This post was prompted by my good friend, Grace. Her prophetic gift is to "kick at the darkness, 'til it bleeds daylight," as Bruce Cockburn would put it.
A year ago, the circus came to Lakeland, Florida. But this was a new, improved circus. A circus where the tattooed-man was the ring leader. Stealing plosives from Emeril, he claimed he'd "bammed" thousands into healing. He told stories of visiting heaven and hanging with Paul in Paul's Shack. (Not to be confused with Paul Young's Shack, of course, which is a work of fiction.) 100's had been raised from the dead. (I think they were just sleeping – worn out by all the bamming.)
But 'twould seem there was some bad bammin' happening in the midst of all the good, productive bammin'. Right after the seething mass of hucksters anointed apostolic leadership placed a kingly-ringly on one of the fat fingers of the tattooed-man and spoke prophetic words of power over him, Bent Toadley's bammin' came to a sudden halt. The bride of his youth no longer appealed to him. He'd walked with her limp for too many years. He wanted a new model. He'd already picked one out. The seething mass of prophesying hucksters anointed prophetic leadership were in shock. Their god had not kept them abreast of Bent's private bammin'. What were they to do? (Prevaricate mostly, I'd suggest.)
Fast forward an eternity. Well, (pregnant pause) maybe nine months. Bent's got a new wife; "the old is gone, the new has come." And now he's really, really sorry. IT'S RESTORATION AT THE CIRCUS TIME FOLKS. STEP RIGHT UP TO SEE THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH. Well, at least at the old PTL headquarters, where mourning-starved Rick, the Joiner holds sway.
Now Strang(e) Com's "Makin' the Grade" Lee, editor of Personality+Mag, took great offense to the rapid-fire restoration of the Bent One. (In fairness, Lee has been consistent in his critique, after an initial bit of mild enthusiasm for the Lakeland Circus.) Mourning-starved Rick was pissed. He was apparently really really busy, so he didn't have time for tact (or rational, nay biblical, thinking for that matter),
I think what you call "the Lakeland disaster" would be disputed by multitudes of people who got healed or touched there. If you are such judge of this what gives you the credentials? What moves of God have you led? What have you built? Paul the apostle claimed to have authority for building and for tearing down, but what gives you authority to tear down the work of others is having built something yourself.
I, Todd, Bill and Jack all know this is a very serious matter, and are treating it as such. I am deeply offended that you would call our work "a travesty." The Lord had far more grace for sinners than for the self-righteous, who He had no grace for at all. I am personally far more concerned for you than for Todd.
And for all of you folk who know how church marketing sucks and were concerned about Toad's brand; one he'd worked so hard to build – you'll be happy to know that his former Canadian charity has changed its name and Toad and mourning-starved Rick now control the Fat Frier, err, Fresh Fire brand. They hope to bringing the ignition to a stadium near you really soon. Just as quick as they can get the Toadster freshened up for his adoring masses.
Our God is a Consuming Fire
Speaking of fire, Cross and the Blowtorch Switchblade author, and Times Square Pastor, DW, has a word from the god of the 911 pilots. At least, that's what it sounds like to me. The Northeast is gonna burn, baby burn. Perhaps DW should be sent to his room to exegete Hosea and the entire New Testament. I'd just keep him out of the Apocalyptic last book. No more listening to Talking Heads. And if anything should burn, it would be his collection of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins books.
The Wizard of Ads quoted Luke 12 (don't be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows) this morning while also quoting this great line from "Michel Eyquem De Montaigne (who) said with tongue in cheek during the French Renaissance 450 years ago, “My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened.”" Our God does not give us a spirit of fear, but rather strength, love and self-control as Paul reminded Timothy.
Not So Hot – But Still Fiery Little Rascal
And then this from the "Church of the Little Rascals" wing of North American Evanjellyfishism; young noble Perry, apparently flying at 30,000 ft with neither oxygen nor a parachute. In a wonderful display of logic, that can only be asphyxia related, he decided he should define missional for the huddled masses gathered at his feet – or where his feet would be if he wasn't flying at 30,000 ft sans O2:
'Yep, boys and girls, bringing folks to the shows at yer megabox churches is the new meaning of missional. That's how we fulfill the Great Omission Commission. Never mind what those stupid little jackass bloggers (who actually allow comments on their blogs as they are NOT afraid of disagreement) have to say. I, noble Perry, will define all the important words for you. Lest you get confused. (BTW. It's probably best if you let me 'splain the Bible to you. You probably wouldn't understand it on your own.)'
Let me take a moment to be serious. (A moment's about all I could handle.) Little Rascals like noble Perry speak from such exalted positions because of the numbers of people who've joined their church – and believe me, it is "their church". But numbers only tell a very small part of the story. Read my son Liam's post here to help unpack this further. Where the Kingdom of God is actually manifested, societal change is evidenced. I would debate that actually occurring in most instances of the North American megachurch.
A Chicago-based pastor recently took a shot at the "missional conversation" bragging on the 1000 baptisms at his franchising church while suggesting the missional folk had no converts. I have one question for said pastor. If you are achieving such success in your main church and its franchisees mostly in the northern Illinois area, along with all the other megachurches that seem to populate Chicagoland, why is Chicago one of the most corrupt cities in North America. I'm just asking.
Further, if it's all about numbers then perhaps you should give up bacon and shellfish and cede leadership to Smiley "Wow, Nobody Every told me to Read the Old Testament" Joelsteen™. His numbers are certainly bigger than yours. Even young Ed Jr. has paid homage to the smile-encrusted wonder from Houston.
Those of you, who so easily ignore pajama-clad bloggers like moi, have chosen to conveniently forget that many of us held senior positions in churches just like yours. We've tripped over the bodies left lying in the wake of your "godly" leadership. We chanted your mantras of "getting more people saved." We drank the kool-aid, came close to dying, but have managed to survive.
One of the reasons you so virulently attempt to write us off, is that you know there's truth in what we are saying. You have a measure of guilt (at least for a while longer) for the people who you've hurt, and in some cases destroyed, in your quest for Fire™. You know deep down inside that you are more concerned with building an audience of "saved" people than you are with building Christ's Kingdom. In Christ's Kingdom we must decrease and He must increase. In your kingdom, you grow to be 30,000 feet tall, with the little people far below you.
And since you have such a hard time with being critiqued, perhaps this one last note might help: do yourselves and the rest of us a favour. Read a book from way back in the last millenium (1999 to be exact) called The Cluetrain Manifesto. It's even available online to read if you can't afford a copy since every last penny needs to go pay the big mortgage you have on your church. It will help you understand why the "little people" are, in Paddy Chayefsky's words, "mad as hell and not going to take it anymore." Heck, read Clay Shirky's recent post on the death of newspapers to get an idea of how little you control the discussion – in spite of your exalted self-opinion.
Live with it.
Oh, and noble Perry, Balaam ignored his language-gifted ass at his own peril. Though you seem to be doing well enough speaking out of yours.
UPDATE: My friend Brad adds powerfully to this discussion.