Good Intentions?

churchesatlanta

Monday’s post has sparked a conversation that is still ongoing about whether or not we should judge somebody who is trying to do what looks like a good thing.

Isn’t it good that somebody is planting a church?

Isn’t it good that people start schools and mission boards?

Isn’t it good that people go out soulwinning or leave gospel tracts strewn about?

Isn’t SFL just full of a bunch of hate and negativity?

The first problem is, of course, that the assumption is being made that all churches and ministries and missions are created equal. Can somehow a fundamentalist preacher who graduates from a fundamentalist school and raises support at fundamentalists churches to plant a new fundamentalist church be free from the taint and corruption of fundamentalism? Does a fig tree produce olives?

Why would it be a good thing to produce yet another church that attempts to isolate itself from all of the rest of Christianity? Patrick Henry’s claim that there are only three Bible-believing churches serving almost a million people in urban Atlanta is patently absurd. If he had said that there are specific neighborhoods that are undeserved and his intention is to go there in association with some existing body and live a missional life of kindness, service, and charity then I doubt that anybody on this blog would have a problem with it — especially if he was willing to work for a living like the rest of us do. But that is not what Patrick’s claim was. Instead he has asserted that there are not enough CHURCHES in a city that is lousy with churches. Unless he’s willfully ignorant of the facts, Patrick either being dishonest or he’s being schismatic. Either one is cause for grave concern.

As for the charge that without personally sitting down and speaking to somebody it’s impossible to know their “heart”, this is simply malarkey. We’ve seen Mr. Henry’s claims in a public forum at a church where he was attempting to raise money. What a person says in private does not negate their public presentation nor does a response to a public declaration first require a private confrontation. Furthermore, he obviously has the blessing of his “home church” in his efforts and therefore an appeal to any kind of church authority is moot — which is the entire point of a one-on-one meeting.

I do not doubt that Patrick Henry is possessed of good intentions but intentions are not magical and they do not guarantee that a person’s goals are good. If by some remote possibility there is a place in Atlanta that needs another church then I can say on good authority that it does not need another man-centered, isolationist, myopic, and anachronistic one. Any church that is conceived by, funded by, and associated with only other fundamentalists could not help but be these things.

173 thoughts on “Good Intentions?”

    1. I would like to thank the Academy, my parents who always believed I could someday be first but most of all my pet monkey Anchovy. I wouldn’t be here without Anchovy. There’s the music, thank you and good night!

      (Holds up butt cushion and kisses it. Wrinkles nose in disgust)

      1. By “the Academy” I hope you mean the Bob Jones Academy. Because the Academy out there in Hellywood is nothing but a bunch of sin-lovin’ filth-promoters.

    1. I’m not ashamed to be a Baptist; I’d like to see a HUGE reformation in these camps (a lot of colleges disbanded) though. I read the KJV and recommend it, but I’ve got buddies who read ESV,etc. I know a lot of other denom’s preach the Gospel as well. I do like some newer music along with old traditional stuff as well. I laugh at SFL and understand its a necessary evil for IFB people. I only jump in when people seem to gang up on these kids (not people like Hyles, bury him all day). I do understand the humor, but not everyone takes it as such. Not all people will agree with me, but that’s okay. I am what I am, you are what you are; I can disagree with you and still do it out of love.

        1. Most Fundies conflate the Immaculate Conception with the Virgin Birth. Those who do understand the concept of Immaculate Conception generally don’t accept it…probably because it’s Catholic. 😛

        2. Wasn’t Mary the one immaculately conceived, and Jesus born by Virgin birth? Shocked me when I first heard it, but I believe that’s how it’s taught.

        3. Teaching that Mary was conceived/born free of original sin and lived a sinless life herself to give birth to a sinless Child… It’s pretty far from what I was taught as a Protestant, and part of the reason why my Dad told me one time that it was only a matter of time before the Catholics declared Mary co-redemptrix with Christ.

          It would be hair-splitting if it was a question of Jesus being born free of original sin and/or of a virgin, since it’s often conflated that being born of a virgin with no man is the means to accomplish a conception immaculate of original sin. But my understanding (as a non-Catholic myself) is that the Immaculate Conception resulted in at least one full human, born of sinful but good parents, who did not need Christ’s redemption as she never sinned.

          Food for thought for me, still not sure what I believe about it all…

  1. Also, I have it on good authority (that is to say, my mother told me) that Methodists are just the same as Catholics. I mean, we can all see from this map that Methodists worship the saints too, just like the polytheistic Catholics.

    1. If a Methodist church is named for a saint, it’s always one of the saints named in the New Testament– one of the twelve Apostles or Paul– usually one of the four Evangelists or Paul.
      There may be a few exceptions, but I can’t think of any.

  2. But how many of these so-called churches are soulwinnin’, sin-hatin’, sold-out, separated, suit-wearin’, independent, fundamental, King James Bible preachin’, fried chicken eatin’ BAPTISTS?

  3. Darrell,

    Just a few comments. First, as a pastor I’ve had interaction with a number of church planters of a variety of theological backgrounds and one of the prevailing attitudes the have that has annoyed me is that every other church is doing wrong and that is why the individual has been called to plant a church. The church planters might disagree with what is wrong with existing churches (and sometimes their criticisms are spot on) but many of them seem to have an air of arrogance about them and it’s not exclusive to IFB church planters. Thankfully not all have that attitude, but it does seem to be the prevalent mindset.

    Secondly, I do think we need to be careful in making judgments about another person’s heart. While we might be skeptical and have legitimate questions about the overflow we see coming from the heart, as humans we do not possess the eyes of God. The fact is we all have darkness in our hearts; it’s just that some of us do a better job of whitewashing that than others. Additionally, I’m not even sure sometimes what the motives of my own heart are and for someone else to claim to know my heart is presumptuous.

    1. But what does “another person’s heart” mean? If I say that I love to drown kittens or often rob liquor stores does it require knowing my heart before you can say that I’m probably best advised not to do those things?

      To me motivations matter far less than actions. Being able to tack on “but he’s a really nice guy” to a list of bad actions is only damning with faint praise.

      1. “To me motivations matter far less than actions.”

        I heartily disagree. If a person’s heart is genuinely in the right place, good actions will follow. The opposite is also true.

        We hear that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but I’m pretty sure that’s not in the Bible. What IS in the Bible is that where our treasures are there will our hearts be also, and out of the heart proceeds evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, etc.

