Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Imprisoned For Sixteen Years For The Faith

Check out this video from James White, filmed while visiting the hole that Fritz Erbe, a 16th century Anabaptist who was, like so many others, imprisoned and tortured for the "crime" of refusing to baptize his children, was held by ostensibly "Protestant" men. What a cruel place to be imprisoned and what great faith he must have had to hold fast to the Scriptures in the face of such cruel torture because of his holding firm on a subject we consider today to be of secondary importance. There are men who say in error that water baptism saves us and those who, also in error, think that a days old infant incapable of professing faith should be baptized. On the one hand it is a sign of some maturity in the church that we don't put one another to death over these issues anymore but on the other it makes me wonder just how firmly we hold to any position in the church. Think about being lowered into that hole with no hope of escape and ask yourself just how strong your convictions truly are.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

On This Day In Church History: The First Anabaptist Baptism

On January 21st, 1525 Conrad Grebel baptized George Blaurock. Blaurock then baptized the other men present including Felix Manz and Grebel. This followed the disputation in Zurich where Zwingli disputed with Grebel and Manz over the subject of baptism. Although Zwingli was unsurprisingly declared the victor in support of "infant baptism", the brethren still chose to be baptized a few days later. This would start them on a path that would lead many Anabaptists to being murdered by the hands of the state at the urging of the religious authorities.

You might wonder why you should care if you are not part of an Anabaptist heritage group like the Amish, Mennonites or Hutterites. If you are someone who cares about religious liberty, this is a critical moment in the church when a handful of men risked their lives to take the rite of baptism out of state hands. The religious liberty we cherish and that is enshrined in our Constitution can be traced in part back to this courageous act of defiance almost 500 years ago. May God raise up more men in this day with the courage to stand fast on the Word of God against those who would seek to pervert it or use it to gain worldly power.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Are Reformed Christians Influenced By White Supremacy?

Desiring God, the online ministry of John Piper, is one of my "go to" sources on many topics. Some of the material published there is among the highest quality material for the Reformed Christian available on the net. For example, last Sunday they published Before You Believed, You Belonged which is one of the best things I have read ever. But then the very next day they publish something that I remarked to a friend was "terrible" and "counter-productive". The offending essay comes with the click-bait title: Providence Is No Excuse: Exposing a Reformed White Supremacist by Daniel Kleven, who is the director of admissions for Bethlehem College and Seminary where John Piper is chancellor.

In the pantheon of terms that are a) way overused and applied and b) are completely misunderstood, "white supremacy" is near the top of the list. I am not sure I can name an actual white supremacist today. Even well known people like David Duke and Richard Spencer are more properly considered white nationalists than they are white supremacists, in the same way that someone like Louis Farrakhan is a black nationalist advocating in part for distinct, racially homogeneous nations. People like Richard Spencer don't want to rule over non-whites, i.e. white supremacy, they want to live apart from non-whites. A subtle difference perhaps but an important one to understand in a climate where the term "white supremacy" is used to label almost anyone that doesn't completely adhere to the edicts of the racism-industrial complex.

Who was this White Supremacist that Daniel Kleven "exposed"? His name is Robert Lewis Dabney, a 19th century Southern American pastor and theologian. He was also a chaplain in the Confederate Army, a biographer of Stonewall Jackson and was a supporter of slavery even after the end of the Civil War. In addition to his biography of General Jackson, in 1867 he wrote a book with a lengthy title characteristic of that time, A Defense of Virginia, and Through Her, of the South, in Recent and Pending Contests Against the Sectional Party, as well as a number of theological tomes. You can be forgiven if in 2018 you haven't heard of Dabney or if you have, you have heard of him only in passing or via a one line quote in the writing of someone else. After all the man lived and died in the 19th century.

Why did Daniel Kleven choose to bring up Dabney? Is Dabney a particularly influential Reformed thinker? As someone who has been engaged in Reformed theology for many years, I know the name but he isn't someone I consider influential or even someone that I ever recall reading anything from. I have seen his name crop up here and there from time to time.

At Monergism, the gold standard for Reformed theology, there is a section where you can look up articles by the author. Some are obviously huge, John Calvin has almost 400 results. What about Dabney? He shows up 24 times. Compare that to someone like Francis Turretin, a fairly obscure reformed theologian with over 60 results, not to mention men like Charles Hodge with 90 results and Charles Spurgeon with over 1,200 results. Compared to modern Reformed writers like John Piper and R.C. Sproul, Dabney is barely a blip on the radar. If you were to poll people at a Reformed conference like Together for the Gospel and ask how many of them knew who Dabney was, I think few would know much more than his name. Asked how many had read anything of his and I am confident you would get a much, much smaller positive response. He just isn't a top-tier or even mid-tier theologian among the contemporary Reformed.

