Disobeying Christ to Bless Him?

I have just started Frank Viola’s (and now George Barna’s) book “Pagan Christianity?” I have few friends who have been jacked by the “church” after spending decades there, and this book is striking a chord with them. So I thought I should read it as I am becoming increasingly convinced by holding what passes for the American Church up to scripture, that… well… it ain’t.

I got through the introduction, but on the page before the preface, Viola has placed this question from Christ to the Pharisees:

Matthew 15:3
“Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? “

I don’t think that is one that I have internalized before. But it is an idea that my husband and I had gotten close to in a letter to our former pastor about the corruption there. I thought I would share that passage here:

“Over and over during our dealing with Bel Air on this problem, we ran into the same ethos. The lie that one can disobey Jesus for the sake of the ministry of Jesus and still be in a relationship with Jesus.”

In both cases, those being confronted have used service to their religion/traditions/methods/process ostensibly as justification for their sin. But as soon as religion/traditions/methods/processes oppose, ignore and trample the word of God, they no longer serve or please God.

They become just another one of man’s worldly ambitions going after his worldly goals, no different than disobeying God for the sake of ones bank account or political career or popularity. Either a process or a ministry approach or a worship method obeys and serves God or it doesn’t. Once it doesn’t any more, it does not matter in what respect it doesn’t, it just matters that it doesn’t.

To disobey Christ to serve tradition, or to serve ministry goals, or to serve the homeless, or to serve your greed, or to serve career ambitions, or to serve your moment of anger, or to serve any end, no matter how lofty or how base you may consider it, is to still to disobey Christ. Why you are doing it is irrelevant.

Chris Rock confronts such a moral dilemma much more plainly:

“You know what they say, “There’s no reason to ever hit a woman.”… There’s a reason to hit everybody. You just don’t do it… there’s a reason to kick an old man down a flight of stairs. You just don’t do it.

It doesn’t matter if you think you have a good reason to sin… just don’t do it.

You cannot disobey Him and glorify Him at the same time. You cannot rebel against Him and be in a right relationship with Him.

And I think possibly the silliest thing that professing Christians do is to justify disobedience to Christ for the sake of the Gospel. “I have to win people to Christ, so I will disobey His direct commands in order to make the gospel more appealing, and thereby win converts”.

“But if we discipline the pastor whom so many come to hear speak on his personal sin, attendance will go down, donations will go down and we won’t be able to rent insert name of massive local venue for our Easter Service and won’t be able to make our city the Greatest City for Christ in America™!”

Because God needs our help to save people?

Because the Holy Spirit is insufficient to convict people of their spiritual bankruptcy and make them long for God’s forgiveness?

Bottom line, we want to do what we want to do to satisfy our desires and ambitions, so we do it. And when we use the traditions and methods that we have invented to supposedly honor God to justify doing what we want to in Christ’s direction, we merely prove our wicked nature, and defend ourselves against having to repent and give up our will to the will of God.

Sin’s circular reasoning.

We are a creative bunch of sinners, aren’t we.

Matthew 18 gives us the clearest direction on what to do when tradition or ministry goals or personal reputation or our job or our relationships or anything causes us to sin. If something has to give, it is not obedience to God, it is the thing that we sinned for.

Matthew 18:8-9

If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire.

If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.

A graphic word picture to be sure, but pretty clear that when the believer feels he has to sin in the service of his job, his only choice is to quit his job.

And it is an absolutely clear instruction for this in church leadership that if their ministry requires them, to disobey scripture, the “ministry” has to end.

Because it really was only a ministry to the one supposedly ‘ministering’ and not a ministry to God anyway.


Right Hand Publicity, Inc.

There is much to write about when discussing corruption in the American “church”. Big “churches” with big budgets operating like big businesses and occasionally like big mafia.

The gross sin is certainly important to expose, but usually when you attend a church, you don’t see a sign on the door that says, “Our pastor cheats on his wife with male prostitutes and has a meth problem”. What you may be able to see is that there is sin peppered all over the place, seemingly “lesser sin” that is not just tolerated, but encouraged and directed by the church leadership.

