When Traditional Values Create Toxic Churches

*Contains References to Domestic Violence & Rape*
Christianity cannot be rightly categorised as either inherently progressive or inherently traditional. There IS, however, Biblical overlap with both progressive and traditional ideals. For example, like the Bible, traditional cultures place high value on the family unit, while progressive cultures, like the Bible, affirm the intrinsic dignity of all people. It is likewise possible to wrongly assimilate as “Christian” either traditional or progressive cultural values that are in actuality antithetical to Christianity (like the traditional belief that women are property of their husbands or the progressive belief that being true to yourself is the highest goal). To give proper credit: I was introduced to this way of comparing and contrasting various cultures with Christian teachings a couple years ago in several Tim Keller sermons. I’ve found it very helpful.

In my experience, theologically-conservative Protestants tend to focus almost exclusively on ways churches can err in adopting certain aspects of progressive ideology; one might call this the “left boundaries” of Christianity, and it is important! But I contend that of equal importance is to recognize ways that Christians or churches err when they incorrectly adopt certain traditional ideologies as in line with Biblical truth; these could be called the “right boundaries” of Christianity.

This post will focus on instances when those right boundaries have been crossed. I’ve observed that these errors most often to relate to authority, sexuality, gender roles, and politics.

One final note: all of the following warning signs are based on real-life situations in theologically-conservative Protestant churches (and most involving well-known, well-respected pastors). These are things that have been actually said! Actions that have actually been taken! This isn’t hypothetical; these are real issues affecting churches today. 

So without further ado,

A Pastor or Church Might be Toxic if…

  •  The pastor teaches or implies that all Christian parents–if they want to be truly godly–must homeschool their children.
  • Church leaders silence all criticism as “gossip” or “lack of submission.”
  • Churches shun former members.
  • The pastor never apologizes.
  • Church leaders speak of certain political candidates as having the potential to “bring our country back to God.”
  • The pastor boasts that his wife has never refused him sex.
  • A pastor believes it is permissible–even godly–for husbands to discipline their wives with spankings if they fail to perform tasks (such as washing the dishes) in the way their husbands prescribe.
  • The church strips couples of small group leadership when the wife works full-time and/or the husband stays home with the kids.
  • When wives bring allegations of rape, abuse, or adultery regarding their husbands, church leaders respond with dismissiveness or even blaming.
  • A pastor believes that marriage cures pedophilia.
  • Church leaders fail to report the crime of child abuse to the police and then discipline church members who DO report child abuse to the police.
  • Church leaders believe that minors can be partially responsible for being sexually abused.
  • A pastor teaches that oral sex may be the best evangelism tool to convert a non-Christian husband.
  • Church leaders urge blind trust in the leadership, instructing congregants not to read blogs that detail alleged abuses perpetrated by the church.

So there you have it! A dozen or so instances of unbiblical, unhealthy, and toxic church beliefs or practices! My purpose is not to hate on the church. Rather, I urge discernment in recognizing unhealthy patterns in our churches for the sake of the peace and purity of the church; for the sake of the health of its members; and for the sake of its witness to those who embrace other belief systems. I hope that I have also made an introductory case for the idea that traditional cultural ideas (not just progressive ones) can be anti-Christian. Note, however, that “patterns” is the key thing to watch for; having one or two of these characteristics does not necessarily make a church toxic.

So in summary: the church is meant to be a beautiful display of Christ, and it is tragic when it falls short of this beauty–yes, when it embraces untrue aspects of progressivism, but likewise when it accepts faulty facets of traditional culture.

– Hannah Conroy
(The views expressed are the author’s and may not reflect the views of other blog contributors.)

A Mental Buffet // 29 July 2017

Mental Buffet

Some reading material for the eager mind and the hungry soul. This week’s mental buffet includes articles from Sean Michael Lucas, Joe Thorn, Summer White, Stephen Altrogge, and Kevin DeYoung.

 

Preacher’s Toolkit: What Book Do I Preach First? – Sean Michael Lucas

“The first sermons of a ministry often set the trajectory or tone for an entire season of pastoral leadership. What did I want the church to be known for? What did I want my ministry to major on? I was sure some in my new congregation would make assumptions or take cues from what I decided to preach on in these first sermon series.”

