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There is black smoke coming out the chimney of Pastor John MacArthur’s church again. It’s not the pure white plume that tells us they’ve heard the heart of God on a matter. The black smoke is rising from the believers MacArthur continues to burn at the stake because they don’t fit his version of doctrinal correctness. MacArthur’s Bible does not contain Romans 14:1 which we all can easily find in our Bibles. This missing verse in his Bible says don’t pass judgment on disputable matters.
Rather than reach the lost world with the Good News, he’s spending the widow’s mite on a Strange Fire Conference to call out those in the charismatic movement who are having experiences with the Holy Spirit that are different from his own. As the self-appointed arbiter of all that is true, MacArthur continues to base his theology on his experience or the lack there of.
MacArthur says he’ll call out distorted worship and false worship in the charismatic movement. I’m not God, but if I was I’d be more inclined to accept the worship of people who break a sweat and cry out in desperation more than I would the icy cold intellectual stoicism MacArthur thinks God wants. But who am I to judge?
MacArthur should dub his conference “Friendly Fire” instead of “Strange Fire” because that name is more fitting. On the list of things Christians should be doing today, near the very murky bottom is this: beating up the Bride of Christ and exposing her inadequacies and blemishes. Here’s what I know about grooms and brides: if you want to release the wrath of the groom, take after his Bride, rip off her garments and expose her inadequacies to the world. If you want to release the favor of the Groom, I’d suggest to you bless his Bride and serve her and keep no record of wrongs.
A few years ago the church of a pastor friend of mine was picketed on Easter Sunday morning by another pastor in town who dubbed my friend a heretic. We talked about it and my friends comment was: Easter is such a huge opportunity for the Kingdom of God, I can’t imagine punting my Easter service to point fingers at anyone but Jesus.
My sentiments exactly. That MacArthur’s church is called Grace Community Church is humorous to me – – he has zero grace for others in the Christian community. God bless him.
One hundred and twenty men at Church at the Gate have committed to a year long process we are calling Tailgate Jesus!! More on all that here, and here. You can follow it here on Facebook, and Twitter.
The basic idea is that we are called to follow him and many guys today are having trouble following him closely – we let many things get between us. It’s not too late to jump on board, we start book one now. The next segment starts mid-July and that is another on-ramp for men wanting to join in. Every 5-6 weeks we will open the door to additional guys.
I’ve been in Greece these last three weeks and was bummed to have missed the Tailgate Jesus kickoff last Saturday. However, I did a little eleven minute video message for the guys back home. Here it is:
One hundred men, nine books, three track options, one year, no excuses.
Jesus picked some men and said “Follow me.” This is exactly what we intend to do as men this next year at Church at the Gate and that is what TAILGATE JESUS is all about… following him more closely. Manhood and Christlikeness are synonymous. Too many men today are not following Christ very closely. They are letting many things cut in and get between them and the Lord.
Men, we know you’re busy. We also know you’re up for a challenge. We know we need to be Godly men who are mature in the Lord.
Three Track Options to Fit Your Schedule:
☐ WEEKLY huddles: Thursdays from 7-8:30 PM starting June 6
☐ Bi-Weekly huddles: Every other Saturday from 8-9:30 AM starting June 8
☐ Monthly Rally: Actually every 5-6 weeks on a Sunday night 5-6:30 PM
The monthly rally track is a self-study track and you’ll miss out on a key aspect of the process, connecting with other men and being accountable. However, we know schedules will only permit some guys to meet up once during each book study.
The guys in the weekly and bi-weekly huddle tracks will also participate in the monthly rallies.
There are nine books and nine corresponding workbooks by Ed Cole. The cost is $155 and that is 30% off available only if you buy all nine and sign up now. Do not let money be a reason you don’t participate as we have options for those who need time and help to pay for it. It will be the best investment you ever make. And your commitment to nine books and one year is critical and that is why we are not giving the option to just buy one book at a time. We don’t want to be men who don’t follow through to the finish line. Though all books are paid for up front, we will only give out one book at a time. Fill-in-the-blank completion of the workbook is required to move into the next book. The stack of nine books and workbooks is daunting but one at a time is easier lifting.