When really examining the health of a church, these are often more interesting, because they are closer to the moment of the spiritual death, if you will. You see the corruption at its early stages. No church is healthy Tuesday, and Wednesday the congregation finds out that the assistant pastor has taken off with the church’s money and it’s secretary. No, the corruption began long before that, as just a little sin that was tolerated, which became bigger sin that was unaddressed, and after a time, fully blossomed into systematic corruption.

But that corruption was born when someone (usually in a power position) stepped off the path that Christ had set, and the church didn’t make him either get back on or leave.

Since leaving a “church” where corruption was fully in bloom, I have become fascinated with the anatomy of how a church becomes corrupted. It happens much the way cancer happens.

It is estimated that 90% of the population has “cancer” at any given time. Cancer is merely cells that have divided incorrectly resulting in two dysfunctional cells. In those with healthy immune systems, those errant cells are recognized and destroyed. In those with broken immune systems, the cancer cells go unrecognized and unaddressed are allowed to keep dividing until they eventually form a tumor and metastasize, killing the body.

So by the time someone is diagnosed with cancer, they have actually had it for many months or even years, but the symptoms were not seen on the surface.

So too, when a church is discovered to be corrupt, it can be traced back months and years to a time when the actual break down in the system of accountability. When confronting sin and exercising church discipline stops, the cancer starts to grow, and it is only a matter of time before the body is dead, and just becomes a social club, civic organization or entertainment arena.

So while there are endless examples out there of full blown apostasy, let’s look at a more subtle example of outright sin that gets skipped over. Usually because this kind of thing is now ubiquitous in the “church” as it has become deaf to God’s wisdom and replaced it with the wisdom of the world.

One of the most obvious phenomenons, when you start paying attention, is how “churches” are promoting themselves.

Here is Christ’s direction for believers:

Matthew 6:2-4

“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

“But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

Spend an hour on you tube and see how many “churches” have disobeyed Christ in his direction to serve in secret, instead making videos of their good works and posting them on the internet for all to see. Missions trips, building projects, food drives, and on and on. Videos that serve no other purpose than to say, “Look what we did!”.

Here are two videos that inspired this post (in the interest of full disclosure, this our former “church”):

In this video the leader of a group video tapes himself going to donate blood at a drive that they held after the serious injury of a parishioner.

In this local CBS affiliate news story, the press is actually called in to video tape the Thanksgiving food drive and they have been provided with the exact dollar amount that was spent on food for the needy and how many needy it will feed.

Bel Air Presbyterian Donates $40,000 In Food
The Church is donating the food, just in time for Thanksgiving, to 115 needy families and 60 non-profit organizations. Mia Lee reports

These weren’t even videos that went out before or during the events so that others could be notified and participate, they were done after the fact, purely for publicity.

Let me be clear, in no way am I criticizing them for doing these good works, on the contrary. But they didn’t do them in secret.

In complete contradiction with “not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing”, the right hand has become a public relations firm for it’s own good works. Right Hand Publicity, Inc.

They have chosen the way of the world, issuing press releases that show them doing things that make them look good, and turned their back on the way of Christ, to do good in secret.

And this is not a people that didn’t know any better. In the case of both of these videos, the subjects have been completely briefed on Christs “press blackout” command. The guy in the first video I have known for two decades. He grew up in a Christian home, attended bible college and been in and out of church leadership positions since he was a teenager. He has read Matthew 6. In the second case, the pastor of the church has a Ph.D. in biblical studies and teaches at Fuller Theological Seminary, so it is fair to assume that he either is ignoring Matthew 6, or is an absentee shepherd who is not teaching his staff and doesn’t know what they are doing.

This is not a case where well meaning, over enthusiastic, newbie converts just didn’t know about the right hand/left hand policy.

