Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Culture of Followers
By Scott MacIntyre

Today's church is beginning to rally around a call for unity. In a phenomenal era of church history, we are seeing Christians of all denominations come together to work toward goals of the church set forth by many Christian leaders. In sheer quantitative terms, the world has never witnessed a time when so many different kinds of churches seem to be moving in a lockstep rhythm to a band of leaders that have risen to prominence in the church.

Recently, famed mega-church Willow Creek concluded a
leadership summit that was attended by many thousands of pastors and church leaders from around the United States and the world. Perhaps your pastor was there. In addition to the conference on the grounds of Willow Creek church, there were over 100 other locations across the nation that hosted the event via satellite. Speakers included a rather distinguished group of pastors, authors, psychologists, and business people who have, at least by worldly standards, achieved something of notoriety in their professional lives.

What makes this so 'phenomenal' is the unprecedented way in which a massive and eclectic group of pastors are submitting to the teaching of just a few leaders. Outside of a time when a single entity like the Catholic Church could dominate the church at large, the modern church has not experienced a centralized leadership such as is emerging at this time. Without meeting, voting, or utilizing any formal means of consensus, a wide spectrum of pastors, churches, and denominations have quite suddenly given their ear to men like Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, and a handful of others. In analyzing how such a thing could happen, it might be that the elements leading up to this phenomenon weren't all that sudden.

Christian Media: Genesis of Centralization

Previously limited by a lack of technology or available means to gather an audience on a national level, Christian utilization of mass media sources radio and television created an environment for personalities to rise to notoriety. Taking root in the 70s and 80s, Christian radio and television produced new opportunities for the Christian subculture to possess its own sources of music and teaching. Though these media forms existed for the Christian much earlier than this time, they were not that influential upon the church at large. And they were even less influential in the life of the average Christian youth. (Initial references to 'Christian media' in this article should be defined from a technological perspective, with Christian Media as an entity to follow.)

Of particular interest is the growth of Christian radio for the youth during the 70s and 80s (middle to late era baby boomers). Though Christian television has grown to be a significantly large entity, it seems mostly dominated by the so-called 'word of faith' fringe within the Charismatic movement. For sake of discussion, I will constrain my thoughts to Christian radio.
In the early 1970s, hundreds of thousands of youth in this country either discovered Jesus for the first time, or rediscovered Him in a way that was perhaps out of the context of the culturally traditional church. Many have labeled this the "Jesus Movement"*.

Though some have tried to pinpoint one person or place that all of this originated, it seemed largely an uncoordinated development that was occurring simultaneously in many locations across America. With music being one of the most visible representative attributes of the baby boomer culture, the popularity of Christian contemporary music coincided with the Jesus Movement.

And as contemporary Christian music boomed, so did the creation of Christian radio stations catering to this new market segment. The Christian music and broadcast industries enjoyed a symbiotic relationship that grew, refined, and matured in just a few short years. In other words, it became both a successful ministry and business phenomenon very quickly.

While contemporary music was the initial attraction to radio specifically programmed to younger people, there soon appeared radio pastors and teachers who integrated well into the new radio format. Names like James Dobson, Chuck Swindoll, John MaCarthur, and many others were the fresh new voices of Christian radio. From a programming perspective, it was a good fit for the baby boomers that were moving into marriage and family life.

Not only did Christian radio provide ready sources of entertainment and teaching, it also provided an antidote to secular culture. As large segments in our society and secular media shifted left to a more liberal and offensive direction, Christians sought the camaraderie of other like-minded people and leaders who could vocalize their outrage against what was happening in the culture, and reinforce their Christian values. The field was ripe for men to rise to prominent positions of leadership of the church at large. It felt good to have people articulate and reflect our values.

It is at this point that we see the beginnings of a type of centralization of thought occurring. Within the context of Christianity, it was very likely that the greatest spiritual influence in someone's life might have been a pastor or youth pastor. Now we suddenly have the daily availability of extremely dynamic and gifted teachers and pastors on the radio, speaking to the culture in a very relevant manner. Perhaps they are even more interesting and relevant than the local pastor.

Consider now the quantitative impact of what was happening. All across the country, millions of people are tuning in to James Dobson, or any one of dozens of radio teachers of that era. Each day brings new expositions of advice, counsel, and teaching on a variety of topics. Again, think millions, and think daily. The influence is staggering. This goes on for years, even for decades. In the meantime, new teachers emerge. Many are really not teachers, but counselors and psychologists. Some are authors. The palette of options is growing. They are quoted. They become bestselling authors. They endorse each other. Credibility is built. We regard them with high esteem. And their audience is already well established.

And what at first was a voice of representation for us to the world in defending our conservative Christian culture, evolved into a voice to us in defining the church and our Christianity. Movements such as Promise Keepers emerged, along with new men of prominence. Whole new clever systems of thought and teaching from psychologists, counselors, and pastors were offered to the church.

Without evaluating the merits of any these leaders, I draw the reader's attention to the phenomenon itself of how the church has learned to follow after men. We grew up in a TV generation that esteemed people of prominence. We honor athletes, movie stars, and rock stars. As Christians, we merely transferred our esteem to people of prominence that were operating within the 'Christian' system.

And in that, a centralization of leadership has occurred in the church where we quite easily will follow the emerging leader, the exciting new author, or the person skilled in public presentation. They are Christians. They quote the Bible. They use terminology that is Christian. We trust them. And throughout this whole progression, our eyes were subtly taken from the sufficiency of scripture and wooed to the teachings of high profile personalities.

An underlying component in our gravitation to new leaders is a foundational element of boredom with our own status quo. Just look how fast we get bored with styles in cars, haircuts, clothes, music, and more. That same inherent boredom that fuels dissatisfaction in material things fuels dissatisfaction in how we pursue God.

In my ministry, I talk with a lot of Christians who are always in some state of flux in their walk with God, and I'm not referring to the process of maturation. People are looking for 'something more'…for a new experience, a change of venue, or even an overhauled belief system. Traditionalist become Charismatics, Evangelicals become Orthodox or Catholic. There is the Emerging Church and the Purpose Driven Church. People stop going to church to form a 'house' church. On a smaller scale, there are subculture movements within the church that might pursue a 'charismatic experience', or embrace Theophostics, or Deliverance ministries, or dozens of other micro-movements that promise a new handle to truth and 'something more' to the Christian.

This whole process suggests to me a lack of grounding in the Bible, and a replication of the same model of discontentment that drives a culture of consumers. Just as we desire 'something more' in a computer, car, house, or spouse, we desire 'something more' in our Christian experience. And creating an 'experience' seems to be what much of the church is about today. In other words, taking advantage of our consumer-like tendency of boredom, segments of the church are preying upon those who, for lack of biblical understanding, are continually seeking a different expression of their faith. This almost has a predatory element whereby the church entices the seeker to itself, only to offer them a complex system of experiences and teachings that never quite deliver them to a point of solely relying on the sufficiency of scripture as the basis for our relationship with God.

Contemporary leaders like Rick Warren and Bill Hybels (and others) have gained such a large following in Christianity, that they are able to define the church, define ministry, and define Christian leadership with thousands of churches intently embracing their teaching. Warren would have us in continual pursuit of methodology to communicate the truth of scripture. Consider this quote from one of his recent writings on his web site:

"In ministry, some things must never change but others must change constantly.Clearly, God's five purposes for his church are non-negotiable. If a church fails to balance the five purposes of worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and evangelism, then it's no longer a healthy church, and it's in danger of becoming simply a social club. On the other hand, the way or style in which we fulfill these eternal purposes must continually be adjusted and modified because human culture is always changing."

And again,

"In other words, our message of transformation must never change but the transformation of our presentation should be continual, adapting to the new languages of our culture." 1

These statements by Rick Warren have a wholesome-like appeal to the reader, and epitomize his purpose driven methodology. But notice that he defines the "message of transformation that must never change" in terms of 'balancing' God's "five purposes for the church". Prior to a decade ago when Warren's terminology of "five purposes" was coined, it is unlikely that a Christian pastor or leader would have ever defined the church's "message of transformation" in that manner. And why is it that Warren does not spell out in plain language what the "message of transformation" is? Could this be a reference to the Biblical Gospel, or does he have something else in mind? The church existed for 2000 years without defining itself by these five purposes or embracing purpose driven methodologies. Now the church is seemingly helpless without it.

