Jan 092017
 

God and the Church

Much of what I see written about the Church these days is less about theology and more about practicality. 

It is not that theology is absent, but it is often enlisted mainly to advocate for a certain form of church order, polity or to try and understand its diminishing status in much of  Western life and culture.  This is to some extent understandable.  Along with the rapid decline of mainline denominations both in America and Europe, we are also witnessing a politicization of US evangelicals unseen, to the same extent, since the American Civil War, some 150 years ago.

What is more painful, however, has been to come to terms with, especially theologically, the exposure of abuse that has taken place within our churches.  We think immediately of the crisis of child abuse and resultant “cover-ups” within the Roman Catholic churches, both here and in Europe. While such abuse, sexual and otherwise, is not unknown in Protestant  and evangelical circles, there are other patterns of abuse that have more often come to light.  In evangelical communities especially, where often the pastor has little accountability to either peers or strong lay councils or boards, numerous issues have come to light.  Many of these issues have received comment from others.  They range from pastors employing the so-called “Moses Model”, to the largely accepted nepotism of pastors’ wives, children, in-laws, etc. taking up positions of responsibility in a single church, to pastoral over-reach in terms of financial accountability (or the lack thereof), to the “pastor as star’ syndrome which often times seems endemic within certain circles.

Now, let us be clear, whether such behavior is evidenced in a Roman Catholic parish, or an evangelical free church, or a mainline Protestant denomination, the desired result is the same – control.   Along side that “desired result” is a related behavior that is shown all too often – those whom you cannot control, you exclude.  The exclusion may be subtle or blatant, but the message is clear nonetheless – “You’re not one of us”.

It strikes me, however, that this is the opposite of our relationship with God.  The whole point of that relationship is inclusion, that is, for us to be brought into the life of God himself.  The manner in which that inclusion is accomplished is rooted in the nature of the Triune God himself. Here, I am speaking of the ontological nature of the Trinity.  Most often we  speak of the economic Trinity, that is, the activity of God and the roles of the three persons with regard to creation and redemption.  When, however, we speak of the ontological nature of  the Trinity, we are speaking of something different but, I believe, something which we are called upon to imitate and to model as the Church. 

You see, our relationship with God is part of a dynamic of giving and receiving.  It is a ongoing continuum of bestowal and counter-bestowal.  St. Augustine recognized this in aligning the statement that, “God is Love” with God’s trinitarian nature, for God the Father is the Lover, God the Son is the Beloved and the Holy Spirit is the bond of Love.  As the Father loves the Son, he bestows himself upon the Son.  The Son receives this gift and, in turn, gives it back to the Father.  The gift given, bestowed and returned again, is God the Holy Spirit.  It is an ongoing eternal relationship of love and inclusion, of that which is entirely love, bestowed, given, received and given back that God might be “all in all”.  

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” (Jn. 15:9)  You see, this is the relationship that I believe Christ is calling the Church to imitate.  Or again, “I in them and You in Me–that they may be perfectly united, so that the world may know that You sent Me and have loved them just as You have loved Me.” (Jn. 17:23)  While we always consider this latter verse as a call to Church unity, I believe it is something much more, it is an invitation for the Church to participate in the life of God. 

When we consider early communion practices, I think the early Church understood this dynamic, even if it took time to fully articulate.  We know from the Didache, Ignatius and other early writings that believers would gather together to offer themselves to God.  The sign and symbol of that self-offering would be the bread and wine that was to be placed on the altar.  In the ante-Nicene period, all who were able would bring bread and wine which would be gathered together.  A small portion would be placed on the altar, while the rest of the offering would be set aside to be distributed to the poor.  The offered gifts on the altar would be consecrated and then given back as the body and blood of Christ to the people.

