Donny's Ramblings

The Website of Donny Pauling


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Who Decided What Books To Place in Our Bible?

In past blog posts, and on a local message board in which I discuss such things with others, there have been a few people who have asked questions in regards to my statements as to the relationship of the Council of Nicaea to the Canonization of scripture, and my assertion that the men who met at that Council ultimately determined what books appear in the Bible you and I hold in our hands. I haven’t responded to those questions, as I knew that I’d eventually post this article.

FYI: this article is one part (of five) of a paper that I had to write for a Seminary class assignment. You’ll notice it refers to other writings not posted here. Should anyone wish to read the other writings I’d be happy to post them in a future blog post. There are also references in parenthesis to books in the Bibliography from which this paper comes. I’ll post that Bibliography as a comment to this blog post for those who might want that information.


Event #2: Canonization of Scripture

What can possibly be of more importance to the history of the church than the scriptures upon which it is based? Yet few of us have any clue why our Bibles contain the books they contain. Fewer still realize that at the time of canonization, the opinion of the Christian community was split almost 50/50 as to what should and should not be considered as scripture (Pagels, 2004, pages 170-175). While some simply accept the idea that to be considered part of the canon of scripture, writings must be traced to an apostle as the writer or main source, others point out that even those writings traced back to apostles are often in conflict.

Having received both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Stanford, and her PhD from Harvard, author Elaine Pagels is the Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University. Ms. Pagels area of expertise is early Christian history. When new religious artifacts are discovered, Pagels is often called upon to help interpret them.

In her book Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas, Pagels points out that there are literally hundreds of pages of “gospels” and “apocrypha” written during the first centuries, many of them documents the average lay person isn’t even aware exist, that contain sayings, rituals and dialogues attributed to Jesus and his disciples. In the early years of Christianity many of these documents were just as well known as the 27 books we have in the New Testament of our Bibles today. The Gospel of John, written at close to the same time as the Gospel of Thomas, reveals a minor rivalry even amongst two of Jesus’ own disciples, and many of today’s best scholars believe John’s gospel was written as a rebuttal to teachings attributed to Thomas. One example of rivalry is hinted at by reading the books that are included in our Bibles: while the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke refer to Jesus appearing to the 11 after his Resurrection (Judas was no longer with them), the Gospel of John says Jesus appeared to 10 of them, as Thomas was not present. And it is only in John’s gospel that Thomas is referred to as a doubter. John’s gospel emphasizes that some of the key beliefs put forth by Thomas’ gospel are incorrect. The Gospel of Thomas teaches, for example, that God’s light shines not only in Jesus but potentially in everyone. Thomas’ gospel encourages the hearer not so much to believe IN Jesus, as John’s gospel requires, as to seek to know God through one’s own, divinely given capacity since all are created in the image of God (Pagels, 2004, pages 30-73).

Many amongst the first generations of Christians disagreed with John’s gospel that Jesus was God in the flesh, doubted his writings were scripture, and did not want his book to be part of what we now call the New Testament. Those believers also took issue with the fact that in a handful of places John’s gospel differs with, and even directly contradicts, the combined testimony of the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. John tells a different version of Jesus’ final days, for example. John also places the story of Jesus in the Temple disrupting the money changers at the beginning of his ministry, while the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke place that as happening at the end of his ministry. Only in John’s gospel do we find the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead, which was an act that upset the leaders of the time so much that they wanted to kill not only Jesus but Lazarus as well, because they were concerned that if he were to go on doing such things everyone would believe in him. It is noted that even early defenders of John’s gospel, such as a teacher named Origen, are quoted as saying that the author of John’s gospel might not always tell the truth “literally” but always told the truth “spiritually” (Origen, Commentary on John, 10.4-6).

If John was to be believed, Jesus proclaimed himself begotten of God, equal to God, and God in the flesh. If Thomas was to be believed, Jesus only claimed to have been created by God just as the rest of us, although with a deeper level of connection and understanding. According to Thomas, although he may have been of similar substance as God, Jesus was not fully man and fully God and he wanted the world to know that God’s Light could be found within all of us.

