How Others See U.S.

They sound a lot like U.S.

The Good:

America is a blessed nation. Visiting New York and seeing Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty is a great reminder of how much blessing has been brought to and through America. For many decades, with all its faults, the USA has been a bastion of liberty and freedom. Its hard not to love America.

The Bad:

it was an incredible experience to share with Tim Keller and Alistair Begg. God continues to bless the US with such pastors. Alistair is a gift of God, (from Scotland!) whose local church and wider ministry is a significant factor in the US Church. He has a wonderful ability to explain and proclaim the Word of God clearly. Tim is just the sharpest exegete of culture I know – the fact that he is also a superb exegete of the Bible and brings the two together is what makes his ministry so helpful to many of us beyond his own congregation. But it was not just the well known pastors. One of the things I loved about the conference was the fact that so many ‘blue collar’ pastors were there, battered and bruised, and hungry for the Word of God. I felt at home with them! I love Tim Keller and Alistair Begg, both of whom are great gifts to the Church and for me personally a great help to my ministry, but the Basics conference was not about them.

The Ugly:

We need to pray for this because all is not well in the US. Its political system is in trouble – prone to corruption, dumbing down and short termism. It is terrifying that someone with the reputation and inabilities of Hilary Clinton could actually become the most powerful person in the world – primarily because she has the backing of the corporate world which will grant her $2 billion of a war chest. . . .

All is not well in the church either. I don’t like the celebrity culture, the emphasis on money, the corporate business mentality or the view that America = Christianity. Yes much has been given to the Church in the US, but to whom much has been given, much is required. I think that a great deal of the Church in the US is self-obsessed, consumerist, dumbed down and shallow. How else can you explain a Church where Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer and Rob Bell are significant figures? But its not just the obvious false teachers. My fear is that the Church is being invaded by the culture, rather than the other way round.

So there are good celebrities (TKNY) and bad ones, exegetes of culture who don’t analyze celebrity culture. And there are good politicians — Jeb Bush? — and bad, Hilary. I was hoping for an outsider’s perspective.

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165 thoughts on “How Others See U.S.

  1. Hmmm. So Robbo is anti-Hillary. I’ve always thought he was quite the progressive and definitely anti-Tory. And he’s and advocate of Scottish nationalism. Would he be a neo-Confederate in the US? I suppose Keller would nix that idea, though. Preachers are not great with politics in their own countries, maybe even worse analysts of other countries.

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  2. Well the jury is still out, so we are not sure if Hillary Bush or Jeb Clinton will be the next puppet Potentate in (Nominal) Charge of the New Gay World Order under the CFR and the Trilat. Commish.

    Servando says “Hitlary for Fuhrer in 2016” though, in the spirit of turning the heat up enough to scald the frog, rather than slowly parboiling the poor sucker.

    We say, vote early, vote often, vote Dimocrat because the Repugs own the voting machines.

    And we all know what Mencken and Curt say, so there’s no need for Robbo to try to pierce the haze over the wasteland.

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  3. Just cuz she’s running doesn’t mean she’s a shoe in.

    Here’s how the other guy spends his time while Mr. President remains in track to have golfed more than any previous president before him. Can’t say I blame him..why he gave up smoking I’ll never know (maybe he hasn’t).

    Good post.

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  4. ^^^^ that ^^^^^ was just an article for the TKNY file, also thought it was interesting that Kirsten was in K. Keller’s Bible study:

    I didn’t know what to do, so I spoke with writer Eric Metaxas, whom I had met through my boyfriend and who had talked with me quite a bit about God. “You need to be in a Bible study,” he said. “And Kathy Keller’s Bible study is the one you need to be in.” I didn’t like the sound of that, but I was desperate. My whole world was imploding. How was I going to tell my family or friends about what had happened? Nobody would understand. I didn’t understand. (It says a lot about the family in which I grew up that one of my most pressing concerns was that Christians would try to turn me into a Republican.)

    I remember walking into the Bible study. I had a knot in my stomach. In my mind, only weirdoes and zealots went to Bible studies. I don’t remember what was said that day. All I know is that when I left, everything had changed. I’ll never forget standing outside that apartment on the Upper East Side and saying to myself, “It’s true. It’s completely true.” The world looked entirely different, like a veil had been lifted off it. I had not an iota of doubt. I was filled with indescribable joy.

    The horror of the prospect of being a devout Christian crept back in almost immediately. I spent the next few months doing my best to wrestle away from God. It was pointless. Everywhere I turned, there he was. Slowly there was less fear and more joy. The Hound of Heaven had pursued me and caught me—whether I liked it or not.

    Kirsten Powers is a contributor to USA Today and a columnist for Newsweek/The Daily Beast. She is a Democratic commentator at Fox News.

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  5. How outsider do you want to go? Do you want European views? Or do you want Middle Eastern or Asian views? Finally, we could also look for views from Central and South America. My guess is that views coming from those areas of the world will be significantly different from the views quoted in this post.

    I would also add that it is time to end Hart’s war against TKNY.

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  6. When then, l’unificateur, what is required for a burying the hatchet? Or is it all war all the time? Just askin’

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  7. We OPCers are but a small lot, we occasionally go off the rails, I expect due to our perceived marginality. I’ll buy your story, and as my work computer boots up, I await with anticipation reading my twitter timeline for the joy you will bring as only you can do, cw l’u. :mrgreen: thx

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  8. @AB I don’t think anyone would dispute that Keller is gifted and a lot of good things have come about because of how he applies his gifts. I’m glad that Powers knows Christ now. The something, however, could be said about hucksters who preach the gospel for dishonest gain. People really do come to Christ because of their ministry and Paul was glad that happened. That doesn’t make the huckster without need of correction. Now I’m not saying Keller is a huckster at all. But by refusing to play by the PCA rules he creates space for others to do the same and that is a very big problem. It is worth pointing that out even if there are a lot of great things happening because of his ministry. Especially given the negative publicity a certain other church has gotten for hushing up bad things so as not to mar the good happening.

    I will say that I enjoy Begg’s podcast and have benefited from his preaching. His criticism of celebrity culture and politicization of evangelicalism are mostly spot on I think. But he is very wrong about other important things. I don’t see why pointing out what he gets wrong is so bad…

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  9. SDB, my position here is very simple.

    DGH is fallible. TKNY is fallible, heck, even the l’unificateur is fallible (did I pronounce that right?).

    To stir the pot only a tad, I mean, come on: DGH lays down the gauntlet calling into question the validity of TKNY’s confessional vows. That’s no small charge, SDB. I get where DGH is coming from, I’m a spoiled rotten OPCer, my church could not be more heavily stressing Word and Sacrament as I type, so don’t get me wrong, TKNY has a long way to go, I agree.I want to say brother Tim gains about 1000 followers on twitter by the week, he’s up to 203,000. But with Machen, we’re not about columns of church statistics, I know, I know. Just sometimes, someone’s gotta call for the Christmas truce, just once in a while. Just sayin.

    Now, back to warlike-AB. Enjoy that while it lasted, peeps.

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  10. never a bad day for a machen quote:

    People object to the Roman Catholics, for example, because they engage in “propaganda.” But why should they not engage in propaganda? And how should we have any respect for them if, holding the view which they hold — that outside the Roman church there is no salvation — they did not engage in propaganda first, last, and all the time? Clearly they have a right to do so, and clearly we have a right to do the same . . . .

    Does this mean, then, that we must eternally bite and devour one another, that acrimonious debate must never for a moment be allowed to cease? . . . . There is a common solution of the problem which we think ought to be taken to heart. It is the solution provided by family life.n countless families, there is a Christian parent who with untold agony of soul has seen the barrier of religious difference set up between himself or herself and a beloved child. Salvation, it is believed with all the heart, comes only through Christ, and the child, it is believed, unless it has really trusted in Christ, is lost. These, I tell you, are the real tragedies of life. And how trifling, in comparison, is the experience of bereavement of the like! But what do these sorrowing parents do? Do they make themselves uselessly a nuissance to their child? In countless cases they do not; in countless cases there is hardly a mention of the subject of religion; in countless cases there is nothing but prayer, and an agony of soul bravely covered by helpfulness and cheer.

