Thursday, March 15, 2012

A post-script to my blog entry about former pastor James Noriega

Several of the links, which I note in updates at the original post, which I made reference to in my blog entry discussing a Mars Hill clarification on church discipline and the disappearance of James Noriega from the named elders at Mars Hill, are dead. [more after the jump]

A Context for A Call for Reconciliation: Part 8

Part 8: Reconciliation can't come if only you get to control the terms

Mars Hill has stated it wants reconciliation to happen. I’d like to take that seriously and I sincerely hope it occurs. However, to want reconciliation only on one’s own terms is not possible. Asking former members to meet privately and not consider the media by now can’t work. I’ve demonstrated why. You can’t suppose at this point that even meeting in private will also automatically mean “off the record”.  [more after the jump]

A Context for A Call for Reconciliation: Part 7

Part 7: Where the leader goes (and what he does), the rest may follow

As I have attempted to demonstrate the recent stories came to light in the media due to what look like intra-Martian activity. Andrew wouldn’t have known about the escalation letter unless someone with access to The City sent it to him. This suggests that the underlying tension may not be how former members feel about church discipline, it may be that within the church itself there are some who are no longer convinced in the competence or equity of the process. If so that “might” explain why “A Call For Reconciliation” is addressed first of all to Mars Hill and only secondarily to former members or members who might be under discipline. [more after the jump]

A Context for A Call for Reconciliation: part 6

Part 6: The current situation did not arrive without any prior warning

Mars Hill camps out on protecting victims. It is important to protect victims but it is also important to define victimization from a criminal/legal standpoint as well as a spiritual one, something Mars Hill has not established. If what Andrew did was criminal he would have been prosecuted by now, wouldn’t he? Not everything that is immoral is considered criminal and vice versa. Mars Hill has not defined anything about victims, even victims of sexual abuse, as such. The rights of the accused are not eliminated by camping out on the rights of the accuser, are they? Was Andrew given an opportunity to appeal a disciplinary decision? This seems unlikely given the precedent and explanations provided by Mars Hill about church discipline so far.  [more after the jump]

A Context for A Call for Reconciliation: Part 5

I've decided to suspend this part.  I may put it up later but for now it's suspended.

If you read it already don't replicate any of it in derivative work.

A Context for A Call for Reconciliation: Part 4

Part 4:  Clarifications and Clarifications

As I documentted earlier this week from the clarifications from Mars Hill to Slate and on the Mars Hill website, sometimes clarifications need to be clarified.  New Reformation Press was informed that Andrew's case was part of a "confluence" of some kind. Whatever that is we don't necessarily ever need to find out but, along the way, Mars Hill attempts to clarify things seemed to need clarifying.
[more after the jump]

A Context for A Call for Reconciliation, part 3

Part 3: Mars Hill's anonymous advocate

Mars Hill leadership has indicated over the months they do not want to discuss things publicly so as to keep things private and avoid potential legal trouble. Members and advocates do not seem to have handled this in the same way. For instance, observe this rather lengthy comment discussion between Santita Tafarella, Anonymous (a woman who is at Mars Hill) and Anonymous2 a self-described atheist friend of Anonymous who steps into defend a few of her defenses of MH regarding her general approach to the Andrew situation. [more after the jump]

A Context for A Call for Reconciliation, part 2

Part 2: A staffer at Mars Hill contacts New Reformation Press

Now here's the blog entry in which Pat K wrote on Feb 4, 2012 about what he heard from a friend on staff at Mars Hill.

While being discreet to protect the identities of those involved, and avoiding many of the gory details, my friend laid out enough evidence to satisfy me that the initial accounts given by Andrew and those promoting his story are at best incomplete, and most likely deliberately misleading. Large parts are left out, including the majority of action taken by the church to reconcile him. Also, Andrew’s case involves a confluence of several situations that it appears Mars Hill has properly and thoroughly dealt with. Because the details involve the sin of others that are not publicly known, the church has decided the best course of action is to remain silent to protect those people’s reputation and privacy. They did not divulge the identities of the people involved, or the specific details of each situation to me, but they gave me a rough overview of the pieces missing in various accounts of the incident now in circulation. In light of these facts it is only right that I publicly retract my former comments directed at Mars Hill.

