Archives For November 2013

Not that generous. My concern with the emerging church.

“I’m sure I am wrong about many things, although I’m not sure exactly which things I’m wrong about. I’m even sure I’m wrong about what I think I’m right about in at least some cases.”
Brian D. McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy

I’m not into conspiracy theories. I cringe when I get a Facebook post about the pope’s brother’s cousin or the mark of the beast being implanted in a chip somewhere in the USA (usually only a select few know where it is). There are however, issues that merit warning and serious reflection. Enter the Emerging Church. I must be honest; ministering in the Hispanic context we had very few problems with discussions on issues such as Origins, The Emerging Church, homosexuality, even Women’s Ordination. Since the subject of the Emerging Church comes up frequently in conversations now, I’d like to share my thoughts on it. I have three concerns:

1. The Bible.

The Bible is inspired by God, for us. It is more than a collection of stories, a narrative or a conversation. Its details are important. The bible both declares and assumes that it is truth. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17) Truth is not relative and it can be known. Here is an example: I know that my wife is real, although I don’t know EVERYTHING about her, I never doubt for a moment she exists. Let’s not get into the “This is what I believe, but I could be wrong. What do you think? Let’s talk” mode that the EC proposes. We must be humble, but not uncertain. The emerging church seeks to minimize the “absolute truth” aspect of scripture. This is problematic, because truth inspires beliefs which in turn determine methodology and practice. There is no such thing as my truth or your truth. There is truth.    

2. The blood.

Once the Bible is replaced and re-explained, another mayor problem, probably the central one, emerges. The Emerging Church minimizes or eliminates the need for the atonement. This belief  makes us Christian. Therefore, a statement like this one is troubling:

“The fact is that the cross isn’t a form of cosmic child abuse—a vengeful Father, punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed.” Steve Chalke and Alan Mann, The Lost Message of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 182-183.

The authors consider the cross as both reprehensible and unnecessary. The truth is that the cross was necessary. It was not just a last gasp resort, an accident or just a demonstration of love. It was necessary. In many ways, the emerging church attitude is similar to Peter’s, as he rebuked Jesus and his impending death.

“He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Mark 8:31-33

Necessary. Essential. Not up for discussion. Someone has said: In the essential, unity. In the non-essential, liberty. In everything love. Well, this is pretty essential.

3. The body.

By body, I am referring specifically to the church, and what grows it. If all religions are the same and if people can access the same God through other avenues, where Buddha, Jesus and Mohamed’s Allah are all good options in the salvation buffet, then Jesus was either crazy or mistaken. Why would I try to present to you the claims of the bible, if your faith tradition is as good as mine? This assumption eliminates the need for evangelism. I believe the bible does not encourage us to condemn, but it does encourage us to confront, with love, equivocated concepts about God, ourselves and the destiny of our existence. The church is not just about lost souls but it is primarily about lost souls. We serve, we love, we give, we do what we do, because we want to see people in heaven. Penn (from the famous magician duo Penn and Teller) who is an atheist puts it very well:

“I’ve always said, you know, that I don’t respect people who do not proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that, uh, well, it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward—and atheists who think that people shouldn’t proselytize, [saying] “Just leave me alone and keep your religion to yourself”—uh, how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize them? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? I mean, if I believed beyond the shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming to hit you, and you didn’t believe it, and that truck was bearing down on you, there’s a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.”

The emerging church, as with most things, has elements that can be commended. The call to live out our faith and not reduce it to just a set of beliefs is one example. The desire to reach this generation is another. But I am afraid that its foundational driving forces are outside of orthodox Christianity and that is a deal-breaker.

I am generous. But not that generous.


Here are three resources you may find helpful:

1. Southern religion faculty statement on the emerging church.\

2. Good blog that is very detailed on emerging church, from an evangelical perspective.

3. One of the main proponents of the emerging church presents his view.

¿Tú eres el nuevo pastor? ¡Gracias a Dios que estas aquí!

Yo era el nuevo pastor del distrito. Ni siquiera había desempacado mis 1.000 cajas, cuando llegó la primera invitación a cenar. No me costó aceptar, ya que nunca pierdo la oportunidad de comer. La comida estaba muy buena. ¿La conversación? No tanto. Todo lo que escuché durante un par de horas fue lo mal que la iglesia estaba, lo malo que eran los líderes, cómo la política y acuerdos secretos habían dañado la iglesia. Pero, “oh gracias a Dios, por usted pastor, que va arreglar todo esto ” La peor tragedia de la noche no fue el espíritu crítico que oí, sino el hecho de que creí una mentira muy común en el ministerio: “Que no cunda el pánico, el nuevo pastor está aquí”. Yo creía que era la solución para todas las dolencias de la iglesia. Descubrí que no era así.

