This past fall Remnant did a sermon series called Fones, Feeds and Flashing Lights. I listened to Doug Ponder preach a message about identity. This is my review of his message in both how I interpreted it and the problems with what Doug is saying. The point of this post is to get people to think critically about Remnant’s sermons and ask questions.
“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”
John Philpot Curran
Only a fool tests the water with both feet.
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power,love and self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7 NIV
Doug Ponder and Josh Soto doing the Q & A
In writing about Remnant I have spent some time listening and evaluating a couple of sermons. I attended Remnant on October 8, 2017 and listened to Doug Ponder give a sermon called, “Identity” which is part of a series called Fones, Feeds, and Flashing Lights. The sermon series began on September 17 and ended on November 12, 2017. The topics dealt with a wide range of issues from social media, foodolatry, pornography, identity, entertainment to what is truth. Here is how Remnant described the series.
Constantly scrolling. Always consuming. Posting selfies. Binging movies. Looking for likes. Sharing causes. Snapchating moments. Subtweeting disagreements. Instagramming breakfast. Being distracted. Fearful of missing out. Feeling anxious. Getting restless. Growing hopeless… For most of us this is what life has become. The rapid changes of recent years have swept us away like powerful currents. We are so enamored with what we can do today that we have ceased to wonder if there’s a better way. Yet God meets us where we are with good news for every age—not with tips or tricks for navigating the world today, but with the offer of life in another world altogether. The gospel sets us free to enjoy life with God in the 21st Century.
Bryan Laughlin preached five times and Doug Ponder preached three times. On the day I attended it was Doug Ponder who spoke. I have already did a biography of Doug Ponder in, “The Disturbing and Cult-Like Behavior of Acts 29 Remnant Church in Richmond, Virginia is Adversely Affecting Lives.” Each sermon ended with a Q & A session. Let’s get into Doug’s sermon. You can listen to the sermon right here. If you are going to read this post I would encourage also listening to the sermon as well. I am hoping it you attend Remnant or are considering attending that you will thinking critically and independently. Question, question, and question. Questions are good to ask.
Observations about Acts 29 Culture and Life in the Bubble
Doug’s message was delivered with confidence and knowledge. He sounded like he is in command of his material. It sounded good, however here was the problem as I listened to it. Much of the information comes from being inside a bubble. It sounds strong, faithful and enduring; but how well does it hold up outside the bubble? When you are around like minded people who share your thoughts, emotions and yes, even feelings your theology and beliefs are reinforced. But what happens outside that context? What happens when you are at work or interacting with people who do not share you beliefs? How does it hold up? From my perspective, not well at all. The true test of faith as I see it happens outside church and when you are away from reinforcing beliefs. Is that part of the reason why Acts 29 as a movement withdraws from people and others not like them? Does that show them being theologically shallow?
When Narcissistic Personality Disorder Appears in Celebrity Pastors of the Neo-Calvinist Movement
At about 5:30 of Doug’s talk he addresses the issue of narcissistic personality disorder and narcissism. In talking about life today he spoke about characteristics of narcissism. For example how people have an exaggerated view of self importance. They often expect to be recognized for their accomplishments. In addition they overestimate their gifts and talents while seeking constant affirmation. Narcissists have a sense of entitlement and in the process can’t recognize the needs of others. In the sermon it was stated that in 2006 1 in 4 college students showed traits of narcissism, whereas today it is 1 in 3. Doug even quoted a how secular non Christian systems of thought who don’t recognize pride or even know humility can see the problem of narcissism. This all sounds good but what is the irony of what Doug is saying? Well the problem is that Remnant as a Neo-Calvinist church subscribes to a system of thought that has made celebrity pastors idols and extolled their narcissism.
Lets look at Mark Driscoll who gave the Acts 29 movement a great boost. Mark Driscoll is narcissistic in all that he has done. Did he have a sense of entitlement? Absolutely! Did he care about the needs of others? Look at the wounded community of Mars Hill in Seattle and the people psychologically stuck over his abuse. Did Mark Driscoll need constant affirmation? Always, he always needed to be played up and buttered. How else does narcissism play itself out? Look at John Piper. John is an attention freak. He always craves the spotlight and needs to be the center of attention. John is so bad in opening his mouth, he is that predictable. Its March 1, 2018…tornado season is around the corner. Just wait for the next big tornado and John Piper will open up his mouth and say something absolutely awful. In the end John Piper is no difference than Pat Robertson.
