Ethics Wed, 24 Aug 2016 12:11:44 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Election Season 2016: What's a Church to Do Legally?

As the fall 2016 campaigns move into the spotlight, the stakes run deeper, the ante goes higher, and emotions begin to surface.

To be sure, churches and, more specifically, church leaders will play a huge role in the lead-up to the 2016 elections as many pivotal issues, social issues especially, move to the forefront in what promises to be one of the most critical elections of our modern era.

So what's a church to do? What's a pastor to say or not say when so much that is a part of our core belief system hangs in the balance? As strongly as a local church may feel about the issues and the candidates that appear on the 2016 ballot, the laws that govern the election season are very specific about what you are allowed to say ... and not say.

The problem is, most churches are pretty fuzzy when it comes to the IRS and their 501(c)(3) rules and regulations as they relate to elections, but the truth is, I have good news. There is a lot you can do legally to help influence the direction of our nation in the upcoming election season, without attracting the ire or even the attention of the IRS.

In the months ahead, and especially in the six-month run-up to Election Day, several watchdog groups will conduct all-out campaigns of their own in an attempt to silence the church altogether. The Problem is, they come on very strong and can be intimidating. One group in particular, (1) Americans United for Church and State, launched a national campaign in 2004 to monitor churches nation-wide in an effort to keep churches from distributing voter guides. They were very successful in their campaign as a large number of churches simply bowed out of the process altogether due solely to intimidation and a lack of understanding about their rights as a church.

The truth is, these groups are powerless to do anything more than report you to the IRS should you cross the legal line for what is permissible and what is not. Don't cross the line and they become nothing more than a paper tiger ... a political peanut gallery.

So, let's define the boundaries by exposing a few of these urban legends and election season misnomers. Let's look at some of the most common lies about the church's role in an election season, and see if we can't replace those lies with legal facts.

Here are some lies about the role of the church in an election season:

Lie No. 1

On issues that are near and dear to the heart of churches, such as abortion, same-sex marriage or gambling, it is unlawful for a church to advocate for or against the proposed adoption of a law through a referendum of the people. In other words, a church cannot address or take a position for or against political issues from the pulpit or in any official church communication.


It is perfectly lawful for churches and other nonprofits to be involved in elections—that is to advocate for or against the adoption of a law through a referendum of the people (a vote at the polls). The IRS prohibition on partisan politicking concerns individuals seeking public office, not issues. The church can say anything it wants about a ballot issue, whether it supports its adoption or defeat. However, such teaching and advocacy may not include expression of support for a particular political candidate or party.

The only limit imposed by the IRS involves the costs associated with any such lobbying must be "insubstantial," which means that the costs for any efforts by a church or nonprofit associated with efforts to support or defeat a bill must not exceed 20 percent of the group's budget in any given year.

As recently as 2000, a federal appellate court squarely rejected a church's claim that the First Amendment's free exercise of religion clause allowed the church to urge the public to vote against a candidate. Branch Ministries and Dan Little, Pastor v. Rossotti, 211 F.3d 137 (D.C. Cir. 2000); see also Bob Jones University v. United States, 461 U.S. 574, 603 (1983) (Supreme Court held that "not all burdens on religion are unconstitutional ... The state may justify a limitation on religious liberty by showing that it is essential to accomplish an "overriding governmental interest." (2) The fact that a church may be motivated by its religious principles will therefore not prevent a church from losing its tax-exempt status and facing other penalties if it supports or opposes any candidate.

Lie No. 2

Pastors and church leaders may not endorse or participate in any political campaign for a candidate or an initiative as individual citizens.


While it is wise for pastors not to endorse or participate in the campaign of an individual candidate, the actual law says that pastors or any other church leader or congregant may endorse candidates as individuals in forums outside the church, or work on behalf of candidates during their personal time. The line of demarcation is simply this: Pastors and churches as a whole cannot endorse a specific candidate or political party using any kind of church literature, publications, social media or even verbal in your role as pastor. You simply can't do it. But as an individual, and while not using any kind of church role or anything that would appear as church-connected in any way, you may make your position known as an individual. But be careful ... be very careful.

In its recently updated Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations (3) (Publication 1828), the IRS provides the following examples of prohibited activities by churches:

  • Church Newsletter. Minister B is the minister of Church K. Church K publishes a monthly church newsletter that is distributed to all church members. In each issue, Minister B has a column titled "My Views." The month before the election, Minister B states in the "My Views" column, "It is my personal opinion that Candidate U should be re-elected." For that one issue, Minister B pays from his personal funds the portion of the cost of the newsletter attributable to the "My Views" column. Even though he paid part of the cost of the newsletter, the newsletter is an official publication of the church. Since the endorsement appeared in an official publication of Church K, it constitutes campaign intervention attributed to Church K.

While pastors are also allowed to personally support and even endorse candidates, they must not use any church resources, such as letterhead, newsletters or facilities, to do so and must make it clear that they are speaking on their own behalf and not on behalf of the church.

Lie No. 3

Churches may not send questionnaires to candidates and ask them where they stand on issues. Furthermore, churches may not distribute the answers to the congregation as this may unduly influence a voter.


Churches may send questionnaires to candidates and ask them where they stand on issues. However, before distributing the answers, churches should make sure the answers are accurate. Questionnaires should be sent to all candidates, and the church needs to be careful to not make inferences or add attach meaning to the results.  It is wise to simply let the raw facts speak for themselves.

Lie No. 4

Churches are not allowed to contribute financially to any political issue or initiative.


As previously stated, churches may not contribute money to candidates, solicit contributions on candidate's behalf or donate to candidates' political action committees. Churches may not set up their own PACs. Churches may, however, contribute to ballot initiatives and issues that are of relevance to their beliefs on social issues and other relevant initiatives. But remember, the costs for any efforts by a church or nonprofit associated with efforts to support or defeat a bill must not exceed 20 percent of the group's budget in any given year. {eoa}

1. Americans United for Separation of Church and State: Our Issues.

2. BP News: ANALYSIS: Churches & politics: A primer for following the law July 26, 2004 By Grange, King & Kao Baptist Press

3. Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations (Publication 1828)

NOTE: Look for the second part of this story later this week.

Dr. Rich Rogers is the pastor of Jentezen Franklin's Connection and Discipleship Free Chapel OC in Irvine, California.

]]> (Rich Rogers) Ethics Mon, 18 Apr 2016 21:00:00 -0400
What's the Difference Between Being Offended and Being Persecuted?

There are two key mistakes American Christians tend to make when thinking about the intersection of religion and culture. The first is to have an attitude of a "majority" culture, a mindset that incorrectly conflates a civic morality with Christianity and seeks to build coalitions to "turn America back" to Christ.

