Wednesday, May 16, 2018

I Don't Want to Fight Anymore.

People may or may not have noticed that I have blogged very little since 2015. This blog began in 2006 after the stunning upset of Frank Page for SBC President in Greensboro. I blogged continuously until 2013 when I got tired of all the fighting.

I had a point of view and wasn't shy to express it. Some like it, some did not. I spent a lot of time promoting the small church with facts and figures. A small church conference was held at my church in 2008. Attendees came from all over the country. We had excellent speakers such as Dr. Frank Page, Alvin Reid, Tom Elliff, and others.

During this conference, Frank Page suggested to me that I run for SBC President to represent all of the small churches. I did this in June 2008 at Indianapolis, in which Johnny Hunt became SBC President and rightfully so. Now as I look back, I had no business doing that. I had no credibility, no one knew me, and I didn't do it for the right reasons. If the truth be known, I did it for attention and boy, did I get attention, mostly negative.

Not long after that, I got involved in what I call "The Calvinist War." That may not be an accurate description to some but it is to me. Over the past several years, I have been working to keep Calvinist theology out of our convention. Many have joined with me in this effort and many of them are still hard at work at it today. I have written much about my objection to Calvinist theology and I won't repeat it here.

I write this brief description of my blogging background to show how much time and effort I have spent over the years on putting forth my views and battling those who disagreed with me. During these many years, I have learned many things but the most important thing to me is this: no one changes someone else's opinion by blogging. Perhaps that has been true elsewhere but I have yet to see it on Baptist blogs.

This year's SBC Convention promises to be one of the most contentious in recent history. It seems that J. D. Grear was virtually promised the presidency when the vote between him and Steve Gaines was very close two years ago. But now, that "promise" seems to be retracted as Grear faces a strong opponent in Ken Hemphill. In addition, Paige Patterson is in trouble because of his alleged poor advice to women in abusive situations. Many are calling for his resignation as President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and his removal as the person who brings the main sermon for the conference.

The SBC is a mess. Calvinist, non-Calvinist, petitions, politics and who knows what other garbage will soon be discovered. Do you know what I think about all of this?

I don't care.

I've had enough fighting and I don't want to fight anymore.
I've had enough arguing and I don't want to argue anymore.
I've heard enough controversy and I don't want to hear anymore.


It no longer matters to me who is the SBC President.
It no longer matters to me who are the heads of SBC entities.
It no longer matters to me if Calvinist theology dominates the SBC.

Why do these things no longer matter to me? Because my focus is on being the best pastor I can be in my church. Our church is autonomous and we'll get along just fine without worrying about what happens with SBC politics.

I will preach God's Word, do my best to love the people in my church, and have a hunger to reach the lost. In my 21 years experience as a pastor, I haven't seen where an SBC President, entity head, Executive Committee, Lifeway executive or any other national organization has had a major impact on my church.

Some may say "We need to keep Calvinist out of Lifeway or our literature will be based on Calvinism." My reply is "So what?" If that's what happens, then don't buy Lifeway literature if you disagree with its theology. As the pastor of my church, I make sure all of our literature lines up with our beliefs.

The only thing that matters to me is fulfilling my call to be a pastor for the glory of God. That's why I don't want to fight or argue anymore. If you do what you believe God is calling you to do and I am doing what I think God is calling me to do, I think we'll get along just fine.

Blessings to all.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Whatever Happened to Ben Cole?

For those of you who don't remember, Ben Cole was a mover and shaker within the Southern Baptist Convention in the mid-2000's. He was a smart young man with a non-traditional sense of humor. (I don't know how to describe it but "nontraditional" is the only word I can think of.)

 Ben had a lot of influence in certain circles in the Southern Baptist Convention. He was a good friend of Wade Burleson and C. B. Scott. As a matter of fact, C. B. went so far as to tell me he looked upon Ben like a son. I think they were close friends at SEBTS. C. B. can certainly correct me if I'm wrong. Ben would do things that would spark controversy. For example, Ben, Wade, and C. B. went to a conference and had their picture taken with prominent CBF Baptist and former president, Jimmy Carter. We talked about that on our blogs for weeks. How could any conservative Southern Baptist show any shred of support for a liberal Baptist like Jimmy Carter? Yep, we argued that one for a while.

