GOING TO THE ROOT: Mark Driscoll and the Celebrity System

Artwork by Richard Jacobson, ChurchAnarchist.com

Artwork by Richard Jacobson, ChurchAnarchist.com

America is one big celebrity culture. Big names. Big followings. Big money. One expects celebrity worship and big money in the culture of the world, but we can also see it in what calls itself church. Truth is, there has been a religious system in place since 250AD that has elevated church leaders in an extremely unhealthy way.

In the early church there was no “clergy” and “laity” as these words have been used traditionally for centuries. In fact, the Greek word kleros (“inheritance”) – from which the English word “clergy” is derived – is used in the New Testament, but it includes every one of Jesus’ people. Every believer is “clergy.”

Sadly, very early on the visible church began to divide people into the “ordained” (clergy) and the non-ordained (laity). We can now reflect on how perverse this chasm was and still is today, and how easily it was created. By changing the definition of a good word, kleros, which includes all of God’s people, kleros was narrowed down to entail only a few male church leaders, instead of Christ leading through all the one anothers.

The Qualified Clergy?

By 250AD the doctrine of the “Bishop” was in place, and the priesthood of all believers were told, “Obey the Bishop because he speaks in the place of God,” or you will be in deep trouble. As time marched on a well-defined hierarchical religious system was functioning to keep the priesthood in line, ending with the Pope in Rome on top.

When Luther, Calvin and Zwingli took issue with Roman Catholicism in the 1500’s, they pushed the sacramental table aside and made the pulpit central. While the Reformation had no Pope, it did have an inordinate dependence upon “the minister,” or “the pastor.” Thus, in practice, Protestantism ended up with thousands of mini-popes keeping those in the pews in line at the local level.

(An important fact to keep in mind is that from 325 – 1600AD all clergymen were embedded in and protected by state control of the churches.)

In Catholicism and Protestantism the system is heavily weighted to authoritative leaders who make sure the priesthood, the so-called laity, color only within the prescribed boundaries. In American history there have certainly been well-known and influential preachers/pastors of larger churches. But since the 1960’s, the religious scene has magnified and accelerated the appearance of charismatic celebrities who are able to gather thousands around their personalities.

The religion of the personality cult is a perfect fit with the long-standing practice of pastoral authority. The reality is that a powerful system is in place that cultivates, fosters and encourages the pedestal-status of “the pastor.” John Piper can write a book, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, but the reality is that the system requires them to be professionals or they are out on their ear.

The Centrality of an Individual?

Here are some examples of the doctrine as stated by those who advocate it. Ministry magazine said in 2010, “the local church pastor is key – absolutely central – to everything we are and do as a church.” Julia McMillan asserted in her otherwise excellent book, Prophetic Crack:

There is one primary voice in leadership. Where there is a pastor, that should be the only decisive voice that we hear. He is charged with soul care and is the ultimate voice the congregants expect to hear, especially regarding matters of vision and direction for the church. (Julia McMillan, “Prophetic Crack: Pushers in the Pulpits, Addicts in the Pews,” Thorncrown Publishing, 2010, p. 105).

Rick Bundschuh speaks of “the person who leads a church,” the pastor (The Church, 1988, p. 57). R.C. Sproul believes that the pastor is “the head of a group of people,” which is like being “the president of a company” (Now, That’s A Good Question! 1996, p. 343). Quotations like these are legion. The leading religious assumption across the board in all denominations is that “the pastor” is at the heart of a congregation’s existence.

However, one could rightfully ask, “Where in the New Testament would this pastor centrality and dependence be found?” Julia McMillan encourages us to be informed by “the Word of God” (p. 112), but her sentiments about the pastor being “the one decisive voice we hear” falls into the category of errant human traditions.

Paul made it clear that “the body is not one part, but many.” But if people were to judge by what they see practiced and a lot of what is in print, their conclusion would be that the body is one part, not many. All the bread is in the basket of “the pastor.”

For sure, American religion is all about the pastor, his vision and his leadership. Those who choose the role of pastor as a career are, like it or not, throwing themselves into a system that is unforgiving in its expectations, and totally without the sanction of Jesus. Some pastors seem to be successful in the clergy role, but in a high percentage of cases the system eats them up. I have said before – I’m convinced that most pastors go to bed at night with a gnawing in their spirit that church is way out of kilter, that games are being played, and that authenticity is almost never a reality. It is, in part, because of thoughts like this that Joel Gregory turned down the job offer to be pastor of a large, prestigious church (Too Great A Temptation: The Seductive Power of America’s Super Church, 1994).

The System that Lords Over Christ in Believers

It is in this world where these church leaders are exalted, where their authority is pervasive and where their presence is viewed as mandatory, that people like Mark Driscoll rise to incredible heights of prominence. But it makes no difference if one is pastor over 25 or 25,000, the same basic expectations are in place. It must be underscored, then, that Mark is a cog in a system that should have never been in place. This system’s inner workings account for both his climb to the top, his fall to the cement, and the confusion about his future. Because the system is perilously flawed, and because it does not have heaven’s approval in the first place, is it any wonder or surprise that it comes equipped with buried landmines that have blown people’s lives apart – both in the pulpit and in the pew?

Only in a leader-based system that has little to nothing to do with Jesus could a member of it get away with parading perverse, abusive opinions like these:

Here’s what I’ve learned. You cast vision for your mission and if people don’t sign up, you move on . . . . I am about blessed subtraction. There is a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus [chuckle], and by God’s grace it’ll be a mountain by the time we’re done . . . . You either get on the bus, or you get run over by the bus. Those are the options.

Such sentiments may be extreme, to be sure, but believers need to understand that in principle every pastor has the same extensive authority that Mark exercised on the day he uttered those atrocities. The system grants “the pastor” virtually unlimited power over the assembly. The fact that Mark could say such things publicly and not be thrown out in the street in disgrace shows how much people will tolerate from those who are highly respected in the system.

R.C. Sproul asks people to think about,“What causes the most pressure or strain on my pastor?” (Good Question! p. 342) It is unlikely that anyone would give the correct answer: the religious pastor-dependent system he/she is living in. This clergy-system requires those in it to perform numerous rituals, wear a variety of hats, prepare speech after speech and put out endless fires. How can we be shocked that so many are crushed by it? Christ never intended any one person to bear such a load, to be “the president of a company.”

The Clergy is the Priesthood of All Believers

What is Christ’s answer to all of this? “My Bride has many parts. I wish to be expressed through each of them. One person cannot express Me fully; many parts can each bring a portion of Me to the feast.”

The essence of church-life has been boiled down to hearing one person give a speech. “In Protestant worship,” R.C. Sproul observes, “for the most part, we sit and listen to a sermon” (Good Question! p. 353). But, where is this model revealed in the New Testament?

The most light shown of believers gathering together is in 1 Corinthians 14. This is a body gathering. There is no “centrality of preaching,” but “each of you has” a contribution. There are no persons “up front,” because there is no front.

R.C. Sproul asserts that the first cause of why people are leaving buildings is because “church is boring” (Question! p. 330). He then notes, “If people were having a vital encounter with the Living God, nobody would say that church is boring” (Question! p. 331).

Isn’t it fascinating that the meeting in which all participated was certainly not boring, and in it the Living God was encountered – “if all prophesy and an unbeliever or unlearned person is present, he/she is convicted and judged by all, the secrets of their heart are revealed, and falling down on their face they worship God and declare that God is really in you” (1 Cor 14:24-25)? On what solid basis do we discard this revelation in order to work our way through a church bulletin that for the most part centers on the activities of one person?

Going to the Root

Brothers and sisters, when are we going to wake up and listen to our Savior’s voice? For years we’ve been trying to apply Mary Kay to a system that in crucial ways is opposed to Christ at every turn. As I’ve read blogs and articles about the pathway for people like Mark to recover, they are just trying to tweak a troubled system – like putting band-aids on a cancer. No one is going to the root.

The clergy-laity system is wrong and we can see that this very same system reflects the world’s way of doing things. It’s a stronghold against the Living Christ. It should be abandoned, not cuddled and tweaked. It has elicited pride in those exalted high by their positions over God’s people, it has crushed many by its demands, it has left families splintered and couples divorced, it has split untold churches – why else would 70% of pastor’s wives confess that the day of their husband’s ordination was the worst day of their marriage?

I encourage you to stop perpetuating and encouraging a wayward system. I encourage you to pursue Jesus Christ with your whole heart. Are you willing to go with Jesus into the unknowns of change, or will you remain content like 80% of Bernie Siegel’s patients?

