"...When He [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." Matt 9:36

"Do not rob the poor, because he is poor... for the Lord will take up their case and plunder those who plunder them." Proverbs 22:22-23

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Is the Ed Young Sermon Series "Kool Aid" or "Cool Aid"? Kraft Foods May Want to Know!

Today Fellowship Church posted on their website marquee the promo for the new "Cool Aid" series by Ed Young starting next week.

The "Cool Aid" graphic is different from the "Kool Aid" graphic shown to the audiences at the church performances this past weekend. The top picture at left shows Fellowship Church using Kraft Foods' brand image of Mr. Kool Aid, with "Gay Marriage" plastered on it.

If Fellowship Church has not obtained prior approval from Kraft Foods for use of their logo, it is quite hypocritical to use EITHER of these images, considering Fellowship filed a copyright infringement claim against me in 2010 to take down two videos I had posted on Vimeo lawfully under the Fair Use Doctrine of the U.S. copyright laws. Fellowship lawyers claimed:

"The availability of this video [Watchdog's use of a small portion of an Ed Young sermon video] obtained without the knowledge or consent of the Church for free on your site greatly infringes upon the Church's ability to market this work"
 
My lawyer and I contested their video takedown, and we prevailed in early 2011 to have the videos reinstated by Vimeo here and here

And this is not the first time Fellowship Church has used other corporations' brand logos before.  As I pointed out here, Fellowship Church used the brand logo of Gatorade, changing it to Haterade, and they also used the "Twilight" logo to promote another sermon series.

Maybe Kraft Foods will contact Ed Young and Fellowship Church and ask them politely to stop using their Kool Aid brand name and logo.

Another example of the zaniness these days in the modern evangelical mega church.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Finally, the Ed Young Sermon Series We've All Been Dreaming of: "KOOL AID"

UPDATE: Since posting this article last night, I just can't help but wonder if this is not a media stunt. Really, how can General Foods, the owner of the Kool Aid brand, be in favor of Ed Young using their product logo with the words "gay marriage" on them, which would be associated with a sermon (presumably) against gay marriage?  Will be interesting to see how this plays out.
-------------------

Finally, the sermon series from Ed Young we've all been waiting for, starts Saturday June 2, 2012!!

Title of the next Ed Young, Jr. sermon series:

"Kool-Aid"!

Yes, Ed has been accused of serving up the Kool Aid for his church members each week, and now he is going to actually preach about Kool Aid! The first topic in the Kool-Aid series is on Gay Marriage, so should be exciting to see how gay marriage and Kool Aid line up.

A few reasons why this is an excellent choice for a Fellowship sermon series:

1. The bible actually has nothing to say about Kool Aid or beverages with absolutely no nutritional value, leaving things wide open.

2. Kool Aid is 90% water and 10% sugar, thus there is a tithing lesson in there somewhere.

3.  "Kool" rhymes with "Fool", enabling Ed to call it something clever like "Fool Aid", much like he took "Gatorade" and called it "HaterAde" to accuse his criticizers of being "haters".

4.  So many of the Kool Aid marketing slogans can be adapted to the reality of Fellowship Church, such as the following (I'll let the readers figure out how to change the slogans for today's Ed Young-type church):

"Your friend is cool!" - "Our friend is Kool Aid!!!"

"Smart moms serve Kool Aid"

"Ohhh Yeah!!!!!"

"Kool Aid to the rescue!"

5. Kool Aid is a perfect metaphor for the doctrine taught at many of these churches: it might taste good and look good, and the gullible drinkers think it is a healthy drink, but Kool Aid really offers no nutritional value except for the sugar content (and that isn't even supplied by the cheap Kool Aid packs).

6. We all know what "Drinking the Kool Aid" refers to - the tragedy of Guyanna and Jim Jones and the mass suicide, but since then it has taken on the meaning of people not thinking clearly about what they are taught, and blindly following the charismatic leader. Very appropriate metaphor for today's mega church and rock star preacher mind set.

So let's all go to Fellowship Church to hear about Kool Aid - but beware of the grape Kool Aid samples in the foyer.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Yet Another "Man of God" - This Time a Calvinist - Secretly Video Taping Christian Women in the Church Bathroom

Well, up in the corn fields of Indiana, we have yet another "Man of God" arrested for his video voyeurism.

Readers, meet Robert Lyzinga, a reformed/Calvinist pastor of the Sunrise Christian Reformed Church in Lafayette, Indiana (their website is down as of this writing). Robert's church is part of the Christian Reformed Church of North America, a Calvinist denomination of about 1100 churches. You can see Robert's church's entry here in the CRCNA church database.

Robert's arrest has been nationwide news; here is one of the more complete news stories.

What is it with these pastors getting their jollies from videotaping women - women in their own churches that God has supposedly "appointed" them to have pastoral authority over?

First we had Tom Neal - a KJV-fundamentalist Baptist - accused of videotaping women undressing in his office. He was stupid enough to actually video tape himself turning on and turning off the device.

Then last fall we had Sammy Nuckolls - a Southern Baptist Evangelist - arrested for using a spycam to secretly videotape women - even the wife of his best friend. He was brazen enough to set up his spy pen in the bathroom of a woman's house he was staying with - and he got caught. By the way, if you haven't seen this recent news report of one of Nuckolls' victims speaking out, watch this report to see just how sick Nuckolls truly is.

So we have A KJV-fundamentalist Baptist, an SBC Evangelist, and now in Robert Lyzinga we have a reformed Calvinist! Yes, Robert came up with the bright idea of hiding cameras in phony air-freshener installed right smack dab on the bathroom stall doors to film the women in his church going to the bathroom! He too was caught red-handed when the phony air freshener fell off, the camera was exposed, and investigators saw footage of Robert's office and desk filmed on the camera. Robert obviously was not a reader of the Watchdog, else he would have seen the mistake that Tom Neal made and would have avoided capturing incriminating footage of his own desk as he set up the cameras.