This was about the 2005-2008 timeframe so for some of you Young, Restless, Reformed guys, you probably weren't out of junior high yet. Calvinism wasn't a topic of discussion in those days. Tom Ascol was working hard on getting credibility for Founders, but most of us ignored him. We had bigger fish to fry. We had to fix the problem with IMB's trustees. If you're not familiar with the IMB trustees issue, then I recommend you read Wade Burleson's book, "Hardball Religion: Feeling the Fury of Fundamentalism."

One of the best tricks that Ben Cole ever pulled was getting the infamous Wiley Drake elected as 2nd Vice-President of the Southern Baptist Convention. Ben wrote the nomination speech that was given by Rev. Bill Dodson. In my opinion, this was the funniest nomination speech in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention. We all had a good laugh, but the laugh was on us. Wiley was elected! Ben was always ready for a good joke.

Ben had an influential blog named SBC Outpost. He was even the subject of a movie about young Southern Baptist pastors.

And then there came a day when Ben Cole decided he was leaving the Southern Baptist Convention. Not only was he leaving the Southern Baptist Convention but he was giving up being a pastor as well. We were all shocked. Perhaps the best account of our surprise was voiced in SBC Voices when its founder Tony Kummer, ran it before it became a bastion of Calvinism.

So what ever happened to Ben Cole? Unfortunately, it seems that Ben has crashed and burned. In 2015, he resigned as the communications director for Illinois Congressman, Aaron Schock, for comments he made on his Facebook page as well as other venues, that not only damaged his career but Rep. Schock's as well.

I pray that Ben will rebound. He is a very smart and savvy young man. I wish him well in his future endeavors.

P. S. Ben, I'm still waiting for the book you said you would write, with your working title of "A Hill on Which to Kill." I'm sure it will be interesting reading.

UPDATE 12/31/2017
C. B. Scott was kind enough to call me and clarify couple of things written here. He said that Ben certainly did not "crash and burn" (bad choice of words on my part). He reports that Ben is flourishing in a different industry and is doing well. Thank you for the update, C. B.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Heresy of "The Shack"

"The Shack"
Sermon Manuscript by Rev. Leslie Puryear
Bethany Baptist Church, Gulf, NC
March 5, 2017

 2 Peter 2:1 – “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.”

This verse refers to two things that are used by false prophets and teachers in an attempt to destroy the church by promoting false beliefs. Those two things are “heresies” and blaspheme.”

As used in this verse, what is a ‘heresy”? Well, a “heresy” is defined in the Greek as “self chosen beliefs not coming from God.” What about “blaspheme.” What does it mean to “blaspheme”? To “blaspheme” is defined the Greek as “anything spoken or written that insults God or Christ.” Today, I sense the need to examine a book, which is, according to these definitions, both heretical and blasphemous.

The book is entitled, “The Shack, which was written by W. P. Young, a man who grew up as a son of missionaries. This book was published in 2007, and to date, has sold more than 20 million copies and was on the New York Times best-seller list for 49 weeks. And this past Friday, a movie was released based on the book.

This book has been highly controversial. Many readers have embraced it and many have demonized it. What’s all the fuss about this book and movie called “The Shack”? That’s what I want to talk about this morning.

The theme of this book is, “Where is God in a world full of pain and hurt?”

The Shack revolves around a man named Mack. Four years before this story begins, Mack’s young daughter, Missy, was abducted during a family vacation. Mack, who has been living in the shadow of what he calls his “Great Sadness,” receives a strange note that is apparently from God. God invites Mack to return to this shack for a get together. Though uncertain, Mack visits the scene of the crime and there has a weekend-long encounter with God, or, more properly, with the godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

When Mack arrived at the Shack, the Shack had been transformed from an old rundown place to a beautiful house with gorgeous gardens all around. Mack decided to bang loudly and see what happened, but just as he raised his fist to do so, the door flew open, and he was looking directly into the face of a large beaming African-American woman.

