prayer as the means of salvation. I call it “quick prayerism” because it specializes in quick presentations and quick decisions and an overall shallowness of depth and because large numbers of its “converts” display no evidence of genuine biblical salvation.”

    If you wanted to continue the Calvinism debate you could have done so on the other thread. It is too bad that you see Calvinism vs. Arminianism in everything. The comments I made on this post have nothing to do with the specifics of the doctrines of election or the atonement. If you saw that then perhaps you could have offered some intelligent comments that don’t discourage readers from participating in the discussion.

  5. I’m an ex-pastor and I’ve become more and more Anabaptist as I continue my walk with Christ. We must learn how to lay down our preconceived notions of the text, and have the Holy Spirit teach us.

  6. Perhaps you can discuss nutty “crypto-jew” and Priory of Sion conspiracy theories with a professional….I really not qualified in that regard, sorry bud I stopped taking you seriously when you held you started rambling on with the wild eyed conspiracy theories and holding Dave Hunt out as as some sort of authority on Reformed theology (which is like someone calling his buddy Chuck Missler a “Theologian”) – did you know Missler formally endorsed Hunts book “What Love Is This”?? (AKA What Research is This)….

    Can you tell me why Hunt refuses to engage Reformed Theologians in a public moderated debate on the subject???

    Why wont he debate James White, who has been trying to engage him for several years (because he knows he will be humiliated)….

    Why did Hunt’s own colleagues strongly encourage him not to publish his book given the numerous completely embarrasing errors it contains on the most basic level about the subject he was purporting to refute???….

    Why did Hunt say publically on a live radio program that he was “ignorant of the Reformers” and then proceed to write a book criticising Reformed Theology in under 6 months later?

  7. Anabaptists dont bring “preconceived notions” to the text eh?

    Yeah I guess they have no longer need for them like laws of logic….

    My friend, I dont think you appreciate that we ALL bring our presuppositions to the text of Scripture… if you dont realise that you are a slave to your presuppositions (or “traditions”)

  8. I said I’m ‘becoming’ Anabaptist. I left the clergy, have reevaluated my view point of scripture, and do Organic Church…I shouldn’t care about the outside world (although old habits die hard), I just focus on my walk with Christ.

  9. Hello ELD,

    That’s some flamethrower you’ve got there – I’m certainly glad I haven’t yet said anything that engenders your ire or attracts opprobrium from your corner.

    Are you still interested to hear about how, against the odds and in defiance of all rational expectations, I have come to be at C3 and have remained there?

  10. Ephesians 4:25-32(KJV)
    Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

    Ephesians 2:8-10(KJV)
    For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

    Romans 10:17(KJV)
    So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

    It is a gift. It is by God’s wonderful grace. It is by grace that we can have faith, but it is not irresistible. We need to accept it. We become a new creation in Christ Jesus. It is by God’s grace that we are able to submit to Him. As we abide in Christ we are empowered by the Holy Spirit, and strengthened by the Word of God. It is because of Christ’s mercy that we are able to die to ourselves and have new life in Him.

    Luke 9:23-24(KJV)
    And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.

    To him that overcometh…(Rev 2:17)

    Rev 22:17
    And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

    Enter the narrow gate…
    Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

  11. ROFL 🙂 🙂 What the friggin heck is “doing Organic Church”!!!!

    …is that like…a Church service produced using environmentally sound methods that do not involve modern synthetic inputs such as pesticides and chemical fertilizers, do not contain genetically modified organisms, and are not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives – and where everyone is naked and stoned???

    what a scream! nice one 🙂

  12. @ELD

    “What the friggin heck is “doing Organic Church”!!!!

    Perhaps an “organic church” is one that hasn’t been hermeneutically engineered.

  13. @CCC

    Good one.

    @ELD-
    I continue to pray for you. I pray that you may hear God and have faith in what is plainly stated in the scriptures. I pray that you may be set free from the yoke of Calvinism, and that you may have peace and understand that we are secure because we put our faith and trust in Christ Jesus. And I pray that you would be gentle, loving, and kind.

  14. Ok … here’s a question, no flowery answers please, merely a yes or no.

    Was the Reformation a move of the Holy Spirit?

  15. @Ex-Pirate – if me being the subject of your Prayers involves you being quiet and absent for any considerable length of time – count me in cheif! in fact pray for my whole family too!

    @CCC – “Are you still interested to hear about how, against the odds and in defiance of all rational expectations, I have come to be at C3 and have remained there?”

    Hit us with it – sounds good…

  16. By ‘organic church,’ I mean a non-traditional church that is born out of spiritual life instead of being constructed by human institutions and held together by religious programs. Organic church life is a grass roots experience that is marked by face-to-face community, every member functioning, open-participatory meetings (opposed to pastor-to-pew services), non-hierarchical leadership, and the centrality and supremacy of Jesus Christ as the functional Leader and Head of the gatherings. Put another way, organic church life is the experience of the Body of Christ. In its purest form, it’s the fellowship of the Triune God brought to earth and experienced by human beings.

  17. @Ant Writes-
    Those are important distinctives. Hierarchical leadership creates bondage in many of the religious systems. We are one body and many parts, and Christ must always be the head. While elders were appointed in the New Testament church, the Bible tells us that the early church was different than what most of us are accustomed to with pastor-to-pew services.

  18. Look into people like Tony and Felicity Dale, Wolfgang Simson, http://housechurchresource.org/. Old authors such as T. Austin Sparks, Dietrich Boenhoffer, etc. Elders are chosen when needed. An elder is just a person that people organically look to wen there are doctrinal issues. An old mature Christian usually.These aren’t glorified Bible studies. This is the church as Christ meant it to be. (It’s not emergent either, which many confuse it with)
    No leaders, except Christ. No buildings. No tithing (which is old covenant theology). When we DO give, ALL the money goes to the person. There is much written about this. The IC (institutional church) ignores us at the same time hating us.

  19. @Ant Writes-
    I looked at the link you posted above.

    Take caution with Frank Viola, as he is still selling books with Leonard Sweet.

    Sweet has been working together with Rick Warren since thier 1995 audio series called The Tides of Change.

