Posted on Monday, April 25, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
 
I have been asked by some good brothers and sisters about the purpose behind the recent appearance of a new feature on the podcast, Desperate Theologizing. I understand that some of our listeners may feel a little uneasy about some of the entries. And I do understand. Sometimes certain brands of humor can appear to be disrespectful. I can assure you that our intention is not to be mean or disrespectful. 
 
A couple thoughts on the purpose of Desperate Theologizing:
1. Satire and humor are time honored methods of calling out error, hypocrisy, and danger. 
 
2. Sometimes there will be little or no controversy. Some editions of Desperate Theologizing throw a spotlight on problems so egregious that it is exceedingly difficult to suggest that satire is not an appropriate response. 
 
3. Sometimes Desperate Theology will strike close to home. In other words, sometimes we will point the finger at our own theological camp (Conservative, Reformed, Complementarian). For faithful listeners and readers of Mortification of Spin it is no surprise that we are troubled by many developments within our corner of the evangelical world. The Reformed and Reformed(ish) camp has been offering up a rogues gallery of problematic leaders, fierce brand loyalty, Corinthian-style fanboys, and exotic ideas. Though questions have been asked repeatedly, clarification sought, and direct appeals made, the resistance to critique has stood strong. And so when we see, for instance, elements of patriarchy being imported into the Bible’s teaching on gender distinctives we will point it out, sometimes with satire. 
 
When the leadership of a movement coalesces around a relatively small number of men the dangers of insular thinking and defensiveness are inevitable. At the Spin we hear from people within the top Reformed and Reformed(ish) ministries who are frightened to offer any dissent lest they lose their job or be kicked out of the club. The fear is real. For those seeking to preserve your employment, I get it. But for those of you who simply don’t want to be left out of the email loop please don’t be afraid to speak up. The water outside the club is fine. 
 
Posted on Sunday, April 24, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

As you may know, Target has decided to be on the cutting edge of the new sexual revolution by opening up their restrooms and changing rooms to men, women, trangender, ring-tailed lemurs, etc. In other words you may choose the restroom / changing room based upon your gender identity at any given time. This means that Target would rather satisfy the tiny but highly vocal lobby of creepy men who want to use women's restrooms and changing rooms than consider the safety of their customers. It seems to me that Christians ought to respond to the giant retailor by saying a collective "NO!" I understand that Target is cooler than Walmart. I understand that Target has good candy. But I truly believe that now is the time for an old fashioned boycott

 

Posted on Monday, April 18, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

I was deeply saddened to learn the news of Darrin Patrick of Journey Church in St. Louis. Let us not act as though talking about this man's fall is somehow inappropriate. It is no private matter. Far from it. Indeed we must talk about this not to slander Darrin but to warn each other lest we too fall. I am grateful that Darrin seems to be following a decidedly different path than Mark Driscoll who rejected the efforts of his church to shepherd him toward proper repentance. But we must also acknowledge the real damage done to the reputation of Christ and his church through Darrin's sin.

 

In the letter written and posted by the elders of Journey Church there were three things that stood out to me as if surrounded by neon lights. Among the list of sins that led to Darrin's removal as pastor were "abandonment of genuine Biblical community," "domineering over those in his charge," and "a history of building his identity through ministry and media platforms." There is much that can be said about each of those sins. First, I want to commend the elders of Journey Church for taking those sins seriously for that is what they are - sins. Too often domineering leadership and hypocrisy over the issue of community are tolerated in a pastor. This should not be. But I am especially thankful that they recognized that Darrin's pattern of platform building could no longer be tolerated. Please understand, I am not trying to pick on Darrin Patrick. It is clear that platform building has become a growth industry in the Reformed and Reformed-ish world. We seem to not only tolerate it but celebrate it. Carl Trueman's warnings about the rise of celebrity culture within the Reformed world were mocked 5 years ago. But any such mocking today seems like nothing less than pathetic denial. 

