Apr 122014
 

thumbnail.aspxWe regularly say: “We proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

In our primitiveness, we do not doubt your coming, soon, powerfully, decisively.

In our settledness, your coming is not too urgent or real, because we are venously entitled, privileged, protected, gated.

In our rationality, the “until” of your coming makes little sense to us, so we mumble and hope no one notices.

 

In these last days, In these latter days, In these final clays, In these very late days, We draw closer to your promised “until.”

We draw closer in fear, in hope, in gladness, in dread.

So we do proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes,

until he comes in peace against all our violence;

until he comes in generosity midst all our parsimony;

until he comes in food midst all our hunger;

until he comes in community midst all our alienation.

We are your faithful hopers,

distracted by despair,but hoping,

distracted by affluence, but hoping,

distracted by sophistication, but hoping.

Come soon, come Lord Jesus, come soon while we face afresh your death, until you come soon and again …again and soon.

Amen.
Walter Brueggemann. Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: The Prayers of Walter Brueggemann (p. 169). Kindle Edition.

Apr 112014
 

155547_468929542642_7884233_nToday, I just want to thank all of the people who contributed to this incredibly busy week on the Phoenix Preacher.

Our hope is that we shed some light through a dark situation.

Thank you to our writers and readers who helped to edify and educate us all.

Bob Coy Removed For Moral Failure

Bob Sweat sermon on falling and restoration

Crushed Roses, the story of a fallen pastors former wife

The New Simonists…a look at the philosophical questions per megachurches

The Superpastor…the decline of the celebrity pastor system

Restoring Fallen Pastors: Alan Hawkins

10 Keys To Pastoral Ministry

Steve Wrights 10 Keys in Word, PDF

 

Apr 112014
 

Um-Bom-PastorWe finish strong this week with this article by my friend, Pastor Steve Wright. It’s not enough to point out the bad, we must facilitate the good. This list is both practical and priceless. I will be making it available in PDF and Word formats later today.

(While not an exact transcript, the following represents the substance of a one-hour talk given to a group of ministry students one week ago. Before the news of this week, Michael had suggested a written post summarizing the talk. I considered postponing its publishing, but Michael suggested it would be even more helpful today. Thus, it is not offered in response to the recent news, but I do not apologize for the timing either. – Steve Wright)

My salvation came after reading the Bible alone for many months, with a couple other Christian books. I did not have a Christian church, but once born again I found Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa – my first church home. This was 21 years ago. I worshipped and served there my first eight years as a believer, and was ordained in 1998. I have had a variety of ministry opportunity over the years, both inside and outside of Calvary Chapel circles, and presently pastor in Lake Elsinore, and have for the last six years. For brevity these ten areas are only summarized, and not meant to be exhaustive. They do reflect a personal philosophy of ministry that compliments the broader Calvary philosophies and retain the independence of the local church. They are offered by one with a passion for the Calvary Chapel movement, and a desire to see our churches grow in health and loving, faithful ministry to God’s people in the years to come.

1) ACCOUNTABILITY – I do not consider pastoral accountability to be having breakfast once a week with four other pastors. By accountability, I mean something in writing, publicly declared, that explains how the Senior Pastor can get fired. Our guidelines are on the website, and cover the different groups of church servants – pastors, employees, volunteer leaders and workers. This also provides protection for these individuals, especially to employees who also support their families through the church, so that they cannot be arbitrarily dismissed on the whim of the pastor.

2) CHILDREN/YOUTH – Churches must be vigilant to protect our children. Background checks must be secured for those working with minors, and I believe should be mandatory for all the workers of the church no matter the service. The expense is not a factor. The electric bill is expensive too, but nobody thinks of trying to run a church without electricity. We mandate a minimum of six months of attending the church before being eligible to serve in any capacity, which at least helps deter those who are seeking chaos and quick access to children. In addition there must be rigid rules that everyone is subject to, no matter how trusted. This is especially true for the teenage youth that typically have wider access and ministry opportunity with adults than the small children and infants. For example, no private, closed-door meetings, no personal car rides home after an event. Violations must be dealt with swiftly. No matter the laws of the state, every church should consider itself mandatory reporters when there is the possibility that physical or sexual child abuse has taken place. The church should not take for itself the role of trying to determine the truth of such accusations, but rather report the suspicion to the authorities who have the responsibility and resources to determine if a crime has been committed.

3) COMPENSATION – Once the church is large enough to provide a full time salary for the pastor, he should manage his finances like the congregation has to. People can’t approach the boss and ask for more money because an unexpected expense arrived. They have to budget, save, and manage the financial uncertainties of life. Why should the pastor be granted his financial request because of an unexpected house repair or medical bill? Does the entire church staff have that same privilege? Allowances for special items like books or gas are dangerous. Establish a salary that is sufficient to meet all those needs, plus other needs in life such as retirement, and healthcare. If the church is large enough to provide group benefits to all employees, that is different than the pastor alone getting lots of unique perks beyond his salary. The pastor should not expect the church to take care of him when he no longer can work, just because he failed to prepare for the future.

