The True Issue: an Open Letter to Johnny Hunt from a Concerned Church Member of First Baptist Church of Woodstock

Again with ALL due respect, (Johnny Hunt) the true issue is not Ergun, it is the leadership you are influencing by allowing this. You will be held accountable before God and man” Ryan McCollister

In my recent interview with the Pulpit and Pen Program, I was asked if I knew of any other members of First Baptist Woodstock who were upset that Ergun Caner had been invited to fill the church’s pulpit. I responded that I knew at least one but, the fact is, there are more. Some of them are not currently willing to express their feelings publicly. At least one more person, in addition to myself, has shown himself willing. Yesterday, after much prayer and forethought, another member of First Baptist Church of Woodstock made a public statement about the situation at First Baptist Church of Woodstock. He did so via a Facebook post. With his permission, I have reproduced his open letter to Johnny Hunt here. His only condition in granting permission was that this reproduction glorify Jesus. I pray that it not only glories Jesus but fairly represents my brother in Christ.

Before presenting the letter, allow me to give a short introduction of Ryan McCollister

I personally know Ryan to be a God-fearing, Christ-honoring man. He demonstrates a Christ-like love for his wife. He shares the gospel in season and out. He is a hard worker. He studies the Bible diligently and is in the process of earning a Religion degree from Liberty University Online. When my family and friends gathered to celebrate the first birthday of my daughters, it was Ryan whom I asked to do the honor of asking the Lord’s blessing of the occasion.

Ryan moved from Ohio to Georgia so that he could be a part of First Baptist Woodstock. This move is a clear demonstration of the respect that Ryan has for the ministry of Pastor Johnny Hunt. Please keep that in mind as you read his letter. I assure you, he wrote it with a heavy heart.

Ryan wrote…*

Pastor Johnny,

With ALL due respect, I will not be at FBCW this Sunday and, like most, it’s not because you are not there.

‘Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.’ (Ephesians 5:11)

I believe in grace, mercy, and forgiveness wholeheartedly and I live it out. I believe in church discipline as well. You and I choose not to do specific things, say specific things, and post specific things because we know the consequences it will cost. Here is the problem I have; I would keep this private, but everything that has happened and has kept on happening is in the open public. The SBC is openly promoting/protecting it.

If I or any other of my preacher friends had done what Ergun has done, we would never preach in a SBC church again even if we did publicly repent of the same type of actions.

Think about it… If you can get fired from a high position at Liberty University for continual false testimonies, recently sue the brethren for exposing the false testimonies to the masses, lose in court and be reprimanded and commanded by the judge to repay the legal fees of the defendants, still make a $130k+ salary that Georgia Baptists fund at a different ‘Christian college’, and to still be chosen to come and preach at my church over THOUSANDS of Holy Spirit filled, God called and gifted SBC preachers who are walking blameless and could be called to fill the pulpit then there is something seriously wrong!

A house divided will not stand and it has been crumbling!!

Holy Spirit please open the blind eyes and unlock the deaf ears and move on your people!!!

Open public sin calls for open public repentance!

Johnny Hunt, I’m heartbroken! I truly thought your leadership would prevent things like this from happening. You are passionate about exposing the prosperity gospel for being a lie. None of those who preach such heresy are prominent preachers in the SBC. Yet, a individual who is prominent in the SBC and is known to have openly and consistently spread his false testimonies gets invited to preach to our church, to our babes in Christ!?

I know exactly why Ergun Caner refuses to openly publicly repent; it’s strategic. His books and trainings that have impacted the military have made him more money and notoriety than imaginable. If he openly repents, true revival may break out but it will inevitably cost him dearly. The federal government will get involved and he may spend many years in prison and have to pay out thousands of dollars. This has nothing to do with Calvinism or hatred towards Ergun, or lack of grace; it has everything to do with integrity and a passion for Gods Truth! I was a big fan of Ergun and he had influenced me greatly in the past…until The Lord convicted me while listening to his materials. I was taking notes and noticed the HUGE inconsistencies.

Again with ALL due respect, the true issue is not Ergun, it is the leadership you are influencing by allowing this. You will be held accountable before God and man. As John Maxwell has said, ‘everything rises and falls on leadership’. I love you pastor and I’m on your team but if something is not done about this I may no longer be under your influence and leadership.

The cost of following Jesus may cost us nothing but it will cost us everything even when we are in the wrong.

Sincerely,

Ryan McCollister”

In my opinion, Ryan gets it. This is not about Ergun, this is about an environment in which a man like Ergun can flourish. I hope you’ll follow Ryan’s example and speak up. I hope you’ll follow Jesus’ example by holding sinners accountable and calling them to repentance.

To all reading this blog and following this issue: May the Lord be the judge between you and me.

*I edited the letter slightly for grammar and context to make Ryan’s intent more clear.

**Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

The Determinist, the Apologist, and Emotional Captivity: What Was Not Discussed in My Interview with the Pulpit and Pen on First Baptist Woodstock, Johnny Hunt, and Ergun Caner

“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”  The Lord Jesus as recorded in Luke 14:26

Last night J.D. Hall interviewed me for the “Radio Free SBC” segment of the Friday July 25th edition of his Pulpit and Pen Podcast.  This article is meant as a companion piece to that interview.  I wrote this late.  Forgive typos.

The subject of Friday’s “Radio Free SBC” portion of the Pulpit and Pen Program is the tragic invitation that Johnny Hunt extended to the charlatan Ergun Caner to preach at First Baptist Church of Woodstock on July 27, 2014.  Since I am a member of FBCW who has vociferously objected to the propriety of such an invitation, J.D. Hall was interested in hearing more about my perspective on the matter and thus he asked me to be a guest on his program.  I was happy to share my perspective and am grateful to J.D. for the forum.  I look forward to hearing the program tomorrow when the podcast is posted.  However, there is one additional facet of my experience at First Baptist Woodstock, one that wasn’t covered in the interview, which I’d like to share here…my emotional reaction to the great injustice perpetrated by my church and my pastor.

During our interview, JD and I didn’t really talk much about emotions and feelings.  We talked a little about how indignant I felt, but we mainly stuck to rational argumentation and discussion.  What else would one expect from the both of us, giving our mindsets?  After all, J.D. Hall is a staunch Calvinist and I am a logically-minded Christian apologist.[1]  Men such as us, more or less, tell it how it is.

Ask a Calvinist about the justification for God ordering the extermination of the Canaanites in the Old Testament and you’ll likely get an answer like this:

“The Canaanites weren’t elect.  They were vessels prepared for destruction.  Just look in God’s word. Read Romans 9:22. How dare you question the sovereign God of the universe!”

Ask a Christian apologist about for justification of God ordering the extermination of the Canaanites in the Old Testament and you’ll likely get an answer like this:

“Well, you really can’t even have objective moral values and duties unless they are grounded in God.  So, it really doesn’t even make sense for a finite being such as yourself to question the justness of our Holy God.  Without God, moral values and duties and even a sense of ‘justice’, are purely subjective matters of opinion.  In such a case, murder and genocide can’t be universally condemned but can only be viewed as matters of preference.  Thus, your question is really just nonsense if you think about it.”

For a person dealing with an emotional objection, such answers go over like Mark Driscoll and a Beth Moore study. People are thinking beings as well feeling beings.  I know this; however, I rarely remember to put forth any emotional arguments for God.  I read a book on doing so.  I even asked a lady apologist for advice.  It turns out, that sometimes people just need to understand the emotional side of things.

I think people may be having an emotional rejection to believing that Johnny Hunt is leading his church in a bad direction.  My strictly-business way of approaching the matter just isn’t getting over.  Someone in my Apologetics Sunday School class (of all places) pointed it out to me last night:

erin

I haven’t been considering the emotional side.  This is quite the blunder on my part, especially since this experience has been so emotionally wrenching for me.   One of the reasons, I think, that members are refusing to leave First Baptist Woodstock as it refuses to right this wrong is because the church leadership is holding them emotionally hostage.  Church members are “plugged in” to their church.  To take a stand, they’d have to take up their crosses and leave friends or family behind.  Doing so hurts.  I know because I am doing it.

