Wednesday, May 13, 2015

So They Want You to Sign a Church Covenant?

Below is a comment I put on another blog that I really should have just posted over here on Detox but I didn't realize that till I clicked post comment and then saw how much I had written!  [Note to self:  I will have to watch that in the future, especially when I'm new to a blog and could probably turn people off by the length of the comment.]  After reading through my comment again I'm seeing it's part of our story that I want to keep - our story as in mine, my husband's, which in this case is linked with our dear friends' story - who left the vortex when we did.  Like FreeAtLast often says our friendship became the gold we took from that place.  [We still have gold there and in the spirit of no man left behind we are a prayer team now for those few we care deeply for to come to an epiphany of truth so they are free to grow up in the Lord.  Someday we hope to share our victory here - another part of the story yet to take place!]  Anyway, I thought I'd post the comment here as a reference.  It's in response to an article about signing a contract or covenant with your church which brought up memories of the lame documents we signed at the former church, which were mild compared to what is going on in churches now-a-days.   Click the link (above in red) for the article - it's very informative and I love the way Dee quotes the song Hotel California!  [It's amazing how songs - movies - stories - take on new meaning once you see what's really going on!]  She also begins and ends with a strong warning against signing contracts with churches:
Summary: Unless you have time, money, reputation and energy to burn:
  • Do not prospectively sign any clause, contract, covenant or membership agreement that limits your right to leave a church while you are under discipline.
  • Do not sign any clause, contract, covenant or membership agreement that mandates mediation instead of seeking legal protection by the courts.
  • Do not sign such an agreement which also mandate mediation by a pre-selected organization.
  • Do not sign any agreement that allows the pastors wide latitude in discussing your confidential conversations with others.
Ok, here's my comment (I'm editing the format to include paragraphs for easier reading and I've also added a few comments in italics that are not in the original):
Wow. This post is a definitive warning for the modern day Christian Liberty playbook. I can’t believe it has escalated to such extremes in the last decade. And we thought what we signed at our former church was wack! When our former pastor likened joining the church to a marriage ceremony we thought ‘how corny can you get?’ and we were ‘elders’ at the time – in title only of course, as a long trail of others were before us. (In that church to become an elder was the kiss of death in that it was the final attempt to bring change to a hopeless situation – and it also appealed to our spiritual egos or else we wouldn’t have said yes.)(We are embarrassed about this now.) Even though we had our eye on the back door we were still signing documents that said wine shouldn’t touch our lips and our allegiance is to the lead pastor of the ‘house’, among the long list of covenant stipulations. But if it had been 5 or 10 years earlier we would’ve agreed to even more – so I can see where people can find themselves ready and willing to sign covenants drawn up by their church leaders who are so revered and worshiped. We can become far to trusting and lazy in the sense we’d rather have someone do our thinking for us. It’s so embarrassingly humbling to admit that we fell for the whole pastor covering thing, but it’s part of our story so we can’t conveniently leave it out. (regretful sigh.) Looking back we see we only too willingly gave our pastor too much power. We didn’t realize at the time in doing so we had made him (and his family of nepotism) an idol. However, it was a bill of goods sold to us heavily from the pulpit on Sundays – extra meetings during the week – in conferences – until the church ate up our entire existence practically, which is where we begun to become disenchanted. Fortunately we had a few outside interests we were always fighting to get to and we lived in frustration half the time. 
When we finally REALLY woke up out of the fog of that strange hypnotic love affair with the former First Family (they have actually called themselves that!), we remembered we were born in America and we could actually choose to leave if we wanted – that we didn’t have to live like that anymore. Yes, we’d pay a price for getting out, but another life was an actually an option. It was such an epiphany. But it shouldn’t have been! 
How did we lose sight of the true gospel and of what it really is to live in a free country (free at least for now)? We have discussed this at length over the last 10 years – my good friend and processing partner calls it free talk therapy! ( I was referring to FreeAtLast!) Talking it through and reading blogs and books, as well as indepth study of the Bible in a non-church environment – (here I should've said in a multi-denominational setting) all part of the healing and hopefully will keep us on the road to spiritual health. We’ve concluded that part of why we fell for the pastor authority thing is we are victims to our own sub-culture. We had to go through another experience at yet another church that we thought was different than the first to realize more fully that it’s how the Christian church today does church. We found that even though the style of the pastor of Church 2 (8 years in attendance) had many differences than the former authoritarian Church 1 (20 years in attendance), underneath it was built on the same supposition that the pastor is the one in charge of the money and the elders are in name only. What they have in common is stunning. Questions asked are considered contrary or insubordinate. The pastor is building a kingdom he has no problem asking professionals to give to sacrificially in time and in money. Blatant Nepotism. (Here I should have said blatant at the first church and subtle at the second.) Vasts amount of money spent to build the lead pastor’s legacy and to live in plain sight in front of the poor among us as upper class Americans because to date the IRS is reluctant to investigate churches. (Here’s a couple NPR interviews on the subject although they are talking about TV evangelists and talk shows, it applies to any church set up as a 501c3:
How did we come to think the church is more powerful than the freedom our forefathers fought for? How on earth did we get to the place within the christian community where we forget we live in America where the vote still exists, at least outside the church; and why do we so willingly relinquish our ability to think critically and vote according to our own consciences to opportunistic leaders of a tax exempt organization that exists only by the enabling (give power, means, competence, or ability to; authorize) of the people who attend and give weekly donations?? Once we come to that conclusion as Americans who still have at least some freedom of choice, then we can, as my good friend often reminds me, vote with our feet. 
So we need to realize WE DON’T HAVE TO SIGN ANYTHING WE DON’T WANT TO SIGN. But first we need to look at why we are tempted to sign: 1) Just like the Israelite’s in the Old Testament, we are looking for a king because we are prone to idol worship 2) God calls himself Jealous for a reason – he didn’t intend for us to give our power to any member of the 5-fold ministry spoken of in the New Testament – an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, a pastor or a teacher; 3) It’s easier to let others make decisions for us but in the long run it’s much more labor intensive to extricate ourselves, so we may as well gird our loins at the beginning and do the work of ministry each day at the by listening to the Holy Spirit ourselves, thinking and researching for ourselves. Like my good friend often reminds me God wants us to be grown up Christians rather than being children to the pastors who call themselves fathers even though the Word of God specifically warns people not to call themselves fathers.
Bottom line – if church leadership is asking for your signature to a covenant they’ve drawn up, that is the red flag telling you to vote with your feet and get the heck out of there. It’s better to be in relationship with a few close friends seeking God than a roomful of unsuspecting people who feel comfortable listening to one man – and it’s usually a man lol – give his opinions on the Word of God every week. It may not be the high one has grown used to but the level of sanity is worth the sacrifice.
Ok – didn’t really plan to make this comment this long. But signing church covenants must be some kind of trigger!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Meet Rockstar Pastor (@RockstarPastor)