Warren was able to penetrate the Christian culture, and redefine the church's mission. And he not only defined it, but he also designed, built, and successfully marketed and sold it to the church. Pastors seem lost without this type of organized, lockstep system to follow in their ministry. As the apostle Paul implores pastors Timothy to 'preach the word' and Titus to be 'sound in doctrine', today's pastors seem to relegate the teaching of the word as some passé method that is now outmoded. Desiring success in their own ministries, pastors flock to leadership summits and conferences to glean some new revelation or strategy to implement in their own churches. And in the process, the church's defense system continues to be neutralized by a lack of understanding and teaching of the Word of God.

New Christian leaders are plentiful and invited in. Bereans are too few, and not welcome. Thus is the cycle of spiritual recession. As churches embrace new methodologies and drop expositional teaching of the Bible, Christians are less equipped to be Bereans able to test these new teachings. The church is hopping aboard a train with an unknown destination.

Christians have regressed to a point of biblical disengagement, looking for apostles who can provide God's latest directive. The church needs to stop admiring and revering men who work themselves into positions of leadership. Pastors need to get their job descriptions from the Bible, not Rick Warren. We need to have significant skepticism of any type of Christian leader who is trying to rally the church in unity around their own agenda.

But maybe we don't really need any modern day apostles or so-called Christian leaders, for too often they seem to be competing with the true apostles of the Bible. Perhaps we just really need teachers and preachers of the Word under the direction of the Holy Spirit who can teach us God's Word. And as Christians learn his Word, and begin to grow up in the Lord, we can be the church that God has defined in His Word. Then perhaps we can return the job of church growth back to the Holy Spirit, and stop wasting time on inventing new methodologies, or chasing after the doctrines of men.

1 Copyright 2005 Ministry Tool Box Article 214 by Rick Warren

*My references to the 'Jesus Movement' as well as contemporary music, Christian radio, various teachers, and other such historical elements in this article should not be construed as being critical of such. Having grown up in this era as a baby boomer and part of the Jesus Movement, I am well aware that the Lord used much of this for His glory. The thrust of this article is to show in part, how our culture has grown to readily accept new Christian leaders and new teachings that are quite often contrary to the teaching of scripture. The real culprit, I believe, is neither the media nor the message. It is our own willingness to allow false teachers in the door, then giving them a place to stay.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Marketing the Global Worldview

"Worldview" is about to have a whole new meaning. If you previously thought it was safe to embrace any evangelical individual or group that professed to hold a "Christian" or "biblical" worldview -- it is time to re-examine your stance. "Worldview" is being re-defined to mean a global purpose-driven view of the world.

A recent "Ministry Toolbox" article (Issue #248) entitled "Why worldview matters," was authored by Chuck Colson, who has formed a global partnership with Rick Warren to merchandise their brand name of "worldview" to the rest of the planet. Colson openly acknowledges that their "worldview" is closely connected to the agenda inherent in Rick Warren's global P.E.A.C.E. Plan:"Worldview is not some lofty academic subject. It is intensely practical. Everyone has a worldview, that is, an understanding of how the world works and how we fit into it. And what you believe about the world and life determines how you live. Ideas, as was so famously said, have consequences."Rick’s P.E.A.C.E. Plan is a clear reflection of his own worldview – all humans are created in the image of God. We are, therefore, to help people get their lives straight and work for what the Jews call “shalom,” God’s justice and peace in which humans can flourish. Rick is calling all of us to live out a biblical view of the world." The next section of Colson's article is where things get tricky. It requires a good deal of discernment about how IDEAS are marketed.

Think about TV ads selling cars. You might have noticed that there is a certain "ambience" or "lifestyle" that goes along with different types of cars. Truck drivers are "tough." Mini-van drivers are "moms who need lots of space and safety for kids." Certain cars appeal to sexy women. Others to rich men.Following that type of marketing scheme, the same thing happens when political or religious leaders try to sell IDEAS or AGENDAS to the public. First, they create the NEED. Sometimes this is a manufactured crisis, other times it is a "felt need," an emotional need. Sometimes the felt need is quite real, e.g. hunger. This "need" is the hook, the emotive appeal that lures you in by attracting your senses. The solution is a "Big Mac" to feed your hunger. Or that chewy-crusted, oozy-cheesy pizza. The selling of IDEAS or AGENDAS, likewise, is geared to appeal to the altruistic ideals of people. You are supposed to "feel good" about yourself when you bite the bait.

The marketing of "worldview" is designed to create a certain ambiance, a certain "image" about who you are and what the world should be like.It is therefore noteworthy that Colson launches into an extended description about how this "worldview" really helps people and saves lives. Who could resist helping people and saving lives? He mentions his own grandson, an autistic 15-year-old named Max, whose "special needs" cost $65,000 a year. Everyone reading this account feels sympathetic. That emotive response is supposed to happen. Launching from a description of Max, Colson enters the worldview culture wars -- a description which is also supposed to create a visceral response:". . .Max will probably never be self-sufficient.

In purely utilitarian terms he is a drag on society – what the Nazis called (straight out of social Darwinism) a 'useless eater.' The money used to educate Max could instead be spent to inoculate 10,000 kids in poverty areas against dreaded disease. "You and I recoil in horror at such utilitarian calculations. But this idea is being advocated by Princeton professor Peter Singer, who is described by New Yorker magazine as the most influential philosopher in America. Singer argues for infanticide, euthanasia, and diversion of support from those who are of no use to society.

This is exactly what the Nazis did when they performed medical experiments on prisoners and euthanized those they considered 'defective.' The same thing, in fact, that Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, argued for in her eugenics scheme – eliminating inferior races and people."Singer’s utilitarian philosophy is to do the greatest good for the greatest number, which is a reasonable ethical formulation in a purely secular society. Think about it. If we merely came from a primordial soup, life evolving from single cell organisms by natural selection – which is what our school children are taught – why not get rid of people who are defective? Since life has no intrinsic meaning, why not maximize happiness for the productive people? But if we have been created by God, in his image, every life including Max’s (maybe especially Max’s) is precious and to be protected. "This is a life and death example and is precisely the point on which the biblical worldview most dramatically clashes with the prevailing secular worldview today.

This is the central issue in the great culture war being waged for the heart and soul of our civilization: Is there a basis for human dignity? Is life sacred?"The "right to life" issue cited above is a perfect tool to enlist foot soldiers for political and ideological agendas. The questions posed by Colson is an example of ideological marketing. Who could argue that life is not sacred? Or that there is no basis for human dignity inherent in the Scriptures? (Keep in mind, however, that Rick Warren's ideas about human dignity are connected to Peter Drucker's offensive concept of "human capital," which is accompanied by "assessments.")Once you agree with Colson that there is a NEED or a CRISIS, the next question should be, "What is the Colson-Warren SOLUTION?" Colson states the solution -- but notice: two ideas are carefully packaged together under one wrap.

Buy One, Get One Free:"All of life is under the lordship of Christ, and therefore, we have been given two commissions: the Great Commission, to make disciples, baptize them, and teach them all Jesus has taught us; and the Cultural Commission, to be fruitful, multiply, take dominion, and restore a fallen creation." [emphasis added]Note the two little words "take dominion." Note the phrase "restore a fallen creation." It is here that the theology inherent in the New Apostolic Reformation comes to light. If you purchased the "Buy One, Get One Free" described package in the paragraph above, recognize that the "worldview" you just purchased is DOMINIONISM. You might have thought you were simply supporting a right-to-life position. But you got something extra -- dominionism.Just to be sure about the dominionist aspect to the Colson-Warren worldview, note the answer to question four in Colson's text below.

"The biblical worldview, as we will see in our studies, raises four questions: *Where did we come from?*Why is the world in a mess?*Is there any way out?*What is my purpose? "To number one, the Christian answers, 'God created us;' to number two, 'the fall;' to number three, 'redemption by Christ;'” and to the fourth question, 'restoration of society.'" [emphasis added]This question and answer is illuminating.

The "restoration of society" is a dominionist ideal. Colson has a long history of interconnections with the Reconstructionist dominionists. Rick Warren has a long history of interconnections with the New Apostolic Reformation dominionists. There is a 25-year history of fraternization between leaders of these two groups. Note that the partnership between Colson and Warren is becoming a public, global marriage of dominionist worldviews.From this point forward "worldview" is going to be marketed as "Buy One, Get One Free." If you think you can associate freely with the concept of "worldview" without getting tainted by the dominionism, think again. It is a complete package. The two go together. It is being marketed as such.

