10 April 2013

I honestly have nothing against conferences

by Frank Turk

The pastoral staff at my church is at a conference this week. I go to a conference once in a while; sometimes I speak at one.

If we cause people to want to be speakers at conferences rather than faithful church members and pastors, are we doing the right thing?



73 comments:

Peter said...

Have been blessed by listening to sermons preached at conferences, especially podcasts of the Shepherd's Conference (can't believe they put it all on the web for free, great for us a million miles away in Australia!)...But, I think conferences are a problem when people are more enthused about them than they are about what happens at church every Lord's Day.

DJP said...

Yes.

DJP said...

Oh, wait... "rather than"?

No.

Robert said...

I'm with Dan...once you throw in the rather than as a qualifier, then it is totally the wrong thing.

I'd say having a desire to do both might be akin to Dan's explanation of promoting what you guys write. There is a good message that people need to hear, so why not try to get it to as large of an audience as possible?

Nate said...

No.

Speaking of, did anyone notice that TGC (which I really like, by the way) had festivities/sessions on Sunday morning? What message does this send about the local Church?

Robert said...

Nate,

I saw that, too, and was left scratching my head. Most conferences all run mid week or Friday-Saturday.

Peter W. said...

The trouble is not that conferences are bad, it's that people don't realise that local Church is better.

Sharing my life with the people who live around the corner from me and actually know what is going on is the most beautiful thing. God creating by his Spirit a connected body of people who are there to glorify Him and build each other up is simply astonishing.

Turning up at Church on a Sunday morning and hearing my pastor preach from the Bible, to then follow it up with conversation and action within my Church is immeasurably better than going to a conference, hearing a killer sermon and then not having anyone to share it with!

DJP said...

Peter, to "better" I would add "other" and "by contrast, Divinely-ordained and mandated."

Or we'd not have the person who comes to one church meeting per week (at most), eschews every other instructive church meeting, but feels the need to go to some conference or institution or what-have-you to get more Biblical instruction.

Which his church is already offering.

By Christ's mandate.

For free.

...and which he's not supporting, promoting, or making use of.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Wait I'm confused... how can one glom onto celebrity status by simply participating in the local church?

Oh wait, maybe you meant a local megachurch? Now I get it! :)

JackW said...

Well, this is weird. My limited experience in conference attendance resulted in seeing the local church being assisted and uplifted. The attendee’s appeared to be the most faithful church members of their perspective local churches. The Pastors actually seem to be a part of and not anded to the faithful church members though. Maybe that was the difference.

Frank Turk said...

Exactly. "rather than"

Kerry James Allen said...

"Those who have worked in connection with a church of God have achieved permanent usefulness; those who acted as separatist agencies, though they blazed for a while before the public eye and filled the corners of the newspapers with spiritual puffery, are now either altogether or almost extinct." CHS

Andrew Sanford said...

No.

But what are we supposed to do about it?

I think its more than just the conferences themselves that distract from the local church, it also things like the book sales at the conferences. You can listen to sermons, read books, go to conference to hear the "best speakers". That a lot of teaching.

And if people only get teaching once a week from their local church how will than compete against the quantity of teaching you can get from a celebrity preacher?

Sheldon Clowdus said...

"And if people only get teaching once a week from their local church how will than compete against the quantity of teaching you can get from a celebrity preacher?"

But isn't part of the problem the very idea that if I can listen to more and "better" sermons from big name pastors then I will become more mature in my faith?

What we should be doing is listening to the Word being faithfully preached on Sunday and allowing the Spirit to take that Word and work it into our hearts and minds so that as a result our lives are transformed. The community of believers around us give us the context to practice living out the truths expounded and the encouragement, reproof, etc. when we are struggling to live out those truths.

If that is our aim then a faithful expository sermon once a week is more than enough to keep us busy and pursuing holiness.

Michael Coughlin said...

Now Frank asked, "if we cause people to want to be speakers at conferences rather than..."

