Stupid Pastor Tricks-How You're Getting Fooled

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The Juvenilization Category of Tricks: 

  • The "Turn to your neighbor and say..." trick. Mr. Mega Pastor, we are no longer in the second grade, and we shouldn't be treated as such. This is just a way to force people to agree with you.
  • The "end every other sentence with AMEN?!" trick. Amen is not a question. You are putting that word at the end of your sentence because it forces people to agree with you, as they shut down any critical thinking.
  • The "make your church look like a children's TV Show" trick. Mr. Mega Pastor wants his followers to revert back to adolescence in order to instill obedience. But just how far will he go as he belittles his audience? How about this far:

                         Or how about this far:

                          Or how about this far:

  • The "my expectations of you are so low that I'll repeatedly insult your intelligence in order to hold your gnat-like attention" trick. Mr. Mega Pastor thinks most people are pretty stupid and need to be treated as gullible spectators. Worse than that, he thinks God needs the church service to be an adult pre-school in order to accomplish His will on earth.
  • The "listen to me repeat a catchphrase as if it were a Bible verse" trick. Because he needs these people to remember something, but he just can't seem to fit an actual Bible passage into his frantic yet meandering 45-minute speech...

 

The Cult of Personality Category of Tricks:

  • The "we started this church in our living room 6 years ago and look at what God has done!" trick. You bought a mailing list, hired a graphic artist and a web designer, you mailed out a slick postcard to 10,000 people that made promises & claims that your church can never deliver, but you're giving all the credit to God? Don't blame this thing on God.
  • The "aw shucks, can I just talk about myself for a while longer?" trick. You are trying to act humble but it's only working on the truly gullible.
  • The "our church is really great, and just in case you don't know how great it is, I'm gonna talk about it some more" trick. Why is it so important to continually prop up your church? You're not a pastor, you're a salesman making a pitch.
  • The "I don't have time to read the Bible, but I've got time to talk about sports/TV shows/personal stories/jokes/useless drivel..." trick. Everything that happens in your sermon is by your design, and you're deciding to cut out God's Word to make more room for yourself.
  • The "here's a really catchy name for my new sermon series that I'll keep repeating (I hope it gets me a book deal)" trick. We get it: without a new book you've got nothing to sell at the merchandise table when you go on the speaking circuit.
  • The "we are just so blessed and honored to have Pastor Whoever He Is with us today!" trick. And if you suck up to him enough, you'll get a speaking invitation at his (much larger) church.
  • The "watch me do that dramatic... pause... just like Rob Bell or Andy Stanley" trick. This is just cheap theatrics, and you've cheapened the house of God by pretending to be profound.
  • The "let me show you how cool and relevant I am while I pretend that I'm not trying to be cool and relevant" trick. Again, this only works on the truly gullible. You're really scraping the bottom of the barrel, aren't you Mr. Mega Pastor? (And Mr. Cool Music Guy on the worship team, maybe you should look into joining a cover band to satisfy your need for attention.)
  • The "let me brag about my luxurious lifestyle in front of the struggling people who paid for it" trick. You're not setting an example of success, you're taking money from people who will never live out the fantasies you sell them in the name of God.

 

The Super Spiritual Category of Tricks:

  • The "I hope you don't notice that I'm just making up this prophetic utterance" trick. If you want people to believe that God is speaking through you, shouldn't you construct sentences that actually mean something? How ridiculous can these "prophetic words" get? This ridiculous:
  • The "this is gonna be the year of acceleration! (or breakthrough, or increase, or visitation, or whatever...)" trick. Don't worry, after you make your New Year's proclamation you've got 11 months of useless blathering to distract everyone from your vague, yet false prediction.
  • The "I can make outlandish claims without any authentication" trick. Why does every supernatural event that you mention occur in some remote country... without cameras?
  • The "my Bible fell open and this is the verse that God showed me" trick. Wait a minute, is this a Christian church service or a tarot card reading??
  • The "I had my sermon all planned out but God gave me something different at the last minute" trick. Wow, we've never heard that before...
  • The "something REALLY big is coming... (eventually)" trick. How many decades have to pass before you finally cancel this ambiguous, confusing and useless "word from the Lord?"
  • The "healing service that's actually just a guy telling stories about all the healings he supposedly did somewhere else" trick. Lucky for this guy, the people who come to get healed are usually so desperate and confused they stay the whole time anyway. When they don't get healed they often blame themselves, too.
  • The "watch me talk very very fast, as if the sheer quantity of my words equated to Godly wisdom" trick. I suppose if you slowed down everyone could see that you're not really saying anything.
  • The "shift in the atmosphere" trick. Is this the Christian Church or an episode of Ghost Hunters?
  • The "Holy Spirit Tourette Syndrome" trick. Really? That's supposed to be the result of the Holy Spirit?? 

 

  • The "don't put God in a box" trick. This is how you turn the sovereign God of the Universe who has revealed Himself in His Holy Word into your own weird little creation. 
  • The "Law of Attraction" trick. Well, if you don't want to preach the Gospel from the Bible, I guess you might as well steal ideas from Oprah...
  • The "God spoke to me, so you pretty much have to believe whatever I say" trick. Don't worry, hardly anyone will notice that this is exactly how all cults get started.

Stay tuned for more Stupid Pastor Tricks!

 

-This article by Steven Kozar

When Did the Church Turn Into Amway??

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True Story:

      In the 1990's my wife and me had three young children and we were in financial trouble; my income as an artist was very inconsistent. We were invited to become Amway distributors by a family member who knew we were the kind of "go-getters" who could really "make things happen." 

      I was very skeptical at first, but I eventually gave into the promise of "multiple streams of residual income." In the late 1990's we heard (and fell for) "The Dream Destiny Thingy." This is years before it crept into (and devoured) much of the church. It's a bunch of assumptions that go something like this: 

"God brought you here today for a reason; it's not an accident that you're in this meeting today. The reason you're struggling financially is because you don't have a dream-it's not because you don't have money! Once you have a big enough dream, the money will follow. Amway is just the business vehicle; this is really about changing people's lives by getting them to pursue their dreams." 

They would pray in the meetings like this: 

"Thank you God that you've given each of us the ability to dream. Help us to chase our dreams, discover our destiny and make a real difference in people's lives. In Jesus name, Amen."

 We were taught about the power of using the right words to speak things into existence. We had to be positive all the time because being negative would attract negative results. (Years later, I would go on to research and refute this Word of Faith false doctrine.)

Large Amway conventions are the ultimate gig for motivational speakers and other performers, and most of the really big guns were there, helping to prop up the illusion that Amway was a great opportunity for anyone willing to work hard and stick to it. Zig Ziglar, Robert Kiyosaki, John Maxwell and other big name speakers have all done the Amway gig; people would even write books praising the Amway opportunity because they knew thousands of distributors would buy them; it was a built-in audience of niche consumers. I tried not to notice how none of these people making money by praising Amway actually joined up and became Amway distributors themselves.

     But the best speakers in the Amway business weren't the "professional" speakers, they were the "regular folks" who worked hard and had made it to the level of Diamond (or higher). These "regular folks" would convince the socks off of anyone that you could make it happen. "You just need to really buy into the system and do everything your leaders tell you to do; your success is guaranteed!" "If your dream is big enough, the facts don't count!" The most convincing Diamond speakers would come from another organization and speak at your meeting to help you grow your business. "Wow, these people are so nice and giving of their time" you would think. Plus, they would always start by praising your leaders and telling you how lucky you were to have the leadership that you had in your own organization. 

