“Flag It, Wave It, Acknowledge It”

Daniel Kleven has posted his concluding article on Edwards, Dabney, the role and place of the Reformed movement, and John Piper’s over the past years.  Thank You, Daniel Kleven, for writing this series of articles, and even more for your insights, courage, work, and writing which began in 2017-2018. It was that work that led to this day of Flag Waving.

The title of Kleven’s post included the words . . . .

“Flag It, Wave It, Acknowledge It”

Let me “Flag, Wave, and Acknowledge” two points that surely must be made!


The Whitewashing Of Heroes Continues In The Reformed Movement

As Kleven states . . . .

Is there still hope for that “single river” to materialize this side of eternity? As things stand, white Reformed evangelicalism has shown little interest in changing . . . . That single river might still happen, though probably not from “the mountain stream of Reformed theology,” but from elsewhere.

John Piper’s unwillingness to meaningfully address the blatant racism of Dabney and/or Murray, and Piper’s present-day unwillingness to disavow men like Doug Wilson is also being whitewashed by today’s hero worshippers — because the hero of may is now Piper himself.

Yes, Kleven is likely correct about where theological change will come from — probably not from Reformed theology!  Too many Christian leaders and pastors are unwilling to disavow John Piper.

While many literally tossed the books of Ravi Zacharias into the garbage, such is not even a distant consideration for most Piper devotees/hero worshippers. Actually, that is what it might take for John Piper to be the first and foremost advocate for a meaningful course change.

Note: Before you conclude that the horrific behaviors of RZ are not to be compared to racism, read the words of Dabney, Murray, Wilson, and then read about slavery! —  i.e. “How The Word Is Passed.” [2]

Many questions troubled minds and hearts following the RZIM revelations . . .

  • How does a man like Ravi Zacharias preach, teach, write, and defend the Scriptures while engaged in horrific sexual misconduct?
  • Have the Scriptural truths and principles taught by him been warped and twisted to allow for such behavior?
  • How have those Scriptural truths and principles taught by him been compromised to allow for such a contradiction?
  • Why did it take so long to address — not to see — what was taking place?
  • How does loyalty trump integrity when it comes to Scripture?
  • How do men justify such contradictions?
  • What truths and principles have not been / are not being taught that would have countered such ungodly attitudes and actions?

The same questions must be considered regarding John Piper!

Something is terribly broken when a leader, teacher, and mentor cannot call out racism for all that it is, historically or presently.

Something is terribly broken when Christian leaders and pastors cannot disavow John Piper and his tolerance and promotion of Louis Dabney, Ian Murray, and Doug Wilson.

“No one is helped by whitewashing our heroes!” [1]


The Same Thread May Account For Abusive Pastoral Leadership

Kleven cites Geroge Marsden . . .

“Perhaps the greatest fault of American Reformed communities since Puritan times is the that they have cultivated an elitism. Ironically, the doctrine of election has been unwittingly construed as meaning that Reformed people have been endowed with superior theological, spiritual, or moral merit by God himself… The great irony is that … the doctrine of grace ought to cultivate humility as a conspicuous trait of Reformed spirituality… Yet too often Reformed people have been so totally confident of their own spiritual insights that they have been unable to accept or work with fellow Reformed Christians whose emphases may vary slightly.” [emphasis mine]

I would suggest that the same elitism fuels the use, abuse, and misuse of God’s people in ministries and local churches.

1. Daniel Kleven quotes John Piper . . . .

Piper responded with this:

“The first thing I would say is that no one is helped by whitewashing our heroes, your heroes. No one has been helped by it… you don’t benefit by whitewashing your heroes. You won’t ever ask yourself the hardest questions about life if the people you love are whitewashed and you don’t ever come to terms with their sinfulness.”

Then Piper said this, and referenced Dabney specifically:

“And another thought comes to my mind, namely, that if you see in Edwards, Luther, Dabney, if you see sin, you should flag it, wave it, acknowledge it.

2. “How the Word Is Passed,” by Clint Smith

♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦

A few paragraphs from Kleven’s article worth citing . . .

It’s interesting to me that over the years, on some issues, Piper has been willing to name names and battle publicly for a position. When the Sovereignty of God was at stake, Piper publicly disputed with Greg Boyd and advocated for his removal from Bethel Seminary. Over the doctrine of hell, Piper famously said “Farewell, Rob Bell.” But he has not been willing to do this over racism. Piper has never been willing to publicly critique Douglas Wilson, and my article is the only time Desiring God has done this with Robert Lewis Dabney.

Regardless, in 2018 there was no caveat in Piper’s recommendation of Murray’s biographies, not even of Dabney. And, consistent with the list of “Books that Desiring God Recommends,” there is not a single link to a biography of a Black Christian

But when I also consider the decades long span of his work, for most of those years he repeatedly commended a white-supremacist like Robert Lewis Dabney to thousands of pastors, church leaders, and readers. When I consider the question “how and why was Robert Lewis Dabney commended to a generation of reformed evangelicals?” John Piper has played a significant role.

Is there still hope for that “single river” to materialize this side of eternity? A things stand, white Reformed evangelicalism has shown little interest in changing . . . . That single river might still happen, though probably not from “the mountain stream of Reformed theology,” but from elsewhere.

“How did we get here? How did a white-supremacist become one of our theological heroes in the first place? How and why did that happen?”