I guess the answer is No. But I wonder, Frank, how does someone "cause someone" in this way?

I suppose I believe it is possible, but do you have a specific or hypothetical example?

Michael Coughlin said...

But going further, "if we cause people to want to attend conferences rather than ... faithful local church membership..."

I would say that is a dangerous area as well. In fact, when the leadership of my church was considering whether to allow The Ohio Fire (OhioFire.org) conference to use our building in May (please consider coming :), it was brought up that we didn't want to be a place where evangelistic types who hate church come for a conference. But the counter argument was that we won't be able to really stop people from coming, but we can minister to them and emphasize the importance of local church membership and accountability.

Andrew Sanford said...

"But isn't part of the problem the very idea that if I can listen to more and "better" sermons from big name pastors then I will become more mature in my faith?"

Yes, and that is what i was getting at. The notion that if you listen to lots of stuff from "better teachers"(aka celebrities)= more maturity in faith, seems too simplistic. It seems like it leaves out the role of the Spirit in your life and the role of a Spirit-filled community of a local church (which the Word prescribes for our sanctification).

I'm a young guy. I grew up in a mainline (UCC) church and then after the Lord saved me i went to the local mega-church while also being involved in Para-church ministry (Young Life). It wasn't until sophomore year of college i started experiencing the local church- It has changed my life. Being under the preaching and teaching of elders who care about me and being in a community of believers to encourage and rebuke me is, well, refreshing.

I used to be a mass-consumer of online sermons and rely on them over the preaching I'd hear on Sundays (in many ways that was because i wasn't really hearing the Word on Sundays). All that being said i know what its like to be drawn, tempted, and idolize celebrity preachers. This is my generation's problem and many of my friends struggle with it as well. In some ways I also think Para-church culture feeds into this (that's a whole different topic).

I guess I’m left here wondering how we can change this? The thing is that conferences aren’t inherently bad(at least I’m not saying that) and things like TGC (which my elders are at) are filled with people who are pouring into their local churches, and are faithful preachers and teachers. However people still idolize those guys.

So how do we have conferences without creating celebrities? Or can we not avoid it and just encourage people to be faithful to their local church and repent of any idolization of celebrity preachers?

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

I say no. And if by "cause" you mean "promote in our own churches the greater importance of these conferences over and against the mundane, everyday, wonderful, Christ-honoring work that is faithful membership and so woo our people to believe that the celebrity culture is good" I double that "no". Maybe this is one of the factors that show up in our country's (and frankly, my) low view of faithful church membership, where it's a negotiable good idea that the Scriptures happen to speak on from time to time.

Tom Chantry said...

The heart of this question is an understanding of the church as the sole institution of Christ. God established families and governments also, and He certainly allows men to establish businesses, schools, museums, libraries, etc. But the church is unique in that it is the one thing Christ promised to build Himself.

In light of that, how we view conferences is a very similar question to how we view seminaries. The seminary either exists to serve the church in a way the church cannot serve itself, or it should not exist. Its role is always subordinate. Similarly, a conference may provide something to support the ministry of the church, but if it becomes an end unto itself - the grand event around which life is organized, then we have misunderstood the very meaning of “church,” and we ought not to expect the kingdom of Christ to grow.

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

Whenever Chantry comments after me I always feel like the kid who was so proud to have gotten what 2+2 was, until the kid gets up who solves a quadratic equation. I want to be like Chantry when I grow up.

Carl C. said...

I wish I would've known about this post before commenting (about parachurch) on Dan's Binary Bible post -- it seems more appropriate here. I basically answered Frank's question in the negative, parallel to Tom Chantry's comment a moment ago.

I sincerely appreciate the attitude of Living Waters in this matter. In their daily show On the Box, they declare over and over again: "We only exist because we see a lack in today's churches in equipping, encouraging and modeling evangelism for their people. We truly desire for this to change, and for us to be put out of business because churches are once again fulfilling this role." [paraphrase]

Michael Coughlin said...