Some [patients] will do almost anything rather than alter their lives to increase their chances for a cure. When I offer them a choice between an operation and a change in life-style, eight out of ten say, “Operate. It hurts less. That way all I have to do is get a babysitter for the week I’m in the hospital” (Bernie S. Siegel, “Love, Medicine & Miracles.” 1990, pp. 2-3).

The Air in the Box

As I said in June, 2012:

As I see it, it isn’t really organic vs. institutional. Jesus simply cannot be institutionalized. He said the Spirit is like wind. You can’t put wind in a box and make it happen. Inherent in wind is freedom. The only image that really captures reality is Vine-branches, organic relationships.

I think this highlights a lot of the tensions we experience. Institutions of Christianity dominate the landscape. So, well-meaning people are attempting to put Jesus in structures that do not foster the expression of His life in the saints. I believe that in the innumerable church buildings we have every 1/2 mile in America, Christ’s life is still coming forth in varying degrees. That’s because even human structures and rules can’t stop Him from at least some expression. But the disheartening tragedy is that His life appears in spite of the religious structures that He is confined in. Wouldn’t it be glorious if the way believers functioned, and came together, welcomed and encouraged Christ to be fully expressed!

Christianity’s institutions are trying to express an organic Jesus in non-organic structures. Is it any wonder that things work out like they say in the commercials –”your results may vary” — “some assembly required” — “batteries not included.”

— Jon Zens, September, 2014


Austin Miles, Setting the Captives Free, 1989.


Gary North, “Beating the State: Third Century Christianity in the Third World Today,” (I do not agree with many of Gary North’s viewpoints, but his sociological observations in this article about “not having real estate” are insightful and important. I analyzed key aspects of Gary’s theology in the 1988 Searching Together, “Moses & the Millennium.”)

R C Sproul, “Church Life,” Now, That’s A Good Question! Tyndale 1996, pp. 325-368. Strangely, in discussing church-life, R.C. never speaks of Christ’s leadership of the ekklesias, and he never talks about the 58 one another’s in the New Testament.

Frank Viola, Reimagining Church.

Jon Zens, 58 to 0 – How Christ Leads Through the One Anothers.

Jon Zens, “When Are We Going to Wake Up to Reality? The Nightmare of the Pastoral Institution

Jon Zens, The Pastor Has No Clothes: Moving from Clergy-Centered Church to Christ-Centered Ekklesia.

Jon Zens, “Uninstitutional

Jon Zens, “Unstitutional II

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PROPHETIC CRACK, SUNDAY MORNING STICKUP, WORTHLESS PEOPLE & SO MUCH MORE

 

I am amazed by all the resources available to the twenty-first century reader. Some I find “accidentally” in the course of internet searches, while others are sent to me. Below I’ve written a synopsis of some I’d recommend. If any strike a chord, pursue them!

 

THE POWER OF WEAKNESS, Keith Giles, 2012, 96 pages.

I’ve read this book twice. It is a needed salve in the strength-driven, celebrity-based religious culture that surrounds us. Keith emphasizes that the Gospel is not about “going to heaven,” but living out Christ’s life now in His kingdom. “Weakness” is not a topic that makes for a best-seller, but Keith points out that it is a central reality in Christ’s life, in Paul’s example and in the lives of those in the past, like Moses and Gideon. May your heart be blessed by Keith’s writings.

Keith Giles

The Power of Weakness [Kindle Edition]

 

 

 

 

PROPHETIC CRACK: Pushers in the Pulpits, Addicts in the Pews, Julia M. McMillan, Thorncrown Publishing, 2010, 186 pages.

This is an important book for our day. Julia forthrightly deals with some serious issues in the realm of spiritual abuse, noting that “to deliberately mislead or misguide the minds of the vulnerable has to be among the most detestable of sins.”

In the Foreword, Claudette Anderson Copeland readily confesses what is the experience of many: “We just know there is something chronically, excruciatingly wrong in the way we experience our connections within the church.”

Prophetic Crack looks at the various angles of what happens in churches when we “wed the social, emotional and ultimately spiritual cravings (users) to persons bound by the lust for power and control that is resident in the souls of gifted leaders (pushers)” – you end up with an addictive organization (Copeland).

Tragically, as Copeland points out, “for a startling number of folks in this present generation, church has become a downright dangerous place to be.” Julia does a superb job of isolating the characteristics of unsafe religious settings. Hopefully, many hearts will be alerted as a result of her experiences, reflections and counsel.

Given the generally excellent content of this book, I was saddened that Julia embraces a widely held perspective that is a huge contributor to the very church abuse she’s seen devastate untold people. She states unequivocally:

There is one primary voice in leadership. Where there is a pastor, that should be the only decisive voice that we hear. He is charged with soul care and is the ultimate voice the congregants expect to hear, especially regarding matters of vision and direction for the church (p. 105).

One could rightfully ask, “Where in the NT would this pastor centrality be found?” Julia encourages us to be informed by “the Word of God” (p. 112), but her sentiments about the pastor being “the one decisive voice we hear” falls in the category of errant human traditions.

This flaw aside, I would encourage you and your friends who have been wounded by spiritual abuse to read Prophetic Crack.

 PROPHETIC CRACK: Pushers in the Pulpits, Addicts in the Pews

 

 

 

 

 

WORTHLESS PEOPLE, Skeeter Wilson, Lens&Pens Publishing, 2013 (2nd edition), 156 pages.

Skeeter Wilson, the son of American missionaries, was born in British Colonial East Africa, along the edge of the Gikuyu lands at the conclusion of the Mau Mau war. He watched the birthpangs of Kenya as it became an independent nation.

 

I’ve known Skeeter since 1979, a few years after he came at the age of 19 to America. When we saw him in April, 2012, he gave us a copy of Worthless People. Dotty and I read it together. We loved it and read it again. It is a fascinating read, evoking both tears and laughter. What makes this book so powerful is the fact that what is written is born out of incredible life experiences.

 

He has another book coming out in the next few months, Crossing Rivers. It is about an African woman who does what is culturally taboo – after being abused by her husband, she leaves the tribe that adopted her, and returns to her birth tribe. We have only read chapter one, but the story line looks to be captivating, and there will be sequels.

 

worthless people by Skeeter Wilson

 

 

 

 

NEW CREATION PRAYER, Steve Crosby/Don Atkin, 2012, 28 pages.

A lot of material comes across my desk. I can’t read everything, and a lot of what I do read is not all that great. New Creation Prayer was different. Very different. It is one of the most refreshing presentations I have read in a long time. This will be a healing balm and a strong cup of coffee for many quarters in evangelicalism. I have many friends who will be deeply enriched by reading this booklet. I love Steve’s emphasis on Jesus being in the presence of God for us. As a result, we do not have to get His attention with our prayers – He is already with us and for us!

Steve Crosby

New Creation Prayer

 

 

 

 

 

SUNDAY MORNING STICKUP: What Your Pastor Doesn’t Want You to Know About Tithes, David Lee, Outskirts Press, 2013, 153 pages.

The author spent 20 years working side-by-side with mega-church preacher T.D. Jakes. David began to question the ethics behind tithing, which led him to write Sunday Morning Stickup; as a result, he was eventually excommunicated from his church.

Think about it. When you boil “church” down to its basics, it is not going too far to assert that tithing is the key pillar of religious machinery. Leaders fear that were tithing were taken out of the equation, they wouldn’t be able to pay the bills and the salaries. Why should we be surprised, then, that church leaders go ballistic when tithing is questioned?

Sunday Morning Stickup does an excellent job of showing what tithing was all about in Israel’s economy; that in the Mosaic law tithing was not about giving money and was designed to help the needy. David Lee points out that Christ fulfills the tithe, that God is not after our money, but desires 100% of us as living sacrifices.

The author’s conviction is that “we are not in need of a revival in our churches; we are in desperate need of a funeral. The call goes out to bury many of the practices which have a purely business focus in our churches today.”

In the Summer 1979 issue of Searching Together, I wrote an extensive article entitled “Each According to His Ability: Principles of New Covenant Giving,” which was an eye-opener for many. Then in our 21-page Winter 1987 issue, the theme was “Perspectives on New Covenant Giving.” Under the heading “How Shall We Then Give?” Tom Atkinson penned three superb articles in the 61-page 2006 Searching Together. (These are available from ST for $4/each postpaid.)

SUNDAY MORNING STICKUP: What Your Pastor Doesn’t Want You to Know About Tithes

 

 

 

 

 

THE NEW COVENANT: The Dramatic Story Behind the Faith Once Delivered to the Saints, Bob Emery, BenchPress, 2012, 421 pages.