 

The fact is, the Reformed-ish ministry machine helped build Darrin Patrick even as it built Mark Driscoll. And while Darrin is responsible for his own sins the king makers within the Reformed world ought to take a moment to consider their own culpability. How many other Darrin Patricks are there occupying our mega-conference stages who are within a hair's breath from a similar fall? To those handfull of leaders who decide who is "in" and who is "out" (and let's stop pretending that you don't exist) let me ask you this: Do you care enough about the pastors in your ranks who spend so much time on the platforms you provide to inquire of their families and elders if they are godly men and competent pastors?

 

One of the disturbing things brought to light by the elders of Journey Church is that Darrin's patterns of sin had persisted for years. Years! How is it that a pastor whose own elders consider him disqualified by sin can find himself serving on the boards of Reformedish mega-ministries? Did anyone in those ministries care enough about Darrin, his family, and Journey Church to ever dare to say to him: "You're doing too much. Your star is rising too high Darrin. It's dangerous for your soul"? Or was his value as a crowd gathering speaker too great to risk peaking below the surface? 

 

We've been doing it wrong brothers. It has to stop. 

 

Reformed doctrine and church practice should have been a sufficient shield against the banality and trappings of celebrity culture. But money and fame and influence are powerful drugs. Even the best of men can succumb to their sensual whisper. 

 

It is time to repent. 

 

Posted on Thursday, April 14, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

David Murray, one of my favorite bloggers, has launched a new series of posts which I believe will serve us well if we allow it. By "us" I mean Reformed and Reformed-ish pastors. Murray writes:

[For] me the dam has burst. And it’s not just the past week. I’ve had increasing numbers of emails from victims of spiritual abuse over the past years. It’s now time to speak out. It’s time for the Reformed church to take responsibility and clean house. It’s time to stop pointing the finger at the Catholics’ sexual abuse scandals and start exposing the spiritual abuse scandals in our ranks.
 
There have been brave voices in the wilderness here and there who have been calling for reformation in this area for years. But they’ve been dismissed as cranks, as obsessive, as outside the mainstream. That’s what the Catholic church used to say of their victims and critics too. It’s time to listen to these voices and stand with these victims.

We need some correction brothers. We have become as devoted to celebrity as have those in the broader evangelical and charismatic communities. We are also becoming famous for scandals. It is probably no coincidence that these two things tend to grow together. Instead of ignoring or denying these facts we need to humbly acknowledge it and repent. I have found out in less than one week that we have a woefully low regard for what it means for a pastor to be "above reproach" and to have a good reputation among outsiders. 

 

Posted on Wednesday, April 13, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
 
I continue to receive a great deal of feedback on my post in which I urge the organizers of T4G to not include CJ Mahaney. Some of the feedback (both positive and negative) has been quite helpful. As you can imagine I have heard from those who are convinced that Mahaney is the worst sort of human being and others who strongly support him believing all the charges to be false. But the actual guilt or innocence of CJ Mahaney was never the point of my post. At no point do I try to render a judgment on CJ Mahaney, Covenant Life Church, or Sovereign Grace Ministries. 
 
Some have expressed great frustration with me suggesting that since they “know” CJ Mahaney is guilty of the charges against him that I should have directly condemned him and the other organizers of T4G. Others have told me that since they “know” CJ is not guilty of the charges made against him that my suggestion that he not speak at T4G is unjust. I want to humbly suggest that both sides are missing the point.
 
My opinion that CJ Mahaney should not have been included in this year’s T4G has nothing to do with whether or not he is actually guilty of the charges that have been made against him. No doubt that will immediately illicit charges of injustice on my part. After all, why should a man suffer because of false and slanderous charges? I understand the outrage. Believe me. As a pastor I know what it feels like to be falsely accused. It is terribly painful. 
 
Others have written to me pointing out that Mahaney has not been found guilty of any crimes in a court of law. But of course for the pastor the standard is much higher than whether or not we’ve been convicted of a crime. As one rather well-known pastor Tweeted today: “Pastors, being ‘above reproach’ isn’t a suggestion, it’s a fundamental requirement.” That is true. And sometimes a certain amount of unfairness has to be tolerated in light of that requirement. 
 
