Monday, February 29, 2016

Lucado, Trump, "Evangelicals" and the 2016 Election

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An earlier post provided a brief overview  of Homespun Gospel: The Triumph of Sentimentality in Contemporary American Evangelicalism.   This new book demonstrates how Max Lucado, Rick Warren, and Joel Osteen have been leading advocates of a hyper-sentimental gospel that has been widely accepted by a large number of religious consumers.   I'll showcase more of the highlights of Homespun Gospel in future articles.

Today's post is devoted to Lucado, Trump, Evangelicals and the 2016 Election (if nothing else consider my 10 takeaways at the conclusion of this article).

What spurred me on to write today's post?  I decided to write this article after I saw how many Christians reposted a "Anti-Trump" blog article written by Pastor Max Lucado.  In the past two months I have never read more critical pieces of a Republican candidate written by conservative and/or Christian authors.  In a follow up interview "America's Pastor"said that he does not normally inject politics into his pastoral ministry.  Lucado noted that "I don’t even put a candidate’s bumper sticker on my car. People don’t attend church to hear my views on a presidential candidate."

Though I do not agree with Lucado's theology on a number of points, (or his philosophy of ministry- see Homespun Gospel), I think his default position on politics and the pulpit is wise.  The centrality of Christ, the gospel, and the core doctrines of Scripture can be unintentionally eclipsed when Christian preachers become political commentators on Sunday morning instead of 'mouthpieces' of God (to use the language of 1 Peter 4:10).   Having said that, if a cultural/political issue is addressed in the Scriptures, the man of God (2 Tim. 2:15) should faithfully communicate God's position on X, Y, or Z (Acts 20:27-35).  (Examples include: the sacredness of life (at conception), God's view of marriage, gender, and human sexuality, a theology of work in relation to welfare, the role of government, the sinfulness of racism and genuine bigotry, etc).

If a minister of the gospel decides to address a controversial, hot-topic issue from the pulpit (such as race relations and the police, the Ferguson riots, social justice, immigration, Israel, welfare and poverty, gender equality, Roe vs. Wade, SCOTUS, etc) they must be very careful to not read their personal opinions into the inspired Text.  If your pastor says, "This is heaven's perspective on such and such" you better be certain that his finger is pointing to a book, chapter, and verse AND that he is rightly interpreting the true meaning of Holy Scripture (Phil Johnson recently called out brother Thabiti Anyabwile for this very thing- see Against Mission Drift).  Over the years, many errors and half-truths have been propagated from American pulpits (often times unknowingly).

So why did "America's Pastor" post an public article that was critical of Donald Trump (the current front-runner of the Republican party)?  

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Is it Unloving and Divisive to Call Out Unbiblical Doctrine?

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It is often (wrongly) assumed that if you call out doctrinal error within the body of Christ you are somehow endangering the unity of the Christian Church (per John 17:11-21). "How unloving!" "How uncharitable!" "How unchristian!"

Yet in John 17 Jesus asks the Father to protect his disciples from the world and to keep them from the "evil one." Lenski highlights a very important question in his commentary; "How may this oneness be endangered, how may a disciple drop out of it? (Answer) By any teaching or doctrine contrary to the word. This cuts into the bond that ties the disciples together and may easily cut it all together and thus sever some of the disciples from the oneness, dropping them back into the world. The entire prayer has the one great burden that we may be preserved in oneness by complete adherence to the Word." 

Christian unity and biblical sanctification are tethered to the truth. In actuality unbiblical doctrine and bad theology are what really threaten the spiritual communion and biblical maturation of Christ's church. It is therefore unloving to let doctrinal impurity and/or unrepentant sin go unchecked (see also John 8:31, 17:17; Titus 1:9-10).  God's people must seek to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15) as we contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 3-4).

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Triumph of Sentimentality in Contemporary American Evangelicalism (Lucado, Warren, Osteen)

In order to understand what is going on in the church today and in effort to critique what is often lacking (Scripturally speaking), it is quite helpful to understand the major 'players'.  Few Christian authors and pastors have yielded more influence on the church than Max Lucado, Rick Warren, and Joel Osteen.  All three of these celebrity pastors are quoted extensively in a helpful new book titled, Homespun Gospel: The Triumph of Sentimentality in Contemporary American Evangelicalism.  

In this book Todd Brenneman "shows how evangelicals use tropes of God as father, human beings as children, and nostalgia for an imagined idyllic home life to provide alternate sources of social authority, intended to help evangelicals survive a culture that is philosophically at odds with conservative Christianity."

Brenneman divides Homespun Gospel into four penetrating chapters.  The chapter titles alone give the reader some idea of what he or she is going to hear as they make their way through this helpful book.  1) God's in the Business of Giving Mulligans: Sentimentality and Therapeutic Culture.  2) You Are Special:  The Anti-Intellectualism of Sentimental Evangelicalism.  3) New York Times Best-Selling Author" Christian Media and the Marketing of Sentiment.  4) America Looks Up:  Sentimentality, Politics, and American Evangelicalism.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Westwood, CA., High Point, N.C., Freeport, Il., (WHY FREEPORT?)

