Daily Archives: April 9, 2013

Trusting the True Shepherd (Spiritual abuse)

You don’t have to spend much time in the Christian blogosphere before you encounter the stories of those who have been hurt by the Church. These first-person narratives are often raw and unsettling—they include details that most of us would rather not know, and ones that once we do, we can’t easily erase from our minds. These stories are unusually transparent and reveal a pain that is clearly lingering. Because of this, it’s easy for some to discount them as exercises in self-absorption and unhealthy introspection. After all, shouldn’t we leave the past in the past? Can’t we just move on?

And we could do that, we could let things lie if spiritual abuse weren’t an ever-present reality, if it didn’t regularly make headline news. We could move on if pastors didn’t tell seventeen-year-old girls that they were “God’s gifts” to fulfill them sexually. If victims of such abuse were not made to feel that they were somehow responsible or that they would hurt “Christ’s cause” to speak about it.

And I guess we could leave well enough alone if spiritual abuse didn’t cut both ways. If ministries didn’t routinely supplement budgets by underpaying staff with the caveat that they’ll be eligible for welfare. If pastors’ wives and children weren’t targeted for the sake of simply existing. If 1,700 pastors didn’t leave ministry every month—many out of despair and discouragement.

But they do.

And so we must talk about spiritual abuse, because we must remember that the danger isn’t in how dramatic it is but in how common it is. The danger of spiritual abuse isn’t simply in the extremes but in how quickly, how easily any of us can use another person’s love of God to pursue our own goals and our own agendas.

I myself don’t have a salacious story to offer—no tragic account of childhood abuse or breaking away from some cult-like congregation. And yet, my husband and I have wrestled through the pain of working in the Church, of rejection and false accusation, of feeling abandoned by those to whom we looked for advice and care. We’ve also watched as friends have walked darker paths and still bear scars from those who wielded power over them. And we’ve watched as they have wandered from church to church—not because they’re troublesome—but because they’re looking for Jesus and He’s simply not as present in most churches as He should be.

So when I speak about spiritual abuse within the Church, I do so from a place of trying to grapple with the brokenness of Christ’s body. It is not about adding fuel to the fire or airing grievances. It’s not about “getting back.” (Although this will be a legitimate temptation for people who have been deeply hurt.) When I write about spiritual abuse, I do so with the express purpose of finding healing, of learning to be whole again.

Because while my husband and I have chosen to stay in the organized church—even to make it central to our lives—the choice didn’t come easily. It came through tears and brokenness and times of angry questioning. It came through feeling abandoned by God and wondering why He thought it was such a good idea to gather a bunch of dysfunctional people together in the first place.

Yet, for all that I don’t understand, I do know this: Jesus is the only answer to the brokenness.

Rejecting the Church will not heal the pain. Harboring bitterness will not heal the pain. Denying these stories will not heal the pain.

Only Jesus can.

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across Ezekiel 34 in which God speaks against those who have abused and scattered His flock. He speaks against their greed and self-service and warns that He is coming against them in judgment and vengeance. But to the broken, hurting lambs, He says this:

Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out… I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered… I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak.

This is where you find healing. This is where you find wholeness. This is where you learn to love again. You find it in the tears that flood your pillow as you cry out to Him. You find it in the questions that you bring to Him. You find it in His love and you find it in His justice—in arms ready to hold you at the same time that they are ready to fight to protect you. You find it in Jesus, the Good Shepherd (John 10:11).

And when you do, when you find His healing, you may also discover that you can return to His broken, messy flock. Because in returning to His Church, you’re not so much expressing confidence in His people as you are expressing confidence in Him. And in returning to His Church, you may also find that you can point the way for other hurting, broken, dirty sheep as well.

You can point the way to the true Shepherd of their souls (1 Pet. 2:25).

This is what has happened for my husband and me. By committing ourselves to Jesus, we’re learning to open ourselves again to the love and beauty of His people. We’re learning to trust Him enough to walk into the arms of a congregation who loves well. We’re learning to trust Him enough to receive the healing and restoration that only His body can offer. And we’re learning that even though we may walk through dark valleys, He will always come find us, and He will always lead us home.