This large African-American woman is God the Father, (or at least a version of God she chose to take on, in order to communicate with Mack, according to the book).
Throughout the story she is known as “Papa.” Near the end, because Mack requires a father figure, she turns into a pony-tailed, grey-haired man, but otherwise God is this woman.

Jesus is a young to middle-aged man of Middle-Eastern (i.e. Jewish) descent with a big nose and rather plain looks while the Holy Spirit is played by Sarayu, a small, delicate woman of Asian descent.

By this point many people will choose to close the book and be done with it. But let’s just assume you’re able to get past seeing God and the Holy Spirit portrayed in this way.

There’s very little action in The Shack and the bulk of the book is dialogue, mostly as the members of the Trinity communicate with Mack. They discuss a wide variety of theological topics in this book, each of which is relevant to the theme of Mack’s suffering and his inability to trust in a God who could let his daughter be treated in such a horrifying way.

There’s a lot we could talk about that is a problem in this book, but, for the sake of time, I’ll go over the most important heretical issues to me.

 I. Heresy #1 - God the Father was crucified with Jesus.

The book describes this scene between Mac and Papa: “How can you really know how I feel?” Mack asked, looking into her eyes. Papa didn’t answer, only looked down at their hands. His gaze followed hers and for the first time, Mack noticed the scars on her wrists, like those he now assumed Jesus also had on His...(Papa said), Don’t ever think that what My Son chose to do didn’t cost us dearly. Love always leaves a significant mark...We were there together.”

This is wrong.  It was not the Father who was crucified. God is spirit. The person of the Father has no body of flesh and bones as does the Son (John 4:24; Luke 24:39).  Yet, in the book, the Father has scars. 

It should not be that the Father would have scars on his wrists - since He has no wrists and does not appear to anyone (John 6:46; 1 Tim. 6:16).

 II. Heresy #2 - On the Cross, God forgave all of humanity, whether they repent or not. Some choose a relationship with Him, but He forgives them all regardless. 

 Jesus tells Mack that He is “the best way any human can relate to Papa or Sarayu.” Thus, Jesus is not the only way, but merely the best way.

Jesus tells Mack: “Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don’t vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions.”

Jesus adds, “I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, my Beloved.”

In my opinion, this heresy is the most dangerous of all. This is called “universalism.”

“Universalism” is the teaching that everyone will go to heaven. No matter what a person believes or doesn’t believe, no matter what a person does or doesn’t do, that person will still go to Heaven. Universalism is a major theme of this book and movie.

The Jesus of this book is a blasphemous portrayal of the Jesus of the Bible. Jesus was very specific in the Bible, when He said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me.”

 III. Heresy #3 - God will never judge people for their sins.

In response to a question from Mack about sin, Papa says, “I am not who you think I am, Mackenzie. I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it. It’s my joy to cure it.”

Now think about this. If there is no judgment for sin, then there can be no Hell. If sin is okay with God, then everybody will go to Heaven.

(Sarcasm Alert) There’s my old buddy God. What a guy. I want this God that’s in the book and movie called “The Shack.”

 The Bible is clear that God hates sin, and judgment and punishment is His righteous response to sin.

 Ecclesiastes 12:14 says “For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.”

The Bible teaches that when God’s love is rejected, and when the offer of salvation and forgiveness is rejected, justice must take place or God has sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for nothing.

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. “

John 3:18 says “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. “

Jesus said many things about Hell. Here is just one passage. Matthew 13:41-42, 49-50 says, “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The God of The Shack says he or she will not judge you for your sins. The Bible says something completely different.

Hebrews 9:27 – “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment”

 IV. Heresy #4  - God is constantly being transformed along with us. 

In the book, Jesus says, “I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, my Beloved.”

Hebrews 13:8 plainly says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

 V. Heresy #5 - God submits to human wishes and choices.

In the book, God says, “We are submitted to you...I don’t want slaves to my will.” The bible says that we are to submit to God, not Him submit to us.

James 4:7 says, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Far from God submitting to us, Jesus said, “Narrow is the way that leads to eternal life.” (Matthew 7:13-15).

