So, I deleted the first “Joe Fundy & James MacDonald.”
When a brother in my congregation confronts me and a sweet lady in our membership calls me to gently rebuke her pastor, I listen. Some people were unnecessarily hurt by the tone of that post and I was so blinded by my passion to be extremely clear and understood by particular demographic groups that I literally did not think of any names or people in those particular groups that could justly feel that I was speaking specifically about them.
The fact is I was thinking in the abstract about what I think is the conglomerate mindset of the hundreds of former fundamentalists that I have interacted with over the years who once were doggedly confident that they were in the right place and position and now, merely a few years later (and often much less) are equally doggedly confident that they are in the right group, albeit lightyears different than their former position.
If that offends people, so be it. It is they, not I, who have flipped from one position to the other in very short amount of time. And for the most part they have not done it out of deeply held doctrinal convictions; they just chafed under something they did not like. If the generalization does not apply specifically — in other words, if the shoe doesn’t fit — then don’t wear it. Although, sociologists regularly define Americans as out of shape and overweight, I don’t get offended. It’s partly true and partly not true of me specifically. It’s hard to be offended by something that is completely irrelevant to you. I am not offended by most insults that come my way because I know they’re not true. And I know God knows they’re not true.
However, I was clearly out of bounds to speak the way that I did, allowing my passion about Trinity, Church, and American Evangelicalism/Fundamentalism to mingle with my pride and overcome patience. Nothing vexes a guy with pride like a guy with pride and I quite enjoyed writing with excessive flair about MacDonald’s excessiveness. That was the fruit of my own sinfulness, and I repent of that. I hope that I will be forgiven. I actually do love everyone involved.
Here are some of the things I wish I had said:
- While I am grieved by James MacDonald’s reckless pride (it takes one to know one) and cavalier attitude toward those who disagree with him (even to the point of promoting a video that castigates the motives of all black guys that disagreed with him in order to avoid the real issues), I have also benefitted from his ministry in various ways over the last ten years and I am a better Christian because of it. For that I am thankful. One of his messages is on a worn CD that I have listened to multiple times.
- I really regret and am ashamed that I used the word ‘tripe’ to speak of his teaching. That certainly does not apply to MOST of what Jame’s teaches. I’m sorry for that.
- While I most certainly wanted to be understood by everyone around here what demographic of fundamentalism and evangelicalism I was referring to (i.e. those who were in the fundamentalism represented by the flagship church, Bethel and those who are now under the ministries of mega-powered personalities without any real obvious accountability), I was regrettably too impatient to write measured qualifications and allowances for exceptions.
- I wish I had made it more clear that I still think that the better choice between Harvest (and the kind of churches the movement promotes) and Bethel (the kind of fundamentalism it represents) is Harvest, and I fully recognize that will offend many people. I’m sorry. It is what it is. That’s what I think.
- I wish I had acknowledged what I already knew: people get incensed by what offends them and not what offends others or, worse, what is doctrinally erroneous. Though James MacDonald has offended many in the last year, the people in my readership who feel the heat of my critique are incensed more at me because they are personally offended and only slightly (if at all) disturbed by what James has done on many occasions toward anyone that disagrees with him. Many of them were not offended when I wrote similarly about the fundamentalism they were leaving, and I am justified to think that their charges of my “unloving” tone lack real credibility when they have yet to express any consternation over James’ insults of Christians who are trying to defend 2000 year old doctrines. Who’s unloving? The fact is that my unloving tone was motivated by love. It does not justify the tone, but it fails to acknowledge who I am if it is assumed that anything but love has motivated me. I love the truth. And I love the people affected by teachers. I love them so much that I’m willing to risk offending them.
- I should have made clear that I do not think that everyone that takes issue with James MacDonald should leave his church. They should just take issue! Actively. Members of any church should do as the members of my church have done and hold their pastor to accountability, refusing to be thoughtless cheerleaders. Members should be able to pick up the phone and ask their pastor personally for an explanation. It makes sense that sheep should be able to get in contact with the man they call “shepherd.” How this is done in a church with 12,000 members is beyond me, but that is not my problem. Nonetheless, it should be a problem that all 12,000 members ponder.
Therefore, I do not think that it is inappropriate to assume as I did in my previous post that — in the main — those who spent decades defending man-centeredness and poor ecclesiology in one sphere (fundamentalism) and suddenly changed when grievances, not doctrine, launched them into another sphere (mega-church under mega-personality) will not be the kind of members that do anything more than bury their head in the sand and defend their newest champion, getting defensive if their new group is critiqued even as they were defensive of the old group.
I do know, however, that there are many godly people with strong convictions who will be the exception to the majority and start asking questions, requiring accountability and explanations; and I am angered at myself that I would do anything that would discourage them. Furthermore, I hope to God that all of our intense discussion is done because we believe that the root desire all Christians share, fundamentalists and non-fundamentalists alike, is that the cause of Jesus Christ would be advanced.
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