Meet Rockstar Pastor
I am suddenly feeling an anointing (pronounced ah-NOYN-ting-ah) to share some of the twitter account names I've been coming across since I created a twitter account for Detox Church Group.  Some of us follow each other on Twitter. We tend to gravitate toward one another since we share a similar ah-NOYN-ting.  I'm kind of short on time right now so I'll share as many as I can but can come back to add some more. Better yet, if you have seen any not mentioned below feel free to leave them in the comment section.  By the way I added a link to each name if you feel an anointing to go check them out yourself.

So, without further ado 
here are just a few: (I also have an anointing for rhyme):

I Wear Holy Pants
  • CelebrityYouthPastor (I put drugs out of business for 90 minutes every Sunday.)
  • RockStar Pastor (Wait... humble brag is a bad thing???)
  • Mega Church Pastor (Just convinced our elders to let me sell my 2nd lake house to the church. #retreatcenterforstaff) (should be #retreatcenterforme)
  • Worship Star (I have a tattoo of my autograph.)
  • Worship Band Guy (When the light to fog ratio is perfect, I step out on stage...)
  • Hip Worship Chick (I am your neighborhood worship diva.)
  • Celeb Worship leader (I'm a rockstar. And I was born for this. / I make my #worship team call me daddy. It's a spiritual sign of respect.)
  • Celeb WorshipDrummer (Try telling me that drums aren't in the Bible and I'll beat you over the head with a tambourine)
  • Celebrity PK (You know me, I don't know you.)
  • Celebrity Pastor (Kicking butt. Taking names.)
  • Fake Judah Smith (The test of a man is not how big he lives but how big he gives. ~Selah~)
  • Fake Rod Parsley (Professional shouter and Pulpit Pimp. BREAKTHROUGH!!!!)
  • FakeJohnPiper (God is most glorified in me when I am most Calvinist in him.)
  • Fake Driscoll (Mars Hill Church asked me to make it clear that this account is fake. I told them I don't know how much clearer it could be than being called fakedriscoll.)

