The 8th Reason it’s Hard to Find a Youth Minister

Introduction

It is an interesting place to be when I read something and find myself saying, “Yes, but also no.” This was my experience reading a well meaning and solidly written banner article on The Gospel Coalition*.

I agree with Gulledge on his reasoning. Probably a lot of young seminarians reject leading a youth ministry for these reasons. Pride does seem to be an underlying factor in a lot of them. Especially his refrain about preferring comfortable city churches over smaller rural ones. Most likely the kind of men who would spurn youth ministry in a rural area, would also reject planting a church in the same spot. It is an enormous misunderstanding of what a call to word and sacrament may require. An interesting twist on having actually counted the cost of obedience to Christ, and thinking that you can make a deal with him but instead cutting one with the Devil. A pastor out for fame, money, and comfort may leverage his gifts to gain the world but…

That aside, and you should have seen this coming, I do have an additional point that should be added to the list.

The 8th Reason it’s Hard to Find a Youth Minister

Youth Group doesn’t work. And a lot of young men coming up through seminary know that and have seen it first hand. Gulledge alludes to this in his first point. Parents see youth ministers as babysitters, because at the end of the day they are glorified babysitters. Youth ministry implicitly promises to keep your teens on the straight and narrow, by somehow being cool, relevant, fun, and “lightly” doctrinal; while you go off to do real church, or fellowship without that dark cloud glued to their iPhone lingering around your peripheral vision, huffing away exasperatedly. Mush of the dross comes from the seeker sensitive movement with the whole, if you build the programing mom will come, and drag the whole family with her, idea of church building. And naturally that lead to an enormous emphasis on the cool factor, with the obligatory sermonette (probably about kissing dating goodbye) slapped on to keep it all church like. 

Light on teaching, high on culture/relevance (Relevance… as Screwtape might say, “Beelzebub what a useful word.”) is not any way to bring up a child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I would kill to see a youth group at a mega church ditch the name, the band, the general trappings, in favor of teaching the Heidelberg Catechism, only. But this doesn’t happen because the god of youth groups is not the Father Almighty Maker of Heaven and Earth, but attraction. Those attractions come in all shapes and sizes, from the 90’s, strangely, traffic themed version with names like Fuel complete with a gas pump on the stage and a traffic light in the corner. To the early 2000’s coffee shop vibe of booths and acoustic guitars. To todays “Authentic” groups that resemble counseling sessions with pizza at some point. All are more interested in buts in seats, photo ops, and matching T-shirts than they really are about Jesus. Christ is practically just another sticker slapped on to the front of the kick drum on stage, present, noisy, but not the center of the attention.

The Weak Link

A (but obviously not the only) fatal flaw of the vast majority of youth groups is the fact they are a visible personification of the blind leading the blind. The typical model, as pointed to by Gulledge is to hire a young seminarian, or a man fresh out of, and put him in charge of the teens. Typically with very little oversight, unless something goes horrifically wrong. Then he is summarily thrown under the bus. 

The problem is that the most impressionable in church are thrown together with whomever the church could find who seemed, “cool” but has a complete and total lack of wisdom, experience, and, depending on the seminary, knowledge. And in a lot of cases that young man either tries to set himself up as an idol or guru. Neither of which he should be or is (This gets increasingly tragic as the man ages and still tries to look cool). The issue is that this is “church planting” with guardrails. Rather than impressing on the young man the deadly seriousness of what a call to Word and Sacrament means, he is introduced to ministry in the most superficial way, and he is encouraged over the most superficial success’s. Youth ministry is a training ground, but not for serious pastors and teachers, but for the next generation of shallow, appeasing, doctrinally flexible church CEO’ with a great TED Talk Sunday service.

Meanwhile the youth, are left following this guy who deludes them into thinking their good times inch deep understanding Scripture counts as Christianity. Think for a moment, how many have been shocked and stunned to hear, “depart from me, I never knew you.” because their faith was in platitudes from a young hip youth minister and not in Christ.

Seeing the Light

The idea of youth groups is a bad one to begin with. The “success” stories, though it is preferred they are called testimonies, are clearly more an in spite of rather than a because of. It is almost a one to one comparison for every kid that flourished there is one who was set back equally, and the bast majority just rolled through until college gave them an escape. For further proof just look at the retention number of high school graduates that move to the college ministry. The precipitous drop is more than telling. 

The good news would seem to be that the light is beginning to be seen. Voddie Baucham has been railing against youth ministries for years, and perhaps that work is finally paying off. Or, possibly the thing is beginning to kill itself. It would seem that more and more young ministers are actively avoiding working in youth ministry, some for selfish reasons and others simply because the evidence is getting overwhelming.

My suspicion is that established, and goodly sized churches will not kill off their youth groups any time soon. However, I do hope that increasingly it will be the case that church plants and replants will eschew the concept all together. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing that doesn’t work over and over again, then perhaps young church planters are learning form their dementia seeker suffering forbearers. The role of the church is to worship God through the two sacraments and the right preaching of the Word. Matt Chandler pithily pointed out that historically the church has been a small powerful movement and recently has become an enormous impotent one. Would it not be better to stop lying to teenagers about the state of their souls so we can pack them into a Wednesday night concert and call it ministry and instead have stronger families where parents are responsible for their children and are then themselves brought more into conformity to Christ? That just seems to be to be more, what’s the word? Biblical.

Some Objections Met

Q: But how are young seminarians supposed to be trained if they learn with the training wheels of youth group?

A: Apprenticeship to a pastor seems fair, or call it an internship. Put them through the ringer. Have them sit through elders meetings just to learn, not have a voice. Make them preach to the whole congregation, Sunday nights if they need training wheels. Review their work manfully. Send them out to plant a church, shoulder them with real responsibility.

Q: But what about the teens need to socialize?

A: They will figure it out. There is no shortage of ways for teens to get in touch to arrange social functions. If teens need to spend time with other teens it would be better for them to do so in houses under the supervision of Godly parents. There is very little difference between dropping the kids off at a hang out spot and a youth group. One just tends to frown more on envelope pushing modesty and sprinkles Jesus over the whole affair to make it appear respectable. Generally youth group is seen as a sanctified club. And by that I mean the kind with velvet ropes and a bar not the kind wearing fez’s and having funny handshakes. 

Q: But how will the teens hear the Bible taught on their level?

