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How Willow Creek exposed our sins

An expansive view of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill. Photo courtesy of Willow Creek Community Church

(RNS) — The past few months have been filled with stories of pastoral failure — for Protestants and Catholics alike. These stories inundate our social media feeds, causing outrage and heartache but rarely self-reflection.

Once in a while, however, a story hits close to home. That’s been the case for us with Willow Creek.

For my (Kyle) entire childhood, Willow Creek was my church home. I found Jesus there. My whole family came to know the Lord there. My father pastored there. I worshipped God, grew in the faith, and wrestled through his call on my life in that place.

During those years, there would often be a short, dramatic skit before the sermon that would illustrate the point of one of the Bible readings. In one, a man and a woman pretended Willow Creek had been abandoned and become a pile of stones. As the actors reflected on the skit, they proclaimed the truth that Willow was not a building, and that God’s kingdom did not rest on their achievements or demise.

This drama has come to mind recently as I see the pain, struggle and failure of a place that means so much to me and my family. The numerous allegations of Bill Hybels’ sexual misconduct have exposed cracks in an institution believed to be indestructible.

But this is not solely a Willow problem. It’s a problem that afflicts American evangelicalism, a movement long deemed indestructible as well. Many influential pastors have fallen; at times, followed by the collapse of the institution they shepherded.

Perhaps there is something for us all to hear in the wisdom of the church drama I saw as a child. Perhaps many of us have looked upon American evangelicalism and said to the Lord — as the disciples once did — “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” (Mark 13:1)

As we watch many leaders fall, and as we discover rooms in this vast building that have become “dens of robbers,” what do we do?

Instead of turning to superficial answers, we must see this as an opportunity to have a new conversation in the American evangelical church.

The main campus of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill. The megachurch has been in turmoil for months since sexual misconduct allegations against its founder, Bill Hybels, came to light. Photo courtesy of Willow Creek Community Church

We need a new conversation about power.

The fundamental ailment of the evangelical church today is toxic power. Toxic power is anchored in prideful autonomy and manifested in forms of competition, coercion, domination and abuse. It is power in strength for the sake of control. It is not the way of the cross, but rather the way of the world, the flesh and the devil.

Toxic power can show up in a youth group of 40 students just as much as it can in a church of 10,000 people. It is not merely a problem for pastors and leaders, let alone “celebrity” pastors and leaders. It is a problem for the church.

Toxic power shows up in the deep belief that the power of a church is measured by the degree to which it makes us feel special and significant. It shows up in our targeted evangelism strategies, pointed toward the powerful, influential, prosperous and put together, as opposed to the weak, marginalized, poor and broken.

We see it in our insatiable appetite for sermons that tell us the good news is that we can do better and feel better if we try harder.

We see it in our obsession with identifying our “spiritual gifts,” for the very purpose of operating in our strengths so that we can avoid our weakness at all cost. We see it in the way biblical qualifications for elders are replaced by notions of business success and social status.

We see it in our mode of worship determined to generate a felt experience of transcendence, regardless of whether God is involved or not.

We see it in our primary markers of good leaders — charisma, oratory skill, management prowess and entrepreneurial vision. Needless to say, toxic power has so infected the church today that it has burrowed its way into the very depths of our identity.

Along the way, that toxic power has replaced the kingdom power the Bible calls us to. Kingdom power is power shaped by the cross — known in weakness and aimed at love.

When we make our pastors the functional cornerstones of the church, look for gurus to rally around, or use church resources to manipulate The New York Times best-seller list, then we are abandoning the way of Jesus.

When we ignore the cries of women who have been harmed and abused and preference those in authority, then we are embracing evil. The church has been co-opted by the powers and principalities of darkness. The devil has sold us the lie that we can use worldly means to achieve kingdom ends. He has duped us into believing we are not prone toward dangerous and controlling forms of power in our own lives.

Participants of the “For Such a Time as This Rally” hold signs outside of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center on June 12, 2018, on the first day of the two-day Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Dallas. The rally calls for Southern Baptist clergy to receive training on how to treat women with respect, how to handle allegations of abuse, and how to minister to victims of abuse. Photo by Marc Ira Hooks

As a pastor (Jamin) I recognize the evangelical church in America is at a tipping point. The decisions we make in response to these very public failures will form us for generations.

Our sins have been exposed.

We are being shown the truth of our heart. The devil would have us believe this is something to hide and to fear. But it is a gift. God’s redemptive healing always happens when we draw near to him in the truth of our failure.

