Tag Archives: Christian Faith

Once Upon A Time (I knows a guy)-Part 1

21 Jan

Once upon a time there was a guy, actually he was three guys.  But he wasn’t exactly a guy like you or me, no he (plural-but not) has been around for just about forever.  And one day he decided to do something about being the only guy-I mean three guys-or whatever….

Though he (plural) wasn’t lonely, and had no needs, and was in absolute complete harmony with himself and his alter egos-he decided to create a whole bunch of stuff and fling  it out all over the universe.

After that, he decided to bring life to a whole bunch of creatures. Then he made a creature that looked a lot like himself and told him to a be the man for this whole planet.

Everything was perfect, because everything he does is perfect, because-you know-he’s perfect.

One day, not long after all this perfect stuff came to life.  Something went wrong.

No one really knows exactly why it happened, but it happened.   You’re probably asking yourself  “What happened?”  Well I (singular) am gonna tell you what happened.

The Incredible Talking Snake

One day, a guy (you know-the guy in charge of the planet) and his honey were out picking fruit together at a nudist colony.   Suddenly, this guy’s honey notices a snake approaching her.

She turns to the snake and he begins to talk to her about a special fruit tree that the guy (plural) told her not to eat from.  The talking snake tells her that the guy told her not to eat the fruit, because then she would know about good & evil.  And if she knew about good & evil, then she would be like the guy(plural).  She hesitated, because the guy(plural) told her she would die if she ate from the fruit tree.  But the talking snake swore to God that it was a lie and that she wouldn’t die.

Deciding she had nothing to lose and that the fruit looked really tasty-she ate some.  And guess what, it was tasty and she didn’t die.  So she took some fruit to her guy (singular) and he ate some too.  He didn’t die either….but they did became aware of good & evil and for some reason they realized that they were naked and decided to start sewing some fig leaves to cover their love parts.

Guy (Plural) Gets Ticked

The guy (plural) who is perfect, and made everything perfect, was pretty unhappy when he was taking an evening walk through the nudist camp and realized that the guy (singular) and his honey had eaten from his forbidden fruit tree.  He got so pissed that he kicked the nudists out and then made sure that they, and their children, would be scourged with, death, misery, war, and disease for thousands of years.  Every mother dying giving birth and every starving infant would be a reminder that the guy(plural) was still pretty ticked at how their ancestors had not listened to him.   For thousands of years, the guy and his honey’s ancestors would beg the guy (plural) to save them from their misery-but he just couldn’t bring himself to forgive what had happened.

To be continued…..

 

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Young Life Search Phrases

26 Mar

I find the list of search phrases people use to be revealing.  When it comes to Young Life and the people who end up on this blog, the search queries reveal what sort of information or concerns they have about Young Life.

 

Here’s a sampling of some of the searches that end up here:

 

Is Young Life a Cult?

What is Young Life?

Young Life Reviews

Young Life Issues

Denny Rydberg Salary

Is Young Life Bad?

Young Life Cult or Religion

Young Life Beliefs

Banging My Young Life Leader

What happens at Young Life Camp?

Young Life camp rape

Can a Young Life leader still lead if they had sex?

Young Life Leader sexual abuse

What Church is behind Young Life?

Young Life views on Homosexuality

Young Life cliques

 

As a point of reference, the phrase “Is Young Life a Cult?” or some variation is by far, the number one search phrase that brings people to this blog.

 

Musicman Part 3-The Bitter End of My Years in Sovereign Grace

12 Dec
Titanic Eisberg

Titanic Eisberg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is part 3 of posts that I wrote for SGMSURVIVORS in 2008.  You can read my previous posts here and here.  As a reminder, I wrote these posts while still a Christian and have left them unedited.  If you are interested in reading about how I put aside my Christian faith, you can read My De-conversion and When You Lose Your Faith

.

So back to the story….. after our fateful first meeting in a member’s home, we started settling into a routine and lowered our expectations from our outreaches. It’s hard for me to be exact and chronological after this point because so much happened in such a short time period (about 1 year). When I was discussing with my wife all that happened and could be written about-we laughed and shook our heads at how much crazy stuff happened.

Let me just comment-that even after such a crazy and disappointing start-my wife and I were still hopeful and very committed to trying to make a real go for helping to establish this new church.

As a church, we settled into our new rented building and began to learn all of the small details that go into the logistics of doing church. We set up chairs, sound equipment, made coffee, set up Sunday school rooms, practiced worship, hosted the actual service, greeted each other and visitors, and then cleaned up everything we had just set up a few hours earlier. It was very busy and at times we were very stressed and pressed for time to keep up with all the commitments to establish the church. I had a good friend from our sending church ask me what I was learning spiritually from being on the church plant. I told him that I learned that God is present at every church meeting, but that God won’t set up the chairs. Anyway, it was in the midst of doing church on Sunday, care group, and prayer night that things relationally, started to become strained with our Pastor and his wife.

