An Elephant In The Room That We Need To Quit Feeding

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I want to personally thank the Lord for Pastor Kent Hughes. Years ago he and his wife Barbara wrote a book that has been an enormous blessing, encouragement, and personal challenge to me through the years. It is titled Liberating Ministry From The Success Syndrome. If you plan to go into ministry, this is a must-have book for your journey. If you are already serving the Lord in ministry you ought to read this book. In this little jewel you will be reminded of the things that really matter in your ministry: things like faithfulness, humbly serving, consistent prayer, living a holy life, as well as a number of other important, Biblical, core measurements for your ministry.

Why is this important? Because what I have found (and I'm not the only one) is that no matter the denomination or affiliation, no matter how noble the attempt to counter-act it, no matter how many times you tell yourself otherwise, you will feel the pressure to measure yourself and others based on NUMERICAL RESULTS in ministry. I've seen this in the fundamental Baptist circles I once inhabited and I'm seeing it again within the conservative evangelical circles. Why is this the case? Depravity. Ego. Pride. Pride is in the hearts of both those who brag on the numbers, and those who are jealous of the numbers. The Hughes' book is one of those works you need to go back to again and again to remind yourself of what is really important.

For example, you will want this book handy when you attend that next Pastor's conference where the website advertisement, printed literature, and public introduction of a speaker includes the fact that Dr. Big Britches' church currently has 25 million in attendance with satellite campuses on Mars, Jupiter, and Venus each having thousands of aliens coming to Christ each week. Once you arrive back home you can sit down again with this book and remind yourself that God doesn't judge your success or failure as a pastor based on the number of alien rear-ends sitting in the seats of a galactic super-campus in the far reaches of the Milky Way galaxy. The Scriptures say, "Moreover it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful" (1 Cor. 4:2). Faithfulness is your measuring stick. Are you being faithful?

Of course, this isn't an excuse for laziness and apathy on our part as pastors! We must work hard, pray often, study diligently, plan effectively, delegate wisely, implement strategically, and witness boldly. And when we have done these things, let's leave the results up to our Sovereign God who calls His elect to Himself according to His infinitely perfect will. And let's be thankful that He has counted us worthy to be a part - no matter how big or small - of this Gospel work.

- Dan McGhee


I Have Always Dreamed of a Church....

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I have always dreamed of a church where love is boundless. I’m talking about the kind of love that is self-sacrificial and continues to give to others, though it is personally costly. A love that is motivated by the love Christ has for us.

I have always dreamed of a church where joy is always present. Not because we suddenly have all our problems, challenges, and difficulties disappear, but because we are continually finding in Christ and in each other a depth of relationship that overwhelms us and strengthens us to endure any hardship that might come our way. I dream of a church that continually experiences an overcoming joy, where laughter is heard often and the countenances of its people radiate the hope they have found in Christ!

I have always dreamed of a church which truly experiences the “peace that passes all understanding.” Where members are truly in harmony and at peace with one another in spite of racial differences, economic differences, and age differences.

I have always dreamed of a church where patience is a constant virtue expressed in the lives of its members. Anger is rarely present. And when anger is present, it would be a righteous anger that doesn’t seek personal vindication or satisfaction but would be directed toward seeing injustices corrected for the benefit of others.

I have always dreamed of a church where there is a supernatural kindness expressed through its members. Where all of its members' interactions with others are seasoned with the reality of Jesus Christ’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness in our own lives. Where gospel truth constantly inspires us to be exceedingly generous in spirit and action toward those around us.

I have always dreamed of a church where its members overcome, through the power of the Holy Spirit, our sinful tendency toward selfishness. Where members are marked instead by an amazing goodness toward those inside the church and those outside the church. Where the people of the church live in such a good fashion that it draws others who don’t know Jesus Christ to discover the source of this goodness in us.

I have always dreamed of a church where its members could always count on one another. A church where the people truly believe that “their word is their bond” because faithfulness is a core commitment rooted deeply within each heart.

I have always dreamed of a church where the members are strong: physically, mentally, and spiritually. Yet these people are marked by an amazing gentleness with one another. Words are chosen carefully. Actions are always evaluated, and carried out only if they bring benefit and blessing to others.

I have always dreamed of a church where its members are continually growing in the area of personal self-control. Where each member, through the power of the Holy Spirit living within him, continually seeks to bring his flesh under the control of God. Where its members learn to be deeply satisfied with God and with each other.

