"For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions" (2 Timothy 4:3).
ack in August of '08, I wrote a post about the pretentiousness of Christians who try too hard to be artsy and manage to sully both art and the gospel in the process. (In retrospect, the tone of that post might sound a tad too cantankerous, even for me. But I completely stand by the point of it.)
One of the targets of my criticism in that post was Erwin Raphael McManus, self-styled "futurist, author, speaker, activist, filmmaker and innovator who specializes in the field of developing and unleashing personal and organizational creativity, uniqueness, innovation and diversity." Some say he is a "pastor" (though he seems to eschew that title and most other ecclesiastical terms). He's the lead speaker at Mosaic, "a Community of faith, love, and hope" in Pasadena. It's a Southern Baptist congregation, but you'd be hard-pressed to discover that from the church's own publicity. I spent many hours a few years ago watching videos and listening to sound files of McManus's teaching, and I have read two or three of his books, plus practically everything he has posted on line. I have never seen him explain, much less affirm, the gospel.
In that 2008 post I said: "Clear gospel truth is almost impossible to find in the material he publishes and posts for public consumption. And in that regard, I don't see a whole lot of difference between Erwin McManus and Joel Osteen. He's Osteen with blue jeans and an occasional soul patch rather than a shiny suit and a perpetual grin."
That unleashed a nearly 200-comment discussion in our combox. Most commenters who were already familiar with McManus voiced agreement with my assessment, but a few drive-by commenters criticized me for criticizing McManus. Then I had a lengthy discussion via e-mail with a key person on McManus's staff. No one could document a single source where McManus actually did preach the gospel.
A month later, Justin Taylor picked up the thread and asked for comments at his blog. I joined that conversation late, but here's the salient portion of the comment I posted at JT's blog:
McManus's current project is further removed from the proclamation of the gospel than anything you'll ever see from Osteenand that's saying something. McManus is shilling for an entry in Doritos® "Crash the Superbowl" contest.
It's an utterly tasteless commercial called "Casket." ("A guy stages his own funeral just to munch Doritos and watch football undisturbedin a casket.") McManus himself produced the commercial for the Doritos® contest and Mosaic is "sponsoring" it. They won a spot among the six finalists (out of 4,000 entries)and tickets to the Super Bowl. The top prizewinner will be chosen by popular vote. So McManus has removed every vestige of his own website and replaced it with an appeal for votes. He's Twittering pleas for votes on a fairly regular basis, too.
He is convinced this is the work of God: "It's a miracle and a divine comedy that we've made it this far," he told USA Today. "I think it's God's sense of humor."
Rick Warren is ecstatic about the prestige and potential $$$ a win would bring McManus. He Tweeted: "My guy Erwin McManus (Mosiac Church) created a Doritos Superbowl Ad! Church could win $! VOTE 4 him!"
Our friend Paul Edwards's Twitter feed, as usual, was more on target: "Majority of Christians will laugh rather than weep at @erwinmcmanus 's commercial because the gospel is no longer central in our thinking."