Si estás en tu primer distrito o no, es importante que tengas cuidado con las siguientes minas:

1. Los regaladores.

Ten cuidado con las personas que te dan regalos sin siquiera conocerte. Piénsalo bien, ¿quién hace eso? Este es un buen principio a seguir: mientras más valioso el regalo más probabilidad existe que los motivos no sean saludables. Es cierto lo que dicen. No hay almuerzos gratis. Especialmente en el ministerio. Una cosa que usted no quiere hacer en el ministerio es deberle nada a nadie. Porque créanme, llegará un momento en el que tendrá que pagar con intereses lo recibido. No todos los regalos son malos. Sólo tenga cuidado.

2. Los invitadores.

No sé por qué, pero por lo general la primera persona que me invitó a cenar al llegar a un distrito siempre tenía algunos problemas con el pastor anterior o con la junta actual. El que le invita a su casa para hablar de los demás, con el tiempo va a invitar a otros a hablar de ti. Éste problema es peligroso, porque sentirnos necesitados alimenta nuestro ego y reafirma la razón por la cual nos convertimos en pastores en primer lugar: ¡para ayudar a la gente y para arreglar las cosas ! Una de mis primeras declaraciones desde el púlpito y en la junta siempre es que no habrá comentarios sobre las administraciones pasadas. Tenemos que seguir adelante. Vivir en el pasado, bueno o malo, no ayuda a nadie.

3. Los guardaespaldas.

He encontrado que aquellos que son los primeros a defenderte con el tiempo puede volverse contra ti. Expresiones como ” pastor, yo le cuido su espalda ” y “Pastor, escuché a alguien hablando de ti y dijeron estas cosas…” son señales de alerta. Quien tiene una gran cantidad de información acerca de la oposición por lo general pertenece a la misma. No utilicen a personas como espías. Deja que Dios te defienda. Después de todo, usted podría estar equivocado.

Al llegar a una nueva iglesia es una gran experiencia. Disfrútalo, con los ojos bien abiertos.

I was the brand new pastor. I had not even unpacked my 1,000 boxes, when the first invitation to dinner came. I readily agreed since I never miss out on an opportunity to eat. The food was great. The conversation? Not so much. All I heard for a couple of hours was how bad the church was, how evil the leaders were, how politics and backroom deals had messed up the church. But, “oh thank heaven, for Roger Hernandez. You will fix all of it.” The worse tragedy that night was not the critical spirit I heard, but the fact that I believed a very common lie in ministry: “No one fear, the new pastor is here”.  I believed I was the fix-all. I wasn’t.

Whether this is your first district or not, it’s important you watch out for the following landmines:

1. Givers.  

Be careful about people that give you things without even knowing you. I mean, who does that?  This is a good principle to follow: the earlier and more significant the gift, the higher the likelihood that gift will come from an unhealthy giver. It’s true what they say. There are no free lunches. Especially in ministry. One thing you DON’T want to do in ministry is owe anyone anything. Because believe me, there will come a time where you will have to pay back. Now, to be fair, not all gifts are bad. Just be careful.

2. Talkers.

I don’t know why, but usually the first person that invited me out to dinner always had some issues with the previous pastor or the present leadership. Whoever invites you to their house to talk about others, will eventually invite others to talk about you. This one is so dangerous, because it feeds our ego and reaffirms the reason why we became pastors in the first place: to help people and to fix things! One of my first declarations from the pulpit and in the board is that there will be no commenting on past administrations. We must move on. Living in the past, whether that past was good or bad, benefits no one.

3. Bodyguards.

I have found that those that are the most vocal early about their support for you, can eventually turn on you. Expressions like “I got your back” and “Pastor, I heard someone talking about you and they were saying such and such” are red flags. Whoever has a lot of information about the opposition usually belongs to it. You appreciate the sentiment, but don’t use them as spies. Let God defend you. After all, you could be wrong.

Coming into a new district is a great experience. Enjoy it, with your eyes wide open.

Ever since I could remember, God has given me both a passion for ministry and a passion for art, specifically filmmaking. For a long time I found myself having to choose one or the other”

Garrison Hayes, Senior Film Major, Southern University.

We hear often how millenials are leaving the church. The volume on the desertion rate has certainly been turned up. Last weekend I spent some time at Southern Adventist University, speaking for their missions and evangelism weekend. There I received an injection of hope and saw at least three things that increased my confidence as we try to reach the generation that God misses the most.

1. Quality of young (future) pastors.

On Thursday and Friday I interviewed 20 ministerial candidates. Their stories of conversion elevated the hope meter in my heart. One that ran cross-country for a public university, but gave it up to preach. Several pastor’s kids that are following their father’s footsteps, not bitter at the church, but intentionally looking to better it. Exceptional future women pastors. Clear on the Gospel. Experienced in soul winning (not just soul searching). One that fought in two wars. One that gang banged and wants to start an inner- city ministry for his ex-peers. I believe that it takes this generation to reach this generation.   These young people give me hope.