We are to submit to Him in all things, for His glory and because of what He has accomplished for us.

 VI. Conclusion

There are many other heresies in this book that blasphemes God that I don’t have time to get into today. Things like 1) the Bible isn’t true because it reduces God to paper, 2) God limits His power for our own good, and on and on it goes.

 You may wonder why I have spent so much time talking about a book and a movie. I have spent time on this topic because of its impact on its readers and it's potential impact on this church.

Listen to some the reviews on Amazon from people who have read this book.

 “In the pages of thus book I have found the God I have always felt was true even though those around me told me I was wrong. In it was the renewal of spirit and relationship with Jesus I needed.”

 “This book is life changing. Whether you have a religious background or not the story is powerful, thought provoking and inspiring. I am forever altered.”

 “I am not a religious person. I put off reading this book over a year because I saw it had something to do with god. This is one of my all time favorite books... ever!!!
 If I had to describe the trinity, this is exactly how I always wanted to believe they were. Not all this religion with rules and judgments.”

 Beloved, I think it’s human nature for people to want a God who approves of everything they do, who is not judgmental, who requires no repentance, who will never say we have done anything wrong, who serves us instead of us serving Him, who has no rules, and who will let everybody go to Heaven and we’ll all have a jolly old time with our old buddy God.

That’s what people want and that is what W. P. Young has given them in “The Shack” and that is why it’s so popular.

People don’t want to know God as He truly is as He has revealed Himself in the Bible. People want God to be what they want Him to be. That is why “The Shack is so dangerous. It presents a God of man’s imagination.

Some people are saying that even though this book doesn’t provide an accurate picture of God, maybe readers will become interested in God and open up opportunities for us to have conversations with them about the true God. I really hope that will happen. The only possible good that I can see that might come out of this book and movie is that people will come to know the true God. However, I am afraid that won’t be the case for die-hard lovers of The Shack.

 Let me remind you that The Shack is not a Christian book.

 There are already Shack bible studies for sale in Christian book stores across the land. I am glad to say Lifeway does not sell The Shack book nor any Shack-oriented bible studies.

There is also something called “The Shack Bible Project.” People are writing a bible that is based on the God of the Shack.

The Shack is becoming a cottage industry and my fear is that more people will turn to Shack-oriented material than to biblical material. It is a book using Christian characters to disguise a new age view of spirituality.

I've heard many people justify their love of this book by saying, "This book is okay because it’s only fiction." Fiction can be used to communicate important ideas and when used in the right way, it is good. Fiction writing has the ability to have an enormous impact on the reader.

 Yes, "The Shack" is fiction. But when fiction is putting words into the mouth of God that doesn't align with Scripture, then this goes beyond fiction and into theology.

If someone wrote a novel about your grandmother and portrayed her as a drunkard prostitute, would that be okay? Why not?  It's only fiction!

If someone wrote a novel about you that portrayed you as a pedophile, would that be okay? Why not? It's only fiction!

If it's not okay for you to be wrongly portrayed as fiction, then why would we think it's okay for God to be wrongly portrayed in fiction as well?

This book has been very successful in touching the emotions of many people, especially those who have lost love ones through tragic circumstances.

But don't let emotions override your discernment of who God is. Don't let emotions become more important to you than what the Bible says.

If you’re grounded in the Bible, stay grounded in it. If you’re not grounded in the Bible, dust of your copy, open it up and learn who the real God is.

Acts 17:10-11, “Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.”

We need to be Bereans and use God’s Word to be the filter through which all things are tested. If we do, we will be less likely to be deceived by unbiblical teachings from any source. 


Portions of this sermon were inspired by the sermons of Dr. Michael Youssef and the writings of Tim Challies.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Typical Calvinist Responses To Theological Disagreement.

It's interesting to see what happens when someone publicly disagrees with Calvinist theology. You can always count on one or all of the following responses from Calvinists in regard to any theological disagreement with them:

1. You don't understand Calvinism. 
Answer: Yes we do. Maybe it's you who doesn't understand Calvinism.

2. You're being divisive. 
Answer: Just because we don't agree with your theology doesn't mean we're divisive.

3. You have a faulty understanding of scripture.
Answer: Now who's being divisive?

4. Non-Calvinists are semi-pelagian.
Answer: I know of no non-Calvinist who believes that one can come to Christ without the aid and influence of the Holy Spirit.

