Which Religions do you Respect?

In a recent episode of "How to Lose Influence & Alienate your Congregation", Pastor Hank mentioned that he doesn't respect all religions, and then proceeded to list the Ku Klux Klan and White Slavery as religions. (I think he confused the movie Taken with The Mission.)  Nevertheless, I think his initial question is interesting:

What religions do you respect?

Do you respect Methodists, Catholics, Mormons? Do you respect Jehovah Witnesses, Muslims, Buddhists?

Now you know, I pretty much have no use for any organized religion. But I understand from the comment section that a lot of you crazy zealots, think differently. And I'm genuinely curious to hear which religions you respect? Or more specifically, which religions do you think will get into heaven? Do Jews get to go to Heaven?

If I remember my teachings at City Bible Church correctly, most Methodists will go to heaven and some Catholics, but that was about it. Mormons and JW's are a cult. And Muslims and Buddhists are straight up the enemy.

Anyway, genuinely interested in what you all think on this issue? And what is the deciding factor that seperates religions you respect from religions you don't?

Wendell Smith and The City Church leave MFI

Pasted below are two emails I received from someone close to MFI. In the first email, Frank Damazio explains to the members of MFI that Wendell Smith has resigned his leadership role and The City Church is no longer a member of MFI.  In the second email, Dick Iverson offers his thoughts on Wendell's decision to leave. 


Dear MFI,

Greetings and blessings on you all! Summer is quickly coming to an end but the Fall is a great time for churches as we all begin to gear up for a new season. At MFI, we are also gearing up and seeing lots of momentum for the MFI October Annual Conference.

This letter is to communicate a change that has taken place with Pastor Wendell Smith’s involvement with MFI. Wendell has resigned his leadership role and withdrawn as a member of MFI, along with Judah Smith. He feels a different direction for himself and his local church leaders. Although I know this change will be a surprise to many, it does not affect our relationship with Wendell and Gini. We love them and will continue our friendships with them and their leaders. There is no problem between Wendell and myself or between Wendell and the Apostolic Leadership Team; this is a philosophy difference, not a relational one.

The Apostolic Leadership Team is working together with amazing unity. Bob MacGregor and Mike Servello, the Vice-Chairmen, are working together with the ALT and myself in a very fruitful manner. The fellowship is strong with great signs of momentum as we approach the Fall conference. We have a steady stream of new pastors and new support ministry seeking to join MFI. Bro. Dick is also involved as much as he wants to be at this season of life. We are working together and I am thrilled to have his strength and wisdom alongside all of us.

All in all, we are having a great time and I believe we will continue to impact the world for Christ. I love you all and pray for you all. I am truly pumped about our Fall conference. We have some great things to introduce, some great reports to give, and some awesome soaking time in God’s presence.

Blessings on you all,

Frank Damazio
Chairman, Ministers Fellowship International


Dear MFI family,

Greetings in Jesus’ name.

Let me first thank you for all your prayers, cards and letters sent during my surgery and for my birthday as well.  I am doing great and have recovered very quickly from this major ordeal.

I am so saddened by Wendell’s decision to withdraw from membership in MFI, along with Judah, the new pastor of The City Church.   I know that Wendell & Gini love all of us but they have chosen to go a different direction but maintain a good relationship with all of us.  We need to continue to pray for Wendell & Gini as this is a major decision for them.  We love them and please don’t read into this that there is any problem between us as that is absolutely not true. We must also continue to contend for Wendell’s healing.

I believe that MFI, under the direction of our new Chairman and the Apostolic Leadership Team, has a bright future.  I am supporting Pastor Frank with all my heart and strength.  He is a great leader.  I am believing that the Lord is going to bless us with continued growth around the world.

I look forward to seeing all of you at the conference in October.

In His name,

Dick Iverson

Founder, Ministers Fellowship International

Who are God’s Anointed?

This is a question that comes up a lot on this blog.  And I thought it might be helpful if we as a blogging community determined which people in the world are, in fact, God's Anointed, (aka those whom we cannot harm) and which people are not God's annointed. I'm going to start with my list, but please feel free to include your own "list of anointed" in the comments below.

The following is a list of people who are NOT God's Anointed

  1. Justin Morton (No explanation needed. This also extends to my immediate family.)
  2. Joel Osteen (He's overexposed. Even God's tired of seeing him on TV)
  3. Ke$ha (Her songs all sound the same.)
  4. Frank Damazio (This also includes any pastor afilliated with MFI)
  5. Judah Smith (Does anyone know if Judah Smith has had sex yet? I haven't heard him mention it in a couple days.)
  6. Barack Obama (He's Muhammad's Anointed.)
  7. Lebron James (May you lose every game next year.)
  8. Ben Bernanke (God's 401K has lost a lot of money.)
  9. Sarah Palin (There's an intelligence test required to be God's annointed. She didn't pass.)