This is a wonderful book. Because of the mileage it covers, some might find it to be the kind of volume to read through slowly in solitude.

The content of The New Covenant is presented in three parts with the Apostle John as narrator. In the first segment (pp. 9-119), “The Messenger,” Paul brings Titus to John and leaves him for a season. In their time together, John vividly recounts the story of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, beginning in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Part two (pp. 131-270), “The Message,” has John telling the saga of how the New Covenant writings came into existence. To me, this section seems to be oversimplified, but nevertheless many important insights into life in the early church are unfolded.

Part three (pp. 275-378), “The Marriage,” deals with the main themes in John’s Revelation in short chapters. This is hands down the best treatment of Revelation I’ve ever seen. More heat than light has resulted from most discussions of Revelation. However, “The Marriage” brings light to this difficult book because it is Christ-centered and brings often missed understanding because Revelation is interpreted in its first century context.

A must read is the uplifting appendix on “The Lord’s Supper: The Celebration of the New Covenant.”

The New Covenant, by Mr. Bob Emery

 

 

 

 

 

(1) COMMUNICATING LOVE; (2) WITHIN THE WALLS; (3) BREAKING THE SILENCE, Stephanie Bennett

Stephanie spoke at our Searching Together Gathering several years ago and some of her writings will be featured in the next Searching Together, Vol. 39:3-4.

(1) Communicating Love provides perspective and insight that will be singularly helpful to those who wish to improve relationships by sharpening their communication skills.

The realm of communication does not lend itself to simplistic formulas and easy-to-follow steps. No wonder, for each setting where communication occurs involves the many intangibles connected to the personalities and circumstances. Stephanie knows this and does a beautiful job of speaking generally enough to allow for plenty of flexibility, yet specifically enough that her readers can relate what is said to their peculiar setting.

A great deal of time is spent in our lives pursuing or avoiding communication. If we truly love other people, then we must grow in our ability to listen to others, to explore the thoughts of others and to value the concerns of others. This book will go a long way in stimulating and facilitating such important growth in our personal lives.

We live in a culture where the tentacles of technology are entangling themselves in our relationships, often negatively. Stephanie points the way for deeper and more meaningful relationships in a media-saturated society!

(2) Within the Walls is the first part of a trilogy. In it, Stephanie brings her background in culture and communication together to give us a fascinating tale that brings out the effects of advanced technology on human existence. This story begs for more — and sequels are sure to follow!

(3) Breaking the Silence. As technology spreads its tentacles more and more in our culture, the expression of authentic humanness becomes challenged in untold ways. As Henri Nouwen astutely noted, “our technocratic society has succeeded in killing the natural spontaneous curiosity of people, and dulled the human desire to know.” In Breaking the Silence, part two of an unfolding trilogy, Stephanie Bennett masterfully addresses the tension between an increasingly depersonalized society and the human hunger for belonging. This is an engaging story that wrestles with far-reaching issues staring us in the face right now, and offers hope in the midst of crises that threaten the fundamentals of human existence itself.

Communicating Love

Communicating Love [Kindle Edition]

 

 

 

Within the Walls (Within the Walls trilogy) [Kindle Edition]

 

 

 

 

Breaking the Silence (Within the Walls trilogy) [Kindle Edition]

 

 

 

 

 

CHURCH OUTSIDE THE WALLS: A Four Part [DVD] Documentary Exploring Church Life Outside of Organized Religion, produced by David Fredrickson

David was my roommate at a gathering in October 2013 north of Charlotte, NC. I had met him briefly before, but it was a privilege to get to know more of his heart.

These DVDs are excellent for both individual reflection and group study. The first part deals with “The Dropouts.” Parts 2 and 3 review history and tradition in “Today’s Church: How Did It Get This Way?” Part 4 focuses on “Where Do We Go from Here?”

David also has a book available, When Church Leaves the Building.

Family Room Media

 

CHURCH OUTSIDE THE WALLS

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT’S WRONG WITH PROTESTANT THEOLOGY? Tradition Vs. Biblical Emphasis, Jon Mark Ruthven, Word & Spirit Press, 2013, 303 pages.

The author’s basic thesis is that since 1500 traditional Protestant theology has downplayed and marginalized the ministry of the Holy Spirit. As Steven Fanning pointed out in Mystics of Christian Tradition (2001), the same could be said about the developing Roman Catholic Church from AD 250 onwards. As overt institutionalism increased, dependence on the Spirit decreased. Of course, the notion that certain Spirit-gifts ceased after the closing of the canon contributed to the neglect of the Spirit.

Jon traces the impetus for this book all the way back to when he taught in a seminary and came to have “the growing, sick feeling that something was terribly wrong with this educational system and with what I was trying to do as a theology professor.” After years of involvement, Ruthven’s conclusion is that “to put it rather impolitely, to teach God’s message of the Bible in a traditional educational format is like trying to teach sexual purity in a brothel.”

What’s Wrong? is a fascinating read. Jon wrestles through some difficult issues and is fair to those with whom he differs. I am in deep sympathy with his essential concerns, though I would have a different take on some matters.

What’s Wrong with Protestant Theology? Tradition vs. Biblical Emphasis

 

 

 

 

CHRIST IS ALL: No Sanctification by the Law; THE PASTOR: Does He Exist?; THE PRIESTHOOD OF ALL BELIEVERS: Slogan or Substance?; FOUR ‘ANTINOMIANS’ TRIED & VINDICATED; David H.J. Gay

I had the privilege of meeting David Gay in August, 2013, at the 14th Searching Together Conference in Elgin IL. His sessions on 2 Cor 3 & 4 were uplifting! I have perused several of his previous books — The Priesthood of All Believers: Slogan or Substance, The Pastor –Does He Exist? and Christ Is All: No Sanctification by the Law — with great profit.

The Pastor – Does He Exist? has some amazing appendices (David calls them “Extracts”) in which he has collected quotations regarding his main points. His compilation of statements by the “Church Fathers” on church hierarchy is priceless.

“Four Antinomians,” though an historical study, nevertheless affords the opportunity to focus on some very important issues — Has Christ actually removed forever all condemnation for those in Christ? Must sinners be “prepared” for the gospel by Law-preaching?

Of the “Four,” I’m most familiar with Tobias Crisp. After I wrote what many called groundbreaking articles in 1977-1978 (“Is There A ‘Covenant of Grace?” and “Crucial Thoughts on Law in the New Covenant”), several well-known Reformed Baptists (Walt Chantry and Al Martin) called me an “antinomian.” In 1978, Walt Chantry wrote me a long letter and designated me as “neo-dispensational” and “neo-antinomian.” I spent hours in the Vanderbilt Divinity Library in Nashville researching Antinomianism in history, focusing on Tobias Crisp. I concluded then, as David Gay has now, that calling Crisp “antinomian” was a false accusation. I sent a detailed reply to Walt which suggested that the appellation of “antinomian” was inappropriate for Crisp and for me.

David Gay has done us a tremendous service by documenting the freeness of grace in Christ as proclaimed by these four often maligned men. What I especially appreciate about David’s presentation is his evenhandedness. He clearly unfolds where he agrees with these four, where he disagrees with them, and where he believes them to have been unwise in the way they expressed certain sentiments.

I highly recommend David’s books. They shed important light on vital issues that have come to the top in church history.

 

CHRIST IS ALL: No Sanctification by the Law

 

 

 

 

THE PASTOR: Does He Exist?

 

 

 

 

THE PRIESTHOOD OF ALL BELIEVERS: Slogan or Substance?

 

 

 

 

FOUR ‘ANTINOMIANS’ TRIED & VINDICATED

 

 

 

 

 

Dangerous Memories: House Churches & Our American Experience, Bernard Lee & Michael Cowan, 1986, Sheed & Ward.

Reviewed by Christian Smith:

There must be something going on out there in the church, for here we have yet another great new book on home churches. Indeed, the authors claim that a movement with “earthquake potential” has been rumbling in the Roman Catholic church for a generation now. That movement is the regathering of believers as genuine church in the home.

In this book they examine this house church movement – primarily from a Roman Catholic perspective – in light of scripture, history, psychology and sociology. Some of the topics covered in the book include an international overview of the intentional community movement, community and American culture, mutuality in relationships, the political implications of community, and servant leadership. Each chapter ends with a helpful list of additional resources. The social science slant of the analysis is very valuable.