So church members, watch out. One thing I've noticed over the years is churches attract a lot of weirdos who might be doing similar things as these pastors, but who are much too smart to get caught. If we have three pastors that have been caught red-handed video taping their own church members, how many other pastors and other nuts in churches are doing the same thing with these tiny, inexpensive cameras? How many were caught and NOT reported? How many have yet to be caught?

Finally, I leave you with this quote from the news report of Lyzinga's arrest:
"Clevenger [church deacon] called Lyzenga’s arrest a shame, but noted that the pastor was once a great leader for the congregation.

'Pastor Bob did a lot of good while in service to this church,” he said. “He was a good pastor and a good man.' "
Such fond memories they will have of "Pastor Bob" and all the "good" he did. What is sad is this is the same thing I heard a former member of Trinity Baptist say about child molester Bob Gray after his arrest: that people were too quick to overlook all the good that Pastor Gray accomplished before he was arrested.

Yes, people do tend to forget all the good that the "men of God" do when they turn out to be perverts molesting boys and girls or secretly video taping nude women.

People except the church members and deacons who were under the pastor's spell for so long, of course.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Perry Noble is Latest to Offer "90-Day Money Back Guarantee" on the Tithe

Perry Noble is the latest pastor to issue a formal "money back guarantee" to his church members as a gimmick to get a revenue boost at the church.

Ed Young, Jr. has tried this money-back guarantee gimmick. Also, Robert Morris has tried the gimmick at his church and he has pushed it in churches around the country including Celebration Church in my own city of Jacksonville, Florida when Morris preached earlier this year for Stovall Weems.

Below is the video of Perry Noble issuing the challenge. Here is a link at the church website to a form one must fill out to let the church know you are taking the challenge. I guess to qualify you need to let God, er, I mean NewSpring, know you are taking the challenge? When do you think NewSpring will post a redemption link for people to request their tithe back?


If a discerning Christian watches Perry's video and listens very closely, they will see how absolutely ridiculous this "guarantee" is, and why members at Perry's church should absolutely reject this idea as the money-grubbing marketing scheme that it is.

Let me give some commentary on Perry's guarantee to help you see why members of Perry's church should be offended and disgusted at such a challenge:

"Here's what we believe here at Newspring Church:  you cannot out-give God."

I hate this statement. I've heard it for years, and you have too, probably. Of course God is God, so who really could "out-give" God? Who said you can? I hate this statement because of how the preachers like Perry who utter it want to use it to motivate gullible people to fork over more money to their church.

The implication of this phrase "you cannot out give God" is that the more money you give to the  church, the more blessings you will receive. This statement implies that your material blessings are tied to how much money you give. More money, more blessings. Less money or no money, no blessings, only curses.

The phrase "you cannot out give God" implies that by giving to Perry's church you are "giving to God" (which is not true), and it implies that you cannot give too much to Perry's church because God will make sure he has your back no matter how much you give. You CAN give too much money to Perry's church, if you cannot afford it and if it means you can't properly care for your family. God makes no promise to Christians to subsidize foolish donations made to a 501(c)3 religious organization.

And we're just getting started.  Here's the next phrase from Perry worth examining:

"And the very first way we that we put God first in the area of our finances is the tithe: 10% of our gross income."

 Oh yes. If you are truly committed to Jesus, you will show it by giving 10% of your income. Not 10% of your "net" income. It has to be the "gross", the before-tax amount, of course.

This sentence is the shortest and softest way to sell to his church members - as the piano gently plays in the background - the false claim that unless you put God first in your finances by tithing, you are subject to a curse on all of your finances and you subject yourself to all sorts of calamity at the hands of God. Perry has said so before.

And one minor detail:  the "tithe" in the Old Testament was not "10% of our gross income". As documented over and over on this blog, the Old Testament tithe was 23 1/3%, not 10%. But preachers know you can't give THAT much, so they round it off to an tidy 10%. When preachers like Perry can't be completely truthful about even the percentage of the tithe from the Old Testament, what makes anyone think they are being truthful of how the verse applies to the Christian?

"And we believe that what the bible says in Malachi chapter 3, verse 10, is true, that if we will put God first with the tithe, then He will bless us."

Yep, "if...then"....if you give 10% of your income, then God will bless you. And as Perry has said before, there is another "if...then" that he believes:  if you do NOT give 10%, then God CANNOT bless you. In fact you are under a curse.

But that is all pure poppycock. It is fiction. It is a preacher using the Old Testament verses in Malachi that were really spoken to the religious leaders of the day who were robbing the resources given to them by the people. These verses applied to those living under the Old Covenant. Those verses have no more application to the Christian's life than to the Old Testament verses on circumcision.

Perry doesn't give any New Testament verses that deal directly with how Christians should give (generously, consistently, and cheerfully), as those verses don't suit his purposes. They might actually lead to a church member believing they are obeying God at a level less than 10%, and Perry can't have that. Instead, it is more profitable to him to use Malachi 3 to make you think that the pathway to blessings is to give minimum of 10% of your income to his church.

And next, we see the kicker...that Perry and NewSpring actually do NOT believe Malachi 3:10:


"We believe it [the principle of the tithe] to the point that we are challenging you to take our 90-day tithe challenge. And in 90 days if you don't like feel God has blessed you...we will refund every dime you gave..."