4) MESSAGES – Preparing and delivering Bible messages is a major part of the pastoral job description, especially within Calvary Chapel. It is (in part) what we are being paid for. Those messages belong to the church that employs us, not just ethically but most likely legally if someone actually went to court to fight over them. Any packaging and selling of previously recorded messages should result in income to the church, not the pastor. Of course, if the pastor has an outside project such as writing a book, those profits would properly be his. However, there the key term is “outside project.” It is not right to ignore church needs during the time normally spent with church activity, or to use church staff to edit, type, or otherwise assist in a work that is going to be the pastor’s sole financial benefit. Once more, the standard is what our congregation experiences. In the normal world it is quite rare for employees to use work time, equipment or supplies for personal projects to supplement the income.

5) LIMITATIONS – As an insurance agent I used to bristle when a client told me their plumber said their insurance is supposed to cover his bill. I jokingly would respond, “Would you trust your insurance agent to come and fix the plumbing?” A pastor may know some things about the law, taxes, investment, or medicine, but he is not a licensed, educated, professional in those fields. However, people may think, based on a pastor’s words, that he is an authority on anything to which he speaks, and not just the Scriptures. We also need to make sure others in the church leadership are not abusing their positions of authority in this area.  A special word concerns counseling, as this is a legitimate role of the pastor in certain circumstances. However, here too, Christian counselors invest much in time and expense to properly become equipped to minister in this area. My seminary also has a significant counseling school at the graduate level – it is a different degree, different emphasis of study. Pastors and counselors are two different roles in the Body of Christ. We must know our limits when faced with a complicated and sensitive counseling issue and humbly admit we are out of our depths to help such a person. The loving and proper thing is to refer to one qualified, and not to waste the person’s time or even worse, to do additional damage because of our inexperience and incompetence.

6) DEPENDABILITY – This is more than just not being a flake, showing up on time, keeping promises etc. By dependability I mean that weekly faithfulness to bring the word of God to the people, without personal agendas of any sort. The pulpit is sacred ground, and the message is sacred time. To use them for partisan political rants, self-indulgent personal stories or complaints, or mocking of others for an easy laugh or amen from the majority is a dishonor to the office. Obviously a message can be illustrated with a current event or personal story, but only if it truly is an effective way of teaching the passage. The people need to know that they can bring their lost friends, and their pastor will not unnecessarily say things that are offensive or take the focus off Christ and Him crucified. The message of the cross is plenty offensive and will insult and drive away lots of visitors over time. However, that message also contains the power to save. Our personal rants or jokes do not.

7) AVAILABILITY – Be visible and available after service for as long as people would like to see you. Circulate among the people. With multiple services (and we have four) there is a time to break off small talk and get alone for a moment before the next service, but not at the expense of the people who really want to talk to you about a serious matter. Be available during the week too. We have a fairly large number of people that look to us as their home church and me as their pastor. In a healthy church, the people will be ministering to one another and not always looking to the pastor to do everything. Therefore, those who do specifically ask for the pastor can likely be accommodated. They should be. The requests will not overwhelm until the church grows to a very large size, and that likely will not happen to almost all pastors. Availability also applies to our families. I do not feel a need to participate in many of the church ministries, so that I can have that time with my family. Thus, the family also understands when there is a special need to go to the hospital, perform a funeral, or meet with someone in an emergency.

8) DELEGATION – In Calvary it is common to hear that we must forsake church growth programs and other human efforts, and trust the Lord to add to the church, as we faithfully serve and proclaim the word. I agree but I also believe the same is true for church health and unity within the local fellowship. The pastor can strive and set a bunch of rules, force everything through his approval process, every teaching subject to his personal notes, run out of the church those unwilling to get with his program…or he can trust the Lord. Delegate the work of the ministry to those we are equipping in the word each week. They have the same Holy Spirit to guide their service. Besides, why would God give me special insights about how to run the nursery or womens ministry? He is going to guide those who serve in these ministries. I want to use my position to facilitate, give them needed resources, make announcements as warranted, while empowering God’s people for their service. They serve Him, by serving the people of our church. They are not my servants, but co-laborers; different members with different gifts yet part of the one Body. If someone is teaching true heresy, or creating problems they cannot handle, I’ll find out about it and can deal with it then. But as a pastor, I have the pulpit twice a week. I do not need to fear a mutiny because someone has the freedom to teach a passage in one of the various ministries in a different way than I do. I choose to trust the Lord to produce and maintain a united, healthy, church environment.

9) DEFENSE – There is a difference between defending the flock of God entrusted to us as pastors, and defending ourselves. We need to know the difference. There may be a time when the church needs defending from the attacks of outsiders, and the pastor/shepherd must be on the front lines in that defense of God’s people. However, let the Lord defend you personally. Pastors are human and we may find certain people more difficult than others, but there is no justification to kick someone to the curb just because they disagree with the pastor. Develop thick skin. Sometimes conflict may be within the church. I am certainly going to give more credence to the testimony of someone I have known to be a humble servant in the church for years, versus someone who has been around for three weeks. However, this is why the accountability guidelines are necessary. People in the inner circle are not given preferential treatment by the pastor when there is a written, agreed-upon, method to handle accusations against leadership.

