The Apotheosis of Beth Moore

Many of my “thread” and Wisconsin friends won’t get this post. That’s ok. Just skip it. I love that part in C.S. Lewis’s “Mere Christianity” where he says “All sensible people skip freely when they come to a chapter which they find is going to be no use to them.” If this post doesn’t work for you, then skip it.

A while back Pam wrote on one of her blogs a post titled “Breaking Up with Beth Moore” concerning her thoughts and feelings about Beth Moore studies since we have moved up to Wisconsin. I think Pam is a great writer, and therefore I believe you should go over to her blog and read the post for yourself. I will, however, briefly summarize what Pam said. So here goes:

Pam used to be a huge Beth Moore fan and she learned a great deal from Beth Moore’s writing and conferences. Since moving up to Wisconsin Pam has been seeing Beth Moore studies through Northern/Midwestern eyes and she doesn’t believe what she has seen has translated very well to our ministry context. So she decided to stop using and taking part in Beth Moore studies.

Pam didn’t say anything terrible about the Beth (for the rest of the post I am simply going to refer to Beth Moore as “the Beth” because her fascination with her own hair reminds me of Donald Trump and his hair). She just said that she doesn’t connect with the Beth anymore, and she doesn’t feel like the Beth translates as well outside of the South. When she wrote it I thought it was a very good post, but I didn’t really think that it would garner very many non-friend comments.

I was wrong about the non-friend comments. It is the most read post on her blog by far.

There are 16 comments on the post thus far and I believe there are two more comments waiting Pam’s moderation. The surprising thing is the number of them that jump all over Pam. Her apparent sin? Seems to be that she dared to say she didn’t connect with the Beth’s teaching style anymore. One of the commenters said Pam should look for sin in her life. I guess the commenter believes that hidden sin is the only thing that would lead someone to question the Beth’s effectiveness. I have to say here that I got a little snarky with this commenter, but I figure it is a spouse’s duty and privilege to jump to the other’s defense. Another commenter said being funny while discussing someone else’s ministry is unscriptural based on Psalm 19:14. I found this post confusing because the scripture talks about our words being pleasing to God not about not saying anything against someone else’s teaching stlye. I think God very well might find such humor pleasing. My personal favorite is the commenter whose post hasn’t been approved yet. It is a grandmother who is worried that her grandchildren might find Pam’s post – apparently she doesn’t know what the real dangers on the internet are for her grandchildren.

The Apotheosis (deification) of George Washington – I think President Washington was a great man but deification? Something is wrong with that.

My big problem with these comments is what I believe they come out of. I think they represent the almost deification of Christian leaders by some of those who idolize these leaders. I think the church cultural often celebritize some Christian leaders to the point that some begin to think that the leader’s holiness is such that they shouldn’t be questioned, that the celebrity is somehow more holy and closer to God than others. When did it become an affront to God to question the effectiveness of the Beth or any of the other Christian celebrity speakers? I don’t think it is.

I think we need to ask what our goal is when we do ministry. Is our goal for more people to know Jesus Christ? If so we’ll use whatever approach works best for the people who we are around. If our goal is for more people to discover the joys of Beth Moore studies, then we really need to make sure that no one criticizes the Beth.

I’ll be honest here. I have never connected with the way the Beth speaks, and I have never understood the rabidness of her groupies. Back when Pam did Beth Moore studies I used to jokingly say it was a cult because it all seemed focused on the Beth’s personality. I’m sure she is a wonderful godly person but I just don’t get it and I definitely don’t connect with God through the Beth’s sermons and such. She seems gimmicky to me and, worse still, I find the whole gimmick irritating. Like nails on a chalkboard.

Still do you know what I would do if people in Tapestry really connected with the Beth? I would have the church doing more Beth Moore studies than you can possibly imagine. Why? Because the goal is to connect people with Christ. I don’t care how I get them to do the connecting. For example, the weekly small group that I am a part of was reading Mark Buchanan’s book “Things Unseen,” a book that I love. After a couple of weeks everybody but me said it simply wasn’t working for them. I, however, love the book and really love the way Buchanan explains things. So what did we do? We ditched “Things Unseen” without a second’s hesitation and went with Deitrich Bonhoeffer’s “The Cost of Discipleship.” Why? Because the the only thing that matters is the group connecting with God not which author helps the group to do the connecting. The Beth is a tool and nothing more. The only thing that matters about a tool is that it gets the job done. If it doesn’t get the job done then you throw it off to the side, and maybe even laugh about thinking it would work in the first place.

