The Contemporary Worship Papers, Part 3

Over this past year, I have had the privilege of teaching a short course called Earnestly Contending at Fairhaven Baptist College.  During a recent two-day course, we took some time to teach on the issue of contemporary worship.  The students were assigned to write a short paper explaining what is wrong with contemporary worship, and why we must contend for the issue.  As an incentive, I promised to post online any articles that I thought were well-written and compelling. 

Our first post included three “honorable mentions.”  In our second post, we began at number ten and worked our way to number seven.  Today, we continue working our way through the top ten, beginning at number six. 

#6 – Kayla Sgrignoli

The belief that the worship “mood” can be controlled by a dimmer switch, rather than prayer and heart preparation, says a lot about the fleshly experience expected.

Satan is constantly attacking the idea of sacred worship in today’s age and has promoted the idea of contemporary worship to modern-day believers. God intended for worship to be our purpose on this earth. But contemporary worship has taken over in four areas – music, dress, platform arrangement, and stage lighting – and turned our focus from worshipping God to promoting self. And when we promote self, we open the door to losing the presence of God in our midst.

Contemporary Christian music appeals to the flesh rather than appealing to God’s glory.  It promotes a fleshly response and drains the proper focus of the service. Music style is important – it conveys the message of the song – is it really about Christ or pleasing the flesh?

Contemporary worship styles have developed a studied shabbiness in the way they dress also. Dress style can both cause and communicate an attitude. The downward trend is to “come as you are,” which is causing more of a careless attitude towards worshipping God. Once again, it appeals to fleshly desire and comfort rather than worshipping Almighty God.

The platform arrangement also conveys a strong message in today’s contemporary circles. Contemporary services eliminate the pulpit, which serves to hide the speaker and emphasize the message in more conservative settings. The trend of promoting the flesh rather than bringing the focus where it ought to be can be seen once again.

Finally, the stage settings and effects can be a distraction, and yet serve as what is deemed a “vital” part of today’s contemporary worship services. Such worship settings have turned into theater-styled experiences rather than meeting with God. The belief that the worship “mood” can be controlled by a dimmer switch, rather than prayer and heart preparation, says a lot about the fleshly experience expected.

In conclusion, modern “worship” services have somehow lost focus of God and have turned to promoting and appealing to the flesh. Instead of bringing the flesh into subjection and humility, worship has slowly become more about fleshly comfort and enjoyment. It’s time to bring the focus back into perspective!

#5 – Brooke Wilson

Contemporary Worship generally has the idea of “come as you are”. This kind of idea puts no demands on the sinner to get right and make changes in his life.

Contemporary worship is something that seems to be sweeping through the country and finding its way into every denomination. This kind of worship is not Biblical and causes some problems. Contemporary Worship generally has the idea of “come as you are.” This kind of idea puts no demands on the sinner to get right and make changes in his life. “Come as you are” basically means to “leave as you are.” Everything is very casual in this kind of worship setting. A lot of money is spent to dress down.

Photo by Jiarong Deng on

Pastors pretend that style doesn’t matter, but to them, it matters almost more than anything. The congregation in a contemporary worship service wouldn’t hesitate to judge someone who came in dressed up. This casual setting shapes the view the people have of God. Style causes and communicates an attitude. We shouldn’t have an attitude that God is casual. It makes him seem less important. Contemporary worship is all around today and it’s an easy trap to fall into if your standards aren’t set. Be sure to set your standards and don’t let them slip.

#4 – Sabrina Damron

Since the moment God created Adam and Eve, a spiritual war has been raging for the souls of men. Man has no choice but to be a part of this war. The problem arises when Christians refuse to stand at the very point that is presently being attacked in their culture. In society today, that point of attack is contemporary worship.

Since the moment God created Adam and Eve, a spiritual war has been raging for the souls of men. Man has no choice but to be a part of this war. The problem arises when Christians refuse to stand at the very point that is presently being attacked in their culture. In society today, that point of attack is contemporary worship. A wall of defense is immediately shot up when addressing this issue. But does God really care about the way in which the Christian worships? Of course He does. The Christian’s purpose in life is to give God glory and please Him in every area of his life. Whatever he does is to be done to the glory of God, and this includes the way one worships God as well. The Christian is to offer his life continually to God; his body is to be a living sacrifice. The Christian’s worship style speaks volumes about the way he views the occasion and the way he views God. The style of the service shows whether he is giving his life as a living sacrifice to God. The typical contemporary church has four distinctives which express the people’s view of God. The music itself is contemporary, the dress is casual, the platform no longer includes a pulpit, and the church utilizes, to some degree, stage lighting for effect. Each of these aspects shows the view of God that the church wants to portray. It portrays a God of cheap mercy, one that lets the sinner come as he is and stay that way if he wants. Contemporary worship does not preach a God of justice, but rather an “all accepting” God. Christians cannot fight the scourge of secularism in its churches by conforming to secular ideas. It is here, in the area of Contemporary worship, that the battle is raging today. If the Christian does not fight at this very point of attack in culture today then he is not fighting against the devil as he should.