10) DISCUSS – I was at a pastors’ meeting and commented that I was a Calvary Chapel pastor because I believed Calvary Chapel was the “best thing out there.” Of course, if any of us find a better fit in personal doctrinal beliefs and ministry philosophy within another group or denomination, we would join that group. The Lutherans think they are “the best thing”, the Presbyterians the same and so forth. However, at that meeting my comment was responded to by one of the men in Calvary, with about 40 years compared to my 20 years. He said, “Steve, it is not just the best thing, it is the only thing out there.” There is a huge difference between my comment and his, and recognizing that difference will go a long way towards the future of Calvary Chapel. We must recognize the greater Body of Christ as the brothers and sisters they are. We must get outside our Calvary bubble and interact with others. And we must recognize that a lot of people have had bad experiences in Calvary Chapels, due to no fault of their own. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers” and we are to be servants of Him, not the affiliation. Interact with the hurting, not as a Calvary apologist but as a servant of Christ. There may be a cost, especially in this internet era, but if our service to Jesus is not costly in some manner, it probably isn’t worth much.

Apr 102014
 

restores1Simple premise; a pastor who falls into sin that brings disqualification from public ministry can be restored again.

This assumes that eldership as described by Paul includes the pastoral office and requires public release and ordination into a ministry. We are dealing with this matter in the abstract and not in relation to particular incidents. Every incident requires oversight by others and a process whereby restoration can happen. The myriad of circumstances cannot be covered by a short article but the principle can be examined.

Nothing more clearly describes the Christian faith than the forgiveness of sin. Nothing magnifies the forgiveness of sin more fully than restoration. Forgiven sin does not guarantee restored privileges but it is the bedrock upon which that can be possible. Restoration to public ministry is the culmination of a process with an intent to bring reconciliation and recompense to all parties. It would end with a recognition that the offender is once again considered to be tested and found qualified for eldership.

The process calls for spiritual leadership. (Galatians 6:1) ‘Restoration’ is from the Greek root ‘katartizo’ which describes the mending of a fishing net or the setting of a broken bone. The picture clearly depicts restoration to usefulness. We find a form of the word used in Ephesians 4:12 as well. There it tells us that apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are given to ‘equip the saints.’ Interestingly it could easily be translated ‘to restore the saints.’ That would concur with the Galatians passage calling for spiritual ones to restore those caught in a trespass.

The objections to returning someone to ministry are abundant. Let me just propose a few concerns that must be addressed. The full nature of the sin must be faced and owned by the offender. The restoration of the pastor’s family must be of foremost concern and just as in the beginning the spousal support is foundational to return. The complexities of returning to the same congregation are unlikely to be solved but a blessing from the former congregation would be preferable before beginning again. Nothing would testify more powerfully to the witness of the Gospel of grace and mercy than such an endorsement. However, I would not consider it mandatory as it is so difficult to accomplish because of our punishment mentality. Also all direct victims should have to have their concerns addressed and resolved as much as possible.

When a pastor is removed he has broken trust. He has broken covenant. He has violated the sacred vows that attend to appointment and ordination. These things cannot be undone, the wrongs cannot be expunged. However, they can be redeemed. Too often the pastor and his memory are expunged from the public witness of the church. Nothing is more opposite to the message of the Gospel. When a church has a fallen pastor that church has an opportunity to show the truth of Jesus to the world by reframing their message around the cross rather than banishing the memory of a offender. God does not forget us but our sin.

A fallen and restored pastor is a walking testimony to the grace of God. He then exists to tell the world how merciful and kind God is and how wonderful his love is for those who receive it. All illusions of personal accomplishment and success have vanished. What remains is simply a broken and renewed vessel. Or as Galatians puts it so well, “if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing he deceives himself” (6:3) That deception is shattered by a fall and the returning minister comes back not as a conquering hero but as a servant washing feet.

The whole thing takes time and cannot be entered into without great care and with the fear of the Lord. But to call it impossible seems to deny the Gospel itself. When someone asks why God would use a man like that there is an answer. He doesn’t have any other kind. The minister who is not publicly fallen knows that his heart would fare no better in the light of God’s holiness than the life of the minister who was exposed in his worst moment.

When I began in ministry I made vows to the elders that if I ever fell into an adulterous relationship they would not have to catch me that I would turn myself in. I had a firm policy that to commit such sin was to forever forfeit the privilege of Gospel ministry. After all these years I had to confess that I was afraid of my weakness and wanted to build a high wall against it. In other words I wanted my own little law code of righteousness. Such means never produce a pure heart. They never accomplish the righteousness of God. Ultimately, every minister who stands before the people or oversees a congregation knows that he has not deserved the mercy he has received.

Let’s get our fallen ones and bring them home to the Savior and home to their loved ones. If it is in any way possible let’s bring them all the way back into gifts and callings that propelled them forward in the beginning. It glorifies God and bears witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Have they betrayed Christ? Indeed they have. Can they feed the flock once again? Indeed they must in answer to his call. Let the spiritual ones do this hard work of restoration. Let the kingdom come on earth as in heaven.

Apr 102014
 

this-is-what-it-would-look-like-if-superman-had-a-gopro-cameraToday, we present the views of veteran mega church pastor who has seen it all…and has managed to navigate these waters with integrity and honor.

The Superman model of ministry so prevalent during the last 40 years is being tested.

 

It’s “one man, one show” person centric philosophy is being challenged by age, lack of transition plans and unchallenged sin nature.

For the Superpastor the “Kryptonite” to fear and respect is still original sin.

