PODCAST: Should We Re-Think the Way We Do Church?

by | Mar 19, 2020 | Uncategorized | 77 comments

Merchandise is Here!
Should we rethink the way that we do church?

We’ve been talking this month about what healthy community is–why we need healthy community; 10 ways to make friends in a new church; our responsibilities when we’re part of a community; and more.

This is actually something that is near and dear to my family’s hearts, as we’ve all been thinking a lot about church, and how we can do church better.

So in this podcast, Rebecca and I shared some of our frustrations, as well as our dreams of what church may look like. Listen in, and then share your thoughts!

 

Rebecca and I shared a ton of thoughts in our podcast, and I want to point you to some of the articles we mentioned, as well as some others that I’ve written over the years.

The Case Against Sermon-Centric Sundays (about how pastors can act as collaters and curators) https://www.premierchristianity.com/Past-Issues/2019/October-2019/The-case-against-sermon-centric-Sundays

What Happened at Willow Creek? https://julieroys.com/guest-post-what-happened-at-willow-creek/

One of the things I said in the podcast, that I think is important, too, is that we demand that pastors be educated and licensed, but that license is not one that they require to run a church. So there is no way to prevent them from starting a new church if they betray professional ethics. My husband, who is a physician, would have his license to practice medicine revoked if he did a number of things–had a sexual relationship with a patient; leaked patient confidential information; etc. But pastors can’t be prevented from starting a church.

And at the same time, they’re given tremendous power in many churches, and congregants can’t do anything about it.

I gave the example of James MacDonald, and his fall from Harvest Bible Chapel here, but there are many others.

I hope, in the next few decades, that we’ll find a better way to do church that better reflects the body of Christ.

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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77 Comments

  1. Doug

    I think you are standing on dangerous ground when you start talking about licensure and such for pastors. The obvious question is most outstanding. Who exactly is empowered to license them? If you are talking about the government(ANY GOVERNMENT) you already lost me. The list of reasons that is a terrible idea is literally impossible to count, and goes back for 2000 reasons. If you didn’t know better, you would swear that the specific goal of govt was to destroy churches and persecute(or prosecute) Christians.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I hear you, Doug. I don’t think there is an easy answer. But we have a serious problem with abuse in the church, and we’re not dealing with it well. Do you have another idea that will make pastors and denominations take abuse seriously?

      Reply
      • Doug

        Literally anything else is better than handing control over to the govt. The govt of the day hung Christ on a cross, and not long after, fed his followers to lions for entertainment. That is just the start, but it really hasn’t improved much since. Many in todays US govt would not liscense a pastor under any circumstances, because they don’t believe. The ther are those who would persecute hate speech. Not real hate speech tho. Just little things like having an opinion on gay marriage, or abortion. The Mayor of Houston tried to force pastors to provide transcripts of their sermons, just so they could look for those offenses.
        The best way to protect is simply self policing and being aware. It means following Christ instead of following a pastor. It means people looking out for the weak and marginalized, rather than counting on some other entity to do it.
        It means refering people to the authorities if you think there is cause, but not handing co trol of our church to the authorities.
        There is no single easy answer.
        I know we don’t see eye to eye on many issues, but I try to see others perspectives. I know there are some blind spots and outright wrong committed in many individual organizations. You often refer to them as the church, but I don’t see them as such. To me there is one “CHURCH” and overall I think it does a good job. Even within individual organizations such as FOtF, which you ardently oppose for some of their views, I absolutely endorse because of their strong position on other issues. Neither of us are wrong in our beliefs.
        What I suggest is dialogue not divisiveness. Open rather than closed minds.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I actually agree with you about the government, Doug. But here’s the thing: Keith’s license is given by the College of Physicians and Surgeons. It’s by a professional group. And it can be revoked. We have denominations that can revoke someone’s ordination, but that’s really all we’ve got. I think if pastors want to be treated as professionals, then pastors should have a licensing body. It doesn’t have to be government; it can be self-governed. By I think it’s possible. Lots of professions self-regulate; accountants, dentists, psychotherapists, nurses, teachers, etc. Pastors don’t, and that’s on us, not the government. That’s because people have been letting this go for years. We should want more.
          I think the solution is really to rethink the whole power structure of churches, as Jesus talked about in Matthew 20:25-28. That’s the direction that I would prefer things go. But I do think that self-regulation has been used in many professions, and if pastors want to be a profession that is paid and requires an M.Div, then they should also be open to having enforced professional standards (again, not government but self-regulating). Right now they have it both ways, and that’s not right, either.

          Reply
          • Maria

            But how would all the denominations agree to this?
            Would they be forced Into it-by whom?

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            No idea. But it wouldn’t be hard to have a governing body that denominations sign up for, similar to Christian counselors of different denominations.

          • Doug

            Great plan. All you have to do is get thousands or even tens of thousands of denominations, congregations and independent churches to agree on this one thing. They have not done a good job of agreeing on anything for the last 2000 years, and only become more and more splintered. Methodists can’t even agree on a single doctrine(using that as an example, not to single them out). The Catholic church seldom agrees with itself, and Protestants exist because of hardcore differences with the Cathilic church.
            With all due respect, it cannot work.

          • Rebecca Lindenbach

            Doug, by saying “it cannot work” and so we should not try what you’re saying is that it’s not important enough that children are being raped, women are being assaulted and groomed, and young boys are being molested and raped by church authorities to try something new because you just don’t think it’s worth the fight.
            Let me remind you that psychotherapy has not been regulated for long. Before then, counsellors could rape or groom their clients without any professional repercussions. It wasn’t until enough people spoke up that things changed.
            Whenever people like you say “it’s just too hard,” you forget that by doing so you may be slowing things down further. When cars first came out, you didn’t need a license to drive one. Seatbelts weren’t required 50 years ago. None of these things came to be by people saying “There’s no point, people just die, and it’s too much of a hassle to try to do something about it on a large scale.”
            NO OTHER PROFESSION WITH VULNERABLE CLIENTS HAS THIS LACK OF LICENSING. NONE. Social workers are licensed. Doctors are licensed. Counsellors are licensed. Nurses are licensed. This is not government regulation–these are self-regulating bodies.
            The fact that people won’t do it isn’t a sign that we shouldn’t try, it’s a sign that we have screwed up priorities and, frankly, are a church that doesn’t even try to look like Jesus in this area. That is not something to accept, and the longer people put off these important discussions because “it cannot work”, the more children, teenagers, and vulnerable adults will be raped, molested, groomed, and abused and it will be on the shoulders of those who did nothing.