And as both of these were posted last year, and are still up, (along with the many dozens of others you will find on You Tube) we can see that the accountability system that God set up to teach and hold his disciples accountable is broken. None one has gone to these people and reminded them of, and held them accountable to, Matthew 6.

So if the easy sin to address, self-promotion of good works, is being practiced openly, how likely is it that they will address the difficult sins of lying, adultery, spousal abuse, drug abuse, sexual harassment and assault, fraud, stealing and the like.

If this were a church I didn’t know anything about, I would chance that their immune system is broken and say that it is a pretty safe bet that there is a serious cancer growing there. But as I have reported elsewhere, we have already been witness to the fact that the cancer there has metastasized and the corruption is in full bloom.

But if you showed up to church there on Sunday, you will not see the big tumor (you don’t really get a good look at it until you get involved in leadership and see how problems are handled behind the curtain), but you can see the smaller symptoms, the sin like this that has risen to the surface and remains unaddressed.

So learn from this. Look for the smaller sin that is going unchecked and unaddressed both in your life and in your church. See if the immune system is functioning and attacking the individual cancer cells or the tiny tumors. If not, then it is only a matter of time until the Spirit is gone and the body is dead.

Revelation 3:1-6
Message to Sardis

“To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.

Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.

So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.

But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.

He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

And it may have already happened.

False Teaching: Rick Warren Encourages Lying to Children

Rick Warren has come under a good deal of fire for preaching a gospel that is focused on personal fulfillment rather than repentance of sin and dieing to self. I believe that criticism is well earned. But that is not the only problem with his teaching.

Last spring, just after he launched his site Pastors.com (the about page starts, “This blog is a place for pastors to have an honest dialog about issues they face as leaders of their churches.”) he posted an article in which he encouraged people to lie to children when a pastor is removed due to sin. This directive is not just off message, it is outright telling people to sin and to sin against the vulnerable. It is calling sin good. Here it is, complete with two compliments. Note the paragraph on what to tell children [bold mine]:

What Happens When a Staff Member Falls (letter mentioned in podcast)

May 1, 2007 · 2 Comments

Dear Saddleback MemberIn 2007, I plan to write you several times to help you understand some of the behind-the-scenes procedures and strategies of our church family. In this letter I want to explain what happens when a staff member at Saddleback must be removed because of some sin.
If a staff member voluntarily confesses to me, or to our Staff Pastor (Bob Baker), and repents before being found out, Bob or I counsel that person privately. Depending on the violation, they may be allowed to remain on staff while recovering. If a staff member does not take the initiative, they are suspended from staff immediately while the elders consider their situation. If a staff member continues to lie about their sin, they are fired immediately.
WHO IS TOLD? (1 Cor. 5:11-13)
Sin is to be confessed only as widely as it affects others. Private sin requires only private confession to God. Personal sin that involves others requires interpersonal confession to the people involved. Public sins (those that affect a large group of people in our congregation) regrettably must be dealt with publicly as a warning to others. The Bible says that those who teach are held to a greater public accountability because of their visibility to those they teach. (James 3:1, 1 Tim. 5:20)Children have a fragile faith and often idolize their leaders. Parents should be careful not to talk about fallen staff in front of children so they don’t lose heart. If asked, you should simply say “They resigned,” That’s all children need to know.RESTORATION (Gal. 6:1)
The goal of church discipline is the restoration of a person’s life, marriage, and possibly ministry. This is hope and prayer, but it is not an automatic conclusion. Our church has a specific restoration process which includes 1) confession and restitution 2) counseling and testing, 3) regular accountability to a group of pastors, 4) prayer, 5) refraining from ministry to focus on maturity, 6) strengthening character and marriage, 7) Bible study and Scripture memorization, and 8 ) rebuilding and proving credibility. The fallen staff member must humbly cooperate with our restoration process which may last up to a year or longer.