In other words someone anonymously conveyed to Patrick Kyle that Andrew's story was at best incomplete and most likely deliberately misleading. It is also explained that Andrew’s case involves a confluence of several situations. There’s no explanation as to what in the February 4 post, which is understandable. [more after the jump]

A Context for a Call for Reconciliation, part 1


Some readers (or all) may want to read almost everything at the following blog before proceeding to the body of this series:

The body of the unrevised first part begins below

I had decided over the last few months I wasn’t that interested in blogging about this topic but then the coverage kept happening. Then I got linked to by a Slate article in which the author and related editors clearly never bothered to read what I actually said in the blog post they linked to. Then I began to see the subject continue to come up in many of my favorite blogs. Then I began to realize that the subject was not going away and that the more I looked at how public discussion of the situation was going that things about it were starting to bother me. I also began to see Mars Hill members attacking the character and actions of Andrew on Facebook debates amongst people I actually know.
Then the “Call to Reconciliation” got published and I saw how it was worded. I have tried to be cautiously optimistic about it but I believe that in order for the “call” to be considered it has to be considered in context. By “in context” I do not mean the situations of Andrew or Lance, I mean the publicly observable pattern of how Mars Hill responds to criticism and specifically how advocates have chosen to broach the defense of Mars Hill as a subject recently and in the past. It is vital to be aware of this history so as to illustrate why people may feel cautious about meeting privately with Mars Hill leaders after having been hurt by specific decisions or policies at the church six years or six months ago. A central concern that has not yet been discussed that should be is the question of how “private” something private manages to stay. [more after the break]

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

HT Phoenix Preacher: Jonathan Martin on Pentecostalism as a global force

Now I don't land where Martin does at a number of points being that I'm an ex-Assemblies of God fellow who is now Presbyterian.  On the other hand, since I was born and raised in the same western Oregon region that produced Gordon Fee I can say from experience and observation that at least Oregon bred Pentecostals are not as anti-intellectual as Pentecostals tend to be thought of at a more national level.  It's easy to put Pentecostals down if you just assume from a stereotype that they are a certain way. 

With my nebulous qualifier out of the way I think Martin has a point in saying that Pentecostals are the living reality of how a majority of churches globally are.  The New Calvinists and the neo-Reformed movements, I think, are comfortably ensconced in the echo chamber of their own self-reinforcing hype.  It has been Pentecostalism, both nationally in the U.S. and globally, that has been the more powerful force shaping American spirituality.

Now I could suggest that the most popular/populist aspects of Pentecostal theology may have had harmful effects but I don't want to rehearse the various reasons I don't happen to be Pentecostal anymore.  Unlike some former Pentecostals I am not interested in drawing a straight line through every heretical movement in Western Christianity that leads straight up to Pentecostalism.  From a sociological standpoint that sort of historical theology of convenience is not my interest. It is observable that for the flaws of Pentecostal theology it has done more to promote racial reconciliation than a majority of groups concerned to get doctrine right. 

I don't share Martin's enthusiasm for Jakes but I can share with him his observation that Pentecostals do not need to have an inferiority complex compared to New Calvinists about global or national influence.  The New Calvinists could be likened to some indie band talking about how real and relevant they are and this compared to some lame band of talentless flunkies like The Beatles or the Rolling Stones.  As with the indie band that thinks because people go to their shows they're happening when the arena is being filled by another band, so New Calvinists may imagine that because a few of their advocates have gotten into the top fifty biggest churches in the United States this means they're poised to be a bigger influence on global Christianity than they actually are. 

My favorite excerpt:

I like the Reformed guys fine enough. I’m fine for them to have their gospel coalition and even their gospel coalition Jedi council. I do think that in posturing themselves as the arbiters and guardians of truly orthodox theology, they can be smug and self-referential, but Pentecostals can also be (and often are) smug and self-referential of course. The neo-Reformers can have a new Vatican if they want to. I just don’t think it has anything much to do with me.

I may not be Pentecostal anymore but excerpts like this remind me that, though I may seem like a dour Presbyterian now, there's some part of me that's still a Pentecostal boy on the inside.  Let's face it, the bit about the Gospel Coalition Jedi Council is pretty funny and the bit about neo-Reformers inventing their own Vatican is true.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Roy Baumeister on perpetrators and victims

In his book Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty psychologist Roy Baumeister refers to the way perpetrators and victims describe situations as including a magnitude gap.  For the victim the incident is inexplicable at best or instigated by malice at worst, perhaps even pure evil.  Baumeister, noting that what he calls "the myth of pure evil" is exceptionally popular in American popular imagination and discourse, warns us that this myth can create problems.  One of these problems is in failing to account for the magnitude gap because what a victim will find harrowing and an experience they can't get over will be for a perpetrator, say, something that hasn't happened in roughly six years and was simply a temporarily awkward but necessary decision.