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  11. I read for the first time the other Mr President‘s vision from 2005 of a general assembly made up of reformed denominations each sending a delegate, imagine TKNY getting the snub when a more confessional delegate is sent to the united nations of american reformed denominations:

    This simple (and modest!) proposal would obviously have to be worked out in terms of specifics, but let me suggest some of the elements of the idea that would help it work. The general assembly would adopt the Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity as its confessional basis. It would meet every three years and have very specific, limited powers. It would have the authority to make decisions in relation to joint actions of the synods. The general assembly would be composed of delegations from the synods according to the size of the synod (in fairness to the larger synods), but the decisions of the assembly would have to be ratified by a majority of the synods (in fairness to the smaller synods.) The assembly would have the authority to remove a synod that was judged to have departed from the Reformed faith but would not have the authority to interfere with the internal operations of a synod. The assembly would encourage greater cooperation and coordination among the synods, and over time some synods would probably merge, but each synod would be free to make those decisions on its own.

    It’s a provacative, although in my opinion, unnecessary step. We are after all already a part of the en[dot]wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Conference_of_Reformed_Churches, of which we do not share in common with those in the Presbyterian Church in America. Only the elite can claim to be charter members of the ICRC, yo.

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  12. D.G.,
    Yes, it is ironic, but we all create ironies. I would like to see a post by you in which you sincerely list 5 contributions Tim Keller has made. The rest of the post can contain criticisms. The only thing I have heard from you on Tim Keller are criticisms and he is a fellow believer who does has made a positive impact on some people.

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  13. Curt, it would be hard to fit any more praise on that shelf, and like the apologists for Rome, rare is the praiser of TKNY who acknowledges problems or even worries about doing more harm than good. I mean, Marx made a positive impact on you.

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  14. Indeed, you could get trampled on the way to the mic to praise TKNY. The fanboys run to do so the way TGC attendees rush the stage when doors open before TK or Piper speaks — hem of his garment and all that.

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  15. What celebrity pastors hath conservative Presbyterianism wrought?

    JG Machen
    Tim Keller

    I know of no others.

    Ironic?

    Help me out of this quandary.

    Is TKNY our generations JGM?

    Thoughts, cw ‘lu? DGH?

    Peace.

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  16. Trueman maybe, but TKNY has 203k twitter followers.

    Without TKNY, we wouldn’t have any celebrity figure.

    He’s a blessing, not the reverse. Granted a lot of people still don’t know who Keller is.

    Not many can pull this off:

    He’s unique and a rare gift. Be thankful. He has warts, but let those of us without sin cast the first stone.

    OK, got it out of my system

    Next

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  17. AB, whatever substance/meds, etc. you’ve been taking or not taking the last couple of days — do the opposite. Do not compare Machen to TK. Machen was never a celebrity. He had a certain status and credibility that extended even to the East Coast media, but he was not a celebrity, never attracted multitudes (even of the modest Presbyterian sort), and had no PR/publishing/conference machine at his disposal. Please. But we are still talking about him. Who’s talking about Erdman, Stevenson, or even Fosdick?

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  18. Cwlu, first off, you and I are brothers. I will happily take my meds. Nothing but respect from you.

    Was JGM ever on the cover of Time? He was at least written about:

    http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,883285,00.html

    Look, I’m not trying to create problems. I like DGH more than TKNY. I have a personal history studying TKNY back to 2007 in deacon training class.

    Still, who are the quote in quote celebrities of conservative presbyterianism. Clearly DGH is a celebrity, but he is not a pastor. No dig there, I’m not a pastor either, and I know it. I don’t shepherd souls, DGH does as an RE but not in the same way his brother Tim Keller does.

    If you want me to shut up, I can try, but it doesn’t usually work that way for me. I think there’s a connection between these two titans (or call them what you will )

    200 years from now, what will the history books say of TKNY? Just curious. We root for the same baseball team CW.

    OK, pills going down, thus ends my “off the reservation” moment.

    Thanks for indulging me.

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  19. Nothing but respect *FOR you cwlu

    On my cell phone, exercising. My bad for the typos. I’ll check in when I get into the office. Again, much obliged.

    Next.

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  20. Parkside Church (where Rev. Begg ministers) is located to the southeast of Cleveland (in Chagrin Falls). I pastor a small OP church (what other kind is there?) to the northeast of Cleveland (in Mentor), probably about 1/2 hour drive from Parkside. I do not doubt that Parkside Church preaches the gospel and does a lot of good in this region of Ohio. Nor do I doubt that both Rev. Begg and Rev. Keller are sincere and gifted men from whom we can learn much. At the same time, from a “big picture” perspective, I believe that churches like Parkside end up doing more spiritual harm in the end than good within the regions where they exist. They do so by drawing members away from smaller congregations and by providing an environment where professing believers can be anonymous and unaccountable.

    I suspect that many attendees at Parkside have been drawn there by the presence of its “celebrity” pastor, Alistair Begg, and by all the “bells and whistles” of this well-funded, highly-programmed church. Though I don’t have hard statistics, one suspects that many of these attendees have been drawn from smaller congregations in the region. (It’s like when Walmart comes to town; the mom & pop shops lose customers or end up going out of business.) And this is not healthy for Body of Christ. As Paul makes abundantly clear in First Corinthians, the celebrity mindset (“I follow Paul”; “I follow Apollos”; “I follow Keller”; “I follow Begg”) is an indication of worldiness and spiritual immaturity.

    One time I and my family visited Parkside on a Sunday when I was on the tail end of a vacation. It was the third Sunday morning service at the church. The parking lot was a zoo, as attendants directed traffic. The large auditorium was packed. While the worship was of a more “contemporary” flavor, it was actually done quite tastefully and didn’t involve too many obvious violations of the regulative principle. Rev. Begg was surprisingly quite involved in leading the service (he even did a pastoral prayer in which he mentioned congregants by name — something very impressive for a megachurch pastor!). And Rev. Begg’s sermon (it was his third time preaching that morning — you could tell his voice was tired) was sound and biblical. But in spite of these pluses, the problem with all of this, as I see it, is that we were able to be almost completely anonymous there. (Yes, a friendly greeter welcomed us and we received a friendly “hello” from some neighboring pew sitters; but other than that we were almost entirely ignored.)

    It is my understanding that one of the “draws” of Parkside is that it allows folks to be anonymous, and thus unaccountable. Seems to me that the megachurch congregational dynamic (such as what one finds at churches like Parkside) is quite different from the illustration Paul uses in First Corinthians 12 of believers being connected and involved members of one another in the Body of Christ.

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  21. TKNY ain’t no Eugene Carson Blake.

    TKNY is marginal loser like the rest of us conservative presbys. Tkny ain’t no celebrity, I think he knows it. 203k followers notwithstanding.

    If anything, cwlu, Machen and Tkny are united on the common identity as loser. As are all we olters.

    Bask in the glow..(emoticon)

    Next. 😈

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  22. Sdb,

    If Keller refuses to play by the PCA’s rules and the PCA does nothing about it, are they really the PCA’s rules?

    Isn’t this what we criticize Catholics for?

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  23. I pastor a small OP church (what other kind is there?)

    I hear there is a mega OP Church in south east (mega for OP equals 300 attenders and a working bathroom)

    http://covenantopc.org is our mega op out here in the bay area. Where I was ordained. We had two morning services because we couldn’t fit everyone. Parking is still a problem there.

    But it was too big, so we started a smaller congregation (providencepresbyterianchurch dot org) and it’s thriving.

    Just reporting from the frontlines. Jeff Landis is our closet thing to celebrity out here, he’s great. Defended me in my ordination, our pastor when he was up for ordination, and he golfs. 2013 moderator.

    I digress. Jefflandis dot org, check him out.

    Next.

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  24. Geoff,

    Did you enquire as to Parkside’s small group life?

    What’s the difference between a church of 50 or a mega church where you get to know 15 well in a small group?

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  25. Erik, JGM founded my Church?

