CLF Update

As you may recall, Christian Life Fellowship is in the process of removing their Senior Pastor, Doug Cotton, from church leadership. The elders of the church allege Mr. Cotton has anger issues, and they convinced him to resign.  However, the eldership and congregation ran into resistance from MFI, an Association of Ministers to which Doug is a member. MFI is fighting to reinstate Mr. Cotton as Senior Pastor. You can read about it here.

On Saturday, I received an email update from a reader close to the situation.

Thanks for having a discussion about what happened at Christian Life Fellowship and Doug Cotton. It really served a purpose. I wanted to let you know some developments. The elders of CLF have decided to have a congregational vote to officially fire Doug. It will be on November 29th. They have over 80 pages from 18 or so people to present.

Then on Sunday the same reader sent me this:

Just got word today that Doug Cotton changed his mind and is not going to ask for a vote. He has resigned.

I can only imagine the Congregation stood by the elders decision. And Doug Cotton knew he was going to lose a vote. While this is likely best for the church, it is a bit of a blow to MFI. As evidently, Wendell Smith had his church counsel represent Doug during this proceeding.

The other weird thing I found out recently is that Doug has an attorney. This attorney was provided by Wendell Smith. This lawyer is on Wendell's church staff. From what I understand he is not a pastor who just happened to be a lawyer. He is on staff as a lawyer. I have never heard a church that had a lawyer on staff. Is it cheaper to have an elder on staff then to pay as you go? Anyway, kind of strange.

It is kind of strange. But ultimately, a good experience. Christians seem to have this mentality that nothing can go wrong with their church. The church is perfect. When in reality, churches are run by humans, and humans make mistakes. 

And in the end, this was probably a good learning experience for everyone.  Hopefully, CLF will find a pastor who embodies Christ and serves the congregation's needs. Hopefully, Mr. Cotton is able to learn to control his anger. And hopefully, MFI and Wendell Smith learn to submit to the wishes of churches to which they are not members. 

Odds ‘n’ Ends

Listening to Judah's first 2 'Organic Christianity' messages produced more blog fodder than could be written in a single post. Here's a few odds 'n' ends from my sermon  notes – some obvious contradictions and a few funnies.

In all the messages by Judah I've heard so far, he has stated, as if read from a queue card:

"We at GC believe the Bible is the Inspired word of God even to the very choice of words – we stake our entire existence on this book Genesis to Revelation – it is our life."

The statement gives me gas on several levels; the Bible is not the basis of our life and existence. Jesus is. Amazingly, Judah even cited the vine and branches scripture in part 2 of the message, where Jesus said "apart from me you can do nothing." Jesus did not say "apart from the Bible you can do nothing."

There's also something about the phrase "to the very choice of words" that bothers me. It seems to emphasize a translation over the original manuscripts. With dozens of english translations, all different, how can it be said that the Bible is inspired "to the very choice of words", when the translators can't even agree?

In part 2 of the message, Judah talked about prayer and right living. He cited the example of someone who came to him crying that he prayed and prayed with out any answers, yet observed others who barely prayed at all and got prompt answers. So Judah 'investigated' and found the root of the problem. The guy wasn't tithing.

Judah's solution (aside from tithing?) He said:

"Let's let the Bible wash us again" 

Now we all know from Judah's Waterpot sermon a few weeks ago that he's a "shower guy" and loves the feeling of water cascading down his naked body. But washing with the Bible? Uh, no thanks Judah, I'll stick with my loofah.

In the just plain funny department, Judah was plugging the Gathering and said they would be giving away free glo-glasses like the ones Screech wore on Saved by the Bell. Judah said he might even preach in glo-glasses. Judah did not mention whether Screech wore glo-glasses in his new porn video

I visited the GC web site again this morning and was horrified to see "Organic Christianity – Part 3". Trilogies are popular to be sure, but let's face it, Judah is NO George Lucas. The first 30 minutes of part 2 was a recap of part 1. I plan to listen, but not for a few days; a guy's spirit can only take so much religious abuse. I need to veg-out with something less violent – like ice hockey or something. 