Hey Team Pyro and fans! This comment only exists so that I can check the Email Follow up comments box. Feel free to delete it or hold it up as an example of violating some superstrictly enforced pyro commenting rule!

DJP said...

Soon as we make that rule and tailor it to you, you're on.

Michael Coughlin said...

It worked! Thanks!

Carl C. said...

Michael, quick tip: as long as you're already signed into your Blogger account, if you use the mobile view of a Blogspot post (add ?m=1 to the end of the address), it lets you subscribe w/out having to post. Discovered this by accident :-)

Jules LaPierre said...

Anti-conference, thankyouverymuch.

Frank Turk said...

Let me throw something out here as red meat:

Let's consider this phrase:

[QUOTE]
"we see a lack in today's churches in equipping, encouraging and modeling [gift/ministry] for their people. We truly desire for this to change, and for us to be put out of business because churches are once again fulfilling this role."
[/QUOTE]

What if every group of fellows who have some cognate of this statement in their so-called mission asked themselves, "Team, are we actually equipped and in the position of authority over any local church to say, as specifically as we do in this statement, that some local church is inept, and some local pastor is unqualified, to accomplish this aspect of the life of the church?"

Because look: telling people that (pardon my Latin here) Ecclesiam vestram putrida est, but that their pastors and elders can't fix it, and they themselves cannot fix it, is actually the problem.

It may actually be a sola scriptura problem at the root of it, but I'm about to have an embolism wraught from incredulity over the idea that someone who put himself in business over the local church says he's waiting for the local church to put him out of business.

Michael Coughlin said...

I was waiting for you to respond to that one, Frank. :)

Kerry James Allen said...

"...they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me."
Paul, Galatians 2:6 KJV

Well, I guess that wraps it up!

:-}

Frank Turk said...

For the record, you know what my topic is for the Tulsa Conference this year? Parachurch ministry and the Local Church.

Bring a helmet.

machewd said...

What if we cause people to want to write highly read blogs rather than being faithful church members and pastors?

Frank Turk said...

Can you believe that it took 31 comments to get to that one?

I can't believe it.

Robert said...

Just to run with where your question leads, if we are causing this, then we need to repent and start pointing them to the Bible. And I would say that it should be the same for us causing people to want to go to conferences instead of serve and be involved in discipleship within the church.

I love the conferences I have been to, but part of that was developing relationships with the people I went with and us sharpening each other. And I would say one of the main benefits we should look for from these conferences is people being equipped to serve in their local churches.

Frank Turk said...

Machewd:

I would say that anyone who advertises his blog as a replacement for the local pastor is prolly doing it wrong.

I would say that anyone who represents himself as the leader of a coalition or a movement which is morally/spiritually better than the local church is prolly wrong.

I would say that anyone whose primary mission is to demonstrate how [insert spiritual gift here] he is is prolly getting it wrong.

I would say that anyone who is not an accountable member (or accountable pastor) of his local church: not prolly wrong - actually dangerous.

That's a start. Did I miss anything?

Tom Chantry said...

Given the direction the discussion has gone, let me suggest the following. There is a difference between what I said: The seminary either exists to serve the church in a way the church cannot serve itself, or it should not exist. Its role is always subordinate., and what Carl C. says that Living Waters says: We only exist because we see a lack in today's churches in equipping, encouraging and modeling evangelism for their people.

I know nothing about Living Waters, so I’m taking this statement as a bald, non-contextualized statement. That said, I don’t like it at all.

The difference, as I see it, is that under my model the church says, “Hey, we would like to see thus and such done, we recommend __________ to help,” whereas in the LW model, someone else says, “Yer not doin’ it right.” To which Frank quite rightly responds, “Says who?”

Carl C. said...