But there is another mistake too, and that is to have a fearful, hand-wringing siege mentality. While it's true that religious liberty is genuinely imperiled, perhaps more than at any time since the revolutionary era, we will not be able to articulate our commitments in this arena if we don't know how to differentiate between state persecution and cultural marginalization, between public oppression and personal offense.

Several years ago, I was flipping through magazines on an airplane when I came across a couple of pages that spiked my blood pressure. A beer advertisement was tagged with the headline, "Silent Nights Are Overrated." A few minutes later, in a second publication, there was an advertisement for an outdoor grill which read: "Who Says It's Better to Give Than to Receive?"

My first reaction was a personal, if not tribal, offense. "Would they advertise in Saudi Arabia during Ramadan with the line 'Fasting Is Overrated,'" I fumed, "or by asking in India, 'Who Says Everything Is One With the Universe?" I was missing the point.

The truth is, these companies were trying to sell products, not offend constituencies. Taking shots at any group's religious beliefs isn't good economics. I'm willing to bet whoever dreamed up these ad campaigns didn't "get" at all that they might be making fun of Jesus Christ. Madison Avenue probably didn't trace through that the song "Silent Night" is about the holy awe of the dawning Incarnation in Bethlehem.

To them, it probably seemed like just another Christmas song, part of the background music of the culture during this season. Saying it's "overrated" probably didn't feel any more "insensitive" to these copy writers than making a joke about decking the halls or reindeer games. The writers probably never thought about that the statement "It is better to give than to receive" is a quotation from Jesus via the apostle Paul (Acts 20:35).

It probably just seemed to them like a Benjamin Franklin-type aphorism, along the lines of when someone says "scarlet letter" without recognizing Hawthorne or "to be or not to be" while not knowing the difference between Hamlet and Huckleberry Finn.

We ought not fume about such things, as though we are a protected class of victims. We ought to see that our culture is less and less connected with the roots of basic knowledge about Christianity. Many, especially, in the culture-making wing of American life, see Christmas the same way they see Hanukkah. They know about Menorahs and dreidels, but not about the Maccabean fight. That ought not to make us outraged but prompt us to see how our neighbors see us—sometimes more in terms of our trivialities than in terms of the depths of meaning of Incarnation, blood atonement and the kingdom of Christ.

This means we need to spend more time engaging our neighbors with the sort of news that shocks angels, redirects stargazers and knocks sheep-herders to the ground. That will seem strange, and that's all the better, because it is strange. An Incarnation safe enough to sell beer and barbecue grills is a gospel too safe to make blessings flow, far as the curse is found. Not everything that offends us should offend us, and not everything that offends us is persecution.

But there is genuine persecution, in every era, and we ought to work for congregational cultures that recognize this. In one sense, many of our congregations are already on the way at this point, those churches with a culture of strong missions advocacy. These congregations may spend time praying for different people groups around the world, and may even visibly signify their concern for the nations with flags of various countries positioned throughout the church.

Part of our missions focus should be concern about religious persecution and violence, and not just of Christians. After all, how can we love the world with the gospel if we are apathetic to, for example, global anti-Semitism or the burning of houses of worship of religious minorities? We should pray for human rights and religious freedom for everyone, everywhere, not just for those who believe our gospel.

That said, our congregational cultures also should cultivate a special focus on those within the body of Christ who are hounded, beaten, imprisoned and jailed around the world, just as the Scriptures call us to do (Heb. 10:33-34). This is not only a matter of the "strong" standing up for our "weak" brothers and sisters around the world. In one sense, of course, it is.

We have relative freedom, we can pressure the State Department to act, we can send relief to communities in peril, and we can use technology to alert the global community to what is happening to religious minorities persecuted around the world. But our remembering of those persecuted is not only so that we can advocate for our brothers and sisters but also so that we can learn from them how to live as Christians.

When we encounter those persecuted Christians around the world, we see a glimpse of what Jesus has called us to do. We see the sort of faith that isn't a means to an end. We see the sort of faith that joins the global body of Christ across time and space, in the confession of a different sort of reign. We see a gospel that isn't American affluence, with heaven at the end.

When we pray for those in prison for their faith, we remember that the gospel came to us in letters written from jail. When we plead for those whose churches are burned in Egypt, we remember that our hope isn't in building religious empires but in a New Jerusalem we've never seen. When we weep for those who are (sometimes literally) crucified in the Middle East we are reminded that our Lord isn't a life coach or a guru but a crucified Messiah.

That can remind us of the gospel we signed up for in the first place, and free us from our fat, affluent, almost-gospels, which could never save in the first place. And we can be reminded that the persecuted Christians for whom we pray and advocate very well may be those who will send missionaries to carry the gospel to a future post-Christian Europe or North America.

The most important thing the church can do to protect religious liberty and freedom of conscience is to hold to the gospel itself. Many Christians in the history of the church have gone to jail, from the book of Acts to right now. We ought to work diligently to keep Christians, and others, out of jail for religious convictions. But there are worse things than going to jail.

After all, one can maintain freedom by simply accommodating to the spirit of the age.

The prophet Daniel's cohorts, those who prayed to the king's statue, never saw the inside of a lion's cave. Pontius Pilate lived to a relatively ripe old age, untroubled by the sort of state harassment that did away with the apostles. Judas Iscariot was never arrested for anything, collaborating as he did with the state to carry out their dark mission. Those who fell away from the early church escaped the Colosseum with their lives. All it cost them was a pinch of incense, a momentary mumbling of "Caesar is Lord," and their souls. God forbid.

We should protect our legacy of a free church in a free state. We ought to pray and work for a "quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty" (1 Tim. 2:2).

But that is not the ultimate sign of our success. It is better for our future generations to be willing to go to jail, for the right reasons, than to exchange the gospel of the kingdom for a mess of Esau's pottage. Sometimes jails filled with hymn-singing, letter-writing, gospel-preaching Christians can do extraordinary things. {eoa}

This article is adapted from my new book Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel.

Russell D. Moore serves as the eighth president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the moral and public policy agency of the nation's largest Protestant denomination. Prior to his election to this role in 2013, Moore served as provost and dean of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he also taught as professor of theology and ethics.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Russell Moore ) Ethics Tue, 06 Oct 2015 12:00:00 -0400
The Crucial Difference Between Managing and Leading

It's been said many times by many different people that everything rises or falls on leadership. I don't think that's ever truer than in ministry. Charles McKay, a former professor at California Baptist College, used to tell us if you want to know the temperature of your church, put the thermometer in your mouth. That's a good statement. You can't ever take people farther than you are yourself, spiritually or any other way.

I remember when I was interviewed on the Acts television network by Jimmy Allen, and he asked me about starting new churches. He said, "How important is location?" I said it's very important, the second most important thing. But the most important thing is not location, but leadership in a church. I see churches in great locations that aren't doing anything and I see churches with good leadership in poor locations doing great things.