And here is a list of people who I believe ARE God's Annointed

  1. Billy Graham (Genuinely Christ-like)
  2. Snooki (God loves The Poof)
  3. Carrie Underwood (God likes country music, what can I say)
  4. Will Ferrill (He was out with Semi-Pro. But God re-annointed him after watching The Other Guys. It's a solid film)
  5. Rick Warren (God really likes A Purpose Driven Life)
  6. Tenley from The Bachelor Pad (God also really likes this show. Who knew He was so into Reality TV?)
  7. Warren Buffet (God has stock options in Berkshire Hathaway)

Updated 8/27
I realize that I don't have any "people of color" on the list of God's Anointed. Unless of course, you count Snooki. But I'm not sure Snooki is even human. (I think she's an angel who fell from heaven.) So, I've been wracking my brain trying to think of a black person that I could include on this list, and then one of the commenters mentioned a name, and I thought, "Of course." So here is the next individual on the list of God's Anointed – #8 Jesus Christ (Yes, Jesus was a black man. Read your history folks.)  

Bigots Are Apparently Excellent Tithers

Franky D has a new strategy on raising money. Attract the bigots. Last Sunday, August 15, he exhorted his congregation to be proud of their bigotry.  In the middle of his sermon he goes on a lengthy rant refusing to respect all religions. And then he says, and I quote: 

"The problem with that, if you talk to many people the way that I am preaching they will say 'You're a bigoted narrow-minded Christian.' And all you need to do to respond to that is say, 'Thank you very much, that's exactly what I am.'"

The only conclusion I can come to is that Frank got ahold of some informing showing that bigots tithe on a much higher percentage than non-bigots. And thus, he's beginning a 10 month series on attracting bigots to your church. Brilliant! How does he do it? Such a smart pastor. If the members of MFI were thinking properly, all the pastors would stop preaching immediately and just simulcast Frank's sermons directly into their own churches. 

I can just see Mike Servello addressing his congregation, "I was going to speak on having a fire and passion for God. But I just got word that Frank is starting a year long series entitled "Got Bigotry?" And by golly, that's gold. So pay close attention folks. Because after the sermon, we're going to burn some crosses, beat up some homos and then fly down to Hollywood and personally deport the entire cast of The George Lopez Show. Now repeat after me: God is good…."

Way to stay classy, Frank.

(You can view his remarks at www.citybiblechurch.org The lower right hand corner of the front page shows Franks latest sermon. Fast forward to about the 25 minute mark, and you can witness his smooth and professional preaching style in all it's glory)

The Mosque & Groundzero

So, some muslims want to build a community center a couple blocks away from Ground Zero, and naturally this country is all up in arms. We've got ten percent unemployment, a 13 trillion dollar deficit, two foreign wars, and the biggest thing the Republicans and Democrats can find to debate is some building that will have zero effect on 99.9% of the population.  Yep, sounds about right.

There is pretty clearly a First Amendment Freedom of Religion claim here. But I get that conservatives aren't claiming that Muslims don't have the right to build their Community Center. It's that it's offensive to the victims of 9/11.  Fair enough.

This, of course, excites me to no end. As someone who doesn't care much for religion, I love where this leads. The next time your local mega-church wants to build a new church, all you have to do is find something offensive that some Christians have done in the past, and then use that to oppose the new church. Or as Jon Stewart asks, "You can build a Catholic Church next to a playground, but should you?"

Anyway, what do you all think?

City Bible and Illegal Immigrants

Well, hell has officially frozen over, because I am about to quote approvingly of City Bible Church. An article in today's Portland Tribune asks What Would Jesus Do About Immigrants? In the article, the reporter interviews several pastors at CBC.

Pastor Ben Trolese’s parents were missionaries, and he spent much of his childhood growing up in Guatemala and Nicaragua. Now he leads the Spanish-language service in Tigard for City Bible Church, a charismatic evangelical congregation generally viewed as socially conservative.

Trolese doesn’t know the legal status of his congregants, but assumes not all of them are here legally.

“Some have been here decades,” he says. “I work with them. I can tell you stories of the separated families.”

It’s almost laughable, he says, when immigration authorities arbitrarily decide to deport a father but not a mother, so their children who are legal citizens can remain with at least one parent.

And further in the article:

Trolese, of City Bible Church, says with millions of illegal immigrants living here in the shadows, it’s clear something has to be done. But those who suggest simplistic approaches, such as mass deportations or building an impregnable wall at the border, aren’t being realistic, he says.

“You’re not going to build a high enough wall, or enough of it,” Trolese says. “I think border control is important, but it’s one sliver. It’s 25 percent of the issue.”

He wonders why the United States can’t be more like Canada, which has managed to welcome immigrants while tightly enforcing laws against illegal immigration.

Ben is one of the good guys over there at City Boobie Church. And it's nice to see CBC taking a more moderate approach to illegal immigration. I understand that the US can't afford to take-in every immigrant in the world. But I never understood the hatred for people who, for the most part, just want to work hard and support their family. 

