Friday, March 27, 2015

The "Herald" Society

I keep hearing people use the word "herald". And they apply it to someone who goes to a building every single Sunday and lectures the same people over and over again about things that in many ways they should already know and be learning themselves (and teaching others [Heb 5:12]).

That's not what a herald is, folks. A herald goes forth from the King, bearing the King's message, and he gives it to ALL the King's subjects. He doesn't put out a sign, "Come hear the King's message. Once a week, for 30 minutes. Only inside this building. You know, if you want to," and then wait for the King's rebellious subjects to come to him.

There's a name for someone who lectures to a small subset of the King's subjects over and over again at a set time and place, but it's not a "herald".

I must admit that it is hard to see friends and acquaintances post and repost notifications about "Herald" Society get-togethers as if these were beneficial to the kingdom of God. I truly believe that there is a lot more bad than good about such things. Most of the reason why I think this centers around the hypocrisy that is more than evident in so many of the dealings of these men.

Take the "H"S meeting currently underway in Milton, FL as an example. As part of the buildup leading to this event, Tony Miano among others have put out some material encouraging people to attend. As this remains a topic of interest to me, I have followed some of that material, partly to see whether the "H"S has learned from previous errors which I have personally documented. To be more specific, the errors center around such things as
  • forming a parachurch ministry, all the while decrying parachurch ministries.
  • using the word "Herald" in the title of the society, all the while intentionally not doing the things that heralds do.
  • using the word "Herald" in the title of the society and saying stuff like "No king but Christ", all the while putting obstacles in the way of those who desire to obey the Great Commission (like women for example) and doing all they can to force potential actual heralds to get permission from someone who acts like a king in demanding that people submit to his own rule before the herald obeys the actual King.
  • teaching the sufficiency of Scripture, all the while imposing extrabiblical traditions on others, such as "the call to preach", requiring that men "be called" before they are permitted to engage in open-air preaching (OAP). 
  • trumpeting the importance of the local church, all the while actually negating its importance (see more on that below).
  • calling people to waste time and money that could have been put to use in their own localities, and in exchange giving them something (a series of lectures) that could easily have been communicated by an iTunes podcast.
  • teaching Calvinist (and frequently cessationist) doctrine, all the while pushing a view of sanctification that I can only describe as charismatic Wesleyan, in that the "call to preach" maps quite well onto the "second blessing" that in other circles might be thought of as the "baptism of the Holy Spirit".

All of this is hypocrisy, but let's focus on that last item for a moment. The funny thing about it is that in charismatic theology, this "second blessing", this "baptism in the Holy Spirit", is usually pretty objectively verifiable - does the allegedly secondly-blessed person speak in tongues? If yes, they figure that the person has been baptised in the Holy Spirit.
And even leaving aside the fact that such a thing as the "call to preach" is not Scriptural, like at all, how do you figure out whether someone has received that particular second blessing? I keep asking the question. The most common answer would seem to be something like "the elders of your church tell you".

Which leads me to a video hyping the "H"S that Tony Miano put out, in which he reiterates some of the things he and Jeff Rose discussed in a recent podcast and in which he expresses more of this typical "H"S hypocrisy. Note that:
  • attendees will listen to lectures for 20 hours, in 3 days. That's almost 7 hours of lecture per day, all in the name of "equipping". (As if anyone can remember a significant % of that amount of lecturing.)
  • we should not expect a "caste system". And yet:
    --speakers speak from an elevated stage, from a thing called a "pulpit".
    --the centerpiece of the event is listening to these exalted figures.
    --the main attraction is the names they were able to attract to speak - James White, Earl Blackburn, etc.
    --there will be those who are "called to OAP" and those who aren't.
    --anyone can listen to lectures but only the "called" few get to put it into practice in the primary way that Jesus, the prophets, and the apostles did.
  • Miano says that "speakers will speak of their love for the church, love for the bride of Christ, and love for reaching the lost with the Gospel". And I guess they'll demonstrate that by not modeling how the bride of Christ ought to be living, by implying very strongly that the mission of the church is to sit down, shaddup, and listen to Great Men talk, and by not even trying to reach the lost with the Gospel, because...
  • there won't be any organised outreach to the lost during the entire duration of the "H"S meeting.
    Miano says, "don't expect a pep rally for OAP. Don't expect a lot of time on the streets. We want to focus on teaching, prayer, worship, the edification of pastors and their churches, and encouraging the bride of Christ to lift up the Gospel."
    So they're going to do that by not spending time on the streets, and by not proclaiming the Gospel, and by staying behind the walls of a church building, in a different city, just like most everyone does when they're at their own church. By not heralding.
    And then when, at the 6-minute mark of the video, Miano exhorts his listeners that "it is time for Christians to get out of the Christian bubble", the irony is intolerable.
  • the excuse given for not modeling or training in OAP is because "that's the responsibility of the local church."
    --But teaching theology isn't?
    --People can't sit in pews at their own churches?
    --Wouldn't it be better to spend the time that attendees spent traveling and pew-sitting at the "H"S in deepening relationships at the attendees' own local churches?
    Wouldn't it also be better to put the traveling and lodging money the attendees used for the "H"S event to use at their own local church? Isn't the "H"S actually working opposite to its stated desires?
    --It's not the responsibility of each local church to teach about the Bible and talk about love for the church, bride of Christ, and reaching the lost with the Gospel?
    --It never occurs to the "H"S organisers that most pastors wouldn't have any idea how to train anyone in evangelism, let alone OAP?
    --Or that saying "only called people should OAP" gives a convenient out to anyone who has ulterior motives in not challenging fear or incurring the anger, slander, and scorn of worldly people?
All these things considered, it is entirely unclear why anyone thinks that putting together a "H"S event is a good idea. It is even less clear why anyone would want to attend, apart from the proffered opportunity to, I'm sorry to say it like this but I believe it is largely true, listen to heroes, Great Men, talk from an elevated position so they can consume more information. Because many think to at least some extent that their closeness to God is necessarily directly proportional to how much theology they know.