Admittedly, there is something about mining blog fodder from a Judah Smith sermon that is reminiscent of fishing at a trout farm. There's not much sport when they're jumping into the boat. You know? 


The ‘Organic’ Judah

The gift of discernment often makes listening to a religious message very difficult, as the pastor reads scripture (spirit and truth) and then expounds on it (potentially out of a fleshly understanding). There are times when listening to a message, my spirit is in agreement, until the pastor throws in that old familiar manipulative "twist" to chide people into serving the institution over which the pastor presides. Ideally, a message should be wholly truthful and delivered in/by the Holy Spirit, however messages with a few twists rooted in the doctrines of men and the unquestioning support of institutionalism are more typical in my listening experience.

Judah's 2 part series on Organic Christianity however was spiritually convulsive for me, as he attempted to slap a coat of organic green paint on himself, the religious institution that profits him, and the doctrines of men which establish and insulate him as its leader.

The basis of his 2 part message was Acts 2:40-47.

Acts 2:40-47 MSG  [Peter] He went on in this vein for a long time, urging them over and over, "Get out while you can; get out of this sick and stupid culture!"  (41)  That day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up.  (42)  They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.  (43)  Everyone around was in awe–all those wonders and signs done through the apostles!  (44)  And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common.  (45)  They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person's need was met.  (46)  They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful,  (47)  as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.

Near the beginning of the message, Judah exclaimed: "We're gonna get rid of all the man made stuff, and GO ORGANIC". He went on to talk about organic vs. chemically enhanced foods, how just a few decades ago everything was organic, but crop loss and poor yields drove the development of non-organic methods to increase yield and profit. He relates organic and non-organic to Christianity, specifically, the non-organic Christian may look good on the outside but be full of man made ideologies and theologies and philosophies that God never made nor intended. He states "If you don't go organic, you're not gonna last" and that only by going organic will you hear "Well done good and faithful servant."

While I do not disagree with his application of the organic metaphor to individuals, their personal walk with the Lord, the condition of their hearts, etc., Judah never once questions whether the institution is the non-organic creation of man. Though Judah warned against "man made ideologies and theologies and philosophies", he did not name a single one. By comparison, Paul whom Judah cited as author of 2/3rds of the NT, did not hesitate to identify false doctrines, such as circumcision, continuing to observe food laws, false apostles, etc. So tell them Judah; what are the "man made ideologies and theologies and philosophies" believers should be wary of?

I'd be happy to name a few "man made ideologies and theologies" (false doctrines): THE TITHE (Matthew 17:24-26, 2 Corinthians 9:7), THE BUILDING as the HOUSE OF GOD (Acts 7:48, Acts 17:24, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 6:19), SUBMISSION / SPIRITUAL COVERING (1 Corinthians 11:7, Matthew 23:8-10), THE CLERGY / LAITY DIVIDE (1 John 3:1, Galatians 3:26, 1 Peter 2:5-9, Revelation 1:6, Revelation 5:10). These are but a few of the many false doctrines that prop up the man made institution you represent, Judah.

Judah pitched 'cadres' as necessary to establish relationships and accountability with people who know you well, who know where you live, your email, your phone number, who can and will keep tabs on your spiritual walk. He also said "you need a pastor – somebody to look into your soul – and ask the hard questions – to really discover whether or not you're organic." In the next breath, Judah talked about Paul's church plants in Galatia, where "OT chronies" from the old system infiltrated the church and preached a different gospel that included works and effort – such as how you walk, talk, look, act, and do things. How are the Cadre's evaluation methods any different from those of the "OT chronies"? Both examine people based on non-organic criteria. Just listening to Judah's many remarks about others reveals his position on how a Christian should behave.