"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23)

- Dan McGhee


Concerning Associations and Discernment (part two)

Friday, October 14, 2011

While we’re on the subject of ministry partnerships, consider this situation with me:

Westboro Baptist Church, located in Kansas, has become infamous for picketing the funerals of American soldiers. According to their website ( they have staged 46,684 pickets to date, proudly waving signs spouting: “God Hates America,” “Pray For More Dead Soldiers,” and “Thank God For IEDs.” Led by “Pastor” Fred Phelps, Westboro Baptist has become a self-made caricature of conservative Christianity and is one of the most despised groups in America.

However, Westboro Baptist Church has an orthodox doctrinal statement.

And in John 17, Jesus prays for the unity of His church.

Therefore, if given the opportunity, would your church partner with Westboro Baptist?

Of course not. And the reason, of course, is that the people of Westboro flat-out deny the truth of the gospel by their behavior. There is no grace in their speech (Col. 4:5-6), no humility in their actions (1 Pet. 5:5), no peace in their intentions (Rom. 12:18).

I point out the (admittedly extreme) example of Westboro to demonstrate that the wisdom or appropriateness of ministry partnerships is not merely dependent on the mutual signing of an orthodox doctrinal statement. Further questions must necessarily be raised regarding the consistent practices of a ministry. Do the practices of the ministry “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:10)? Is the ministry leader worth pointing to as someone who walks “according to the example” we have in the apostles (Phil. 3:17)? Some famous guy named Paul seemed to think that one’s practices lining up with the gospel is a big deal – see Galatians 2:11-14.

In discussions regarding ministry associations an appeal is often made to Jesus’ prayer for our unity in John 17. A corresponding appeal is made for the lowest common denominator—assent to “grace alone through faith alone”—to be the only criterion for partnership. However, if you want to apply this argument consistently, you must thereby partner with Westboro Baptist given the opportunity. If they are picketing a soldier’s funeral in your town, by all means pick up an inflammatory sign and join them!

My point is this: all evangelicals practice some form of separation based on ministry practice. No evangelical truly intends to apply the ideal of unity toward every professing Christian group. Potential ministry relationships are regularly turned down not only because of doctrinal differences but also because of significant differences in practice.

Picketing funerals is a pretty far-out aberration. But sadly there are countless other God-degrading, gospel-contradicting ministry practices taking place in our day. And we have no desire to align ourselves with men who subscribe to right doctrine but whose consistent ministry practices do not adorn the gospel. We have no desire to align ourselves with men who subscribe to right doctrine but who have not shown themselves to be leaders worthy of imitation. Now please understand—we are not at war with men like this. We don’t spend our time thinking of ways to oppose them, and we hope that God is mercifully saving souls through their ministries despite their errors (Phil. 1:18). Public confrontation (Gal. 2:11-14) and private correction (Acts 18:26) are appropriate when possible. However, we consider it unwise to point our flock toward these men as examples of faithful ministry.

I realize that some would use this line of thinking to isolate themselves for no good reason. I realize that some would even use this line of thinking to separate themselves from our church based on issues of preference. I am not arguing for complete uniformity of style from church to church. Unity in Christ despite minor differences is a beautiful thing, worthy of our pursuit (Phil. 2:2). I am not arguing that uncharacteristic mistakes should go unforgiven. In some instances love must cover a multitude of sins (1 Pet. 4:8). I am grateful for the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness when I fall short of His glory in my own ministry.

But don’t overlook the fact that our Lord has unambiguous standards for those who aspire to the office of overseer. Don’t overlook the fact that ministry practices are clearly spelled out for us in the New Testament. And please don’t use John 17 to try to convince me that I must partner with men whose ministry practices consistently undermine the very gospel they preach.

- Mike Moses

*Read Part One 


Concerning Associations and Discernment (part one)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I am the Senior Pastor of a Harvest Bible Chapel in Detroit. Our church is a committed, “both feet in,” Harvest Bible Fellowship church. A portion of our budget is designated each year to the Fellowship so that more churches can be planted. It is a great joy for us to have sent out the former assistant pastor of our church to plant a new Harvest Bible Chapel in his homeland on the island of St. Vincent in the Caribbean. God is using the Harvest Fellowship to make an amazing impact for Christ all over the globe right now, and we are thrilled to be a part of God’s gracious work.

However, as an independent, autonomous local assembly of believers we think it necessary at this time to clarify our perspective concerning the matter of ecclesiastical associations and discernment. Though James MacDonald is the founder of the Harvest Bible Fellowship of churches as well as the indisputable “voice” of the Fellowship, we do not want James’ position to be confused with the position of Harvest Bible Chapel in Detroit. I must address this concern since James has made his position a very public matter in recent days. Please know that this statement contains the full endorsement of our elder board here at Harvest Detroit.