          • Maria

            Sheila, But can you exist as a church without signing up? You aren’t allowed to exist without a license as a doctor, nurse, or social worker. The state boards regulate licensing here. That’s the government. Are you proposing churches can’t exist without this license? This is scary to me. I really don’t trust the government to be ultimately in charge of the church or pastors.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Well, we already have that. Churches have to apply for tax exempt status. They could exist without it, but few try.
            I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers. All I’m saying is that we need to think about this more. How can we protect the vulnerable? Are there professional standards that pastors should follow? I can think of quite a few, and the fact that pastors are one of the only professions that doesn’t require licensing and that doesn’t have a self-regulating body does concern me. I can’t think of a lot of other professions that require a Master’s level of education that doesn’t also have professional standards that are enforced through self-regulating licensing bodies. Do you know what I mean?

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I think, too, that if seminaries got behind this and honestly decided to take seriously a pastor’s responsibility to protect the vulnerable, people could figure something out. It’s all about priorities, really. How seriously do we take our responsibility to protect people?

        • Maria

          Would churches lose tax exempt status if they didn’t have a licensed pastor. Now it’s easy to get tax exempt status. Would the professional board decide?

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I do think churches are going to have to start to rethink tax exempt status. We already have tremendous government involvement simply because of that tax exempt status, which I imagine will be challenged in the next few decades.

    • Maria

      I agree we can never give the state that power! They have no right to license churches. I think we must do this at the grass roots as is being done here. People must understand the New Covenant as stated in Hebrews 8:10-13. We have the ability in this New Covenant to be taught by the Holy Spirit directly. Each believer needs to walk in this covenant personally. As we gather together that is the church. When people are controlled or entertained or even taught by a man or a small group of people that is not a church. It may be a club or a cult but not a church. The government can not insure this. The government also abuses and has cover ups,

      Reply
      • Rebecca Lindenbach

        Yep. Because right now the alternative is “allow pedophiles and rapists to keep being pastors” and that is also wrong.
        we need to have a way where if someone commits a heinous crime against someone while in position of church authority they are then banned completely and irrevocably from the ministry. Not from the faith, but from ministry. This is necessary and treats these things with the same severity that Jesus did. Remember, it is better for a millstone to be hung around his neck.
        That’s why, like you’re saying Maria, I do think that we need to have a conversation about removing the power structure altogether. I still think we need leaders, as we need someone to be checking what is being taught against scripture who is well-versed, but I do not see why that can’t be a rotating group of people who each have some knowledge, training, or gifting that allows them to be trusted by the congregation but doesn’t give them authority the way the pastoral role does. It’s an interesting thing to think through and I’m looking forward to testing some groups out to see if it’s feasible but we will see!
        I think we just need churches that are more about meeting with God together and giving the Holy Spirit room to convict and less about whether or not the pastor is being respected enough.

        Reply
        • Maria

          Oh for sure. Especially to your last paragraph. People who commit heinous crimes should be in jail. Then they couldn’t be pastors! But how would this rotating group have authority- from the government? This will never work. Unhealthy churches would never willingly submit to it.
          Maybe it could be in place as a credit rating like the better business bureau, or what schools and hospitals have. That way people can trust the credit rating and look for churches that yielded to the process to eat that rating. They would also have to be reviewed to keep the rating.
          On another note we all have to be bold and speak up to our hurt to protect and support the weak and hurting as Sheila has done. Stop protecting institutions and power structures. Talk- get the truth out about situations, Don’t gossip is not a reason to keep quiet. Those who repented will not mind if we talk and get the truth out. The truth protects everyone- even the a user or potential abuser is helped by the truth.

          Reply
          • Maria

            Earn not eat
            And abuser not a user
            Sorry:)

        • Catherine

          Interestingly this is the exact model our church has. We have been blessed to be members of an interdenominational church overseas for many many years. It was started 20 years ago by a small group of believers who just wanted fellowship and encouragement in the word. It quickly evolved and grew into a body of believers from all different denominations from all over the world who major on the majors and let the rest go (and ironically when you do that it ends up looking like a nondenominational church that simply seeks after Jesus and His Word). We have no head pastor (we have a team of teachers and a different one teaches each week), we have no elder board (just a simple, small leadership team that meets three or four times a year to discuss finances and potlucks and what supplies we need to buy), we have no statement of faith or long list of things you must adhere to…..we just aim to follow Christ. Maybe we can get away with this because it’s a smallish congregation….but God has miraculously preserved our little church for over two decades now. We have had people come in an attempt to assert themselves as sole leadership of the church in a pastoral
          Role and all of those attempts have been rejected. Some days the teaching is mediocre at best – and we take the meat and spit out the bones and give the speaker grace. Other weeks we are blessed with an outstanding message. Some weeks we have enough volunteers for live worship. Other weeks we sing along to YouTube songs. The people who take time to show up to a Sunday service when living overseas are usually genuine followers of Christ, so it almost instantaneously weeds out the need for any extra fluff. All in all it is always a blessing to be a part of the congregation and is a model of church that we dearly
          Miss when we get back to our home country and see our options.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Oh, isn’t that beautiful? I love that so much! It sounds much more like the early church.
            (of course, I understand it’s not always that simple, because you have to make sure that a small church isn’t veering off into heresy or something, but if it’s full of Spirit filled Christians who are getting their own teaching from good outside sources, then you should be all right!)

