The Importance of the Money Going to the Right Place

Friends,

A while back, I received a box of goodies from “Blue Fish TV” on trial. The contents were several study guides, a book, and a DVD all by a fellow named Erwin McManus. I recently saw that he was on the INSP show hosted by James Robison (I forget its name because I only watch it as I’m passing by, but that day I did stop because I wanted to hear McManus). Well, I watched about 5 minutes of the DVD, flipped through the book, and then packed it up and it sat until I mailed it back to Blue Fish. It was crap. Turns out I wasn’t too far off. Here’s an essay from Apprising Ministries about this same Erwin McManus. It is quite scathing and eye opening. Read it here:

http://www.apprising.org/archives/2007/07/erwin_mcmanusa_1.html

Here’s a brief excerpt of the essay written by Ron Foster:

Erwin McManus has made it crystal clear that he hates Christianity. This is very well documented. He has said, “The greatest enemy of the movement of Jesus Christ is Christianity,” and “My goal is to destroy Christianity as a world religion and be a recatalyst for the movement of Jesus Christ”…  There are many who claim to be Christians but show no evidence of Christ being their Lord… We should hate that kind of “Christianity”…

But that’s not the kind of Christianity Erwin McManus is talking about. No, he’s talking about biblical Christianity. He’s talking about the Christianity of the Gospels, the Christianity of the Apostles, the Christianity that triumphed in the Reformation when certain godly men stood up for truth against Roman Catholic heresy. When Erwin says he wants to destroy Christianity, he is speaking of the Church of Jesus Christ that exalts God’s glory in justification by faith alone to the glory of God alone. Simply put, Erwin wants to destroy Truth. Now, let’s see how.

That’s damning–especially because McManus is all the rage now. He’s a hip dude–his ‘church’ has a hip name ‘Mosaic’, and he and they are a part of a hip new movement called the ‘Emerging Church.’

 _________________

Yesterday, I read a couple of essays in the August 5, 2007 issue of the Christian Standard–which was not easy to do. The first essay concerned a church that was, in the words of the author, ‘dying’ (but by the time he wrote the essay, ‘dead’). He wrote:

Death is the end of the natural order of things. A body wears out and dies. This is true of local churches as well as human beings. Perhaps the greatest church in the New Testament was at Antioch, but there is no evidence of that church today. It died. Its legacy is found in the churches that were started after Antioch.

Today some 4,000 churches a year in America close their doors. This number is likely to increase as our parents and grandparents die.

There is hope. As Christians we are assured death does not have the final word. In resurrection, Jesus Christ overcame death and promises that his followers will live eternally.

Dying and declining churches can choose to have this same resurrection legacy. Death does not need to be the end. (Thomas Jones)

http://www.christianstandard.com/articledisplay.asp?id=662

His point is that we should, as a congregation, leave a legacy. Which means, in short, making certain that the money goes to the right place when we have died or entrusting it to the ‘right’ people before we die–you know, people who know how to do what we can’t: plant a hip, culturally relevant, Purpose-Driven Megaback Church of the Prism in the Hills. It’s sort of the Christian Church way of dying with dignity. (Does that make Stadia the Dr. Kevorkian of the Christian Church? That might be harsh. Yeah, it’s harsh.) In this case, death with dignity meant ‘tapping into equity’ and restarting–but not apart from the help of Stadia:

They chose the latter, and asked Stadia and Florida Church Planters to help them continue their legacy by resurrecting Central Christian Church as a new church, Common Ground Christian Church. Common Ground will hold its first services this fall, with the goal of being a culturally diverse congregation.

________________

This essay at Christian Standard dot com includes an appendix where Jones, who is a professor at Emmanuel School of Religion and, not ironically, the regional director of Stadia East, wrote:

Should Yours Be a Legacy Church?

Perhaps your church is in a similar situation to Central Christian Church. What are your options?

• Be honest and talk openly about your church’s choices. Remember it is your choice and not the decision of a consultant or church-planting organization.

• Be clear about your church’s options. Many churches simply need better leadership and a renewed vision to be the church God has called them to be. Others should have the courage to become a legacy church by choosing to close their doors and use their assets to start new churches.

• Secure the help of a new church organization or consultant who can help your church through a decision-making process and implementation.

• Do not be hasty about making a decision. Death is never an easy thing.

• Celebrate the church’s legacy.

• Do not wait too long.

Strange that none of the options include revitalizing the preaching ministry, strengthing local outreach, or rededicating the church to prayer. What is most amazing about this essay is that it is devoid entirely of a committment to the sovereignty of God. I’m sure if you asked the author he would say that is implied and understood. But why is it that these ‘helps’ and all the decisions here seem to be solely the responsibility of the church and the consultant? Is there any place at all for the Wisdom of God to play a part? If 4,000 churches a year are closing their doors, doesn’t that tell all we need to know about human wisdom and decisions? Then again, if 4,000 churches a year are closing their doors, maybe that does tell us something about the wisdom of God after all. At that rate of closure, how long will the church in America have a presence in the world?