I STRONGLY disagree with James’ position that having someone preach to your church isn’t an endorsement of that man’s ministry. I recognize that brothers can work together without agreeing on things 100%. But for years James’ ministry has been marked by drawing a line in the sand with regard to the worldly methodology used by those of the “seeker church” persuasion. For years James has railed against this type of pragmatic ministry, and most understood that much of what he was responding to was the pragmatism on display in his own backyard at Willow Creek. James' clear opposition to the "seeker" model was a key component that attracted us toward joining the Harvest Fellowship. However, James is now saying there needs to be a new middle: a “new tribe” where we sit around and have conversations about these things and challenge each other to think about them…but when all is said and done, even if nobody changes, that’s alright because at the end of the day we are simply disagreeing about “different methods.” I call this the “kumbaya effect."

In Elephant Room #1 NOBODY told Perry Noble that HE SINNED on a recent Easter Sunday by leading his church to play a Godless, worldly, anti-Christian song (Highway to Hell) in his worship service. Yes, most participants said, “Well, I wouldn’t do that in my church....” But nobody said, “Perry, you and your elders sinned against God. Repent.” And with that failure the door was left open for everyone to walk away and simply say, “We just use different methods.” At the end of that conversation someone actually said, “You can’t argue with Perry’s results and how many are saved through his ministry.” This is blatant pragmatism. I believe that what happened in Perry’s church was SIN that Easter Sunday morning, no matter the results. God tells us exactly what we ought to sing as the gathered people of God: “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16). I don’t see how Highway to Hell fits in that list, do you? Obviously our God can work and save souls in spite of our sin and depravity, but that is never an excuse to sin. I believe that this ought to have been clearly communicated to Perry, but it wasn’t. It was sidestepped (exactly what the Elephant Room event itself claims to despise) and left as a matter of “preference of methods.” To me, this was an enormous failure in the first Elephant Room discussion and subsequently left the door open for ecclesiastical partnerships with Perry Noble and Steven Furtick and who knows who else in the days ahead.

The one guy in the Elephant Room #1 who agreed that what Perry did was acceptable and would do it himself in his own church was Steven Furtick. (Furtick is also a man who fawns over Joel Osteen and other Word-Faith pastors.) And what does James do? Invites Furtick to preach at Harvest as a guest speaker. Now, I’ve heard James’ explanation of this invite. I watched the video, read the blog, and talked with James himself. He defended this invitation as a “gracious” move and claims that this is a part of his “mentoring” relationship with Furtick. However, as a shepherd of God’s sheep it is a pastor’s responsibility to place before his people men of God whose overall methodology, philosophy of ministry, theology, and direction we can trust and promote. Yes, I agree with James that we need not agree in every little area with a ministry partner, but we ought to be able to support his overall philosophy and direction. Harvest Bible Chapel in Detroit DOES NOT support the overall ministry philosophy and direction of Steven Furtick, just as we don’t support the overall ministry philosophy and direction of Perry Noble or Bill Hybels for that matter (the great Seeker Church godfather himself…although he might have to arm wrestle Rick Warren for that dubious title).

We are not saying that everything these men have ever said or done is wrong. But there are significant matters in which we disagree with them, methodologically and even theologically (because we believe that many of the differences are, in fact, driven by theology). We cannot in good conscience say to our flock, “We endorse these men and encourage you to learn from them.” We believe that God calls us to place before our people only those whom we can support as they say, “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ” (I Cor. 11:1). To put someone before our people with whom we have strong disagreements would be foolish, would bring confusion to people both inside and outside our church, and would potentially cause great damage. James fails to make a distinction between having personal friendships with men with whom you may have severe differences both philosophically and methodologically, and ecclesiastical partnerships that draw in the entire church (and in James’ case the entire Harvest Bible Fellowship) and affect many more people. It is naive of James to think that his partnership with Furtick does not imply some level of endorsement of the man’s ministry - or at the very least, lends Furtick a credibility which he does not deserve.

In conclusion, we love the Harvest Bible Fellowship of churches and we greatly love and appreciate Pastor James MacDonald. But please know that Harvest Bible Chapel of Detroit has no desire to associate with the Perry Nobles, Steven Furticks, and T. D. Jakes of the world. We do not like the look of the “emerging middle” and have no desire to be a part of the “new tribe” being called for. Please do not mistake James MacDonald’s recent statements and associations as the standard of conduct for us at Harvest Bible Chapel of Detroit because they are not.

- Dan McGhee 

*Read Part Two

*Update: Concerning Our Disassociation with Harvest Bible Fellowship 


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