Francis Chan Defends His Friendship With False Teachers

March 17, 2019, Pastor Gabe Hughes,. Junction City Kansas

(Dan’s Note: This might be the best commentary I have read concerning Francis Chan’s situation)

Yesterday, Francis Chan responded to the harsh accusations that he has been aligning with heretics. A recent article published at The Cripplegate was entitled Farewell Francis. The author Jordan Standridge warned that Chan “is sharing the stage with false teachers who will spend eternity in Hell (Gal. 1:6-9).” He pleaded for Chan to repent and “come back to your first love!”

Chan has been on a steady decline over the last few years. Preaching with Mike Bickle at the International House of Prayer may have been a head-scratcher, but it wasn’t enough to denounce Chan as developing an alliance with the enemy. Maybe Chan didn’t know that Bickle claimed to have gone to heaven and had a personal audience with Jesus. Maybe Chan didn’t know Bickle teaches that we bring about Christ’s return through prayer (according to what Jesus personally told him). Maybe Chan didn’t know that Bickle has claimed there will be new apostles preaching things you will not be able to find in the Bible, and they will be superior to the biblical apostles.

But since his appearances at IHOP, Chan has ventured into other strange territory, like preaching at Bethel Church in Redding, CA—known for manipulative gags such as pouring gold dust in the ventilation system and calling it a glory cloud from God. Teachers from Bethel under pastor Bill Johnson also claim to have face-to-face conversations with not only Jesus but God the Father, whom the Bible says no one can see and live (Exodus 33:20, John 1:18, 1 John 4:12).

Everything came to a head last month when Chan preached at a conference in Orlando known as The Send, featuring some of the worst teachers out there—Benny Hinn, Heidi Baker, Todd White, and Bill Johnson to name a few. Following The Send, pictures started emerging of Chan being buddies with these charlatans. He embraced them as brothers and praised them for being bold men and women of God. This has prompted many, including myself, to warn people to stay away from Francis Chan. He is no longer trustworthy.

Questions have been raised for a few years regarding Chan’s associations, but Chan has remained silent. Finally he responded this weekend in a blog entitled A Response to Some Concerns by Francis Chan. I won’t post the entire thing word for word—you can read it for yourself by clicking the link. I will highlight some critical points, and then my response will follow.

Chan wrote:

From what I hear from friends and critics (I stay away from social media, etc), there have been a lot of conclusions drawn from my decision to speak at The Send conference as well as other venues. Some people have questioned my willingness to take pictures with anyone who asks for a picture with me. So I thought it might be helpful to explain some of my theological beliefs which have come under scrutiny as of late, as well as some of my practices/decisions. I realize there are many questions, but let me at least clarify a few things.

What do you believe regarding the “Prosperity Gospel”?

My understanding of that term is that it refers to teachings which imply that if you follow Jesus, He will make you healthy and wealthy. It is often used to attract people to make a decision to follow Jesus so that they can spend the rest of their lives in health and prosperity. I believe this is a dangerous teaching for several reasons. First and foremost (in my opinion) is that it contradicts the teachings and example of Christ and the apostles. Jesus taught His disciples “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). It was not a call to come and prosper but rather the opposite—a call to come and suffer.

Chan goes on in his repudiation of the prosperity gospel. I am not in disagreement with him here. Prosperity theology is a lie from the pit of hell. It’s precisely because of Chan’s views regarding health-and-wealth teaching that he has become a hypocrite in his ministry partnerships. He preaches with the worst of the worst among prosperity charlatans. Teachers like Hinn, Johnson, White, and Heidi Baker preach exactly the false gospel Chan condemns!

In a video of a Bethel Church service from March 25 of last year, Bill Johnson is seen leading his church in an absurd prayer which he called “a decree and confession.” Before praying aloud together, Johnson said, “I want your faith to be recognizable in your volume. No small task.” He then led the congregation to recite the following, the audience practically yelling it as they proclaimed:

As we receive today’s offering, we are believing the Lord for jobs and better jobs, raises and bonuses, benefits and sales and commissions, favorable settlements, estates and inheritances, interests and income, rebates and returns, checks in the mail, gifts and surprises, finding money, debts paid off, expenses decrease, blessing and increase. Thank you, Lord, for meeting all of my financial needs that I may have more than enough to give into the kingdom of God and promote the gospel of Jesus Christ. Hallelujah!

Bethel Church teaches you have the power to speak things into existence, especially your health and your wealth. By praying such a prayer, they are taught that they will have all of their professions.

Do not be fooled by Bethel’s intention to “promote the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Bill Johnson preaches a false gospel. He thinks the gospel is miraculous healing and has taught heretical things about God. Astonishingly, Chan has said, “Prosperity preachers often promise greater wealth if their listeners will give more to their ministries. This is never promised in Scriptures. We can never hold God to something that He has not promised.” Yet that’s exactly what Johnson was doing in that prayer!