     Eventually, I learned that all of these Diamond (and above) speakers were getting giant speaking fees. They weren't giving their time, they were selling their time. If you were getting $10,000 for an hour and a half speech, do you think you could praise whoever was writing your check? On top of the very convincing speakers, they had amazing videos with powerful music and emotionally charged stories to tear at your heartstrings. The use of multimedia was incredibly effective, especially in a stadium full of like-minded people who all believed. 

We were even told that if you went to the next big meeting it "would really build up your belief." A more honest way of saying it would be "if you go to this big meeting you'll be convinced to stick around long enough for us to make money off of you for a little while longer because you'll be emotionally convinced that this business is great!"

This Isn't a Dream, It's a Nightmare!

     In short, we spent 4 years trying to build an Amway business and lost about $40,000 in the process. We did everything we were supposed to do-everything!

  • I know all about mind control techniques because I experienced them first hand.
  • I know what it's like to be emotionally manipulated because I experienced it first hand.
  • I know about turning the Christian faith into a vehicle that promises to make your dreams come true because I experienced it first hand.

On top of all that, we started going to a large "positive confession" charismatic church as a result of this new outlook on our faith. We prayed and prayed and prayed... and prayed: "God please help us build this great business so we can be financially free and help others..." 

     But God didn't answer. We had to figure out the hard way that we were being scammed. 

You see, in most Amway businesses, all of the emphasis is on "the system," which had 3 components (called "tools"): Books, CDs and Functions. We would buy and read the positive self-help type books (a new one every month); we would buy and listen to a motivational CD every week (or more if you were really committed, like us), and we would buy a ticket to a different function every single month. 

No matter what. 

This is how they could build such large and compliant organizations. This is simply a type of thought-control. Some of the teaching was actually decent business/success type material, but overall, the system kept people in the business and in the dark. Sure there were always people quitting, but there were always new people to replace the quitters. And there was tremendous profit to be made on each and every book, CD and ticket; that's where the upline distributors were making most of their money. It was all in secret and a lot of it was cash under the table, so these hucksters weren't even paying tax on all their income. After the internet became popular, Amway's seedy underbelly couldn't hide so easily, and it has never gotten back to its original multi-billion dollar American heyday (much of Amway's growth has been in foreign countries in the past 15 years).

 

The Evangelical Industrial Complex has copied many of the very things that have worked so well in Amway:

 

  • Tell people that Christianity is all about getting your Dreams and realizing your Destiny. Check.

  • Tell people that having lots of money is a good thing that God wants for you (so you can help others, of course). Check.

  • Tell people to only listen to positive messages about success and prosperity. Check.

  • Tell people that they can speak things into existence because words have power. Check.

  • Ignore the people continually quitting and leaving, because they get replaced by new and different people just as fast. Check.

  • Get people to "experience life change" by learning self-help and relationship-building techniques, but don't emphasis repentance and the forgiveness of sins. Check.

  • The guy on the stage is making money off the people in the seats. Check.

  • The guy on the stage is promising you things you'll never actually get (in the name of God). Check.

  • After you don't get what you were promised you're told to have more faith and try harder (and buy the latest book). Check.

  • The visiting speaker (pastor) praises the local leader (pastor) and gets a fat speaking fee (plus sells his books in the lobby). Check. (handy tip: It's not a speaker fee if it comes from a "free-will offering")

  • Use music, lights and multimedia/video to emotionally manipulate like-minded people who desperately want to believe. Check.

 

Wait a minute, is this Amway or a Mega-Church we're talking about?? 

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
— Romans 12: 1-2

For further research on this topic:

The Seeker-Friendly, Purpose-Driven Cornucopia of False Doctrine

FYI, Here is an excellent website with details about the Amway tool scam:

Stop The Amway Tool Scam

Also, just to be clear, I have no ill feelings towards those in my upline who were taken in by this "business" and who probably lost even more money than I did. God help us all. -Steven Kozar  

True Stories from the Messed Up Church: Andy Stanley's North Point Church

This is the first in a new series of posts from real people who will tell their story of God's grace drawing them back to the Gospel.