Leadership is the key.

You don't have to be a charismatic leader (in the emotional sense) to be a great leader. Some of the greatest charismatic leaders of this century were also the worst — Stalin, Mao, Hitler. They were all very charismatic people, so personality has nothing to do with dynamic leadership.

Leadership and vision

It's not the charisma of the leader that matters; but the vision of the leader. Whatever your assignment may be in your church, no matter what your ministry concentration may be, your number one responsibility of leadership in that area is to continually clarify and communicate the vision of that particular ministry. You must constantly answer the question: Why are we here? If you don't know the answer, you can't lead.

As a senior pastor, my job is to keep us on track with the original New Testament purpose of the church. That gets much more difficult as the church grows larger and larger. When we were very small, the only people who wanted to come were non-Christians. We didn't have a lot of programs. We didn't have a children's ministry or a music ministry or a youth ministry. The people who wanted all those things went to churches that had them. Now I meet people coming over from other churches every week. This new dynamic presents an acute problem. Every one of these people carries in a load of cultural baggage. They expect Saddleback to be like the church they left. The first words off their lips can be, "At our old church, we did it like this..."

How can I politely say, "We don't care how you did it at some other church."?  I don't mean to be rude, but the vision of the church someone just left isn't the key issue. Our vision in this church is the key issue. Therefore, I must continually clarify and communicate Saddleback's vision to everyone who walks through our doors. I must make clear what we are doing and why we are doing it. No one can be left in the dark to the question of vision. At Saddleback, we constantly communicate our vision through the membership class, through social media, and in any way we possibly can. Our purpose for being is always out front where everyone can see it. Everyone needs to know why we are here and catch our vision.

Leader or manager

Vision is the main difference between leadership and management. Management consists primarily of three things: analysis, problem solving, and planning. If you go to any management course they'll be composed of those three things. But leadership consists of vision and values and the communication of those things. If you don't clarify the purposes as the leader, who's going to?

Most churches are over-managed and under-led. Your church needs to be managed, but it also needs to be led. You have to have both. When you only have management in the church, you get the problem of paralysis of analysis. It's like "Ready... Aim ... Aim ... Aim ..." And they never fire. Management without leadership results in constantly analyzing and looking, but never actually doing anything. Don't get me wrong. You need managers within the church as well. Without them you end up with a church that says, "Ready.... Fire!" without ever taking the time to aim. You need both.

The power of vision

Some people have dreams, but not vision. There is a difference. A vision is a pragmatic dream. Lots of people have great dreams. They have grand ideas of all they would like to accomplish, but they can never get their dreams in a concrete form where they can do something about it. A vision is a dream that can be implemented. It's specific. Nothing becomes dynamic until it becomes specific.

Every Easter Sunday I stand back and marvel at all God has done in our church. We started on an Easter with a handful of people.  Now, every Easter we have even more than the year before as thousands upon thousands gather together. That's incredible to me when I think how it all just started with a little vision.  And from that we've watched a movement happen. That's the power of a vision.

]]> (Rick Warren) Ethics Tue, 04 Aug 2015 12:00:00 -0400
Dr. Bill Hamon: ‘How Can These Things Be?’

Dr. Bill Hamon's latest book answers a question that lingers in the hearts of many, particularly with regard to ministers committing major sin in their personal lives. Yet these leaders pastor major churches, healing the sick and ministering to the congregation.

Dr. Hamon reminds us of Matthew 7:21-23, "Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in your name? And then I will declare to them, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!"

He notes that when a sinful preacher prospers, "God is not confirming their ministries at all." Instead, "He is confirming His word." God allows the ministry to be successful because He cares about the people who are listening and wants them to be saved and healed.

Dr. Hamon also answers other important questions like, "Are these ministers still guaranteed Heaven since they were saved once? Dr. Hamon says, "No." Can their names be erased from the book of life? Dr. Hamon says, "Yes."

What are some ways that a spirit of deception is active in the church? (False doctrine and false teaching, which he likens to rat poison, which is 99 percent good for you, but 1 percent fatal.)

The 10 M's

Dr. Hamon outlines 10 M's that help us discern a true from a false minister. They are:

1. Manhood (or Womanhood): The man (or woman) comes before the ministry. "God wants to make us like Jesus before we can minister fully as Jesus did."

2. Ministry: Does our ministry manifest the anointing of God—that is the divine enablement of grace to accomplish God's intended results? Or is there more talk than true power?  Dr. Hamon says, "Is our preaching or prophesying productive? Has our ministry produced fruit?"

3. Message: Ministers are to speak the truth in love. Dr. Hamon says, "It should present the word of God in a way that is thoroughly scriptural, doctrinally sound, and well–balanced in the light of the full testimony of the Bible."

4. Maturity: "The Bible wisely warns us not to place new Christians in places of leadership, but to wait until they have had a chance to be proven and to mature," says Dr. Hamon.  This maturity should include personal, emotional, and spiritual maturity.

5. Marriage: A minister's marriage should reflect the relationship that exists between Christ and the Church. Dr. Hamon says, "Ministry must not compete with family. Meanwhile, we must not allow the ministry to deny us adequate time and energy to build a healthy relationship with our children, as is all too often the case with ministers."

6. Methods: In our ministry methods, we must be what Dr. Hamon calls "rigidly righteous." A minister should be honest in all areas.

7. Manners: Dr. Hamon believes that ministers "should be different from the world in their manners. Love is a principle we practice, a way of life."  

8. Money: A minister should always be a good steward over his or her finances. Dr. Hamon says, "The Christian can have money, but money must not have the Christian. It's a matter of heart attitude, motive, and biblically ordered priorities."

9. Morality: "Sexual immorality has no place in the life of a Christian minister ... our firm standard must be purity," says Dr. Hamon.

10. Motive: "In short, do we minister out of a heart full of God's love? If not, the the Scripture says our ministry is nothing."

What Are We Here For?

Dr. Hamon says there are eight reasons God created man. They are:

1. To fill the earth with the likeness of Himself.

2. To reveal His own heart and nature as love.

3. For man to be a free moral agent so he could be tested, tried, purified and conformed to the image of Christ.

4. For God to have the power of procreation so He could father a biological Son (Jesus) and not a created son like Adam.

5. To provide a many-membered bride for His Son.

6. To bring the Church as the body of Christ to co-labor with Him as joint-heirs in carrying out God's purpose.

7. To offer up praise and worship to God.

8. For fellowship with Him.

Bishop Bill Hamon is known around the world as the pioneer and father of the prophetic movement. He is the founder of the Christian International Apostolic Network.

]]> (Bill Hamon) Ethics Wed, 25 Feb 2015 13:00:00 -0500
How to Bring Down a Church Bully

Church bullies have always been part of the ecclesiastical landscape. They had them in the first century, as evidenced by the tiny epistle of Third John.