    You can read an entire chapter about Sweet from Warren B. Smith’s book, A Wonderful Deception here:
    http://www.lighthousetrails.com/awdch10.pdf

    Here is a list of endorsements for “Jesus Manifesto”:

    Endorsements by Ed Young, Matt Chandler, Rowan Williams, Jack Hayford, Shane Claiborne, Ed Stetzer, Calvin Miller, Reggie McNeal, Gregory A. Boyd, Mark Batterson, David Fitch, Dan Kimball, Margaret Feinberg, Scot McKnight, Mark Chironna, Francis Frangipane, Todd Hunter, John R. Franke, Alan Hirsch, Chris Seay, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Anne Jackson, Steve Brown, Ken Ulmer, Tommy Barnett, Sally Morgenthaler, and others.
    http://www.thejesusmanifesto.com/

    False Teachers from both the Emergent Movement and the New Apostolic Reformation like this book, and are listed on the “Jesus Manifesto” website.

  20. @Ant – is the “IC” opposing Apostolic teaching derived from Holy Scripture by appointing elders/deacons?

    What separates the true “organic” church in its “purest form” (give me a break!) from other fad-driven modern evangelical splinter groups that appeal to such tacky marketing as describing themselves as “organic” – this is nothing short of the ego stroking wankery that drives the modern laodicean church in “its purest form” (C3, Hillsong et al)

  21. @Ant Writes-

    What type of clergy did you leave when you became an ex-pastor? What seminary did you go to? How have you specifically “reevaluated your view point of scripture”?
    I am curious because I am new to this organic idea.

    Leonard sweet is emergent.

    Brian Mclaren’s “A Generous Orthodoxy” is listed on Viola’s “Must-Have-In-Your-Library Book List”. How is that not emergent?

    These articles provide some useful information about Viola, Sparks, and the Organic Movement:

    http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/organic.htm
    http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/organicp2.htm

    @ELD-
    When I link to an articles like these it does not mean that I follow John Beardsly. I happen to disagree with some of his writings the same way that I disagree with Dave Hunt. I have benefitted from some of the research.

  22. Ant, two anomalies in your ideology:

    1. How does non-hierarchal leadership work?

    2. How does the IC simultaneously ignore you and hate you?

    Both of these seem to be oxymoronic.

    If you have non-hierarchal leadership, by what criteria does anyone select elders, and how do they deselect them? Who, in a non-hierarchal leadership model, has the authority to declare themselves able to appoint or disappoint elders? Are the elders also non-hierarchal? What are their roles as elders in a non-hierarchal system? How do you apply discipline in a non-hierarchal leadership model? Or do you not have discipline either?

    Isn’t it a normal human distinctive to automatically be arranged into rank and file? Have you ever watched your children at play, especially in a large group setting? See how these hierarchies develop. It’s fascinating, and perfectly normal. God has organised oversight and care structures forever. They are thoroughly Biblical. How do you resist natural leadership traits in people? How do you defy God’s grace on certain people to lead? How do you prevent those who have the gifts of government or rulership from entering their God-given ministry? You say your church is organic. Don’t organisms have set patterns of behaviour which give them their identity?

    If ICs ignore you, how can they also hate you? Hate is such a strong term and condition. I hate rock-melon because it causes an allergic reaction in me, but the mere fact of hating it makes it impossible to ignore if it is offered. When you enter a room, as an organic church member, and ICs are present, do they show signs of ignoring you, or hating you? How would they achieve both? There is a vast difference. If I am ignorant of something, how can I either love it or hate it?

    For instance, you can love ELD or hate him, but you could never ignore him if he comes into your world.

  23. a lot of questions, but I’ll try to summarize. Organic fellowships are small, usually around 20 people or so. And people get together OFTEN. 3 or 4 times a week, if not more. The purpose is to have a meal. “Each has a song, prayer, prophecy or teaching”. Elders are chosen by consensus. Ours doesn’t have one. We sit in a living room or table n a circle and we let Christ lead. Look into “Finding organic church” or “reimagining church” by Frank Viola, or “A Church building every 1/2 mile” by Jon Zens or Simple Church by Felicity dale. This series should explain it. These people are much more experienced than me

  24. @Ant Writes-

    You have been duped by people “much more experienced than me”.

    Viola is not experienced in teaching Biblical Christianity. He is experienced in deception as are Leonard Sweet and Rick Warren.

    God has put things “rank and file” for us in the Bible. It’s “man’s way” to deny that the Bible is true, or to deny that Jesus Christ is the only way to God.

    What clergy did you leave?

  25. Give me an example of how Frank Viola has duped me.
    Plus, I don’t believe that the bible isn’t true. I’m pretty much as orthodox as you can be

  26. I did watch the first two parts. They are using straw man arguments. These cells remind me of those who use the dialectical process in the church growth movement.

    Viola has duped you into believing that organic is not emergent.

  27. @Ant…’An elder is just a person that people organically look to when there are doctrinal issues’.

    Well, of course, this is fraught with danger. Having witnessed the kind of people sheep will follow, we can know that sheep appointed elders can sometimes turn out to be wolves in sheep’s clothing.

    I mean, some sheep have considered Todd Bentley ‘elder’ enough to follow him despite very obvious disqualifying traits.

    Surely eldership is a peer leadership selection process, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit… you know, the presbytery in prayer, and the Holy Spirit saying, “Separate off to me Paul and Baranabus”, and that kind of thing.

    Of course, the sheep get to choose the deacons, but above that level of responsibility the presbytery takes the lead, and according to a designated level of qualification and credentials, well articulated by Paul to both Timothy and Titus.

    But you allow any bod to lead the doctrinal stance of your 20 something enclave and you’re asking for a Charles Taze Russell to arise. I don’t see how your model reflects the early Church synergy at all, where the doctrine was completely organised by the Apostolic headship, and related through the Church as a download of God-inspired scripture.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for many different expressions of Church, and local church enterprise, from house-church, to small groups, traditional, contemporary, reformed, to mega-church, but your ‘organic’ approach seems to come short in structure. You are substituting ‘organic’ for ‘non-commital’.

    It is another kind of wineskin to that proposed by Jesus, which was very well defined as having leaders and followers, maybe not as hierarchal as the word implies, but certainly not a free-for-all, choose-your-own-elder environment.

    In fact, Jesus spent time being the Pastor ministering to large crowds on the hillside and on the lake, as well as hand-picking and training a small group of future apostles, and a larger group of disciples. He attended the synagogue, and was identified as a Rabbi. The early Church was an extension of the traditional Jewish set-up, even going up to the Temple at prayer times. It changed as it went along and different challenges presented themselves, and that has always been the pattern.

    The attempts to break away and reform according to early church patterns are admirable, but often poorly worked. Viola attacks tradition and comes up with no viable answers. If you try to start again you are likely to be doomed to repeating some of the errors of the past. God is well able to take the existing Church and remodel it to become what he wants it to be.