We will complete a book and corresponding workbook every five or six weeks and celebrate that at the monthly rally. Rallies will include guest speakers and food to follow.
The course concludes May 2014 with an anointing and commissioning ceremony where each man is presented an engraved sword.
Every six weeks with each new book, new men visiting our church can join the program as we expect it to be ongoing.
We have secured tailgatejesus.com and @tailgateJC on both twitter and facebook and we will launch a blog later this month. Also later this month we will put out order forms for some shirt options.
LEAD TEAM: Our point man is Bill Boyd (cell 496-3978). Our lead team will certainly expand but presently Brad Bomhoff, Spence Kittelson and Pastors Dennis and Steve are hands-on involved in TAILGATE JESUS.
We need you to sign up immediately so materials can be ordered.
You can sign up at the Information Center or by calling the church office or sending an email to email@example.com Checks for $155 payable to CATG: Tailgate Jesus. Please indicate which track you will commit to attend.
Here is another chart from me relating to the theme of persecution and martyrdom. These realities have been my focus this season of Lent in my Martyrs Guide to Life message series. Earlier charts included The Skyrocketing Cost of Discipleship and the Degrees of Persecution.
To be in the clutches of something is to be in the grip or hold of something; a strong clasp, tight and sudden. This word describes the last week in the earthly life of Jesus… “the Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men” (Matthew 17:22).
Reading the last week of the earthly life of Jesus, an analogy occurred to me to help illustrate Jesus in the clutches of persecution. For three years he had slipped through various clutches but the last week he succumbed to them. Think of the chuck of a typical household power drill. The chuck is basically a clutching mechanism comprised of three hardened steel jaws held by a tightening sleeve or collar. When you turn and tighten the collar/sleeve, teeth turn a spiral scrolling gear which self center each jaw together equally and mercilessly around a drill bit.
The three jaws which gripped Jesus were; 1) the whims of people, 2) the religists or religious rulers of the day, and 3) the secular authorities. Knowing that ultimately our battle is not against flesh and blood, the surrounding sleeve or tightening collar relates to evil principalities in heavenly places which were orchestrating all these hostilities toward Jesus.
Here’s a key point: as intense as the clutches of persecution are, notice the entire tool is in the hands of the Lord and he is using it for his purposes. He is building something even when it seems the adversary is tearing it all down.
When I read the last week of the life of Jesus I don’t read any panic at what the devil is doing. I get a strong sense of resolve in what God is doing. The persecuted derive stamina from the perspective of sovereignty. It may feel like and appear that we have been snatched into the merciless hands of others. However, even in persecution, God does not let hold of us.
Amidst the flurry of hysterics coming my way after my recent comments on cage fighting I received some forthright letters from Christians involved in the sport. One in particular is from Seth Falvo, a young fighter and writer for the website CagePotato. Apparently he wrote this lovely piece on me – MMA Is The ‘Child Porn of Sports’, According to South Dakota Porn Expert/State Rep. Steve Hickey [HATE]. Seth wrote me a stinging note and in particular called me out on my insensitivity to the death of a MMA fighter. Here is part of his letter:
I’m here to tell you that as a Christian, I have never been more disgusted to read THIS coming from a pastor’s own blog:”I have to bite my tongue because instead of the passages that comfort the grieving I feel like quoting the great philosopher Forrest Gump: Stupid is as stupid does.”
I was hoping this was just a sick, sick parody account, but upon confirming that this is, in fact, your own blog, I’m at a loss for words. Where do I even begin here? Do I quote the Bible and write “Judge not lest you be judged, For in the way you judge, you will be judged?” Do I quote “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone?” Or do I simply point out that you are a self-proclaimed pastor – a man of God – who essentially writes that a fictional character from a Hollywood movie knows more about how one should live than Jesus Christ, the Man whose message he is supposed to be teaching others. I’ll go with the latter. Wow. A self-proclaimed Man of God decides that God isn’t as smart as a dim-witted Hollywood character, and that he, oh wise and powerful pastor, is perfectly right in judging how law-abiding, church going people spend their spare time. If you’ve ever wondered why people my age have quit going to church, well, do I really need to explain why?