The Contemporary Worship Papers, Part 1

This year, I have had the privilege of offering a short lecture series called Earnestly Contending at Fairhaven Baptist College, my alma mater.  During a recent two-day course, we took some time to teach on the issue of contemporary worship.  The students were assigned to write a short paper explaining what is wrong with contemporary worship, and why we must contend for the issue.  As an incentive, I promised to post online any articles that I thought were well-written and compelling. 

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting the papers that I found worthwhile.  I intend to give a day each to what I thought was the top 3 papers.  Prior to that, I will divide the rest of the top ten between two days.

In this installment, I offer you three papers that I believe were worthy of “honorable mention.”  I begin each article with a favorite quote from the paper.

Jennifer Damron

First, we serve a holy God. When we come before our Lord to give Him praise, we should be doing it in humility and respect.

The use of Contemporary Christian music is becoming more and more prevalent in Fundamental Independent Baptist churches. It is seen as simply a modern way of worshiping the Lord instead of sin that is causing many Christians to backslide and churches to be filled with shallow Christianity.

One may ask, what is wrong with Contemporary Christian music? Those who are promoting this type of praise and worship style talk with an air of sincerity that they are truly trying to honor the Lord and worship Him. There are a couple issues though with how they are trying to do this. First, we serve a holy God. When we come before our Lord to give Him praise, we should be doing it in humility and respect. When observing modern contemporary worship bands, from their appearance one does not usually get the sense that they are humble or respecting the Holy Creator in the way they worship. Secondly, the performance is to draw attention to themselves, hence the lights. Their appearance also says they do not respect the King of Kings. Even with our culture changing rapidly, in the 21st century if one were to go before a high ranking official, they would want to look their utmost best. The atmosphere of contemporary music services is “come as you are.” The church service should look and feel like a ceremony honoring a king. We need to be humbled and feel honored that the God of all would allow us to worship Him.

Some may ask if this is something worth standing up for, and the answer is yes! In the 1700s there were many churches that were having problems of weak churches and unsaved members and even pastors being unsaved because of standards lowered. The same will continue if Christians give in to compromising to standards such as our music and how we worship our Lord and Savior.

John Mallinak

Biblical Christianity has always been distinct in nature from the rest of the world.

Contemporary worship is sweeping America. It is not isolated to just one group.  No, it is into every type of Christian church, including the Fundamentalists. The pulpit is replaced by the trap set, suits and ties replaced with jeans and a button-down shirt. All forms of propriety and structure are done away with. All because the church wants to fit in.

Biblical Christianity has always been distinct in nature from the rest of the world. This is necessarily true because of the nature of Biblical Christianity. Down through the ages, any time a nation or a group of people have separated themselves wholly unto God they have been different from the people around them. The Israelites realized this, and this is seen when they asked for a king. Before they had a king in Israel the people were ruled completely through the edicts of God. He gave them the law and they worshipped him. When they asked for a king, they said that they wanted to be like the world around them. This is what the churches of today are doing. This is wrong because it is becoming like the world which is exactly what we are not supposed to do. We are to stand strong and be separate from the world so that we can be the light of the world.

There is, I believe a sub-reason for this as well. This would be that they want to wear what they feel comfortable in, they want to listen to what they like to listen to, and they do not wish to be challenged on any beliefs. They justify this by saying that they are reaching the lost by going to where the lost are. This is wrong because we are to lead the lost from where they are to salvation. Once someone is saved there should be a true change of heart. This change of heart should result in a change in all parts of their lives including how they act.

Contemporary worship has been shown to be just a way that churches are giving in to the world around them.  There is one thing that should never change and that is the reverence that we give to God. We do this by worshipping the right way and not the way of the world.

Jesse Thomas

The United States military requires standards for personal appearance while in public. A member of the armed forces represents the United States of America and its professional military. Their dress indicates a look of readiness and an attitude of professionalism. Christians represent an Almighty God who reigns in heaven and earth. They should dress as sharp as possible, especially when worshipping in the house of God.

Many formerly distinctive independent Baptist churches have fallen to contemporary worship. It starts when the pastor and officers lower their tolerance for sin.  Church leaders want to be accepted in society by following in the footsteps of other popular contemporary worshipers. Pastors who give in to contemporary worship have a weak backbone and are afraid to stand up for truth. The Lord needs pastors who will tend to their flock and warn against any predators.

