James MacDonald, Satan, Flip Wilson & Me

kinnon —  June 11, 2011 — 14 Comments

Let me just say, right up front, I’m pretty sure the Devil made me write this post. (In fact, he almost made me wright “right” for “write” just to discredit me further. So. All spelling and sintax errors are the devil’s fault.)

William Blake once beautifully asked,

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic mills?

But no rich poetic metaphor from our brother, James MacDonald.

No. For him, simple hyperbolic prose, “Congregational Government is from Satan.”

He advances his argument under the sub-headings, “Congregational Meetings are Forums for Division,” “Voting Is Not Biblical,” “Eldership Is Sometimes Unpopular,” “Congregationalism Crushes Pastors,” and “Priesthood Not Eldership of All Believers.”

And, of course, what “biblical” argument for authoritarian leadership structure would be complete without a quick prooftext shout-out to Hebrews 13:17 – Obey your leaders and submit to them…

Searching his blog, it appears that Brother James is not quick to exegete Mark 10/Matthew 20 – no doubt that whole “servant leadership” thing is so social gospelish.

I have neither the time, nor the inclination to take apart what appears to be a largely proof-texted eisegetical argument on James’ part but perhaps an “…is from Satansynchroblog might be in order.

Let me suggest some possible titles – all biblically prooftext provable,
The American Megachurch is from Satan.
The Executive/Business Pastor Position is from Satan.
Celebrity Church Leaders are from Satan.
kinnon.tv is from Satan

I’m sure you can come up with more.

In my never humble opinion, the bottom line problem with the church in the West is not church governance. As I have pontificated here ad nauseum, the problem is discipleship and the lack thereof in the church.

The Great Commission is to “go and make disciples.” It isn’t to build big churches or large platforms for big egos. Nor is it to command and control the congregation for the “sake of the church.” Disciples are made in direct personal relationship with the discipler. If the church was creating actual disciples I wonder whether we would need to worry about church governance.

And. Just for the record. In my late middle age, I would have to say that, assuming real discipleship, I'm most comfortable with an episcopacy.

UPDATE: Please read what is effectively Part 2 of this post, The Devil's Advocate.

UPDATE 2 : Please read WTH's post on this James MacDonald story.


For further reading of my thoughts on some of what's covered here, you might like (or intensely dislike):
Jesus & MegaChurch Pastors, A Few Questions
Why Aren't Big Name Christian Leaders Decreasing
Confronting Idols & Making Discples (video with Chris Wright) 
More Disciples, Fewer Leaders, Please
More Disciples, Fewer Volunteers, Please
Leaders Lead, Disciples Disciple



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

14 responses to James MacDonald, Satan, Flip Wilson & Me

  1. Bill —

    Thanks for this. Check out the 9 Marks posting on this from yesterday — they “thanked” him for it. link to 9marks.org


    Brian Auten
    Boar’s Head Tavern

  2. Thanks, Brian.

  3. You need to know that James wrote that whole rant as a response to recently not getting something he wanted.

  4. Hmmm. Intriguing. Do tell.

  5. Simply he wanted a certain church. They voted TWICE against it and now he is mad. Thus the comments on how voting is unbiblical and congregational government

  6. Joe that is amazing/crazy, unfortunately not surprising from what I have read/heard from MacDonald

  7. Mr. Kinnon.

    I have followed your blog and twitter for several years, and thought i could add a little bit of the story to what Joe has said.

    Harvest was approached by 5 elders from a church in decline and asked for help. The elders wanted to merge and form an extension campus (whatever anyones thoughts may be on this).

    The elders and 72% of the church voted to merge falling shy of the 75% required for such a move. The elders then decided to take another few months and try to vote again. This time I believe the vote was 73%.

    that is the basics of the story…

  8. Bill,
    Glad to hear you weigh in on this one. I could not help but think MacDonald made himself a magisterium of one.

    The back story is fascinating.

  9. WenatcheeTheHatchet June 12, 2011 at 4:52 am

    Ironically most mega-church multi-site churches are episcopacies but their leaders don’t have the courage to admit that they are essentially small denominations rather than big churches, at least in my observation.

    James MacDonaled has simply provided a “new” semantic variation on Mark Driscoll’s statement that congregational church government is the same as having the inmates running the insane asylum. The only difference is that MacDonald has decided to say that the philosophy of congregational governance is demonic and unbiblical rather than say that the Christians who subscribe to this view are poor Christians.

    Now if MacDonald were to at least attempt a historical case about the slide of the Congregationalist denomination into doctrinal decline or how Jonathan Edwards’ battles with his own church played out it would be a more compelling historical case instead of a series of prooftexts. I don’t want to say categorically that he can’t make a case for an episcopal or presbyterian system over against congregationalism. But I’m willing to say that proving that congregationalism is bad is not the same as proving that the alternative he prefers is necessarily better. Can’t a person equally point to the development of congregationalist leadership as a response to entrenched abuses and doctrinal problems in episcopate and presbytery-governed churches? I’m Presbyterian so I’m not going to pretend I have no convictions on this matter but I am not impressed with how MacDonald decided to field this subject even if no one volunteered here that he’s been upset about not getting something he wants because of a congregational government roadblock.

  10. As always, WTH, you add much to the conversation. My upcoming posts on the Celebrity-Driven Church will refer/link to a number of your recent posts.

  11. You know … honestly, voting isn’t really all that “biblical.” It’s just not. It’s an effective and efficient tool for making group decisions. But it should not be confused or conflated with “hearing from God” on any specific issue and it bugs the snot out of me when people say that a vote result is the equivalent of God speaking to some issue before a congregation. The plain facts presented in scripture are that God speaks amongst the least of those in a group, those who are the least likely to be listened to (David, Ruth, Esther, Paul, Moses, etc.) but you never hear of (say) the Israelites taking a vote in the desert and that being the venue through which God speaks to them. No! When they take a vote in the desert they do incredibly stupid things like build a golden calf or try to store a week’s worth of manna. So voting as a method of discerning direction for a church is just a way for leadership to validate decisions they have already made.

    OTOH … the problem with these huge churches is that there has to be some way for people to be heard. Well … actually I think the huge churches are from Satan, but that’s straying from the purpose of this post. So I’ll stop there …

  12. sonja –

    ‘voting’ has all sorts of associations to it given it’s secular use.

    Whilst I think it could be open to critique, the main advocates of it stress that it’s less about letting each person advance a personal preference, than a guided process in which each person says whether they believe a particular move to be God’s will or not.

    And Israel in the desert is more characterised by mob rule than voting and polling booths.

  13. I’m not sure it’s true to say that these churches are episcopacies, they bear very little similarity to any episcopalian church beyond the single regional leader.

    They seem to owe more to the franchise model – more so when you consider the plans some of these leaders have, with campuses that are in cities hours away from where the main church is actually situated.

    What’s the reductio ad absurdum of this? Multiple franchices and postitional marketing? “We’ve already got the skater-boi preacher church with contemporary music, there’s room for a grumpy calvinist church with a preacher who shouts though ..”

  14. ‘You know … honestly, voting isn’t really all that “biblical.” It’s just not”

    A long time ago, I did some research on this with the word translated as “appointed” in certain NT passages. The range of meanings in the Greek in certain passages about appointing people in the NT included “hand stretching” which denotes voting.

    So, I would not rule it out. However, there is no hard and fast rule about the operation and structure of eklessia in the scriptures. so to say that voting is not biblical, could be a problem.


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