Fear, or love?

One of my Calvary Chapel brethren recently wrote out some thoughts that have caused quite a stir in the blogosphere. As with just about anything, some people loved it, some people hated it. I was in the middle. This pastor and I were at CCBC at the same time though we didn’t really hang out with each other due to the size of the school and the fact that we weren’t in the same dorm. We are about the same age. We’re both married. I would like to frame these comments from the perspective that we are basically peers. I came to some very different conclusions concerning the things he has observed. Perhaps they are worth discussing, perhaps not. All the same, here are my thoughts on what he observed as well as his observations. His posting is short. While I will be quoting its entirety here, you should head over to SimpleMindedPreacher and read it all at once to see the complete flow of thought.

I’m not sure when it happened but somewhere along the way the movement that I love began to be afraid. The movement that spawned one of the greatest revivals in modern church history is now guilty of some of the very same practices that led our leader to break away from his roots to pursue something fresh and alive. After years of being told how to think and act our leader did something courageous, something out of the box and God blessed it big time.

As far as I can tell, my head isn’t buried in the sand. Having said that, I don’t see where there is any fear motivating anything. There may be some individuals who are fearful, but I certainly don’t see that in the leadership. And I also don’t see how the movement is guilty of doing the things that motivated Pastor Chuck to leave his denomination. While he was being told how to think and act, I don’t see any of that going on now in CC. We are free to think and act as we please.

At the same time, if our thinking and acting is no longer in harmony with CC, then we may need to reevaluate why we are a part of CC. What Pastor Chuck was being told to think and do were not in harmony with God’s word. That’s something to leave over. I don’t CC communicating anything that is contrary to the word. Rather, CC is endeavoring to be even more word-centered.

Fast forward 40 years… Now the very people who felt boxed in and stifled are the one’s creating their own boxes and stifling anything that doesn’t match the way “we’ve always done things.”

This I do see, but not as much in the context being discussed here. I’ve been vocal in the past about people saying “this is what a real CC looks like.” I don’t wear Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops, I don’t even play guitar and say “bro.” It seems to me that this posting is talking about something different.

The movement that was once defined by grace and freedom in Christ is now known for it’s distinctives and principles of ministry. The movement that was once known for what it stood for is now defined by what it’s against.

I’ve already addressed this idea in a previous blog entry so I won’t go into too much depth. It seems to me that CC is still known for and defined by grace and freedom in Christ, at least in terms of salvation and walking with the Lord. To a degree it is also still known for that when it comes to ministry. Those distinctives and principles of ministry are the framework for grace and freedom in Christ. Those two aren’t mutually exclusive.

I don’t know how anyone or anything can only be known for what it is for. What individual human, or group of people, or company, or political entity, or country, or Jesus for that matter, is only know for what it stands for? There is no such thing. To stand for something is to directly or indirectly imply that you are against things that are outside of what you are for. Try this example on. Someone asks you, “What are you for?” You say, “I am for this.” They ask, “What are you against?” You respond, “Oh, I’m not against anything, I’m just for this.” That’s just not how reality works. Anyone who says they aren’t against something is usually running for political office.

When I think of CC, the first thing that comes to my mind isn’t what it is against. The first thing that comes to my mind is teaching people about Jesus, His love, His grace, His salvation, and how to walk after Him. There are times when that means doing what Jesus, Paul, Peter, and Jude did; saying the word, “Beware.”

We are against Calvinists, Emergents, Seeker Sensitive, Purpose Driven, Topical Teachers, Charasmatics, Churches that Fund Raise (Except CCFTL), Health and Wealth, Traditional, Liturgical, Psychology, Candles, Kids in the Service, Standing During Worship, Secular Music, Rated R Movies (except the Passion), NIV Bibles, and whatever else comes along that we think is wrong. What exactly are we afraid of?

The reality is that this list of things isn’t consistent. What I mean is that there is a big difference between theological perspectives (such as Calvinism and Emergents) and whether or not you have kids in the service. In 1 Timothy 1 Paul tells Timmy to “charge some that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.” Elements of some of the things in the above list that are lumped in with fundraising and secular music have specifically to do with “other doctrines.” There is a differentiation. The way I see it, Pastor Chuck is doing exactly what Paul told Timmy to do. He is charging some to teach no other doctrine. To teach no other doctrine is, by definition, to point out what is correct and incorrect, what you are for and what you are against.