Westwood, California
In 2005 I was a twenty-five year old Assistant Pastor at a "healthy" church in a suburb outside of Indianapolis.   After receiving my Master of Divinity degree Andrea and I moved to Carmel and were immediately welcomed as family by a very generous and loving congregation; (in many ways 2005-2008 were three of the best years of our life).  In God's providence around 2008 I began to explore the possibility of becoming a Senior Pastor (wherein preaching and leadership would become my primary ministry responsibilities).  I honestly did not know then whether or not a search committee or an elder board would affirm my readiness to serve as the "leader among leaders."

Having been raised in a model pastor's home and having received phenomenal pastoral training at the Grace Community Church (for 12 years) and the Master's Seminary I believed (that with the Spirit's help) I could effectively serve in this capacity.  However, I also believed that my readiness to serve as a lead pastor would be affirmed one way or another in the laborious search process (A.K.A 'pastoral candidacy').  In other words, if no evangelical congregation extended an invitation to become their new Senior Pastor I was content to continue serving in a support role.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

"Nothing Is As Important As This: A Good Church is a ______"

It was a blessing to sit under Pastor Alistair Begg this past January during our Winter Doctoral sessions at The Master's Seminary.  

It is always good to be reminded of the essential components of pastoral ministry:  Love God. Shepherd your people.  Preach the Word (all of it).  Let Scripture mold and shape your ministry.  Call sinners to faith and repentance (repeat)!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Continued Education at TMS

One of the highlights of the D. Min program at TMS is being able to sit under so many godly pastors and professors (Drs Lawson, Begg, Beeke, Block, Essex, Chou, Ferguson, etc).  It is also a special joy to receive classroom instruction from my former pastor John MacArthur.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Monday Blues: Never Resign on a Monday!

This article was written by Pastor Tom Ascol and was originally posted on the Founders website.  Used with permission.
"It’s common wisdom among pastors that no important decision should be made on a Monday. Especially a Monday morning. The nature of pastoral work causes the Lord’s Day to be a day that typically requires a great expenditure of physical, emotional and spiritual energy for a man who gives himself to regular pastoral preaching. Standing before a church that is gathered together with unbelievers, knowing that they expect and need to hear the Word of God accurately and helpfully proclaimed is a weighty responsibility. Preaching is spiritual warfare and it is a rare Lord’s Day that I do not go home painfully aware of the attacks of our enemy that have come before, during and after my efforts in preaching. I suspect that most preachers know something of what I am talking about.

The result is that most pastors are not at their fighting best on Mondays. I have probably resigned my pastorate a hundred times in my mind…on Mondays. Fortunately, it only takes a little experience to recognize this pattern and to guard against putting too much stock in Monday-morning contemplations of life-decisions.

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem

"The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem"
Re-posted with  permission from 

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"We will not believe more than we know, and we will not live higher than our beliefs.

While America’s evangelical Christians are rightly concerned about the secular worldview’s rejection of biblical Christianity, we ought to give some urgent attention to a problem much closer to home-biblical illiteracy in the church.  This scandalous problem is our own, and it’s up to us to fix it.

Researchers George Gallup and Jim Castelli put the problem squarely: “Americans revere the Bible-but, by and large, they don’t read it.  And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.”  How bad is it?  Researchers tell us that it’s worse than most could imagine.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Micah 6:8

One the greatest blessings about pastoring a local church in a more rural setting that is neither hip nor particularly affluent is learning this all important principle.  'How we walk with the broken speaks louder than how we sit with the great.'   As Christians we must learn how to love the entire body of Christ (including those with poor fashion, poor hygiene, poor health, poor education, poor social graces, etc, etc).

(James 2:1-8) "My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.  For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, "You sit here in a good place," and you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool," have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?  Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?  But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?  If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well."

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Is My Church Declining Spiritually? (A Sample Checklist)

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The following is a sample check list that will help you determine if your local church is declining spiritually.  

Churches that are doing well financially and numerically often assume that everything must be great (God must be blessing us- right?)  Regardless of size, Revelation 2-3 is perhaps the best place to go for an annual spiritual check up.  In these chapters the Lord of the Church evaluates seven local churches with grace and truth.  If Jesus were to write your church a personal letter what would He say?  What would he praise?  What would he find lacking?

Your church is off track spiritually:

1) When: Numerical and financial growth has subtly become more important than the spiritual maturation of the sheep (Col. 1:28-29; Eph. 4:11-16; Matt. 28:18-20).

In my estimation this is the most common problem in the evangelical church today.  Far too many church leaders today are more concerned with their resumes and portfolios than they are in building spiritually healthy and biblically mature congregations.

When:  Your church jumps from one well packaged fad to the next (From "Purpose Driven Church," to "the Prayer of Jabez," to "the Shack," to "Jesus Calling" to Sex Therapy from the Song of Solomon, to _____ ).

In short, the leadership and flock lack biblical discernment and are subsequently "tossed here and there by every wave of trickery" (see Eph. 4:11-16, 1 Thess. 5:21-22).  See John MacArthur's excellent sermon, A Biblical Response to the Church Growth Movement.