2. Quality of intentionality.

The campus is full of opportunities for student missions. Not only are the theology students the ones that are doing evangelism, but there is an opportunity for the student body to go on short term, long term or permanent term missions. Since 2002, the Evangelism Resource Center has sent over 800 students to this life changing event, with more than 24,000 baptisms. I spoke to one student after another (not just theology) about their missions experience, and could not help but smile. This level of intentionality is also reflected in the LIFE Groups on Campus, led and grown by students.  The chaplains and Theology teachers are clear on the role of mission in a young person’s life and intentional about connecting vocation and faith.

3. Quality of programing.

Friday night vespers. A time to reflect, restore and rejoice in the Sabbath. I was significantly and specifically blessed by the music. The rendition of Oceans and Revelation Song with a full orchestra was mind blowing. I have always believed that God did not stop inspiring music in 1853, and that contemporary music, if done well, can be a source of connection and inspiration. It was Friday night.

I finish with a story. Garrison Hayes is a Senior Film Mayor. He is a leader on campus. Extremely talented and committed. On Friday night, him, along with 4 others, made public a decision to consider going into full time ministry. For Garrison it was about merging ministry and media in his life. I have always believed we should have the best and the brightest in ministry. He certainly fits that category.

“Ever since I could remember, God has given me both a passion for ministry and a passion for art, specifically filmmaking. For a long time I found myself having to choose one or the other, the time I spent making movies was time spent away from ministry and vice-versa. Finally God opened my eyes that his calling on my life was to merge the two.”  @garrison628

Thanks, Garisson. Thanks, Southern. Thanks, Jesus. Today, I am hopeful.

Follow Garrison @garrison628


The Case for Grace —  November 4, 2013

Ephesians 2:8-9 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

“Of all professed Christians, Seventh-day Adventists should be foremost in uplifting CHRIST before the world”. Gospel Workers, p.156

 The first time I understood grace I was 25, sitting in a class on Romans in college. This seems strange, because I am a PK, 3rd generation Adventist that was studying theology. It is troubling that I did not understand the most basic Christian fundamental building block. I have two questions:

How can this happen?

Why is it still happening?

If we are honest with ourselves, we must recognize we could have done better in presenting grace in the right context. I believe there are three points you should consider:

1. Grace acts as fear repellent.  

“The shortness of time is urged as an incentive for us to seek righteousness and to make Christ our friend. This is not the great motive. It savors of selfishness. Is it necessary that the terrors of the day of God be held before us to compel us through fear to right action? This ought not to be. Jesus is attractive. He is full of love, mercy, and compassion…It is our privilege to have a calm, close, happy walk with Jesus every day we live.” (E.G. White, Review and Herald, August 2, 1881)

This I believe. Fear changes outward behavior temporarily. Grace changes your heart, permanently. There are too many in our churches that fear the end times, fear the persecution, fear the judgment. Fear, fear, fear.  The problem with living a Christian life based on fear that is fed with sensationalism is that fear is as addictive as heroin. People develop tolerance to it, until nothing scares them into right living and fear is replaced by apathy and in many cases rejection of all things religious. Christ-less eschatology is like sugar-free pudding. Sure, you could eat it, but why would you?

2. Grace is risky.

Someone has said that if you are preaching grace and no one complains about it, you are not really preaching grace. I have been in countless seminars, camp-meetings, and church gatherings where people complained, griped, wrote letters and were just mean to presenters that spoke about grace. I have hardly ever been at the same events, where a legalistic presentation was followed by complains about the need for more grace and balance.  No wonder outsiders look in and say: Why bother? In some ways we have become like hospitals with sick employees that require only patients in perfect health to be admitted (or to at least cover the wound so we don’t see it). This is not just an Adventist problem, as Billy Graham’s grandson points out:

“It amazes me that you will hear great concern from inside the church about too much grace, but rarely will you ever hear great concern from inside the church about too many rules. Indeed, the absurdity of God’s indiscriminate compassion always gets “religious” people up in arms. Why? Because we are, by nature, glory-hoarding, self-centered control freaks— God wannabes. That’s why.” Tullian Tchividjian One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World.

3. Grace from Ellen White.

It wasn’t until I was older (over 25) that I discovered the balance, growth and grace in EGW writings. Be truthful now. If you grew up Adventist, when you heard the words “Ellen White says” what usually followed was a correction, a warning or a list. I must admit I had a hard time with her for a while. Then I started reading her for myself. I have found gem after gem that I have never been exposed to before. If grace is to be made central, we must get serious about not just using Ellen White as a hammer. Truth was given to us as a map, not a mallet. In blogs that will follow this one, I will share with you some beautiful, Christ-centered quotes that will leave you hungering for more of Christ’s grace. Here is one:

“There need to be far more lessons in the ministry of the Word of true conversion than of the arguments of the doctrines. For it is far easier and more natural for the heart that is not under the control of the Spirit of Christ to choose doctrinal subjects rather than the practical. There are many Christ-less discourses given no more acceptable to God than was the offering of Cain. They are not in harmony with God.”{VSS – The Voice in Speech and Song pg. 342.3}

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound. Let’s not push the mute button.