Saddleback Church's Pastor Rick Warren is scheduled to give the congregation at the Seattle-based Mars Hill Church, hosted at a dozen regional locations, its last sermon via video this Sunday, as the megachurch, founded and once led by Pastor Mark Driscoll, officially dissolves.
"As we reflect on over eighteen years of ministry, and ultimately close the doors on Mars Hill Church, we are thankful that many of our churches will continue as new independent, autonomous churches," officials stated Tuesday on the church's website. "While Mars Hill Church will cease to exist, God's work through his people will continue."
As Mars Hill staff were busy closing the final chapter on the church that once rocked the Seattle area and beyond with its edgy, strict orthodox preacher who had his share of leadership problems that led to his resignation in October, there were no official reaction statements coming from the church other than an announcement on its website. Both Driscoll and Warren declined to comment, according to their respective media representatives at press time. more >>
There is a significant shift in the church today to avoid controversial truths, such as sin and repentance. God's Word says to confront, confess, and turn from sin, whereas many encourage us to ignore, overlook, and continue in it. Silence about sin minimizes the cross and makes it less offensive. Silence about sin is also a sign of a false teacher.
If a pastor avoids difficult truths they are not a pastor; they are a motivational speaker, or a false prophet offering false hope (cf. Jeremiah 23). The cross only makes sense in light of the consequences of sin. "To convince the world of the truth of Christianity, it must first be convinced of sin. It is only sin that renders Christ intelligible" (Andrew Murray; 1794-1866).
Many mistakenly believe that Jesus didn't mention sin—after all, He was "a friend of sinners." However, Scripture reveals quite the opposite. For example, in John 5:14 Jesus exhorted a man to sin no more or a worse thing would happen to him. He also told the woman caught in the act of adultery to "go and sin no more." In Luke 10:13-14, Jesus reprimanded cities that did not repent and turn from sin, and in the fifth chapter of Matthew He said to remove anything that causes us to sin. It's clear that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15). Why, then, is there a move within the church to avoid mentioning sin? John 12:43 may reveal the answer, "They loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God." more >>
Stephen Broden, pro-life activist and pastor of the Fair Park Bible Fellowship Church in Dallas, Texas, is urging black megachurches to join him in protesting a sprawling 17,000 square-foot Planned Parenthood abortion center with an 8-foot concrete wall he believes was intentionally placed in their predominantly black neighborhood.
"Planned Parenthood has built a wall to shield their clients from the presence of God's prayer warriors who pray to end abortion at one of Texas' largest abortion facilities. This death trap is located in the middle of the black community, within a 1 mile radius of six of Texas' black mega churches. And 5 miles of seven. A wall cannot hide their bloody hands from the presence of an omnipresent God," wrote Broden in a Dec. 6 post on his Facebook page.
Broden, who's been a long time pro-life advocate, noted in a One News Now report that he believes it's the duty of the churches in the neighborhood to raise their voices against the ungodliness of abortion. more >>
A Los Angeles pastor who gave up God for one year is now hinting that his "intellectual experiment" with atheism has left his faith at a stalemate as the journey comes to a close this month.
Ryan Bell was a Seventh Day Adventist pastor who served as adjunct professor at Fuller Theological Seminary as well as at Azusa Pacific University before embracing more liberal views and resigning from all positions in March 2013. Then, with the end of his 17-year-marriage, Bell encountered a crises of faith, and by January 2014, the Christian embarked on a year-long "intellectual experiment" entirely without God, which he shared publicly on his blog. Today, one year after beginning the journey, Bell says he now feels displaced amongst both Christians and atheists.
"It feels like I am now a pastor to the irreligious," he told L.A. Times. "Not that I want that role, but the way people are responding to me, it's pretty revealing. It feels like I've touched some sort of cultural nerve. There's just a lot of people questioning everything these days." more >>
Ryan Bell, an ex-pastor who quit his faith in God for a year following his resignation from the Hollywood Adventist Church and a divorce from his wife of 17 years, is set to decide New Year's Day whether he will remain a believer or become an atheist. While he has distanced himself from zealous atheists, Bell expressed a desire to be "good" without submitting to boundaries.
Nearing the end of his yearlong embrace of non-theism, Bell told the LA Times that leaving the faith has allowed him to see "both sides of the coin." The former Fuller Seminary and Azusa Pacific University teacher has consorted with several atheist groups as a public speaker, sharing his experiences of walking away from church life. "Being with atheists, they can have the same sort of obnoxious certainty that some Christians have," he said of his experiences. "I don't want to be part of that. It feels like I'm stuck in the middle. I want to be for something good, but I don't want boundaries, and religion just feels like a very bounded thing."
As he nears a self-imposed January 1 deadline to decide between atheism and faith, Bell told the LA Times, "The question I am asking right now [is] why do I need religion to love?" more >>
These days, I think the song "Jingle Bells" might start like this:
"Dashing through the snow with a high-def touchscreen display, all the fields we go, tweeting and texting all the way. Bells on smartphones ring, making bandwidth bright, what fun it is to stare and cling to a virtual world tonight..."
Silver bells, tinsel and mistletoe are being replaced with smartphones, tablets, computers and social media. Our youth are catching on to the technology-driven era at younger and younger ages. They pay more attention to screens than people. In fact, one toy maker is even rolling out a bouncy seat for infants with a built-in iPad holder. My co-worker told me his 2-year-old daughter toddled up to the TV to try and swipe it like an iPad. Another father in my office said his 18-month daughter knows how to unlock and navigate his smartphone. more >>