      • Doug

        Rebecca.
        I am perfectly willing to entertain any option that anyone offers, with the caveat that it can not involve the government.
        First, it is literally illegal in the US without a constitutional ammendment. There is no interpretation of the 1st ammendment that would allow for such a thing. Second. I would be against govt intervention regardless, because literally half the government wants nothing more than to silence the church, and the 1st amendment is the only thing keeping them at bay. Third, I already detailed pretty well the difficulty in gaining consensus within the CHURCH.
        Lastly, I take offense to your statement that shirt of accepting your proposal as the only way forward, that change is not worth trying. You have no idea who I am and the lengths I would go to and have personally gone to, to aid those who have been impacted by abuse. My wife and I have an agreement to welcome anyone into our home whe needs a safe escape. My wife came from an abusive household so it is something of a crusade for her, and I have her back. I have gathered a posse of like minded gentlemen in one occasion to “discourage” a man we knew to be abusive from contacting his girlfriend. We did so at the risk of our military careers as well as legal jeopardy. Had it been necessary to escalate beyond a verbal discouragement, we were prepared for that.
        All of that said, I don’t have a perfect solution, but I will never agree with one that involves the government, aside from vigorously reporting known violations for prosecution.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Doug, that’s wonderful that you’re a haven for those who have been abused! I mean that sincerely. I’ve been trying to figure out how I could use some of our rental properties in the future for such a thing. We all need to be far more aware of what’s going on around us.
          Again, we’re not arguing for government intervention; simply self-regulating bodies, which is the norm for every other profession. If a registry will do the same thing, I’m all for that as well. But we need to do SOMETHING, so let’s keep brainstorming until we figure this out. This should be a priority. The fact that churches keep telling us why it can’t be done is rather infuriating.
          I think before there was medical licensing, driving licensing, accountant licensing, etc. etc. everybody told you why it couldn’t be done, either. But eventually people realized that we had to take this seriously, and people insisted on it. And usually it was the professionals THEMSELVES who insisted on it, because they wanted a way to signal to people, “we are the safe ones! Stay away from the unsafe ones!”. So perhaps it’s pastors who need to take the lead on this. I would think that pastors would want their congregants to know, “I will abide by these professional and ethical standards.” Perhaps if more pastors thought this way, they could band together themselves. That’s what’s happened with other professions, and that’s why we have so much public safety in many of these areas. And usually these professions did it, too, BEFORE the government gets involved. When there’s a ton of abuse going on, eventually the government is going to have to step in because the outcry will get too loud. So what professions did was they regulated before the government could, so that they solved the problem on their own terms. That’s certainly what happened medically and with psychotherapy, etc. I’d suggest that pastors would want to solve the problem on their own terms now, before the government gets upset enough that they do something.
          If the problem is solved by registries, as Lindsey suggested, with registries that encompassed anyone breaking professional and ethical standards (not just sexual abuse, for instance, but also financial mismanagement; breaking of privacy; etc.) then that’s a great alternative. But I would suggest that pastors and congregations think about this now and do something.

          Reply
          • Maria

            It’s still false security. What about Enron, what about Nassar? Girls cane forward with complaints for decades but no professional body stopped him. Also it would further separate “clergy” from “laity” reinforcing professionals know better and setting people up to be abused. When the Catholic Church was the state and all the ”professionals“ were overseeing each other abuse was more rampant than it is today.
            Nassar should be banned from ever practicing again because he’s in prison. For these crimes people d sad hours stay in prison. Maybe that’s where reform needs to happen. I don’t know what should happen either but I am uncomfortable making this a worldly profession regulated by a group given authority by a state or national government,
            People need to think for themselves and not just believe any group is safe because others say they are. The individual needs to be strengthened and empowered.

          • Doug

            I don’t get any of the credit for making our home a refuge. My wife gets it all. I have seen her put herself between a woman(little more than a girl) and an abusive man in public, and then offer to take the girl home. My role is to back her up and to make sure said abuser knows that there will be immediate physical consequences to any sort of escalation or retaliation. I draw on her sense of moral outrage and she has the security of knowing I have her back so she can tread those waters without fear(not that she lets fear get in her way).
            She tends to be the conscience, and I am the muscle.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I love that, Doug! 🙂

          • Catherine

            one of the original purposes of church membership used to be (way back in the day) a form of accountability. To join a new church, it required a letter of good standing from your former church. Now I’m
            Not taking a stand on whether that was a good practice or bad practice …. or whether without the need for this there’s even a point of church “membership” today….. All I’m
            Saying is if pastors and their churches once required this type of assurance on their new congregants, it’s just odd That the church never required the same of pastors themselves !

          • Wild Honey

            Just jumping in at a random point in this conversation…
            I used to work in higher education in the U.S. and was part of the (quite large) team that helped get the college ready for it’s accreditation review (which happened every six years, through a SELF -GOVERNING accreditation body). Something the liaison officer said frequently that stuck out to me, is that “We are doing this to show that we can regulate ourselves and hold ourselves to high standards, so that the government DOESN’T HAVE TO. We know more about education than they do, and as long as we want to stay in charge of educating and not have government officials who don’t know about education come in and tell us what to do, we need to do this and do it well.” (My very rough paraphrase from memory.)
            This is what I hear Sheila and Rebecca saying, and I agree. Will it be perfect? Nope. Will it be a lot better than the Wild West? Given the #churchtoo movement, I really hope so.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Thanks, Wild Honey. Totally agree.
            My husband had to guide a university medical department through the accreditation process as well, and has worked with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. It is so much better to self-regulate. And it is possible.

  2. libl

    I did. I got sick of fad-driven, reinventing the wheel, doctrine reinterpreting, irreverent, country club churches and returned to my Catholic roots. I appreciate that they have a set and clear catechism, a distinct authority to avoid fly-by-nights setting up crazy, unchecked “ministries,” beautiful reverence and a respectful sense of the sacred, well-studied and documented history in both the religious and secular worlds, and that every inner question that I raised in protestantism has been answered in Catholicism. I don’t think I can ever go back to the ever-rockinb, unstable ship that is modern evangelicalism. Too much damage has been done. Every pastor, every church, every denomination has a different opinion as to who and what is right, and they all claim to have the Holy Spirit as proof of their interpretations. Is xyz a sin or not? One church says yes, another says conviction-based, another says “no way!” Well, what does God say!!?? Each interprets the Bible himself and each differently, so “church” becomes a social club of those who tend to agree with the pastor’s interpretation of the Bible.
    I couldn’t take that inconsistency anymore and walked away from today’s church and walked back through history.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I understand, Libl. I hope that you have found Jesus there, because that’s what really matters. I’m glad you’re not stressed anymore!