    Well, I usually think that Jesus Christ founded the church I am in ( of which we are a branch I mean), but that makes Bryan Cross grumpy. We can stick with your story, sure
    I just like comparing JGM to TKNY and see what transpires. I learnes to troll from the zen master himself.

    Man, these meds aren’t as strong as they used to be. Two more..now

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  26. Hey Erik, if I don’t make my wife coffee, she’s gonna kill me.

    I need to hit the road and get into the office. I’ll be offline for two hours, everyone, do your worst. I loom forward to reading. :mrgreen:

    Lates.

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  27. Geoff,

    Good post, and let’s not forget ecclesiology. If God has laid out in scripture iure divino how he wants his church governed, I am more and more convinced that large churches cannot be accommodated into this system. Human nature doesn’t change overnight when one is regenerated any more than men become angels when they enter govt. Large churches struggle with submitting to the needs and difficulties of smaller congregations.

    Why should an elder or pastor from a church with massive numbers and a massive budget, which outwardly is very “successful”, receive only one vote in a meeting of Presbytery while another elder or pastor from a church with 60-80 members, a modest and barely-met budget, and outwardly “unsuccessful” also receives one vote? Human nature won’t tolerate such seeming injustices too long. So while anonymity in larger churches is a problem, the inevitability of a growing desire not to submit to presbyterian forms (I realize Pastor Begg’s church is not presbyterian) is to me more disturbing.

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  28. Erik: “A church that preaches the gospel is doing more harm than good?”

    GW: Again, please read my comments in context.

    The short term “good” of a Parkside Church is that people are hearing the gospel and getting saved.

    The long term “harm” is that smaller congregations (even faithful ones) are being emptied out as people are drawn to churches like Parkside, and the Body-life of the church is undermined by the “mega” part of the megachurches.

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  29. David, yes. To Keller’s credit he does not openly manipulate the PCA — it’s far enough along the progressive road that he doesn’t have to. But make no mistake, he could determine the outcome of any floor vote with a word — such is his influence.

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  30. David C. Noe: “Good post, and let’s not forget ecclesiology. If God has laid out in scripture iure divino how he wants his church governed, I am more and more convinced that large churches cannot be accommodated into this system.”

    GW: Thanks, David. You make a good point. I am more and more convinced that the “megachurch” model for doing church (which is basically a consumerist-driven business model) is simply unbiblical, and I believe that biblical ecclesiology almost requires small(er) churches. While I think we have to avoid the phariseeism of saying that a church cannot exceed a certain size in order to maintain a biblical ecclesiology, at the same time it seems to me that in most circumstances today a church which has @ 200 members should seriously consider planting a daughter congregation with a core group from amongst that membership (perhaps @ 50 people).

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  31. D.G.,
    Actually, my last note is influenced by the Scriptures. And there seems to be plenty of room on that shelf for your words.

    Certainly there are times to criticize each other. But when criticism is all we have to say about a fellow Christian, then it seems that we are forgetting that we all belong to Jesus Christ.

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  32. @Geoff W – your description of Parkside Church is apt, and Parkside is fairly typical of megachurches. There are all kinds of reasons – most of them good ones (for one major thing, the Biblical teaching is typically stronger) — why these churches attract a large audience. Yes, they have their weaknesses (eg, less accountability), too. Similarly, I’m guessing your (presumably) high accountability church has other weaknesses in areas that Parkside does not.

    To address the accountability concern, megachurches typically emphasize the need for its members to be in smaller community groups (and guess what, egads, these small groups usually don’t meet on Sundays, which will be disturbing to many around here!). Not perfect, but small groups are a good faith attempt at instituting accountability and living I Cor 12. Further, so many of the megachurches (including Parkside) subdivide and plant other churches.

    As far as I can tell, there’s the potential for just as much spiritual pride for those who say “I go to a small OPC church of 80 members” as there is for those who want to claim “I follow Begg”.

    My question for you and the other old-school-P&R folks around OL is this: so, what is it you’re recommending be done in a positive way? In your view, what are places like Parkside supposed to do? Tell visitors and wanna-be members to go away? Thank God Peter and the church in Jerusalem didn’t get your memo – “So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there added THREE THOUSAND souls” (Acts 2:41). Just seems like there’s a lot of hand-wringing and whining (maybe envy?) going on here towards growing large churches.

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  33. The meds are working.

    I think there’s something to the fact that TKNY is the first and only celebrity NAPARC pastor.

    That alone should demand a level of respect.

    Remember, DGH says TKNY is in potential violation of breaking his confessional vows. Therefore, NAPARC celebrity pastor is taken to task, the only one we NAPARCers have ever had, and at this pace, likely to ever have.

    It’s interesting. And TKNY has his own anti TKNY in cw l’u

    Peace brothers (bros before hoes). Who’s next?

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  34. If one notes carefully, I wasn’t talking about the dangers of spiritual pride, as when Petros says “As far as I can tell, there’s the potential for just as much spiritual pride for those who say “I go to a small OPC church of 80 members” as there is for those who want to claim “I follow Begg”.”

    Sure, pride can arise anywhere. I was talking about consequences of actions. Being proud of being a member of an 80 member OPC, what can that do to the viability of God’s ordained form of church government, Presbyterianism? Pride in being part of a very large church, that has negative consequences for church govt. that are quite different.

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  35. @DavidNoe – apparently the church in Jerusalem figured out its church government just fine, notwithstanding having 3000 new members in one day. Again, there may be a few legit concerns that arise from very large churches. But, in the bigger picture, do you really want to sweat the purity/viability of your church government system being threatened by numbers, or celebrate the progress of the gospel? I’ll opt for the latter.

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  36. AB, TKNY is Jack Miller with a New Life church in Manhattan, an agent with contacts at Basic Books, and journalists at the Wall St. Journal who supposed secularization was the prevailing model.

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  37. Good grief, Pete — Parkside is just a big baptistic church like a thousand others. What will they do when Begg and his accent retire? If I was a member there and had a complaint who would I go to beyond Begg and his boys? If you can’t see the downside to the model (which is found nowhere in scripture) then we can’t help you.

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  38. @Petros

    You’re confident all those believers in Acts 2 worshipped on the same “campus”? I’m not sure what you mean by “progress of the gospel”, and it’s not my system of church government so I intend to sweat alot.

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  39. @CW – you have a firm grasp of the obvious, CW. Yes, there are potential problems with large churches, including what to do when TKNY or Begg retire. Continue your hand-wringing, if you must. But, what is it you’re recommending be done in a positive way? In your view, what are places like Parkside supposed to do? Tell visitors and wanna-be members to go away?

    @DavidNoe – where all 3000 new believers worshipped – on one campus, or several campuses – is not a concern of mine. Either way is fine. The silence of the book of Acts on that subject may be instructive – it apparently was not a concern of Peter’s, either. Sorry, I didn’t think “progress of the gospel” was a confusing term. Think of it as a) people hearing and responding to the gospel and being saved, and b) new believers being discipled and solidified in their faith, and c) the expansion (numerically, and geographically) of the church.

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  40. AB, it’s not about celebrity, reach, numbers. It’s about faithfulness (as simple and vanilla as that sounds). TKNY would be great if he were Bill Hybels. But TKNY is supposed to be Presbyterian. He has a higher standard.

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  41. cwl, and TKNY could deflect the attention away from himself, or even go Francis Schaeffer and warn the PCA about its course or affairs. But he doesn’t pick fights.

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  42. Petros, the model used to be when churches became too big, you plant another one. Imagine how many pastors who are looking for calls would find work.

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  43. Petros, so you like size. Rome as 1.2 billion members and still confesses the Nicene Creed. How’s that work for you?

    Please don’t rely on confessional Protestant arguments to answer. How do you in your spirit-filled way evaluate the progress of the gospel? 4 figures? 5? 6?

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  44. @ Erik
    “sdb, If Keller refuses to play by the PCA’s rules and the PCA does nothing about it, are they really the PCA’s rules? Isn’t this what we criticize Catholics for?”