This is my favorite part of the money-back guarantee, because it proves the preacher doesn't actually believe what he preaches concerning the tithe. The entire premise of the "tithe" is that it belongs to God, and if you don't bring your 10% to church, you are stealing because that portion of your income doesn't belong to you, it belongs to God (and to give it to God, you have to of course deliver it in a pre-printed envelope, with the check made not to "God" but to "NewSpring Church".)

So get this:  if it belongs to God and not you, and if Perry Noble and NewSpring church leaders actually believed that....then how on earth would they think it OK to take what was not yours to begin with (your tithe), and give it back to you just because you want it back? Wouldn't that mean THEY are robbing God by taking what you gave to God and then giving the money, which is God's money, back to you? Wouldn't Perry and NewSpring now be under a curse? Where in scripture did the priests have the right to give back from the storehouse anything that was already given?

This proves that either Perry doesn't believe what he teaches about the tithe, or maybe a scarier proposition: perhaps Perry believes he and NewSpring Church ARE God. Or maybe it really is a hoax, they know it, and they just think you're too stupid to carefully consider the implications of their guarantee.

Here's one that I can't believe they didn't edit out or do a retake on:

"If you don't feel like God has blessed you, if you don't feel like God has done what his word has said, if you believe God's a liar, then's here's what we'll do:  we'll refund every dime you gave during that 90-day period, no questions asked. We're not sending anybody to your house, nothing weird."

When you watch the video, you'll see Perry give a chuckle or snicker as he says "if you believe God's a liar"....because here is the catch:  if you actually make a claim to have your money refunded, this will be interpreted by your church to mean you believe God is a liar. Perry says they won't send anybody to your house. Maybe not, but you will be singled out as a heretic, a money-grubber, someone who is hurting the church.

There you have it...the "90-Day Challenge" from Perry Noble and NewSpring Church.

Next post:  Watchdog will issue his own "Challenge" to members of Newspring Church, so stay tuned!!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

An Analysis of Chuck O'Neal's Press Release - He is Digging an Even Deeper Hole for Himself and His Church

I guess Chuck O'Neal and Beaverton Grace Bible Church (BGBC) are worried that the parking lot at their church this Sunday might look like the picture at left, after the avalanche of bad publicity they have received over their recent defamation lawsuit against Julie Ann Smith and four other former church members.

So, Chuck and BGBC decided to help their case by issuing a "press release" yesterday. A press release might be in order, given all the negative press - maybe a brief statement that Chuck stands by his allegations, a call for people to not rush to judgment, asking people to let the justice system do what it is supposed to do once all the facts are put to a jury.

The only problem is, this isn't a "press release" like that. It is a press release that dwarfs even Chuck's amended complaint. It is a 5500-word, 18 page long essay in which Chuck makes another accusation against the defendants, he states how his lawsuit is not just to defend him but to actually defend God and Christ, and then defends the theology of a Christian suing another Christian. None of this helps his case, and none of it helps his public image.

First, let's look at this paragraph from the "press release":
"....a member of this group called the police and the DHS to deliver a false report accusing Pastor O’Neal of physically abusing his own children and allowing pornography to be distributed to adolescents in the church. He, his family, and the church were subsequently investigated by the authorities and the case was dismissed as unfounded."
With an important hearing before the judge in just a few days, Chuck decides to add another charge against Julie Anne and the co-defendants. A few things to point out about the statement above:

By including this new allegation that is NOT in the lawsuit, in a press release explaining the charges of defamation, is to insinuate that the defendants maliciously, knowingly, filed a FALSE police report as a part of their alleged defamation. After all, there is nothing wrong, in fact to the contrary it is noble and brave (and in most cases required by law) when a church member has the courage to report facts or even rumors of abuse by a minister or church members....UNLESS, the person maliciously, knowingly, files a false police report to harass someone. That seems to be what Chuck is saying by putting this information in his press release. In my view, Chuck is treading dangerously close to defamation himself, stating as fact that the people he is suing filed a false police report - which is to commit a crime - about him in order to defame him.

Later in the press release Chuck says:
"Families cannot continue to be threatened by false allegations of abuse. "
There you have it. Part of his reason for filing the suit is because families are continuing to be threatened by "false allegations of abuse." Families are never threatened by allegations of abuse - even if an investigation is conducted and no charges are filed. No, Chuck, families are protected by people who report allegations of abuse. UNLESS, people are running around committing the crime of making false, baseless, malicious allegations to defame and harass, which must be what Chuck is saying here else he would not have brought it up in the context of this lawsuit!

If Chuck knows for a fact that the defendants made a false child abuse claim against him, why is THAT not listed as an offense in his lawsuit? Did he file a report with the authorities so they could investigate whether someone made a false police report? If the allegation is important enough to put in a press release justifying his lawsuit, why not put it in the lawsuit as a statement of fact? A quote of calling the church "creepy" IS in the lawsuit, but a false police report alleging abuse is NOT?

Sadly, I don't think Chuck even realizes the harm he is doing by making a public statement such as this. The biggest obstacle in getting church members to report abuse in their churches is the fear of retribution for making accusations against the "man of God".  It is the fear that they will not be believed, and that the minister and his peers will vilify those that make the report, or even the victim himself/herself. Chuck's accusations of malicious false claims of abuse in a public forum against former church members only makes it less likely someone in the future will ever dare to report abuse at his church should it ever occur. Another reason for the BGBC church parking lot to look like the above photo.

And doesn't this sound familiar? A minister doesn't like what a critic is saying about them publicly, doesn't appreciate harsh criticism, so the minister and those defending him at the church decide to make public statements insinuating that the critics are criminals. "Yep, you all just don't know the real story about these critics (wink-wink)". Chuck, you have learned well from your peers on what NOT to do in response to your critics.