A: The Sunday sermon. From their parents. Bible Commentaries. Humanity has never before lived in a day where so much clear, solid Bible teaching is more readily available. Tozer reminds us that intellectual laziness is a sin. Laziness is a sin that teens oxymoronically work hard at. Proverbs was written to Solomon’s two young idiot sons, and a ton is devoted to laziness. Teenagers are not stupid, stop assuming they are. They should be taught, pushed, raised up into understanding. Dumbing down the gospel for teens is patronizing to them and disobedient to Christ. If they won’t learn from a parent who loves them enough to do the hard work of discipleship, what makes you think they will listen to a puffed up seminarian?

Conclusion

Given the chance to pastor a church I would work toward the complete elimination of the youth ministry. Failing that I would task an elder or older deacon in the church to run the thing as a heavy Bible Study, and greatly encourage parental participation. Churches survived for centuries without a youth room, minister, or six flags “mission” trips. Baucham is not wrong to point out that what we are dealing with is not an actual ministry but a cottage industry. It is one of those products that doesn’t work but people keep buying it, such as the type sold late at night on television to gullible seniors. 

There can be bad reasons for young ministers rejecting offers to lead youth ministries. But there is one very good one, I pray that it is the leading cause of their spurning. 

*Granted this tends to happen more often than not these days.

Goodbye to Hazel

Today I attended the funeral of a christian titan. Thousands of people were ministered to her and very few probably remember this force of the gospel in such a diminutive form. Her name was Hazel and she passed away at age 91. Her adult life was evangelism to children, most of the time in Spanish. She served as a missionary in four countries in South America arriving in Mexico City just in time for the 9.0 scale earthquake of 1985. While serving in Latin America she helped write a teacher training curriculum that is used world wide. Through this Hazel continues to have a hand in the effective evangelism of children in every country on the globe (save one, It starts with North and ends in ea). I train teachers with her material year round and it is simply the best, it is clear, through, and doctrinally rock solid. 

In her retirement Hazel volunteered to teach with me. Because she never learned to drive I would pick her up and take her to the elementary school we were teaching our Bible classes in. Even in her extreme age she was sharp as a tack. Physically slow, but an incredibly sharp mind. I loved our conversations, once we were caught briefly in the middle of a high speed car chase, it didn’t even phase her she had a point she was making and what was a distraction to me was simply an inconvenience to her. Once at our organizations Conference my wife, my friend Smythe, and I were Hazel’s ride home. The whole way she regaled us with tales of her adventures down south. We learned of a brief romance that never materialized, how to re ink typewriter ribbon, and how to tell if an enameled pan was cheaply made with lead. Along the way we stopped at a bookstore I love and after making our purchases she leaned over to my friend and whispered for him not to tell me because she knew I would frown on it but she had bought some, “christian romance novels!”

I am going to miss Hazel, she was a proper old school missionary. I looked up to her and am so grateful for her life. 

Screwtape and Aslan’s Country

Introduction

In his introduction to Screwtape Proposes a Toast Lewis, in typically humble fashion, gives a lament for being unable to compose a companion volume giving the other side of the spiritual struggle for the soul of “The Patient.”

“I had moreover, a sort of grudge against my book for not being a different books which no one could write. Ideally, Screwtape’s advice to Wormwood should have been balanced by archangelical advice to the patient’s guardian angel. Without this the picture of human life is lop-sided. But who could supply the deficiency? Even if a man – and he would have to be a far better man than I – could scale the spiritual heights required, what ‘answerable style’ could he use? For the style would really be part of the content. Mere advice would be no good; every sentence would have to smell of Heaven.” – C.S. Lewis, Introduction to Screwtape Proposes a Toast

And while he is right in that a mirror book would be impossible. I would like to contend, merely by showing that Lewis was indeed capable of taking readers into what J.I. Packer might call the suburbs of Heaven.

The selection is taken from the last letter in the book. Where the patient enters glory by way of an exploding bomb in the german air raid. Screwtape then narrates the next moments in eternity, albeit from the diabolical perspective. Yet Screwtape is not the only place where Lewis explores the moment of entering glory for believers. These moments are illustrated elsewhere in his fiction but most notably in the Narnia books where he comes closest to every sentence smelling of Heaven.

The methodology will be to give Screwtape is full say from Letter XXXI. After that each point will be shown in a Narnian books, but chiefly and most obviously, The Last Battle. The Great Divorce will also receive an honorable quotation.There will be some passages repeated simply because two of the points are intertwined within the section. I am also forgoing commentary expecting the reader to take the larger quotes and pick out the parallels. 

Death in Screwtape

“How well I know what happened at the instant when they snatched him from you! There was a sudden clearing of his eyes (was there not?) as he saw you for the first time, and recognised the part you had had in him and knew that you had it no longer. Just think (and let it be the beginning of your agony) what he felt at that moment; as if a scab had fallen from an old sore, as if he were emerging from a hideous, shell-like tetter, as if he shuffled off for good and all a defiled, wet, clinging garment. By Hell, it is misery enough to see them in their mortal days taking off dirtied and uncomfortable clothes and splashing in hot water and giving little grunts of pleasure—stretching their eased limbs. What, then, of this final stripping, this complete cleansing?

…Did you mark how naturally—as if he’d been born for it—the earth-born vermin entered the new life? How all his doubts became, in the twinkling of an eye, ridiculous? I know what the creature was saying to itself! “Yes. Of course. It always was like this. All horrors have followed the same course, getting worse and worse and forcing you into a kind of bottle-neck till, at the very moment when you thought you must be crushed, behold! you were out of the narrows and all was suddenly well. The extraction hurt more and more and then the tooth was out. The dream became a nightmare and then you woke. You die and die and then you are beyond death. How could I ever have doubted it?”

As he saw you, he also saw Them. I know how it was. You reeled back dizzy and blinded, more hurt by them than he had ever been by bombs. The degradation of it!—that this thing of earth and slime could stand upright and converse with spirits before whom you, a spirit, could only cower. Perhaps you had hoped that the awe and strangeness of it would dash his joy. But that is the cursed thing; the gods are strange to mortal eyes, and yet they are not strange. He had no faintest conception till that very hour of how they would look, and even doubted their existence. But when he saw them he knew that he had always known them and realized what part each one of them had played at many an hour in his life when he had supposed himself alone, so that now he could say to them, one by one, not “Who are you?” but “So it was you all the time”. All that they were and said at this meeting woke memories. The dim consciousness of friends about him which had haunted his solitudes from infancy was now at last explained; that central music in every pure experience which had always just evaded memory was now at last recovered. Recognition made him free of their company almost before the limbs of his corpse became quiet. Only you were left outside.