A brute named Diotrephes was ruling his congregation with a strong hand. The Evangelist John turned the spotlight on what the man was doing, which ordinarily is sufficient to arouse the congregation to unseat the man. John ended with a promise: "If I come, I will call attention to what he is doing."

Don't miss the understatement of that: "I will call attention to what he is doing."

That will be quite enough. When the beloved apostle (for so was John known in the early church) stands before an adoring congregation and informs the membership what their so-called leader has been doing behind their backs, they will deal with him.

That has always been the Lord's plan: Tell the church, expose the brute, expect God's people to do the right thing.

We're not talking about taking matters into our own hands or doing anything heavy-handed.

Even though the flesh wants to drag the church boss out back and give him "what for," that is never the right approach. Nor should we plot and maneuver and scheme behind closed doors. The Lord's people must never adopt the deceitful tactics of the tyrants. We are to be "as shrewd as snakes and as gentle as doves" (Matt. 10:16).

American history provides a near-perfect example of how to bring down a bully. It's not a simple story, but I'll do my best.

The tyrant throwing his weight around without a thought as to who got hurt in the process was Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin. Google his name and pull up a chair, because the information on this brute will keep you occupied for days. Entire libraries have been written on what this man did in the first half of the decade of the 1950s. A shorter version can be seen on Wikipedia.

Senator Joe McCarthy was riding the wave of the Communist scare and accusing various governmental agencies of harboring Reds, being directed by Reds, or outright cooperating with the Kremlin. In his speeches, he would wave papers that he said contained the names of 250 or 125 or 306 known Communists working for this or that agency. When he or his staff found that some prominent person really had belonged to an organization that was a Communist front during the Great Depression, McCarthy was off and running. He would hound that guy into an early grave, then move right along to his next victim.

The public did not know what to think.

The American people rightly feared Communism, seeing it on display in Asia with all its fierceness and cruelty. The last thing they wanted was for the U.S. to fall under its power. The question was how to stand against it. McCarthy, we were to learn in time, was primarily interested in becoming a hero and would do anything to achieve it. After World War II, he lied about his war record in order to receive distinguished recognition, which would enhance his political career, and bitterly attacked anyone who dared oppose him. More than one person with a questionable affiliation in his past committed suicide rather than endure a public lynching at the hands of McCarthy's team.

When the U.S. Army refused to give special treatment to a McCarthy aide who had been drafted, the senator turned his guns on the military. He accused the Army of harboring Communists, and the fight was on. As the name-calling and mudslinging intensified, the Senate decided to hold hearings and settle the matter. McCarthy chaired the committee that would inherit this assignment; so another senator was chosen to lead the hearings that would last over a month.

America was transfixed.

ABC-TV decided to do something unheard of in 1954. They aired the senate hearing from gavel to gavel. (Bear in mind, television was still in its infancy, there was no C-Span, and most network news programs at the supper hour ran for 15 minutes).

This is how the American people got to see Senator McCarthy exposed as the bully and tyrant that he was. The programs were live and unedited, meaning the tactics of the senator were on public view for all to see.

Boston lawyer Joseph Welch was hired to represent the Army in the hearings. He was a class act, a distinguished man, in high contrast with the flabby McCarthy, who always looked like he needed to shave last week and was often under the influence of alcohol.

Had Hollywood been casting this scene, it could not have picked two more likely actors for these roles.

McCarthy's approach was always to "attack, attack, and then attack again." He rarely explained what he did and almost never gave a satisfactory answer to questions. He simply kept the opponent on the defensive. And on this day, he accused Attorney Welch of having a young lawyer with ties to a Communist organization working for his firm back in Boston.

Welch had an answer.

Welch explained that when he was first asked to represent the Army in these hearings, he wanted to bring two young attorneys from Boston with him to Washington. He asked if either had anything in his past that McCarthy could use against him. One of the two admitted that when he was in law school, he belonged to a young attorney's group that was later found to be controlled by the Communists. Welch sent him back to Boston, because he knew McCarthy would turn that against the Army, as he did. Even though the young attorney was not on Welch's team in Washington, but merely with his firm in Boston, McCarthy exposed this "grave wrong," and implied that Mr. Welch was thus untrustworthy.

That's when Mr. Welch said what he did. Right there on national television, with millions of Americans watching, Welch spoke the immortal lines that would ultimately end McCarthy's career.

"Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness."

Welch was soft-spoken and gracious. His words were like knives.

When McCarthy tried to interrupt and continue the attack, Welch softly but angrily continued:

"Let us not assassinate the lad further, Senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

Historians tell us that overnight McCarthy's popularity plummeted. Not long after, the Senate voted to censure McCarthy and strip him of his chairmanship.

Ostracized by his party, ignored by the press and abandoned by his supporters, McCarthy died three years later, a broken man, only 48 years old.

Brought down by public exposure and relentless, though gentle, questioning. That's how church bullies are to be dealt with.

(Question: Why not bullies of all kinds, in the workplace or playground or political arena? Answer: Church bullies are a breed apart, having the same self-centered, run-roughshod goals as all other tyrants, but they tend to be subtler and work behind the scenes. Exposure is the last thing in the world church bullies want).

Consider these suggestions:

1. Church bullies need to be exposed in a public forum. The tactic of modern-day Diotrephes is almost always to work off-radar, sending their lackeys to do their bidding.

2. The best public forum to expose the bully would be a church business meeting. Woe to the church which, under the leadership of a pastor who dislikes being held accountable, has canceled regular times of reporting to the congregation.

3. The questioner needs to be someone Christlike, mature and gracious. If he/she is pugilistic (i.e., they love a good fight), the congregation will see this as two fighters going at each other, and nothing will come from it.

4. The questioner makes no charges, but merely raises questions, letting the congregation think for themselves. And some will.

5. Some questions that will often expose a bully include: "Who decided that this would be done?" or "How was the decision made to do this?"  "Moderator, could we ask the chair of that committee to explain this action?"

6. Once the appropriate person has been made to tell the congregation what was done and why it was done, if this is unsatisfactory or if it is obvious that important pieces of information are missing, follow-up questions are in order. These are of the same kind and gracious manner: "I don't understand, Brother Chairman. You say (such and such), and yet the congregation had specifically said (thus and so). Help me out here." Or "You said (such and such), but the church constitution specifically says we are to do (thus and so). I don't understand."

7. The questioner makes no charges, accuses no one of deceit or underhandedness.

8. When it becomes obvious that no more information will be forthcoming, the questioner may do one of two things: sit down silently, leaving the clear impression that he/she is not satisfied with what has been said, or make a gentle statement in the manner of Robert Welch at the McCarthy hearings. Perhaps nothing more than, "Well, then, we are not the church I thought we were." Or "Mr. Bully, did you not pray about this? Did you not ask the Lord what He wanted done?"