The Truth:For further background information, see previous Herescope posts on the topic of Worldview.

"Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away." (Proverbs 4:14-15)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Barna, Propaganda & Spiritainment

"Those who manipulate the organized habits and opinions of the masses constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of the country…. It remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world…. As civilization has become more complex, and as the need for invisible government has been increasingly demonstrated, the technical means have been invented and developed by which opinion may be regimented." (Dr. Dennis Cuddy, Mental Health Screening, pp. 22-23, quoting Edward Bernays' 1928 book Propaganda)

"None of this would have been possible if it had not been for the twenty-plus years of research and ministry activity undertaken through Barna Research and, subsequently, The Barna Group (TBG). Our comprehension of the changing marketplace and the ways in which faith does (and does not) fit into that world is attributable to the constant data flowing into our hands from the national studies we conduct to gain such insight. Even our idea of spiritainment was a direct result of having spent years analyzing the roles and intersection of media, entertainment and faith development." (George Barna, "Good News is Coming, 7/10/06)

The most recent Discernment Ministries newsletter is on the topic of "The Manipulations of Dominionism." In this article the point is made that statistics and surveys are used by New Apostolic Reformation dominionists as methods of propaganda. The stunning quotation above came from Edward Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud who, according to Dr. Dennis Cuddy, worked in the Truman administration to get the American public to accept water flouridation.This week Herescope has been doing a series on how the social sciences were merged with "mission" to create a new evangelical ethic that furthered the theologies of dominionism. Social science relies heavily upon data collection, particularly statistical research and surveys. Statistics is a perfect vehicle with which to further the aims and agendas of social architects. As anyone who has studied graduate level courses in statistics and research methods can tell you, the manner in which a survey is designed can pre-determine the results.

But it gets worse. Surveys, statistics and data collection can pinpoint where people are most vulnerable to change. Sophisticated methods of manipulating people have been devised by social scientists and psychologists for many decades. Political campaigns use on-going survey data collection (including focus groups) to tweak their candidate's image, "spin" his record, and "perfect" his responses. Advertisers use on-going survey data collection to target their market, tweak their product's image, and increase sales. An entire generation of church leaders have been trained in how to sell new theologies, new music, new worship styles, new buildings, and new programs to the unsuspecting and undiscerning evangelicals in the pews.

It is, therefore, relevant to note that Barna has recently shifted gears. Previous Herescope posts have commented on his book Revolution, which is disconcertingly a step beyond Rick Warren's 2nd Reformation. Barna has recently launched a multi-pronged, multi-million (perhaps billion) dollar -- mind-boggling in its scope and breadth -- media campaign to actually implement his "Revolution," particularly targeting young people. The full "press release" can be found here. It is worth a serious read.Barna has put legs onto his "Revolution." Barna details his "big vision" to "finishing well" -- notably the title of a Bob Buford book. (It may be that this media campaign will be a vehicle for Buford, a former cable TV exec, and his offspring the Emergent Church.) The plan is for cutting edge "spiritainment" (Barna's word) -- movies, TV, mobile cellular service, books, magazines, websites, music, a satellite training network, a "Josiah Corps" to train young leaders, an Internet platform for churches -- and most interesting -- a worldview curriculum. Barna explains:

"And, of course, there’s The Revolution. This burgeoning movement of deeply devoted followers of Christ who are intent upon being the Church remains near and dear to my heart. In the very near future we will be launching a website for Revolutionaries that will have many valuable features developed with this audience in mind. (One of the most exciting functions is its ability to facilitate community among Revolutionaries.) Tyndale will be releasing a series of books geared to the Revolutionary market, including volumes written by Randy Frazee (a Willow Creek teaching pastor), Frank Viola (a house church leader), and Jim Henderson (an outreach pioneer). (About a dozen other books are in various stages of development.) We are developing an IPTV platform for the Revolutionary community, likely to launch as early as next year. And, of course, the resources generated through Good News will address many of the interests of those who yearn for more of God in their life."

If this mammoth project is for real, it has to be one of the most expensive and aggressive propaganda campaigns ever orchestrated. When one connects this campaign to Barna's blatant call for a "revolution" in Christianity (dominionism), it becomes extremely disturbing. The purpose for the campaign seems fairly obvious. The "worldview" of evangelical society must be radically transformed -- and what better way to do it but with state-of-the-art high-tech media entertainment?

After reading Barna's statement there is one huge unanswered question:

Who is funding this?

The Truth:

"They hatch cockatrice's eggs, and weave the spider's web: he that eateth of their eggs dieth, and that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper." (Isaiah 59:5)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


But if I say, “I will not mention Him or speak any more in His Name,” His Word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. (Jeremiah 20:9)

The Rotten Fruit Is Now Emerging

Years ago A.W. Tozer told the absolute truth when he wrote:

Christians habitually weep and pray over beautiful truth, only to draw back from that same truth when it comes to the difficult job of putting it into practice! Actually, the average church simply does not dare to check its practices against biblical precepts. It tolerates things that are diametrically opposed to the will of God, and if the matter is pointed out to its leaders, they will defend its unscriptural practices with a casuistry equal to the verbal dodgings of the Roman moralists…

Since Christ makes His appeal directly to the will, are we justified in wondering whether or not these divided souls have ever made a true commitment to the Lord? Or whether they have been inwardly renewed? It does appear that too many Christians want to enjoy the thrill of feeling right but not willing to endure the inconvenience of being right!

Jesus Himself left a warning – I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead [Rev. 3:1b] (Renewed Day by Day, emphasis added).

What is to follow is yet more illustration of the postmodern brainwashing that is going on within this
Emergent Church rebellion against the inerrant and infallible Word of the one true and living God, known to those trapped inside as the emerging “conversation.” However, any of you who have tried to actually have a conversation with an Emergent will generally find it goes just fine...until you happen to disagree with them.

Then just you watch how quickly God yanks the covering off of their pseudo Christian love and the rotten fruit of their sarcastic temper tantrum comes emerging as they implode. And I defy any of them to disprove this. For all over the Net there is an undeniable public record which contains the spewing forth of their nasty and unchristian language.

Jesus Himself told you:

“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” (Luke 6:45, NASB)

The Bell Tolls

Now here we will look at some of Rob Bell’s own words from a BeliefNet article when the “anti-establishment” Bell interestingly enough just happened to be on his book tour. O wake up, will you? These kind of people who are always railing against the commercialization of whatever is popular to rant against at a given time, somehow suddenly find it rather convenient to “use” this so-called establishment whenever their books come out. Anyone still remember that the “big bad” Brian Warner aka Marilyn Manson him/herself did the whole talk show circuit when his/her own book came out?

Friend, we have already seen all of this romanticized
bohemianism before in the sixties when one right after another anti-establishment big brother hating rock stars sold out when they saw someone show them the money. You need to come to understand that people like this will only end up using you. In the article 'Velvet Elvis' Author Encourages Exploration of Doubts we’re told that this “Megachurch pastor Rob Bell says faith in Jesus must be repainted for each generation if it’s to avoid the fate of Elvis kitsch.” Says who Rob? It certainly isn’t God.

Malachi 3:6 – For I, the LORD, do not change. (NASB) By the way, the rabbis will tell you that in the original Hebrew here, that by using the word shanah (“change”), God the Holy Spirit gives the word picture of not altering what one has said. Now, let’s say for example that we hold a gem stone (man) up to the light (God). We might see that the colors (ideas, perceptions) may change as we rotate it, but the Bible is telling us that while these ideas/perceptions may change, God Himself cannot. And neither does the hopeless plight of fallen man because he is spiritually dead.

O sure, you can have your doubts about that if you wish to, but if your “repainting” of the Christian faith for this generation is to cause others to have doubts, then you most certainly should not call yourself a minster of the Gospel. You can brand me extremist; so what, the Lord is my Defender. You can roll tanks up to my door and I will still have no doubt Who sent me; I have no doubt about the Gospel He told me to preach, and I have no doubt where I’m going. Some say: “You have a spiritual chip on your shoulder.” Then I beseech you on Christ’s behalf; please pick up your Bible to refute me, and then come knock it off.

The World According To Rob

But until then, in contrast here are Bell’s own wishy-washy words:

Faith in Jesus, Bell says, must be repainted for each generation if it is to avoid the fate of his velvet Elvis. “What often happens in religion is people freeze the faith at a certain point,” Bell says. “There’s no more need to paint. We’ve got the ultimate painting.”