The argument between those who believed the teachings attributed to John and those who believed the teachings attributed to Thomas led to many writings and discussions. It is clear that if the four gospels of our Bibles were Matthew, Mark, Luke and Thomas we’d have a much different view of Jesus than we do now, with John’s gospel as the fourth.

One man in particular, a man named Irenaeus, wrote extensively on such matters. Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp, and Polycarp was a disciple of John. Irenaeus was very much in favor of showing those who followed Thomas’ teachings the errors of their ways. He was of the opinion that those who disagreed with John had “cast truth aside” and “resorted to evil interpretation” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1, c. 180). He was alarmed to learn that even amongst those in congregations to whom he personally traveled as a missionary, many were divided on whether to believe the teachings attributed to Thomas or whether to lean more towards what was taught by John’s gospel.

Irenaeus’ writings became quite influential in guiding the paths of those that would eventually decide which books belong in our Bibles. His opinion could be summed up with his assertion that if those heretics had been right, we would have no need for revelation and “the coming of the Lord” would “appear unnecessary and useless” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies). Through Irenaeus’ writings, it was made very clear that John’s gospel definitely means that God = Word = Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. Irenaeus declared that teachings like Thomas’ gospel were nothing more than gnosticism pushing its influence into Christianity. Even so, the discussion continued after he died in 202 AD, and wasn’t totally settled until late the next century, many years after Constantine became the first Christian Roman Emperor and ended the persecution of Christians.

When I mentioned in “Event #1″ that Constantine, after becoming emperor, gave back to the church all the lands that were taken from it, what I didn’t mention was that Constantine also befriended many of the bishops, even writing them personal letters (Barnes, 2006, pages 208-227). The purpose of the Council of Nicaea in 325 was to resolve disagreements over the nature of Jesus in relationship to the Father, in particular, whether He was of the same substance as God the Father or merely of similar substance. As many of us know, this council resulted in the Nicene Creed, which Constantine himself endorsed. Afterward, the official doctrine became such that “all Christians henceforth must accept and participate in the only church recognized by the emperor – the catholic (universal) church.” Even a year before the Council of Nicaea, Constantine made an attempt to legislate an end to “sects” he considered heretical, which included half the Christians in the empire (MacMullen, 1986, pages 59-119). His beliefs on what was or was not heretical (meaning, “wrong teaching”) were greatly influenced by the bishops he had befriended, who were in turn followers of the line of beliefs written by the likes of Irenaeus. Although it is often said that the canon of scripture was issued at the Council of Hippo in 393 and at the Council of Carthage in 397, because of the nature of the politics surrounding the Nicene council and Constantine’s endorsement of it, the books that conflicted with the Nicene Creed were already “on the way out.” The desire (or often times: commands) to destroy those books led those who wished to preserve them to hide and bury them in jars or even graves (we have recovered some of these texts even as recently as the mid 1900s).

In 367, Church Father (and bishop) Athanasius, wrote an easter letter that listed the 27 books we now have in our New Testament (it should be noted that Athanasius was present at the Council of Nicaea, and was very much involved with those on “the winning side”). The Western church approved the same 27 books at the Council of Hippo in 393 and at Carthage in 397 (Garlow, 2000, pg 48). In the alternate textbook assigned for this class, How God Saved Civilization, there is a quote by David F. Wright on page 49 that states the following:

Although churchmen in a literal sense created the canon (the Bible), they were only recognizing the books that had stamped their own authority on the churches. The criteria for accepting a book as canonical (authentic) were sometimes complex. Above all, it had to be written or sponsored by an apostle, and also be recognizably orthodox in context, and publicly used by a prominent church or majority of churches… But the eventual shape of the New Testament shows that the Early Church wanted to submit fully to the teachings of the apostles. It had been created by their preaching and now grounded itself upon their writings.

Whether or not one might wish to disagree with the exclusion of certain books from our Bible that for centuries had been accepted as scripture by half the Christian community, and whether or not one might wish to argue that the ultimate list of 27 books of the New Testament was greatly influenced by political pressures and favors from the first Christian Emperor, there is no doubt that the canonization of scripture is one of the most important events in all of church history. It is literally what millions have built their faith, and lives, upon.