    I wish you well with you enterprise, but let your motives be to enhance what exists, not to tear down those good things which have been established over time. God is bigger than this. He will present the Church to himself as a chaste Bride. He can do it, and will.

  28. It is truly astonishing how neo-evangelicals will try and out-smart Scripture when it comes to “doing church” –

    The question for you Ant – is Scripture sufficient for the church and not just for an individual Christian?

  29. @Everybody: neo-evangelical? I take offense to that. Why is everyone focusing on elders? Rarely is an elder needed. All of us are working these things out together. I personally don’t know what emergent is. I’ve just read “about” emergent. And Viola never mentioned Emergent. I did. If you want a copy of “Pagan Christianity”, I can give you a copy. I don’t follow Frank. He’s a nice guy, but we butt heads on a couple of things. Read my post concerning differences and how we try to handle them: http://compuadept.net/wp/2011/03/09/returning-to-mount-sinai-part-i/
    Jon Zens is better qualified to answer most of these questions. He’s been having organic expression since 1975
    http://searchingtogether.org/

  30. Kipling,

    while recognising the points you make regarding the selection of Elders and Deacons, I would take a slight issue with you regarding the Elders choosing Elders business.

    In many independent fellowships the way it seems to work is that the Elders find more elders whom they work with and then merely ask the members to endorse their selection.

    Elders make their choice and members have their say.

  31. @Kipling “I mean, some sheep have considered Todd Bentley ‘elder’ enough to follow him despite some very disqualifying traits”

    Oh come on, you can’t blame this one on the sheep. Todd was prophetically and apostolically appointed by the apostle of apostles himself, Peter Wagner. And by 16 other paid-up members of the professional association of Apostles – the only formal recognising body for Apostles that exists.

    This was a bona-fide Heirarchical church, Apostolic appointment if ever there was one. The only thing that might make it more legit would be if the Pope came and laid hands on him.

    Which just goes to show, its dosent work all the time.

  32. And that was so embarrassing to Wagner when it came out that Bentley was making the beast with two backs with Jessa and doing it while extremely drunk all the time too.

    They could probably smell the beer on him when they put the ring on his finger.

    What they should have done is ban him completely from the pulpit. “Go on … see if you can get a job.”

    About the only thing he’d be able to do would be sell smack to kids on street corners.

    Anyway, after all the ‘prophecy’ around Todd being the super god-man of our generation they couldn’t hang him out to dry without having to leave ‘ministry’ themselves in utter shame.

    The whole thing stinks to high heaven and God hates it.

  33. Ant Writes – good to read your comments.

    I have also read Frank Viola’s stuff, and took an interest in the Anabaptists. That was when I was in the process of leaving my previous Pentecostal church. Currently I attend no church – I get together with other Christians, but not 3 or 4 times per week. We have no formal structure right now. One day I may attend an ‘IC’ again, and I trust that if I do so, it will be as the Lord leads, much as I’m convinced He led me out of where I was…

    Anyway:

    I think Viola offers some valuable challenges to those who feel church should be done in a particular ‘traditional’ way. We all benefit from becoming aware of where things are tradition rather than ‘written’.

    However, I found Viola too angry. To me, he seemed politicized, not just interested in being factual. So while he presented a lot of useful information, I could not personally regard the organic house church model that he strongly promoted, as the only biblical model of ‘doing church’.

    It seems to me that we can become just as legalistic about a given organic church format if we become convinced that it is the only best way under all circumstances, as others can be about their traditional church models. And scripture is very clear that we are not under any form of law – even in the way we carry out church.

    In fact there have even been strong abuses of power carried out in the house church movement. It can at times be just as, if not more, hierarchical than many traditional church forms. The ‘shepherding’ movement provides an example. (I can elaborate on that if you want. It involved personal pastors and covering doctrine.)

    There are countless permutations of circumstances and people; what is helpful for some may or may not be for others; the Lord can work with it all. But we can gain wisdom from seeing how things worked in the NT, without becoming legalistic about how they are applied.

    Hope that makes sense.

    Anabaptism is also interesting, especially when you’ve spent all your Christian life in evangelical settings as I have. There is no doubt that the Anabaptists have some serious intellectual thinking – they are invited to speak at evangelical conferences and their contributions span denominational boundaries. I even came across an Anabaptist ministry that assisted churches of other denominations to mediate and heal when there were issues involving church splits. They seem to have a ministry to the rest of the body of Christ in the area of reconciliation and forgiveness, partly because they have had to forgive other parts of the body of Christ for centuries of persecution. (The Lutherans and Anabaptists have officially reconciled and acknowledged wrongs and misunderstandings of the past.)

    My favourite Anabaptist author is Stuart Murray Williams.

    However there is another side to the Anabaptists which I found too extreme for me. When encountering this side, I felt that I would be condemned in some way unless I was involved very practically in some kind of social justice ministry. The book, ‘Dissident Discipleship’ by Robert Augsberger, which I have on my bookshelf, just seemed so harsh to me. Yet he had some good points. It wasn’t that he was wrong but again, something about the spirit of it. Maybe it was just too challenging for me. But I felt that somehow you were regarded as only half a Christian – not fully saved in some way – unless you had sacrificed your life to the point of becoming thoroughly devoted to some kinds of social justice issue. And there is no end to these issues.

    So while I felt they had much good to offer, I could not engage with their extremes. As I said, perhaps it was just too challenging for me – there is no doubt Christ is challenging. Nonetheless, we are not made good by what we do, nor are we saved by any works. And I believe works should spring from our transformed hearts (God’s work in us) rather than out of trying to ensure we are a ‘3 dimensional’ Christian (Augsberger’s book relates to dimensions of faith). Something there to me did not seem quite right. Yet for someone called into those things, they are not wrong.

    Again, I hope this makes sense.

    While not attending a church, I am enjoying the freedom to explore the spectrum and history of our faith with no pressure to think a particular way from the pulpit.

    Also, to me, ‘organic church’ is church pulled together by the Holy Spirit. It even takes place within and past the boundaries of traditional denominations. It has no formula or defined form and is a result of those relationships that God has put in place, and the work of the Holy Spirit amongst and within us – none of these things can be programmed. Organic church happens whether or not we men program things. It is the living body. We are all part of it if we are Christian.

  34. wazza2 and Bull: yes indeed re Bentley. Massive and ongoing failure of the ‘eldership’ in his case. Who adhered strongly to modern ‘five-fold ministry’ doctrines.

  35. Specks – could you please get my comment above out of moderation??

    Here’s the correction anyway:

    “Correction: Dissident Discipleship is by David Augsburger (not Robert Augsberger).”