But that’s not all…

__________________

I also read another essay in the August 5, 2007 issue of the Standard. These paragraphs are excerpted from the online version of the essay:

Thousands of Christians have believed that if they love God, read the Bible, pray, abstain from evil, and attend worship, God will sustain and bless the congregation they serve. This makes for pretty good Judaism, but not Christianity. . . .

Numerous approaches are being promoted to help congregations understand church growth. The practical suggestions—like well-lit parking lots, flexible meeting times, multiple sites, casual food courts, public advertising, and music styles to fit every flavor—may not seem very biblical or essential to quality spirituality. But arguing about their importance is arrogant and inaccurate.

The assumption that spiritually healthy Christians will naturally reproduce faithful, devoted believers, and will automatically result in congregations that are dynamic, sacrificial, attractive, and culturally relevant, has simply not consistently proven true (Discovery 4). Hoping that those who are receptive to the good news of Jesus will be attracted to the quality and history of a congregation, is a pointless luxury. In theory, congregations should be healthier than they actually are, but in theory properly built ships shouldn’t need bilge pumps either, right? . . .

The energy and fuel for all congregations that want to stay afloat and do the work of Christ outside of the harbor is innovation, imagination, the synergy of gifts, Holy Spirit intuition, courageous leadership, celebration, momentum, and sacrifice. Were you expecting this list to include strong Bible teaching, small groups, a compelling vision, worship and prayer, and good leadership?

No congregation is healthier than the bonds of love and cooperation that hold it together (like rivets on a ship). So the prayer meetings and great preaching that stir our hearts, the Bible studies that motivate transformation, the children and teen programs that promote holy living, the supercharged fellowship that spills into service, and the worship that pulls us into the very throne room of Heaven, will never be enough to keep a congregation afloat (alive). But using these disciplines to win the lost and to mature the saved will help us leave the safety of the harbor for the open sea where God invites us to sail (live life) for him. (Phil Scott, First Christian Church, Kingsport, TN. http://www.christianstandard.com/articledisplay.asp?id=664)

Where is God in all this? Who decides if a church is not sea worthy any longer? Where is the wisdom of God? Is church growth, whatever that means, really entirely dependant upon mere human wisdom? Who decides what the energy and fuel is and where it should be used? I think ‘energy and fuel’ here is a euphemism for: Hey you small churches are wasting your money trying to keep afloat something God has abandoned a long time ago. Get out while you can.

There is so much wrong with this essay that I don’t really know where to begin, so I won’t. I’ll let it speak for itself. I will say this: When innovation and something the author vaguely refers to as ‘holy Spirit’ intuition, take precedence over Strong, Biblical, Gospel proclamation–well, the church does need to die. I think Mr. Scott, for all his undoubtedly God-given wisdom, has a very poor view of the Sovereignty of God, a very shallow understanding of who the Head of the Church is, and a dangerous misconception about the potency of human wisdom.

I’m all for well lighted parking lots, sacrifice, using our gifts together, etc. But this is pure nonsense otherwise because it is devoid of any dependency on the Sovereign Lord. And, it smacks of this: Isn’t there a better way to use the ‘energy and fuel’? Aren’t there other people in this world, younger, smarter, more hip, who can better determine how to use the ‘energy and fuel’ you are wasting keeping this sinking ship alive?  And this brings us full circle.

__________________

If Erwin McManus wants to destroy Christianity and the Church, what can we say about these folks who are almost bragging about the death of 4,000 churches a year? I would think of reading this sort of celebration at one those blogs written by atheists, not by Christians! Should this be a cause for celebration? Should we be concerned about their legacy? Should we be concerned about ‘energy and fuel’? What is the real motivation here? What is the real ambition of these folks?

Is it about more churches being under the stewardship of such groups as Stadia? Is it about more churches being planted that model the cultural relevancy model now being espoused by those geniuses sitting in offices strategizing, planning, and being intuitive? Just who exactly gets to decide when a Church is no longer viable? Just who decides when a church is sinking? Just who decides when Jesus is no longer meeting together with the two or three who gather in His Name?

You should read the entire articles, because I have probably left out some important facts. The second article, does, in fact hope at the end that the Church will once again set sail and join the battle for changing the world. My point here is that I think, despite the author’s intentions and his call to ‘ask the right questions’, the author is, in fact, asking the wrong questions. I don’t think he knows what the questions really are. I’m willing to ask them, because I believe I know what they are. They have nothing to do with a legacy. Nothing to do with energy and fuel (at least not the kind he suggests), and nothing to do with the destruction of Christianity–which one wants and another seems to celebrate. (4,000 churches dying a year is not a cause for an essay about legacies. It is a cause for great fear, sorrow, weaping, repentance, and calling on the Name of the Lord.)

I’ll post what I think are the questions we ought to be asking in another post later on today.

jerry

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