Here’s my reply and I’ll post it here as an open letter to all Christian MMA fans and fighters:
Thanks for your honest note. For starters I’ll say I have a whole lot more experience with death than you do. I’ve been a police chaplain and pastor for years. There have been times when my pager goes off three times a week and I get to go tell people their loved one has died or been killed. I never quote Forrest Gump in those moments. What you read on my blog was the inner life of a pastor who has to sit with grieving people who are sometimes furious at their lost loved ones for doing stupid, reckless things that result in the wasting of their lives and causing such pain to their families and friends. Both my parents are dead and my father died a very violent death at the negligence of another… meaning it was entirely preventable if only one person had not been so reckless. If you don’t like my Forrest Gump thought I can quote you many passages on foolishness resulting in death and destruction. It is foolish for someone to get into an unsanctioned cage and fight in our state. That was my point.
And not for a moment do I receive your judgmental comment that I’m the type of person who is keeping a generation from Christ/Church. I have started and am leading large church with a ministry school and a substantial ministry to young adults. Also I’ve been planting churches around the world and we lead people to Christ all the time. I’m friends with significant church leaders in your state and we may even have mutual friends. The stream I minister within is aggressively evangelistic and fruitful.
I regret my MMA/child porn comment because it was too shocking and people have entirely lost the point I was making. Forgive me for that but I was simply trying to shine a light on something those in the sport don’t want us to see.
It was interesting to me you jumped right to the “judge not” passage in the Sermon on the Mount. I’ve been a student of that passage of Scripture for twenty five years and have written a 400 page book on the topic. Do you know the Sermon on the Mount also trumpets the non-violence, non-retaliation, turn the other cheek message? Why do you pick and choose verses in that sermon and ignore it’s main point? Do you not agree that we have a problem with violence in society? Do you honestly, before God, think your sport isn’t feeding a blood lust in our culture?
As a Christian let me ask you, if the next guy you kick in the head or choke with some guillotine maneuver passes out and doesn’t wake up— who killed him? Let me ask you Seth, who would Jesus elbow in the face? I won’t judge you or the other athletes here and make some blanket statement that you are full of bloodlust but I WILL say that about your fans and the crowds that flock to your sport. The Bible speaks about bloodlust. Greed and bloodlust make the MMA today a multi-billion dollar violent entertainment industry.
I’ll be happy to send you a free copy of my Sermon on the Mount book if you want to study that text fully. There is more than “Judge Not” in that sermon. And, by the way, judge not does not mean we turn off all discernment and stop calling good, good and bad, bad. My calling is certainly not to just smile and say nothing. My calling as a minister of the Gospel is to tell the truth even when it’s unpopular. I was elected in my state to push red and green YES or NO buttons and make decisions everyday about things our state should say YES to and things our state should say NO to. Sometimes I fail in that I don’t do all that in love but I figured your crowd was a tough crowd and strong words would be fine. I was wrong, you all are hyper-sensitive, thin-skinned and full of self-justification for what the average person can see with a naked eye is extreme violence. All these claims that I’m ignorant of the sport are simply smokescreens to mask what is obvious.
I’ll paste below some additional comments that I made in the committee and want to point out to you that my comment on a “seared conscience” is a term from the Bible.
All the best to you.
Rev/Rep Steve Hickey
Here are those additional comments:
They say I’m ignorant of this sport and they make a case that it only looks dangerous. I even had a cage fighter/PhD write me and tell me “elbows are used primarily to cause superficial damage and an elbow doesn’t produce a concussive blow.” That’s ridiculous. My response it that it is what it is – too violent and that is evident to the naked eye and the casual observer. I’ll quickly concede I am no expert on MMA. But as I told one of the fighters this weekend… “just maybe a guy like me can see what you don’t see.” Violence is addictive and people in addiction (including codependents) don’t see or acknowledge any problem until there is a tragedy, or an intervention. I’m intervening here and asking you to join me.
I’ll speak briefly from an area that I do have professional expertise: there is such a thing as a seared conscience which refers to a person who has lost a capacity of innocence whereby they no longer wince. We don’t want to become a society that can’t wince. Ben Franklin said: “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” I submit to you that society is reaching that point and more masters means more laws like this amendment.