Next, Chuck decides to dig himself into a bigger hole by stating the theological implications of his lawsuit, that really it is not just about him being defamed. He is not just defending himself, but he is defending God, too. Yes, God is sovereign, but he still needs Chuck to intervene in our courts to defend God's character.

Says Chuck:
"For three and a half years this group has been engaged in a public, church to church, and World Wide Web defamation, showing their willingness to discredit God, harm the church, harm wives, harm children, and harm the testimony of Christ's Gospel. It is BGBC's firm conviction that this cannot continue. The ministry of the local church and the Gospel cannot continue to be hindered."
Courts absolutely do not want to involve themselves in theological squabbles. Chuck views this lawsuit as a means to stop his gospel from being hindered. This is the same old story - to criticize the pastor publicly for his spiritual abuse, for personnel decisions he has made, or how the money is spent, or any number of other things, is to "discredit God", it is to "harm the church", and by golly you're even harming "the testimony of Christ's Gospel", and it is to "hinder" the ministry of the local church. Yes, pastors everywhere, Chuck is filing this lawsuit for YOU so that "the local church" (that is you!) will not continue to be hindered by these evil bloggers!

Seminaries are teaching these men that they are God's modern day prophets, the 501(c)3 religious organizations that employ them are the Holy of Holies, and criticism of either is to defame God and Jesus himself.

When preachers act like Chuck, their church just might become the "Holy of Holies" - the inner sanctuary where no man but the high priest himself enters.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"Tithe or You're Dead" - A Satire Piece on Steve Gaines' Sermon Comparing Non-Tithers to Ananias and Sapphira

Below is a satire post by Matt Mundke at the "Steam Tunnel Pilot" blog that was posted today. It points to the absolute absurdity of Steve Gaines' March 2012 sermon in which he claims non-tithers might be killed by God, claiming "everytime a Christian refuses to tithe, they are just like Ananias and Sapphira".

I asked the blog owners for permission to post it on my blog in its entirety, and I heard back from Sergius Martin-george via email giving me his blessing to post all of it, graphics included! Thank you, Sergius!

Readers, don't miss the last paragraph - Matt quotes yours truly from my March 14, 2012 blog post - go to my blog post to see for yourself Steve Gaines in action, telling Christians they might be killed by God if they don't tithe.

Be sure to add the "Steam Tunnel Pilot" to your Google reader or Favorites list!

---------------------------------------------------------



Tithe or You're Dead

Though evangelicals generally eschew the euphemistic notion of a departed believer “spinning in his grave,” it’s hard not to imagine the posthumous subterranean pirouettes currently being executed by one Adrian Pierce Rogers, who went to his reward in 2005.  The twice-elected president of the Southern Baptist convention, known to most American evangelicals through his TV and radio ministries, served as senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in suburban Memphis, Tennessee, for more than three decades.   And while he was no stranger to theological controversy, Pastor Rogers has been spectacularly eclipsed in that department by his successor, 54-year-old Steve Gaines, whose latest pronouncement on Christian giving has raised a few eyebrows—though apparently, not nearly enough.
Pastor Steve Gaines of Bellevue Baptist Church
may need to call another press conference to explain
why his parishioners have been dropping dead
During Bellevue’s annual “Prove the Tithe Sunday” service, Pastor Gaines preached from Acts 5, a text containing one of the most dramatic incidents of the New Testament church: the judgment and sudden deaths of Ananias and Sapphira.  In a feat of eisegesis worthy of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, however, Steve Gaines, who holds a Ph.D. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, declared this passage to be about tithing:

“As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell on the floor dead. God killed him....Every time a Christian refuses to tithe, they're just like Ananias and Sapphira. They're lying to God and they're stealing from God. If God treated us this morning in this room like He treated them in that day, how many people would be wrapped up in blankets and taken out the back door [dead]. Think about it. Think about it.”

Thus, completing a sermon series called “Live Life,” Gaines placed the emphasis on sudden death.  It was only the beginning.     
NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, posing under the
famous crosses overlooking Interstate 40 on
the campus of Bellevue Baptist Church. 
Gaines made these comments on February, 5 but like the Trayvon Martin case, a very long incubation period has preceded their media saturation. Two factors are responsible for bringing this situation to the fore: attention from Christian bloggers such as Tom Rich of FBCJax Watchdog; and the fact that dozens of Gaines’s parishioners have been dropping dead. 
In his February sermon, Gaines graciously exempted visitors from tithing that day, all of whom left the church service alive.  But in the ensuing months, 108 of Bellevue’s 30,000 members have been considerably less fortunate.   More than half of those have died on the premises.  Post-mortem investigations by forensic accountants have demonstrated that nearly all of the deceased failed to contribute a minimum of 10 percent of their yearly gross income to the church. 
In recent weeks, vehicles from Kingdom
Ushers Funeral Services have taken Tim
Tebow's place
“Having people drop dead during the service can be distracting,” said Gaines in a rare interview.  “But on the plus side, it’s gotten folks really excited about tithing!”    Gaines reported that the first few weeks after Prove the Tithe Sunday were the most difficult, with 27 deaths occuring during the February 12 service.  “Our ushering crew really had a tough time.   The men in Acts 5 who carried out Ananias and Sapphira really knew what they were doing,” he said.  “But you’re only talking about two people.  What do you when dozens of people go down—during a service?  It can be very unruly.”
Help came from a very unlikely source, however, when the Benny Hinn Evangelistic Association offered the services of trained, professional “catchers,” those men you see during healing crusades whose responsibility it is to stand behind those “slain in the Spirit” by Benny Hinn, and catch them.   Brother Hinn flew a team of twenty catchers to Memphis free of charge in order to conduct training sessions on catching and “striking” felled believers from the premises. 
“It’s a little more challenging with the dead weight—if you’ll excuse that expression,” said Marty Nystrom, head usher at Bellevue.  But the Benny Hinn guys have been great.  They’ve been doing this for a long time and they really know what they’re doing.”
The death wave has proved a boon to local Funeral Home directors, most notably Les Apt, 57, of nearby Garden Meadows, Tennessee. The church has placed Apt on a retainer, a rare luxury in the undertaking industry.  In fact, so many parishioners have been dropping dead that the arrangement has become a “win-win” for all involved.   A fleet of hearses sits outside the church during all services, a commission which has enabled Apt to found a spin-off business, “Kingdom Ushers,” which is dedicated specifically to Bellevue’s departed non-tithers.  It has also led to terrific discount rates for the families of the victims.
         