Hannah R. Anderson lives in Roanoke, VA where she spends her days mothering three small children, loving her husband, and scratching out odd moments to write. She blogs at Sometimes a Light.


25 Things That You Should Do To Get Prepared For The Coming Economic Collapse

Do you think that you know how to prepare for the collapse of the economy? If so, are you putting that knowledge into action? In America today, people are more concerned about the possibility of an economic collapse than ever before. It has been estimated that there are now three million preppers in the United States. But the truth that nobody really knows the actual number, because a lot of preppers keep their “prepping” to themselves. So what are all of those people preparing for exactly? Well, survey after survey has shown that “economic collapse” is the number one potential disaster that preppers are most concerned about. Of course that shouldn’t be surprising because we truly are facing economic problems that are absolutely unprecedented. We are living in the greatest debt bubble in the history of the world, the global banking system has been transformed into a high-risk pyramid scheme of debt, risk and leverage that could collapse at any time, and wealthy countries such as the United States have been living way above their means for decades. Meanwhile, the United States is being deindustrialized at a blinding pace and poverty in this country is absolutely exploding. Anyone that is not concerned about the economy should have their head examined. Fortunately, I have found that an increasing number of Americans are becoming convinced that we are heading for a horrific economic crisis. Once they come to that realization, they want to know what they should do. (Read More….)

Generational challenge confronts global church

(PHOTO) SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS—In a Cairo neighborhood, a child walks by an Egyptian flag painted on a wall — with apparent symbols of a Muslim crescent and Christian cross added. As the often-violent struggle for freedom continues in Egypt and other countries, larger demographic forces are at work. Sixty percent of all Egyptians are under 25. The total population of the Middle East and North Africa surpassed 430 million in 2007 and likely will top 700 million by 2050. One in every three people in the region is between 10 and 24. About one in every five people on earth is between the ages of 15 and 24. They want jobs and better lives, but prosperity alone isn’t enough. They want something more. “People here are craving life,” said a mission leader in the Middle East. “They’re craving change and not just political and economic change. Their deep heart cry is for answers.” PHOTO by Joseph Rose

The global spread of democracy doesn’t look nearly as promising as it once did.

High hopes for lasting freedom appear to be fading in Russia, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Egypt and Tunisia, to name a few countries where authoritarians, extremists, corruption and other forces have undermined fledgling democratic institutions. Dictators have fallen like bowling pins in some places, but the vacuum they left behind hasn’t necessarily been filled by freedom. Elsewhere, police states have proven surprisingly resilient in the face of challenges from globalization, demands for change and the spread of social media.

In the Middle East, epicenter of massive movements for change, “observers are increasingly cynical about the prospects for democracy, arguing that the Arab Spring has turned into an Islamist winter,” reports the journal Foreign Affairs. Radical Islamism is the biggest threat to liberty in the region. However, Foreign Affairs argued that “instead of fretting over Islamists, the international community needs to have a more nuanced conception of political transition in the Arab world and should strive to bolster institutions and economic reforms in post-Arab Spring countries.”

Maybe, but diplomats and democracy activists said the same thing when now-deposed dictators were still in power. Building durable democratic institutions and reforming national economies take time, even under favorable conditions.

Meanwhile, there are larger demographic forces at work worldwide.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman recently compared three major countries: China, India and Egypt. Very different societies, very different governments. “But there is one thing that all three have in common: gigantic youth bulges under the age of 30, increasingly connected by technology but very unevenly educated,” Friedman wrote. “[T]he one that will thrive the most in the 21st century will be the one that is most successful at converting its youth bulge into a ‘demographic dividend’ that keeps paying off every decade, as opposed to a ‘demographic bomb’ that keeps going off every decade. That will be the society that provides more of its youth with the education, jobs and voice they seek to realize their full potential.”
India counted 560 million people under the age of 25 in 2011. Of that number, 225 million were between the ages of 10 and 19. In Egypt, the largest country in the Middle East, a million people are born every nine months, according to one estimate. Sixty percent of all Egyptians are under 25. The total population of the Middle East and North Africa surpassed 430 million in 2007. It’s expected to top 700 million by 2050. One in every three people in the region is between 10 and 24. Asia, by far the largest demographic region of the globe with more than 4 billion people, likely will increase to 5.3 billion by mid-century.