Monday, April 6, 2015

Parachuting Bunnies

photo credit Skydive Milwaukee
Parachuting bunnies.  Our former church hired one for their Easter egg hunt this weekend.  And it even made the local news (I noticed people holding big yellow cue signs "Laugh" and "Applause" to amp up the hype factor - LOL.).  For now they are the hero church reaching out to the community.  But for what reason? Is it for their reputation? Only the Lord knows the true motive.  As usual our state is 2 years behind California. Does CCC and Channel 7 assume this is a brand new idea fresh off the press like they came up with the original idea themselves?  Free at Last was thinking they are trying to replicate the White House easter egg hunt in Washington DC, but even the White House doesn't feel the need to hire a parachuting bunny.

In their advertising campaign, CCC said they would be hosting parachuting bunnies - plural.  But alas, it appears it was one bunny who descended the murky sky today into the public park at the Village.  By the way, why the Village and not their own property as in former years?  Our guess it's because the CCC lawn is shrinking in size due to the fact they have been selling off their land to - what - pay their mortgage?  But still, if honesty were an issue, they could have at least billed it in the spirit of truthfulness and said we will have a parachuting bunny - singular - but I suppose I am majoring on a minor with that one.

So check out THIS ARTICLE Free At Last tipped me off to - a story of the parachuting bunny church Easter celebration phenom (i.e. a blatant attempt to lure the masses to church) - yet keep in mind the article was written in 2013,  Therefore, CCC's perception of their cutting edge trend is on the decline before they even pretended it was their new and original idea this year.  Just saying.

Since CCC is a church we think it odd that there was no mention of Jesus and the Risen Christ in any of their advertising.  It was just... Parachuting Bunnies, egg hunts, dancing animals and pictures with the Easter Bunny.  Not that reaching out to the community in a way that appeals to them isn't valid. Children do love Easter egg hunts and fictional characters no matter how pagan the origin.  Even adults love to join in on the pretend Disney LaLa Land world of make believe.  But isn't the death and resurrection of Christ the central idea to the Easter celebration in Christian churches?

What is really irksome for us is the way Ken Wilde preached against the pagan rituals of Easter and Christmas and Halloween the entire time we attended that church while we were raising our children.  You either didn't participate in the pagan ritual out of fear or you did it secretly - and adopted the 'what they don't know won't know won't hurt them' attitude.  (It's called not allowing religious leaders to steal your child's childhood thank you.)  Can you imagine how it took some of the joy out of the holidays?  On the other hand, our secret participation made it kind of special in a mysterious clandestine sort of way. But still, some of us can't help but feel ripped off in a way, as we observe Ken has lifted the ban on pagan rituals during holidays now that he has grandchildren, especially now that he is reaping such praise by doing it sooooo publically.  We can totally identify with the Psalmist that mentions gnashing teeth.  

Anyway, we hope they are happy that they got press over the weekend - public honor and praise - hailed as the hero church.  But where was channel 7 with their cue cards when CCC wasn't paying their mortgage a few years ago which was published in the Idaho Statesman?  Not that it was a story in itself.  What makes it a story of interest is how the lead pastor family who controls the finances continued to spend extravagantly taking vacations in Hawaii, attending international church conferences, and parading designer outfits on instagram for anyone to see.  And that's just what was noticeable at a distance. Apparently that isn't considered news but parachuting bunnies sure fits the bill.