That’s why it surprises me when people respond like one commenter did on Pam’s post. This commenter said that Pam was pushing the commenter’s mother-in-law further away from God. Why? Well because the commenter’s mother-in-law read Pam’s post and decided not to go to a Beth Moore bible study with her. If this was a math problem it would be:

“Not going to a Beth Moore study = falling away from God.”

I find that kind of logic kind of scary. In fact, I find it pretty close to idolatrous. That thinking makes the tool (i.e. the Beth) far too important. It is apotheosizing the Beth. That’s not cool and something I am sure the Beth doesn’t want her groupies to do, because we were created to worship only one God and He will have “no other gods before Him.” Exodus 20:3.

Now don’t apotheosis anyone.

Jurgen Moltmann, Experiences of God, p. 21.

Jurgen MoltmannOn the contrary, what we really feel is anxiety: that vague, oppressive feeling about what is going to happen which always expects the worst, and the gloom which does not believe oneself or other people capable of anything positive. Anxiety is the reason why so many people only see the future as a threat to the present; they no longer view it as a chance for something new. Anxiety is the reason why many young people are not just afraid of death, but are already afraid of life. Anxiety is the reason why many people no longer understand what is going on in the world and look round for scapegoats among its leaders. … The most that many people hope for from the future is that they will go on possessing what they have at present, and that the annual rate of growth will be secured. And it is just this, moreover, that they were promised in New Years speeches and addresses  Let us not complain about that here. But we have to ask, quite specifically: when did we destroy our future? Where did we bury our hopes?

Jurgen Moltmann, Experiences of God, p. 21.

Threads are the Best

In this case the “threads” in question are the “threads” who regularly setup for our Sunday night worship gathering. I try to be the first person at setup each week and to start working before anyone else gets there. When I can’t be there early I make sure the setup team knows it and I try to make sure there is extra help there. This weekend I was (and I still am at this point) on call for my Clinical Pastoral Education time at St. Michael’s Hospital. I have been called in to the hospital several times today. I was just returning from one call at St. Mike’s and pulling into Washington Elementary school at 4 p.m. (my normal time to get there) when I received another call to get back to the hospital for an emergency. Crud. I was a little freaked out and worried about the setup but there was no need for me to be because the “threads” jumped up and took care of it all. I rushed back to Washington a little after 5 p.m. to find everything had already been taken care of. You guys are the best.

I'm a Fan of Ed Stetzer

This is Ed Stetzer – I wish we were friends 🙂

I really appreciate the vast majority of what Ed Stetzer writes and this post is just another example of his thoughts and writing that i am thankful for.

Here’s a quote from it:

On the day before the Tsarnaev brothers were identified as Chechen Muslims, I drove by my Muslim neighbor’s home on the way out of our neighborhood. His trash can had spilled into the street, so I stopped, picked everything up and put it back on his curb. Why? Because I know him. He is my neighbor. Because our kids play together. And he more realistically represents his religion to me than terrorists do. And my African American neighbors also better represent African Americans than news reports. And, I pray, I am a better representative of my Christian faith than some of the nuts in the news.

You should probably go read the rest of his post. It is good stuff. Makes me glad he is a Southern Baptist leader. I think the thing I like about him the most is that he seems to tick off people on both sides. He doesn’t seem worried about supporting conservative or progressive causes. For some fun you should read some of the comments on his facebook posts. Always seem to be something that someone is chewing him out for. That’s fun. 🙂

You Don't Look Like A Pastor

Looking Like A Pastor
This is Randall Bessette and I know nothing about him except this photo is a good illustration of looking like a pastor – he is probably a swell guy.

“You don’t look like a pastor.” I’ve heard that line a few times in my life and I have to say I think it is stupid. Here’s why. It is almost always Christians/church goers that say it to me. A minister looking like or not looking like a pastor seems to matter more to people who regularly attend church than it does to those who don’t. Either they want their pastor to look like some stereotype or they don’t want their pastor to look like that stereotype or, the worst of both worlds, they want their pastor to look like the stereo type of the “anti-pastor” (a.k.a the cool/hipster pastor). All I know is that these externals don’t matter a lot because quite often the pastor who doesn’t look like the pastoral stereotype acts like an extreme version of that stereotype.

