Welcome to Grand-Synthe Camp

Grand-Synthe camp, Dunkirk, France.

Some 2,500 people now live at Grand-Synthe, France. They are refugees from Syria, Iraq and the Middle East. About 50 more arrive daily. Often, these are families with children, elderly, and pregnant women. Daily, some try to leave for Belgium or England. These people have no prospects in France.

Grand-Synthe camp at Dunkirk, France

Notice the careful provisions to ensure hygienic conditions in order to ward off disease. Also, see the solid construction which protects the population from temperatures that often slide below freezing at night.

Maintaining 'order,' whatever the 'orders' are.
French Gendarmerie, presumably maintaining ‘order,’ whatever that ‘order’ is.

‘The Lord protects the strangers; he supports the fatherless and the widow’ [Ps 146:9].

5 year old Iranian boy
A well-protected, 5 year old Iranian boy.

‘Yahweh loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his lovingkindness’ [Ps. 33:5]. ‘Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute’ [Psa 82:3].

A young girl from Kurdistan leaves her tent in a muddy field called the Grande-Synthe jungle.
A young girl from Kurdistan leaves her tent in a muddy field called the Grande-Synthe jungle.

The Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted and justice for the poor’ [Ps 140:12].

Many a missions conference and/or prayer meeting has spoken to the need to send missionaries to convert the heathen. Today, peoples of the world beat on our doorstep. And our response to a crisis embracing some 60 million people? Or the response of our Presidential hopefuls?

Where are those who are separated unto the Lord in all this? Do they intercede for refugees? Speak for them in their plight? Are the separated truly ‘separate,’ or do they too often mirror the interests of our dominant culture? What is it to ‘maintain the cause of the afflicted’ anyway?

Rev. Personality

An Old Problem

Personality-driven churches are nothing new. Paul certainly faced it. His pastoral writings address it.

Even if they didn’t want it, Paul, Apollos, Cephas assumed elevated places in the minds of the much divided church at Corinth. Corinth had another faction [at least] which is known as the ‘Christ’ party. You just know that they had to be the most spiritual of them all. Yet Jesus most assuredly did not want that, and Paul labors to make the point stick.

Others are not interested in hearing Jesus’ thoughts on the matter. They want that prestige in others’ minds, and they stand ready to fight to retain that stature and their ‘authority’ in the congregation.

Even as they scold or remind others that God delegated authority to lead and rule the church to them, they forget that God who delegates can also bestow that calling on others. Remember that Eli and Samuel thing? And Saul and David.

But that really isn’t supposed to be a threat. Paul instructed Timothy:

‘The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also’ [2Ti 2:2].

That is an healthy perspective, and one with power to sustain a growing church. But too often, established leadership will hear nothing of this! Too often, pastors or ministry leaders hold on far too long. Too often, any question about direction or leadership results in ‘my way or the highway’ tirades. Were it not so injurious it would be laughable.

Under such circumstances, potential new leaders have no opportunity to test skills, gain experience or develop gifts. Their development is hindered as that could lead to a threat to the pastor and/or old guard. And when leadership is finally thrust on the next generation because the old guard passes on or the church splits, everyone is poorer. The next generation has no leadership experience. That doesn’t bode well for the future.

Pastors who lead from the strengths [or more aptly, the weaknesses?] of their personality seem especially prone to this temptation.

And it is a temptation.

Getting Leadership Right

Since spiritual power is delegated, pastors have no real authority in and of themselves. They are servants of the Great Shepherd. They would do well to remember this. And when they forget, they should be reminded of it.

Churches populated by faction-driven minds and led by personality-driven leadership do not tend toward good things.

Pastors who truly recognize the nature of spiritual power are eager to develop new heads rather than to cut them off. They know that this is necessary for the unity of the church and the good of God’s kingdom.

The Front Pew Experience

Welcome to Cedar Bluff Baptist Church,
Knoxville, TN!

'Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel' [Isa 8:18].
[Click to visit the website].
Meet the ‘the Front Pew.’ This group is not to be missed!

Although Cedar Bluff Baptist is considered a fundamentalist church, the webpage states that it has some ‘contemporary’ elements. What those are I can’t be sure. But listening to this video, I do realize that there truly is no accounting for the worship of God’s people.