It seems like a far better name for the Herald Society would be the Pew-Sitter Society. They model during their meetings what they actually want Christians to be when they go back to their own communities and churches - pew-sitters until someone in a more elevated ecclesiastical position gives them permission to go love their neighbor and obey the King.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


A fellow abolitionist is struggling a bit with the implications of following Jesus and preferring His kingdom over the kingdoms of men, and what it might look like if "elders" in their church should come out in opposition to activities that glorify Jesus in this dark society. Part of the controversy centers around the extrabiblical idea, based solely in traditions of men and therefore falling under the category of millstones tied around necks (Luke 17:2), or heavy burdens tied on shoulders (Matthew 23:4), traditions that make void the Word of God (Mark 7:1-13), that a local church must "send out" or "authorise" the Christian to go obey Jesus.

One excuse they give is expressed this way:
They don't like the idea of a guy who's a lone ranger type out yelling heresy on a street corner.

I have a few reactions to the sentiment they are expressing:

1) Being "sent" or part of a local church doesn't fix that problem. It might help, maybe. Just depends on a case by case basis. But you know what else might help maybe on a case by case basis? One on one taking the corner screamer to the Word of God. If his heart is humble and pliable before God, he'll submit to what the Scripture says. If it's not, the whole church and all the elders in the world won't change his mind and conduct.

2) Would that there were more people willing to stand on a corner and preach, not fewer. Many "elders" want a kabal in which they are some of the few members who get to "preach" (when in fact preaching, biblically speaking, is not what they do. Rather, it's what WE do when we are out in the culture.)

3) I don't see a whole lot of "elders" putting hard and serious thought into what they did and/or are doing to make their church an uncomfortable haven for someone who at the moment is a lone ranger. It may be that this lone ranger preacher holds to heresy and/or is in personal sin. Or it may be that he can't find a church that is being faithful to the Word of God.
It's easy for an "elder" to blame the evangelist guy. It's easy to hate on such a man anyway. He's a radical. He upsets people. He causes bad press to come to the conservative churches of his area.

4) If they're so concerned about that situation, the answer is not to stop people from going out. One possible good answer is to go out with them and help them, guide them. Mr. Elder, if your experience and biblical knowledge and wisdom are so vast, put them to use in something worthwhile (for a change) and help hone and sharpen this person whose zeal will help hone and sharpen you in a way that you need to be honed and sharpened.

Friday, March 20, 2015

One more praise from men won't hurt

Sometimes I think that once you pass a certain threshold in church membership, the temptation to think you don't need to be Christian anymore must be nearly unbearable, for it infects pretty much every big-church pastor type person. Which is why the hiss of the serpent is so unmistakable in church-growth strategies of which so many in the Southern Baptist Convention are so fond, like this one, which is basically inviting people toward less faithfulness in the guise of fulfilling "the mission of the church". The unspoken assumption is that the mission of the Invisible Universal Church is to make individual visible local churches bigger, rather than to make those individual VLCs more numerous, more faithful, and more bold in engaging the culture with salt and light.

Sigh. It's actually pretty disgusting when you think about it. "Here, let me give you eight extra-biblical ideas that will help you, Mr. Pastor Man, to get to a place where the vast majority of people in that position end up in self-glorification and a refusal to follow Jesus with any discernible fidelity and sacrifice."

Look around you - the evidence is everywhere. Today, I was stricken particularly by a photo tweeted by someone I don't know about a pastor I wish I didn't know about.

I had to take a moment to consider the sheer hubris and entirely unbiblical attitude that Johnny Hunt would have to have and foster for this highway to be a thing. How one gets to a place where he is willing to accept some place named after himself because he decided he wanted to disobey Jesus for a living

Matthew 23:5-12 -
"But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted."

and teach others to do the same

Matthew 18:6 - 
"whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea."

is beyond me.

Luke 14:7-11 - 
And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them, "When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

This is bald-faced fawning - the man tweeting "feels anointed" (whatever that means; I'm sure it's something Bibley, since "feeling" and "anointed" are both words that appear in the Bible) (aren't Southern Baptists supposed to think that Scripture is a sufficient guide for faith?) for the mere reason that he passed a sign with the name of The Great Man, Former President of the Southern Baptist Convention. That might be all it takes before suddenly The Anointing falls.

