Monday, November 06, 2006

Time for Judgment (not so much Ted, but his movement)

So Ted has confessed to sin and condemned himself as a “deceiver and a liar” and the church has removed him from office, now what?

It is not mine to judge the man, but I would like to point out a problem with his ministry. I am struck by two things. First, this is a charismatic church that prides itself in the miraculous gifting of the Holy Spirit. With so many prophets sitting in the pews, I do think it is interesting that none were given any insight into this dreadful situation.

Since I believe the Lord still does speak to his children today through the prophetic utterance of his people, I won’t go any further on that. Suffice it to say, church discipline must be administered not just when the pastor falls into gross immorality.

The real issue in all this for me is the teaching and practice of the church growth movement. The movement as a whole has adopted worldly methods to accomplish otherworldly results. This is a major part of Paul’s problem with the false apostles in Corinth. They had adopted rhetorical/persuasive methods in proclaiming the gospel which Paul saw as undermining the power of the gospel itself. Toward the end of his commentary on 2 Corinthians, Hafemann has one of the most devastating critiques of the health and wealth/church growth movements.

Here is an excerpt:

As the corollary to Paul’s boasting in his weakness, his refusal to employ professional rhetoric also calls us to examine whether there is a direct link between what we say we believe and the actual manner of our ministries. Both Paul and his opponents were convinced that the “medium was the message.” This is why they carried themselves so differently in public. Hence, inasmuch as the character of their ministries differed so dramatically, so too they must be preaching different gospels.

Yet the real proof was in the pudding. The opponents’ use of rhetoric was merely emblematic of their values as a whole. From Paul’s perspective, the gospel of the crucified and risen Christ could not be mediated to the Corinthians by a lifestyle or manner of presentation that implicitly promised health and wealth, success, and an escape from suffering. The contrary values embodied in the ministry style of Paul’s opponents thus revealed that their preaching, no matter how persuasive it was rhetorically, was, in reality, poison. They proclaimed themselves to be servants of Christ (11:13, 15), but their way of doing so made it clear that they were serving their own egos.

The heart of the issue is that the gospel we believe will invariably be expressed in the image we portray, and vice versa, so that the integrity of the gospel and its messengers must be our primary concern.

Paul’s simple rhetoric, his willing self-support, and his daily suffering for his churches all indicate that his ministry in Corinth, unlike that of his opponents, was aimed at benefiting the Corinthians, not himself. By doing so, Paul’s rejection of flashy rhetorical practices and his boasting in his weakness expose those who “masquerade as servants of righteousness” (11:15).

Hafemann: 553-555
Any who have been to New Life will recognize immediately the church’s intimate dependence on “flashy rhetoric.” How many more scandals until they recognize the root and depend on the powerful work of the Holy Spirit?

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