Whew; this kind of non-reasoning sure seems to dazzle many today in our pagan culture which is so steeped in relativism. It obviously also impresses those who have been too lazy intellectually to develop their critical reasoning skills. Why are we to believe what Bell just said? Because he and people like Guru Brian McLaren say so, that’s why. But you might want to hold up “the you’re too harsh” wagon, because whoever told you telling the truth wasn’t going to step on some toes, and just think what this pathetic “love shack” of evangelical Christianity would have done to an A.W. Tozer today.

Recently Paul Washer, a real man of God, was on TBN with Kirk Cameron. Try listening to him for a while and then go back and compare it to today’s man-loving spiritual sissies. This is perhaps the first time anyone has ever preached the real Gospel of Jesus Christ on that pathetic excuse for a “Christian” Network. Washer, who even had Cameron squirming a bit, shared some of what he tells his team of missionaries. No man-pleasing message here as Washer essentially said that he would rather send one man with one Bible in his hand to stand in the town square and preach the Gospel until people either get converted or the missionary gets stoned to death.

Our dear brother Washer is absolutely correct when he says, “That’s the only kind of preaching God will honor.” But men and women, what you just read above from Rob Bell is nothing more than the spiritual skubalon of postmodern philosophy, which itself was already condemned in Scripture long before mankind even dreamed it up in order to try and justify his sin:

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8)

Denying God’s Word Is To Play Spiritual Russian Roulette

And yet with the blessing of more and more spiritually obtuse evangelical leaders Rob Bell still continues telling your youth:

On the contrary, he says – religion, like art, must keep exploring and reforming, or “you end up with a velvet Elvis on your hands.”

Again Rob; says who? This is only more circular reasoning which is based on the faulty premise that there is some alleged emerging culture and that this is the message that will reach them. However, in reality this is simply what these Emergent pseudo pastors already wanted to believe. Check out their testimonies for yourself as I have and see if the Lord doesn’t show you the very predictable pattern: Raised around “traditional” [read: New Testament] Christianity, they began to question/doubt these Biblical doctrines and “Prest-o Chang-o,” amazingly enough comes the postmodern epiphany! I say it’s really not too unlike the Mormon concept of the “burning in the bosom.” Same source.

You need to understand that it truly is as pastor teacher
Gary Gilley of Southern View Chapel points out in his own review of Rob Bells work:

4) Like McLaren, Bell is a deconstructionist (chapter 2). The meaning of Scripture cannot be found in any objective manner since it must be interpreted by subjective people (pp. 44-46). His solution is interesting. Based on a faulty understanding (by normal hermeneutical methods) of the “binding and loosening” passages of the Gospels, Bell believes the church has the authority to make new interpretations of the Bible (pp. 50, 68). To Bell, since the Bible is alive it is fluid. Its meaning can change with the times and pronouncements of the church or a portion of the church.

5) Like all emergent leaders Bell wants to focus on being right not thinking right (having correct theology) (p. 21). It would even be possible, according to his system, for cardinal doctrines (say the virgin birth and the deity of Christ), to be proven untrue, and for people to still believe the Christian faith (pp. 26-27, 124). The point is not our having the truth but our having joy (p. 35). As a matter of fact, the first time he was in awe of God was when he was attending a U2 concert (p. 72). Theology did not play a role there, I am certain.

Seeker Friendly For The Postmodern Skeptic

O how blind can these Emergent leaders be with their “Christian” agnosticism? They vehemently deny that they are rooted in the phony seeker sensitive business philosophies of the doomed Church Growth Movement, but history shows the emerging church was actually begun through
Leadership Network. And the truth is all they have really done is to turn right around and create a seeker friendly mystic spiritual haven for doubters whom they call “spirtual seekers.” Right. Hello! These people aren’t seeking God; what they are looking for a way to have spiritual experiences without any real commitment. Well they tell us, this is after all, “postmodern” America. C’mon now and think with me here; you know the land of “what’s in it for me” and “I want what I want and I want now!”

And I tell you in the Lord you are only fooling yourself, because you most assuredly are not fooling your Creator. But what you will read next is straight out of the tired old existential and feelings over Scripture neo-orthodoxy of Karl Barth. In other words Rob, it’s already been tried before. So it’s not really new at all:

He dismisses claims that “Scripture alone” will answer all questions. Bible interpretation is colored by historical context, the reader's bias and current realities, he says. The more you study the Bible, the more questions it raises. “It is not possible to simply do what the Bible says,” Bell writes. “We must first make decisions about what it means at this time, in this place, for these people.” (emphasis mine)

Men and women, this is nothing more than as a child stamping her foot and whining, “But I don’ wannu” when told she has to obey her parent. Today I appeal to you to open up your eyes and see this hellacious harangue to pouty postmoderns for exactly what it actually is: A brazen and blatant attack on the authority of the Word of God, which itself is rooted in Satan asking Eve, “Yea, hath God said?” Yeah, this ultra “hip” line of reasoning’s kind of been around a while.

And finally Bell rings out:

Every generation has to ask difficult questions about what does it mean to follow Jesus. What does the kingdom of God look like as it explodes at this time, in this place?

Permit me to clear away your postmodern fog Rob about what it means to follow Jesus. Hear the Word of the Lord you claim sent you with your messed up message:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:34-38, ESV)

Being Harder Than Jesus Himself

I’ll guarantee you won’t hear that message within any loquacious lyrics written by Billie Joe Armstrong. But Rob, if you really are a pastor sent by Christ then you’d know that we are to help people with doubts. Yes, we who are called as pastor-teachers do need to help them to deal with doubts. The genuine pastor will encourage them in Christ’s Name to trust Him at His Word and to give doubts up. He will not to lead them away from the historic orthodox Christian faith. Rob, I do hapen to know you are quite enamored with women in ministry. And yet we’re to believe you’re not aiming to please your culture. Um, ok.

Well then, I will begin to close with this from
Catherine Booth, wife of General William Booth, the man who founded The Salvation Army:

I had been speaking in a town, in the West of England, on the subject of responsibility of Christians for the salvation of souls. The gentlemen with whom I was staying had winced a bit under the truth, and instead of taking it to heart in love, and making it the means of drawing him nearer to God, and enabling him to serve Him better, he said, “I thought you were rather hard on us this morning.” I said, “Did you? I should be very sorry to be harder on anybody than the Lord Jesus Christ would be.”

The Bible says – A wise man attacks the city of the mighty and pulls down the stronghold in which they trust. (Proverbs 21:22) Men and women, Rob Bell is fast on his way to becoming the Elvis of Emergent. He is quickly rising to the status of cultural icon within Emergent circles, and Rob Bell is a whole lot closer to affecting your evangelical churches at large than you know. So in obedience to my Master’s Word I am only doing what I can to try and topple this Emergent icon before he grows any larger within our Lord’s Church.

In the end, if you think this is harsh and unloving, well I will turn right around and tell you that it is actually you who are unloving. If you can’t hear the Lord’s Voice within this piece then I would argue that you don’t love God enough to protect the sanctity of His Church, and further that you don’t love our youth enough to present them with the absolute Truth. So your problem isn’t actually with me, it’s that you don’t recognize the time in which you live. And that I personally can do absolutely nothing about.

But I will tell you this, I for one, plan to be found doing what Christ has told me to because His time draws nigh…

“ ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ ” (Matthew 22:12-13)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Emergent Church: We Dont Need No Stinking Badges!

As with all things Post-Modern, where Everything is Relative and Subject to Change: the Emergent Church is no different, Read on . . . . .

Doctrinal Statement(?)

From Tony Jones, National Coordinator, Emergent-U.S.

Yes, we have been inundated with requests for our statement of faith in Emergent, but some of us had an inclination that to formulate something would take us down a road that we don't want to trod. So, imagine our joy when a leading theologian joined our ranks and said that such a statement would be disastrous. That's what happened when we started talking to LeRon Shults, late of Bethel Seminary and now heading off to a university post in Norway. LeRon is the author of many books, all of which you should read, and now the author a piece to guide us regarding statements of faith and doctrine. Read on...

From LeRon Shults:

The coordinators of Emergent have often been asked (usually by their critics) to proffer a doctrinal statement that lays out clearly what they believe. I am merely a participant in the conversation who delights in the ongoing reformation that occurs as we bring the Gospel into engagement with culture in ever new ways. But I have been asked to respond to this ongoing demand for clarity and closure. I believe there are several reasons why Emergent should not have a "statement of faith" to which its members are asked (or required) to subscribe. Such a move would be unnecessary, inappropriate and disastrous.