Missing Miss Mona

“And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” Matthew 10:42

There are a lot of kind, servant-hearted people filled with the Love of Christ at FBCW.  One of them is a sweet, old Iranian lady who works in the FBCW nursery named Miss Mona.  My wife and I absolutely adore her.  When our twin girls were first old enough to be taken out of the house to church, we started bringing them to Miss Mona in the nursery.  It was hard for my wife, a first time mother, to leave our children with anybody.  However, she always had piece of mind when leaving them with Miss Mona.  Miss Mona was always so excited to take care of a pair of twins.  She fawned over our girls and always thanked us for bringing them.  She always asked us to bring them back the next week and said, “I take such good care of your babies” in her thick Farsi accent.

One Sunday, I came to church to substitute teach Sunday school and dropped of my babies with Miss Mon.  After class, I picked up my babies from dear Miss Mona and never returned them to her.  She had watched them grow up for weeks; now she doesn’t know whatever became of them.

One day, after not attending Woodstock for some weeks, I got a postcard from the nursery looking for our family.  Miss Mona missed the babies.  It was one the most heartbreaking piece of mail I ever received.

I used to love to listen to Pastor Johnny preach.  It was his preaching that first drew me to visit FBCW. Now, after finding out what kind of man he is, I am loathe to hear him speak.  Johnny’s spiritual gift is exhortation.  At this point, he couldn’t so much as exhort me to take out the garbage on trash day.  Still, I found myself telling my wife, “We need to go back to Woodstock; Miss Mona needs to see the babies.”

But we haven’t been back.  We miss Miss Mona.  We miss our brothers and sisters in Sunday School, too.

“Hey hey, I can’t meet you here tomorrow, No say goodbye, don’t follow.” Jerry Cantrell

I miss Steve Kennedy, our Sunday School teacher.  He taught my wife more about the Bible in 26 weeks than she had learned in 26 years of going to church.  Steve is one of the most knowledgeable theologians I’ve ever met.  He has a Divinity degree from Liberty online, but he isn’t a professional minister.  He’s just a guy with a regular job who loves to teach about Jesus.  He used to teach my wife and me. Now he does not.

I miss Shirley.  She works for the church in administrative capacity. She is an elderly woman who attends our apologetics class.  She reminds me of my grandmother. Most fundamentalists Shirley’s age aren’t interested in apologetics, but she is.  I think that’s so neat.  She always had a work of encouragement to me and was always so open about sharing her life experiences.  I heard wisdom in her words.

I miss Lauren and Bonnie.  They are sisters who run a wedding dress shop.  They minister to people who have been abused trough human trafficking.  Lauren cries almost every time she opens up because she loves Jesus so much.  She always wears heavy purple or blue eye shadow.  I wonder what tragedy those painted eyes have seen through her ministry.  Whatever they have seen, I see her as someone he keeps her eyes on the Lord.

I miss Sharon.  She is Shirley’s friend.  Her husband is Jewish.  He waits in the car during the sermon and most of Sunday School and then he comes to pick her up.  Sharon wants to see her husband come to Christ and goes to apologetics class to become a better witness for Jesus.

I miss Kirk.  He’s a landscaper. He’s a dad who brings his young son to Apologetics class.  I think it’s because he knows that his son is going to grow up in a world that is hostile to our faith and he wants to prepare him.  It does my heart so well to see a dad lead his son like that.  I wish everybody did.

I miss Jeff.  He works in the produce department at the grocery store.  Jeff got in an accident when he was little and it stunted his mental development.  The doctors said he wouldn’t make much of himself.  He hasn’t let his limitations stop him from working hard and engaging in the theologically heavy discussions of apologetics class.  This guy, who the doctors said would never be all there, invites Mormon missionaries to his house so he can share the true gospel with them.

I miss Steve.  He works in graphic design.  He’s Puerto Rican, he used to be catholic but he came out of that religion to find Christ.  Now he has an interest in apologetics.

I miss Lara.  She doesn’t fit the mold of ultra-conservative republican Cherokee County Redneck.  She’s a (gasp) democrat, but she drives a long way to get to FBCW to participate in apologetics class.  Sometimes, she brings chocolate chip cookies.  They are really good.

I miss Erin.  She’s a single mom.  She doesn’t go to the ladies Sunday school class.  She comes to our little diverse group.  She doesn’t say much, but when she does (see the tweets above), it makes you think.

I used to pray with all these people every week.  We shared our needs with each other.  I haven’t seen them in months.

These names are just some of the people I miss from church.  I don’t go there and I don’t give there because I know it’s immoral to support the errant leadership of a church like First Baptist Church of Woodstock.  I wonder, does mega-church Pastor Johnny Hunt know the voices and names off all the people I miss?  I do.  I know for darn sure that Johnny knows the name of his good-old boy buddy Ergun Caner.

I think Hunt knows that every-day members like me are so plugged into his membership that many won’t leave no matter what he and the other leaders do.  They hold people emotionally hostage.

I hope that soon and very soon, people will pick up their bibles, turn to Matthew 10:37-38 and realize that following Jesus sometimes mean leaving loved ones behind.  I hope that individual everyday people at FBCW will start looking to holding each other accountable and look away from the cult of personality of Johnny M. Hunt.  It’s quietly tyrannical.

“There shall be no more tyranny. A handful of men cannot seize power over thousands. A man shall choose who it is shall rule over him. . . . We give all we have, lives, property, safety, skills . . . we fight, we die, for a simple thing. Only that a man can stand up.”  James Otis, from the novel Johnny Tremain

Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Mid-Size Church

“I seem to recognize your face. Haunting, familiar yet, I can’t seem to place it. Cannot find the candle of thought to light your name. Lifetimes are catching up with me” Eddie Vedder

I’ve only been a member of Woodstock for a couple of years.  I wasn’t saved there.  I wasn’t baptized there.  I didn’t grow up there.  Do I know what it would really be like to stand up and leave over the evil Johnny is perpetrating on his people?

A couple of years back, my granddad was in the hospital.  My wife and I went to visit him on a Sunday.  That evening, I got the idea to stop by the church where I grew up for the Sunday night service.  I hadn’t been there in over ten years, since my family moved from Chattanooga to Cartersville.  The church had sold the building and moved.  It was a different place…but the people were the same.

When I walked in a saw an old lady named Pasty.  I hadn’t seen her since I was a teenager. I couldn’t even remember her name at the time but I knew that knew her.  In my mind’s eye, I could see her in the parking lot of the old church where I’d see her at the same time every Sunday.  Patsy has known my mother since before I was born.  Seeing Patsy made me feel like I was home.  It was a Sunday night service, there was no choir.  We met in the dark, concrete floor youth area…but I knew the preacher and I knew the people.

I wept.  I was home.

It’s hard to leave home, but sometimes Jesus asks us to do so, carrying our cross along the way.  For me, First Baptist Church of Woodstock had become home, but it is a corrupt place, and it appears that it will not change.

Injustice: Thoughts on Hobby Lobby and the Local Church

Now for the rational argument….

I don’t know any fellow Southern Baptists who were indignant over the recent Supreme Court decision to exempt Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. from the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate.  We all seem pretty satisfied with what appears to be a decision to respect religious liberty.  If there is anything in the adjudication of the Hobby Lobby case with which to be dissatisfied, it is the narrow 5-4 margin by which the Supreme Court made its decision.  The Supreme Court was very close to dealing a blow to religious liberty in the United States.  Only one vote prevented it from doing so.   Now, this doesn’t amount to anything where results are concerned.  As my daddy once told me, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.  Yet, we almost had a big problem on our hands.