At first blush, the campus of Bellevue looks like
that of any other megachurch.  A closer look at
the campus directory, however, reveals something
you don't see every day.
“I guess I was just in the right place at the right time,” Apt told us via Skype™.  “And yes, if you’re wondering, I do tithe.”   Apt reports that once Bellevue installed an on-site morgue (see photo), operations have become so efficient that he estimates they will soon be able to handle one hundred bodies in a single service, “Just in case.” 
But while some are marveling over the glory of God’s righteous judgment and the Church’s efficient response, others are perplexed at Pastor Steve Gaines’s atrocious pastoral theology.
Funeral director Les Apt is making a killing off of non-
tithers.  Graciously, though, he passes the savings
right on to their families.
“I believe Gaines knows full well what he is saying is a total fabrication and stretch of scripture,” writes Tom Rich of the FBCJax Watchdog blog.  “No credible theologian teaches that there is a connection between the Old Testament tithe and the story of Acts 5. Most scholars interpret this story as a warning against hypocrites in the church who deceive people with phony piety, who present themselves to the church as being super-spiritual to gain the favor and applause of men.   To extrapolate that occurrence to the modern church, and to connect Ananias’ and Sapphira’s death to believers today who don’t practice the law of tithing, is spiritual abuse perpetrated by Steve Gaines on the believers at Bellevue Baptist Church.”

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother and Daughter Being Sued by Their Former Pastor - Pastor Claims He Was Told to Sue by John MacArthur's Church

The man at left is Chuck O'Neal, pastor of Beaverton Grace Bible Church.

Why is Chuck's picture here on the Watchdog blog? Well, as reported by Portland TV station KATU, Chuck is suing one of his former church members.

What did this former church member, Julie Anne Smith, do in order to receive the wrath of Chuck and his lawyer? Well, Julie Anne started a blog about her church and her pastor to document the spiritual abuse that she says she endured at the hands of the good pastor and his church.

Chuck wants $500,000 in damages from Julie Anne, Julie Anne's daughter, and a few other blog commenters that have criticized Chuck for what Julie claims is spiritual abuse she has endured after being kicked out of Chuck's church.

No good pastor would sue a church member without invoking some sort of biblical justification, right? Chuck compares his situation to that of the Apostle Paul, who appealed to Caesar when he was accused of crimes. Read what Chuck posted on Julie Anne's review site explaining why he filed his defamation lawsuit:
"After seeking counsel from a pastor on staff with Grace Community Church (under Pastor John MacArthur) and reading him several excerpts from JulieAnne's endless defamation, he recommended that we FILE A LAWSUIT in an appeal to Caesar as the Apostle Paul did when falsely accused of crimes against God and the state."
Of course!  Chuck justifies his lawsuit against Julie and her daughter by claiming he is only doing what the Apostle Paul did in Acts 25! Forget that Paul was being pursued by powerful religious leaders who wanted to kill him, and that Julie Anne is, well, a stay-at-home, home-schooling mom who is writing about her former church and pastor that she believes has spiritually abused her family and other families.

Chuck has it completely backwards. In this saga, he and his church represent the Jewish leaders seeking Paul's (Julie Anne's) head because they don't like what Julie Anne is saying, while Julie Anne is more like the Apostle Paul who is merely doing what her faith calls her to do: to call out and expose what she perceives to be a false teacher and a spiritual abuser. Chuck, you're the religious zealot who is trying to silence a Christian, Julie Anne is the Apostle Paul doing what Christ has commanded her to do.

Julie Anne says that when she and her family left the church, her friends were told to end all contact with her. Yep, good old-fashioned "church discipline" once again, perpetrated against the evil-doer who dares to criticize the pastor. Julie says in the KATU news report below:
"If I went to Costco or any place in town, if I ran into somebody, they would turn their heads and walk the other way....All we did was asked questions. We just raised concerns. There's no sin in that."
As Julie is finding out, just as I found out 3 1/2 years ago, in today's modern evangelical church one of THE biggest sins is asking questions and raising concerns in your church, especially if you do it in a way that is not approved by the holy men of God. And God help you if you publicly criticize your pastor; that will get you shown the exit faster than if you are an embezzler or child molester.

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of this case is Chuck "the Apostle Paul" O'Neal claiming that filing a defamation lawsuit was a course of action recommended to him by John MacArthur's church, Grace Community Church. I hope as the press continues to cover this story that they follow-up with John MacArthur. I don't believe for a second that John MacArthur or any of his staff members would stand by Chuck O'Neal's decision to sue a mother and her daughter. I hope Julie's lawyer raises this as an issue in Chuck's deposition and interrogatories, and finds out just who at Grace Community Church was advising Chuck, and I hope they depose that minister to find out if perhaps Chuck "the Apostle Paul" O'Neal defamed Julie in the process.