What would it take for Chan to recognize Bethel Church actively advances the thing he condemns? Yet he has preached that if you criticize Bill Johnson, you are taking a sledgehammer to the house of God, and you will have to answer for that before God. He referenced 1 Corinthians 3:17 which says, “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” My friends, Bill Johnson’s “gospel” is anything but holy. Chan is defending these guys and making people fear calling them out. That’s deceptive, whether or not the intention of his heart is to deceive.

Chan’s blog continues:

Why do you sometimes accept speaking engagements in places that tolerate theology that is different from yours?

I speak at events almost every week of the year. Often times, it’s more than one event a week. I don’t really enjoy it—I hate the travel, but try not to complain about it. Despite the toll it can take on myself and the family, it is always an honor to preach the Word. I believe it is my calling. Some question my choice to speak so often, but my best discernment and the discernment of the elders of our church is that it is still a part of my calling in this season.

I am asked to speak at approximately 500 events a year. I decline approximately 90% of the requests. It’s a difficult thing to do. Often times, I decline because other speakers will be at the event who believe almost exactly what I believe. My reasoning is that it may be a waste of Kingdom resources for all of us to be there, speaking largely to people who already agree with us. It seems more effective to speak where there is less Bible teaching. It has not been my practice to ask who will share the platform with me and to research the other speakers. While some may be dear friends, there are many that I know little about. This current experience has caused me to consider exercising more caution and to develop a team to help me research. That being said, I speak in many places where I am not in alignment theologically. I actually believe that is where I can be most effective, as long as they give me freedom to address anything I believe the Lord wants me to address.

I recognize, now more than ever, that sometimes my participation can give the impression that I align with every other speaker at the event. I’m not sure what to do about that other than to tell you that I don’t. Unless the elders of my church direct me differently, I will continue to be found preaching in venues with those I disagree. I will preach in just about any kind of setting if I’m given freedom to preach from any passage of scripture. The elders and I are trying to come up with more safeguards for future events to hopefully prevent misunderstandings. Pray for us.

From what it sounds like, Chan is going to be developing a team to help him decide whom he should preach with and whom he shouldn’t. I appreciate that, and it will be interesting to see where this goes. Will there be change? Will Chan realize he’s been teaching with liars and apologize? Or will Chan use this group he’s assembling to validate his alignment with false teachers? Time will tell.

That aside, how is Chan’s reasoning regarding where he preaches biblical? He gave numerous biblical references in his condemnation of the prosperity gospel—he gave no biblical references with regard to which speaking invitations he accepts. He says, “Often times, I decline because other speakers will be at the event who believe almost exactly what I believe.” Does Chan think there is little to no value in preachers gathering together in doctrinal unity? Psalm 133:1 says, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” Isn’t it a better witness for laypeople to see teachers in one accord and not in discord?
Now, even at events like the Shepherds Conference or the Ligonier Conference, both held in just the last couple weeks, not every teacher is doctrinally aligned at every point. Some preachers are Baptists and some are Presbyterians—there’s doctrinal disagreement right there. But those preachers rejoice in that while they may disagree on secondary issues, they are exactly the same on their love for the true gospel. They love word of God and pursue Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.

When Francis Chan preached at The Send, he aligned with heretics. There may have been no true gospel presented except what Chan preached. But Chan was not there in a Matthew 23 moment calling out sons of hell that produce more sons of hell. He called Todd White “a bold, bold man of God.” Todd White is a con-artist and self-professed faith healer who said his father in the faith was Kenneth Copeland. Chan did nothing to discredit these charlatans. Rather, before the audience at The Send, Chan made them appear more credible.

Romans 16:17-18 says, “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.”

The Apostle John warned, “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works” (2 John 1:9-11).

There’s simply no excuse for Chan’s ignorance. If Chan is so busy that he cannot do even a little bit of research, then he needs to say no to some of his speaking engagements and free up time to “test everything” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). This is his responsibility. It’s on him, especially as a teacher. For the Spirit of God says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
Seriously, how does Chan not know who Benny Hinn is? He needs a team of people to tell him Hinn is a charlatan? If Chan simply watched the documentary American Gospel, he would receive so much insight into the false gospel these “friends” of his have preached and the damage they are causing. Chan knows the documentary exists. He was interviewed for it because of his outspokenness against the prosperity gospel. However, he was dropped from the final cut because the director of the film recognized the inconsistency in Chan’s witness.

In his blog response, Chan continues:

Why did it take so long for you to write a response?

Early in my ministry, I had a professor warn, “Don’t spend your time defending yourself. Let God defend you and those closest to you defend you. You can spend your whole life dispelling rumors.” I have followed that advice for the past 30 years. I hope this response doesn’t sound like a person who is trying to save his reputation just for the sake of saving his reputation. My hope was to bring clarity to those who might trust my life and preaching and assume that my being in a picture or on a stage with someone means that I align with them. In regards to pictures, I live a very strange life. Most people take pictures with their friends and family. I end up taking thousands of pictures with complete strangers who ask to take pictures with me. I have struggled over the years with whether it is wrong to sign books or take pictures with people. I would be perfectly happy to never take another picture or sign another book. It just feels rude and discouraging to say no. My intention was never to show allegiance with those who request selfies.