I ask you fellow Christian, “What would you have done if the Supreme Court’s decision had done the other way?”

Would you have protested?  Would you have sought to have the law repealed?  Would you call for more drastic measures?  Would you have been able to honestly say to those who supported the contraceptive mandate:

“ We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

I don’t think I could.  I can’t say the same to anyone who supports Johnny Hunt.  No matter what good he has done in the past, he has proved himself inadequate today.

I’m moving on.  I’m pressing on.  Who knows where I’ll end up.  There is a potential for a seminary graduate coming out of FBCW.  Churches recruit ministers from there.  I may now be anathema in the Georgia Baptist Convention for speaking out on the Pulpit and Pen program against Johnny Hunt.  So be it.  I ain’t going where I don’t belong.

If you are enduring corruption quietly, it might just be because you are exactly where you belong.

Wake up.  Strengthen what remains.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

[1] Or, at least, I am studying to become one

 

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Johnny Hunt Recommended Caner to BPC Trustees, Says Hunt’s Highest-Ranking Staff Person

sethdunn88:

Lest anyone forget, Johnny Hunt has invited Ergun Caner to preach at First Baptist Woodstock even though Johnny knows Dr. Caner lied about his background.

Originally posted on Pulpit & Pen:

Following on the heels of a public revelation that Johnny Hunt has invited Ergun Caner to speak  to his church (which itself is following on the heels of an email released in which Hunt acknowledges Caner’s career of lies), we now have confirmation that a prominent staff member at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Georgia claims that Hunt recommended Caner to the Brewton-Parker Board of Trustees to serve as their next president.

In an email released to the Pulpit & Pen, Executive Pastor and Hunt’s highest-ranking staff person, Jim Law, told a concerned church member:

Caner three

Again, this is Jim Law – executive pastor at First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Georgia – saying…

Pastor Johnny affirmed that appointment to the search committee there [emphasis mine]. The reason being when those issues arose a couple years ago at Liberty, Pastor Johnny was on board there. Dr. Caner lost his job there but…

View original 623 more words

Thank God for Joel Osteen? Stealing Lost Sheep Out of His Open Gate

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.” The words of the Lord Jesus as recorded in Matthew 7:15-20

On or about July 19th, 2014, Pulpit and Pen contributor Dustin Germain, published an article on the Pulpit and Pen blog entitled, “Joel Osteen Likes God…He just doesn’t like Jesus [A Twitter Survey of @JoelOsteen]”.  In his article Germain observed that since July 8, 2013 (through July 19th, 2014), “Out of Joel Osteen’s 806 tweets, not including any of his replies to other people, he mentions ‘God’ 334 times.”[1]  Germain further observed that, during that same time period, Osteen mentioned Jesus only once.   Such a revelation may be shocking to some, however, when I read Germain’s findings, I was completely unsurprised.  I was already aware that Joel Osteen is a purveyor of what sociologist Christian Smith has labeled “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism,”[2]  which according to Smith, is a theology that exhibits the following ideas:

  1. God created the world.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when needed to resolve a problem
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.[3]

Such ideas (apart from #1 and most of #2), are hardly biblical and completely ignore the centrality of Jesus Christ to all of existence.  Preaching like that of Osteen has been described by author and theologian Michael Horton as “Smooth Talking and Christless Christianity.”[4]  Osteen’s brand of prosperity preaching, make no mistake it is a brand, is rightly decried by men such as Germain and Horton.  Horton observes:

“Although explicit proponents of the prosperity gospel may be fewer than their influence suggests, its big names and best-selling authors (T. D. Jakes, Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, and Joyce Meyer) are purveyors of a pagan worldview with a peculiarly American flavor. It’s basically what Luther called the ‘theology of glory’: How can I climb the ladder and attain the glory here and now that God has actually promised for us after a life of suffering? The contrast is the theology of the cross: the story of God’s merciful descent to us at great personal cost— a message that the apostle Paul acknowledged was offensive and foolish to Greeks.”[5]

I agree with Horton’s assessment.  Osteen is bad, very bad.  As I’ve written elsewhere, a picture speaks a thousand words.  So, here is a picture of my preaching professor’s hand pointing at a PowerPoint slide of Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer as he teaches workshop students about how dangerous these prosperity preachers are to congregants:

Joyce and Joel

At best, Osteen, Meyer, and company dilute the gospel. Yet, I’m thankful to God that a man such as Osteen has exposure in the digital age.  Here’s why.  In times past, huckster preachers in different geographical areas could fly under the radar of theologically discerning apologists and evangelists.  Such prosperity preachers who became popular enough to be featured on television would eventually be exposed for what they were to a larger audience.  However, the identity of their followers was largely unknown.   Television is a one-way medium.  While there is nothing new under the sun, times have changed.  The internet is replacing television as the primary medium of mass communication and it…is a two-way medium.  Evangelists, shepherds, and teachers can now know exactly who is in need of evangelism, care, and teaching simply by checking who retweets popular prosperity preachers like Joel Osteen.  Observe one of Osteen’s latest Tweets.

God's Big Deal OSteen

That bit of moralistic, therapeutic, life-coaching, Christless Deism (which defies the very definition of the word average) was retweeted by 2,970 undiscerning souls who likely don’t know their right from their left…and now anyone who wants to click on the retweet count can know who these souls are and can quickly, cheaply, and easily communicate with them.

Biblically faithful Christians can and often do go on-and-on about what a pox Osteen and others like him are upon our society and the church.  We should certainly lament that 3,437 biblically misinformed souls favorited this particular tweet.  However, we have to do something more than just complain or lament.  Otherwise, we may just come off as being jealous that men like Osteen are more popular and wealthy than us.

 We have to act.  We can use Osteen and others like him as an evangelistic and educational tool.  Just as the Watchtower and the LDS send lost people to our doors without our having to do anything, Osteen sends confused (or lost people) to our social media environment.  These people are even predisposed to a high view of scripture!  For what more could we ask?  Someone retweeting Osteen or posting a Joyce Meyer quote on his Facebook page is practically giving an invitation to have a spiritual conversation.  Take up that invitation.

We should follow Dustin Germaine’s example and rightly criticize Osteen for his Christless preaching, but our actions can’t end there.  Faithful Christians have to be ready to share the real, complete gospel of Jesus Christ.  Sometimes the Osteen dragon rears its ugly head in our flesh-and-blood environment and not just in social media where we have time to think about a response. Thus, we have to be ready at all times.  Recently, I experienced a situation, were I was not prepared as I should have been.

The Open Door

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” – The words of the Lord Jesus as recorded in Matthew 7:13-14

About a year ago, I decided to stop for coffee and check out the reading material at the Open Door Christian Bookstore here in Cartersville.  It was the most disturbing trip for a mocha that I ever took.  As I perused the books on the store’s shelves, I noticed offerings from Joel Osteen, TD Jakes, Joyce Meyer, and even Benny Hinn.  What were books written by such proliferators of error doing in the “Christian” bookstore?  Apparently, they were selling.  If such books weren’t sellers, they wouldn’t be carried.  Even someone like me who made a “C” in Marketing 3000 knows that. Towards the back of the store, there was a single shelf that displayed biblically faithful literature: Bible dictionaries, conservative commentaries, and concordances.  There were, of course, Bibles for sale, but they were in the back, too.  The front-line merchandise was prosperity stuff and moralistic, therapeutic deism.

