December 2, 2020

Riffs: 5:30:07: The White Horse Inn on Why We Don’t Need to be Saved + Reformed Celebrity Culture

logo1.gifActually, the program is called “Why Christ Alone Saves,” but the discussion quickly goes to the heart of evangelicalism’s selling-out of the Gospel: we’ve convinced ourselves that we don’t need to be saved by a bloody savior. It’s one of the best WHI’s I’ve ever heard and it’s must listening for readers of this web site. Eventually they get into other aspects of the salvation we have in Jesus, and it’s all good.

Be sure and save/print out the featured William Willimon piece on “It’s Hard to be Seeker Sensitive When You Work for Jesus.” It’s a two page pdf.

A highlight for me is a discussion of just how useless the crucifixion of Jesus is in much of evangelicalism today. If our great need is to be delivered from the wrath of God, then Jesus is our mediator. But what if our big problem is losing ten pounds? Finding a bigger house? Paying for college? Getting out of debt? What if the guilt that concerns us is the guilt of not having a pool like our neighbor? What if the center of our prayers is the moral life of our kids or our physical health? Do we actually need a crucified Jesus for any of these things?

A few weeks ago I was at a gathering of people from all over America, many from various ethnic communities. The preacher of the day was a Southern White evangelical. As he preached, I noted when the audience responded with “amens,” etc. It was universally on any statement that referred to material blessings, or the idea of prosperity. On statements referring to Jesus as atoning savior, there was almost no reaction.

The prosperity gospel isn’t on the fringe any more. As Willimon says, churches now advertise that they “have what you are looking for.” What is the average American looking for? A bloody savior to deliver from the wrath of God? Or success in life?

And one other outstanding post. SBC blogger Timmy Brister touches on what I’ve wanted to say many times: the Reformed community, and especially the blogosphere, needs to ask itself some questions about its fan-clubs of reformed preachers. There are entire reformed blogs that treat men like Biblical heroes. Sites like the “Hall of Contemporary Reformers” ought to shut our mouths when we think of criticizing Catholics or Charismatics for their man-honoring tendencies. Reading female reformed bloggers swooning over their favorite reformed preachers, especially the ones that acknowledge their existence, is sickening. Someone needs to get it together. Evangelicals are following right after fundamentalists in promoting the reputations of men. Will we never learn?

Brister gets close to another question that I’ve often wanted to raise: Just how much time off to go to conferences do some pastors take? Reading some blogs, it seems that attending 4-6 conferences a year isn’t unusual for some pastors. Talk about your Deadheads 🙂

I once served a church that was very generous. Leased car. Clothing allowance. And one conference. Plus alternating years at the state and national convention. Four to six conferences? I couldn’t have done my job and my wife would have not been a happy camper being left to single parent for weeks at a time. What’s up with this? Is this what “elder led” churches can look forward to? It raises some issues of accountability that should be discussed.


  1. I went to a few of those conferences and wasn’t impressed. I expected the most amazing insights ever, but it was like I was visiting just another church. The speakers didn’t reach any conclusions that I wouldn’t have come to myself if I had just studied.

    But after speaking to a few the pastors there, I began to understand why these conferences are so popular. When you’re the only one in your church who does all the preaching and teaching, you lack that iron-sharpening-iron that every Christian needs. If you can’t get it from your church, you have to get it from outside. Hence the conferences. These guys really appreciated getting away from the weekly grind and hearing someone else for a change.

    However this also reveals a lack of spiritual health in their churches. The senior pastor should not be the only one who is allowed to speak into the lives of the congregation. Every pastor should be able to recognize a few trustworthy folks in their congregations who can do that. If they can’t, then they haven’t trained their churches properly. They’ve created a congregation that’s dependent upon the pastor and not the Holy Spirit.

    And you’re right: it’s also an accountability issue. How accountable is a pastor to a fly-by-night conference speaker? Shouldn’t pastors be accountable to their churches?

  2. Great post. I was really hit by your comments on ‘Reformed Celebrity Culture.” I have noticed this myself over the past 2 years, ever since I started attending a reformed church and thus being exposed to the “reformed subculture” (that’s really what it has become!) I have visited reformed blogs filled with reformed name-droping, reformed gossip, and plenty of reformed swagger, which I am guilty of myself. I’ve even observed something I like to call “puritan fetishism” or an excessesive and unhealthy emphasis on the puritan writers as the the only soure of truth outside of the Bible. Moderators (who are no doubt gracious people) on thses sites fancy themselves mondern-day puritans and engage in dialouge that almost makes me think they are “role-playing” (like those who play dungeons & dragons.)

    It is probably not a good thing.

  3. As a pastor in Rural Saskatchewan, I know about being the only preacher. When I take off for a Sunday, no one in the church will volunteer to preach so someone from outside must be invited. I can understand the need to have accountability but why must this be on such a difficult level of long distance traveling? Is there not a sufficient level of interaction on a local level? If we are pastors who lead spiritually, why do we not set up significant accountability structures on a local level. I think there is something deeper going on here and I think it is rightly linked to a “celebrity culture.”

  4. Why where else would these great leaders (and most of them really are) ply their wares (books, DVDs, studies, etc.)? Someone told me about attending a commencement ceremony at a Christian university where one of these frequent conference speakers was invited to give the commencement address. Of all things, according to my source, there were tables in the lobby laden with resources from the speaker. I asked if the graduates at least got some kind of coupon to help with any purchases, but my friend didn’t think that they did. It would have been a nice graduation gift, don’t you think? 🙂

  5. Pastor M,

    I would not accuse the Reformed guys that Michael Spencer and Timmy Brister talks about of greed. In fact, the Reformed guys give away more stuff for free than almost anybody I know. Mark Dever and John Piper make all of the sermons that they have ever preached at their churches available for FREE download. John Piper’s ministry Desiring God will give anything away for free to those who can’t afford it. If I remember correctly Piper does not keep any of the royalties from his books, but instead he uses them to operate his ministry.

  6. iMonk,

    Just saw this, a week late. All I can say is, “Hit ’em again, harder, harder.”

    Matthew– sweet comment on the “role-playing” of would be Puritan heroes. When I see it I feel like I’m watching children in grown-up clothes, nursing dreams of greatness. Their reflected glory in their blogospheric Hall of Mirrors is little besides the legitimate honor they have as created images of the King.