Baumeister, in chapter 2 of his book, states that though victims' stories must be heard they cannot be held as definitive in explaining the actions of perpetrators.  Baumeister then notes, dryly, that unfortunately perpetrators tend to say very little. The imbalance between the perpetrator and victim testifying about a given incident is only made worse by the commonsensical observation that perpetrators have plenty of motive to lie or omit details so as to reduce their guilt and researchers (since the 1990s) have begun to realize that victims, too, have incentives to distort, omit, and even lie to make their stories more compelling.

Baumeister continues to note that in addition to the magnitude gap in which the perpetrator sees an act as much less big a deal than the victim, perpetrators and victims have considerably different perspectives on time.  A victim often has a far more expanded sense of time, place and context for an incident than a perpetrator will.  The two slogans most popular with perpetrators will be "It wasn't so bad" or "I couldn't help it" regarding the actual act and regarding the time frame it will be "It happened so far back you should be over it already." It becomes clear that while a victim will see an action as senseless or malicious a perpetrator will see all sorts of practical, even compelling reasons to have done something. Victims are more likely to discuss the consequences of an incident than a perpetrator will, who will instead be inclined to minimize the scope not only of the event itself but of possible consequences.  What lives on in the memory of a victim swiftly becomes some prehistoric fossil in the mind of a perpetrator, who may not even remain basic things about the event if he or she considers them at all.

What victims often fail to account for, however, is that to perpetrators the actions make sense.  Moreover, as Baumeister notes, victims are least likely to account for a common occurence, that the perpetrators often invoke victim status themselves in order to justify the things they do.  This may be due to direct victim status invocation in the case of someone who kills a man for having harmed him or an honor-based victimization status for a fight "that man insulted me/my family so I had to harm him".  It may also extend to group identification, such as in cases of crimes involving different races or other demographic groups in which one group becomes aggressive against another due to what may be called a collective ego threat.  Someone has to be put in their place and know their place is subordinate.

In studies on aggression among young boys it has been discovered that the most violent and aggressive boys tend to interpret ego threats or physical threats where none were actually intended. These aggressive boys tended to interpret innocuous and even friendly conversations as competitions in which someone was perceived as attempting to dominate them .Abusive husbands, too, have been discovered to treat innocuous or ambiguous statements as personal attacks.

Excessive sensitivity to insults or challenges of status and competence have been discovered to be a common thread among abusive husbands. The engine for such activity, Baumeister proposes, is that the abusive husband will tend to have high but unstable self-esteem.  His estimation of who he is and what he deserves is high but either does not correspond to reality at all or is questioned by outsiders.  For instance, if a man rates himself as a 9 and other people rate him as a 7 or even a 5 he will tend to be in conflict with people often.  If a man rates himself as a 9 and people generally rate him as a 9 he will be confident.  Baumeister uses this example to note that when a man consistently rates himself and expects others to treat him as though he were a 9 or a 10 and his actual performance and competence falls short, say in the 6 level, he will constantly be battling others over what he believes is their grossly inaccurate assessment of his competence and status. 

By way of defending perceived personal effronts it is possible for bullies and abusers to genuinely believe they are the victims as much or more than those they have abused. Baumeister notes, in a rather grim chapter 2 of his book, that research indicates that victims have been found to distort as much as perpetrators. Victims reshuffle events and form a narrative to make the offense seem as bad as possible while perpetrators, unsurprisingly, tell narratives in which the offense is minimized, non-existent, or even a necessary good. Baumeister notes that it is not safe to take the victim's story as objective truth (go to page 47 for that).  He concludes, and an unhappy conclusion it is, that we cannot conclude that either perpetrator or victm narratives will be free of distortion, omission, and even deceit.

Baumeister spends some time explaining that perpetrators will tend to see themselves as more morally complex than victims will see them.  They may see reasons that though what they did was bad, what they did was unavoidable or was for a better good than what the victim was standing for. And, of course, strangest of all may be how perpetrators can see themselves as victims even in cases where they have done horrific things. 