Restoration does not mean being restored to the staff of Saddleback. That would not be best for the former staff member or the volunteer workers in that ministry. We are a high-visibility, fast-moving congregation. After the restoration process is finished, we would want to see that person slowly re-enter ministry in a less visible church with smaller demands. Usually after restoration, the person re-enters a different type of ministry than the one they led before their fall. This is because our most effective ministry always comes out of our own deepest hurts and experiences.

Sin always hurts others who are innocent, so we provide spiritual and emotional support to the family of the offender. Depending on the situation, severance pay may be provided so the former staff member can focus 100% on rebuilding his/her life.

(2 Cor. 2:7-8)
Forgiveness and trust are not the same thing. Forgiveness is offered immediately, even before it is asked for, but forgiveness does not remove the consequences of sin. (Gal. 6:7). Leadership is built on trust, and trust must be earned. While trust can be destroyed instantly by a single decision, it takes time and proof of change before anyone can be restored to ministry or leadership. The Bible commands that they be tested first. (1 Tim. 3:10, Philip. 2:22)

DOING ALL THIS IN HUMILITY & LOVE (Eph. 4:2, 1 Cor. 10:12, )
The Bible says “Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” It also says, “If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you, too, may fall into the same sin.” Now is the time to review your own life and marriage. If you haven’t heard the message by Kay and me “Affair-proofing Your Marriage” I strongly recommend you get a copy this weekend.

Satan is always trying to destroy or discourage God’s Flock by defeating the shepherds (pastors). We are a church family and we must stand together with Craig and his family during his restoration process over the next year.

Saddleback is a strong, mature, and healthy church. In past situations like these, our church family has pulled together, rallied, and become even more stronger and committed. We believe in Romans 8:28. I love you and I look forward to seeing you this weekend.

“Pray for us. We have no doubts about what we’re doing or why, but it’s hard going and we need your prayers. All we care about is living well before God.”
Hebrews 13:18 (The Message)


Categories: Rick Warren Ministry Podcast

2 responses so far ↓

  • Ray McKay Hardee // May 18, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    We have JUST encountered a situation like this in our church and are using a Spiritual Care Team.The wisdom you provide in this letter is priceless!
  • Steven Taylor // June 12, 2007 at 9:08 am

    Thank you. We are facing a situation right now concerning a moral failure of a volunteer staff member. Your letter is a godsend!

My husband Scott had submitted a short comment criticizing the post but it was not approved by the moderator. I posted an additional comment pointing out the problems and encouraging Mr. Warren to amend the article, but my comments were not approved either.

This is my rejected comment:

My husband sent this article to me and I am concerned with the advice given to be dishonest with children about leaders removal from service.

Chiefly, straight out, scripture tells us not to lie. Telling children that some one resigned when they were in fact removed is a lie.

I could just stop there, but as a family therapist, I think it is important to discuss some of the destructive consequences of such a policy.

First, Warren makes the point that children “often idolize their leaders”. Yes they do, and that is sin in itself. (1 John 5:21 – Little children, guard yourself from idols.) That idolization should not be protected, it should be challenged. Children should learn from their youth that everyone who thinks they stand should “take heed lest they fall”, and that even the most well respected leaders can fall into disobedience to God.

Now this should be done in an age appropriate manner, and details of the sin need not be disclosed, but leaning the lesson that disobedience to God results in painful consequences at age 6 makes a powerful impact that may spare a child from falling into serious sin at age 16 or 26 or 66. When you see that one of the most influential people in your community cannot get away with sin, you learn the fear of God and the respect for the rules that keep you out of danger.

Second, and this should be blatantly obvious, not telling a child that someone is no longer a trustworthy leader puts them at risk for victimization and false teaching of all kinds! Why would you allow a child, whose minds and hearts are so mailable, to remain respectful of someone who is in selfish/unrepentant sin and not being lead by the Holy Spirit?

We don’t want children to idolize respectable people much less untrustworthy people.

Third, children are not stupid. If you lie to them, they will eventually figure it out, even if it is not until adult hood, and they will stop trusting you. If someone at 26 finds out that they were lied to about what was going on in their church, they may question everything that was told to them during their entire experience at that church and with those who lied. I have seen it happen.

