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 // 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

Methodology vs. Meth-idolatry

“Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” – [Ecclesiastes 7:10 ESV]

“Little children, keep yourselves from idols”. – [1 John 5:21 ESV]

I was listening to a lecture given by Mark Driscoll and he was talking a new movement that he and a few other pastors are a part of called, ‘New Calvinism’. The four points of this movement are:

  1. Reformed Theology (Traditional Calvinism)
  2. Complimentarian Relationships
  3. Spirit-filled Lives
  4. Missional Churches

I won’t exactly dwell on the movement but I’ll provide you with the information and you can do the research for yourself.

What I wanted to focus on was something that Pastor Mark said in his lecture that caught my attention. He said that if you’re not careful, you’re methodology can turn into meth-idolatry. This happens when you love tradition more than you love Jesus. This is why it’s hard to convert a lot of Mormons because they love their religious structure more than they love Jesus. Of course, no one would ever verbally or even consciously admit to loving tradition more than Jesus but if you’ve ever been in a traditional church long enough then you know it happens. And don’t think that because your church isn’t traditional that it means that your church isn’t subject to it. It happens in traditional and non-traditional churches alike. People fall in love with method instead the God who inspired the method. But after a while, culture changes and as the culture changes our methodology should also change. While all this change is taking place our message should remain the same: “Christ died to save sinners.”

I grew up in an old-school Pentecostal atmosphere. I firmly believe that there is no school like the old school but there are some disadvantages to ‘traditional church’. The problem is that the concept of ‘traditional church’ will die. Church hymnals will be in the museum; pulpits and kneeling rails will be nothing more than relics of once was.

One thing you must realize if you’re a young pastor and you’re trying to mix things up in a traditional church is this: If you’re going to move the piano in a Pentecostal church, do it one inch at a time. If you shake things up too quickly then you’ll have a bunch of old religious stiff getting their boxers in a knot over something that has eternal value. For example, the minute you bring in theatre seats in a church instead of pews you have people saying stuff like “This is church; it’s not supposed to be comfortable.” (Yes, I’ve actually heard that one.)

Remember, I also said that more modern churches were susceptible to this as well. What happens is this, they get into a mentality that all tradition is bad and because it’s old is must be thrown out the door. This is an erroneous presumption that stemmed from Emergent Church movement. Pretty much the concept of emergent churches was to throw out anything old, have no kind of tradition at all to the point where they starting questioning fundamental doctrines just because they were a tradition in the church such: the divinity of Scripture, the issue of homosexuality, the existence of Hell. A good example of an emergent church pastor would be Rob Bell. He does not believe in the literal existence of Hell. He also doesn’t believe in the divinity of Scripture because anyone who doesn’t believe in the existence of Hell doesn’t believe in the inspiration of Scripture, it’s just not possible.

Another thing about traditions and methods is that they vary from culture to culture and geographical location to geographical location. A lawn mowing ministry would not be needful to someone who lived in the desert and didn’t have a lawn to mow. If you’re going to do good ministry you need to be a student of your student and learn to adapt in a way where you can bring the message of Christ in their own language and in their own terms.

In conclusion, there’s no need to get into an argument about tradition, culture, and methodology because it’s all going to die anyway. The only thing that will last forever is the word of God.

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” – [Matthew 24:35 ESV]

As for those resources that you were promised:

Four Points of the Movement – Mark Driscoll
http://theresurgence.com/v/h7ue7jqmuff1

Four Points of the Movement Re:visited - Mark Driscoll
http://theresurgence.com/v/zfw9npg3d2r6

Article in Times Magazine about New Calvinism

carm.org on the Emerging Church Movement

Taking Your City

Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth; and the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth: see, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, and to destroy and to overthrow; to build, and to plant. – [Jeremiah 1:9-10 RV]

Good ministry through a church begins when that church determines that they are going to positively affect the culture in their area. As the body of Christ we always need to be moving, shifting, and reaching out for the sake of the gospel. As one of my dear friends in the ministry once said, ‘we must create, in out environment, a Christ-centered culture.’ The reason I chose Jeremiah 1:9, 10 as the main passage is because when God told Jeremiah that He had set him over nations and kingdoms He actually instructions: pluck up, break down, destroy, overthrow, build, and plant. The way I interpret this passage from the sentence and grammar structure is that through building and planting we will, in the process, pluck up, break down, destroy, and overthrow things that have no place in our culture. Through the courage that was built up inside Gideon, he destroyed the idols of his father (Judges 6:28-31).

We must be influential in culture because now, more than ever, we are being surrounded by a negative culture that is begging for people to conform to it’s worldly ambition and standard of living. Please understand, I am not anti-culture. I am anti-negative culture. As the church, I believe that it’s okay to take something that is positive from culture and redeem it for the preaching of the gospel. Churches do this all the time when they show clips from new movies and present the positive values that the movie teaches.

When Jesus sent out his disciples he knew that what kind of culture they would be going into. He didn’t expect them to be like the Essenes and completely avoid culture forever. He knew that the only way  to get the culture to embrace the gospel was to send them out into it.

All things considered, our objective has been and always will be to preach, pray, prophesy, heal the sick, and raise the dead.

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” [Mark 16:15-18 ESV]

For more information please watch “The Elephant Room: Church in the Culture vs. Culture in the Church” on the link below:

http://marshill.com/v/b75oqkn4f75b