Reference is made to a book by Peter Sichrovsky (Born Guilty: Children of Nazi families) who interviewed children of National Socialist war criminals and found that in many cases the war criminals and their children perceived that they were victimized by a ruthless set of people who would not appreciate that many of these war criminals were just following orders, didn't personally kill anyone, and were trying to loyally serve their country. As the war criminals saw it they LOST THE WAR and this meant that they were legitimately victims and this sense of victimhood, through daily interaction and the parent-child bond, was passed on as a part of the children's sense of identity.

Within the United States people on Death Row often describe themselves as victims of the schemes of the powerful and the clever and the well-connected even if they are on Death Row for having killed multiple times.  John Wayne Gacy, for instance, actually described himself in terms of being a victim.

Perhaps the most challenging and unappealing observation Baumeister makes about observable perpetrator/victim narratives is that both parties may be unwilling to acknowledge mutual escalation of aggression as the engine of violence and aggression. He begins this discourse on page 52 in chapter 2.  He notes that both the perpetrator and the victim may be to blame for how things go.  Baumeister refers to an article by Leonard Berkowitz in 1978 in the Journal of Reserach in Crime and Delinquency, 15, pages 148-161.  Berkowitz observed that in most cases both assailants involved in a fight would insist that they did not land the first blow even if it was observed who did land the first blow.

Baumeister then cites some landmark studies that discovered that the mutual aggression is the norm in domestic violence.  In one study half the couples studied displayed mutual aggression and physical violence.  The other half, it seems, did not have mutual violence but the aggressors were still frequently responding to what they perceived as aggressive behavior (which Baumeister later proposes derives from threatened egotism as he continues the subject later in his book).

One of the concluding observations the author makes in chapter 2 is to note that though it is popular and more appealing to see violence and aggression strictly in terms of innocent victims and guilty perpetrators the more we study our own violence from a social scientific perspective the more we begin to observe that mutuality of violence and aggression is the most plausible explanation for why we continually harm each other as a species. Most people become violent or aggressive when they feel threatened and do not just go around assaulting people for no reason. The reasons may be cruel, baseless and specious but people do things for reasons.  Baumeister spends quite a bit of chapters 3-6 discussing those sorts of reasons.

Baumeister closes with a caution (in 1999 no less) that the American propensity to embrace a myth of pure evil within popular culture and a therapeutic culture was leading Americans to want to exonerate perpetrators if the perpetrators could adequately establish a plausible victimhood.  Coming from a psychologist this must surely be considered a warning, no?  Baumeister explained that as he was writing his book the Bobbitt trail made the news.  There were four possible outcomes for the trial:  he was guilty, she was guilty, they were both guilty, and neither were guilty. 

Baumeister noted grimly at the end of chapter 2 of Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty that because the ruling was that neither were guilty it suggests American society as a whole was incapable of and even unwilling to see things beyond the category of good guys and bad guys and, worse, incapable of looking at a complex situation and coming to the conclusion that both sides can be seriously wrong. We want good guys and bad guys so much, perhaps, that if forced to consider that the parties involved are not as innocent as we want them to be then, well, we'd rather excuse everyone as victims or as misunderstood than to say they are all responsible for the mess they have made.

A few excerpts from Mere Orthodoxy: American Power & Millenial Social Activism

Self-deception is the inevitable corollary of an emphasis on authenticity, and if ever there was a generation attached to the idea it’s we millenials. In moments like Kony 2012, it becomes clear that we tend to privilege earnestness: Good intentions are sacrosanct, especially when married to the intuitive pragmatism of “doing something.”


To return full circle, then, social media campaigns like Kony 2012 don’t simply “raise awareness” for a noble and good end. They are far more complicated, as any sort of robust communication ought be if it is to be anything more than mindless propaganda. The praiseworthiness of the creator’s intentions obscures the reality that such campaigns depend upon certain beliefs and attitudes for their existence and effectiveness, and that such beliefs are subsequently deepened when the campaign succeeds. In the case of Kony, American power is the presupposition on which the campaign depends for its success, and which will inevitably be reaffirmed.

Which is why the counter-reaction of questioning is indispensable, even if in its worst forms it is merely reactionary and dismissive. Without it, the feedback loop will be officially closed, and the messages that are conveyed will be only reinforcing of what we already claim to know.


