Things I Think

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77 Responses

  1. Paige says:

    Thanks, Michael. I wouldn’t lose any sleep over this drama.

    I am praying for the many who have been ‘burnt’ by this flap…but, honestly, it’s almost like a tv show… and the season is over, IMO. The next season is called “Deliverance”.

    “These multi-site/megachurch pastors are nothing more than variety show hosts where Jesus is advertised as a frequent guest…it’s performer based religious entertainment that survives as long as the ratings are good.”

    Sinners, we’re all sinners…. some more publicly than others….(for which I thank God)….

    IMO, for a awful as MD is/was, or the failures of the board is/was, I still say that the people bear a level of responsibility for the metastatic “growth” of the mess. These people are more or less freed now to examine their own hearts and souls and truly find a relationship with the Lord Jesus that is much closer to reality, instead of a superficial game show..

  2. Bob Sweat says:

    Love it! A great “Things I Think”! FIRST

  3. Bob Sweat says:


  4. Michael says:

    Thank you, Bob… 🙂
    Paige… excellent observations…I concur.

  5. “I have searched the Scriptures and church history for ministers who lived in gated communities before the 20th century…still looking.”

    Try Martin Luther at the Wartburg Castle. ;-?)

  6. Bob Sweat says:

    My wife and I have the pastor and family of the new church we have been attending over for dinner yesterday. Great conversation, and good answers to my questions!

  7. Jtk says:


    As Jim Gaffigan pointed out, heaven is a gated community.

    And many a pope lived in opulence and gated communities I think…

  8. Jean says:

    #2 was priceless!

    #1 “[Swaggart] salvaged the brand.” Really?

  9. Jtk says:

    A friend who left the local MH said he has a new standard for his next church–will the senior pastor give a visitor who asks his personal phone number? If not, keep looking.

  10. Michael says:


    I’m a Calvinist…popes don’t count. 🙂
    Inside heavens gates are all God’s children…not just the ones who think they’re special…

  11. Jtk says:

    Heh hehh. I know, Michael, I know.

  12. “One should choose their pastor and church with the same care that they would choose a doctor…”

    I think I do. I belong to Kaiser Permanente for my healthcare. They do everything in house, they don’t mingle with other health plans and they vet out all the doctors so I don’t have to.

    I belong to the Lutheran Church for the same reason – they do everything in house, they do not mingle with other theological plans and they vet out the pastors so I don’t have to. 🙂

  13. Michael says:


    Swaggert still has a substantial business…not like it was, but still enough to pay the property taxes on his estate. 🙂

  14. Bob Sweat says:

    Wartburg Castle

    Didn’t the castle have a moat? 😉

  15. Michael says:


    I don’t know about the moat, but his residence afterwards had a brewery…

  16. Paige says:

    Ugh, Jimmy Swaggart. Ugh. In spite of the fact that he has a couple of cool cousins, Jimmy has to be one of the most repulsive “things” ever, IMO. What sorts of ‘ostriches” (head in the sand) would continue to give resources to the man? Ugh.

    Jtk….really? Phone number of the pastor is the defining criteria? IMO, that’s a hallmark of a potential nut case church member. No freakin way.

    As someone who was the wife of a pastor with a family of 4 kids, trying to keep our personal lives in tact while overly pushy and invasive church participants (some flat out loons) was nearly impossible. And that was in the days long before cell phones, texting, emails, etc…

    Do you have your boss’s personal phone number and permission to contact him/her 24/7?

    The last several years of being in that church/marriage, I had to go to the grocery store at 10pm on Saturday nights to avoid running into people who thought it was a divine appointment to see me out in public. Church participants are the ones who perpetrate that celebrity mentality. Makes everyone crazy.

    If your friend finds a pastor who freely gives out his personal phone number to church visitors, new members, etc, I feel sorry for that pastor and particularly his wife/family.

  17. papiaslogia says:

    Thank you Michael. Much to digest and contemplate.