But let’s move to the last part about humility. C.J. Mahaney was the poster boy for humility in the Neo-Calvinist movement. At one point he led a theological empire which was known as Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM). In a couple of seminaries his book called “Humility: True Greatness” was required reading. And what did the man known for humility do? Well first he blackmailed Larry Tomczak. Larry’s son allegedly confessed a sex crime and Mahaney used it to blackmail Tomczak and drive him from the organization. You can read about that as well as the transcript in “Has God Foreordained an Alleged Child Sex Abuse Cover up in Sovereign Grace Ministries/Churches? Is that why CJ Mahaney is so Sacred?” So what happened in the course of time? The issue of Sovereign Grace and Mahaney’s blackmail as well as credible allegations of child sex abuse cover up spilled out onto the internet. What did the author of humility do? He ran, he fled from Covenant Life Church and hid behind Mark Dever’s ass at Capitol Hill Baptist. He was exempt from the very church discipline that he enforced like a tyrant inside SGM. He preached at T4G a couple of years ago and caught the attention of The Daily Beast in “Pastor Accused of Covering Up Abuse Returns to Spotlight.” So what is the irony of all this. Doug Ponder has the audacity to say that those outside the Christian faith who lack humility and more can see narcissism, and many in the Neo-Calvinist realm can’t see how they support narcissism in their celebrity pastors. What is that about? But before moving into my next point about Doug’s sermon does that explain the upcoming T4G in Louisville? Is that why people like C.J. Mahaney and those who enable him like John Piper and Mark Dever participating inthat event? I would be fascinated to know if Doug, Josh or Bryan Laughlin will be attending T4G. Will they lean over in their seat and drool over seeing some of the celebrity Neo-Calvinists speak. T4G is one of the greatest displays of narcissism today. What does it show the world when Neo-Calvinist theology displays it so boldly? I will be writing about T4G in April, that is one of my goals.
When Acts 29 is So Corrupt and Broken it Can’t Realize or be Honest About the Problems Which Exist
At about 14:43 in the sermon Doug is speaking about those who are so self-centered that they cannot see their own wrongs. At around the 16 minute mark he also touches on how sin can be redefined. In the context of Acts 29 is this part of the problem? The network is so corrupt that it can’t see its own problems or issues? And in the process it redefines sin as well? Let me unpack both of those thoughts. This blog has regularly and routinely written about Acts 29 churches. In addition to Bryan Laughlin’s Remnant Church I have written about former Acts 29 pastor Darrin Patricks’ The Journey in St Louis, Missouri; John Bryson’s Fellowship Memphis, James Walden’s Riverside Community Church in Columbia, South Carolina; Eric Simmons Redeemer Arlington in Arlington, Virginia; and Matt Chandler’s The Village Church. Each of these organizations has hemorrhaged problems or issues and none of them seem to care or are troubled. The only one that tried I think is Matt Chandler,and that was when he apologized to Karen Hinkely. You can read that in “An Open Letter to Matt Chandler and Why Eagle is Deeply Impressed with The Village Church’s Repentance to Karen Hinkley.” The issue of the worship leader at John Bryson’s church allegedly illegally recording women in the church restroom and how they handled it was atrocious. Don’t admit to a cover up, instead hire a PR firm who can go after the victims. Yes that honors God. In the case of Redeemer Arlington write about the false accusation that endured and even how it popped up in a hospital room in the midst of a medical crisis. When “sound doctrine” hurts someone and can interfere with a medical crisis before death why doesn’t Redeemer Arlington care about that? Is Acts 29 too corrupt and so broken that they just can’t admit or realize it? How about when they redefine sin. For example let me ask the following questions
- Is it sinful for Mark Driscoll to run from Seattle?
- Is it sinful for Fellowship Memphis to destroy evidence of alleged child pornography?
- Is it sinful for an Air Force Captain to trigger a false accusation and run to Colorado Springs?
- Is it sinful for Acts 29 to withdraw and isolate other churches in their vicinity?
- Is it sinful for Remnant to interfere with a member’s desires to take a job in another state?
- Is it sinful to shun people who are broken and hurt?