Ok, I see I've misstepped. To clarify - that is not a direct quote from Living Waters, nor (as far as I know) part of their mission statement, rather just something similar to what they say. I'd hate to think I'm misrepresenting them. At the same time, they often explicitly exhort people to be involved in their local churches, to submit under the authority of their elders, etc. all the while pointing to the Scriptures that say as much. They have never portrayed themselves as being in authority over the local church. So I don't see the attitude coming from them at all that you imply, "some local church is inept, and some local pastor is unqualified".

But moving this to the more general realm: I take your point with a dose of 'ouch' and if any group does have the philosophy you painted explicitly, it's problematic. I see I have a ways to go in rightly understanding the proper place of parachurch ministries.

Daryl said...

I tend to see conferences as more helpful to pastors/elders than to the rest of us, simply because (I assume) they are attending to become better equipped to equip.

Professional Con-Ed as it were.

On the other hand, for us other people, we wouldn't blame our kids for eating at the neighbours when they make homemade pizza, or stopping off at Chik-Fil-A from time to time.
But we would blame them if they complained that the neighbour's mom could cook way better or why can't mom make it like Dan Cathy can, or if they made eating elsewhere their habit so they could put their shoes on the table or do other things mom & dad would never let them away with at home.

Michael Coughlin said...

I like the analogy.

Magister Stevenson said...

In the interests of correct Latin, may I suggest we say "Ecclessia vestra"?
Gratias tibi ago.

Magister Stevenson said...

And then I go and add an extra "s"--sticky fingers. But at least a nominative.

Scott Welch (formerly Scooter) said...

"For the record, you know what my topic is for the Tulsa Conference this year? Parachurch ministry and the Local Church.

Bring a helmet."


As in, an accessory to an Iron Man suit, or more like a bike helmet?

Kerry James Allen said...

Machewd, given the fact that this site has input from a couple of pastors and a couple of faithful serving church members, what's your point? Are you new here?

Nash Equilibrium said...

I cannot see Ray Comfort making any kind of statement even remotely working in opposition to the local church, instead of hoping that what he teaches actually proves to be useful for local churches.

Frank Turk said...

I was thinking crash helmet with chin strap and face guard roll cage.

Like This

Tom Chantry said...

I dare anyone who's going to be in Tulsa to wear a pickelhaube to Frank's session.

Frank Turk said...

ONESTARHATER: LUV YA!

Sir Aaron said...

"If we cause people to want to be speakers at conferences rather than faithful church members and pastors, are we doing the right thing?"

I agree with Chantry and I'm not necessarily opposed to conferences or parachurch ministries.

However, I'm concerned that many conferences and parachurch ministries exist to cater to the consumerism of Christians. And I'm sure many such conferences and ministries start with great intentions. However, IMHO, many Christians refuse to dig in and work at a church. I don't mean they don't show up to help out with potluck. I mean they don't meaningfully commit to a ministry so that there is some level of responsibility attached. Many members (and regular attenders) want to show up at a church that already has everything. They want to attend a church that already has a youth group, Wednesday night service, or whatever. Or they'll serve in a ministry but if they don't show up next week, nobody really misses them (not them personally but the work being done). The last thing they want to do is to help establish a program in their church and be personallyresponsible for it.

I've seen it many times. Person A is a member until they aren't "being fed" which usually means they don't think the church has enough teaching or programs. So they leave for another church that does have those programs. This is after Person A stood before the local congregation and took an oath to support the local body. Or Person A visits a local body and finds it to be a warm, loving, and biblically vibrant church but leaves because it doesn't have some program they want.

I dare say some people here need to take a good long look in the mirror.

rfb said...

Conferences hold no interest to me.
I have never thought of potlucks or programs of any sort to be a Raison d'être in the identity of a church.

The premise of warm and vibrant leaves me cold and still; it seems like more of the same adolescent emotionalism of the current age.

My preferred adjectives are mature, orderly, sober-minded.

(My post is not a criticism of the previous, just my take on current trends.)



Sir Aaron said...


