Service Schedule


Due to COVID-19 restrictions we are currently holding one blended service at 10:00 AM (there is currently NO childcare available)

Bethesda Youth Ministries (5th thru 12th grade) - 6:00 pm
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Wet Cement Theology

 A blog from Jeff Byerly at Bethesda EC Church

The world doesn't need another know-it-all theologian. My goal is simply to search the Scriptures, analyze current theological dicussions, respond to the events of the global, national, and local communities in which I live, and share my life incarnationally in order to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God. As I do this please realize that I am wrong from time-to-time and more often than I think. :-) I am also naturally skeptical and often doubt convictions that are held tightly by many others. I invite you to dialogue with me in this same spirit--to explore how Jesus intersects with our world and to keep our sanity as we view this world from his kingdom perspective. 

She is right!!!!

Posted by Jeff Byerly on Thursday, September 4, 2014 @ 12:58 PM

I believe the problem with Ray Comfort, Todd Friel, Kirk Cameron, and the weakness of the sin management gospel is that they do more harm than good.

First, I find it interesting that this group calls their program, The Way of the Master. The point of their training declares that this is the method that Jesus used, and should be the only method that we should use also. In fact, they will point out that the relational evangelism thing is a crock. Is this true? Let’s examine this.

In Jesus’ teachings, did he first set up a proposition that all the people out there were not good, lawbreakers, enemies to God, haters of God, and that God was angry with them? Never! First, he was in a setting that was uniformly Jewish, and the majority of people were asking questions about getting closer to God, because they sensed exclusion from the religious teachers. These teachers were telling the people, what? They were not good enough to enter the kingdom of God. (That actually sounds disturbingly familiar.) Jesus confronts them that this is not his way. In fact, when Jesus spoke of judgment, it was most often and obviously directed toward these teachers.

Even when sin was exposed with a woman at the well, Jesus does not hone in there and say, “Now, we can get started. You see it’s all about your sin.” No instead, he says, “It’s about living water! It’s about worship from the heart!” When the teachers of the law brought before him a woman caught in adultery, he exposed their own sinfulness, made them put down their stones, and told the woman that he did not condemn her either. “Go, and sin no more.” A rich young ruler asked him, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus simply responds, “Obey the commands.” The rich young ruler confesses that he has done this. Jesus did not respond, “Oh no, you haven’t. In fact you’ve broken them all.” Instead, he states, “You lack one thing.” The rich young ruler had an idol that was interfering with his pursuit of the kingdom.

I bring this up, because this is the way of the master! Jesus always started with an understanding that the person standing before him was created in God’s image, for God’s glory, and their identity was not defined by the sin in their lives, but by the potential glory God had created them to achieve. Go back and read those three stories I just mentioned from that framework. Jesus was interested in the relational person, not just a “soul.”

I do not see that approach from the Way of the Master group. They say they want to help people get saved by pointing out the flames coming through the trap door under people’s feet. I’m just not sure that their message ever gets people to realize that they are created in God’s image for God’s glory. Instead they teach that people need to realize that God is angry with them over their sinful state, and that he will only forgive them if they repent!

Footnote: Repentance is an interesting word that literally means: “Change your thinking.” I believe that there are several occasions where guilt should accompany our acts of repentance. However, I’m not so sure that every use of the word repent actually means that you must grasp hold of your own guilt to make a change in thinking. For instance, I change my thinking often times, when I find a better way to do or understand something. My challenge to the reader is to substitute the word “repent” (which carries a heavily weighted meaning of guilt), and simply use “change your thinking.” Maybe some of our own sin management issues will become clearer to us.

So Jesus’ thing was in a Jewish context, and not in the real, pagan world in which we live. In fact we live in a world more like Paul’s Athens, than the hallowed Jerusalem. Interestingly, in the video that was posted, Friel says that Jesus, Paul, the apostles and prophets were open air preachers. So, what was their message? It certainly had to be, “God is angry with you sinners, because you break his law!”