The greatest strength of this book, though, is its exploration of community in the context of American culture. The authors note that American culture evokes a hunger for community, yet simultaneously militates strongly against it. Drawing on Robert Bellah’s Habits of the Heart, they explore the possibilities of redeeming American individualism by transforming it into a radically relational form.

This book is especially appropriate for Roman Catholics. However, the house church movement transcends all traditions and denominations. Anyone interested in the subject, then, should add this book to their library. – Christian Smith, Voices in the Wilderness, July/August, 1987, pp. 26-27.

 

THINKING NAUGHTY THOUGHTS On Church, and Why I Think We Need to Change, Johan Van Der Merwe, 2013, 321 pages.

This book is written by a gracious, open-minded brother in South Africa who asks a lot of great questions. His own words get to the point: “In Thinking Naughty Thoughts I critically examine certain church practices and traditions. If you have ever found yourself asking tough questions regarding the run of the mill practices of a typical evangelical church, whether secretly or in the open, this book may help you give words and direction to your thoughts.”

www.johanvdm.co.za

Thinking Naughty Thoughts: On church, and why I think we need to change

 

 

 

 

 

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO WAFFLE HOUSE, Ronnie McBrayer, Match Point, 2013, 106 pages.

“We don’t need more of the church; at least not more of the church as we have previously known it. We don’t need more straight-laced, behavior-management obsessed, bottom-line focused, boundary-drawing corporations calling themselves the Body of Christ. No, we need this thing we call church to look more like a local diner – more like a neighborhood bar – more like a Waffle House restaurant – then, people might feel welcomed at ‘church’ once again.” – Ronnie McBrayer

From the blurb about the book: In The Gospel According to Waffle House, Ronnie McBrayer employs his years of experience to challenge people of faith to rethink how they “do church.” He proposes a modest, commonsense vision that would reshape Christian congregations into welcoming places for all people, places that would preach and practice simplicity, and places that would operate with grace and flexibility. This is essential reading for those who wish to do “simple church” in a time when Christianity is increasingly fragmented and complicated. If you have been looking for a back-to-the-basics model for your church, then the table is spread in The Gospel According to Waffle House.

The Gospel According to Waffle House

 

 

 

 

QUIVERFULL: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement, Kathryn Joyce, Beacon Press, 2010, 272 pages; QUIVERING DAUGHTERS: Hope & Healing for the Daughters of Patriarchy, Darklight Press, 2010, 231 pages; PATRIARCHY & ACCUMULATION ON A WORLD SCALE: Women in the International Division of Labor, Zed Books, 1998, 251 pages; NO WILL OF MY OWN: How Patriarchy Smothers Female Dignity & Personhood, Jon Zens, Ekklesia Press, 2011, 74 pages.

The Christian Patriarchy Movement in some ways can be considered “fringe” in the home schooling movement, but its literature and products fill the tables of local, regional and national home schooling conferences. One of their tenants is “militant fecundity” – have as many kids as you can.

Some of the main voices in this movement would include Voddie Baucham, Tim and David Bayly, Jeff Botkin, Scott Brown, Matthew Chapman, Bill Gothard, Greg Harris, James and Stacy McDonald, Michael and Debi Pearl, Doug Phillips, R.C. Sproul, Jr., Kevin Swanson, and Doug Wilson.

Here are some resources you can investigate for further information.

The True Story of the Damaged Daughters of Patriarchy – a memoir


Articles by Tim Swanson:

Douglas Phillips’ Affair, and Why I Believe the Details Matter

Patriarchy, Christian Reconstructionsim, and White Supremacy

 

Articles by Karen Campbell:

Thinking thoughtfully about Doug Phillips’ resignation, part four ~ danger markers along the patriarchy path

Thinking thoughtfully about Doug Phillips’ resignation, part two ~ how the patriocentrists raise daughters

 

QUIVERFULL: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement

 

 

 

 

QUIVERING DAUGHTERS: Hope & Healing for the Daughters of Patriarchy

 

 

 

 

PATRIARCHY & ACCUMULATION ON A WORLD SCALE: Women in the International Division of Labor

 

 

 

 

NO WILL OF MY OWN: How Patriarchy Smothers Female Dignity & Personhood

 

 

 

 

 

 

LETTER FROM A PRESBYTERIAN PASTOR IN BLOOMINGTON, IN

IN RESPONSE TO WHAT’S WITH PAUL & WOMEN?

February 4, 2011

Dear Mr. Zens,

Thank you for sending my brother, David, and me your book, “What’s With Paul & Women?” Sadly, what you’ve written is an attack upon God’s order of creation and all the texts of Scripture that apply that precious order to the church and Christian family life.

Be of good cheer, though: the world is panting for your rebellion and will give you its cheap applause.

What will you do in the end, though, when you face Almighty God? Will you tell Him the people were demanding an idol?

I recommend you pull the book from circulation and repent, as I did, for this rebellion.

In Christ’s love, Tim Bayly

 

WAKE UP, LAZARUS! Paths to Catholic Renewal, Vol. II, Pierre Hegy, iUniverse LLC, 2013, 418 pages.

Based on extensive travels among grassroots Catholicism, Pierre has produced a well-researched and thought provoking analysis of a system, its challenges and some key suggestions for renewal.

It amazes me that persons entrenched in the inner workings of an institution can entertain the notion that its fundamental ways of doing things will change. The author’s “proposals for renewal,” I would suggest, are in actuality Band-Aids placed on a deep festering wound. Pierre believes that the system is sound; it just needs some tweaking. Could the truth be that as long as institutions like Catholicism and Protestantism stand, Christ’s life will be impeded?

What follows is my 2008 review of William Bausch’s Parish of the Next Millennium. It reflects the essence of the response I would offer to Wake Up, Lazarus!

Wake Up, Lazarus!

 

 

 

 

Written in 1997 in anticipation of church life in post-2000, this book — written from a Roman Catholic perspective — honestly faces some of the struggles that will challenge the church’s existence in the future. I think the author is way too optimistic, as I don’t think he reckons with the inflexibility of ecclesiastical hierarchies.

Within the ranks of Catholicism, Bausch notes that commitment is down, giving is deplorable, the ranks of the priesthood are declining and he asks, “How long can we call ourselves a eucharistic church when 70% of our people do not celebrate it?” (p.50)

“Going to church” has become irrelevant for much of Western culture. The monstrous and expensive buildings have become an unbelievable burden. “All over Europe churches are becoming shops, restaurants, and mosques. As attendance declines and numbers dwindle, what do you do with the large cavernous churches, chapels, and monasteries that require small fortunes to keep up?” (p.62).

Bausch sees the following significant changes for parish life in the 21st century (I’ve put some of these points in my own words):

**More “lay” involvement

**More emphasis on the giftedness of all than on the “ordination” of the few

**More emphasis on human relationships than on maintenance of the institution

**More emphasis on koinonia fellowship than on top-down hierarchy

**More emphasis on the practice of wisdom than on the mere acquisition of knowledge

**More emphasis on spiritual formation and less on implementing programs

**More emphasis on creative worship and less on repetitive ritual acts

**More servant leadership

**More emphasis on weakness instead of on power

**More intergenerational education and not just a focus on education for children

**More collegiality and less top-down management. “There is no doubt in my mind that any kind of authoritarianism will be out (or at least minimalized) in the next millennium.” (p.249)

**More participation and involvement of women

These are noble goals, and if taken seriously would result in noticeable renewal. However, there remains an unresolved and insurmountable bottleneck in Bausch’s wonderful proposals: the Roman Catholic hierarchy, resting on the clergy/laity distinction, is a non-negotiable. In Catholicism (and much of Protestantism), you simply can’t do church “without benefit of clergy” (p.39). “Everyone knows that ultimately certain people, by virtue of their superior office or position, will alone and unilaterally have to make a decision. That’s what hierarchy is all about” (p.114). The tragic reality is that the gifts and the full expression of Christ through everyone must be sacrificed in order to maintain the institution.

We would do well to heed another voice in Catholicism who was, unfortunately, rejected by the powers at the top. Herbert Haag in Upstairs, Downstairs: Did Jesus Want a Two-Class Church? (1997) advocated the full priesthood of all believers and suggested that any male or female could be commissioned to “conduct the eucharist” (p.110).

— Jon Zens, December, 2013

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NEW DISCIPLESHIP COURSE & FREE eBOOK – LIMITED TIME OFFER

Frank Viola – my long-time friend and co-worker – is giving away his digital bookEPIC JESUS for free this week on PDF. It’s also on Kindle and Nook for just 99 cents.