He saw not only Them; he saw Him. This animal, this thing begotten in a bed, could look on Him. What is blinding, suffocating fire to you, is now cool light to him, is clarity itself, and wears the form of a Man. You would like, if you could, to interpret the patient’s prostration in the Presence, his self-abhorrence and utter knowledge of his sins (yes, Wormwood, a clearer knowledge even than yours) on the analogy of your own choking and paralyzing sensations when you encounter the deadly air that breathes from the heart of Heaven.” – Screwtape, Letter XXXI

The Eyes Cleared

“Tirian soon found that he was getting further and further to the right, nearer to the Stable. He had a vague idea in his mind that there was some good reason for keeping away from it. But he couldn’t now remember what the reason was. And anyway, he couldn’t help it.

All at once everything came quite clear… For a moment or two Tirian did not know were he was or even who he was. Then he steadied himself, blinked, and looked around. It was not dark inside the Stable, as he had expected. He was in strong light: That was why he was blinking” –The Last Battle pp. 122

*“I glanced round the bus. Though the windows were closed, and soon muffed, the bus was full of light. It was a cruel light. I shrank from the faces and forms by which I was surrounded. They were all fixed faces, full not of possibilities but impossibilities, some gaunt, some bloated, some glaring with idiotic ferocity, some or another , distorted and faded. One had a feeling that they might fall to pieces at any moment if the light grew much stronger. Then – there was a mirror on the end wall of the bus – I caught sight of my own. And still the light grew.” – The Great Divorce pp.17

Glorification or Complete Cleansing

“No one in the boat doubted that they were seeing Aslan’s country.

At that moment, with a crunch, the boat ran aground. The water was too shallow now even for it. ‘This,’ said Reepicheep, ‘Is where I go on alone.’

They did not even try to stop him, for everything now felt as if it had been fated or had happened before. They helped him to lower his little coracle. Then he took off his sword (‘I shall need it no more’ he said) and flung it far away across the lilied sea.” The Voyage of The Dawn Treader pp.219

“Seven Kings and Queens stood before him, all with crowns on their heads and all in glittering clothes, but the Kings wore fine mail as well and has their swords drawn in their hands. Tirian bowed courteously and was about to speak when the youngest of the Queens laughed. He started hard at her face, and then gasped with amazement, for he knew her. It was Jill: but not Jill as he had last seen herewith her face all dirt and tears and and old drill dress half slipping off one shoulder. Now she looked cool and fresh, as fresh as if she had just come from bathing. And at first he thought she looked older, but then didn’t, and he could never make up his mind on that point. And then he saw that the youngest of the kings was Eustace: but he also was changed as Jill was changed

Tirian suddenly felt awkward about coming among these people wit the blood and dust and sweat of battle still on him. Next moment he realized that he was not in that state at all. He was fresh and cool and clean, and dressed in such clothes as he would have worn for a great feast at Cair Paravel.” –TLB pp.125

Knowing the Truth of the Spiritual Beings

“Seven Kings and Queens stood before him, all with crowns on their heads and all in glittering clothes, but the Kings wore fine mail as well and has their swords drawn in their hands. Tirian bowed courteously and was about to speak when the youngest of the Queens laughed. He started hard at her face, and then gasped with amazement, for he knew her. It was Jill: but not Jill as he had last seen herewith her face all dirt and tears and and old drill dress half slipping off one shoulder. Now she looked cool and fresh, as fresh as if she had just come from bathing. And at first he thought she looked older, but then didn’t, and he could never make up his mind on that point. And then he saw that the youngest of the kings was Eustace: but he also was changed as Jill was changed” – TLB pp.125

“I saw people coming to meet us. Because they were bright I saw them while they were still very distant, and at first I did not know that they were people at all. Mile after mile they drew nearer. The earth shook under their tread as their strong feet sank into the wet turf. A tiny haze and a sweet smell went up where they had crushed the grass and scattered the dew. Some were naked, some robed. But the naked ones did not seem less adorned, and the robes did not disguise in those who wore them the massive grandeur of muscle and the radiant smoothness of flesh. Some were bearded but no one in that company struck me as being of any particular age. One gets glimpses, even in our country, of that which is ageless – heavy thought in the face of an infant, and frolic childhood in that of a very old man. Here it was all like that. They came on steadily. I did not entirely like it. Two ghosts screamed and ran for the bus. The rest of us huddled closer to one another.” – TGD pp. 23-24

Seeing Him

“As he spoke the earth trembled. The sweet air grew suddenly sweeter. A brightness flashed behind them. All turned. Tirian turned last because he was afraid. There stood his heart’s desire, huge and real, the golden Lion, Aslan himself, and already the others were kneeling in a circle round his forepaws and burying their hands and faces in his mane as he stooped his great head to touch them with his tongue. Then he fixed his eyes on Tirian, and Tirian came near, trembling, and flung himself at the Lion’s feet, and the Lion kissed him and said, “Well done, last of the Kings of Narnia who stood firm at the darkest hour.” – TLB pp.137-138

True Reality

“They has seen strange things enough through that Doorway. But it was stranger than any of them to look round and find themselves in warm daylight, the blue sky above them, flowers at their feet, and laughter in Aslan’s eyes.

He turned swiftly round, crouched lower, lashed himself with his tail and shot away like a golden arrow. “Come further in! Come further up!” he shouted over his shoulder…

Then they all went forward together, always westward, for that seemed to be the direction Aslan had meant when he cried out “Further up and further in.”  – TLB pp.149

“It is as hard to explain how this sunlit land was different from the old Narnia, as it would be to tell you how the fruits of that country taste. Perhaps you will get some idea of it, if you think like this. You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out in a lovely bay of the sea or a green valley that wound away among mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite the window there may have been a looking glass. And as you turned away from the window you suddenly caught sight of the sea or that valley, all over again in the looking glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time they were somehow different, deeper more wonderful, more like places in a a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know.” – TLB pp.161

Conclusion

Lewis may not have perfectly succeeded in providing a counterpart to Screwtape’s miserific understanding of entering glory. But he came closer than he seems to have given himself credit for. There are other places where Lewis’s own letters or articles play the archangelical role to Screwtape’s. But it is in his fiction that he comes closest to every sentence smelling of Heaven. 

*The Great Divorce is a bit of an anomaly on this list because the character of “Lewis” is not dead. Elements of his heavenly idea are present but not quite a one to one parallel in the way the endings to Screwtape and Last Battle run.

The New Seashells

I seriously considered taking a calm well balanced approach to this article:

Alas, the best I can muster is an Ed Byrne shrill Irish, “Are you high?!!” I don’t know wether to be more appalled by the authors ignorance of Edwards or of his on fall into a fresh pagan legalism. Either way it all adds up to something I have previously written about and can not abide. Namely the young arrogantly writing off the giants who’s shoulders they are standing on out of an attachment to some new fad or desire to be like fellows.