I never once have called for the elders of the church Mahaney pastors to remove him from his position. But headlining a mega-conference is not a right for pastors. Pastors must think of their work in terms of duties and responsibilities not rights. If you don’t like that then whatever you do, do not become a pastor. The operative question for pastors in this sort of situation is not, “Do I have a right to this?” but “Will it cause harm?”  
 
One of the clauses of the Hippocratic Oath is, “I will take care that they suffer no hurt or damage.” Some have often extrapolated from that clause the well-known: “First, do no harm.” That is not a bad rule of thumb for overseers in the church. And that is at the heart of my admonition to CJ Mahaney and the organizers of T4G: “Do no harm.” 
 
I have always had a great deal of affection for T4G. I have benefited from those biannual gatherings. I am thankful that so many were blessed once again this year. Indeed, I missed being there this year. But I stand by my position in the original post.
 
Posted on Monday, April 11, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
 
I have received a lot of feedback from my previous post on Together for the Gospel. And, as you can imagine, the feedback has ranged from “thank you” to “how dare you.” That is fine. I don’t mind the pushback (so long as it’s civil). I wrote something for public consumption so public disagreement is not inappropriate at all. 
 
But I do want to follow-up briefly in order to clarify a few points.
 
1. I have no interest in condemning or seeking to vindicate Sovereign Grace Ministries. Others are far more equipped than I to render a reliable evaluation on SGM’s health or lack thereof. 
 
2. I repeat my appreciation for Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, and Al Mohler. This one got me more than a little criticism. And while I am dismayed by the decision to include C.J. Mahaney in this year’s T4G, I am not able or willing to condemn them. I do not begrudge those hurt at CLC for believing I am being inconsistent on this point. 
 
3. I am not a part of any movement nor will I be drafted into one. 
 
4. I understand why some of the families of victims of the CLC child sexual abuse are joining the public protest in Louisville. I believe they should be heard. 
 
5. I have heard from a family impacted directly by the sexual abuse at CLC. It breaks my heart. I cannot imagine their pain and I hope that anyone who assisted in delaying justice or covering up the abuse will be exposed. 
 
6. Do not condemn a church or denomination for having been infiltrated by a sexual predator. Even the best of churches can be harmed by these monsters. The key is 1) Does the church have responsible and thorough child protection policies? 2) Does the church put those policies into practice? and 3) Is the church committed to civil justice for any victim of abuse? 
 
7. As I wrote in my first post, I do not know if C.J. Mahaney is guilty of the myriad charges made against him. Some have said that alone should have silenced me from calling for his removal from the conference. I humbly disagree. We must remember the profoundly high standard set for overseers. We are to be “above reproach.” We are to be thought well of by outsiders. Obviously, there comes a time when those who proclaim the gospel will be reviled by outsiders. Jesus and the apostles eventually lost the favor they once enjoyed. But it was because of the truth not because of scandals related to child sexual abuse. 
 
8. Success can be dangerous. Sometimes a conference is just that: a conference. Perhaps it burns brightly for a moment in time and then dies. That is perfectly acceptable. The parachurch is not the church after all. But success often results in great financial gain, multiple staff, publishing, etc. Those things are not wrong in and of themselves. However as a ministry project becomes highly successful it also becomes increasingly difficult to let it go. We must be careful that our project not become so precious to us that we protect it at all costs. 
 
9. I repeat my motive in all of this: The reputation of our Lord, his church, the Doctrines of Grace, complementarianism, and biblical church discipline are taking a beating over this scandal. The damage being done is significant. 
 
Posted on Saturday, April 09, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
 
In 2006 I was delighted to attend the very first Together for the Gospel conference held at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville, KY. Who remembers that large banquet room stuffed to the brim with over 2,000 men? I still think about Ligon Duncan’s excellent address on preaching the Old Testament. At the time I was a Southern Baptist pastor who had come to embrace the Doctrines of Grace as being clearly taught in the Scriptures. Together for the Gospel was like a breath of fresh air not least of all because it reminded me that there were many like-minded SBC pastors. I was not alone. It was exciting to be, however peripherally, part of a wonderful new movement. It was exciting to see the attendance of T4G balloon to around 10,000 by 2012. With only two exceptions that I can recall the messages were edifying and God-glorifying. 
 
