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A recent release caught my eye this week.  It’s called “A New Evangelical Manifesto:  A Kingdom Vision for the Common Good“.  It’s edited by David P. Gushee, but is a series of 22 short essays by the likes of Brian McLaren, and, quite frankly, a bunch of people I’ve never heard of.  It has some provocative titles like: Where the Church Went Wrong Where Evangelicals Went Wrong with the Bible Those Suffering from Preventable Diseases The Global Poor Here’s an excerpt from the introduction: Have you read the book? Does it interest you? Do you think we need some kind of a re-set?  Some kind of a new Evangelical Manifesto (as these writers suggest)? If you had to write a manifesto to the church-at-large… what would YOU write? Todd

Tim Challies’ post today is entitled “Smilingly Leading You to Hell”… in which he says that nice guys many times do not give a full gospel message. He cites Brian McLaren and Joel Osteen as examples in point. On Joel Osteen, he writes:
Both the history of the church and contemporary Evangelical church are replete with nice people who are in complete rebellion against God. Is there anyone nicer than Joel Osteen? Yet is there anyone whose message has less of the gospel and more anti-biblical nonsense? You can watch him in this video, sitting with Oprah, receiving accolades, nicely, smilingly leading an eager crowd farther and farther from the cross. He is nice, but he, too, will nice you straight to the gates of hell, flashing that brilliant smile all the while.
OK… I agree that the niceness of a person does not indicate the level of their gospel presentation. But my question for you is… is this a bit strong? Is it fair to say that Joel Osteen is leading people straight to the gates of hell and that he is in complete rebellion against God? Easy question.  Difficult answer.  What do you think?  Yes or no? I have a whole blog post inside of me on Joel Osteen… maybe this will give me reason to actually write it. Read Tim Challies’ post here. Todd

Back in 2007, LifeWay Christian Stores (owned by the Southern Baptist Convention) decided to attach a sticker to certain books that said “Please Read with Discernment”.  Authors like Rob Bell, Donald Miller, and Brian McLaren all had their books tagged with the labels… and a warning:  that those books were “strictly for critical study or research to… understand and develop responses to the diversity of religious thought in today’s postmodern world.” Those labels are going away in 2011. According to a report in Christianity Today, LifeWay had been thinking of getting rid of the labels for some time.  They thought they would help readers, but just became controversial and ended up being “more trouble than they were worth.” In the end, according to Chris Rodgers, LifeWay’s director of product standards and customer relations, “We should all read everything with discernment.” [box type=”info”]What do you think? Should LifeWay continue or discontinue the “Read with Discernment” program? And since they are a Southern Baptist owned store, what SHOULDN’T they sell (if anything)?[/box] Todd

Here’s a very interesting piece written by Anthony B. Robinson.  He talks about the contrast between Mark Driscoll and Brian McLaren; and talks about the similarities he sees between Driscoll and the pastor of a leading gay-friendly church… Here’s a section: Driscoll: “In Revelation, Jesus is a prize-fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is the guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, dapper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.” McLaren proceeds to offer a quite different interpretation of the biblical text in question. He views Revelation, correctly, as literature of the oppressed, intended to encourage those suffering Roman persecution rather than a call to take up a sword with warrior Jesus. This is part of McLaren’s larger argument against what he describes as a misuse of the Bible as a kind of legal and constitutional document and for an understanding of the book of books as “a community library.” That is, a dazzling array of literary types which cannot be subjected to simple literal interpretation. Beneath Driscoll’s bombast are some serious issues. A powerful motivation for Driscoll has been connecting to young men, whom he has seen as often aimless and adrift in contemporary American culture. This accounts for his efforts to portray Jesus not as “meek and mild,” but “mean and wild.” … Recently I shared keynoting responsibilities at a conference in California with Michael Piazza, who is Dean of the Cathedral of Hope, a gay-lesbian mega-church in Dallas. What struck me in talking with him was how, in a funny way, he resembled Driscoll. Both pride themselves on their “against-all-odds” creation of huge churches that defy the norms of the surrounding culture. Driscoll revels in swimming against the stream of liberal Seattle, while Piazza has built a huge gay-lesbian congregation in the heart of conservative, Bible-belt Texas. Maybe the new, counter-intuitive formula for church growth is this: be a stark alternative to whatever the dominant culture offers? What do you think?  Is there anything to this writer’s take that being counter-intuitive culturally can lead to church growth?  Or is it something entirely different? What part of culture (either embracing or distancing) is related to church growth?  And… are they related at all? Todd