5. Non-Calvinists believe the "Sinner's Prayer" saves them. 
Answer: No one believes that the "Sinner's Prayer" saves anyone. Salvation is through Christ alone. The "Sinner's Prayer" is one way of asking Christ for salvation.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Single Staff Church

In the past I have written about the "small church" as an advocate to encourage small church leaders that they are just as valuable in God's Kingdom as any other church.

I identified a small church as any church with less than 200 people attending Sunday morning worship. In 2008 and 2009, I even hosted a series of small church conferences that were semi-successful from my point of view.

Lately, it has occurred to me that the real issue that I was attempting to address dealt more with single staff churches than "small" churches. A single staff church can be a small church but it may also be a church much larger than the definition of a "small church." I know one pastor who is the only staff member of a church that has more than 300 attendees in Sunday morning worship. Now that's a tough job.

Single staff churches operate in a much different manner than do multi-staff churches (firm grasp of the obvious). I would even venture to say that there are more single staff churches in the USA than multi-staff churches (based on my hunch, not hard data. I will search for the data and report back to you).

If my hunch is correct and there are more single staff churches than any other type in our nation, then, of course, there are multiple resources that address the single staff churches to assist these pastors in meeting their unique day-to-day challenges. I searched the Internet, including good ol' Amazon and found [wait for it] {crickets chirping}... almost nothing. Amazon has exactly three books which specifically address single staff churches. All three are written by Southern Baptist single staff church expert D. G. McCoury and published by Convention Press. Yes, this is Southern Baptist literature written in the late 1980's and early 1990's. Unfortunately they are out of print. Fortunately, there are a few used copies floating around and I have ordered a copy of all three books. I'll give you pearls of wisdom from these books.

Now what? Do pastors of single staff churches want literature that specifically addresses their needs? What about a conference to talk about these needs? I don't know but maybe you do.

What I would like to do is to discuss issues involved with single staff churches. This is where you come in. What are the main issues of being a pastor of a single staff church? How are these issues being handled? Is there a better way to be the pastor of a single staff church? What other questions should be addressed to help the pastors of single staff churches?

If there is interest in this topic then we'll earnestly look into it for the good of all. If there is no interest, then we'll forget it and let the pastors of single staff churches learn by osmosis. It's up to you. Let me know what you think.

Monday, July 15, 2013

You Might Be a Small Church Pastor if...

Funny bits from The Unappreciated Pastor.

 You Might Be a Small Church Pastor if...

1) You open each service with “These are my deacons, I am who they say I am, I can do what they say I can do…”
2) At least three times a week someone says to you “I noticed your car was at your house.”
3) The phrase “But we’re a loving church” is the church’s unofficial motto.
4) When someone in your church has their picture in the paper it will be pinned to the bulletin board. 
5) You have two revivals a year. The Pastor gets to pick the speaker for one and the deacons get to pick the speaker for the other.
6) You have more deacons than widows.
7) You have more deacons than windows.
8) The budget committee just whites out the dates on last years budget and runs off copies for the new year.
9) There is a woman in the church that you are deathly afraid of.
10) You have two people you consider friends at the church. One of them is in the third grade.
11) When the phone rings you’re just praying you don’t hear the words “Preacher I need to get in the church.” 
12) You have a church van…YOU have a church van.
13) You have to plan your vacation around VBS.
14) You are regularly volunteered by a specific person in your church without being asked first.
15) There is a man in the church that once said to you “Preacher, do you know how much money I give to this church?”
16) Most of the charter members seats are marked with small blankets in the sanctuary.
17) A couple of times a year someone wants to sing a country music song as a special.
18) The congregation appears to double in size when the choir comes down.
19) Your wife strategically plans her grocery store trips so she doesn’t run into as many church members.
20) There is a weekly spot in your bulletin that reads “The flowers in the sanctuary were given in memory of…”