If we seek to stand against the powers and principalities we must begin with confession. It is tempting for me to fix my judgment on the failures of famous pastors. But I believe the invitation of the Lord is to first attend to the log in my own eye. (Matthew 7:3)

As a pastor, I have succumbed to the temptation to wield my gifts to build the church, rather than trusting in Christ. I confess that I have at times used people as resources to accomplish my ministry dreams, rather than shepherding their souls as a patient pastor.

As the Book of James tells us, may we confess our sins to one another and pray the Lord will heal the church.

This is where the conversation must begin.

(Kyle Strobel is associate professor of spiritual theology and formation at Talbot School of Theology. Jamin Goggin is a pastor at Missions Hills Church in San Marcos, Calif. They are co-authors of “The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb.” The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of Religion News Service.)

About the author

Kyle Strobel

About the author

Jamin Goggin

121 Comments

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  • Toxic power shows up in the deep belief that the power of a church is measured by the degree to which it makes us feel special and significant.

    A powerful statement — to which I’d add that power is exercised in especially toxic ways when religious groups make themselves feel special and significant at the expense of others, especially of targeted, demeaned minority groups. Like the LGBTQ community….

    The grace bought from singling out a minority group, targeting, pretending that no sin exists in the world except within that group, and certainly not within oneself and one’s own church community: this is the cheapest of cheap grace.

  • “The fundamental ailment of the evangelical church today is toxic power”

    I disagree.

    The “toxic power” is a consequence of the true “fundamental ailment” that people can get rich and powerful by harnessing the gullibility and natural susceptibility of others, by telling others that irrational belief is better than evidence-based reason, that the laws of physics can be breached without consequence by a being who can only be detected in one’s imagination, that the listeners need the interpretive skills and superior connection to this imaginary being that only the teller can access in order to access a future that cannot be demonstrated to exist and that, whilst it’s OK to question the periphery of belief (provided it is subsequently accepted to be work of a wicked, worthless wraith-like literary construction) it is only so on the condition that you don’t get close to asking for the non-existent evidence that the supernatural exists.

    Until people start at the ground level rather than part way up the multi-storied construction they have little chance of asking the right questions, let alone getting near the right answers.

    Givethedogabone – a.k.a. BlockedByBob – twice!

  • May we assume that “singling out a minority group, targeting, pretending that no sin exists in the world except within that group” refers to LGBT individuals?

  • The same old LGBTQ spin is reflected in this post. (Sigh.) Strobel and Goggin actually never even suggested Willow Creek was “pretending that no sin exists in the world except within that group (LGBTQ).” So why piggyback on Willow Creek?

    Meanwhile, I’ve met men & women, teens and even 12-year-olds, I’ve met gays & straights & trans, who could really have used that “makes us feel special and significant” feeling that a church can provide (provided that church is really relying on the love and power of Jesus Christ, and really agreeing with their Bibles. If they don’t, please go shopping for a church that does.)

    I’m not saying that these writers are necessarily wrong. Can’t ignore ’em. But you got a lotta folks, people dealing with past & present stuff, who are very hungry for the amazing feeling of “special and significant” that comes with “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jer.29:11).

  • “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We are all sinners. But homosexuality isn’t the sin any more than heterosexuality is the sin.

  • That is is not the script.

    The script is that being LGBT is “natural”.

    Because it is “natural”, it can’t be “immoral”.

    Therefore religion needs to get with the program.

    If you want to understand the roots of this thought process, you need to read up on Magnus Hirschfeld:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnus_Hirschfeld

    Berlin was a cesspool while he was there – open child prostitution, every form of perversion, and he was all for it.

    There is a reason the LGBT movement relies on the psychiatrists and psychologists to make their case, and Hirschfeld is the Father.

    Of course from a moral standpoint it’s nonsense.

    Being inclined LGBT is like being horny or blind; yes, it’s “natural”, no, that does not make acting on it moral.

  • Here’s a really radical idea for you, Kyle.

    DO WHAT YOUR LORD AND SAVIOR COMMANDED.

    stop telling other people how to live their lives, and demanding that they live by your ideas when you refuse to do that yourselves. Stop allowing your church and clergy to get fatly rich while pretending to care about spiritual matters. Stop declaring that you are the moral arbiters when you vote for a four times bankrupt thief, a three times married, self proclaimed adulterer and fornicator and beaver of false witness.

    Nah. Too radical.

  • And you won’t.

    I am more than happy to admit I am not perfect, but my natural, god given sexuality isn’t one of my imperfections.

    I don’t believe in your god, your faith, your demands on my person, or sin. I don’t believe in heaven or hell, gods or demons, eternal rewards and punishments. What I also think is that a good many people who claim to be bible believing Christians don’t believe in it either.

