Zack McCoy of Houston’s Redemption Church Asks What do you Believe?

A post from the blog of Redemption Church in Houston, Texas about what do you believe is the subject of today’s post. Redemption is one of the newest Evangelical Free Church plants in the Texas and Oklahoma District. Can people who have “sound doctrine” still sin? Are those who advocate “sound doctrine” and “right beliefs” living in denial about how sinful people can be? 

“Do not take yourself too seriously. You have to learn not to be dismayed at making mistakes. No human being can avoid failures.”

Lawrence Lovasik

“An export is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field.”

Niels Bohr

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

Romans 3:23 NLT

Zack McCoy of Redemption Church

There is an interesting blog post that comes from an Evangelical Free Church in Houston, Texas that I want to explore today. I found this while I was working through the Texas and Oklahoma District of the Evangelical Free Church and calculating the growth of Neo-Calvinism in the district. But before I continue lets look at the author a little bit. Zack McCoy hails from Amarillo, Texas. He went to Yale University and graduated with a BA in math and economics and spent two years in a mathematics PhD program. He worked at a hedge fund and in management consulting. He then earned a Masters of Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary.  Zack is married to Kim and they moved to Houston in 2009. They planted a church in the inner loop of Houston called Redemption Church in 2014. Redemption is sponsored by Crossbridge Church in Sugar Land, Texas. Redemption Church in Houston is one of the newest Evangelical Free Church plants in Bob Rowley’s Texas and Oklahoma District. Redemption Church in in the Neo-Calvinist/Reformed side of the Evangelical Free. On the Redemption Church page where it has Zach’s bio it states that

“Zack believes that questions are good, that Jesus loves doubters, that love from afar is deceptively easy, that we find Jesus in the people around us, that God cries with and for us, that we need each other, that mercy beats judgment, that darkness is dying, that life beats death, and that love will win. He wants Redemption to be a church that embodies the patience, love, and grace of Jesus.”

In addition Todd Parrish is the Pastor of Spiritual Formation, and Mike Haskew is the Worship Pastor. Zack wrote a post on the church blog in October 2013  called, “What Do You Believe?” There is a lot I want to say but lets read Zack’s post first and we can discuss below.


I can imagine this question sounding mildly offensive to you. I can imagine it sounding intrusive. I can imagine it sounding basic or easy or irrelevant. But I have a hard time imagining it sounding loving or engaging or compelling to many of us. However, this sort of question would have been right at home in the early church.

The earliest followers of Jesus poured out their lives because “What do you believe?” was so important.

Faith, what you believe, is the sole way we come into right relationship with the God of the universe who sent His uncreated, non-physical, always living, fully divine Son into the created world to become a part of it as a human. Faith in this God of action is what makes us Christians, converting us as we are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the church.

But faith is more than just how you become a Christian in the first place. Faith is also how we seek personal transformation as Christians—in the language of the New Testament, faith is the means by which we are sanctified, made holy. When Christians struggle with continued shortcomings, brokenness, and sin, we sometimes convince ourselves that we just need to redouble our efforts. Just try harder. But this is the opposite of what the New Testament teaches. Indeed, it does teach us that we should rightly give up our entire selves in love to God, but it also teaches that to work within our own self-derived power, our own flesh, is to oppose God. To truly change the way we act, we have to change what we believe. 

What we do and what we believe are intimately related. This is why in Paul’s letter to Titus, in the midst of all his focus on “sound doctrine” or right belief, one of his chief complaints is that the people who reject this true faith are “detestable, disobedient, and unfit for any good work” (Titus 1:16). Paul identifies these people as the ones who “deny [God] by their works,” which might seem indicate to us that the only problem was one of external action. But immediately before he uses this identifier for them, he also identifies them as “those who are defiled and unbelieving”—in other words, the people who were unfit for any good work, the same ones who were denying God by their works, were those people who were without faith.

Now, it is not the case that no one who has Christian faith ever does anything wrong—I see evil acts done by Christians quite often. However, it is the case that the path to overcoming such evil within ourselves is to believe well. God can change us by the Holy Spirit, but such change comes through faith and faith alone.

So what do you believe?

The answer matters, but perhaps we’re not quite sure how to answer the question. After all, the Bible has so much depth and richness and such a massive amount of content that if we have to perfectly believe all of it all the time, none of us has much hope. If we can’t remember it all, can we possibly hope to believe it all? We may have good intentions of believing it all—I promise that I will believe it when I hear it—but is an intention of belief, or potential belief, just as good as actual belief?

Now, if belief has to do with every detail of every matter of interpretation of every passage in the Bible, there will be no end to controversy, and none of us has much hope for this belief that saves. But this isn’t the belief that the early church had in mind when it gave itself up for the sake of true belief. Instead, Paul, in the same letter to Titus referenced above, sharply rebukes people who pursue controversy after controversy. He says that we must not allow ourselves to get wrapped up in inconsequential fights about nits.