This I find fascinating, particularly the statement, in bold text in its original form, that the inevitable corrolary of an emphasis on authenticity is self-deception. Authenticity may sometimes be the most pernicious affectation of all.

Gordon Marcy: Do We Still Need Traditional Broadcast Media to Reach the Masses?

The short answer, yes, because social media isn't as powerful or widely used as its users may think.

Monday, March 12, 2012

a compilation of coverage & public statements Re: Andrew and Mars Hill

In the two cases that have recently received media attention, we want to remind readers that there are always two sides to every story. As Proverbs 18:17 tells us, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” Unfortunately, in most of the articles and blog posts published in recent weeks, with the exception of the recent Slate article, we were not contacted by the authors to verify the facts or seek explanation regarding those cases prior publishing their articles. Out of sensitivity for all involved, and a biblical mandate to handle such matters within the church, we do not wish to comment publicly on those specific cases and drag into public what should be private.

Responding to the February 13, 2012 statement The Stranger's Brendan Kiley wrote:

That is factually untrue, at least in The Stranger's case. From the original article [published on January 31, 2012]

Mars Hill pastor Jeff Bettger responded to queries from The Stranger about these stories with a long, heartfelt e-mail. He confirmed some of the stories, did not deny the rest, and wrote:

"I personally have never known anybody at Mars Hill who would harass, blackmail, verbally abuse, or belittle ex-members. I would actually say that over the last few years Mars Hill has increasingly become more loving, kind, generous, and humble. I have been seeing this over and over from leadership at Mars Hill, and from members. We know we are not perfect, but we believe in an active God who loves us... The way God is growing this Church, I don't believe anybody would even have the time, let alone the interest, to follow ex-members around. We have a difficult enough time maintaining all the work that needs to get done from week to week as well as meeting with all the people who want counsel and are hurting."

The Stranger attempted to contact several current members of Mars Hill, but none of them responded to requests for comment.

To be crystal clear: I sent many emails with many questions to current church members and Mars Hill HQ. Only Pastor Bettger and Mars Hill's p.r. liaison answered—and there was this Tweet by Pastor Driscoll, which I love: ...

In the continuing body of "A Response Regarding Church Discipline" from February 13, 2012 we read the following:

That being said, we do wish to clarify one detail. In one of the cases, regrettably, a letter that was meant to be privately read aloud to a small group of about 15 people in close community and friendship with Andrew was instead posted to that group’s private online community page. There was never a letter sent to the church as a whole. The tragedy of this whole situation is that what was once a private and discreet matter is now on a grand stage, and those who were misinformed as to the actions of the church in this matter are now complicit in doing the very thing for which they have wrongly criticized us.

This detail was previously clarified in the February 10, 2012 article Ruth Graham wrote for Slate.

Before now, Mars Hill’s only response has been posting an excerpt on church discipline from Driscoll’s 2009 book Vintage Church on its website and an opaque tweet from Driscoll. But Justin Dean, the church’s PR and marketing manager, agreed to answer my questions by email to tell the church’s side of the story.

One key element that was not clear in Andrew’s original account, Dean told me, was that the letter was intended to be read aloud, not posted online, and only to a “handful” of people. Instead, the group leader received unclear instructions and posted the letter online, a move Dean insists was not meant to hurt Andrew.

Furthermore, says Dean, only the approximately 15 members of Andrew’s small group, who met regularly and knew one another well, had access to the letter on the City. (Though Andrew was blocked from accessing the City, he says the letter was available to a slightly wider circle, including his fellow security volunteers.) “His case was not shared with the full church and had, until he posted it publicly online, only been known by a handful of people who were involved in his life and cared deeply about him,” Dean said. (Confusing social-media privacy settings strike again!) He added that Driscoll was not involved in the case at all. Mars Hill currently has 5,417 members and just nine ongoing church discipline cases.

On February 13, 2012 Mars Hill stated they did not want to publicly address the cases that had made the news.

However, at least one person on staff at Mars Hill decided to anonymously address the subject privately to Patrick Kyle at New Reformation Press before the February 13, 2012 statement.  Kyle wrote on Feb 4, 2012 about what he heard from a friend on staff at Mars Hill.