  36. I’ll pay that, wazza2, although it’s not entirely correct.

    Bentley was ‘commissioned’ as an Evangelist, which he already was long before the ‘commissioning’, albeit with a flawed character, not an Apostle, or Pastor. Of course you could say that anyone so commissioned would be considered an elder. I don’t suppose there is a leadership tam in existence which has not made an error of judgement in this, and we have all had to repent of mistakes.

    Bentley had already gathered a significant crowd before other ministries became interested. I think the whole saga is a sad debacle. Made sadder by the clamour to endorse a man with real marital problems. Why didn’t they check with his wife before they laid hands on them? She would have told them.

    I was never a fan of Bentley, not since he claimed to have had angelic visitations which did not comply with Biblical standards. The healings and miracles I know nothing about, since I did not follow his ministry, so, were they bona fide? I don’t know. Only God can know this. All I know is that he disqualified himself from ministry on more than one count, and anyone in leadership should have seen this. I have been consistent in this view.

    But, on to Wagner and the ICA, who ‘commissioned’ him.

    I understand that the ICA, International Coalition of Apostles, claims that the ‘Second Apostolic Age’ began around 2001, which is quite an extraordinary assertion.

    I don’t see why God would need such an event, nor is it mentioned in scripture. It occurs to me that God starts something then steps back. He gave us the Apostolic age, and that’s it. It is not necessary to call it the first Apostolic age, since it is Biblically, the only Apostolic age, has not ended, and will continue until Jesus comes.

    Where these ministers get this idea is beyond me.

    That would be enough for me. I don’t need to know any more. I’ve read some of Wagner’s books, and considered them to be interesting, but not Pentecostal enough at a time when we were looking for a better theology for Pentecost. That is, hopefully, yet to come, but that’s another story.

    Wagner’s books are the works of a charismatic searching for answers to some questions not approached by evangelical theology. I think John Whimber was on the same trail, and came to much the same conclusions. His ministry was effective to a degree, but falls short in some areas. His embracing of the ministries of Caine and Deere got in the way of a rapid growth of some excellent churches, although, had he lived, I’m hopeful he would have ironed out some of the shortcomings. However the Vineyard movement has been good for many people.

    I am not fully versed with the ICA.There s probably some good work being done, but I am not impressed by some of their claims.

    I think it nicely outlines the case I made for bring careful about which people you ‘align’ yourself with.

  37. @ELD,

    What happened for me at C3 is this: several years ago, God spoke to me very clearly and indicated that I should go there. The same word he gave to me was also given to someone close to me at the very same instant, and it was given to them *verbatim*.

    Surprising stuff. So I’m there under orders, and I attend first and foremost as a matter of obedience. I am aware of others who are there under God’s direction, and some of them really are good people (they fully understand which side their spiritual bread is buttered on, and they are under no illusions regarding C3).

    My early years as a Christian were spent in a Church of Christ, which was pretty well Biblically-based (although I’ve long since jettisoned the doctrine of cessationism). My grounding in the Bible from that time, along with the subsequent reading I’ve done myself and the things that God has shown me, has served to inoculate me against the various heresies circulating today; hence my orthodox doctrinal position and trenchant opposition to falsehood and fads.

    I have a call of God on my life, and being at C3 is part of that. I can’t elaborate on that other than to say that according to what I have been shown I am going to have quite an interesting time in ministry; so I’m looking forward to that. In the meantime I am sitting tight and doing my best to cultivate a better attitude and keep my tongue in check, which is character building to say the least.

  38. The irony is that many “organic” churches end up being large churches with very strong leadership. And of course most cease to exist.

  39. @ravingpente-
    Interesting comparison to the “Shepherding Movement”. I can see a resemblance as well.

    @specksandplanks-
    Is there a reason why my posts are still awaiting moderation? All I did was link to articles about Viola, Leonard Sweet, and the emergent and NAR connections to the organic movement.

    @CCCer-
    “What happened for me at C3 is this: several years ago, God spoke to me very clearly and indicated that I should go there. The same word he gave to me was also given to someone close to me at the very same instant, and it was given to them *verbatim*.”

    Are you sure it was God speaking to you? Could you recite what God said to you and the other person at the same instant *verbatim*?

  40. Ravingpente says:
    “However there is another side to the Anabaptists which I found too extreme for me. When encountering this side, I felt that I would be condemned in some way unless I was involved very practically in some kind of social justice ministry…………….”
    “Maybe it was just too challenging for me. But I felt that somehow you were regarded as only half a Christian – not fully saved in some way – unless you had sacrificed your life to the point of becoming thoroughly devoted to some kinds of social justice issue. And there is no end to these issues.”

    Ummmm….it is called the “Galatian Heresy” – this is not Christianity rather it is the carousel of human achievement over and over again, this kind of perverse Gospel puts people under the impossible weight of the law………

    Theology matters!

  41. @ CCCer – a few questions, when God “spoke” to you about going to C3, did you confirm it through His Word (not just another person)?

    Not knowing if you are male/female, parent etc, how are you receiving nourishment (the gospel) at C3? If you ARE a parent and you have children attending, what are they receiving? (A very strong concern that I have for family with children still there being told because they “asked Jesus into their life they are saved” – unbibical decisional regeneration).

    As ex-C3, it was God’s Word (and lack of it at C3) that finally brought us out of there.

    I’m involved in ongoing conversations with another ex-C3, and with outastanding honesty on his part, he was able to draw me to the heart of the problem (because he knows we have family members ministering within the movement).

    Among other observations, he was able to point the “hypocrisy of young men preaching a true gospel, and then seeing those same young mens openly agree with Phil as he preaches error, leaving the congregation to think it’s all the same. They just equate grace with legalism, truth with error, and true gospel with different gospel. So in the end we are left with a congregation of people who can’t discern, because we have C3 leadership teaching that black is white and white is black.”

    The hypocrisy of starting a “Sunday night service with a Gospel centered intro, only to then ‘fist pump’, nod and amen PP minutes later from the front row as he preached the tithe or some other perverted legalistic doctrine – if they really knew and believed the Gospel, why would they support PP? It was kind of a case of show me your faith by your works.”

    CCCer – why would you sit there believing you are “going to have an interesting time in ministry” when perhaps people attending C3 are daily dying and going to hell?

  42. @ CCCer – what I should have said is, “what are you doing in the meantime”, waiting for your moment in the spotlight, (sorry to sound rude but maybe you are not making yourself clear enough)?