9. Silence should follow. When the gentle (persistent, gracious but devout) questioner sits down, there will be a stillness as the congregation absorbs what they have just heard.  And, then, it should happen ...

10. Some strong, faithful leader who has followed all this, now senses that the congregation is ready to do something that should have been done long ago: Deal with the bully. So, he/she rises and makes a motion to the moderator concerning action to be taken. What that action is, I have no clue. It depends on what's going on.  It may be something as benign as rescinding the action of the committee run by the bully. Or it may be a motion to "vacate" that committee (unseat all the members of the committee) or to ask Chairman Bully to step down. Perhaps the leader who rises to make a motion simply wants the pastor to appoint a committee of three or four who will study this matter and bring a report back to the church. If this is done, the person who did the questioning (above) should be the first one appointed.

Harmless as doves, wise as serpents.

That says it all.

Post Script: A few questions arise ...

1. Some will always ask, "What if the pastor is the bully?" Answer: Deal with him the same way, in an open forum where the congregation is present.

2. What if the pastor has been so sufficiently buffaloed by the bully that he does not want anyone to "stir up" the congregation by publicly exposing the tyrant? Answer: This is not about the pastor. The goal is to have a healthy church, and the Diotrephes is interfering with that. So stand up in the business meeting anyway. I can guarantee that after the bully has been de-clawed, any pastor will be eternally grateful.

3. Speaking of declawing Diotrephes, what if the church action following the questioning did not unseat him and he's still around? In most cases, the public embarrassment he experienced was sufficient to issue a wakeup call to him and to send his lackeys scurrying.

The opening statement of this article is an eternal verity, I'm afraid. The bullies will always be around. Therefore, the Lord's faithful children must never drop their guard, never agree to cancel regular church business meetings, and always encourage questioning from the congregation. Exposure carries no threat to the godly.

After five years as director of missions for the 100 Southern Baptist churches of metro New Orleans, Joe McKeever retired on June 1, 2009. These days, he has an office at the First Baptist Church of Kenner where he's working on three books, and he's trying to accept every speaking/preaching invitation that comes his way.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Joe McKeever) Ethics Mon, 02 Feb 2015 20:00:00 -0500
7 Significant Lessons Churches Can Learn From Mars Hill Implosion

According to some reports, the aftermath of the resignation of Pastor Mark Driscoll as the lead pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle has resulted in losing about half of their 14,000 attendees. This will not only result in closing church campuses and laying off much of the staff, but (in the opinion of some) could also result in the church declaring bankruptcy (I pray and hope not).

There are not only lessons we can all learn as individuals, but more importantly, churches should take heed to how a church can implode so easily based on the behavior of a key leader.

The following are seven lessons all churches can learn from this (Note: Two of the following points are ideas I received from a conversation with a pastor friend of mine whom I will leave nameless):

1. Every lead pastor needs both internal and external accountability. It seems there was a lack of real accountability, both from the church board of elders and from the outside. This is the reason why Dr. Paul Tripp, one of the key outside accountability leaders for the church, resigned.

In my opinion, every lead pastor needs to be accountable internally to the board of elders for both the spiritual and financial issues of the church. Also, a lead pastor should always attempt to function with the consensus of the elders and trustees, especially when it comes to major financial decisions. Furthermore, every lead pastor needs to have at least one extra-local leader to be their overseer to hold them accountable for matters regarding their personal life and family.

It is very difficult, awkward and often not practical for internal leaders to serve in that role in most cases (It is hard for leaders whom the lead pastor has nurtured into eldership to be able to speak into the personal life of their overseer and shepherd. Thus, every shepherd needs an outside voice to be their shepherd).

2. Church elders need an apostolic overseer to appeal to in case of an impasse. Often church elders have no one to look to when they reach an impasse with the lead pastor. This is why they vote with their feet, resign and/or cause division and attempt to start another church. Every church eldership needs to have a person they can appeal to if the elders and lead pastor hit a major wall regarding the governance of the church or personal issues with the lead pastor.

This is why I am a major proponent of having an "apostolic church" template in which every local church is overseen by a lead pastor who is also submitted to an apostolic leader or bishop who oversees other associated congregations. This is the New Testament pattern and is much better than leaving congregations and leaders all by themselves. 

3. Satellite churches need their own pastor/preacher. The satellite model structure usually simulcasts the lead pastor's message to all the other campuses. Thus, while the church is expanding in numbers, it is not always developing leaders commensurate with their expansion. This is dissimilar to church planting in which every congregation has its own lead pastor, preacher and leadership team. Consequently, every campus is being built around the preaching, leadership and vision casting of one man, which leaves them vulnerable to the kind of implosion we have seen at Mars Hill.

4. The "one-man brand" of the church leaves the church vulnerable. Most of the time, the charismatic leader knows evangelical churches more than their congregation or vision. At Mars Hill, Mark Driscoll was their "brand." Not only that, but evangelical churches too often perpetuate a personality cult in which folks say something like, "I am going to Joe Mattera's church" rather than "I am going to Resurrection Church." You get the picture? Many people can't even remember the name of the church they visited; they only know the church by the name of the lead pastor.

This is nothing new. It's the same thing that Paul the Apostle had to address with the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 3:4). Although this is common with evangelical churches, it doesn't mean it is healthy, and it is something in our present global church culture that must change. One of the things we have done in our church the past decade is have a team of leaders who rotate and share the responsibility of delivering the word on Sunday mornings. This was so that people don't just hear the word from one person.

Also, for the past few years, we have gone from topical to exegetical teaching on Sundays so that the focus is on understanding the Scriptures rather than on the skilled presentation of the lead pastor. 

5. The essence of the church needs to be based upon the centrality of Christ. Along the lines of point four, there needs to be a drastic shift away from a congregation that comes to be entertained by a great worship leader and/or preacher, to a congregation that comes primarily to worship Jesus.

Every church has to base its vision, mission, preaching, ministry and worship on the centrality of Christ. This is one of the advantages some of the historic mainline denominational churches have over the typical evangelical church. In spite of the fact that Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and other denominational churches transfer their priests every few years to different parishes, faithful people still attend their churches by the millions all over the world.

Why? Because their congregations are committed to their parish, and to their expression of the universal church more than they are to the charismatic leadership of their lead pastor.

For example, in my neighborhood in New York City, a Roman Catholic might say "I am attending Saint Francis church in Brooklyn Heights." They rarely—if ever—say, "I am attending Father Frank Mascara's church."

One of the reasons why I instituted weekly communion in our church years ago was because I wanted the center of the service to be about the gospel, not about my preaching. When people judge a church merely by good sermons and/or a worship experience, they are acting carnal. Their focus should be on worshipping Jesus, ministering to the saints and being empowered for the work of the kingdom in the context of the corporate vision of their local congregation.