... While being discreet to protect the identities of those involved, and avoiding many of the gory details, my friend laid out enough evidence to satisfy me that the initial accounts given by Andrew and those promoting his story are at best incomplete, and most likely deliberately misleading. Large parts are left out, including the majority of action taken by the church to reconcile him. Also, Andrew’s case involves a confluence of several situations that it appears Mars Hill has properly and thoroughly dealt with. Because the details involve the sin of others that are not publicly known, the church has decided the best course of action is to remain silent to protect those people’s reputation and privacy. They did not divulge the identities of the people involved, or the specific details of each situation to me, but they gave me a rough overview of the pieces missing in various accounts of the incident now in circulation. In light of these facts it is only right that I publicly retract my former comments directed at Mars Hill.

Matthew Paul Turner wrote at his blog on January 24, 2012 about how Andrew said he learned of the letter posted on The City.  Turner's account reads as follows:

A week or so after that final communication with the Mars Hill pastor, Andrew learned via a phone call with a good friend (a member of Mars Hill Church) what exactly Pastor X meant when he said that Matthew 18 discipline would be “escalated.”

During the conversation, Andrew’s friend mentioned something about “A letter”.

“A letter?” said Andrew. “What letter? I know nothing about it.”

Andrew’s friend informed him that a letter addressed to Mars Hills members had been posted on The City, which is described on Mars Hills’ website as “Mars Hill Church’s online network. Rather than encouraging virtual community, the purpose of The City is to enhance actual relationships within the church…” Andrew described The City to be like “Facebook for Mars Hill members.”
Mars Hill had blocked Andrew’s access to The City. Andrew’s friend copy and pasted the letter (in its entirety) and emailed it to Andrew.

The February 13, 2012 statement was updated on February 16, 2012

[Updated 2/16] In both cases that have been brought to light, things did not go as they should have, and well before they were ever written about in a public setting by bloggers and journalists, Mars Hill leadership stepped in to investigate because we take the care of our people seriously. As a result of this investigation, we are taking steps to streamline our church discipline process to ensure that it is applied in a biblically consistent manner across all of our churches. In addition, in two separate instances, we have removed the staff members involved and they are no longer on paid staff or in formal leadership in any capacity at Mars Hill Church. Again, we began taking these actions months ago, prior to any public exposure.

Christianity Today documented the original wording of the now updated paragraph from the February 13, 2012 statement as follows:

By contrast, the blog post says:

The church is made up of sinners, leadership included. The result is that sometimes things are handled poorly by leaders in a church discipline process and sometimes those who are under church discipline respond poorly. In such instances, it is the responsibility of the church leadership to protect our members, and when we hear of leaders overstepping their authority through the church discipline process we are quick to act to rectify the situation.

In both cases that have been brought to light, things did not go as they should have, and well before they were ever written about in a public setting by bloggers and journalists, Mars Hill leadership stepped in to investigate. As a result of those investigations, it was determined that the leaders involved had a pattern of overstepping their authority. As such, they were released and are no longer on paid staff or in formal leadership in any capacity at Mars Hill Church. Again, these actions were taken months ago, prior to any public exposure. … We're reviewing our current church discipline cases to make sure all our local leaders are operating within the spirit of love intended to be present in our existing policies.

An opening correction in the updated article in Christianity Today summarizes a correction made by Mars Hill about the initial February 13, 2012 statement:

Note: This article has been updated since its original posting to reflect Mars Hill's new statement that two of its leaders were removed as a result of cases unrelated to the two that drew recent media attention.

These comments and coverage excerpts are for consultation and review.  Comments are closed.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Gyorgy Kurtag: The Little Fix for piccolo, trombone and guitar

And while I'm at it here's a link to a performance of Gyorgy Kurtag's Op. 15b The Little Fix

Gyorgy Ligeti: Poem Symphonique for 100 Metronomes

Skip to the 1:30 part unless you want the introduction. The piece ends at minute 7 and is followed by a bit more voice-over for the remainder.

I read about this piece in Alex Ross' book The Rest is Noise last month. You'll notice that there are a bit more than 1000 dislikes of the video and about 800 likes.  Some people get the joke. A symphonic poem for 100 metronomes is a joke, people, even if it's a joke you don't get.  Anyone who doesn't understand the joke is built right into the title itself probably won't appreciate the joke and even those who do will probably not revisit the piece too many times.  You may notice there are not a lot of, ahem, commercially available recordings of this piece on CD or mp3.

Consider this a jocular post-script to Chamber Music Week.