  43. @Churchman “The irony is that many “organic” churches end up being large churches with very strong leadership. And of course most cease to exist.”
    Yes, that definitely can be a problem. That’s why they should remain small. I think that’s because people want to be lead, when Jesus is our only leader. I’m lead to believe church leadership is the Nicolaitan heresy. Ignatius started that as soon as John the Apostle died. He says “Obey your Bishop as you would God” in 98 AD.
    That’s what I think elders are for. Plus I also believe an apostle should “plant” a church, but he should not be a member of that church, because they will automatically look to him for leadership.

  44. @Ant Writes-
    It is astonishing how you militantly defend Viola and the organic chruch concept after all of the comments on here exposing the errors.

    You are demonstrating signs of being influenced by cult-like mind control. Please, take the time to study the Bible without Viola’s “preconceived notions of the text”. You will greatly benefit from learning about Viola’s connection with Leonard Sweet (a leading figure in the emergent movement who is persuading evangelicals to believe in New Light/New Age/New Spirituality).

  45. @ex
    I am not a follower of Frank Viola. And Frank wrote his entire book Jesus Manifesto, but just used Leonard Sweet’s name.(I asked him about this) He says they disagree theologically on many things, but he’s still considers him a friend. Which specific points were you referring to? Frank was just ONE of the people I heard about this from. Dietrich Boenhoffer was the first person who taught me about this. Wolfgang Simson was another. And Jon Zens.

  46. @ragingpentecostal: Thank you for your reply. Frank Viola I think is very gentle, but when I first read him, I was ANGRY! I was a pastor for 5 years and “who the heck was HE to crucify the clergy system”..I wrote him a scathing email…ironic, right? I took offense, which in itself was sinful. Anyway, I’ve met Frank a few times, and we even drank a couple of beers in Germany. We don’t agree on everything. I mean he’s still saved, but I’m right about the things we disagree on 😉 And no, organic church is not the only way. Personally, I could NEVER again play the role of pastor after having read the history. (Pagan Christianity). Now, understanding Jesus Christ’s ultimate purpose, I could never “do church” when we ARE the church. We are all priests. T. Austin Sparks is a good author.
    http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/what_is_man.html
    Tithing is OLD covenant. I could never again accept tithes and offerings for a building and a salary. God no longer lives in buildings but within each one of his followers. We are Christ on the earth. So you can now sit passively while only one person functions for an hour? How about what YOU bring to the table?

  47. @Ant Writes-
    Frank and Leonard look like they have a pretty cushy relationship by looking at the “Jesus Manifesto” website. I am frightened for you. These men are skilled in deception.

    Why would Viola use Sweet’s name if he wrote the whole book?

    Dietrich Boenhoffer was a liberal theologian.

  48. @Ant Writes-
    I am not going to do your homework for you. You can read plenty about Bonhoeffer’s theology online. Lets talk about living ‘teachers’? Why do you overlook the glaring new-age doctrine of Sweet?

    “Quantum spirituality bonds us to all creation as well as to other members of the human family. . . . This entails a radical doctrine of embodiment of God in the very substance of creation. . . . But a spirituality that is not in some way entheistic (whether pan- or trans-), that does not extend to the spirit-matter of the cosmos, is not Christian.” (Quantum Spirituality: A Postmodern Apologetic, p. 125)

  49. Hello All,

    I’ll post some replies tonight (no, none of the questions will slide into obscurity).

    I’ve just got to attend to a few things first (including holding some steak on my eyes for a while to ameliorate the effects of some of Kipling’s posts on the other thread…)

  50. @CCCer – I am amazed at how Mr Kipling manages to stride the moral high ground with nearly everyone else – but if his fidelity and loyalty to a fellow C3’er is anything to go by, I would rather knock around with atheists if I were you….

    I think he considers you a significant threat, hes definitely been on the attack with you (not that that is a problem he is full of pee and wind)

  51. Ant Writes: I haven’t met Viola in person, so my comment really only reflects the tone that I picked up reading his books. I wasn’t angry with what he was saying – I don’t remember having a problem with what he was saying about traditions themselves. Just that I felt there was a push there to go in a particular way, and if you didn’t, somehow your experience of Christianity would be less for it. Just as I felt from the Augsburger book that there was implied judgement of people who didn’t go that way, I also felt there was in Viola’s book towards those who might be quite happy in traditional church structures.

    Yet I agree with the thrust of what he says once that judgement is removed – I also can’t just ‘sit passively while only one person functions for an hour?’

    A simple example of a tradition that I think has really suffered in the IC is communion – it loses so much of its power when it is just a wafer and thimble of grapejuice passed around a bunch of people who really aren’t relating much to each other at the time. And there’s a large list of things like that.

    And no, organic church is not the only way. Personally, I could NEVER again play the role of pastor after having read the history.

    – Ant Writes

    I’m happy hearing both those comments. Though there are those called to be pastors, the role of pastor seems to have become that of CEO and ruler in many of the existing structures we have, rather than servant leadership. Much of the time, things are upside down. Won’t go into that now.

    Do you think there is a risk that when we leave a structure that we have always known, seeking something better, that despite our intentions, we end up replicating what we have known? Unless the Lord changes us, I think it is hard not to do this. While understanding the principles that may be different between IC and organic church, nonetheless, when I have only known one way of doing things, it is reflexive to repeat them, even on a smaller scale.

    Have you read any of Thwaites books – ‘The Church Beyond the Congregation’ etc? This takes ‘organic church’ further, outside both the church building and the home, yet talks about how pastors and other gifts within the body can be supportive of this even in the settings of churches that look like traditional congregations.

  52. Clarification: “…Do you think there is a risk that when we leave a structure that we have always known, seeking something better, that despite our intentions, we end up replicating what we have known?”

    I mean … if we just try to start up something new in reaction to what we’ve come out of?

    Churchman alluded to how this can happen, being magnified over time.

  53. “Ummmm….it is called the “Galatian Heresy” – this is not Christianity rather it is the carousel of human achievement over and over again, this kind of perverse Gospel puts people under the impossible weight of the law………

    Theology matters!”

    – ELD

    Yes, I agree very much. However I can’t accuse the Anabaptists of this theology. It was the tone that I picked up reading the book. Augsburger may not have meant it to come across that way. It may reflect him, rather than the Anabaptist movement.

    A review on Amazon put it very well:

    Practically, in claiming that his is “not your ordinary garden variety, but the stubborn, persistent, radical spirituality appearing in unusual people across the last two thousand years,” Augsburger inadvertently, and I am sure unintentionally, claims the high ground for an elite marine corp of spirituality. The majority of “usual” and “ordinary” believers who are enmeshed in the compromises and contradictions of every day lives, jobs, families, finances, etc. are consigned to the status of pikers and posers.