The worship leader worker bee is on the channel 7 video as saying it's one of the largest easter egg hunts in the nation.  Whaaat?  If you Google easter egg hunts in the USA and you will see the potential for much larger turn outs.   They flatter themselves with their elevated sense of importance.  It may certainly be the largest Easter egg hunt in the Treasure Valley - but I'm sure their numbers pale on a national level.  But, in their minds, they are the Big fish in a small pond.

So why did they host it at the Village?  And how much did that cost?  (Hey, let's not pay the mortgage this month and that should cover the expense.) Is it because their front and back lawns are being sold off in portions?  No one mentioned that on the channel 7 glowing report.  And why doesn't channel 7 investigate why CCC's property is shrinking?  Why is this not news?  I think it's time to call channel 6 on your side and tell them something fishy has been going on at 2760 E. Fairview Avenue for years now. Or there is always the Truth Squad with channel 2.  Something tells me they could get to the bottom of the weirdness.  We can just mention how KGW was in cohoots with scammer Jeremiah C. Yancy who is a wanted criminal in at least 4 states under different aliases for conning people to invest in his real estate ponzi scheme.   Now that is newsworthy!  Just remember you heard it here first. ;-)

Monday, August 4, 2014

August 3rd - I LOVE YOU! Christians Protest and RockStar Pastors Loose Their Luster!

Photo posted by Seattle Times
So proud of the Christians who protested quietly outside their former church today calling for their former pastor Mark Driscoll to resign because of bullying behavior and shunning members who raise questions or disagree.  Like one of my favorite bloggers said the other day on "Mark Driscoll is learning that you can only be an asshole for so long, before it finally catches up to you." 

Photo of Video by Komo News
Click HERE for the link to the article in the Seattle Times today which is also where I got the above photo of our brave and proactive friends who are hopefully setting an example for a new trend in speaking out - taking their concerns beyond the internet to the streets, thank you thank you!  Click HERE to watch a video at and hear what some of them have to say.

Freeatlast emailed me this story posted on USA Today earlier today.  I'm so excited to see something like this in print so I had to copy and paste it here!  Click link below to the story in case you would like to read the article from their site.  Oh, and in the copied version below, my comments are highlighted in red but the orange highlights are USA Today links to other stories.

Rock star' pastors lose luster  

Are they selling gospel or themselves? Internet helps to scrutinize behavior.

It's not easy being a celebrity pastor these days with that pesky Internet around. 

Consider the struggles of Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Faced with mounting accusations circulating online — plagiarism, misusing church funds to prop book sales, silencing anyone in his church with the temerity to question him — Driscoll has urged his followers to stay off the Web. "It's all shenanigans anyway," he explains(Of course it is - and we all know Driscoll himself wouldn't be up to any shenanigans)

Steven Furtick, (the same guy in the story in the post previous to this one here on Detox) a megachurch pastor in North Carolina, and Dave Ramsey, (tell me it isn't so - i sorta liked that guy) an evangelical finance guru, have been taking hits, too, as have the wheeler-dealers on the Preachers of L.A. reality show. This, against a backdrop of culture shifts creating strong headwinds against the leader-and-follower model typified by today's Christian superstars.

What are a megapastor and his followers to do? Remembering the biblical admonitions against idolatry would be a good start. (Never thought we'd see the day that a news publication like USA Today would link to Bible Gateway!)

Some media outlets have dubbed Driscoll a "rock star" among pastors. He is hip, brash, very interested in sex (TOO interested IMO) and, for a reverend, unusually irreverent. He doesn't throw televisions out of hotel windows in the manner of bad-boy rock musicians. But he comes close in the rhetorical sense, tossing out insults about gay people, women and his theological rivals.

Ongoing enterprise
Also true to his rock-star status, Driscoll enjoys massive popularity. His Mars Hill Church (including its 15 franchised satellite locations) attracts nearly 15,000 weekly. (But for the Grace of God go I) Driscoll's podcast has 250,000 regular listeners worldwide, and his 2012 book, Real Marriage, topped a New York Times best-seller list.(Could be the same audience who read 50 shades of gray)

Ah, that chart-topping book. Driscoll has admitted to using more than $200,000 in church funds to hire a consultant to game the system, boost sales and add that magical reference — No. 1 best-selling author — to his glittering résumé. (At least we now know how it's done so Judah Smith reaching best seller status isn't so irksome after all!)  This questionable allocation of church money is indicative of a wider problem that rankles those in Driscoll's growing flock of critics: the lack of transparency around Driscoll and church funds.(ya think?)