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The Lost Gospels – And a Disclaimer

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m working toward a Seminary degree. The Londen Institute For Evangelism (LIFE), with whom I’d originally enrolled, merged with Hope International University not long ago (the merger was announced in January). Just last week Hope International gave us a list of options that we can choose from based on our educational goals.

THE LOST GOSPELS

Built into me is this inner need to dig deeper into course materials than what is required. I don’t want to be the type of person who blindly accepts the agenda of another person or group of people. What I mean by this is that I want to hear all sides of an argument and not be dismissive towards materials that others before me have decided to ignore. I want to know why decisions were made as they were, and then I still want to hear the thoughts of “the other side”. For example, when learning about the canonization of scripture, I want to know why the books included in the Bible were chosen, but I also want to know why others were not. And I want to read those books that were not chosen.

This applies directly to the Church History course I began in October of last year. The two books that were assigned to me by LIFE were supplemented by several books I found on my own. Amongst other authors, I found it interesting and enlightening to read the work of Elaine Pagels. Ms. Pagels, who is a professor at Princeton University and received her PhD from Harvard, goes into depth on the Lost Gospels. I’ve read criticism of Ms. Pagels online, but it seems to me that such is unjustified. Where critics have said, “Ms. Pagels can’t be a Christian because she believes x, y or z”, I’ve found that she never actually tells us what she personally believes. Rather, she merely does her best to objectively present all sides. I appreciate this, and also enjoy her writing style. If you’d like to educate yourself on topics you’ll likely never hear in church, head to your nearest Barnes and Noble and pick up any of Elaine’s books. I’d suggest starting with Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas. Not only does it present the Gospel that is attributed to Thomas (and written a bit before the book of John) it also dives into a lot of church history. This may sound boring, but if you’ve an interest in the early days of Christianity this book is an easy , informative read.

I’ve also read most of the Nag Hammadi Library and will complete what I haven’t read soon. These books are also referred to as Gnostic Scriptures and pre-date the canonization of scripture as we know it today.

AND NOW FOR A DISCLAIMER

What is it about humans that causes many of us to so easily jump to conclusions? I’ve mentioned the things I’ve just written about to others and am usually cautioned about heading down the wrong path. What part of the paragraphs I’ve written above indicate that I’m ready to turn away from “traditional” Christianity and embrace gnosticism or some other form of religious belief? I’m simply the type of person who wants to know WHY I believe what I believe. I have to admit, I kind of look down on those who choose not to do so. I feel we owe it to the society in which we live to be educated Christians. Is it wrong of me to do look down on those who don’t agree with that? Absolutely. I know it is. This is just an admission on my part.

I remember when I was in the midst of my rebellious years of porn production… I approached various Pastors and asked them a list of tough questions. I really wanted answers, but not a single one of them could assist with such answers, nor could they refer me to someone who could. In the year and a half since surrendering my life to God I’ve gone out and found the answers to nearly every question I used to ask. It appears to me that the Seminary training obtained by the ministers I approached didn’t extend beyond the pre-determined agenda or yoke of teaching that their schools had established. In this time of questioning, I think it’s a mistake not to prepare our religious leaders to address the questions the world asks of us. It’s frustrating to those who don’t believe when circular reasoning is used to answer their questions. If a person does not yet believe the Bible, the Bible can’t be used to prove anything. That’s like me writing a book declaring myself the Messiah, and when asked for proof, pointing to the book I’ve written. There is an enormous wealth of outside proof to the things we believe as Christians, and it’s time more of us educate ourselves about such information.

