Monday, July 28, 2014

Some Bad Advice From Tony Miano

UPDATE: Tony Miano is on a downward slide into a very dangerous spiritual position and is leading his family down that path as well. As I in my review of his book, "I sometimes honestly fear for him at the time when (not if) the elder(s) of his church fail him."
Well, now I fear for him even more. See here and then more importantly here. Lord have mercy. He who has presumed to lecture so many, block them on social media, and sow division between them and other believers on the basis of ecclesiology, "pastoral authority", "the authority of the local church", and whether one has been "sent" to do evangelism has shown himself to be an immature nomad, tossed about by winds and waves of doctrine.
Psalm 9:15 - The nations have sunk down in the pit which they have made; In the net which they hid, their own foot has been caught.
Proverbs 29:6 - By transgression an evil man is ensnared, But the righteous sings and rejoices.

And yet...
Proverbs 24:17-18 - Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; or the LORD will see it and be displeased, and turn His anger away from him.

Pray for the man. Pray he will repent of all his bombastic rhetoric and realise the massive piles of hypocrisy in which he has engaged the last few years.

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Tony Miano, well-known street preacher, had this to say on Facebook recently:
Can't find a solid church that supports open-air preaching?
Then go to a solid church that doesn't support open-air preaching, and submit to the authority of the pastors/elders of the church. It is more important that you are a serving member of a local church than it is for you to open-air preach.
Christian Brother: God has certainly called you to be a hand, or foot, or arm, or leg in His Body. But He may NOT have called you to open-air preach. The fact that you want to open-air preach doesn't mean God has called you to open-air preach. You may not be finding a church that supports open-air preaching because that may not be the role the Lord has for you in His body.
So, get plugged into a local church; live in submission to the elders and in love with the rest of the congregation. Be willing to work the nursery, or scrub a toilet, or teach a Sunday school class (if you're qualified). Be willing to serve for no other reason than it is a fulfillment of the two greatest commandments--to love God and to love people.
The Lord may yet call you to open-air preach (if you are a man), and you will know that because your pastors/elders will affirm your call to preach the gospel in the open-air. And they will likely affirm that call once they see you are willing to submit to authority, serve the Body, can rightly handle the Scriptures, and once they see that the gospel of Jesus Christ is more important to you than hearing your own voice preaching it.
Give it some thought.
I gave it some thought, and I'd like to share a few.
Notice that Miano didn't frame the issue in terms of whether the church thinks the individual reader ought to open-air preach (OAP). It is plausible a church might not want a particular individual to OAP. For example, if the aspiring preacher is not very good at explaining the Gospel, or he hasn't mastered his temper yet and easily gets mad and challenges people to fistfights. But Miano is talking about OAP in general.
On the other hand, Miano seems to be referring to a situation where an aspiring OA preacher is not a member of a church because he can't find one that supports OAP. It is a pitifully sad commentary on the state of Reformedigelical churches in the West that this is a plausible scenario. I would at least agree with Miano on this - if you're not a member of a church, there had better be a really really good reason. Ie, you live in a location where despite faithful searching you have not been able to connect with anybody who actually loves Jesus.