"My preferred adjectives are mature, orderly, sober-minded".

Very well. I can sympathize with your objections to certain adjectives due to the nature in which they are used by many churches today.

However, the question is, how have you made yourself personally responsible to your local body? If you stop going to church, will anybody notice? Because I'm pretty sure that if a part of my body is missing on Sunday morning...I'd sure notice. (1 Cor 12).

MTHudson said...

Ecclesia Vespa: I rode my scooter to church.

On topic: Going to conferences is permissable and potentially edifying. Being an accountable member of a local body is commanded and vital.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

"For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy according to the proportion of his faith, if service in his serving, or he who teaches in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness."

Using the body analogy, every so often, the arm and hand have to reach around and scratch the back or rub the sore feet which carry the load of the whole body. These are good and helpful and even necessary for the well-being of the whole body, but they cannot become the only thing that the arm and hand do all the time. And the body can't just sit around being massaged into happy sluggards.

(P.S. to Michael Coughlin: I've found that if I PREVIEW my comment before publishing, and then EDIT, the option for follow-up comments appears below the robot-verification. But you still have to remember to check the box before you publish. Hope it helps.)

Michael Coughlin said...

@Merrilee - thanks.

:)

Jim Pemberton said...

I thought conference participation (speaking and/or attending) was the pinnacle of Christian spiritual maturity.

Frank Turk said...

It is. For you, Jim.

Jim Pemberton said...

That's mighty relative of you, Frank. Thanks! Actually, I've never been to one of these big popular conferences here in the States. It probably explains why I'm not a great Christian.

Ted Cleaver said...

Maybe I missed it in the comments, but I didn't see a response to Michael's question, so I'll echo the sentiment, though in a declarative way.

I don't think we can cause someone to have desires (whether they are good or bad). Now if we encourage others to speak at (or even attend) conferences specifically rather than participating in their local church, then yes, Houston, we have a problem.

But if we encourage others to speak at (or even attend) conferences without that motivation, but the speakers/attendees implement that "rather than" clause themselves, that's not on us, IMHO.

We cannot (and should not) avoid any and every activity that could be misused/abused by others. If so, then we'd have to eliminate the public reading of Scripture, just for starters.

Ted Cleaver said...

Riffing off the post title and first paragraph, a few thoughts:

1) If the conference is for a specific demographic that otherwise would not be able to meet in large quantities in the local church (e.g. a conference for pastors or worship leaders/teams), I have no problem whatsoever with that, as long as there is time and/or structure provided for the attendees to confer (aka the root word of "conference").

2) Conversely, if there isn't time to confer, and you just sit in a room listening to speakers for a couple days and go grab a late dinner with the 2-3 folks from your church who came with you, have you really done anything except boost the economy of another city?

3) Not to draw a line between clergy and laity, but when a conference is just for us regular folks, there's even less chance (even if given the opportunity) that conferring will occur with folks other than those that see every week. And the conference quickly becomes all about the speakers (probably to their chagrin).

4) The value of #2 and #3 diminishes even further in the 21st century. Put webcams in Pastor John's office, and Tullian's office, and Matt's office, and one on the beach for Thabiti, charge a few bucks per head to cover bandwidth, and everyone can attend the conference in their jammies. Or, if your local church has wifi and a projector, they can host a viewing there. I've actually attended a couple like that. The conference *did* have a couple thousand attendees in one location, but then 10,000 more scattered all over the world by webcast. It gave the "you are there" feel without the 10-hour drive.

5) All that said, I can see the value in just "getting away from it all", but it behooves us to do so more simply (and as a result, more cheaply). The most expensive of the last half-dozen non-local conferences that I attended was $45 for a Friday evening through Saturday later afternoon men's conference. That didn't include lodging, but the hosting church had a big area to camp in (and it was great camping weather) so you could lodge for free. It *did* include 3 huge meals and a couple of freebies. But to look at it, you wouldn't have noticed anything different than Sunday morning at that church (except for the lack of estrogen and the variety of speakers -- none of whom were "celebrities"). And everybody was cool with that.