Why is such a move unnecessary? Jesus did not have a "statement of faith." He called others into faithful relation to God through life in the Spirit. As with the prophets of the Hebrew Bible, he was not concerned primarily with whether individuals gave cognitive assent to abstract propositions but with calling persons into trustworthy community through embodied and concrete acts of faithfulness. The writers of the New Testament were not obsessed with finding a final set of propositions the assent to which marks off true believers. Paul, Luke and John all talked much more about the mission to which we should commit ourselves than they did about the propositions to which we should assent. The very idea of a "statement of faith" is mired in modernist assumptions and driven by modernist anxieties – and this brings us to the next point.

Such a move would be inappropriate. Various communities throughout church history have often developed new creeds and confessions in order to express the Gospel in their cultural context, but the early modern use of linguistic formulations as "statements" that allegedly capture the truth about God with certainty for all cultures and contexts is deeply problematic for at least two reasons. First, such an approach presupposes a (Platonic or Cartesian) representationalist view of language, which has been undermined in late modernity by a variety of disciplines across the social and physical sciences (e.g., sociolinguistics and paleo-biology). Why would Emergent want to force the new wine of the Spirit’s powerful transformation of communities into old modernist wineskins? Second, and more importantly from a theological perspective, this fixation with propositions can easily lead to the attempt to use the finite tool of language on an absolute Presence that transcends and embraces all finite reality. Languages are culturally constructed symbol systems that enable humans to communicate by designating one finite reality in distinction from another. The truly infinite God of Christian faith is beyond all our linguistic grasping, as all the great theologians from Irenaeus to Calvin have insisted, and so the struggle to capture God in our finite propositional structures is nothing short of linguistic idolatry.

Why would it be disastrous? Emergent aims to facilitate a conversation among persons committed to living out faithfully the call to participate in the reconciling mission of the biblical God. Whether it appears in the by-laws of a congregation or in the catalog of an educational institution, a "statement of faith" tends to stop conversation. Such statements can also easily become tools for manipulating or excluding people from the community. Too often they create an environment in which real conversation is avoided out of fear that critical reflection on one or more of the sacred propositions will lead to excommunication from the community. Emergent seeks to provide a milieu in which others are welcomed to join in the pursuit of life "in" the One who is true (1 John 5:20). Giving into the pressure to petrify the conversation in a "statement" would make Emergent easier to control; its critics could dissect it and then place it in a theological museum alongside other dead conceptual specimens the curators find opprobrious. But living, moving things do not belong in museums. Whatever else Emergent may be, it is a movement committed to encouraging the lively pursuit of God and to inviting others into a delightfully terrifying conversation along the way.

This does not mean, as some critics will assume, that Emergent does not care about belief or that there is no role at all for propositions. Any good conversation includes propositions, but they should serve the process of inquiry rather than shut it down. Emergent is dynamic rather than static, which means that its ongoing intentionality is (and may it ever be) shaped less by an anxiety about finalizing state-ments than it is by an eager attention to the dynamism of the Spirit’s disturbing and comforting presence, which is always reforming us by calling us into an ever-intensifying participation in the Son’s welcoming of others into the faithful embrace of God.
The 3-Legged Stool

What is "The 3-Legged Stool"? Peter Drucker (1909-2005), a business management guru, came up with this idea as a means to bring all societal sectors into one manageable, controllable roof. Drucker believed that the only way to persuade the world to accept change is to engage all three sectors of society, working together to effect change. The three "legs" of the stool are:

a public sector of effective governments
a private sector of effective businesses
a social sector of effective community organizations, including faith-based organizations
(Leader To Leader Institute [Drucket Foundation])

Rick Warren was mentored by Peter Drucker for several years and has been promoting the 3-legged stool concept with vigor. Now Warren is using the Stool Concept in conjunction with his P.E.A.C.E. Plan:

Plant churches (spiritual emptiness)

Equip leaders (egocentric or corrupt leadership)
Assist the poor (poverty)
Care for the sick (disease)
Educate the next generation (illiteracy)

In an interview published in the July 30, 2006 issue of the
Philippine Daily Inquirer, Rick Warren states that "spiritual emptiness" is the Number One problem in the world. I would assume he believes (if he believes the Bible) that "spiritual emptiness" is a lack of reconciliation to God through Jesus Christ, the lack of recognizing one's depravity, repenting of one's sins, turning away from worldly desires and pleasures, and putting all one's trust in the One true God. Warren goes on to say that these problems are so big (the problems outlined in his PEACE Plan), that no one can solve them without the "3-legged stool" - the marrying of Government, Business, and Church.

Is that true? No, it is not. Warren has gone outside the Word of God, outside JESUS CHRIST, and in his own wisdom, has created a solution for the one most important thing, each person's unique relationship with God. Instead of GOD doing GOD's work, Warren is teaching governments, businesses, and churches to do WARREN's work.

It is absolutely impossible for man's wisdom to find a solution for the ills of this world, including egocentricity, poverty, disease, and illiteracy. Jesus said, "The poor you will always have with you." Social ills can be relieved, but never eradicated. Did Jesus lie? No, He did not. Is Rick Warren lying? I don't know if he is deliberately lying, but he does claim to be a preacher and pastor, so he should know WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS! Either he is ignoring God and His Word, or he doesn't know God. Either way, God doesn't have any part in what Warren is cooking up. And perpetuating spiritual bankruptcy is what Warren is all about.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Globalization of the Local Church

When we, as Christians, move away from the 'simplicity that is in Christ', we leave room for a prolificacy of "Christian programs", business acumen and world-based agendas to penetrate the Biblical defenses of the local church.

This is not a foreseeable agenda, IT IS HAPPENING NOW!

Here is how it has been allowed:

1. The pastor is pressured into being 'more relevant' to the cultural changes in the present world. So instead of teaching only from the Bible, he adds some 'relevant' teaching (i.e. non-offensive mish-mash) to his sermons.

2. Other churches are growing by leaps and bounds (so they say); the pastor asks himself "Why isn't my church growing?". So he trots off to another city with the pastoral staff and checks out what "they" (the growing churches) are doing. When he and the others return, a "new vision" has been given to them to pass on to the church!

3. Cell groups and home groups are formed; the leaders are encouraged to lead by consensus, not by the challenging Word of God and the Holy Spirit. The congregation is taught that this is the "The New Thing", "Vision from the Holy Spirit", "New Wine Skin". The pastor changes the music, brings in a "discipleship" curriculum (and I'm not referring only to the Purpose-Driven Church; there are many types of curricula out there that are just as insidious). The congregation is trained (brainwashed?) into accepting the new "cultural adaptability" of the church.

4. The pastor is approached by various organizations (i.e. Promise Keepers, Campus Crusade for Christ, Billy Graham Evangelistic Assoc., Women of Faith, Roman Catholic Church, Nat'l Assoc. of Local Church Prayer Leaders) to "unify" the "body of Christ". No one questions the Biblical validity of this "unity". The Bible does say that the body of Christ should be unified, but in SPIRIT, not in the physical aspect of unification. These groups believe in unifying at the expense of the doctrine of the Bible. They "sell" themselves to the unification theme because they don't want to be identified as being "intolerant" of other religions.

5. The pastor creates an atmosphere of false unity within his church by promoting these organizations and omitting the fact that they do not all believe in the core tenets of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That part is ignored because it would cause "disunity". The congregation is encouraged to go to the conferences and seminars promoted by these "unifying groups". Books, tapes, CDs, videos, and literature are brought into the church and shamelessly merchandized. No one is encouraged to check the Bible, to ensure that none of these groups is part of the apostasy that Paul talked about in II Thessalonians 2 "...Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away [apostasy] first, and that man of sin [antichrist] be revealed, the son of perdition."

6. Because the pastor and pastoral staff do not teach the identifying of apostasies in the last days, the congregation is led to believe that all is okay as long as everyone is "in the same boat"! The teachers and prophets on the Christian TV stations are free to do as they wish, say what they wish, and prophesy as they wish because "the people love to have it so!" Jeremiah 5.

Now be honest with yourself -Do you believe it's possible the apostasy may already be in our midst?

Take a look at this:

In Matthew, Jesus spoke regarding the last days. Did He say that a great REVIVAL would break out just before He comes back, or is it the APOSTASY that Jesus spoke about?