About one in every five people on earth is between the ages of 15 and 24. Eight in 10 of them live in Africa and Asia. As population growth rates stabilize or even decline in the West — particularly Europe — future growth will come almost entirely in the global East and South. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing. The “demographic dividend” Friedman identified could benefit many countries — if young workers can fuel productivity and prosperity in once-poor areas of the global East and South.

They want jobs. They want better lives. But prosperity alone isn’t enough for them. Even freedom and democracy aren’t enough. They want something more — and they are absorbing ideas from all directions.

“We’re sitting on a tectonic plate that is shifting,” a mission leader in the Middle East told me last year. “If expectations continue not to be met, we’ll see another [political] earthquake. But this is a really good time for anybody who wants to discuss ideas. The marketplace of ideas has changed radically. For the Gospel, we need to be in the conversation.”

Another Christian worker in the region put it this way: “People here are craving life. They’re craving change and not just political and economic change. Their deep heart cry is for answers. What they grew up with is not giving them answers. [The current political turmoil eventually] will create even more of a spiritual harvest. What men meant for evil, God will use for good.”

Most of the people groups currently unreached or unengaged by the Gospel live in the vast eastern and southern regions experiencing rapid population growth. Most of the countries in those regions have a high percentage of children, teens and young adults.

Making disciples among them is the great generational challenge facing the 21st-century church.


Palin, Beck flip out over MSNBC ad

MSNBC is airing a provocative message for parents: Your kids belong to the community – not to you. The network released a promo video featuring Melissa Harris-Perry, host of a weekend morning MSNBC show and professor of political science at Tulane University, who says Americans must grow beyond the idea that children belong to their parents.


What we can learn from African Christians

Africa is a beautiful continent. There is stunning scenery—the mountains, valleys and lakes of the Rift Valley—and world-famous wildlife. It is also poorer and much less developed than in the West. The majority of people live in villages. There is a shorter life expectancy, and a tragically high incidence of HIV-AIDS. It is less politically stable than countries like Australia. But, most significantly, sub-Saharan Africa is one of the most Christian places on earth!

European Protestant mission really got going in sub-Saharan Africa in the 19th century. Names like David Livingstone (“Dr Livingstone, I presume?”) and CT Studd (the former English test cricketer) are synonymous with this endeavour. Today there are high rates of church attendance. I have gained the impression that on any average Sunday roughly one-third of the people in East Africa are in church. There are lots of denominations, church leaders are quoted respectfully in the news, and many shops have Christian names.1

The original focus of Christian mission was on evangelism and the establishment of churches, education and medical assistance. Mistakes were made, but a lot of great work was done. Today, in the 21st century, Western missionaries still travel to Africa but there has been something of a shift. While education and medical work remain prominent, there has been a change of emphasis from evangelizing Africans to the training and discipling of African Christians. Given that Africans are culturally the best equipped to reach other Africans, and given that the church has already been planted in this region, this focus on training Africans to reach and teach their own seems wise.

In my own extremely minor way, I have been involved in this training of African Christians. For the past ten years I have helped run the snappily titled International Certificate of Biblical Studies in South East Africa Program (ICBS in SE Africa Program). This program is a joint initiative of Sydney’s Moore College External Studies Department and African Enterprise (AE). It aims to provide high-quality, low-cost, short-term theological education to untrained African church leaders—of whom there are many! Sub-Saharan Africa is full of fine Christian leaders who, usually for reasons of a lack of money or opportunity, have not had the chance to receive much (if any) theological training. In eastern or southern Africa we teach Moore College Preliminary Theological Certificate (PTC) subjects in intensive two-week courses. The aim is to teach students the six basic PTC subjects over a one- to three-year period,2 qualifying them for the ICBS Level 1 Certificate.

The idea of the program is to teach the teacher—to train the trainer. We are not there to tell them how to run their churches—they know their culture better than we do. Rather, we are there to help them better understand and apply the Bible.