And that, my friends, is what fuels my desire to hear all sides. Just a few days ago I had an all-day email conversation with a man who produces porn. He kept sending me messages about how I needed to educate and enlighten myself on certain aspects of Christianity. His attitude seemed to be that he had some “secret knowledge” that I as a Christian did not possess. I enjoyed receiving his challenges and kept asking for clarification as to what he wanted me to know about. All the while I had a pretty good idea of the direction he was headed. When he finally sent me the “killer” questions I referred him to names I’d mentioned earlier in our conversation… the names of authors I’ve read that discuss the very issues he thought would spiritually “slay” me. I then elaborated on the very points he made to me. In other words, I was prepared for his arguments. I’ve read and studied them. Recently. The questions he asked of me were the types of questions I used to ask of religious leaders and receive no answers.

I guess the “disclaimer”  I’d like to put out is that those of you who consistently read the things I write are likely going to witness controversial topics discussed on this website.  It may be easy to assume that I’m confusing myself and heading down a wrong spiritual path.  Please, don’t worry.  Wouldn’t you agree that a faith that can’t stand up to questioning is not a very good faith at all?  I’m in the process of learning, and that process is likely to take years.  Or the rest of my life.  This blog is just me thinking out loud.  Feel free to join in the discussion.


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Teaching Church History

The more I study church history, the more I am convinced that our churches need to teach this in Sunday School. I have 30 pages to write for the Londen Institute in the next week and a half. Part of what I am going to be expressing is how this course has affected me. Has God spoken to me through the study of this course? Absolutely.

Not being the type to just accept one perspective, I picked up a total of 7 other books in addition to the required text. I’ve been blown away by what I’ve learned. I think every Christian needs to educate themselves on subjects such as the lost Gospels, why certain books were included in our New Testament while others were rejected, how much disagreement really went on during those early years… the list goes on.

I was surprised at how many other gospels have been written and attributed to Jesus’ disciples. A man named Irenaeus (who was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of the Apostle John) was very influential in deciding which Gospels are included in our New Testament. From the very beginning, Christians disagreed on which writings were and were not to be considered for inclusion in our scriptural readings.

In 313 when Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, he was very disappointed that Christians were not in agreement. He thought all Christians would be unified. When he found that wasn’t the case, he decided to work to create unity. He agreed with the teachings passed down from Polycarp and Irenaeus. Those who chose to believe that way were granted political power and tax exemptions. When he called religious leaders together in an attempt to unify them that particular counsel forever influenced the shape of Christianity to this day. Opposing viewpoints were subdued. Many writings were destroyed. Some were hidden away to be discovered many many many years later.

I’d go more into this, but I have a dinner appointment in 10 minutes. My thoughts on the matter can be summed up in a few sentences:

Today we listen to our Pastors teach their interpretation of scripture and how to apply it to our lives. We read the works of Christian authors. We eat the meat and spit out the bones. If something sounds off base, we dismiss it. If a message hits home we digest it. Why, then, are so many afraid to read the lost Gospels attributed to people who actually walked with Jesus? Nobody is asking that it be accepted as part of the canon of scripture we call our Bible. But I can tell you I have personally enjoyed reading some of this text, and think many others would too.

Feedback?

(PLEASE READ THE COMMENTS TO THIS ENTRY, as I’ve added more opinions in the comments section and will probably continue to do so)


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Hope International University

To students of Londen Institute,

In a previous letter I mentioned that the board of Londen Institute was considering several options following the resignation of President Barry McMurtrie. Since I promised to keep you informed of any developments, I wanted to update you on our progress.

The attached press release explains that we have accepted a proposal from Hope International University in Fullerton, California to merge with their University. The attached release is self-explanatory, but we are most grateful that Hope has agreed to honor the class work and degree pursuits of the present Londen students. We think this arrangement is an answer to prayer and we are most grateful.

We anticipate a great residency at the River Tree Church in Ohio this June.

Bob Russell
Chairman, Board of Directors

What this means is that my degree will now come from Hope International University. To say I’m excited would be an understatment.


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Thoughts From Yaks Koffee

The Magic Chair

Earlier this afternoon I was sitting in my easy chair reading one of the textbooks for my Church History class. In case you’re a new reader, I’m currently a student of the Londen Institute for Evangelism, on my way to a degree in Ministry. From Porn Producer to Pastor? Perhaps.

Hmm… maybe I should contemplate that italicized sentence as a possible book title?