First of all, I can appreciate not wasting your time defending yourself against critics. I don’t. Dozens of videos have been made denouncing what I’ve preached. I’ve never responded to a single one of them. A pair of former members of my congregation once wrote a 9,000-word diatribe against me and posted it on Facebook. They lied about me in just about every way they could. But I did not type a single word in response—to them or anyone else (until just now, I suppose).

But this is not a trifle criticism over some idle comment Chan made. This is Chan aligning with heretics on a digression that keeps getting worse and worse. I have made several public appeals for anyone close to Chan to reach out to him and alert this brother to what he’s doing. He just doesn’t get it, and he still doesn’t get it.

The criticism regarding Chan’s associations has never been about selfies—not even in the last few weeks since images and comments have emerged following The Send. He’s not merely taking selfies. He’s heaping adulation and praise onto ministers of Satan. He’s standing shoulder to shoulder with them and calling them friends and brothers and men of God. Through pictures we’re seeing with our eyes what we’ve been hearing with our ears. It’s alarming! I’m not trying to spread rumors and gossip. I want Chan to repent!

This is serious—deadly serious. James 4:4 says, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” Chan recognizes that the prosperity gospel is worldly, yet he calls those who teach it his friends. I pray the Lord will open his eyes to whom he is playing with.

Chan concludes:

Another reason I took so long to write this response is because I read Paul’s defense of his ministry. He was able to do it out of love for people and the furtherance of the gospel. I needed a little extra time to make sure I wasn’t responding out of anger, pride, hurt, or cynicism- things that I have been guilty of. I think my heart is in a good place now, and I am writing because I believe I have a calling to proclaim the gospel and preach unpopular truths in a crooked generation. Though some are trying to deter people from my ministry altogether, I believe God has given me a calling to teach His Word. I plan on teaching faithfully until I die. I hope you take this in the spirit in which it was written.

One final thought—We should all be careful to guard against false teaching of any kind. In the process of refuting false teachers, however, we can unintentionally falsely accuse good teachers. That might be equally harmful to His Kingdom. God desires unity in His body, so it is no small crime to bring division into the church.

As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him.” Titus 3:10

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

Jesus deeply longed for unity amongst His children. This should not come at the expense of truth. There are times when the truth will divide. Let’s all humbly beg for wisdom from the Holy Spirit to know how to love our brothers without compromising truth. As we diligently confront false teaching, let’s show equal fervency in defending those who are truly our brothers and equal zeal in confronting those who unnecessarily divide the body.

Truly, it is weird to read Chan call for unity when he said in the same blog that he tries to preach in places where he is not in unity with other preachers. Maybe Chan needs to offer a definition of what he thinks biblical unity is supposed to look like. The guy abandoned his church instead of shepherding them as a pastor should, so I have my doubts about his understanding of unity or even his role of a pastor. Titus 1:9 says that a pastor “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also rebuke those who contradict it.”

But Chan didn’t rebuke anyone in his blog except those who have been rebuking. Exactly who are the “good teachers” Chan thinks we are accusing of being false? He refuses to name names. He’s still putting himself between the wolves and those trying to warn the flock. He’s being deceptive even if his intention is to tell the truth. Until he can be more discerning, we have to dismiss Chan as lacking credibility. He will lead others into believing the false prosperity gospel even while he condemns it. People will be confused about what the prosperity gospel is and isn’t when they see him aligning himself with those who preach it.

We cannot force unity. It cannot be manufactured by human will. We must be obedient to the truth, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom (Colossians 3:16), according to the full counsel of God. God will provide the growth. Chan made a reference to 1 Corinthians 3:17. Here’s what that passage says in verses 18-23:

“Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness,’ and again, ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.’ So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present are the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”

Lauren Daigle and the State of Contemporary Christian Music

A little over a month ago Christian Daigle , award winning Christian singer (on secular and Christian charts) appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres show and sang one of her songs from the album “Look Up Child”. She was bashed for even appearing on the show. My question was whether or not a clear presentation of the gospel was anywhere to be found. My assumption was ‘probably not’, given that her host was crazy about her.

What I did do is download all of the lyrics to all of the songs on the “Look Up Child’ album. And gather some statistics using several key words, which could at least tell me if a clear gospel message was present in any of her songs. Here are the numbers for the 11 songs from the album:

  • The word “sin” appears 1 time – “O’er us sin no more hath dominion” in a line from the song “Turn Your Eyes on Jesus” she did NOT even write. but was written in 1922 by Helen Lemmel  Like many others Ms. Daigle just re-styled it and called it her own.
  • “God” appears 1 time in one song.
  • “Jesus” appears in “Turn your eyes on Jesus” (she didn’t write it)
  • “Savior” 3 times
  • “Lord” 1 time
  • “You/your” as reference to God/Jesus 40+ times
  • “Saved” is used 1 time (You saved me, but no mention of from what

Sadly, the above lyrics reflect the tenor of a LOT of today’s so-called worship music. One article expressed the state of things rather well. It was called “32 Lyrics From Lauren Daigle’s ‘Look Up Child’ That Will Put You Squarely In Your Feels”.