      2. Darrell,

        I agree that our actions are ultimately an expression of our internal disposition (“heart”) and they reflect a great deal of who we really are. I would also agree that we have the right to make judgments about and be discerning about the character of those around us SO LONG as we are aware of and dealing with the plank in our own eye. I think we need to remind ourselves that if not for the grace of God there go I.

        I think my issue is not having ever met the guy in person and having the opportunity to ask him questions, I think we should be much more restrained in our criticism. Are we simply piling on the guy to make ourselves feel better about ourselves or are we offering legitimate, critical feedback that may be of some benefit to him? Like I said in the Church Planting thread, since the he allows for feedback on his daily bible readings, I’d be curious to see how he would respond to someone who is passionately devoted to following Jesus but not in the IFB mold. That kind of interaction would likely provide a better foundations to discern his heart. Like in anyone in ministry, I have taken a lot of unjustified potshots from people because they’ve made all kinds of assumptions about my heart and motives that were absolutely bogus, and so I perhaps a little more reluctant to do the same until I know more.

        Admittedly I haven’t grown up in or been deeply involved in IFB churches so I don’t have as much baggage in this area. My primary exposure to IFB churches is because I pastor as church that used to have the word “Baptist” in its name, so I receive a lot of mail and periodicals that assume we’re IFB, and after reading a lot of that stuff, it has both saddened me and made me very, very angry in so many ways I don’t have the time to list them all here. In short I think the IFB movement as a whole is like the church in Galatia that has been bewitched by another gospel and is far more concerned about the laws of men than the grace of God (Pharisaical). And perhaps there is no sin more blinding than self-righteousness, but I’m not sure that random criticism from strangers will do much to open their eyes.

        1. “I’d be curious to see how he would respond to someone who is passionately devoted to following Jesus but not in the IFB mold”
          In a way, I feel bad for you. You are at a disadvantage having not grown up in the IFB mold. If being a passionate follower of Jesus was the issue, this guy would probably talk to you all the day long. Unfortunately, that is low on the list of priorites in a lot of IFB churches. In a typical IFB church you will work till Jesus comes and you will be judged accordingly. Nothing of the sweet contentment and peaceful life you can have in THIS life through Jesus. I have been in the IFB since I was born, and have been a member of about 10 IFB churches (because of my job), and this has been the consistent strain that I have seen. I am sure Darrell will give you a more balanced answer, but until you have experienced the IFB up close and personal; it will be hard to relate.

        2. Thlipsis, your comments seem to presume that the objective of discussing preacher boys like Patrick Henry and their church planting projects is to help them.
          That’s not how I see it.
          It would be nice if they ended up being somehow instructed by the comments, but I don’t expect that. To me, the reason for discussing such matters is to clarify my own thoughts and also to distinguish the real from the false for anyone else who may be listening.
          And– I won’t deny it– also for amusement. Some of this stuff is funny. It just is.
          And those reasons are, to me, sufficient in themselves.

        3. Modestly, no need to feel bad for me having not grown up IFB. In fact after reading about the experiences that so many people on SFL had, I’m grateful that I didn’t. I have had to deal with some very, very conservative Baptists over the years that left me shaking my head in disbelief (like the woman who proudly proclaimed during a church service that she was writing letters to Jeraldo Rivera telling him what a wicked man he is), but I think I come to the whole IFB movement more from curiosity than anything else. In some ways some of this stuff seems SO unbelievable that it can’t be real. But unfortunately it is.

          And Big Gary, I agree that some of this stuff is so strange that it IS amusing in a very sad and twisted way. That’s part of the reason I keep coming back…lol.

      3. Darrell,
        It is quite possible that God has called this man to the Atlanta area to plant churches, but as is so often the case God’s intentions are far different than man’s. He may get to the Atlanta area and have a heart change, or maybe be forced to examine his Fundy beliefs. I realize I am being a bit Pollyanna here, but you never know. His claim that there are only three Gospel preaching churches may have to do with only 3 fundy churches in ATL? I do agree with you though the motives need to be examined, but it will be interesting to see the journey God takes him on through this ministry of his.

    2. Regarding the “heart” issue.
      We frequently use the term “well their heart is in the right place” or the defense, “you don’t know their heart.”
      Since we are not omniscient then we have to judge people on their merits.

      If one subscribes to the pillars of the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement then they will be judged on the basis of the movement which they have willingly identified themselves with.

      The IFB movement in America is Cultic in form and function. It is designed in such a way that it attracts men of lesser character to its positions of power.

      “There is no worse heresy than the fact that the office sanctifies the holder of it.” This has become a real problem in the churches of America today. Most churches today have a “pastor” who oversees the entire opperation, and there may be a deacon board that is either working with the pastor or against him… either way it is doubtful that either “office” is operating biblically. With the advent of the Professional Clergy there has been a rise in the cult of personality as well. The Professional is seen in a light that is clearly not biblical and we see that wheather by “influence” or by acquired “authority” these men rise to prominence. Even the small rural churches are patterened after this and the pastor is looked on as a man of authority over the congregation. And there is the rub.

      The man holding the office is elevated above all the rest and his position is considered more sancitfied, more holy, and more powerful simply because of the office. This is heady stuff even for the best of men to guard against. The drug of power is very seductive and there are few men who do not succumb to it’s influence. At some point men holding these offices begin to believe in their own positions and begin to use both the assumed authority that the office brings and the power and influence it affords, for their own purposes. The IFB world is replete with tales of those who have abused their (so called)”offices” just as often and just as wickedly as any of the pedophile Priests in the Catholic church. That is the problem, the office creates a caste system where the Clergy is the ruling caste and the Laity is the subordinate serving caste reinforcing the political framework in the religious setting. At best men succumb to the evil over time; at worst men of poor character seek the office for the very reason we are discussing, to acquire power. Once the seduction with power begins the level of corruption will be commensurate with the level of power that is available.