We’ll start with Edwards. Frankly it is pretty apparent that David Bumgardner has never really read Edwards. Perhaps there was some exposure due to being a student in the hands of a liberal professor but that kid of thing is just the tip of the iceberg. It is impossible to give Edwards a fair reading and not stand in awe at the depth of his theology and the power of his intellect. From the page he stirs your affections for Christ and brings into focus the mysteries of providence. And like all men he was a sinner. There is not a single person in redemptive history that does not have some sin in an area that was not resolved before they entered into glory. It is kind of the point, we benefit from great servants of Christ, but by their foibles they point to Christ. He is the only perfect man. The same savior of Edwards is the same savior of you and I. God so worked through Edwards by the power of the Spirit that the church was built up, but Edwards was not glorified until his passing. He should not be written off simply because our chronological snobbery thinks that we know better than the Holy Spirit on what sins should be sanctified out. It is sheer youthful hubris to think that Edwards should be discounted on the basis of his sins that currently are de rigueur for mans condemnation.* 

Next, it should be painfully obvious that the author is blind to the fact that he has simply moved from one legalism to another. From one works salvation, to an even more fickle one. Say what you will about old School Independent Fundamental Baptists, at least with them you know where you stand, probably condemned, but you at least know. The religion of the day is ever shifting, a house built on sand if there ever was one. Sadly this is not the first time I have seen this happening. I roundly condemn legalists of all stripes because they create a pattern that is hard to break. They build a framework and worldview that is hard to tear apart. Some for a while appear to break free, but often you find that they have just been quietly renovating the old structure with new ideas. Say you introduce them to reformed theology, you just get a more Calvinistic look to the same old rules and regulations. Frequently these people end up left of Marx where the winds of opinion are constantly shifting and they get devoured by their own for not keeping up. There is no salvation in any of these camps, just the opposite “The justice of Hell is purely realistic, and concerned only with results. Bring us back food, or be food yourself.”**

All of this ties together in the real tragedy, and the offense. The offense is that youth is filled with arrogance. To paraphrase the old sinner Bill Marr the young think that nothing that happened before them counts simply because they weren’t there. It leads to a world of stupid. Lewis and Tolkien coined the phrase used above, Chronological Snobbery to describe this phenomenon. The pride involved in writing off current but older theologians and those greats who have passed simply because they are inconvenient to the prevailing cultural outlook is astounding.*** Granted watching this kind of sawing off the limb you are sitting on is darkly entertaining. But the tragedy is that these young whipper snappers have no concept of the future. As my good friend Smythe is fond of pointing out the pointlessness of pleasing the secular world gains neither that world nor the one that is being criticized. Praise from a lost and loud people is such a fleeting thing, and such a pathetic thing. It is the condescending praise given to a dog or something lesser. The person is not a leader among men but a joiner of pawns. And pawns are painlessly sacrificed. The day will come where the mob they contributed to, turns on them. Increasingly, in this internet age, while they are still around. Jesus didn’t lie when he warned that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. That you reap what you sow. They would do well to listen to the wisdom of Kevin DeYoung when he counseled that Loving your neighbor means loving your dead neighbors. If you want to be remembered well and honored by future generations for your accomplishments then you should do the same for those who came before you. 

Frankly Piper was just a click-bait-able figure for Bumgardner to tag his article with. The piece is not about Piper but the author and his need to show declare his new allegiance to an new church. He what Steve Martin once called David Spade, “A sour sad little man who makes a career out of harassing people with real careers.” Piper, like Edwards before him, and like me currently, is a sinner. We are all in need of Christ the only one who can save. Assassinating the characters of men God has given as a way to earn salvation feels something like presenting a handful of seashells to the almighty as a reason for celestial entry.

*For a debate on the issue of Edwards and slavery I would point to the following from the Carl F. Henry Center: https://henrycenter.tiu.edu/resource/jonathan-edwards-and-american-racism-can-the-theology-of-a-slave-owner-be-trusted-by-descendants-of-slaves/

My only issue with it is that once again we have a young person who flatly refuses to listen to the older and wiser men. Which is really at the crux of the issue.

**Yes Screwtape had to weigh in here.

***As one holding to a postmil eschatology I really look forward to the day when someone wants to throw out N.T. Wright for his ordination of women. When really it should be his understanding of Paul. 

Just Shy of an Android Priest

It’s usually the smells and bells that lure people away into Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. Though they deny it, claiming that it is the beauty and depth of the service, when you boil it down it is the pageantry of it all. But really there is only a centuries difference that separates the smells and bells from hazers and lasers. In either case it is like coming to an ocean only to discover that it is one inch deep all the way across. Elevation Church worships the ridiculous idol of Stephen Furtick, and Our Lady of the Blessed Fleshy Chalice worships the absurd picture of Mary. Neither worships Jesus. But there is one advantage the papists have, of which I have recently been made aware of, that is perfectly suited to the modern, youngish, nerd, and it calls to them.

I speak of the world building. The Vicar of Satan has at his disposal an entire lore and system to deploy that is tailor made for the fantasy/sci-fi obsessed type. You literally can jump into mystical ancient texts, rituals, even laws for this land. You can geek out on history, councils, and cannon law. There is even dress up that you get to participate in. Every mass is like it’s own little comic con. You can collect all the saints, and argue over which ones were legitimate, who should be made one, and who should never have been bumped from this pantheon of deceased holy rollers. You can join which order you want to align with, only instead of elf, dwarf, or orc, you have to choose between Jesuits, Benedictine, or Franciscan. Basically every ritual is short one laser sword or android priest away from the perfect blend of sci-fi/fantasy.

And while there is a ton of research that goes into mastering all of this, I maintain it is shallow. It is much easier to be a slave to Mary, who is dead, than to Christ the living savior. In the latter case your salvation must be worked out with fear and trembling. To master reformed theology means to be forced to preach as a dying man speaks to dying men. The weight of it is not derived from a rock pile of condemnation that must be worked off, but from the weight of glory. It is joyful and serious business to be Reformed, it is not the easy path or the gentle slope, with no sudden turnings, guided by the well worn grooves of tradition. It is a riotous pedal to the metal drive across a minefield, and by God’s grace you will arrive on the other side to the Celestial City. It is not a game for spiritual cosplayers, it is a job for men.