6. Every lead pastor needs an equally competent understudy who can step in. After Mark Driscoll resigned, there was no understudy with capacity to come in and preach (and lead?) equal to him. In my opinion, the greatest responsibility of every lead pastor is to nurture leaders who can potentially step into their role and do a better job than them.

7. The congregation has to be more committed to their corporate vision then to the lead pastor or to their social networks. Most people attend a church because a friend attends or because they like the lead pastor. We have to structure our churches so that we develop a discipleship culture in which believers are assimilated to serve their church and community. Folks have to discover their individual gifts and have their purpose ignited with a passion inspired by a compelling corporate vision to transform their city—the kind of vision that transcends their social networking needs. 

In closing, those of us in the evangelical church will miss an opportunity for growth unless we admit that much of the leadership and character issues that led to Pastor Mark Driscoll's resignation are common issues with a large percentage of lead pastors globally.

Also, many of the flaws in the structure of Mars Hill Church are also fatal flaws in a large percentage of all evangelical churches worldwide. We should allow the Lord to redeem the experience of Mars Hill as a teaching moment for us all.

May the Lord minister grace, mercy and restoration to Pastor Mark Driscoll, and may the Mars Hill congregation not only survive, but also thrive in the years ahead for the glory of God.  

Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church and Christ Covenant Coalition in Brooklyn, N.Y. Visit him at

]]> (Bishop Joseph Mattera ) Ethics Tue, 04 Nov 2014 17:00:00 -0500
Should You Attend a Friend’s Same-Sex Wedding?

Occasionally I receive emails from church members asking for my opinion on various personal or church problems. With this week's U.S. Supreme Court ruling clearing the way for same-sex marriage in 30 states, an inquiry I received recently is relevant to all Christians—particularly pastors.

Since many church leaders will inevitably receive this kind of question, they must decide now whether they will advise their members to choose a biblical stance or "go along" with our society's ever-lowering standards.

The Letter

"I am a follower of God wanting to walk in His truth," this person wrote. "I have been invited to a same-sex celebration of marriage by two, longtime Christian friends.

"I could attend because I love both of them and could celebrate their happiness, but I could not celebrate their union as a marriage. If I go I feel like a hypocrite, and if I don't go I feel like a hypocrite. I am seeking counsel."

My Answer

I told this individual it was easy to understand his dilemma. He doesn't want to alienate those he loves, but he doesn't want to leave the impression he is endorsing immoral behavior. Most importantly, he doesn't want to displease his Heavenly Father.

However, I told the letter writer this would not pose a difficult decision for me: I would not attend. He is being invited to participate in a ceremony that mocks God's intent for marriage.

"The Scripture teaches that marriage is a sacred covenant between a man and a woman and God," I said. "Marriage was not man's idea. It was instituted by God in the Garden of Eden and (to paraphrase Matthew 19:6): 'What God joins together, man is not to separate.' If I were invited to a polygamists' ceremony of a man marrying four women, I wouldn't attend because that ceremony would desecrate the sacred covenant that God ordained."

While one can rationalize, "I'm not endorsing their behavior, I'm just being a friend," his presence says to his children and others that gay marriage is OK. God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for this kind of behavior. And, Hebrews 13:8 states that Christ "is the same yesterday and today and forever." James 1:17 teaches that God "does not change like shifting shadows" (NIV).

Paul's Words

In the first chapter of Romans, the apostle Paul documents the immoral behavior that characterized the world in his time. The list included same-sex relationships. He concludes with these words: "Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them" (Rom. 1:32, emphasis added). I counseled this person that we must be careful not to leave the impression that we have caved in to the world's pressure and approve of what God's Word clearly prohibits.

"There's one other factor," I said. "Your attendance not only puts you in an uncomfortable position, but an untenable one. You will be expected to respond to favorable comments like, 'Isn't this exciting?' or 'I'm happy for them, aren't you?' That setting would not be an appropriate environment for you to voice your convictions.

"That's probably why you state that you would feel like a hypocrite if you went. Unless you are prepared to create a scene or get into arguments, it doesn't seem wise to attend. You speak more eloquently by your absence than you could by your presence."

Violating One's Conscience

The same is true for all church leaders reading these words. When you talk to members fretting over alienating their friends, tell them to remember their friends' decision to have a public ceremony has deliberately put them on the defensive. They could choose to continue their relationship without flaunting it or requesting their Christian friends' approval. They are asking the member to violate his or her conscience.

Instead of attending, leaders can suggest the member write a note saying, "Thanks for inviting me to your ceremony. I really appreciate you thinking of me. However, as a follower of Jesus Christ I cannot endorse same-sex marriage, so I will not be attending. As your friend, I want you to know that I love you and want God's best for you and your partner in the future. Again, thanks for thinking of me."

If a gay couple distances themselves from a person because of their stand, that is the couple's choice. While a member may not desire that, neither should he or she be devastated. Remind them they may never know what taking a biblical stand will do to influence others, but it will. And regardless, aligning themselves with God's view of marriage will always be the right choice.

At only 22 years of age, Bob Russell became the pastor of Southeast Christian Church. That small congregation of 120 members became one of the largest churches in America, with 18,000 people attending the four worship services every weekend in 2006 when Bob retired. Now through Bob Russell Ministries, Bob continues to preach at churches and conferences throughout the United States, provide guidance for church leadership, mentor other ministers and author Bible study videos for use in small groups.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Bob Russell) Ethics Fri, 31 Oct 2014 19:00:00 -0400
10 Dangerous Distractions for a Pastor

I encounter so many struggling pastors. And unfortunately, I know so many who used to be pastors but no longer hold the position.

It may be through a blatant sin or a casual drifting from doing what they knew to be right, but it landed them in disaster. A pastor friend of mine said recently, "We need healthy churches, and we need healthy pastors."

Amen. Agreed. We must stand guard.

What are we guarding against?

No single post would be perfect. Obviously sin, but I can't address everything that gets in the way of a healthy pastor. I can only list some that are more common in my experience.

Here are 10 dangerous distractions for a pastor:

1. Neglecting your soul. One of my mentors reminded me recently. "Ron, don't forget to feed your own soul." It was subtle. Almost given as a sidebar to our discussion. But it was gold. One of the biggest dangers for a pastor is when we begin to operate out of stored-up knowledge of and experience with God. We need fresh encounters with truth and His glory.

2. Sacrificing family. Families learn to resent the ministry when it always trumps the family. Ministry families get accustomed to interruptions. They are part of the job, as they are part of many vocations. But the family will hopefully be there when no one else is around. Ministry locations change, but the family does not—so we must not neglect them. I've sat with men who lost the respect of their family. I know countless pastors whose adult children no longer want anything to do with the church. Apparently, there's not much that hurts any more than that.

