March 26, 2017

General Joyce Conquers The World! (Impressions from my bookstore visit.)

Joyce.jpgUPDATE: Tim Challies has just posted an amazing bit on the inner-workings of church marketing. If there are doubters out there about how we are perceived by the Publishing interests, this will sober you up. Required reading.

Some of my long time readers may remember that in a long-forgotten fit of exuberance, I swore off visiting Christian bookstores. I’ll have to confess that I’ve mostly kept that vow, but I’ve strayed enough to keep the economy stimulated. I don’t want those Lifeway employees to be laid off on account of me.

Actually, I live 2 hours from the nearest “real” Christian bookstore, (not counting local operations that I avoid completely) so it doesn’t take a great effort on my part to abstain. I spend my book money at Amazon. My employer lets me spend a little money at Lifeway, so I stopped in today, while I was in Lexington to see my daughter, and took a quick look around. I came out with some music. No books or other trinkets. I thought I would pen a few impressions for those of you who don’t get out much.

One cannot say it enough: The book selection in the average Lifeway is horrendous. (Seminary stores accepted.) There is a large section called “Christian Living,” and 98% of the books found there never needed to be written. The packaging is very nice. The titles are cute. But after that, things get desperately discouraging. Politics. Family Values. Sentimental devotionalism. Nonsense. Bad advice. Mumbling. Many books that seem to have no purpose for their existence. I mean, books that retread the same messages that evangelicals have been writing for a century. Spurgeon at his worst was miles beyond what you find here. Of course, it’s all packaged very nicely, with catchy titles designed to grab the shopper with the idea that something significant lurks between the pages.

What I strongly suspect is that the evangelical book-buyer isn’t really viewed as a reader so much as a labratory chimp whose behavior can be safely predicted when put in the presence of certain words, colors, sounds and sentences.

There is, btw, a “Theology” section in most Lifeways. In some stores it is modest, in others, nearly invisible. I suspect very few stores have anyone on staff with an idea what kinds of books should be found on such a shelf. In one Lifeway I visit in a community of 55,000, one finds less than 30 books in the section, with the majority of those referring to issues of recent interest to Southern Baptist conservative pastors. Of course, there are many Bibles and Bible reference materials in most Lifeways, but almost no theology. Bibles and Christian Living, but a shrinking interest in theology. You can draw your own conclusions. I think it tells a story.

I continue to be amazed at how Christian publishers are getting multiple works out of their best-selling writers. How many Jabez books do we need? Beth Moore’s output of material- and accompanying products- is astonishing. I’m grateful for Beth Moore’s ministry, but I am uncomfortable with the implications of this trend on the ministry of pastoral teaching in local churches. If our pastors aren’t teaching their people, who gave the Christian publishers and parachurch ministries the green light to fill the gap? Thousands of Baptist churches have “Women’s Bible Studies” going that would never be in existence if the pastor were the leader. What’s up with that? I am all for good curriculum, but I don’t want N.T. Wright, John Piper or anyone else replacing the teaching ministry of local church pastors and elders, especially at the instigation of Christian publishers who want to sell products. The issue of accountability is seriously compromised with the proliferation of replacement Bible teachers packaged and sold by Lifeway.

Before we leave Lifeway, I have to tell about an incident I observed. I was standing near the check-out, looking through my wallet for my account number. A man came to the check-out with his material. As the Lifeway employee was checking him out, she said the following: “Do you read John Eldredge? He has a new book for wives……etc.” She plugged an Eldredge book as this guy was checking out. A scripted plug.

OK. I know enough about retail to know what’s going on here. Management has the employees plugging this book. Lifeway is pushing the book, just like the girl at the drive-through asks you if you want the Biggee Fries. It’s coming down from Nashville. (The girl didn’t plug the book with me. I suppose I don’t appear “Wild At Heart.” I’m a little more Dilbert-esque.)

I’m a capitalist, and Lifeway can sell whatever they want however they want to sell it. I’ll just say this: Someone needs to wake-up and realize that Lifeway is pushing the teachers and the teaching that suit their purposes of making money FIRST, and not the purposes of your local church, its people or its leaders. This is what Christian publishers do. Yes, they are great people who want to help churches and Christians, etc., yada, etc. Just remember why that book was being pushed, and all kinds of great books will never be endorsed or even displayed at those stores. They are telling you that you need to read Eldredge. They are telling YOU and your church, “These are the teachers you need to be listening to.” It’s distressing.