I don’t deny the good that is going on in MMA – giving young people confidence and discipline. But MMA is not the only vehicle to accomplish those ends. It doesn’t take that level of violence to develop character, fortitude, confidence, strength and discipline. Any of the other sports overseen by this commission can do all those good things. MMA feeds something in society that we don’t want to feed.
Society was just fine before they figured out to do this and it will be just fine without it again. We aren’t losing ground with my amendment. Actually, we might even be gaining ground that we’ve lost.
We have an execution in our city today and I made some comments on that yesterday in church and repeated them again this morning on a blog in our state. I thought I’d post them here as well. Both Catholic Bishops in our state have issued a statement asking for a stay of execution. Here’s why I support the Governor’s decision execute Eric Roberts today. My comments are a reply to this article: Bloodlusters Justify Capital Punishment with Sloppy Relativism, Wishful Thinking.
Cory, I’ll give you some slack on this comment understanding from our previous interactions that the Bible isn’t a book you have much time for: “The only place God seems to say, “Go ahead, kill bad guys” is the Old Testament...”.
Actually, in Romans 13:1-5, it’s real clear that until Jesus returns, God has established our governing authorities as his agents, his instruments to punish the wrongdoer even to the extent of bearing the sword. That passage says the governing authorities are “God’s agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” These agents of God are deemed with the sobering responsibility of bringing justice – at least as much justice as is possible until he returns himself to right every wrong. If all that sounds harsh, consider that God ceases to be loving if he isn’t just. His love fuels his justice.
Another important text to consider on this somber day is Ecclesiastes 8:11 — “When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of people are filled with schemes to do wrong.” That is referring to how, via the passage of time (endless appeals), compassion gets displaced, it gets shifted off the victim onto the murderer and when that happens justice is lost and that is wrong. That is why I support the Governor in his decision to execute justice today.
Another thing that is clear in the Bible is the difference between the shedding of judicially innocent blood and the shedding of judicially guilty blood. One is forbidden, the other is allowed but ONLY at the hands of these governing authorities. The doctrine of bloodguilt for the shedding of judicially innocent blood is throughout both the Old and the New Testaments.
How consistent are you willing to be in your abhorrence to the shedding of blood? Should a biological human being ever be executed for the crime of it’s father?
Today is a sad day. No one should be happy. I was thankful to read yesterday that Eric Roberts was spending today fasting and the paper said that is because he is a Christian. We were praying he’d get right with God while he still had time. No one goes to hell for anything they’ve done; even murder. That place of eternal separation from God is reserved only for those who reject his Son and his offer of forgiveness. According to the paper, it looks like Eric Roberts has made peace with God and will spend eternity with him. To people who’ve spent a lifetime being good this hardly seems fair but here again, goodness isn’t the ticket to eternity in paradise with God. Jesus the ticket. This parable comes to mind: Matthew 20:1-16. Even so, Eric Roberts making peace with God does not exempt him from reaping the consequences of what he has sown on earth. Apparently his last decision accepting Christ was his best decision and the most important one.
Another thing from a theological vantage point; the Bible teaches a first and a second death. Roberts faces the first death today; some of us face it earlier than others and for various reasons that relate to our own doing or due to unfortunate circumstances beyond our control. The second death, it appears, is not something Roberts will face as Jesus took that penalty for him. So today, we can thank God for that and should all reflect on our own standing before God.
My sense is the story of Shaun King is just in it’s earliest chapters but already it’s worth telling. I first met him four years ago when he came to us to be assessed for church planting. His dream was to plant in inner city Atlanta where he grew up. The first thing that set him apart was that he had a powerful death to life testimony. Our assessment team unanimously recommended him but I think it’s fair to say we wondered if he was a right fit for our system. No doubt in our minds that he’d succeed but perhaps there was the thought that our system would stifle him. Months later, via his magic with social media and the grace of God, he became our largest launch to date, over 600 on his first Sunday at Courageous Church.
Those of us who played even a small part in that beemed with pride. His success gave him leaway to buck the system a bit… I remember he riled our feathers when he noted publicly our meetings were too white and the speakers on our platforms were all white. A few years after that smoke cleared I can report our meetings are less white.