    Exactly. I think Keller does a lot of great things, but he gets some important things very wrong. Covering that up (or ignoring it) because he does *GREAT THINGS* is a recipe for disaster. I’m no expert in PCA governance, but *IF* he has done things that violate his ordination vows and the PCA takes a pass on holding him accountable, then the PCA is making a devastating mistake.

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  45. @DGH – okay, I get it, you like small. Enjoy the small. I’m not fixated on size as you are. However, if churches have real spiritual life, they tend to reproduce and grow, just as any other living organism typically does. You apparently didn’t do sufficient research, as you can easily surf to Parkside’s (or many other megachurch’s) website and find a list of other churches they’ve planted, which is apparently still inadequate in your esteemed opinion. Now, go back to your hand-wringing that so many people have been blessed by places like Parkside.

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  46. Petros, just to add to Darryl’s point, it’s why there is a church on every corner here in Little Geneva–the Reformed inherently distrusted big-o-sity and when a church became a certain size they simply broke off. It wasn’t a matter of “telling visitors and wanna-be members to go away,” rather just a sensible thing to do if you have a sensible ecclesiology.

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  47. Thanks again DGH. Gonna try to stop now.

    SDB, I was wrestling with the fact that engaging with Keller has DGH going after TKNY’s confessional vow (that’s a knee to the nads). As long as we are clear what we are saying and have good reason, I stand with General Hart. General Keller may need a good sitting down (like Bunny Colvin), but who’s to say he can’t come out on top. Season 4 is looking good so far for bunny, in other words

    Time will tell. Flumm embraced, yo.
    Peace.

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  48. Petros, I’ll do that only as soon as you are so sunny-side upbeat about small Presbyterian communions like the one you belong to. Give us some of that TKNY PCA love.

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  49. AB, to embrace the flumm is to give up following Generals. Don’t follow me. Don’t follow TKNY. Look to the oversight in your congregation, presbytery, etc. Lots of flumm there.

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  50. It’s a playful rhetorical flourish.

    There’s only king Jesus.

    When they start looking to me at age 33 to lead this new church that, again, is thriving, I look to my betters for wisdom.

    Nah, I don’t follow you DGH (except on twitter, I don’t follow TKNY, if these silly interweb connections mean anything), I don’t even know you 😛

    But you can’t deny that you are an influential figure. How influential? Embrace that flumm, yo.

    I’m out.

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  51. @DGH, sorry to disappoint, but I can only give you generic eeevangelical bible-baptistic love, but not PCA love. Fwiw, I’m familiar with one smaller PCA church for which I am very sunny-side upbeat about. So there.

    @Zrim – I actually have personal sympathies for small church ecclesiology of which you speak. But, I also have sympathies and appreciation for the Parkside’s and TKNY’s of the world, where they are seizing the opportunity to maximize their gifts and ministries for the greater expansion of the church at large. That’s why I’m not only a cafeteria Calvinist but a cafeteria ecclesiast….I try to pick the best stuff off of every menu. In the meantime, I just don’t see the value of continual harping on the TKNY’s of the world.

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  52. @GeoffWilfour – remember, the essence of this post had to do with the Wee Flea’s report on the pastoral conference at Parkside Church, where 1267 pastors (of mostly small congregations) attended. So, at least those 1267 pastors apparently disagree with your thesis that Parkside poses a threat to small churches. They all apparently view Parkside as a resource and a blessing, and not a source of “harm”.

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  53. Petros, pardon, but it’s hard to buy the claim that you have sympathies for small church ecclesiology. You seem skeptical and antagonistic to it. That’s fine, I’m a skeptical and antagonistic toward big boxes. You don’t have to play diplomat, is what I’m saying.

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  54. And really, DGH, you don’t know what it’s like out here in the presby of Norcal of the OPC. Although I hear the PNW is worse (can I get an aymenah from our brothers up north?)

    The farther we are from galactic HQ (Willow Grove, PA), the worse it gets, I feel like I’m out in d**m tatooine here in the bay area. pray for our presbytery, it needs a lot of help (no need for a GA special delegation like back in 2009, I’ll let you know if we ever need that again).

    Fore.

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  55. I grew up in the CRC/URC, so I can second Zrim’s observation. We Dutch Reformed have little experience with mega-churches (Crystal Cathedral doesn’t count). In my current PCA, we probably have about 125-150 members. Our pastor is already stretched thin. I can’t imagine if our church grew to over 200 or so that there would continue to be the meaningful interaction between the session and congregation that there is now.

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  56. @Zrim – not antagonist to small church ecclesiology at all. But, I do have angst with small-church-ecclesiologists who want to harp continually on anything ‘big’, as if that’s de facto ‘bad’. How about recognizing that maybe, just maybe, there’s far more than just ecclesiological reasons why some churches are ‘big’ and others are ‘small’.

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  57. @mboss, nice that you have a cozy church of 125-150 people. And, exactly how many new churches has your local congregation planted in the past 5 yrs? 10 yrs? 20 yrs?

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  58. If only TKNY would follow Robbo’s lead in explaining Presbyterian communions and their differences:

    For those outside Presbyterian circles it is difficult to understand the importance of the annual General Assembly of each Church. This is especially true in Scotland, where for decades the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland was considered the equivalent of a national parliament. Of course, the times they are a-changin’. Scotland now has its own parliament and the Church of Scotland has declined from 1.4 million members to fewer than 400,000.

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  59. Petros – Cozy? I don’t know about that. I like to have my space. Plus, we have a squirmy 4 year old to keep under wraps.

    But, only because you inquire so winsomely yet demandingly, our church was planted about two years ago, and we have planted another church in the area since we started.

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  60. CW, J.P. would at least be the most passionate, earnest, zealous, hedonistic meanie you’ve ever met.

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  61. Petros: “@GeoffWilfour – remember, the essence of this post had to do with the Wee Flea’s report on the pastoral conference at Parkside Church, where 1267 pastors (of mostly small congregations) attended. So, at least those 1267 pastors apparently disagree with your thesis that Parkside poses a threat to small churches. They all apparently view Parkside as a resource and a blessing, and not a source of “harm”.”

    GW: As I stated in my first comment, I acknowledge that Rev. Begg is a gifted man from whom we can learn, and that Parkside does indeed do a lot of good in the larger Cleveland area. I’m sure their pastor’s conference can be very helpful and encouraging to the pastors who attend. (Who knows, maybe some year I’ll attend it as well.) But when I spoke of the “harm” of churches like Parkside I wasn’t discounting the short-term good they do, nor did I have in mind such potentially-beneficial things like their pastors’ conference. Rather, I had in mind more of a “big picture,” ecclesiastical concern regarding the megachurch ministry methodology common among churches like Parkside (i.e., a consumer-oriented business model of ministry), and their practical impact upon smaller churches in their area which do, in actual fact, often lose members who are drawn to the glitz and glamour of the local hip, happening, celebrity-focused megachurch in their community.

    Sure, you are correct that smaller churches like most OP churches can be guilty of taking a perverse, sinful pride in their smallness. That is a sin that I’ve certainly had to repent of. And perhaps my own perspective is somewhat jaded by the fact that my own congregation has had its share of seeing dear saints depart for the “greener pastures” of the local ecclesiastical behemoth known as Parkside; so, in a sense, I know whereof I speak when I speak of the “harm” (unintentional though it no doubt is) of megachurches like Parkside to smaller congregations. After all, how can a small, struggling OP church like ours, with its simple, unadorned and rather uncool (regulative principle) worship, its limited programs, and its non-celebrity, terminally unhip pastor, ever hope to “compete” with an uber-cool, well-financed, heavily programmed megachurch like Parkside, with its hip celebrity pastor and all its “bells and whistles”?

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  62. @mboss – very cool that your young church already started a new one. PTL for that.