Edwards, Dabney, Piper, WILSON, & The Reformed Community!

Again, let me suggest reading the series of articles by Daniel Kleven on how we got where we are regarding the reformed movement and specifically John Piper’s contribution to the present state of affairs.

Let me make a few personal observations to Kleven’s incisive examination without reprinting his many poignant and heart-rending analyses.


#1) “If you lie down with dogs, don’t be surprised if you get up with fleas.”

Or as Proverbs warns . . . .

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.

Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.

As Kleven states . . . . 

In his book Black & Tan, Wilson quotes Dabney more than any other figure, and repackages Dabney’s Lost Cause [1] propaganda for slavery and the Confederacy for his contemporary audience. Douglas Wilson, the self-proclaimed “paleo-confederate,” has promoted Robert Lewis Dabney, the actual Confederate, more extensively than anyone else in modern memory. . . . Rather than addressing the “poison” of “racist slavery,” Piper allowed its most prominent contemporary apologist his largest platform at conferences and on the Desiring God website.

John Piper will not be the first, nor the last, to materially damage his ministry by an unwillingness to speak out clearly and forcefully. Predictably, Doug Wilson’s fleas have already infested Piper’s legacy to where Piper’s reluctance (to date) may not even overcome a subsequent disavowal of Wilson.


#2) When Relationships Trump Integrity, Truth Is Slain In The Streets

When relationships TRUMP integrity, the truth, and the willingness to speak truth to power are butchered (my, that word calls up yet other contemporary examples of the same principle — referred to later).

You will see that in other ministries, and in the local church. One only needs to review the evangelical examples of the past year or more and shudder at the reality of it.

Piper’s unwillingness to disavow Doug Wilson may be the most telling indicator of why the reformed community has lost its way and influence when it comes to addressing racism!

“So, did this recommended book list move forward the dream of “a single river” articulated just four years earlier? Well, out of those 354 books, there were two written by African American Christians, a whole 0.5% of the list. Both books were relegated to the “racial reconciliation” category, one merely as a co-author. For comparison, a number of white men (D. A. Carson, Wayne Grudem, Iain Murray, R. C. Sproul) are recommended on the list multiple times in a variety of categories. Next to John Piper himself (12x), the most recommended author on the list is Douglas Wilson (9x). Let that sink inDouglas Wilson alone is recommended more than 4x as many times as all of the African American authors combined. Also featured in the list? Southern Presbyterian white-supremacists Robert Lewis Dabney and Benjamin Morgan Palmer.” [2]

“Allegiance” to men, who not only hold but expouse repugnant positions and who permit and/or engage in abusive actions, is not only obvious in the world of politics, but within ministries and churches.

Not only does John Piper refuse to call out men like Wilson (no less promoting Wilson), but pastors and leaders across the reformed movement also reveal that they too are reluctant (at best) to challenge and even disavow their allegiance to men like Piper.

Well-known Bible scholars, such as Kevin Bauder, back off of addressing serious issues involving John Piper & BBC. He claims that BBC is an autonomous local church, and as such, he has no interest in speaking to the serious issues which have arisen.  Men like Dough Wilson and John Piper are counting on that response!


#3) “Intent” Is Not A Tolerated Excuse When The Repeated Outcome Is Unchanged.

How often is it said, “I never intended that / for / it to be / there to be /etc. . . . ” I understand that “intent” matters, but it is not a defense when the repeated and damaging outcome is unchanged.

“I didn’t intend to hit, injury, or kill the child who ran out between the parked cars.” I would suggest that no matter how genuine the lack of intent, the child is still injured or worse. That reality should change the driving habits of the most genuine. There should be an obvious and sincere response to avoid such outcomes down the road.

“Reckless” driving is no such indicator.  

Greater care and caution are!

As Kleven states . . . . 

“Whether or not we intended it, here’s the message that I’m afraid minorities heard: ‘come to the table for hard work on racial reconciliation; then, when extremely racially insensitive statements are made with no (or vague and heavily qualified) apologies, we’re going to call it “a great dialogue” and chastise you for being too thin-skinned.’ Minorities have gotten the message, and they’ve left the table.”


Those in positions of influence and notoriety, such as Piper, have an obligation because their voice (or lack of voice) carries immense weight. [3]

Isn’t it about time to call out men who have exerted such wide and deep influences in the evangelical and reformed culture, such as John Piper. His unwillingness to disavow men like Doug Wilson speak clearly and loudly. That alone should be enough testimony and sufficient reason to disavow men such as Piper, as well as those who let relationships and allegiance trump integrity!  

Does the evangelical and reformed community really need to loiter about the decision, or is this just another example of the same quietness regarding this past weekend at First Baptist, Dallas, Texas?




1.  “Lost Cause” link — https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/lost-cause-definition-and-origins

“There are six main parts of the Lost Cause myth, the first and most important of which is that secession had little or nothing to do with the institution of slavery. Southern states seceded to protect their rights, their homes, and to throw off the shackles of a tyrannical government.

Second, slavery was portrayed as a positive good; submissive, happy, and faithful slaves were better off in the system of chattel slavery which offered them protection.

The third tenet states that the Confederacy was only defeated because of the Northern states’ numerical advantage in both men and resources.

Fourth, Confederate soldiers are portrayed as heroic, gallant, and saintly. Even after the surrender, they retained their honor.

Fifth, Robert E. Lee emerged as the . . . revered the Virginian as the ultimate Christian soldier who took up arms for his state.