These days ‘worship’ is all about our ‘feels’. Whether it’s the lyrics and presentation (Lauren has a tremendous voice!), the rock style music with loud whining chords and pounding drums (that actually drown out the lyrics, or the concert atmosphere, it’s all about the ’feels’.And when the lyrics can be understood, they seem to lack any clear presentation of a solid gospel message, very little actual theology with much of it really BAD theology (God’s love is ‘reckless’?).

The saddest part of all, is the sheer number of professing ‘Christ followers’ who have absolutely no issues with Ms. Daigle or the myriad of other CCM artists just like her. Must be the ‘feels’.

So much for my little rant. There’s nothing personal directed at any particular CCM artist, it just is what it is.

Heavy sigh…………

Dan C.

Farewell, Willow Creek: Where the “Regular” Churches Can Go From Here by Jonathan Aigner

The previous article I posted about WIllow Creek was published in CT Magazine. You can read it here. This article was published at Patheos.com and it takes a different approach to the events at WIllow Creek. I don’t regularly visit Patheos.com, but I found this article quite interesting and I can appreciate much of what the author discusses.

Farewell, Willow Creek: Where the “Regular” Churches Can Go From Here

by Jonathan Aigner

It looks like the beginning of the end at Willow Creek. They aren’t saying that, but I feel like that’s what’s happening.

If so, good riddance.

And you can take the megachurch movement you spawned with you.

I’m sorry if I sound bitter. I’m not, really. More relieved than anything else. Saddened for the stories of abuse, gaslighting, and hero worship. Grieved by the commoditization of human hearts and souls, the theological void, and the liturgical collapse. But relieved that this sad chapter in American religious history is rattling to an end.

Stanley Hauerwas said that the church growth movement was “the death gurgle of a church that had lost its way.”

Well, one of the biggest players is dying a quick death.

It was bound to happen anyway, regardless of the specific failures of Bill Hybels and the inept, buffoonish response of the Willow Creek board.

See, the rest of us are tired. We’re tired of having to compete with the downtown destination or suburban center house of entertainment that calls itself a church. We don’t have the energy, we don’t have the resources, we don’t have the desire, but we’ve felt like we’ve had to conform. Because you were growing, and we were shrinking! We felt like we had to do something drastic.

Paranoia struck so deep in our hearts and souls that, in desperation, we cried out for your bag of tricks. So we signed up for your silly, overpriced conferences. We copied the happy, clappy dreck you dared to call worship. We tried to find a charismatic leader like yours. We tried to be a mini-Willow in our own neck of the woods. We gave up ourselves: our message, our mission, our liturgy, our identity.

No more. We’re tired. We’re disillusioned. We’re embarrassed. We’re just done.

After decades of believing churches like Willow Creek had discovered the antidote, after 25 years of copying, emulating, strategizing, and leadership conferencing, we’re finding out that we’ve built our behemoth, nondescript church buildings on the sand like the foolish people we are.

Well, Weeping Willow Creek and all others of its ilk, we’re on to you. We see the chinks in your armor, and they’re gaping open ever wider with each passing day. Another one of your empires has fallen, and others will follow soon.

We should have known all along.

Celebrity pastors cannot possibly be good shepherds to their people.

Attractional worship is only entertainment, nothing more.

A fast food version of Jesus can never be the real version of Jesus.

The church growth movement leads to a bloated, unhealthy body of people who don’t really understand what they’ve signed up for.

Capitalism does not hold the keys to evangelism.

The Pastor as CEO idea will always fail, often with far-reaching, disastrous results.

Big churches are not good role models for the rest of our churches. In fact, their methods will ruin us, too, if we’re not careful.

Though Willow Creek and those like it may crumble and fall, the church will go on. God will preserve it, and none else can stop it. We know that the cosmic renewal, redemption, and restoration has already begun, set in motion by God’s mighty acts in Jesus Christ.

But here in this culture, it must almost begin anew. The megachurch movement was nothing more than a last ditch effort to save a church created in our own image. The calling is clear: Christ must be born again within us.

So church, it’s time to rediscover your sacred, holy identity. It was never just about filling pews. Go on about the gospel that still calls to you. Go on with your liturgy. Preach the Word, administer the sacraments. Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with God, even as it become more novel, more strange, and more isolating. Spread the great and glorious news that Jesus Christ has brought into this world, even when your culture no longer gives it lip service.

After all, church, what does it proffer you if you gain thousands of butts in your seats, but give up your heart and soul?

Nothing. In fact, church, you lose, and you lose big.

Adding more campuses is not discipleship.

Hiring more staff is not church growth.

Getting more butts in the seats is not evangelism.

So free yourselves from the church growth obsession.

Free yourselves from your slavery to numbers. Free yourselves from the neurotic counting. Free yourselves from the mind-numbing, maddening task of data disaggregation. Release yourselves from the anxiety over empty pews. Realize that you don’t have to keep wondering what you will eat or drink or wear if your budgets shrink.