Do we see what’s happening here?  We give ourselves to God in the symbols of bread and wine.  God accepts the gift and bestows upon us, by the work of the Holy Spirit, the gift of his Son.  In this giving, receiving and giving again, we are given a glimpse of the ontological nature of  God himself.  The gift is freely given.  The message to the believer is not one of control, but one of love.  It is an invitation to inclusion, not exclusion

I am coming to believe that abusive situations in the Church – sexual abuse, emotional abuse, pastoral abuse and authoritarianism, lack of financial disclosure, nepotism, cliques, pastoral narcissism and all the rest – are not merely matters of “bad practice”, but something far worse. I had always wondered about the harshness of Christ’s words, when he said, “If anyone causes one of these little ones – those who believe in me – to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.” (Mk.9:42)  Now, after the many things that we have witnessed in recent decades, I begin to understand.  The sin is not merely against the person offended, the person excluded, the person made to feel unwelcome… No, the sin is against the God who wants to show the world that his nature is love and through the gift of his Son has demonstrated what love really is.

Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

The Project

Jan 082017
 

We have known forever that you call to obedience, that our obedience to your purposes brings well-being, that our departure from you may bring trouble, that life proceeds on a tight calculus of expectation and requirement, that in your awesome rule there is rigor along with generosity.

We have set out to he your faithful people and then we fall into an unintended brokenness.

We know about alienation from you and loss; we know about shame before our neighbors and embarrassment in the family; we know about the will to hide and become invisible, and we are consumed by depths of remorse.

When we are able, we come out of hiding long enough to face you.

We know all the cadences of confession and repentance, and that we have no secrets not already known to you. We sense before you our deep dread of failure and our last shred of innocence gone. We ask forgiveness and wait, at times before your presence we wait a very long time as we know of your silence and absence in our bottomness. But we know more! We know of your unfailing love, your willing generosity, your readiness to remember our sin no more.

And so, after shame before neighbor, after embarrassment within family, after dread before you, we wait and then eventually you appear, you reach, you speak, you touch.

You give yourself to us without judgment-after after we have judged ourselves. You invite us to your presence, to the table of your feast, to your walk of companionship, to your mission of well-being. We take timid steps toward home and are welcomed.

Now, in this hour of free-fall, be your good self again, meet us not according to our flaw but according to your generous self-giving: Be our Christmas, and start the world again; Be our Easter, and draw us from death to new life; Be our Pentecost, and breathe on its to begin again; Be your full, generous self toward us; we will begin again in obedience, and as we can obey, we will begin again in wonder, love, and joy.

Walter Brueggemann. Prayers for a Privileged People (p. 116). Kindle Edition.

 

Jan 082017
 

Matthew 15:1-9

Traditions and Commandments

1 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said,

  • This is the beginning of the old Israel coming to Jesus (the new Israel) and wanting to know why he is changing things.
  • Jesus is going to tell them. The old has served a purpose, the old has gone to seed, the old is done in God’s economy.

“Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.”

  • Note that they say ‘the traditions of the elders’ – and not the Bible, not the commandments.
  • There was in the past and there is today no commandment –
  • Just what are the traditions? They are the go to commentaries explaining the commandment.
  • So they would ask “what does the Mishna say” instead of asking, “what does the word of God say.”
  • Rabbi so and so says “This is the way you should follow this commandment.”

He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?

  • Again Jesus will turn the tables on these guys.
  • “You guys break commandments to keep your own traditions.”
  • Pretty soon the interpretation either denies or breaks the commandments.
  • We sometimes see these as “work arounds”.
  • And we do this also. We know the word, hear it and say “but this is what it really means.”

For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’

  • Pretty simple commandment to understand.
  • We may not like our parents and we may not want anything to do with them
  • And that is OK — just realize what the consequence is –
  • but we don’t think that way- In our minds we change it around.

But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,”

  • What contribution (family support) you expected from me – I have given to God because I am such a holy worker.
  • Aren’t we tempted in the same way when a special need of the church comes up, we give to it and subtract it from our regular contribution?
  • Perhaps not us, but I have heard of people doing so.

he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.

  • But you say (Jesus speaking) “well, we have this other command.”
  • What is the word of God here – the 4th commandment
  • See what they have done? They made something above the commandments.
  • Pastors can be just as guilty – spending all of their time in ministry and neglecting their families.
  • Some great missionaries of the 19th century – left their wives and children in poverty to go on the mission field.

You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:

  • Again – the quotes keep coming from Isaiah.
  • We will see plenty of “you hypocrites! In later chapters – especially 23.

“‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;

  • Giving Jesus lip service

in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

  • Worship for the sake of worship is in vain.
  • Just because something sounds good – sounds spiritual – sounds like good work – does not make it biblical or Christian.
  • So many teach man’s view of God’s word.