In my last post, I mentioned how my wife had started to feel that her good friendship with the pastor’s wife had started to change for the worse. When we actually arrived to the plant-it went even further downhill. It seemed that the only time that she (the pastor’s wife) wanted to relate to my wife was if she was giving advice on how my wife was raising our 1 year old son. My wife tried telling this to her and that she wanted to still be friends and the PW told her flatly that she should expect not to be friends. She then went on to explain that the pastor’s from our sending church had counseled them about this and told her that to be in leadership (or in her case, married to a pastor) would mean that she should start relating more to those in leadership and less to others (even old friends). My wife was flabbergasted and hurt, but tried to express her hope to still spend some time together. Eventually the PW told my wife that she’d be willing to get together once a week to go thru a book on Child Discipline-because she was concerned about my wife and her parenting. My wife agreed to, not because she wanted to read this book, but because she still held out hope for the relationship. What was even weirder in all this, was that our Pastor often times would state in his sermons-that our new church was going to be built on close personal relationships with each other. This was confusing to us-how are we going to build relationally if we should expect to not be very good friends because they were now in leadership (?).

Other random memories form this first year-

The couple who was put under church discipline for not being able to sell their home and move out with the rest of the team to do the plant. I never figured out how that worked or how they were to be disciplined. But I was told by our pastor so I know it happened. They never did sell their house. Lucky them!

There was the time we exhausted our little church to put on a free concert with a major Christian musician. We drew over 500 people and the concert was great. We were certain that this event would cement us in the community and bring in more families to the church (1 person on the leadership team even commented that this event might increase our tithing base). To our dismay-only one family visited the week after the concert and they didn’t even stay for the whole service.

There was the prayer meeting that was hosted at our home-in which one of the church plant team members stormed out before we started. He was offended because I told him I believed that the Dow Jones was likely to reach 8,000 (this was back in early 1997) within the next couple years, based on some research I had done to counter Christian authors that were predicting a stock market crash. I thought we were having a friendly chat. He stormed off in a huff, because he had sold all his stocks because his prophetic gifting told him that a crash was imminent and therefore sold all his stock holdings. He insulted me and told me I couldn’t possibly know, because I didn’t own stocks and was in debt. Not a great way to start a prayer meeting.

There was the couple who started attending and would fight at the beginning of just about every church service. For some reason our pastor would greet them from the front with the microphone, just as worship was getting started. He’d ask them how they were doing and the wife would answer that she was doing horrible because of her husband and begin listing all the ways that she felt neglected by him. They’d begin to argue, our pastor would smile, and I’d start the worship set to the sound of bickering in the background.

There was the prophecy mic-our local school board member who felt led to hone his prophetic calling on us-would read entire chapters of prophetic judgment towards the ancient nations from the book of Isaiah. He not only read these often-but would annunciate them with great fervor and spit, about the impending doom that was to befall those woeful nations. Ah-good stuff.

There was the time the worship team got into a heated debate over whether or not there could be alien life in outerspace.

There was the time my pastor said he was concerned about my doctrine. When I asked him which doctrine, he couldn’t be specific. But he then said he was concerned about where I was getting my doctrine from. I was too busy to be doing any outside study apart from church-so I told him that the only doctrine I was getting was from him. He grew quiet and then changed the subject.

Not all that happened in this first year was bad-we did see a couple of new folks become Christians and it is always sweet to see a new creation in Christ come to be. One was an older Gentleman who was related to a couple I knew. Larry Tomzcak had come to our small church to encourage us, but he also did a small public outreach on a Saturday night, and this older man responded to the gospel and became a Christian. At first he was excited in his new faith and was at every church meeting for many months. After a few months, he would still attend church, but his Daughter in law commented at care group, that she was concerned for him. She said that she thought he was not growing spiritually and had stopped reading his Bible. When she asked him-he was evasive-and she asked us to pray for him because she was worried for him. About 1 month later, an editor/journalist for Soveregin Grace’s magazine called some of us to write about all that was going on at our church plant. When I read the article (it was short) I couldn’t believe it. The article was fairly non-descript, but at the end it included the story of this older gentleman, how he came to Christ (thru Larry), and then ended the article by saying he was now a regular part of our church (which was true) and that he was flourishing spiritually (which was not true). I asked his Daughter in law about it and she said she had told the editor exactly what she had told us as was just as confused as we were about the article and it’s misrepresentation.