Finally, Southern women also steadfastly supported the cause, sacrificing their men, time, and resources more than their Northern counterparts. The idealized image of a pure, saintly, white Southern woman emerged as well.”

2. — https://biblioskolex.wordpress.com/2021/12/23/whose-calvinism-which-community-john-piper-desiring-god-and-robert-lewis-dabney-part-8/

3. One could easily cite the example of Elon Musk, who spoke out yesterday. The importance and strength of his voice were well understood across the business and political world!

Today’s Illustration: The Best Christmas Gift Of My Life

[Including Links To The Author’s Original Story]

by Matt Miles . . . . .

It was ChristmasEve 1942.I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me becausethere just hadn’t beenenoughmoneyto buymethe rifle that I’d wanted for Christmas.

We did the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Daddy wanted a little extra time so wecouldreadintheBible.AftersupperwasoverItookmybootsoffandstretchedoutinfrontof the fireplace and waited for Daddy to get down the old Bible.

I was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn’t in much of a mood to read Scriptures. But Daddy didn’t get the Bible instead he bundled up again and went outside. I couldn’t figure it out becausewehadalreadydoneallthechores.Ididn’tworry aboutitlongthoughIwastoobusy wallowing in self-pity.

Soon he came back in. It was a cold clear night out and there was ice in his beard. “Come on, Matt,” hesaid.”Bundle upgood,it’s cold outtonight.”I was really upsetthen.Notonly wasn’t I gettingthe rifle forChristmas,nowhewasdraggingmeoutinthecold,andfornoearthly reasonthatIcould see.We’d alreadydoneallthechores,andIcouldn’tthinkofanythingelsethatneededdoing, especially not on a night like this. But I knew he was not very patient at one draggingone’s feet whenhe’d toldthemtodosomething,soI gotupandputmybootsbackonandgotmycoat. Mommy gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave the house. Something was up, but I didn’t know what.

Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was the work team, already hitchedtothebigsled.Whatever itwasweweregoingtodowasn’tgoingtobeashort,quick,little job. I could tell. We never hitched up this sled unless we were going to haul a big load. Daddy was already up on the seat, reins in hand. I reluctantly climbed up beside him. The cold was already biting at me. I wasn’t happy. When I was on, Daddy pulled the sled around the house and stopped in front of the woodshed.He gotoff and I followed.

“I think we’ll put on the high sideboards,” he said. “Here, help me.” The high sideboards! It had been a bigger job than I wanted to do with just the low sideboards on, but whatever it was we were going to do would be a lot bigger with the high side boards on.

Then Daddy went into the woodshed and came out with an armload of wood -the wood I’d spent all summerhaulingdownfromthemountain,andthenallFall sawingintoblocksandsplitting.What washedoing?Finally Isaidsomething.Iasked,”What areyoudoing?””YoubeenbytheWidow Jensen’slately?” heasked.Mrs.Jensenlivedabouttwomilesdowntheroad.Herhusbandhaddied a year or so before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight. Sure, I’d been by, but so what?

Yeah,”I said,”Why?”

“I rode by just today,” he said. “Little Jakey was out diggingaround in the woodpile trying to find a few chips. They’re out of wood, Matt.” That was all he said and then he turned and went back into the woodshed for another armload of wood. I followed him. We loaded the sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses would be able to pull it. Finally, he called a halt to our loading then we went to the smoke house and he took down a big ham and a side of bacon. He handed them to me and told me to put them in the sled and wait. When he returned he was carrying a sack of flour over his right shoulder and a smaller sack of something in his left hand.

“What’s in thelittle sack?” I asked.Shoes,they’re outofshoes.Little Jakey justhadgunnysacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this morning. I got the children a little candy too. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without a little candy.”

We rode the two miles to Mrs. Jensen’s pretty much in silence. I tried to think through what Daddy was doing. We didn’t have much by worldly standards. Of course, we did have a big woodpile, thoughmostofwhatwasleftnowwasstillintheformoflogsthatIwouldhavetosawintoblocks and split before we could use it. We also had meat and flour, so we could spare that, but I knew we didn’t have any money, so why was he buying them shoes and candy? Really, why was he doing any ofthis?Widow Jensenhadcloserneighborsthanus;itshouldn’thavebeenourconcern.

We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as quietly as possible then we took the meat and flour and shoes to the door. We knocked. The door opened a crack and a timidvoicesaid,”Who isit?” “LucasMiles,Ma’am,andmyson,Matt,couldwecomeinforabit?” Mrs. Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another and were sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any heat at all. Mrs. Jensen fumbled with a match and finally lit the lamp.

“We broughtyouafewthings,Ma’am,”Daddysaidandsetdownthesackofflour.Iputthemeaton thetable.Thenhehandedherthesackthathadtheshoesinit.Sheopenedithesitantly andtookthe shoes out one pair at a time. There was a pair for her and one for each of the children -sturdy shoes, the best, shoes that would last. I watched her carefully. She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling and then tears filled her eyes and started running down her cheeks. She looked up at my Daddy like she wanted to say something,but it wouldn’t come out.