I think Chuck O'Neal is showing himself to be a coward here. Why on earth would O'Neal consult with John MacArthur's church in this matter? How could John MacArthur's church staff possibly know all of the facts of Julie's experience and her claims of spiritual abuse at the hands of Chuck and his church that she chronicles on her blog and at her Google review site? Does Chuck need the approval and blessing of John MacArthur to sue one of his members?

And lastly, let me just say this, and perhaps this will get me added to Chuck's defamation complaint filed with the court:  Chuck O'Neal is a hypocrite. If you click here, you can read some of Chuck's complaint filed against Julie. Julie was merely expressing her views of Chuck and Beaverton Grace Bible Church; she is doing what she as a Christian is supposed to do. She is calling out what she believes to be a false teacher. In fact, Julie is just doing what Chuck himself does in his sermons. He calls out people by name who he thinks are false teachers and who are harming Christians.

If you go back and listen to one of Chuck's sermons entitled "Emergent Church Apostasy - Wolves in Our Midst" - Chuck goes after emergent church leaders Doug Pagitt, Brian Mclaron, and Rob Bell for their false teachings. Chuck says that Brian Mclaron "serves the devil", he claims all three men are "wolves in sheep's clothing", he calls them "false prophets", and says Rob Bell is a "dangerous man". It is a very scathing sermon and he attacks these men's motives and their character and their ministries. And no doubt Chuck will say that he is doing it because he is called by God to call out and expose what he perceives to be false teachers.

For Chuck to file a lawsuit against Julie Anne for criticizing religious leaders, while Chuck himself uses his pulpit to criticize harshly religious leaders, makes Chuck a hypocrite. And we know what Jesus thinks about religious hypocrites. Chuck, whether you like it or not, Julie Anne Smith is just as called of God as you are to expose what she believes to be false and harmful teachers. 

Finally, Julie Anne, Happy Mother's Day to you, and thank you for not caving in to the pressure and cult tactics employed by your church, and for standing strong and daring to write about your experience at the hands of your church and pastor. The best thing you can do is to not be silent, to speak of what has been done to you and your family and to speak the truth even if your former pastor and church hate you for it.

You are doing God's work

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Let's Love Our Wives, Daughters, and Granddaughters Enough to Examine the Wrong Teaching of "Male Authority" in Church

Readers - for this Mother's Day weekend, below I am re-posting my article from last year on Mother's Day. Much has been written about the doctrine of "complementarianism" in the past 12 months at the Wartburg Watch, and I have learned so much from Dee and Deb's research on this doctrine that has solidified my own beliefs on what the bible teaches on women and their role in the church. Wade Burleson also has written some very helpful articles on the biblical role of the equality of women.

My blog over the past 4 1/2 years really has been sharing my journey of my eyes being opened to the reality of what is going on in institutional churches in America. It started with my church and my new pastor at the time as I was having my eyes opened - but after a year or so I began to realize concerns I had at my church were really larger, more far-reaching systemic problems in modern evangelicalism.

This journey of my blog has been in some ways an attempt to get other people to realize that they should stop believing doctrines and teachings simply because a preacher has been preaching it, or because a cackle of preachers in their convention all sing the same tune.

One of those doctrines is the doctrine of "male authority" in Christianity. The idea that the Paul's writings in 1 Timothy must be interpreted in the most narrow sense preventing women from being able to fully and equally function in the church is seriously flawed. But it is a doctrine that "good Christians" in the SBC must abide by, else they are subject to being excommunicated. It is taught in the SBC churches and seminaries with such force and certainty, that church members just accept it as "truth". It is not biblical truth, it is biblical error, and error that has caused and will continue to cause great harm to our churches and to our women.

So I ask readers again this Mother's Day: as a gift to your wives, mothers, daughters, nieces, and granddaughters - just at least consider the idea that you might believe wrongly and that you may have been taught wrongly in this area. Dare to expose yourself to the ideas of men like Wade Burleson and Jon Zens, and women like Dee and Deb of the Wartburg Watch.

Here is my article from last year that has some helpful links.

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Happy Mother's Day to all of you WD-reading Mothers! I hope your day is filled with love and joy!

I want to take this Mother's Day as an opportunity to encourage all men who read this blog - for the good of your mothers, wives, daughters, and granddaughters - to consider that you just might be wrong about what the scriptures say about women and their subordinate role they must play in the church.

I know that the prevailing thought based on scriptures such as 1 Timothy 2 and the account of the fall in Genesis 3 is that women should be subservient to men, and that men should have authority over women, and that women are forbidden from teaching men, or holding certain offices in church.

I know, because I was taught that in Southern Baptist Churches my entire Christian life. I've been taught it by people in my family and by my baptist pastors for over two decades. It was when I heard of the firing of Dr. Sheri Klouda by Paige Patterson that I first considered that perhaps this doctrine that led to this tragic action taken by Patterson was wrong. I read a good portion of Patterson's deposition in the Klouda case a couple of years ago, and the absurdity of statements made by Patterson under questioning of Klouda's lawyer, Gary Richardson, further led me to believe that this doctrine of male authority in the church is counter to scripture and the will of God and required my further investigation.

And I have to say one of the turning points that caused me to dig even deeper, is last year when I came across Ergun Caner's "joke" at the 2007 Ohio Free Will Baptists Men's Retreat when he said that he believed women should be behind the pulpit...how else could they get back there to vacuum....and his jokes about "mutant granddaughters" barking like dogs. It made me sick that this sort of thing came from one of the most popular baptist preaching-circuit personalities.

So after much reading and research I have come to the conclusion that I was wrong, that in fact the bible does NOT teach that God's plan is for men to have authority over women, and that the Bible does NOT teach women are exempted from having leadership positions over men in the church. I may explore this topic in future posts as to the particular arguments for what I believe, but I want to in this post simply implore men to consider an alternative view by a conservative teacher that can be trusted in this area. His name is Jon Zens.