Anyway… where was I? Oh yeah, the easy chair. The chair is a magic chair. No, really, it is. Wendy and I bought it before Caden was born. I used to rock him to sleep in it late at night. Wendy was not a late-night type of person, so when Caden was an infant and woke up in the middle of the night, as infants do, Wendy would nurse him and then I’d take him downstairs to rock him to sleep. I’d pop in a movie and the two of us would have Daddy and Caden time. It was magical.

The magic chair… it wasn’t cheap, which is one of the two reasons why I still own it today, even though it doesn’t match the rest of the furniture in my apartment. One thing about that ex-wife of mine is that she will not settle for cheap furniture. I could tell you stories about the dressers that have been purchased for my son and the bunk bed set she’s currently talking me into buying. I didn’t realize such price tags could attach themselves to bunk beds! But I digress…

As I was sitting in Magic Chair reading A HISTORY OF THE CHURCH FROM PENTECOST TO PRESENT, by James B. North, I started thinking “I could be reading this at Yaks.”

And so… here I sit at Yaks Koffee. But I’m not reading. I’ve got the laptop fired up and am LOOKING at my text books while I type. Does looking count for anything?

Instead of being a good student, reading my textbooks and preparing to write the papers assigned to me, I am instead writing to you, my constant readers, about a few thoughts I’ve been pondering in the last few days. I want to share them with you and ask for your opinions and input.

Random Thought #1: Sin and God’s Jealousy

While driving, I was thinking to myself, “God is a jealous God, right? That’s what I’ve read and heard. But why is that?” The following thoughts came to mind (pardon the example used to illustrate these thoughts – it just seems that I often come to spiritual “realizations” by thinking of events from my life – is that normal?):

When I was playing that horrible game with Belinda I would find myself fighting jealousy from time to time. While it didn’t start that way, it wasn’t long before I was battling for her affections. If an idea was suggested by Mark, I didn’t want Belinda to like it. I wanted her to realize that anything coming from Mark was evil (I guess that didn’t work out quite as I planned because she now lives with him) and anything coming from me was good (of course). If she did happen to think one of his ideas was a good one I’d feel a surge of jealousy. In your own relationship, if you have one, imagine how you’d feel if the person you’re in love with found pleasure or delight in the suggestions of another.

In the case of real-life Good vs. Evil, all good comes from God. His opponent, and ours, creates and perpetuates evil. Most of us can agree on that, I’m sure. So it makes sense to me that when those God loves choose something that was created or suggested by His opponent, He feels jealousy.

I realize this is basic for most of you, but this is a perspective I’d never considered before. Input, anyone?

Random Thought #2: Is There ANYONE God Won’t Forgive and Use for His Good?

Somewhat related to the above line of thought, I began thinking of David, and also of Saul/Paul. As King, David was a man who had it all. He was wealthy. He could do whatever he pleased. He was in a position of leadership, and part of his duties were to protect his people. So when he murdered one of the men who served in his armed forces in order to take the poor man’s wife, in my opinion he deserved to die. How many of us could forgive such a thing if it happened today? But after his sin was called out and he became a broken person, begging God’s forgiveness, God did just that. And he even called David a man after his own heart.

We all know the story of Saul, the Christian killer. He found a lot of joy in hunting Christians down and persecuting them. Yet Jesus met him on the road to Damascus, temporarily blinded him, changed his life and used him to change the world. As the Apostle Paul, 13 books of the New Testament were written by him.

I wonder if God took pleasure in snatching these two men out of Satan’s hands, purposefully using them to do his work, in part, to rub it in Satan’s face? At one point, both of these men must have elicited an enormous amount of jealousy within God. After all, they were choosing to pursue Satan’s “suggestions” over God’s plan.

Gimme your thoughts, will ya?


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Ali. Part II.

This is a follow up on an encounter I had with a man who had just recently lost his wife to cancer.

Two days shy of a month ago I wrote about Ali the Muslim (you may remember that article, because a sentence I used in it began a bit of debate, prompting me to follow up with a post about God and Allah as well as another post a few days later). Today I spoke with Ali again.