    Some of you could use a mirror.

  • Actually his “LORD AND SAVIOR COMMANDED” him to tell “other people how to live their lives”. Citations on request, oh Mouth of Ben.

    As to the election:

    https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-DDxH7V8MlK8/W5FqhhI2teI/AAAAAAAAVqM/94RTZqiBDNcQlBxXwiWAb4EUU9Cl17wGACEwYBhgL/s1600/Flight%2BRisk%2B7.jpg

    As one pundit noted this morning, this was there was no winner of a presidential race in modern times that came wrapped in less false advertising.

    The loser, the bitter old Kamikaze, was 100% opinion poll originated packaged advertising sans any content beyond wanting to be queen.

  • “Toxic power shows up in the deep belief that the power of a church is measured by the degree to which it makes us feel special and significant.”

    Truer words have occasionally been spoken, but you have it down pretty well, Kyle.

    “I represent god. You don’t.”

    “I have morals. You don’t.”

    “I know what god wants of everyone. You Don’t.”

    “God wants me to have dominion over your life.”

    Says you.

    Kyle, it’s all about power, money, and dominion— and let’s not leave out REVENGE, because that’s a big one- for a certain class of so called christian. Why, if you read the comments by that type of Christian on these very pages, you would see it. It’s all about making yourselves special and significant. And for some of you, it’s how you get rich in the process and how you exorcise your own demons.

  • Why is there a need for a mirror if none of it exists? Atheists like to use the virtues of Christ against Christians all day long, because the Christian will reflect and wonder – am I acting as Christ would? Maybe not.
    The athiest has no moral compass and no higher power to atone to; so of course there is no sin in their eyes.
    It’s a one-sided battle where those that have faith lose every time; until the day of judgement.

  • I believe when we look at power, money, and dominiion, plus of course REVENGE, we need to look at the LGBT lobby, Obergefell v Hodges, and Masterpiece Bakery vs Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

    Oh, and of course your comments six months ago and earlier when you weren’t as interested in playing the reasonable card.

  • By their fruits you shall know them. Matthew 7: 16. The full passage “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheeps clothing but inside are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you shall know them.”

  • Good article. IMHO, the main “sin” of the modern megachurch is not the sexual inconsistencies into which some leaders or members have fallen.
    The main “sin” of the modern megachurch is having preached in such a manner as to deliver the votes of many of the attendees to government policies which favor only the already-wealthiest people while lying to everyone below. High-end tax cuts actually don’t create living-wage jobs. Collective bargaining is not actually evil. Government regulation of environmental matters and financial products/markets is not actually a bad thing. The free market actually does not create affordable and adequate health insurance for working-class people. It’s a long list and our “Evangelicals” have been systematically misled about all of them.

    The only answer for “Why is that?” happens to reside at local church. Telling truth about real (real) reality does not fit their business models. Most Americans are going to pay a large price for a long time as a result of those business models. The “tipping point” for Evangelical church is not now. It was years and years ago. The church decided to side with those who would lie to people and whack people. Then they created a political mess from which there may be no recovery at all. When your power is gone, it is gone. The grandchildren inherit the struggle to try to get it back. Lotsa luck, kids.

  • “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” (Mark 13:1)

    Let’s talk about these wonderful buildings in which evangelical Christianity expresses its faith because, like all architecture, they say much about who they are, the values they espouse, and the truths they believe.

    Ancient gothic cathedrals in Europe were designed to raise people’s eyes heavenward and remind worshippers how very small we are in the grand scheme of things. Rococo churches in Bavaria reflected a hyper-emphasis on eucharistic theology while stark New England meeting houses built during the same time period reflected an emphasis on the Word of God without any distraction from “idol-like” artwork and statuary.

    And what do most evangelical mega-churches look like? Grand theaters where people go to be entertained. Whereas ancient Christianity sought and in many cases continues to seek to put the emphasis on God, evangelical Christianity puts the emphasis squarely on people and our consumeristic needs. To Twist JFK’s immortal words, ask not what you can do for God but rather what God can do for YOU! That’s the name of the game in this thriving commercial enterprise known as evangelical Christianity.

  • These mega churches I suspect hardly are representational of the thousands upon thousands of local houses of worship in the nation. Dangerous to extrapolate from these huge money making machines to the small local prayer house on the corner.

  • Hey going to tell you a secret: not everything is about Trump. Everything isn’t about the litmus test of gay sexual behavior either.

  • “we are all sinners”
    You better hope you are not “still” a sinner. God does not hear sinners — John 9:31.
    David — Question: most c.hristians would admit in public that ‘sex before marriage’ is a sin.
    What do homosexual c.hristians believe about ‘sex before marriage’? I’m very curious. Do c.hristian homosexuals preach that a homosexual couple must first have a ceremonial marriage before the sex is righteous?