Presumably Cadres evaluate members by the same criteria Judah uses. For example: Do they read their Bible daily? Pray daily and especially for their pastor and other leadership? Do they tithe? Do they go to church? Judah has mentioned each of these 'evaluation criteria', all of which are rooted in man made theologies or are OT imports. Instead of the 'witch-hunt' mentality of "asking the hard questions", why not just be real (honest) with each other in loving brotherly relationship? As someone who has been involved in Relational Christianity and the Relational Body Life movement for years, I can assure you that people are put off by personal inquisitions of the type Judah is suggesting in his message. The practice smacks of authoritarian control under the watchful eye of "big brother."

The following 8 points are the characteristics Judah cited from scripture which he says identify an organic Christian. They are in the format of rough notes as I listened to his message. Following each of the 8 characteristics, are my comments and questions, if any.

1) Personal devotion … devoted all by themselves … I pray, read my Bible and tell people because I'm an organic Christian … talks about someone who got out from under religion and didn't read the Bible or pray for a year and had never felt so free – criticizes the person for it – says they're influenced by man made philosophy.

Samaritan: Since when is reading the Bible daily a requirement for being a Christian? The Bible was not readily available to the public until the 19th century, with the advent of modern mass printing methods. Regarding prayer, isn't a life devoted to Christ a prayer in and of itself? Does prayer have to take the form of kneeling, hands folded, at regular times of the day, or, can it be as led by the Spirit or as often as we need to go to the Father with a heartfelt concern?

2) Reverence … awe factor … people who say "hay buddy" to their pastor or call his parents by their first name – that is irreverence – they should be called 'reverend or pastor' – that's 'reverence for the house of God' … nothing holy any more … we over use word "awesome" – only God is awesome.

Samaritan: How can Judah talk about 'reverence in the house of God' and ask what happened to holiness – yet say often "shutup" to vessels of the Spirit, talk about sex with his wife, talk about farting and his farting skills and how freshman love fart humor? We are only holy when we are IN Jesus. We can NOT be holy. Even the Pharisees, for all their appearance of holiness, were said to be full of maggots and unclean things.

3) Ownership … greatest investment is giving in the house of God … talks about Poker tours – it's like poker nation – talks about being "all in" for Jesus. Says 5400 freshman joined UW today – says he asked the Lord for 2000 freshman … Judah's ALL IN … someone gave $1M for the down payment for the building they're in – calls that being "ALL IN". Taking ownership is giving all. How long we gonna sit at this table and watch you put in one chip at a time? God is looking for "all in".

Samaritan: Troubled my spirit that whenever Judah tried to make a "spiritual" point, he resorted to a "religious" example to underscore the point. Why is giving $1M for a building an indicator of being "spiritually" ALL IN? I thought the measure of being spiritually ALL IN was the fruit of the Holy Spirit? What building ever won someone to Christ? How much more would that same $1M have yielded if it had been invested in people? Sponsor a missionary, invest in individuals to help them put their talents to work for God, etc.

4) Generosity … "whatever you need the church gonna take care of you" … uses the word sucks, then says he never uses that word – hates the word – then observes he used it and says "shutup" … talks about his dream of building and furnishing a house just to give it away to someone else. Talks about person to person giving – helping one another out without even knowing someone elses name – just asks "are you one of us"? And helps them?

Samaritan: I wonder if the Good Samaritan asked the man who had been beaten and robbed and left for dead "are you one of us" before helping him? I'd like to see the GC books, please. If the church is going to take care of you, I'd like to see how GC is handling the tithes/offerings of people, and how those are being channeled through the pastor / leadership back out to the members to take care of their needs, and not just footing the bill for Judah, the building and utilities, etc.