His salary? Unknown. Who controls church funds? Good luck finding that out. And because of the non-disclosure agreements that Mars Hill pastors and staff members must sign to receive severance pay when they depart, little is known about who holds Driscoll accountable on money or any other issue.
One of the problems with celebrity pastors is that it's very difficult to draw a line between advancing the gospel and advancing the preacher. When a famous pastor grows his audience and fame, doesn't this mean that more people are hearing his saving message about Christ?

Well, yes.(Ya but who are they really coming to? and think of all the therapy they will need when they finally leave his church)

But as revealed by the long history of church authority and its periodic abuse, the dynamic also gives the preacher on the pedestal a too-easy justification for seemingly everything he wants to do. You don't want to be against God's will, do you?

Scrutiny shared online (I love this part - this is for us! The balance of power is changing!)
Now, however, there's a wild card that older-school religious celebrities did not have to contend with. Thanks to the Internet, any disgruntled current or former follower can write a scathing blog post, add nasty comments to reader forums or, as the creator of @FakeDriscoll does, voice a spoof Twitter account in the target's name. This can take a toll — as demonstrated by Driscoll's church, which has had to lay off staff due to declining attendance and giving.

Because of the Internet, "the audience is now at least as much of a celebrity as the pastor, if not more," says Jim Henderson, a Christian author and producer in the Seattle area who is convinced that the era of the celebrity pastor as spiritual paragon is waning. Henderson produces a live show called Where's God When ... featuring a very different kind of "celebrity" Christian — William Paul Young, author of the megaselling faith-themed novel The Shack.Young is, seemingly, everything the megapastors are not: small of stature and ego, quietly reflective, and open about his painful journey and struggles (including his being a sex-abuse victim).

Henderson might be right about this being the beginning of the end for celebrity megapastors. Until that process runs its course, however, fans of the Driscolls, Furticks and the rest have a big question to ask themselves. Who, ultimately, are they following? Jesus? Or their pastor?

Tom Krattenmaker is a Portland-based writer specializing in religion in public life and a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors. His latest book is The Evangelicals You Don't Know.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Mega House for Mega Church Pastor - Parsonage Allowances Questioned

Good friend, Free At Last, came across a story called "The House of Steven" which tells us about a pastor of a huge multi-site church in Charlotte, NC, who built  a 16,000 foot parsonage for himself and his family.  In the video you will see a compilation of six reports on Pastor Steven Furtick and Elevation Church, produced by WCNC-TV, NBC Charlotte and its I-Team.  The stories were aired in October and November of 2013. (Click here for those of you who may not see it above on your phone.)

As the story unfolds we begin to see Furtick may be abusing a tax exemption provided for clergy defined by Tom Ranier (here) on his blog as "a housing allowance law passed by Congress in 1954.  Subject to certain guidelines, ministers are able to declare a portion of their ministry income as a housing allowance that is not subject to federal income tax."   This was originally established for ministers and small churches who needed the help.   But like many of the lead pastors of mega churches in America today who, by living like kings and celebrities, Furtick's story is calling more attention to the fact that the housing allowance even exists.  Even though he says he is paying for the $1.6 million dollar house from his book sales, we can assume he can still take advantage of the housing allowance law, writing the entire property off on his federal income tax.

The underlying concern of this story is it hints to us that this very well could be the beginning of the end of special privileges for churches and ministries.  Already there was a lawsuit filed in 2013 by Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation where a U.S. district judge ruled unconstitutional "a law that lets clergy members avoid paying income taxes on compensation that is designated part of a housing allowance." (You can read that story here).  And in the above video another organization is suing the IRS in a similar way as you will see.

The more notorious these lead pastors of multi-site money-maker churches become, it will unfortunately effect the livelihood of the smaller churches whose pastors are less concerned about the numbers than they are the individual.  Hopefully the Lord will watch over them and take care of their every need as they continue to live a life of sacrifice and surrender before Him.

