Wednesday, December 12, 2018

An Invitation to go on the Record

An Invitation to Go on the Record
Introduction
            Pastor Phil Endris and I recently released a video on Forward Talk entitled, “We are Going on the Record.” The purpose of the video was to highlight a few reasons that we as the church and ministers should go on the record (click here to view that episode). The purpose of this blog is not to restate the reasons that we think that Christians should go on the record with their views. Rather, I am writing this blog to encourage others to go on the record in response to any of the Forward Talk videos, or to my personal writings or teaching. 
            CLARIFICATION: Allow me to make the clarification that I am writing this blog solely as John Carroll and not as Forward Talk. I am not writing on behalf of pastor Phil Endris.
The Invitation
            What do I mean by an invitation for you to go on the record? I mean that I am inviting you to take the opportunity to utilize any of the technologies available to you to respond to Forward Talk or to my personal content. Anyone may utilize YouTube, blogs or various other tools to respond to our published material?
            Why would I invite such a critique? I get almost weekly feedback from preachers in the form of phone calls, texts or social media saying that there is someone on a closed forum that is attempting to dismiss what you are saying. Furthermore, it is the rare occasion that a dissenter will contact me directly. The only preacher that consistently does it is pastor Steve Epley. A couple of others have done it on isolated occasions. 
            What I would love to see is some of the people who like to do remote keyboard strikes as they drone from behind the privacy of a closed preacher’s forum go on the record as I have. Even worse are those who deliver weak attacks cloaked in concern in private conversations where no record of their comments exists at all. Some fear that this open dialogue will cause division. I argue strongly that going on the record will cause no more division that we are currently experiencing as a result of private slander. The positive side of going on the record with our brotherly critiques is that the person being critiqued can actually clarify misunderstandings. It is exactly this level of transparency that the anonymous gossiping preacher resists at all cost. 
            It is no secret to those who are familiar with my work, that I taught a series on divorce and remarriage in early 2018. I have had many screenshots sent to me from various private forums where conversations were being had about my argument. There have been some men that have had very severe things to say about me and what I have taught—including calling me a false prophet. I did what no one has done in response, I went on the record. I have asked repeatedly that someone produce a video response to my material. I have asked that someone present a written critique of the arguments. So far, no one has made any serious attempt at responding to my points. Or at least no one has done it publicly. 
            Let me state clearly, I am inviting anyone to respond to my divorce or remarriage series. The body of Christ needs to see the ministry have respectful, public discourse. If anyone should respond on the record to my material, then I would respond again in kind. The sole point of this blog is to invite conversation which is so important to the body of Christ. 

As always, leave your feedback—on the record

Friday, October 26, 2018

A Surprising Consequence of Divorce Part 1

There are many consequences of divorce. Many of them are negative and traumatic. Contrary to some, I do not think that every consequence of every divorce is negative. I understand fully that my views on divorce and remarriage are controversial. And I am comfortable with that. 

I have experienced a shocking and unexpected consequence from my divorce. When my ex-wife and I divorced it was life-changing. I experienced deep depression and many other negative responses. Nothing about it was fun. It was by far the worst experience of my life. 

However, there have been some good things come from my divorce. It changed how I view fellowship. More specifically, it changed how I view disfellowship. Because losing my marriage was the most painful relationship loss that I will ever experience, the threat of a preacher friend walking away from me holds much less power over me than it did in the past. For much of my ministry, I have lived in constant fear of pleasing the brethren. While walking in harmony with godly men is noble, walking contrary to one's faith and conscience to please men is not. 

The political pressures of Pentecost seem small to me after the loss of my family. The threat does not work. The fear of the consequences of Pentecostal politics does not paralyze me.  I hurt for friends who have not experienced the depth of loss that I have when I see them struggle with being who they are because of preachers and politics. I want so bad for them to know that the greatest relationships that they will ever have fall asleep under their roof every night. And the second greatest category of relationship they will ever have are the people that God has blessed them to pastor. 