“We broughtaloadofwoodtoo,Ma’am,”hesaid.Thenturnedtomeandsaid,”Matt,gobringin enoughtolastawhile.Let’s getthatfireuptosizeandheatthisplaceup.”Iwasn’t thesameperson whenIwentbackouttobringinthewood.IhadabiglumpinmythroatandasmuchasIhateto admit it, there were tears in my eyes too. In my mind I kept seeing those three kids huddled around the fireplace and their mother standing there with tears running down her cheeks with so much gratitude in her heart that she couldn’t speak.

My heart swelled within me and a joy that I’d never known before filled my soul. I had given at Christmas many times before, but never when it had made so much difference. I could see we were literally savingthelivesofthesepeople.

I soon had the fire blazing and everyone’s spirits soared. The kids started giggling when Daddy handed them each a piece of candy and Mrs. Jensen looked on with a smile that probably hadn’t crossed her face for a long time. She finally turned to us. “God bless you,” she said. “I know the Lord has sent you. The children and I have been praying that he would send one of his angels to spare us.”

In spite of myself, the lump returned to my throat and the tears welled up in my eyes again. I’d neverthoughtofmyDaddyinthoseexacttermsbefore,butafterWidow JensenmentioneditI could see that it was probably true. I was sure that a better man than Daddy had never walked the earth. I started remembering all the times he had gone out of his way for Mommy and me, and many others. The list seemed endless as I thought on it.

Daddy insisted that everyone try on the shoesbefore we left. I was amazedwhen they all fit and I wondered how he had known what sizes to get.Then I guessedthat if he was on an errand for the Lord that the Lord would make sure he got the right sizes.

TearswererunningdownWidow Jensen’sfaceagainwhenwestooduptoleave.MyDaddytook each of the kids in his big arms and gave them a hug.They clung to him and didn’t want us to go.I could see that they missed their Daddy and I was glad that I still had mine.

At the door he turned to Widow Jensen and said, “The Mrs. wanted me to invite you and the childrenoverforChristmasdinnertomorrow.Theturkeywill bemorethanthethreeofuscaneat,

andamancangetcantankerousifhehastoeatturkeyfortoomanymeals.We’ll bebytogetyou abouteleven.It’ll benicetohavesomelittle onesaroundagain.Matt,here,hasn’tbeenlittle for quite a spell.” I was the youngest.My two brothers and two sisters had all married and had moved away.

Mrs.Jensennoddedandsaid,”Thankyou,Brother Miles.Idon’thavetosay,MaytheLordblessyou. I know for certain that He will.”

Out on the sled I felt a warmth that came from deep within and I didn’t even notice the cold. When we had gonea ways, Daddy turned to me and said, “Matt, I want you to know something.Your Mother and me have been tucking a little money away here and there all year so we could buy that rifle for you, but we didn’t have quite enough.

Then yesterday a man who owed me a little money from years back came by to make things square. Your Mom and me were real excited, thinking that now we could get you that rifle, and I started into town this morning to do just that, but on the way I saw little Jakey out scratching in the woodpile with his feet wrapped in those gunny sacks and I knew what I had to do. Son, I spent the money for shoes and a little candy for those children. I hope you understand.”

I understood, and my eyes became wet with tears again. I understood very well, and I was so glad Daddyhaddoneit.Nowtherifle seemedvery lowonmylistofpriorities. Hehadgivenmealot more. He had given me the look on Mrs. Jensen’s face and the radiant smiles of her three children. For the rest of my life, whenever I saw any of the Jensens or split a block of wood, I remembered, and remembering brought back that same joy I felt riding home beside of my daddy that night. He had given me much more than a rifle that night -he had given me the best Christmas of my life.

PDF Copy

Christmas Eve 1942

Jonathan Edwards, Dabney, Piper & Daniel Kleven

One of the most insightful analyses of the connection between Slave Ownership & Reformed theology is being written “daily” by Daniel Kleven!

If you haven’t read his series of articles on the subject, you should take the time to read the sobering and honest unwrapping of this subject. [1]

Here is one recent example of his perceptive ability to unravel what has happened in regards to reformed theology and slave ownership. . . . .

[Sherard Burns states]“the eradication of racism today, as would be the case with slavery then, will not come about through programs, but by means of a God-centered and God-entranced view of reality… Whatever we may think of Edwards, one thing is for certain: He left the American church with the necessary theological truths to kill racism in our hearts and to be conquerors of it in the church.”

Burns, “Trusting,” 170–71.

Again, I must demur. The “eradication of slavery” did not come through Edwards’s “God-entranced view of reality” — it only finally came as a result of a bloody Civil War. As much as we may wish that “good theology” is all it takes to change the world, we must face the actual historical record: Edwards did not leave the church with the necessary theological truths to end slavery and kill racism, and the evidence is seen a thousandfold on the pages of actual history, in the lives of 18th century Reformed slaveholders, 19th century Reformed white-supremacists, 20th century Reformed segregationists, and their 21st century Reformed admirers. To pretend otherwise is wishful thinking.

Without restating the many insightful observations of Kleven, let me move to make three points that I was left with after reading his articles — to date.

#1) An orthodox theology is unable to root out unbiblical and/or ungodly attitudes or actions.

While it may be true that you will never have an accurate and sound world-view with a defective theology, an orthodox theology does not have any ability to assure the opposite.

In fact, you can have a defective theology and still be more socially in harmony with biblical truths, attitudes, and actions than those who are orthodox.  

Something is terribly broken when Quakers, or men who embrace “liberation theology,” are more in tune with the wickedness of slavery than those who claim to be theologically and biblically orthodox!