Sin nature is still abundantly available here on earth for Super-Christians who want to partake of it. The celebrity model of ministry during this media driven age has put many a face on the TV screen and radio waves. Gone are pink hair, bad comb overs and laughable stunts of TBN and Tammy while we welcome the newer, youngish, hipper and more relatable crew that cater to our Christian consumer needs through the mass of available outlets.

Don’t get me wrong, this style of leadership has given us some great ministries that have accomplished much for God’s Kingdom.

However, time tests everything and the mega church model is becoming the “old gray mare” and she “ain’t what she used to be.”

Let’s say we are capable of a couple of bad decisions a year for a couple of years, that’s not much. But if you make two bad decisions a year for several decades you have an accumulation that may alter your world, or worse someone else’s. The older the philosophy of ministry is, the greater the likelihood of weakness.

The era of the “benevolent dictator” as pastor is under fire.

Accountability, and the lack thereof, are words thrown around like  Ninja weapons to accuse leaders of any number of self centered sins.

However, in the context of the personal isolation that celebrity life inevitably brings, accountability to friends, family and understanding peers can be a lifesaver. The Bob Coy tragedy and the Mark Driscoll dust up are just signs of a weakening construct of a ministry philosophy that ultimately does not work long term. To build on one mans talent and gifting ultimately stacks the weight on one mans weaknesses whether they be major or minor flaws. You add years to those flaws and the potential for failure increases.

If we were to take a walk thru scripture beginning with Moses’ “Captains” of Exodus 18 all the way through the partnerships of Paul with Barnabas, Silas,, Priscilla and Aquila to Timothy and his team of deacons and elders,  we see that leaders don’t lead in isolation. We see good listeners like Timothy and Titus soaking up wisdom from Paul, not the belligerent, self-reliant bullies that dot today’s pastoral landscape.

I don’t see any lone wolfs in Scripture.

I think this philosophy of church planting and subsequent ministry starts with the idea of chairs facing one direction listening to one man talk and never progresses beyond measuring the size of the audience. Hence the often asked question at pastors conferences, “how many you runnin’ on Sundays?” Super success means you still have the solo leader shouldering the celebrity power that fuels multiple services, the satellite locations, the big screens and the added plethora of media. It works when it works but the chairs are still facing the same direction when Superman fails. It just gets crazy trying to keep up.

It seems that Superman’s strength is waning these days and the definition of “crazy” is still “find what doesn’t work and keep doing it.”

Apr 092014
 

Today is Trey’s 12th birthday, so I’ll be out most of the day.

We’ve had some great resources this week in light of the Bob Coy scandal.

Bob Coy Removed For Moral Failure

Bob Sweat sermon on falling and restoration

Crushed Roses, the story of a fallen pastors former wife

The New Simonists…a look at the philosophical questions per megachurches

As always, you can request prayer and pray for others…

More coming…thank you for reading and participating!

Apr 092014
 

350px-Nucci,_Avanzino_-_Petrus'_Auseinandersetzung_mit_Simon_Magus_-_1620We continue our series  of articles from great friends this week looking at the issues involved when well known pastors fall.

Today, we look at mega churches from a philosophical standpoint…footnotes included.

The practice of simony is alive in today’s church,  particularly among  independent, non- denominational churches with minimal accountability structures.  The media is filled with various reports of abuse, control tactics and in some circumstances, misuse of church funds to further the platform and influence of the senior pastor.[1]  We have mistakenly given great authority to anointing regardless of character, resulting in church leadership practices that I refer to as the New Simony.  Dante described our current ecclesiastical environment in his condemnation of Pope Nicholas III for his “avarice that brings grief upon the world, crushing the good, and exalting the depraved”.[2]

Simony is defined as the purchasing of ecclesiastical office for the purpose of personal gain and furthers one’s influence.   R. Kent Hughes correctly described Simony as “spiritual power in order to promote himself, preaching to gain recognition or status, or serving with an eye to advancement in the church’s power structure”.[3]

Today’s trend to develop large mega churches, meeting in several locations, even in different states, looks suspiciously familiar to Hughes’ description.   What drives the desire for such massive expansion under a single church’s supervision?  Are these churches growing through evangelism, or by means of transfer growth from other churches?   Expansion is contextualized  publically as a way of “reaching as many people as we can”,[4]  yet such aggressive ambition resembles what Aristotle described as deviations away from the common good of the people and “toward a private advantage’.[5]

Ed Stetzer, an advocate and defender of mega churches, cited that “about 44% of new members at mega-churches are from other local churches”,[6] a number that he admitted is too high.   Considering that these churches have thousands in attendance, that is a considerable amount of people who have transferred.   In sharp contrast, the National Congregations Study (2006-2007) found that the median church attendance is 75 people[7].   Based on these statistics, each 1,000 attendees at a mega church can conceivable empty out six churches of medium attendance.  Like a huge forest fire that creates its own weather patterns,  the prolific nature of megachurches create various possibilities of temptation due to an ethos of expansion, even at the expense of other churches.  Transfer growth is not much different than the rationale of Socrates’ feverish city in taking their neighbor’s land in order to feed their ever growing appetites[8].  The mission of the pastor’s vision of expansion becomes the central focus.