Another nagging thought from this period in our lives-is just how much pressure we were under and just how exhausted we had become. The job I took to move for the church plant fell thru after 3 or 4 months. It was a small business and the owner’s wife had fallen ill and could no longer afford to keep my division open. No problem-I started working 2 full time jobs and parking cars on weekends at a Golf course to make ends meet. It was while I was working like a dog, that I had time to be apart from the church and all that went into running it, and actually think about what was going on. I was working at a restaurant and became a shift manager after a month. While running one of the shifts-I befriended on of the other cooks and he eventually found out about why I had moved and the new church I was part of. He showed some interest and we had a long conversation about faith (he had some Christian friends whom he respected) and music. I remember thinking to myself that I’d love to find a way to share my faith with him more…I thought about giving him some free music lessons, I began thinking about maybe starting a small Bible study to go thru the gospel of John and then it hit me, that the one place I did not want to take him, was to my church. Yes-the very church that I was straining to build up-was the last place I’d want to take him. It hit me hard-because it was the first time I admitted (at least to myself) that maybe this church planting thing was not all that it was cracked up to be. It also hit me how silly all the puffed up talk about our church really was-as I worked my jobs-I met hundreds of people who could’ve cared less about where I went to church. My only hope of sharing Christ, was to be available and open to them right there on the job-not with some crazy hope that they’d come to a church meeting first to meet Jesus and believe the good news. I did get to share Christ with some of my co-workers that I parked cars with-some were interested in what I shared, none were very interested in coming to church.

Other relational strains began to hit the fan. Because I was working so late-I was sometimes late for meetings and was occasionally reprimanded for being a poor example to the worship team. I accepted the reprimand and made extra effort to be on time for worship rehearsals before church. One Sunday morning, my wife and I were rushing to be there on time when our 1 year old wet thru his pants and needed to change his clothes. It caused us to be late and once again I was reprimanded, but not given the chance to explain. I stuffed it-but it really bothered me to be treated like a child. Another incident occurred soon after that floored me. Another church plant team member, took it upon himself to reprimand me about my commitment to the church. I was confused because the pastor had recently thanked my wife and I for our support on the plant. He said he could feel our support. I don’t remember all this other man said, but I’ll never forget that he kept raising his voice at me to the point of yelling at me about how I needed to be more committed to the church and to this man (referring to the pastor who was now sitting quietly not saying anything in my defense). What was worse was that he was yelling at me at a public food court in a busy shopping mall. My own Father (who could be a yeller) had never yelled at me like this, let alone in a mall-I think I said very little and maybe even started to cry. I don’t exactly remember-but I can still feel remember the absolute shock that I felt. He then proceed to yell at me some more and say that the only reason he was doing this was because he loved me. What? Love me. This is love? Publicly humiliating me by yelling at me because you don’t think I’m doing enough? This is love? I was truly hurt, confused, and maybe even depressed after this incident. What hurt the most was that my pastor said nothing in my defense. He actually seemed to approve of what was being said and made no comment about the delivery style. Why did I put up with this? I’ve asked myself this question many times and I still don’t know why I let someone treat me this way.

Later, this same man interrupted me mid sentence, as I tried to offer an opinion on an upcoming event the church was planning. Again, the pastor I was speaking with just started talking to this man and never finished our conversation. Later that morning, the whole worship team (which included our pastor and his teenage child) were back stage to pray for the upcoming service. It was very apparent that there was some tension between the pastor and his teenager. Both seemed visibly upset and agitated. One of the sweetest women on the worship team, graciously asked if there was something wrong. Our pastor said no. She graciously asked again, because his teenager ducked out right after we started praying. He said that there was something going on-but that he couldn’t say. It was frustrating to see him be so evasive. Here was a man who had allowed me to be raked over the coals and yelled at in a mall and he couldn’t even be honest about a family fight or whatever it was that occurred that was disrupting his Sunday morning. I actually snapped at that moment-I couldn’t even pray as the rest of the team tried to pray for him in a nondescript way for ”whatever” was going on. I actually huffed and I thought my stomach would explode because I was so frustrated and angry. He looked up at me during prayer and grabbed me to stay after everyone had left. I was so mad at him that we started to argue harshly. I remember flailing my arms in disgust and telling him “how could he lead us when he can’t even be honest about his own life?”. He gave me some hairbrained answer about how it wouldn’t be appropriate for him as pastor to do such a thing. The church service was now 5 minutes behind schedule because the worship leader (me) and the pastor were verbally fighting backstage behind a curtain. Somehow-we managed to tone it down and go out and pull off the church service. We did manage to talk after the service and we forgave each other for the argument that we had backstage. I never did learn what had caused all the fuss between him and his kid, but I felt guilty for expressing myself in such anger and never pursued it or about the recent incident in the mall.