      Is there a cure? I believe that there is but it is so radical I doubt very seriously it would ever be adopted. The first step would be, to do away with the professional Clergy. Practically speaking this will never happen. The established Clergy and the pattern for their existence is too powerful. Never, of their own free will, would any of the professional “pastors” ever give up their position of power. Even the meanest paid rural “pastor” would not willingly give up “his power” over even the smallest group of people. It is not about the money, heaven knows many, if not most, small congregations pay at or below the poverty level. No, it is about power to influence and control a group of people and mold their worldviews.(This is the danger of the passive approach to worship where a one-way conversation takes place. The only view allowed in these meetings is the pastor’s. This affords almost total control by the speaker to inject his own views as ‘god breathed’. Whatever the “anointed”, “man of god” says while behind the “sacred desk” will be seen as, and accepted as, the “word of God”.) That is an especially strong allure for men of lesser character who are drawn to such positions. I have no doubt that there are good men who are trying to do what is right in these positions and I commend them and pray for them but the position itself is the enabler, the seductress; and even the best of men will, sooner or later, succumb to the temptation of power. We see a picture of this in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings Trillogy”. As a Ring Bearer, Frodo Baggins had an awful burden to carry yet, even he failed in the end and succumbed to the power of the ring; unable to destroy it he claimed it for himself. The thread through-out the tale is about power, the use and the abuse of it. Many who would have taken the ring would have done so out of a nobel purpose but would have been corrupted by it’s power and their corruption would (like Sauron) only be limited by the (unlimited) power of the ring.

      1. Is there a cure? I believe that there is but it is so radical I doubt very seriously it would ever be adopted. The first step would be, to do away with the professional Clergy.

        😕

        No. There is a place for people who make it their life’s work to study and provide teaching for the laity. I am of the opinion that cries of “get rid of professional clergy” are born of an anti-intellectual attitude towards theology where “We don’t need no stinkin’ book education about Jesus”.

        The better solution would be for the professional clergy to be given their proper place, neither so lofty as to be above the laity nor so lowly as to be dismissed by the laity. Each acting as servants to the other and all having a place and role in the work of the Kingdom.

        (See also 1 Corinthians 12.)

        1. Nope I disagree. The Professional Clergy is in it for the money and the power.
          It is taking Ephesians chapter 4 and stopping at verse 11. The man in the pulpit, the professional theologian, or the preachertainer du jour emphasize the position and do not see it as a gifted ability from God to prepare others to do the work of ministry. They see their positions “AS the Ministry.”

          Nope, so long as the position is rewarded with either power, influence or money then there will be men of poor character attracted to those positions who will rule over the so called laity.

          The Clergy/Laity is a false dichotomy and an unbiblical premise for how believers are to deal with one another.

        2. Would you like a broader brush to paint a group of people with or would you just rather keep ignoring all those passages that talk about the roles of elders and deacons?

        3. Ronnie, your use of the word “laity” reveals that you believe “pastors” to be on a higher plane spiritually than “just regular believer.” Scripturally speaking, elders were simply proven, spiritually mature men who accepted the responsibility to help guide the local church. I think the use of the words “clergy” and “laity” really have no place in New Testament Christianity.

        4. No. My use of the word “laity” means I use English words as they are commonly understood, nothing more.

        5. Ronnie, IF you’re using 1 Timothy 5 as some of your proof-text to pay and have professional pastors, you’re trashing the context of the scripture. I apologize for assuming you’re using this text when you’ve not mentioned it. It’s just most who hold your position seem to go here.

          [1Ti 5:17-18 ESV] 17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

          If you apply the “wages” directly to the elder, you must also apply “you shall not muzzle” to the elder. This text is giving us a picture that we’re to honor them… not pay them.

          You bring up 1 Corinthians 12. Please help me see what you’re seeing here. Sincere request.

        6. I would submit that the commonly understood words of Clergy and laity are man made religious caste terms. Christ girded himself with a towel and performed the lowliest function of his day, the function of a house servant, when he washed his disciples feet. That is the example. There is no clergy/laity dichotomy in scripture, period.

          Plurality of Elders is specified in Scripture. This practice of a church on every corner and the Baskin-Robbins approach to religion with 99 flavors is anathema. Denominationalism is the very sectarianism Paul rails against in 1 Corinthians 3 and the IFB is eat up with it. They will not work with any other believers because only the IFB is doing it right. So… I say with much conviction, however the IFB is practicing church is a prime example of how not to practice church.
          -Single man ruler
          -lecture only sermons
          -false dichotomy between pulpit and pew
          -isolationism
          -separation on extra biblical standards

          As to my “broad brush strokes,” I don’t believe too many are mispainted. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, “I contend that only 1 in (oh I’ll be generous) 1,000 who claim to be qualified to preach… actually are.” But it is a vocation that pays the bills.

          Now, are there sincere, God fearing men out there doing the best they know how? Absolutely. And many of them are doing about it just as absolutely wrong. It’s burning the good ones out and further corrupting the ones who are in it for the position.

          On the other side of the coin is the passive pew. By creating the professional in the pulpit you have created spiritual couch potatoes in the pews… and that is just as much anathema as the pulpiteers. This religious Kabuki theatre we call church is frustrating and deadening to the life and soul of the “Church” in America.

          /rant

        7. I’m not using 1 Tim 5 as a proof text to say we should pay professional theologians (and, as a corollary, recognize the contribution they can make precisely because they are professionals). I’m using the idea that people who provide a necessary service for the good of others should be paid for that service. I’d pay the clergy for the same reason I’d pay the farmer, the waitress, the teacher or the doctor.

          As far as my 1 Corinthians 12 mention, it is precisely this: The better solution would be for the professional clergy to be given their proper place, neither so lofty as to be above the laity nor so lowly as to be dismissed by the laity. Each acting as servants to the other and all having a place and role in the work of the Kingdom.

        8. That’s funny, none of our clergy has ever had much money–we should know, the congregation as a whole votes on their salaries–and they certainly don’t have much power. Not veto power, not the power to tell people to shut up or else Hell, and certainly not the power to rant, holler, and spray spit!

        9. Jenny,
          I submit that the coveted power lies in the position. It’s an assumed power but power none the less. The very act of standing and being the only voice in a passive lecture setting is power because at that moment, only one voice is heard, only one opinion allowed. With being the voice from the Pulpit there is an assumed sanctity and authority that no other person in the meeting holds.
          There may not be any outward political or administrative power but in the single pastor setting there is a nod and a wink to the fact that the position sanctifies the holder of it.

      2. I grew up in a small nondenominational church that did not have paid leadership. My father was an Electrical Engineer and was an elder in the church. There was a group of elders who rotated giving the sermons (about half an hour long).

        There was no “Pastor”. Non-elders could preach if they desired. I do not know how the Elders were chosen or how they operated. The church had business meetings that I considered BOOOOORING.