I think that there are few things that shake ones faith more than being lied to by a church.

Fourth, again, lying is a sin. Don’t do it. Even to protect someone.

Such unfortunate events are potential teaching moments. They can wonderfully enhance a child’s understanding of grace, and, most dynamically, secret and unrepentant sin. They give them a chance to learn important lessons from others mistakes so they don’t have to learn from their own.

I am sure Mr. Warren sincerely believes that this policy is helpful in keeping children innocent, but I strongly encourage him to rethink this and change this article. Because bottom line, it is telling people to sin against their children.

Ginger Taylor, M.S.

When I looked through the site, I noted that the only comments that had been approved were those that praised Mr. Warren or his comments. (If you know me, you already know my feelings about silencing dissenting opinions).

Because the comments were not posted, I sent an email to the site. After a short email exchange with Eric Busby, Saddleback’s Pastor of Channel Development, it became clear that although he stated that his claim that, “we are unlikely to develop a policy prohibiting critiques of Pastor Rick Warren because we want to encourage honest dialogue on matters that concern the entire listening audience”, his follow up comment, “Unfortunately, we do
receive a large number of comments and are unable to approve them all”, was just PR speak for “we are not posting your comment, buh-bye”.

I noted that currently pastors.com seems to be continuing the same, ‘only fawning comments welcomed’ policy.

So… with twenty thousand people going to his church, has not one person stood up and insisted that he change this article so that it is not telling people to sin?

If not, why not?

A New Blog For A New Year

Hello All. Ginger Taylor of Adventures In Autism here.

I have been doing an increasing amount of God Blogging lately, so I decided that it should have its own space… so welcome to the new space. It was born out of my growing concern and alarm for all the false teaching and flat out bad ideas that are passing as biblical messages in God’s Church these days.  Daily Discernment will be offering resources for good biblical teaching from the reformed perspective of Luther and Calvin, taking a critical look at some of the questionable and outright bad theology that is being consumed in post-modern America, take a look at the lives of those who claim to be disciples of Christ and have taken leadership positions in the church (to see if they are living what they preach, or confessing and repenting when they don’t) and be a place for good (respectful) debate about what the bible really says.

As God is want to do, he brought into our lives a couple of extreme events to get us to where we are now, and that got me writing what I am writing now.  The first was the diagnosis we received in 2004 of our two year old son Chandler that brought us back to a seriousness about our lives and the things of God again.  The second was seeing corruption in our former church that gave us a wake up call as to what is going on in the church in 21st Century America.  Allow me to share how I started down the road of desiring discernment.

In 2005 and 2006 we were members of a large, metro megachurch and were seeing behavior in the staff that was not in line with scripture. We started taking a closer look and found some serious areas of entrenched sin. Naively, we thought that because the church claimed to be bible practicing church in the reformed tradition, that of course they would be teachable and practice biblical church discipline in those that were stubbornly unrepentant of wrong doing

We were way, way off.

After several months of trying to navigate through the process with not much success or cooperation from the church, I attended a meeting with the number three and four staff people in the church, and the more senior man gave me a long list of things that he wanted to see happen and wanted me to do. When he was done listing off the actions he expected me to take, almost all of which were out of line with what God teaches in scripture and even a few things that contradicted the sermon that we both had heard from the pulpit only three days prior, I replied, “…that is not biblical”.

His astonishing response was, “I don’t know what’s biblical here, this is just how I do business.”

I was completely baffled by the exchange. I looked to the ordained pastor that was present, expecting him to be as ruffled by the statement as I was, but he had no reaction what so ever. It was as if his superior had just said, “What a nice day it is today”.

Long story short, we decided to do what the bible said instead of following this administrator’s unbiblical instruction, and he ran us out of the church.

As we were leaving and talking with our friends there about what was happening, almost all of the advice that was being given from other church members consisted of some form of the statements, “Well I think that you should just …”, “Well if you want __________ to happen, then you should ____________” and, “Do whatever you think is best”.

