Purpose Driven Dinner Cruise

Last October, my congregation expressed their appreciation of me (and my family) in a multitude of ways. One of those was a river boat cruise in La Crosse, WI. It was a bit late in the fall to go and see any spectacular colors, so we waited ’til spring. This past Saturday evening, I took my loving (and lovely) bride of 25+ years for our dinner cruise on the La Crosse Queen. It was a delightful evening. After 2 1/2 hours of enjoyment, conversation with people we’d never met and most likely will never meet again, a satisfying dinner and a cruise up and down the Mississippi River, we disembarked to find this evening’s cruise had come with a high price tag.

You see, they take your picture as your boarding the La Crosse Queen – that’s not the problem. Ann & I dressed casual – that’s not the problem. The problem was when we began showing the picture at church yesterday, during our Fellowship Meal for Fathers. We wanted them to see how much we enjoyed their gift to us last fall, but many began to get quite upset. Some were down right angry; so much so, that we’re fearful they may soon have a "secret" congregational meeting to determine my worthiness to stay on as their pastor. Oh the shame of it all. I was so embarrassed; if only I’d known what my choice of clothing would do to me. Here’s the picture the kind folks and unwitting accomplices of my downfall took last Saturday:

I guess my congregation determined that I looked so much like Rick Warren that I would soon begin preaching like Rick Warren, sounding like Rick Warren, leading our church like Rick Warren, that they would have to "cut off the infected limb to save the body." I plan on massive amounts of contrition, open confession of sin and a total repentance, even to the point of having a clothes burning next Sunday morning.

My only alternative, if I don’t mind getting kicked out of my church, would be to begin an evangelical version of "The Next Best Thing" where preachers/pastors appear on TBN TV and see how close they can appear like all of our greatest, contemporary Christian heroes: Rick Warren (I personally think I’d be the shoe-in right now), Joel Osteen, Rick Bell, and a host from TBN itself. Imitation is truly the sincerest form of flattery and flattery will get you everywhere (even kicked out of your own church).

(By the way, I hope anyone from Cornerstone EFC who reads this realize that I’m speaking strictly tongue-in-cheek!)

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Those Girls Are At It Again!

If I had actually heard these words spoken out loud, I might have thought back to years ago when my sister would have friends over to play. They get into something, get themselves in trouble and these would be some of the words either Mom or Dad would utter.

But this has nothing to do with aging sentimentality. It has to do with the glorious encouragement of testimonies to God’s goodness and grace that the girls over at girltalk have been posting. They asked contributors to “tell us about a circumstance in your life where you now see God was working ‘behing the scenes’ for good.” So far the contributions have been remarkably edifying and I trust, glorifying to God. I highly recommend you check them out and praise the Lord with these “girls.”

More On the Purpose-Driven Life Choking the Life Out of Churches and Christians

My parents visited us this past Labor Day weekend. We had many things to talk about: they may be moving here sometime in the foreseeable future. However, the topic of church and Warrenism and Purpose-Driven apostasy came up several times as well. Any of you (all what, three of you) who read my blog may recall that Mom and Dad have been a part of **** Free Church in *****, Iowa for 30 years. Prior to that, they spent nearly 25 years in the EFC in ******, Iowa. During the past two years, a growing chasm has been produced between my father and the pastor of said church. It wasn’t all a matter of things “purposeful” but that was a portion of the concerns expressed: messages on Sunday mornings having very little Scriptural content (and trust me, my dad knows Scripture); leadership moving in strange, business-like-only fashion, and the pastor becoming more and more the sole source of authority and decision-making.

Well, change my Dad’s name to Charles JonesCharles Jones. Essentially, Mom and Dad have been “forced out” by the pastor and a few of the deacons (1 or 2 of the present deacons are soon to resign positions or also leave the church… it would be inevitable – they’re “dissenters”). There is to be a congregational meeting soon at ***** of *****, IA and one of the agenda items will be the removal of my parents’ names from membership. My prayer has been, at the very least, that there would be some astute and wise person(s) there who might actually ask why members of 30 years, chairman of the church & deacon and deaconness are having their names removed from membership. Oh how I’d love to be a church mouse in the corner to hear the answer.