I’m the type who likes to arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before my flight departs. I prefer 3 hours but that’s not always feasible. After a great week at the Londen Institute’s Residency in Louisville, Kentucky, today I spoke with Craig Gross at First Christian Church in Huntington Beach, California, where we had a really fantastic Porn and Pancakes event. Craig dropped me off at Orange county’s John Wayne Airport 3 hours ahead of scheduled departure time. With that much time to spare I decided to check up on Ali. I hoped he was still working at the Oasis Grill & Sky Lounge near terminal 8, because I wanted to see how he was doing. He crosses my mind quite a bit. The day he told me the story of his wife dying of cancer really moved me.

As I walked up the ramp leading to the dining area I saw him. I called out his name from 20 feet away.

“Hey, Ali!” I said with a smile.

“Well hello sir! How are you doing?” he responded. Half a second later his face lit up as he recalled who I was. He repeated his “how are you” question again, this time meaning it.

As I sat down in his section, I was able to ask him how HE was doing.

“Not so good” was his reply. I asked if things were getting any easier for him and he let me know that they are not. In fact, life seems to be getting harder.

We spoke for bits and pieces of time, in between his waiter duties with other customers. Once in awhile he was able to speak with me for 3 to 4 minutes.

He gave me an “in memory” card of his wife, Shahin Madjd-Sadjadi.

He let me know that his daughter Runak is really having a difficult time.

I told Ali that I wanted to share something with him. I told him that I’d asked several people to pray for him, and he thanked me, letting me know that he definitely believes in prayer. I am asking all of you now to pray with me yet again for peace for Ali and his daughter. I know God can bring comfort to their minds.

As I sat awaiting my check, I pulled one of XXXChurch’s “Jesus Loves Porn Stars” Bibles from my back pocket. No, not to share any passages with Ali, but because I wanted God to talk to ME.

I breathed a short prayer. “God, I don’t know where to look. I just want to open this up and find a message for you awaiting inside. I need to hear from you right now.”

I kid you not!  James 5:13 is where my eyes landed. The JLPS Bible happens to be “The Message” version.

Here’s what I read:

Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing. Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet. And if you’ve sinned, you’ll be forgiven-healed inside and out.

Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. Elijah, for instance, human just like us, prayed hard that it wouldn’t rain, and it didn’t-not a drop for three and a half years. Then he prayed that it would rain, and it did. The showers came and everything started growing again.

My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.

Do you see what I see? Can God get any more explicit in his answer?

Are you hurting? Pray.

That, my friends, is exactly what I promised Ali I’d have all of you do for him. So please, help me keep that promise. I’m confident God can bring comfort to my friend, and I need you to help me invite God to make that happen.

I’m asking that as you finish reading this blog article you simply take a moment to ask God to bring peace to Ali and Runak, his daughter.


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Residency: Notes from Class

I’m clueless and I had no clue just how clueless I was until I showed up here in Louisville to listen to those who do have a clue talk about… their clues. I can’t even begin to describe to you how my cluelessness has been reinforced in my mind in the last 3 days as I’ve listened to some really great speakers giving lectures on really great things.

Today as I was sitting in class I put down pen and paper and fired up my trusty MacBook Pro. I can type much faster than I can write. Another benefit of taking notes on my computer is that later I’ll actually be able to read what I’ve written. For each lecture, I took notes in a program called Journler. I chose to use it instead of Word because I like the layout a bit better for note taking, and I can have multiple tabs opened. I had a tab open for notes on every lecture, and in a separate tab I took notes that I’ve titled Random Thoughts: Londen Institute Residency. The Random Thoughts tab is just that: random thoughts of things I want to remember so that I can write about them later for you, my constant readers.