Let’s look at an example of how some today teach traditions of man over the scriptures.

“This is my Body / this is my Blood”. Clear words spoken by Jesus himself – not someone quoting him years later. So, how do some in the church handle this? Do they see Jesus’ true Body and his true Blood present in the communion? No!

Why is this? Because the rational of man is that finite things like bread and wine cannot comprehend, or cannot contain, or cannot handle, the infinite or divine things. ‘My mind cannot figure this out, but I must figure out all scriptures as God would not tell me something in the scriptures that I would not understand – so here is my answer – Jesus was speaking in symbols.”

The traditions of man superseding the very words of God – how can this be? Do we believe Aristotle or do we believe Jesus?

This is exactly what the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders did. The ‘commandments of men’ were not bad in themselves. The leader’s job was to help their people not sin – so they built a wall of smaller commandments around the 10 commandments (all of the Law) to keep the people from the grave sin.

How do you keep people from being drunkards? Don’t allow them to drink. How do you keep your people from lusting? Ban dancing. How to you keep your people from unwarranted gain? Forbid gambling.

So now drinking, dancing and gambling become the “laws” – not drunkenness, lusting or going after unwarranted gain.

What can you add to this list of modern day “commandments of men”?

 

 

Jan 062017
 

So..while I’ve been out of sorts, the Calvary Chapel Association has been busy.

I haven’t spent any time catching up on all the hijinks,but I do feel compelled to comment on one thing.

The McFocht Bros. have thrown together a “West Coast Pastors and Leaders Conference” for April, featuring the best of the CCA seniors crowd and their valet, John Randall.

Randall’s honorarium will be paid in ChapStick…

I digress…

The name of this conference is “Stay the Course”.

This is ironic, as that was the name of George Bryson’s campaign a few years back.

There were similar objectives, mainly that of establishing a “pure” version of Calvary Chapel that reflected the Distinctives and held fast to what Bryson believed was the intent of Chuck Smith.

Don McClure exiled Bryson out of the movement for his efforts.

Why would you exile someone with common views?

Bryson also said loudly and clearly that Smith had told him that the CCA was not his idea and that Chuck was not supportive of the group.

That got shut down in a hurry…

This flurry of conferences being thrown together is simply simply the work of McClure to accomplish what he’s been striving to gain for years.

This is all one massive power play…nothing more, nothing less.

If your analysis of the situation doesn’t start with that…your analysis is wrong.

More later as I catch up…

A new version of the CC video…

Jan 062017
 

2016 was beyond a doubt the most difficult year I can remember.

2017 seems to be trying to top it in the first week.

Fortunately, I don’t remember most of it as I’ve either been delirious with fever and chills, asleep, or somewhere in between delirious and asleep.

I’ve got experience functioning in the latter space, which leads me to todays topic, my cat.

Of course it does.

 

When the worst of this bug hit me, Miss Kitty sat on the bed and watched me go through it.

The violent hacking cough disturbed her napping as I convulsed the whole bed.

Then the fever hit, then the chills, and hacking continued, and I truly hoped I was wrong about the timing of the Rapture, because I was ready to go.

I was curled up in a pathetic mess with an electric blanket, two space heaters, and anything else I could cover up with.

It wasn’t working but I was too weak to care as the flu I was vaccinated for ripped through me, changing into pneumonia in my lungs.

That’s where the cat comes in.

Missy curled up right next to me and I hung on to her as I hacked, shook, coughed and sweated.

When the worst of that abated, she put her head under my chin and began to purr.

She wasn’t purring because she was happy….she was purring because when cats want to soothe themselves (or others) they purr.

Some believe the vibrations of the purring help the cat heal.

The purring wasn’t for her, it was for me…she kept her head right under my chin so I could feel her and hear her….and in about twenty minutes I was asleep.

When I woke up a few hours later, she was still in the the same place.

She didn’t leave my side for at least 12 straight hours.

I’m on my way to recovery now, but now I can’t fall asleep without purring in my ear…

I told you all that to tell you this…

We have no promise this year will be better than last.

We have no promise we will even see all or part of the year to come.

What we do know is that as long as we are here we can see and celebrate the goodness of God in the most difficult of times.