My heart aches for Mom and Dad. It is grieved by the church’s action (actually, lack of inaction on the part of others within the church) and angered (I’m still working out if this is righteous anger or prideful anger) at the demeaning (my isn’t that word close to demonic) and cowardly and unbiblica actions of the pastor and a few deacons. ***** EFC of *****, IA will be doing the 40 days of community this fall. (I believe they’ve done the 40 days of purpose at least twice, if not three times in the last 2 1/2 years.) If the Lord disciplines this congregation, pastor and leadership, there won’t be much community left for them to celebrate. May God have mercy upon them.

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Purpose-Driven Drivel

More Thoughts on the Purpose Driven Movement in general(and in specific cases, such as my parents church)

Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!

Jeremiah 23.1 (ESV)

On our Wednesday evening times of Scripture and prayer (yes, we still do that at Cornerstone; I know, it’s not seeker-friendly, purpose-driven, marketable or anything else for that matter… except dear to us few saints who gather for it and precious in the eyes of the Lord as we look to Him to feed us and hear us), we spent most of the summer weeks in Isaiah 66.2. Our meditations have focused on just one phrase from this verse:

But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word.

And more pointedly, we’ve considered the final phrase for several weeks: “the one… who… trembles at my word.” What does it mean to tremble at God’s Word? Why should we tremble at His Word? It is necessary for a Christian to tremble at all before God? After all, doesn’t He love us with an everlasting love? So, there should be no cause for trembling, right?

Well, not from what we can see in Scripture. In fact, the Christian, among all peoples, should tremble at God’s Word more than any.

But that’s not why I was blogging this time around. But it does have to do with why I open with the words from Jeremiah 23.1. These words cause me to tremble at God’s Word. As a pastor/shepherd, I fear & tremble, lest I fail in my calling to honor my Lord in this great task of shepherding His flock. I fear I will fall short of His glory in proclaiming His Word to these dear, precious sheep who need to be fed this life-giving and life-sustaining word more than anything else. I fear that I will fall prey to the temptation to pursue man’s methods of producing a church rather than trust in God’s ordained means for living as a church. I fear and I tremble for myself.

But I also fear and tremble for others who have already failed, already fallen short, already succumbed to the pressure and allurement of growth and success and material prosperity and worldly acclaim and great numbers of worldly sinners lining the pews (oops, sorry, theater seats) of their churches. I fear and tremble that they have forsaken the gospel and the simple (read: “foolish”) preaching of the cross for the more alluring wisdom of this world and it’s desires and methods. I tremble when I think of what Jesus will say to them on that Day. I fear for the precious saints in these churches who fail to get fed the true meat of God’s Word because the pablum of the world and the therapeutic notions of secular psychology are vomited forth from the mouths of those who would dare to call themselves preachers.

The words of God in Jeremiah 23 cry out to be heard:“Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: ‘You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD.'” (ESV) These poor sheep who get forsaken, scattered (some even chased out of their congregations because they would dare to ask the preacher to preach from the Bible) will be the downfall of so many who have pursued this Purpose-Driven movement (and the other methodologies of the same ilk as Warrenism). And God says these so-called pastors will be attended to by God. All the while they think they’ll hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant”; however, imagine their surprise when many of them will hear Him say, “You scattered my sheep and pursued wolves who barely even wore sheep’s clothing. You chased after goats and they liked you and thought you were marvelous because you preached messages they liked and you entertained them. They came to you in droves. They padded the budgets of your churches so you could build bigger and greater kingdoms with your name all over them. Depart from Me, for I never knew you.” How sad. How awful. How fearful; it makes me tremble.

But there is hope and promise here in Jeremiah 23: “Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD.” (ESV) The sheep will be cared for, if by no one else, then at the least, by God Himself. He will not let any of His true sheep escape His care. And He will raise up true shepherds, who will offer true pastoral ministry, not the latest business management techniques. The sheep will have no need of fear or of dismay, for there will be true pastoral care and counsel offered, not the next best thing from the spiritually therapeutic pens of Dobson or Minrith-Meier or whoever else comes along next. And joy of all joys, not one of the sheep will ever go missing! Not a one. Oh, they’ll be missing from the seeker-sensitive, purpose-driven, positive-thinking, be-all-you-can-be-in-this-your-best-life churches. They’ll be missing because they’ll find the few true churches who actually preach the gospel and open God’s Word and exposit it faithfully and powerfully because the Spirit of the Lord anoints the preaching of His Word.

This is written, not from some heart filled with braggadocio or pride, but from one that has been humbled by God’s grace and mercy, by His fathomless love for me and by His merciful calling of me into the pastorate. It is my heart’s prayer that God would keep me close to Himself through His Word; that He would not let me depart from it; that He would honor the preaching of His Word with power and working and transforming mercy. God may it be so!