Confessions of a Former Member of Andy Stanley’s Church

By Janine Jensen

When I was in my 20s, I lived in Atlanta and attended Andy Stanley’s church (this would be in the early 1990's). I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was a part of the "messed up church." 

Last year, Andy Stanley preached about the “Temple Model” and more recently said “you’re selfish if you don’t go to a big church.” Perhaps it would be interesting if I shared my experience of being a part of Andy’s church when it first got started.

Northpoint Church is a huge place. Services are held in three large rooms, simulcast with Andy navigating between rooms. We watch on the big multimedia screens.  It’s very exciting, and keeps you on your toes. Before the service starts, there is a huge countdown clock on the screen. The clock counts down the minutes and seconds until the service starts. It creates anticipation, like watching the ball drop on New Year’s Eve in Time Square. Yes, something is about to happen that will knock our socks off. 

Going to church is like “Black Friday” at the mall.  There are people in front of you, next to you, and behind you.  Everyone is trying to get into the sanctuary.  Ushers are everywhere, directing traffic and handing out bulletins, making sure that every seat is filled, with no empty chairs. They have an overflow room for latecomers. Children go to Sunday school while the adults attend the service. With the wall-to-wall multimedia screens, even the people in the back can see what’s going on. There is a live band on stage. The lights are cut low, and there’s a spotlight on the stage. It’s more like a rock concert or Broadway show, than a worship service. When the band starts playing, the crowd quiets down and focuses on the stage. There is a euphoric feeling in the air, like we’re all in this together.

Andy Stanley appears on stage, and opens with a “shout out” or personal anecdote.  It’s unclear whether he is in your room or another one.  He jumps between rooms, appearing on the stage like a rock star. Yes, Andy’s a rock star that everyone adores, and Christianity is his platform. 

Occasionally, the service features a drama skit.  It’s a spur-of-the moment thing that catches you off-guard. You never know what will happen next. One time, there was a heckler in the back, shouting, “This is no place for a Christian! You are the anti-Christ!”  I remember thinking, “You can’t fool me, and I know this is a skit!” But it turns out he was the real deal and the ushers grabbed him and escorted him out. 

I don’t know if things have changed since I left Northpoint church, but back then, Sunday school was set up like a night club. The room was dimly lit, with a disco ball on the ceiling. There were flashes of neon lights, and everyone hovered around the refreshment tables.   They had a dry ice machine cranked up, which made it to look like there was a cloud of smoke on the floor. That was our mingling time. There was contemporary Christian music playing in the background. Eventually, the program started. Someone jumped on the center stage, and shared the announcements. Then we’d go to Sunday school classes, usually sorted by topic. 

No one dared to say it, but the atmosphere was like a bar scene.  They assumed that’s what people wanted.  And surely, with so many people flocking to the church, a nightclub atmosphere is what works. It draws folks in and keeps them coming back for more.

When Andy Stanley gave his “temple model” sermons, he said that all trappings of traditional church should be eliminated.  He definitely practices what he preaches! He likes to play contemporary music instead of hymns, and sermons are more like stand-up comedy routines or motivational messages. 

But is it necessary?  Do Christian singles really need a night club atmosphere in order to feel comfortable? Do we need to follow a worldly formula, or everyone will pack up and go home? 

The Sunday school topical classes were interesting, some even provided in-depth Biblical teaching. That was a breath of fresh air, because the sermons (the ones preached in the auditorium) were mostly stories, anecdotes and musings about life, with a few Bible verses thrown in for good measure. The Bible was treated like a reference book. We rarely, if ever, were given chapter by chapter, verse by verse exegesis. The preacher (be it Andy Stanley, or one of the other pastors on staff) spoke about life principles, often extracted from movies, secular songs, or TV shows. 