  18. dswoager says:

    “These multi-site/megachurch pastors are nothing more than variety show hosts where Jesus is advertised as a frequent guest…it’s performer based religious entertainment that survives as long as the ratings are good.”

    What do we do if the average church operates in practically the same manner during a Sunday worship service, just with smaller numbers. Isn’t that essentially the same issue? Aren’t we still working on a performer based model, just with many of us going to see the equivalent of a local rock band at a bar rather than U2 in a stadium? Isn’t much of the currently popular model that is being followed largely personality based performance?

  19. Michael says:

    Paige…your #16 is right on…you lived it and know.

  20. Michael says:

    Thank you, papiaslogia.


    It is the same issue, modeled as the template for “success” by the “big boys”.

  21. Xenia says:

    1. Don’t most people regard Jimmy Swaggart as the archtypical televangelist and therefore, with disdain? Does he still have a fan base?

    2. I think “variety show” is the perfect description. Ted Haggard used to hire Olympic ice skaters to entertain the congregation for their yearly “Christmas” extravaganzas. (The new pastor has done away with most of this foolishness.)

    3. God grant that they have learned from their master’s mistakes. These spin off churches might turn out better than the mother ship.

    4. I have learned that benevolence funds are usually in the last place for a lot of churches. There’s always a leaky roof to be repaired or a million-dollar sound system to be purchased.

    5. In the middle east, most houses would be considered “gated,” I think. For safety and privacy, houses were built around a central court yard with few windows facing outside and a gate at the entrance. But I know what you mean.

    6. As long as the sermon continues to be the main event, you will have this problem. Sermon-oriented churches, big or small, depend on the pastor’s ability to preach a non-boring sermon to survive. Dull pastors get shuffled off to run the senior saints program somewhere.

    7. I don’t know. He won’t escape God for long. Neither will I.

    8. Personally, I do not chose a church based on the pastor. That’s STILL giving in to the pastor-oriented style of church leadership, you are still making it all about the pastor.

    10. I think backing away from social media is a very good idea. Good for you, Michael!

  22. dswoager says:

    I guess what I am saying (and it’s not entirely original) is that the church has a celebrity problem, and it’s not a one sided problem. We do have celebrity pastors that are taking advantage of those that they place themselves over, but we also have congregations that will far too willingly raise a pastor up to a celebrity status in order to get some of that reflected glory of getting approval from him.

    Strangely we seem to miss the fact that we already have that relationship with Christ.

  23. Babylon's Dread says:


    My wife would say… priceless. But as the pastor who actually does give out his number to anyone who asks… I reply that my openness is both genuine and symbolic. I do not answer every call, do not take every request, and do not allow anyone to monopolize my schedule. I have learned … the hard way… very good boundaries. My phone number is out there the moat is still in tact. And the guard dog sleeps beside me… 😉 … cute thing.

  24. Babylon's Dread says:


    Like you I will be scarce… like you I am writing… like you social media is very limited. But I intend to take peaks into PP… not much else. Writing about the suppression of charisms in local church movements, how, why and to what end. …

    The charisms that interest me are of the Spirit not the personality.

  25. Xenia says:

    Our pastor is in the phone book, everyone has his number.

  26. London says:

    Where a person lives does not determine the quality of their heart, nor their effectiveness in living out their calling.

  27. Jean says:

    Having learned a lot from them, I hope Michael and BD won’t be too scare, their sanity permitting.

  28. “Our pastor is in the phone book, everyone has his number.”

    But does anyone have a phone book any longer? That might be the perfect place to hide your number. 🙂

  29. Michael says:


    When a pastor lives way above the average means of his church it says more than most things about the condition of their hearts, in my humble opinion.

  30. Steve Wright says:

    I see I am late to a reply, as Dread has mostly done so for me.

    In no way do I wish to minimize Paige’s experiences, but rather just share my own.