Jon Zens is a preacher and author that has spoken around the world, but mostly outside the institutional church which is why many Southern Baptists have not heard of him. He is a pastor of a church, but does not draw a salary. He has taught and lived out for years a different model of pastor, not of a pastor having authority over people, but of serving and being amongst the congregation as a servant. You can read Jon's bio here. Jon is a good friend of author Frank Viola ("Pagan Christianity"), and also of Cal Thomas who uses Jon as a reviewer and editor of his work. Jon and his wife Dottie are sweet Christians who in recent years have been involved in traveling to the Philippines to help women and children get out of the sex-slave trade.

I had the privilege of meeting Jon for lunch last September (2010) when he was in Jacksonville to do some teaching at a home church group here in Jacksonville, after which he traveled down to Gainesville to meet his friend Frank Viola and minister in that city. We talked over lunch about my family's experience at First Baptist, the journey I have traveled through my blog, and my views on tithing which Jon has written about for quite some time. Jon graciously shared with me a bag full of books and other materials related to topics I was writing about on my blog that he had written about.

What I would recommend for men (and women!) who are willing to just possibly consider they have been taught wrongly what the bible say about women is to listen to Jon Zens' 8-part teaching series he delivered at Wade Burleson's church last September. Click here to go to Emmanuel Baptist Church's video archive, and scroll down to September 2010 to see this teaching series. Also, Jon has written a book entitled "What's With Paul and Women", and another one out this year entitled "No Will of My Own - How Patriarchy Smothers Female Dignity and Personhood". Read Wade Burleson's forward to this latest book here at Wade's blog.

Let me give you a quote from Wade Burleson's foreward he wrote for Jon's book "What's With Paul and Women":
"The viper known as 'the doctrine of male authority' has bitten the church. the toxin emitted by this errant teaching affects the females within our assemblies. It debilitates their God-given gifts, denigrates their Spirit-led ministry, and downplays their role as new Covenant priests. Those of us who have seen the church bitten need assistance, and help has arrived. This book will help you suck out the venom of male-only authority within the church. It will do so by helping you be able to articulate Jesus' view of the equality of women and then revealing for you how Paul's words in 1 Timothy 2 are consistent with Jesus' own teaching and ministry. You will be able to point out to others how the modern institutional church has misconstrued and misinterpreted Paul's writings on the subject, while at the same time ignoring Jesus' words and life on the same subject."
So I hope this Mother's Day you will commit to at least consider the possibility that you have learned wrongly what the Bible says about women, and do further investigation starting with Jon Zens' bible teachings in this area. I believe this is so very, very important. I believe this wrong teaching that has infected our churches for so long is why we are reading about so much sexual abuse and cover-ups in our churches as Christa Brown has chronicled for years. I also firmly believe that the absence of women from any serious positions of leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention or in our churches is why there is no movement at all toward reaching out at a denominational level to victims of pastoral abuse or establishing a database of credibly accused ministers to keep predator pastors from freely moving from church to church. Many of the problems we see in the SBC, I believe, are related to having women on the outside of the leadership circle.

So Happy Mother's Day...and please, men....as a gift to the women in your life, be open to what God might speak to you in this important area.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Charles Stanley's Advice to Christian Wife Whose Hubby Won't Tithe: Read Him Malachi 3, Assume He is Living in Sin

There is nothing more painful to watch than a TV preacher actually attempt to take one of their false doctrines and try to apply it to an everyday life situation. It is then that often the absurdity of their teaching becomes most visible and real - and you can see their real motives in teaching nonsensical doctrines.

In the video below Charles Stanley takes an email question from "Yvonne", who asks what should be done when a spouse believes the family should tithe, but the other spouse does not.

Stanley starts off by helping Yvonne see she needs to diagnose the deeper spiritual problem that her mate has for not wanting to tithe:
"Here is what I've discovered. If a person is living in sin, they don't want to tithe. If a person is, for example, being unfaithful to them, they don't want to tithe. If a person is just selfish, normally they don't want to tithe. If a person does not really and truly trust God they don't want to tithe. You can just go right down the list of the reasons people do not want to tithe."
Here's what I've discovered: pastors give terrible financial advice, and divorced pastors like Stanley give terrible marital advice involving finances. Charles Stanley puts forth the idea that Yvonne's non-tithing hubby is "living in sin". In fact he puts forth the idea that he might be an unfaithful spouse, maybe he's an adulterer. Or maybe Yvonne's husband might actually just not be a true Christian at all. Nice marital advice there for a Christian wife, Chuck.

In Charles Stanley's world, it is not even remotely possible that a family might not be able to afford to tithe. It is not possible for a family to be generous at some other level of giving or to be giving to some other cause. Maybe a family should give NOTHING to their church, because they need the help of the church!

Until modern day Christians wake up and realize that they have been taught a completely skewed view of what "church" is, charlatans will continue preying on people to get them to fork over large sums of money to support their "ministries". If you haven't already, go to the Wartburg Watch's e-church service for May 6th to listen to Wade Burleson's sermon on what "church" is and what it is not.

You just have to chuckle when Chuck delivers this zinger; it sounds like a line from a Saturday Night Live skit parodying pastors who insist on their followers giving 10% of their income:
"And often times it [not-tithing] is pure unbelief. They just cannot fathom how you can take 1/10th out of their income and still buy as much, purchase as much, do as much, with 9/10ths. But that's the awesome miracle of God."
Perhaps Obama needs to try this. Maybe if Obama would push the idea of a new tithe tax, this would finally convince evangelicals that Obama is indeed a Christian and not a Muslim. Who but a true, bonafide evangelical would dare to preach that God requires a tithe? Obama needs to take a page from the playbook of conservative evangelical storehouse tithing preachers, and start preaching that people are obligated to give just 10% more to the government, that God will bless them, and they will still be able to "buy as much, purchase as much, as with 9/10ths - it is a miracle of God." After all, the tithe in the Old Testament was a tax - so why not institute a new "tithe tax" here in the U.S.?