I’m still trying to put the pieces together of what happened. Honestly, I had a really good time at Andy Stanley’s church; I met wonderful people and had a blast in Sunday School and church.  I enjoyed the uplifting music, and was exposed to mostly “light” Christian theology. 

 At the same time, I experienced a dumbing down of the gospel. Although it was never directly said, the implication was that the Bible is cryptic and complex. It is hard to understand and no longer culturally relevant. Everything needed to be re-positioned in a cool, hip and contemporary context.  The rationale: People love rock concerts and night clubs. That’s where people have a good time. Let’s make church like that. If people have a good time, they will come back for more.

Andy Stanley’s church also conditions its people to think of ministry in a secular context. You start to think that that’s the way people get saved. That is what attracts people. That is what leads them to Christ. You start to think that evangelism doesn’t work any other way. You start to think that people can’t relate to a minister wearing a suit.  And gosh, a minister wearing a robe or liturgical garments? No way, no how! That type of minister is considered unapproachable, out of touch with reality, and can’t relate to young people. Yes, contemporary is the only way to go. 

Andy Stanley contends that traditional church is what holds people back. It keeps them away.  In reality, it is the sinful heart of man that keeps people away from church. I eventually learned by listening to “Fighting for the Faith,” that the unregenerate man hates God. That’s why he isn’t interested in church. I never heard that taught at North Point Church; I never heard verses like Romans 3: 11-12 which says: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." 

Looking back, I wonder why I attended that church. Why did I stay there for so long? Short answer: It was fun, exciting and entertaining.  It was a great way to meet people and make new friends. That’s probably the case with most people. They may realize that they’re not getting much of out the sermons. They’re not learning much at all. But they keep coming back for the good times. The thrill of the band playing contemporary music, or their favorite rock tune. That rock concert experience can be so exciting. It’s fun being with all your friends. 

And there, I was, caught up in it all. I kept coming back Sunday after Sunday, month after month, year after year. And I didn’t even realize what I know now. I was spending all my time at the messed up church.  

I was a part of a church that used a worldly atmosphere to draw me in, and kept me coming back for more.  I now realize that hip and fun doesn’t necessarily mean orthodox and sound teaching.  

After listening to “Fighting for the Faith,” my attitude changed about contemporary versus traditional church.  As I became more discerning, I no longer want to be a part of a church that takes its cues from popular culture, movies, and rock music.  I became weary of scripture twisting that I experienced in church, particularly when verses are taken out of context. I find myself becoming irritated when the minister focuses more on personal anecdotes rather than Scripture itself.

It’s funny how my perspective and desires have changed.  I now crave a structured and historical worship service.  I love in-depth preaching, standing when Scripture is read, singing hymns, responsive reading, and heartfelt prayers.  I crave hearing Scripture read and preached in context. I want to understand who God is and how He operates. Yes, no more messed up church for me!

But getting back to my story: I eventually left Atlanta and North Point Church, but I still had more to learn. The worst was yet to come-this time at another hip new church; but this one was in South Carolina...

(To be continued. Janine Jensen is a pseudonym)

He Still Hasn't Found What He's Looking For

Here's a very interesting article from Herescope about the recent Eugene Peterson/Bono video:

He Still Hasn't Found What He's Looking For

Here's the actual video on YouTube

Bono (from the Irish band U2) is not the typical rock star-he does not write about sex and drugs like many of his music industry counterparts; he's known to be a thoughtful and passionate person who often goes out on a limb and says whatever he believes. But it's strange how being a huge celebrity (his net worth is estimated to be $300 million!) has somehow made his opinion on God's Word of great value. This video was made in conjunction with Fuller Seminary. Eugene Peterson is most famous for having written his own version of the Bible which is full of problems and mistranslations. Here's an article with more information about The Message Bible. 