In these scenarios I must ask what is sin? In Acts 29 they act as it the only sin is looking at pornography and sleeping with your girlfriend or someone similar. Yet, it is not sinful to run from your mistakes. Nor is it sinful to make a false accusation. It is not sinful to abuse church members. It is not sinful to tear apart families or relationships. While Doug talks about how the world redefines sin, the issue Doug neglects to talk about is that Acts 29 redefines sin. They do so regularly.
The 3 Questions Most Important in the Context of Acts 29
Later on in his sermon Doug Ponder brings up the three most important questions people ask. Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? Those three questions also need to be asked in the context of Acts 29. Let me change the questions. What is Acts 29? Where did Acts 29 come from? Where is Acts 29 going? Here’s my attempt to answer those questions. Acts 29 is a Neo-Calvinist organization that is cult like or a cult. Its controversial and bleeds problems regularly. While Acts 29 has its roots in Dr. David Nichols in Boca Raton, Florida its DNA comes from Mark Driscoll. That DNA is still in the organization and its why the network has issues. Finally where is Acts 29 going? Its going to have issues in the future as it moves forward. Acts 29 is going to have more scandals. More stories of abuse and more questionable behavior. I am not expecting the organization to change. That would take humility and the organization can not take that action.
When Submitting to the Church is a Form of Slavery
At about 28:00 minutes into the sermon Doug addressed the issues of desires wearing out. He also spoke about internal desires conflicting. For example can you eat desert regularly and still fit into your clothes? He addressed the issues of desires and how its become complicated because of how culture changes. The self-centeredness is reflective in changing culture. People do what they want to do, is another way to put it. That is my interpretation of what Doug Ponder said. So what does that mean? How do you translate what Doug is saying? It means you basically submit to your church and let them do the thinking for you. Female? And you want to be a police officer, well that is just tough. You can read about that in more detail in “Bryan Laughlin’s Remnant Allegedly Tells a Female She Can Not be a Police Officer; Examining Women in Law Enforcement and National Security Roles, Plus Does Acts 29 Deny the Story of Deborah?” and “An Open Letter to an Unknown Female Formerly of Remnant Church (On Wanting to be a Police Officer for the City of Richmond)” What Doug is requesting is that you become a slave of the Acts 29 church. In the area of Richmond where slaves were once sold Doug is asking you to deal with the changing culture by becoming a slave to Remnant. After all you are not capable of thinking for yourself. So in steps the Remnant leadership and the problem is solved.
How Society Fractures and Diminishes, When a Church Hurts its Neighborhood and is Viewed as a Cult/Cult-Like by Its Neighbors
Doug in his talk also mentioned how society is changing and how organizations are diminishing and fracturing. Here is a question I would like to ask. What happens when Acts 29 is fracturing and destroying families, communities and friendships? Is that acceptable? After all Remnant is the only church in Richmond that gets the gospel right. Is this a reason why Remnant refuses to engage with other churches in the area? Is this the reason why Remnant has the reputation of being a cult-like or cult organization? I heard from those on the outside about how Remnant avoids other organizations. Its part arrogance and part sound doctrine so its justifiable. How warped is that? The stories I heard from differing people on the outside of how Remnant is adversely affecting people is disturbing. Can a church be a positive force for change or must it act like a leach in a community? These are questions that deserve to be asked. Others on the outside talk about how controlling and cult like Remnant is as an organization.
Doug I Will Be Visiting in a Few Weeks if you Want to Meet. I can Purchase you a Drink
Doug in the near future I will be coming to Remnant to attend church there again. Writing this blog has taken me up and down the East Coast. In the process of going to a service there I will also meet with people formerly involved to discuss doctrine, issues with Acts 29 and more. If you want to see an example of that I would refer you to what I wrote about Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania which I am still writing about. “Do any Members of Community Evangelical Free Church Want to Meet me on April 16 or April17? Now is Your Chance” and “My Trip to Elverson, Pennsylvania; and my Visit to Community Evangelical Free Church.” Doug if you want to meet and talk I would be happy to do so. In writing this blog I have met with a lot of people over the course of time. I will let you know when I am coming and if you want to meet and talk that is fine. I don’t hide behind my computer I get out a lot and visit the places I have written about. Plus I also meet with the people who have contacted me and hear what is going on behind the scenes. Its with that in mind that I will let you go. You referenced Frozen in your talk, so with that I will leave you with the hit single from that animated film. Take care Doug and I will be in touch with you.