ABC–Always Be Closing?

Lately during really good witnessing encounters the question about what to do with someone who appears really remorseful over his or her sin has resurfaced for me. The other person who was witnessing with me took this as an opportunity to try to close the deal. Though this individual thankfully doesn’t subscribe to the sinner’s prayer nonsense, she wanted the person to pray a prayer of salvation from the heart. If the individual hesitated, she attempted to push him or her a little bit to go ahead and make a decision for Christ.

I’ve had trouble putting my finger on why this bothered me. Everything she was saying was technically true. Today is the day of salvation, and anyone can die at any time. However, it seemed she was coming off as a salesperson trying to convince a reluctant prospect.

As always the question to ask in evangelism is: “What did Jesus and the apostles do?”

It seems Jesus never tried to close the deal. He would command people to repent and believe the gospel, or believe in Him, or come to Him, or eat His flesh and drink His blood. He never asked anyone to repeat a prayer after Him. When the rich young ruler walked away (Luke 18), he didn’t chase after Him. He trusted the message to do its work, along with the Holy Spirit, even if it meant he would never repent.

Maybe the clearest example is Acts 10 when Peter went to Cornelius and his family to give them the gospel: “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message” (Acts 10:44).  He never had to close the deal or get them to make a commitment of some sort. God saved them while he was busy talking.

So what should we do when someone appears broken by the message? Exactly what Jesus and the apostles did. Deliver the message faithfully, and trust the Holy Spirit. We don’t have to push the individual for a decision or commitment of any kind. Maybe God is saving the person as we speak.

Seeing the handwriting on the wall.

Two years ago I published a post about a CCM entertainer’s comments that he gave to a Roman Catholic organization in which the entertainer, David Crowder, admitted:

“Much of the Catholic traditions and writings have been influential in my formation of faith and to be quite contradictory of what was stated earlier, I’ve found much inspiration there.”

Of course, my pointing this out went over like a lead balloon with many professing Christians. Daring to bring to light (or even make mention of) the biblically antithetical theology, leanings, and/or admitted influences of any of their beloved entertainers will always incur the wrath of the American evangelical. (That same post also spoke of David Crowder’s ties to contemplatives too, but for some reason that has never been much of a point of contention with Crowder’s defenders.)

I received numerous responses of defense for Crowder from tons of professing Christians telling me how stupid I was for pointing out Crowder’s obvious Roman Catholic leanings. In the estimation of his defenders, I was just jumping to conclusions, making mountains out of mole hills, and seeing things that were simply not there.

But was I?

(I still wonder how Crowder defenders would have reacted if he had said “Much of the Mormon traditions and writings have been influential in my formation of faith . . .“.) 

Apparently I have to venture outside the whitewashed, happy, clappy realm of Americanized Christianity to find someone else who can add 2 plus 2 and come up with 4. 

Marc, a Roman Catholic who blogs at Bad Catholic, is one of those out there who also read Crowder’s interview and saw the same handwriting on the wall. On his latest post praising David Crowder, Marc writes what’s so obvious as the noon-day sun to him (and me) but seems to escape the comprehension of so many professing Christians:

“So, remember that time I invited David Crowder to become Catholic? Yeah, that might have been redundant. . . .  I’m happy as can be, and praying for Mr. Crowder, hoping he comes into full communion soon, though it seems his heart is already there.”

Although Marc and I will disagree on many (many) things regarding theology, we can at least both agree on what we’re seeing coming from the “evangelical” entertainer, David Crowder.

Marc also wrote an open letter (an open invitation) to David Crowder to invite hm to finally “enter into full communion with the Holy Catholic Church.”

Because of Crowder’s most recent album, Marc has said that he finds himself “in one of the most incredible moments of my music-loving, Christ-worshipping, Roman Catholic existence” and that “To the Christian, this is awesome. To the Catholic, well, this is freaking fantastic.”

Here is an excerpt from Marc’s article regarding Crowder’s latest album, an album that has at least one Roman Catholic all abuzz:

“So when your album started with a man walking into a Church, and the voice of a priest saying ‘Grant them eternal rest, Lord, and let perpetual light shine on them…’ (in Latin!) I fairly well freaked out. That prayer is not merely a memory of the dead, it is a prayer for the dead, that they might be granted to enter into Heaven.”

Here is Marc’s invitation to “evangelical” entertainer, David Crowder: 

“Though I’m sure you’ve been invited before — and if not, I take this opportunity to apologize for it — I’d like to invite you to enter into full communion with the Holy Catholic Church. You’ve been in my prayers and the prayers of my friends for some time now. We heard when you said that many ‘of the Catholic traditions and writings have been influential in [your] formation of faith,’ and about your love for St. Francis when you granted LifeTeen an interview, and we got pretty pumped.”

So, I guess I wasn’t alone with what I concluded in that interview David Crowder gave to LifeTeen; even Marc and some of his Roman Catholic friends understood it and have not only been praying for Crowder, but were “pretty pumped” by what Crowder said. It’s the cultural Christians who have their fingers in their ears and their eyes slammed shut refusing to examine whether or not the CCM emperor is wearing clothes.

