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In our effort to serve you better, Midwest Christian Outreach Inc.’s website is growing again.

Give us a few more weeks, and we’ll have our revised print Journal archives, better-organized articles and a new online resource center in place to help equip Christians and challenge false teachings both within the Church and outside its borders.

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Our Burn Out Youth Group

by on July 24th, 2014

Burnout bowling
I recall years ago watching former pro football player, Rosey Grier on the Mike Douglas Show. Two things got my attention. The first was, this big, tough football player was knitting while they talked. Douglas asked if anyone made fun of him and with a gentle smile Rosey asked, “Would you?” I laughed. The other was a comment he made quoting from someone else whose name I do not remember. He said that five years from now you will be the same person you are today expect for the books you read and the people you meet. Interesting … and true.

Life often tends to lead in unanticipated directions. Not always ones you would have chosen to be sure and sometimes fraught with difficulty. We may meet and interact with people in ways that we would never have planned and are changed by the experience. Joy and I are involved in a mission to cults and false religious movements because she met some women who were Jehovah’s Witnesses and she began to care deeply about them. It is a mission that by definition has to happen outside the church. Jehovah’s Witnesses view the church as evil and so reaching out to them has to happen on more neutral ground which is where evangelism it supposed to happen anyway.

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Urban Apologetics: A Review

by on July 17th, 2014

We regularly receive books from publishers for possible reviews. Many of them are good and by authors we are familiar with on topics we know well and can commend the new resource. On rare occasions we receive a book that is something more. As I sat down to read Urban Apologetics: Answering Challenges to Faith for Urban Believers by Christopher W. Brooks (Kregel Publications, April 2014, 176 pages, $13.99) I have to admit, I was expecting something quite different than I discovered as I read. Apologetics tends to operate on the periphery of the church. It is, as I have written in the past, the ugly red-headed step child of the church. It is difficult to interest pastors in bringing apologetics into the life of the church and difficult to help those involved in apologetics to understand the plight of the pastor or recognize that apologetics is not an end in itself but a means to an end. Christopher Brooks is a pastor-apologist. It is not a long book. At 176 pages I was able to read it in a day. It is profound in its implications. There is nothing Christopher has said that we haven’t written about in our Journal or blog but it was carefully and soulfully written. Although it the target audience has with urban ministry in mind, it is applicable and adaptable in suburban ministry as well.

Not being a fan of Carl Ellis, Jr. who wrote the Introduction, I was somewhat apprehensive as I began reading.

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Apologetics for Your Obligatory Hobby Lobby Conversation Part 2

by on July 10th, 2014

By now you’ve probably had your fill of Hobby Lobby on your Facebook feed.  Last week I tried to deal with some of the more substantive objections to the Hobby Lobby decision. This week I want to take a look at some of the more irresponsible and irrational objections. Hold your snark however, because this is apologetics not whatever show Bill Maher is hosting on HBO. Each of these knee-jerk objections actually has a substantive disagreement underneath. If we can get below the irrational angst, we can actually have a substantive and hopefully Gospel oriented discussion. And lest we forget, that’s the point. Every single apologetic conversation either is designed to lead to or exemplify the Gospel. Otherwise we are just these guys.

I have to remind myself often:

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Apologetics for Your Obligatory Hobby Lobby Conversation Part 1

by on July 3rd, 2014

Part of America is relieved. Part of America is incensed. So basically it’s status quo. The nine wise ones have decided and, as a Christian, I’m relieved. In First Things Robert George sums up why most Christians are relieved:

As [Richard John ] Neuhaus tirelessly insisted, our religious lives cannot be restricted to what we do in our homes before meals or on our knees at bedtime, or to our prayers and liturgies in churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples. Religious faith motivates, or can motivate, our convictions and actions in the exercise of our rights and responsibilities as citizens, in our philanthropic and charitable activities, and in the conduct of our businesses and professions.