    One effect this had on me when reading the book, was to make me feel the weight of utter hopelessness striving to live up to the ideal he presented. After all, I’m just a very ordinary mother of two, doing nothing of particular note. Judged by those standards, I’m a complete loser. So the only reaction can then be utter gratitude that I don’t have to rely on myself to impress God in these things, knowing that Christ has accepted me regardless.

  54. I’ll preface this post by clarifying my position re. spiritual gifts, since it appears that my position on this issue has been misconstrued (for whatever reasons I can’t imagine).

    I believe that God continues to do today the things that He has done in the past – signs, miracles, wonders, healings (whether physical, mental, spiritual [that is, deliverance from demonic bondage], or some combination of these), and raising people to life who have died. There are other gifts referred to in the NT, including tongues (whether of men or angels); all these too remain extant. God gives spiritual gifts to men as he sees fit, and in accordance with their place within the Body of Christ – that is, the church – in order that they may faithfully minister to others by the power of the Holy Spirit as He leads them. All this is consistent with scripture and is borne out by our experience (well it’s borne out by my experience anyway, at least with regard to some of the gifts enumerated above).

    @EPL

    “Are you sure it was God speaking to you? Could you recite what God said to you and the other person at the same instant *verbatim*?”

    Yes, I’m absolutely positive is was God (the other person involved has a hot line to God and a heart so good that even Kipling couldn’t find fault with it). Sorry, I’d prefer not to go into any further detail than to say it was one short sentence.

    @ELD

    “what do you think is the problem with the C3 movement (if any)?”

    I understand exactly what the problem is; that is, the root cause as opposed to the symptoms. The rundown on this may get a little lengthy, so I’ll put it in a separate post.

    @Teddy,

    ‘a few questions, when God “spoke” to you about going to C3, did you confirm it through His Word (not just another person)?’

    Yes, where it says “don’t forsake the gathering of yourselves together”; that is, I have to go *somewhere*, and the landscape is bleak in this regard no matter which way one turns. It has been confirmed to me again since then, and also to a third (non-C3) person who has an extraordinarily powerful prophetic gift.

    “Not knowing if you are male/female, parent etc, how are you receiving nourishment (the gospel) at C3?”

    I’ve got a study Bible with good notes, and God teaches me the things I need to know.

    And reading the posts on this blog challenges me to think about what I believe and why, and this has spurred me on to some research on the web (just as should happen in a healthy church, I would think…)

    “If you ARE a parent and you have children attending, what are they receiving? (A very strong concern that I have for family with children still there being told because they “asked Jesus into their life they are saved” – unbibical decisional regeneration).”

    If I had kids you can rest assured that I wouldn’t leave them in the hands those who would lead them astray.

    “As ex-C3, it was God’s Word (and lack of it at C3) that finally brought us out of there.”

    I can fully understand that – it’s a dry wasteland as far as God’s word goes, and the tragedy is that it is leaving people ill-equipped for their Christian walk in general, let alone what is going to come upon us if we find ourselves in the tribulation. It is easy to see how “the love of many will grow cold” when multitudes are spending their time in such churches.

    ‘I’m involved in ongoing conversations with another ex-C3, and with outastanding honesty on his part, he was able to draw me to the heart of the problem (because he knows we have family members ministering within the movement).

    Among other observations, he was able to point the “hypocrisy of young men preaching a true gospel, and then seeing those same young mens openly agree with Phil as he preaches error, leaving the congregation to think it’s all the same. They just equate grace with legalism, truth with error, and true gospel with different gospel. So in the end we are left with a congregation of people who can’t discern, because we have C3 leadership teaching that black is white and white is black.”

    The hypocrisy of starting a “Sunday night service with a Gospel centered intro, only to then ‘fist pump’, nod and amen PP minutes later from the front row as he preached the tithe or some other perverted legalistic doctrine – if they really knew and believed the Gospel, why would they support PP? It was kind of a case of show me your faith by your works.”’

    Quite so.

    ‘why would you sit there believing you are “going to have an interesting time in ministry” when perhaps people attending C3 are daily dying and going to hell?

    what I should have said is, “what are you doing in the meantime”, waiting for your moment in the spotlight, (sorry to sound rude but maybe you are not making yourself clear enough)?’

    No offence taken; I didn’t explain myself well at all there. What I intended was a veiled reference to the way I know things will unfold with my ministry, but upon re-reading I see that it could easily come across as being the statement of a smug self-obsessed prat (I can see Kipling nodding in agreement at this point).

    As to what I am doing: what I can under the circumstances, which mostly means things outside the church. This afternoon I spoke to a woman in my street about God, and her heart was touched (who knows, maybe by the Holy Spirit). She has a relative who is ill, and I am going to visit them and pray for them; perhaps God’s answer will be “yes” and they will be healed. It’s tricky within the church, because I can easily say the wrong thing and end up embroiled in an argument, or can be overheard and noted as being a dissident. I’m not there to make waves, create trouble or dissuade others from going there; but keeping quiet is not easy. I’m sure that you can appreciate my position in that regard, since you’ve been there yourself.

    The bottom line is that I neither crave nor require the approval of the church’s leadership to do God’s work (and, indeed, if I had such approval I would be mightily worried).

  55. @ELD, no one parades across the moral high ground more than you robed in your Captain Reformo regalia, flashing your History of Theology 101 badge to glint off the rays of your own self-esteem.

    In fact it is CCCer who is ‘going after’ Pentecostal ministry.

    All I’ve done is ask for some defining proof for his assertions. The same evidence you have failed to provide after weeks of asking.

    Asking for concrete proof of your claims gives you the perfect opportunity to show off your investigative skills.

    CCCer has made some extraordinarily derogatory comments about people. Why?

  56. What would you say if I said I could produce more evidence by means of a simple google search that Christopher Hitchens understands the Christian Gospel more than Phil Pringle…..

  57. @ex: Böhnoffer fought against liberal theology. He was an admirer of Karl Barth, who DEFINITELY wasn’t liberal. Where do u get your facts from? I know nothing about Leonard. The Jesus Manifesto was probably one of the greatest books on Jesus Christin the past 10 years. Which specific doctrines were mentioned do you not agree with?
    @raving: I’ve never read Thwaite. I really try not to read too many other authors. There really is nothing new under the sun 🙂 Unfortunately, too many modern Christian books are complete doodoo, like the new Rob Bell book or Rick Warrren or people of that ilk. And I’m technically not anabaptist, but I’m becoming more and more anabaptist in my view of the world. I try to remain aloof concerning the outside world, and just focus on me and my family, and my fellow Christians.