We can be assured He is present and active in whatever we are going through, and He is going through it with us.

We are not orphans, we are not abandoned.

We are adopted children of the King.

Sometimes it suits the King to come to us covered in fur.

Don’t miss the day of your visitation…

Make your own application…

 

Jan 052017
 

The Circumcision of Jesus

“And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” (Luke 2:21)

The circumcision of Jesus is considered a “feast” (or celebration) day in many eastern and western Christian Church traditions. For example, the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican churches all celebrate the circumcision of Jesus on the eighth day following his nativity.

Why do so many churches single out Jesus’ circumcision – a rite which was given to virtually all Jewish boys – as worthy of celebration? Is there something particularly special about Jesus’ circumcision that might cause us to pause in remembrance and worship? The answer is “yes there is.” Let’s take a closer look.

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Gal 4:4-5)

Jesus’ earthly ministry to redeem us began with His incarnation and ran all the way through His resurrection. Most Christians have a good understanding of Jesus’ sacrificial death for our sins: “you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Pet 1:18-19) Jesus is our spotless lamb because He was born without sin and kept the Law perfectly. So, in this respect Jesus’ circumcision was certainly part of His spotless life and obedience to the Law.

But we cannot limit Jesus’ ministry of redemption to His vicarious satisfaction for our sins. To illustrate why, take for example a common thief who is caught, convicted, served his sentence and is released from prison. We could say the thief “paid his debt” to society, but his reputation has been ruined, he will have a criminal record and he will always be an ex-convict viewed with suspicion. In other words, paying his debt to society does not justify (just as if he never sinned) the thief.

“For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Rom 5:17)

Jesus does more for us than pay our debt to God, though we should never minimize that aspect of our redemption. The other aspect of our redemption which the cross of Christ also offers us is “the free gift of righteousness.” The Gospel proclaims and proffers both the forgiveness of sins and the righteousness of Christ. Christ takes your sins and in exchange gives you His righteousness. We can apprehend these gifts by faith alone.

To illustrate the free gift of righteousness, let us recall briefly the Parable of the Prodigal Son. When the father ran out to meet the younger son, the first thing the father did was he “embraced him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20) The first thing the father said was: “Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” (Luke 15:22-24) That is a great biblical portrayal of the free gift of righteousness. The robe, the ring and the shoes all symbolize the father’s righteousness (e.g., his reputation) that he gave the younger son out of pure grace and mercy. The father not only blotted out the younger son’s prior shame and transgressions, but restored him to sonship in a type of resurrection. The parable gives us but a glimpse of righteousness that Christ offers all of us in the Gospel. Are we able to believe in a love like this?

“And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” (Luke 2:21)

Jesus was “born under the law” (Gal 4:4) and was circumcised according to the Law, so He could both take our sins upon himself and clothe us with the gift of His righteousness. This righteousness consists of Jesus’ perfect obedience under the Law, including the rite of circumcision. Therefore, we celebrate Jesus’ circumcision because He underwent this rite for us and for our salvation. He was circumcised for the same reason that He submitted to John’s baptism: “to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matt 3:15) Amen.

Afterword

Notice that Jesus gained no personal benefit from the rite of circumcision, because He was born without sin (Heb 4:15). Circumcision was the sacred sign (or sacrament) of the covenant that God made with Abraham and his offspring which promised Christ (Rom 4:11; Gal 3:16). Jesus’ birth both fulfilled and ended circumcision as the sign and seal of faith in God’s promises to Abraham. The sacrament of circumcision prefigured (and is replaced by) the sacrament of baptism, which is the sacred sign of the new covenant that Christ offers to all nations in the Gospel (Matt 28:19; Mark 16:16). Baptism proclaims and proffers the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation (Acts 2:38-39; Titus 3:5; 1 Pet 3:21). The benefits of baptism are apprehended by faith alone in God’s Word which promises His grace in the sacrament of baptism.

“In [Christ] also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” (Col 2:11-13) Amen.

Jan 042017
 

They could have quit. 

They could have moved on.  They could have decided to commit to somewhere else.  They could have decided that the disgrace of Penn State football was no longer for them, or not for them even in the first place.  They could have found other high-profile programs which were safer and with much greater opportunities for reward. 