I also find it ironic that the very first comment Marc received on his open invitation to David Crowder came from a Roman Catholic who claims to have actually worked with David Crowder and his band, and knows them on a personal level. This commenter scolded Marc, informing him that he’s not giving David Crowder enough credit for his Romainst leanings:

“I’m a Catholic who’s worked with the Crowder band up until their recent retirement. I was standing there when they walked off stage for the last time in Atlanta two weeks ago, and I know all the guys on a personal level. . . . [Y]ou have absolutely no idea what Dave does or does not know about the Catholic faith. Without that knowledge, I’m finding it hard to understand why you chose to write a manifesto about our faith as if you were telling him things he doesn’t already know. It sounds to me you’ve made an awful lot of assumptions here. Dave has a very healthy knowledge of the Catholic faith. He knows much more than you and others are giving him credit for. When the idea of this album came up, Dave sought out Catholic musician Matt Maher and asked for his input and in depth perspective regarding the Catholic funeral liturgy.”

I’ll conclude with a short video posted on Marc’s blog of David Crowder talking about his latest album, “Give Us Rest or (A Requiem Mass in C [The Happiest of All Keys]),” a video in which the first commenter on Marc’s post wrote:

“Did David Crowder, the renowned Protestant musician, just use the words ‘Liturgy’ ‘Latin’ ‘Mass’ and ‘Eucharist’ in that video??! I’m failing to see how this could lead anywhere other than into the welcoming arms of Holy Mother Church.”

Sermon of the Week: “What’s a Thousand Years Among Friends?” by Kim Riddlebarger

Dispensationalism? Premillennialism? The Rapture? A 1000 year reign on earth? Amillennialism? The kingdom is now? This age and the age to come?

What is this all about. Controversy and serious disagreements swirl endlessly around the study and beliefs of the End Times. In this lecture, Dr. Kim Riddlebarger poses a logical, Biblical, and literal argument for the Amillennial Two Age Model. With an honest listen, this should give all dispensational/premil folks reason to pause and examine their view a little closer. The Two Age Model is a LITERAL and BIBLICAL doctrine related to the End Times that overwhelmingly supports the Amillennial position and leaves dispensationalism looking for proof texts. Dr. Riddlebarger delivers this lecture in an enjoyable and understandable way with great respect and honor towards the Dispy brothers that he disagrees with. Enjoy!

Sermon Audio Link for Lecture here: What’s a Thousand Years Among Friends?

Dr. Kim Riddlebarger is pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Anaheim, California. He is visiting professor of systematic theology at Westminster Seminary California and a frequent contributor to Tabletalk and Modern Reformation. Among his publications are A Case for Amillenialism: Understanding the End Times, and The Man of Sin. Kim also edits the Riddleblog devoted to Reformed theology and eschatology. Kim is also one of the hosts of the White Horse Inn Radio Program with Michael Horton, Rod Rosenbladt, and Ken Jones.

Kim’s blog:

White Horse Inn

Kim’s book

Pagan Christianity?

I was given the task of reading and reviewing this book as part of a project at my church. Frank Viola is aggressive in defending his perspective; if you want his view you can easily find one or more of his blogs. With that short introduction, here’s my lengthy review.

Pagan Christianty?

By Frank Viola and George Barna

Reviewed by Stuart L. Brogden

The thesis statement of this book is found in the Preface, written by Viola, on page xix: “we intend to show how that organism (the first century church) was devoid of so many things we embrace today” and on page xx: “We are seeking to remove a great deal of debris in order to make room for the Lord Jesus Christ to be the fully functioning head of His church.”

In the Preface, he repeatedly refers to “the contemporary church” as their foil – no doubt most reformed Christians would also take issue with many things done in that name. Reinforcing what I infer as a mystical view of God and Truth revealed in the thesis, Viola tells us, “the New Testament vision of church best represents the dream of God.” and “The normative practices of the first-century church were the natural and spontaneous expression of the divine life that indwelt the early Christians.” (page xix) Their mystical view of the body of Christ is fully spelled out later in the book. Also on page xix, the author’s beloved “organic church” is described thusly: “An organic church is simply a church that is born out of spiritual life instead of constructed by human institutions and held together by religious programs. Organic churches are characterized by Spirit-led, open-participatory meetings and nonhierarchical leadership.” We will see that “Spirit-led” means “everyone doing what seems right in their own eyes”. In the delving Deeper section on page xxxi we are told that their “goal is not to develop a full description of the organic church but only touch on it when necessary.” See – we get explicit wrong-doings by the contemporary and institutional church but only vague and partial descriptions of the proposed answer to those evils.

Viola shows his misunderstanding of the work of the Holy Spirit of God, ascribing (page xix) His actions as “the natural and spontaneous expression of the divine life that indwelt the early Christians”. The Bible is clear that God is a God of order, not chaos; He is not a natural expression of what is in man (Psalms 50:21). He is not “spontaneous” – acting on whimsy; He has planned and has ordered all things to the fulfillment of His plans (Psalms 135:6 and Ephesians 1:11).