Renew Your Church

Words: Kenneth L. Cober

Renew Your Church, her ministries restore, both to serve and adore.
Make her again as salt throughout the land, and as light from a stand.
‘Mid somber shadows of the night, where greed and hatreds spread their blight, O send us forth with power endued, help us Lord, be renewed.

Teach us Your Word, reveal its truth divine, on our path let it shine.
Tell of Your works, Your mighty acts of grace, from each page show Your face. As you have loved us, sent Your Son, and our salvation now is won,
O, let our hearts with love be stirred, help us Lord, know Your Word.

Teach us to pray, for You are ever near, Your still voice let us hear.
Our souls are restless till they rest in You, this the goal we pursue.
Before Your presence keep us still that we may find for us Your will,
And seek Your guidance every day, teach us Lord, how to pray.

Teach us to love, with strength of heart and mind, each and all, humankind.
Break down old walls of prejudice and hate, leave us not to our fate.
As You have loved and given Your life to end hostility and strife,
O, share Your grace from heaven above, teach us Lord, how to love.

(copyright©2003 Christian Publications, Inc) CCLI #432103

Very Random Thoughts

This man

and his book

are destroying my parents church.

The pastor at my parents church has gone through the “church-in-a-box” at least twice, perhaps even a third time. He has very seldom preached an expositional message from any text; usually only a verse or a phrase. My parents have kept much of their grief and frustration to themselves. Dad went to the pastor a few times to express concerns about the lack of biblical preaching as opposed to topical preaching. That hit a blank wall (and, if their pastor was anything like a few others I know who use the same “church-in-a-box” approach and preach the same vacuous messages, then a blank stare accompanied the wall). Dad’s expressed his concern at deacons meetings, all to no avail. He’s now off the deacon board and other new men are on the board, who all pretty much say “Yes sir” to the pastor’s semi-biblical whims. This church once had a pastor who gave sound, expositional preaching every Sunday. The church grew and thrived, but no longer. Since his departure the church has seen one devastating split and now is experiencing “great unity” (well, at least among the half of the church who are part of the “community”; as for those on the outside, well, “too bad, so sad”).

In light of all this mess, I’ve ordered and begun to read this book

by this man.

I didn’t have much interest in reading it prior to this. I agree with all DeWaay teaches on the Purpose Driven Life. I think it’s really bad for the church and it will continue to lead churches into devastation, splits, and apostasy. But now I have good reason to read it. I once thought of ordering enough copies and sending them to this pastor and his deacon board, but that would be throwing pearls before swine, as it were. So far, it’s been a great encouragement to me.

Next up… Repent!

I began a sermon series through the book of Luke (an expositional series… like you should ahve known!). After the John Baptist passage, I longed to do a short series on repentance. That would help us understand that John’s message was no different than the rest of the OT before him and Jesus’ message after him. Plus it would help us get ready to truly see the Christ of the Scriptures, not just the culturally-anointed Jesus put forth by so many today.

The first Sunday, I’m trusting that the response was truly of God’s Spirit (I pray that my message on counterfeit repentance didn’t produce any of the same sort!). Yes, I left several people hanging in regards to what real repentance is, but I trusted God to be sovereign and reign over their hearts, ministering comfort where needed and conviction where necessary. My prayer is, that over the next two Sundays remaining, the second-half of Genuine Repentance and What Repentance Looks Like Afterward will bring glory to God.

If God were to be so gracious to us as to begin a working of His Spirit to convict us of all our sins, seeing confession of those sins breaking out in homes and at church, repentance would become so real, that when we hear Jesus’ first “sermon” proclaimed, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is here.” we’d all be falling to our knees, lives would be radically changed, sins forsaken, reconciliation brought about and God’s glory shining out so brightly that it would be unparalleled in my life as a pastor. Oh, Lord, let it be so for Your glory’s sake.

Last… for now. I’ll try to remember to include a few entries over the next several weeks about “Why don’t we… in our church?” or “Why do we do … in our church?” These ramblings might include such things as: clap during songs or after songs; give the announcements right away instead of in the middle of the service; or, have a worship team; or, have women read Scripture…. Well, you can see the list can go on and on. So, if you’re reading this blog and you begin to wonder what we do and why we do or don’t do it at Cornerstone, let me know. Include something in the comment section or just email me.