Finally, if there really was an "Yvonne" who sent this email to Charles Stanley, here is Watchdog's message to you: I am sorry that this man who is one of the most respected Baptist bible teachers in the world, couldn't give you an honest answer to your question. But your mistake was asking Charles Stanley anything about your finances, or anything related to marriage. Here is the answer you needed to hear; it is biblical, and it is honest, and it is obvious:

"Yvonne, a husband and wife should decide between themselves what they are to do with their money. Don't let the doctrine you've been taught in church known as the "storehouse tithe" cause even an ounce, not one single millisecond of friction in your marriage. That a supposed "man of God" would give you advice contrary to scripture that might cause you strife and conflict in your marriage is beyond belief. 

There is no prescribed percentage that your family needs to give to a church or any religious organization in order to receive God's blessing. That idea is pure poppycock. It is legalism. It is greed on the part of the pastor and religious holy men who have taught this idea in order to maximize revenue for their religious organizations.

Listen to what your husband says. His not wanting to give 10% to your church is very likely NOT because he is living in sin or an indication he is not a Christian. To the contrary he is probably trying to be a wise steward of your family's finances - his primary job as a Christian husband is to provide for you and the children and for your futures. It is not to fork over large sums of your family's finances to support a 501(c)3 religious organization. Your husband has wisdom. Listen to him and his reasoning.

The New Testament is clear: every person (and family or couple) should determine in their heart what to give. And this applies to you and your husband. The two of you should decide what to give, and where to give. Put your family first. Meet the needs of your children, put money away for their future and their education. Support your church financially, yes, but don't let anyone guilt you or scare you into thinking it must be a certain percentage else you and your kids are cursed by God. The process used in determining what you and your husband give to your church or to any worthwhile cause that you choose, should be one of joy and thanksgiving. It is preachers like Charles Stanley that are trying to put a burden on you and your husband. Don't let them."

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Beware of Pastors and Churches Who Threaten You With Death For Daring to Oppose Them or Their Ministry Visions

In the very early days of this blog, I received an email from a fellow church member who in so many words said that I was in danger of dying of a heart attack for daring to blog about my church and pastor, and that I should immediately shut down my blog. As I recall, the person based their warning on another person they knew who had died suddenly after opposing or speaking against a pastor.

Since that time, the man who sent me that email has apologized, and I think he too has left our former church. I don't know if he still believes a blogger like myself might be struck dead by God at any moment for their disobedience - but in the 5 years since receiving that email I have noticed a trend in "men of God" and their followers in proclaiming holy death warnings on those who oppose a man of God, or those who dare to stand in opposition to a ministry vision of the man of God, or even those who don't deliver 10% of their gross income to the church offering plates.

We saw Steve Gaines do this just recently, misusing scripture by insinuating that the fate of Ananias and Saphira described in Acts 5 might befall members of Bellevue Baptist Church who don't tithe. I've heard ministers here in my own city stand in the pulpit and insinuate that church members who don't support the pastor's expansion plans might have to soon be buried. These warnings often go something like this: "I knew some men who dared to oppose me [or my vision or my church or my TV station], and I buried them soon after. You can interpret that anyway you like..."

Below is a classic example: Paul Crouch issues a death warning to those who might bring harm to Trinity Broadcasting Network. Crouch and his son in the video below call TBN "God's plan and purpose" and anyone who might "get in the way" may suffer an untimely death. Crouch says "I've attended the funeral of at least two people who have tried [to harm TBN]."


Readers, beware of pastors who try scare tactics couched in scripture and claims of spiritual authority. Actually when a pastor tries this, you know they really are not a "pastor" but a charleton. This is spiritual abuse, plain and simple. David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen in their excellent book "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse", point out these "scare tactics" as evidence of misplaced loyalty that abusive religious systems will demand from their members. Johnson and Van Vonderen devote an entire chapter to how scripture is misused to abuse people in the church. They start out quoting Titus 1:9-11:
"Hold fast the faithful word...for there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach, for the sake of sordid gain." (Titus 1:9-11)
Johnson and Van Vonderen describe this sort of abusive leader:
"Instead of using the Word as a sword to pierce through to the thoughts and motives of their own hearts, many spiritual leaders have used it as a stick to drive others, for a variety of reasons: to keep others from holding them accountable; to protect their image; to keep funds coming in; to build religious kingdoms in order to bolster their own spiritual self-esteem. In other words, it's possible that some leaders teach the Word for personal gain, not to heal and to free."
So readers, beware when your pastor tries the scare tactics to gain support for their ministry vision - whether it be for starting a new satellite church, or a new vision for the church, or for a building program - by declaring that their vision is directly from God, and that it is God's own vision that members are obligated to support.

And if your minister points to some experience in the past where they performed the funerals of church members who opposed their ministry vision - run for the exits while you hold on to your wallet. If your pastor portrays himself as a God-appointed prophet sent to deliver you from your spiritual ignorance, take that as a sign that God wants to "deliver you" by moving you to another church.

Find a church where the pastor and staff are humble and where they respect the priesthood of the believer and congregational rule in determining God's will for the church. These churches and ministers are out there, but you have to look hard and be discerning.

When you find one, you will wonder what took you so long to break free from the mega church, rock star-preacher mentality.