    @GW – one option would be to not view Parkside as the “competition”, but rather as fellow team members. There’s plenty of unchurched secular folks for big and small churches alike to win to Christ to grow their churches. As a non-P&R guy though, from the outside looking in, there appears to be a culture-bound, stodgy grandparent-esque character to old-school-P&R churches (perhaps not yours), that is, well, not going to be particularly appealing to churched or unchurched people, in comparison to places like Parkside. Most OL’ers, of course, feel that says more about Parkside being distastefully hip/trendy/consumerist/businesslike. I get that. But, some of us eeevangelicals, of course, wonder why Old-Schoolers appear unwilling to make adiaphorous cultural adaptations rather than shrivel up into irrelevancy. (I’m expecting major blowback on the last 4 sentences, so I may have to go into hiding.)

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  63. …some of us eeevangelicals, of course, wonder why Old-Schoolers appear unwilling to make adiaphorous cultural adaptations rather than shrivel up into irrelevancy…

    Petros, what does this mean?

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  64. Petros: “@GW – one option would be to not view Parkside as the “competition”, but rather as fellow team members. There’s plenty of unchurched secular folks for big and small churches alike to win to Christ to grow their churches.”

    GW: I appreciate your comments. I had the word “compete” in scare quotes for a reason. In the sovereign plan of God I know places like Parkside are not “competition” in the ultimate spiritual sense (at least not in the same way that Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons or Muslims are “competition”), since the gospel is preached there and sinners come to know Christ there. And, yes, you are correct that there are plenty of unchurched secular folks to be reached for Christ. But the problem, from my “old sider” and “old schooler” perspective, is that some of the things you as an self-proclaimed “eeevangelical” might view as “adiaphorus cultural adaptations” are, from our perspective, not morally neutral or adiaphorus.

    For example, I believe Scripture directly rebukes (in places like First Corinthians) the kind of Christian celebrity-ism that megachurches (including otherwise sound ones) tend to promote and often depend upon for their very existence. (One suspects that after Rev. Begg has moved on or passed on, Parkside will likely lose a significant portion of its membership, since the church seems so centered on his “name brand.” I could be wrong, but the Alistair Begg “name brand” seems to be vital to the existence of Parkside, at least to its main campus.)

    I believe that Scripture reveals a shepherd-care model for local church ministry which assumes a close-knit community where the shepherd-pastor and elders actually know the sheep (i.e., members) by name and seek to be an active presence in their lives; whereas megachurches by definition are simply too large for their pastors to know the membership well. (While “small groups” can be helpful and edifying, they are no substitute for the biblical-presbyterian model of shepherd care.) I suppose from a contemporary evangelical Christian perspective these “old school” views are “grandfatherly,” “stodgy” and old-fashioned; but for us they are not merely “adiaphora.” They are matters of principle based upon our understanding of biblical ecclesiology.

    Grace and Peace,

    Geoff W.

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  65. @DGH – lots of stuff in the eeevangelical world could indeed fill a book called “Bad Protestantism”, to be sure. I could write a couple chapters for that book myself. No triumphalism from me. In the meantime, on this side of the eschaton, ecclesia semper reformanda est.

    @Zrim, it’s a perception of mine, perhaps flawed, and I expect you may correct me. What it means is that your old-school side could, like TKNY, adapt to make itself a bit more appealing to both churched and unchurched people. I realize that doing such a thing is unthinkable and would compromise dearly held values you have. Fine, I get that (to a degree). Meanwhile, if any of the conversation at OL is indicative, there’s far greater concern around here on what days to hold prayer meetings and if they should be mandatory or not, about whether or not it’s okay to sing “Hark, the Herald” or whether it’s okay to have instrumentation with it, about how legit it may be to watch a football game on Sundays, about debating if the body of Christ would be a better place without big churches or Begg or TKNY, etc, etc. However thought-provoking (if not entertaining) these issues can be at OL, none of them strike me as where the front lines of the church’s spiritual battle should be taking place. So, yeah, that the old school P&R world is small, and that TGC and TKNY and Parkside are big, are well, not totally surprising.

    @GW – your observations about the risk to the church when Begg is no more, and the (lack of) shepherd-care in a megachurch, are apt. I agree those are problems, and hopefully, Parkside (and other similar churches) are working hard in various ways to mitigate those as best they can, with God’s help. But, as you also note, there’s lots of upside to the kinds of ministries and impact that Parkside can have as well, in ways that no small church can. So, to me, it’s all a bit of a mixed bag. I do understand and respect the principles which inform the old-school practices, though. Blessings to you in your shepherding ministry.

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  66. Curt, you mean the way Jesus talked to Pharisees or to Jews in Jerusalem — remember the woe passages.

    Plus, you’re a King guy. What happened to speaking truth to power?

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  67. Petros, so questions that involve doxology and ecclesiology are largely intramural and (let’s face it) ho-hum. The “front lines of the church’s spiritual battle” are elsewhere. Where exactly is that? But for those of us who come from the broadly evangelical world where flighty sentimentality about vaguely defined and hyper-pious sounding “front lines of spiritual battle” carry the day, the aforementioned categories seem like the kinds more serious minded believers relish. Maybe you find that stodgy, but some of us see it as what it means to give dress, dimension and gravitas to the gospel.

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  68. D.G.,
    How is it that when the subject is about how we should talk about fellow Christians, you compare that with how we should talk to the pharisees?

    And I have no problem with saying that someone is wrong. But that wasn’t my point from the beginning. Shouldn’t the fact that Christ has died for fellow believers change how we talk about them?

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  69. As someone that goes to a Redeemer City to City church.

    I’m rather worried for the direction my church is going. I’ve been recovering from a surgery and it’s left me bedridden. But according to my girlfriend, the main pastor taught on the Salt/Light verses from the Sermon on the Mount. Apparently 1/3 of the sermon was talking about the church’s vision and how as Christians we must follow God’s vision like Abraham, implying the church’s vision *is* God’s vision.

    (gag)

    Apparently, being salt means trying to change your neighbourhood. Never mind the fact that most people in my city are working poor and don’t have any sort of influence. In fact everytime I hear that transformational crap I roll my eyes, because this is such a bloody disenfranchised place to live in.

    And apparently, the main pastor has plans to bring in outsiders to plant more campuses that follow the brand. Honestly, that’s not what I signed up for.

    I don’t understand anybody that defends the multi campus model. It’s a-historical and when practiced, at best nobody grows in the faith and at worst, people apostasize because there is no pastoral care.

    But eh, buses or something.

    My girlfriend is raising money to do mission work in Kansas City MI as an artist (she has a BFA and a BA in Art History!) and I’m gonna see if I can find a job there so I can marry her already. There’s a URCNA church and, as geeky as it sounds, I want to experience actual Reformed worship and practice. I don’t want to be seen as that guy because I take catechisms by dead people seriously.

    Saying that, I do love my church. I’m in a campus that isn’t going in that direction anytime soon.Though, it scares me to hear my lead pastor speak in corporate speak. It’s not what I signed up for.

    P.S.

    Tim Keller’s course on Christ Centered Preaching was instrumental in getting me to leave the abusive Baptist megachurch I was in in. That’s Tim’s strength really: he can synthesize things for the common person. But isn’t that what catechisms are for? I’m so burned out on being told to be in community and change the world. I just want Word and Sacrament @_@

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  70. P.P.S.

    I don’t want to make it sound like my current church is in heresy. I do get the Lord’s Supper and the Law and Gospel is preached every Sunday, by all pastors involved. It’s the little things that are annoying me, that seem to be brought up with greater and greater frequency, that annoy and worry me.

    That’s it. <_<

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  71. SJG^3:

    Recovery from health issues is a good time to re-evaluate what your church is doing, the chaff will certainly rise to the top. You may have not noticed it at all for years while healthy.

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  72. SJGIII,

    Kansas City MI?

    I assume you mean Kansas City, MO

    Be aware that the KC URCNA is a ways south so if you’re living “in the city” you’ll have to travel a bit.

    I think it’s a solid church, but be aware that the minister does not appear to be sympathetic to 2K (along with a lot of other Central Classis ministers & officers). This is the Classis where the Belgic 36 overture originated.

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  73. Geoff – The long term “harm” is that smaller congregations (even faithful ones) are being emptied out as people are drawn to churches like Parkside, and the Body-life of the church is undermined by the “mega” part of the megachurches.