It was not until we had cleared that place and it’s influences for several months before we really wrapped our brains around the fact that no one that we dealt with (except for one person, who bowed out eventually) from the newest attendee to the Senior Pastor with a Ph. D. said, “Here is what God wants, (insert scripture quote here) so lets all do that”.

It was all about man’s desire and man’s wisdom.

Now this was not a controversial church. It was a church with a decent reputation for the last ten years or so. So my husband Scott and I started rethinking all of the messages that we had been just uncritically swallowing and scouring scripture and we honestly were ashamed that it had taken us so many years to wake up and smell garbage that was being packaged as God’s Truth. We were also ashamed that we had ignored all of the red flags that we saw in the lives of the leadership and in our own lives.

The disturbing thing is that this church is operating pretty much the way most large churches are operating these days, and after looking again at the instructions that Christ gives to his disciples, we started to see that Standard Operating Procedure in modern ‘Christian Culture’ today stands in opposition to much of what Jesus taught.

During the conflict, someone gave us a “Christian” book called, “The Bait of Satan” to offer us instruction on how to deal with being wronged by the church. It is a book about forgiveness, and is one of those that sounds good, unless you are really testing all its pronouncements against scripture. Reading this book with my new critical eyes, I was appalled at what I was seeing. One faulty premise in the first few pages of the book detached it from what God actually said, and the rest of the book, which is based on this premise, falls apart because of this flaw.

It claims in the first few pages that Jesus forgives everyone, so we must forgive everyone.

Except that He doesn’t. He is pretty clear that some people are not forgiven and will spent eternity separated from Him because of it.

This faulty premise, taken out to it’s logical conclusion, becomes a blue print for abuse in the church. (I will be writing a fuller criticism of The Bait of Satan by John Bevere down the road.)

The strangest thing… the book was given to us by a man who was a foreign missionary. He firmly believes that the population that he is preaching the gospel to is trapped in sin and will not see heaven, and he loves them, so he turned his life upside down in the hopes that they will respond to the message that he has brought to their little part of the world. But He praises a book that preaches that Jesus forgives everyone.

If Jesus forgives everyone, then he can pack it up and bring it all home, because all those people he is preaching to are forgiven and will go to heaven!

I scribbled notes on pretty much every page of the book point out the scripture that the author contradicts and the faulty reasoning and gave it back to him, but rather than saying, “man… I had not thought about this… I am going to check this out and see if you are right”, we just never heard from him again.

So what has happened to discernment in the church? Are we swallowing dirt and calling it dinner?

This blog will taking a critical look at the popular messages in the church today, some of the bad messages that we have gotten from people who claim to be speaking for God, and connecting the dots between lessons that need to be brought together and balanced in order to receive the WHOLE counsel of scripture.

A few notes:

One… I seek to be teachable here, so not only will I not be offended by people challenging me, I am soliciting it. Because we are flesh, criticism can be unfun sometimes, by my goal is to become a woman who comes to love correction. To receive it well is to become refined, and sanctified and more and more like Christ.

Two… I seek to maintain a liberal comments policy. I don’t think that it is many peoples best interest to suppress speech, and it is not something that I see Jesus doing in scripture (He just gave amazing responses), so I really try not to remove comments.

At AdventuresInAutism.com I describe my comments policy as a, No ‘you suck’ Comments Policy. Posts have to have a point, so if they are nothing more than some variation of telling someone that they suck, then I will remove them. If you are a professing Christian, I expect that you will use 2 Timothy 2:25-26 as your guideline for critiquing another’s comments, if you aren’t, and you really want to tell someone they suck, then be sure you make a good point so that I won’t be able to bring myself to take down your comments 😉

Comments will not be edited, merely removed if they violate the comments policy. When I remove one, I usually encourage the person to repost their comment, but with less mean.

Thank you for visiting and make yourself at home.