    I have had to actually encourage people that if they see me at the store, or sitting with my daughter at McDonalds or wherever, to by all means stop and say, Hello. I’ve had multiple people tell me on Sunday they saw me somewhere but were afraid to approach because of prior experiences where the pastor makes it clear “When I am out shopping I just want to shop and get home and not visit with church people” – in fact, it just happened yesterday too. Some of my best conversations have been at the store (though not when I have my children with me – as that is their time and I control that. But a quick hello is nothing). I think that is the thing too. Like Dread I am more than willing and able to control the conversation, and end it as needed, but gracefully.

    I also think in the days when all we had was a home phone, the idea of a troublemaker getting that number was a concern. However, my cell number is freely given out, and has zero impact on my family – especially since I refuse to answer it if I am with them. There is plenty of time during the day to check voicemail and return calls.

    I’ll always remember, at my very first leadership meeting at our church, addressing the leaders when I had just become the pastor, encouraging them I am available and I gave my cell (especially since back then I was also working outside the church fulltime and they would not reach me at the church office and I did not want to give them an insurance office number) – one guy afterwards came up to me and asked “Do you realize you just gave out your personal cell to everyone?” – I guess I did it so nonchalantly that he was concerned I actually did not intend to do so. 🙂

  31. Michael says:


    I’m on for a while in the morning to do whatever post and then I’ve been shutting it all down for the most part.
    I’m weary of dividing my attention and the emotional drain of online conflict.
    I’m on now because I’m waiting for my truck to be repaired… 🙂

  32. His Kid says:

    From “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey: The literature used to be focused “on what could be called the Character Ethic as the foundation of success–things like integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, modesty and the Golden Rule…The Character Ethic taught that there are basic principles of effective living and that people can only experience true success and enduring happiness as they learn and integrate these principles into their basic character…But shortly after World War I the basic view of success shifted from the Character Ethic to the Personality Ethic. Success became more a function of personality, of public image, of attitudes and behaviors, skills and techniques, that lubricate the processes of human interaction…other parts of the personality approach were clearly manipulative, even deceptive, encouraging people to use techniques to get other people to like them…to get out of them what they wanted…or to intimidate their way through life…many people with secondary greatness–that is, social recognition for their talents–lack primary greatness or goodness in their character…to focus on technique is like cramming your way through school. You sometimes get by, perhaps get good grades, but if you don’t pay the price day in and day out, you never achieve true mastery of the subjects you study or develop an educated mind…it is character that communicates most eloquently…”

    The fallen Pastors we see now are prime examples of this “Personality Ethic” that we have put in place of the “Character Ethic.” They will see success for a time, but sooner or later the lack of true character catches up with them. But we are also to blame as long as we promote a well-liked personality over a man humbly allowing God to shape his character.

  33. Steve Wright says:

    Around southern california, not all gated communities are some upscale, rich environs. Often regular condos even have gates.

    Home is first and foremost for the family, and first and foremost should be the protection of the family. This is a dangerous world.

    (And no, I don’t live in a gated community, but reading the crime reports I know it would not be a bad idea. My teenage son came home late one night a couple weeks back and some guy was poking around under our cars in our driveway after midnight. Said he was “looking for his cat”….maybe….who knows.)

  34. Just A Sheep says:

    #2 – Never thought of Spurgeon that way. A pastor should be weighed by his character and care for the flock, not the size of the flock.

    I know pastors who are scoundrels. Some with smaller churches some with larger churches. I know pastors who are the real deal. Some with smaller churches some with larger churches.

  35. Nonnie says:

    Paige, I understand what you are saying. I won’t discount your experience.

    My pastor (our church is about 100+) and his wife make a point of inviting new singles/couples/families to their home for a meal, after they have been attending regularly for a couple of months…maybe less. Even though he works a full time job outside the church, I know if a church “member” were in hospital or facing a crisis, he would be available, or he would make a point of getting someone there to be with them.

    What a contrast to a church where a “member” feels privileged if he even gets to shake hands with the pastor after the service. Heck in some churches, people don’t even see their “pastor” in person and have to watch on a screen.

    I agree with Steve. Nowadays, with work cell phones, there wouldn’t be too many reasons a pastor couldn’t give out his number.