      Reply
      • Libl

        Found Jesus there??!! Of course!! The Catholic Church is 100% Christ just like St. Patrick’s famous quote. I get more Bible reading in one Mass than I ever did in an evangelical church.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Oh, I didn’t mean to be insulting! I just meant that that is really all that matters to me: that people truly find Jesus. That’s it.
          (I’m totally with you about the liturgy, by the way. I love how Catholic and Anglican churches and others in those tradition read through the Bible. I think it’s far healthier; isn’t it over a three year lectionary you basically hear the whole thing? Not every verse, but every story and part of the Bible?)

          Reply
          • Andrea

            I’m sorry, this will actually sound insulting, but I have got to ask how you made peace with the cover-up of sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church? I guess one possible answer is that, now that we know the Protestants are just as guilty of it, may as well pick the church with the better liturgy. I have to ask because the main topic of the comments for this post has been the cover-up of abuse and yet you respond with finding the solution in going back to the Catholic Church.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I’m not saying that is the solution, Andrea. I do think that Protestant and Catholics both have sexual abuse scandals, and the SBC has handled it no better than the Catholic church.
            I do think liturgy is great, though, and I love the idea of a lectionary. That is really important.
            And I also want both Catholics and Protestants to feel comfortable coming to this blog!

          • Libl

            Catholics have a saying, “you don’t leave Jesus because of Judas.”
            Also, you have to understand the Bella Dodd testimonies and how the church was attacked through infiltration. The true Church reigns and more and more healing and restoration of that which the locusts ate is happening.

  3. Dorthea

    Thank you so much for talking about these issues. I know you are treading on many toes and I admire your courage!
    I found this to be encouraging as I was just thinking, literally this week that church is toxic. Not all of them but almost! The only reason I’m still attending the Sunday morning gathering we call church is because of my husband. We have left a couple small toxic churches, are in a bigger one that is far enough away that we can’t get too involved which helps us stay out of some of that toxicity that could sour our relationship with Jesus.
    My needs are for community, not more teaching or music. As you said I can get all of that and better teaching through the internet. So though I’m fed up with our current church culture I have not left Jesus. In fact I’m closer to Him now than ever.
    I love your ideas and I’m praying we The Church- the followers of Jesus, will take a stand and do better. We can do better and for the sake of those who don’t know how amazing Jesus is, we MUST.
    Again thank you for sharing your hearts on this, you help many, many people!

    Reply
  4. Jane Eyre

    Have not listened to the podcast, but the best I can offer is that our first church is the home. It was our parents’ job to teach us (whether or not they actually did), and our job to bring God into our homes and to teach our children to love and follow Him.
    Now, I’m a devout Catholic, so I am hardly one to say that our home theology should be greater than the church theology, but I hope we teach our son to be discerning about what churches he attends when he is grown up. My husband is an evangelical and examined several churches before settling on the one he is at now; I did the same. We feel comfortable raising our son in either faith at either church, and hope that influence, and the influence of our faith life at home, will provide a good foundation for our son throughout his life.
    Like a lot of things at home, if done properly, set the child up for a lot of success; if done badly, make it challenging for the child to intuit when bad situations are bad. Likewise, if there is abuse going on, children should know that they shouldn’t keep quiet about it to not make waves; they should know that they always have a spiritual home at home, and home will protect them.

    Reply
  5. Lindsey

    I understand what you’re saying about licensing requirements. However, as an American my number one priority it maintaining freedom of religion.
    It is not that I don’t care about sexual abuse – I do. I believe that everyone who is complicit in a cover up should be prosecuted and sent to jail – I’d also like to see the death penalty implemented for child molesters, but that’s another topic.
    However, there don’t seem to be any good options for licensing. Obviously, the state cannot do it – see China for reasons why that would be an abysmal failure – and I am not sure that there is a way to have a TRULY UNBIASED third-party who would not start trying to dictate doctrine. Either way, without state control there is no way to ban those pastors from starting another church even without license. The onus would still be on potential congregants to vet the ministry before joining – which is exactly where the onus currently resides.
    To that end, I would recommend that instead of licensing, a system should be set up that functions like the US registered sex offender list – where those pastors who have acted in a manner that excludes them from being trusted overseers should be listed, along with a picture and a brief summary of their “crimes”. There could also be a review board for this website which could verify any complaints from members, and if they were PROVEN true, pastors could be added to the list without their denomination or church board having actually disciplined them. This might rectify the power imbalance, and it would provide a resource for people who are looking for a place to attend.
    In short, as a true red-blooded American, I believe that the solution is to give the power back to the people by giving them all the information, rather than to try to empower new bureaucracies or, God forbid, give the power to control religion over to the government.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Lindsey, I like this too. Thank you for suggesting another alternative that could be a solution to the problem.
      The one thing holding back such an offender list, I think, is that some people have been accused but not convicted, or it hasn’t been proven, and so if the church puts them on such a list, they could then sue the church for slander. So, again, we would need government interference to protect churches from such a lawsuit. I know of two cases in my home town where a youth pastor has abused a congregant, and yet neither would show up on background checks. It would be enough to lose licensing, but not put them behind bars. And it’s that which we need to be able to share with other churches. However, I know insurance companies tell churches they can’t tell others what the pastor did or they could be sued.
      That’s a big problem.
      I’d also like such a registry to encompass more than just sexual abuse, but also financial fraud or spiritual bullying. I know that’s hard, but seeing James MacDonald try to take up another church is making me ill.
      I’d be a big proponent of such a registry, though. Absolutely. I love this idea. We just need a way to get over the problem of lawsuits.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        And in case I didn’t say it clearly enough, I really do love Lindsey’s suggestion. Anyone else have any others? Let’s keep this conversation going and brainstorm solutions, because there have to be some!