Contemporary worship begins with the music in the church. The congregation wants music that will make them feel good rather than bring honor and praise to God.  The style in music determines the view of God. If it is upbeat and lax, there is no indication of respect for God’s holiness. Many people want to hear a rhythm that will make them forget about the deeper realities in life. True joy will come when the Christian fully surrenders their music to the Lord.

The dress codes in contemporary churches are sloppy and disgraceful to the Lord. The United States military requires standards for personal appearance while in public. A member of the armed forces represents the United States of America and its professional military. Their dress indicates a look of readiness and an attitude of professionalism.  Christians represent an Almighty God who reigns in heaven and earth. They should dress as sharp as possible, especially when worshipping in the house of God.

Contemporary worshippers have removed the pulpit from the stage, and have replaced it with electric guitars and a trap set. The church service should be centered on the most important thing which is the preaching of the Word of God. Preaching usually occurs behind a pulpit, not a trap set. Contemporary worship leaders direct the attention of the service upon themselves, and the audience is there to cheer them on. Rather, the service is to be centered on the Word of God, and communion is to be amongst Christ and the congregation.

Contemporary Christians have the mindset of “come as you are.” They believe that mercy is a free pass to do what they desire. God is not pleased with the contemporary worship movement spreading through independent Baptist churches. One day, at the judgment seat of Christ, those who turned to contemporary worship will realize how holy and righteous God really is, and how disappointing their worship must have been.

What I’ve Been Up To

As I’ve been away from blogging for a bit, I flatter myself that you the reader might be interested to know what I’ve been up to. If there are any of you left.

It has been a long hiatus, so, as Desi Arnez might say it, “I’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do.”

At the end of October last year (yes, it has been that long!), my daughter and I traveled to Brunswick, Maine to preach for my good friend Pastor Bobby Mitchell.  Mid-Coast Baptist Church is a refreshing place to be.  The people of the church clearly love the Lord and delight in His Word.  I can’t say enough good about this church.  The men are men, and they take the lead in the church.  They are capably pastored and shepherded by Pastor Mitchell.  They love each other and have a heart for the lost.  I met a large number of people who came to Christ under the ministry of the church.  They have a passion to honor God in worship and praise, and a true submission to the Word.  We were honored and delighted to spend a week with this church.

Pastor Mitchell is outspoken for Christ and very bold.  Because of this, I can remember other pastors making judgments about what his church must be like.  Let me assure you, this is a true church of God.  The joy of the Lord fills this place.

My daughter is now in her senior year of high school, so it was a special time for the two of us to spend together.  In addition to the wonderful fellowship we enjoyed with the Mitchell family, we were able to see much of the coast of Maine, from Portland to Camden along Highway 1. My daughter loves to take a long drive, and because it rained most of the time we were there, we spent hours driving up and down the coast, exploring a few of the many peninsulas.

We were also able to visit my good friend Daniel McGovern in Lee during our visit. Daniel spent a summer in Ogden, interning in our church during his college years. His sister Heather taught in our Christian school for two years before marrying this past summer. Heather now lives in Maine as well, and she and her husband stopped by to visit. Overall, it was a great time to catch up with these three fine young people.

My daughter and I returned to Utah on a Monday afternoon at the end of our visit to Maine, and the next morning my wife and I boarded a plane bound for Dublin, Ireland.  We were able to spend two weeks visiting four missionaries supported by our church – one in Ireland, one in Scotland, and two in England. We had a wonderful visit to these places and found that our missionaries are doing tremendous work proclaiming the good news to the lost in these places.

Our flight out of Salt Lake was delayed by more than two hours, which meant that we would miss our connecting flights in Newark and Dulles. Because of this, we were re-routed through San Francisco, where we boarded Aer Lingus for a direct flight to Dublin. We arrived at 11:00 on Wednesday morning and were met at the airport by Andrew Canavan. Andrew’s parents, Dan and Beth Canavan, have served in Dublin for more than twenty years. By God’s gracious provision, their church was enabled to purchase a church building – as far as we are aware, the first Independent Baptist Church to own their own building in Dublin. Andrew has returned to Ireland to follow in his parent’s footsteps as a missionary.  He was an excellent tour guide for us.  We were able to visit Glendalough, home of one of the few intact “high towers” in the world. It was a true Irish experience. Andrew treated us to our very first Irish meal before we headed to his home to prepare for the Wednesday night service. We had the privilege of meeting Pastor and Mrs. Crichton, who spent a few months in Ireland filling in for the Canavans while they were in the States. Pastor Crichton led the Greater Rhode Island Baptist Church for many years prior to retirement. Praise the Lord, they are still serving!