Actually, since there was nothing there, my time in Lifeway was short. I traveled over to the local Barnes and Noble, where I’ve found a couple of things to be true. First, the religion section is a lot more impressive and eclectic than any Christian bookstore I’ve visited. Lots of books that would never be in a Lifeway. Catholic authors. Liberals. Academics. Second, B&N gets the new books almost immediately, which is very unusual here in Kentucky and really draws me in. For instance, some books that aren’t available till the spring were in B&N today.

So I am scouring the Christianity section and I make an observation. Here in front of me is a shelf with books by Thomas Merton and Brannon Manning. One shelf. And below these two is a shelf and a half of books by General Joyce Meyer. (For all you need to know about General Joyce, go googling. But start here at Trinity Foundation. Go down the page to the articles from the St. Louis paper on Meyer’s empire. Don’t write and tell me I am slandering her. Write the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.)

I started to look around. Joyce Meyer’s books were everywhere in Barnes and Noble. Two shelves. Two tables. Displays. New books at the front. Even at the check out, looking at me from a display behind the desk. This is weird. Rick Warren has convinced these bookstores that there is money to be made, and General Joyce is cranking out all kinds of titles that look great in B&N. So we’ve gone from a generic evangelical Baptist to an intimidating female word-faith life coach who flashes the bling-bling at every opportunity, and she’s looking at me from every aisle like she wants to hit me.

This is creepy. While Meyer is theologically light years ahead of Joel Osteen, she’s also a classic televangelist multi-mazillionaire scamming tons of people while she purports to be using the money responsibly. (Read the articles. Don’t bark at me.) And she’s taken over Barnes and Noble. I kept looking for her jet in the parking lot.

Now that Rick Warren has revealed the buckets of money to be made, the larger publishing industry will be pushing the Osteens and the Meyers to the top of the pile. Why? They know how to play the game. The titles. The packaging. The rehashed content. The multiple tie-ins to some big event at a stadium. General Joyce has the added bonus of being a cross between Dr. Laura and Lou Gossett, Jr in An Officer And A Gentleman. She’s the pastor most Southern Baptists wish they had, even though their version of God won’t allow her in the ministry.

With so few pastors helping their people sort through this mess, and with Christian television pumping Joyce Meyer into our homes 24/7, it’s no wonder she’s a hit with the “practical Bible teaching” crowd. That success will translate into books, and as fast as she can crank them out, title them and smile for the cover photo, they will be at a Wal-Mart near you. If you love God and your kids, you’ll buy them all.

I’m safely back home now. General Joyce couldn’t stop my escape. But I have my feeling she’s on the march, and no where will be safe. I’m pretty sure some of the women in my church are her admirers. I know she has a following on the OBI staff.

What can I do? Well, I’m thinking of seeing how I look in high heels and a dress. Two can play at this game.