But they didn’t.

The Penn State child sex abuse scandal is well known and has drawn much deserved disgust and consternation.  I’ve already used it here a couple times in my writings to draw parallels to other issues and circumstances in the church and/or life.  It was an obviously terrible and reprehensible situation.  Those who continued on and/or joined the football program have had to deal with much of the fallout.

When the NCAA came down with their sanctions and penalties onto Penn State and its football program less than 5 years ago, many prognosticators thought it would take a minimum of 10 years for the football program to even have a chance to get back to its previous level of success.  The significant loss of football scholarships, the ban from bowl games, and other penalties in addition to the big black mark on its reputation would be a crater of a hole out of which to crawl.  This was going to be a long and arduous and likely painful process.

The players on the team when the sanctions came down were given abnormally liberal transfer rules, making it very easy for them to go somewhere else if they so chose. They had much incentive to do so.  Their legendary coach who had brought them into the program had been fired and was now dead. 

Joe Paterno was Penn State football.  

The notoriety of what made the football program as a whole had suffered a huge blow. The NCAA penalties would make it very hard, if not impossible in some aspects, to achieve team success on the football field.  The future looked bleak.

Some players transferred.  Some high school seniors who had committed to the school decommitted and went elsewhere.  Other possible recruits decided that Penn State was no longer worthy of their time and attention and instead placed their focus on other programs.  Yet other players decided to stay.  Some committed recruits decided to stick with their commitment.  Other recruits decided to still give Penn State a listen and some ultimately ended up attending the university and playing on the team.

These players decided that Penn State football was more than just Joe Paterno.  That it was more than its previously-prestigious-and-now-blown-to-smithereens reputation of always doing things the right way.  That it was more than the egregious sins committed by a former assistant coach and the corresponding failure to deal with them by those in power and in the know.  They decided that they, themselves, were in fact Penn State football.  Or for the newcomers, that they were going to join and become part of what is Penn State football.  They determined that Penn State football was about much more than what they may have previously realized.

On Monday, Penn State football displayed its return to national prominence by playing in one of the most epic Rose Bowls in the more than 100 year history of the famed bowl.  Yes, they came up just short of winning, but they returned to the scene this year by displaying power and potential to challenge for national championships.  And they did this just 5 years after the University was rocked by scandal and the football team’s world was turned upside down.  Some of the seniors who played their last collegiate game in Monday’s Rose Bowl had just enrolled at the school when the sanctions were announced.

The fall of pastors is a common conversation here on this blog.  News is reported on fallings, most frequently when it involves high profile pastors and churches…….. the Joe Paterno’s and Penn State’s of the church world.

When the pastor falls, how does the church move forward?  Now the details and circumstances may be different to at least some degree in each and every one of these situations, but in each one the brethren have to deal with the fall of their most visible spiritual leader.  Is the church never the same (in a negative fashion) because their leader has fallen?  Is the church permanently damaged and hindered because of the blow it received?  Does the church even survive or does it eventually dissipate?

The pastor or priest or bishop, etc. is a very important part of the church.  But you know what, so is every other member of the church.  And that goes for the local church and the Church universal.  When any member falls, there are bound to be hurts and pains and repercussions.  But due to at least the nature of position, these things are further reaching within the church when a pastor falls.  So how does the church body respond?

As we saw with Penn State, the players decided that there was much more to Penn State football than just the coach or the prestige of the program name.  They saw that each and every one of them was integral to the program and decided to band together as a group and collectively work toward the same high ambitions.  They ended up achieving more than just about anyone thought they could have.

In the church, we are not trying to achieve many of the same successes as a football team.  But when our most prominent leaders fall, do we recognize that each and every one of us is just as needed in what we do and can bring to the body?  That we suffer together and rejoice together?  That we can’t have a good functioning body if we think one part is far more important than all the rest, and if that part goes bad, well then, we’re done for.

The church ultimately has one Leader onto whom we are truly dependent. That Leader never will fall.  All of our members are prone to fall from time to time.  But in those fallen times, if we keep our attention on our true Leader and what he calls us to do and be, just maybe the happenings of our church bodies and Church universal will be much greater than anything we would have ever expected….. in a good way.