#2) The ability of regenerate men to justify wrong-doing is both actual and frightening.

The ability of humanity, even though saved by God’s grace, to justify wrong — to make wrong, right and right, wrong — is glaring. That was not just true for Edwards, Dabney, or Piper; it is evident in ministries and local churches today — RZIM.

And the failure of leadership in ministry, to be the corrective actor it could and should be, is just as real. The proof is evident throughout Christian ministries and local churches! [2]  Those who are in a position to change, correct, and challenge leadership failure remain all too quiet and equally become part of the continuing problem!  

Though often too late, thankfully, some come to realize that and see their participation for what it was — [Link to Ruth Malhotra’s CT article — a great read!].

#3) A ministry that had the potential of correcting the trajectory of racism can become a super-spreader of the same historical failure.

John Piper is not merely the pastor of an autonomous baptist church in Minnesota. His ministry — through books, seminars, conferences, speaking engagements, blogs, posts, tweets, and his college and seminary program — has been vast and lengthy!

Piper has utterly failed to grab the opportunity to truly change the direction, tone, and biblical understanding of racism within Bible ministries across America — and beyond! He has instead been unwilling to call out the tragic and hateful errors of men like Edwards and Dabney as he well should have! In fact, he has instead embraced men like Doug Wilson — to this day!

Like has often been said — “When you read the same books, you think the same thoughts!” Many have read the book of Edwards, Dabney, and John Piper for decades!  

As Kleven states . . . . 

“Our criteria for “giant of the Christian faith” is ethically anemic; it elevates intellect, and ignores the obedience of love and justice. We elevate “heroes” based on their “theology,” and then find ourselves in a conundrum: “Now what do we do with their glaring inconsistencies?” Maybe we need to go all the way back to square one, and re-evaluate what makes a “giant,” and only hold those in esteem who are actually worthy of imitation, not just those who intellectually stimulate us through their books.”

1. https://biblioskolex.wordpress.com/2021/12/21/trusting-the-theology-of-a-slave-owner-john-piper-desiring-god-and-robert-lewis-dabney-part-6/

2. https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/december-web-only/christmas-restoration-ruth-malhotra-rzim-lori-anne-thompson.html

The #1 Reason “Fair Criticism” Fails

It is not unusual for ministry leaders and pastors to tilt the scales when it comes to criticism.  Anyone involved in ministry or leading a ministry well understands that!

Simply using the word “criticism” or “discord” is a subtle argument against whatever is being called out. The “argument” that one is “sowing discord” or upsetting the “unity of the church” is almost sufficient to discredit any critics and/or quiet any further discussion of this-or-that decision or action.

There are some biblical truths that are typically called up defensively. Indeed, those truths are important in the church’s operation and our lives as believers! Unity, peace, gossip, slander, backbiting, the use of the tongue, and other such concepts are biblical concerns. Who hasn’t heard a message on any one of these areas and not felt guilty at times.

Nevertheless, such biblical concepts can be hijacked and used to defend and insulate ministry leaders and pastors from legitimate criticism. Yes — there is legitimate criticism! That is where the difficulty arises. What is legitimate criticism? How far from the “center of an action and decision” does one go to address it? After talking to the central person, can one talk to other leaders or church members? Who should I talk to? Can I talk to anyone outside of leadership? What if no action is taken? Can I talk to others if nothing is done about my concerns?

Those questions, and others, maybe best examined in the light of what has taken place across the “evangelical” spectrum of wrong-doing — Ravi Z, James Mc Donald, John Piper & BBC&S, Matt Chandler, Paige Patterson, Jerry Falwell Jr., et al. How different the end result might have been were these subtle words and arguments not effectively used to silence “fair criticism.”

Yes, there is fair or legitimate criticism! 

The dynamics that operate in ministries and local churches easily and overwhelming silence all criticism, and yes, even legitimate criticism. That is why ministries and local churches ultimately find themselves in terrible situations.  That is when people finally speak up and ask . . . .

  • “Why did no one speak up about it when it was happening?”
  • “How was this allowed to get to this stage before it was addressed?”
  • “Where was the “board” when all this was taking place?”
  • “How come nobody knew about this?”

Someone probably did speak up and try to alert the leaders and/or members, but it was silenced. That problem is uniquely, intrinsically, and consistently operative with ministry and local churches. Few, if any, other institutions are able to efficiently and effectively silence criticism as ministry leaders and pastors.

Just say the word “gossip,” and that is the end of much, if not all, discussion about a policy decision, action, choice, outcome, response, et al. Ministries and local church leaders have an extraordinary ability to shut down discussion. 

Questioning decisions and actions, “calling-out” wrong-doing, asking the second-third-fourth-twentieth question, and/or engaging in a challenging discussion is already a quieting proposition. Fair criticism not only fails, but it is quickly and naturally avoided by the biblically minded. There is a great deal of “self-avoidance that is part of the dynamic which is operating.  AND — ministry leaders and pastors know that! [1]

And if “they” are not self-admonished, “they” will be reminded of that by leadership!  It is not the leadership’s decisions, actions, and/or wrong-doing that have rightfully caused the response.  The critic must be reminded of such biblical admonitions, words, or phrases.  This is the typical RVO of “DARVO.” [2]

The expression of disagreement, dissent, and/or opposition is, at best, a faint voice when it comes to ministry and local churches. That proof is easily demonstrated and well-known to ministry employees and church members.