On a related note, read this gripping article about a house in Phoenix where illigal immigrants are kidnapped and tortured.

Strippers Protest Outside Church

Not sure how many of you have seen this story, but for the last several years a church in Ohio has been protesting outside a nearby stripclub. The church, New Beginning Ministries, stands outside the club with signs. They also videotape guys going into the club and post their license plate numbers online.  At some point, the strippers had enough and they staged their own protest outside of New Beginnings Ministry, complete with signs and bikinis. 

I was all set to write some snarky comment about how this probably would increase attendance at church or about how much Jesus loves glitter. But then I watched this video of the two women protesting outside, and I was like, "Ouch."  Because, in theory it sounds funny and odd. But in reality, let's be honest, these women need real help. Girls don't get into stripping because they have great homes lives. These clubs aren't filled with Harvard grads and Doctors. Your typical stripper didn't grow up in a warm household with a father who loved her unconditionally. These girls are desperate. And they're likely stripping because it's the only way they can make decent money. And they're probably supporting a drug habit as well.

So why is the church harrassing these girls. Is this really what Christ had in mind when he said, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone". The church folks shouldn't be protesting outside the club. They should be reaching out to these girls. How many times do you think those girls have been invited over to someone's house for dinner. Or how many times has someone offered to babysit their kids or buy them groceries. You want to stop these girls from selling their bodies, then how about actually helping them find a way out of the situation they are in. Sharing God's grace is going to influence these ladies a lot more than condeming them.

But condemnation is easy. And compassion is hard. So, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the church took the easy road.

5 Ways to Get Political Support From the Religious Right

Since this is an election year and there has been a recent debate about the conservative stronghold over Christians, I figured I would join the party.  I've often thought how easy it is for a political candidate to get Christians to vote for them, and since most evangelicals love five-step methods, here are the five ways to garner political support from the religious right: 

1) Claim you have been going to church for years and believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior (obvious I know).  However, it's also key to release some kind of videotape of yourself praying or speaking at church. (With just that alone you will win 75% of your targeted support).

2) Speak out against gays and abortion and state that you will work to overturn Roe v. Wade and restore prayer in schools (knowing that both are impossible, but hey your potential followers don't know or really care to learn how our legal/political system works).

3) Claim that families are a centerpiece to a "better America" and you will make the restoration of family values your top priority while in office.  Don't forget to haul your spouse and 2 to 5 kids on stage with you to show everyone what a family oriented person you are (even though you only see them once or twice a month because you are always on the road and most likely your kids are drug addicts and/or partying alcoholics who sleep around, and you and/or your spouse are in a flirtatious relationship — if not a full blown affair — with one of the cute campaign aids).

4) Make guest appearances on Fox News (especially Sean Hanity or Glenn Beck) and talk about how the liberal media is not giving you fair coverage (even though the local/national news on NBC, ABC, and CBS have done a story on you at least once a week).

5) Claim that any negative press that contradicts your public appearance (i.e. cheating/affairs, drugs/alcohol use, partying/wild past, poor academic record (or lack of one at all), a-hole/diva attitude towards others, dysfunctional family problems, etc.) is all part of a witch hunt by the devil and liberals to destroy you because you are God’s chosen candidate. 

6) BONUS POINT: Write a book that tells of your childhood growing up in church, confesses your sins as a teenager/young adult, and promises your commitment to govern with faith over anything else.  (The book should win over that last 5% to 10% who doubted you because of the stories about your involvement in some weird cult like group while in high school or college.)

American Pastors are Burning Out

A pastor shares his thoughts on the state of the American clergy in an Op-Ed to the New York Times.

In this transformation, clergy have seen their job descriptions rewritten. They’re no longer expected to offer moral counsel in pastoral care sessions or to deliver sermons that make the comfortable uneasy. Church leaders who continue such ministerial traditions pay dearly. A few years ago, thousands of parishioners quit Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minn., and Community Church of Joy in Glendale, Ariz., when their respective preachers refused to bless the congregations’ preferred political agendas and consumerist lifestyles.

I have faced similar pressures myself. In the early 2000s, the advisory committee of my small congregation in Massachusetts told me to keep my sermons to 10 minutes, tell funny stories and leave people feeling great about themselves. The unspoken message in such instructions is clear: give us the comforting, amusing fare we want or we’ll get our spiritual leadership from someone else.

I don't doubt that Americans are demanding a McDonalized version of their church service: quick, cheap and easy. However, I also don't see anything wrong with keeping your sermons short, telling funny stories and making people feel good about themselves.  Why would anyone want to attend a church that drags on for hours, includes boring stories and makes you feel horrible about yourself? Americans already have a 9-5 job, a spouse and a horrible economy that fills that role.

What qualities do you dear readers look for in a pastor?