What I Was Really Wrong About

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34 Responses

  1. Laura Figueroa-Scott says:

    Michael,

    Your ministry has been the biggest balm to my much-battered heart and I thank God for the healing and for you often.

    My cats also figure in there, too. 🙂

  2. Michael says:

    Laura,

    Your faithful support is one of the main reasons I’m still here…and we have more gratitude than you can know.

  3. Linn says:

    Michael,

    If I read my NT correctly, we will encounter more churches like the Corinthians than we will like the Philippians (and they still had Euodia and Synteche to contend with). I think we do our best to be the church we should be, and we may find that corner that is “good.” And, I think that may be the part that faithful believers need to concentrate on, small as it may be.

    Yesterday I had what I thought would be a pleasant holiday breakfast with a friend from church that turned into a narration about a horrible betrayal in our leadership. I mostly listened, and I don’t think it’s something I need to investigate right now, but if it is true something will blow soon and it will be ugly, and disappointing, and could be a big blow to our church if not handled correctly by leadership. We’re human and we don’t always live up to our better selves.:(

  4. Jean says:

    Your observations about are spot on.

    I think it is important to observe that there are many parallels with OT Israel.

    When we read their history, and against the backdrop of the prophets who were sounding the alarm and warning them, we can’t believe they did not repent.

    Well, look at American evangelism and you have the answer.

  5. Jean says:

    In other words, faithful Christians see our society crashing, but we (as the collective church) are apparently powerless to change our course. I’m not talking about non-Christians; I’m talking specifically about Christians, just like the people of Israel who would not listen to the prophets.

  6. Michael says:

    Jean,

    We can’t change course when so many believe this is way of the Lord…

  7. Jean says:

    Sadly true, Michael.

    The OT Israelites did not think they were living in rebellion either. The insight is only given to the remnant.

  8. Dave Rolph says:

    What you were wrong about was your expected response. But if we judge according to response we would brand Jesus as a failure. Years ago when I was a young minister, discouraged by the fruit of ministry, Dr. Charles Feinberg shared with me from Isaiah 6 and the call of Isaiah. After the whole “here am I, send me” exchange, at the end of the chapter, God told Isaiah that a huge tree would grow up from his ministry, but in the end all that would be left would be a stump. Dr. Feinberg then looked me in the eye and said, “David, you’re not ministering for the tree. You are ministering for the stump.” Ever since then I’ve ministered to the tree, but for the stump. You have impacted more than you know but it was always for the stump. Thank you.

  9. Michael says:

    Dave,

    That was more helpful than you’ll ever know…thank you, my friend.

  10. In the opening chapter of Pete Scazzero’s book EMOTIONALLY HEALTHY DISCIPLESHIP, he lists 4 reasons why he believes the American church to be “a mile wide and an inch deep.” His 4 points are:

    1. We tolerate emotional immaturity in the church
    2. We emphasize doing for God over being with God
    3. We ignore the treasures, lessons, and wisdom of church history
    4. We define church success and discipleship wrongly

    And in my experience in pastoring, Scazzero is so right. On each point! His observations have helped me realize I’m not off course. But it is painful to think that so many people are emotionally like children; that they don’t know how to be with God; that their understanding of church history goes back only 100 years; and that the definition of success is keeping crowds entertained.

    I got the same instruction as Dave Rolph while in Bible College, although the example was from Jeremiah. I’m glad I learned this at the front end of my ministry, or I would never have made it this far.

  11. Bob Sweat says:

    PH brought up Jeremiah and this Scripture came to mind.
    “Righteous are you, O Lord, when I complain to you; yet I would plead my case before you. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive? You plant them, and they take root; they grow and produce fruit; you are near in their mouth and far from their heart.”
    ‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭12‬:‭1‬-‭2‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  12. Michael says:

    PH,

    We have the diagnosis…what is the cure?
    Is there one?

  13. Linn says:

    Pineapple Head and Dave,

    When I was in Latin America, the church I worked with was truly “remnant.” You were a real cultural standout if you were seriously committed to an evangelical church. Most people just wouldn’t do it because it led to a form of ostracism from mainstream culture that most people could not commit to. About 10 years after I left (1992), it became cool to be an evangelical. They had a short-lived political party that fell apart due to infighting and corruption. There are some huge churches that do a lot of entertainment but no real teaching (think the American megachurch model), and the worst of American evangelicalism infiltrates via the internet and satellite TV. COVID put a damper on a lot of things, and people are beginning to rethink some of their theology, but many of the deeper folks of faith are in the older churches where they thoroughly pursue the Scriptures and a life testimony to their communities. I still have many friends there, and I’ve noticed (via Facebook) that some of the churches are taking a much more community-based, servant approach to ministry, with surprising good results. Bigger and noisier aren’t always better.