Instead, Paul (and Jesus and all the rest of Jesus’ apostles) desperately wanted us to have the faith that was handed down to the apostles. As Jude, Jesus’ brother, puts it, we are to “contend for the faith that was once-for-all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). 

This pure, simple, Christ-centered, and Christ-exalting faith is incomparably important, but it’s also exceedingly beautiful. This is why Paul so effusively thanks God for the faith of people all around the world (see, for example, Ephesians 1:15-23), and this is why the early church wrote songs summarizing this faith and sang them to each other over and over. This faith was beautiful, worth capturing poetically, and worth remembering. One such song is quoted by Paul in Titus chapter 3:

When love appeared, and kindness too,

     From God, our Saving God,

They were not brought by righteous works,

     That we ourselves had done.

Instead in tune with mercy His,

     Salvation came to us,

Through washing that regenerates,

     Renewing Holy Ghost,

The One He richly poured on us

     By Savior Jesus Christ,

That righteous by His grace alone

     His heirs we would become

In hope, sure hope of endless life

     In ages yet to come.

(Titus 3:4-7; my translation here is an attempt to capture a bit of the feel of the poetry of the passage while also remaining fairly literal)

Let us believe like the early church did.

Let us believe like the apostles did. And let us be transformed into God-loving, people-loving, self-abandoning imitators of Jesus Christ.

This is our goal as a new church. Please pray for us, and consider helping us pursue it.


Evangelicals and Issues of Doctrine

Some time back I was speaking to someone who was involved in an Evangelical Free Church in another part of the country. As I was listening to them speak the husband explained why they got involved in a Calvary Chapel. I was curious because they went from a strongly reformed Evangelical Free to a church that was hyper Arminian. I asked them why would they make such a switch? How do you go from one end of the theological spectrum to another? On the phone they told me they never thought of it like that. I write this to say the following, I believe there are many evangelicals who don’t know what they believe when it comes to doctrine. There are people out there that don’t know what the Trinity is, the differing views of evolution, their Bible or even what the sermon on the Mount is.  I think part of the reason why people get stuck in unhealthy churches is that they often do not know theology 101. Perhaps in my life this is where I draw from my Roman Catholic background. I was taught about the Trinity in Catholicism, differing points of doctrine in CCD and religious classes.

But it makes me wonder…why don’t many evangelicals know their basics? If people did how many problems and difficulties could have been avoided? How many cult like churches or movements could they steer clear from? I am not trying to be difficult but I have observed over the years this issue more and more. And as I have had various opportunities to meet with people in person, or speak to them on the phone this issue pops up in many ways. Do many evangelicals know the difference between differing end times theologies? Do they know the difference between Calvinism and Armenian base theology? I could go on but this is a major problem in today’s modern evangelical church.

 

“If you have the Right Beliefs….”

While the above thought was hanging in my mind as I read that article by Zack McCoy there was another thing Zack wrote that I honed in on big time. Let’s discuss it below. Pay close attention to the sentence that I underlined.

Now, it is not the case that no one who has Christian faith ever does anything wrong—I see evil acts done by Christians quite often. However, it is the case that the path to overcoming such evil within ourselves is to believe well. God can change us by the Holy Spirit, but such change comes through faith and faith alone.

This is the flip side to people who think that all you need to know is doctrine and all is okay again. In this case Zack writes that if people believe well they can overcome evil. And as I write this I honestly wonder if Zack fully understands the true nature of sin and how it works. Many in the Neo-Calvinist movement are deceived by the thought that if they have “sound doctrine” all is well. You won’t have problems in your faith, there will be no difficulty, etc… I have one response to that line of thinking in this brand of theology.

Bull$%#@

The very existence of this blog is proof of its failure and the problems that exist within. Forgive me if this gets old but let me write about this for Zack and the staff at Redemption Church to understand. This blog author was unsuccessfully recruited into a former Sovereign Grace Ministries church by an Air Force Captain. He regularly spoke about how healthy his faith was, and his church. He also talked about how he had “sound doctrine.” 32 or so and you have everything figured out all the issues solved. Right….. Plus this all came from listening to Matt Chandler, Mark Driscoll and John Piper.  So what happened to this individual who claimed that he had “sound doctrine” and the right beliefs? He went on and eventually gave birth to a false accusation that threatened my name, reputation, and ability to earn income. I can’t tell you how horrifying it was when I realized that I had learned why rape and sexual assault are a problem in the military. This happened as I was coming out of a prolonged faith crisis. I remember as I dealt with shock and PTSD thinking to myself “if this is what a Christian with sound doctrine can do what can an atheist do that is worse? ” And this illustrates why Zack’s piece is intrinsically flawed. Zack doesn’t understand that Christians can sin. You can have “sound doctrine” and the fact of the matter is that some Christians are going to deal with addictions, alcoholism, obesity, mental illness, false accusations that can shatter a person’s life and yes some will even murder. But this belief that if you have the right set of beliefs is problematic and sets people up for failure. Now take my case…is the reason why Andrew White hasn’t approached me and want to work things out because he can’t reconcile the idea of someone who had such a healthy faith  could do something like he did? After all he had “sound doctrine.” I wrote about this issue a little bit in “A Personal Reflection on Eric Simmons Redeemer Church of Arlington.” With that I want to turn this over to you to discuss. Does “sound doctrine” really work? How would you explain the people who commit horrific or mind defying acts who espouse sound doctrine? Again I love you guys!