        I was not aware of any bad feelings or powerplays among the elders.

        1. No.
          Only by having multiple elders who understand that there is no clergy/laity dichotomy can you have a system that could resist the seduction of power and temptation to manipulate for personal gain.

          Deacons are by definition servants. They should be the first contact for anyone in the congregation having a need, or requesting help. They should not be put in place as some sort of ruling body to keep the pulpit in check.

      3. I think that if people only read their Bibles with an open mind (preferably a version they can understand easily), they wouldn’t support dictatorial ministers.

      4. While I agree that there are pitfalls to the professional clergy, not all are in it for power and money. I, as a professional clergy, have little of both of those. I tend the fields along side those who attend the church.

        And while I believe the Bible is attainable to all people, there is a benefit to having someone who has been educated, tested by a denominational board, and held accountable to that same board for the teaching of Scripture.

        I agree that the structure of the denominations and the church today are not found in the Bible in the same way we practice it. But there are a lot of things we practice in our current form that differ from the way those who wrote and first read Scripture practiced them. The Christian faith and Church are living. Culture comes and go. The circumstances the Church finds itself changes. The expression and needs of the Church and the World change.
        There are benefits and pitfalls to every system–even the early church–most of Paul’s letters had issues the churches needed to deal with. And to a point, the IFB has been stating it is in line with the early church with no denominational affiliation. But that leads to no accountability which is where you get these mega-ego pastors who do harm.
        Yes, every denomination has egos in pulpits, but I know more professional clergy who are sacrificing and trying to get the laity involved in the ministry so they claim the authority they have in Scripture.
        You did paint with a very broad brush. I can personally name 50 pastors who are humble people trying to lead God’s people to do God’s work. I can personally name 1 pastor who fits the picture you paint.

      5. I’m going to have to disagree with you on this one, Don. I WANT a professional, educated clergy. I have neither the time nor the inclination to study in any depth church history, traditions, Biblical analysis, sermon writing, and the host of other topics that are required of seminary students. It’s not my thing, but I expect that knowledge of someone who is going to stand in a pulpit and speak to me on matters of religion. I don’t want someone up there making it up as he/she goes along based on verses out of context and his/her personal opinions. Of course, I come from a liturgical tradition, where you don’t get to be a minister by announcing that you are one.

        1. And I also want an educated, learned person to exposit and teach. I’m sick of the Acts 4:13a qualified pulpiteers. But I fully understand that you get what you pay for. If you want someone who has these credentials you have to pay them for their knowledge and training. That is just the reality of the world we live in.

        2. I’m with TOJ on this one – but I would add that the real root issue is nothing to do with “professional clergy”. The real issue is institutional (in)justice. Institutional structures which allow clergy to become very wealthy, institutional structures that allow clergy to exercise undue authority or lord it over others, and institutional structures which promote clergy as anything other than servants are unjust, and borderline anathema (being one side or the other of the border, depending). My own liturgical tradition requires years of seminary training and board certification to ensure the minister is capable of doing their job, and also requires “visitation” and serving the home-bound and bed ridden. I really doubt many people with a desire for power of wealth would seek ordination in my denom. And at the end of the day, having a structure where qualified lay people act as teachers provides absolutely no institutional justice to keep wolves out of the flock. So, I agree with your concerns Don, I just think about the problem and solution differently.

      6. Is there a cure? I think so, but it requires a very radical reformation indeed:

        (1) No professional clergy.
        (2) No tithes.
        (3) Real congregational government, on an inclusive, democratic basis.
        (4) A commitment that members should be engaged in critical scholarship and theological discussion as an ordinary part of their religious life (also known as ‘loving God with their mind’).
        (5) Never sit in rows listening to a man at the front, when you can sit in a circle listening to the Spirit within.

        Ultimately, this requires a deep shift in our understanding of what christianity is about and what it is for; to see christianity as a way of healing and helping the world that God loves – and not as a way of rejecting the world.

      7. Don I whole heartedly (sp?) agree with you. I just wish I was as eloquent and able to explain that to my parents who are completely immersed in the mecca of IFB

    3. When she heard someone being criticized, my Grandma would often say, “He (or she) means well.”
      Which is usually true, but often irrelevant.
      I may think that putting arsenic in the bread I bake is a good way to improve its shelf life, but that’s little consolation to the people who eat the bread.

  4. Largely in agreement with what you have to say.

    Except your broad-brush slur that somehow those of us who are supported full or part-time to do ministry don’t work for a living ‘like the rest of us’.

    I am sure there may be lazy ministers out there who just stand up and shout a lot, but _some of us_ do work hard. I think SFL needs to avoid the broad brush statement, which itself belongs to the worst of fundamentalist preaching, not to reasoned argument.

    You might say the statement only stands in its context, but I think it is a bit of a blunt instrument!

    1. I do think the statement stands in the specific context in which I have placed it — namely an attempt at ministry by missional living in a largely Christian society. Although, I will say that if more ministers were bi-vocational it would greatly increase their understanding of the people to whom they minister. Pastors who have entered the job market after years of being away from it often remark on how they now understand a lot more about why people aren’t always as involved in church activities as much as the pastor would like.

      1. Interesting thoughts. I am looking in on this from the UK. Is it quite common for IFB pastors to go into ministry without working a secular job?

        It virtually never happens in the UK (we have no real IFB movement anyway) but I don’t know a single pastor who didn’t have a secular career before ministry. I think it is vital, and you’re right about some folks simply not having enough sympathy or empathy with the people they are supposed to be ministering to.

        1. It is pretty typical in the USA in fundamentalist circles for a young man to attend Christian schools and then Christian college and then go straight into ministry. Often they become a youth pastor or an assistant pastor first, but sometimes (especially if they have connections) they are able to become lead pastor right away.

          (A lot of times the youth pastor position doesn’t pay much, but often their job descriptions and expected duties are so time-intensive that there is not a lot of extra time for a second job. If they must, there is incredible strain on the youth pastor’s family because he has very little time to spend with his wife and kids.)

        2. In evangelical and fundamentalist Christian circles it’s very common for young men to graduate from college, go straight to seminary, and then go on church staff somewhere without ever having had a secular career outside of perhaps some menial work done during schooling.

          Pastors who suddenly find themselves without a church often struggle very hard to make ends meet because they don’t have many marketable skills.