  14. Well, as for me it comes down to 2 things. Personally, I am meeting with either 1 or 2 groups and guiding them toward deeper discipleship. With each group I take them through Scazzero’s book as well as Pete Greig’s book on prayer (which is amazing). Along with that we spend time in various scriptures and practice prayer. On the church level, I’m doing everything I can to make sure our church is responding properly to what Scazzero diagnosed. We’re defining success as Jesus did, not as culture does. We invite influence from church history (we just had a first Maundy Thursday communion gathering last spring). We present our people with the concept of spiritual disciplines. Finally, we use a lot of different tools to help our people grow up emotionally, spiritually and relationally. Next month I’m going to take our church staff through Scazzero’s EMOTIONALLY HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS, which is a real butt-kicker. So good, but reveals how relationally wimpy we are.

    We’ve had some people leave, but a lot of people buy in. We’ve also had a couple elders who were stuck in a 1990’s church growth mindset, and it’s been a challenge to bring them along.

  15. Bob, yes Jeremiah provides plenty of fodder to think about! Some of my favorite scriptures to take my group through include Psalm 73 (Asaph’s complaint) and Habakkuk. Most have never heard of these Bible characters, let alone how they interfaced with God.

    Linn, here in North Idaho it’s a real challenge to criticize American Churchianity because much of the populous is so pro-American, and often put God and country on the same pedestal. For where we are, we really are a unique church. 🙂

  16. Captain Kevin says:

    There’s a lot of wisdom in this thread. That gives me hope that while the truly faithful church may be shrinking in size, God is still working in and through His people.

  17. Bob Sweat says:

    PH
    I love God’s response to Jeremiah’s questions (frustration) “If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe land you are so trusting, what will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?”
    ‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭12‬:‭5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  18. Officerhoppy says:

    I dunno. Church, in many cases here in the US of A, function more as a self improvement group rather than the worship of God.

    Worship songs are tunes where the focus is self and the teaching totally ignores authorial intent and context.

    It’s really discouraging.

    Mark Twain said that history does not repeat itself, but it rhymes. Unfortunately, as long as there has been a church, there have been abuses by it’s leaders.

    Pastor Paul Methven committed adulatory in the 16th century while married and had a child out of wedlock.

    Alexander Jarden, the minister of Kilspindie, committed fornication with a virgin

    Robert Richardson, the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, had an illegitimate child by an unmarried woman

    And the sex scandal in the Catholic Church dates back to at least the 13th century.

    Sad but there have always been scandals in the church.

  19. Hop, that’s a great Mark Twain quote!

    I’m not an advocate for the church becoming a self-help center, but my personal experience has been that a lot of Christians think discipleship is only what a person knows about God. As in, the more doctrine and theology gets poured into you, the better a disciple you will be. But that only takes care of our mind. The areas that often get way less attention are things like our emotions and relationships. So, people go around with a solid rule of doctrine, but a pitiful practice of life. The tagline for Pete Scazzero’s ministry is “It’s impossible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.” Let me just say I’ve had enough of dealing with emotionally immature believers (including myself) that the focus of my ministry has changed in the past 5 years. Doctrine is not out (I’m preaching through Mark for 2023), but helping people become functional human beings is a big part of what I pursue.

  20. jtk says:

    Dave Rolph, thanks.

    Michael,
    you said “asses” heh hehhh

    And you’ve convinced me some of some stuff. And become a friend. So there’s that. And maybe we just hang on like a kid on a raft at a water slide…

  21. Michael says:

    jtk,

    I’ve watched your life and ministry from a distance for a long time now.
    You have been faithful in your home and in your ministry, never afraid to challenge me or ask questions.

    More of you is what we need and I’m grateful for you.

  22. jtk, great imagery of the water slide. This summer I went down this huge slide at our local water park where they have you lay on mats and race against 5 other people. About 1/2 way down I started to lose control and ended up sideways and upside down. All I could think to do was hold onto the mat. Sometimes all we can do is hang on.