In the circle of pastors, it is rather unpopular to question the motives and ethics of our colleagues, particularly pastors whose ministries are widely known.  We live in an ecclesiastical culture that equates size with success and it is appropriate to acknowledge such good works.  They have large crowds for some valid reasons.  Pastors of large churches are frequently given the opportunity to further expand their platform through various speaking engagements at other churches and conferences.   Their vast exposure creates credibility which attracts publishers who are eager to tap into their marketability.    It must be recognized that not all megachurch pastors began their work with the intention of creating a mass audience to address each week.  But the current ethos of evangelicalism encourages such growth, and we measure our fruitfulness by the size of the church.   A successful environment, began with good intentions can easily conceal the  temptation of our souls to stray from virtue and become vicious.  The church continues to operate well, while the pastor like Samson, did not know the Lord had departed from him (Judges 16:20).

Compounding the issue is that many megachurch pastors operate within an independent, autonomous, monarchial ecclesiastical structure.  It is a short distance from a monarchy who seeks the good of the people, to any deviation that turns toward a self-serving gesture and creates a tyranny.  What begins as a desire for the common good, can deviate into becoming a means for one’s private advantage[9].   There is the understanding in these churches that the pastor is the one whom God speaks to regarding the direction and “vision” of the church.  As a pastor, I think there is some truth to that ideal.  However, are they hearing and implementing the leading of the Holy Spirit for our churches, or are they simply being “carried away by the pleasure”[10] of fulfilling their own dreams and self-promotion?   At what point is this no longer about the gospel and reaching people but rather an expression of greed?   The church develops an unhealthy environment when the pastor is exalted by those around him as one who is super-virtuous, or as Aristotle described,  “one as a god among men”.[11]   When this atmosphere has taken hold, people respond to the pastor in ways that are unhealthy and can inadvertently feed his flesh.  This is where the enemy of our souls seeks to exploit any deficiency of character that begins   “as incontinent in respect of their temper, their ambition and their greed for gain”.[12]  If left unchecked and un-repented of, incontinence grows toward the excess of heart and actions that rejects virtue and embraces vice.  Unrepentant sin continues its destructive course.   The modern day Simonist is attracted to such magnitude, but only as a means to express his own self-indulgence.  He is not capable of handling such an environment without virtue of soul.

I am not suggesting that each and every mega-church pastor is or even has the potential to be a modern day Simonist.  The context and structure of evangelicalism as it pertains to most megachurches,  can bring great reward, but with it great temptation to exceed a virtuous life.

The danger in this is twofold.  There is a danger to the flock that feeds on not only the weekly message but also the sub culture that is fueled by the pastor’s personality and vision.  People not only learn biblical concepts, but they catch the state of character that is being modeled by their pastor.  These are the keys by which people live their lives.  Most people place a great amount of trust in their pastor and will acquiesce to whatever standard he upholds.   They may be well taught in the scriptures, but if the application is not conveyed through a life of godly virtue, the flock will likely be deficient in submitting to God in areas that need to be transformed.  Virtues, along with necessary the humility, are drowned out when the message is preached with an excess of high ambitions that projects a vain imagine.    You cannot segregate the teaching of God’s word into a vacuum of virtue, while the example that is lived in front of a congregation is laden with vice.

Secondly, there is a danger to the soul of one who pastors such large flocks.   The tyrant inadvertently builds a false world where he is flattered and appeased, rather than engage in honest communication.  He loses his sense of reality and resides in a world of isolation.   This produces a myopic perspective that is prone to spiritually abusing his subordinates, and  congregation, including his family members.

In final analysis, the question becomes about who is able to rule? [13]  Not all opportunities that present themselves are doors opened by God.   God leads us along the path of virtuous, godly living, any deviation from that is not of Him.  Education in areas such as ethics, justice, Aristotle’s doctrine of the mean (virtue vs. vice) [14], undergirded by biblical studies are “the most just claim” [15]  for those who would lead.  A good leader needs to understand that virtue entails our “emotional reactions, choices, values, desires, perceptions, attitudes, interests, expectations and sensibilities”. [16]   Socrates recognized that the aim of education is the study of good, drawing the soul to an understanding of God.[17]  Accountability structures are needed, particularly in large churches where the bulk of attendees have little contact or knowledge of the daily operations and infrastructure.  These are imperative in safeguarding the heart of a pastor so that he can walk ethically and in godly virtue, and thereby fulfill his ministry well.

[1] Tracy, Kate, Mars Hill Defends How Mark Driscoll’s ‘Real Marriage’ Became a Bestseller.  [ posted 3/7/2014 10:15PM ]   http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2014/march/did-mark-driscoll-real-marriage-earn-nyt-bestseller-status-.html , access April 4, 2014

[2] Dante, The Divine Comedy Volume I: Inferno, IXX, 103-105.

[3] Hughes, R. K. (1996). Acts: the church afire (p. 114). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[4]  Greg Laurie, from the  Panel Discussion at the  2012 Calvary Chapel Senior Pastors Conference, http://vimeo.com/43699608,  accessed April 4, 2014

[5] Aristotle, The Politics, III ,vii.

[6] Ed Stetzer, Debunking Megachurch Myths: Especially the One About Sheep Swapping , Feb 22, 2013,  Christianity Today.   http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2013/february/debunking-megachurch-myths-especially-one-about-sheep.html, accessed April 5, 2014.

[8] Plato, The Republic, II, 373d

[9] Aristotle, The Politics III, vii

[10] Aristotle, Ethics VII, vii.

[11] Aristotle, The Politics III, xiii

[12] Aristotle, Ethics, VII, i

[13] Aristotle,  The Politics, III, xiii.