We were blessed by the people of Hope Baptist Church in Dublin. Several of them rode a bicycle more than an hour in the drizzling rain in order to be in attendance at the midweek service. The people were hungry for the Word – more hungry than I think I have ever seen before.

The next day, we flew to Edinburgh, Scotland after spending the morning touring Dublin with Andrew and the Crichtons. We landed just after dark and stayed by the airport overnight.

Friday morning, we were to hop on a train to Elgin, Scotland.  However, as we rode the bus through Edinburgh, we were overwhelmed at the beauty of this historic city.  My wife has always loved Scotland, and though she didn’t ask, I could tell that she desperately wanted to see Edinburgh Castle.  As a girl, her favorite book was Scottish Chiefs.  So, when we arrived at the train station, we found a place to stow our luggage, figured out the rail system (there are more than 17 different tracks at Edinburgh Station), and then took a walk up the hill to the castle. On the way, we paused to look at a beautiful monument, little knowing that it was the monument to Sir Walter Scott. We were surprised to find a monument right next to that to David Livingstone. And as we walked up the hill to the Castle, we paused to look at a beautiful building, only to discover that it was the University of Edinburgh. Because the door to the courtyard was open, we walked in, and to my surprise found ourselves face-to-face with none other than the monument of John Knox. Edinburgh was full of surprises.


We boarded our train for Elgin at noon and enjoyed the Scottish countryside the entire way.  Missionary Don Clough met us at the station – actually, at Aldi’s next to the station (yes, we were surprised to find Aldi’s). We used Air BnB to rent a small apartment in Lossiemouth where the Clough family has been serving for the past five years.  Lossiemouth is located on a small point on the North Sea, and our missionaries live right across the street from the Sea.  It was a beautiful place.  Besides the fact that we were surrounded by that wonderful Scottish brogue, my wife absolutely loves the ocean.  It has always been therapeutic to her, and this time was no exception.

The Clough family were very gracious hosts, and we had a wonderful time with them and especially with their children.  On Saturday morning Brother Clough and I took a walk around the entire village of Lossiemouth.  That afternoon, we took a drive to Loch Ness to see the monster.  I learned that the monster’s real name is Harry…


Kidding.  The main attraction at Loch Ness is Urquhart Castle, which today is a ruin.  Still, enough remains intact to give a true picture of what was a strategic point centuries ago.

Sunday was Remembrance Day, the UK’s version of our Veteran’s Day.  As this was the 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1, the entire UK held large and festive celebrations.  In Lossiemouth, I would estimate that somewhere between 2,000 – 3,000 people turned out for the small parade and memorial service.  Because the Cloughs are not able to rent a facility for Sunday mornings, they hold their Sunday services in the afternoon.  So we were able to be part of the morning festivities.  We wound up at a Church of Scotland – we believed for a short ceremony, but it turned out to be an entire service.  I was glad because it gave me a unique perspective of Scottish life and culture.  The church was packed with somewhere around 400 people.  The pipe organ in that stately old church played the old hymns of the faith and we felt as if we had stepped back in time.  Sadly though, no mention was made of the gospel or the saving grace of Jesus Christ, despite the fact that the pastor preached from the Sermon on the Mount.  What a missed opportunity.


On Monday, I had the opportunity to join Brother Clough in letterboxing the Village of Keith before my wife and I boarded the train for Carlisle, England.  We arrived in Carlisle just after dark, where we were met by missionary Keith Cashner and his oldest son.  The Cashners have been serving in Scotland and England for about a decade now. Carlisle is a border town, and through history changed hands often between the Scots and the English. Bloody Mary was held in the Carlisle Castle for three days prior to her execution.

On Tuesday morning, the Cashners took us for a quick tour of Carlisle. Then Tuesday afternoon, we joined them for Bible studies, first in their home with two families, and then in a very proper English country home for a separate Bible study with another family. Brother Cashner is a very diligent pastor and takes the time to prepare at least four different Bible studies each week, personalized for the members of his church in order to disciple them. Each Bible study was carefully prepared and rich with instruction. We were thrilled to participate in this part of his ministry. The Cashners have three sons who have grown into fine young men and are an asset to their ministry. We really enjoyed our time with this wonderful family.


On Wednesday afternoon, we boarded a train for London after spending the morning walking around Carlisle with the Cashners. We arrived in London at 4:30 and were met by our missionaries, Kent and Andrea Gossmeyer. The Gossmeyers serve in the southern part of England – no, they don’t have a southern accent. Unless Oklahoma counts. They serve in the Cornish country in a small village called Liskeard. But they made the four-hour drive to London so that they could take us around to see some sights.