It has been suggested that this is being done out of fear. I don’t think so. Paul continues to tell Timmy, “Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.” Pastor Chuck’s motivation most certainly isn’t out of fear but out of love, a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith. The reality is that some have strayed, have turned to idle talk, they desire to be teachers but they have no idea what they are talking about. As a result they lead people into error. Something has to be done about that. That’s all that is happening now.

Let’s use Paul’s illustration of the body. There are parts of the human body that are attractive. There are parts that are just gross. Take the liver (please). It’s a filter. It filters crud out of our blood that would otherwise cause damage to the rest of the body. It isn’t a pretty thing but it is a necessary thing. It is one organ among many organs that do a variety of jobs. A church or a movement are the same. It’s nice to be known for our attractive parts or elements, but sometimes those less attractive ones need to surface and do their jobs as yucky as it may be. That’s what is happening now in CC.

Since when did our affiliation mean indoctrination? Did I miss the memo that said that to be a pastor in our movement meant that you had to be a clone of someone else. When did we settle for becoming parrots instead of critical thinkers who hear from God and not the latest newsletter.

Affiliation has never meant indoctrination. Affiliation, in the CC context, means that you already agree with CC going in to the relationship, and that’s why you want to be in relationship in the first place. Affiliation has everyth
ing to do with being like minded. CC believes X, I believe X, let’s affiliate. It has nothing to do with being a clone of someone else.

As I said earlier, I recognize that there are some who think in those terms with regard to what it means to be a “real” CC. But that isn’t the context of this discussion. It seems to me that if to be affiliated with CC means to be like minded, and either they change their minds or we change our minds about something and we are no longer like minded, then we ought to no longer be affiliated. No, I’m not telling anyone to turn in their dove. I’m just saying that if the basis or definition of our like-mindedness changes enough, and we aren’t in a position to change the other, the logical thing to do is to no longer be affiliated, and to perhaps affiliate with others who are more like-minded. No one is telling us to be parrots and turn in our brains when we mail in the affiliation packet. However, part of that affiliation packet did say that if we stop agreeing with CC we should peaceably part company.

I’m not sure what we’re afraid of but here’s what I’m afraid of… That we as a movement and fellowship of churches become a parody of what initiated this amazing work to begin with.

Again, I don’t think it has anything to do with fear. From my perspective it has everything to do with integrity, discernment, and as Paul said, teaching no other doctrine. As I said, the pastor who wrote this and I were at CCBC together. We read the same books, heard the same Chuck tapes, watched “A Venture in Faith” with the other 500 students there. We have the same sources. Yet I see something different.

What the pastor is describing in terms of what he sees CC becoming, and the things Pastor Chuck objected to in his denomination and were the basis for his decision to leave, I think they are very different things. (Incidentally, it seems to me that Pastor Chuck agreed with his denomination on the essentials. Who Jesus was, salvation by grace through faith, the inerrancy/infallibility of scripture, man’s sin nature, etc. Does this mean he left for the wrong reasons?) Chuck’s objections were (basically) around the emphasis on programs for church growth, the politics of church government, the focus on numbers, preaching salvation to the saved and seeing no fruit (duh), some issues around the Holy Spirit. There was no freedom in terms of how one could minister, it was all mechanical. Chuck’s issues were apparently not so much or even primarily theological, rather they were practical. Contrast that with CC. CC doesn’t ask me for quarterly reports on noses and nickels, it doesn’t tell me what my next teaching series will be, it doesn’t tell me how to dress (I own zero Hawaiian shirts), it doesn’t do any of the things Chuck left his denomination over.

CC is, however, seeing the need to further define what “no other doctrine” is. Why? Because there really is a need for that these days. Anyone can be deceived, including pastors. “But God would show me if I were wrong.” Maybe He has shown you but the source of that correction has been dismissed as being divisive and legalistic. (That’s not directed at the pastor who wrote this, that’s just in general.) As I see it, the issues Chuck is focusing on are all about Biblical doctrine, not how our churches function, nor the style of our ministry and expression. It isn’t about candles, Bible versions, or any of that stuff that some do indeed bite and devour each other over within CC. To me it’s about Biblical integrity. Nothing more.