[14] Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, II

[15] Aristotle,  The Politics, III, xiii.

[16] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Virtue Ethics, rev.  Mar 8, 2012, http://stanford.library.usyd.edu.au/entries/ethics-virtue/ ,  accessed April 5, 2014.

[17] Plato, The Republic, VII, 521b-d.

Apr 082014
 

imagesWhen pastors fall the primary victims are the wife and family.

Today, we present an essay in three parts from a friend who survived being the wife of a fallen pastor…a friend who knows better than anyone the healing path from rubble to redemption.

Here is the fragrance of the crushed rose...

My redemption has come full circle. I have been through a restoration process that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy, and I am marked with a priceless scar as a result.  This is my offering of freshly minted insights—my brand new nature borne from narrowly surviving the distorted-god-culture of my youth. And although this culture was the one that snipped me from the mother ship that is all things Calvary Chapel– hurling me into deep space in my time of desperate need—She was also the keeper of my spiritually formative years—and still dear to me for that reason. Her people are my people, and there is no good in promoting cannibalism in our midst. Nor will I sweep under the rug the breeches in her levy and look the other way as if a broken system is inconsequential. Neither is it my intention to imply that God cannot work in the broken CC system: He does. Broken systems are all God has ever had to work with—myself included. In fact, mentioning CC here is only for the sake of contextualizing my comments in regards to the Coys’ new situation—I do not intend to single out Calvary Chapel as the sole culprit of our floundering evangelical landscape: Sadly, She is not alone, and I have since discovered the same mal-nourishment well beyond CC’s non-denominational boundaries, spanning the entirety of our faith’s history.

The Coy’s story is reminiscent of my own Ichabod: God’s glory departing from the landscape of my life. Having walked down an eerily similar path to that of theirs as the pastor and pastor’s wife, I was sickened today by CC Ft. Lauderdale’s tragic news.  But beyond the nauseating grief of this announcement, was the frustration borne from my being relegated to the sidelines on a day like this–unable to speak a veteran’s clarity into an already combustible situation—a scenario so nuanced and convoluted that it will no doubt take years for this crippled family of faith in Ft. Lauderdale to unravel. It was also unnerving for me to recall the brutal lessons borne out of my trial.

I’ve become convinced that precious few can see the complexity of the storm system we are now viewing at FLCC. Most onlookers cannot and will not know, because the truth is just too painful and theologically destabilizing for them to seek out and to bear. And who, after all, volunteers to take God’s hand and walk into His glaring light publically? Who willingly hangs naked for all onlookers to gaze upon in the midst of their deepest test? And who writes this kind of story for themselves? I have come to realize that nobody walks willingly into their own death camp—nobody not the fallen and not those observing their fall.  But it’s an experience we all desperately need.

Jesus may even have alluded to it once or twice?

It is precisely because I wear this survivor’s lens that I can speak passionately to this issue and notice critical components that others may not. For example, I recognize the illusions that the Ft. Lauderdale family must be swimming in as I type this page the now elusive realities of Bob and Diane Coy that came crashing down in a day.

I include Diane in this narrative as I included myself in the culpability of my own tragic story because an illusion this big cannot persist without the “covering” of a wife. Not because I do not recognize our own victimization—I do. I include Diane because there is a role that an enabling spouse plays—whether intentional or not—which must be recognized to initiate a healing-path of any kind. I have no intention of sounding cruel here. I am indicting myself.

But I no longer believe a pastor’s wife could be married to a man caught in a stronghold of duplicity without playing her own integral part. Somehow the wives of CC became the pastors’ unnamed P.R. firms and lent our credibility to their regimes. And if you are sitting in on of our pews you might think, “She seems nice enough, if there was something wrong she would say something. Right?”  Calvary Chapel, like so many others, simply lacked in modeling accountability, and did not encourage the wives to hold their men to any standard of truth. And while I never heard the words “cover-up” in the ranks, it was an unspoken reality and we all knew what was expected of us. Patriarchal systems like the CC network of churches aren’t known for giving the keys to the kingdom to their wives.

Not that I judge her with any kind of harshness.  On the contrary, she is the greatest victim here and my heart is aching for her in a strangely tethered way. The fallout in Diane’s life will undoubtedly surpass that of any other’s in this hideous ordeal, and she will be required to navigate without the benefits of her church family, or the position of privilege she has lived with for the better part of three decades. Nope! She is just out: history erased, identity stripped, done. If any persons require a tender sort of triage today, it is Diane Coy and her children. I pray the body tunes into their grave state in the midst of their leader’s eclipsing fall. This notion that he Coy family is simply encountering garden variety “marriage problems” is an illusion, and probably the tip of an enormous iceberg that has become their mega-church way of life.

Another common illusion in the church is manifest by our language of instant and easy grace. It’s not just us. It’s a twenty-first century problem that has infected every aspect of our lives. Insta-everything! Don’t like the results? Press, “delete” and move on. We want to be good parents, for example; but we rarely take the time to instruct, disciple, and discipline our children to bring about that good result? Instead we abdicate our essential role as the bad guy and wonder later about what went wrong. Like parenting, the kingdom life is a long journey and full of work. There is no way to wholeness or path to healing that can circumspect this reality of unwanted work. It’s no wonder so many are tempted to sweep our dysfunctions under the proverbial rug of grace. It’s so much easier to slap a Bible verse on it and call it good.