What does He tell us to beware of? "And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold." Matthew 24:11-12.

Why did Jesus say those things if in fact a great REVIVAL would be present and the church would be in UNITY? Obviously that isn't going to happen in the last days! So why are these pastors, teachers, preachers, prophets, authors, TV evangelists, ministry leaders all saying that we are working toward a great REVIVAL to take over the earth? With their own brand of WORLD EVANGELISM? Perhaps these leaders are jockeying for position in the new, unified World Church? Yes, they are!! And is this World Church the one that is unified in the Spirit according to Ephesians 4? That isn't possible, according to the Word of God!

If you look for the threads that unify almost all the major churches, parachurches and missions organizations in this world today, you will find that the threads are all intertwined with the Fuller Theological Seminary, along with USCWM. To name a very few of the people, ministries and organizations involved:

Paul & Jan Crouch, Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN)C.
Peter Wagner, World Prayer Center
Matthew Barnett, Dream Center
Wendell Smith, City Church Kirkland,
WAPaul Yonggi Cho (David Cho)
Benny Hinn
Cindy Jacobs
Chuck Pierce
Winkey Pratney
Frank Damazio, City Bible Church Portland, OR
Tommy Tenney
Rick Warren, Saddleback Church
Richard Foster, Renovare
Ted Haggard, president of NAE

the list goes on and on and on. . .

We do know, don't we, that globalization of the world is the step before the antichrist appears.

But beware, in 1 John 2:18 it says " you have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. THEY WENT OUT FROM US, but they were not of us..." John is speaking of CHRISTIANS!
Tell me why these "Christians" today have ignored what Jesus has taught, and are selling their own doctrines??!

1 John 4:1-3Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are GONE OUT into the world. Hereby know you the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses** that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesses** not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is THAT SPIRIT OF ANTICHRIST, whereof you have heard that it should come; and even now ALREADY IS IT IN THE WORLD.**

In the original Greek, CONFESSES means: to say the same thing as another, i.e. to agree with, assent; not to refuse, to promise;

If we align ourselves with those who do not DECLARE that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, then we are not of the Spirit of God. I would encourage, PLEAD with, every one of you who is reading this article -

USE THE BIBLE AS YOUR ONLY SOURCE of information.DO NOT believe any doctrine or teaching that is not substantiated by the BIBLE

Emergent Church and Post Modernism: "Truth cannot be known with Certainty"

One of the core doctrines of the Emergent Church is the philosophy of alleged postmodernism with its assertion that truth cannot be known with certainty. But here is what the Lord says of His true sheep:

"Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; for the Words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me." (John 17:7-8)
Yoga Renamed Is Still Hindu

I challenge attempts to snatch yoga from its roots
By subhas r. tiwari

In the past few months I have received several calls from journalists around the country seeking my views on the question of whether the newly minted "Christian Yoga " is really yoga.

My response is, "The simple, immutable fact is that yoga originated from the Vedic or Hindu culture. Its techniques were not adopted by Hinduism, but originated from it." These facts need to be unequivocally stated in light of some of the things being written to the contrary by yoga teachers.

The effort to separate yoga from Hinduism must be challenged because it runs counter to the fundamental principles upon which yoga itself is premised, the yamas (restraints) and niyamas (observances). These ethical tenets and religious practices are the first two limbs of the eight-limbed ashtanga yoga system which also includes asana (postures), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (sense withdrawal), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (contemplation/Self Realization). Efforts to separate yoga from its spiritual center reveal ignorance of the goal of yoga.

I believe such efforts point to a concerted, long-term plan to deny yoga its origin. This effort to extricate yoga from its Hindu mold and cast it under another name is far from innocent. It is reminiscent of the pattern evident throughout the long history and dynamics of colonizing powers. Firstly, the physical geography of a people was colonized, then their mental arena. Now we are witnessing the next phase, the encroachment on the spiritual territory of Hinduism which began in the last few decades. Some of the agents behind "Christian Yoga " also draw from the same treasure chest which supports the conversion movements of Hindus and other sacred cultures.

In 1989, Pope Benedict, then Cardinal Ratzinger, issued a scathing report against yoga and warned Catholics of "dangers and errors " from "non-Christian forms of meditation." He stated, "The Hindu concept of absorbing of the human self into the divine self is never possible, not even in the highest states of grace." In 2003, the Vatican issued a more conciliatory directive permitting Catholics to engage in the "New Age " in general and yoga specifically, but still warning against its spiritual and meditation practices. "I want to say simply that the New Age presents itself as a false utopia in answer to the profound thirst for happiness in the human heart. New Age is a misleading answer to the oldest hopes of man, " said Cardinal Paul Poupard. This document gives its blessings for Catholics to practice yoga, but not as a spiritual discipline!

Today, however, we are witnessing an initiative toward yoga from ordinary Christians whose positive physical, mental and spiritual heath and well being experienced as a result of "engaging " yoga cannot be denied or ignored.

This 5,000-year-old system is perhaps the best known, most accessible and cost effective health and beauty program around. Yoga is also much more, as it was intended by the Vedic seers as an instrument which can lead one to apprehend the Absolute, Ultimate Reality, called the Brahman Reality, or God. If this attempt to co-opt yoga into their own tradition continues, in several decades of incessantly spinning the untruth as truth through re-labelings such as "Christian yoga, " who will know that yoga is--or was--part of Hindu culture?

The giant tree of yoga whose limbs reach high up into the different atmospheres, and whose branches stretch across the wide river offering its protection to so many, cannot deny that its roots are located in a specific place; Hinduism. Seeking shelter under its vast umbrella does not entitle you to change the tree; instead, learn from its unselfish display of love and generosity.

Subhas R. Tiwari is a professor at the Hindu University of America. He is a graduate of the famed Bihar Yoga Bharati University with a master's degree in yoga philosophy.

Another glowing article about Bono from none other than Christianity Today. It would be easy to be swayed by this Wolf in Sheeps Clothing, if you didnt know about his Universal Salvation Message. Our "Christian" Media has unfortunately become like Secular Media. it writes what will draw readership.

Make no mistake Bono is no True Christian. He is of the Anti-Christ Spirit.

Bono's American Prayer

The world's biggest rock star tours the heartland, talking more openly about his faith as he recruits Christians in the fight against AIDS in Cathleen Falsani posted 02/21/2003

No poet—and Bono, the 42-year-old lead singer of the Irish rock band U2, considers himself a poet—enjoys having his verse scrutinized. And no musician likes to have to explain what a song means.

Nevertheless, for more than 20 years Bono's fans have been attempting to gauge his spiritual well-being by what he sings, what he says in interviews, talk shows, and awards programs, and what he does or doesn't do in public.

For many Christians of a certain generation, combing through the lyrics of U2 songs (nearly all of them written by Bono) in search of biblical images or references to Jesus Christ and his teachings is almost a sport. Consider it a cross between exegesis and Where's Waldo?
He doesn't attend church regularly. He prays frequently. He likes to say grace before meals. He tries to have a "Sabbath hour" as often as he can. His favorite Bible is Eugene Peterson's paraphrase, The Message. He hangs out with Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones, but on a recent visit to Nashville he spent the morning palling around with Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant.

Bono knows the subject of his personal faith is of great interest to others, although he's certain that interest is misplaced. The inquiries don't seem to bother him—Bono seems comfortable with who he is. He just celebrated his 20th wedding anniversary with his high-school sweetheart, Alison Stewart, his band had one of its most successful years artistically and professionally, and he has found his calling, on and off stage. Rarely has Bono talked explicitly about his faith and beliefs. But as he has begun to recruit churches this past year in the fight against AIDS in Africa, that seems to be changing.

'Hi. I'm Bono.'Born Paul David Hewson in Dublin, Ireland, to a Roman Catholic father, Bob Hewson (who died of cancer in August 2001), and a Protestant mother, Iris Rankin Hewson (who died when Bono was 14), he has long carved his own path to Christ irrespective of institutional religion.

Bono, a moniker given him 30 years ago by his longtime friends and taken from the name of a hearing-aid store in North Dublin, has always straddled Protestantism and Catholicism looking for a "third way."

He attended Mount Temple High School, Ireland's first nondenominational coeducational school, which was designed to educate Protestant and Catholic children together in Ireland's troubled sectarian society.

After his mother died unexpectedly, Bono, David Evans (who is now known as U2's guitarist The Edge) and Larry Mullen Jr. (U2's drummer) were all involved in Shalom, a loose evangelical group that met for song, worship, and Bible study.