        Reply
        • Doug

          It all just comes back to self policing, which is actually what we are already doing. The absolute best approach is that people who know something speak up about it. Where there are playsible allegations made of a crime, they should be reported to the authorities immediately. It is their job to determine the truth in those instances. There is literally nothing that I am aware of that would prevent an offender in those circumstances to finish his or her sentence, and then “start” another church. They may encounter difficulties, and should encounter difficulties in affiliation with a particular church organization but there is nothing to prevent them from going independent if they have a group of congregants that will follow them. When I was growing up you seldom saw the independent churches grow beyond a few households, but now they are everywhere, and could be huge. They may well outnumber the
          larger organizations. Sadly, I don’t know any way other than voluntary compliance to create a registry of any sort. It is a real problem and I don’t think there is any one solution.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Yes, I agree with you that the proliferation of independent churches is a hindrance to this. Absolutely.
            Two more thoughts: Self-policing isn’t working. Look at the huge crisis in the SBC, for instance. All of these cases of abuse, and all they could get themselves to do was to get rid of ONE church. That’s it. They’re not dealing with it properly at all, and victims and advocates are rightly getting extremely frustrated. What we’re doing isn’t working.
            The other issue is that some things can violate professional standards without necessarily being illegal. For instance, in many states and jurisdictions it is not illegal for a pastor to have a sexual relationship with an adult congregant, though it is unethical (in other states clergy sexual abuse is illegal). There’s also incidents like James MacDonald’s where they greatly misused funds in horrendous ways, and yet they appear to be able to get away with it. That’s why it’s not about illegality; it’s about professional standards.
            A licensed counselor, for instance, must maintain strict client privacy, with only a few exceptions that have to do with safety or reporting crimes. If they violate client privacy, it’s not against the law, but it is a huge ethical breach which could cause them to lose their license. A physician near us lost his license for closing up his office in the middle of the night and not telling his patients, leaving them in the lurch. You’re not allowed to do that, but again, not illegal.
            That’s why I’d like to see agreed upon professional standards for clergy, similar to those for counselors, I don’t see a reason why they couldn’t be identical, actually, especially since the job is so similar, except perhaps with some financial ones added. And then if people don’t follow those, they lose licensing. Perhaps we could simply have denominations revoke ordination, or schools revoke degrees. I don’t know. But surely there are options available that don’t involve the government that people could think of?

          • Doug

            Shelia,
            There has actually been a lot of progress already, and it has been from the Govt sector, really leaning on churches to report wrongdoing. Again, I don’t want to single one organization out, but the Catholic church had a decades long policy of coverup, and laws have been passed to remove their cover, where a crime was concerned.
            I strongly support any law that prevents someone from hiding behind some privilege to conceal wrong doing but those privilege laws exist for a reason. It all gets very murky. If a congregant confesses some sin that involves sexual assault or domestic abuse to a pastor or counselor or even a spouse, those conversations are protected. On the other hand, that didn’t prevent someone other that the offender to report that, and those cases should immediately be conveyed to the authorities, and I believe that there are laws on the books that require it in most cases. Yet, many institutions either don’t know or don’t follow those laws, likely because they are somewhat ambiguous.
            I disagree that self policing doesn’t work. I believe it works in the vast majority of cases, but the successes are not the ones you hear about. I believe that the vast majority of chirches would not stand for knowingly allowing a pedophile on their staffs. I don’t want you to think I am minimizing the very real problem where failures exist, but I do think they are a very very small percentage.
            Yes, we could and should do better but I think the first line of defense falls to the individual congregants to be vigilant.
            The bible speaks a great deal about false teachers, but it also lays responsibility on every believer to test what they are being taught.

        • Maria

          I wrote earlier about a voluntary accreditation for people who are looking for a safe place to worship. If you go through the process of having your church examined thoroughly by an accrediting body that you trust then that church could earn the accreditation. Much like the better business bureau.., (I don’t know if that’s government run).
          If you don’t have the accreditation, you can still have a church but it would allow people to “shop”for a safe church with some help. This doesn’t solve everything, I know:) Just brainstorming.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I really like that idea, Maria! I really do. I don’t see any reason why that couldn’t be done. The big thing would be to ensure the body would kick out churches that didn’t comply. The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, for instance, did something like that for churches and nonprofits to say that they were handling finances well. But there’s been so much news lately about how they dropped the ball on HUGE scandals that they knew about, like Gospel for Asia or Harvest Bible Chapel. The reason they did that, perhaps, is because they earn their money through dues from these organizations, so to kick an organization out is to lose dues.
            I think, though, that with public pressure, you could end that incentive, or at least overcome it. And then people would know that this church was at least trying to abide by standards. I like that!

          • Maria

            If you didn’t comply you would lose the accreditation. There could be various ratings that you earn based on certain criteria…, High standards for romantic relationships between leadership and believers, healthy boundary for youth groups, women in ministry, healthy messages around sexuality etc. Maybe a church doesn’t meet all to the rigor of the credentialing body but they can still receive a rating that could be understood by the public. Year to year they could earn it again, improve, or lose it. It wouldn’t have to be all or nothing. They could pay to be examined. Then no dues. Just pay if you want the seal of approval the next year. This would take away the incentive to overlook things. The accreditation would only be as good as the strict guidelines they award accreditation for. It would be a goal to strive for. We had special accreditation’s and awards we could try to earn as a hospital when I worked as a nurse.

    • Lindsey

      I don’t necessarily think that it needs to be a conviction for the webpage registry to be effective. For frame of reference I’ll give you some background on my circumstances.
      I was raised in a nondenominational sect with some different beliefs (some of which I still believe and some of which I’ve rejected as an adult). This background makes me wary of the idea of a licensing requirement overseen by main stream denominations.
      The church my parents attend is a split off from an organization which had its largest following in the 70-80s. I no longer attend any of the split-off groups, but because my family does I still have some association. There are blogs written by ex-members detailing some of the major issues and sins committed by the parent church as well as the splinters. People comment – mostly under anonymity – with recent issues they have experienced. Other people read and see what sort of things are happening. Just this simple of a thing is enough for anyone who is interested in the group and who googles them to find the information, and make an informed decision.
      In short, I’m actually NOT arguing that people who commit major sins be physically or legally prevented from starting new ones, the point of the registry was to put the power of knowledge back in to the hands of the laity and allow people to have a voice to warn others away from toxic groups. It needn’t be overseen by any church group, it can simply function as a “watchdog” organization website.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I do like this idea, Lindsey. The problem comes, though, from what constitutes “proof” of something gone wrong. As long as insurance companies and the law don’t prohibit people from telling the truth, even if it damages someone’s ability to get another job, then I think it would work well. The problem now is how easy it is to sue for slander.
        I know in one of the cases I’m thinking of the church was told that if they told other churches what had happened, he could sue. The church had no proof that anything beyond mild physical contact had happened, though more was suspected. But they could be sued because they tried to prevent him from earning a livelihood or something. I wonder if a lawyer could chime in. Could that be overcome?