Even Doug Wilson, who endlessly finds himself forced to defend against (unwarranted) accusations of racism and being a slavery apologist and is one of the few people to regularly quote Dabney, describes Dabney as an "irascible slave owner". No one who knows much about him fails to understand that Dabney was a man of the 19th century with all that entails.

Yet he is referred to in this article as a champion of Reformed theology: "It’s hard to look racism in the face, especially when that face is one of a champion of Reformed orthodoxy". A champion?

Notice this introduction from Kleven's article and please note my emphasis:
In his time, Robert Lewis Dabney (1820–1898) was considered one of the greatest teachers of theology in the United States. Revered theologians such as Hodge, Shedd, Warfield, Bavinck, and Barth viewed him with appreciation and respect.
In the 19th century, he was considered one of the greatest teachers of theology. Other more widely known Reformed theologians, now long dead, "appreciated" and "respected" Dabney. So he had some influence over other theologians 100 years ago.

So I ask again, why did Daniel Kleven choose Robert Dabney to make the case that somehow contemporary Reformed types have a White supremacist skeleton in their collective closet? My only conclusion can be that Daniel wanted to write an article on this topic and went searching for someone, however obscure, to fit the bill. Unlike Hodge or Warfield, Edwards or Spurgeon, Dabney wrote some stuff that makes good fodder for this sort of article. It is an editorial form of eisegesis, predeterming that there are "Echoes in Our Day" of White supremacy. Of course the church has already condemned pro-slavery positions and the institution itself in unequivocal terms. For example, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) has a historically valuable e-book on their historical website written by Thomas Cary Johnson that has this caveat:
Please note that this history is posted solely for its value as a historical document. Any statements in Johnson's book in support of the institution of slavery or in support of racial supremacy should be clearly and obviously understood to be rejected by the Presbyterian Church in America, by the PCA Historical Center, and by the Center's director. The book is posted here that we might learn from it as history, and that we might learn too from its errors, as well as its truths. It should continue to amaze us that highly valued leaders in the Church can be so very wrong about some matters while still holding to vital truths about the Christian faith. May God grant us the ability to see and repent from the sins we ourselves are blinded to by our own culture today.
It is pretty clear to anyone paying attention that the issue of slavery and "racial supremacy" has been condemned by the church, including the Reformed church. I don't know of any even semi-serious Reformed writers that promote racial supremacy or hold a pro-slavery view.

Dabney was a product of his times and while it is easy to cluck our tongues disapprovingly at what he wrote 150 years ago, it is not very useful. I am sure without bothering to look that there were men all across the religious (and non-religious) spectrum in the era leading up to and immediately after the Civil War that used language similar to, if not worse, than what Dabney did. Slavery was the law of the land and slavery, as we see in the Bible and elsewhere, has been practiced by humanity for thousands of years, by whites and blacks, Christians and Muslims. Men like Dabney can be brilliant theologians and still be terribly wrong on some issues and it doesn't diminish their value. Calvin made a horrendous error in his complicity with the execution of the heretical Servetus. Martin Luther made statements considered by some to be anti-semitic. Men are flawed, something that Reformed Christians understand perhaps better than others, and it certainly isn't necessary to put an addendum next to any quote from Calvin that he was complicit in the state execution of Servetus.

Mr. Kleven concludes his essay with the obligatory homage to Martin Luther King, Jr.
A true understanding of providence should lead us to act the miracle of change in pursuing justice.
Martin Luther King came closer to this in regard to racial justice than did Robert Lewis Dabney.
As impolite as it may be to point out, King was in many ways a deeply heterodox religious figure, someone who held positions that if they were held by someone other than a slain Civil Rights icon would be condemned by most orthodox Christians. Not to mention that King's personal life, including very credible evidence of serial adultery, brings into question whether he knew Christ at all.

What exactly was Kleven's point? Slavery and support for slavery was bad? Did we really need another essay about that? Or was this just an obligatory essay to mark MLK day?