More about ministries avoiding tax scrutiny in the links provided in an earlier post on DeTox here.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

NPR Investigates How TV Preachers Avoid Tax Scrutiny

Just want to link to this story that we heard on NPR yesterday and today.  You can either read it or listen to it in 2 parts. 
Part 1 is Can a Television Network Be A Church? The IRS Says Yes  Part 2 is Onscreen But Out of Sight TV Preachers Avoid Tax Scrutiny.

Even though it points to the tele-evangelists who are raking in the money and not paying taxes on it, it reminds us of what is going on in the last 2 churches we attended as well as megachurches across the US - there is just no accountability for how the pastors are spending the money.  More on this in the next few days but just at least want to give the links to the stories while I had them handy. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Bible Study

Jesus on the Emmaus Road
I'm in a weekly Bible study not associated with any particular church, although it's held at a church and strongly advises participation in a local church.  It's been around for 50 years or so.  Each year the course covers a different book, or books depending on the study.  Rather than a topical study, we examine each book, chapter by chapter through a 4-step approach: 
Answer daily lesson questions on your own.                                                                                                Discuss your insights in a conversation with members of your discussion group.
Listen to a lecture that explains the passage, key principles from the lesson and the relevance of the Bible's truth to today's world.
Read lesson notes that further elaborate on the passage.

Both the notes and the lecture will often various interpretations of a scripture or a doctrine if it's commonly discussed. 

This is my 2nd year.  My friend had attended 2 or 3 prior years, desperate for spiritual input, a few years after leaving the former church and she was getting so much out of it, I finally had to try it for myself!  Last year was the study of Genesis and this year the book of Matthew.  How appropriate for someone like me who feels like a first grader again (after realizing what we had been taught for years may be 'slightly' off.  Cough) to start with the first books of the Old and New Testament.  Anyway, I'm loving this consistency of opening my Bible (and Bible Gateway App) in the morning, looking up scripture, aswering study questions after a few days of reading study notes and praying about whatever the Holy Spirit highlights for me that day.  As any student of scripture would know, you do so at your own risk because it eventually shines a light on your heart in ways you don't usually see coming.  Sigh. I mean, Clap! 

I feel really good about this expository type of approach to the Bible.  After years of not taking responsibility for my own spirituality, it's like finding water in a dry and weary land.  Too bad churches wouldn't use this method for weekly corporate services, but then again, maybe some do.  In my limited yet lengthly experience, the pastor has opted for a topical approach more often than not.  Not saying topical study is wrong - I love following a word like faith or fear through the Bible using a Strong's Concordance and jotting down the verses that will help me later.  We even have a Naves Topical Bible sitting in our bookcase.  But when the pastor-preacher-teacher chooses a topical presentation over expository methods most of the time, doesn't it give more opportunity to promote his or her interpretation of scripture which can easily lead to manipulation or personal agenda? 

In lecture style teaching with no audience participation or accountability, we the listeners take in what's given, often without question, because it's easier than doing the work of follow-through.  Just listening makes it so easy for us to go on our merry way till we come to sit and listen again, entertainment style, next week.  Don't we realize we are thus giving one man, or woman, the power to spoon-feed his thoughts and beliefs to us?  If we were to have a question, or beg to differ, how would that scenario play out?  How well would it go if we were to go up to the pastor at the end of the service, or write him an email during the week, and say I think you may be off the mark here? 

All that to say, this in-depth study of the word in a non-denominational setting has been slowly restoring me to spiritual health, if I ever was spiritually healthy in the first place.  In taking my spiritual temperature at this juncture, I can see how the Word is at least bringing me back to life spiritually.  I'm still prone to steer clear of organized church which is so socially unexceptable in the Christian Community across the board these days.  And yes, I am tempted to put my hands over my ears so I won't run out screaming when the teacher in the main session at Bible Study plugs the local church and how important it is .  If she only knew what a trigger that is for some of us.  And hey, if a church exists that didn't threaten to TAKE ME OVER hook, line and sinker with its own agenda-vision-projects and meetings, I might be open to participating once again in an organized community.  But for now, I'm loving the freedom of my 2 sweet friends and I studying together each week (with a little lunch follow-up after), relearning the heart and soul of the God we've chosen to follow; and that is Community enough for me right now.