The year of that first gathering in 2006 was before everyone and their uncle was “reformed.” It was before the word “Gospel” had become a noun, verb, adjective, and prefix attached to everything from preaching to pastries. It was before the public debacle of Mark Driscoll. And it was before many of us had heard any concerns expressed about Sovereign Grace Ministries. 
 
When I first read the reports of spiritual abuse and cult-like control of members in SGM churches I dismissed them outright as the rantings of malcontents. And, as far as my own personal knowledge goes, that may be the case. After years in ministry I have long since abandoned the notion of “where there’s smoke there’s fire.” I have witnessed too many occasions where the smoke came entirely from the mouths of slanderers. 
 
However, the revelations of sexual abuse of children and the cover up of those crimes within SGM churches forced me to reconsider my opinion of “the critics.” It is not my purpose to rehash what has already entered the public record. Suffice it to say, I have found much of the evidence quite compelling that certain leaders within SGM knew about and sought to cover-up the sexual abuse of children. If you are interested you can read more about the horrific situation HERE, HERE, and HERE
 
And now, as I have suspected for some months, there will be public protests outside the KFC YUM! Center during next week’s T4G conference. There will also be, no doubt a major media presence. After all, is there anything more delicious to the secular media than an evangelical sex scandal? All of this leaves me asking in stunned wonder: “What are they thinking?” How can the organizers of T4G allow CJ Mahaney a place on the platform this year? The scandal is still growing. Lawsuits are in the offing. The accusations, far from being exposed as lies, seem to have taken on greater credibility. 
 
I understand and value loyalty to friends. I understand that false accusations are made. But I also understand that loyalty has its limits. The details that have been revealed about the various SGM scandals show that there is indeed at least some fire behind the smoke. 
 
I appeal therefore to the organizers of T4G to remove C.J. Mahaney not only from the roster of speakers but also from the organization itself. It gives me no pleasure to write that sentence. I do not know C.J. Mahaney. He may be an honorable man who is truly innocent of every one of the many charges that have been made against him. But to whom much is given, much is required. Mahaney is a pastor. He is and has been for years a spiritual overseer in the church of Jesus Christ. And as we know from Scripture an overseer must be above reproach and have a good reputation with those outside the church. 
 
Of course, at this point to remove Mahaney from the T4G platform at this late date would do nothing to satisfy most of the critics. It would almost certainly be seen as “too little, too late.” It may well be seen as nothing more than a cynical ploy to reduce criticism of the conference. But that does not mean that such an action should not be taken. It would require a humble statement asking forgiveness for not acting sooner. It would mean taking in no uncertain terms a posture of solidarity with the victims of the abuse in SGM churches.  
 
It should never have reached this point. 
 
The decent thing would have been for Mahaney to recuse himself from any more involvement in the leadership of T4G when it was clear that the various scandals of child sexual abuse first surfaced. That he did not, even though he had to know his continued involvement was attracting scandal like flies to a corpse, suggests a tangle of poor motives to which I will add no further speculation. 
 
Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, and Al Mohler are men whom I hold in high regard and I will not heap scorn upon them as others have done. I have for years and continue to this day to be blessed by their writing and preaching. But I am dismayed. 
 
My appeal to them in part is driven by my deep desire that these men for whom I feel a great deal of gratitude not be tarnished by another man’s scandal. Primarily, however, this appeal is made on the basis of my love for Christ, his church, and the Reformed faith. Like it or not it is our Lord’s reputation that is taking a beating because of this scandal. It is also the Doctrines of Grace which many of us hold dear that are being mocked because of this. Have we already forgotten how Mark Driscoll’s numerous scandals did great damage to complementarianism and Calvinism (though Driscoll was never a Calvinist)? Certainly the reputation of Jesus and his gospel are of far greater worth than our conferences, paychecks, platforms, projects, and alliances.
 
