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As usual, I don’t know where to begin. I’ll just start typing and see what happens.
My old church gets wackier by the second. I don’t know if “wackier” is acceptable Christianese, but it’s apt. And I can’t get away from it. The leaders don’t seem to realize how hard it is to keep secrets in a church. Information comes to me whether I want it or not. It reminds me of the old Pajamas Media days, when people on the inside would tell me stuff in order to get it published.
They can’t seem to let things drop. My plan, until someone shoots me in the head, is to criticize Steve Munsey and other money-crazed preachers, as well as feel-good preachers, just as hard as I can, everywhere I can, and maybe that is keeping me at the top of the charts. That has been suggested to me. In any case, I know they’re still poking the fire.
The church discourages the acknowledgement of problems, and people are fairly good about keeping quiet in public, so I guess they kind of lose it when someone goes off the reservation and starts hammering the totally bogus doctrine of a prominent friend of the church. It must be completely amazing to them to load up Facebook and see me putting up photos of Munsey’s astounding claims. “The Atonement” is Rosh Hashanah! How much more wrong can a person get?
Why go after the Munseys and Osteens? That’s pretty simple. They hurt my friends.
I made all sorts of friends at the old church, and I still have them. They didn’t run off and shun me when I quit going. Many of them are poor. Just about all are looking for answers. “How can I please God?” “How can I get my prayers answered?” “How can I get out of a lifestyle of defeat and want?” “How can my family be healed?” The Munseys and Osteens and the other blind guides are hurting these people very badly. They are wasting their time. It would be bad if they merely didn’t help, but they are actively coming between these people and God, by giving them false hopes and useless strategies. Were it not for the false doctrine which wastes people’s time, money, and enthusiasm, many individuals in the church might be doing much, much better. Because God really does answer prayer and bless people, once they quit trying to buy him off with their rent money.
What kind of person would leave a church full of sincere, hurting people and never look back? That’s a particularly pointed question, when the person who left knows how to get in touch with God. I know how to do it. I can hook people up. So could the greedy feel-good pharaohs, if they would be honest with themselves, cut the crap, and teach the truth.
Well, they could if they KNEW HOW. My strong suspicion is that many of them would know how, if they would only listen to God instead of the soothing sound of paper landing in collection plates.
So to summarize, I believe I am still mischaracterized as the guy who sent the foxes into the fields, and the Philistines can’t figure out how to put out the fire. And I can’t stop telling the truth publicly, because people might be helped by it.
I’m told one bigwig may be having a change of heart toward the Holy Spirit. This person has asked people to pray in tongues. That’s a wonderful sign. I hope it means something. It’s good to see God smoosh your adversaries, but it’s better to see them get a clue and change their ways. After all, I used to be God’s adversary.
Today I talked to someone I thought would never leave the church. I thought this person had a phobia of criticism, and that it might be this person’s undoing. Today this person told me there was a “lack of leadership” at the church. This is someone who never said anything negative, even when it was called for. This is someone who never gave me a clue anything was wrong. This person left long before I did. Yet I’m perceived as the Svengali?
A week or two back, it rained. I was driving to New Dawn for my second visit, and I was thinking surely God would not let me get stuck in accident traffic on the way to this oasis of blessing. I was so eager to get there. And I made it. This week I learned that on that same day, my old church had 400 people at the second Sunday service.
The second Sunday service should have roughly a thousand people in attendance. It’s often higher. Outside of the somewhat embarrassing youth service on Tuesday night, which attracts tons of frivolous kids, the 11:00 a.m. service is the big weekly event. I used to run security during this service, so I know.
If rain can cut attendance by 60%, what does it say about the devotion the leaders are inspiring? I was highly disturbed by the prospect that I might not make it to New Dawn, and the rain was coming down in buckets. Would I have felt the same way while driving to the old place? Not unless they were counting on me to work.
I am told the leaders were very unhappy with attendance. It doesn’t take a genius to understand what happened. Men cut a hole in a roof so their buddy could meet Jesus, but folks at my old church weren’t willing to take a five-minute car ride and then walk a hundred feet under an umbrella. Clearly, the church has not shown them that there is anything worth showing up for.
Do the leaders realize this is their fault? Is there any possibility that they are aware that blaming other people is not going to fix things?
I’m also hearing that the upcoming youth conference is looking bad. People tell me ticket sales are a fraction of what they were last year. The church has to fill an expensive theater on the Beach. They have to pay whether or not anyone shows up. And they may be obligated to pay the acts that show up.