When we arrived in London, we again found a place to stow our luggage before heading to the British Library, where we saw an original copy of the 1611 King James Version, along with a number of ancient documents.  After dinner, we took the Tube to Elephant and Castle where we attended Wednesday night church at the historic Metropolitan Tabernacle. Pastor Peter Masters, now in his 80’s, has been a faithful pastor. The church is thriving, and without the use of any of the modern or contemporary methods that American churches think are necessary to draw a crowd. The service is very simple, and little changed from the days when Charles Spurgeon pastored the church in the 1800’s.  On a Wednesday evening in early November, the basement was crowded with more than 300 people. The head usher tells me that on Sundays, every seat in the auditorium is full and overflow seating fills up before the service.  More than 900 people attend services on Sundays in that church.

The service begins with a lengthy and very passionate prayer, very dignified and yet very rich. The pastor announces the hymn and the piano plays a simple introduction.  The congregation stands as one body, without any direction from the pastor, and the church sings heartily to the Lord. The announcements are straightforward with no joking or cutting up.  One of the men of the church prays another lengthy and meaningful prayer.  Two more hymns are sung – old hymns, often centuries old and doctrinally rich. Then the pastor preaches an expository message. The service concludes with a final hymn.  Then, for nearly an hour after the service concludes, the people talk and fellowship together.  The church serves tea and cookies.


We were delighted by the service. That night and the next, we stayed by Heathrow Airport. On Thursday, we walked more than 25,000 steps (yes, we kept track) as we visited everything from Windsor Castle to Buckingham Palace to Big Ben to the Tower of London, and plenty of places I am not going to name right now.

Friday morning, we made the drive to Cornwall.  On the way, we drove by Stonehenge, visited Salisbury Cathedral, and visited Bath. My wife had her picture taken with Jane Austen and we chatted a little about Mr. Darcy.  You know how that goes. Mainly, we couldn’t pry Kent away from the footman.

The Gossmeyers provided us with an excellent tour of London.  They really extended themselves, ensuring that we got the most out of our visit.  I especially felt bad for Mrs. Gossmeyer, as she had to haul her husband around town all day, him being quite aged these days.  But he is good at barking orders from his wheelchair.  He makes a great nagivator.  Hopefully, he has recovered his strength.


We were able to visit Plymouth while in Cornwall. It was great to see the dock where the Mayflower launched, and see the Plymouth Hoe, where Sir Francis Drake calmly finished his game of bowls before launching his ships to defeat the Spanish Armada.

On Sunday, we had the joy of greeting the brethren in Liskeard Baptist Church. God has really blessed the Gossmeyer’s ministry, and today they have a thriving church in that little village. Praise the Lord.

Sunday afternoon my wife and I flew across the Irish Sea to Dublin where we spent the night before our return flight on Monday morning. We were back home for about a week and a half before I traveled to Chesterton to visit my son and attend the wedding of one of our young men. The week after I returned home, my wife traveled to Pennsylvania to spend a week with her mother before Christmas. Our son returned the day after she did, and we enjoyed a wonderful Christmas season as a family.

Sadly, our Christmas was disrupted by the tragic death of my youngest sister, ten years my junior. The doctors believe that her death was the result of a brain aneurysm. My wife and I and our two youngest traveled to Kansas City for the memorial service to celebrate her life. She was a vibrant Christian and made a huge impact on many people, and she will be sorely missed.

Our return trip was slowed by a severe snowstorm through Wyoming.  Wyoming is a beautiful place to travel, but it became very treacherous on this trip.  We praise the Lord that we are home to stay for the time being.  We have never been gone so much.

With such a flurry of travel, we have taken some time to catch up on our work, and as this blog is not my highest priority, I have let it lapse.  It is my intention to get back to blogging now, so be watching – both of you!



Abuse Among Independent Baptists

Two Sunday nights ago, one of our men made me aware of a series of articles that appeared in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram the week prior.  This series of articles highlighted cases of sexual misconduct in Independent Baptist Churches, claiming to have uncovered hundreds of cases in nearly 200 different churches.  Our church member was concerned about this article because the Star-Telegram created a map to serve as a database of sexual misconduct among Independent Baptist churches, and our church was included on that map.

When I saw our church, and the specific case they mentioned, I was not concerned.  A few years ago, a young man in our church was arrested for possession of child pornography.  As a matter of policy, our church has always cooperated with law enforcement in such cases, and this case was no different.  There was no concealment on our part, no attempt to hide what he did.  When the news media showed up at my door, I answered their questions.  We were very clear in our judgment against this sin: it has no place among God’s people.  We sought to protect our church and to ensure the safety of every child.

So, when I saw our church listed on a database of churches guilty of sexual misconduct, I assumed that this would be easy enough to clear up.  I immediately sent an email to the Star-Telegram reported in order to clear up the matter.  I gave her four reasons why we should not be included in her database: first, because there are no allegations of sexual misconduct against our church, certainly not in the matter of this young man.