Counterfeit Churches

Introduction

My Thursdays are usually filled with a whiskey tasting and cigar smoker with my lads. Recently we tried a selection of Taiwan’s whisky Kavalan. All three bottles were astoundingly good, like an Isla they exploded across the palate but instead of smoke it was fruit. However, there was a cold, calculated clinical feel to them as described by the online reviewer of Scotches, Ralfy. This sent me down the rabbit hole over the weekend learning about Kavalan. My takeaways are that everything about them is young, from the taste of the whiskey, to the age of the whiskey; from the speed at which the distillery is built, to the growth they have experienced. Everything is exponentially fast. And while this has led to a new version of an old thing it somehow lacks the depth and value of a real scotch.

I find this to be an adequate parable for a lot of the explosion of mega young restless and reformed churches and the seeker sensitive ones before them. They are a technically well done recreation of a much older and precious thing. Or to quote Deep Space 9 “It’s a fair approximation… I almost forgot for a moment it wasn’t the real thing.”

A Damning Episode

Much of the weakness of rejiggering church is explored very well in the _ episode of Mike Cosper’s, usually dismal, Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. In this instance, however, Cosper has hit the nail on the head (After smashing around the nail with wild abandon for a goodly while). At the end of the episode the damning remark comes while Driscoll is preaching from Revelation 2:1-7 about the Ephesian church loosing it’s first love, which was Christ. And it is observed by the crew recording the sermon that the letter was about their church. No longer were they about Jesus, but about Driscoll. 

To be fair, this is not an isolated problem. In my own city I can direct you to a pastor of a conservative mega church who writes his sermons with applause lines built it. Stephen Furtick is clearly inebriated with his pride. Or of you go small Joe Thorn sometimes is far too enchanted with his own perspective on reformed theology. 

And moving out to the macro scale the first love can be lost in the mix of branding, being sensitive to seekers, or building it so they will come. The first love can be lost, when parts of it are removed, ignored or explained away because they no longer gel with the cultural zeitgeist. Like the Fr. from Screwtape, “who has been so long engaged in watering down the faith to make it easier for a supposedly incredulous and hard-headed congregation that it is now he who shocks his parishioners with his unbelief, not vice versa.”

And not to leave out my own camp. The first love can be lost over tradition. And not just reformed traditions that can become rote, but every church has it’s own little traditions, the things, “we have always done” and now can not be changed. I once saw a comic of two people in a fellowship hall and the first says to the second, “How many church members does it take to change a lightbulb? The second: “Change the lightbulb? I’ll have you know my grandfather donated that lightbulb!” Jesus can walk out the back door of a church just as well in a church that loves stagnation as a church that innovates like Google.

No Substitute

It should not come as any kind of a surprise that there is no substitute for preaching Christ and Him crucified. Any church that banks on the skills or charisma of a pastor is no church at all. Church is about only one man that that is the God man, it is devoted to the worship of Him only. Any church that has lost this love is not a church, it is a temple to an idol, it is a counterfeit church. It may look like the other churches but is not one.* Kavalan noses, tastes in a way that is reminiscent of a scotch, but it is not one. 

One of the things to consider in the Driscoll saga is not just what appears to be a severe narcism, but also the fault in our own selves. Idols are tricky things, they demand much, promise much, and fail spectacularly. Part of their fall is that like any savior they often are crucified. There was long a group of pharisees that worked to quicken the fall of Driscoll. They blogged, gossiped, nursed grudges and bitterness, entered the church as wolves in sheep’s clothing. As Screwtape was increasingly ravenous for Wormwood, or at least a bit of him, they too loved Driscoll, and the worse he got the more they became like him. And when he finally imploded they were quick to hoist the petard. And true to form as an idol, they were not satiated. The appetite of hell can never be satisfied. 

So again, the first love matters. It guards against idols by being ultimately satisfying. It challenges the intellect, it drives the will, it fulfills longings, it gives life. It isn’t easy on the front end, yet every false god is worse on the back end. In Christ are pleasures, and more pleasures, he makes no secret of of, in his right hand are pleasures for evermore.**

“Oh to behold the Glory of Christ! Here in would I live, Here in would I die, here on would I dwell in my thoughts and my affections until all things here below become as dead and deformed things, and in no longer, any way, calling out for my affections” ~ John Owen

Greasing the Skids

There is something to be said for placing obstacles in the way of a pastor. They are not there to hinder him in shepherding the sheep, that is where elders are to also shoulder the burden. But to obstruct his pride. Just as parents should know the frame of their children, elders should know the frame of their pastor. There are some incredibly gifted pastors who should be kept far from the spotlight, for the good of their own souls. Charisma and capability are not necessarily movements of the holy spirit. Ed Litton may be a very capable administrator and audio reader, clearly he should not be a preacher, much less of a church that size. If he can not write and preach his own sermons he should not be a pastor. Driscoll should never lead an organization. He is proving that once again at his new church. He needed more obstacles in his way to limit him. Elders should not grease the skids for a pastor to go sailing into the abyss.

Conclusion

Mars Hill was a good church for a while, it failed for many reasons, all of them from the pit of hell. Piper put it this way:

“When I look at history—I’m thinking centuries—God must be the kind of general over his army that willingly accepts tactical defeats for strategic victories. That was a defeat. That was a tragedy. The debacle in Seattle is a tragedy from untold angles. Lots of people hurt. It was a defeat for the gospel. It was a defeat for Mark. It was a defeat for evangelicalism. It was a defeat for Reformed theology, for complementarianism. It was a defect. Not trying to whitewash anything. It was a colossal Satanic victory, and the general is not out of control.” -John Piper***

We keep the first love the first love because it can not fail. He is on the move, the gates of Hell will not stand against him. They have stood up to Mark Driscoll, they will hold up to other individuals, but they will not withstand Christ and his Church. We love him because he first loved us. He must be preeminent in all things. The charge is being led, He can not fail, we must join Him and by way of God’s Grace we shall arrive. 

*There is room for there to be a remnant inside the larger body that is working to purify and reform, and sometimes God blesses and moves and success is had. Sometimes, however, it is best to acknowledge what has happened and let the dead thing be dead, then resurrect in a purified way. Or to change the metaphor, ash is good for growing plants.

**Again Screwtape but if you have been reading here any amount of time you should have recognized it. 

***https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/video/reflections-on-mark-driscoll-and-the-mars-hill-implosion/

The Shame and the Mask

Yesterday while beavering away on this blog, I was seated at my watering hole Hammer and Ale, and a woman was seated a table or so away. She wore a mask between sips that boldly declared, “I’m vaccinated.” There is something about this new bump from delta that has people heaving a huge sigh of relief that they get to go back to masks, or feel justified for never taking them off in the first place. And as I think about it I think it makes perfect sense as to why there seems to be such an attachment to the things. The mask is the perfect way to hide from the world and feel like you are avoiding judgement. 

