I am presently at the Annual Conference for the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference in Buffalo, New York. It’s the denomination that Woodbury Community Church, the church that I’m privileged to serve as a senior pastor, is a part of. Many people simply know this denomination as the 4C’s. I’ve got to tell you, I’m impressed. What a joy to be a part of a denomination that so boldly declares the inspiration and inerrant Word of God.
Yesterday, as part of our business session, I listened as a number of pastors shared why their churches had left their previous denomination to join the 4C’s. I don’t remember a time in my life where I remember holding back tears concerning denominational affiliation. These men talked about joining the 4C’s because their prior denominations either refused to recognize the authority of Scripture or because of an embrace of the homosexual platform. These were churches that loved homosexual people but could not condone a homosexual lifestyle, in denominations that had long given up loving the homosexual enough to call them to a holy lifestyle. What a joy it was to watch their faces as they described the love and the acceptance that they had found in the 4C’s. You can learn more about the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference HERE.
Youthworker Journal has a review of my book What’s The Deal With. . . in their latest issue. You can read it online HERE.
I was ordained as a pastor in the Evangelical Free Church of America in November of 2001. At the time of my ordination I had just left the EFCA church that I served as a youth pastor at for 5 1/2 years and began ministry in a church of a different denomination. I’ve kept my credentials with the EFCA. This past week the EFCA held their national conference. They did something that few denominations have had the courage to do. They revised their doctrinal statement. What was the major issue that the EFCA was hoping to address? Was this in response to liberalism creeping in the denomination? Was it due to gay clergy? Was it due to an embrace of open theism? No. The document, which had been first published in 1950 needed to be touched up. The denomination needed to take a look at contemporary issues in theology and reaffirm their doctrine for a new generation. I’ve phrased it poorly. This article does a great job truncating the issues. Check it out HERE.
I’m doing some research today for my Sunday sermon. One of the stories that I’ll tell in Sunday’s sermon is about Billy Graham’s encounter with gangster Mickey Cohen. Cohen was the most notorious gangster in Los Angeles in the 1940s. He eventually went to prison. Upon exiting prison in 1955 some extraordinary events took place in his life. Cohen was befriended by Bill Jones, a fomer criminal himself. Jones had come to Christ, and he told Cohen about Cohen’s need for Jesus. Cohen prayed to receive Christ. He would eventually fly to New York to go to a Billy Graham crusade. While there, the gangster became uncomfortable as Graham talked about what it means to truly follow Jesus as Lord. Cohen was not willing to live a life of surrender. He did want to get his picture taken with the famous evangelist, Billy Graham. So, he stuck around for the entire message, and after the crusade had his picture taken with Billy. As soon as he flew back to Los Angeles he quit hanging out with the two Christian men (Bill Jones and Jim Vaus, a former gangster that had worked for Cohen) that convinced him to go to the Graham crusade in the first place. When Bill Jones confronted Cohen about his renewed contact with the mob, Cohen said, “You never told me that I had to give up my career. You never told me that I had to give up my friends. There are Christian movie stars, Christian athletes, Christian businessmen. So what’s the matter with being a Christian gangster? If I have to give up all that – if that’s Christianity – count me out.”
I think there are a lot of people like Cohen in this world today. We’re probably all guilty of it to some extent. We want all of the benefits of being a Christian, but don’t want to pay the cost.
So, I was doing this research today when I ran across these two videos from youtube of Billy Graham being interviewed by Woody Allen years ago. These are fantastic! And, they illustrate just how difficult it is for some people to give up control of their own life and yield that control to God. Interesting that years later Woody Allen’s arrogance would destroy his own family as he ran off with his own adopted daughter. I’m praying that some day Woody will come to faith. There really is truth in what Graham says in this interviews. (The interview is in two parts. It won’t take more than 12 minutes to watch the entire thing.)
My next book, entitled When I. . ., is now available for preorder from Zondervan or Amazon. You can order it HERE or HERE . I’m really excited about this one. It’s a finish-the-sentence book that will keep teenagers and adults talking for hours. The book will be available in Christian bookstores everywhere in January of 2009.