Remove the [obsession with church] growth.

Free yourselves from what your Americanized gospel thinks of as success, because if you don’t, you may just end up in the same boat as this giant.

Resist the temptation to use worship as a hook, a holy bait-and-switch. Because your message is sounding more and more like an unwanted, confrontational Amway spiel. It sounds like you want people in your services because you’ve got some property for sale somewhere that’s too good to be true.

Free yourselves for the higher calling of the Gospel of Christ. Be who you are called to be. Stop counting. Stop strategizing. Jesus promises that he is engaging enough, even though the most numerically successful churches claim otherwise.

Maybe it’s time we stop trying to top him, and just take him at his word.

__________

Photo:
wikipedia

“The Healing of Willow Creek” by Mark Galli

This is an article published in CT Magazine that speaks of what happened  with Bill Hybels and Willow Creek up to this point in time that looks at it through the lens of “loyalty”.

The Healing of Willow Creek

Misguided loyalty harmed this historic congregation. True loyalty can redeem it.

Mark Galli| August 13, 2018

The Healing of Willow Creek

Image: JLM

In light of the resignation of its pastoral staff and elder board, it’s time to rally around Willow Creek Community Church with support and prayers. With those resignations, and the repentance they suggest, Willow has an opportunity to enter into a new fruitful season of ministry.

Let’s ponder what has happened in the last few months and why, because a simplistic reading of the events will only tempt Willow—and any Christian institution in a similar crisis—to react in such a way that the fruitful season will wither away all too quickly. Many women have come forward and said Bill Hybels has abused his power and sexually harassed female colleagues. The current leadership, pastors and elder board, have failed early to take seriously the accusations being brought forth. We are wise to try our best to grasp the moral and psychological complexities of what has taken place, so deep redemption can take place.

Rediscovering True Loyalty

Given the number of troubling testimonies about Hybels’s behavior, it’s easy to forget we’re still dealing with allegations and not proven fact. Many are of the opinion—me included—that he is guilty. Hybels, however, continues to deny many of the most serious allegations. It’s not merely an American thing but is also required of Christian charity: The accused are entitled to their day in court. For independent churches in Willow’s situation, that court is the sort of independent investigation that Willow has at long last commissioned. An independent investigation will hopefully be able to bring to light the full truth of the matter. The choice of the organization to investigate, as well as its work, are certainly matters to keep in prayer.

The current pastoral leaders and the board have shown both courage and humility in resigning. That in itself is an act of repentance, and for that we can be grateful. Without excusing the leadership, we do well, however, to note why staff and boards who otherwise show signs of wisdom are tempted in a crisis to downplay accusations and protect their leader at all costs, for they do it often.

One reason for many is loyalty. Loyalty is an especially precious virtue in mission-driven organizations, especially in an age when missions are so easily undermined. We do not want to hire staff or form boards whose first instinct is to suspect the leader of the worst after every accusation.

And here is the rub, because loyalty is more complex than we first imagine. We tend to think that loyalty means always taking the side of the leader to whom we want to be faithful. Loyalty instead means doing everything in your power to make the leader not only a better one but a more faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. It’s not unlike patriotism for one’s country. The true patriot loves his country; so much so that he will speak out when he believes the country is doing wrong, to call the nation to adhere to its deepest ideals.

In the face of substantive accusations, then, it is not a betrayal to look seriously at accusations in a way that the truth will come forth and not be covered up. It is an act of loyalty—for the sake of the leader’s integrity.

Loyalty to the leader continues and drives even deeper when it appears that the leader is guilty of a shameful offense. That’s when the leader needs the loyalty of a true friend. This doesn’t mean denying or excusing wrong behavior. At such times, it means standing with them, praying for and with them as they begin to wrestle with wrongdoing and hesitantly, awkwardly try to repent. Because it is inevitable that in such crises, leaders usually do not have the spiritual wherewithal to confront every aspect of their sins immediately. Repentance is a hard and fearsome thing. We need God’s powerful grace to repent, and that grace is often communicated by patient and loving counselors who can help lead us to a proper and deep repentance.

But loyalty is more complex still. Pastoral staff and boards are also called to be loyal to their congregations. This is one reason leadership at every level is so hard and why it tests the best of men and women. Staff and boards often feel they have to choose between loyalty to their leader or to their congregations they are called to serve, and they often end up choosing one or the other. This is what has happened at Willow, and not only with the board. People are either for the congregation, and especially the women who have come forward, or they have been for the staff, board, and Hybels. But loyalty and love require that we parse how and in what ways we need to be loyal to all parties, even when we believe one party has made grievous errors of judgment or has been immoral.

Of course, all these loyalties are grounded in our loyalty—that is, faithfulness—to Jesus Christ, who has demonstrated his loyalty to us, even while we were sinners.

Going Forward

Some have said that Willow staff and elders have been too loyal to Hybels, and some argue that boards should not be so loyal. As the argument above suggests, we beg to differ. Instead, we believe boards should be even more deeply loyal to their congregations and to their pastors—with all that loyalty requires.