And that’s where the apologetic begins. Mention Neuhaus’ idea of Christian conduct to most people apoplectic about Hobby Lobby and you will likely get something like this from king of the interwebz, George Takei:

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Bill Gothard: Wounds or Kisses?

by on June 26th, 2014

As many are aware, IBLP issued a statement titled A Time of Transition which was posted on June 17, 2014. In the statement we read:

In response to allegations against Bill Gothard, the Board sought the facts through a confidential and thorough review process conducted by outside legal counsel. Many people were interviewed, including former Board members, current and past staff members, current and past administrators, parents, and family members.

As I read the response something was glaringly missing. IBLP had earlier claimed they had “outside legal counsel” that would conduct a “thorough review process” but, did the “outside legal counsel,” David C. Gibbs Jr., interview the 37 women who had made their accusations by telling their stories on the Recovering Grace website? To our knowledge, none of them were contacted. This is a point which was also picked up and commented on by Recovering Grace in their Our Response to the IBLP Board Statement :

There is no mention of interviewing the victims themselves, those who have already spoken publicly of their harassment and abuse. We believe that this statement has essentially re-victimized these women by negligently and publicly demonstrating that, in the Board’s eyes, they are of no consequence in this discussion. To our knowledge, none of the women who have published their stories on Recovering Grace were personally approached for their statement in the IBLP investigation.

The issues at hand are actually bigger than is readily apparent at first blush.

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Leveraging Lunacy: How Bill Gothard Rode a Wave of Evangelical Goofiness

by on June 19th, 2014

Recently, an old article of mine, “Trapped in the Shadow of ‘God’s Anointed’: Breaking free from an Unbiblical Concept” (MCOI Journal, Volume 8 No. 3, Fall 2002, pp. 12-15) was re-posted by the Recovering Grace (RG) web site, which is devoted to helping people break free from the spiritual bondage caused by the teachings of Bill Gothard and his Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), as well as his Advanced Training Institute (ATI). The mere fact that it was republished there is a bit interesting, since the article does not mention Gothard. Nevertheless, it appears that the RG staff, who have all had involvement in Gothardism, resonated with what it said.

And so did many of those who commented on the article. One of them wrote:

Even as I type this, I have that clammy feeling of being eaten by bears or zapped with lightening [sic] for even questioning the ‘anointing of Mr. Gothard.’

The misappropriation of the biblical term “anointed” by church leaders over the past generation has produced results that do not merely border on lunacy, but are actually the embodiment of it. In most of evangelicalism the lunacy has been more subtle, its chief manifestation being authoritarian and abusive leaders who held themselves above accountability. You know: like Bill Gothard. He did not even need to use the term or refer to the concept in order to leverage the spell it had already cast over vast segments of the church. Like a surfer on a surfboard, he simply rode this example of goofy theology like a wave.

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Profaning the Sacred

by on June 12th, 2014

This week, dear reader, I want to respond to my dear friend Ben Dyer’s critique of my post of what happened with Harvard’s black mass.You can read my original post here. You can read Ben’s response here.  Here’s Ben’s summary of what happened:

The short version is that the Church of Satan and a Harvard student club decided to reenact a “Black Mass” on Harvard’s grounds, but they voluntarily withdrew and ended up cancelling the event after pressure from local Catholic groups stirred up Harvard’s administration and the local community against it. Though Jonathan sees the church’s campaign against the event to be a lost opportunity to enter nuanced dialogue with the event’s organizers and participants, I think he’s missed something here.

What’s missing is the thing that happens when you tear down something venerated or sacred. Beyond merely expressing an opinion about it, you profane the sacred.

Ben thinks I’ve not taken into account what happens when iconoclasts publicly profane our deepest religious symbols. If I understand him correctly, there is a kind of moral standing in society that should not simply ignore sentiments of disdain and hatred (which is what the Black mass does intimate). The Catholics at Harvard and every Christian are right to use social pressure to prevent this sort of profanity from being public. We (Christians) have a duty to stand up to such profanation. Ben goes on:

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