        Reply
        • Lindsey

          Well I think, at least in the US, it would be difficult to sue (since it isn’t a news organization) Because all the website is doing is reposting what someone else said. It falls under more of a freedom of speech scenario. They wouldn’t be actively calling church’s where the defamed pastor worked, they would just be operating in more of a “gossip website” fashion.
          Obiviously, anyone who undertook to create such a database should check their local laws. But the average person is not held to the same legal standards to verify facts as a news reporter should be. And, of course, I wouldn’t condone putting someone on “the list” without some sort of proof more than a “he said-she said”. Whether that comes in the form of letters or recordings, or whether it’s multiple complaints of other witnesses, care should be taken to prevent character assassination based on just one person’s say so.
          But at the end of the day I feel like this has the best chance to be effective without creating the potential of infringing on freedom of religion. There is no conflict of interest in wanting to encourage more people to join a certain denomination, and no one is profiting from “dues” paid by churches registering for licensing. Increasing access to information is the best way to prevent future abuse when incarceration is not an option.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I do like it. I know, though, that Christa Brown has been trying to pressure the SBC to do this for years (In 2008, Paige Patterson called her as bad as child sex abusers for calling for this). The denominations are resisting. And even if one denomination does it, abusers can cross denominations. I’d love to see a centralized one of all denominations.

          • Lindsey

            The absolute best scenario would be one run by someone who didn’t affiliate with any denomination, but was more of a “personal relationship with Jesus” sort of person.
            It is IDEAL that it be run by someone who isn’t, in any way, a part of the ministry. Someone with a critical eye and very little ministerial sympathy. In my opinion (which, of course this whole thing is), it’s foolhardy to wait around for denominal councils to put this together when it would be far more effective if they had no say in it whatsoever.
            That’s how we put the power back into the people’s hands. That’s how we make it something that people can put some faith in. The leadership of any – or even all – denominations cannot have any control over it, because the point of the registry is to take away some of the power they have to conceal information, and put that power back into the hands of your average Christian.
            It is a plus the your average Joe Shmoe is much less likely to face a lawsuit than are the leadership of a major denomination.

          • Lindsey

            Also, in the US, all non profit salaries are publicly available if one writes into the IRS to request the information. This information should also be disclosed on the registry for anyone make six or seven figures – plus perks most of the time. People have a right to know how their tithes and offerings are being utilized.

          • Maria

            I love your ideas Lindsey!

          • Doug

            Something like this sounds good, but it is subject to the same bias and fallibility as anything else himans involve themselves with, and could easily be abused if there were not some stringent safeguards.
            A good example of a similar entity would be the Southern Poverty Law Center and their list of hate groups. Granted, they have a socio political agenda, and everything they do is centered around that agenda, but they have gone to great lengths to demonize anyone who doesn’t agree with them. Aside from that, they tend to shoot first and ask questions later, when it comes to making accusations, etc. There have been examples of them labeling a group a hate group, based on little more than conjecture or even a name they didn’t like.
            These people are a train wreck, but within their own hearts they believe tjey are right and believe they are doing a good thing.
            This same sort of “List” is what we are talking about here. I wonder if someone would be so good as to provide a set of safeguards to protect not only the integrity of the list, but more importantly to protect those who would fall under it’s jurisdiction.
            Shelia, this is a personal challenge to you.
            You and I do not see eye to eye on FOtF. I don’t disagree with many of your reservations where they are concerned, but I do disagree with your viewpoint that they are “bad” or that what they get wrong outweighs the good they do. Hiw do you propose to resolve these sorts of differences? How does one of us not come away feeling that the list was wrongly applied.
            Those are the sorts of questions that are going to have to be addressed.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Actually, Doug, that’s something that we’ve thought through quite a bit. What we’ve come up with is a Rubric where we measure things on certain elements. So an organization could score well on one element, but badly on another. We’re going to be launching a website before the book comes out where we’re able to provide that information as it relates to women’s sexuality. That way we won’t be saying “this organization is terrible”, but rather, “on these 12 questions, this organization scored here, based on X, Y, and Z”. And then people can make up their own minds based on more information, which is really the goal. Let’s lay it all out, and let people judge for themselves.
            (I agree with you about the Southern Poverty Law Center, by the way. But I don’t think that’s a problem that can’t be overcome. If there’s a registry of the kind that Christa Brown has been advocating for years, people can see it for themselves, and see what the concerns are. It wouldn’t be about politics but rather about people’s actions with regards to safety.)

  6. Susanna

    I’m just here to say I loved the shout-out for Phil Vischer’s podcast “The Holy Post.” He and co-host Skye Jethani are among my favorites. 😁

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It is great!

      Reply
    • Susanna

      Btw, Skye Jethani is also the author of that piece you shared about sermon centric church. It’s a small (ideological) world, apparently. 😉

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Oh, too funny! I hadn’t realized that. 🙂

        Reply
  7. Active Mom

    I wonder if the problem isn’t with the lack of licensing but with us as followers. When we joined our church several years ago we came right after a horrible church scandal. We had no idea at the time we had relocated from out of town. The short version is the head pastor who was married had an affair with a women who worked/volunteered at the church. The elders found out as did the wife and he was removed from his position permanently and was told that he could receive counseling from the church but could no longer attend, the church wanted to put its arms around his wife who filed for divorce. We found out and our first thought was Bravo! However, over a third of the congregation left because he was removed and censured. They felt like he should have been allowed to continue to preach because he was sorry and it wasn’t his fault his wife wouldn’t forgive him and stay in the marriage. He was charismatic and popular.
    The problem was not with the people in charge. The elders acted swiftly and with compassion. The problem was with the members.
    Sin is hard for people to confront. Especially Christians who may really like the accused. Regulating boards won’t change that. We have to be willing to confront the monsters in our churches the same way we should confront the predators who volunteer in little leagues etc.
    I don’t want the government anywhere near my churches. California spends a great deal of time trying to infringe on religious liberty now. Heaven help us if they have a legal right to do so. They are constantly sponsoring bills that are drafted to go after churches autonomy. From what can be sold in its book stores to their bathroom policies.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Isn’t that a sad story, Active Mom! But I have heard so many similar things. You’re right; we as people need to show much better discernment. Isn’t that sad?