Here are my Random Thoughts for today:

  • Today any doubts I may have had about the Londen Institute are completely gone. This is a great program. The speakers are actively involved, highly educated, and highly successful. They bring in relevant, current information to prepare church leaders.
  • Many of those in attendance are already working in churches. Some of them are Pastors, even lead Pastors. Others are church Elders. Still others work in young adult or children’s ministries. This school seems to focus on practical, applicable information.
  • When Todd Wilson mentioned that many of the older, (almost) dying churches are coming to his group asking if they can be satellites of new churches I was intrigued. That’s a really good idea, in my opinion. It kind of reminds me of what LifeChurch.tv is doing.
  • Greg Malcom, a fellow classmate and Elder in his church, took the time to explain to me know that many modern churches fall right in the middle of being conservative or liberal, and take a more realistic viewpoint… they are more “with the times”. Those types of churches are really the ones that are growing today. Lots of independent churches fall into this category.
  • 18,000 people supporting a multi million dollar site like Southeast blows my mind.
  • Remember last night’s message about taking a risk. Particularly the “creating a story” story. That was a really good illustration. Be sure to tell W. about that one.
  • Note to self: buy Out of the Saltshaker by Becky Pippert (Becky is one of those who lectured today – the rest of my bulleted notes are things I wrote down while she was lecturing).
  • Jesus was so upset with religious hypocrisy that he threw furniture down the stairs. He isn’t the type of guy who would walk away from someone struggling with a sex disorder, rage, screwed up lives, etc.
  • The “religious” hated him, but prostitutes and lepers were crazy about him! The chief complaint about Jesus was that he was NOT religious enough! The world needs to know what he’s like! Pick out Bible passages that show these parts, and read them with “seeker” friends.
  • Be real. Develop a style of witnessing consistent with your personality. “I want to talk to you about the Bible, but I’m afraid of how you’ll react”. You don’t have to be someone else for God to use you.

I’m not up to date on the “who’s who” of modern Christian culture, but I’ve been told I should be impressed by our list of speakers. I think going into this seminar with no prior knowledge of the accomplishments of our speakers has made me better able to “judge” their lectures based on content, rather than on the reputation of the lecturer. So far I’ve been really impressed! I’ll list some of the speakers: if you know them feel free to “ooo” and “ahhh”. If you’re like me and you have no clue who they are, just know that these people have really accomplished big things for God with their lives:

  • Dr. Ken Blanchard
  • Mike Emmert
  • Allie Harding
  • Pastor Buddy Howard
  • Pastor Ben Merold
  • Pastor Greg Nettle
  • Dr. Bob Pavelsky
  • Becky Pippert
  • Dr. Bob Russell
  • Pastor Dave Stone
  • Todd Wilson

One thing I really like about the Londen Institute is that they’re bringing people into these Residencies who are currently working very hard for God. These people bring relevant insights into what’s going on in their world as leaders of today’s churches. Practical advice is given. Practical knowledge is applied in small group settings, which allows a lot of interaction with the lecturers. There are 3 Residency events per year.

Once I return home I’ll have a series of back-to-back course assignments to complete, each of which last a minimum of 15 weeks and include a lot of reading and a lot of writing. It’s been awhile since I’ve been a college student but I’m looking forward to all of it.

I’ve never seen a church as large as the one hosting this Residency. Here are some stats for Southeast Christian Church:

  • 770,000 square foot main building
  • There are two other buildings (youth center and administration building) of 150,000 and 115,000 square feet
  • 18,000 members (1,500 nursery aged children alone)
  • The sanctuary seats 9,100
  • It cost $80 million for the land and the main building, took more than 3 years to build, and sits on 117 acres
  • It took more than an hour for us to take the tour
  • It has the 2nd largest kitchen in Kentucky (refrigerator is more than 40 feet wide) – 2 coffee machines turn out 10,000 cups of coffee an hour
  • More than 300 staff members
  • It was started in a basement with a handful of people

A few photos are in order (if you’d like to see several more click here – there’s a great coffee shop, children’s area, etc). This is the lobby… to put this photo into perspective let me tell you that the spot where I’m standing to those escalators on the other side is the length of a football field:

Southeast Christian Center

This sanctuary seats 9,100 people:

Southeast Christian Main Sanctuary

Click here for more photos

Days start at 7:30 am and go until around 9:30 pm. I’m pretty tired.

Off to bed I go, looking forward to tomorrow.

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