        3. I’m not a fan of the whole “youth pastor as springboard to lead pastor” direction that has become so prevalent in ministry. Often you end up with a youth pastor with no practical life knowledge who is still in many ways a “youth”, one who feels no calling for young people other than as a means to an end.

        4. “It is pretty typical in the USA in fundamentalist circles for a young man to attend Christian schools and then Christian college and then go straight into ministry. Often they become a youth pastor or an assistant pastor first, but sometimes (especially if they have connections) they are able to become lead pastor right away.”

          Especially if the wet-behind-the-ears kid has the same last name as the senior pastor.

        5. “Especially if the wet-behind-the-ears kid has the same last name as the senior pastor.”

          Ain’t that the truth!

          Guaranteed pastoral job right outta Bible Kawledge. No one else need apply.

    2. I’ve had to overlook comments on SFL that are insulting about pastors because I understand where the commenters are coming from: they’ve seen pastors who lord it over their congregation, who enjoy nicer vacations, nicer homes, nicer cars, and numerous other perks while constantly asking the congregation to give more and stop being stingy with God or God will get them! Personally, I haven’t been in churches with pastors like that nor is my husband that way, but to those who’ve experienced it, it must be super hurtful.

      Trying to pastor and work a second job is exhausting and leaves the pastor’s family even MORE stretched for time.

      1. I actually heard a gracious pastor say he stepped out the ministry for 4 years when his kids were little to put his family first because of the strain. I admire him a lot for that decision…no glory in it. This pastor is also working hard to graciously grow the young associate pastor. (Not just leaving his stuck in the youth group where he never deals with grown-ups.)I’ve seen a lot of loud, self-assured, sparkley pups wash out of the ministry with no skills unless of there is a family tie. Not picking on anyone there…just running through a list of people we know. Kudos to you pastor’s wives….I know it must be hard and heartachey alongside all the good.

        1. P.S. I’ve never seen a woman stretch a penny further than a youth pastor’s wife I had growing up. Unfortunately, the pastor’s kids were such big jerks that they ended up leaving. I will always remember her happy graciousness while living on shoestring in a paintless, leaky, semi-plumbed house. Now I’m smiling. :^)

      2. PW, I personally appreciate the grace that you bring to this site with your comments. Please understand that most of us appreciate ministers, their wives and husbands, who labor selflessly in ministry.

        Full disclosure: I haven’t been to church since 2007, but I believe that the good pastors exist. Thank you for your service, both to the church, and to SFL.

        1. Thank you for your kind words!

          (I do hope my presence here doesn’t make people think they can’t vent about the bad pastors they’ve experienced! I don’t want anyone to feel stifled or censored lest I get offended because I don’t take general comments about pastors personally, and it’s OK for people to express frustration.)

        2. I agree, BJg!

          I think the greater problem is that we are putting new wine into old wineskins, and new patches of cloth onto old garments. Our Lord declares the evident results.

          Many good men occupy these “offices.” I’m just sorry that such offices don’t exist anywhere in Scripture.

          B.R.O.

      3. I grew up as a pastor’s daughter in fundy-lite smaller churches, and I think I would take an in between stance. I don’t think it’s possible for a pastor (at least how most churches are set up) to be able to do their job well and work a full time job. I do think that it would be good for the pastor to work a part time job and be supported by the church part time. While as a family we were stressed out, in all the churches we were at the cause was that other church leaders weren’t helping out when they could (stress the could). I saw that my dad could have time to work part time, and I also saw that it would have been good for him to have been in the work force. He would have been able to better relate to people and it would have grounded him more. He was out of touch with the world, thinking he understood things that I learned later he did not. I’m for a more spreading/evening out of church leadership responsibilities (more towards plural elders). It would be less stress for everyone and provide the church a chance to be more of a community and family. Though I wouldn’t ever choose my father to be my pastor, the amount of stress put on my mom to get things done that other people could have helped her with still frustrated me.

  5. I agree that Atlanta, or any place for that matter, doesn’t need “another church.” We don’t need more buildings occupied by preachers building another empire, by folks saying, “We have the truth. Come to us,” or by people wanting to ” church right because no one else is.” What is needed is groups of followers of Jesus who are committed to serving their neighborhoods and showing them the grace and love of God. If they gather in a “church” building and do that, fine. If they gather in homes, coffee shops, pubs, or even an old courtroom, great. We were never commanded to sit and tell people, “Come and see.” We were commanded to go and tell.

    1. “We were never commanded to sit and tell people, “Come and see.” We were commanded to go and tell.”

      Oh I wish these ministers and others got this. The minister of my former church has radio ads that are to try and get non-Christians into the church building. The ads always end with, “Come, investigate Jesus”.

      1. The problem with that is the only “Jesus” they see is the one who may be (but not necessarily) preached about from the stage, not the one who is active in the daily lives of those who follow him.

  6. In my opinion, a plethora of churches can actually harm the body of Christ. I once lived in city whose greater metropolitan population was less than 300,000. The physical size was such that you could easily drive from one end to the other in less than 40 minutes. Yet, there were at least two dozen Baptist churches, at least six of which were IFB. Most of the IFB churches were very small, and some depended on support from churches elsewhere in the country. The city was already heavily evangelized with many non-Baptist churches, and newcomers and new converts would flock to those churches because they had ministries to get involved with, people with whom to fellowship, etc. Fundamentalism could have been better served if the IFB churches had consolidated to maybe three, which would have yielded larger congregations, more funds to support foreign missions, more fellowship, more ministry, and more attention in the community and opportunity for evangelization. Then again… hmmmm… maybe all those tiny, stagnant churches aren’t a bad thing after all. 😈

    1. You’ve hit on what I like to call the SFL Paradox: we get to talking here about how to improve the IFB and what it would need to do to be more effective and then we realize that we aren’t so sure if we WANT it to be more effective!!

        1. Not every poor area has a military installation nearby. It’s a fairly long drive to even a smallish active duty post from where I live.

        2. You’re correct. I happen to frequent military bases and it seems they always have all those things around them.

  7. Dear Patrick Henry:

    I have a question. It isn’t a difficult question. It isn’t a trick question. There is no suppressed premise ‘complex question’ fallacy. This is a simple question which you can answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ without injury. I want you to answer this question with judgement Day honesty.

    Patrick Henry: have you visited every church in urban Atlanta?

    This is why I ask.

    Unless you have visited every church in urban Atlanta, everything that you THINK you know about those other churches is, by definition, hearsay.

