Frequently this blog has noticed a number of EFCA pastors in the United States who promote or recommend material from questionable fallen and discredited pastors. John Welborn at the EFCA’s Salem Church in Staten Island has done this, and so has Tom Nelson of EFCA’s Christ Community Church in the Kansas City area has also done this. Is this another aspect to the scandal of the evangelical mind? The ability of a pastor to practice discernment and think critically in the midst of a scandal?
“If your response to a problem or scandal isn’t genuine, followers will sense it. And remember, by saying nothing, you’re saying something.“
What joy for the nation whose God is the Lord,
whose people he has chosen as his inheritance.
Psalm 33:12 NLT
Salem Church in Staten Island, New York City
A recent blog post at Christ Community Church in the Kansas City and Kansas area helped me to realize I need to write about the issue of evangelical scandal and how the EFCA is tone deaf to the problem. Various EFCA churches in the United States show how this is an ongoing issue.
2 EFCA Churches Push James MacDonald After the Harvest Bible Chapel Scandal
In the fall of 2019 I drove up to New York City and while up there headed to an EFCA church to sit through and observe. In writing about the EFCA I pop up in different churches to study, analyze and learn more about the trends and developments. So on October 13, 2019 I attended Salem Church on Staten Island. There were a couple of issues that I observed but I also noticed some strengths as well which I thought had ot emphasized in a blog post. But after the sermon was published on the Salem website I saw something that was deeply troubling to me. The pastor of Salem Church, John Welborn in the sermon notes recommended James MacDonald and some of his work. James MacDonald was the embattled and deeply controversial pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago. Harvest Bible Chapel became the Mars Hill of Chicago. It was a story of excess, pastoral abuse, psychological pain as people pulled back form an organization they called a cult. But what got James MacDonald fired was when before a hot mic James MacDonald talked about wanting to plant child pornography on the computer of the CEO of Christianity Today. This blog played a role in covering the Harvest Bible Chapel scandal and when The Elephant’s Debt was mired in a lawsuit I stepped into the void to continue to press the story. For me it was very disappointing to see John Welborn promote material from someone who should never have been in ministry to begin with. In studying the Salem Church website I noticed that the James MacDonald material was removed. You can read about this in, “A Visit to the EFCA’s Salem Church in Staten Island, New York and Some Feedback.”
After that experience with Salem I was driving and speaking to another person who was involved in an EFCA church which will not be named in this post. The guy that I spoke with told me as to how his Men’s group is doing James MacDonald’s Act Like Men. I could not believe what I was hearing and I listened some more and asked the individual whom I was speaking with if he was familiar with the James MacDonald Harvest Bible Chapel scandal? He did not know. I asked if he Googled or read up on the people the church uses and he told me he just shows up to the Mae’s Group. After this second incident I called up my sources and people I know in Chicago who I worked with to tell the Harvest Bible Chapel scandal. I told them what I encountered with two EFCA churches using James MacDonald’s material and books and asked them what they thought? The couple of people I spoke with were distressed. They talked about how difficult the Harvest Bible Chapel scandal was and how they actually avoid churches in Northern Illinois that may use their worship material, books or more.
Tom Nelson of Christ Community Church Praises Ravi Zacharias and Appears to be Tone Deaf to the Academic and Sexting Scandals Which Exist
Recently at Christ Community Church which has several locations in the Kansas City and Kansas area the senior pastor wrote a glowing tribute to Ravi Zacharias. The name of the blog post is called, “The Apologetics Of A Life Well Lived – My Tribute To Ravi Zacharias.” Stop and read what Tom Nelson writes about Ravi Zacharias.
As a young man pursuing my pastoral calling, Ravi’s profound influence on me and on the cultural and formative development of Christ Community cannot be overly stated. Every book that Ravi wrote, I read immediately. Ravi’s books still have a prominent place on my study bookshelf and have in many ways shaped the contours of my mind.