1. That is why some ministry leaders and pastors will pursue an open ballot.  They realize that God’s people are reluctant to speak out and/or speak up publicly, even if they have previously expressed their concerns to leadership/pastors.  That is also one reason that some leaders and pastors even leave out the voting  option of “abstain” — The legitimate procedure for business meetings are — “Yea, Nay, and Abstain.”

In fact, God’s people have come to realize that an “anonymous letter” is the path of the wise.  While some ministry leaders have taught that approach by their actions and responses to disagreement, leaders and pastors have yet another weapon at their disposal — charges of being unchristian, less than above board, dishonest, or unfair. “You should have been Christian, honest, and/or fair enough to come to me and talk personally!”

2. “DARVO” – Deflect, Attack, Reverse Victim Order

3 Messages You Communicate When You Don’t Communicate

Some Starting Points:

√ “Failing to communicate” is relative. There are social understandings about how soon one should address an issue and/or respond to an individual.

√ Communication matters in ministry — in urban dictionary words, BIGly!

√ There are costs when you “fail to communicate” communicate in ministry! 

√ When you “fail to communicate” in ministry, you may think that you have not lost some social capital, but you have! Your personal social account has lost significant money, worth, or value.

√ When you “fail to communicate,” one reasonable assumption that individuals make is that you did not get the “message.” Or that you have been extremely busy and will get to it. Or today, that what was sent through an email, text, voice mail, DM, or the like, ended up floating around in the cyberworld.  

Other reasonable assumptions [1] are . . . . 

#1) That you don’t care: Another reasonable assumption that individuals make is that you have no interest in them and/or their concern.  

When people do not call you back, contact you in response to an inquiry, or reach out to you when it involves you and this-or-that area that involves you, you may well conclude that they do not care about what occupies your attention and concern.

#2) That you don’t know: Another reasonable assumption is that you know little to nothing about the question or issue being addressed. 

We are talking about “failing to communicate,” about times when seemingly someone should have communicated but does not. When that happens, the assumption may be that they did not, or do not know much about this-or-that situation. They must not know what happened. Had they known, indeed, they would have said something — called, reached out, or asked some questions.

#3) That you are defensive: When “failing to communicate,” another reasonable assumption is that you are purposefully avoiding any involvement. 

When people hunker down, hide, avoid, and even cloak their silence as “being like Jesus,” you might assume that they are personally involved in the situation and therefore are not responding.  It is a defensive and protective strategy. They feel or know that they are guilty. They hope it will all go away over time or realize that addressing the situation will reveal the truth of the matter.


Those in ministry leadership and/or pastoral positions can decry the fact that God’s people make assumptions [1], that others cannot know the actual reasons for this lack of communication — “You can’t read my heart.” Sadly, that becomes the disingenuous response that is communicated by those who “fail to communicate.”

While we can’t read hearts, our actions do show our hearts. Though imperfectly —  the reality is that over time, actions prove to be a very accurate indicator of the heart. [2]

You Do Speak Even When You Don’t Speak!

They have a dictionary name for that — non-verbal communication!

In ministry, it is usually heard very clearly and loudly!

 1. Please don’t take the position that no one has no right to assume something or anything from one’s actions. We must do that in all areas of life to socially and personally navigate. Whether the assumptions are founded, fair, legitimate, reasonable, crazy, or worse, we all operate on assumptions that come from the actions and behavior of others.

2. Anyone who is married and/or has raised children knows that reality and has also relied on it to navigate life and living.

What Would Be The Iconic Picture Of Ministry Leaders Or Pastors?

  • “Men At Lunch”
  • “Every Labor Day, it is shared across social media, in tribute to those whose perspiration and determination built this country.”
  • Eleven individuals
  • On a steel girder in New York City
  • September of 1932
  • Close to the height of the Great Depression
  • On West 49th Street
  • The 70th floor
  • At the erection of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, home of NBC studios
  • The 22nd tallest building in New York City at the time
  • “You see the picture once, you never forget it,” — Rockefeller Center archivist Christine Roussel

What Would Should Be The Iconic Picture Of Ministry Leaders Or Pastors?

My Selection (click here)

They Listen To You Speak Primarily Because

Bob Tiede [1] stated . . . .

“We are social creatures by nature and we want to feel connected to people.
Asking questions is a great way to break the ice and begin a great conversation. “

When Bob and I came to know each other, he messaged me on my birthday.  This was his message . . . .

“Happy Birthday Ted!
If you could have any 3 people, living or dead,
join you for your Birthday Party, who would they be?”

Asking questions is not only a great way to break the ice, but it is part of public speaking and preaching. People take the time and exert the energy to listen attentively because of their relationship with you.

Damage or destroy that relationship, and watch attendance and attention drop off the charts. Some may be confused as to why they carry little influence, or why the attendance of some has become spotty, or in general why church attendance has significantly dropped off. It might just be due to failed and/or damaged relationships! It’s just might be due to the realization that your relationships are far more about you than others.

Rather than talking about yourself, build relationships by “doing unto others what you would have them do unto you — take the time to show some interest in them — by listening — which is often built on asking questions about them and theirs.

Bob Tiede:

Why waste your energy thinking of things to talk about, when we’ve put together the most creative list you’ll find anywhere. Just refer back to this post the next time you are in danger of having a boring conversation. We’ve got you covered.