Over the ten years, about 20 of us have taught well over 600 people in Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Malawi and Tanzania. The teaching is always very well received, the students are very grateful, and the need is obvious. It is humbling to find oneself in the position to be able to so usefully assist Christian leaders, and thus the church, in another part of the world.

Talking to Christian colleagues back here in Australia, particularly with a growing awareness of the importance of the African church, the need for (and value of) the program is quickly appreciated. What is less well known, and what all of us who have taught in Africa have found, is that we have a lot to learn from African Christians!

Of course, from my humble observations, Christianity in Africa, like Christianity in Australia, is far from perfect. There are the particular dangers of false teaching and sexual immorality. One prominent African Christian described Christianity in Kenya as being a mile wide and an inch deep. It also has to be said that we Western Christians, thanks to God, have our strengths. However, it seems to me that we have a lot to learn from African Christians in a few areas. What follows is not a comprehensive study; rather, it is a collection of reflections and generalizations based on my own experience and those of people to whom I have spoken. Read More Here . . .

Evangelical Christians Are Being Labeled As “Extremists” And “Hate Groups”

Are evangelical Christians rapidly becoming one of the most hated minorities in America? Once upon a time such a notion would have been unthinkable, but these days things are changing dramatically. All over the United States, evangelical Christians are being called “extremists” and evangelical Christian organizations are being labeled as “hate groups”.

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Matthew Warren’s Suicide and God’s Grace

Christian leaders around the world responded with statements of support and intercession. On his Facebook page yesterday, Rev. Warren said, “Kay and I are overwhelmed by your love, prayers, and kind words.” However, as USA Today reports, “a shocking number are taking this moment of media attention to lash out at Warren.” Some are claiming that his son is in hell for committing suicide. Another told the pastor to “abandon primitive superstitions and accept the universe for what it is — a place that is utterly indifferent to us.”

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Clarity or confusion? Leaders have a choice to make

Today we are challenging Christians everywhere to understand how the enemy has used confusion to muddy the waters of faith. Remember when the Emergent Church decided to ask questions instead of clarify doctrine, or have conversations about what the Bible means to you rather than clearly articulate what God’s Word says? In a strange turn of events, that’s no longer true. These days as the Emergent movement is re-emerging (yes, those of you who thought the Emergent Movement had died out need to hear this), those leaders are now clearly articulating what they are about: Gay marriage, no subsitutionary atonement, and the Bible being untrustworthy or a collection of allegorical stories. And many of those strong preachers who once stood firm on the Truth of God’s Word and unashamedly preached it are now the ones bringing confusion to the table. We’re going to talk about this role reversal in the second segment.


Mental Illness & Suicide: The Church Awakes

If good can come out of the agony surrounding Matthew Warren’s tragic suicide, it’s that it forces the church to think through its response to mental illness and how to care better for those who suffer with it. I’m hugely encouraged by some of the initial responses to this terrible loss, and hope that it may mark a significant turning point in the church’s understanding of these complex issues, and turn the hearts and minds of many Christians to this large though often neglected and despised group in our churches and communities. Further to my post yesterday on 7 Questions about Suicide and Christians, here are some of the most outstanding posts I’ve read in the last 24 hours or so.

How Churches can respond to mental illness Ed Stetzer with a nicely balanced piece on what the church can do for those suffering with mental illness.

When a loved one takes his life Timothy Dalrymple relates some of his own struggles and concludes: “When I was a child, I believed that God looked at suicides with anger.  I don’t believe that anymore.  I think he looks on those who commit suicide with great compassion.  They have not had an easy go of life.  And for those who have given their lives to God, there is no deed, even a final deed committed in despair, that can separate them from his love.”

Can a Christian get depressed? Christian author, Adrian Warnock, a psychiatrist by training, answers the question, “Why do some Christians feel that Christians should not get depressed?”

The Asphyxiation of Hope Michael Patton attempts to describe the indescribable, and comes as close to it as anyone I’ve read.

Matthew Warren, His Family, and Guidelines for the Rest of Us Some strongly stated Don’ts and one simple Do.