My friends who aren’t regular church attenders taught me this. They have never said to me, “you don’t look like a pastor,” but they have said to me “you don’t act like a pastor.” I consider this a huge compliment because what they usually mean is that they don’t feel judged or condemned by my presence. They don’t feel that they have to put on airs and act holy around me. Instead they can actually be their real shelves even if I might personally disagree with something they are doing or believe. They don’t feel that I am treating them like a project or a sermon illustration of how great I am at sharing my faith with others. They know I love them and will act on that love no matter what. In other words, I am not acting like the worst stereotypes of the pastors that they can think of and they like that.

Hipster Pastor
This is Judah Smith and I know absolutely nothing about him except he serves as a great illustration of the hispter pastor image – for all I know he might be a great guy.

I’ve heard this same “you don’t look like” statement used for pastor’s spouses (usually wives in Southern Baptist/Evangelical churches) and church buildings, often with some great pride. Always seems odd to me when it usually turns out they act just like the stereotype of a pastor’s spouse or a traditional church.

The church building version of this is often “we’re the church for people who don’t like church,” which usually just means “we don’t have pews” or “we have a bass player with facial hair.” If you actually want to be “the church for people who don’t like church” then try to actually do things differently. I don’t mean forsaking the central beliefs of Christianity, rather treat people different than they believe the church typically does. Value the thoughts and abilities of everyone in the church rather than celebritizing/deifying the lead pastor and worship team. Spend an inordinate amount of the church’s tithes and offerings outside of the church building rather than spending almost everything on your own church building, program, people, etc. Forgive to the point that regular church-people get worried that you might have gone too far. In other words, be different don’t just look different.

What I would look like if I were a good pastor.

The pastor’s spouse version of “you don’t look like” seems to be “you don’t look as dowdy as I expect a pastor’s wife to look.” You want to actually not be like the worst stereotype of the pastor’s spouse? Be more of a servant than a taker? Be so busy taking care of other people’s needs that other people are worried that you never think of yourself. Or, my personal biggie, don’t expect everyone else to take care of your kids while you do something cool and un-pastor’s-wife like. I’ve met a few pastor’s spouses who loved people saying that they didn’t look like a pastor’s spouse and yet they were some of the most self-focused people I have ever known. Again I don’t care if you look like a pastor’s spouse stereotype or not. I care greatly if you act like that stereotype and I am greatly thrilled that Pamela doesn’t (I can brag on how wonderful my wife is all day folks).

I don’t remember any descriptions of Jesus’s physical appearance in the Bible. I take this to mean He probably looked pretty much like what people expected a rabbi to look like. I do know of tons of descriptions of His behavior that caught people off guard. In other words He didn’t act like what people expected a religious leader to act like. I want to be like Him.

Ministerial Candidating

I am by no means an expert on the ministerial candidating process, in fact, thanks to CPE I am discovering how different it is from denomination to denomination. I do, however, believe that most Southern Baptist/Evangelical ministers should need to take some good classes on interviewing and being interviewed. The reason I say this is because I know a decent number of people who went into some horrendous situations/churches without ever doing any basic research into the church/pastor/congregation that was doing serious research into them. What do you mean you are surprised everything turned South? If you had done even a small amount of digging you would have found ten people who would have told you about the church’s or staff’s issues.

I guess the stated reason for not digging into a church or staff is because the candidate thinks they are trusting God by not questioning things. I think that is baloney. I trust God and I have gone into a difficult situation or two in my ministerial life but I never went into those situations, nor would I take my family into those situations, blind.

Researching didn’t mean that I wouldn’t go into a situation if something didn’t seem right. In fact, I went into Parkview Baptist Church, where I stayed for 7 years, knowing there was a decent chance the pastor would leave when I got there. My family and I went to Baton Rouge and two months later Wayne DuBois, the pastor, left Parkview. My research led me to believe God was calling me to Parkview and it had nothing to do with the pastor, therefore him leaving didn’t really matter. Same came true again when Bill Pruitt, who I loved as a pastor, left. I wasn’t there to work with a pastor so it didn’t really matter who the pastor was. My research into Parkview helped me to know that.