  • I believe you missed that I was jerking Susan Humphreys’ chain.

    Seriously, let’s consider Barnes’ Notes:

    Matthew 7:15

    Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

    False prophets – The word prophet originally means one who foretells future events. As prophets, however, were commonly regarded as public instructors on the subject of religion, the word came to denote all who were religious teachers. In this sense it is probably used here. A false prophet is a teacher of incorrect doctrine, or one falsely and unjustly laying claims to divine inspiration. It probably had reference to the false teachers then among the Jews.

    Who come in sheep’s clothing – The sheep is an emblem of innocence, sincerity, and harmlessness. To come in sheep’s clothing is to assume the appearance of sanctity and innocence, when the heart is evil.

    Ravening wolves – Rapacious; voraciously devouring; hungry even to rage. Applied to the false teachers, it means that they assumed the appearance of holiness in order that they might the more readily get the property of the people. They were full of extortion and excess. See Matthew 23:25.

    Matthew 7:16

    Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

    Ye shall know them by their fruits – The Savior gives the proper test of their character. People do not judge of a tree by its leaves, or bark, or flowers, but by the fruit which it bears. The flowers may be beautiful and fragrant, the foliage thick and green; but these are merely ornamental. It is the “fruit” that is of chief service to man; and he forms his opinion of the nature and value of the tree by that fruit. So of pretensions to religion. The profession may be fair; but the “conduct” – the fruit – is to determine the nature of the principles.

    Matthew 7:17

    Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

    A corrupt tree – The word “corrupt” here does not signify, as our translation would seem to indicate, that the tree “had been” good, but had become “vitiated;” but that it was a tree of a useless character, of a nature that produced nothing beneficial.

    Matthew 7:18

    A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

    Matthew 7:19

    Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

    Matthew 7:20

    Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

    Matthew 7:21

    Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

    Not every one that saith … – The Savior goes on to say that many, on the ground of a mere profession such as he had just referred to, would claim admittance into his kingdom. Many would plead that they had done miracles, and preached or prophesied much, and on the ground of that would demand an entrance into heaven. The power of working miracles had no necessary connection with piety. God may as well, if he chooses, give the power of raising the dead to a wicked man, as the skill of healing to a wicked physician. A miracle is a display “of his own power” through the medium of another. An act of healing the sick is also a display of “his power” through the agency of another. In neither of these cases is there any necessary connection with moral character. So of preaching or prophesying. God may use the agency of a man of talents, though not pious, to carry forward His purposes. Saving power on the mind is the work of God, and he may convey it by any agency which he chooses. Accordingly, many may be found in the day of judgment who may have been endowed with powers of prophecy or miracle, as Balaam or the magicians of Egypt; in the same way as many people of distinguished talents may be found, yet destitute of piety, and who will be shut out of his kingdom. See Matthew 7:21; 1 Corinthians 1:26; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. In this last place Paul says that, though he spoke with the tongue of angels, and had the gift of prophecy, and could remove mountains, and had nor charity or love, all would be of no avail.

    Matthew 7:22

    Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

    In that day – That is, in the last day, the day of judgment; the time when the principles of all pretenders to prophecy and piety shall be tried.

    Matthew 7:23

    And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

    Profess unto them – Say unto them; plainly declare.

    I never knew you – That is, I never approved of your conduct; never loved you; never regarded you as my friends. See Psalm 1:6; 2 Timothy 2:19; 1 Corinthians 8:3. This proves that, with all their pretensions, they had never been true followers of Christ. Jesus will not then say to false prophets and false professors of religion that he had once known them and then rejected them; that they had been once Christians and then had fallen away; that they had been pardoned and then had apostatized but that he had never known them – they had never been true Christians. Whatever might have been their pretended joys, their raptures, their hopes, their self-confidence, their visions, their zeal, they had never been regarded by the Savior as his true friends. I do not know of a more decided proof that Christians do not fall from grace than this text. It settles the question; and proves that whatever else such people had, they never had any true religion. See 1 John 2:19.

  • Why does practically every discussion RNS degenerate into a battle over homosexual behavior and rights or in more recent times, Trump. When did LGBT issues become the litmus test for religion, theology, ethics and philosophy in general?

  • When did homosexuality become the litmus trust of what defines a true Christian?

    When did being a moralizing busybody become the litmus test for being a true Christian? That’s a trick question.

  • So you believe that you have somehow magically been exempted from the human frailty of committing sin? Yah, that’s BS. For all have sinned includes everyone, before and after having become a Christian.

