Sissified Needy Jesus?

Pastor Voddie Baucham preaches the truth firmly and solidly from the Scriptures. His message is loving but it is a warning to those that think Jesus Christ is just some mamby-pamby God who has to have us in order to justify His own existence. He needs nothing from us.

Do You Follow a Celebrity Pastor?

20130111-145456.jpgIn most cases, when you hear the phrase “celebrity pastor,” you tend to think of individuals like Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, Steven Furtick or Ed Young, Jr. In each one of these cases, if you are one who believes that preachers should actually preach the Word of God, you probably get a very bad taste in your mouth. You immediately want to scream, “False teachers! Away with them!!” And quite honestly, that’s how I feel too. But there is another kind of celebrity preacher, one that many of us don’t realize is a celebrity. But yet, they are celebrities because folks like you and me have made them into celebrities. Yes, that’s right, I said we made them that way. Those of us who appreciate sound, biblical preaching, who detest the seeker friendly, rockstar image of those “other” pastors, we have celebrities of our own. And that can be a problem.

Many of us greatly appreciate the preaching of godly men like R. C. Sproul, John MacArthur, James White, David Platt and Voddie Baucham. We are blessed to hear these men rightly exposit the Word of God. We love how they take great time and care to preach the Word in context so that God is magnified and we rightly understand our need for His forgiveness through Jesus Christ. So much do we appreciate their godly work that we listen to countless sermons online (or on our iPods), we read the books they have written, we share copious quotes from them via Facebook and Twitter. We even will go to conferences, sometimes at great expense to our finances and time, so that we can hear them magnificently handle the Word of God. And, without even realizing it, we have created them in our minds as the “ideal” preacher, the kind that these rockstar pastors should really model themselves after. In other words, they have become a celebrity in our mind.

This is not to say that good godly preachers like these should not be esteemed. It is a rare treasure these days, it seems, to find a pastor who is willing to be in the public view that will unashamedly stand on the Word of God. We should give them due respect for their duty and devotion to Jesus Christ, for their unflinching stance for the preaching of the true gospel. What I am talking about is that we actually may create an unhealthy, or at least unbalanced, image of these men when compared to the local church. Think through this with me for a moment, how many times have you shared or tweeted quotes from your pastor? You know, the man who has faithfully preached in the same pulpit for five, ten, or even twenty years. Do you follow him on Facebook or Twitter? Do you wish he would at least get with the times to get on Facebook or Twitter like the other guys do? Have you ever stopped and told your pastor about the great sermon that R. C. Sproul preached, or recommended that he read the latest book by David Platt? Have you spent an inordinate amount of time talking to people in your congregation about the conference you just came back from where John MacArthur was the keynote speaker, or complained that you couldn’t go to it at all?

Imagine yourself in the place of your pastor. He’s not famous. Maybe he only has a congregation of a couple hundred people, maybe it’s only fifty. He spends all week preparing a sermon meant for you and those you attend church with. He loses several hours of sleep each week when he is called out to the hospital to minister to a dying parishioner, to counsel a loved one who is severely depressed, to comfort family who lost a child in an accident. He’s never written a book, he doesn’t have a podcast, his budget barely even allows for a computer to keep records on, much less the high tech equipment and talent to set up a nice website. Yet, each week, he dutifully climbs up to that podium and faithfully preaches the word of God to a body of believers. He is just as important as the big names mentioned above, yet he’ll never see the notoriety they do.

Now see yourself through his eyes. You love your pastor dearly and you listen and grow form his devotion to the Word each week. Yet, during the rest of the week, you are downloading sermons from Sproul, MacArthur or Platt. You pour over their books and study notes. When you have a theological question, you pull out their study bibles. You go to their conferences and you come back far more excited than you ever do at the home bible study he heads up. All of this creates an enormous amount of pressure for your pastor. He cannot hope to ever hold the position these godly men do, yet he somehow has to keep the attention of his congregation so he can keep preaching the Word to them. Does he then sacrifice his time to minister to his flock so he can begin writing that book? Should he mimic their teaching styles, or preach the things they preach about? What about those conferences? He could never host one himself, so should he join with other churches to put one on? If so, how selective should he be about who to partner with? You see the dilemma he is faced with? In the eyes of the local pastor, his congregation is enamored with the “big time” preachers. There is a lot of pressure to measure up.