It's interesting to watch this 21 minute video entitled "The Psalms" and notice that very little of the content actually talks about the Psalms; most of it is about Bono and Peterson, with lot's of artsy shots and emotional music. It's also interesting to consider how Peterson says he figured out what the Psalms were about when he was an adolescent (but no one else could, apparently, so he had to write The Message in 2002). Even more ironically, Bono wrote the song "40" which actually quotes the first three verses of Psalm 40 in the early days of U2 (1983), way before The Message was ever written; but he goes on to praise the updated language of The Message-even though he wrote one of his most popular and openly religious songs using the "old" Bible.  

Here's a satirical article that goes along with this topic: The User's Guide to Postmodern Christianity

An Open Letter to Andy Stanley (with additional articles and Stanley's response)

This is a GREAT article from Pastor Tom Buck in response to Andy Stanley's recent outrageous sermon and subsequent "apology tweet." There are other issues in that sermon that really need to be addressed (like the total lack of any Gospel message), but Stanley's insulting comments about small churches are addressed very carefully in this article: An Open Letter to Andy Stanley

Here's a different perspective with some really good insights from blogger Seth Dunn over at Pulpit and Pen: An Open Letter to the Members of North Point Ministries Churches

Here's another good "open letter" type article from Jonathan Aigner called: Don't Take Your Kids to a Megachurch

Also, here's the recent episode of Fighting for the Faith where Andy Stanley's sermon was discussed by Pastor Chris Rosebrough.

Here's an update to this story (as of March 8th, 2016): Andy Stanley Explains His 'Stinking Selfish' Parents Comment-Christianity Today

The Brian Houston & Hillsong Cornucopia of False Doctrine, Abuse, Obfuscation & Money Generation

Brian Houston and his gigantic Hillsong enterprise need to be critically examined in light of Scripture, just like any pastor and any church-but especially because his influence is felt in thousands of churches world-wide. Millions and millions of people are being affected by what he says and does. Being rich and famous does not make someone immune from scrutiny. 

The following is a list of articles from Christians coming from different denominational and theological backgrounds, who all agree that Brian Houston and the Hillsong global conglomerate are not to be trusted as a Biblically sound church. For even more information, visit our Australian friends over at Church Watch Central; they have done a tremendous amount of research on Houston, Hillsong and other related pastors/ministries.

Disgusting Hillsong Santa Has a "Package" For You

Brian Houston Leverages Off Father's Reputation & Hides Paedophilia to Promote Himself & Hillsong

Hillsong Pastor Carl Lentz Biffs It on Oprah's SuperSoul Sunday

Brian Houston on the "Naked Cowboy" Event: "I'm Clueless About It-But It's No Big Deal Anyway"

Brian Houston: Used Car Salesman Pushing the Hillsong Brand

 

For those who think it's mean, judgmental and un-loving to criticize Brian Houston (or any other popular teacher) here's something just for you: Shocking Stuff You're Not Supposed to Know.

If you're having a knee-jerk reaction to try and defend Brian Houston, check out: Confirmation Bias: Why You Are Protecting Your False Beliefs.

Finally, here's an important article that will help you be more discerning and a lot less gullible: Defusing Demonic Dirty Bombs.

 

-This article by Steven Kozar

Is "Sacred" Andy Stanley Resigning from North Point Community Church Yet? by Church Watch Central

Here's a recent article from our friends at Church Watch Central:

Sacred Stanley Resigning From North Point Community Church?

In the recent Church Leaders article (referred to in the Church Watch Central article above) Andy Stanley said the church is "too resistible" and, although he's glad that his church has led the way in eliminating "steeples, choirs and suits," they still need to change more, so that a larger number of people will want to attend. Stanley is unable to figure out why the church can't get even bigger; in his mind there's very little reason why unbelievers should reject Christianity. While it's true that we Christians should do our best to be good neighbors and demonstrate Christ's love to everyone as much as possible, it's also true that the unbeliever sometimes just wants to reject us (along with our God).

Here are several Fighting for the Faith programs that delve deeper into Stanley's teaching; especially his bizarre "temple model" series of sermons.