Frank has also released a new online discipleship course which is discounted until October 1st.

The course is called Living by the Indwelling Life of Christ.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN ABOUT THE COURSE AND SAMPLE IT

Click here to get EPIC JESUS for free on PDF and 99 cents on Kindle & Nook

 

 

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BETHANY TODAY!

I’ve known Frank Viola, my friend and brother in Christ, for many years. Our close friendship has continued to grow in the love and depths of Jesus Christ as we work together. It is an understatement to say that Father blessed my life with Frank. It seems that the more I know Frank, the more I am focused upon Christ and His body. Father has used Frank to unveil the glorious riches and heavenly treasures of Christ in each person within His body. Christ in Frank remains to be a powerful example to me — a living expression of God’s love, kindness, mercy and endurance.

When Frank first spoke about Bethany years ago, my heart slowly melted within me as the Spirit revealed Christ’s treasures in that little village. I am thrilled that God’s Favorite Place On Earth is now unfolding the Lord’s presence in Bethany.

It is an astounding revelation that Bethany was the only place on the earth where the incarnate Jesus was welcome! He never spent a night in Jerusalem. He would always find His way to His friends in Bethany. The riches of the endless reality of our Father and His people can be gleaned from what transpired in that small village two miles away from Jerusalem.

In 2009, Frank Viola developed the beauties to be discovered from the Lord’s presence in Bethany in a 62-page booklet, Bethany: The Lord’s Desire for His Church. Later, Bethany became chapter nine of The Jesus Manifesto.

In God’s Favorite Place On Earth, what happened in Bethany is unveiled through the words of one who was there — Lazarus — and then Frank draws out the gems from the treasure chest of Christ.

This book will encourage and challenge you from many angles. It reveals the passion of Frank’s heart — to see contemporary Bethanies spring up all over the earth — fellowships where Jesus is fully welcome — settings where death and resurrection in Christ will be realities.

If you order this book between May 1 – 7 at this link God’s Favorite Place On Earth you will receive a number of free gifts, including one of my writings — “This Is My Beloved Son, Hear Him” (94 pages, 1997).

— Jon Zens, May 1,  2013

 

 

                                                                                                           

 

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ALL THE WORLD WAS CREATED IN, THROUGH AND FOR CHRIST: GUESS WHO’S IN CHARGE?

One of the most fundamental misunderstandings, in what calls itself church, is the notion that somebody in the church – usually the pastor – has to be “in charge.” Jesus taught just the opposite. He made it clear that He was in charge, and each person in His body on earth has a unique Spirit-driven contribution to make for the building up of the ekklesia.

Closely linked to the mistaken idea that there has to be one leader, where the buck stops, is the tradition that males are to have center stage in all areas of life. For Harry Bethel, life boils down to the title of his booklet: It’s A Man’s World: A Fresh Look at a Truth Obscured by the End-Time Apostasy (3rd edition, 1996, 16 pages).

“Male Dominance”
Harry believes that a man is “to be the dominant figure in the family, in the work place, and in the church.” He is sure that any person who is honest with Scripture will arrive at this same conclusion. However, it would seem that Mr. Bethel is very selective in his use of Scripture, and that his dogmatic perspectives are, in fact, the exact opposite of Christ’s will.

Before the Fall
He points out that before Adam and Eve’s transgression “there was a proper and perfect relationship with man and his wife and his God and with all other creatures of the earth.” He admits that the situation before sin entered was God’s highest ideal. But, then, it must be asked – was the earth a “man’s world” before the fruit was eaten? The answer is a resounding “No.” Genesis 1-2 portrays Adam and Eve as partners and equals, not as a hierarchy of male over female. God spoke to “them,” not “him.” In fact, the very name “Adam” embraced both male and female – “He called them Adam” (Genesis 5:2).

Of course, all of this was a profound mystery concerning Christ and His ekklesia (Ephesians5:32).

Mr. Bethel’s contention that our planet has always been “a man’s world” by God’s design is manifestly incorrect from the outset.

Woman Created for Man?
Harry maintains that “the woman was created for the man and not the other way around.” “In fact,” he goes on to say, “she is not even the glory of God, but rather the glory of man (1 Cor. 11:7). It is the man who is the glory of God.” But he totally misses something vitally important in 1 Corinthians 11. Paul is headed toward a conclusion in his line of thought here, and it comes in verses 11-12 – “nevertheless, neither [is] wife without husband nor husband without wife in the Lord, for as the wife is from the husband, so also [is] the husband by the woman – but all things [are] of God.” Paul’s bottom-line “in the Lord” is a relationship of mutuality and interdependence, not female subordination.

“The Head of the Woman is Man – Not Christ”
Mr. Bethel makes the astounding claim that “Christ is not even the head of woman – man is! . . . And the head of the woman is the man [not Christ].” This illustrates how far he will stretch to make his unfounded conclusions. Ephesians 5:23 affirms that Christ is the Head of the ekklesia, which clearly indicates that He is Head over both the men and the women in His body.

Women Prophesying
Further, Mr. Bethel fails to point out the obvious fact that in this passage Paul has no issue with women praying and prophesying in the assembly. He uses 1 Cor. 14:34-35 to enforce the silence of the sisters, but never deals with the female functioning unfolded in 1 Cor. 11.

Philip’s Virgin Daughters Prophesied
Acts 21:9 mentions Philip’s four virgin daughters that prophesied. Harry replies by saying, “one thing is sure – they did not prophesy in the churches and be in the Lord’s will, because it was a commandment of the Lord that women were not to speak in the church (1 Cor. 14:34-37).”

However, it must be asked, then, where did these sisters prophesy? For several reasons “in the ekklesia” would be the correct answer. First, in 1 Corinthians 14 Paul makes it clear that prophecy is to be central in the gathering. There Paul speaks of the “whole church” (men and women) coming together to prophesy. Paul’s flow of thought from 1 Cor. 11 to 1 Cor. 14:33 clearly assumes the participation of both sexes.

The Day of Pentecost
Secondly, when Jesus came to the ekklesia on the Day of Pentecost, 120 men and women prophesied, and Peter announced, right off the bat, that this was a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy that both sexes would prophesy by the Spirit. For some reason, Mr. Bethel never mentions Acts 2, and does not wrestle with the implications of the female functioning in Christ’s body found in that passage.

1 Corinthians 7:1-5
1 Cor. 7:1-5 is the only place in the New Testament where the concept of “authority” is linked to marriage. However, contrary to Mr. Bethel, it is not the authority of the husband over the wife that Paul mentions, but a mutual authority over each other’s body. Couples are not to physically separate unless there is “symphony,” or mutual consent. Read over this passage and see if it sounds like “a man’s world” to you.

How could 1 Cor. 7:1-5 be reconciled with Harry’s bold remark that “there is no higher human authority on this planet, according to God, than that of a husband and father of minor children.” The New Testament never attaches “authority” to a husband, and when this word is used in the setting of marriage, it is applied to both the wife and the husband – it is mutual, not one-way.

Only Male Deacons?
Mr. Bethel believes that only men can be deacons. He skips over the fact that sister Phoebe brought Paul’s letter to the Roman believers and she was “a deacon of the ekklesia of Cenchrea” (Romans 16:1-2).

Only Male Apostles?
“Why did Christ,” Harry asks, “when He chose the Twelve, choose men?” But, there is more to the story than that. Romans 16:7 mentions Andronicus and Junia, who were Paul’s relatives, had been jailed with him, and “were outstanding among the apostles.” So, in Romans 16 we discover a female deacon and a female apostle! Paul called several sisters “co-workers,” which is the same word used to describe his relationship with Timothy, Titus, Barnabas and Aquila.

What Do We Know About the Twelve?
Harry makes a big deal out of the fact that in the record of the apostles’ work and writings, “there is nowhere in the Scriptures even the mention of one of their wives’ names including that of Peter.” The truth is, however, that the New Testament reveals more about the service of women in the early church than it does about the work of most of the Twelve!

Divorce
On the topic of divorce Mr. Bethel asserts that “nowhere in the Old or the New Testament does God allow a woman to divorce her husband for any reason.” Indeed, in the covenant life of Israel there was no provision for a wife to divorce a husband. But Jesus made a radical statement in Mark 10:12 in which He envisioned a wife divorcing her husband — “And if a wife shall put away her husband . . .”? Jesus mentioned a scenario that before was not viewed as an option.

“Brothers”
Mr. Bethel finds great significance that in the letters to the churches, the “brothers” (Greek, adelphoi) are mentioned, but Paul “did not address the sisters,” and “had nothing to say to the sisters.”