The fact that a young man in our congregation was arrested for child pornography does not warrant this charge.  No allegation was ever made, found, or substantiated that he had committed a crime against any child in our ministry, or that he committed his crime on our property or in conjunction with any of our ministries.

Second, because when we learned of this young man’s problem with child pornography, we immediately insisted that he go to the police to turn himself in.

I personally cooperated with the police in the matter and sought justice for the children in those videos.  None of the children in those videos were known to us, as the police stated very clearly.  Never was there a charge that the child pornography he viewed was generated in our church or involved any children known to Jeremiah.  He did not produce the videos, merely viewed them.  We did not conceal his crime in any way.  These things are a matter of public record, and this has been our practice whenever there has been an allegation against any member of our congregation.  Simply put, we do not tolerate sexual abuse, nor do we protect abusers.

Third, because we had greatly limited any access this young man might have had at least a year prior to his arrest because we had concerns about his involvement with pornography that really amounted to an addiction.

In short, while the incident with this young man was a bad deal and involved our church in a painfully public situation, we believe that we handled the matter both ethically and Scripturally.  There is no “sexual misconduct” involving our church ministries.

The editor of the Star-Telegram, Mr. Steve Coffman, replied that while they appreciated that I brought “this additional information and context to our attention” they would not be removing us from the database because

There are a number of other cases included in the map in which someone’s crimes did not occur at church or involve a church member but had an impact on the congregation, as I’m sure (this young man’s) case did with your congregation.

In other words, since his actions impacted our congregation, our church therefore is part of a broader problem of sexual misconduct.  Frankly, this is bogus.  The Star-Telegram claims to have “uncovered” over 400 cases of sexual misconduct on the part of Independent Baptist Churches, but includes cases where neither the church nor the leadership of the church was the perpetrator of the alleged sexual misconduct or implicit in it. That is seriously misleading.  According to the article “How the Star-Telegram Investigated Sex Abuse in Fundamental Baptist Churches,”

The Star-Telegram counted 187 independent fundamental Baptist churches and affiliated institutions that had been affected by sexual abuse allegations.  The Star-Telegram included in its count churches where alleged abusers had served before or after alleged abuse occurred because the allegations could affect the congregants.

I find this duplicitous at best, and pushing the edges of integrity.  Apparently, they intend for the term “affected” to be understood in the broadest possible sense.  In our case, the “impact” on the congregation was, above all else, heartbreaking for our people.  We were not heartbroken for ourselves by the way, and we have nothing to be ashamed of in the way we dealt with this young man.  Our heartbreak was for this young man who became so ensnared by Satan.  And while protecting our church and especially our children from any risk from him, our biggest concern was to see him recovered from Satan’s snares.  But when the Star-Telegram exploits his case in order to inflate their numbers, their own motivation in this series is brought into question.  The struggles of print media, and specifically of the Star-Telegram being well-documented (link to articles about their restructurings), one is left to wonder if this is not a desperate attempt to draw attention, not to the issue itself, but to themselves for the sake of self-preservation.  Certainly in Texas, one would imagine that any scandal involving Baptists is bound to gain some attention.  But exploiting, for financial purposes, in some cases decades old cases of sexual misconduct hardly seems to be about truth and justice.

Because Christianity Today has taken up the cause and spread this misinformation, I feel I need to say a few words.

First, one of the major accusations against Independent Baptists coming from the broader evangelical world has been that we are “hyper-separatists.”  Having grown up in Independent Baptist circles, I have seen the way churches tend to cluster in particular circles, usually based on a particular college or Big Name.  But one thing that often gets overlooked in discussions of separation and hyper-separation is the role that sexual indiscretions have played in the issue.  Frankly, a significant portion of the Independent Baptist world has turned a blind eye to the moral failures of their leadership.  And while the public reason for many of the divisions among Independent Baptists have been “theological” issues (often loosely defined), the truth is that under the surface, much of the division has had to do with the way certain camps deal with sexual indiscretions.

Independent Baptists have a sad history of turning a blind eye to moral failure.

This controversy, I think as much as any, has caused much of the undercurrent

It is good and right that this should be exposed

This is not a new thing.  For the past 2 decades, the issue has been discussed over and over.  Websites, forums, and etc. have been dedicated to exposing it and repudiating it.

I have played at times a very active role.  I personally exposed the pastor I grew up under for this very thing.  It is shameful and disgraceful that this has happened, and worse that it has been covered up.  And it is true that some of the strange doctrines common among Independent Baptists have enabled it.

The Star-Telegram has done a disservice to the issue by including a number of churches who are simply not guilty of sexual misconduct.  They sought to pad their numbers, and in doing so undermine their case.