Now please understand, I am not saying that Christians should only ever listen to just the teachings of their local pastor. We can benefit greatly from the godly teachings of pastors, great and small. It is certainly worth our time to read and learn from many great learned scholars, for it will help in our growth and understanding of scripture. We have the liberty to even attend the conferences where these men preach, and can be greatly edified by it. But there must be a proper balance. God put us in a certain place, at a certain local church, for a reason. Scripture teaches us that all Christians are bestowed gifts by the Holy Spirit for the edification of the body of Christ. And where you are planted is where you are to employ those gifts! If you spend most of your time following the “big guys” then your local body is being starved of the gifts you were given for their benefit. When you take time and money to attend that big conference while your local church struggles with its annual budget, you may well be misappropriating the finances God gave you for that body’s benefit. When you share the podcasts and videos of the other pastors, folks may flock to their godly teaching and benefit from it. However, if you took your internet savvy, could you not create a site for your church? You could then share those weekly sermons so that other may benefit from the teaching you have grown under.

The point of this article is not to decry our love for great and godly preachers, but to draw our attention back to our local churches. Let us spend maybe less time, effort and money building up the big names, for God will maintain their ministries with or without us. But let us take just a bit more time, a bit more care and certainly more effort to build up our local congregations. As we build up and edify the local body, we can send out more laborers for the harvest into our local communities. And as more laborers go out, the gospel reaches more people and the local church grows. The more the church grows, the more great and godly preachers can go out into the world and accomplish the work that we are expecting the big name preachers to do. Let us be about the business of supporting our local churches brethren and let the “celebrity” preachers be an added benefit to where we are already being blessed

Sermon of the week: “Brokenness” by Voddie Baucham.

Your sermon of the week is Brokenness by Voddie Baucham. This is a powerful message on King David’s brokenness that you won’t want to miss (unless of course you’re a Rob Bell fan or like the book The Shack since Baucham pulls no punches on these conduits of false doctrine). This is one of Baucham’s best messages and I encourage all DefCon readers to download this one.

Quotes (908)

voddie-baucham How does a mother build biblical truth into her daughter’s life, nurture her, guard her, and encourage her toward the application of that truth, then send her into an environment that will oftentimes by its very nature be hostile or at least ambivalent toward that truth? How does a father raise his son to respect young women and protect their purity only to send them off to the youth building with exposed midriffs, low-cut tops, and skin-tight jeans?

- Voddie Baucham

Shame on Challies.

I have never been what you could call a “big fan” of Tim Challies but I’ve never been able to put my finger on exactly why . . . that was until now, when I was recently made aware of a review he wrote concerning the film Divided.

Inaccurate. Distorted. Inflammatory. These are some of the words that come to mind that describe Challies’ review of the film.

I wouldn’t necessarily expect a favorable endorsement of Divided by a man who sends his own kids to the Canadian government schools to be educated, but his full frontal assault of the film was a little over the top. To say that Challies has a beef with the family-integrated model of church worship is a grave understatement.

Youth ministry proponents may disagree with the concept of families worshipping together during church services, and they may be oblivious (willfully or otherwise) to the evidence (statistically, empirically, or experientially) of the destructive nature of youth ministry, but please, I implore you to be reasonable about your arguments and refrain from resorting to less than accurate, wildly imaginative fabrications designed to persuade others away from a practice that was the norm for the church for almost 2,000 years.

If you think I’m being a little too sensitive about Challies’ hit-piece of the film (a conduit to advance his dislike of Family Integrated Churches), don’t miss the fact that even some of Challies’ own readers have disagreed with his scathing assessment of the film. On the comment thread for Challies’ review of Divided, a commenter named Matt said:

Wow. Tim, I will have to say, this review is uncharacteristically harsh, and even mean. The tone that you are stirring up here is not in any sense the tone that the movie has.

I’m flatly shocked and disappointed in such a brutal and uncharitable word from a brother that we’ve all known to have a real eloquence and gentleness even toward those with whom he differs.I really want to say this plainly. After having watched the film, your review could not be less accurate or more one-sided. I am so sad that you’ve chosen to behave publicly in ways that you have condemned when others participate in the same sort of activity.

Shame on you, Tim.

What makes Challies’ review even more disturbing is when you contrast his brass-knuckled review of Divided with his reviews of two culturally popular demonically inspired, and utterly anti-Christian works that have received acclaim from the world.

Berean Wife has astutely compared Challies’ reviews of The Shack and Twilight with that of Divided in her post simply titled Destructive in which she quotes Challies:

Divided The Movie

It’s a destructive message wrapped in a poorly-made documentary. The church would do well to ignore it.

The Shack

All this is not to say there is nothing of value in the book. However, it is undeniable to the reader who will look to the Bible, that there is a great deal of error within The Shack. There is too much error.

Twilight

My suggestion to parents would be to leave this book on the shelf instead of handing it to your teenage girl (and especially your young teenage girl). At the very least, read it yourself and see if your conscience is clear before you hand it to her.

Finding something of value in a book rife with doctrines of demons and blasphemes against God, and suggesting parents first read a lust-laden book (written by a Mormon) about teenage vampires in order to see if their consciences are clear before handing the book to their daughters, while conversely labeling a Christian film like Divided “destructive” and urging Christians to avoid it, renders the objectiveness of Challies’ reviews very suspect.