I have purposed here to use the term “healing path”, as opposed to a “healing” or a “restoration” that would indicate the immediacy of a miraculous event. I choose this language carefully because I am certain that while many are even now initiating the narratives of hope and restoration for Bob and Diane—the kind offered in a drive through window, so as to not waste any time getting their beloved pastor back where he “belongs”—I know that their wholeness is a long, arduous, and terrifying way off—if they can find this healing-path at all. I suspect there is a faithful stand of men huddled in someone’s living room who do not recognize their own misplaced agendas of immediacy. They’re lobbying for the grace Bob so desperately needs, and arguing for the generous dispensation of it now. Both to save God’s reputation and to preserve the precious “altar calls” so needed in their town. Rare is the Christianized publicist who recognizes the profound value of coming altogether clean. As a family, our attentions need to stay fixed on what matters. My grueling and restorative path taught me that truth not only matters, it matters in a million different ways. Without truth the leaven can only remain.

As a previously fallen pastor’s wife, I imagine Diane’s focus is on the immediate threats to her marriage and ministry, and not on the incalculable collateral damage that a scandal of this magnitude has yet to produce. Soon the tsunami will sweep through every relationship in her life: her identity, her inner circle, her nervous system, her mental health, her financial security, her shattered sense of community, her sense of kingdom “calling”. Denial too will be ripped from her weakening grip that unspoken guardian of fear that protected her from what she wasn’t ready to face. Her losses will prove to be multi-faceted and probably the most difficult trial her life will ever present. I can only hope that she will one day refer to this nightmarish episode as the introduction to her deliverance, and not an “attack” on her mega-church’s existence.  Diane needs a handful of tenaciously loving friends, as I had, to help her grope through this darkness. God bring her those courageous friends.

There is a tragic irony at play in the leadership of our faith circles everywhere—a dilemma hidden in the spiritualization of all things Christian and the rationalization of all things base.  We’ve learned to manipulate with our religious language and control our potential mentors with well-crafted verse. Manipulation and accountability make horrible partners. Our integrity will remain elusive if we will not quiet ourselves long enough to let all of that finagling go. Oh that we could surrender to the mysterious methodology of reconciliation that is God’s alone to orchestrate! Surrender is one of those critically vital deals.

Today, I would bet my life that the stuff that needs to be discovered examined and talked about behind closed doors—many integral components of a potential healing aren’t even on the Coys’ radar. Not because God is hiding it from them, but because they are no doubt in a state of denial and unknowing self-sabotage. Strongholds are nasty like that.

I am thankful to hear that Bob got fired, even though it sounded more like, “I think I should step down for a little bit?”, (which leaves room in the minds of his parishioners for his eventual return). Having gone through that particularly ugly power-struggle from the inner circle, I hold the belief that, [and no doubt this is contrary to the belief of some of Bob’s anguished stand of followers] reinstituting the Coys to their previously “anointed” ministries cannot be the answer to this devastating situation in Ft. Lauderdale. In fact, I would argue reinstatement is the worst course of action possible. For Bob and Diane as individuals, for the Coys as a family, and for the church as a genuine community of Christ followers in Ft. Lauderdale, the language that encourages restored ministry is the very last narrative they need to hear.

Conversely, I have come to believe that it is only during the long and agonizing process of reconciliation that one can discover the potential for something of real kingdom-value in their newly shattered lives¾a process yet to be seen in the Coys. This process will include taking an honest look at every relationship in their life: Their relationship to their God, to themselves, to all others, to money, to their childhood wounds, and to the earth. The Coys face many difficult truths wrought with difficult decisions, and we cannot know now how they will react. There are no short cuts—only cheap and unsustainable counterfeits that offer fleeting relief. Upon reflection, I can recognize that our CC network of churches rarely expounded on the God of this tedious process. Why should a Christian emphasize that kind of self-examining work when the God of instant miracles could be claimed so readily by examining the right verse? We prided ourselves in not getting weighed down with such things.

Unlike the God of “instant” answers, my newly unveiled “God of the Process” taught me to appreciate my very practical institution of pain. And I believe that if the Coys would willingly enroll in and submit to such a school, the fresh agonies of their new and unfamiliar curriculum would more than suffice for total restoration.

But it is with deep regret and unwavering confidence I am predicting what they have in store even in the best-case scenario.

These are the irreversible consequences, and the newest friends on their journey back toward being reconciled to the Body of Christ. Hope for the Coys will need to include a gracious acceptance of the anger on the faces of people they served and eventually betrayed. This alone holds the potential to cauterize these lessons on their hearts. They need to let their congregants’ pain burn something eternal into their own wounded souls: That’s good and effective medicine, and not to be confused with shame. Furthermore, I would also guess that they would discover an inability to categorize the black from the white. This new sensation will usher in a sense of unexpected disorientation and darkness along with the innumerable shades of gray that haunt their recently lost sense of stability and control. They won’t get to be “right” all the time or call all the shots. Bible verses will bring more dissonance than peace.  The things they previously took succor in will be found empty and repulsive. And all of this is a true gift from God because this season of deconstruction is necessary to make way for the work.

There is no room for the new, until the old has been cleared away. No room. These new experiences and more can be added to a list healing events that could fill several books about true restoration, but how could I expect you to know that reader, unless it has happened to you?