5) Worshipping Together – talks about the first believers being in "one accord" – I believe in the local church – the coming together – "get into the same accord WITH ME" – has piano play nice chords, and dissonant chords – differentiates between accord / harmonious and discord / dissonant. Accord is not being in the same building or singing the same song – rather being of the same mind and passion – some people think they're "submitted" but they sound like 'this' (piano hits a terrible chord) – criticizes people who are not "submitted" – who are not in accord with a pastors vision – says "there are no lone rangers in Christianity" – the Lord will not tell you 'well done' for your independence …

Samaritan: The Lord will not tell you "well done" for your conformity. Regarding the old and tired 'Lone Ranger' cliche, and being IN a building and SUBMITTED to a pastor, I wonder how Judah reconciles Moses, Abraham, David, Elijah, John and Jesus, all of whom were called to the wilderness (alone) for a season. How is it that Jesus did not submit to the established religious institution? God has ALWAYS called people OUT of religious institutions to follow Him exclusively. That is the essential truth of Stephen's discourse in Acts 7. Further, worship is NOT gathering in one place to sing songs as led by a praise band. True worship is offering your very life upon the altar of God (Romans 12:1). And therein lies the epic conflict all of us must face. Whether to submit to the fear of man as expressed in the false doctrines of institutionalism, or, to leave the institutions of man (Revelation 18:4) and follow Christ like He commanded us (Matthew 10:37-39). Judah or Jesus; who are you following?

6) House to House Relationship – Continues talking about having meals house to house – house to house relationships – knowing one another over breaking bread – and having accountable / confronting type relationships – 'faithful are the wounds of a brother'.

Samaritan: I'm all for eating house to house. But, I disagree with the whole accountable relationship idea to the extent that it makes no allowance for eldership / maturity, and uses a religious criteria for judging someone's walk, rather than discerning by the Spirit and the evidence of fruit of the spirit. I also have to ask, IF the Acts 2:40-47 church is what God really wanted, why did He let the persecution of Acts 8:1 happen, which ultimately broke up the Acts 2 church and scattered them to the winds? The Acts 2 church was NOT obedient to the Great Commission. Jesus did NOT tell them to gather unto themselves – to form their own cloistered little community – He told them to GO OUT (to all the world) not STAY IN (Jerusalem).

7) Great Joy – ate meals with gladness and simple hearts – down plays / disses 'sophisticated thinking Christians' – talks about bringing all the knowledge and learning down to simplicity – and portrays himself as "I'm just a local pastor – not a Bible answer man – that loving each other is more important than doctrinal disputes – that it's still about Christ and Him crucified"

Samaritan: "I'm just a local pastor"? Wow. In a previous message just 2-3 weeks ago (the Waterpot message), Judah said "I am not here to fit in … We are here to take over". Judah is a real chameleon. I think Judah has some kind of disassociative disorder, or at the very least, his mouth is not connected to his brain, or his brain does not correlate what he is saying today with what he said yesterday. Paul I believe, called that 'double-mindedness' and a 'reed blowing in the wind'.

8) Favor With All The People – speaks of favor in context of blessing. Uses the example of a front page article the Seattle PI did on Judah and GC awhile back.

Samaritan: How does "favor with all the people" stack up with Paul's accounting of all the hardships and beatings and persecutions he went through? ALL the apostles were KILLED on account of living Christ. Same with the prophets of the OT who were killed for the truth. Where Jesus Christ is the "truth", they were killed for Jesus. So why is "favor with all the people" the measure of an organic Christian? Wouldn't a Christian who is truly letting Christ live through him / her, experience hardship and persecution? After all, didn't Jesus say: "you will have trouble in this life – the world will hate you because it hates me"?

CONCLUSION: Real organic Christianity does NOT need the religious institutions of man. Institutions are NOT organic. They are like greenhouses with artificial / filtered lighting and rife with pesticides, insecticides, fertilizers, hybrid religion, etc. Real organic Christianity, cuts out the middle man (the institution and the overlords thereof), where there is a simple 1:1 relationship between the gardener (God) and his planting (you). Religious institutions relate to believers in much the same way as green houses relate to seedlings. Unlike green houses however, religious institutions never transplant believers out in the world, but rather keep believers in the greenhouse their entire lives, where they are dependent on men to water and fertilize them. Sooner or later, if believers are to become truly organic, they must be transplanted out in the world, where they must rely on the Father in Heaven for all of their needs. Sooner or later, you must be planted in open ground, so that your roots do not become pot-bound, and to give you room to grow unhindered by the greenhouse environment and methods, whereupon you learn to walk by/in the Holy Spirit and to hear the Spirit of Christ for yourself. Organic Christians do not rely on men to hear God on their behalf; they hear, see, learn from and obey God directly. See John 10:27, Galatians 5:25, 1 John 2:27.