 

Entertainment and Worship – Joe Thorn

“As the church draws near to God, the Lord draws near to us, and we receive grace. Grace—regenerating grace, renewing grace, reviving grace—is offered to the congregation through the means of grace. The result of worshiping God in spirit and truth is transformation. Entertainment cannot lead to edification. Entertainment can stir the emotions, but God uses the means of grace to change our affections. Entertainment might draw a crowd or captivate a congregation, but only the means of grace will draw people to Christ and conform them to His image.”

 

Peterson and the Ghosts in the Machine – Summer White

“Of course, like most feminist myths, there is absolutely no proof that Peterson was given a “pass” because he’s a man. There are thousands upon thousands of tweets and Facebook comments on this mess, and precisely none of them smacked of, “He’s a dude, so it’s cool.” Each one of these women has noted how serious the backlash was to Peterson’s original comments, specifically after his retraction. Not that facts matter. Where there is a woman, there is an oppressor, am I right? Nevertheless, I’d pay RHE $10 if she could tell me what a “highly gendered” attack upon Hatmaker looked like, but only after I purchase a signed copy of her next NYT bestseller.

There’s an economy of words here that we cannot afford to ignore, and the fact that they are currently flowing from a man who wrote an absurd caricature of Scripture that has been accepted as a “paraphrase” by most Evangelicals today (calling The Message a “paraphrase” is wildly generous) should cause us to pause. While Peterson, a pastor from the “gay-affirming” PCUSA is shocking us all with his gay-affirmation, while conservatives are trying to find a way to be excited about a statement and a retraction that amounts to indifference, while feminists are looking for the patriarchy in every corner, real people are being hurt.”

 

My Life Wasn’t Supposed to Turn Out Like This – Stephen Altrogge

“As I read through Scripture, I’m discovering that very few people had their lives turn out as expected. God often takes his people on strange paths through uncharted territories. He leads his people out of safe, secure places, and into the howling wastelands.”

 

Why I Love the Evening Service (And You Can Too) – Kevin DeYoung

I would just like to preface this by saying that my home church doesn’t have a Sunday evening service, but after reading this, I may start trying to find somewhere to attend for Sunday night services.

“If the sermon and the sacraments are truly means of grace, let’s give people the opportunity to experience this grace and take advantage of the opportunities on the day set aside for worship. Martyn Lloyd-Jones supported the practice of evening worship because he believed there should be a hunger for the preaching of the Word-a hunger that desires a second time to feast on the Bible.”

 

Till He returns,

Logan

 

A Mental Buffet // 15 July 2017

Mental Buffet

Some reading material for the eager mind and the hungry soul. This week’s mental buffet includes articles from Jim Elliff, Chad Bird, Steve Brown, and Jeff Mallinson.

What Should You Look for in a Church? – Jim Elliff

“All leaders cast vision, but few labor to know just what God wants by tenaciously pursuing the truth from the Scriptures where Christ’s will is to be found, and by praying for the Spirit’s wisdom and power. This doesn’t mean any team of leaders has it all figured out at any given time. It’s a process. Old practices have to be thought through again in the light of the New Testament—even basic practices like baptism, the Lord’s supper, music, money, leadership, and evangelism.”

 

When Denominations Think They’re God’s Chosen Group – Chad Bird

“…whatever Christian stripe you may be—Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Baptist, Reformed, Lutheran, Whatever—fight against collective egotism. Develop friendships with brothers and sisters in Christ outside your group. Purposely read books and articles that challenge your thinking instead of merely confirming what you assume you already know. Cultivate an openness to new, fresh ways of expressing the faith as well to ancient, patristic ways of doing the same.

You may be surprised to discover that, rather than changing your theology, these other voices deepen and expand it in ways that never would have happened if you listened only to the “approved” voices.”

 

Being Right Can Make Us Weird – Steve Brown 

“My friend, Kent Keller (pastor of Kendall Presbyterian Church in Miami), not too long ago preached a sermon on 2 Peter 1:16 where Peter wrote that Christians don’t follow “cleverly devised myths.” Kent said, “This isn’t Hollywood. Christianity is an historical faith, grounded in acts and facts: real people, real events, real time, real places. That’s the story the Bible gives us. Take it or leave it. Love it or hate it. Accept it or reject it. But you don’t get to mess around with it, edit it or rearrange it so that it’s more to your liking. It’s not a majority thing. Truth stands on its own.”