And while Challies encourages Christians to broaden their horizons by reading non-Christian, mainstream works because . . . 

Common grace tells us that Christians do not have the market cornered when it comes to what is true and what is wise.

and

To read widely is to engage with people who think differently and who approach very similar issues from a radically different worldview.

and

If you want to understand the people around you, why they are the way they are, what influences them, why they make the decisions they do, you will do well to read the books they read.

. . . he then tells the church that they’d be better off ignoring Divided. Is it just me or does this reveal not only a glaring hypocrisy, but also proves that Challies is operating with an obvious agenda?

I highly recommend Fred Wolfe’s retort Response to Tim Challies’ Review of Divided Movie (HT: Theonomy Resources) as well as Berean Wife’s response to Challies’ in her article Reviewing a Review.

I also urge you to personally watch the film Divided in order to judge it for yourself. You can either purchase the DVD or watch it for free online (until September) here.

I conclude by offering some familiar advice to my readers: Regarding Challies’ review of Divided: “The church would do well to ignore it.”

 

My thoughts on youth ministry and Vacation Bible School.

Summertime means BBQ, swimming pools, fireworks, and lemonade. But it also means sweltering heat, mosquitoes, and Vacation Bible School.

For many Christians this is the time of the year when they’re all abuzz about the wildly popular week-long evangelical event known as Vacation Bible School (commonly referred to by its acronym, VBS).

In terms of the high level of anticipation, collective excitement, Madison-Avenue-style marketing, and pulpit-driven hype, this event has vaulted in importance within Christendom to rival that of Christmas and Easter. If there are only three events on the Christian calendar that get highlighted every year, VBS is certainly one of them.

Because of Vacation Bible School’s prominence in the church, I wanted to take this opportunity to make some observations about this annual cultural Christian phenomenon and (by extension) youth ministry as a whole.

Before we begin, allow me to be brutally honest.

First let me say that it is no secret to the readers of this blog (and those who know me personally) that I am a youth ministry abolitionist. I am passionate about this subject and I’ve pulled no punches in my conversations and my treatises about it, but at the same time I do recognize that many involved in these types of ministries are well-meaning and have the best of intentions. Unfortunately, pure motives and best intentions do not excuse or justify the wholly destructive nature of the extra-biblical model of youth ministry (and VBS).

I also want to make it abundantly clear that I do not believe those engaging in various forms of youth ministry are in danger of Hell-fire because of their involvement or participation (for salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone). I also have dear Christian brothers who are involved in youth ministry (in fact one of them leads such a God honoring and holy life that I feel like a heathen next to him and despair that I will never reach his level of love, grace, and sanctification) and although I adamantly disagree with them on this subject, I can still have meaningful fellowship with them.

But I would appreciate the reciprocal consideration from youth ministry proponents regarding their misrepresenting and making a caricature out of those who oppose youth ministry (and those who encourage others to return to the biblical and traditional church model of raising and teaching children) as is so often done.

In their efforts to preserve youth ministry, critics of family integrated worship and family integrated churches (FICs) often defend their position by warning that proponents of family integration run the risk of becoming overbearingly patriarchal, Pharisaical, legalists who erroneously believe that worshiping together as a family ensures their children’s salvation, who refuse to evangelize anyone outside of their immediate family, and who place their family in higher regard than the Bride of Christ.

These are unfair depictions that I keep hearing levied against those who reject youth ministry for family based worship, yet these critics have failed to cite one example of these extreme wayward families they keep warning about (or claimed to have even met one).

Ironically, even though they reject the FIC model because they believe it has potential to be taken to extremes, youth ministry proponents overlook, make excuses for, or simply dismiss the problems inherent with youth ministry. These are not rare exceptions, they are very common and almost the standard. The mountain of dysfunctionality seen in so many youth groups can be cited (and many have been featured on this very blog) as well as the mind-numbing statistics that have proven the utter failure of youth ministry.

I have yet to become or meet even one of these types of families that youth ministry proponents keep warning that we have a great potential to become. Is it likely that there are some families out there who do fit that caricature? I’m sure there are, but these are the exception, whereas it seems to be the norm to see utter foolishness exhibited in youth ministries; so many of which resemble a scene out of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.

I sincerely do not write this missive (some would call it a tome) with the intention to cause division or create animosity among my brothers and sisters in the Lord. I pray that this is not received as derision, but as a thoughtful critique; prompting us to examine why we do what we do. It is meant to shed light on a practice that many promulgate without ever examining or even considering what the results (or ramifications) are. I also hope that this will serve as a clarion call for readers to eventually abandon this practice and return to the biblical model of raising and teaching our children in the Lord. But to those who do not, I will still love you, still fellowship with you, and still consider you my brothers and sisters in the Lord.

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