I ask every pastor that reads this blog to reconsider your priorities. Put your family and the congregation you oversee first. Then allow God to put organic relationships in your life that fit the vision God has for your family—including your church family. Don't subject what God is doing locally to someone a thousand miles away (in many cases). There is no one that you only see a few times a year at a conference worth giving that much power in your life. The people that have that kind of sway in your life should be few and selected carefully. 

I do not, and will not, build my life around fellowships, movements or organizations. I build my life around the relationships that God places in my life to forward his agenda for me. And those people will be loyal to individuals and not institutions. I fear for good reason relationships that are dependent on human systems. I fear them because of how they have treated me and the people with whom I am the closest. 

I am fiercely loyal. I will admit that I may even be loyal to a fault. I may stick with people too long. But I am loyal and I value loyalty wherever I see it. 

As always, comment even if you disagree. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Redemption During and After Divorce

In my last post I wrote about what I hate about divorce. In this post I want to write more redemptively. While Christians should always try to avoid divorce, there are redemptive things that can result from it. I am not suggesting that the things I am about the reference cannot be accomplished in marriage. But sadly they too often are not. So, if you are divorced, it is not the end of the world. Your life is not over. The following are some positive things that can result from divorce:
  • One can recover their true identity in Christ. Too often married people have unhealthy identity issues with their spouses. 
  • One learns to trust God solely. 
  • No relationship loss after divorce will every be more painful or life-altering. 
  • Many times God will restore one's life with a marriage that is God-honoring and fulfilling. 
No doubt there are many other results that could be noted. But these will suffice for the present purpose. If you know someone who is divorced, or is going through a divorce, please share this with them. It may be the grace and hope that they need. 

Monday, October 15, 2018

I Hate Divorce Too

It is no secret that I have gone through a divorce. In conversations on this topic, people often say to me, "God hates divorce." The aforementioned phrase is a quote—more or less—of Malachi 2.16. Often it feels as if people use this phrase to insinuate that those who allow for divorce and remarriage in certain cases do not hate divorce. The reality is that nothing could be further from the truth. 

I was reminded of above truth again this evening as I talked about divorce with a friend whose parents are divorced. Divorce doesn't just hurt the spouses; it hurts the children too. My friend and I both agreed that we hate divorce. He recounted his story about his parents in a way that saddened me deeply. Our conversation reminded me once again of the tragic consequences of a fallen world. 

I sat recently at a conference table filled with preachers. The topic of divorce came up and at least one preacher referenced Malachi 2.16. My response was that as the only divorced preacher at the table that I hate divorce more than all of them combined. The point of this post is simply to say that no one hates divorce more than those who have experienced it. I insist that it is impossible for a person who is still happily married to their first spouse to hate divorce more than me. Or any normal person who has survived divorce. 

I know no one who is pro-divorce. I know no one who went into a marriage hoping that it would fail. Certainly, no true Christian would. What do I hate about divorce?:
  • I hate the human brokenness that produces it. 
  • I hate the pain of separation that results from it for all parties involved. 
  • I hate the isolation, suspicion and calloused judgment that sometimes comes from fellow Christians. 
  • I hate the loneliness that follows it. 
In a subsequent post, I am going to write about the redemption that is possible after divorce. 

Saturday, October 13, 2018

First World Fellowship

For many preachers, fellowships can be frustrating. The frustrations of fellowships are not limited to organizations. A person is certainly not free from the frustrations as an independent preacher. It can be discouraging to watch the politics involved between local churches and between national churches. Perhaps the most notable thing about it all is the pettiness. When two men's teachings have 90% or more in common, and they still manage to find some small thing to use as an excuse to disfellowship each other. 

A friend of mine pointed out that this may be a first world fellowship problem. I wonder how many of our issues would matter if we lived constantly under the threat of persecution or death? I would dare say that a persecuted church would be a more united church. I pray that God will raise of voices of unity in the body of Christ. 

Preaching conferences, broad acceptance in the brotherhood, and many other issues inform the choices we make about fellowship between churches and ministers. Sadly, we allow suspicion and the level of a person's political toxicity to determine whom we fellowship. 