Posted on Wednesday, April 06, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
Steven Furtick, pastor of the Southern Baptist Mega-Church Elevation Church is no stranger to controversy. His image features prominently in his church beginning with coloring pages provided to the children. The members of Elevation Church are told to “follow the visionary.” Furtick is also a well-known fan of false teacher T.D. Jakes (Elevation has hosted Bishop Jakes and Furtick has preached at Jakes’ church). Last year Pastor Steven, as he is known around Elevation, got into a bit of hot water when it was revealed that he was building a 16,000 square foot mansion in an exclusive gated enclave. Furtick’s fusion of revivalistic, soft-prosperity, self-help preaching is regularly punctuated by the slap of drums and grind of the Hammond Organ. All of this along with his seemingly constant experimentation with his personal appearance has made Elevation Church one of the largest churches in the Southern Baptist stable. 
 
Pastor Steven made a bold statement in a recent sermon entitled “It Works Both Ways.” Specifically, Furtick said, “God broke the law for love.” The point he seemed intent on making is that in order to love us God had to break his own law. It’s just the sort of thing that broadly evangelical Americans love; the sort of statement that portrays me as so irresistible, so awesome, so valuable that God would break his own law just to have me. 
 
Furtick’s claim that “God broke the law for love” is laden with at least 9 serious errors:
1. It declares God to be a sinner.
Let’s keep this simple. Sin is fundamentally lawlessness. It is breaking God’s law. Declaring that God broke the law is to declare that he is a sinner. But so great is God’s hatred for sin (law breaking) that it required the death of his Son for sinners to be saved. So, to say that “God broke the law” in order to be edgy or creative or pithy does not change the fact that the statement is the basest sort of blasphemy. That Pastor Stephen did not intend to blaspheme (and I believe he did not intend it) does not change the fact that his statement is blasphemous. What makes a statement blasphemous is not the intent of the speaker but the content of the words. 
 
2. It diminishes the righteousness of God.
In the most general sense, righteousness means conformity to a given standard. As sovereign creator, God is the author and upholder of the right. That is, God has determined what is right and what is wrong. His standard of righteousness is impeccable in its morality and goodness. And as a righteous God he will not act in a way that is inconsistent with his own righteous standard. This is not because the standard holds sway over God but because that standard of righteousness is a reflection of the moral perfections. God’s law is the expression of his righteousness. Sin, therefore, is a transgression of the law of God. God is without sin. This is fundamental to God’s own nature. Therefore, if God is a sinner, if God transgresses the law then he becomes what his fallen creatures are. A law-breaking God is by definition an unrighteous God. (Gen 18:25; Ex 9:27; 1 Sam 12:7; 2 Chron 12:6; Neh 9:33; Job 37:23; Ps 7:11; 9:4; 11:7; 119:62, 106, 137-138; Hos 14:9; Rom 1:16-17, 33; 1 Peter 3:8; 1 John 2:1; Rev 15:4)
 
3. It diminishes the justice of God.
God’s justice and righteousness are closely related. In fact the basic words for righteousness and justice come from the same word group in Hebrew. That God is just means that he never does the wrong thing. God has established his own moral code within the universe. Among other things, that means that it is always wrong to break the law of God. So, when God exercises mercy it is never the result of his doing what is unjust. That is God never breaks the law in order to love any of his human creatures. Insisting that in order to love his people God had to break his own law is to pit his mercy against his justice. This is to introduce confusion and conflict within the very mind of God. (Exodus 9:27; Ezra 9:15; Neh 9:8; Job 4:17; 35:2; Ps 5:8; 31:1; 33:5; 40:10; 45:4; 69:27; 71:2, 19; 89:16; 111:3; 143:1; Prov 2:9; 15:9; Isa 46:13; 51:6; 53:11; 54:17; 59:16-17; Jer 23:5; Dan 9:7; Hos 2:19)
 