When the King James Version says in Acts 17, “God commands all men to repent,” are only males being addressed? No, it is supposed that women are included in that statement. “Men” back then was a generic word, and encompassed both sexes. Likewise, “brothers” is not limited to males. As J. P. Louw and Eugene Nida point out, “adelphoi [brothers] can mean both ‘brothers and sisters’ . . . . The masculine form adelphos may include both men and women” (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, Vol. 1, pp. 118, 125).

The Scales Are Tipped Toward the Men
In Harry’s world, women get the short end of the stick. If they divorce their husbands for any reason, they are guilty of “rebellion,” but “this being a God-ordained man’s world, Scripture nowhere prohibits a man whose wife divorces him from remarrying.” The way Mr. Bethel sees things, “there are many God-given prerogatives for husbands and fathers that women do not have, if for no other reason than God ordained it so. It’s a man’s world.”

The fact that God has used women does not impress Harry, for “God uses Satan.”

“Test the Spirits”
It’s A Man’s World is a glaring example of how people can use selected Scriptures to spin a devious, hurtful tale that demeans the body of Christ.

This booklet also emphasizes the important fact that we as God’s people, need to see the red flags that the Holy Spirit reveals when an author tells us that we are “apostate, in rebellion akin to witchcraft, and in cahoots with the devil” if we do not become comfortable citizens in the male dominated “man’s world” that he has created in his own mind. To put it simply, gender bias opposes God’s eternal purpose in Christ.

Mr. Bethel cloaks his prejudice by saying that he “without bias in this treatise want[s] to present the whole counsel of God regarding the truth that this is a God-ordained man’s world.” I have tried to show briefly, however, that his presentation has omitted significant chunks of New Testament material that would call his conclusions into question.

The Notion That “It’s A Man’s World” Is Widespread
Many who would sympathize with It’s A Man’s World’s perspective may not express their views as boldly and vividly as Mr. Bethel did. That does not mean, however, that such opinions are not to be found in many quarters. Usually, such views are stealthily hidden within well-mannered language.

Even the well-known John Piper has echoed the essential sentiments of It’s A man’s World, as when he suggested in 2012 that:

 

Deborah the prophetess under her palm tree judging Israel (painting by Charles Landelle, 1901)

God has given Christianity a masculine feel. And, being a God of love, he has done it for the maximum flourishing of men and women. He did not create women to languish, or be frustrated, or in any way to suffer, or fall short of full and lasting joy, in a masculine Christianity. She is a fellow heir of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7). From which I infer that the fullest flourishing of women and men takes place in churches and families where Christianity has this God-ordained, masculine feel. (Address on J.C. Ryle)

It would seem that in his ideal world men would accomplish the bulk of what needs to be done (What’s the Difference?,  pp. 60-64).  What are women supposed to think when they read statements like, “it is simply impossible that, from time to time, a woman not be put in a position of influencing or guiding men . . . . To the degree that a woman’s influence over man is personal and directive, it will generally offend a man’s good, God-given sense of responsibility and leadership, and thus controvert God’s created order . . . . The closer they get to the personal side, the more inappropriate it becomes for women to exert directive influence” (What’s the Difference?, pp. 60,62)? 

“Women Must Be Silent”
For further exploration of Mr. Bethel’s use of two passages – 1 Cor. 14:34-35 and 1 Tim. 3:11-12 – to completely silence the sisters in church, I highly recommend Also, you may find some help in my What’s With Paul & Women? Unlocking the Cultural Background to 1 Timothy 2.   

– Jon Zens, March, 2013

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CHRIST EXALTED (Kat Huff & Frank Viola)

YET

by Kat Huff

More often than not, I find myself reaching, searching the heights, and my thoughts appear to fumble upon my tiny words, such minuscule and inadequate words. Even so, these mere words somehow seem to be a bit further than the scope of my present apprehension, so it is a great understatement to say, that with assured confidence that this unfathomable indwelling Christ transcends all theories, from the known impossibilities to the limits of all possible imaginations.

The increasing and living testimony of Christ, in His blessed heavenlies, reveals the Glory of His Life, Himself through and in us. The combined sphere of our hearts nearly explode at the hint of the unsurpassed excellence of God’s immeasurable Love in the glory of His exceeding grace — Jesus the Christ. And it is God’s glorious face of Grace who wept with us, walked with us, ate with us, and became “like one of us.” Yet, He is The Beginning and The End in the same, one existing breath, occurring together at once. What is in the beginning is also in the End. And, what is in the End is also in the Beginning. In divine accordance with the existing pleasure of God in His Son, the ending and the beginning are one perfected whole, consummated in the totality of ultimate completion and the heavenly manifestation of Christ in the fullness of the glory of God. And yet, at this very moment, this incomprehensible Christ of Love’s glory and unconstrained ever-Life lives inside of us.

kathuff.com; harvestofpearls.com

DeVern Fromke

In a similar vein, Frank Viola recently pointed out to his blog-readers the Christ-exalting nature of DeVern Fromke’s writings. DeVern was a pioneer in unveiling God’s eternal purpose in Christ. I read Ultimate Intention around 1980, and it had a huge impact on my vision of Christ. You would do well to obtain anything written by this author!

Here are some prime excerpts from Ultimate Intention to whet your appetite.

It is imperative to recognize that the Father has purposed at least three things FOR HIS SON. Let us see the several phrases which, when pieced together, give us the full picture of this intention.

Paul speaks of “my knowledge in the mystery of Christ” (Eph. 3:4). What was that mystery? It was that the Son might have a corporate Body through which to express Himself. It is this mystery of Christ in you—the means by which God’s glory shall be manifest in every believer. (Col. 1:27).

Again, it is the Father’s intention that His Son shall be the Head of this Body, the altogether pre-eminent One who expresses not only Himself, but the fulness of the Godhead. Thus the Father and the Holy Spirit also are revealed and expressed throughout the whole universe by the lives of His many sons. (Col. 1:18).

Further, the Father has intended to make Him (the Son) to be the center and gathering point for all things in heaven and earth—”to sum up all things in Christ” (Eph. 1:10). All things were not only created “by Him,” but “FOR HIM” (Col. 1:16).

What a glorious unveiling—almost beyond our comprehension. To think that the Father hath purposed in Himself to make Christ the center of His working. The altogether lovely One, His Son, is to have the pre-eminence.

Jon Zens

Ultimate Intention by Devern Fromke
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UPON THE GROUND OF MEN?

UPON THE GROUND OF MEN?

The seemingly endless versions of words that oppose other versions of words in the myriad of Bible translations, gave me thought as to why this is happening, even today. A variant multitude of Bible translations exists, each with their name and individual trademark upon their version of the Bible. The reason for this should be more than obvious to us. It is because of the many opinions of the various words that are used to express what each of the translation’s authors “felt” or “thought” were most important, or most accurate in their own understanding, or their own interpretation, and were not “felt” to be in agreement or privy to other Bible versions. While we appreciate the great effort that goes into each translation, the fact remains that they desired their own version in accordance to what they considered to be accurate in each of their minds.

The Bible Says
We must appreciate the fact that most people are dependent on English translations, and pretty much assume that what they read is accurate. As Leland Ryken has pointed out:

Readers who do not know the original biblical languages assume that an English translation reproduces what the Bible really says . . . . People naturally and legitimately appeal to the English translation in their hands as constituting “what the Bible says” . . . . Readers of the English translation operate on the premise that they are reading what the Bible actually says (The Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation, Crossway Books, 2002, p. 136).

So then, may we be diligent in truth so that when we discover a bias, or a mindset, that has changed the meaning from the Greek word so that it then implicates something other than the intent of the original Author, should we not then perk up our ears to hear truth? Or should we be satisfied with an ear tickling from the opinions of the scribes according to the scribed version in which we agree? Do we just say “Pick your favorite version, any version,” and ignore the reality that not one of the multitude of versions are totally accurate?

May we seek the heart of our Father above the opinions of humans. When light is shed upon an inaccuracy or deflection from the Greek, may we have eyes to see and ears to hear Him. I have quite a few different versions myself, a whole entire shelf of them. And I’m thankful for them, but I also know I need to seek Him as I read, and times do come when He points to a certain word or words, and so I then check out the Greek. Ultimately, He is our Teacher by the Spirit, just as He stated.