  • Or the Southern Baptists? They are very concerned about the fact that their congregations leak young folks on almost a daily basis.

  • Do they fall from grace?

    1 John 2:9
    Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister[a] is still in the darkness.

    1 John 2:9 says they never were in the light.

  • Well, the general concept is simple.

    Sexual congress with someone you’re not married to is a sin.

    Only an unmarried female and an unmarried male may enter into a marriage.

    So, yes, there are options for sinning.

  • Never heard of the guy, and I doubt that 99.9% of LBTQ folks have. So he can’t be the roots of anything to most of us.

    In the end it’s the sexual majority, heterosexuals, making its claim that it is the only natural sexuality and making bisexuality or homosexuality “unnatural” and verboten. Slowly, enlightened cultures are recognizing that for the bunk that it is and leaving other folks alone, no longer peeking into other folks bedrooms and no longer feeling the need to try to dictate the sex life of everyone by law.

  • Oh …. you mean they’re Judeo-Christian ideas that apparently mean nothing to post-Christians in small Western sects.

  • Your hearing of the guy, or any percentage of LBTQ folks, has zero to do with his contribution to LBTQ psychiatry, psychology, or anything else.

    25% of American believe the sun rotates the earth.

    https://www.yahoo.com/news/quarter-americans-convinced-sun-revolves-around-earth-survey-062143342–abc-news-topstories.html

    In the end it’s the revelation and the natural law that teach, not claim, that sex outside of marriage is immoral.

    Since neither of those change with time, the “enlightened cultures” are by definition post-Christian.

  • You must be a government worker or a college professor; basically someone who can’t compete in the real world and needs to rely on regulation or government hand outs.
    Weak.
    Thank God we had great men to build this country and not a bunch of weaklings like you.

  • They are religious ideas from various world religions that no longer hold sway as some sort of revealed truth for LGBTQ folks in the 21st Century. Such as in India, which stepped into the modern world of human rights this week with a major decision of its Supreme Court, which legally swept aside the influence of any faith in India with regard to LGBTQ folks and who they love. The fiction thrust upon the world in ancient times by heterosexual folk is being seen as it is and ignored.

  • Any fool knows the answer to your ridiculous fabricated proposal, that race of humans slowly comes to an end, based on how old each man is and how well that they all get along.

    But you are as stupid as your proposal about something not likely to happen. Have you so little faith in your idea of God, that you think that he would ever let the world become that situation?

  • That’s a new claim for me. I’ve never heard anyone make that claim about natural law and heterosexual sex outside of marriage.

    Lets play a Parker12 game, if there are 25 men and 45 women left of the human race, but none of them clergy of any flavor, how do they sinlessly continue the race according to natural law? Any of their couplings would be immoral and if they didn’t allow some sort of sexual sharing, leave a number of women out, dangerously shrinking the gene pool, possibly leaving out DNA material vital to the group’s future.

    Or, as we claim for ourselves, Progressive Christianity. And we don’t give a flying patootie whether it bears your seal of approval or not.

  • “That’s a new claim for me. I’ve never heard anyone make that claim about natural law and heterosexual sex outside of marriage.”

    It’s part of the Noahide Laws, given to Noah.

    It’s called “fornication”.

    “Lets play a Parker12 game, if there are 25 men and 45 women left of the human race, but none of them clergy of any flavor, how do they sinlessly continue the race according to natural law?”

    They marry each other.

    Twenty women remain unmarried (unless one of the twenty married women decease).

    Even the Catholic Church recognizes that the ministers of marriage are individuals marrying.

    “Or, as we claim for ourselves, Progressive Christianity.”

    You can claim Bald Eagles if you wish.

    What you claim, like believing the sun rotates around the earth, is irrelevant.

  • They held no sway for the entire world’s population at one point.

    India, if you have been there, is a mess.

    The “fiction” was thrust upon the world when sexual reproduction showed up.

  • Seriously! You can do better than that.

    What happens? It dies out— most likely, barring growing humans in a test tube. It doesn’t matter whether they are homosexual or heterosexual.

  • Really? This is the best you can do?

    It wouldn’t matter if they were homosexual or heterosexual. Lots of gay people have children. It’s nonsense and stupid nonsense at that to think that because we are gay, we don’t value family and children.

    The answer to your question: As long as it takes to fertilize one of them with stored sperm.

  • “As long as it takes to fertilize one of them with stored sperm.”

    Well that made me spit my coffee out laughing.

    I’ve got three punchlines I can’t post.

  • That’s right.

    Black people should have figured out by now that lynching minorities is wrong, yet for some reason they have not.