It was an eye-opening experience.  The little town of Cartersville abounds with churches.  In fact, the Open Door Christian Bookstore is next door to a Baptist church.  Cartersville is absolutely full of conservative Baptists and Pentecostals.  I couldn’t believe that the members of these generally biblically faithful denominations were providing the market demand for Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer books, but they were and they are.  (A later trip to the spiritual books section of the local public library confirmed my suspicions.  There was a plentiful selection of Osteen and Meyer.)  Right here, in my own home, which appears to be an enclave of Christendom, there are enough sheep without a shepherd to keep the Open Door Christian Bookstore in the business of selling books by prosperity preachers.   Then and there, I resolved to talk to the manager or owner of the store in order to voice my objections to the “Christian” material for sale, but no one who fit those descriptions was to be found.  I took my coffee and left the bible-verse trinkets, eagle statues, ceramic angels, and prosperity books behind.  I did not return for almost a year.

You shall also have a place outside the camp and go out there, and you shall have a spade among your tools, and it shall be when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and shall turn to cover up your excrement.Since the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp to deliver you and to defeat your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy; and He must not see anything indecent among you or He will turn away from you. Deuteronomy 23:12-15

On a recent weekend, I attended a house-warming party for a friend of mine whom I met in Sunday School at First Baptist Woodstock.  I am usually not good at thinking of gifts to buy for such occasions and I had been racking my brain about what to get for him.  It came to me that, since my friend is a bold and outspoken proclaimer of the gospel who is majoring in religion through Liberty University Online, a Holman Bible Dictionary would be an appreciated gift.  It was Thursday and the weekend party was fast-approaching, but I knew exactly where I could find such a book on short notice.  After a late evening at work, I made my way to the Open Door Christian Bookstore.  I walked into to the store just before closing time.  The only other person there was an older man wearing dress clothes and a tie who asked me if I needed help finding anything.  I assumed him to be the owner. He led me his sole copy of the Holman Bible Dictionary and I brought it to the register in order to purchase it.

I was ready to voice my long-held concerns about the products he was selling, but I wanted to get an idea of his beliefs first. “Where do you go to church,” I asked him.  He told me that he went to New Covenant Church.   The name of his church didn’t tell me much about what he believed doctrinally.  “What denomination is that?” I asked.  He replied that it was non-denominational.  I asked him if it was an independent church that baptized professed believers by immersion.  He told me that it was.  “Oh, okay it’s a Baptist church, I said.”[6]  This observation led to the man going into an impassioned speech about denominational differences.  I got the feeling it wasn’t the first time he had given it.  He drew a crude analogy between different denominations and the twelve tribes of Israel in the Old Testament.  Each tribe had its own territory and culture but camped around the same Tabernacle of God.  So, too, do Christian denominations have their own differing cultures but camp around the same God.  We’re all different, but we’re all one.

Like a Joyce Meyer book, I didn’t buy it. Even if his tenuous analogy could hold, Deuteronomy 23 makes it clear that the skubalon that is a Joel Osteen book belongs outside the camp of God’s people.

I asked him, as he checked me out at the register, what he thought about Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, and Benny Hinn.  He stated that such authors weren’t for him but that some of his customers liked these books and that’s why he carried them.  His credit card machine, which he referred to as “the beast” then rejected the American Express gift card with which I was trying to pay.  As he ran my card again, this purveyor of Tim LaHaye bestsellers informed me that the government was seeking to take away the money supply in order to control spending.  Credit cards, it seemed, were the mark of the beast.  As I listened to him rattle off his eschatological predictions, I gazed upon a prominently displayed copy of John Hagee’s Four Blood Moons in quiet dismay.

It was hard to get in a word edgewise but I finally got it out that I didn’t think it was appropriate to sell books by heretics like Joyce Meyer.  This struck a nerve.  “Baptists don’t have it all figured out!” he told me.  This is not a claim I had made but he refuted it nonetheless.  Once of the things know-it-all seminary students like me know for sure is that we Baptists don’t have it all figured out.  We are equally sure that Joyce Meyer is a heretic.   The old shop keeper told me that the definition of heresy was very narrow and that someone had to deny that Jesus was God to be a heretic.   I told him that Joyce Meyer claimed that Jesus stopped being the son of God on the cross.[7]

“She never said that,” he retorted.

Undaunted I insisted that she did.  It was to no avail.  On this day, there was to be no reaching this particular sin salesman.  At least I tried.  I do hope that every Christian man and women in Cartersville who claims to be a follower of Christ, especially the members of New Covenant Church, will hold this man accountable for the books he sells.  I think he knows that he is sin; he showed it by his defensive attitude.  He knew he couldn’t defend the people who wrote the books he sold.  Instead he tried to defend the conditions of the operation of his business.  The best he could do was lay out some red herrings:

“John McArthur is wrong on some things, should I stop carrying him?  Some people come in and only want the King James!”

He wanted me to defend MacArthur, the Southern Baptist denomination, or a certain Bible translation and see that I couldn’t do so and hold to my own supposed standard of not selling error.  I didn’t bring any of those subjects up and I wasn’t there to defend any of them.  They were, quite frankly, irrelevant to the task at hand.  Watch out for tactics like this when you stand up for God’s truth.  Don’t be baited into defending your guy[8], your translation, or your denomination.  Stick to God’s word and Christ crucified.

Readers might say at this point, that the owner of the Open Door Christian Book store is running a ministry and not a business.  That’s fine.  You can go ahead and assert that if you like.  I wonder, though, if you would make the same assertion if the store was selling Playboy Magazine or pornographic movies.  There are just some things that a Christian should neither buy nor sell.  I say the owner of the Open Door Christian Book Store is putting money before God, and in a big way by selling such things.

Joel Osteen books are just as bad as pornography.  They are harmful. Think about that the next time you hear or see someone quote Joel Osteen and don’t say one word of correction to him.  Think about that and think about the example the Apostle Paul sets in scripture:

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;  so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16

Walking Through the Door Joel Osteen has Opened

“This is my Bible. I am what it says I am. I can do what it says I can do. Today, I will be taught the Word of God. I boldly confess: My mind is alert, My heart is receptive. I will never be the same. I am about to receive The incorruptible, indestructible, Ever-living seed of the Word of God. I will never be the same. Never, never, never. I will never be the same. In Jesus name. Amen.” Joel Osteen

I made a “C” in Marketing but I made an “A” in Business Negotiation.  There is a negotiation technique called the “consistency trap” that is quite useful in many situations.  If someone has committed to a certain position, it is psychologically difficult for him to go back on his own word.  Such a person can be caught in a consistency trap and held accountable for his words.

Consider the case of a car salesman who sees a dad walk in to his dealership with three small children.  The car salesman says, “With a family full of small children, I’m sure you’re looking for a very safe car.”  Any dad worth his salt will respond in the affirmative.  The salesman then says, “I can show you this model, it’s the safest in its class but, of course, the top-of-the-line safety features drive up the price.”  What can the dad say now, “Sorry, I don’t want to spend the money to keep my children safe.”?  He can’t say that.  He’s caught in the consistency trap and if he can’t get out of it, he’ll have to buy the car.

How easy should it be to witness to someone who has repeated the words of Osteen quoted above?  There is no need to defend the veracity of the Bible, the ancient wisdom of the Old Testament Law, the age of the earth, or the possibility of miracles.  Someone who repeats after Osteen already claims to believe every word the Bible says.  It should be easy, therefore, to set a biblical consistency trap:

Isn’t your heart receptive? Didn’t you boldly confess it so?  You just said you are what the Bible says you are?  You just said the Word of God was incorruptible.

Well, the Word of God says you are a wretched sinner and you need pick of up the cross of Christ and follow Him.  It will be hard, you will be persecuted, and you may lose some friends.  There is no seed faith to provide you with favor.  Rather, you are more than a conqueror because Jesus has defeated death at the cross.

These Osteen people are waiting for you, faithful Christian, to share the true gospel with them.  Unfortunately, Osteen and company think that these people are waiting for them to take their money.  Osteen, Meyer, Jakes, and Hinn are the kind of people Paul was talking about when he said:

“For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  2 Timothy 3:6-7

What are you going to do?  Are you going to walk into church, pour your cup of coffee, walk right by the woman who was posting Osteen quotes on Facebook last night, and take your seat before the praise music starts?  Put that coffee down.  Do the work of an evangelist.