But when Shalom evolved into something more structured, more akin to the institutional religion he finds uncomfortable, Bono, and soon the others, left.

"I just go where the life is, you know? Where I feel the Holy Spirit," Bono told Christianity Today. "If it's in the back of a Roman Catholic cathedral, in the quietness and the incense, which suggest the mystery of God, of God's presence, or in the bright lights of the revival tent, I just go where I find life. I don't see denomination. I generally think religion gets in the way of God.
"I am just trying to figure it out. Everybody wants to make an impact with their life, whether it's small scale with friends or family—that's really big, is the truth—or whether it's on a grand scale, in changing their communities and beyond. I just want to realize my potential." He recalled one pastor's recent advice: Stop asking God to bless what you're doing. Find out what God's doing. It's already blessed. "That's what I want," Bono said. "I want to align my life with that."
Bono's spirituality is more than just a reflection of antisectarianism, said Steve Stockman, a chaplain at Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and author of Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of U2 (Relevant, 2001). "At the time Bono was involved with Shalom, something unique was happening in Dublin," he explains. "There was a movement of the Holy Spirit that you simply cannot deny. In some ways I think it was the Jesus Movement hit Dublin eight years late. That radical, almost hippie attitude at some level, that this is a radical thing to live in the Spirit … It gave Dublin something that was vibrant and exciting and trendy, almost. Bono and [Alison] were certainly caught up in the middle of that. They've never been able to get over that, no matter how their faith has changed. The roots of what they're doing now are in whatever the Spirit was doing back then."

When expressed in private, one-on-one conversations, Bono's faith in Christ is anything but trendy.

"The idea that there's a force of love and logic behind the universe is overwhelming to start with, if you believe it. Actually, maybe even far-fetched to start with," Bono said. "But the idea that that same love and logic would choose to describe itself as a baby born in s— and straw and poverty is genius, and brings me to my knees, literally. To me, as a poet, I am just in awe of that. It makes some sort of poetic sense. It's the thing that makes me a believer, though it didn't dawn on me for many years."

And though he tends to distrust religion, he appealed to religious institutions during his recent weeklong speaking tour of the American Midwest with his humanitarian organization, Debt, AIDS, and Trade in Africa (DATA). At Wheaton College, students couldn't help trying to read between the lines of his challenges to intervene on behalf of Africans devastated by AIDS.
"I had students afterward ask me, 'Do you think he's a Christian?' " said Ashley Woodiwiss, a political science professor at Wheaton who helped organize Bono's appearance at the college.
"I just said, these times of prayer that I took part in and observed, these were off-stage. This was the man, not the performer at all. To see that vitality, and yet, he's not going to be captured by anybody. He's not going to be 'Our Saint.' He's not going to be an evangelical for us."
'God is on his knees'A few weeks before Christmas, the singer also met with Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, during the Chicago stop on his Heart of America tour.

Hybels told Christianity Today about his impression of the rock star: "After a two-hour private meeting in my office, I came away convinced that Bono's faith is genuine, his vision to relieve the tragic suffering in Africa is God-honoring, and his prophetic challenge to the U.S. church must be taken seriously."

"This is the defining moral issue of our time," Bono repeatedly told church congregations during the tour, which was designed to raise people's awareness of the one-two punch of AIDS and profound poverty that is claiming the lives of 6,500 Africans every day.
"This generation will be remembered for three things: the Internet, the war on terror, and how we let an entire continent go up in flames while we stood around with watering cans. Or not," he would say, sometimes pounding his fist for emphasis. "Let me share with you a conviction. God is on his knees to the church on this one. God Almighty is on his knees to us, begging us to turn around the supertanker of indifference on the subject of AIDS."

From Nebraska to New York City, in city halls and union meetings, in diners and truck stops, at colleges and churches, and more than once from the pulpit itself, Bono tossed a gauntlet at the feet of the American church.

"It brings out the best in the church, like you see today in response to these children suffering HIV," Bono told pastors, parents, and children gathered at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport a few weeks before Christmas as part of an airlift of 80,000 gift boxes to HIV-infected children in Africa, organized by Franklin Graham's Operation Christmas Child. "But if we're honest, it has also brought the worst out of the church. Judgmentalism, a kind of sense that people who have AIDS, well, they got it because they deserve it. Well, from my studies of the Scriptures, I don't see a hierarchy to sin. I don't see sexual immorality registering higher up on the list than institutional greed (or greed of any kind, actually), problems we suffer from in the West.
"This is a defining moment for us: For the church; for our values; for the culture that we live in."
Is Bono a modern-day prophet? He'd be the first to say no. He's a rock star and makes no bones about it.

"There's nothing worse than a rock star with a cause," he said, as actors Ashley Judd and Chris Tucker, fellow speakers on the Heart of America Tour, stood by. "But celebrity is currency and we want to spend it this way. … It's preposterous and absurd that you have to listen to it from us. But that's how the news media works."

Bono is similarly self-effacing about his faith. He doesn't even like to call himself a Christian, although it is apparent to anyone who has spent any time with him—or even just listened to his lyrics—that his faith is rooted in the redeeming grace of Jesus Christ.

"I'm a believer," Bono usually says when asked about his faith. "I don't set myself up as any kind of 'Christian,' " he said as his gleaming silver and chrome tour bus motored east from Lincoln, Nebraska, to Iowa City. "I can't live up to that. It's something I aspire to, but I don't feel comfortable with that badge."

It's no denial of Christ. And Bono is not trying to play hide-and-seek with his Christianity. He wants to avoid becoming an idealized poster-child for Christ when people should be looking to the Savior, not some rock star, for their example.

A few days later at Northeast Christian Church in suburban Louisville, Kentucky, he told reporters: "I'm not a very good advertisement for God. I generally don't wear that badge on my lapel. But it certainly is written on the inside, somewhere."

It's a self-deprecation, something he's fond of indulging in, whether the subject is his faith or his success as a musician.

Self-deprecation is a national trait in Ireland, the singer told Oprah Winfrey on her TV talk show in September. "In Ireland, people have an interesting attitude toward success; they look down on it," he said. "In America, you look at the mansion on the hill and think, 'One day that will be me.' In Ireland, people say, 'One day, I'm going to get that b—d.' "

Still, critics have said Bono is somehow ashamed of his faith; otherwise he would make it clear in plain language that anyone could understand. The singer, they say, is hiding his light under a bushel.

"I think for evangelical Christians, there's a problem when Bono says that kind of thing," Stockman says. "I think you have to go back to [U2's song] 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For.' … He's almost denying what he believes himself, because if [he believes] in grace, then wearing the badge is not a pride thing."

But, Stockman adds, Bono's reluctance to be labeled a Christian, or at least a Christian artist, probably has more to do with a lack of faith in journalists than in Jesus Christ.
"I call it the Messianic secret," Stockman said. "He's still not wanting to say too much in case he's misrepresented. Somewhere in the '80s he got a belly full of misrepresentation and thought, 'All right, let's disguise it a bit.' " The band seemed to try to shed its image as rock music's conscience. "Even though they tried to go light, they can't go light because he's always asking cosmic questions, and that's because of his faith."

The Rock Star PreacherThe seven-states-in-seven-days Heart of America tour kicked off at St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Lincoln, Nebraska, before a Christmas-size crowd.
The Rock Star, as he often refers to himself sarcastically, wearing a dark suit and his trademark blue glasses, somewhat timidly mounted the platform.

The first thing he did was make fun of himself.

"Rock Star in the pulpit shot—nope," he quipped, moving away from the raised wooden lectern.
"I'm not often so comfortable in church," he said. "It feels pious and so unlike the Christ that I read about in the Scriptures."

Still, when the microphone on his lapel began to fail, the Rock Star moved to the pulpit, where he slung his arm over the side, casually, and looked thoroughly at home.

"I've always wanted to get into one of these," he said.

During the next week, he would mount several more pulpits and take more than a few shots at Christians in the United States and Europe.

Speaking to reporters at Wheaton College, the evangelical Mecca outside Chicago, he was asked if evangelicals are reluctant to engage the AIDS issue.

"Somewhere in the back of the religious mind," he said, "was this idea [that people with AIDS] reaped what they sowed—missing the entire New Testament, the New Covenant, and the concept of grace. Evangelicals in a poll, only 6 percent thought they should be doing something about the AIDS emergency. … I'm sure that made you, as it made me, wince."