  58. Of course Hitchins knows ABOUT the gospel. Dawkins knows ABOUT the gospel. You know ABOUT the gospel. The thing is what does any of you DO ABOUT the gospel?

    You’re on record as saying things to the effect that the gospel only applies to a select group of people, and that there are millions to whom it will never apply. Am I correct in assuming you do not see the necessity of preaching the gospel to anyone since God has it all in hand?

  59. “Of course Hitchins knows ABOUT the gospel. Dawkins knows ABOUT the gospel. You know ABOUT the gospel.”

    And yet there is no evidence that Phil Pringle knows anything ABOUT the gospel……google “Phil Pringle” and “gospel”

    Now Google “Phil Pringle” and “leadership” and your computer will almost crash with all the books, tapes, articles and superfluous CRAP……

    You should be embarrased friend – that is nothing short of a disgrace……this fool is a pastor not a damed scout leader…and you are complicit in it

  60. Oh grow up, ELD!

    I never met a person who knows so much and says so little to edify.

    That’s not even an argument worth pursuing. An insult to everyone’s intelligence rather than anyone in particular.

    Make the discussion worth while with some real evidence instead of bumptious baseless waffle.

    I am embarrassed… at your lack of substance.

    If you really don’t think Phil preaches the gospel, you cannot know what the gospel is.

    The give-away was when you asked CCCer to come up with something for you. Sad!

  61. @Ant Writes-
    “I know nothing about Leonard. The Jesus Manifesto was probably one of the greatest books on Jesus Christin (sic) the past 10 years.”

    Leonard Sweet was a co-author of “Jesus Manifesto”. He has partnered with Warren since their ’95 audio series The Tides of Change. Warren wrote this endorsement on the front cover of Sweet’s book Soul Tsunami:
    …”Soul Tsunami shows us why these are the greatest days for evangelism since the first century!”

    Leonard Sweet in Soul Tsunami:
    “It’s time for a Post Modern Reformation,” [p. 17]
    “The wind of spiritual awakening is blowing across the waters.” [p. 408]

    Leonard Sweet writes in Quantum Spirituality:
    “Mysticism, once cast to the sidelines of the Christian tradition, is now situated in postmodernist culture near the center…. In the words of one of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century, Jesuit philosopher of religion/dogmatist Karl Rahner, “The Christian of tomorrow will be a mystic, one who has experienced something, or he will be nothing.” [Mysticism] is metaphysics arrived at through mindbody experiences. Mysticism begins in experience; it ends in theology. [Leonard Sweet. Quantum Spirituality. Pgs. 11, 76]

    You said:
    “I really try not to read too many other authors. There really is nothing new under the sun.”

    “Unfortunately, too many modern Christian books are complete doodoo, like the new Rob Bell book or Rick Warrren or people of that ilk.”

    Jesus Manifesto is one of them (doodoo). You reveal a lot about yourself when you say Jesus Manifesto is so great, and you know nothing of Sweet– when he WROTE the book.

    http://www.thejesusmanifesto.com/

  62. I don’t know if Sweet really wrote it. It’s written in the writing style of Frank. Frank did the same thing with George Barna. Barna lent his name so the book can sell. (It’s popular in the publishing industry). Sweet may have done the same thing. Have you even read the book? It seems like you haven’t It’s a compilation of some of Franks earlier writings with some new excerpts. Nothing in it was doctrinally incorrect. If YOU found something in the book that was theologically wrong, tell me. Cite a page number if you can.

  63. @ CCCer – thanks for the update. A few more questions – are you attending C3 Oxford Falls or another C3. The reason I ask is that I’ve heard there are rumblings in other C3 churches that may lead to a breaking away, specifically over doctrine and more specifically, the so-called “prosperity doctrine”.

    Will you be attending Presence 2011, and what’s your take on the keynote speakers?

  64. @Ant Writes-
    No thank you. I will decline to continue in this discussion with you, which is not really a discussion at all. You seem bent on selling the organic concept despite any warnings that anyone on here has tried to share with you.

    Your stubborness can be likened to someone selling a multi-level marketing scheme who boasts of how much money they will make, yet is blind to the fact that they have little or no hope of success.

    I asked you twice what clergy you left when you became an ex-pastor. It is evident that whatever tradition or “IC” you left did not prepare you use the Bible to discern good from evil.

    Proverbs 11:14
    Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellers there is safety.

    Proverbs 15:22
    Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellers they are established.

  65. @ELD,

    “[…] I think he considers you a significant threat, hes definitely been on the attack with you […]”.

    I don’t know why on earth I would be considered a “threat”. Even if one considers what I have to say no more than an opinion, surely I’m entitled to express it. (Of course, it is a hallmark of organisations with cultic tendencies that they aggressively suppress dissent, often by whatever means are necessary).

    And yes, the attack has been a go-for-the-throat take-no-prisoners effort on his part.

    Have you noticed that in many churches, complaints elicit that hoary old chestnut “There’s no such thing as the perfect church”, but in those very same places it is a case of woe betide the member whose conduct and attitudes are anything less than unimpeachable? That is a clear case of double standards.

  66. “…The reason I ask is that I’ve heard there are rumblings in other C3 churches that may lead to a breaking away, specifically over doctrine and more specifically, the so-called “prosperity doctrine”…” – Teddy

    So much of what is taught is based on or supportive of prosperity doctrine though – there wouldn’t be much left if there was a ‘breakaway’ would there?

    Prosperity doctrine goes hand in hand with all that ’80s and ’90s corporation influence that led to vision casting etc and a certain leadership style, much of which is personality based. Submission and obedience doctrines (a la John Bevere) support that style. Just removing the prosperity angle wouldn’t fix it. And they are so used to needing a vision, or looking to be part of a ‘major move of God’ – would they just replace the prosperity thing with another directional focus since it must be so very hard now to contemplate church without that.

    In other words, I think a breakaway group might just replicate the same potentially abusive structures unless the entire organisational principles are reconsidered. Is that likely as well?

  67. CCCer, you are intriguing. Such a sense of certainty in your ministry future.

    I do like that you are not a cessationist and pray for people in need as opportunity arises, whether in the church context or not.

    I left my C3 partly because I didn’t want to continually censor my words when relating to my church family. I wanted to be able to be honest when having fellowship with people.

    At the time, it seemed like I disagreed with so much that it felt hypocritical to relate to those people and pretend that I peacefully agreed. And I didn’t want to undermine the leadership yet couldn’t endorse their teaching.