They have dredged up decades old cases that have been well-documented, exposed, and frankly, most Independent Baptists including those in the Hyles’ circle of churches have condemned this sort of thing.

This is an example of media excess.

Every institution that deals with children has come under scrutiny, and has been found to have these kinds of things.  With one glaring exception.

The cause – human fallenness.  Simply put, we cannot trust ourselves.  We must enforce safeguards.  we cannot tolerate abuse in our churches.  Period.

A Worship Style Primer, Part 3

This is the third and final installment in a brief series outlining a few basic guidelines for worship style. In this series, I am countering the idea that worship style is mere preference, as promoted by Josh Teis and Robert Bakss.  If you have not yet read the first two articles on this subject, you really ought to before reading this article.  The two previous articles are available here and here.  In this article, I will lay out some practical considerations.  Please note, this article does not give a detailed list of Scriptural standards for worship.  The goal here is to give general principles.  In the future, I hope to address more specific answers to the contemporary style of worship now embraced by a growing number of Independent Baptists who hope to move others away from reverence in worship.

A “cowboy church” has a bull-riding arena in the middle of the “sanctuary.”  Another church hosts a “fight club” to reach people for Jesus.

Based on what Josh Teis argues, I wonder Continue reading “A Worship Style Primer, Part 3”

Brethren, Arm Thyself

Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. (Luke 22:36)

No doubt we all sat up and took notice on Sunday afternoon or whenever it was that we heard about the shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas.  Over the past decade, we have seen a dramatic increase in this sort of thing – I saw a statistic that says violent assaults at churches have increased 2,000% since 2007 – and no, that isn’t a typo.  I hope that by now we have all adjusted to the idea that church is not necessarily a “safe space” any more.

My thinking on these things has changed dramatically over these past few years.  For many years, I made it clear that we are in God’s hands and not in the hands of any invader, that He is protecting us, and that if anything were to happen, we as men would throw ourselves in the path of the bullets.  Sounds spiritual, but not really Scriptural or wise.

Jesus taught us to beware of men.

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

When He first sent out the 70, He sent them without purse, scrip, and shoes.  But when they returned he told them to sell their garment and buy a sword.  This was not metaphorical.  They would have to face the reality that they were as vulnerable to assault from thieves and robbers as anyone else.  We live in a fallen world, and Christians have a duty to protect themselves and their families as much as anyone else.

Over 20 years of ministry now, I have my share of experiences.  I once sought to disciple an alcoholic who eventually became very angry with me.  He would stand across the street from our church screaming at me when I came out the door at the end of the Sunday morning service.  He would leave beer cans arranged on the church doorsteps and around our property.  He would walk across town to stand glaring in front of my house.  He left a ten-page letter on the door of the church detailing what he wanted to do to my wife.  He finally set up a tombstone for me behind the church.

Another man attended our church off-and-on for a short period of time.  One Sunday after a long absence, he visited again, angry about something.  He kept moving seats from one side of the aisle to the other, closer and closer to the front, until he wound up directly in front of me.  He then proceeded to stare me down.

A couple of years ago, a set of Academy parents became extremely unstable.  We tried to help them for a time, until the dad wigged out at the front desk, becoming very aggressive towards our Academy secretary.  It was her husband who came to me and insisted that we needed to put a security plan in place.  I agreed.

I hope no pastor who reads this article will ever need to defend themselves against an invader.  But it would be foolish for us to ignore the rising threat against our ministries.  We must take seriously our duty to protect the sheep against wolves.

With that in mind, I would like to recommend a few immediate steps that ought to be taken with the goal of developing a security plan for your church.  Some of these we have done, some we are in the process of doing.  By the way, our church is small – around 30 families.  A church need not be large in order to do what is listed here.

First, lock your doors during services

Leave the doors unlocked prior to the start of the service, but once the service begins, lock the door or else station an usher at that door.  When the usher leaves the door, that door should be locked.

Secondly, designate men to carry a firearm

When I sat down with officers from our local police department, they said this was the most important defense against intruders.  Those who carry should be competent with the use and handling of a firearm.  Some training is ideal.  Our church probably has a disproportionate number of gun enthusiasts, so we have had to set some good sense rules for those who carry on our campus.  Rule number one: if you carry a firearm, it must be in your immediate control at all times.  If a lady carries a handgun in her purse (several of our ladies do), her purse must be in her immediate control at all times.  Nobody wants to hear of a baby in the nursery finding the handgun.

Thirdly, equip your ushers with Mace

This is a simple step, and makes good sense.  Mace gives an usher the best chance of neutralizing a threat.

