Joe Fundy & James MacDonald (Round Two)

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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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8 Responses

  1. Thanks. Finding it hard to be patient with your mixed doctrine, broken philosophy, and carnal eruptions . . . and you with mine, causes us all to marvel at the long-suffering of God with all His children.

  2. “Nothing vexes a guy with pride like a guy with pride, and I quite enjoyed writing with excessive flair about MacDonald’s excessiveness.”

    Best quote. I missed the first article but then one is informative. I’ll keep checking in. There’s a lot swirling around all of these guys right now.

  3. Bob, very interesting article but it seems like you are still very upset about something that Pastor James has done. While I am not questioning your heart attitude since you have tried to explain it in this post, I am curious if you have spoken with him or the elders of Harvest about what is truly bothering you? This would be the Biblical way to deal with these issues instead of writing posts challenging congregants of Harvest to do this. I guess I don’t understand the intent of your articles since they only seem to be causing anger for those Christians on either side of you arguments (Eph 4:1-3).

    • Tom,

      Your “biblical” way of handling things (i.e. saying that I must talk with James and or the elders personally before publicly criticizing James) is a very cliché tut-tut suggestion that is also not biblical. It has been answered over and over and over again, but still people insist on rebuking publicly anyone who rebukes publicly by suggesting that a private audience is the “biblical” way to deal with it. They are referencing Matthew 18.

      Besides the obvious contradiction that those offended at me have not actually addressed me personally (literally only two people have talked to me about their concerns although I have heard from a number of sources what some are saying), you are publicly rebuking me without coming to me privately first, thereby also offending people that love me and have my perspective on the matter. (Unless, of course, I missed your private email).

      The fact of the matter is that James is very public and it is wrong of him and his defenders to attempt to shut out criticism by implying that anyone that talks about his public statements publicly first without addressing him first in person is unloving. That is highly manipulative because it is quite obvious that few people could actually get an audience with the man. I highly doubt that most of the members of his church could get a personal audience with him. The Matthew 18 process does not apply here. D.A. Carson says it better. http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/publications/36-1/editorial-on-abusing-matthew-18

      You would wag your finger with spiritual condescension at Phinehas because he ran into the tent, without first of all knocking, and impaled the couple while they were having sex. God, however, was quite pleased with Phinehas even though he violated the all the conventional and cliché protocols of how things are supposed to be discussed.

      Ecclesiology, trinitarian doctrine, and pragmatism are all much more important than feelings. People act as if the greatest sin in the world is offending someone. Really, the bigger sin is being so easily offended. “Great peace have they which love they law, and nothing shall offend them” so goes the KJV.

      If you don’t know what I’m bothered about, you certainly haven’t been paying attention to the whole evangelical world in the last several months. If the members and congregants don’t know, they are not paying the attention that they should to the leadership of their church. The basis upon which I challenge members of James’ church to hold their pastor accountable is on the basis of what the Bible itself teaches about the local church as a body. It is perfectly legitimate for me to call on anyone who will hear to do what they are supposed to do, just as it is legitimate for you to do the same.

  4. Wow – good post. Thank you for being transparent and willing to write such a post. I, too, missed the first one. You do mention something I have personally noticed. Many who have left fundamental churches seem to do it because they are mad or offended over one or more small personal infractions. Then they leap to the other end of the pendulum, and just as blindly grab hold of the “new” philosophy(ies) they are being taught. I have never really seen the difference…blindly following one person or concept or blindly following another. Why can’t people just read the Bible and allow the Holy Spirit to guide them, without interposing their own personal bias? Heaven will be perfect – we will all worship together with the mind of Christ – no bias, no axes to grind, no grievances among the brethren.

  5. Nicely done, Bob.

  6. James MacDonald has openly defended a Christian teacher who denies the clear biblical teaching that Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man. (Jakes has other problems as well – preaching a false gospel, etc.) According to 2 John 6-11, one who eats with or “gives a greeting” to such a teacher (also called an antichrist) therefore “takes part in his wicked works.”

    “And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.”

    According to this passage (and many, many others), a person who uses the term “brother” to refer to a heretic, becomes a heretic or false teacher himself. Does Scripture allow a true believer to stay in a church pastored by a false teacher? Do not the souls of Jake’s congregation and I think, very likely, MacDonald’s congregation hang in the balance? Would any of the Apostles have called on the members of Harvest to “take issue” any level short of MacDonald’s complete repentance, removal from the pastorate or by leaving that church altogether?

    I know that this might come across as harsh, but John indicates here that the exposure of heretics was actually “love”. I know that you understand Jakes to be a heretic, I know that it might be extremely difficult for a person like you to take a strong stand against MacDonald on this point, but souls hang in the balance of your words. Is there a chance that by encouraging people to be comfortable in staying at Harvest that their souls will be doomed? Consider the 5 churches in Revelation whose candlesticks were about to be removed . . . I don’t think that the true believers in those congregations simply “took issue”. They either made drastic corrections or did all they could to find a true church. There was too much at stake.

    You and I understand the problems at places like Bethel and other fundamentalist-type ministries on a deeply personal level. We are closer to it and because of what we saw and experienced, we are far more suspicious of it and more likely to warn others away from that type of place. However, just because one has discovered good teaching from Harvest, does not necessarily imply that Harvest is a better place. In fact, it might be a far worse place (hypothetically, not assuming at this point). Christ warned that false teachers will increase, that there will be some who take the kingdom of God by force (Matt 11:12). Scripture shows many ways to expose false teachers – particularly via a false Gospel or denying or infringing on the deity of Christ. These false teachers can/will exist in secret, they are at our “love feasts” as Jude says, they show favoritism to gain advantage (Jude), these are people of authority and influence.

    Taking a stand against a false teach requires intense Scriptural study and guts. You have shown over the years that you lack neither, I think. So, pull the trigger and call a spade a spade. You might chap the hide of a few goats, but the true sheep who know Christ’s voice will love you for it. More importantly, you will encourage people to build “yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” – Jude again.

  7. I do think you’re right about the mega-church movement. I can’t speak much for Harvest in particular, as I’ve only visited once. But my impression matches yours: It’s Fundamentalism with the rules relaxed a bit and the important (correct?) parts largely left out. It felt like a youth group that hadn’t quite grown up or figured out how to integrate with the church. It seemed like most people there were trying to get away from a church experience they were angry or hurt over, and so they didn’t want anything that looked or felt like religion. But as we’ve discussed in another forum, when you excise religion from church, you don’t really have a church left, do you?

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