  23. About 15 years ago I was introduced to Christian culturist/artist Makoto Fujimura. How fun it was for me to run across this video today which has Makoto exploring the art of Kintsugi and how it relates to the Gospel. Essentially, kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken things and making them more valuable than before. My favorite music group, The Choir, used an image of Kintsugi on their latest album called “Deep Cuts.” Anyway, this 6-minute video is a beautiful examination of how great value can from things that may have seemed useless.

    fbclid=IwAR1hQdtoJq7eMUs9XgN3sO0rfuEfGPPOIW7D3x6S24b8VNWCgwNu_hXNsd4

  24. Linn says:

    https://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/

    An article about whether to stay or leave a church.

  25. Muff Potter says:

    There’s no bizz like the Jeezus bizz.

  26. pstrmike says:

    I can’t remember how long I’ve been on this site, gotta be over 16 years. I was wrong when I first started here too. I was defender of all things Calvary Chapel until some rather big names in the movement talked to me on the side and said that I can’t defend the indefensible. Those names will stay with me to my grave. They also encouraged me to stay in the movement which I did until the formation of CCA. The leadership appeared to be void of virtue, coupled with some changes in my doctrine (I no longer accept a pre-trib eschatology), told me it was time to leave CCA.

    I had hope that the church could deal with their issues and that corrupt leaders would actually repent—even at the expense of losing their cash cow church—but I was wrong about that as well. I then believed that there was a remnant—those who wanted to know Christ and be conformed into His image—but those people are not always easy to identify.

    I see the remnant as a cross between the church in exile and the church in pursuit of a new monasticism—which will not be attractive, gain many adherents, but might be the hope that the church has today.

    I still believe that the church of Jesus Christ is the hope of the world. I’m learning to deal with the inconsistencies, lack of spiritual development, the ambiguities that exists in the church. There is more than what can be resolved, made sense of, and clearly identified.

    I hope we all make it into heaven. I even have that hope for those who I do not like, along with a greater hope that they will not be living in the same eternal neighborhood as I.

  27. jtk says:

    Thanks, Michael
    ❤️

  28. bob1 says:

    I liked Roger Olson’s counsel on the church…

    Except the part about his advice about checking out a denomination, etc. when you’re deciding whether to change churches.

    I don’t think that “top down” advice is very valuable. You can have a church that’s orthodox in doctrine but the pastor holds some really
    screwy beliefs about the church and the surrounding culture, to cite
    just one example.

    Unfortunately the only way to really know a church is to visit the church. Doctrinal formulations and denominational affiliations by themselves really don’t cut it.

  29. Linn says:

    You can also have churches who belong to a denomination that exerts a strong influeyon what a local church can/can’t do. For example, if the church has to support the denomination, where does the money go? Do they appoint the local pastor, or does the church choose its own?

    I check both locally and denominationally when I research a church.

  30. Steve says:

    Yes, you need to check both locally and denominational. For me personally, I’ll never attend a Calvary Chapel again by looking at the denomination as a whole and their family business model. Maybe it’s a nondenomination domination but this group in general does seem to rot from the top down. It’s not fixable in my opinion. There may be a few good guys left in the group but it’s so bad in my estimation that any good apples left will get decomposed by the other rotting apples.

    Now, Michael I don’t think you were totally wrong. Expecting any of the corrupt pastors that were marked to repent I think is ill advised but I think you had influence in warning many of the laity including myself to steer clear of these abusive leaders. It’s the asses in the seats that are keeping these wolves in business and therefore starts at the bottom with the laity most pratically.

  31. David Fry says:

    Dear Michael,

    Not sure where to start. You are not “wrong”, of that I am certain. Your writing is scripturally based. From what I can tell, when you aren’t sure of that, you say so. Just because many people choose “to have their ears tickled” doesn’t mean that you are wrong, haven’t done the faithful a great service, haven’t followed God’s leading for you, haven’t blessed those who read your writings, or failed to point out many great failings in the church, especially in America.

    I have grown in my own faith as a result of reading what you have written. You challenge people to dig deeper. When I don’t initially agree or understand, I go to the Word. Invariably, I learn more and my faith grows. Without reading your writing, Christian nationalism might never have occurred to me, for example. I have had a problem with various “Christian” political positions. It all started with the moral majority, before I was a even believer. After I was saved and started learning scripture, I began to wonder why the Church was so concerned about everything but the Great Commission and caring for the less fortunate. Those two things still seem to me to be the most important concerns of the church. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    This is a long winded way of saying, “Keep up the good work.”

  32. Michael says:

    David,

    Thank you much…it matters more than you know.

  33. David Fry says:

    I own a small business. I have a good idea exactly how much it matters. Your efforts are greatly under appreciated.

  34. R says:

    I’m seeing slow change in some churches. There’s still a remnant.

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