Examples of Personally Transmitted Bias Written into Translations
The basic Greek word for “humanity” is “anthropos.” This is a gender-inclusive word – it encompasses both men and women. In many translations, “anthropos” (singular) and “anthropoi” (plural) are translated as “man/men.” Unfortunately, these renderings often do not lead to clarity, but contribute to confusion and misunderstanding. Here are some examples.

Partial Sentence of Paul’s Correspondence Labeled as Ephesians 4:8:
“Therefore it says, When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men.” (NASB version)

The Word:
The Greek word here is “anthropois,” the plural form of “anthropos.” It is not a gender-specific word.

Reality:
“Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to people.”

The above may not seem important, but let’s remember that in his letter to the saints in Ephesus Paul writes about important gifts of function in the body of Christ – “apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.” (Ephesians 4:11) Are only males included in these functions? Phoebe was a deacon in the ekklesia in Cenchrae; Junia was an apostle (Romans 16:1, 7); Philip had four virgin daughters who were prophetesses (Acts 21:9).

A Sentence of Paul’s Correspondence Labeled as 2 Timothy 2:2:
“The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (NASB)

The Word:
The Greek word here is “anthropois” (plural), and it is an inclusive word which embraces men and women. Again, it is not a gender-specific word.

Reality:
“The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful people who will be able to teach others also.”

Partial Sentence of Peter’s Correspondence Labeled as 1 Peter 3:4:
“But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” (King James Version)

The Word:
The Greek word here is “anthropos,” which means this passage would more accurately read as “person.” Again, it is not a gender-specific word.

Reality:
“But let it be the hidden person of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”

Partial Sentence of Paul’s Correspondence Labeled as Ephesians 3:16:
“That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.” (NASB version)

The Word:
The Greek word here is “anthropon.” Again, it is not a gender-specific word.

Reality:
“That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner person.”

Sentence of Paul’s Correspondence Labeled as 1 Timothy 5:8 :
“But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” (King James Version)

The Word:
In the context, Paul is speaking to women, specifically widows. The Greek phrase here is “ei tis,” which means “if anyone.” Thus, even though females are being addressed, this translation of verse 8 has “his own,” “his own house,” and “he has denied.”

Reality:
“But if anyone does not provide for their own, especially those of their own household, they have denied the faith and are worse than an unbeliever.”

Sentence of Paul’s Correspondence Labeled as 1 Corinthians 14:26 :
“What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.” (English Standard Version)

The Word:
The Greek word here is “adelphoi.” When “adelphoi” is used with reference to the body of Christ, it is always an inclusive word. Again, it is not male-specific.

Reality:
“What then, sisters and brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.”

Upon the Ground of Men?

Men are God’s method. The church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men. What the church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men who the Holy Spirit can use – men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Spirit does not come on machinery but on men. He does not anoint plans, but menmen of prayer.” (E. M. Bounds)

I’m not implying for a second that E. M. Bounds was intentionally excluding parts of the body of Christ. It is just that when the gender-specific word is used, all else follows that same gender divide. Even those who have a powerful revelation of Christ can communicate in a biased expression merely because of the wrongly translated words that are throughout the many versions of the Bible. Even when there is no intentional exclusion by the speaker or writer, the bias and wrongly translated non-gender words of the Bible versions dictate that such biased expressions become the norm. It becomes a common way of speech, because those are the words we read, over and over again in the versions of the New Testament Writings. And usually no thought is ever given to the actual divisive implications for the body of Christ.

The Everyday Reality of Our Lives
Now, if you are thinking that it doesn’t matter, because women always consider themselves to be included in that word, that the word “men” means both sexes in our minds and hearts, I think the reality of our lives shows the opposite.

For only two examples, I ask you the following questions: Do you, dear sister, open a door labeled “men”? Or do you, dear brother, open a door labeled “women”? Do you, my sister, generally shop for all your clothing needs in a store area labeled “men”? Or do you, my brother, generally shop for all your clothing needs in a store area labeled “women”? If you do, then never mind about this Greek word that is inclusive to both genders. However, if you do not, then imagine what else hides in the recesses of our perceived reality when we are exposed to such biased translations in the many Bible versions. It has entered every facet of our lives together, it has deeply and subconsciously planted a bias into our minds, and we have accepted it as the reality of Christ. The implications are devastating and far-reaching, corrupting even the foundation of our everyday Life. Is it any wonder that the majority of the church has followed this biased mindset of unreality in its form?

The Walls of the World
There is a great barrier created when we use these gender biased words that are not accurate in accordance to the original inspired words, nor the mind of Christ. In the West, this barrier may appear as a mere vague shadow of difference, but this gender divide has become a hidden thought that plays out in the reality of our everyday lives together. We can only see the results of this gender divide if we step back and see with new eyes. And behold, there it is! Can you see it? It’s everywhere, it is here among us. It’s in the words we speak, it’s in the things we do. It’s in the way we raise our children. It’s in the reasoning of our thoughts, and it’s in the sight of our view.

We have become accustomed to this bias of gender distinction, and we accept it all the time without even realizing it, because we no longer see the wall dividing us. We have been blinded to the secret power of the way of the darkness of this world. Thus, we cannot see that the wall is built from the perspective of the unbelieving world. This bias has no ground in Christ. He broke all the barriers, all the walls came tumbling down, by Christ in us we are whole and complete. In Christ there is no divide, no walls, no hills, no valleys, but level ground. Even in the so-called “good” that we sometimes do, such as when we bring attention to the gender or race of other saints in appreciation for their expression of Christ, is misguided. The intent is to free and honor others, but in actuality, this is building upon the wall that divides us. Our Ground is level, all other ground is faulty, and will be shaken till it is level or no longer exists.

The One New Human
Paul’s correspondence labeled as Ephesians 2:14-16 reads, “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the dividing wall of the barrier, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might create the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.” (NASB)

The word translated here as “man” is the Greek word “anthropon.” Yet again, not a gendered word of the flesh. This Greek word is more accurately translated as “human” or “person.”

Reality, “so that in Himself He might create the two into one new human.”

When the above Greek word is translated without bias, far more meaning is given to Paul’s words in his writing to the saints in Galatia —“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” ( Galatians 3:28, NIV).

And keep in mind that women were portrayed in the worst ways and functionally eliminated from church life in the period AD 250 – 1600. The only version of the Bible available from AD 400 – 1400 was the Latin Vulgate, translated by Jerome, who was no friend to females. A few early church fathers even suggested that when women experience salvation in Christ, they are then made complete by becoming male (Joy Bussert, Battered Women, LCA, 1986, p. 9). So the idea that in Christ women really had an “inner man” was not far from the truth, as they saw it.

Our Unshakeable Ground
If there is any hope for the ekklesia (church) on earth today, it must begin with the foundation of everyday Life in our homes, in our families, so that when we as families come together as one family in Christ, we will know the reality of the fact that we are all priests in equal standing in the freedom we have in Christ. I see no other alternative but to stand upon the one unshakeable Ground everyday of our shared Life. Christ Jesus is to be our only Ground, at all times, upon which we stand together as God’s people. We cannot stand upon fallow ground and not falter when all other ground than Christ is being shaken and burned.

“It’s a Man’s World”
We need to understand that there are women all over the world who deeply resent men, because of how they have taken advantage of them and sinned against them. In many parts of the world, women live in the cruel bondage of ownership by men. Thus, when they come to the Bible and see verses like, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,” and “God commands all men everywhere to repent,” they figure the Scriptures are for men, not for them. Most women in the world are taught to think that it is an advantage to be male, and a minus to be born female. You can suggest that when women see the word “men” in Scripture, they see themselves included in it. But the truth is, to use the word “men” (in generic contexts) in the Bible today is unnecessary and extremely misleading. The inspired reality of the translated Greek words would be best served with designations like “people,” “humans,” “men and women,” “persons,” “folks,” and “brothers and sisters.”

In our day, Zondervan’s TNIV (Today’s New International Version) probably does the best job of a solid translation which uses gender-inclusive words that more accurately reflect the original inspired Greek words rather than “man/men.” For example, the TNIV in Ephesians 4:8 has, “when he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to his people.”

(A storm of controversy surrounded the release of the TNIV in 2002. Ann Nyland has documented how certain evangelical leaders have tried to control what Bible versions are published in More Than Meets the Eye: The Campaign to Control Gender Translation in Bibles (2004). When a revision of the NIV was released in 2011, then Zondervan discontinued Bibles containing the TNIV. For further information see Christian Examiner).

The image of God is both male and female (Genesis 5:2). In order for Christ to be expressed in His fullness, the manifestation of the Spirit in each part of the “new humanity” must be living and active. As God’s people, may we be aware of any divisive bias that has influenced our thinking, so that together we may have the mind of Christ, and be found standing upon the one unshakeable Ground.