1. If You Had Three Wishes, What Would You Wish For?

2. What Would You Rather Throw Away: Love Or Money?

3. What’s The Most Beautiful Place You’ve Ever Seen?

4. What Was Your Fondest Memory Of High School?

5. What’s Your Favorite TV Show?

6. What’s The Strangest Thing In Your Refrigerator?

7. Would You Rather Hear The Music Of Johann Sebastian Bach Played By A Barbershop Quartet, Or A Heavy Metal Band?

8. Have You Ever Been To A Five Star Resort?

9. What Was Your Favorite Toy Growing Up?

10. What’s The Funniest Way You’ve Ever Broken The Law?

11. What’s Your Favorite Sports Team?

12. What Talent Would You Want To Possess If You Could?

13. If You Could Trade Lives With Someone, Who Would It Be?

14. If You Could Erase One Event From History, Which One Would You Erase?

15. What Was Your Favorite Toy As A Child?

16. Who Do You Most Like To Poke Fun At?

17. If You Were Suddenly Transported To Another Planet, How Would You Assess The Situation?

18. When Do You Feel The Most In Control?

19. Would You Rather Have 10 Hobbies Or One Passion?

20. What’s Your Favorite Movie?

21. If You Could Interview A Famous Person, Who Would You Choose?

22. If Your Food Is Bad At A Restaurant, Would You Say Something?

23. If You Could Only Use One Word The Rest Of Your Life, What Word Would You Choose?

24. What Are Your Dreams And Ambitions?

25. You’ve Been Given An Elephant. You Can’t Get Rid Of It. What Would You Do With It?

26. What’s The Funniest Thing You’ve Seen On The News?

27. If You Had The World’s Attention For 30 Seconds, What Would You Say?

28. If You Could Be Best Friends With A Celebrity, Who Would It Be?

29. If You Were To Play A Song You Love Right Now, What Would It Be?

30. Would You Rather Look Like A Potato, Or Feel Like A Potato?

31. What Would You Do With 10 Million Dollars?

32. How Can You Tell If Someone Has A Sense Of Humor?

33. If You Were To Name Your Own Song, What Would You Name It?

34. If You Were In A Room Filled With You And Your Doppelganger And 2 Million Dollars, What Would You Do?

35. What Is In Your Fridge Right Now?

36. What Have You Learned About Life From Kids?

37. How Would You Want To Be Remembered?

38. What Do You Hope Your Deceased Relative Would Say About You If They Saw You Now?

39. If You Could Change Your Name, What Would You Change It To?

40. What’s The Strangest Thing That You’ve Ever Fallen In Love With?

41. If You Could Have Any Super Power, Which One Would You Choose?

42. If You Were Invited To Attend Hogwarts, Which Hogwarts House Would You Choose?

43. What Were The Highlights Of Your Childhood?

44. Have You Ever Kept A Secret For More Than A Decade?

45. What’s The Most Important Thing You’ve Learned From A Celebrity?

46. Do You Care About Reviews?

47. What Would Be The Perfect Crime?

48. What’s The Stupidest Thing You’ve Ever Done?

49. Spontaneity Or Stability?

50. What’s The Funniest Movie You’ve Ever Seen?

51. When Did You Last Meet A Stranger You Thought You’d Never Meet Again?

52. Do You Save Or Spend?

53. How Much Does The Amount Of Traffic Affect Your Mood?

54. If You Had To Choose One Animal To Have As A Pet, Which Animal Would You Choose?

55. What’s Your Worst Habit?

56. Do they like to take a stand or just let things go?

57. What’s Your Favorite Song?

58. How Do You Think The World Would Be Different If Bananas Were Illegal?

59. Would You Rather Be Able To Control Time, Or Be Able To Know What Other People Are Thinking?

60. Is It Difficult To Do What You Do?

61. Who Is Your Favorite Celebrity?

62. If You Found $2,000 On The Ground, What Would You Do With It?

63. What’s Your Favorite Pizza Topping?

64. What Would You Do If You Could Possess The Abilities Of Your Dog?

65. What’s The Smartest Thing You’ve Ever Done?

We are social creatures by nature and we want to feel connected to people. Asking questions is a great way to break the ice and begin a great conversation. We hope you find our questions useful in sparking a dialog!

Copyright © 2021 Leading With Questions, by Bob Tiede — All rights reserved.

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** Website (http://leadingwithquestions.com/)

Two Suspected Reasons That Leaders Failed To Adapt To The 2020 Change

Two Reasons That Some Leaders Now Face
“The Great Exodus”

As leaders think about what has happened over the past two years, I would suggest that there were factors that resisted making the changes needed and that addressed the new problems that ministries and local churches were then facing.

#1) Experiential Self-confidence: There was a lack of OPENNESS to change because of past “success.”  Most leaders and pastors become increasingly confident when time and experience have proven them successful.  Why should it be any different now?  “Been here! Done it!”

Past navigational success can disregard the different features that a storm carries with it.  I might suggest that “pastoral meteorologists” are not as effective in forecasting as they might like to believe.

Even if one has been able to successfully forecast & navigate many other storms, we all realize that the  “2020 Storm” was totally different from every other storm any pastor has experienced!  This storm was unique, and many pastors have woefully failed at addressing the demands it brought with it.

Those failures could have been mitigated with “openness” — an openness to hear why this storm is different, an openness to new ideas, and an openness to correcting course as the storm changed its course and intensity.