The hardest part was still yet to come- my wife decided that she needed to confront my pastor’s wife about their relationship and the way she seemed to be judgmental towards us and our parenting choices. I called our pastor and he and his wife agreed to come over. I took some time off work and the 4 of us sat down and had a very long and emotional conversation. My wife expressed her feelings and gave specific examples of how she felt her friend had wronged my wife or simply been judgmental in things she said about us. We had prayed ahead of time and were committed to trying to follow Matthew 18 in hopes of being heard and working through these things. I still believed that we would be a part of this church for many years to come and we wanted to be right with these folks. The best way to typify what happened is to tell you what happened at the end of our time together. After hours of us being as honest as we could -about how we felt wronged -and trying to be clear and gracious so that forgiveness could occur. Our pastor’s wife ended the meeting by saying she really wasn’t sure if she agreed with us and that she’d have to pray about and get back to us. She then got up and left our apartment. After saying goodbye to our pastor I closed the door and actually felt like we might get thru this and see our relationships grow. A week or so went by and no follow up occurred. We didn’t press it at first because we were trying to respect their wishes to pray and think about what we said. Another week and a couple more awkward church services-I decided to call our pastor. I asked him about the conversation and asked him if we needed to talk. I apologized for maybe pushing, but we didn’t want to pretend everything was fine-if in reality- we had made his wife mad or bitter or if she felt we were mistaken. He said he didn’t think she was mad and he never really answered me about getting back to us. We eventually left the church plant a few months later, not because of all that had happened but because my employment situation was putting us deeper in debt. My parents offered to let us stay with them rent free so we could get back on our feet. We felt bad for leaving the church plant after only a year, but saw little option because of our financial crisis.

We talked to our pastor and his wife-they understood our situation and since we were moving near CJ’s church-we agreed to get together when they were in town for leadership training. We then moved and started attending CLC. A few months later, we heard that our pastor and his wife were going to be at a pastors’ conference, so we called and left 2 or 3 messages saying that we’d really like to get together and work things out. They did attend the conference, but they never called us back. Later that year, I landed employment back at my old job before the church plant-so we moved and started attending the church that had sent us out to plant. It was here that I approached our pastor to see if he would help us reconcile with our now former pastor and his wife. He seemed eager and we arranged to meet that week. When I laid out all that had happened and how we had tried following Matt 18 as we had been taught-he seemed like he wanted to help. I expected that he would call our old pastor and arrange a time to meet and work it thru. Instead, he told me to write out all the ways I had sinned against this pastor and his wife. Then I should call my former pastor and confess my sin to him. Then once that was out of the way-then he could help me work thru our issues. I was confused as to why I needed to do this-but in the interest in trying to reconcile I agreed to do this. It wasn’t hard to think of ways I had sinned so I wrote them down-but what was hard, was that I had already confessed these things to this man and his wife at our meeting. I hemmed at calling him and put it off for a while. I did call and leave a voice mail and said I wanted to talk-he didn’t call back.

After a month or so-I finally made up my mind that I would try again to call this man, way my pastor suggested. Later that day-another strange twist in the saga-the same man on the church plant team that had yelled at me, walked thru the door at the retail store I was now managing. It had been almost a year since we had left and he told me that he had left the church plant as well. I told him this didn’t surprise me because of the tension I had seen in his relationship with the pastor. We stepped into a back room and he began to tell me some of the details of why they had left, in particular the major problems he and his wife had in relating to the pastor’s wife. I told him that I understood what he meant. He asked me for more details and I rebuffed-saying that I didn’t want to say because I was in the middle of trying to reconcile with these folks and had sought help from our sending church. He kept asking for details-I again explained that I didn’t want to get into it and jeopardize the process. He then swore to me that he didn’t even see our old pastor anymore and that he could be trusted. I then chose to confide in him-I explained some of what had gone on and he confirmed some of the things that my wife and I had tried to work out. It felt good to feel like I wasn’t crazy-and even wondered if maybe I had misjudged this fellow because of his harsh tone in the mall. He shared some more of his trials and decision to leave the church and then he went on his merry way to a business meeting. My conversation with this old church plant member encouraged me to call our old pastor and stand firm.

The next day I began to worry about whether I should have trusted this man and given in to his questions. I didn’t want to be accused of gossip. So I took my afternoon break and decided to make the phone call to confess my sins and to try and re-open lines of communication before any damage could be done.