So why was this essay terrible and counter-productive? It was terrible in that it presents a fairly esoteric figure in Reformed theology as a means to taint all Reformed Christians with the guilt of white supremacy and it fails to recognize the very real lack of white supremacist thought in contemporary times anywhere in America, much less in evangelicalism, even less so in Reformed circles. It is counter-productive because the essay itself is an exercise in virtue signaling, a term I recognize is overused but appropriate I believe in this case. The comments on Facebook that accompanied the original posting from Desiring God, including mine, exhibited that most people were not buying into this idea of white supremacy lurking just below the surface of Reformed Christianity based on one example of a man who live and died in the 19th century South. As someone who thinks and writes and tries to take seriously the question of race in the church and America in general, I found the essay far from enlightening and more accurately simply another example of clumsy guilt-tripping that accomplishes little but to make the author feel that he has somehow struck a blow for racial justice.

Self-flagellation over alleged racial guilt is the neo-Reformed version of the #MeToo farce, just in reverse. Instead of feeling left out because you weren't a victim, many feel left out that they have never actually oppressed anyone so they create some linkage from themselves to oppression, no matter how tenuous.

Those into racial guilt virtue signaling BDSM don't want to really have to ask hard questions and get into uncomfortable conversations. They simply want a sharp rap on the bum with a riding crop from Mr. Grey, leaving no lasting impact but giving that sense of feeling like you have been duly chastised for your latent racism and are now cleansed and in a position to scold others.

Essays like Daniel Kleven's are theological cotton candy, brightly colored but empty of any substance. It is a throwaway piece, generating a little heat but no light and just as quickly forgotten as it was read. Worse it deflects serious questions about race relations and even issues like the providence of God as it pertains to slavery in favor of vacuous references to relatively obscure figures in the church and breathless warnings about "white supremacy". Desiring God is a resource that often provides deep, meaningful, thought-provoking materials and it could do the same on questions of race. Instead we got a Huffington Post religion page level discourse. No topic in the church today is in greater need of clarity and soberness than race but all too often what we get instead are essays like Daniel Kleven's. I have come to expect better from Desiring God and I was deeply disappointed. Serious topics demand serious scholarship.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Occultism In A Methodist "Church" With Nary A Whimper From The UMC

A video was posted a few days ago that featured a Black Lives Matter speaker, Melina Abdullah, leading what can only be described as a séance in what is ostensibly a Christian church during a meeting aimed at raising support to stop the construction of two new jails in Los Angeles. The Daily Wire reports on what took place.
Dr. Melina Abdullah — a professor at California State University who also leads the Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter — recently summoned the spirits of several deceased people to fill a Methodist church with ethereal energy, including Martin Luther King, several other slain civil rights leaders, victims of police brutality, and an African warrior named Shaka Zulu.
“This is not just a social justice, a racial justice, an economic justice struggle,” Abdullah told a crowd gathered at Hollywood United Methodist Church on Thursday night. “This is also a spiritual struggle, so it’s appropriate that we’re here in this setting. It’s also important that we summon the right energy into this space no matter what faith you are.”
The church was hosting a townhall organized to stop two new jails from being built in Los Angeles County. The meeting opened with Abdullah leading a ritual called the “pouring of libations,” which she defined as “a summoning of energy” in “the names of our ancestors.”
You can watch a portion for yourself, at least until the censors at YouTube take the video down. I have watched it and it does indeed contain what is described by the article.

Of note is the chant "Ase" after each name is uttered. Ase is a concept of animistic, pagan West African religion described as follows from Wikipedia:
Ase (or às̩e̩ or ashe) is a West African philosophical concept through which the Yoruba of Nigeria conceive the power to make things happen and produce change. It is given by Olodumare to everything — gods, ancestors, spirits, humans, animals, plants, rocks, rivers, and voiced words such as songs, prayers, praises, curses, or even everyday conversation. Existence, according to Yoruba thought, is dependent upon it.
In addition to its sacred characteristics, ase also has important social ramifications, reflected in its translation as "power, authority, command." A person who, through training, experience, and initiation, learns how to use the essential life force of things to willfully effect change is called an alaase.
Rituals to invoke divine forces reflect this same concern for the autonomous ase of particular entities. The recognition of the uniqueness and autonomy of the ase of persons and gods is what structures society and its relationship with the other-world.
If you think that sounds like a pagan, occultic practice and concept, you are correct. If you further think that the Bible condemns this sort of thing, you are also right. If you wonder why a "church" would agree to this going on, assuming someone from the church was there, you are on the right path.