4. It diminishes the goodness of God.
The goodness of God is a theme that runs throughout all of Scripture beginning with creation and extending to the new creation. God’s goodness is multifaceted in that his goodness extends both to his character and all of his works. Obviously, that God is good means that all he does is good. Breaking God’s law is never good in any sense. Indeed God’s law is a reflection of his goodness. The Bible repeatedly confesses the goodness of God’s law. So to break the law of God is, by definition to do what is wrong. (Gen 1:31; Ex 33:19; 34:6; 1 Chron 16:34; 2 Chron 5:13; 7:3; Ps 25:8; 31:19; 33:5; 52:1; 100:5; Matt 7:11; Rom 2:4; 3:12; 11:22; Tit 3:4ff; James 1:17)
 
5. It diminishes the sovereignty of God.
To say that God had to break his law in order to save sinners inevitably leads to the conclusion that God had not made the best plans. It suggests that God’s plans for his people’s salvation had not anticipated the depth of human sin; that God had to break his own law in order to fix what humanity had done. (Acts 4:24; Eph 1:11; Rom 9; 1 Tim 6:15; Rev 6:10)
 
6. It diminishes the goodness of God’s law.
The Scriptures never assert that the law is the means by which sinners are justified before God. However, the Scriptures are equally univocal that the law of God is good and a means by which God’s people may glorify Him. While believers are justified by grace alone, they are also being sanctified. That is, God is graciously conforming them to his own righteous standard. If God is a law-breaker then he undermines one of the very purposes for which he has saved his people. 
(Ex 13:9; Deut 33:10; Josh 1:7-8; Ezra 7:10; Neh 9:29; Psalm 40:8; 94:12; 119:18, 29, 39, 44, 55, 66, 68, 77, 92, 97; Matt 5:17; Rom 7:12, 14, 16, 22; 8:4)
 
7. It undermines Jesus’ relationship with the law. 
Furtick’s statement reveals that he does not understand Jesus’ relationship with the law of God. Jesus loved the law of God. He was not the undoing of the law but the law’s fulfillment. Jesus met all of the demands of God’s law. 
(Matt 5:17-18; 7:12; 22:40; Lk 2:39; 10:26; 16:17; 24:44)
 
8. It suggests that God is in conflict with himself.
Furtick makes enemies out of God’s complementary qualities of justice and mercy. He portrays a God who had to choose either to be just or merciful. And, true to the demands of human sentimentality God chose mercy. Of course this empties the cross of its power. For on the cross God’s perfect justice and mercy meet, not to do battle, but to make sinners just. The justification of sinners cannot be accomplished by a God who abandons his justice to indulge mercy or vice versa.  
 
9. It undermines Christ’s work on the cross.
The cross is the ultimate vindication of the righteousness of God. It is the place where grace and justice meet. To say that God broke the law in order to love is undermine the most essential elements of Christ’s cross work.
 
Doctrines at the heart of the cross all assume the fulfillment of God’s law, the vindication of his righteousness:
Atonement
Imputation 
Propitiation
Substitution
Satisfaction 
To make Christ’s work on the cross a mere expression of love would leave sinners in their sin for it would ignore their fundamental problem. A good God cannot overlook man’s sin. He cannot be indifferent toward the lawbreaker. And this is why the cross was the perfect union of God’s justice and love. As Paul tells us in Romans 3, the cross was the vindication of the righteousness of God. No attribute of God can be abstracted from his holiness. That includes his love. So, God’s love would be corrupted and something less than divine were it the product of law-breaking. The cross is the cosmic and eternal testimony that on the cross God’s law was upheld even as he poured out his love. 
 
Now, if any of this seems serious to my brothers and sisters in the North Carolina Convention of Southern Baptists then perhaps they can press for a meeting with Pastor Steven. Certainly they do not want to be associated with such serious error. Certainly. 
 
Posted on Monday, March 07, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
 
Pastor Stanley, 
 
Last week I posted a response to your now infamous sermon where you said some rather shocking things about people who attend small churches. You offered an apology on Twitter acknowledging that you found your words offensive. That was appreciated. Believe me when I say that I have said many things I wish I could take back. I know what it is to be corrected by church members and elders for saying incorrect or unkind things. I don’t know if there are men at Northpoint to whom you are accountable. I hope for your sake and the sake of your church that there are. It is a dangerous thing for a pastor to not have men to whom he must give account. 
 