One question now is who is going to be loyal to those who have just resigned? And to Bill Hybels and his family? And what does loyalty look like now for those who remain and those who will be called into leadership? Who will be approaching any who have erred and sinned and have wreaked havoc? Is there anyone offering them prayer and support, inviting them out for coffee and conversation, being willing to listen to their story—all the while prodding them to deeper repentance and righteousness?

Many are saddened and rightly angry at the way the initial accusers of Hybels have been either ignored or slandered. That is a terrible thing. But it would only make matters worse if those we believe who have acted disgracefully are shunned in turn.

More than anyone, of course, the accusers of Hybels—those women who have apparently been bullied or sexually harassed—need people to rally around them. This nearly goes without saying. But the gospel calls some of us to rally around the accused and guilty, as well. What loyalty and love looks like in each situation is different, but in the end it should be a combination of honesty and grace, tough love and tender mercy, that leads one and all into a deeper relationship with God.

In short, our love and loyalty must span the breadth of innocence and wrongdoing, of wisdom and malfeasance, if we are to discover a redemption that truly heals.

In this painful moment, Willow has been given a divine opportunity—that is, a chance to be born again. It is entering into a season of self-reflection and repentance, which begins with that independent investigation. If it allows it to be a season, not something to be rushed though, it will see the slow and steady growth of grace set deep roots. May our prayer simply be the promise of the Lord in Amos (9:14–15), when he announced he would bring his people back from exile:

They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them.
They will plant vineyards and drink their wine;
they will make gardens and eat their fruit.

I will plant Israel in their own land,
never again to be uprooted
from the land I have given them.

Mark Galli is editor in chief of Christianity Today.

California Wildfires and Bethel’s ‘Miracle Workers’

The catastrophic fires raging in California have resulted in Christians all over the world to pray for God’s sovereign intervention and protection for everyone affected, both victims and responders.

An article at Pulpit & Pen had this to say concerning the California wildfires and the leader of Beth, Redding, Bill Johnson:

Bill Johnson, the leader of Bethel Church in Redding, California, claims that God has given complete power regarding what happens on Earth to man. Charismatics, like Johnson – especially those who teach Word-Faith theology, believe that they can exercise control over disease, sickness, and even weather. Bethel Church is the leading proponent of “teaching the miraculous” in the world. With the Carr fire consuming land near their headquarters and in their home county and outskirts of the city, Bethel leaders and members have been decreeing and declaring their power over the fire, calling down rain and demanding that wind stop. Unsurprisingly, their ability to control that which is controlled by God alone has proven futile, and 25 Bethel leaders have lost homes in the fire.

Bill Johnson has even told his congregation/followers that God is in charge, but not in control:

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The article continues:

The Bible likens prophets and supposed miracle-workers who claim to perform feats that they cannot and false teachers as being like “clouds without water,” an analogy that is fitting as Bethel pastors call down rain that doesn’t come.

They are clouds without water, carried along by the wind; fruitless trees in autumn, twice dead after being uprooted – Jude 1:12

The proven track record of being incapable of performing miracles did not stop Bethel Church from crying out to the weather, like Jesus in places like Mark 4:35-41. The Internet has abounded with examples of misled charismatics feeling they control the weather. While we all should rightly understand that God both controls the weather and does answer prayers, it is different than individuals claiming authority over the wind and tempests under the assumption that they are little gods.

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Obviously, the decrees and declarations have not worked. Several homes of Bethel staffers have been destroyed, as well as the homes of dozens of members.

Certainly, God can bring beauty out of the ashes. Some at Bethel are predicting and hoping for a great move of God, the likes of which have never been seen. Such revival would indeed be a wonderful thing.

What we have not seen are articles expressing doubt concerning the validity of Bethel teachings concerning the miraculous and how believers are supposed to operate in the ‘supernatural’ as a normal part of their Christian walk. How will this effect the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM)?

One might think that the failure of all the decreeing & declaring that the wind and fire cease would cause a bit of reflection on the part of those attending BSSM, as well as those trying to get up enough money to attend and become miracle workers. Perhaps some will be driven to really study their Bibles and come to realize they have been hoodwinked into drinking the poisonous Kool-Aid served up regularly by Bill Johnson and the other leaders at Bethel. One can only hope and pray. Time will tell.

In the meantime, continue to pray for the situation in California, all those affected by the fires, all of the first responders and firefighters. Pray also that God would remove a great cancer from the professing church, as the true children of God who have been deceived by all that is Bethel (including the Pied Piper that is Jesus Culture) are awakened by the Holy Spirit and flee from the flames of heresy.

Is Same Sex Attraction Sinful?

I believe this to the question at the core of the current kerfuffle in the PCA concerning a July 26-28 event to be held at Memorial Presbyterian Church (PCA) in St. Louis, Missouri – the  Revoice Conference. All of the criticisms aside (and there are many), as well as the defenders comments (here is one), the real issue is whether seemingly natural (born with) human affections can be sinful, along with the inevitable temptations and sinful behavior that often follows giving in to temptation.