    Yes, where it says “don’t forsake the gathering of yourselves together”; that is, I have to go *somewhere*, and the landscape is bleak in this regard no matter which way one turns.

    – CCCer

    In terms of fellowship and having a church family – is it really a ‘gathering together’ if you can’t really share where you are at with people? When we gather, is our purpose to deceive one another, or something else?

    Surely in terms of ‘gathering together’ you need a group that you can be yourself with; a safe environment. It does not sound like you have this at C3.

    So how does attending a C3 fulfill this ‘requirement’ as you see it to be?

    I’m asking out of curiosity, not because I’m necessarily disagreeing with what you are doing.

  68. CCCer – you are like a Salman Rushdie of the Seeker Sensitive movement! I wouldnt be surprised if C3’s Grand Muppet (I mean Mufti) has issued a Purpose Driven Fatwā for you for being divisive and not praying facing Oxford Falls 5 times a day….

    He’s allready got his SS (seeker sensitive) police trying to track you down – Obersturmführer Kipling!!!

  69. Hmm, you know when a thread has timed out when someone stoops to Godwin’s law, and, of course, it had to be ELD.

    All I’ve done with CCCer is question his own antipathy, based on his own words, towards the church he claims to have been sent into against his will. How is that going for the jugular?

    Having read his explanation, I still do not see why God would have done this, but I accept that CCCer is not attempting to sow discord, and that he is no cessationist.

    However, CCCer has said some unkind things about his own church, and about the leadership. I do not see how this is helpful to anyone, especially since he feels he is called to be there. To what end?

    Tell you what, ELD, if someone came into your local church with the same ‘call’ as CCCer, or specks, opposing both your church doctrine and the leadership, and you knew who they were, what would you do with the information?

    I don’t really consider CCCer any kind of threat to anything I know, but I am curious about this apparent ‘call’, because it doesn’t appear in the Word anywhere. Maybe ELD can come up with a theology for t.

  70. “Having read his explanation, I still do not see why God would have done this, but I accept that CCCer is not attempting to sow discord, and that he is no cessationist.”

    Thanks Kipling; for my part I admit that I can get carried away with the rhetoric. I’ll tone it down and try to mind my attitude a bit better.

  71. Purpose Driven Fatwa! That’s brilliant ELD!

    I’ve always wanted Rick Warren to market a Purpose Driven Whip that comes free with a pastors Purpose Driven Pastoral Pack for their church growth.

  72. @ex: Hmm…those are pretty harsh words. I don’t believe I was selling “organic church”. If I was, I apologize. I left the Assemblies of God where I was ordained in the state of NY. Do you think I walked away from my entire career over over a book by some guy named Frank Viola? Sure, he had a lot of influence, but God had already been stirring things in me. Reading the book of Acts in one sitting sometimes will do that to a person also. I had much counsel. From my colleagues as well as others. Jon Zens, a Westminster scholar, had the most influence:
    http://paganchristianity.org/zensresponds1.php
    Why should I listen to you anyway? Brotherly counsel? I see an angry Pharisee showing no expression of love whatsoever.
    Be blessed.

  73. LOL! I dont really have a fear of my 30 strong Reformed Baptist Church which:

    1. sings Charles Wesley, Horatius Bonar and Isaack Watts Hyms;

    2. has a pastor who acts like a pastor and not like a life coach or just a complete dick (i.e. dressing in a smock and painting a crappy picture on stage)

    3. actually has the joy of experiencing well crafted and presented expositional, theologically rich sermons & prayer,

    will be infiltrated by an undercover SS (seeker sentive) Gistappo from C3….

    Thankfully Hymns, Biblical Preaching, God Centred theology, and a solid CONFESSION – keeps the purpose driven vermin away! 🙂

  74. @Teddy,

    ‘thanks for the update. A few more questions – are you attending C3 Oxford Falls or another C3. The reason I ask is that I’ve heard there are rumblings in other C3 churches that may lead to a breaking away, specifically over doctrine and more specifically, the so-called “prosperity doctrine”.’

    No worries. I won’t go into detail, but I understand that there is some disquiet abroad regarding the obsession with money. I have no idea why this should suddenly rear its head now, though.

    “Will you be attending Presence 2011, and what’s your take on the keynote speakers?”

    No, the travel would be too onerous. I’ve had a brief look at who’s going, but I haven’t had the time to do any in-depth research, so I can’t make an informed comment. From what I understand, it’s a gaggle of the usual suspects, including one gentleman from Joel Osteen’s church.

    @ravingpente,

    “CCCer, you are intriguing. Such a sense of certainty in your ministry future.”

    I’ve been told by God directly on many occasions, and by more people than I can count including pastors, family, friends, and complete strangers (once by a taxi driver!) Some of what has been revealed is mind-blowing, and I often think that God should have found a better person than me for the job. He has, however, remained adamant that I am the one that he wants.

    “I do like that you are not a cessationist and pray for people in need as opportunity arises, whether in the church context or not.”

    Thanks for the vote of confidence. I think it’s important that people are prayed for wherever necessary; after all that’s what Jesus and the disciples did. True Godliness has a naturalness about it, and should be free from ostentatious display, affectation, or man-made traditions that can impede or grieve the Holy Spirit.

    “I left my C3 partly because I didn’t want to continually censor my words when relating to my church family. I wanted to be able to be honest when having fellowship with people.”

    It’s a tightrope I have often walked myself. There have been times when I have found it excruciatingly difficult to remain silent.

    “At the time, it seemed like I disagreed with so much that it felt hypocritical to relate to those people and pretend that I peacefully agreed. And I didn’t want to undermine the leadership yet couldn’t endorse their teaching.”

    It’s a very tricky predicament. As for myself, I sometimes find someone I can talk to rather more freely, sometimes I keep things on a social level, and sometimes I just go home.

    “In terms of fellowship and having a church family – is it really a ‘gathering together’ if you can’t really share where you are at with people? When we gather, is our purpose to deceive one another, or something else?”

    No, much of the “gathering together” is not what it should be. However, that presents an opportunity to learn to love them and consider where *they* are at, and then relate to them on that basis.

    “Surely in terms of ‘gathering together’ you need a group that you can be yourself with; a safe environment. It does not sound like you have this at C3.

    So how does attending a C3 fulfill this ‘requirement’ as you see it to be?”

    It’s absolutely true that church is a place where you should be able to be yourself. C3 is a compromise for me in this regard, but this would be the case wherever I go.

    “I’m asking out of curiosity, not because I’m necessarily disagreeing with what you are doing.”

    I understand. It will be interesting to see how things unfold.

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