    And why do we call a man that teaches the Bible a pastor, if he is only teaching and perhaps leading the board, administrating, but doesn’t actually pastor the flock?? That is something I don’t understand.

  36. Em says:

    #33 -under the car looking for a cat or a catalytic converter… i think i read somewhere that those things are now being taken

  37. Bob says:

    I like what Michael has written in this thread and it points to the real problem of idol worship in our churches. But, is it it just the idol worship of personalities and charismatic men and women? I would submit one could replace that type of with other images in our churches.

    How many go to church because they love God, Jesus and the mercy and grace associated with them, but rater because by doing so something beneficial will come to them? Is not all pagan idol worship based on sacrificing something so to get something?

    In the old days how many attended their religious community so crops would grow, they would have more children, or some healing might take place. Is that any different than the “100 fold” ministry or the many others self-improving “sacrificial things” done today in the name of Jesus?

    If Michael’s thread is even partially true about Mark D and Jimmy Swaggart, isn’t it sad there is a never ending supply of people who want to know them, be like them and become them in spite of the example their fall. But many will cry, “not me, I’m not them, I’ll be different.” Of course such thoughts are betrayed by things like schools who offer to instructed those special individuals in how become a “worship leader” or “prophet of God” (and others of similar vein) Do such schools do nothing more than appeal to the Mark and Jimmy in all of us.

    To me it’s simple, you want to lead people in worship through music, go learn to be a musician or a singer and come to know Him through study of His words. You want to be a prophet, then go and come to know Him through the study of His words. And when you come to know Him go and love and care about all those who are made in his image and He loves.

    Oh well thanks Michael you hit it with this one.

  38. Bob Sweat says:

    When I was a pastor, I made my phone number available to those in my church. It was never a problem.

  39. Em says:

    in the 30’s and 40’s especially there was still a veil between the common man and the celebrity – we thought that they were “special” people… and then along came TV with celebrity snoops and over-exposure of same and we began to see that these were just people – privileged or talented or over-endowed with chutzpah people…
    now, perhaps, the celebrity Christian will come into perspective too? like the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain manipulating the illusions? … if the conversations that i read here are an indication, i think that there is hope for a maturing, more centered in Christ, Church – God, let it be so – the only celebrity a Christian should have is our Lord, Jesus Christ, eh?
    that said, we can have heroes of the Faith, can we not? the ones who affirm and encourage and point us to the one true God

  40. covered says:

    The Pastor that I served under as an assistant boasted that he would never answer his cell phone. The problem is that I was the only one besides his wife that he shared that with. I remember thinking that if I was ever called to shepherd a church, my number is going in the bulletin next to my address. This was not a knock on CC but how in the heck can we justify not being available in an emergency?

    If I wanted a 9-5 job I wouldn’t be a pastor.

  41. London says:

    I understand your point, I just don’t think it applies necessarily to whether or not theirs a gate in front of someone’s neighborhood.
    Last guy I thought of as a pastor type in my life lived in a gated community, but his his house was nothing special and everyone had the code to the gate and his phone number.

  42. JTK says:

    How big was that church you were a part of?

    I appreciate your perspective and sharing it.

    And I was sharing some specific fallout from a former MH congregant.

    As I write semi anonymously. Ha ha

  43. Jean says:


    “And why do we call a man that teaches the Bible a pastor, if he is only teaching and perhaps leading the board, administrating, but doesn’t actually pastor the flock?? That is something I don’t understand.”

    Excellent point!

  44. JTK says:

    Digital gates
    physical gates?


  45. JTK says:

    So glad my pastor answered my 3am call when my young wife was unconscious on the floor a few months ago and I needed someone to come over and watch my kids while I went with her to the hospital….

  46. Jim says:

    I live in gated condo community where all the homes are worth under 100K, although some paid twice that for them. It’s nice, but not wealthy-nice.

    Gates are really common down here.

