Sprinkling the Baby.

Tomorrow evening, we are baptizing our little boy.  I know infant baptism has been an issue to split entire denominations, and so I thought it appropriate to pause and acknowledge the “why” of our decision to baptize our 9 month-old.

First, a few notes as to what this occasion is not.

  1. It is not a mere religious formality.  In fact, we are not fans of religion.  Let me explain.  Religion is the approach to God that says we need to do certain things to make him happy or to appease him.  Religion says that God sets a standard and that we are constantly doing things to reach that standard.  It’s karma.  Build up enough good stuff to make God happy.  We are not baptizing our child to make God happy.  We don’t go to church to make God happy.  That’s religion, and we (despite our classification with the IRS as members of a religious missionary organization) are not pro-religion.  Additionally, we are not pro-formality.  We aren’t baptizing Little Ben to check off a formality. In fact, if you come to our church, very little is formal.  The pastor doesn’t even tuck in his shirt.
  2. We don’t believe that this baptism saves Little Ben.  He is still saved the “old fashioned way” via the instructions in Romans 10:9-10.  He confesses his need for a savior, and asks Jesus to be that savior, through the power of the regenerating Holy Spirit.

So that’s what the baptism isn’t.  Here’s what it is.  (I should note that this is an “agree to disagree” issue for me, and I understand that for some it is not.  I apologize for not arguing with you about it. There are men and women I greatly respect and look up to like John Piper on the other side of the theological fence from me on this issue.  We agree to disagree.)  We believe that scripture teaches that God works through the unit of families.  When Abraham entered into covenant with God, he and all the males in his family were circumsized.  In many instances, God uses language like “the promise is for you and your children…” to demonstrate that His plan is to work through the family.  We see baptism as the new covenant version of circumcision.  Jesus’ death on the cross took away the need for blood to enter into the covenant.

So tomorrow when little Ben is baptized, what we are doing is acknowledging that he is a sinner in need of God’s grace, and that God has sovereignly placed him in our care to steward and shepherd into a man who one day will enter into God’s family.  The faith on display is not his faith, but ours.

What a beautiful picture of God’s grace: a selfish, self-centered baby is dragged (most likely screaming… the service starts near the fussiest time of the day) into a covenant where his sworn enemy (God) becomes his sacrificial lamb.

Feel free to join us as we celebrate God’s grace tomorrow night.


I’m not there, but I wanted to weigh in on Catalyst, and ask some honest questions.  Please hear that my heart is not to criticize, but to honestly ask.

I am a little surprised to see Rob Bell on the list of speakers for Catalyst.  I’ve written before about Rob, and what I think of the one book of his that I’ve read.  After a quick perusal of the recommended reading on his website, it seems that he puts more stock in Judaism than Christianity.  Having a Jewish understanding of the scriptures (unless it is a messianic perspective) simply means that you are listening to people who disagreed with Jesus on his most fundamental issue (his own identity—that he was and is God in the flesh, sent to save sinful, broken people).  That’s a pretty shaky hermeneutic.

So I wonder why Catalyst would have him come and speak.  I do not argue that he is a gifted communicator, and a passionate guy.  I’m not throwing stones at the guy, but I think that some of his teachings are dangerous (at worst) or confusing (at best).  Surely the organizers of the conference are aware of the uproar the mention of his name causes in evangelical culture.  Yet they brought him anyway.

The other issue that has me shaking my head is the use of the TNIV on the Youversion Live event for Andy Stanley’s talk.  This may simply be a technological deal, and they are unaware that it is using a gender-inclusive, highly controversial “translation” of the original languages.  If it’s just an oversight, that’s fine.  But if it’s an intentional choice, I have to question it.  Why go with that translation?  The NIV works just fine (and carries almost no connotative baggage even for more conservative biblical scholars), or the ESV, or the NAS, or the NKJV, or even a paraphrase like The Message.  Using the TNIV (intentionally) is a blatant theological statement.

Those are my questions.  Id love for some folks who are/were there to weigh in.  More than that, I’d love if some of the organizers could weigh in and explain these choices to me.

If You have Nothing to Hide, Hide Nothing: a look at the financial transparency of Christian organizations.

Does transparency matter?  Not according to the likes of Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, and TD Jakes.

I spent some time recently on a the website of a ministry called MinstryWatch.com (the  online database component of Wall Watchers) to see, among other things, how Campus Crusade for Christ (the ministry my wife and I work for) is doing when it comes to honesty, openness, and transparency regarding financial issues.  I was thrilled, though not surprised, to see that we rank among the elite in terms of “putting our money where our mouth is.”  That’s one big reason why I work for this organization, and will for as long as the Lord continues to provide.

Where I was shocked was as I perused other ministries, and specifically those ministries associated with what’s been called the “prosperity gospel.”  Teachers who say that God intends for us to be materially wealthy are not being honest about their material wealth, when asked.