Frank Turk said...

Ted:

If I said to you, "[cutting, biting insult intended to incite]" and you punched me in the face, would it be fair to say that I caused you to punch me in the face?

See: I think someone who might say, "no," has a very serious problem. They are overlooking my personal culpability in the events that inspired you to dish out. I am responsible for saying something racist, sexist, vulgar, etc. Those sorts of things do cause reactions in others -- and, it seems to me, they are intended to.

That's on the purely-vicious side of the parking lot here. But what about the pretty and prim side of the lot -- the side where the shiny, happy people live? Does Joel Osteen cause anyone to sin? How about Rick Warren -- isn't that the complaint the cottage industry against him has? Does Creflo Dollar cause anyone to sin? How about the prophet gin over at TBN?

OK: so people can cause people to commit sin in at least two senses which we wouldn't question because it doesn't involve anyone we love. But what about causing someone to be an absent pastor because he spends 30% (or more) of his time writing books and speaking at conferences? Doesn't that cause people to become the wrong kind of pastor?

If so: what is the culpability of such a person?

Kerry James Allen said...

I think the phrase "Houston, we have a problem" takes on a whole new meaning since DJP moved there.

DJP said...

I do take it personally.

Ted Cleaver said...

Frank,

You set up a false dichotomy by stating (unequivocally, no less) that if I say "no" (which I would) that I am therefore overlooking your personal culpability. You did not cause me to punch you in the face; you only (strongly) encouraged me to do so. But unless you pointed a gun at me and said "hit me or I shoot", you did not cause me to do anything.

But with or without firearms, this does not absolve you of any personal culpability. Perhaps one could even argue that you had it coming for calling me a boogerhead and telling me that my mother wears combat boots. But I alone am culpable for what I do with that declaration. To say otherwise doesn't even fly in a US court, let alone with God.

If Pastor X says, "this abortion madness has to stop," and I hear that and decide that I can at least slow it down a bit by going out and blowing up 50 clinics and killing 3000 abortion doctors, is Pastor X morally culpable? Did he cause me to take that action? To paraphrase someone famous, "I think someone who might say, "yes," has a very serious problem."

(Please excuse me for not getting into specific names without citation of specific statements/actions. That quickly devolves into a game of "can anything good come out of Nazareth?")

But what about causing someone to be an absent pastor because he spends 30% (or more) of his time writing books and speaking at conferences?

Last I checked, pastors were invited or requested to speak at conferences. No one forces (or causes) them to do so.

If I hold a conference and invite Charles Spurgeon VII to speak at it, it's his responsibility to look at his calendar and say, "I'd like to, but I'm already booked to speak at three conferences this year, and I don't want to leave my flock any more than that." Up until that point, neither of us has any culpability.

Now if I come back and say, "To heck with your flock. Come speak at our conference," then I have sinned. But if this leads to his acceptance, it was his choice to do so. I have encouraged him to sin, but short of threatening to be the Justin Tribble to his Joel Osteen, I have not caused him to sin.

Ted Cleaver said...

Oh, and by the way, Frank, when you used the word "we" in the OP, I was foolish enough to think that you meant "we" and were including yourself, questioning if your actions were suspect.

Based on that stupid assumption of mine, I was trying to encourage and uplift a brother by stating that I find no fault in him.

Thank you for disabusing me of the notion that I should try to encourage you. I can't promise that it won't happen again, but I will try to be more careful in the future.

Ted Cleaver said...

Frank, it occurs to me that if we follow your logic, then your combative/defensive reaction caused my last comment (about trying to encourage you) to be written snarkily. You are morally culpable.

Sir Aaron said...

Ted:

First, you're speaking like a petulant child.

If you encourage somebody to sin you have caused him to sin. This is not at all ambigious in Scripture. The Old Testament demonstrates this concept. Jesus spoke about it. Paul wrote about it.