Still, Bono believes addressing AIDS is at the core of the church's purpose and at the core of how outsiders see the church.

"I think our whole idea of who we are is at stake. I think Judeo-Christian culture is at stake," he said. "If the church doesn't respond to this, the church will be made irrelevant. It will look like the way you heard stories about people watching Jews being put on the trains. We will be that generation that watched our African brothers and sisters being put on trains."

Privately, Bono's critique of the church, in which he includes himself, is even more caustic. "It's absolutely clear what's on God's mind. You just have to read Scripture," Bono told CT as he rode in a chauffeured SUV down Fifth Avenue in midtown Manhattan.

Those who read Scripture and don't come away with God's preferential concern for the poor are "just blind," he said, noting that 2,103 verses of Scripture are about the poor.

"People have been perverting the Gospels and the Holy Scriptures since they were first written—mostly the church. This AIDS emergency actually is just such a valuable example of everything that's wrong and perverted about Christianity today," he said as he headed toward a Manhattan recording studio to lay down some tracks for "American Prayer," a song he debuted on the Heart of America tour.

"There should be civil disobedience on this. You read about the apostles being persecuted because they were out there taking on the powers that be. Jesus said, 'I came to bring a sword.' In fact, it's a load of sissies running around with their 'bless me' clubs. And there's a war going on between good and evil. And millions of children and millions of lives are being lost to greed, to bureaucracy, and to a church that's been asleep. And it sends me out of my mind with anger.
"This is what's important and why I would be doing this interview with Christianity Today, to implore the church to reconsider grace, to put an end to this hierarchy of sin. … All have fallen short. Let's stop throwing stones at people who've made mistakes in their life, and let's start throwing drugs."

There is little hope for most HIV-infected Africans, Bono told crowds on the Heart of America tour, because they cannot afford the $1 a day for medications that are readily available in the U. S. and Europe.

"People are dying for the stupidest of reasons: money," he said.

Dreary NumbersEach year, sub-Saharan African nations spend $40 million on debt payments to the United States and other wealthy nations, according to statistics from data ( Africa spends $14.5 billion annually repaying debts, and only receives $12.7 billion in aid, including $1.2 billion from the United States. The U.S. aid to Africa is proportionally the lowest among the wealthiest nations of the world.

More than 28 million Africans are HIV-positive, and 2.3 million died of AIDS last year, according to United Nations figures. Were it not for HIV, the average life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa would be about 63. It's now about 47.

More than 6,500 Africans die every day from HIV and AIDS. Another 9,500 become infected with HIV each day. Most Africans have no access to antiretroviral and other drugs that slow the progression of the virus. Families who can afford some drugs almost assuredly cannot afford them for all the HIV-positive members of their family, Bono said. Parents must decide which child receives the drugs (and a chance to live).

Because there's no hope for treatment, Bono said, many choose not to be tested at all and continue to infect their sexual partners and children.

Ten billion dollars a year in aid from the wealthiest nations of the world, including about $3 billion a year from the United States, could put 3 million people on antiretroviral drugs, keep 10 million people from becoming infected, and provide care for 12 million AIDS orphans by 2005, Bono said, citing figures from the newly formed Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, created by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in 2002.

data is not asking people to contribute more of their own money. In fact the organization, nearly entirely bankrolled by Bono, Microsoft's Bill Gates, and Ed Scott (another Silicon Valley mogul) doesn't accept cash donations.

"We're not asking for money here," Bono said. "We feel we've already given the money. We're asking you to give the President permission to spend the money on this problem."

To that end, during the Heart of America tour, data distributed more than 10,000 "action cards," red and black postcards to be signed and sent to elected officials, urging them to intervene financially to stave off the AIDS crisis in Africa.

"Two and a half million Africans are going to die next year because they can't get ahold of drugs that we take for granted," Bono would say over and over again during the tour. "That's not a cause. That's an emergency."

Standing amid thousands of Operation Christmas Child gift boxes at jfk airport on the last official day of the tour, Bono was indignant.

"These children that are going to receive these boxes for Christmas, this may be their last Christmas, a lot of them," he said. "And that makes me feel sick in the pit of my stomach. I think it's absolutely unacceptable. I don't think we should have it. I don't think our Father in heaven will have it. All of our work is made meaningless in the face of this most wicked of plagues."
Bono and former Eurythmics member Dave Stewart have composed a song that reflects the rocker's hope that America, and American Christians in particular, will respond to the AIDS crisis.

Bono debuted "American Prayer," a work in progress, during the Heart of America tour.

In early December, Bono sang:

These are the hands / What are we gonna build with them? / This is the church you can't see / Give me your tired, your poor and huddled masses / All are yearning to breathe free / American prayer, (This is my) American prayer.

It's one song that Bono is happy to explain. "My prayer is that this country, which has unparalleled economic, technological, military, and cultural power, will rethink its humble origins, the purpose that made it great," Bono told CT. "There are millions and millions of lives hanging in the balance in parts of the world, that depend on decisions made a long way from them. And there's the prospect of war around the corner. I'm not saying I know what to do, or what anyone should do. America has got to make up its own mind about all these problems and potentials, but it will make better decisions if it revisits the cauldron of ideas that the country came out of."

The InquisitionBono's latest comments—even his talking to Christian media—will surely be scrutinized by many fans seemingly obsessed with the "is he or isn't he" question. But why?
"There are two camps: Those who are dying to call him their own … [and] those who are dying to bring him down and prove that he's not," Stockman said. He thinks it's a tragedy. "We want to be very black and white about who's in and who's out. We want to demonize those who are out."
Perhaps the kind of Christianity that Bono represents is threatening, Stockman posits.

"If Bono is one of us, then we have to take on the challenge of what he's saying. But if we can ostracize him and say he's not one of us, we don't have to think about the marginalization, we don't have to think about postmodernity, we don't have to think about the challenges he's laid before the church. If this guy is right, then I have to sort out my life," Stockman said.
"I think Bono is very culturally aware of who he's trying to reach. I don't think he's saying these things to make the evangelical church realize he's a Christian," he said. "He's willing to sacrifice the understanding of evangelical Christians in order to take God into a broader context. Can you tell me a role model that's bringing God into culture better?"

Michael W. Smith, a Bono-level celebrity within contemporary Christian music, met with the Irish rocker in Nashville in December.

"Obviously, something has happened to him," he told CT. "If you really look back at the early days of U2, I hate putting labels on things, but they really were a Christian band. I think he got really frustrated with the church and became really bitter. I think he's probably sorry for the way he reacted, to a certain degree."

"I really can't judge him for what he does. Everyone's got to work out their own salvation," Smith said. "I think that he has got a bit of a new lease on life. Maybe he's found another place in this world and what he's supposed to do in life. He's been preaching this for a long time, but to know that we might actually be able to pull this thing off [saving Africa from destruction]—I think [this] does wonders for his soul and for his heart."

"I think he would probably love to have that as his legacy, rather than being one of the biggest rock stars of all time."

Mother Africa
Bono's involvement in Africa began shortly after he performed with U2 at the Live Aid concert in London in 1985, a fundraiser for famine relief on the continent.

Over the years, he and his wife, Ali, have worked in the field and behind the scenes on behalf of Africans. In 2000, Bono was a leading force behind the Drop the Debt campaign which sought, in the spirit of the biblical teaching of the Jubilee, to forgive billions of dollars owed by Third World countries to the developed world (see "How to Spell Debt Relief," May 21, 2001, p. 64).

When he is asked, though, why he has chosen to give his energy to the aids crisis in Africa, he reminisces about a time just before U2's megastardom, when he was a young, impressionable man who just wanted to help.

"All of this started for me in Ethiopia in the mid-'80s, when my darling wife and I went out there as children, really, to see and to work in Africa," he told the congregation at Louisville's Northeast Christian Church.

World Vision marketer Steve Reynolds played a key role, he says. "Honestly there is no chance that I would be here if he hadn't called me up and asked me to make that journey. It's a journey that changed my life forever.

"I remember waking up in the mornings and watching mist lift, as tens of thousands of people would be walking. They would have walked through the night to come and beg for food, to come and leave their children.

"I remember one man, this beautiful man with a beautiful boy, his son. He was so proud. And he came up to me and said, 'Please. Will you take my son? My son will have no life if I look after him. He is sure to die. But if you take him, he is sure to live.' And as Steve Reynolds will tell you, you can't do that. You had to say no. Well, it's the last time I'm saying no."