  • I didn’t write John 9:31.
    I didn’t write James 1:15 either. Your Exegesis is lacking. But not a big surprise.
    But will you answer my other question? Do homosexual c.hristians believe ‘sex before marriage’ is a sin? Or are homosexuals exempt from sexual sins?

  • Basic Grammar Rules —
    “Have”……………………a word denoting ‘past tense’. But go ahead…….love your sin and love being a sinner. Have fun.

  • It’s part of the Noahide Laws, given to Noah.

    Ah, so it isn;’t derived from natural law, but imagined revelation.

    Even the Catholic Church recognizes that the ministers of marriage are individuals marrying.

    Well then the answer to Parker12’s question is that LBGTQ folks lived in common law marriages based on covenants they made to one another.

    What you claim…is irrelevant.

    Right back at ya big guy.

  • Wow, that’s such a Christ-like attitude. I just know that he is so proud of you for your insulting stance.

    Bless your heart!

  • Playing “victim” as the perpetrators of harm turns “Christians” into the “wolf in a granny gown” of Little Riding Hood fame. My, dear “Christian,” what big teeth you have.

  • There is no true belief in Christ without boundaries. Politicians do not change the conditions of communities, disciples of Christ do.

    People who want a social gospel become so extremely hypocritical they think it’s hate when you explain FROM THE BIBLE what it says. To expect a believer to be in favor of someone’s life choices who habitually acts against Christian values is an insult to intelligence… on a third grade level. If you can read, no one has to tell you or bait you in for conversation.

    There is a church Exodus because money hungry, power abusive, lustful people have used Christian jargon to hide coveteousness and mammon worship. That’s not true Christianity at all.
    One dingbat wants $54 Million for a 4th airplane and we still have abandoned homes in areas from Katrina that need to be rebuilt in metro New Orleans and a large homeless population! It’s a shame with the Saints (football) do more for a community than the saints of God. These are some of the reasons people leave.

    In black gospel music, the #1 CD/Album is by Snoop Dogg. I mean really? There’s no difference between the Holy and Profane. Hill song has a naked cowboy on stage… they’re writing books entitled YOU NEED MORE MONEY and CHRISTIAN WOMEN LOVE SEX? Who are these “Christians” appealing to?

    Contrary to popular beliefs, most people, especially the younger folks, enjoy hearing the Truth spoken in love. We need to focus more on loving people with justice and truth instead of trying to be part of the “worlds system”.

  • I have no remorse whatsoever. I’m tired of hypocrites like the goat who benefit from capitalism and free markets yet cowardly throw out political innuendos in his commentary to tie the ills of the world to conservative Christians.
    If he wants to discuss economic systems then so be it -let’s compare the United States to Venezuela for starters.

  • The Noahide laws are the unwritten laws the gentiles observe.

    As described, they are the natural laws.

    That means two people of the same could have any form of marriage.

    Since you have a taste for cults, I am sure you will always find a place where they see it your way.

    Third time is the charm, I understand.

  • Unwritten laws. So they are in someone’s head, imagined.

    I didn’t think that main stream Christianity was a cult. Oh well, c’est la vie.

  • Almost everything you write came from someone’s head, imagined.

    Main stream Christianity does not include the Episcopal Church of the United States of America as currently configured, nor The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints.

    I have no particular axe grind with them, but both are not in the mainstream.

    Those, you tell us, are your choices – not necessarily in that order.

    C’est la vie, certainement.

  • Almost everything you write came from someone’s head, imagined

    Glass houses amigo, glass houses.

    Main stream Christianity does not include the Episcopal Church of the United States of America as currently configured…

    So says you. That isn’t how other US denominations in mainstream Christianity feel about TEC. Saying that you don’t have an axe to grind with TEC is a giant fib. You insult and dismiss TEC every chance that you get, even if the topic has nothing really to do with TEC. It’s very obviously one of your pet projects!

    And yes, they were in that order. I was excommunicated from the LDS Church in 1979 because I’m gay. I was confirmed a member of TEC by the Bishop of Western New York in 1983.

    OK, I’ve grown exceedingly bored with this, so I’m going to go do something more exciting.

  • Actually that IS how 85% of the US Christian denominations view the TEC.

    I am not insulting and dismissing TEC.

    If you want Christianity Lite, and don’t mind losing half your denomination in four decades, they’re the way to go.

    I recommend it to folks all the time.

    I’m betting you don’t have entire Hall theology series, copies of the Book of Common Prayer from 1549 forward through the American church, the Prayer Book Studies, and so on your bookshelf.