It sounds as if this was a community event hosted by the church, not an actual "official" church gathering but on the other hand the "church" hosting this event, Hollywood United Methodist Church, proudly proclaims their "progressive" street cred in search results....

...and a "leadership team" features the obligatory female "senior pastor" and an open, "married" homosexual "associate pastor" as well as a couple of other homosexual staff...and a statement of "beliefs" that includes gems like this:
We believe in the Bible, interpreted through the lenses of our reason, experience and tradition, and wherever it agrees with the fundamental truth of God’s love and grace as revealed by the life of Christ.
Well that is just a deliciously nonsensical example of circular reasoning "We believe the Bible where the Bible agrees with Jesus!". Of course all we know about Jesus we get from the Bible so what this really means is that this "church" pre-determines which parts of the Bible they will agree with rather than being conformed to what the Bible says. Little wonder they have a woman senior pastor, practicing homosexuals on staff and host far left wing political events that feature a blasphemous séance and involving of an animistic religious practice. If I was a senior pastor and I heard about this going on in our building I would stop it. Or if I was a member. Or if I was a regular attender. Or if I was someone just wandering down the street and heard/saw a women pouring out libations, trying to summon the spirits of dead people and invoking animistic chanting.

I am not surprised to see stuff like this happening at a "church" but I do have to wonder what in the world is going on at the United Methodist Church headquarters that no one, as far as I can tell, has made a peep about something that has as much business being done in a building consecrated to the Christian faith as a goat being sacrificed to Demogorgon.

My real question is this. I know people that are in UMC churches that seem like pretty solid Christians that don't buy into this nonsense but yet are allowing themselves to be unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14-18) that preach and practice rank heresy. When you are part of a church that is part of a denomination, you express some level of unity and solidarity with other churches in that denomination. If I became a member of a Southern Baptist church, I would understand that implies some unity on essential doctrines with every other Southern Baptist church. At what point do faithful Christians in United Methodist churches demand some action from the denomination to deal with wayward local churches or push their own local church to leave the denomination or failing that find some other church to attend?

I understand the power of history and tradition and loyalty but at some point you have to ask if you can be in fellowship, even from a distance, with a local church that allows an unbeliever to have a séance invoking the spirits of a Zulu pagan warlord and a Muslim Black Nationalist into a Christian church. Is the United Methodist Church so desperate to be seen as tolerant and inclusive that they will gut every single feature of the faith in order to appease the ever shifting sensibilities of the unbelieving world? I think recent history unfortunately assumes that they are.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Are We In A New Paradigm Of Race Relations?

Shelby Steele suggests we are in a brilliant new essay at the Wall Street Journal, Black Protest Has Lost Its Power. It is behind a paywall so you might not be able to see it but if you use your incognito/private browser setting you should be able to pull it up. 

Steele's basic premise is that the fizzle of the NFL anthem protests is heralding a change in race relationships. The NFL players are trying to recapture the bygone era of protest when there was actually something to protest about but are doing so in an era when blacks are free or as he writes: "The oppression of black people is over with.". In doing so they have seen an enormous backlash in the form of public anger and financial hits to the league that pays them millions to play a children's game. What we might be seeing is what Steele calls a new "fearlessness" from whites. No longer cowed by the threat of being labeled "racist", conversations are starting to happen that were once forbidden but are long overdue. I hope this is true. If you want to know why groups like the alt-right have suddenly burst on the scene, it is largely because conversations in this country have been submerged under political correctness for decades and people are sick to death of it. Anyone who speaks honestly and unapologetically is going to get a hearing in this atmosphere. If you don't like what the alt-right is saying, you better (to borrow a nonsensical phrase) "create some space" for honest and open conversations about race. Otherwise you are simply abandoning the rhetorical battlefield to the meme warriors.

One place where I see the old paradigm of endlessly staring back at the past, where race relations are always stuck in the pre-Civil Rights era, is in the church. The amount of navel-gazing, hand-wringing and guilt-tripping is unhelpful and unhealthy. In spite of the magnitude of apologizing for racial wrongs from people that really have never significantly wronged others, I see a disturbing trend of black evangelicals that were once solidly orthodox moving quickly away from the Gospel and embracing the "gospel" of racial antipathy. We are in desperate need of honest conversation in the church about race but what we mostly get is an endless rehashing of past grievances and an similarly limitless litany of platitudes and nonsensical phrases. The sheer fragility of so many people in the church when it comes to this topic is embarrassing.