    The repetition of negative reports in the absence of evidence is a serious issue. It features prominently in the life of David, Jesus and many others. This sin is also condemned in a number of Paul’s ‘sin lists,’ not the least of which is Ro 1:18-32.

    I sincerely hope, Patrick, that you will take this message to heart.

    Christian Socialist

  8. My grandfather was a Baptist lay preacher who planted churches (SBC not IFB) in the midwest. I was a member of a ‘mega’ church for 10 years and a scrappy non-denom startup for 3. I’ve also visited hundreds of churches of all kinds via my music ministry.

    There seems to be an attitude in this thread that churches are inherently bad, or un-interested in the poor etc. And more of them is a bad thing. With so much IFB background, I can definitely understand why.

    However, I’ve observed that there is a huge difference between dysfunction and deception. Some places have all the form of a church, but they’re really something else. They are deceived. Dangerous places to be.

    Other places are the body and ministry of Christ through and through. But they’re still made up of people, with all the corresponding crap that comes with that. There is no perfect church.

    There is NO way to tell which is which until you’ meet the people there…and in most cases actually hang out with them. The building doesn’t matter. The denomination doesn’t matter. The size doesn’t matter. You can’t even really judge the type/level of community involvement because there is just so much happening that isn’t readily visible.

    Personally, I’ve found most churches to be the plain ol’ dysfunctional type. Even the simplest function highlights the glory of Christ in working through very flawed people (myself completely included).

    The other thing is that even in the heart of the Bible Belt, church attendance is a small percentage of the general population. And when you consider that church attendance only sorta corresponds with active ministry…there is still plenty to be done.

    So…Christ working through churches as a general rule… And recognizing the massively “unchurched” population across the globe…

    I say bring ’em on. Small, big, home, brick, strip-mall, mobile, mega, street preacher, multi-campus, etc. God is real. He’s big enough to sort this out to His purpose.

    1. Mike, I agree with you that there are no perfect churches (as in local assemblies). My problem is those assemblies that act as if THEY are the church and those who don’t agree with them are not. Jesus said that the gates of hell would not stand up to the Church. We’ve been floundering around for 2000 years, and those gates are still crumbling. It’s by the grace of God that he works through such flawed vessels as we are. God can use storefront churches, mainline churches, mega churches, even 😮 fundamentalist churches if he chooses.

      1. “My problem is those assemblies that act as if THEY are the church and those who don’t agree with them are not.”

        I agree completely. However I think this attitude is very limited in practice. The holders just seem to be kinda loud about it, and the thought process by definition stands out against other things.

        This idea has been around since the beginning, and it will always be there. It should just encourage us to put our feet alongside those who think differently.

        There are certainly some denominations that are more prone to this problem (CoC, IFB, rural baptists, some hardcore Catholics). And some of the newer groups have created an exclusive us-vs-them, “we’re the uncola!” mentality. But again, I just haven’t found it to be very prevalent at all.

        Certainly nowhere near the ratio that would say we don’t need new churches at any particular place.

        1. I believe that what is needed is Christians being the church rather than just going to church. It is also necessary for believers to gather together for mutual edification. I believe that takes more than just Sunday. It takes living their lives together as much as is possible and showing those outside what the family of God looks like.

  9. Years of bi-vocational pastoring meant I rarely saw my father growing up – the system sucks all the way around particularly of you are of the variety that wants teach and train but not Lord over because inevitably someone will think you are weak and tear you down.

      1. Which to me just causes a whole different set of problems and also has created a situation where fewer men want to become priests.

        The response ought to be to readjust what a congregation expects of their pastor or to compensate him appropriately for the hours he works.

        1. PW, I truly respect your point of view. But I disagree with your last statement.
          Not that someone deserves compensation, but that this load should be on any one person. This is one more reason why I believe in plurality and a real division of the labor. When we place such a heavy burden on anyone alone, there will most certainly be a crash where people are hurt…
          Perhaps it is our own laziness as in recognizing our function in the body and carrying our that function. Maybe we’d just rather place all the burden on a few and give them a few dollars to justify it.

        2. I used to live in a village of 500 served by a Presbyterian pastor. This pastor complained to me that the church leaders griped at him that he wasn’t vacuuming often enough. He needed to clean the church more. He was an older man, now passed, who was battling cancer. So often, small churches expect their pastor to mow the lawn, clean, and do chores ad nauseum for a paltry wage. Some of these men and women serve in this capacity for decades, unknown and forgotten. I have great sympathy for these servants, regardless of denomination.

          My cynical SFL posts are directed at those who are abusive, hateful, racist, homophobic, divisive, or xenophobic, in the name of Jesus, under the rubric of evangelical fervor.

  10. And as someone in the wonderful bi role myself (youth and music but still working 40 while going to school) I can attest to how exhausting it is and how little wife and I see of each other – part of the reason we are jumping ship.

  11. There was a gentleman who was going to start a church in an area I was pastoring. He had great intentions. He had a heart and ministry to people who didn’t feel comfortable in church settings that were typical in the area. After a long process of prayer and visiting all the different churches (there were 8 already for a town of 8000 and none of the churches were full on a Sunday morning), this gentleman decided to work with the existing churches in reaching out to those who were on the outside.

    Good intentions does not make the actions the best. I am certain this pastor has good intentions. He believes he has the truth and the people of Atlanta need to hear it. And from what he has said, he really believes there are only 3 Bible Believing churches in the area. In typical fundy fashion, only 3 churches in the area can be considered to be biblical. Despite the fact they don’t stone disobedient children or don’t keep the women from entering the sanctuary when they are unclean…

    1. to clarify–they do not keep all of the levitical law and other laws in the Bible…so they themselves do what they complain all the other denominations do–not following all of the Bible literately.

  12. Just thought I’d mention this observation. I noticed this guy’s church is also in an area with at least three “mega” churches (Mt. Paran Church of God; World Changers Church International and Passion City Church) and a North Point Community Church branch/offshoot.

  13. If you honestly have the best of intentions, yet are doing the wrong thing, then instead of telling everybody that you are immune to criticism because you mean well, you should care enough to listen to that criticism and learn from it.

  14. So.

    Here’s my 2 cents worth.

    I’m Catholic, and I live in North Mississippi. Because of the small number of Catholics in our diocese it is considered by the Church in the United States to be “mission field.” There are several counties in Northern Mississippi that have no Catholic church (lower case “c”) at all, and many counties with only tiny little churches that have Mass once or twice a month.