Every time someone retweets Osteen, you’ve got a lead on a spiritual conversation.  Use that lead.[9]  Before doing so, however, make sure you’ve studied up on Osteen and can clearly communicate why he’s a man who shouldn’t be followed.  Dustin Germain and others have already done the work for you in this area.  Use it.  Most of all, study up on what scripture says.  If you know what the Bible says, you can’t go wrong.

In practice, it’s not going to be as quick and easy as setting a consistency trap.  When it comes down to it, most people aren’t going to care how much you know, they are going to care how much you love.  Correct gently.   Be nice.  Most of all, pray.  You can’t do the work of an evangelist by yourself.  You need the Holy Spirit to guide you.  Let Him do so.

Be on the lookout, as Michael Horton points out:

“..the church in America today is so obsessed with being practical, relevant, helpful, successful, and perhaps even well-liked that it nearly mirrors the world itself. Aside from the packaging, there is nothing that cannot be found in most churches today that could not be satisfied by any number of secular programs and self-help groups.”[10]

Some version of what Osteen preaches may have already slithered its way into your church.

“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

 [1] http://pulpitandpen.org/2014/07/18/joel-osteen-likes-god-he-just-doesnt-like-jesus-a-twitter-survey-of-joelosteen/

[2] Christian Smith with Melinda Lundquist Denton, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 162– 71, 258, 262.

[3] Ibid., 162-163.

[4] Horton, Michael (2008-11-01). Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (p. 65). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[5] Horton, Michael (2008-11-01). Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (p. 68). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[6] It never ceases to amaze me that some people who attend “non-denominational” churches don’t understand that they are Baptists.  A Baptist church is any church that is autonomous and baptizes believers by immersion.

[7] http://storage.carm.org/audio/joycemeyer/joyce-meyer-Jesus-became-sin-stopped-being-son-of-God.mp3

[8] I’ve never even read any John McArthur books.

[9] Yes, I’m playing of “Glengarry Glen Ross to drive these points home.

[10] Horton, Michael (2008-11-01). Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (pp. 16-17). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Fahrenheit Highway 411: Matthew LeHew, Shorter University, and Ergun Caner

 “It was a pleasure to burn.” Guy Montag, from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451

Matthew LeHew Calls Out Ergun Caner

Matthew LeHew

It’s simply important for all BPC stakeholders, especially the faculty and staff that make their living at the institution, to realize how serious the situation is[1] – Matthew LeHew

On or about the 10th of July, Matthew LeHew published an article on his personal website entitled “Ergun Caner is Wrong About Brewton-Parker’s Accreditation”.  LeHew was responding to a video (see below) in which Caner assesses the ramifications of the recent decision of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) to strip Brewton-Parker College of its accreditation (Caner is the President of that school).  In the video, Caner makes a number of claims with which LeHew takes exception, most notably the claim that “(Brewton Parker) won’t lose (its) accreditation, not for a moment.” At first blush, someone posting yet another criticism of Ergun Caner doesn’t seem like big news; I’ve done it, Mark Lamprecht has done it, James White has done it, JD Hall has done it, Tom Rich has done it, others have done it; Caner and Brewton-Parker are criticized weekly, if not daily, by many.  So what’s new?  What is significant about Matthew LeHew writing an article critical of Caner?  Matthew LeHew’s criticism is very significant because of where he works and what he does for a living.  Lehew is an “Assistant Accreditation Liaison” at Shorter University, which, like Brewton-Parker, is a Georgia Baptist Institution.  According to Shorter’s website, LeHew worked as “as an accreditation compliance officer at The Baptist College of Florida” before coming to Shorter.  So, not only is Matthew LeHew the first (to my knowledge) employee of a Georgia Baptist cause to publicly criticize Ergun Caner and Brewton-Parker, he is a Georgia Baptist insider with expertise in matters of institutional accreditation. LeHew’s article was, to say the least, very damning of Ergun Caner’s claims.   The article was also very well written.  Such quality is to be expected from LeHew, who is also an “Instructor of Communication Arts” at Shorter University and teaches a class entitled “Media Law & Ethics.To summarize: A Georgia Baptist college communications instructor who works in the area of institutional accreditation and teaches a class called “Media Law and Ethics” wrote and published an article for the whole world wide web to see in which he stated: Ergun Caner, president of BPC, has (deliberately or not) misrepresented the security of his institution’s accredited status to his faculty and staff.”[2] LeHew is not an accountant (like me), a financial services professional (like Lamprecht), an apologist (like White), or an electrical engineer (like Rich); he is a communications professional employed by a Georgia Baptist Institution that works in the area of institutional accreditation and has proclaimed Ergun Caner’s statements about Brewton Parker’s accreditation status to be “egregious”[3] and “very, very wrong.”[4] I don’t know how many page views LeHew’s website received after he posted his article, but I do know he website stopped working for a time, perhaps because it was overwhelmed by server traffic.  Now, his article is gone.  It was removed almost as quickly as it was posted.  The critical article has been replaced…by an apology. Not only has the article been removed but LeHew has demanded that Tom Rich remove a copy of it from his blog.  Rich, with LeHew’s persmission, had posted a copy of LeHew’s article during the time in which LeHew’s website was down.  Now, LeHew has demanded that Rich remove the copy. Rich has done so. I am left thinking that LeHew removed the article and posted an apology because his job at Shorter University was threatened.  LeHew’s critical article, it appears, has been censored.  Did the powers that be at Shorter and the Georgia Baptist Convention consider it dangerous?  Having read LeHew’s article and observed the candor with which LeHew wrote, I’m convinced that they did.  If Mathew LeHew was under the impression that he possessed a certain degree of academic or personal freedom while in the employ of Shorter University, it appears as if that impression was a mistaken one. As LeHew took down his article and issued (what I believe to be) a contrived apology, I wonder, did he think his words were a pleasure to burn?  Did LeHew take stock of his situation and come to the realization that he worked for the thought police? To those familiar with recent events at Shorter, a situation like LeHew’s should not come as a surprise. Shorter University is no stranger to controversy.  It recently had accreditation and faculty problems of its own but it seems to have come through them.  Shorter has been target of criticism from those outside of the Georgia Baptist Convention for some time and, now, one of its own, Matthew LeHew, seems to have caused, from within, a stir.

LeHew’s Assessment

Caner not only downplays the seriousness of the situation, but goes so far as to make a pivotal false statement regarding the outcome of BPC’s upcoming appeal.”[5] Matthew LeHew

In his criticism of Caner’s statements, Matthew LeHew did not even make a specific assessment about the charlatanry of which Caner has been accused.  Rather he focused solely on Caner’s claims about Brewton-Parker’s accreditation.  LeHew addressed the following claims made by Ergun Caner:

(1) The claim that Brewton Parker remains accredited and will continue to be accredited.

In response to this claim, LeHew noted that while technically true, it is also “disingenuous”[6]. LeHew observed that, since SACS has already voted to remove Brewton-Parker from membership, its “continued accreditation is a mere technicality pending an appeal in August (2014).”[7] LeHew claimed that the truth is as follows: “(Brewton Parker’s) accrediting agency has voted to kick (it) out, but (it’s) got an appeal coming up that is literally (it’s) last chance.” LeHew pointed out that Brewton-Parker, despite its loss of membership, continues to assure (students’) parents that situation is fine.

(2) The claim that removal of Brewton-Parker’s accreditation is a long process.

In response to this claim, LeHew pointed out that while accreditation removal is a long process, Brewton-Parker is at the end of it.  The hearing in August is the final part.  LeHew, showing his expertise on accreditation, pointed out that SACS Principles of Accreditation “forbid an institution from being on Probation for over two years, even with good cause.”[8]

(3) The claim that Brewton Parker will maintain its accreditation even if the appeals process does not go well.