    Erik – Why do we never see this as an “us” problem as opposed to a “them” problem? Are people such sheep we just assume it’s their problem and the irresistible draw of the megachurch?

    Small OPC’s & URC’s sometimes self-sabotage with unresponsive leadership, stubbornness, making non-Christian day schoolers feel marginalized, poor basic social skills with visitors, longer services than necessary, etc. And then when people offer well-meant criticisms, the leaders take it as a badge of honor and dig their heels in deeper.

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  74. DG: Thanks. I should get well, hopefully.

    Erik: Yes, MO. Thanks for the heads up. Is there a Reformed congregation you’d recommend?

    kent: Honestly I’ve been aware of it for about a few months now. When I realized how powerless I was as a human being (politically and economically), I realized that the transformationalism being pushed is only relevant if you’re a person of power. Goes against the Gospel’s universalism, I imagine. That and, transformationalists are closet socialists… unless they’re Gary North. But eh, he’s a libertarian. I can’t hate him.

    But in other words, why bind the consciences with things that the Bible doesn’t require? For example, my own libertarianism and extreme sympathies to anarcho capitalism.

    There were other thing involved of course, but it wouldn’t be appropriate. But yes, sickness does make you more aware of life eh?

    CW: Your Twitter account makes me and my girlfriend laugh. in a good way. Take that for what it’s worth.

    I was already cranky before I started regularly reading this blog. This blog just makes it worse/better. I do want to read Van Drunen’s pop work on the two kingdoms, and I guess I should order a Hart book. I just want to finish the City of God first. I wanted to see what a dead person had to say about similar circumstances.

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  75. Another problem we have (and I have first hand experience with it) is that, in order to make a conservative P&R church work outside of a Dutch ghetto you have to draw from far & wide. The problem from drawing from far & wide is that it’s very difficult to create community. Now you can mock the importance of community in the church, but church membership is more than perpetual e-mails and once a week worship. Ideally you will be able to worship with people that you are working with, living near, etc. Ideally your kids are growing up together, going to school together, playing on teams together, etc. This isn’t a distance learning program we’re talking about with communal instruction once a week (we’re not working on our weekend MBA’s). It should be part of the daily fabric of our lives. This is something the Catholics and the Lutherans have on us due to their greater size. Wherever you live there is likely a Catholic Parish or LCMS within a reasonable distance.

    Now the response is, “Well you’re just not committed enough.” Maybe true, but I have to think that it’s reasonable to expect a local option where you live and work that God will provide so that you can worship him and have relationships with other Christians without every interaction involving an out-of-town excursion. I’ve seen families do that for a time before eventually imploding. Certainly that wasn’t the only factor, but it can be a stressor that takes a toll over time.

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  76. SJG,

    The URCNA is good, just not sympathetic to 2K.

    There’s an RCUS up north with good people. Not sure if there’s an OPC or what the PCA is like there. My sister lives there and is in a conservative PCUSA offshoot that she likes, but I don’t know much about it.

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  77. @EC You are spot on about living in the same community as your church…particularly if you have kids. I’m not sure any of us (denominationally speaking) do as a good a job as we ought holding on to our “covenant children”. When your church is the next town over, that makes it even tougher.

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  78. AB, yah. I’m the third in my family. You change names so I figure I can do the same. 😉

    And yah, I like using the emoticons. I have many friends who are girls, or at least I used to. You’d be surprise how many of them got mad at me because they thought I hated them. Than again, I was in college, which was three years ago. (I’m 25 going on 26, oh the tragedy.)

    DG, I guess I’ll read that from you first. Too bad Amazon doesn’t like your book. Ah well, Rolling Stone magazine doesn’t like Rush and Metacritic has terrible taste in video games. Thanks.

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  79. SJG, but Ann Rice does

    We need this book right now. The arguments in America of 2007 over church and state are approaching delirium. We need Hart’s well informed, well documented and decisive approach to the question. This is one of the best books I’ve seen on the issue, and one that is especially meaningful for Christians. Also recommended: the works of the great historian Mark Noll.

    Last helping of triumphalism for the day. Back to the suck.

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  80. One thing that would be great is that if conservative P&R churches could seek to be less of a regional theological graduate school for (1) those already P&R and (2) disaffected evangelicals, and just try to be the best Bible teaching churches in their neighborhood. Make a concerted effort to reach out to neighbors. Have a VBS for neighborhood kids (gasp!) Now these people will be rough, they may not look great, they won’t know the P&R lingo, their kids likely won’t be in Christian schools. You might even have to tone things down a bit in terms of assuming knowledge on the part of congregants. Nothing is watered down, but things are just taught at a more fundamental level. As it stands now, at least in the URC, a potential member feels like they have to have an extra $5k lying around for Christian school tuition and a wardrobe that fits in with the accountants and engineers.

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  81. Therein lies the hope for Redeemerites, they wake up and realize we haven’t even transformed our dog much less our house, our marriage, our kids, never mind the ‘city’ and we’re pretty sure the older we get the worse job we’re doing just maintaining(adult diapers). Transformationalism is just the corporate expression of the individual’s conviction that he must be special and significant. Some people never let it go. Don’t get it twisted, that doesn’t mean we’re all equal, I’m spectactular. Still, that’s not saying much when I’m comparing to everyone else.

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  82. Erik Charter: “Why do we never see this as an “us” problem as opposed to a “them” problem? Are people such sheep we just assume it’s their problem and the irresistible draw of the megachurch?”

    GW: You raise a good point. I’m not meaning to suggest by my comments that member losses from smaller P & R churches to larger megachurches are always or solely “their” problem (whether “they” be understood as the departing members or the megachurches to which they depart). I agree that our smaller P & R churches certainly have more than their fair share of imperfections, quirks, and eccentricities (i.e., “problems”). (I am thankful to be able to say with a clear conscience that most of the member departures I have witnessed during the course of my 18 years of ministry at the churches I have thus far been privileged to serve have been peaceful, amicable and brotherly.)

    At the same time, as a small-church P & R pastor I can tell you that I would be willing to bet that almost every member loss which involves a member leaving a small P & R church for the “greener pastures” of the evangelical megachurch (instead of losses due to other providential factors, such as geographical relocation) usually leads to a great amount of soul-searching in the hearts of most small-church P & R pastors. “Was the member offended at something I said or something our Session did? What, if anything, did we do to drive them away? How could we have done things differently without compromising our distinctives? Is there any way we failed to shepherd them as we ought?” Etc.

    Over the years as I’ve tried to listen to the concerns of such departing brethren, more often than not I have found that their reasons for “moving on” to the megachurch (or simply the larger local evangelical church with more “bells & whistles”) have more to do with consumer-based concerns (for example, differences in personalities or a desire for more programs) than they do with genuinely biblical concerns, such as doctrinal and ethical purity or purity of worship. And while at a certain level I understand this, since consumerism, which has influenced us all, is the air that we breath in the American cultural and ecclesial context of today; at the same time it is disheartening for small-church P & R pastors and their congregations to see some of their own “limbs” sever themselves from a local Body that needs them in order to become assimilated into an area megachurch Borg which already has plenty of “limbs” to spare.

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  83. @Erik, re: “Make a concerted effort to reach out to neighbors. Have a VBS for neighborhood kids (gasp!) Now these people will be rough, they may not look great, they won’t know….” Egads, you’re talking like an evangie — good for you! (Not to worry, I promise not to tell Zrim.) (Btw, you should go to Cornerstone Church!). Now, inquiring minds just need to know if the idea of a VBS on any day but Sunday has been properly vetted/debated by the mucky-mucks in the local P&R consistory such as to not detract from strict Sabbath observance, and if it’d be okay for kids to sing a song accompanied by a guitar. What do you think?

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  84. Erik Charter: “One thing that would be great is that if conservative P&R churches could seek to be less of a regional theological graduate school for (1) those already P&R and (2) disaffected evangelicals, and just try to be the best Bible teaching churches in their neighborhood. Make a concerted effort to reach out to neighbors.”