America is a country wracked with guilt. Our cultural sins are so blatant that we are running out of scapegoats. Pretending that our original sin was being white and male is not going over as well as planned. Thousands have been sacrificed on the alter of cancelation, and yet our sins remain as scarlet as ever, if not continued to run redder. We have accelerated the insistence of that which is truly evil as good and what is good evil. Babies are fetuses, sex is everything and somehow nothing, the image of God is malleable and can be transformed into anything so long as it is provocative and offensive. Hatred is greater than love and more meritorious. Justice is inferior to that limited subset of social justice, and critical theories have burned cities to the ground but have no clue how to rebuild them in their own ghastly image (which is probably for the best). And no matter how loud we proclaim our inherent goodness we are under a rock-pile of condemnation. However much we demand that shame is vile, and we should boast of our sins, we can not escape the cold harsh reality of dawn and feel our guilt. Eternity has been written on the hearts of men and denial does not make it so.

For a nation drowning in a sea of guilt and shame, that knows in its heart of hearts that no amount of self medication will keep the long dark night of the soul at bay, the mask is an excellent stop gap measure. We can feel justified and meritorious and avoid the condemning gaze of others. We can disappear into the crowd and feel anonymous and unseen, not worth being picked out as a scapegoat by peers. But more importantly we deceive ourselves into thinking we are avoiding the awful gaze of the Almighty, that He will not single us out on the last day for his wrath we justly deserve. We want to anonymously go on having our fun with not consequences, and the mask is the comfortable fleece blanket that reassures us that no harm will befall us. Perhaps the good deed of saving lives by not transmitting the disease will make up for the blood on our hands of unborn infants, mutilated children, or lives sacrificed on the alter of our own pharisaism. 

People who feel shame cover their faces, it is a way to hide. The guilt is great and is becoming undeniable, for as a nation we have not sinned merely against man, but against God. 

On not Apologizing

Introduction

Would Doug Wilson be Doug Wilson if he didn’t run around causing chaos all yippie skippy in the evangelical circles like some kind of a pastoral Loki? He may cause more mischief than is required but on occasion he ruffles the kinds of feathers that need to be ruffled. A lot of the time it is in the form of a joke that is taken by egalitarians to be deadly, and I mean deadly (words are literal violence these days), seriously. Other times flows forth in the form of a proverb. And since proverbs are more concerned with rules than exceptions, those who think they have or want to have exceptions clutch at their pearls and run for a good huffing of smelling salts.

I would like to take one of those proverbs that has caused some consternation and spend some time unpacking it from my humble position in the lowerarchy. Credit where credit is due. I have been doing a lot of driving around for work with my good friend and sometime contributor to this blog D.W. Smythe; he provided the impetus and sounding board for this post. Also a goodly portion of this article is a regurgitation of Wilson’s long form foundations and reasoning behind the subject at hand. Finally Kevin DeYoung would probably not want to ever be name dropped in any context with Wilson, yet here he is. The thinking out loud he did in relation to the Falwell Jr. scandal was the starters gun for me to start thinking through this subject a bit more fully. 

The Proverb

“Never Apologize to your wife. Unless God thinks you have wronged her.” – Douglas Wilson, Man Rampant

As I recall a version of this cropped up in the first episode of Man Rampant where Joe Rigney was being interviewed. That version ran something like “Imagine a group of men gathered for a proper Reformed bachelor party. There are no sinful shenanigans going on, the man are gathered around a fire and they are sharing with the groom to be their best piece of marital advice, youngest to oldest. So the guy with all of two months of marriage under his belt up to the guy with fifty. When the senior statesmen’s turn comes he looks the young man in the eyes and says, ‘Son I want you to promise me you will never apologize to your wife…” He pauses for dramatic effect and the other men shift uncomfortably before finishing, “Unless you have actually sinned.” 

I find the earlier version to be a bit more pithy and clear than the later one quoted at the top in the episode with Aaron Renn. The point though is the same. Apologies should follow sin, but they have been overused for a myriad of issues, cheapened by that watering down, and finally abused in the demand for them over any offense real or perceived.

Clearing out the Mental Cobwebs

Clarity in three areas are helpful to orient us to receive this as the wisdom that it is.

1. As mentioned in the introduction, the quotes are proverbs not promises. A proverb is a general rule, it holds true in the vast majority of situations, but there can be exceptions. As Driscoll was fond of pointing out, everyone who reads the book of Proverbs thinks that they have an exception, when they really don’t. Simply because a man justifies a sin to himself does not mean God is fooled. By in large we live under the rules, on a rare occasion. 

“A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands, and sometimes your lazy uncle wins the lottery” – Douglas Wilson

2. English is a robust language but there is a tendency to be imprecise and loose useful words due to linguistically laziness. And unless you think I have become inebriated with the exuberance of my own verbosity let me try again: I apologize and “sorry” are different and they are different for a good reason. I apologize is formal, it is harder to get out It accepts responsibility, it begs clarification of what was done wrong and portends repentance. “Sorry” is informal. It can be tossed off for knocking over the salt shaker. I have it on good authority that in Great Britain many lampposts are frequently told that when a person walking and texting bumps into them. What is clear in the Wilson proverb is that he is talking about an actual apology not a trivial mea culpa for a faux pas.

3. Closely connected to above is the distinction that needs to be made between sympathy and empathy. The words are used interchangeably but are different. Sympathy means to suffer with, empathy, to suffer in. It is the difference between keeping one foot on solid ground to help a person in distress and jumping into the swift current to drown with them. To modern ears sympathy seems aloof, empathy feels kinder. But one is actually helpful the other has no positive outcome. Empathy is largely used as a cudgel to control a party that is unwilling to bow to emotional pressure.

Manipulation of the Apology

It takes very little walking with your fingers to see the demands for apologies to be used as a weapon. The premise being, apologize now and the trouble you are in will go away. Obviously though forgiveness is never extended and the apology merely morphs into an admission of eternal guilt justifying bitterness and self congratulation. This tactic is now played in the large scale but it is one that wives have known about for ages. Men can play this game too, however, they tend to play it badly and not as often. Despite what our culture wishes there are differences in the emotional and psychological frames of men and women. God designed it that way. And like it or not there are general rules of thumb that can be applied. Rules matter more than exceptions. 

What follows is the logical conclusion that Wilson’s proverb holds true in both instances, necessary tweaks being made: “Never apologize to an online mob, unless God thinks you actually did something wrong.”