I thought Steele's essay was magnificent, just about the perfect combination of honesty, bluntness and awareness. If there is one thing he seemed to overlook a little, it is the power of the racism-industrial complex to perpetuate the cult of victimhood. I wrote on Facebook in response to the person that originally posted this:
While I mostly agree, the other problem is that perpetuating the cult of victimhood is big business and it is why race relations conversations so often are endlessly rehashing the past instead of truly examining the present and exploring the future. Slavery, Jim Crow, sharecropping, back of the bus, all of these inform where we are but they are not the deciding or even significant factors in the current ills of the black population in America.
I stand by that. There is a lot of money and power and influence to be exploited by perpetuating the cult of victimhood. That is precisely why voices like Shelby Steele are given little attention in topics on race relations and why Detroit is trying to find a way to change the name of the Dr. Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine because although Dr. Carson is a magnificent role-model for any young black man, his refusal to embrace the cult of victimhood makes him a threat to those who profit from racial animus.

In case you can't get past the paywall, I selected a few key quotes here for your perusal but make an effort to read the whole essay because it is one of the best things I have read in a long while.
Watch out that you get what you ask for, the saying goes. Freedom came to blacks with an overlay of cruelty because it meant we had to look at ourselves without the excuse of oppression. Four centuries of dehumanization had left us underdeveloped in many ways, and within the world’s most highly developed society. When freedom expanded, we became more accountable for that underdevelopment. So freedom put blacks at risk of being judged inferior, the very libel that had always been used against us.
That’s why, in the face of freedom’s unsparing judgmentalism, we reflexively claim that freedom is a lie. We conjure elaborate narratives that give white racism new life in the present: “systemic” and “structural” racism, racist “microaggressions,” “white privilege,” and so on. All these narratives insist that blacks are still victims of racism, and that freedom’s accountability is an injustice.
We end up giving victimization the charisma of black authenticity. Suffering, poverty and underdevelopment are the things that make you “truly black.” Success and achievement throw your authenticity into question.
For any formerly oppressed group, there will be an expectation that the past will somehow be an excuse for difficulties in the present. This is the expectation behind the NFL protests and the many protests of groups like Black Lives Matter. The near-hysteria around the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray and others is also a hunger for the excuse of racial victimization, a determination to keep it alive. To a degree, black America’s self-esteem is invested in the illusion that we live under a cloud of continuing injustice.
When you don’t know how to go forward, you never just sit there; you go backward into what you know, into what is familiar and comfortable and, most of all, exonerating. You rebuild in your own mind the oppression that is fading from the world. And you feel this abstract, fabricated oppression as if it were your personal truth, the truth around which your character is formed. Watching the antics of Black Lives Matter is like watching people literally aspiring to black victimization, longing for it as for a consummation.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Confused Ecclesiology Creates Barriers To Service

The Atlantic ran a piece recently on the struggles of churches in low-income areas making ends meet, Low-Income Communities Are Struggling to Support Churches. The article focuses on Yoan Mora, who is the senior pastor of Primera Iglesia Cristiana in San Antonio but what is really telling about the article is that it reinforces the most common misconception of the church, specifically that to have a "real" church you need a paid clerical staff and you have to own a building. Even the picture leading the article feeds into the stereotype...

The pastor, who in this case is bi-vocational, wearing a suit is leaving their building while another guy locks up the building including a metal gate over the door.

This being the Atlantic, there is the obligatory class-warfare slant to the article:
Churches are not just faith institutions; they are economic institutions, too. And church life in general seems to be falling along economic lines: Churches of all sizes proliferate the suburbs and the tonier parts of America’s urban cores, while in lower income, economically stagnant neighborhoods, churches tend to be very small, very old, and in general, not as active in their community.
I am little surprised there was not an overt call for income redistribution, although the topic was brought up in a roundabout way (Primera Iglesia Cristiana was apparently a church plant originally and has in the past received financial support from a more affluent White majority church). I also found it interesting, but not at all surprising, that the author chose a Spanish speaking urban church but didn't bother to mention or look into the very real struggle of local churches in rural areas that have the same economic problems but also struggle with an aging membership and a shrinking pool of potential congregants as more and more rural Christians commute long distances to get to suburban churches that offer church services with more polish and pizazz and better youth programs. I am pretty sure that the fact that members of rural churches tend to be White and probably deplorable, gun-and-religion clinging Trump voters and that members of churches like Primera Iglesia Cristiana tend to be the opposite was a primary motivating factor in the Atlantic's choice of pastors to interview and churches to focus on.