My question to you Andy is do you truly believe what you said about small churches and the people who attend them? Your statement on Twitter gave no indication that you believe the substance of what you said was wrong. What I mean is that while you agreed your words were offensive I still don’t know if you now believe something fundamentally different about small churches and the people who choose to attend them. So, do you now disavow the philosophy behind the words you spoke? 
 
If you are at least open to the possibility that your remarks were wrong in substance and not just in style then I ask you to consider the following recommendations: 
 
1. Take down the offending sermon from the church’s website. If you truly believe your words were offensive as your tweet indicated then I assume you do not want that message continuing to represent your church. 
 
2. Make a statement to your church confessing that your statements about small churches and those who attend them were wrong.
 
3. Write an article expressing how you now see the great value of small churches, how millions of our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout Christian history and around the world have been wise and godly in their choice to be part of a small church; that mega-churches like Northpoint represent a blip on the calendar of church history and a fraction of a fraction of Christians. You could include a word of thanks for those untold thousands of pastors who labor faithfully in small churches whose names will never be emblazoned on a book cover nor grace a conference banner; men who love Christ and his precious people. 
 
4. Take the time to read the following excellent books:
The Christian Ministry by Charles Bridges
God Has Spoken by J.I. Packer
 
5. Locate a smaller church which has a strong commitment to the gospel and the ministry of God’s Word and inquire if the pastor would allow you to “shadow” him for several weeks of ministry: hospital visits, sermon prep, worship service planning, elder meetings, etc. Explain to him that your goal is simply to learn some things about faithful pastoral ministry. 
 
I know that some of these suggestions may seem condescending on first reading. That is not the intention. These recommendations come from my desire to see you better able to bless the people of Northpoint. So, to that end, I would love for you to reconsider your understanding of the church, pastoral leadership, preaching, and the authority of Scripture. 
 
Posted on Friday, March 04, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
 
By now many of you have seen the clip of Andy Stanley criticizing small churches and the people who choose to attend them. Specifically Pastor Stanley said:
When I hear adults say, ‘I don’t like a big church. I like about 200. I wanna be able to know everybody.’ I say you are so stinkin’ selfish. You care nothing about the next generation. All you care about is you and your five friends. You don’t care about your kids, anybody else’s kids. If you don’t go to a church large enough, where you can have enough middle-schoolers and high-schoolers so they can have small groups and grow up the local church, you are a selfish adult. Get over it. Find yourself a big ol’ church where your kids can connect with a bunch of people, and grow up and love the local church. Instead, what you do…you drag your kids to a church they hate, and then they grow up and hate the local church, and then they go off to college, and you pray there’ll be a church in their college town that they connect with, and guess what: all those churches are big, the kind of church you don’t like. Don’t attend a church that teaches your children to hate church.
No doubt seeing the quick and negative reaction across social media, Stanley took to Twitter to offer an apology.
 
I am glad Pastor Stanley apologized. That is a good start. There is not a pastor alive who does not regret something he has said. However, this is far from the first time Andy has made similar remarks about the superiority of mega-churches. I don’t begrudge him his opinion. I grew up in a mega-church. I am grateful for so many of my experiences there. But I also know what it is like to attend and serve on staff at a small church; something Andy does not know anything about. And I can say categorically that Andy Stanley is wrong. 
 
Andy grew up at Atlanta’s mega First Baptist Church where his dad served as pastor. Later Andy became FBC's youth director until a falling out between father and son. Andy left FBC Atlanta to launch the insta-mega-Northpoint Community Church which now has multiple locations across the metro Atlanta area. It is massive. But Andy does not know what it is like to take his family to a smaller church where everything is not awesome; where the band is not kickin; where there is no full-time director of stage props. In other words Andy has missed out on the church experience of the vast majority of Christians throughout the ages and around the world. Indeed he condemns their choice in such a church as “stinkin selfish.” I cannot help but wonder about the faithful pastors who labor with no fanfare for the sake of Christ and his people under the massive shadow of Northpoint. Their celebrity pastor neighbor called the men and women who attend their churches "stinkin' selfish" for not doing the easier thing by following the masses to Northpoint. 
 