That, my friends. is THE question at hand. I’ve read more than a few articles on the subject, and what follows, posted at Purely Presbyterian seem to have hit the proverbial nail squarely on its head. Read on.

 

Is Same Sex Attraction Sinful?

Some otherwise conservative Christians are beginning to take a compromising stance on homosexuality. They claim that only homosexual behavior is sinful and that same sex attraction (SSA) is a “sign of brokenness” similar to feelings of grief or sadness, or as one proponent put it, that having SSA is being “born in a broken condition… that does not represent flourishing” similar to being born blind. They claim it is a negative result of the Fall, but not inherently sinful. So their advice for Christians who are same sex attracted is to remain celibate and that their SSA is not sinful and doesn’t need to be repented of.

One pastoral candidate was asked if he believed that “his homosexual feelings, attractions, thoughts, and desires are sinful.” To which he answered: “I believe my same-sex attractions are broken, but I do not believe they are sinful. It is not a sin for me to be attracted to another man, in the same way it is not sinful for you to be attracted to a woman.” [1]

Anglican minister Sam Allberry describes what same sex attraction is, “I am same-sex attracted and have been my entire life. By that, I mean that I have sexual, romantic and deep emotional attractions to people of the same sex,” [2] but also claims it is a “form of temptation” and that he is “uncomfortable with saying same-sex attraction is sin.” [3]

The following points will demonstrate how unbiblical and dangerous those ideas are.

What is Same Sex Attraction?

“Same sex attraction” is an ambiguous term, what does it mean? This is one fundamental part of the problem with discussions on this topic. Worldly terminology and worldly concepts are often used rather than Biblical ones. Calling it an “attraction” makes it seem no different than how a man could notice the objective beauty of a woman without lusting after her in his heart, however this is inaccurate.

When we ask if same sex attraction is sinful, the question is not whether finding someone objectively beautiful is sinful. A man could be attracted to women and men in this sense and no one would say it is sinful. For example,  David is described as “a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance” (1 Sam. 17:42), mothers can say that their children are handsome or beautiful, etc. This is clearly not the sense of the term when talking about same sex attraction, or else it is a pointless distinction because everyone experiences this.

Same Sex Attraction is not a Temptation

Some [4] have suggested that SSA is a merely temptation and since Jesus was tempted and remained sinless, being attracted to the same sex is not sinful. However, this is a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between temptation and desire.

Temptation is the “solicitation of the passions” [5] or an enticement of a desire (whether that desire is good or bad). “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (James 1:14). One can not be tempted by something one does not desire. Jesus’ desire for food was not sinful (Mat. 4:3), but it is sinful to desire an excess of something good (Col. 3:5), or to desire a particular thing that is not yours to desire (Deut. 5:21; Ex. 20:17).

Additionally, some desires are sinful in and of themselves because there is no particular circumstance wherein it would be lawful to have it. The Bible describes same sex attraction as the habitual desire for “strange flesh” (Jude 7), having “vile affections” (Rom. 1:26), or being “without natural affection” (Rom. 1:31; 2 Tim. 3:3). Temptation for something that is wrong in its very essence (such as sodomy, pedophilia, bestiality, etc.) is an enticement of a desire for that thing, thus the temptation is drawing from an already wicked desire. The desire for sin is itself sinful.

Sexual Attraction is an Affection

Affection is “A bent of mind towards a particular object, holding a middle place between disposition, which is natural, and passion, which is excited by the presence of its exciting object. affection is a permanent bent of the mind, formed by the presence of an object, or by some act of another person, and existing without the presence of its object….Desire; inclination; propensity, good or evil; as, virtuous or vile affections. Romans 1:31. Galatians 5:24.” [6]

Affections can be good or bad in themselves. They are good when they are directed at something good (e.g. 1 Chron. 29:3; Col. 3:2), they are bad when they are excessive (e.g. “inordinate affection,” Col. 3:5) or directed at something sinful (e.g. “vile affections,” Rom. 1:26, or being “without natural affection,” Rom. 1:31; 2 Tim. 3:3).

Same Sex Attraction is a “Vile Affection

Homosexual desire is not analogous to heterosexual desire. Man desiring woman is not sinful in itself because that is the way God made men (Gen. 2:18; 3:16). Man desiring man is sinful in itself because it is not the way God made men, so Scripture calls it “vile affections” (Rom. 1:26). Heterosexual desire is often sinful because it is misdirected in a particular or excessive way (e.g. toward a particular woman who is not one’s spouse), not because it is sinful in essence; but homosexual desire is sinful in its very essence, just as pedophile or bestial desires are. Whether homosexual proclivity is innate in some people or acquired, the proclivity itself is “against nature” (Rom. 1:26) and must be repented of. This is not true of heterosexual proclivity, which is natural and good by God’s design.

The affection for the opposite sex is a natural and good inclination of the human mind, because that is how God made men and women (Gen. 2:18; 3:16). The affection for the same sex is an “unnatural” and “vile affection” (Rom. 1:26) of the human mind because it militates against God’s design for human sexuality. Same sex attraction is sinful in itself while opposite sex attraction is not.