In Barna’s Introduction, we discover the authors see themselves – and the Lord Jesus – as Revolutionaries, working to correct the centuries-long trial of errors foisted upon us by religious men. He rightly identifies legitimate problems in many churches (mega-churches, satellite campuses, affinity and age segregated groups, etc.) on page xxvii – and then reveals that this book is our trustworthy guide to find out God’s will for the church. He concludes by telling us that he wants the reader “to think carefully and biblically about how you practice your faith with other Christians.” Barna concludes with, “We pray that this book will help you to do your part in straightening out the crooked path of the contemporary church.” We shall see.

The “Jesus” of the OC is manifested by “open sharing” in all church meetings – this is the normative method that “is completely scriptural”, especially if the only scripture one reads is 1 Corinthians 14:26 – 29. They have an unbiblical view of Jesus Christ and an unbiblical view of the church – which they consider (page xxviii) to be “Himself in a different form. This is the meaning of the phrase “the body of Christ”.” Deep in the appendix, on page 268, we read, “When each member of His body shares his or her portion of Christ, then Christ is assembled.”

Wayne Grudem sheds a better light on this concept on page 858 of his Systematic Theology: “In 1 Corinthians 12 the whole body is taken as a metaphor for the church, because Paul speaks of the “ear” and the “eye” and the “sense of smell” (1 Cor 12:16 – 17). In this metaphor, Christ is not viewed as the head joined to the body, because the individual members are themselves the individual parts of the head. Christ is in the metaphor the Lord who is “outside” of that body that represents the church and is the one whom the church serves and worships.” There are, as Grudem goes to point out, different uses of the word “body” as a metaphor for the church – the context in which each metaphor is used reveals its meaning. Barna and Viola appear to hold to the Roman Catholic view of the church as the “continuing incarnation” of Christ rather than properly viewing Christ as reigning in heaven in addition to dwelling among us. As for the biblical view of the church, one cannot comprehend that unless one studies the Pastoral Epistles – and there’s no indication the authors have even read them.

Consistently in this book, the method of “proving” their case builds on setting up a straw man they call the “institutional church” (IC) – a seemingly equivalent term for the “contemporary church” – and presenting an ill-defined “organic church” (OC) as the only Christ-honoring alternative. This IC straw man is constructed from mostly undocumented sources of history, which reflect the main line record of the Roman Catholic Church. There is no evidence that the remnant of God which did not follow Rome (as in Andrew Miller’s Church History) was ever considered by the authors – for therein one would find local churches without many of the errors that have crept into most churches since ~ 400AD. Too many reformed churches have forgotten “Semper Reformda!”, stagnating in partial reform that still has a lot in common with Rome. These present day vestiges of Rome ought to be critiqued and Protestants should repent and reform to the Biblical model. Some of this book’s critique rightly applies to some churches, but does not warrant the radical, semi-biblical approach advocated.

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The more things change, the more they stay the same at the Crystal Cathedral.

From the Christian Post:

The Rev. Robert H. Schuller, founder of the historic Crystal Cathedral Ministries in Garden Grove, Calif., has spoken out about the sale of the church to a Roman Catholic diocese, reassuring concerned observers that the church’s beliefs are not going to suddenly change.

“The Roman Catholic Church isn’t going to change its theologies,” Schuller said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times published Sunday. “I trust them.”

The ministry’s decision to sell the famous building to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County raised some controversy at first. In the Sunday interview, the 85-year-old minister said he has always respected the Roman Catholic faith and considers it the “mother church.”

Read the rest of the article, Robert Schuller Trusts Catholic Church With Crystal Cathedral, here.

What’s in a list of names?

If you are like me, you tend to not pay close attention to lists of names when you come across them in your Bible reading. Yes, those people are important to God, some lists demonstrate important lineages. There is a list which is not an important lineage – in Romans 16. This was the text for the sermon in my church yesterday, and I was (and still am) amazed at the richness of the Bible and the amazing grace and love Christ poured out for His people. May the Word of God dwell richly in you and may you love His people – because of His great love for you. That is the message of Romans 16:3-16.

For the glory of God and the good of His people.



It’s a Girl – Kill It!

While doing some research on a completely different subject, I found a site that was and continues to be overwhelming to the senses. It advertises a new documentary coming out entitled, “It’s a Girl!”

Baby Clip Art

I have never personally met a parent that did not wait with joy to hear those words, or words equally as poignant, “It’s a Boy!” All the parents I have met have been thankful that a safe delivery has been made and they will now begin the transition of raising that little one whether it is a boy or a girl.

This documentary begins with a culture that in many ways I cannot fathom, yet, I should because it is not really that far removed from the culture in which we live here in the West. The first words heard in short trailer for the documentary notes, “Today, India and China eliminate more girls than the number of girls born in America every year!”

One interviewee notes, “But what this is, is an entire system, a social machinery that says, ‘We don’t want females.’”

A distraught couple are shown speaking about the birth of their new baby and the father describing the marks around the little girl’s neck. She had been strangled!

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