— Kat Huff & Jon Zens, November, 2012

For Further Reflection
Laurie Fasullo, “What about the word Kephale (‘head’) in the New Testament?”
Frank Viola, “God’s View of A Woman,”
Jon Zens, What’s With Paul & Women? Unlocking the Cultural background to 1 Tinothy 2

The same conversation can be found at: Harvest of Pearls

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“IF ______ WINS, AMERICA WILL GO DOWN THE TOILET” The Samo-Samo Again

I remember well in 1964 when Barry Goldwater was running against somebody. Scott Chesley and Anita Anderson (Howard) had come to my door in Canoga Park, California, and presented the “Romans Road” to me. That was the first time I’d really heard anything from the Bible, and I was 19 then.

After a week’s worth of meetings with Major Ed Bundy of the Church League of America, I ended up being increasingly involved in Faith Baptist Church, a fundamentalist Baptist church in Canoga Park, pastored by Roland Rasmussen.

Roland strongly affirmed from the pulpit that if Goldwater did not win, our country would go down the toilet. In light of his convictions, the church expended a lot of effort to warn the local public about how bad the Democratic agenda was. As the election neared, many people in this church, including myself, went door-to-door several nights a week passing out None Dare Call It Treason by John Stormer. I sent out packets of information to most of my relatives, underscoring to them in personal notes how important it was that LBJ not win.

Goldwater lost . . . . overwhelmingly.

Well, here we are 48 years later, and it’s the samo-samo. Maybe our country is closer to the toilet now than it was in 1964, but it’s still going. Doesn’t history show rather vividly that all nations end up in the commode?

The life of Christ is in us, and His kingdom cannot be shaken. Our liberty in Christ cannot be taken from us, even if we are in solitary confinement. I love what my good friend Don Atkin said recently:

Hello Don,

Do you have any sense of who will win the election? I’m sure you’ve been asked this already. :-)

Dear __________,

I have no sense of who will win the election. I don’t believe that it matters. We have our marching orders. And there is truly only one nation under God, a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, A HOLY NATION, His own special people (1 Peter 2:9).

God will choose, knowing who would best serve His purpose to bring clearer definition to a new creation.

Love, Don

We must ever remember what Father’s purpose in His Son – “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces” (Daniel 2:44-45).

Paul told us in Ephesians 1:22-23 that Father has subjected everything under Christ’s feet, and given Him as Head over all things with reference to the ekklesia, which is His body, the fullness of the One filling all in all. Christ is ruling and directing everything in heaven and earth with reference to and for the sake of His bride. The focus of His passion is not earthly Israel, not America or any other created entity – but the apple of His eye, the ekklesia who continues His life and ministry in this age.

– Jon Zens, November, 2012

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REASON #3 WHY CHRIST IS SILENCED IN MANY CHURCHES

I don’t know what reasons #1 and #2 are, but I know this one ranks way up there. As Frank Viola pointed out in Reimagining Church, there is one source that for sure impedes God’s purposes in Christ – human traditions. One tradition that has a stranglehold in most of what calls itself “church” is the notion that the buck stops with “the pastor.” This so-called “office” is, as was unfolded in chapter five of Pagan Christianity, the biggest “obstacle to every-member functioning.” As this all works out, then, the expression of Christ is supposed to come from one person’s input, and the Life of Christ residing in the rest of the body remains essentially dormant, with no outlet.

Now, most pastors would never put what follows in writing, but a Baptist pastor in Tyler, Texas, did. Here’s what appeared in a 1989 Sunday church bulletin:

HOW TO ADDRESS A PASTOR. It was the first class for Government at East Texas State University. I observed the instructor as he entered the room. He walked to the blackboard where he wrote his name. He turned to the class and said, “That is my name. You may call me Mister or Professor, but never call me by my first name.” I never did call him by his first name, though he was my junior.

The Pastor should not be called by his first name for the same reason. At times, first names can be fitting and appropriate, but not for your parents, nor for judges, not for law officers, nor for preachers. It is a matter of respect for the position and office. A pastor may be called Bishop, Elder, Pastor, or Brother. Ananias addressed Paul as “brother” in Acts 9:17. How very true the statement, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Refraining from calling a Pastor by his first name does not mean he is more spiritual than his flock, but it does mean he holds the highest office in the church, namely that of God’s undershepherd, which demands respect as seen in Hebrews 13:24.

The Pastor should never be called by the title of “Reverend.” That is God’s name as recorded in Psalm 111:9, and it refers to God’s holiness. Pastors have no holiness except imputed holiness. (Dan W. Cozart, Grace Baptist Church bulletin, January 8, 1989)

This is the mostly unwritten way that pastors view themselves, and the people view their leaders. But in this sentiment, and the assumptions upon which it is based, we have set in front of our eyes clearly and unequivocally Reason #3 why Jesus Christ is silenced from expressing Himself through all of His body in most church buildings.

How can Jesus Christ flourish when everyone is on a first-name basis – except the preacher?

How can Jesus be pre-eminent when there is such a focus on one person’s highest position, title, and official authority? Titles bring division among the brothers and sisters by unduly elevating those who can’t be called by their first name.

How can fellowship in the Son be a reality in an atmosphere where one person must remain aloof from the others, lest familiarity breed contempt? The clergy-laity system insulates “the pastor” from the flock. He can’t really have close friends in the church. So he must go away to conferences for pastors/leaders to find camaraderie, and it may rarely be found even in those professional venues.

Where does the New Testament say that the pastor “holds the highest office in the church”? There are no “offices” in the ekklesia. Rather, everyone has “a manifestation of the Spirit” for the full edification and nourishment of the body. Paul clearly stated that “the body is not one part, but many.” But when someone occupies an alleged “highest office,” it paints a picture to watching eyes that the body is dependent on one part, not many. The fullness of Christ is in and through all the body parts together; one body part is merely one part, and nothing more.

The fragrance of Christ evaporates when more respect is demanded for titles and positions than for all the other body parts. In his church bulletin, the official leader stated, “The Pastor should never be called by the title of ‘Reverend.’ That is God’s name.” Yet, by his demand for respect from the rest of the body of Christ because of his high position, he is by his own admission demanding the very reverence which he affirms belongs to God alone.

Emphasis on leaders with titles creates a lifeless hierarchy, with people walking on eggshells, lest they breed contempt because of an inappropriate level of familiarity. Respect and honor are extremely important in the body of Christ, but not based on offices and titles, but on the aroma of Christ exuding through the lives of all the parts. In fact, Paul insists that honor should be bestowed especially on the weaker and seemingly less honorable persons in the body. Where do you see the reality of this being worked out? You can mark it down as a surety – wherever respect is demanded for the few in “office,” Christ’s life in relational community will not be present.

The fact that a traditional pastor felt compelled to express himself in such terms is proof in itself of how far we have drifted from the simplicity of Christ. We have created a religious monster where being “over” others is the name of the game. It’s not about gathering around the lovely person of Christ, but about religious leaders controlling “the flock.” It’s not about Christ guiding His sheep; it’s about those in the “highest office” having the final word. One evangelical denomination put out a position paper that underscored what a sin it is to question the pastor, and told its members to just leave quietly if they didn’t go along with the pastor’s vision/teaching. This is not Christ, but fleshly religion.

Traditional Christianity has said, “respect those in office who are over you, or else.” Jesus said, “not so among you, for you are all brothers and sisters.” The Lord God said out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son, hear Him.” There is little evidence that we have listened.

Jon Zens, October, 2012

Along these lines, check out Jon’s previous blog, “The Body with One Part?”

[For an in-depth presentation that unravels the idea that The Pastor is “the highest office in the church,” check out Jon’s The Pastor Has No Clothes: Moving from Clergy-Centered Church to Christ-Centered Ekklesia]

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FRAGILE, by Jon Zens

FRAGILE

mark
i always assumed
you were strong
impregnable
thinking you stood like granite
in the swirling storms
then
you told me on the phone
In 1985
that you were crushed
doubting
hurting
dismayed
it took me a few days to really
believe that
you were
fragile too
but as time elapsed
i began to see
that
my wife
and daughters
and son are
fragile
like vases that can
slip off the shelf
and shatter
we’re all like
flowers
whose delicate petals
can be torn off
with autumn winds
we all need
care
when the winds of life come
we need our
petals supported by other
fragile flowers
especially the One who
had His petals
knocked off
for us

– jz march 1988

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