 

2 thoughts on “Zack McCoy of Houston’s Redemption Church Asks What do you Believe?

  1. I don’t know, Eagle…

    I might be misinterpreting what Mr. McCoy is purporting, but I read it as, “If your faith is in Jesus, only His death & resurrection can overcome evil.” Now, he sure didn’t put it that way, and (regrettably?) made the focus on a person’s belief, rather than what the Lord has done. But I’m willing to give him a pass, in the greater context of his missive.

    I also really liked what he wrote here, which seems grace-filled to me:

    ““Zack believes that questions are good, that Jesus loves doubters, that love from afar is deceptively easy, that we find Jesus in the people around us, that God cries with and for us, that we need each other, that mercy beats judgment, that darkness is dying, that life beats death, and that love will win. He wants Redemption to be a church that embodies the patience, love, and grace of Jesus.”

    If he’s all about that, then Mr. McCoy will welcome your questions, and hopefully respond & clarify what he means, while dispensing mercy over judgment. 😉

    This doesn’t change what happened with you & Mr. White, or justify it in the least. And in the context of those whose focus is on “doctrine & being right over being faithful”, I agree with what you’re saying.

    Like

  2. The Pharisees back then certainly knows more than anyone else. Their knowledge of God was top notch. However they did not “know” God as their daddy and friend. Hence when God came in the form of Jesus, full of love and mercy, the Pharisees crucified Jesus.

    Solomon was the wisest man on the earth and as such understands God more than anyone else. In fact God spoke directly to Solomon. However Solomon end up spending most of his life on women, wealth and false gods.

    The bible clearly teaches the knowledge of God, sound doctrines, means nothing without the heart. In fact often times the wisest and most educated people in the bible are the most sinful, arch enemies of God, and anti-Christs. The know everything but has zero relationship with God. Hence they are the most dangerous. Instead of using the bible to love, they use the bible to kill.

    All that matters is faith, hope and love for God inside the heart. Of the three most important is love. Love God with everything. God is our daddy in heaven and our very best friend.

    Yet another common problem is people obeying the words in the bible without love in their heart. It is like they read Deuteronomy 21:18-21 and decide it is perfectly ok to hurt and abuse their “stubborn” son. So they apply God’s laws without considering the overpowering love and mercy that God has given us.

    To anyone that thinks like that, go read Matthew 5:27-28 and then IMMEDIATELY read Leviticus 20:10. No cheating! That’s what it said! And so now you know all of us, every single one of us, deserve death. If now you know you yourself deserve death, why do you apply God’s law without love, grace and mercy?

    Hence, shame to anyone who read Matthew 18:15-22 (or any other overused and abused verses) and use it to abuse their brothers and sisters! If you are doing this you really shouldn’t worry about anyone else’s sins. YOU yourself just committed the greatest sin by failing the Great Commandant, because you failed to love your neighbors as yourself! As Nathan the Prophet said, YOU ARE THE MAN!

    We cannot claim we love God yet hate our brother (1 John 4:18-21). You can be currently trapped in some addictions and sins, but you can still be a Christian. Christian is defined by having faith in Jesus, not if you are sinning or not. But if you start hating and hurting a brother, God said it is game over and you are no longer a Christian. A Christian must think 3 or 4 times before they even engage in an argument with people. And they should rather be hurt than to hurt others.

    So do not go beat your wife on Saturday and then go to church to Sunday. And do not hide behind your neo-Calvinist pastor so you can continue to abuse your wife. God sees all things! And do not pretend you don’t understand what God is saying. God say you cannot possibly love God when you HATE your wife so much that you are hurting and abusing her. And instead of repenting, you are using your abusive church to FURTHER HURT your wife! If you do not even love your own wife, HOW can you love the homeless, the prostitutes, the widows and the orphans???? What kind of game are you pretending here? You might fool all men by saying “I only hurt her because I love her!” God sees right through your lies and, if you do not repent, on that last day you would wish you never knew God. (John 15:22-25)

    Repent and be saved! God loves you and is calling you back to his love. And stop hurting your wife! She is you and you are her. You two are one fresh.

    Like

Comments are closed.