    Perhaps the fact that I know it better than you do plays into it, including knowing what it was before it became what it is.

    Your problem is you want what you want when you want.

    Christianity is designed to give what you need right now and explain why you should want it.

  • Here’s another funny one taken from Luke 19:27. In an allegorical reference to the Messiah, Jesus said,”…those enemies of mine who did not want me for their king, bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.” Your turn.

  • Isn’t “on that day” the supposed Judgement Day? If that’s true, how can the Apostle Paul and christian ministers claim that christians immediately enter heaven upon their deaths when Jesus claims it won’t be until Judgement Day? What did Paul know that Jesus didn’t?

  • Matthew 15:24, “Jesus said, ‘I was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and to them alone.'” Was Jesus lying?

  • Bad move to quote John since bible scholars like Sponge don’t believe Jesus said anything in John. You’ve never wondered why John is so radically different from the synoptics. It’s because it’s all fiction. Amen and amen.

  • “Sin” is a human construct just like your god, both creations of gullible fearful people who need a diety watching over them and rewarding their piety.

  • Oh yeah. Gay sex and baby killing is definitely a path to a stronger future. Those who condemn the messages of Church morality and instead insist on wealth redistribution that scarcely mentions God are following Marx, not Christ.

    Nobody goes to hell because they are poor. People do go to hell because they sin.

  • Your sin is attempting to impose your religious beliefs on others, in violation of the 1st Amendment.

  • Judgment always begins in the house of the LORD. I cannot understand why these pastors and priests do not understand that. They have been seduced by the lie that they are so important to the kingdom of GOD, they will be excused. There has to be full disclosure and removal from ministry. GOD is not interested in how big the ministry is; HE is interested in transformed lives.

  • When Willow opened the Care Center, was that to appeal to the wealthy and powerful? When Bill Hybels confessed in his sermons that he had failings, was that to appeal to the spiritually perfect? When Willow supported the opening of a church in downtown Chicago, with a mission and open doors to homeless, and promoted women and POC and relatively progressive ministers, was that in furtherance of the agenda you claim? Did your Dad tell you that was the agenda, and that he wrote The Case For Christ in order to get more good looking women for he and Hybels to prey on? DO YOU REALIZE TOXIC POWER IS A PROBLEM FOR MANKIND, and not just “the Church”? Have you thought through the consequences of non-believers reading your stretch of truth and actually believing it? CAN YOU TELL ME ONE TIME WHEN JESUS BROUGHT PEOPLE TO HIM AND HIS MINISTRY BY CRITICIZING HIS FOLLOWERS?

    I’m sure you have friends with a heart for the lost and have a heart for the lost as well. For their sake, I implore you to get on your knees before God and ask Him if Willow is the cause of toxic power… or the hope to point people to the One who showed us how to use real power (including telling many “stop sinning”.)

  • Or South Korea to North Korea or Florida to Cuba or Israel to Syria or Switzerland to Slovakia or Japan to Red China or Capitalist China to Red China… but we need the Church to explain how profit motive, price signals, and free enterprise deliver not just greater material wealth but greater personal and religious freedom? This is mostly about attacking the idea of a God who demands obedience to His Holy Spirit.

  • ” CAN YOU TELL ME ONE TIME WHEN JESUS BROUGHT PEOPLE TO HIM AND HIS MINISTRY BY CRITICIZING HIS FOLLOWERS?”

    Since no-one knows for sure that the man you refer to actually existed, and those of us who accept that the biblical Jesus is probably based on one, or more likely several, itinerant preacher(s) have no reliable information about anything he/they said/did you are on a pretty safe bet here aren’t you?

    As to the actions of those who seek/find themselves with power over people – the normal rules that most of us live by seldom apply. Generally everything becomes about image and every action is predicated on short-term wins – whatever the whim of the moment.

    Is your plea to present a united front to those who don’t believe as you do? If so – how is that different to the abuse of innocents by hypocrisy, lying and enabling that has occurred throughout religions and throughout the world. And yes, I accept that such behaviour is a part of the human condition and therefore not restricted to those who claim religious belief – but those who hide behind the petticoat tails of religion usually do so whilst falsely proclaiming that religion is somehow attached to, and imbued with, a superior moral code.

  • The Bible says that it is sufficient for all teaching, so if there was a teaching about the church (falsely) proclaiming its moral inferiority I’d expect to see it somewhere- except I don’t. I do see Jesus and others telling us to confess OUR personal sins, but the Church is where we go to do that, to support each other, and to learn there is a loving God who has a plan for us and who has sent His Son and Spirit to help us. I have heard many Willow attendees, including myself, confess our inadequacies and need for a Savior, and I have also witnessed the fruits of the ministry. The Willow GLS, for example, has helped so many people around the world, from Angola prison in Louisiana to Rwanda and Nigeria. Willow sent over 1 million seed packets to Guatemala this year. So many positives… I pray you will not be blinded by ignorance.