TD Jakes, for example, according the the site, was noncompliant when asked about his ministry’s use of funds.  That means that if you have ever given money to TD Jakes and his ministry, you have no idea how that money was spent.  Legally they may not be required to tell you how they are spending your money, but you can bet I’m not giving a dollar until I know how they will use that dollar.  And you shouldn’t either.

Plus, when Joyce Meyer, who clearly correlates financial prosperity and God’s blessing, is asked about how much she is compensated for her ministry efforts, why wouldn’t she jump at the chance to be totally honest and share how God is blessing her?  But according to the site, she’s released info about her ministry, but nowhere in it does she mention how much money her family makes off of the donations of others.  That is shady, at best.  It’s like she’s ashamed of the income she makes.  Again, that’s not an accusation, so much as a point of fact.  She has not been transparent.  Christians should be transparent.  Especially ones with massive budgets.

That brings me to Creflo Dollar.  His ministry is literally worldwide, with offices in South Africa, the UK, Nigeria, America, and Australia.  He and his wife Taffi co-pastor a megachurch that has spawned multiple corporations and ministries.  Then, when being asked to be transparent and tell folks who give how that money is being used, (and even being asked to do so by the federal government) they still refuse to give any information out regarding their financials.  While I don’t think it is the government’s place to investigate churches and their financial records, I do feel like the folks who give money to his ministry have every right to know how that money is being used.

Dr. Dollar, in the response to the government posted on his website, justifies their financial secrecy with the verse from Matthew 6:1-4 that references individuals giving in secrecy, NOT corporations stewarding in secrecy.  Again, I think the federal government is overstepping its bounds (and please don’t get me started on that as a topic in general), but I think Dr. Dollar’s justifications for corporate and organizational secrecy are absurdly unbiblical.  Nobody is asking him to disclose what particular individuals gave, just that he disclose a dollar amount of total giving, and how those funds were used.  To use the very verse he quotes, he’s on the “openly” side of the equation.  The members and others gave in secret.  It’s time for God to bless openly.  So openly that anyone who wants to see it can see it.  His own (half-biblical) theology says that God will openly bless his church financially if they are faithful.

God doesn’t do back-alley accounting.  He honors integrity and honesty.  If you have nothing to hide, hide nothing.

The list doesn’t end with those.  Go see for yourself which ministries refuse to give account of how they use funds.

What do you think?  Should churches and other ministries strive for openness and transparency?  Why or why not?  Comment below.

Catalyst Conference Organizers: You Should be Better Shepherds.

Really, Catalyst?  you are doing it again.  Bringing in TD Jakes is a mistake.  I recently wrote a piece on the secrecy of his financial practices, but the real issue I have with Bishop Jakes being invited to speak at Catalyst lies in the fact that he does not hold to the historical doctrine of the Trinity.

Modalism, the belief that God manifests himself in three ways, like the popular “water, ice, vapor” analogy, has been declared a heresy since the third century.  Yet Bishop Jakes, in a hat-tip to his Oneness Pentecostal-influenced upbringing, still holds to that heresy today.  Oneness Pentecostals hold to a heretical doctrine.

There are only one or two doctrines that I will stand up and fight for.  The Trinity is one of them.  Bishop Jakes, in response to being called a modalist, affirmed the “water, ice, vapor” analogy.  That’s like making a case against the use of technology, via email.

Why, Catalyst?  Why invite him to speak?  What benefit could the next generation of Christian leaders have from hearing from him?  He rejects one of the most foundational doctrines of Christianity!

If you are interested in a fair report done by a respected website, check out CARM’s Article on TD Jakes.

I’d really love to hear a response from the organizers and leaders of Catalyst, like Brad Lomenick.  I know, little old benandjacq.com is probably not going to get a response from Catalyst.  But it’s worth a shot.  They are supposed to be shepherds, and they’ve let a(nother) wolf into the sheepfold.

*UPDATE* After having been privately asked to back up my claim that Bishop Jakes holds to modalism, I wanted to pass along two articles from CRI (The ministry of Hank Hanegraaff, popularly known as the “Bible Answer Man”)  The first is very long, but I feel like it is fair.  Find it here. The Second is a followup to that article, and much shorter.  Find it here.  The simple fact is that no matter what you call it, it’s modalism.

*UPDATE 2* Just got a call from Brad Lomenick, the lead guy over at Catalyst (that’s also his comment down there), and while he asked for privacy regarding the actual content of our call, I will let you know that I am relatively comfortable with their stance on why to bring in guys like TD Jakes and Rob Bell, and it has moved it to an “agree to disagree” issue for me.  I’d still not bring him in, but I respect his decision to.  After all, they didn’t ask my opinion for a reason.  I also want to note that I should have emailed him first, as opposed to publicly blasting him. (though it was never my heart to blast, just asking an honest question.)