Shaun is a social media specialist and he raised massive amount of money for Haiti and got thousands of tents sent there. In the earliest days he somehow directed search and rescue efforts via Twitter from his home in Atlanta – no kidding, U.S. relief ships were following his leads to hurting people, doctors in the US were being directed to specific people in specific places. Shaun appeared on many national news and morning shows. There is a similar story to tell about his work helping the Atlanta Flood Victims. Those of us who’ve been following him on Facebook and Twitter grew to look forward to his updates loving how he just said what needed to be said. Things like; “Note to Donors: Please do not donate your dirty draws & bras. I will have a scientist from GA Tech run a DNA scan & twitter your name.”
In March of this year he felt led to make a radical shift in his church. He announced in a few weeks he’d preach his last sermon at the church. It wasn’t because he was leaving the church. It was because he was changing his church and focusing on three causes instead of church just being about pulling off Sunday morning services. I’ll repost his comments here because they are worth reading.
Currently, the overwhelming percentage of our time, energy, skills, budget, and creativity are spent preparing for Sunday morning services, getting people to our Sunday services, and getting them to volunteer for our Sunday morning services. I love what we do on Sunday morning. I love preaching and it is one of my primary gifts. I love our worship team, our breakfast, our volunteers. Our church is growing.
However, 5 things have convinced me that this extreme emphasis on Sunday morning is not the will of God for our church.
1. Our city is falling apart in painful ways that break God’s heart. Atlanta is now the nation’s hub for child sex trafficking. We have one of the highest teen incarceration rates in the nation. Our education system in Atlanta is beyond broken. In the face of these things, the church continues to preach and sing, but kids keep getting sold to perverts for sex.
If James 1:27 is true and “Authentic faith in the eyes of God is caring for widows and orphans” then I declare that our church will have authentic faith and have hands and feet that address these issues. Right now, our church, like most American churches, as Rick Warren said “Is one big mouth”.
2. As I read the Gospels and see Jesus, I am increasingly stumped how we determined sermons and songs are what makes us most like Him. I am not saying we do away with them, but we preach and sing too much and serve and love in radical ways far too little. The answer is not to add love on top of the sermons and songs, but to decrease the sermons and songs and increase the service and love to create a balance that looks like the life of Jesus.
3. This week I was able to meet with a personal hero of mine and he said something to me that was shocking. One of the best preachers in the world, he leads one of the largest churches in the country. He told me, “At this point in my life I have preached thousands of sermons and I am not even sure what they mean to God, but nothing makes me feel more alive and like I am nailing God’s will like caring for foster children. I can point my finger in the Bible and say yes – this is what God wants.”
For me, I do not want to wait another twenty years to come to this conclusion. I do not want to wait until our entire church is built around my sermons (as it is becoming) and then conclude that it may or may not be what most honors God. I’d rather go for it now.
4. Anybody that ever heard the vision of Courageous Church before we launched in January of 2009, knows that our vision was to never become a Sunday morning machine, but this is what we have become and we do it well. A real temptation exists to keep chugging along, do it like other churches do it, and try to forget the original vision of Courageous Church to take bold leaps of faith to bring about real change in peoples lives, in our city and in the world.
Most of our time is now spent thinking about the arrangement of chairs, the execution of payroll, the brightness of the lights, the printing of the announcements, the lyrics on the screens, the pitch from the mics, and in the midst of all of this – I confess that people have been hurt in the process. We created a church to love God and love people and in the busy-ness of it all – people that we cared about were neglected and forgotten. I won’t do it this way another day.
5. I feel like this is what God wants for Courageous Church.
Rather than meet weekly on Sunday mornings, Shaun broke things down into three discipleship groups that met around three causes; child trafficking, education and caring for widows. The Cause Groups would meet twice a month, the entire church would re-gather once a month for a Festival.
In all my years of church planting and training church planters I have said a thousand times, we don’t build churches on or around a cause – we build a church on Jesus. For sure this is what Shaun was seeking to do. Even so, Shaun is spot on when it comes to pointing out (what I’ve been calling) the theotainment model of the mega-church today is probably not what Jesus wanted us to build. I’ve long maintained that the church is a community and that causes are the domain of the parachurch. Shaun makes me rethink that.