In response to this claim, LeHew remarked, “…that portion of the video (where Caner makes the claim above)…must be seen to be believed. I confess I’ve never seen Caner in person, nor have I heard him speak in public. I don’t know if what I’m interpreting in the video as supreme levels of condescension and smugness are misattributed aspects of his regular speaking tone.”[9]  LeHew made it clear that if the appeals process does not go well, Brewton-Parker will have no more opportunities. Interestingly enough, this is the very same claim that Caner himself made in an interview with Gerald Harris of the Christian Index in March of 2014.  When asked by Harris about the SACS accreditation review, Caner stated, “…this is the year we are going to hit it out of the park or strike out.”  Now, upon learning that his college has swung and missed at strike three, Caner is claiming that there are more innings yet to play!  Once again, Caner has been caught making “factual statements that are self-contradictory.” The ever-enabled Caner, it seems, just can’t help himself.

(4) The claim that every Brewton-Parker degree transfers

In response to this claim, LeHew noted that, if accreditation is lost, credits earned at the school will not be guaranteed transferable and undergraduate degrees granted by the school cannot be guaranteed to count towards graduate school.

(5) The claims that Brewton-Parker has “all the financial resources, including federal aid.”

In response to this claim, LeHew noted that, if accreditation is lost, students will lose the ability to receive federal financial aid through Title IV.

(6) The claim that Brewton-Parker will not lose its accreditation for a moment.

In response to this claim, LeHew pointed out that even if Brewton-Parker files and injunction to delay its loss of accreditation, it will be unaccredited during the time before the injunction is filed.  Of course, if the injunction fails, it will certainly lose accreditation.

(7) The claim that Brewton Parker is in the black and has a balanced budget for next year.

In response to this claim, LeHew stated, “(Caner) said that (Brewton-Parker College) isn’t in deficit, but doesn’t mention debt. Caner’s justification of BPC’s financial situation is actually very restricted, and his response doesn’t actually indicate compliance with the Principles of Accreditation at all…And if Caner refuses to change anything leading up to the August appeal, then it’s a virtual guarantee that it will be denied, and there’s little reason for a judge to issue any kind of preliminary injunction.”[10]  As an accountant, I can appreciate LeHew’s appeal to hard numbers here.  LeHew observed that Brewton-Parker’s liabilities were a little over 50% of the size of their assets.  In accounting parlance, this is called a going concern problem.  When an organization’s financial statements indicate a doubt in its ability to continue, it’s usually a sign of impending doom.

“…I know I’m an idiot.” Ergun Caner

To conclude his criticism of Caner, LeHew stated:  “A selfie video from the president doesn’t change the fact that an adverse decision will result in the devaluation of all active students’ degrees, as well as their inability to pay for their education. Private colleges without any other institutional accreditation don’t simply ‘bounce back’ from those circumstances.”[11]LeHew also offered a seemingly token statement encouraging Christians to pray for Brewton-Parker and its faculty, staff, and students.  However, he also calls upon his readers to “…remember that (SACS) isn’t an enemy or a persecutor. The institution isn’t facing an external adversarial organization, and there should be no rallying cry for Christians to ‘stand’ against such. Rather, the institution is coming to terms with the consequences of its own internal decisions…” Unfortunately, for LeHew, he is coming to terms with the consequences his own internal decision to post a criticism of a Georgia Baptist Institution.  His job may now be in jeopardy, while the future and security of men like former Brewton-Parker President Mike Simoneaux and Georgia Baptist Convention President and Former Brewton-Parker Trustee Don Hattaway, who have managed Brewton-Parker into the ground, seem quite secure.  Unfortunately, Shorter University itself, also managed (to a degree) by Hattaway is no stranger to the consequences of its own internal decisions.

Shorter College and the Georgia Baptist Life Style

“I want to take personal offense to Caner’s insinuation when he said ‘School after school after school has had to deal with this, including our Baptist brothers and sisters, even those here in Georgia.’ No GBC school has faced a revocation to its accreditation. If he’s alluding to Shorter being placed on Warning in 2013 (and removed in 2014), then it betrays his thorough lack of understanding of the accreditation process. Shorter did NOT go through what BPC is going through.”[12] Matthew LeHew

Just a short drive to Rome on Highway 411 from my home in Cartersville, Georgia is Shorter University. Shorter is a Georgia Baptist institution that boasted a Fall 2013 enrollment of 2,636; it offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in a variety of disciplines.  The University, established in 1873, is a familiar site to anyone traveling along Shorter Avenue. “A twisting driveway leads up from a busy street, past a gatehouse to the Georgian quad where twin gates stand. The gates are emblazoned with mottoes: ‘ENTER TO LEARN’ faces outward; ‘GO FORTH TO SERVE’ faces inward.” In 2002, the college was the scene of a battle for institutional control.  Shorter’s erstwhile board of trustees voted to sever the University’s ties with the Georgia Baptist Convention.  A legal contest ensued.  In 2005, through a decision of the Georgia Supreme Court, Georgia Baptist Convention control was solidified. The board of trustees was soon to be filled with supporters of Georgia Baptist Convention control. In Late 2011, Shorter issued a four-point “lifestyle statement” that all faculty and staff are required to sign if they wished to remain employed. It reads: shorter lifestyleThe issuance of the statement resulted in vociferous protests from many liberals and academics.  As a Georgia Baptist, I supported the statement…and still do.  The fact is there were some professors teaching material in a way that contradicted a biblical worldview.  Furthermore, former Chairman of the Shorter Board of Trustees, Nelson Price, lamented that Shorter had a reputation as “a hotbed of homosexuality since the late 1970s.”  Such activity and such a reputation have no place in a Christian college…period…end of discussion. As it became apparent that the lifestyle statement would not be scrapped, faculty and staff left in droves.  I kept a careful watch of the activity, reading the comments of dissenters and even watching an on-line video of protesters outside the college.  I carefully took notice of the names of protesters and dissenters.  I Googled them and searched for them on Facebook.  My purpose in doing so was to contact them and witness to them.  That’s one of the things I love about the digital age.  Information and people are closer than ever before.  Here in the Bible belt white (and black) southerners all look like Christians.  Public statements against biblical standards help flush out lost people better than a traveling evangelist who tells congregants to bow their heads and raise their hands if they aren’t sure about eternity. I tried to strike up a conversation on Facebook with one of the alumni protestors, Brentz Turner, to no avail. I tried to contact Cory Lowe, another protestor, through his website, also to no avail. I emailed [name redacted at her request], another dissenting shorter alumnus.   [name redacted at her request] did respond to my attempts at communication. After telling [name redacted at her request], that the lifestyle statement seemed fair given that Shorter was run by Southern Baptists, she responded:

“Southern Baptists are not running Shorter. Fundamentalists are”

The Southern Baptist Confession of Faith is a fundamentalist confession. I’m fundamentalist. Critics like [name redacted at her request] found little sympathy with me.  Sadly, I believe [name redacted at her request] and many others who would protest such a lifestyle statement to be lost.  I was satisfied with the stand that Shorter and Georgia Baptist Convention were taking.  At the time, I was a member of Tabernacle Baptist ChurchThree members of that church were on the Shorter Board of Trustees.  One of those members was my Pastor, Dr. Don Hattaway, who is now the President of the Georgia Baptist Convention. In addition to serving on the board at Shorter, Hattaway was formerly the chairman of the Board of Trustees at Brewton-Parker College, his alma mater.  At the time, I was unaware of the troubles at Brewton-Parker.  I did not know that my own pastor was involved in running what I’ve come to think of as an inept and corrupt institution (Brewton-Parker).  I’m thankful that the Georgia Baptist Convention took a biblical stand with regards to the situation at Shorter; however, there is no excuse for its failure to uphold its own standard of righteousness.  The Georgia Baptist Convention held the liberals employed at Shorter accountable but it hasn’t done so with Ergun Caner and Brewton-Parker College.  If you’re thinking that Georgia Baptist Convention Leadership is going do the right thing where Brewton-Parker and Ergun Caner are concerned, you might want to think again.