I pray that the American Apostolic movement will begin to love each other like a persecuted church before we actually become one.  As Oneness Pentecostals, we should be pursuing oneness with our brothers and sisters of the name. I realize fully that there are lines we should not cross, but I must insist with this little blog that we can do better. 

Friday, September 21, 2018

Misrepresentation

Anyone who meddles in ideas will be misrepresented. There is no escaping it. I don't claim to be an expert on any issue. But I do enjoy immensely the exchange of ideas. And there are a couple issues on which I think if have a solid grasp. Whatever the issue was, I have yet to have a conversation that either I or the other person(s) did not misunderstand some detail about the issue under consideration. The reasons for this are multi-layered.

Two Kinds of Misrepresenters 

Not all misrepresenters are created equal. I want to create a couple categories so as not to misrepresent them. It would be terrible if I misrepresented the misrepresenters. 

The Innocent Misrepresenter

The innocent misrepresenter is so because he does not have the informational or intellectual capacity to grasp the nuances of the topic. Therefore, he attempts to convey the conversation but cannot do it accurately. What often happens is that the misrepresenter has a preconceived notion about what a particular position states or what certain terms mean. Therefore, they hear an issue discussed through the distortion of misinformation. Far too often people have walked away from my conversations or statements and repeat what they heard, but not what I said. This kind of misrepresenter is not malicious; they are just misinformed. And that is tolerable. 

The Malicious Misrepresenter

The malicious misrepresenter is so because he has an unholy agenda. There may be many motivators for the misrepresentation. I am not so much concerned about the motivation as I am the action. When I encounter a malicious misrepresenter, I will mark and avoid them. When I and others have clarified our position on a topic, and one refuses to state it accurately, then they are a malicious misrepresenter.

My Response to the Malicious Misrepresenter 

When I have confirmed that you are a misrepresenter of the malicious variety, then I will not engage you in conversation. If you are going to misrepresent me, then you are going to have to work hard to find my material so that you can traffic in your devious dealings. 

However, if you maliciously misrepresent one of my friends—and likely anyone—then I will call your hand. I know all too well what it is like to be on the receiving end of malicious conduct. By the grace of God, I will not participate in it. In the interest of being transparent, I must admit that I have had to repent of this sin more than once. But I am asking the Holy Spirit to keep a check on my tongue and spirit in this regard. 

NOTE: As will all my blogs, all comments will be posted. Please feel free to engage. 


Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Need to be Honest with Scripture

I recently posted on Facebook about the need for hermeneutical honesty. The comments got so out of hand that I deceide to erase the post there. However, I have decided to reproduce that post here on my blog. My comments were as follows:
"Do we conservative Apostolics (of which I consider myself) care about hermeneutics in our preaching? I understand fully the concept of preserving traditional separataion. But a high view of scripture demands that you not commit crimes against the context of scripture to do it. We need a revival of biblical literacy and honesty. Preaching scripture soundly ought not to be too much to expect regardless of the setting. I may not agree with your conclusions, but I do need to respect your ability to interpret the Bible. If I disagree with you, then I will consider seriously that I may be wrong. I have a long history of being wrong, so I am aware that is a possibilty. Otherwise, I have no option but to dismiss your claims with respect."
I understand that much of the fury against the post was becasue of the timing. But anyone who knows me is aware that the above post is something that I have been passionate about for a very long time. My post was by no means isolating a recent sermon at PEAK 2018. Conversely, I am not suggesting that I am excluding said message from my post. The Facebook exerpt from above covers every sermon—including my own. I will go further and say, "Especially my own."

One of the primary purposes of preaching is persuasion. Paul wrote the following statement about preaching: "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men" (2 Corinthians 5.11, King James Version). My contention is that the way we handle scripture ought to have persuasion as its goal. We will convince no one of our view as long as we continue to demonstrate a disregard for context. As Apostolic preachers, we must start taking the Bible more seriously. As long as we misuse scripture to promote personal agendas we will continue to lose the respect of saint and sinner alike.

Finally, let me say that I am not a perfect interpreter of scripture—no preacher is. We all have room for improvement. Therefore, let us work hard to interpret scripture faithfully. 

As will every blog I post, I encourage you to comment below even if you disagree.