    Financial realities have actually caused some of the smaller churches to close. Occasionally, where local folks can foot the bill, small churches have opened.

    For example, within the past 5 years a small Catholic Church opened in a tiny North Mississippi town of only about 2,000 or so people. Never before that had there been a Catholic church in that town There were, and of course are numerous other Christian churches there. Baptist, Methodist, Church of Christ, Pentecostal, Holiness, you name it, it’s there. Yet, the diocese recently built a church in this town.

    Why? To serve an “underserved” area.

    So, I have mixed feelings about the whole “church planting” thing. On the one hand, why “plant” a church 1,500 feet from another one? On the other hand, if he honestly feels that the church 1,500 feet down the road is inadequate, then shouldn’t he “plant” one that would do the job better?

    Peace,

    1. When you say there aren’t many Catholic churches in northern Mississippi, you get no argument from me.
      But if you said there were no, or only 3, Catholic churches in Atlanta, GA, you would have to be misinformed, crazy, or lying.

      So it is when Patrick Henry says there are only 3 churches worthy of the name in urban Atlanta. If he honestly thinks there are only 3 churches, or even only 3 Baptist churches, he’s either crazy or trusting in staggeringly bad information. If he knows about all the other churches, but thinks they are all wrong and he’s right about how to do church, then he’s a schismatic. If he knows there are hundreds of churches in Atlanta, but for his own purposes chooses to claim otherwise, then he’s a bald-faced liar.

  15. Whatever may be “in his heart,” the would-be pastor’s talk to another congregation was filled with race-baiting, gay-baiting, Muslim-baiting, and liberal-bashing, among other appeals to people’s base prejudices.

    When it comes to this kind of thing, it doesn’t matter if he’s sincere or not, well-intentioned or not. I don’t know whether he really believes that all those neighbors are terrifying and demonic and to be shunned, or he is cynically exploiting the bigotries his audience members hold (or that he assumes they hold). I don’t even know which would be worse. I only know that such tactics should be called out whenever they occur, and rejected in any kind of discourse.

  16. There’s also a danger of blurring the difference between someone having good intentions and having intentions that he or she thinks are good.

    The members of the Aryan Nation think their motives and intentions are good, but I don’t.

    As Deacon’s Son points out above, we need to pause in the midst of chuckling at people whose methods seem ineffective to wonder if we want them to be effective.
    While I wish folks in the IFB well as people, I do not wish them greater success in spreading and enforcing their false gospel. Quite the opposite.

  17. Don is correct on many points:

    I particularly agree with the discontinuing of the clergy/laity distinction. No where in the NT do we find such a system. It is man-made and pagan. There is given no room for such a pyramid of leadershp.

    Elders come from within the body of believers. It is “flat,” not vertical like our current overlording in church government.

    Christ is the head, not any man. The Holy Spirit provides the gifts for the body of Christ to function. Form follows function.

    1. Don wrote earlier to which I heartily agree:

      “No.
      Only by having multiple elders who understand that there is no clergy/laity dichotomy can you have a system that could resist the seduction of power and temptation to manipulate for personal gain.

      Deacons are by definition servants. They should be the first contact for anyone in the congregation having a need, or requesting help. They should not be put in place as some sort of ruling body to keep the pulpit in check.”

      Elders are servant-leaders, not rulers. Deacons are “servants,” not assistants to a self-proclaimed dictator called a “pastor,” which is nowhere in the NT defined as an office.

    2. I think what Don said above has a lot of truth to it. I was a professional clergy for 5 years. I saw the pitfalls of power and I saw the men that desired nothing more than to get people to follow their every word. When I was ready for a career change, I looked to become a pastor of a church (I was a Youth Pastor for 10 years). As I candidate and went through the process, I determined that professional clergy was not the way to go.

      Instead I have done my best to educate myself to be a military chaplain. While it is professional in a sense, there is no place for power struggles, I report to a CO, XO and the chain of command. My “kingdom” is gone after 2-3 years when I leave on the next orders, and tithes and offerings are no concern to me.

      In addition, I eat with my congregants, sleep next to them (This is much different than in many IFB circles 😛 ) and if called to do so, take bullets with them. I will leave my family like they do, I will endure the struggles they do, and I will live much of the lives that they do.

      It is the perfect setting (in my opinion). I can be a clergy, and I can be away from all the stuff that I despise in the IFB.

      God Bless, great comments, Don.

  18. @ Janet

    The Catholic doctrine of the immaculate conception states that the Virgin Mary was conceived without original sin. Presumably this would have been based on the belief that it would have been impossible for a sinner to bear and give birth to the Christ child.

    I left Catholicism when I was in the military, but later ended up spending a lot of years in Fundamentalism. I can tell you with a high degree of confidence that Fundamentalists do not believe that. They believe that Mary was a forgiven sinner.

  19. @ Janet,

    Sorry, responded to your first post before reading the second.

    If I remember correctly, during the last Catholic service I attended while still Catholic, the priest did refer to her as the co-redeemer. This does not mean that Catholics believe that Mary helped pay the sin debt, but if you want an authoritative explanation of how Catholics believe God used Mary in accomplishing His plan of redemption, you’ll need to read something written by a theologian.

    I also went to confession for the last time following that mass.

    1. I did not learn everything I know about Catholicism while I was Catholic, and of course having been Catholic in no way makes me an expert concerning that faith.

  20. @ BG,

    While “good intentions” may be a mitigating factor when it comes to the degree of one’s guilt, the damage that can be caused by well meaning ignorance should not be underestimated. The physicians who bled George Washington were sincerely trying to help him.

  21. For what it’s worth, Mr. Henry does work a job to support his family. His desire is to raise financial support so he can invest in his church plant full time.

    It’s not my point to argue the merits of the IFB movement. I’m just speaking up for the integrity of this young family. From his IFB worldview, he surely believes there are no other “Bible believing churches” in the loop (I mean no more than 3).

    1. and that is enough to indicate that he is dangerously naive, or he is cutting down the body of Christ in order to raise his own impersonation of it up. Either way, the results are not good no matter the intention.

      I have known plenty of decent young men of integrity who I personally like who are completely off the deep end when it comes to their philosophy of life and ministry.