 

The Holy Plumb Line – Jeff Mallinson

“When we are made aware of God’s Holy plumb line, we have a tendency to lose our focus, our joy, and our effectiveness within society. Why? Because we are utopians by nature. We want a perfect marriage, a perfect congregation, and perfect America. But when we chase after utopias, we underestimate the Fall and forget our pilgrim status in this life.”

Until He returns,
Logan

A “Yuuuge” Mental Buffet

Mental Buffet

 

I’ve been slacking off on the mental buffets so I decided to make up for it with this one…

 

Is My Repentance Enough? – Chad West

“Every choice I make affects me and those around me. The physical consequences of my actions might well echo down the hall of the rest of my life. Worse, it’s an affront to God. But our imperfect repentance doesn’t keep the gift of God’s love from washing us clean. His forgiveness isn’t based on how perfectly we get the grammar, or how well dressed we are when we present it to our Father. Forgiveness is based on the finished work of Jesus, not how well we repent.
Of course I’m not saying to half-do it. But I don’t think I’m talking to people who want to half-do it. I’m talking to people who are sincerely sorry for their sins—so sorry they can’t imagine their screw-ups can be made right.”

 

Discovering Liturgy – Heidi Johnston

“Not only does this intentional practice train you heart towards thankfulness, it also teaches you to see differently. I am beginning to realise how much discipline it takes to cultivate a moment by moment awareness of God’s presence in all things and I am grateful for the new place good liturgy has come to play in this ongoing battle.”

 

It’s Gospel Law the Way Down – JDK

“You see, the distinction between law and gospel is not related to grammar, semantics, or even theology, but power: the gospel silences the accusation, curse, and demand of the law. Now, this is not, as some will be quick to say, the (impossible) heresy of anti-nomianism, as if we could somehow will away the demand of the law, or simply be freed from it’s accusation. It is, instead, when G-D becomes Father, when Moses and Elijah disappear and only Jesus remains, when this “true saying that is worthy for all people to receive, that Christ Jesus came to save sinners,” is heard, then he/she is one whom the Son has set free, and is free indeed (Jn 8:36).”

 

Keep Christianity Weird – Joshua Kinlaw

“Christianity’s sheer familiarity has desensitized us to its radicalness. Hurtado aims to show how the “odd” became “commonplace,” by surveying the first three centuries of the Jesus movement. In fact the very concept of a book can be traced to early Jesus followers. The “bookishness” of the movement is one of the “distinctives” Hurtado describes, which helped make a ragtag group of Jewish schismatics into a global institution. It also offered a radically new way of thinking about three things: identity, religion, and morality.”

 

Protestant Priestcraft – Douglas Wilson

“But know this—wine for the world is not the same thing as wine for the priest only. Bread for the world is the grace of God that challenges priestcraft everywhere—whether those “priests” are Protestant or Catholic.”

 

Education, Gospel, and Freedom – Rod Rosenbladt

“In this short lecture, Dr. Rosenbladt tackles modern education and how it has transitioned from what educational institutions were originally established to do in early American history to the institutions that they are today, and how that relates to basic Christian doctrine and individual liberty.

This lecture was presented on Monday, October 2015 as the first of Concordia University Irvine’s CUI Bono lecture series for the academic year.”

 

Why do we gather for corporate worship? Five essential reasons – Brian Croft

“When a congregation collectively sits under the preached Word, a level of accountability is established and nourished among the hearers to urge each other to go and apply that sermon. A greater obligation to “do something” with the Word preached and to rely on one another for help and strength to obey it exists in this kind of community life that is not present when we listen in isolation or hop churches depending upon who is preaching that week.”

Late Night Theology, Episode 3: Naked People & Sociopathy from a Christian Perspective

lnt-episode-opener3

In this episode, Logan retracts some positive statements he made about Tullian Tchividjian from a couple of weeks ago in Episode 1. Tom gives us a rousing mini-lecture about this weird habit that churches have with wanting CEO figures for pastors instead of biblical shepherds.