With many butterflies in my stomach, I dialed my pastor’s office number and he answered. I mumbled a hello and started, in a semi scripted fashion, to explain why I was calling and that I wanted to confess some things to him. He interrupted me and told me that, while he wanted to do this, he couldn’t because he was aware of my conversation with this other former church plant member and that he was afraid I had gossiped. I was floored-that man had lied to me-he still got together for breakfast once a week with our old pastor. He had flown home the night of our conversation and had spilled the beans the next morning at breakfast. My heart sank and I was speechless at first. My old pastor started to give me a mini sermon on gossip and bitterness. But I couldn’t say anything-I was shell shocked. I did manage to say that I couldn’t believe this…he was perturbed because I hadn’t answered his question related to his mini sermon. He angrily asked me what I couldn’t believe, I told him I couldn’t believe all that had happened in the last 2 years and how terrible the whole thing had been. I then found my courage and told him that I thought he had gossiped by listening to this man tell things I told him in confidence and that was going to hang up and call the other pastor involved and tell him the whole deal. I slammed down the phone and did just that… but to no avail. This other pastor didn’t seem to know what to do-he promised to talk to this other pastor and get back to me. He never really did get back to me, and despite living less than a mile from our apartment-he consistently put me off for over 4 months. By then we decided that there was little else we could do-to either reconcile with our old pastor or to have our current pastor help us either… I informed our pastor that we were leaving the church. We did talk for hours about many issues, including theological that had been born out of our troubles-but in the end he “released” to go and prayed with me.

I feel sad as I write this-because it has now been 10 years since trying to reconcile with people we loved, and had committed our loves to serve with-only to be turned out with silence and basic indifference. And in leaving SG-we essentially lost all of our friends. Some who had been in our wedding-one whom I considered the brother I never had. This is too painful to recount-needles to say-he hasn’t returned my phone calls in a while.

So why write all this-why not forgive and forget? Well I do forgive them and I actually pray for the many folks I know who are still in the movement. But I write it for those who are going through some of these same types of situations-so that they know

hat they aren’t crazy. So that they know that SG and their theology of leadership leads to these types of outcomes.

“Nothing matters except faith, expressing itself thru love”

Peace-Musicman

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Christian Music: A Personal History-Part 1

1 Sep
The Controversial I Predict 1990

The Controversial I Predict 1990 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Music has always been an obsession in my life.  I was five when I stumbled across my mom’s old collection of 45’s and began listening to Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley.  At age 6, I discovered the Beatles when Yellow Submarine was shown on Television on July 4th.  What better way to spend Independence day, hamburgers, sparklers, and then a psychedelic soundtrack in pure Beatles harmony.

At age 8, I bought my first 45 with some money I had saved from allowance.  I bought “She Loves You” by the Beatles on Parlaphone.  I played both sides until I had memorized every note and word.  My first LP purchase was the double LP soundtrack of the movie Grease.  I loved the old 50’s style with a twist of Olivia Newton John.  What a combination!

From ages 8-14. I spent most of my free time glued to a record player or radio, soaking in the best of the old and new sounds of popular music.  Groups like Soft Cell, A ha, Billy Joel, and U2 began to fill up my own record collection.  If I wasn’t listening to music, I was reading about it.  I used to go to the library on a weekly basis to read Billboard magazine and to see the Top 200 album charts.  Other than Billboard, I read bios on the Beatles and had Rolling Stone’s massive encyclopedia of rock.  I read it almost as much as I read the Bible.

Christian Music

Somewhere in my early teens, I began to become aware of  something called Christian Rock.  Rock music that was from a Christian point of view and a more hip look to the covers-well sort of…  My first taste of Christian music was Amy Grant and Sandi Patti.  I enjoyed some of Amy’s early stuff, but a little too soft.  Sandi was just so canned and opera sounding that I hated it instantly.  It didn’t help that I had a Baptist aunt (we were Presbyterian-after all) who insisted that Amy Grant was not Christian and that Sandi Patti was the best thing since chocolate.  It only made me hate Sandi and like Amy more.

These early tastes, left me with the impression that Christian music was pretty much limited to soft rock.

Steve Taylor & Stryper Rock My World

I think it was a Sunday school teacher who told me about Steve Taylor.  He said I might like it, so I trekked on down to the Christian bookstore and found a $4.99 cassette (blue-kind of cool to see a blue one) by Steve Taylor called I Want To Be a Clone.

I took it home and popped this blue meanie into the cassette player…and it shocked me.  It was actually kind of cool. The music was modern (at least, modern for 1984) and the lyrics were biting and sarcastic.  What teen couldn’t relate to biting sarcasm?

I played the tape to death and was fascinated by Taylor’s Christian worldview put to a pop rock soundtrack.  I was hooked….

My next trip to the Christian bookstore, I spent over an hour just browsing all the different artists, meticulously studying the covers to try to pick my next purchase.  I think the manager thought I was trying to shoplift, because she kept poking into the section and asking if I needed help.

Actually, I did…since I didn’t know what any of these groups sounded like.  I told her I liked Steve Taylor and she directed me to the rock cassettes.  She also pointed me to a cassette deck and told me that they had demos of all the groups.  I was free to listen to the demos to help me find my next big group.