Jan 032017
 

Calvary vs. Calvary

I was there when Chuck Smith appointed the group of men now called CCA (Calvary Chapel Associates). I listened for a job description and/or passing of specific authority and none came. Some of the CCA members asked me what they should do. When I asked them what instructions Chuck gave, the reply was “none.” Then I said “Don’t do anything.”

Since the “Jesus Movement” revival that gave us Calvary Chapel (or maybe vice-versa) was so obviously a move of the Holy Spirit way beyond our best thinking, it would seem obvious that we should wait and pray to see what the Holy Spirit would do next and how we can cooperate.

If the news that came to me was accurate, the earliest “decisions” of CCA were to simply be there to build relationships so as to assist and counsel any pastors or other workers who chose to consult them. Further, they would not be a disciplinary group. If that was true, I thought it was brilliant. It gave me hope that we might truly be listening to God and taking our hands off the church.

One part of their decision fell apart when a major disciplinary action was taken against a person who, in his own way, was trying to take us “back” to historic (what a word to use for a 50-year-old movement!) positions and actions. He was ejected from this “non- organization, non-denomination”, because of his active desire to return to the past (as he defined it) and not because of personal misbehavior. So, part of the original design that CCA decided on fell by the wayside.

It is important to note that Calvary Chapel local churches are sovereign. They are not ruled from the outside. The minimum structure we had came from love and respect for Chuck Smith, not from organizational commands or directives. We were described, in print, by Chuck as “Co-operative Fellowships,” the same words, by the way, the Assemblies of God denomination used in their original formation in 1914 to avoid their deepest fear that they might become a denomination.

So, the earliest CCA decision, after losing the non-disciplinary stance, had one stance left, “Relationships!” I have long stated that the best thing going for Calvary Chapels was their regional pastor-worker gatherings that were wonderful for developing friendships and connections. Unnoticed by those who attempt to “organize” us is that not one of those regional gatherings was organized by Costa Mesa Calvary. They were founded out of the heart of those who desired fellowship and inspiration in their area. Not all have survived, but that is fodder for another conversation. From recent observed actions, it appears that attempts are being made by CCA to develop an authority structure and organize Calvarys beyond Costa Mesa rather than focus on relationships.

A personal observation: There is actually a group that is doing what CCA originally approached. This is an “unofficial” (How can there be anything official among sovereign churches?) group dedicated to genuine servanthood and care for what God has been doing. They call themselves “Poimen,” based on the Ephesian Epistle statement that we are God’s workmanship or Poime (Poimen means “pastor” in Latin). They have worked in the purest servant-hearted, others-centered way as they serve churches that are struggling for whatever reason and who need outside wisdom and action. They just simply serve and make no attempt to bring people under their authority. They are fruitful and have my admiration.

Now for the other side of the coin. Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa is the “mother church” around which we have gathered through the years. I don’t recall Chuck ever truly designating his “replacement.” That would be left to the “sovereign” church he founded. Chuck told me that he never wanted to build a monster facility that would, in his words, become a mausoleum as he felt Angelus Temple of his former denomination had become.

Chuck Smith was a true builder who went beyond the local church to build conference centers and camp facilities in the USA and in Europe and South America. He could do that because of people with willing hearts to work and serve in these facilities and the amazing flow of funds from appreciative people of means whose lives were, in some way, changed for the better in the Jesus Movement. Since the intensity of The Jesus Movement has waned, the upkeep of those facilities, all of them “world-class”, becomes a burden to be solved. The problem is that Calvary Costa Mesa owns all of those facilities as well as certain licensing rights. How will they support them? How will they share them? It remains to be seen. Now, Calvary Costa Mesa is simply another “SOVEREIGN” church led by a pastor they chose who has the right to lead them in any way he feels most desired and trained-for by the founder he replaced.

This is all-the-more-reason to simply step back, focus on Jesus and the Word, pray, serve and wait on The Holy Spirit. May we lay aside all attempts to develop our rank and gather authority and seek ways to serve each other.

As for me, I don’t think there is a “side” to be had in this most-unfortunate controversy. I still think we should cease and desist all struggles and wait on the Lord and pray for each other.

In a book I have read called THE JESUS STYLE, there is one small sub-chapter called “Prisoners of History.”
It is prophetic.

Gayle Erwin

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