Part One Part Two
There were several factors that came together at once, that got my thinking about a view of success and attribution of success in church leadership. Part of it is the experience of vicious, unmerited attack, wondering how this originates and where it comes from. I expect harsh criticism, because Jesus prophesied it, but I find myself looking into the source, when it is wacky and grossly unsubstantiated, of the total cheap-shot variety, full of lies.
Another motivator was the reaction of major evangelicals to the "holy hip-hop" debate, especially Albert Mohler. I was thinking about his relationship to the "conservative resurgence" in the Southern Baptist Convention and advocacy for "holy hip-hop." I am convinced now that the conservative resurgence in the big picture, in the long run, will serve to be worse than if the SBC had simply taken its course. What I'm saying is that the cure will be worse than the disease. That will likely be a whole other blog post in the near future. I'm saying that Albert Mohler is doing more damage than good.
Another couple of factors came from a controversy related to conservative evangelicals, cessationists, and Charismatics. It's been around on simmer for awhile, but the heat turned up on the burner with John MacArthur's Strange Fire conference. MacArthur and his church savaged the Charismatic movement, in the midst of which he and several other participants said plainly that music was the means of entrance. Again and again, they agreed that music was how someone started being deceived into the movement. At the end of the conference, MacArthur said, and oddly, sort of out of the blue, seeming to answer some unknown critic, that the trajectory of Grace Community Church was the Protestant Reformation and not the Jesus Movement. I mean, who had said anything about that?
Another aspect of the last one in the previous paragraph has been the after conference battle of the Strange Fire conference participants and defenders with the Charismatic apologist Michael Brown, and his rebuttal book, Authentic Fire. I obviously side with MacArthur on this one, but it has been interesting, and even entertaining, nonetheless. What was especially so was the Benny Hinn-Michael Brown get-together that was bombarded by the Strange Firers. This was proof positive that the baby and the bathwater were just about one and the same. You might not be able to find a baby in the bathwater, to articulate a metaphor (or cliche) that Brown used and that Phil Johnson pounced upon in a Strange Fire session. The Brown allies came right back at the MacArthur confederation with a charge of hypocrisy, because of MacArthur's one time appearance on Paul Crouch's Trinity Broadcasting Network to promote one of his books -- Hard to Believe. The hypocrisy charge was that Brown appearing with Benny Hinn was like MacArthur appearing on TBN to promote a book.
The Strange Fire alliance has answered the Brown Charismatic crowd by saying that MacArthur's appearance was way different -- it just was, not to be compared with Brown and Hinn. Hard to Believe was a stark repudiation supposedly of TBN, and so on. Phil Johnson said Paul Crouch hated MacArthur's appearance and they just wouldn't even re-air it after that. I don't know. I watched the appearance, and here it is.
MacArthur's appearance with celebrity Christian Kirk Cameron appears like a television variety show. They sit on those variety show stools with the studio audience clapping and clapping as if they were being entertained. There is no doubt that there is some playing to the audience with things that are said. Was that TBN audience being confronted for the travesty that is TBN? Not at all. Anything MacArthur was saying could be viewed through a TBN grid. How could they be clapping so much if they really knew what he was talking about? And there was no attempt to clarify. But that wasn't the worst of it.
In order to entertain the TBN crowd, then comes at the 20 minute mark MacArthur's son-in-law Kory Welch, in front of this lavish television set, singing to entertain the audience. I'm not going to give my take on his performance in any detail, but the whole thing comes off as a "Christian" version of a television variety show. The style is worldly in so many aspects, music and appearance. It wasn't praise to God. It was a performance that fit in perfectly with a TBN crowd. Now remember, MacArthur "doesn't have a trajectory" from the Jesus Movement, even though he benefited big numbers in Southern California from the Jesus Movement, when he was calling it a genuine revival. Those kids fit in fine with John MacArthur because he didn't do anything to stop them from these types of abuses that now he says are the entrance into the movement. According to MacArthur, that music is the entrance into the Charismatic movement. You've got this studio set, the worldly music, and an adoring TBN crowd. There was definitely no repudiation of TBN with his appearance -- sad really, but unfortunately not surprising. The Charismatic style music is at his own church, and now at the Shepherd's Conference with the addition of the rock band this last year, what was before featured at their youth conference. People there can pick up that taste for an easy segue and acceptance of Charismatic styled worship that now MacArthur is calling Strange Fire.
Before I move on, when I talk like this, the way this is marginalized is by calling names, like flame-throwing fundamentalist. This really is typical of evangelicalism, more than even fundamentalism, to go to name-calling in order to disrespect the critique. Most people want any kind of music style they want. It will be easy for them to go along with name-calling as a means of excusing themselves. If not a flame-thrower, I'll hear that I'm KJVO, which has nothing to do with what we're talking about. I'd be glad to talk about that, but it is hardly related to this. They know their crowd, however, will not respect anyone who still uses the King James Version of the Bible, and so that is code language.
Biblical Credentials for Success
What is success, according to the Bible? In 2 Corinthians, Paul differentiated himself from the false apostles, the false teachers, that had subverted his teaching and ministry at Corinth. What do you think would be the credentials of Paul that were different than those appearing as angels of light to deceive the Corinthians? What he said they were, I don't think are what people would think they would be. I don't think they would even cross someone's mind. How would someone know Paul was true and those fakes were false? In 2 Corinthians 11:23, Paul was indicating how the Corinthians could determine who was a minister of Christ, a servant of the Lord, and who was not. How would they know?
How you could tell someone was real and not fake was by the suffering they were enduring. Paul lists from 2 Corinthians 11, verses 23 to 27, what was preeminent in a determination of authenticity. Why would the real be suffering, when the false would not? The real are confronting the darkness with light. The real are contradicting the world, the culture, the zeitgeist. The genuine are not conforming to the world, are denying worldly lust. The false can do just fine and keep very comfortable because they are not pointing out those areas that will bring the unpopularity that will shrink their following.
The false are all about getting and keeping the bigger crowd and are not going to teach certain uncomfortable teachings of scripture. With evangelicals, it is a matter of finding that sweet spot, where they hang on to enough true doctrine without offending too many, so that they would get too small to meet an understanding of success.
In this world, in this present climate, I don't believe someone will get to the size of a MacArthur and many others who are even bigger than him, in order to keep their opportunities, without a compromise for the sake of a worldly standard of success. Everyone getting very big in this country should be suspect. What sinning, what fleshliness, what worldliness, what false worship are they failing to confront? How are they dimming their light in the darkness? That is what happens. They are deemed successful, but in fact they are not. They are avoiding the suffering of allowing their light to shine brightly. They'll say it's something else, but that's really what it is.
And I'll talk more about that in the next post.