I wasn’t really a metal fan at this point, but I had vaguely heard of a group called Stryper.  The cover looked very cold war meets Motley Crue and the title was Yellow and Black Attack.

I purchased the Stryper cassette and hoped it would live up to its repuatation.  I stuck it into my player at home and the thrashing and slashing came pounding through my stereo as Stryper launched into “Soldier Under Command”.  At one point, I ran over to the player and switched it off.  Michael Sweet was screaming Jesus so loud, that I wasn’t sure if it was ok or not.  I had never heard anything like it.  Could you really play metal music and still be a Christian?  These guys sure seemed to think so.  But the spandex, screaming, and feminine make up and hair doos had me wondering if this was really Christian at all.

A few times through the cassette, and I began to enjoy the intricate guitar work and layered vocals…even if I wasn’t into the spandex, I was willing to overlook it.  These guys were good and the music rocked, while not being raunchy.  If anything, they were down right Evangelical in their lyrics.

This was my first foray into Christian music and began a journey that would last over 25 years.  A journey that started as a fan and turned into a profession.  One that had many strange twist and turns.  One filled with many fun and musical moments.  Others filled with politics, money, and the hypocrisy that seems to follow.

One that I enjoy remembering in one sense, but also fills me with a measure of regret.  I’ll explain more as I get the chance.

 

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

Stand Over There…And I’ll Throw Rocks Over Your Head

9 Jul
shot_through_the_heart_-_and_youre_to_blame

shot_through_the_heart_-_and_youre_to_blame (Photo credit: sillydog)

I was five years old and my friend Nate, who was only four, came over to my house to play.  It was summer time, and we found ourselves bored, with nothing much to do in my front yard.

We were hanging out around a recently planted tree that was surrounded by mulch and a ring of medium to large rocks.

An Idea is Born

As I looked down at the rocks, an idea was  born for our next round of fun.  I picked up a  heavy rock and surmised that if Nate stood about ten feet away, I should still be able to throw the rock over his head.

“Hey Nate!” I yelled over.

“Yes” Nate shouted back.

“Go stand over there, ” I pointed to about 10 feet away.  He dutifully moved to right where I pointed.

“I’m going to throw this rock over your head!” I shouted across the yard.

“Ok” said Nate, without any hesitation or doubt in his voice.

As Nate stood his ground, I picked up a large rock and heaved it with all my might.  I distinctly remember that I was 100% sure that the rock would simply sail far over his head, and that my superior rock throwing ability was about to be confirmed.

As the rock flew through the air I stood in awe…but then something happened.  The rock begun to descend sooner than planned and  it hit Nate square upon his mouth.

Shock, just utter shock descended upon my five-year old mind.

Shock, just utter shock is what I saw on Nate’s face, as he stared back at me.  It seemed like time stood still as we stared at each other, both shocked at what had just transpired.

Then…blood begun gushing down Nate’s face from his lip. It had been gashed open by my misfired rock and he was now bleeding all over his shirt and white shorts.  As the pain of his injury overtook him, he screamed and cried as he ran into my house to seek assistance from his mother.

The next few minutes are a blur, as I was vacillating between the shock of learning that my rock throwing abilities were not up to snuff and the thought that my injured friend my was probably going to get me in trouble.

My Mom stormed out of the house with a mild scolding, along with the unanswerable question of  “What were you thinking when you threw that rock?” coupled with “Were you trying to hit Nate with that rock?”.

The truth is, I had no intention of hitting him and I was having a hard time explaining what I was thinking, because I was still in shock over my poor estimation of my arm strength.

Unfortunately for Nate, our rock throwing adventure ended our play date prematurely, as he got a trip to the Doctor for seven stitches and I got a trip to my bedroom for a grounding.

It wouldn’t be the last time in my childhood that I had a hair-brained idea involving rocks…but that’s for another day.

And the Point of all of this?

Besides being a perfect example of why children should be taught to think about their actions before running headlong into adventure, it’s also an example of what happens when we believe ourselves to be infallible.

You see, the same mindset of my five-year old mind, is very similar to the many ministry leaders and pastors I have known in my life.  They are similar in that often times, they overestimate their abilities and in doing so put others at risk.

An infallible mindset never considers the question of  “what happens if I am wrong?”.  And this is dangerous.

Some Examples

“You have marriage trouble, no problem, set up an appointment I’ll explain to you the Biblical way to save your marriage.  Never mind that I’m only 28 years old and have only been married for 15 months.  Not to worry,  I’m a pastor and I graduated with a degree in Biblical counseling.”