3. Playing the numbers game. Whenever we put the emphasis on numbers, we are always disappointed. They will never be high enough. God is in charge of the numbers. We are in charge of what He has put us in charge of—but it's not the numbers. We must be careful to concentrate on making disciples, and the numbers will take care of themselves.

4. Comparing ministries. There will always be a "bigger" ministry. Someone will always write a better tweet—or a better book—or a better blog post—or preach a better sermon. When we begin to compare, it distracts us from the ministry we've been God-appointed to lead.

5. Finding affirmation among the rebels. This is the one that gets me in trouble among the rebels when I point it out to pastors. But we must be careful not to get distracted by people who would complain regardless of the decision we make. Yes, it stings the way some people talk to a pastor. And, it's certainly not always godly how some people express themselves in the church. But what if Joshua had listened to the naysayers? What if Nehemiah had? What if Moses had given up every time the complainers were louder than the people who were willing to follow? OK, he probably was willing to give up a couple of times, but he held the course. If you are leading, there will always be someone who is not happy with the decisions you made. People bent on pleasing others—more even than pleasing God—have a very hard time finding peace and joy in ministry.

6. Sacrificing truth for popularity. It's easy to preach the easy stuff. Grace messages are pleasant to share and popular to receive. And we need them. Where sin increases, grace should increase all the more. But we need truth—even when it is unpopular. Making disciples becomes impossible when we sacrifice either one—truth or grace.

7. Stealing glory. My mama used to say "that boy got too big for his britches." Sadly that can happen in ministry. Many pastors struggle with ego problems. God is never honored in that. Pastors are in a God-glorifying position. Actually, everyone is, but it is written into our job description.

8. Poor boundaries. In an effort to "minister" to people, I know too many pastors who fell into a trap because they didn't have proper boundaries in place. The enemy enjoys a door of opportunity.

9. Neglecting friendships. Most pastors struggle to know whom to trust; but because of that, few people really get to know them. Therefore they often have no one who can speak into the dark places of their life. And pastors have them too. So, they put on a good front—but inside, they struggle alone. It's dangerous.

10. Abusing power. The pastor holds a certain amount of power just because of his or her position. It has been said, "Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it." One of the more dangerous things I see churches doing these days is giving a pastor too much power, without enough built-in personal accountability. (That's coming from a church planter's heart—and one who is prone to lead strong.) BTW, I'm not for controlling the pastor or forced relational accountability—and I haven't discovered the perfect system here—but there needs to be one that balances truth and grace equally. Again, I don't know how to systematize that, but it is a dangerous distraction. My challenge would be to the pastor or ministry leader to build this system into his or her own life absent a system within the ministry.

These are some that I have seen. These distractions are displayed in a number of ways—and all of them are not fatal, thankfully. But all of them are real. And all of them are dangerous.

Ron Edmondson is the senior pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit

]]> (Ron Edmondson) Ethics Wed, 01 Oct 2014 13:00:00 -0400
10 Judgments of Jesus Against the Church’s Religious Systems

Every church and/or organization has a corporate culture with norms, rules and expectations that pressure participants to conform. Some cultures are good and some bad.

That being said, there are particular attributes that characterize false religions or become the norm during religious decline in a true faith such as Christianity. For example, "Every religious system in the world is centered upon a temple (or a sacred place) and has rites and ceremonies, has hierarchies and titles distinguishing men from one another, and has holy days and holy celebrations" (quoted from a teaching I heard from Pastor Tommy Moya several weeks ago).

The Old Testament prophets such as Isaiah, Micah and Amos decried religious ritual that was without true righteousness, humility and love for neighbor (Is. 1:10-17; 58; Amos 5:21-24; Mic. 6:8). The line of prophets arose starting in the 8th century B.C. primarily because Israel had a tendency to focus more on adhering to the temple ritual worship of the Levitical system than the ethical lifestyle required by the Law of Moses as found in the Ten Commandments. For this, the prophets pronounced judgment upon the nation, and God dispersed the people and, on two occasions, destroyed their temple.

We have the same issue in today's church, irrespective of the denomination or expression of the body of Christ. (Many Pentecostal, charismatic and evangelical churches have these same issues.) Not only that, but all leaders (including me) have to constantly grapple with some or all of the following issues internally to make sure we are never sucked into this false system.

The following are 10 of the characteristics of false religious systems as taught by Jesus in Matthew 23:

1. There are onerous rules and regulations some call legalism (Matt. 23:1-3). In the contemporary church, there are numerous man-made traditions and requirements that never arose from the Word that have become an unnecessary burden upon believers. For example, in many Pentecostal churches the emphasis is on outward holiness related to attire, make up, the cutting of hair, jewelry and other regulations. I have spoken to numerous young people who stopped attending church because these regulations made them feel weird in front of their unchurched friends. Fundamentalists in the past forbade any form of entertainment including watching movies, listening to the radio, watching television, etc. These are legalistic efforts to bring holiness that have resulted in numerous churches losing their next generation.

2. The church leaders serve to receive prestige from men (vv. 5-7). God makes it clear in His word that some religious leaders love the praise of men more than the praise of God (John 12:42-43). The judgment of God is against the leaders who are constantly posturing themselves within their denomination to attain the highest seats of authority and places of honor amongst men. Truly, some of the greatest people of God in the earth today are hidden from the public eye.

3. The leaders crave titles and moving up the ranks of hierarchical religious systems (vv. 8-11). Today's church is replete with people who use titles to validate their ministries. I can't tell you how many people I have met with the title apostle, bishop, doctor, and archbishop on their business cards who have very little influence in the church and secular world. Truly God doesn't care about an apostolic title; God looks more at apostolic function and fruit. I have found that, the more a person speaks about their academic achievements and ecclesial titles, the more insecure they are as a person and about their ministry accomplishments.

I say this as a person who has been consecrated both a bishop and apostle and who flows in circles with leaders who use these titles. There is nothing wrong with these titles (both are biblical) as long as we don't flaunt them, crave them, and depend upon them for validation and/or to hide that we do not have real apostolic function and fruit. Many of the greatest leaders in the church world do not insist upon people referring to them with a title.

4. The leaders have an entitlement mentality (vv. 11-12). I believe in the biblical principle of serving the people of God as a prerequisite to being qualified to function in the same ministry as they do. For example, Joshua was called the servant of Moses; Elisha served Elijah; David served Samuel and Saul, and the 12 apostles served Jesus.

That being said, there has also been abuse of this principle since many people desire to become leaders partially because it enables them to be waited upon. I believe younger ministers should serve older, more mature ministers out of honor and proper protocol but at the same time older ministers should not demand it or become abusive if they do not receive it. We do not receive titles in the kingdom so we can be waited upon but so that we can have greater opportunity to serve in the church.