The conference is one reason I left. I knew they would expect me to fork out money for a ticket and then show up and work. And of course, there would then be offerings. Last year, I didn’t see a single speaker. I was doing security stuff outside and in the lobby. I got to make a good connection and talk to two people about tongues, but don’t ask me what happened on the stage.
This year, I couldn’t face another conference. I didn’t want to assist at an event where another bunch of young preachers tried to convince people they were cool. And I didn’t want to deal with the hurt feelings and quiet disapproval that would follow if I refused to buy a ticket or show up to work.
Last year one of the “cool” young preachers had a luggage problem, and he didn’t have his special American Outfitters preaching shirt, so volunteers had to run around the city looking for a new one. That really soured me on him and his pals. I was told it was American Outfitters, but maybe it was American Apparel. That would make more sense. Anyway, I doubt that shirt had special Holy-Spirit-wicking fibers in it.
When I left the church, I told them the Holy Spirit would bring people in, if he was given the chance. The Holy Spirit is so good, once people get introduced to him, they will want to be with him again. When prayers start getting answered and lives start changing, people will recommend the church. I got nowhere with that pitch.
I used to tell people that the church was like a parking lot full of shiny cars. Remove the cars that aren’t paid for, and what do you see? Maybe 25% remain. The rest were illusions. They belonged to banks. They didn’t represent wealth. They represented debt. What happens when the silly, half-Christian people leave a megachurch? Same thing. It may have happened at the rained-out service. A smart preacher would get the hint and make changes.
“A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked.”
I wish I had told the head pastor how many church members had ridiculed or dismissed Steve Munsey in my presence. He came to our church and put on an extremely creepy show where he cut the bark off a shrub branch and compared donors to Jacob with his spotted cattle (it’s not worth explaining). He bragged about Beyonce and R. Kelly–every Christian’s role models–showing up at his church. About women, he said, “It’s okay to look, but you can’t touch!” while making startling squeezing gestures with his hands held up in front of him. And of course, while some people ate it up, godly people quietly said they were grossed out or just offended.
Thinking about it, I am reminded of “A Face in the Crowd.” This is an old Andy Griffith movie about a TV star who pandered to idiots. His name was Lonesome Rhodes. He hired a certified cretin–a man named Beanie–to pass judgment on his material. If Beanie liked it, Rhodes went with it. If not, it was cut.
If Steve Munsey puts on a horrifying, off-putting show at your church, and the dumbest people there go nuts, you don’t use that as a measure of the day’s success. If you can’t manage to get guidance from God, you talk to people you respect, and you listen to what they say.
I keep telling people I don’t want to talk about this stuff, but it seems like it keeps coming to me.
I don’t think it’s gossip. Correcting lies is not gossip. Defending yourself is not gossip. Exposing disgusting heresy masquerading as doctrine is not gossip. But I would like to move on.
I have been concerned about unforgiveness. I don’t want to be aggravated with these people for the rest of my life. Though I still talk about what has happened, I believe God has kept me out of the grudge trap. the other day I felt his grace hit me, and the annoyance melted out of me. I’m not thrilled with the way people are behaving, but believe it or not, I’m not bitter. That’s a blessing.
I’ve thought a little bit about anger. It’s not evil. If it were, Jesus would have been a much more cheerful guy. He was angry a LOT. So were the prophets. So anger is okay. But how long can you have it in you before it becomes problematic? I feel that God will permit you to be angry long enough to accomplish a worthy purpose, and then you have to get rid of it. I believe that has happened to me. I don’t sit around thinking about the scandalous behavior I know about. I don’t plot revenge. But I do talk about it, when I think it’s important to do so.
When God forgives, he forgets. He didn’t give us that ability, so he must not expect us to do the same. If you forget, you don’t learn. I forgive, but I will always remember. Nobody wants to step in the same pile of manure twice.
As for life outside that church, I continue to be amazed. God’s presence is overpowering sometimes. It happens at least once a day. Usually, it’s several times. My prayer time in the garage is beyond description. Waves of faith pound their way through me. Peace surrounds me like a fog. Signs keep following me.
Things keep getting better. And I’m not making huge donations to weird characters who use hair spray and wear orange suits. I’m not pursuing “The Torah Blessing.” I’m not wearing a genuine Jewish prayer shawl and lighting Sabbath candles. I’m not writing checks so I can get Steve Munsey’s seven nonexistent blessings of Passover, Pentecost, the Atonement, Groundhog Day, or Elvis’s birthday. I don’t have an anointed prayer cloth from Robert Tilton. I’m not a lifetime partner of The 700 Club. I don’t fool with ANY of that crap. What I have has been freely given, and you want it, you can have it for nothing.
What I’m doing is right. I’m honored to be insulted and slandered for it.Stumble it! Save This Page