Remember kids, “If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, chances are that it doesn’t give a crap about you because its a sociopath.” – Tom Ellinson

Links//
Partial Timeline of Events

Resource Bibliography

Survivor of Tullian Tchividjian’s Alleged Clergy Sexual Abuse Goes Public with Her Story – Part 1 (There are 5 parts to this story.) 

Do Unto Others

An Expastor’s Ego

A Call to Repentance

Naked Woman Tries to Rob Burger King

GoFundMe

3 Most Helpful Articles of 2015

The truth is that she is weird, and she is liberal, but when anyone is speaking the truth you can’t disagree with them just because they don’t fit into your cookie cutter mold of what a Christian should look like.

These are some articles that really helped me in my walk with God to understand some key theological concepts. I hope you find them helpful as well.

  1. The Playground of Heavenly Reality: Pneumatological Sacramentalism
    I know this article has some odd words in the title, but I promise that if you’re from a charismatic/pentecostal background like I am and you want help understanding what role the sacraments play in that setting, then this article is really helpful.
  2. What Getting Dumped Says About You
    As someone who got dumped this year, I found this article to be comforting on so many levels. I think it’s interesting someone has finally addressed this issue from a biblical standpoint to let you know that you are not alone, and you are not out of the sovereignty of God just because your relationship didn’t work out.
  3. Want millennials back in the pews? Stop trying to make church ‘cool.’
    On April 30th, the Washington Post published this article written by Rachel Held Evans on the cusp of her new book, “Searching for Sunday.” In the article she tells the truth about all of these huge mega churches that try to make Jesus a ‘cool, relevant, hipster.’ Now, if you know who Rachel Held Evans is then you’re probably thinking, “She’s a weird, liberal, Episcopalian. What are you doing promoting her stuff?” The truth is that she is weird, and she is liberal, but when anyone is speaking the truth you can’t disagree with them just because they don’t fit into your cookie cutter mold of what a Christian should look like.

Now, I found more articles than just these helpful, but I’m constrained for time at the moment and I really wanted to get these out there. So, take a read, tell me what you think, and have a blessed Sunday!

Present(s) In the World

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
– Matthew 5:13-16 (ESV)

“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” – Ephesians 5:6-11 (ESV)

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” – 1 John 2:15-17 (ESV)

“The principle by which we live is not “how can I avoid contact with the world so as to be separate from it?” Rather, it is “how can I live in the world yet be free from its influence and by my life actually expose its contagion?” …As the light of the world, we shine in its darkness; as the salt of the earth, we preserve only if we are present in it.” 
– Sinclair B. Ferguson, Guidelines For Separation (Article in Tabletalk, June 2014, pg. 17)

As I think about these passages of Scripture and the Sinclair Ferguson quote, I’m reminded of a Jewish sect called The Essenes. The Essenes weren’t talked about much in the New Testament because they chose to live monastic lives in the wilderness because they wanted to remain separate from the world and not be stained by the culture. The Essenes were reported to be some of the most honest, studious, morally upright, and God-fearing people the world had ever known, but they eventually died out because they refused to live within a culture of people outside themselves.

As Christians, I think we can be guilty of the same thing. Let’s think about small churches that have 10-15 active members all over the age of 70. More than likely, that church won’t be around for too much longer. More than likely, it’s because somewhere along the way, the church decided it was better to live outside the culture than to live in it.

Let me clarify some things. We just read in 1st John 2 that we shouldn’t love world or the things in the world, but Jesus tells us that we are lights in the world in Matthew 5. Are these contradictory statements? No. As a matter of fact these passages of Scripture present us with a powerful truth. We are in the world, but not of it. We cannot be lights in the culture of the world if we refuse to live outside of it. That’s why I have my weekly Bible study at Hastings. It’s a coffee shop and a bookstore. It’s the epicenter of culture in our town. All different kinds of people walk in there of different religions, ethnicities, and walks of life. I have my Bible study there because the gospel is for all people of any background.

As Christians we cannot deny that we are in the world. It does us no good to try to live outside of the world while we’re here. However, we are not present in the world, but we are also presents in the world. As Christians, we are gifts to world because we have something that they need, the gospel. As we live out the gospel, we show the light of Christ and the light of Christ exposes the works of darkness in the world as Paul tells us in Ephesians 5 and shows the world that there is a better way.

Today, pray about how you can be a light in the world.