  47. I don’t know how secure gated communities are – they let the pizza guy drive right in.

  48. I think the “gates” Michael speaks of are a little more metaphorical, so to speak.

  49. brian says:

    Swaggart did not rebuild his brand in the religious industry but he did manage to acquire a large amount of real estate and is doing very well which means he is blessed by God. Driscoll bailed on his people and got paid to do that, that is holy and should be honored He will, and this is a fact more sure than gravity will walk between the raindrops and will be back in the saddle in less that three months. This is also Holy and we should be happy for him and the other senior leaders. A whole bunch of people got really hurt, but they had it coming and that is just to bad. Basically that is how most of the higher ups feel.

  50. brian says:

    This is new Mark Driscoll is doing training for pastors on how to interact with questioning parishioners.

  51. I have had 2 calls from my pastor today – 1 from the associate and 1 from the bookkeeper. Who gave them my number??

  52. Bob Sweat says:

    I did.

  53. filbertz says:

    one person’s ‘divine appointment’ can be another’s brush with the devil. 😉

    I was on staff at a church as both youth pastor and advisor/consultant to the senior pastor. I didn’t even have the pastor’s phone number! I had to leave messages for him with the secretary and hope he’d get back to me. By the way, he never took a single advisory from me or anyone else on staff. He fired us all. 😉

    Jim, @#38–that is a welcome letter to read. Too bad those two guys have bus treadmarks all over them.

  54. Eric says:

    This Steve Wright guy seems legit. I’d go to his Calvary.

  55. JTK says:

    A local congregant told me in Goldman Sachs, if your name appeared in the paper, you’d get fired.

    Make your own application.
    On this subject.

  56. According to this source, Swaggart did a lot of behind-the-scenes shenanigans to save the brand –

  57. Em says:

    did MLD get 2 phone calls or did he get 4?

  58. brian says:

    He also kept a lot of property, I have to admire the utter gall and hubris these people have. My conscience would eat me alive, another of my many vile traits.

  59. brian says:

    “Where a person lives does not determine the quality of their heart, nor their effectiveness in living out their calling.”

    I understand what you are saying and I agree but in practical points it does. If you live in the trashier side of town it is made very clear that you dont go to this church, we dont want your type around here. God loves rich people who have their act together and dont really need Him. I saw that many time. It was never race or nationality it was always a far more important marker, money.

  60. How does someone at the church know where you live when you show up?

  61. Jim Vander Spek says:

    A friend of mine gave up on church. He concluded that churches suffer from the same malady as other organizations. Leaders pretend that their students, citizens, members, etc. are the reason their organizations exist while the reality is that they themselves are the reason. Students, citizens, members, etc. come and go. As long as new blood comes along, and the leadership is paid and cared for, all is well. This way of looking at things certainly applies in the academic and government spheres. Unfortunately, his observation about the churches (campuses) he attended seems spot on as well. They cycle through members on a regular basis and care not the least over those who leave.

  62. WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

    well … heard this was in the loop from a couple of guys who signed it but it’s still something to see.

    What makes it particularly amazing is that every single guy who was on the EIT from the 2007 termination/trial process signed the public letter apologizing for the wrongs of the trial and repudiating the shunning of Petry. If every one on the EIT has now come out against the ethics and results of the trial then, well, not sure I’ve even got words for that yet.

  63. brian says:

    MLD they look at the prayer visitor cards when you put them in the collection plate. If you live on the wrong side of town trust me they know it and act accordingly. They can also tell by other spiritual markers of God’s blessing, the type of car you drive and the type of clothes you wear. When I was in one singles group the girls actually focused on that and it was not unheard of to ask a guy for his 1040 form to see where he stood. That is not an exaggeration but it was not the norm. But being the degenerate I am I found that troubling, it was quite a bit easier for me when they found out I was a teacher and pulled down less than 40 K a year I was on the outs. I no longer look to be honest its an utter waste of time and energy.

  64. We have seen this play out many times before. I just watched 2 hours of WWE Raw. Same senarios – the guys go back and forth. Last years bad gu is now and ggod guy and a couple of the good guys turn bad,

    These signers are now going to play the role of the good guys – they have read the tea leaves of the MD fall and now see the light … of saving their own butts.