The more mature a Christ-follower is, the more they will celebrate service as the highest form of ministry and leadership. God resists those leaders who emotionally abuse and/or lord it over those under their care (1 Pet. 5:3).

5. The leaders become a stumbling block to others seeking the kingdom (vv. 13-15). It has been evident the past 30 years in both the evangelical and Roman Catholic Church that leaders can become huge stumbling blocks instead of assets to the kingdom. Whether it is lavish lifestyles, sexual misconduct, abuse of power, and other forms of narcissism, many have been turned off from Christianity by those who are supposed to represent it. Truly those who handle the Word of God will receive the most scrutiny at the judgment seat of Christ (James 3:1).

6. The leaders value and love money and wealth more than anything else (vv. 16-17). While I do not believe church leaders should live in poverty, nor do I believe they should receive salaries from their churches that are greatly disproportionate to the average income of their congregation and/or community. The religious leaders Jesus denounced seemed to value gold more than the glory and honor of God. Leaders should never serve primarily for money but for the love of God and His people (1 Pet. 5:2).

7. The weightier matters of the Word are neglected (vv. 23-24). Although I believe and practice the principles of tithing, fasting, church attendance and the like, they should never be an excuse for me to think I have fulfilled all of my Christian duties. Jesus says here that we ought to continue to tithe but also includes in our lifestyle the practice of treating others with justice, mercy and faithfulness.

For example, if we tithe but treat our spouse poorly, neglect the poor in our midst, or mistreat others, our tithe will not do us any good. Then we are just like the Pharisee Jesus describes in Luke 18:10-14.

8. Ritual is valued more than inner transformation (vv. 25-28). In the church we all have our traditions and rituals; whether it is the high-church liturgies of the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, or Anglican churches, and/or the more informal gatherings of the Pentecostals and evangelicals. The tendency for human beings is to fall into a routine and equate our routine with true worship. Jesus told the Samaritan woman that she worshipped what she did not know (John 4), which means that people can worship in ignorance and/or without a true experience with God.

Whether it is the sacraments of denominational churches or the shouting, shaking and tongue-talking of the Pentecostals, human nature has a tendency to fall into habit patterns of outward worship bereft of the life-changing dynamic of encountering the living God. We do not have to do away with these rituals, sacraments and traditions, but integrate them with true heartfelt worship and passion for our Lord.

9. They honor the departed saints without living like them in the present (vv. 29-32). I have found that it is much easier to study about revival than to actually work hard for it. It is much easier to study church history than it is to make history. Every denomination and expression of the church has its Christian heroes of the past, but very few denominations, churches and adherents attempt to emulate the life, passion and sacrifice of the saints of old (for example: Ignatius, Tertullian, Cyprian, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Francis, Whitefield, Wesley, Edwards, Finney, Spurgeon, Moody, Hudson Taylor, John G. Lake, Wigglesworth, Maria Woodworth-Etter, Francis Schaeffer and more).

Jesus wants us to honor the prophets of old by living like them, not merely by building and revering their tombs.

10. They reject the prophets and wise men that confront their false systems (vv. 33-37). Those who are captivated by a religious system will never listen to those speaking for God that are not of their denomination and/or do not have acceptable academic credentials. Sound familiar? The Pharisees and Sadducees rejected Jesus (John 7:14-18) and Peter (Acts 4:13) for the same reason. It is not an accident that in Luke 3:1-2 it shows that the Word of God came to John in the wilderness and not to an already established institutional leader. Thus, God bypassed the litany of prominent political and religious leaders and their systems (3:1) because they were so corrupt.

When a leader is captivated by their religious system or dead institution, they become blind to the pure Word of the Lord. God has to bypass them and speak prophetically through those outside the dead institution. Those who are humble and have ears to hear (like Nicodemus in John 3) will recognize and receive the people God sends to them, irrespective of their institutional affiliation.

Truly, God cannot be contained in a temple, an institution, a denomination or any one religious system. He is Lord of all and will seek after those who worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).

May God help us to avoid these 10 judgments!

Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church, Christ Covenant Coalition, in Brooklyn, N.Y. 

]]> (Bishop Joseph Mattera) Ethics Fri, 22 Aug 2014 13:00:00 -0400
7 Warning Signs of Affairs for Church Pastors and Other Staff Members

The conversation is always sad, always tragic. The pastor who left his church after a two-year affair with another church member; the student pastor who has been out of vocational ministry since he had a brief sexual encounter with his assistant.

I have spoken with countless numbers of these men and women. And each time, I am reminded of how much I need to love God with all my heart and to be totally devoted to my wife.

Though the conversations are both sad and tragic, I do learn from them. And after dozens, perhaps a few hundred, of these conversations, I see patterns. These patterns become warning signs for any of us, lest we be so naïve to think we have no vulnerabilities.

Because the conversations were informal, I cannot say for certain which among them were the most frequent warning signs. So I provide them in no particular order.

1. “I neglected my family.” Church work can become a deceitful mistress (I struggle to find the male equivalent of the word). We become so consumed with our ministry that we neglect our families. But 1 Timothy 3:5 is clear that our families are our first ministries.

2. “I had no system of accountability.” Unfortunately, most churches do not have clear guidelines for accountability. That does not excuse any of us from making sure that we have such self-imposed guidelines and that our spouses know about them as well.

3. “It began in counseling.” Sometimes the word transference is used to describe what can happen in counseling. The counselor or counselee becomes the object of attraction instead of one’s spouse. One or both of the parties see the other as something his or her spouse should be.

4. “My co-worker and I began to confide in one another on a deep level.”  The conversations between two people who work together become ones that should be restricted to the marital relationship. At this point, an emotional affair has already begun. Physical intimacy is usually not far away.

5. “I began neglecting my time in prayer and daily Bible reading.” I am reticent to make a blanket statement, but I have never met a person who was praying and reading his or her Bible daily that became involved in an affair. Prayer and time in the Word are intimacy with God that precludes inappropriate intimacy with someone of the opposite gender.

6. “He or she made me feel so good about myself.” In marriage, neither party thinks the spouse is perfect; at least it is rare. The danger happens when one becomes a hero to someone of the opposite gender. The good feelings that come with accolades or even adulation can become sexual attractions and traps that end in an affair.

7. “It began on a trip together.” When a man and woman travel to the same destination for a work event, conference or convention, safeguards need to be established at the onset. A system of accountability, whether informal or formal, can break down when a man and woman are out of town together. Call me old fashioned, but I won’t ever travel in the car alone with a woman other than my wife (even at my old age). 

The conversation is always sad, always tragic. And do you know the most common theme I’ve heard in all of these conversations?

“I never thought this would happen to me.”

Sobering, indeed.

Thom S. Rainer is president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit

]]> (Thom S. Rainer) Ethics Fri, 31 Jan 2014 14:00:00 -0500