  • “The Bible says…..”
    – Because a book says that what is in it is true does not mean that that which it contains is, in fact true. Otherwise you have, I imagine, to accept the validity of the Koran, the Vedas, Dianetics etc..
    If you wish to differentiate one source from the others you have top be able to justify that separation by evidence – not belief, not wishful thinking, not conviction, not coincidence, not anecdote and not because of geographic location. There is no evidence which supports the special validity of the Bible and therefore it must be dismissed as a self-justification.

    “to learn there is a loving God….”
    – a) ever wondered why it is necessary to learn such matters – why wouldn’t it be obvious – if god(s) care(s) for us it should be obvious rather than hidden behind a wall of obfuscation that can only be pierced by self-proclaimed leaders
    – b) look at the world around you and explain to me how God is loving. Even if you believe the nonsense that everything good is down to God and everything bad (dementia, arthritis, cancer, poverty, hurricanes, MRSA etc. etc.) is somehow humanities fault you are left with two dilemmas
    1 – Since God knew in advance what would happen and chose, despite that foreknowledge, to proceed he is ultimately responsible (guilty) fro the suffering of the world’s population
    2 – A God who decides to punish those who did not transgress is evil. You wouldn’t punish your grandchildren for your kids’ misbehaviours when young would you?

    “I have also witnessed the fruits of the ministry….”
    I don’t doubt the positives you claim – good people do good things – and often do them without any element of religion. In fact, there is an argument that if you believe in an afterlife who’s quality can be affected by your actions you are incapable of true moral goodness since morality is generally defined as doing that which is right regardless of reward and/or punishment.

    And, whilst extolling the good, don’t forget the bad. The harm done to families through the restriction of opportunity by tithing, the physical, emotional and sexual abuse of children and adults by those in ridiculous authority, the emotional wickedness of misrepresenting natural and unchangeable natures as wanton deliberate choices.

    “I pray you will not be blinded by ignorance….”
    Ignorance is the air without which religion cannot breathe.
    Martin Luther said that it to be a Christian one must first pluck out the eye of reason. Religion ignores reason by appealing to emotion. When the emotion is tempered with sceptical thought and a healthy reasoning the result is usually the inability to accept supernatural belief.

  • The Bible 3000 years ago said time is relative, people are incapable of true morality, flesh and dust are similar chemical constituency, that there are as many stars as grains of sand, the universe came to be in an instant, supertankers are long and tall, fasting is good for you, and that the consequences of evil are not constrained by physics to just the perpetrators. Whistle in the dark if you want, but you can’t deny the power that true sacrificial love (no greater love is there than He that lay down His life) brings to humanity. People without a God have starved, gassed, and buried alive millions of their fellow humans, and after hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, where is your successful atheistic society even one place in the universe?

  • You can manipulate selected texts from many books, religious and non-religious and find ways of claiming that they got some forecasts right – heard of Nostradamus? Even if, by fluke, the book you choose to venerate, is sometimes right, and I don’t accept your list as accurate, that 1 – doesn’t validate the rest of the myths nor 2 – excuse the many things in it which are just plain wrong. The Garden of Eden, the creation (the universe did not come to be in an instant), the Flood (didn’t happen), the exile/plagues/exodus – didn’t happen. Language did not arise because of a tower and Israel was an insignificant patch of land until well past the alleged times of David and Solomon.

    Even the story about Jesus being born in Bethlehem because of a Roman census is poppycock.

    You have fallen victim to the natural human trait of “confirmation bias” – one of the reasons why the scientific method is important.

    ………………………….

    “you can’t deny….” – Yes I can – and love would do something about the horrors of this world, real love, knowing they would happen, would have stepped in early and prevented them.
    Your God is either incapable, disinterested, uncaring or non-existent – I go for non-existent due to the absence of either evidence or rational need to the contrary.

    ……………………………..

    Your last paragraph is irrelevant.

    Yes atheists have done wicked things – so have believers. Your statement has no bearing on the existence or otherwise of god(s).
    As to where is your successful atheistic society – same place as your successful religious society. Again an irrelevant red herring.

    …………………………….

    Have you noticed that this conversation seems to be developing a style. You say something(s) – I list and refute with alternative statements – you ignore my refutation and make a different point – I refute that further point. An independent observer might wonder if you actually can respond to my points, mightn’t they?

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