  65. brian, you must go to some pretty rich churches. What do the girts show you if you show your 1040? 🙂

  66. WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

    Partly agree, but you keep revealing you don’t seem to know even the most basic details of the history, MLD.

    Most of them haven’t been part of the MH leadership scene for years, for instance. The problem is that they waited more than half a decade to have come to a conclusion they should have come to seven years ago. Better late than never for realizing they were wrong and since the character assassination and shunning were broadcast within the church a public repudiation of their past decisions was warranted, but what would have been better would have been if they hadn’t gone along with it all to begin with.

    It’s a shame that so many guys only stepped forward when someone took the time of writing a not very strongly worded letter that they could add their names to years after the fact. That said, it’s a start of what folks can hope to be more. Some of those guys were running the kangaroo court and have more specific things they could confess to than what’s in the letter. Some of those guys were impressionable and went along with the flow. Some of the men involved in that process didn’t add their names to even this recently-published form letter.

    But if these guys are repenting for real then they have to start somewhere and here’s praying that this is a start.

  67. brian says:

    mld nothing I lack several spiritual gifts, I am not good looking and I dont have big muscles. You know I knew a few prostitutes in my time, never partaken of their services in that area I was well a friend. I know barf. Got one of them out of the life and last I heard she got married and had a few kids. The other one well she died and she was rather closely related to me. Neither of them were whores like these whorse that run some of these churches, they were honest about their lifestyle and their needs.

  68. Bob says:

    Covered said this:

    “If I wanted a 9-5 job I wouldn’t be a pastor.”

    Too bad many see being a pastor a s a job and a way to make money.

    I think it was John Piper who wrote a book, “Brother, We are not professionals.”

    It’s also too bad many do hear God in Piper’s words, they just think he’s another religious nut case.

  69. Bob says:


    It’s 3 AM and I’ve been up making money the normal way.

    “It’s also too bad many do hear”

    should read; “It’s also too bad many do not hear”


  70. Linda Pappas says:


    When you spoke of “pastors” living behind a gated community, I thought more about this being so true, more in metaphorical terms. That is, lack of accessibility, transparency, accountability, and true heart of a shepherd who actually knows your first name and where you live. Integrity-If you have nothing to hide, you hide nothing.

    Pastors, like many who work in a field that is supposed to be hands on with people, need down time with their spouse, family, and even for themselves. But this does not excuse them from counting the cost and keeping things in balance with that which was placed in their care.

    If you don’t have time for the sheep, then you’ve lost touch with the calling or was never called in the first place.

    One other thought:

    It has been my observation that there is this “inner circle” which can serve to keep a pastor/leadership from really being connected the larger body of Christ. It becomes a type of Group Think—which is very destructive and ends up hurting many.

  71. Andrew says:

    If you don’t have time for the sheep, then you’ve lost touch with the calling or was never called in the first place.

    Linda, this is precisely my concern with mega churches and multi-site campuses. With multi-site campuses the senior pastor will rarely know the members at the satellite campuses. With this in mind, I see great danger to the sheep all the while the senior pastor gets more power with no accountability.

  72. Babylon's Dread says:


    Wow… !

    Any thoughts on Morris and his cover for MD … ?

    Turning the shooter into the wounded… quite a miracle.

  73. WenatcheeTheHatchet
    “Partly agree, but you keep revealing you don’t seem to know even the most basic details of the history, MLD. ”

    You are correct – I don’t know all the history, but I do understand people well and as you and Throckmorten have been and will continue to chronicle it, they do desperately want to be on the right side now – genuine or not, they want to be seen wearing the white hat as this ‘hatches’ out. They are probably the same jerks they were in 2007.

  74. Mark says:

    Eric- Steve Wright is representative of the vast majority of CC pastors. He is not the exception to the rule

  75. Jean says:

    “Steve Wright is representative of the vast majority of CC pastors. He is not the exception to the rule”

    You mean He didn’t break the mold? 🙂

  76. Finished says:

    Mark, how many CC churches have you attended? How many CC pastors do you personally know? My experience has been completely opposite.

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