Finally, to Judah, I would say:

I practice organic Christianity. Organic Christians are my brothers. You, Judah, are NO organic Christian.


More on Green Christians

The new President of the Christian Coalition is going to begin focusing on climate change.

From the WaPo:

Today, another broad coalition of evangelical leaders will begin airing advertisements on Christian radio stations calling for action to address climate change. Among them is the new president of the Christian Coalition, who has said he plans to "rebuild and rebrand" the conservative lobbying group.

I have hope for my faith.

Who Would Jesus Marry?

Don’t let a lack of physical attraction deter you from getting married, says Scott Craft in his recent Boundless article Brother, You’re like a Six. 

According to Craft, Christians need to use Biblical attraction in order to find a mate, not physical attraction. And to help, he offers the following definitions of Biblical Attraction:

  • Is your potential spouse clearly a believer in Jesus?
  • Does he/she exhibit the fruit of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?
  • Does he/she show clear regard and care for others?
  • Women, is this a man you respect? Could you envision yourself submitting to and following him over the course of your lives together?
  • Will he serve you above himself and encourage your spiritual growth, as he is called?
  • Is he growing in the characteristics of biblical manhood?
  • Is she growing in the characteristics of biblical womanhood and what the Bible calls "true beauty"?

Craft concludes:

As you seek someone with whom to serve God in marriage, build on something more than what might make for a few fun dates or an impressive "catch" in the world's eyes.

And you know, this is a pretty good list. (with the exception of the submission part, what is this, the 1950’s?) But it leaves out one very important element of the marriage union: SEX. If you've read Song of Solomon, you know sex is an important part of marriage. And you are not going to have sex with someone with whom you aren’t attracted, even if they meet the “Biblical Standard”.

What's important is whether they meet Your Standard. And hopefully, your standard includes love, patience and support, or else you're in for a long marriage.

I think my buddy Sean sums it up best with this quote:

You're not perfect sport, and let me save you the suspense, this girl you've met she's not perfect either. But the question is whether or not you're perfect for each other.

The Ring of Power

Evanglical David Kuo has written a book called Tempting Faith which slams the Bush White House for their Faith Based Initiatives and their manipulation of Christians. Kuo worked directly with Bush in creating the Faith Based program and has since come away from the whole process completely disallusioned.  In a recent interview, he discusses how power has corrupted current Christian Leaders:

In some ways White House power is like [J.R.R.] Tolkien's ring of power. When you put it on, it feels good and it's dazzling. But after a while it begins to consume you in ways you don't realize. That's the nature of White House power. I have no doubt that Christian political leaders have gotten involved for all the right reasons. I just think over time it becomes harder and harder to stand up against that ring of power and the White House, to say no and walk away,"

For an example of this, look no further than Focus on the Family, founder Dr. James Dobson. I grew up admiring Dr. James Dobson's conservative stance. I read his books and magazines. But lately, you can tell that Dr. Dobson's whole goal is to maintain his access to the White House. He sold out.

(H/T – Andrew Sullivan)

Can he abolish that ridiculous pointy hat as well?

The pope is going to eliminate limbo. No, not the dance. Though while he's out abolishing things, he might as well eliminate that as well. No, the Pope is going to eliminate that special place between heaven and hell. Limibo is where you go if you die, and God can't make up His mind. Or as the article puts it:

The church has held that before the 13th Century, all unbaptised people, including new born babies who died, would go to hell. This was because original sin – the punishment that God inflicted on humanity because of Adam and Eve's disobedience – had not been cleansed by baptism.