In marriage there is (or should be) a greater sense of emotional connection. Part of following Peter’s instruction of living with your wife in an understanding way is knowing her emotional buildup and caring for it in an responsible way. This does not mean bowing to pressure to empathize. To many wives the sympathy of a husband can feel cool but it is his role, appointed by God, to responsibly lead. And to some wives that leadership seems to be going badly because of the failure/refusal to suffer in as opposed to suffer with. This means emotional escalation and the demand for an apology. She has been hurt and by worldly standards he should apologize and repent, which means coming around to her view of things. 

But notice the slight of hand. No sin was committed. In fact in the above generic scenario the Husband was operating Biblically. No apology or repentance is necessary. The tyranny of emotional reign was threatened and it is demanding a struggle session, that is all. 

So again, “Never Apologize to your wife. Unless God thinks you have wronged her.”

Outside of general practicality and wisdom this proverb has a firm Biblical basis.

Who has been Sinned Against

Beneath every apology to another human is a much deeper acknowledgement, exemplified by King David in his admission of grievous sin.

“For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is ever before me.

Against you, you only, have I sinned

and done what is evil in your sight..” – Psalm 51:3-4a

Clearly David had sinned against many people, but at the root it was all an offense to God. He had sinned against people made in the image of God. He had sexually abused a woman and murdered a man, he lied to other image bearers, and brought others in to unwittingly do his dirty work for him. All together this was a sin against many parties, culminating in the cosmic rebellion that is sin. 

Apologies are not something to be made lightly. Part of a proper apology is the confession, request for forgiveness and subsequent repentance before God. 

Conclusion

Extending sympathy to a hurting person is a good and Godly thing to do. But to try and appease their feelings by admitting to a sin that does not exist and has not been committed is a lie. Some men need to apologize to their wives for abdicating leadership and lying in an effort to be lazy.

“Men who apologize to their wives just “to make a situation go away,” are trying to build a healthy marriage on the ostensibly firm foundation of lying to their wives. That is not a good strategy.” – Douglas Wilson 

The Stories He Tells Part 2

And the truth comes out! The fifth episode of Mike Cosper’s podcast The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill* didn’t even bother to hide it’s goals in attacking complementarianism by attaching it to Mark Driscoll. Early on Cosper even admits that the subject matter of the episode seems to have nothing to do with the actual fall of the church, and then asks us to just take his word that it does. And as usual there are many problems that could be picked at; ranging from ignoring inconvenient facts such as Driscoll’s public admittance to his appalling sermon on the Song of Songs was absolutely incorrect and unacceptable, to the bizarre aside where Cosper picks apart the famous “Who the hell do you think you are” sermon in an effort to suggest that Driscoll was trying to get a book deal, that he already had…

As per the last round I am going to focus on one major issue and a few of the smaller ones that point to it. Namely that Mike Cosper doesn’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to a Christian approach to women.

Much of the episode, “The things we do to women” is spent taking Driscoll to task for how he viewed sex in marriage. To hear Cosper tell it Driscoll only saw women as sexual objects, and to back himself up he brought in such voices as Kristin Du Mez, Rose Madrid Swetman, and Sarah Bessie. And this is the first problem with the set up. Neither of these commenters have any credibility critiquing any aspect of Christianity since they are non believers at best and heretics at worst. It’s sort of akin getting Tetzel’s thoughts on that Luther fellow then taking them as gospel. The one voice of any credibility was Rachael Denhollander who clearly does follow Christ.

Secondly Cosper proves his sheer ignorance or refusal to at any point deal with the scripture or substance of Driscoll’s position. It is always assumed that Cosper’s position is the correct one and he never so much as quotes a verse to back himself up. The trick it to play the worst possible sound bite with ominous music and then find someone who’s feelings were hurt. An example would be that while Driscoll was clearly over the line in his graphic articulation of sex in a marriage, that is the logical conclusion to one of the two major interpretations of the Song of Solomon. Cosper reels at the idea that a wife should be visually generous or charitable to a husband, and that this is a kindness to help keep him from sin. Because if feminism has taught us anything women get to determine everything about sex up to including frequency . Not only does scripture defy his presupposition (I Corinthians 7:5) but so does reformed history the 1689 Book of Common Prayer contains both the declaration that one of the purposes of marriage is “as a remedy against sin,” as well as in the vows that each spouse promises to “with my body, I thee worship.” Which sounds pretty over the top but there it is. 

Finally, the pure unbridled hypocrisy of Cosper pearl clutching and diving for his fainting sofa over Driscoll’s apparent objectification of women; when Cosper is the author of The Stories We Tell would be hilarious if it weren’t so infuriating. In that book not only does Cosper recommend television shows and movies with gratuitous sexposition and plat advancement through rape or violence to women, he even justifies this in the chapter, “How far is too far.” I fail to see how encouraging Christians to view pornographic material is somehow kinder to women then encouraging (albeit graphically) married couples to frequently and Biblically enjoy each other. 

An actually useful podcast would examine the very real problems at Mars Hill, and Driscoll’s leadership. Perhaps even comparing them to what would seem to be tragic ongoing variations of the same thing at his new Church. This does not seem to be what Cosper and company are doing. They have an ax to grind and pot shots to take at theologies they do not like. And bear in mind that this is all produced by Christianity Today. That venerable publication is more than happy to present heretics as authorities in order to attack theologies inconvenient to their narrative. I have for several years now uncharitably referred to Mike Cosper as an idiot. Perhaps I am wrong. Maybe he is just a useful idiot.

*The title should have tipped you off as the the views of the producers toward their subject matter. See Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich…

People Don’t Change

Introduction

If I may start by venting my spleen. The chief frustration in counseling* is being ignored. You listen, ask all the relevant questions, and then apply scripture to the situation as the basis for your counsel. And nine times out of ten, you know the person sitting there has just wasted both your time. They came to you not for insight or advice, but for a rubber stamp on the stupid thing they want to do. Or in the hope that you would give justification for their new “Trauma,” as Screwtape would say, “Beelzebub, what a useful word!” And when you don’t do that, they try and weasel around it, and then just lie, saying they listened.

Actually the biggest frustration is knowing you will be repeating this process ad infinitum

People Don’t Change

It is ironic that frequently the people who need counsel inevitably want other people to change  but they don’t want to make any adjustments about themselves.The number one problem I run into when discipling young men is idiot friends. From there you can move to romantic relationships. Everyone wants other people to be more Godly but they don’t want to become more Godly themselves. 

I remember reading about one college pastor who would meet with students who had returned from their first semester at University and not surprisingly they would admit to wanting to leave the faith. His first question was always, “So what’s his/her name?” No part of a Christian life comes easy. It is like rowing upstream. With fellow believers you have a team and the job is easier. With unbelievers there is dead weight and distraction. One group helps every one move further up and further in. Another gets you out to being lost at sea.