My mindset in interviewing with a church was that since I would be bringing my family into the church/city I better research it as much as possible. That’s what I believe good spouses and parents do. I don’t want to blindly bring my family into a terrible situation and I don’t think God wants me to blindly do that either. Therefore, I always researched the church as much, if not more, than they were researching me.

What does this mean?

1. I always interviewed the person who had the position before me. Why did they leave? Would they work with the pastor again? Would they work with the staff again? What do they wish they had known before they went there? I learned a ton from this. I interviewed people who had left the position on good terms and bad terms. I didn’t care why they left. I cared greatly about any info they could give me. My call threw a couple of former ministers off but their info helped me a lot.  I offered this same opportunity to the people who came after me and I told them I would shoot straight with them on their questions. Know how many took me up on it? None.

2. I always interviewed the other staff and pastor of the church. Since I was usually interviewing for a Youth Ministry position I asked questions about working with the pastor. What is he like? If its a Southern Baptist/Evangelical church you can pretty well guess that the pastor will be a male. Would you work with him again if you had the opportunity? Is there anything you wish you had known before you came to the church? Is there anything you think I should know that you don’t believe I know? That last question was how I found out that Wayne Dubois at Parkview was probably leaving. Two staff members answered that question by saying “you might want to ask Wayne how long he is staying.” So I did. I asked him if I came was going to be there for at least the next year. Most people, especially pastors, don’t want to lie to you but they don’t mind simply not telling you something if you aren’t smart enough to ask the question. Wayne DuBois stumbled around a little bit and finally said “I have been looking but I promise you I will tell you immediately if I get serious with another church.” Since I didn’t come to Parkview to work with him, it wasn’t any big deal when he left. Actually the person I really wanted to work with became pastor so it worked out great. Also please understand when I say “staff” I mean everyone, not just ministerial staff. When I left Jessica Lawrence could have told you more about Parkview and what was going on there than most other people. Administrative assistants and secretaries offer a wealth of information and I wanted to talk with them.

3. Interview other ministers from the area. I called other churches and the associational offices (Southern Baptist churches are usually a part of area associations). I wanted to hear what other ministers in the area thought about the church and about the staff of the church. What was the rep of the church? What was the rep of the pastor? This was important to me since I was going to be inheriting that rep. The associational office was also invariably able to give me lots of numbers concerning the church. Those numbers were always helpful in understanding what was really going on in the church.

There were some other things I did because I am my mother’s son and I enjoy researching people and place but the above is the stuff that I found most helpful that I believe every minister should do.

Tapestry & Team World Vision

I just finished talking with a guy I met at the Whistlestop Marathon back in October of last year who coordinates Team World Vision groups. We talked about starting a group at Tapestry and getting people to run a race together, he suggested the Twin Cities Marathon in October, for the purpose of helping people have access to clean water. You see every $50 you raise in a Team World Vision group secures a person a LIFETIME of clean water in an area where it is desperately needs. That’s right I said a LIFETIME. I think that is very cool.

Anyhow he talked about this being something for non-runners more than runners which I thought was interesting. He had a good point and that is that it is more of a sacrifice for non-runners. I’ve run with Team World Vision before and I loved it. Jim, my brother-in-law, and I ran the Chicago Marathon as a part of Team World Vision and it was really cool but all we were doing was adding a good thing to an event we were already going to do. That’s a great and all but it isn’t really a sacrifice. A sacrifice is for a person to commit to doing something that scares him/her not because they want to love running or desire to check off a bucket list item but instead because they want to raise money for people to have clean water. That type of sacrifice can be transformational not just for the people being helped but also for the person helping and the community he/she belongs to. That’s pretty cool.

Now to find out what the Leadership Team thinks and then work through details such as:

  • Local event or premiere event – a premiere event means running with hundreds of other World Vision runners. 
  • Marathon or half marathon – the easier choice might not be best.
  • Starting training groups for all sorts of level.
  • Fund raising to provide as many people as possible with clean water.
  • Bringing others in to the group.
  • Pressing on toward the goal.