    GW: Good counsel, Erik. Sometimes sermons in the OPC sound more like seminary lectures to graduate level students than they do like the preaching of God’s Word to God’s “ordinary” people. Also, while I like the OP denominational magazine (“New Horizons”), some of its articles seem more directed toward the pastors and professors in the church than they do toward the average layperson in the pews. We can “bring it down” to the level of the laity without dumbing it down.

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  85. Geoff,

    I respect your first-hand experience.

    What kind of members were those folks before they left?

    My counsel to P&R ministers, sessions, and consistories (not you) is, don’t make it any harder than necessary to attend your church. If a 60 minute service will do, don’t go 90 minutes. If you’re going to offer Sunday school, make sure you have engaging teachers. If you have visitors, have someone assigned to greet them warmly. Gently appeal to the right-wing guys in the congregation not to hit new people over the head with their politics. If someone has their kids in public school, don’t make it an issue (at least not for a long time). We’re plenty countercultural already without newcomers feeling like they’ve wandered into the Twilight Zone (note Bobby’s comment from a month or so ago about half the men at the OPC he visited appearing to suffer from Asperger’s).

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  86. Geoff,

    I suspect you get it right and I also suspect that the Rev. Doc (Todd Bordow) get’s it right as well. He’s a very practical, pastoral guy when he doesn’t have his egghead hat on with us.

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  87. Petros,

    I think we’ve talked about this. I come out of the Cornerstone milieu going back to my teenage years. A lot of respect for the folks there. I am no longer a Baptist, though. The new Christian off the street can do a lot worse, however.

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  88. @Erik – I respect you’re putting yourself at risk around here by channeling TKNY philosophy of ministry when you say “My counsel to P&R ministers, sessions, and consistories (not you) is, don’t make it any harder than necessary to attend your church, etc, etc…..” Amen to your comment.

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  89. Erik – I appreciate your wise words. Regarding length of sermon, my church has weekly communion, which I fully support. Pastor also preaches 45 minutes or so. And his sermons are the opposite of concise and could easily trim about 15-20 minutes off without losing the point. Makes it difficult for families with little kids to make it through the 1.5 sometimes almost 1.75 hour service.

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  90. Petros,

    I can’t be any more at risk here than I’ve been in in the past so it’s no sweat.

    mboss,

    As a guy who watches foreign films 5-10 minutes at a time over multiple sittings I can tell you that any sermon on any topic can be broken down into manageable chunks. No need to make anyone’s butt numb from sitting too long. People zone out after 30 minutes anyway. Like it or not, we no longer have the attention spans.

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  91. Erik – Agree. I’ve seen both sides of the spectrum, the 10 minute homily and the 60 minute sermon. You can’t tell me there’s no happy medium there. And to follow up on another of your comments, the reason my better half refuses to attend an OPC in our area is that she got the weirdo/unwelcome vibe from day one from some of the more insular/homeschooling/quiver-full/far right-wing/argumentative folks in the congregation. I’m used to it so I always ignored it, but as they say, you only get one chance to make a good first impression, and that ship has sailed.

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  92. Petros, what, no credit for pushing back on Alexander’s Sabbath legalism? But I’m not sure about Erik’s “concerted effort to reach out to neighbors” sentiment. It’s the first step to coming off as trying way too hard. How about simply living among neighbors per our various callings and vocations and letting the rest naturally unfold? Or is that too lazy for go-get-’em Americans?

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  93. Who are all these better halfs who make all the church decisions around here? Try this out, 1-800-T1anabol(just work with the digits, bunch of ninnys)

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  94. Zrim,

    You live in (near) Grand Rapids so I suspect your experience is not very normative for the rest of us.

    How about when I live 30 miles from church, I work 40 miles from church, all my neighbors live 30-40 miles from church, and the church sits in the middle of a neighborhood occupied by thousands of people, none of whom I know or anyone in the church knows.

    What then?

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  95. Erik, that’s loaded. Am I supposed to guess, Bertha-strong as any man or Raquel- I posed for the angel statue on the cathedral and swing from a velvet seat?

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  96. Erik, I don’t see what my particular demographic has to do with it. As to your hypothetical, even my out-reachy evangies who actually live in your scenario don’t feel the need to host a local VBS (or whatever). They simply invite the people they actually know to their church despite its distance. Are you wanting to out-outreach the out-reachers?

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  97. Zrim,

    Here’s the relevance of your location:

    Stand up, put your coat on, and go outside.

    Pick up a medium sized rock, throw it in the air at a 45 degree upwards trajectory.

    Now tell us what the name of the Reformed Church with the broken window is.

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  98. D. G. Hart
    Posted May 20, 2015 at 11:53 am | Permalink
    SJG, but Ann Rice does

    “We need this book right now. The arguments in America of 2007 over church and state are approaching delirium. We need Hart’s well informed, well documented and decisive approach to the question. This is one of the best books I’ve seen on the issue, and one that is especially meaningful for Christians. Also recommended: the works of the great historian Mark Noll.”

    Last helping of triumphalism for the day. Back to the suck.

    The suck:

    Bythe frenchmanon July 9, 2013
    Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
    This book is an extended, and laborious (for the reader), discourse that asserts Christians ought to live “double lives”. If you are looking for a well-researched book attempting to bolster a “2-Kingdom” view similar to the likes of Michael Horton, R. Scott Clark, and David Van Drunen; you will get a book articulating the paradigm with a transparency the aforementioned lack as Hart attempts to baptize bifurcated Christian living as if it were obedience. For this transparency, Hart is to be commended.

    In conclusion:
    I recommend the book to readers desiring to see the errors of “radical” two kingdom views. Hart fails to provide citations in the book, although he offers a word on the sources he used at the end. The book reads like a reconstructionist history loaded with anachronism. Perhaps including citations would have curbed this strong tendency. The result is helpful, however, since it tends to demonstrate that Hart’s two kingdoms view is a private one where he attempts to reconstruct history to agree with him while imposing it on the rest of us. To this end, we are thankful for the transparency, but also ask that Hart keep his hyphenated theocracy to himself.

    http://www.amazon.com/Secular-Faith-Christianity-Favors-Separation/product-reviews/1566635764/ref=cm_cr_dp_qt_hist_one?ie=UTF8&filterBy=addOneStar&showViewpoints=0

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  99. Zrim, I read Erik’s sentiment at simply an idea of promoting community among fellow church members.

    For the last 10 years, I have traveled 30+ minutes to church and back.

    In the last year with the church plant down the street, we now go about 1.5 minutes.

    The change in our religious experience is drastic – we actually have friends near by, we spend time sometimes on weekdays at our every other week book study/prayer, and we see each other on Saturday’s. That wasn’t happening before, and it’s a real blessing that God has brought a wonderful man to pastor us, and that people are attracted to reformed theology.

    Thus my experience, and if someone is thinking about the viability of reformed theology, try planting a church, and watch and see it grow and meet people you never would have before. I’ve never experienced anything so faith affirming, except maybe my time in the Word..I digress…..

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  100. Darryl, it’s good to have enemies, glad to have TVD around because it shows you are getting people upset. He’s playing his role nicely.

    TVD, DGH likes you so much, he even blogged on you again:

    Hello (vd,t, Susan, Mrs. W.)!!

    Love darryl’s cats, man. Lates.

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  101. Erik’s idea of a VBS outreach in the neighborhood was supposed to be a secret – who leaked it to Zrim? Nuts. I KNEW good ol’ Z would take umbrage at the idea. Egads, heaven forbid someone might “try too hard” at such an endeavor. Can someone explain how it is “bad” that unchurched kids could have a ton of fun in a welcoming environment, make new friends, and hear the gospel for the first time in their lives? And, maybe it provides an entry point to church for their parents?

    @Zrim – yes, indeed, kudos are due you for not being a Sabbath-legalist.

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  102. Andy,

    How did that church plant go down? How many families were involved?

    If I tried that where I live/work it would immediately be game on with Federal Visionists to see who gets to be in control. Yikes!