This idea however was criticised by Peter Abelard, a French scholastic philosophiser, who said that babies who had no personal sin didn't even deserve punishment.

It was Abelard who introduced the idea of limbo. The word comes from the Latin "limbus", meaning the edge. This would be a state of existence where unbaptised babies, and those unfortunate enough to have been born before Jesus, would not experience pain but neither would they experience the Beatific Vision of God.

If you ask me, God just needed limbo as a place to hide unbaptized children from Catholic priests. Hmmm, maybe that's why the pope is eliminating it? 

(Thanks to reader JT for this.)

Faith Harvest Follow Up

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Faith Harvest let me explain:

Faith Harvest begins every year (at CBC anyway) in November with a month of sermons on giving. This is followed up by December in which they speak on giving. And finally reaches its peak in January which is celebrated by a month of sermons on giving. (For those of you doing the math, that's 3 solid months or 1/4 of the years sermons dedicated to giving)

This is how it works. They tell you to give them money so that God will in turn "bless" you. While they never say exactly what that "blessing" is, week after week they have someone stand up and tell a story about when they gave to Faith Harvest they received ________ (fill in the blank with one of the following: Random Check in the Mail, Inheritance, Promotion, Pay Raise, etc). This obviously implies that if you give them money (above and beyond the tithe) God will give you money back. They won't say it, but anyone willing to think logically about the situation will clearly see it's a "give to get" program.

The best is when someone gets up and tells about how they received an "Inheritance Blessing". I can't help but think, "Oh joy, praise the Lord, someone close to me just died and I got paid. Hallalujah."

Of course it's not just a one-time gift they are looking for. No. Instead they want you to write down a pledge to give, over the course of those three months. "Stretch yourself" they tell you, "God honors faith."

They even have you bring your pledge card forward (together) so they can pray over it, asking God to bless you for your gift. Never mind what the Bible says about "letting your left hand know what the right hand is doing". It works though. Look at the beautiful campus that they have (make that multiple campuses). Two Espresso makers with in 50 feet of each other, fancy lighting, and plasma screen TV's all over the lobby. I guess its just more proof that the Bible is legit:

Mathew 6:2

So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.

Frank the Farmer

 It's Faith Harvest time again, and while there are many good places to go sow your seed there is one place where the blessings really flow. Lets take a look:

Each and every year one farmer stands out from the rest. What makes his crop so special? Well, while some are busy with Wheat and others with Fruits and Vegetables Frank the Farmer goes and reaps the rewards from the Money Tree. Without fail his crop always produces great amounts of wealth, but don't be fooled… not just anyone can handle the money tree.

While it may seem to be a simple formula to you (take over large church, focus on giving, reap large rewards), preparing for the Faith Harvest is, in reality, a very large task.

First, you must plant the seed. This is not done quickly, oh no. When Farmer Frank bought his share of the CBC farm he spent the first 12 weeks planting the giving seed. 12 weeks. Many would give up on this saying "It's just not Biblical" but not Frank. Carefully he worked the soil with the same tedious message, give…give…give, but he didn't stop there.

After the first season he set out to find the perfect plant to help build his farming empire. This was not an easy process.  Every single day he went and worked the ground with Submission to Authority, Spiritual Covering, and other such seeds until one day he came up with the perfect hybrid crop. By carefully mixing Greed, Envy, and Pride with a touch of Biblical Misinterpretation he created the ultimate money tree: Faith Harvest. And now the time is upon us.

So get out your rake, your shovel, and your wallet and lets all head down to the CBC farm for a good old fashion Faith Harvest. Be prepared to invest time, it takes 3 months of every year just planting the seed (3 full years when the moon falls on Forward Together), but the reward is always worth it. 3, 4, even 10 times the amount sowed will be returned to you when the time is right.

I have faith for the harvest, do you?