Opposite sex attraction only becomes sinful in two ways: 1) when the passions are aroused in an excessive way, what the Bible calls “inordinate affection” or “evil concupiscence” (Col. 3:5), or 2) when it is misdirected to an inappropriate particular object, such as toward a particular woman who is not one’s spouse (Deut. 5:21; Ex. 20:17). It is not sinful in the abstract, nor when husbands and wives are attracted to each other, but same sex attraction can never be lawful in any circumstance.

Concupiscence is “Lust; unlawful or irregular desire of sexual pleasure. In a more general sense, the coveting of carnal things, or an irregular appetite for worldly good; inclination for unlawful enjoyments…’sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence.’ Romans 7:8.” [7]

“There is a difference in saying ‘I have this propensity, but I believe it is wrong’ and saying ‘I have this propensity and I believe it’s alright.’”

Matt Moore on Being Gay and a Christian but Says it’s a Sin

Sin is in the Heart, Not Just the Actions

Sin is not exclusive to the actions. Evil deeds and thoughts proceed from the heart (Mat. 15:18-19; Jer. 17:9; Mat. 7:16-18). Not only are our deeds sinful, the thoughts and desires are sinful as well. “The Law is spiritual” (Rom. 7:14), “and so reacheth the understanding, will, affections, and all other powers of the soul; as well as words, works, and gestures (Deut. 6:5; Mat. 22:37-39; Mat. 5:27-28, 33-34, 37-39, 43-44)” (WLC Q. 99). The seventh commandment requires “chastity in body, mind, affections, words, and behavior (1 Thess. 4:4; Job 31:1; 1 Cor. 7:34; Col. 4:6; 1 Pet. 3:2)” (WLC Q. 138) and forbids “all unclean imaginations, thoughts, purposes, and affections (Mat. 5:28; Mat. 15:19; Col. 3:5)” (WLC Q. 139), it is not restricted to outward behavior. If someone desires to have sex with children or animals they are still sinning even if they don’t physically act on it. This is true for every other sin as well.

Jesus corrected the false teaching of the Pharisees that sin was only in the actions and not also in the heart. Unrighteous anger is a sin of the 6th commandment and is murder of the heart (Mat. 5:21-22). Lusting after a woman who is not your spouse is a sin of the 7th commandment and is adultery of the heart (Mat. 5:27-28; Job 31:1). “Inordinate affection” and “evil concupiscence” (Col. 3:5)  are sins of the desires and of the mind. Part of being in Christ is to crucify “the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Galatians 5:24), not just the external actions. All of this is true for the sin of homosexuality as well.

Same Sex Attraction Needs to be Repented of

Having SSA does not necessarily mean that someone is reprobate, but a regenerate heart will be struggling against it, not embracing and identifying oneself by it; crying out to God for repentance from it, not making excuses for it. Christians who are attracted to the same sex must recognize that that attraction is sinful, turn away from it, and strive to mortify it by the sanctification of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:13).

In order to kill our flesh, we need to get to the root, our hearts (Mat. 7:16-20), where sinful sexual desires begin. In the case of homosexuality, sinful desires begin with the sin of same sex attraction. One must believe that his or her sinful desires are in fact sinful and beg God for the grace to repent from them and mortify them. How long that takes and the degree of success is up to God and that individual, it may not happen instantly, and it won’t happen completely in this life until we are perfected in glory (1 Cor. 15:54).

Celibacy, refraining from homosexual acts, is not enough, we must “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1).

That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24).

For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5).

But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” (Romans 13:14).

Claiming that SSA is merely a temptation or a morally neutral “brokenness” from the Fall is unbiblical, deceptive, and eternally dangerous for the souls who struggle with this particular sin. Soothing same sex attracted people’s consciences by telling them that it’s just a “broken condition” or merely a temptation and not sinful unless they act on it is only going to damn them to Hell. They need to be admonished to cry out to God for repentance!

“From the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely. They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the Lord. Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.
‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭6:13-16‬ ‭



[1] What Do You Think? Has the PCA acquiesced to pro-homosexual ideology? by Chuck Williams.

[2] Statement at General Synod (video clip).

[3] Sam Allberry, White Horse Inn, Same-Sex Attraction, Sunday, 27 Sep 2015.

[4] Committee on Judicial Business (CJB) of an unnamed Presbytery in the PCA; What Do You Think? Has the PCA acquiesced to pro-homosexual ideology? by Chuck Williams.

[5] Webster’s Dictionary (1828), Temptation.

[6] Webster’s Dictionary (1828), Affection.

[7] Webster’s Dictionary (1828), Concupiscence.


See also Transforming Homosexuality: What the Bible Says about Sexual Orientation and Change by Denny Burke and Heath Lambert

Four Propositions on Homosexuality and Holiness by Rick Phillips

Sin, Salvation, Same-Sex Attraction by Jonathan Williams

Is Homosexual Orientation Sinful? by Denny Burke

Does The Gospel Coalition Believe in the Heinousness of Homosexuality? by Rev. Shawn Mathis