Someone you love is deathly sad and you don’t even know it This one will sensitize you to the suffering of those who may be under your own roof.

How do we as a church respond to mental illness? Singer Sheila Walsh’s father committed suicide and she has suffered with deep depression also. Two very moving interviews with her here and here.

Lets stop keeping mental illness a secret “For years, we’ve reserved the term “mental illness” for only the most extreme cases, but 26% of us in any given year suffer from depression, anxiety and a serious number of other mental illnesses, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. It’s a dirty little secret few people want to talk about, a devastating statistic implying that, in each of our families, we all care for someone who faces this pain.”


7 Questions about Suicide and Christians

I am sure we all grieve deeply and pray earnestly with Rick and Kay Warren, as they mourn the shocking loss by suicide of their dear son, Matthew, after many years of struggle with mental illness. Perhaps pray especially for Kay as she has had her own battles with depression.

From all that I can gather of the circumstances surrounding this tragic situation, I believe that Rick, Kay, the church, and the caring professions did all that they could to prevent this happening, and should not blame themselves. As many of us have also experienced, when someone’s mind has gone so far and their emotions have sunk so deep, and they are determined to end their life, it’s virtually impossible to stop.

As well-publicized suicides tend to increase the suicide rate quite dramatically, I thought it would be good to address seven of the questions that arise in our minds at times like this. Read More Here . . .

Dispensationalists claim to hold to 2 Timothy 2:15

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Arthur PinkDispensationalists claim that only certain portions of scripture are for the church. They twist 2 Timothy to their destruction by claiming to be rightly dividing the truth. This is what Pink has to say on this:

Equally remarkable is the fact that the very same Epistle which contains the verse (2 Timothy 2:15) on which this modern system is based emphatically declares:


“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16,17).


So far from large sections of Scripture being designed for other companies, and excluded from our immediate use, ALL Scripture is meant for and is needed by us. First, all of it is “profitable for doctrine,” which could not be the case if it were true (as Dispensationalists…

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Joel Osteen and a Tale of Two Hoaxes

By now most have learned that smiling prosperity preacher Joel Osteen became the target of an elaborate internet hoax in recent days. Christian News Network offers details:

The yet unidentified entity behind the hoax appears to have set up a Blogger account, run by Google, within the past few days. While the URL of the blog uses the name “Christianity News Texas,” the “about me” section of the site falsely utilizes the logo and identity of Christian News Network in an attempt to legitimize the fabricated news story. Source

The articles posted on this website claimed that Osteen had renounced his ‘Christian’ faith and was resigning from Lakewood Church. The first of these articles, which was written to appear as though it originated from CNN (Ted Turner’s Cable News Network), “alleged that Osteen stated that God was a ‘fictional character’ and that he would rather focus on ‘immediate issues,’ such as the environment.” Read more of this post

Evangelical Colleges Inching Toward Affirmation of Homosexuality

A recent article on the CNN Belief Blog highlighted the trend of Evangelical colleges inching toward culturally acceptable views of homosexuality. The article highlighted Wheaton College, which in February established an official group for “students to explore questions of gender identity and sexual orientation.” Although Wheaton College receives the most attention because of its prominence, other Evangelical schools are making similar moves. ….. Click here for full story

Singapore’s Commissioner of Charities Acts to Remove Leaders from Kong Hee’s City Harvest Church

As previously reported, Kong Hee, senior pastor of City Harvest Church in Singapore, and five other leaders from his church, have been accused of misusing millions of dollars of church funds to further the singing career of Hee’s wife, Ho Yeow Sun. The accused individuals were suspended from office last year by Singapore’s Commissioner of Charities (COC).

The case, which originally came to light in June 2012, will not go to trial until May 15. In the meantime, the COC is seeking to permanently remove these six leaders, along with two others, from the offices they hold within City Harvest Church. Singapore’s Straits Times reports on this development:

If the COC is successful in applying to remove them – with the consent of the Attorney General’s Chambers – four of the eight who are key officers will no longer be allowed to hold any office positions in City Harvest Church or any other charities for life.