“What do you mean your husband is ignoring you?  It may mean that you’re not submitting enough.  He hit you?  Well he wouldn’t have just hit you unless he was very frustrated with you and your behavior.  Here’s a book on submission.  We’ll read it together and I’ll meet with you weekly so that you can begin to have a Biblical marriage again.”

“You’re having financial troubles?  Can I ask you a question?  Do you tithe?  Have you considered that maybe you’re having financial troubles because you’re not tithing to God’s House?”

“What do you mean you’re having suicidal thoughts?  That’s demonic…think of your children and family and the sort of testimony that would be.  You need to commit to reading your Bible and praying every day.  Then the Joy of the Lord will be your strength.  You don’t need counseling, you need the Holy Spirit.”

I could go on with more examples, but I think it suffices to say, that many a Christian leader has overestimated their ability to help counsel people who are in serious trouble.  Often times with disastrous results.

Pastoral Disaster

I witnessed this first hand, as a pastor (who was also my neighbor) counseled a couple who’s twin babies were facing almost certain death.  As their health deteriorated in the hospital, my pastor friend encouraged the couple and their church to pray harder for healing.  One church member had even prophesied that the twins would live (which would have been a medical miracle) and the church encouraged the couple to blog, so that God’s goodness could be shared with the world (since they were 100% sure the babies would be healed).

Rock to the face…the babies died, the church was in shock, and the pastor was unprepared to deal with the crushing disappointment that his counsel had caused.  The couple left the church and was understandably angry.  Other members left the church.  Some of the elders remained but told me that they didn’t think that God answered prayers.  The whole church was bleeding like Nate’s gashed lip.  All because they had adopted an infallible mindset at the behest of the pastor in my neighborhood.

A couple of times during this episode, I had actually tried to convince this pastor to consider, if what he was doing was wise.  I even asked him, what he would do if he was wrong.  He didn’t seem to know, but he also seemed pretty sure that he wasn’t going to have to worry about being wrong.

After the deaths and funeral,what surprised me most, was how this pastor was more in shock that his counsel had not worked, than he was in grief over the loss of these dear children.  He was just like me at 5 years old, completely confounded that he wasn’t as good at this as he had thought.

So the next time someone tells you to “just do this” or “just pray that” to solve your problems.  Remember, people aren’t always as good as they think they are…

Just stand over there and I’ll throw a rock over your head, if you don’t believe me.

Is Young Life a Cult?

4 May

Young Life is a para-church ministry that focuses on running clubs and summer camps for high school students.  They exist to introduce these students to Jesus Christ and the Bible.  I got involved with Young Life during high school, attended numerous camps, and served as a volunteer leader for five years.

Occasionally, I would hear someone accuse Young Life of a being a cult.  At the time, I dismissed it as a misunderstanding, or an angry denial of the truth of Christianity.  But I never considered it a cult….even after having been in a verifiable cult, I still thought warmly of much of my time in Young Life.

Now that I’m many years removed from my time at Young Life, and raising my own teens, I have been brought  back in contact with our local Young Life.  And it has made me wonder if one of the reasons I was ripe for a cult was the fact that many of the same cultic dynamics were present in Young Life?

Love Bombing

One of the tactics identified as cultic is Love Bombing.  Love bombing occurs when a religious group intentionally showers praise, friendship, and attention towards new members of the group.  They do this to try to emotionally connect these new members BEFORE fully disclosing the requirements and/ or theology of the group.

This is certainly a tactic that Young Life is guilty of  –  no doubt.  Most of what Young Life leaders and their campaigners do would fall under the category of Love Bombing.  As a leader, we would discuss our weekly “contact work”.  Contact work was the amount of time we spent hanging around the local high school or area teen hangouts, in hopes of making contact with students outside of Young Life.  Some leaders would organize sports events, or have teens they know intentionally invite other kids to an event, (like watching a football game on TV) so that the Young Life leaders could make contact and build a relationship with these students.  The sole intent of all of this was to then invite the students to attend a Young Life club or camp.  As a leader, I saw my motives as totally pure and godly.  But I was just in my late teens and early 20’s.  As a parent, I realize now, that I was evangelizing other people’s underage children without their consent.  This is another sign that Young Life might be cultic.

Young Life Club

Young Life club was a fun place to be during my high school years.  The skits were fun, we sang a lot of “oldies but goodies” from the Young Life Songbook, and I got to hang out with kids that I didn’t normally relate to at my school.  It also felt really cool to have guys in college taking the time to get to know me and discuss faith, music, politics, etc…I was a lonely teenager and Young Life helped me not feel so lonely.