      Reply
  8. Arwen

    I’m a little bit confused. When a crime like sexual crime has been committed in a Church why don’t the victims/pastors/deacons report it to the police? If people just reported it to the cops we wouldn’t even be in this predicament in the first place. Am i misunderstanding something in the above comments? Reading the comments above is making me feel like some are advocating a Shariah like court system for Christianity.

    Reply
    • Lindsey

      No, you are correct that when someone has committed a crime that is both provable and within the statute of limitations, the best course of action would be for them to be prosecuted and imprisoned. In other cases, what was done wasn’t illegal – spiritual abuse, relations with a consenting adult lay member, using donations to live in the lap of Luxury, committing adultery, etc. In those cases people should warn other Christians of the character of the leaders they might be following before more damage can be done.

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi Arwen! It’s only in some jurisdictions that clergy sex abuse is actually illegal. And in some jurisdictions, if the age of consent is 16, or even 14, then if a youth pastor abuses someone in their congregation, it isn’t technically against the law in those states. (In some it is; in some it isn’t). Also, while sexual contact would be illegal, kissing or flirting or inappropriate texting isn’t necessarily illegal. So a youth pastor who is caught grooming a minor and sending texts at all hours and kissing her may not be able to be reported to the police, even if it’s obviously wrong. See, for example, how a youth pastor from Harvest Bible Chapel was let off the hook for sending texts to a boy asking to see pics of him naked or in his underwear. This stuff gets really ugly, and if we say that only those who are charged with a crime can be added to a database, we’ll miss the vast majority of people who overstep their bounds, even in grievous and horrendous ways.

      Reply
  9. Hannah

    Mm, licensing. I had never even considering it for pastors, but it is appealing. I work in a field where there is no licensing* (I teach dance) but I so, so, so wish there were because I see lots of people who are in no way qualified to teach and it hurts students and the perception of a field very much. I would gladly do whatever I had to do to be licensed–I know I’m qualified, and it would be nice to have some recognition of that to show others. Even if such licensing did exist and weren’t mandatory, having it at all would be very helpful.
    *there are a few certification options in ballet, but they’re a very small minority and tend to be very technique specific/tend to peg teachers into a specific form, which is usually not desired. I’m not aware of any meaningful certification for other common dance forms. Irish might have something, but I don’t know for sure.

    Reply
    • Hannah

      I should amend that to say this is US-specific. Outside the US, the RAD (British) form of ballet tends to be more widespread and requirements for that specific licensing are more common. But it’s not like the Bar or something, where either you’re admitted and you practice or you aren’t and you don’t.

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hannah, thank you! I think having a self-regulating body is totally doable, even if it’s not mandatory. At least you could have a “seal of approval” or something.

      Reply
      • Hannah

        Yeah, a seal of approval or similar would be great. It would at least be some way to signal to those of us who are looking that that church practices certain things. Like if you see a church is part of a specific denomination, it usually tells you where that church is on the theological spectrum. Not always, but it gives you a good idea.

        Reply
  10. Em

    Just finished listening to the podcast. I have been thinking a lot about church recently as well, but from a slightly different angle. I have community. What’s missing from my life is joining publicly with other believers reading God’s word together. Old Testament style where someone is literally reading God’s word and anyone can gather and listen. Personally, I would like to see more opportunities to gather publicly and just hear the Word of God read without the obligations to fill out a communication card/join a small group/ leave my child in a room with strangers/ hug the old person who thinks they are entitled to being hugged, etc. I think there is a place for both.
    I have attended many churches. My two favorites have been a small small community country church led by a man with no formal training besides the Holy Spirit and Bible that meets outdoors weekly, and a group of missionaries in a place where attending church on a weekend was not an option.
    (For the record I do go quite out of my way to attend a church that actually reads the word on Sunday, and seems like a very healthy body. I am that person who comes to hear the sermon then leaves.) I’m open to a different perspective.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I hear you, Em. I wish that church could be more than just a sermon and music, and more about Scripture, or responsive readings, etc. I do think that that’s missing. It’s one of the reasons that I like more liturgical churches that have more of an emphasis on Scripture.

      Reply
  11. Meagan Lawry

    Totally agree that accountability in church is essential. Checks and balances are essential. Not placing all the power in the have of one man is important, I’ve seen first have how it can be abused, and also how the responsibility that comes with said authority can be burdensome to one man.
    In a previous church I attended, I had the fortunate/unfortunate privilege of witnessing how accountability works when a pastor is not following the biblical precident (for elders) of keeping his home in order. The other elders in the church approached him privately first, urging him and his wifeto get counseling from a third party. When he refused, the y brought the matter to the presbytery, which oversees our local denomination branch. There were hearings and debates, and ultimately the pastor was removed and defrocked. An incredibly messy, sad business, but it was handled well– and remarkably our church stayed intact! In the early church, the apostles vetted one another and other teachers. No one could stop false teaching through government, etc. Nor did the apostles try to. They preached and exhorted with truth. You see false teaching, scandal, and the like in all denominations, but the only biblical way to counter it is with truth.

    Reply
    • Meagan Lawry

      hand, not have🤪

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Sounds like your church handled it well! That’s great. And I’m glad he’s been defrocked.
      I agree that we need truth, absolutely. But here’s a question: What if he hadn’t been defrocked? What if he had simply moved, and tried to get another pastorate position? How does the next church do due diligence, especially if the pastor doesn’t even let them know about the previous church? That’s why I think we need some sort of outward accountability. Some denominations do this better than others for sure, but I’d love to see more of it.

      Reply
      • Meagan Lawry

        It is up to the new congregation to thoroughly vet him. Even if he made up a false back story or withheld information, there is only so much one can cover up if leadership is truly doing their homework. That is the real problem in my opinion, not lack of licensure. People need to have a solid understanding of what transparency and accountability means to a particular congregation before thinking of joining.
        Just like a previous commentor said, churches used to ask for a letter of good standing from a potential members’ former church. My church still does this. It is just as imperative for leadership.
        On a related note, two books I think you would enjoy are Nine Marks of a Healthy Church and The Gospel Comes With a House Key. The first is a blueprint of sorts to unpack what the Bible teaches about the body of Christ, the second outlines Christian hospitality as an extension of church community. Very convicting and thought provoking!