    There was a PCA plant in town that failed when the pastor packed it in to go someplace else. CRC has been around for a long time but has a woman on consistory. RCA plant has struggled. 2 PCUSA’s that are beyond hope. No OPC, RCUS, etc. Mainliners, evangelicals, Baptists, Bible churches (liberal and conservative and African American), charismatics, and 2 LCMS’s. Even two versions of Mormons and a Unitarian/Universalist church (Tom would like it). Two Catholic churches. Christian Scientists recently closed down. Wild-looking new Orthodox church. Korean Methodists. Nudist Christian Church failed in the 80s. Seventh Day Adventists (very good softball team). Probably 10-20 groups I can’t remember. It’s the Christian wild west with an ever changing membership due to a college town demographic.

    It’s rough in a community with little to no established P&R base. In Des Moines there were at least people who had been in P&R churches in the past plus a regular inflow of people of P&R backgrounds coming to town for school or work.

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  103. Erik, without making this too much a social media all about me fest, here I go.

    In 2007, I started becoming a nuisance to the elders the at “mega” op church in san jose. “Why aren’t we planting churches, what’s the deal?” they gave me cold shoulder, I left that church in 2010 on somewhat tense grounds, but things have since healed.

    Between 2007 and 2009, I was using Tim Keller’s study on Romans to try to lead a bible study in my house, and we had some families. But my leaving that church put an end to all that. My desire to plant a church in my area had to be put on hold.

    Then something really interesting happened around September 2013. That church I left in 2010, I get an e-mail: they have an intern who desires to plant a church in Morgan Hill – my dream from 2007-2008 being realized? Can it be?

    Between 2011 and 2013 and the OP I had transfered to, I continued to be a nuisance. WE MUST PLANT CHURCHES!! So we had a bible study in the hopes of planting a church in the house of one of the ministers. We prayed every Wednesday night that God would plant a church in our region.

    So that praying led up to this intern being hired, then we started having evening worship in our neighborhood March 2014 with this intern. He was not ordained yet, he was to stand for exams in Fall 2014. He passed with flying colors, a true gift to God’s church, this man is. August 2014, we started meeting at our local masonic center. (interesting place, let me tell you)

    3 weeks ago, we moved into a beautiful Jewish synagogue. We keep attracting new families, we have a really good core group, things seem to keep getting better and better, I’m happy to report.

    Long story short – this has been a desire of my heart for going on 8 years now. Church planting is slow. Anyone is interested? Get to know the regional church. I just so happened to have been connected with the mega OP in san jose, the head pastor there I believe was the puppet master to make all this happen. A truly great man (http://jefflandis.org).

    Not sure my timeline made a lot of sense here, piece together what you will. Again, there’s a presbytery or classis where you are, get to know those men, bother them, until they can no longer stand to have you bother them any more. Pray pray pray. Never in a million years would I think we would be where we are now, if you had asked me while I led TKNY studies out of my home.
    and yet

    here
    we
    are

    amazing.

    i could go on?

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  104. You can find resources here

    How to plant an Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

    I’d say 5 primary families were involved in the initial core group, when we signed our names to being in the mission work. 5 solid families in the community, some older, some younger, and one or two have since left. It was taking a leap of faith, not too many peopel started out. But like starting a business, you have to be pretty gutsy and not really know if things will work out.

    It helps that the region we are in has new construction going up all the time, new families always moving here. We are an attractive bedroom community for silicon valley. So all the pieces are coming together. Praise God, and pray for providence presbyterian church (providencepresbyterianchurch[dot]org) for us to continue the momentum we started.

    thanks for asking, Erik.

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  105. Andy,

    I also better understand why you might get sensitive when people (even me) give the OPC a hard time. You have invested a lot of yourself in it, and that’s to your credit.

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  106. That’s my church. Been at home in it since my girlfiend invited me spring of 2001.

    Not going anywhere else, so I’m going make this work, come hell or high water, yo.

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  107. Erik, I prefer swinging dead cats (sorry, Darryl). And when I do, I still hit plenty of unbelievers around here. I don’t see why you think inviting neighbors to church is preferable (even if challenging) to starting up a VBS (or whatever). I thought three marks confessional ecclesiology was preferred over wherever-two-or-more-are-gathered Baptist ecclesiology?

    Petros, perhaps it’s the track record? Nothing at all against “tons of fun,” but it doesn’t usually go along with an orthodox gospel from my experience. Fun usually swallows gospel up whole. You evangies really do think you can have it all, which is so American, which isn’t very counter-cultural, which you guys seem to think is so vital. What happened to “front lines of spiritual battle”?

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  108. @Erik – I know a bunch of very solid believers who were part of the SALT Company ministry at Cornerstone.

    @Zrim – Sorry I’ve been slow to respond, but I’ve been busy out on the “front lines” of planning this summer’s VBS outreach to neighborhood kids.

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  109. Erik, don’t be so quick to knock boredom. But who needs VBS (or Cadets or Gems) when there’s the Boy and Girl Scouts? “In the world,” remember?

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  110. Carl explains why no comments even when they are open:

    . . . the problem is that the Top Men and their followers have adamantly refused to engage the critics. We have been dismissed, blacklisted and bullied. When I first raised the issue, I was summoned to a phone conference with a Top Man who told me that I simply needed to shut up as his organization had no intention of acting on any of my criticisms (except, if I remember, the removal of the term ‘VIP seating’ at their conferences), a point which he and his assistants have since reinforced by email on a number of occasions. Then, when we critics have been proved correct (as in the case of Mark Driscoll) we have still either been ignored or accused of being ‘smug’ simply because we then pointed out to those who were crying ‘Somebody should have spoken up!’ that, well, yes, some of us did speak up and that the belatedly wise were at the forefront of dismissing our criticisms as the mean-spirited murmurings of mediocre also-rans.

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  111. “Now you can mock the importance of community in the church, but church membership is more than perpetual e-mails and once a week worship. Ideally you will be able to worship with people that you are working with, living near, etc. Ideally your kids are growing up together….”

    This is very true; my family has been commuting an hour for 7 years, and it’s exhausting. Midweek evening services are out of the question because the kids take 2 days to recover from going to bed at 10 (they’re still little. Sometimes one of us will take the 6 and 7 year old). When someone is sick, we’re late, or the weather is poor, we go to our local LCMS (the “good” one in town–we probably pass 8 on our way to our own church). We sometimes talk about when it’s time to just transfer. It’s a real dilemma.

    And the sizes of the RC and Lutheran churches doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. I have 2-3 friends who drive fairly far to a Latin Mass; several other families in our congregation are not attending their nearest LCMS, but driving 30-40 minutes.

    One way to plan ahead is keep a file of cities to look for future employment–if it comes to losing employment or needing to find a new job—and research where a good church is. Our pastor gets frustrated when jobs are accepted without any thought to how close a confessional church is. (Of course, sometimes you just gotta take the job because there are no other options…)

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  112. Trackback didn’t work..drat. Here it goes:

    Grace and Peace
    Darryl Hart once asked (oldlife[dot]org/2015/03/an-experiment/) people who like to comment at his blog to show restraint by limiting their comments. Right now, there is a thread(oldlife[dot]org/2015/04/the-bible-cant-speak-to-all-of-life/) of over 700 comments of which I have contributed many to, in my free time.

    I get why some people comment a lot at Darryl’s blog – they are new to it, and there’s a lot of learning. However, for the people who have been there long, why do they feel the need to keep commenting? Are they not receiving the kind of theological discussion and theological intellectual stimulation in their own locales (read: particular congregations)?

    I welcome anyone to explain to me why people keep commenting out there over and over and over. I’m not mad, and I am a horrible offender, of posting too many comments myself. But I mostly try to defend, I’m not out to change or affect what Darryl is doing, at least on my better days. I have a little bit of a TKNY (oldlife[dot]org/2015/05/how-others-see-u-s/) bent to me, admittedly, read the comments at that link to see what I mean. I’ve written enough, anyone want to help me, if I have been clear in expressing what flummoxes me at present? Comments open, no pressure. Grace and peace.

    – See more at: http://adbuckingham.com/grace-and-peace/#more-816

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