In case you are wondering, Shaun’s experiment didn’t work. He faced perhaps the roughest summer of his life as his church sought to transition into these uncharted waters. Last month Shaun announced that since the bulk of the families in the church wanted to return to the traditional model, he would transition himself out of leadership. Here’s part of what he had to say in his announcement:
I thank God that I am not stepping down in shame or scandal, but it is clear that God is calling Rai and I to take our family in a direction that is just significantly different than what most in the church are asking for. Over the past 6 months I have taken Courageous Church down a difficult, counter-cultural road in an earnest attempt at building true disciples. It’s been rough. All but a few families are now yearning to go back to a traditional Sunday focused system and I am sure that I am not the person to lead you there.
Those of us who assess church planters know it’s often more insightful to talk to the guys wife if you want the real scoop. Here’s what Shaun’s wife Rai had to say about leaving Courageous Church. You’ll have a hard time finding anything more honest about being a pastors/church planters wife. My o my o my o my, it’s the perfect thing to read here on this last day of “Pastor Appreciation Month.” Made me wonder what my wife would write if someone asked her honest feelings about the state of the church.
The last couple months Shaun’s been writing about giving away everything he owns, 1000 books, his new ipad, his bed…. everything. This is the first time I’ve ever voiced this but I’ll say it here, every serious follower of Jesus would do well to walk away from everything they own at least once to follow Jesus. I’ve given away my retirement three times and gobs of other things and dollars and certainly there was a time when I had nothing that wouldn’t fit in my car, but never have I walked away from everything. I do believe these are days to live a wartime lifestyle – living only on what we need and giving the rest where it’s most needed.
Shaun wrote a fascinating article on when a leader loses his mojo. He likens himself to Obama in that regard – at the top of his game just a couple years ago, now a fog has set in and it’s better to pull over if you can’t see where you are going.
Don’t think for a moment Shaun now lacks vision. After living his entire life in inner city Atlanta, this week he drove his family to California where they will live for an undetermined period of time before he and a team move to Africa – the suffering in Somalia has gripped his heart. And he’s climbing the worlds seven great mountains of need. Check that out here TellTheMountainToMove. You can read his next steps here.
John Stott’s repeated exhortation when preaching was “Don’t look at me, look at Christ.” Every preacher, song leader and musician needs to write that phrase in the margin of their message notes and chord sheets every weekend. People ought to walk away with His name on their lips, not yours.
In his new little book “It’s not business, it’s personal” Bob Sorge writes about how ministers and musicians get in between Jesus and his Bride the Church. In a chapter called “Scoring with the Bride” he addresses ministers and musicians who feed off her praise and seek out her affections. Imagine if you were asked to serve my bride and you were teasing her affections off of ME and on to YOU. No doubt, Jesus our Bridegroom God has an issue with those who steal away the affections of his Bride.
Bob Sorge says many times he walks away from speaking and prays: “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, and deliver me from this tendency to present myself in such a way that the Bride takes notice of me and my service to her. After I’ve spent an evening with your Bride, I don’t want my name to be on her lips. I want her talking about You.”
Can we get away from these platform-driven performances and smoke shows where the clamor in the hallways is “wow, that guy always hits a homerun.” Same with music ministry as people leave going… “wow, what a voice, I hope she puts that on CD.”
A few of you may be following the dialog that has been on going at one of my recent posts here. I’ve said some things that have evoked a notable Catholic response. Oops, not my intention, but hey. If you need to get up to speed go here.
Kristen has followed our discussion about idols in the church and Mary worship and shakes her head at my ability to come here and in a matter of days re-ignite and get myself in the middle of a centuries old Reformation controvery with Catholics. Saying things that bother people is a spiritual gift I seem to have.
This morning, “coincidentally” I’m sure, Kristen was working through Allen Hood’s Excellencies of Christ CD’s/workbook and she came across something that brought me to some level of conviction with regard to Protestant smack talk about Mary. Hopefully I’ve honored Mary in what I’ve written even while seeking to keep our worship solely on her Son.
Allen is Caleb’s favorite prof down at IHOP in Kansas City. I love it that Caleb is there drinking up every drop of what Allen Hood is teaching. What an apostolic anointing to sit under!
Here’s a download link to the 2min 30sec sound bite that Kristen shared with me this morning about Mary.
Jesus’ Humanity_Mary Allen is talking about the humanity of Christ.