Many Christians who come to be counseled really want permission to load down their boat with more weight than they can carry and then advice on how to convince those people to suddenly have a form of Godliness, or at least how to cope with being stuck in the strong currents. Left to their own devices no one in that boat will change, they are all doomed, together they will sail into the outer darkness. That Christian will be in a living hell with weeping and gnashing of teeth.

That Christian has neglected two of the major gifts God has given to keep them from getting into that situation. The Body of believers, which is the church, and the infallible instruction and wisdom of God, the Scriptures. The believer that devotes themselves to these things finds themselves rarely in need of a counselor. Frequently those who require counseling are already so far gone what is really happening is triage. Sadly I find most don’t make it.

Sanctification Changes

People do not change, they are incapable of doing so. As a matter of fact they only have the potential to, “go down to the bad all through the ages.” As Tolkien would describe. Something outside of them must do all the work**. God changes people, he puts their old sinful self to death, and raises them into new life. From there he shapes and molds them into his image before in one final glorious eucatastrophe he perfects them fully and with his right hand ushers them into his presence and pleasures forevermore. As in the story of Lazarus He has told us the end, but not the middle. Yet through it all he is with us and guides us, and has generously given us two guides. These are the tools every counselor should leverage, Scripture and fellowship with the church body.

Scripture should go without saying. However, I have lost track of the number of “Biblical Counselors” I have heard who try and estimate how “Christian” a client is and then use corresponding amounts of Scripture (less for the nominal, more for the avid fan) so as not no offend. This is simple spiritual malpractice. 

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

I know more people who are quicker to quote their therapist than Scripture, and at some point it should be asked if our emotional slavery is directly linked to our Biblical illiteracy. as well as being the inerrant Word, Scripture is also living and active, it is a sharp sword that is wielded in the spiritual realm. It cuts through our issues and objections, it slices and dices away at our sins. It shows us the way to and of salvation. It brings us to Christ the great healer. It shapes and molds the believer into the image of Christ. It is a sanctifying force, and the filter though which all of life goes.

If this were not enough God has given the additional aid of fellowship with the church. I am fascinated how many friendless christians there are in local churches, and those tend to be the people who keep regular appointments with their counselors. It would appear that real “life together” as Bonhoeffer would advocate for, has been outsourced to paid persons who have the Scriptural knowledge of an elder but lack their authority. They have the listening skills of a friend, but are unobtrusive otherwise. They always say “hard things” the right way in the right tones, which means they can be ignored when the desire to sin or be foolish arises. And they can’t require repentance for sin, but are quick to give assurance of pardon. 

Friends, and elders are gifts from God who know you. They deeply know you. They call you out, they rebuke you, they point you to Jesus. They are interested in your spiritual growth out of love not professionalism. They don’t wait for you to realize, “you need help” they come to you head on and do everything to drag you back to the cross. It is done imperfectly because they love you like the brother or sister you are in Christ. Their great desire is for your sanctification, they spur you on, and the hope is that you will do the same. The relationship is by design both ways.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” – Hebrews 10:23-25

The Greatest Service

The goal of any counseling is discipleship, and seeing as that is the great command given by Christ, not the great suggestion, it is what every Christian should be about. Any counseling that is done should be done in such a way that the person seeking counsel leaves more capable of being a reproducing follower of Christ, not simply possessing better self esteem. This is done best in the context of believers, not behind closed doors of an office with licenses on the wall. It is done best by those saturated with Scripture who simply marinate the disciple in the commands of God. If i may awkwardly take the image from David. It should be like a honey glaze.

What this builds to is not then the brilliant insights of the counselor, but the Scripture he expounds, and then the prayers he prays. At the top I related the most frustrating thing about giving counsel is being lied to. They nod along, then go off and continue in sin or foolishness. Therefore they must be placed in the hands of God. And those prayers must not always be of the sweet edifying kind. My own mother used to pray that if I or my sisters sinned we would be caught. David prayed that God would send his enemies to hell. It is good to pray for conviction of sin, for repentance, for God to do his will in bringing his wayward child back into fellowship with him and the eternal family. Prayers should be made for the person and in front of them.

Conclusion

The true work of a Christian who gives counsel is to disciple and to pray unceasingly. playing therapist is self defeating and ultimately frustrating. People need Christ and Him Crucified, they must be conformed to his image. To do this takes a spine and a well known Bible. Love sometimes means not allowing the person to get away with lying to you, and or wasting both your time. You can not change a person, only Christ can. People don’t change, Christians do, hold them to that confession and if they are true, the transformation will take place.

*A longish footnote on counseling. Consider it like the Appendices to Lord of the Rings. Not necessary to the post but informative anyway. 

  • I. I dislike the idea of professional “Biblical” counselors. Hiring a counselor is like hiring a lawyer, they are only representing you and and have a financial incentive to do so. A Pastor is required Biblically to interview all parties involved in an emotional kerfuffle and is not on anyones side but Gods. A paid counselor is only required to get one side of the story and work from there. Frankly anyone with any experience with people knows there is this side, that side, and the truth. As well there is the obvious incentive to create a reliance on continued visits to the counselor for emotional, or worse, spiritual direction. Counselors have no spiritual authority they can only advise which, if there is a paycheck tied to sessions ad infinitum the lack of any ability to speak as one through whom God speaks is not really a problem. Commanding obedience to Scripture despite feelings leads to healing, massaging emotions with inspirational Bible quotes is self perpetuating naval gazing. As a result I refuse any payment for counseling and I operate from a pastoral model, if anyone was asking. My only allegiance is to Christ and Him Crucified. 
  • II. There is a genre of counseling that mostly deals with emotions or “trauma” (see quote from Screwtape above) I have a hard time with this one as well. A lot of emotional outbursts and perceived hurt is usually a rebellion of one or more Fruits of the Spirit. Real issues, such as a genuine psychological issue or chemical imbalance, should be dealt with by a medical physician.
  • III. The ultimate goal of any counselor should be discipleship. It is to get a person together enough that they are best served by the Word, read and preached, and the body. Puritans were the first physicians of the soul and they did 90% of their counseling from the pulpit. The last ten percent was meeting objections raised by the minority. A Puritan minister filled his week between sermon preparation and visiting his parishioners to catechize them. The little amount of counseling required was because Scripture is sufficient, and the congregations knew how to apply it to all of life. The reason Christian counselors abound and pastors schedules are slammed is that the people do not live and die by the Word of God. They live and die by the authority of their feelings.

**If you didn’t see this coming then I require your Calvinist Card.