Throwing a temper tantrum and creating ridiculous hypotheticals of contributory liability wont help your cause.

Ted Cleaver said...

Sir Aaron: creating ridiculous hypotheticals of contributory liability

You mean like this?

If I said to you, "[cutting, biting insult intended to incite]" and you punched me in the face, would it be fair to say that I caused you to punch me in the face?

Silly me for using an illustration as part of my response to Frank's illustration. At least I have good company. Frank, shall we start the Petulant Child Club?

... wont help your cause.

Whereas opening a comment with " you're speaking like a petulant child" is the height of rationality.

Sir Aaron said...

The point remains:

If you encourage somebody to sin you have caused him to sin.

Frank Turk said...

Ted:

First, that's the most pathetic justification of an answer to grace these comments in a very long time. Here's why:

Cause: the reason or motive for human action. (dictionary.com)

Encourage: to stimulate by assistance (dictionary.com)

If you can show me a meaningful distinction in the discussion we're having here between these two ideas, then you can continue. Having a thesaurus is not the same as having a meaningful response.

Frank Turk said...

Let me put this another way, Ted: Please explain what is meant in Mat 5:29 using your logic as the grid for understanding how things cause other things.

To do you one better: a pastor who indiscriminately says, "this abortion madness must stop," with no qualifiers or exhortations about the ways in which the church and christians citizens can do so is in fact culpable for the action people take under his breathless rhetoric. Legally? Maybe not. Morally? Unquestionably so -- if for no other reason than the teacher is judged more harshly because he is teaching and not merely blowing hard in the comments of a blog.

trogdor said...

Do the words of Jesus matter at all to this? I'm referring to Matthew 18:5-7.

"Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!"

Seems pretty straightforward. No, you can't ultimately choose for someone else's chooser. But you can be the agent of temptation and instigate the sin, which Jesus says 'causes' little ones to sin. And Jesus pronounces woe upon those who do so. And being a recipient of woe from Jesus is a horrible place to be.

This might be a good place to point out the annual Sister Show Mercy
posts, because this same debate always goes along with them. Can a woman dress however skankily she wants, and if a man lusts, can she comfort herself that it's entirely his problem and she didn't 'cause' him to sin? If you flaunt it, you probably shouldn't be shocked if someone takes a look.

Now I'm not saying that the conference and mega-celebrity pastor culture has gotten surgical enhancements and constantly waves them in your face. No wait, maybe I am.

trogdor said...

One more thing - there are some churches that are weekly conferences in themselves. "Come and see [big name] preach (possibly from the overflow area - a video campus three states away)! Hear our all-star Dove-Award winning musicians! It's God-tastic!"

And yeah, us in the pews (couches, theater seating, whatever) are to blame. Idols exist because there are idol factories.

Michael Coughlin said...

Good sister show mercy reference. That was along the lines of my thinking. God clearly has a category for "causing others to sin," just read 1 & 2 Kings.

But the fact remains, I don't know exactly how I cause a pastor to sin based upon the original point of the post. I'm serious, because I don't want to be a party to that.

Like, if I go to a Catholic fish fry during lent because I like fish, am I causing the Catholics to sin because my support financially of the fish fry helps them out and confirms in their mind that what they do is right?

If I buy a book by a pastor who is a conference speaker am I causing him to sin? I think it is deeper than this. Maybe I need to re-read the comments, but it just isn't obvious to me as a general rule.

I just think it would be really hard to be discerning about this unless you really knew someone well because, well, how do I know if I am causing some random pastor across the country to sin because I enjoy his teaching and register to attend his conference?

Frank Turk said...

Ted's latest comments have been removed as spam. He's on probation until he answers my question about Mat 5:29.

One chance only, "Ted." Then you can rave to your 4 readers over at your anonymous blog about how unfair life and other Christians are.

Frank Turk said...

Trogdor:

You're God-tastic.