        Reply
  12. Another Susanna

    I have to say, as a 48-year-old person who no longer attends church, that this series of posts, and the comments on these posts, reminds me of all the reasons I stay far away.

    Reply
  13. Anonymous A

    Several thoughts that come to mind from the post and from the podcast.
    1.I highly suggest reading “Pagan Christianity” by Frank Viola. He does a great job laying out how the church we know today is more rooted in the structure of the Pagan world than the first Century church. Helps give a good foundation for thinking about house church as a possibility but his writing goes far beyond that.
    2. I watched up close in Ohio as a friend reported sexual abuse to the state counseling board and the whole process that entailed. I learned several things. The counseling board is essentially an arm of the state and is subject to administrative law- not criminal law. In other words you can lose your license or be fined or have extra requirements but the counseling board can not send you to jail. When there was an official public agreement with the counseling board it was signed off by one of the deputy attorney generals of the state. So the counseling board is not a totally independent peer board-it is tied to the state- so that model would definitely present many problems with our freedom of religion.
    My opinion is that the state counseling board was more set up to protect the profession than the harmed client and the counseling board actually caused the victim more harm and did pretty much nothing to provide help to mitigate the harm the counselor had done.
    The counseling board rules are also set up in many ways in favor of the counselor over the victim. The only way to get the details made public would be for the counselor to refuse a consent agreement and refuse to give up their license, and then have the state board take the license and at that point the counselor has appeal rights and if they do appeal- then some information that was gathered can be made public.
    3. As far as independent boards, I think it was already mentioned in the comments but ECFA was supposedly an independent board to voluntarily certify churches finances and they apparently really messed up on Harvest Bible. I don’t think it would make much difference if churches pay dues to EFCA or they pay a fee- there is still a lot of room and incentive for issues to be overlooked that are serious.
    4. As to how churches get so much power. I think it would be really wise to look at the roll women play in this. From what I have read and from what I have observed women tend to have a higher influence in the family as to whether the family should go to church at all and more influence on where the family goes to church. Also, women tend to have a very high influence on the household budget and how much and to whom giving is made. And often widows- are the ones who eventually leave huge bequests to churches- because they tend to live longer.
    So many women seem to be very attracted to charismatic men who are strong leaders and then they encourage their families and friends to go to those types of churches and to give to those types of churches. And if the church is offering what appears to be great child programs and great youth programs women are often willing to outsource the spiritual education to those programs and to put high trust in the men leading them.
    So really I think a lot of the solution is women really learning from older women to really read their bibles and to be more discerning about where they encourage their families to go to church and where they encourage the family to give.
    5. Some of the fastest growing churches I have read about our the underground churches- in Iran and China- with a lot of female leadership and not all the buildings, programs, etc. we have in the West.

    Reply
  14. Rachel C

    I’m not sure what I think about all this, but I think a sort of voluntary accreditation could be a good idea just like for schools. This way, potential attendees could know if a certain church met certain criteria or not. It wouldn’t be easy by any stretch of the imagination, but I think it could happen with effort.

    Reply
  15. tohu va-vohu

    The issues in “churchianity” (the way the west does church which we have exported to much of the world) are structural. The Reformation changed and clarified some doctrine, but the structure of the church didn’t really change. There was no longer one earthly authority over all of christianity, the Pope, but that was just replaced with one earthly authority over all of christianity in a smaller area. Areas that were quickly broken down into smaller and smaller areas until we have “churches” glaring at each other across the street. And now they are not geographical areas; you can go to many churches in your area as you choose.
    Today, most christians in the world are not a part of churchianity. We don’t see it in North America, but most christians do church with no building or any group-owned possessions, no professional leaders, and 100% of any money collected is used to meet needs (as opposed to churchianity where 85% of all money collected is used to directly benefit the ones giving the money, comfortable building, good entertainment, convenient childcare, etc.).
    I believe there can’t be an authority to appeal to for issue with “Pastors” because there’s no one that can be at the top except Jesus. And if Jesus is at the top, and he is in direct communication with every believer, why have any “Pastors”? The issue is churchianity’s understanding of authority is just the world’s understanding of authority. “Pastors” lord it over people for the people’s own good (“are called benefactors”).
    True christian authority is flat. Everyone reports directly to Jesus. Everyone is responsible to learn from Jesus (that often happens through others; I’ve learned a lot from a certain woman who writes a certain blog and does a certain podcast), but we are responsible to Jesus.
    We are all apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers to differing degrees of specialization; to equip each other to serve God and each other.
    The issue of churchianity is that it is structured for “bad soil” (your organization is perfectly designed to get the results you are getting). If you want community of “good soil”, the system needs to change. Don’t volunteer your time to making the 99 sheep more comfortable. Don’t depend on a “Pastor” to tell you what is true. And you better care for the immigrant, poor, widow, and orphan or you are going to hell:
    ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
    “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (from Matthew 25:31-46)
    Your “license” is the Spirit of God in you. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me [Jesus]….and I l[Jesus] am with you.”
    You have equal authority with your “Pastor”.
    ____Other observations on the conversation____
    __Legalism and Phariseeism__
    Your are conflating legalism and phariseeism.
    Legalism: keep a rule/law to gain salvation.
    Phariseeism: guardrails (to ensure that we don’t get close to actual sin) which are have been elevated in function to be equal to actual sin.
    __Denominations__
    You said that it would be better to be in a church affiliated with a denomination. This just moves the authority up one or more levels, which actually depersonalizes authority. There are 25,000 denominations; Why?!
    __Church size__
    You said that maybe if we stopped going to the megachurches and went to the good little ones, they wouldn’t be little.
    People can have meaningful connections with about 75-120 people. If a church grows past that, a gifted shepherd can no longer shepherd the group and the people in the church can’t have a relationship with the whole group. This increases the need for management and organization exponentially as it grows.
    We have conflated size and success.

    Reply

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