The irony which seems lost on Andy is that the charge of selfishness may easily be leveled against those who attend Northpoint. After all it is easy to attend a mega-church. The seats are generally more comfortable. They have a coffee shop. Attendees don’t have to be bothered by annoying kids. The lights and videos are mezmerizing. You can be anonymous which means you can avoid any responsibility. You can consume all the various goods and services without needing to contribute anything by way of service. See how that works? 
 
Andy said that having your children in a smaller church means that “you care nothing about the next generation.” But judging by the sorts of preaching and worship going on in many (not all!) mega-churches the same charge can be leveled against them. Indeed the failed seeker-friendly church consumer movement has left a generation of unbelievers in its wake. 
 
Too often the awesomely felt-needs preaching, doctrine-belittling, worship-taining religious big tent churches which Andy praises have taught untold thousands (millions?) to expect the church to meet their every consumer demand. Many (not all!) of them are leaving a burnt over zone much like the manipulative revivalism of the 18th and 19th centuries did in the Northeast United States.
 
Andy’s rude comments were simply the fruit of his woefully unbiblical doctrine of the church. Many may remember Andy’s rather infamous charge at a conference hosted at Northpoint where he said that “preaching through books of the Bible is lazy…it’s cheating.” Or the article in Leadership some years ago where he said that if he changed his doctrine the people of his church would not notice but if he changed the music style they would be instantly upset. How can that reality produce anything other than grief in the heart of a pastor? Or how about the rather horrifying interview where Andy said that we must do away with the idea that pastors are shepherds? Some of this may be chalked up to Andy’s deficient doctrine of Scripture. But whatever the case, Andy proves that it is possible to build a massive church with very little input from God’s Word. 
 
I pastor a church that fits into the large category but we are by no means a mega-church (no matter what Carl Trueman says). Anyway, there are a lot of things I am immensely grateful for about the church I serve that can be true about any church no matter what the size. Here are few:
1. The leadership is “we” not “me.”
Contrary to what Andy teaches relentlessly to pastors, leadership is not about the top guy. If he understood what the Bible says or took it seriously he would know that churches are not led like secular corporations. The Bible actually does say quite a bit about how the church is to be led. Churches are to be led by a plurality of elders accountable to God and the congregation. It is less efficient and gloriously so. It also keeps the pastor from thinking of himself as the CEO.
 
2. Those who lead worship are rather ordinary. 
When we think “worship leaders” we don’t think merely of a guitar player or singer. We think of everyone from the song leader to the preacher to the musicians and those who lead in prayer and administer the sacraments. Simply put, we have no rock stars and we love it that way.
 
3. We love to feed God’s people God’s Word. 
We can’t get past Jesus’ words to Peter – “Do you love me?...Feed my sheep.” Yes Andy there is something about the shepherd metaphor that is timeless in understanding what pastors do. There is nothing else quite like a shepherd because there is nothing else quite like the church. 
 
4. We love for families to worship together.
There are times when we do gather in groups reflective of stage in life. For instance we have ministries to children and youth and university students complete with age appropriate Sunday School. That arrangement makes a lot of sense to us. But we want families to worship together. We desire our children to be in the gathered worship of God’s people just as Jesus welcomed them so eagerly. We believe they learn profoundly important lessons as they watch, listen, and generally observe all that happens in our Lord’s Day services where the Lord himself promises to be present through the ordinary means of grace. We believe that habitually segregating people by age and interests does a disservice to the body of Christ. 
 
I don’t mean to be uncharitable but a Twitter “oops” is not sufficient for such hubris and pastoral malpractice. Perhaps Andy would consider going back to the drawing board and rethinking his whole idea of what the church is. Hey, a guy can dream.