Fourthly, control the keys to your building

You shouldn’t give keys to everyone, and you should know who has keys to your buildings.  When someone moves or leaves the church, have them return their keys.  It might be necessary to change the locks on the church periodically (which is fairly inexpensive) in order to re-establish key control.

Fifthly, assign a man to roam the property during the service

Obviously, this should not be the same man every service, as the roamer will not be a part of the service.  I was surprised to learn that the majority of violent incidents at the church start outside and move inside.  From what I have read, this was the case at the church in Sutherland Springs as well.  Another surprise to me, and one that we should know, is that a large number of church attacks are not directly related to the ministry of the church itself.  A surprising number of assaults are the result of a domestic dispute or custody battle.  Having a person patrolling the facility and grounds gives a great way to be alert and vigilant.

Sixthly, train your teachers and workers how to do a lockdown

For our academy, we installed door locks, flip latches, and barracuda door lock systems.  You can get one of these for outward swinging doors and another for inward swinging doors.  Your Sunday School teachers should be trained – not just told – what to do in the event of an emergency, especially if an intruder presents a threat.

Finally, the men of the church must be vigilant

It is a good idea to ask the men to station themselves on the aisles and to spread themselves throughout the church.  This should be done every service.

Of course, these are immediate steps.  Much more can be said on this, and it would be wise to look into some sort of security training for your ushers and the men of your church.  Let me recommend Strategos International for more in-depth and expert advice and training for your church’s security concerns.  These folks do a great job helping a church develop a security plan.

Of course, in urging these steps, we are not ignoring our need for the protection of God.  We must trust the Lord and preach the gospel.  But we must acknowledge that we live in perilous times.

The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.


As with all technologies, blogging adds something to our lives and takes something away.  For myself, blogging offers the opportunity to make a small ding in the world through what I hope will be thoughtful articles on a variety of topics.  Blogging enables me to discipline myself through writing.  In order to blog effectively, I understand the need to add new posts.  As with most disciplines, time will be required.  Yet I must avoid the tendency to allow my blog to rule my life.  Writing is a great discipline.  As Francis Bacon said,

Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.

Blogging also provides an avenue for me to lend my voice to the issues at hand.  For those reasons, I hope to work hard at adding to this blog a few days every week .

Whether I will follow through with my commitment remains to be seen.  To the reader, I will only offer this apology: my priorities in life lie outside of the blogworld.  While I have some ambitions towards writing, my writing ambitions hover just above the bottom of my bucket list.

Having blogged before, I have also learned what blogging takes away from us.  Blogging takes time, so blogging tends to take away time.  Blogging can be a great discipline, but it can also become a great time-waster.  I hope I will not waste time with this blog – either you the reader’s or my own.  In the past when I blogged, I found that the comment sections in particular became a great time-waster.  Woe to the blogger whose comments are more interesting than his blog.

Blogging can waste time in a variety of ways.  Since I understand the nature of the blogging business, I know that interacting with commenters and other bloggers can almost be a necessity in order to grow a base of readers.  So it might surprise you to know that I do not intend to do either of these things.  If I write well, you might come back to read regardless of whether I applaud you for doing it or not.  If I don’t write well, then massaging your ego won’t improve my poor writing.

In the past, I have written articles that strained relationships and tested friendships.  I hope to avoid that nasty habit on this go-around.  Blogging has evolved since the year bloggers were named “persons of the year” at the height of the blogging craze.  We have since settled on easier mediums for social networking, and long blog articles are no longer the craze.  In those early days, blogs provided an avenue for people to get their angst out against society.  No doubt this sort of thing still happens.  I do not wish to add to the mounds of published angst in the world.

I do understand that vitriol gains readership, and we are rarely interested in the hockey game until the fight breaks out.  Nonetheless, I intend to stick to my purpose for this blog: hammering out some important ideas.  May you the reader be blessed and helped by what you find here.

Basking in God’s Good Favor

God brought my wife and I to Utah almost twenty years ago.  When we packed up the truck and moved here from Pennsylvania, it was just me and her and a cat.  We left behind us our family, our friends, our native land, our church, everything we knew and loved, and moved to a far off land where we knew nobody.  We brought with us a truck full of possessions and hope for a life of ministry together.

By God’s grace, we have grown together, grown in ministry, grown our family, and grown a few other things – which we are not talking about now.  Since we moved to Utah, God has blessed us one hundred-fold.  He has added five children to our family – and what a joy it is to watch them all grow.  He has provided us the ability to buy a house with a yard.  He has supplied our needs throughout.  He has sustained us through my wife’s lengthy battle with Lyme disease.  He has increased our ministry responsibilities and given us a wide field to serve in.  He has favored us with His goodness.  We want Him to be praised.

We hope that in some small way, this blog will serve as a testimony of the goodness and grace of God and will offer help and encouragement to those who name the name of Christ.