But it did happen to me. God reached out and waited for me to take His hand on the most terrifying journey of my life. And I was eventually glad to discover it, because it meant that what the Scriptures had said about Him was true. He came in grace and truth, to heal that which was broken, to set the crooked back to straight. He came to make all things new in my wake of destruction and yes–victimization. He had NO desire to sweep anything under any rug justice is part of His story. His intentions were thorough and brutal and loving all at the same time. I trusted Him with my breaking point, and He entrusted me with His treasures that allowed the wholeness to finally come.

And IF Bob and Diane decide to surrender to the mysterious stream of God’s Spirit that leads toward healing waters and a new whole life, [a journey not resembling that of their current spiritual context] And, ….IF…. they continue in that direction…

IT WON’T LOOK LIKE A 30-DAY PROGRAM!

Again, It’s not because I believe they do not want the help; it’s because all roads leading to something nearer to the truth than their own versions of it have been quadranted off as “from the devil”, or “off theologically”, or too “humanistic”, or “too psychological” to offer them valid relief. We can only hope that the expulsion from their unsustainable man-made Eden will bring them to the God of the whole world’s treasure trove of help—and not merely to the God of Calvary Chapel’s seemingly impotent solutions.

If lasting help is to be found, It will be nuanced and multi-faceted—complicated and surprising—each lesson so big it can only be in the lime-light itself for a day at the most—too big to share with any other day. And if all is progressing well, their tomorrows will hold a handful of new lessons, each day filled with fresh revelation and illumination—the kinds that burrow into the “inner-most parts” of their once sealed-off souls. Thankfully, this seems to be God’s slow and merciful approach: reserving the power to trickle the truth out in small, manageable doses—not the “all at once” approach. [In my case, the immediate truth of my exact condition would have killed me if it came to me all at once. The actual gravity of my bent state and its consequences would have been too crushing for my tender heart to bear.] I love how God is full of mercy—a tender reed He will bend but never break.

To survive this, the Coys will probably have to adopt an entirely new approach to their faith—one that doesn’t include the Bible as weapon, or the Bible as excuse, or the Bible as permission to dominate, or the Bible as permission to “cover” our sins rather than hold them squarely under the Light who is Christ in the here and now. They will need a language that sets aside the Scriptures that have handily been “used” to justify, rationalize, and manipulate–in order to maintain Bob’s position of power/influence/”call”/”giftedness”—one that humbly makes way for something Eden-kind-of-new.

I’m holding out for hope that. If healing and wholeness is to be found in the lives of Bob and Diane Coy, then today could be the first of innumerable days filled with the creative power of the God who brings order from chaos, whether together or apart. I have also purposed not to act as though the “marriage” is the most important thing at stake here: I do not believe it is. I hold to the conviction that their individual faith is what hangs in the balances—threadbare and not yet tried. Concentration on anything else could hinder this critical process.

Finally, it is with this new and painful reality in mind that I would urge the body of Christ to let them find their chance at a healing far and away from public ministry—a life with all the realities possible in Christ—one that Bob could only address from a distance before. It’s time to allow our tenacious God to save them from their humanly constructed and clearly unsustainable lives. But first, we must all face our family’s dysfunction and get out of the way. He is up to the task folks.

 

Let them go.

Apr 072014
 

thinking_man_ape_wood_3d_sculpture_thinker_think-480x3251. When a pastor, elder, or anyone else in the Body falls into sin, there are really only two questions we ask. Are they repentant or are they under church discipline? If they are repentant, one process begins, if they are not, they should be under church discipline which is another process entirely. Repentant does not mean I got caught and the evidence compelled me to confess…

2. If Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale had printed what I did, then I would have been here quietly and happily teaching the Anglican catechism to 1500 people. Instead, we had to carry the load that they wouldn’t. In the 21st century you can either tell the story or you can have your story told. I told it factually, without commentary. If you don’t like how I did it, do it yourself next time.

3. So when a megachurch with ten satellites loses the personality they were built on…what happens now? Please spare me the pious remarks about Jesus being the personality…He wasn’t who the banks were considering when loan apps were made and He visits small churches too. Whether the personality falls or dies, the aftermath almost demands another celebrity…

4. There is no more bizarre, anti- Christian ritual in evangelicalism than the expunging of a man’s life work from the church and the internet when he falls. Coy has been deleted from the CCA website and they are wiping the CCFTL site as fast as they can. I guess he should be thankful that they have no access to the Book of Life…

5. No one redeemed by the grace of God and the blood of the Lamb rejoices to hear news like we heard this weekend, nor do they enjoy writing about them. Yes, we know we are sinners as well, and we could fall into shame too. There, that should cover about 100 inane, but pious comments…

6. Blaming the women involved for this tragedy marks you as an ignoramus of Biblical proportions…

7. Sin isn’t bad because it offends us. It’s bad because it offends a holy God and does damage to those created in His image. If we were less offended and more broken, we would speak as we should.

8. God’s truth is intrinsically true…it does not depend on truthful men for it’s veracity.

9. Damage control is an unbiblical concept. Confess all the damage, embrace all the damage, and give all the damage over to God.

10. Grace does not negate consequences…it transforms the purpose of the consequences from retributive to redemptive. 

phoenixpreacher@gmail.com

 

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