      It’s kinda like Rush Limbaugh being attacked for saying he wanted BHO to fail. His entire point was that if the president achieved what he claimed he wanted, Rush viewed that as a bad thing. It had nothing to do with the man, it had everything to do with his plans and policy goals. When someone here says they want an IFB church to fail, its because they are looking at the poisonous fruit of false gospel and wish that it would not draw more unsuspecting victims into the trap. That is also a sincerely held belief by people who could find people to vouch for their integrity and their character (I know I could 😀 probably even within fundamentalism if I played my cards right) so that in and of itself has nothing to do with the actual intentions or plans of this young man. I could post a very similar link to a church plant for a young man that I have a great deal of respect for and personally thought was going to do great things, but instead is planting an also ran IFB church in the middle of a city full of them, because his particular brand of fundamentalism (who is funding his plant and backing him with their recommendations) don’t happen to have a clone ministry in that area yet. It pains me to see such waste of money and potential in something that bears the marks of a failed and flawed theology and philosophy. I still like the kid.

      1. Yes, this!!!

        I’m not saying this man isn’t well-meaning or hard-working. But he labels his beliefs Biblical when in truth they are EXTRA-Biblical. He is ADDING to God’s Word and denying the personal soul liberty when he refuses to acknowledge any other but three churches in the area as truly Biblical.

      2. Well said, Captain Solo.

        Some things are wrong no matter how sincerely they are intended (see my comments above about race-baiting, gay-baiting, etc.).
        It doesn’t mean the person is bad. But it does mean the person is in error.

  22. My husband never invited in a lot of missionaries (mostly because we’re a small church and if we took on a missionary, we’d want to send them decent support not just a pittance), but a few years ago, he invited in a very sweet young couple to our church. They were planning on church planting in San Diego (I think it was). During his presentation, he said there were NO Bible-believing churches in San Diego.

    Afterwards, a couple of our members were shocked. We had to reassure them that, no, there were Gospel-preaching churches in San Diego, but this man wouldn’t acknowledge them because 1) they weren’t Baptist, 2) he didn’t like their music, or some other reason.

    He was nice; he was earnest; he was sincere. But he was WRONG. (And isn’t it the IFB that taught us, “You can be sincere — sincerely wrong!”? I know I heard that statement often regarding other religions.)

    BTW, my husband wouldn’t have invited him to our church had we known the narrowness of his positions.

  23. Janet

    Mary did need Christ’s salvation. Catholics believe she was simply saved in a different way from the rest of us. We think of it as the rest of us being pulled out of pit of sin. Mary was stopped before she fell in. We are both saved but in different ways.

    This article by a former BJU grad now Priest might explain the ‘Co-Redeemer’ part of it. It doesn’t mean what we think it means. He puts it in language most of us can understand because he used to be one of us.

    http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/mary-mother-of-salvation

  24. If we approach things from “the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked; Who can know it?” approach (Jer. 10), we can conclude that all of us are self-deceived and that none of our motivations are as good as we want to portray them.

    That would include “missionaries” to Atlanta. No harm in pointing that out, by the way. And there is no harm in gently poking through the smoke screen to highlight the errors and falsehoods used in their presentation.

    Everyone needs to be aware that their “pure” motives are reasonably suspect. We do things out of motivated self-interest. Sometimes we pretend that is God’s calling.

    Remember Michele Bachmann? She said she was called by God to be President. Would God have allowed a little thing like the voting public to alter His Call? So either God could not pull it off, or Bachmann was having a religious fantasy. I’d say the latter.

    SFL is important in that it deflates the MOGs and points out the posturing and the inconsistencies in religious puffery. It debunks the idea of pure motives. That my motives in participating are not all pure is not the problem. I’m not pretending that they are! The MOGs should not get away with pretending that their motives are pure. If they honestly think so, they seriously need reality counseling!

    Just my $0.02 worth.

    1. “That my motives in participating are not all pure is not the problem. I’m not pretending that they are!”

      Exactly! The problem is in believing and/or claiming that one’s motives ARE pure. Mine aren’t, and neither are those of any other mortal.

  25. These admonishments to “know someone’s heart” and be aware of one’s own failings before making public statements seem to get tossed around mostly when someone is criticizing or calling for change to the status quo. Structural injustice has literally nothing to do with any individual’s intentions or heart or whatever.

  26. I moved to the greater Atlanta area (about one hour away) in September. I will be very honest, it doesn’t matter which street you are looking at, every street in every neighborhood has at least one church. In addition to many churches, there are also many service groups from a variety of church backgrounds. There is City Refuge. Every Saturday, a group called 7 Bridges to Recovery goes out to the homeless (the bridges) and the heroin dealing area (the bluff) to hand out lunches and offer to pray with anyone who approaches us. The first stop for the Bluff group is at Antioch Baptist Church NE. On Sunday afternoons, I go down there to help out with a Sunday school and evening service conducted by an Reformed Presbyterian (RPCNA) pastor (but we are using a house converted into a Baptist church). So yes, the idiot IFB baptists got a facebook post devoted to the utter stupidity of Thrive Baptist.

    But this myth of “no bible believing churches” is a catch phrase for IFB types everywhere. I had some PCC ensemble members tell me that there were no Bible believing churches in Pensacola other than the campus church. After my college graduation, I met someone Presbyterian from Pensacola, FL and she said that was crazy and in no way true to reality. Basic line: if they say they are the only ones who follow Jesus and/or Bible, they are lying liars guilty of breaking the 9th.

  27. By the by people, there are a lot of needs in the area not being met, but we need servants and generous givers of time and love…not “Bible-believing” KJV-only quoters who are devoted to separation. I ask you how many IFB pastors are trained to love and support people who they might never see on Sunday? How many are told they are going to smell like dope after hugging so many people on the street (something 7 bridges prides itself on telling us…if they smell fishy, you still hug them!) Pray that those without shelter are able to find warmth (we need more shelters!) and those who are hungry are able to afford food. Pray for that mother who cried as she recalled giving up her children to CS because her home arrangement wasn’t safe for them, and it was hurting her enough that she was thinking of self harm, will have the answer of how to move forward in Christ’s love. Pray for Walter who approached us yesterday with a flashlight on his hat because his electric was turned off due to financing problems. Pray for all the people on the drug corner by the burnt out church who, though they decisively don’t want any prayers in their direction, ask that people pray that their children and grandchildren would prosper. These people send me to Christ…all the fundamentalists ever did was try to keep me away from Him!

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