Ergun Caner with Don Hattaway at Brewton-Parker in 2014

Financial Instability or Religious Persecution?

“Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling.” Proverbs 16:18

Rather than taking accountability for and coming to terms with the consequences of Brewton Parker’s internal decisions, Brewton-Parker trustee Bucky Kennedy went on the TV news claiming that SACS is persecuting Brewton-Parker because it is “small, rural, and faith based.”  In the light of the real religious persecution that has recently been perpetrated upon Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood, and Jake Phillips, Kennedy’s straw man appeal to religious persecution is especially despicable. Rather than take responsibility for the inept management of men like himself, Hattaway, Ergun Caner, and Mike Simoneaux, Kennedy is trying to gin up anti-intellectual sentiment against SACS amongst the South Georgia country folk.  This is, very plainly, bad form.  Either Kennedy is a buffoon or he is a deceiver.  In either case, he’s proved himself unqualified to run an institution of higher learning. This raises the question of the general competence of professional pastors to lead colleges in the state of Georgia.  Exactly what are their qualifications?  Shorter was recently put on warning with SACS.  Truett-McConnell College, a Georgia Baptist institution run by Ergun Caner’s brother Emir, was recently labeled a “dropout factory” with a 14% graduation rate by Time Magazine.   Brewton-Parker has been removed from SACS membership for “failing to exercise appropriate control over all its financial resources.”  Think about it, the federal government is going to stop giving financial aid to students to attend Brewton-Parker.  The federal government…thinks funding Brewton-Parker…is wasteful.  Yet, hundreds of Georgia Baptist Churches continue to fund it every week through the cooperative program.  Those same churches pay the salaries of the pastors who have taken it upon themselves to become educational administrators. Let’s recall what got Brewton-Parker into its financial mess in the first place (the one it has tried to solve by hiring the charlatan Ergun Caner).  It wasn’t religious persecution.  As I’ve discussed elsewhere, it was a financial scandal (involving the misuse of federal student financial aid) and its immoral treatment of the whistle-blower, Martha Faw, who called the scandal to light.  Brewton-Parker paid $4 million to settle a lawsuit related to that financial scandal.  It was a penalty from which they seem unable to recover.

Brewton-Parker Appeals to Mammon

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”Matthew 6:24

Rather than just admitting failure, cutting its losses, and advising students and faculty to seek educational fulfillment elsewhere (like Shorter or one of the other hundred or so college in Georgia), Brewton-Parker has announced “Stand with Brewton Parker Day.”  Brewton-Parker has released a statement (likely worded by VP of Communications Peter Lumpkins) reading, “Brewton-Parker College (BPC) has been an icon of southeast Georgia for well over a century. Few people living in the region remain unaffected by this Georgia Baptist institution. Tens of thousands of college graduates have literally served all over the globe as pastors, missionaries, church-planters, teachers, scholars, business owners, farmers, lawyers, you name it. Our past is glorious because our God is glorious. Our future will be no less glorious because our God is no less glorious!” Apparently such a statement isn’t enough; it’s website lists three reasons why people should stand with Brewton-Parker:

(1) We make no apologies to anyone for being a Christian college founded on a Christian worldview. 

It also makes no apologies for the gross incompetence of its leadership and its complete and total lack of accountability. This statement is clearly intended to stir the pot with regards to perceived religious persecution.  Stop and think about this for a minute.  I’m as Baptist as they come.  I’m writing a polemic against Brewton-Parker.  In fact, most polemics I come across about Brewton-Parker and Ergun Caner are from Christians who demand the Georgia Baptist Convention clean up its act.

(2)  Brewton-Parker College remains an economic mainstay of the Mount Vernon region. Every business and livelihood in the area would be negatively affected with many failing were Brewton-Parker College to fail.

Wow! Every business and livelihood would be affected? Brewton-Parker enrolls less than 1,000 students.  It’s not the KIA Plant in West Point!  Furthermore, positive economic impact is not a good reason to support an evil institution.  Doing so puts money above God.

(3) BPC has literally changed communities and regions all over the globe for the past century.

Here’s an experiment for you when you go to church next Sunday.  Ask people if they’ve ever heard of this world-changing “icon.”  Most Georgia Baptist I’ve talked to don’t even know it exists, yet they continue to give wasted tithes and offerings to support it.

Should We Pray For Brewton Parker?

“Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us?” Deuteronomy 31:17

I don’t think, for one second, that God is with Brewton-Parker College or the Georgia Baptist Convention.  Just because a place or organization is “Baptist” in name, doesn’t it make it a God-ordained holy cause.  When I examine Brewton-Parker, all the way from the financial scandal to a board of trustees who were obtuse (or crooked) enough to appoint the charlatan Ergun Caner as a school President, I don’t see a God-honoring institution.  I see a whitewashed tomb whose iniquity is nearly complete. Let the accreditation removal be the straw that broke the camel’s (that was too big to fit through the needle for being puffed up with pride) back.  Good riddance to Brewton-Parker College.  I pray that young people will become world changers for Christ despite the machinations of the good ole boys in the Georgia Baptist Convention.  I pray that Caner and company will repent and turn away from their wicked ways.  Great is the fall of the house whose foundation is built upon the sand.

Fearing God and not Man

“Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, And whose heart turns away from the Lord.”  Jeremiah 17:5

Aside from the apathy of every day church-goers, one of the things that disturbs me most about the culture of the Georgia Baptist Convention is the fear of man amongst the pastorate.  These stories I’m telling you aren’t secrets.  They are well documented.  Why aren’t more pastors speaking out?  Is it because they are afraid they won’t get invited to the next big preaching conference?  Is it because they are afraid they will not considered for the next posh Georgia Baptist post? (Georgia Baptist College presidents, for example, make six-figures to run very small colleges).  Are the pastors running the show more concerned with making money and looking out for their friends that looking after their flocks?  Pictures speak a thousand words, so I’ll let these pictures do the talking.

Gerald Harris, interviewing Ergun Caner, Harris is the editor of the Christian Index, a Georgia Baptist Convention news service.

Gerald Harris preaches a conference with Don Hattaway

Influential men like Don Hattaway and Ergun Caner seem to be doing just fine no matter what the outcome of their actions and inactions turn out to be, but who’s looking out for the little guy like Matthew LeHew?  Matthew LeHew told the truth in a helpful way and now he is afraid of losing his job.  Matthew LeHew is an ordained minister with a wife to support.  Why should he have to live in a culture of fear to keep his job? It’s just not fitting.  It’s wrong. Now, because of the culture of fear and secrecy in the Georgia Baptist Convention, I believe Matthew LeHew has taken the first step (taking down his article) towards living a life of compromise.  It’s a step I’ve been tempted to take.

Matthew LeHew with his bride.