The freedom and grace and love are all still there. The issue isn’t the expression of our message, rather the purity of our message. We have the freedom in Christ to do and be anything we want. We don’t have the freedom in Christ to believe anything we want. Those two things are getting all muddled together under the banner of freedom and grace. What it means to be a CC in terms of theology and teaching is what is being addressed. It seems to me that people who are pro-this and anti-that are getting that confused with issues surrounding the manner of expression and practice, broad brushing these things all together. If we do that, nothing will be accomplished and there will only be more fighting. We must separate the content from the style and discuss what is more important, which is the content.

As an aside, but a related aside, I wonder if people were making the same statements about Chuck and CC back in the Vineyard split days? I wonder if people were saying about Chuck then what they are saying about him now? That he is turning into a denominational dictator, that he is turning into the very thing he ever left in the first place, that he is being too narrow, negative, divisive, and reacting out of fear. Those things could have easily been said about him then. If they were bring said, were they right? I don’t think they would have been then and I don’t think they are now. Could it be that the Lord took Chuck through that experience then in order to prepare Him and CC for what is happening now? I think so. I hope so. It’s been said that the one thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn anything from history. We’ll see.

Like many other young pastors, I am a bit of a non-conformist. (Is it a contradiction in terms to say that you are non-conformist just like everyone else is? Hm.) My purpose in writing this wasn’t to bash the pastor who wrote the original post or anything like that. I guess my purpose was to simply demonstrate that it is possible to agree with the party line (at least in this regard) and not be a clone or a parrot. There are those who are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with aspects of CC. One would think that there would be a commonality such as age/generation, geography, walk of life, something. That doesn’t appear to be the case because there are people one both sides of these issues from all ages and from all over.

There are those inside and outside who are speculating about another split like the Vineyard one, this time around Pastor Chuck’s decision to draw lines in the sand (or concrete as it were) where he had previously chosen to not draw lines, at least not publicly or officially. Last year, when all of the action around Skip and CSN was brewing, there was speculation of another split. The issues then were less about Biblical integrity and more about personal integrity, though Biblical integrity is the basis for personal integrity. While there wasn’t an organized split, there were those individuals who did turn in their doves. I suspect the same may occur in this situation. An organized split would require guys who feel the same way getting together and networking, organizing, putting the thing together. I think that if guys are geographically close together that is possible because it’s easier to have relationships that way. If they are across the country from one another there would seem to be less chance of something structured forming.

In any case, the freedom and variety that makes CC so great has always been, in my mind, all about the gifting, talent, and uniqueness amongst the churches and pastors. The magic is in the way the same message of new life in Jesus Christ (and everything that goes with it) is expressed in so many cultures just in our own country, let alone abroad. But the doctrine, the interpretational framework needs to be united. There are things we as CC pastors teach and believe and there are things we do not. There is correct and there is incorrect. If there weren’t then none of this would matter. When what is correct or incorrect has needed clarification in terms of what it means to be a CC, it has been clarified. This is one of those times. I, for one, am thankful for it.

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There are 3 comments on Fear, or love?

  • Thanx for this, Corby. You should have shared this on smp. I read your other post about being devisive and I agree. We have to be able to tell the people about false teaching without worring if we are going to upset people.

    As shepherds, our job is to take care of the flock. If that means we give a hard truth, so be it.

    I am new to CC (4 years), but I do know that there will be those who will identify you by what you are against because you declare what you are for. I think that is where this perceived negative identity comes from. We have to be able to each against what we believe is wrong and false. Otherwise, what’s the point. We might as well go up on stage every Sunday and yell “Rodney King” and walk down.

  • Corby Stephens on

    James – I agree with you agreeing with me. 🙂

    It’s funny, I don’t remember all of this talk about being known for what we are against when the holy laughter thing was happening in the 90s, and Chuck was very outspoken against that.

    I didn’t post it on SMP because there was too much noise (not in a derogatory way) already. But I had to say it. And I hope it didn’t come across as anti-the-author because that wasn’t my intention. It just seems to me that there has been a perspective shift. Either a shift or a more complete perspective of things, and people don’t like what they know now or see, even though it has been there all along.

    I would bet that when Chuck left his denom he was seen as against all kinds of stuff. His emphasis obviously wasn’t being against that but be for the other. As you said, that can’t be helped. It’s just a matter of what people will choose to see.

  • I’m gald we can agree to being in agreement.

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