The Atlantic sees the church in the same ways a lot of Christians do, although in slightly different terms. With barely a passing mention of the church as "not just faith institutions", most of the article focuses on things like keeping kids out of trouble, helping with the rent and job training. In other words, more of an economic and social institution like any other with a little religion thrown in. On the flip side, your average evangelical sees the church as an economic institution as well, a place where you can come as a Christian, invest an hour or two a week, donate some money and pay other people to do what you frankly can't be bothered with in your own busy life.

Patton Dodd who wrote the Atlantic piece sees the church primarily as a social welfare organization, somewhere for poor people to get food or help accessing social welfare services (that is a legitimate role for the church, just not the primary role). Most Christians see the church as a proxy to carry out on their behalf their calling as Christians in preaching and teaching and serving the church. In either scenario, there needs to be a critical mass of people (i.e. givers) who can pay for the building, pay for the programs, support the missionaries and of course pay the pastors. Inevitably that turns congregations into economic units. The article shows how this works:
Yet Mora knows that church growth will not necessarily change his own economic situation. The median income in 78207, the zip code where Primera Iglesia Cristiana is located, is less than $25,000. If the church is a raging success someday, with, say, 150 members, and 100 of those members are adults earning the median income, and all of those members tithe a full 10 percent of their pre-tax earning (most churchgoers give far less), it would have a budget of $250,000. That budget would need to cover potential employees, insurance for the building, plus upkeep for the aging structure, and a slew of events, including food and clothing drives, among other things.
If Mora is able to manage all of that, he’ll also need to pay himself. This year, the church increased his salary to $1,000 per month, from $600. Mora is grateful, but he gives a Come on, man look as he cites the figure. “What are you going to do with $1,000 monthly? With a daughter, 17 years old? Another one 12 years old? Three ladies at home!” he says, laughing.
He’ll be keeping that accounting job.
X number of church members making Y amount of money that donate Z amount of "tithing". That sort of ecclesiastical math goes on in a lot of local churches. I don't blame Mora because that is what we have all been taught. To really serve the Lord you need to be "fully supported" by your church. It is inevitable that you see a new family as a potential donor. It is difficult but whether you are talking about a small urban church or a small rural church where funds are tight in either place and that situation is not going to change, the strategy should not be to chase that ever elusive critical mass where your pastors can go "full-time", it should be to cultivate "lay leaders" who are self-supporting apart from the church. While none of them alone can lead the church, together they can share the burdens of leadership and lead the church without having to depend on the donation plate. I have written ad nauseam about the plurality of functioning elders, so I won't reiterate it here but if you are interested you can read my posts with the elder tag. The bottom line is that the dream of Yoan Mora to be fully supported is likely to never happen so he should be laser focused on training up elders to help him. Maybe he is, the article doesn't really say, but if he isn't he had better start.

That is not to say that you cannot faithfully function when you have a sufficient budget to have a paid staff and own a building, most local congregations do and those traditional churches are where most disciples are made, most adults and kids are taught the Way and where Christians find their identity. But when you hold that model up as the only way that the church can function it creates a huge disincentive to church planting and it creates a sense of expectation that will only get harder to meet in the future.

The greatest barrier to church planting is not a lack of funding. The greatest barrier is an institutionalized ecclesiology. Church planting is often a financial transaction. You need X amount of support monthly to pay for a place, to pay your pastor and if you aren't there, that is your main goal. Our faulty ecclesiology trains men for service in a traditional setting with a salary and a building and those are simply not going to be as common in the future. If magnet hub churches would train men that live in more rural or urban areas to plant congregations that don't depend on having paid clergy and a building, we could reach a lot more areas and a lot more people but that would then mean taking the "best" people from a local church and sending them elsewhere, and often the people who serve the most also give the most faithfully. That economic circles goes on and on.

The greatest ecclesiastical priority for the church right now is not "expository preaching" or better programs. It is to change our mindset regarding how the church looks and operates in the future. We need to stop seeing people as giving units and start thinking about how the church can operate without being so dependent on offerings that will only shrink in the future. The power in the church is not found in our bank accounts, it is in the Holy Spirit working through God's New Covenant people. Recovering that vision is the most important task of the church now in order to enable us to continue preaching the Gospel in the future.