The book of Acts records several of the early church’s run-ins, with the host culture of Judaism and also with the surrounding pagan culture. Peter preaches at Pentecost and then to the Sanhedrin. His message was not sin management, but turn to Jesus, our King. Peter preached the whole story of Jesus’ healings, the cross and resurrection to Cornelius. Paul became a threat to the Gentile world, not because he was stirring up people to consider their own sinfulness, but because slave girls were no longer demon-possessed, silversmiths lost income over idol depreciation, and he was preaching the Cross, but even more so … the Resurrection!

In fact, in the intellectual world of Athens, Paul uses several features to help them understand the Gospel, which strongly focused on the resurrection. First he notes that they are religious, not sinful. Interesting start. Then he points to a temple to an idol – something he would not dare do in the synagogue. He explains to them a God with whom they were unfamiliar. He doesn’t start his explanation with sin, but with … creation! Then he does another unthinkable thing, he quotes from their poets – not Scripture! Not his favorite hymn or Gospel song. He uses their poet/singer/artist/creative genius—yeah, he said something like, “As Lady Gaga sings ….” I just do not see how open air preaching could read Paul’s method, and use a gospel of sin management to replicate it. The Paul in Athens story is in Acts 17.

Lastly, the ultimate error of the sin management gospel is that it short-circuits God’s Story by starting at Genesis 3 and ending at Revelation 20. As we saw with Paul, the Gospel starts with creation and the inclusion of people created in God’s image, and appeals that God wants in on their lives, because he is not angry, but seeking their lives in order to glorify him.

Their short-sighted view of the gospel mainly originated in the 20th century from a systematic, modernistic, canned approach to place the gospel into a teaching about four spiritual laws. Although the four spiritual laws worked successfully for many years and were built on Bible verses that when put together told a version of the gospel that has some elements of the whole story, it, however, is very incomplete!

A major concern is their lack of consideration for their audience. They assume that everyone they are speaking to is God’s enemy due to their own very poor exegesis from the Bible. Therefore, they just blast the whole population with the “canned” approach without regard for what that person actually needs. Very sad, indeed. The Good News is that this young lady gets it!

The Way of the Master group also takes the work of the Holy Spirit for granted with phrases like, “If we don’t tell them and they get hit by a bus, it’s our fault.” Really, God’s Spirit was depending that heavily on you, and he got it wrong, because he picked the wrong messenger. Or perhaps, the Holy Spirit didn’t see that bus coming. Too bad for Bob. The fault in their view is that they have never trusted that the whole process is the Holy Spirit’s work from start to finish – rather than theirs!

As for the argument about using various approaches that range between judgment and grace: For me, judgment begins with the household of God! It was for the Pharisees that Jesus kept his sharpest remarks—Woe to you, white-washed tombs, and children of the devil were words directed only at them. He seemed softer and gentler the further away from religious people he got, which tells me that we (inside the church) should know better about grace and how to communicate it, especially to those far away from God. We dare not set ourselves up as executioners of a dutiful religiosity, or we will face God's judgment.

Personally, I am not only about coffee shops, comfort, and speaking soft, kind words. On the contrary, I seek to build friendships that enable me to earn the privilege to confront, challenge, and defend a position. I do not disagree with anyone using convicting words led by the Holy Spirit with people, as long as they have earned that right. When they have not earned the right, they have actually done harm to God’s mission, driving people away. I believe that theirs is not the work of the Holy Spirit, but rather a man-centered approach using the Bible to attempt to solve our sin issues.

In conclusion, my point is simple: Stop calling everyone out there God’s enemy. Some are; most are not—they simply doubt, or may be wounded. Jesus, Peter, and Paul used various methods that centered on their audiences and were often deeply relational. They knew their audience and used appropriate words and methods. Open air does not typically consider any of these approaches—In fact, The Way of the Master group tells us that relational evangelism does not work! So I think the girl in the video post was right. Friel could not see the error of his own ways due to his own hubris and zealousness.

Father, forgive us, your church, for misreading people and driving them further from your gracious love.

Tim Seiger said...

Posted on Thursday, September 4, 2014 @ 2:00 PM -
Amen and Amen. Bad story passed off as Good News and smug confidence that "my work is done, I have been faithful."

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