I freely admit that am a music snob. And I have never understood the symbiotic relationship between ‘Country’ and Fundamentalism. But apparently, that mix works at Cedar Bluff Baptist Church.

Perhaps you’ve had some ‘Front Pew’ experiences of your own. Like the time that truly tone-deaf kid landed smack in front of the microphone.

Lent and Other Papist Heresies:

Just Say ‘NO’ to Lent!

Did you know that Lent is a slippery slope toward sacramentalism?

Or that practicing Lent means walking by sight rather than by faith?

You can’t help but be impressed by some ‘YouTube’ channels and videos. Consider this video in which we surely find …

  • The right, Biblical grounds!
  • Air-tight argumentation!

Until watching that video, I thought that I actually believed those verses! Or is this another ‘any text can be a pretext for anything’ campaign?

For many, lent involves a variety of spiritual practices. These may include ‘giving up’ something for that season. Some may say that lent is no reason for suddenly living right. Perhaps, but neither is lent a reason for not living right. Oh, and don’t IFB pastors do ‘New Year Resolution’ sermons?

Speaking of giving up stuff, this from John Fugesang’s Twitter Account:

For Lent I gave up fundamentalist Christians who talk all about Jesus while ignoring all Jesus talked about.

That might be classified under ‘things that make you go hmmmm.’

Moreover, the Church Year is tied to Scripture, and lent is no different. Where this system is practiced, people know that. Do detractors?

Generally, Baptists don’t observe lent. Ditto for Advent and Epiphany. Generally, Christmas and Easter are observed, although the Sundays after them [Christmastide and Eastertide] most likely are not observed.

Do the stated rationales apply in to each, or must other grounds be found to show that not only lent, but that advent and epiphany are bad ideas? Maybe lent is the lone, ugly duckling of the church year? Who knows?

Might resistance to Lenten observance and the Church Year as a whole answer to another causes? Suppose that a church followed the church year as outlined in the Revised Common Lectionary. What then becomes of the pastor’s ability to flog his hobby horse?

Where the selection of the text is concerned, some churches might rejoice to be delivered from the tyranny of the pastor’s choice. Of course this fails because whoever said a sermon must follow or be based on the passage!

Unless, of course, you use the lectionary.

And follow the Church Year.

Political Piety

Different, Yet Strangely Alike

Idolatry for Our Time:

Religion and politics create some ‘odd’ alliances. Chances are you’ve seen it. Yahweh forbade his separated people from making foreign alliances. We know how that went. Isn’t it presumptuous for us to attempt to do better?

Banking on Frustration:

Millions live in anger and frustration. Donald Trump makes his pitch. ‘High unemployment’ and ‘low wages’ and ‘disastrous health care!’

Then people flock to Trump. Others wonder ‘why.’ How is it that Christians line up behind the prosperity prophet? It certainly isn’t because the casino/real estate mogul’s lifestyle is anything like their own.

Poking the Question:

The other day, GEaston’s blog suggested an interesting line of inquiry. While not addressing our area of interest directly, the inktrekker did find some ‘odd’ similarities between Donald Trump and Bob Jones Senior.

According to GEaston, Bob Jones Senior and Donald Trump:

  • Use[d] position to influence politicians.
  • Held similar views on immigration.
  • Talked reviving or making America great.

Visit the inktrekker and you may find more similarities between them.

Separated from What?

It seems to me that the agreement of any two persons on this or that issue matters less than the shared vision which supports them on those things.

Supposedly, God’s kingdom defines the contours of the Christian mind.

Could it be that Mr. Trump is not so far from the kingdom after all? I suppose that might help Fundie Baptists bring themselves to support him.

Separated Conformity:

But then, don’t fundamentalist Christians define their very group identity in terms of separation from any hint of worldliness? Yet good, Bible-believing Baptists come to Trump’s side, even if they themselves don’t always know what to make of him. Isn’t it just a wee bit odd?

How do God’s separated Baptists end up there, and what does that mean?

Oh, and another thing. GEaston notes that both Bob Jones Senior and Donald Trump abstain[ed] from alcohol.

Perhaps that’s it.