I also kind of like the thought of not allowing ourselves to quake in fear because of the horror that happened in Boston. Instead of just doing a symbolic thumbing of the nose to terrorists I believe running with Team World Vision turns our run it into an act of reducing the terror in the world by helping others to have clean water. God defeats evil with sacrificial love and I believe His people should too.

There is a really good chance you will hear more about this.

The 2013 Oshkosh Half Marathon Experience

Ariplane Stretch
I don’t know why this guy was stretching like this for 10 minutes but I know if made me laugh

So yesterday was a fun day. I was scheduled to run the Oshkosh half marathon for the fourth time. The half marathon is my favorite race distance, long enough to be a decent challenge but short enough that I can still function the next day. The same is not true of the marathon distance. The Oshkosh Half Marathon is one of my favorite races because it is large enough (1,200ish for the half alone) that you are always running with people around you and has been consistently well organized. Just for the fun of it here are the races that I have enjoyed running in the most:

  • Chicago Marathon – Absolutely amazing. The only other races I can imagine being as good would be Boston and New York.
  • Point Bock Run 5 mile (Stevens Point) – It is local, 2500ish runners, and a huge party after the run that people have to be chased away from.
  • Oshkosh Half Marathon – Reasons stated before.
  • Frostbite 10 mile run (Stevens Point) – It is local and you never know what’s going to happen weather-wise – really I’ve run it in everything from mid-50s weather and 4″ of snow coming down.

Anyhow here’s how my day went yesterday. I left home at 4:30 am to make it to Oshkosh in time for the 7 am race start. At 5 am I clipped my very first deer. I don’t mean my first deer in Wisconsin. I mean my first deer ever. Stupid thing ran out in front of me on a two-lane highway when I was going 55 mph. I literally screamed. I’ve heard stories of deer totaling vehicles and hurting drivers. I was sure it was going to be bad. Turns out it wasn’t that bad at all. Scratched some paint off the bumper of Fred the Sentra but that is no big deal because I hope to paint her this Summer. I think the deer probably made it away from our encounter with nothing more than a slight bruise on its hind quarter. I make it to Oshkosh with adrenaline in my system but really none the worse otherwise.

So then I ran the race. I haven’t run much since doing the Whistlestop Marathon in October. In fact, I haven’t run a distance longer than 7 miles since then and with all the snow and cold temps we’ve had this Winter I’ve only been running around 10-15 miles per week. So my plan for the Oshkosh Half Marathon was for it to be part of my prep for running as things warm up. My goal is to set a new personal best (PB) for the half marathon this year. Right now my PB is 1:58:40 and I am convince I can get it down to at least 1:57 perhaps sub-1:55. The Oshkosh Half was just going to be a training run. I started running with the 2:20 pace group hoping to finish at around 2:17ish. I figured at that pace I could run the half and still felt good enough to still set up for Tapestry that evening. I started off and felt great so I pushed it a little bit. The weather was supposed to be horrible. It wasn’t and that helped. Instead of being cold, overcast, and windy, with rain, sleet, and snow it was just cold, overcast, and windy with just a few spittings of snow. Not bad. Ended up finishing in 2:09:47. I’m pretty pleased with that. I was also a little confused when I crossed the finish line because I saw the person 10 spots in front of me get a medal and then everyone suddenly looked confused. There were no more medals. That’s right they ran out of medals. Marathon and half marathon medals are part of the fun and you only get to wear them without looking like an idiot immediately after the race. They said they would send me a medal through the mail but I can’t really wear it anywhere when I get it.  Oh well. So I found my car and started to head back to Plover.

Everything was going swimmingly. I was driving through a snow storm but it wasn’t accumulating and I was thankful for that. I also felt good after the race. I was almost home, about 18 miles out, when my driver’s side front tire blew out on Highway 10. The good news? The Sentra handles great with a front tire blow out. The bad news? Well I found that out when I tried to change my tire. The spare was great, which I had check when I bought Fred from Eric. What I didn’t check was if Fred had a jack. She didn’t. I pulled out the spare and waited for AAA to bring me a jack. That took about 45 minutes to complete something I could have finished in 5 minutes by myself. Anyhow that was the end of my journey. I still think the Oshkosh Half Marathon is a great race. Now I need to register for another race.