As I got involved as a student leader, the dynamics changed.  I wasn’t just a kid at club anymore.  I was now involved with inviting my friends, going out of my way to be like Christ to others in my school (student version of Love Bombing), and was also given tips on how to help hype the club by always clapping and singing during songs, which included being told that we needed to scream like crazy when the leaders talked about Young Life camp.  In other words, we became a part of the backstage production crew that helped pull off a successful performance at clubs and camps.  We also spent a lot of personal time doing things like quiet times (anyone remember those Ty Saltzgiver booklets on quiet times?), memorizing scripture (NAV press anyone?), and journaling about our relationship with God and who we were going to reach out to for Christ.  Many times, our time as a campaigner was spent discussing with leaders how we could better improve on these three areas of life.

Young Life Ministry Strategy

One of the strategies that was often discussed at leadership meetings was that of making contact with “the leaders” in the schools.  This meant that as Young Life leaders, we would intentionally try to recruit the most popular and influential kids at a high school.  The thinking was, that if you could get the cool kids to attend, then other students would follow.  In other words, Young Life was gaming the pecking order of the high school cliques in order to try to build a platform to evangelize the school.  In this case, I would call this the “cult of cool”.

In the “cult of cool” thinking, the appearance of Young Life being cool was tantamount.  This meant that the Young Life leaders needed to be good-looking and in-touch with the latest fashions.  Star athletes and cheerleaders were often the focus of attention by Young Life leaders.  The good-looking people were often “randomly” chosen to be in the skits or brought up to help sing a song.  Were these things explicit?….not really.  It’s not that anyone said, don’t go after the ugly kids, or the girls that are overweight, or the punk rock kids with the Misfits t-shirt.  But if you focus on going after “the cool kids” in the high school, then usually these “un-cool kids” are quickly excluded from your ministry strategy.  It didn’t mean that those “other” students couldn’t be involved, they could.  But it was usually the result of them wanting to follow and be part of the “in crowd” that the more popular students represented.

This ministry strategy of Young Life does not make them a cult,  but it does make them appear to be more closely related to an advertising firm than a ministry.

Young Life Camp

Young Life camp was an incredibly fun time for me as a student.  Everyone seemed so open and loving.  The food was great, the outdoor settings were beautiful, and the nightly meetings were full of energy and emotionally charged talks about life, love, and Jesus.

But here’s the rub; so much of what I assumed was a result of  really loving people, was orchestrated.  Love Bombing and emotional manipulation would be an apt description.  Young Life camps are orchestrated to heighten ones emotions and encourage the students to make a highly emotional “decision to follow Christ”.

There were nightly talks about Jesus, including an emotional presentation of  his crucifixion that was followed  by a mandatory 10 minutes of silence to think about what we had just heard.  In my experience, the silence was  followed up by an hour of singing (mostly worship songs) by the volunteer staff.  Campers would then return to their cabins, where their leaders would lead an hour or more discussion about the talks and about where each student stood in regards to their relationship to Jesus.  Every activity was intentional in trying to persuade students to make a decision for Christ.

The final activity at a weekly camp was the “say so” meeting.  The verse about letting the redeemed “say so” was the basis for the name.  Kids would be encouraged to stand up among the hundreds of students and “say so” if they had committed or re-committed their lives to Jesus.  It was an intense display, full of emotional stories, lots of tears and hugs…followed up by more tears and hugs as we said goodbye to the many friends we had made during the week and got on the bus to travel home.

Again, I don’t know that the camps are intentionally cultic.  But they are intentional in their efforts to persuade every camper to make a decision for Christ during that week.  We would often times get complaints from parents whose children came home and were all the sudden “different” or “zealous” about their Christian faith.  Sometimes it was a change for the better; many times it was to a parents dismay.  Their child was now quoting the Bible to them and telling them that they were not real Christians and were hell bound.  Needless to say, some parents regretted having given permission for their child to attend.  They were told about the water tubing and sailing and all the fun their kid would have (which was true) but did not realize the amount of evangelizing that would be occurring (which was not highlighted in the brochures).  The fact it was a Christian camp was mentioned, but again, it was not the main focus of our pitch when convincing  parents to give their kids permission to attend.

So, is Young Life a cult?  I’m not sure, but I think they skirt close to the edge….My kids won’t be attending Young Life meetings any time soon.

Story of Child Abuse from the Mothership of SGM-featured at Exchristian.net

3 May

exCLCer has posted her story of abuse at the hands of two pastors from CLC.   For those not familiar with Sovereign Grace Ministries, CLC (Covenant Life Church) was the founding church of the cult.  One of the founding pastors is CJ Mahaney, author and speaker in many of the new Reformed conferences.  CLC’s current  pastor is Josh Harris, author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye.

I attended SGM churches for almost a decade, including a brief period at CLC in Gaithersburg, MD.

I’ll let her story speak for itself:

http://new.exchristian.net/2012/05/losing-faith-gaining-facts-my-story-of.html