Ravi’s heartfelt conviction that the Christian faith was a rigorous intellectual faith with coherent meaning and logical consistency paved the way for a generation of evangelicals to embrace a humble confidence in biblical orthodoxy. I often remember Ravi saying,
“The human heart cannot embrace what the mind rejects.”
How true that statement has been in my own spiritual journey.
As one of the church’s most persuasive apologists, Ravi possessed a world-class intellect; yet even more compelling was the apologetics of his Christ-like life. Ravi’s love, gentle warmth, and respect toward others, even those who vociferously disagreed with his worldview, was on display with whomever he met and wherever he traveled around the globe. I observed this in his kind and respectful interaction with others dining together at Plaza III in Kansas City, sharing a quiet lunch at a restaurant near Oxford, and when he fielded fiery questions after a large group lecture. In a day of so many shallow narcissistic Christian celebrity leaders, Ravi was the real deal.
The real deal? The real deal? Tom Nelson believes Ravi Zacharias is the real deal? Does Tom Nelson know about how Ravi inflated his academic credentials? He claimed he lectured at Oxford which was false. He claimed to have been educated at Cambridge which was not true either. Some of the issues with Ravi Zacharias was brought to light by Warren Throckmorton. Warren who played a role in the implosion of Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill church is Seattle was written about by the Seattle Times which you can read here. Likewise Warren wrote about some of these issues with Ravi Zacharias as well. Here is another question was Tom Nelson aware of the sexting scandal that Zacharias engaged in with a married Canadian female and that Ravi threatened to commit suicide if the person brought it to light? And with all this Tom Nelson of Christ Community Church called Ravi Zacharias the real deal? No wonder why evangelical Christianity is a mess. No wonder why its mired in corruption. This blog has written a number of articles about Christ Community Church. In writing about the EFCA in the Midwest District this is one of the churches I pay attention to. When I saw Nelson’s glowing comments about Ravi Zacharias in light of the scandal that dogged him I became disappointed. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit I was in the plans of finalizing a trip to Kansas City, Wichita and Salina. The pandemic forced everything to be canceled. When this pandemic is over I plan to complete that trip and sit through a service and observe and take notes as I write about the issues inside evangelicalism.
Does the Scandal of the Evangelical Mind Apply to Lack of Discernment By Evangelicals?
It happens over and over and its occurs heavily in evangelicalism. Some of these issues do not happen in academia or elsewhere in the secular world. A scandal happens, a celebrity pastor runs, and the person re-establishes themself somewhere and the evangelical church turns a blind eye. I see this over and over as I read, research and write about the issues in evangelicalism. Mark Noll’s The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind claims that evangelicalism has no intellectual mind. Is the by-product of lacking an intellectual mind is that evangelical pastors can’t discern or detect the “bad apples” in evangelicalism? Is that why some people are still drawn to the Mark Driscoll’s, the James MacDonalds and the Ravi Zacharias after all the scandals and abuse of power that took place? I have explained why I have pushed back from evangelicalism but it baffles me as to why individuals like Tom Nelson ignore the facts and shower shady individuals with praise? The exaggeration that Zacharias engaged in he could never do if he were in academia. After Ravi’s death I asked the question aloud a couple of months back which evangelicals would climb over each other to shower Ravi with praise? You can read that in, “Considering Ravi Zacharias and his Passing. Do Evangelical Leaders Think of Death and Funerals? Or are the Pewsitters the Only Ones Guilted Regularly About Death?” Little did I know that Tom Nelson of Christ Community Church would also join the crowd which would praise Ravi Zacharias and ignore the facts. For me this is disappointing. Tom Nelson’s behavior confirms that pushing back from evangelicalism and rejecting it is the solid and right thing to do. Mark Noll was correct about the scandal of the evangelical mind. To that I would add that Noll should also write about how the evangelical church lacks integrity as well. In this case all I had to do is check the newest blog post from Christ Community Church.