I know that people often wonder why I spend so much time on the computer lamenting the problems in my state and national denomination.  I’ve three great jobs, a beautiful wife, three lovely children, and seminary classes for which to study.  Why do I spend my time doing this?  Well, look right there at that picture of Matthew LeHew.  That’s a man with smiling bride and handsome dog who set out to do the right thing and was threatened with job loss…from a Christian institution. One day, my little daughters, God willing, are going to be brides just like Matthew’s wife.  They’ll have a family to look after and their husband will be responsible for supporting it.  I don’t want my daughters and their husbands to feel pressure to compromise God’s will for money…but I know they will feel that pressure.  I hope, when they think of their father, they’ll see an example of a man who resisted it. I’ve already had a Baptist leader try to get me in trouble at one of my jobs for speaking out?  I’m quite certain that calling out the people whom  I’ve called out will limit my options when I graduate seminary.  So be it. People might think I have a personal axe to grind with Don Hattaway.  I don’t. He’s a nice man and a fine preacher.  I sat under his preaching for years and had only two disagreements with his exposition.  He thinks there was an eye of the needle gate in Jerusalem.  I don’t.  He thinks Jephthah’s daughter went to serve as a temple virgin; I think she was sacrificed.  Such disagreements don’t even matter!  It was during one of his sermons that I got under conviction to obey God in believer’s Baptism.  It was under his sermons that I got under the conviction to answer the call to seminary…and it was under conviction that I left his church.  Doing what feels right isn’t always easy and sometimes it means calling on nice people to do the right thing. Don Hattaway…do the right thing.  Matthew LeHew…do the right thing.  Georgia Baptists…do the right thing.

Keep up the Skeer

“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars.” 2 Chronicles 16:9

This isn’t my first article about the Georgia Baptist Convention and its problem of corruption and it likely won’t be my last.   I’m staying diligent in my calls for justice, repentance, and accountability. The confederate general, Nathan Bedford Forest, who saved the city of Rome, GA from an attacking Union force led by Colonel Abel Streight had a saying, “Get ‘em skeered and keep the skeer on ‘em.” That’s what I’m doing. Little by little, I know I’m reaching people.  People are seeing something. People are saying something.  Soon, people will do something. If the problems upon which I opine are ignored, people will forget about them.  I conject that scandals in the church have been swept under the rug for years; high-powered preachers aren’t used to having to answer for gross mismanagement of convention funds.  The internet is changing that, for the better, I think. Nathan Bedford Forest was often outmanned and outgunned when he faced an enemy. This was the case when he faced Abel Streight.  However, Forest defeated Streight (as he did many others) by outsmarting him.  Forest did not play by Streight’s rules.  On top of having my job threatened, I’ve had Matthew 18 misapplied to me twice by Georgia Baptist leaders.  I’m done playing by their rules.  After he accepted Abel Streight’s surrender Nathan Bedford Forest told the agitated colonel, “All’s Fair in Love and War.”  Well, Georgia Baptist Convention, I’m done playing by your manmade, legalistic rules of secrecy and fear-mongering. I’m sticking to what the Bible says.  The Bible tells me that men like Matthew LeHew should proclaim the truth boldly when they see a wrong that needs to be righted.  I know I will.  How dare you, Georgia Baptist Convention, make Matthew LeHew feel like his job is in jeopardy while at the same time employing that charlatan Ergun Caner.

Remember, the eye in the sky is watching us all.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

[1] Per Matthew LeHew’s article “Ergun Caner is Wrong About Brewton-Parker’s Accreditation” as published at MatthewLeHew.com
[2] ibid
[3] ibid
[4] ibid
[5] ibid
[6] ibid
[7] ibid
[8] ibid
[9] ibid
[10] ibid
[11] ibid
[12] ibud

40 harmful effects of Christianity – #4

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.Genesis 1:1

“God Spoke and BANG! It happened.” Wayne Barber

“A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics.” Fred Holye

This post is the fourth in a series that addresses a list of “40 harmful effects of Christianity” that originated on the American Atheists Facebook page and has since made its way around the internet. In this post, I examine the following “harmful effect” from the list:

Harmful Effect #4: Children growing up to hate and fear science and scientists, because science disproves their parents’ religion – leading to appalling scientific illiteracy.

I was raised by parents who took me to church almost every Sunday.  They still go.  I still go.  I have never in my entire life hated or feared science or scientists.  Given my personal experience, this “harmful effect” seems entirely spurious.

Personally, I’m grateful that scientists exist.  Medication and technology developed by scientists has improved the quality of my life and the lives of countless others.  Notwithstanding high school chemistry, I’ve enjoyed the things I’ve learned in every single science class that I’ve taken in school.  (When I went to work for a paper company, I even began to appreciate chemistry.)

In college, I majored in business and was thus required to take only two science courses.  I took biology and physical geography.  I came across nothing in my scientific study that disproved the religion of my parents.  (Since the scientific method is inductive, it’s a stretch to conclude that science can prove anything at all.) Given that I’ve fulfilled the scientific requirement to earn a bachelor’s degree at an accredited, first-world university, I’d hardly classify myself as “appallingly” scientifically illiterate.

Support for “harmful effect #4” is dreadfully wanting, but that’s not the end of the story where Christianity and science are concerned.

Speaking as someone who appreciates scientific inquiry, I find the reactions of some in the scientific community to the implications of the widely accepted Big Bang Theory to be quite alarming.  Now, before I go further, I want to mention that, in all my educational pursuits, I’ve studied this theory most in the course of my ongoing education at a Southern Baptist Seminary. So, again, Christians are hardly cowering in the corner afraid of the the study of science. The Big Bang Theory posits that the universe (space, matter, and time) had an absolute beginning at a finite point in the past.  The following short video presentation explains the philosophical implications of the Big Bang Theory.

To put it simply, the Big Bang Theory is compatible with the idea that the universe was created, out of nothing, by God, in the finite past…just like Genesis 1:1 says it was.  Atheistic scientists understand this.  Understanding it so, many of them have gone to great lengths to try and provide alternative cosmological models that present past-eternal universes.

So far, they have come up short.  Maybe it’s some atheists, not Christians who are afraid of the conclusions of science and scientists.

In my next post in this series, I’ll address the following:

Harmful Effect #5: Tens of thousands tortured and killed as witches (a practice which still continues today)

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

40 harmful effects of Christianity – #3

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:23

This post is the third in a series that addresses a list of “40 harmful effects of Christianitythat originated on the American Atheists Facebook page and has since made its way around the internet. In this post, I examine the following “harmful effect” from the list:

Harmful Effect #3: Women treated like second-class citizens based on religious teachings.

Like many of the “harmful effects” on this list, harmful effect #3 seems to be a general observation about world religion and culture that is not at all specific to Christianity. Quite frankly, the idea that women are second-class citizen is antithetical to Christianity. As Paul communicated to the Galatians, the church is one body (of equals) united in Christ Jesus. This idea flew in the face of the social conventions of the time; modern atheistic secular humanists would do well to keep this point of history in mind.

After considering Paul’s words to the Galatians, if there is yet any doubt in the mind of the critic of Christianity that women are considered “second-class” within Christ’s church, he should refer to Paul’s admonishment to the husbands in the church at Ephesus :

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”

According to the Apostle Paul, husbands are to put the welfare of their wives before their own. After reading a statement like this, I can think of no assertion more absurd than “women are treated like second-class citizens based on religious teachings.”

Finally, there is yet another teaching of Paul that demands attention in light of the criticism that has been leveled. On the subject of sexual relations, Paul writes the following to the men and woman of the Corinthian church:

The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

A woman in ancient Roman culture, according to the Apostle Paul, has a property in the body of her husband. How could such a person in the culture of antiquity, in any culture, be considered a second-class citizen? 

When considered against the biblical text, harmful effect #3 holds absolutely no water; the critic of Christianity would do well to consult the bible before leveling his critiques. The Christian would do well to read the bible and act upon its teachings. This criticism came from somewhere and it wasn’t the Bible. Perhaps, self-proclaimed “Christians” were witnessed treating women disrespectfully in defiance of, not in accordance with, the clear teachings of scripture.

Let all Christians walk by the Spirit, and in doing so, provide a biblical Christian example to the lost of world of how women should be treated.

In my next post in this series, I’ll address the following:

Harmful Effect #4: Children growing up to hate and fear science and scientists, because science disproves their parents’ religion – leading to appalling scientific illiteracy.


*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.