The second reason contributed to that false confidence.

. . . . 

#2) Anticipated Energy Demands:  When a storm is approaching, the energy companies prepare for the coming emergency.  Keeping the grid up and working is critical to dealing with a storm, as well as its aftermath.

Some ministry leaders and pastors thought about the work that it would take to address the demands that came with this storm, and excused and/or refused to go down that road.  The work it would take to keep things going through the storm overruled the actions and creative thought necessary.

Some already believed that they are overworked and that God’s people do not understand how difficult it is to be in ministry (Sadly, they are misled and ill-informed!).

The result……stay the course, and  . . . .

* delegate the work to others, less qualified and/or effective
* project an unrealistic aftermath
* accept dealing with the aftermath
* expect God’s people to understand and/or accept the excuses
* include calls for sympathy during the sermon

Thoughts of having to work harder, longer, or the demand of new different efforts were too often dismissed —  “We will see how it all falls out after the storm and try to get back to normality when it all passes!”

. . . . 

Two biblical words capture the essence of these two suspected causes…..


. . . . .

Don’t think for a moment
that ministry leaders and pastors
are exempt from those two words . . .
and today.

. . . . 

1. I say”today” because I see a new mindset guiding ministry decisions — selfishness.  There are some obvious “self-serving decisions being made by ministry leaders.  It is not about what is best for the ministry, but what is most desired and wanted by the ministry leaders.  I say “obvious” because while they are not obvious or seen by the self-serving, they are seen for what they are by those in the pews.

For example  . . . . There was a time [and with many older ministry leaders there still is] when religious holidays were important days in the life of the church.  Christmas, Easter, Mother’s- Father’s Day (which were by design always on a Sunday), and Thanksgiving were important days.  These were days during which there were unique opportunities to minister, especially to those who were on the periphery or outside of regular church life.  The ministry leaders and pastors were “accounted for and present” on those special days! *

Not today in many a church. Today it is not about sacrificially serving others or what is best for the church and ministry.  Rather, it is about serving self!  “Sacrificial Love” are just words for the pulpit or a ministry slogan!

Some need not complain about the lack of commitment by the sheep,
when the shepherd taught them well!

. . . . 

*Note: At a point in ministry, our church instituted three extra “3-day weekend vacation times” beyond the allotted pastoral vacation weeks of compensation.  It was rightfully assumed and expected that the pastors would be present during the various actual holiday days. That provision was designed to allow the pastors the delayed freedom to spend extended time with their families since they were typically present, preaching, and ministering during those special religious days.

In fact — some of their pastoral ministry during those special days even included having others over to their home and into their life — sacrificially loving others.

In fact — Many a Thanksgiving day began with serving a Thanksgiving meal to the homeless, with the work of the pastors and a great host of the church members-friends who also delayed their Thanksgiving meal to make that happen!

But that is now “old school” — making decisions in the best interest of God’s church and exemplifying sacrificially loving others to God’s people!

What Are You Talking About!

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Thanks To Every One Of You!

. . . . —. —. —. —

“What Are You Talking About?  

Have you ever thought those words when listening to a speaker publicly make a statement about something they apparently don’t see as true in their own lives or ministry situations?

  • “The church is not about trying to attract people by using the world’s means and methods.” — While the musical elements of the services are precisely just such an attempt.
  • “Part of our testimony at ‘the office’ should be reflected by our work ethic.” — While “working hard” is hardly what characterizes the pastoral staff.
  • “We are not here to entertain an audience, but to worship the Lord.” — While entertainment and applause are clearly part and parcel of the worship services.
  • “The children are the future of the church.” — While there is little attention to or investment in the programs involving children.
  • “With many ministries, the teenagers are leaving the church after they graduate from high school.” — While the youth pastor is allowed to do a mediocre-to-poor-to-terrible job (Some, merely waiting for an opportunity to be a lead pastor).
  • “We need to be sharing the Gospel!” — While there are few to no examples of that by the leadership and pastors.
  • “Humility of mind and a willingness to die to self are what marks a true believer.” — While their own actions and words have been anything but an example of humility and selflessness.
  • “We are brothers and sisters in Christ. God’s church is a family!” — While there is little concern whether people stay or leave.

The disconnect is all too real in ministries and local churches.

Then, leaders and pastors lament the lack of attendance and involvement by God’s people, and do not grasp how contradictory, if not insincere, it all comes across.

Then, they challenge and chide God’s people to invite others to church with little understanding of how confusing, if not hypocritical, they sound to those in the pew.

They preach as if they are in compliance with the standard they espouse, while not realizing how disingenuous they sound to those who know otherwise.

No — I’m sorry, but there are reasons that the local church has fallen on hard days. One of those reasons is a woeful lack of self-awareness — a lack of clarity and honesty about what is said versus what is actually and personally done! [1]

Richard Baxter, addressing the colleagues in his day, says . . . 
“It is a sad thing so many
of us preach our hearers to sleep, but it is sadder still if we have studied and preached
ourselves to sleep and have talked so long against hardness of heart till our own hearts
grow hardened over the noise of our own reproofs.”

. . . . 

1. Yes, every one of us is guilty of not seeing ourselves as clearly and honestly as we should.  We all think that we are better husbands/wives, parents/children, friends, Christians, and workers than we are in fact.  However, all do not stand behind the pulpit or teach the Scriptures — James 3:1