Let's backtrack. Doesn't the Bible say stuff about how mere humans, creations of Almighty God who were helpless without His intervention and generosity, are supposed to be humble?

Prov 15:33 and 18:12, 2 Cor 4:5, Phil 2:3-4, James 4:6-8, and 1 Peter 5:5 all say so, while other passages like Acts 10:25-26, 14:14-17, and 20:18-21 give us some really good examples of what that would look like.

Check out Acts 10:25 - 
When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter raised him up, saying, "Stand up; I too am just a man."

So... in February 2012, the government of Georgia officially named that stretch of road after Hunt. "He’s been a real leader in the community for over 25 years now. He’s a real difference maker in the community," is what they said about him. The Guttmacher Institute says the following:
In Georgia, 197,300 of the 2,077,660 women of reproductive age became pregnant in 2011. 67% of these pregnancies resulted in live births and 18% in induced abortions.

Approximately 35,000 abortions in Georgia in 2011. That's nearly 100 per day in the state. It's 14 miles from the building that houses the "church" known as FBC Woodstock to a Planned Parenthood. What effect did Hunt's 20+ thousand-member church have on its operation? Does Planned Parenthood fear First Baptist Woodstock?

Of course they don't. That's just one example of what Hunt and his church won't do for the kingdom of God, but which they should be. Instead, they're apparently fine with naming highways after themselves and concerning themselves with the upkeep of their huge complex. Besides, making war against powers and principalities of the darkness can be bad for business. It can reduce your tithes and offerings, and it usually leads to the false converts in your church leaving and even turning against you, which means your attendance decreases, which means you don't get feted by the Southern Baptist Convention at every turn.

What has Hunt done to merit this obsequious fawning? Here's a better question - Does a godly, Christian attitude accept it? Does a holy character allow others to make much of them to such an embarrassing degree without taking them aside and insisting they stand up, for they too are merely a man, rather than cultivating or at least passively standing there while lesser men worship their hero, The Great Man, The Pastor, The Teaching Elder?

Here's what Hunt did:

He apparently is attempting a make a joke after having seen this outpouring of hero veneration. Hunt is so far down the road, has bought into his own hype so much, that he can't see what just happened. This man has just put him way up there on a pedestal. Hunt apparently doesn't stop to think
1) how far down it is from such a pedestal
2) how many others have fallen therefrom
3) because it's sinful to be up there

4) and so Jesus can get upset and discipline you (if you're His child) or throw you down (if you're a vessel of wrath and unrepentant) because He resists the proud
5) and also the man whose fawning exaltation Hunt accepts today will be that much more embittered and disappointed if that should happen, his having fallen from a lofty height.

Pride is dangerous and sometimes hard to see. A spiritually mature man, especially one in a highly visible position like Hunt (if it is indeed possible simultaneously to be spiritually mature and to let people call you "teacher", when Jesus explicitly told you not to, which is, come to think of it, highly doubtful) would be careful to go out of his way to turn back pride at every turn, rather than revel in his loftiness and how even those good old church boys in the Georgia Senate recognise his grandeur and brightness.

It gets even worse when I read about that very highway and then read more about the Georgia Baptist Convention from good brother Seth Dunn. It's no stretch to get from one sin to more sin, as we see Hunt move from self-exaltation toward accepting more exaltation from others toward becoming insecure about diminishing his glory in any way which leads to abusing those who want to speak truth to power.

At some point, what more can one say except to sigh, "Lord, how long?"

Thursday, March 19, 2015

"Local church abandoners"

I get pretty disgusted when I hear people say stuff like "nomad" or "local church abandoners", implying that those people's lack of church membership is THE REASON they behave/speak badly.
It's not helpful for a number of reasons.
-There are tons of people who ARE church members who behave/speak badly.
-There are tons of pastors who behave/speak badly.
-There are even more plentiful church members and pastors who don't do ANYthing.
-It may be that the people who lack church membership were mistreated by a church and haven't found another.
-Or it may be that those people haven't found a decent church anywhere, ever.
-Or it may be that those people wanted to practice vital Christianity and tried as a result to get others in their church to practice it with them, which threatened the leadership and ended with their being pushed out the door.
-But that allows "church people" to wave their hands and dismiss anything the church-less person might say. "Well, he's just a nomad." "Wait, you don't have a pastor? Go get one, then come back and talk to me". This is the genetic fallacy in practice.
-Thus "local church membership" becomes a shibboleth. (And "under the authority of a local church" even more so.)
-To say nothing of people like several with whom I've interacted on this very blog, who behave/speak like Pharisees AND are "under the authority of a local church/pastor", which gives them covering in the eyes of many to behave/speak like a Pharisee even though their elders are actually not necessarily OK with their behavior or speech all that much but don't concern themselves enough with their actual spiritual life to intervene. And I bet churches like that are pretty numerous. I myself have been part of several.