On the other other hand (which I guess gets us back to the original hand), one might decide that until the Lord provides something better, he should probably just join the best church he can find and try to influence it toward following the Scripture. This may in some cases result in conflict between the person wanting to be faithful to Jesus and the leadership and/or the rest of the congregation who are all too happy doing their own thing, following their own autonomous desires and preferences, and ignoring major portions of the Scripture in so doing. What then?
Before we get into that, I'd like to ask this: What makes Miano so sure that a church that doesn't support open-air preaching is indeed solid? Evangelism and the Great Commission are kind of a big deal when it comes to properly obeying Jesus and fulfilling the two greatest commandments, and if a church is not interested in obeying Jesus, that's not a solid church. It doesn't matter what they confess, what they say with their lips. The Scripture is full of rebukes of false professors who say one thing and do another. Like the Pharisees. Like the Jerusalemites who said "the temple of YHWH! The temple of YHWH! The temple of YHWH!" Like the false prophets who said "peace, peace" when there was no peace.
Perhaps the church thinks open-air preaching is mean and nasty in and of itself. I would suggest in that case the OA preacher invite people from the church to come out with him, to show them how it's done and to demonstrate that, while of course someone can be mean and nasty in virtually any situation, OAP can be done in a way that is loving, kind, and understanding.
What if no one from the church is willing to go watch, and yet they continue to insist that OAP, a ministry that Jesus and Paul and Peter did a whole lot, is not good? Well, then, those people need to be called to repentance. Or I suppose you could leave and be a "nomad", but then that would leave the people in the church in unchallenged deception, which is not good for the church he leaves behind. It is actually the opposite of love for those people.
On the other hand, what if a few people go out with the OA preacher and everything goes well, and yet they continue to oppose OAP in and of itself? Would not the conversation then have to shift to their biblical reasons to justify their opposition? It may be that the leadership of the church would in that case lord it over the OA preacher, citing some imaginary "authority" to tell him that OAP is not OK, with no other reason than that they say so. Such person(s) would be deep in sin and rebellion against the role they're supposed to be playing in their local church. The OA preacher, being a part of that local church himself, would be obligated (not permitted, by the way, obligated) to get one or two other witnesses and rebuke that person, initiating church discipline for unrepentantly sinning against the OA preacher and against the rest of the congregation for refusing to teach the whole counsel of God.
1 Timothy 5:19-21 - Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning. I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality.
Miano later says this:
The Lord may yet call you to open-air preach (if you are a man), and you will know that because your pastors/elders will affirm your call to preach the gospel in the open-air.
There's a reason why he didn't include any Bible citations along with this statement. Nothing in God's Word would lead us to believe this is true. It also exhibits a puzzling naïveté. Does Miano really think that the most common reason why a pastor might oppose OAP would be that the OA preacher in question has a history of "rebelling" against the pastor's "authority"? What does "pastoral authority" even mean, in a situation where the pastor is not following the Word of God?
Let's continue with another statement from Miano:
Christian Brother: God has certainly called you to be a hand, or foot, or arm, or leg in His Body. But He may NOT have called you to open-air preach. The fact that you want to open-air preach doesn't mean God has called you to open-air preach. You may not be finding a church that supports open-air preaching because that may not be the role the Lord has for you in His body.
Miano is equivocating on the uses of the word "calling" in this paragraph. The first occurrence is fine - it is indeed true that God has called every individual Christian to be some body part in His Body. Miano seems to be assuming that 1 Corinthians 12's discussion of body parts refers to a given local church, which I would dispute, but let's leave that aside for now. How do we know that God has called us to be a body part in the Body of Christ? The Scripture says so.
So how does Miano propose that an individual can know that he is "called" to do OAP? I have asked this question many times and never received an answer. It is a major weakness in his book "Should She Preach?", which I documented in my review thereof. Which Scripture passage leads us to expect that God would continually send individual people specific callings to specific tasks or ministries, going forward throughout the ages during which the church would subsist? I have argued that no such Scripture exists. This is where the equivocation comes in - the first time Miano says "calling", he is correctly referring to biblical command. The second and third times, he is trading on a mistaken tradition of man that is sadly common in Reformedigelicalism.
Miano is doubtless aware of the Modern-Day Downgrade at work in the Reformedigelical churches of the West. Part of the Downgrade is the trend toward that which is easy and adds to the comfort level of the partakers. As an experienced street preacher myself, I know well that OAP incurs a very high level of discomfort, and Miano of course knows this too. Since it is uncomfortable, people don't want to do it, and this leads to their making excuses, twisting the Scripture so they can justify their apathy toward the lost. This is a far more plausible explanation for why someone might not be able to find a church that supports OAP.
So, get plugged into a local church; live in submission to the elders and in love with the rest of the congregation. Be willing to work the nursery, or scrub a toilet, or teach a Sunday school class (if you're qualified). Be willing to serve for no other reason than it is a fulfillment of the two greatest commandments--to love God and to love people.
Of course, Christians should be members of a local church; I don't dispute that. I would take issue with verbiage like "live in submission to the elders", however. If the elders tell you not to do a biblical thing, or to do an unbiblical thing, it is no virtue to obey. It is actually sin to obey these lesser voices in that case. Sin because you ought to be doing the right thing, and also sin because you are acting in a cowardly way, following the "overlord"'s orders rather than standing against evil and exposing it (Jeremiah 7, Ephesians 5:11) out of love for the deceived elder(s) as well as love for the congregation.
You can't actually love your congregation if you are sinning by knowingly withholding from them that which they need, that of which you know you ought to help them take hold.
James 4:17 - Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.
Taken in the context of the situation he is laying out, Miano is actually indirectly recommending a sinful course of action.
Also, because of the discomfort involved in OAP, there are precious few people willing to do it. Yet I challenge you to show me another ministry in which the Gospel can be spread so widely to so many people in such an efficient manner as OAP. I'm not criticising other methods of evangelism. I'm saying that OAP has its place, and Jesus chose it for a reason.
Mark 1:14-15 - Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Matthew 4:23 - Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.
Matthew 9:35 - Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.
Luke 20:1 - On one of the days while He was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders confronted Him...
If your church meets in a separate building, far be it from me to suggest you not scrub a toilet. If y'all meet in a house, scrub the toilet there. Go for it! Doing that sort of thing and OAP are hardly mutually exclusive. I mean, unless your nursery duties are late on Friday night or something, which is often a really good time of week to do OAP.
The problem here is not whether an OA preacher in a church should say, "OAP is all I do within my local church." That would be foolish and wrong. But Miano is not only acting like it is better to do something that most anyone can and is probably willing to do (since scrubbing toilets is, let's face it, not too hard) than to do something that is hard but that results in tons of people hearing the Gospel proclaimed with boldness and power, for no other reason than that the OA preacher's church is in sin and thinks that OAP is bad.
It would be far better to say this: Be willing to OAP for no other reason than it is a fulfillment of the two greatest commandments--to love God and to love people. And it is love not only to the lost who hear it, but also to the church members who probably have an unbiblical worldview undergirding their unbiblical objection to OAP; the OA preacher has the chance to set them free from these wrong views. This is pleasing to God.
Two more notes:
The Lord may yet call you to open-air preach (if you are a man)
Please, again, see my review of Miano's book on the issue of whether only men are biblically warranted to OAP.
once they see that the gospel of Jesus Christ is more important to you than hearing your own voice preaching it.
True, the OA preacher must guard against pride in his heart. But when fewer than thousands of Christians are doing OAP in one's area and there is opportunity, it should be done in a biblical manner, no matter whether the elders of your church are sinfully suppressing it.
Speaking for myself, it matters not whether it's my voice. I want many voices proclaiming the Good News of the risen Savior. And if there are none, I want at least one. If that's me, so be it.
Philippians 1:15-18 - Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.

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