HT Triablogue: Trueman on The Bible Made Impossible or Implausible

... There are things which are of importance here as well. Foremost is the failure of evangelicalism to provide its former sons with historical roots. That is inevitable, given the trans-denominational and even anti-ecclesiastical aspects of the movement. Increasingly, conservative American evangelicalism looks like one of those rotten boroughs in Victorian England: essentially it is run by those who have the charisma, the connections and the media savvy to decide who gets to represent the movement, and what and who gets shunted into the outer darkness. This is often combined with an eclectic and historically eccentric set of interests and priorities (Sacraments? Who cares? Complementarianism? You better believe it!). No wonder those who want to connect to historic Christianity find it frustrating.

It's a complete lack of interest in a serious discussion of the sacraments combined with a rigid insistence on complementarianism that I find intriguing.  A church that is very fixated on the necessity of affirming complementarianism can expend a great deal of ink and posts on the internet justifying complementarianism while not discussing baptism or communion.  Even a discussion of, say, the basis for excommunicating a church member will hinge on ejecting someone from the church and not the more traditional or historical application of "excommunication" that would entail simply withholding communion from a Christian who has not escaped a particular sin so as to not eat or drink judgment from the Lord. 

In massive megachurch multiplex entities that are denominations in all but name how could leaders actually bar a member from communion?  Elders often don't administer communion in such settings and those that do might not know about who was under such and such discipline, would they?  In an open communion setting where volunteers may have no idea who is or isn't under discipline it wouldn't matter, someone in some kind of regular sin could participate in communion at any point.  In lieu of being able to enforce anything about communion (and having a lack of other obvious options what might a church do that has a light emphasis on the actual sacraments having significance beyond proof of what has already occurred on the basis of other grounds) what options might there be?

Well ... uh ... a church discipline contract maybe?

Preacher Thoughts: Never justify my actions by the size or "success" of my ministry

The link title pretty much speaks for itself, doesn't it? Yet it is well worth it to provide some quotes from this post.

It has surprised me how many times certain church leaders have appealed to large or growing numbers of followers to defend themselves from criticism. Critiques of their decisions or statements are shrugged off as irrelevant since “we just added 5000 people to our church,” or “I pastor 13,000 people meeting in six locations.” These numbers are utterly irrelevant. There is no place in the Bible that lists “large numbers of conversions” or “growing amount of members” as the gauge of success or as a reason everyone should just do what you say.
The NT rarely lists numbers and when it does it is more out of surprise at grace than anything else. And nowhere in these texts does one find the idea that this increase made the leaders where it occurred better pastors or teachers than the others. In fact, if numerical growth were the gauge of success, Jesus was a dismal failure – His crowds shrunk to zero.

Thus, when a man is challenged on his public actions, and all he can do is appeal to numbers, that reveals an alarming pride. The notion that “big equals success” is Western, not Biblical. What disturbs me about this is not that it is new, but that some of the men defending themselves in this way really ought to know better. They have preached better.

Defending one's ministry based on numbers levels the field so that the most successful preacher is the one who has the biggest draw.  Some of the pastors who have used the "mine is bigger than yours" defense don't realize at how many levels this boast/defense becomes a problem. There's always some guy whose ministry is bigger than yours. There's probably a few women who have bigger ministries than yours, too, for that matter. 

What is the lesson? Don’t believe my own press. Don’t fall prey to thinking that even one convert makes me a better pastor than the man who, as yet, has seen none. At the same time, expect to see many conversions! We believe the Gospel is the power of God used by His grace to save sinners and we preach it like sinners will indeed be saved. But if the membership of my church is bigger than the membership of another church, that doesn’t mean I am a better pastor, a smarter pastor, or a pastor with greater ingenuity, charm, methods, or passion. In the end, it just means I bear greater responsibility and accountability.

This lesson is critical in any walk of life but especially in pastoral work. I don't even have to be a pastor to note that.  The scriptures warn that:

He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

Paul Martin's closing observation:

Most of all, I must never allow my apparent “success” turn into a carte blanche defense of all criticism – especially if those critiques are coming from smaller corners of the vineyard. The Apostle Paul did not boast in numbers, but in Jesus. And when he did defend his ministry from accustation, he pointed to his personal suffering for the Gospel, not his "success." Godly leaders will listen carefully to their critics and compare their accusations to the Word, not their attendance charts.