Comments

  1. Requirements for Ministry: Can a Woman be a Minister? By Dianne D. McDonnell Can a woman be a minister of Jesus Christ? There is a lot of background information that is helpful for us as we examine this important issue. • In his paper, Women in Leadership John H. Currier explains JesusÂ’ attitude toward women and points out specific women in leadership roles in the early church. • A Church Without Women, explains the mistranslation and misunderstanding of the two scriptural passages commonly sited for denying women a public teaching role. • A Church With Women documents female ministers in the New Testament era while acknowledging a husbandÂ’s leadership role within the family. • Gary L. McDonnellÂ’s paper, A Church With Love deals with the scriptures about love and shows how this applies to the issue of womenÂ’s role in the church. • All of these papers and more can be obtained from the Web Site of The Church of God, Dallas-Fort Worth at ChurchofGodDFW.com or write to P.O. Box 152544, Arlington, TX 76015. These papers reveal many Biblical references to women leaders and ministers, but are there any historical references to back up the Biblical record? History Documents Early Female Ministers “Two women ministers at Bithynia-Pontus in Asia Minor were tortured during Emperor TrajanÂ’s reign (AD 98-117) as the leaders and most knowledgeable persons in their congregation. After Pliny describes a report of an apparently innocuous service he decides, ‘it was all the more necessary to extract the truth by torture from the slavewomen, whom they called ministers’” (The Letters of Pliny, Bk.X.96). As quoted by Aida Besancon Spencer, Beyond The Curse, page 115. Two things jump out at us as we read this, first is the utter contempt in PlinyÂ’s words, “the slave women, whom they called ministers.” To him they were the lowest form of life—slaves—and females at that! Yet the early church called them ministers! Second, these two brave women who died for the faith illustrate that the early church believed “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Gal. 3:28. It was not some hollow tenet that would take place in the resurrection. They were female and they were ministers and they died for Jesus Christ! The Scriptural Requirements for Ministry Even if there are female ministers mentioned in history, there remains one very critical issue. DonÂ’t the scriptural requirements for ministry specify men as ministers? We must base all our beliefs on the Bible and always be able to prove with scriptures what we believe. However, we are faced with the problem of translators that assumed an all male ministry because of their past influences. So we will study what Paul and others originally wrote concerning qualifications for ministry, but in a way that non-Greek experts like ourselves can understand. Today we are fortunate to have incredible research tools at our disposal to check out the meaning of the original Greek words. Using powerful computer programs we can see how each word was translated in the rest of the Bible, compare each translation, and see what modern Greek scholars say about each word. Today with computers as our tools we can delve deeper, more accurately, and faster, than any other generation in history! What an exciting time to be in! What a fantastic time for us to be searching for truth, zealously prayerfully, always being ready to change if we can prove it by the Holy Scriptures. 2 Timothy 2:2 “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men (anthroopois), who shall be able to teach others also.” Should be: “And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful ones, who will be able to teach others also.” The word translated “men” is anthroopois , plural of the word anthropos, StrongÂ’s 444 “a human being, whether male or female, generically, to include all human individuals.” ThayerÂ’s Definitions. Paul does not use the Greek word for man “aner” 435, which is totally masculine, but instead he leaves this teaching open to both men and women. Faithful ones, men and women are to be taught and eventually are to teach others. Another common proof text for an all-male ministry is: 1 Timothy 3:1-2 “This is a true saying, If a man (ei tis) desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;” ei tis (i tis); if any StrongÂ’s Greek-Hebrew Dictionary, StrongÂ’s 1536. ei tis- whoever, whatever, ThayerÂ’s Definitions 1536. The original does not say “man” at all but instructs, “If any desire the office of a bishop, (he/she) desires a good work….” Paul knew the Greek language. He would not have used a word that can mean either man or woman if he had intended to limit overseers to males only! If Paul had intended a male ministry he would have used the all male word, “aner” 435 in this text. Paul did not just slip up in this scripture. In all his admonitions concerning the ministry he uses words that include both sexes! Yet translators were bound by their own traditional ideas and translated with male words not found in the original! Just as their hatred of the Sabbath caused the translation of “sabbatismos” 4520, in Hebrews 4:9 to become “rest” instead of the correct translation, “Sabbath rest.” In both cases they knew better. The word “he” is not in the original text above, it is inferred from the verb used in the third person, he/she/it. (I is first person, you is second person, and he/she/it is third person.) This verb form can include both male and female. The original Greek is not limited to the male gender. The translators added maleness to this scripture also. 1 Timothy 3:5 “For if a man (tis) know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” tis “an enclitic indefinite pronoun; some or any person or object:” StrongÂ’s 5100 It should be, “For if anyone know not how to rule…” Also, “his” and “he” were not in the original text, but indicate third person (he/she/it). 1 Timothy 3:11 “Even so {must their}(not in the original) wives (gunaikas 1135 Women) be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.” Earlier in this entire passage Paul has not specified maleness but has used words that can address both sexes. Now he addresses women specifically, giving requirements for women to be church leaders! As we are talking about church leadership rather than marriage, the New American Standard translation below for this scripture is more accurate. The confusion was created by the word gunaikas, which does not differentiate between women or wives. We notice that PaulÂ’s requirements for women leaders echo male requirements for ministry: Grave/grave, not slanderers/not double tongued, sober/not given to much wine, faithful in all things/not greedy of filthy lucre. New Amer Standard Update, the NAS, RSV, ASV all translate “women” not “wives”: 1 Timothy 3:11 “Women in like manner {must be}grave, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things.” American Standard Version The use of “tis” or “any” earlier shows Paul was addressing both male and female church leaders. Gunaikas is a plural form of gune, 1135, 1) a woman of any age, whether a virgin, or married, or a widow 2) a wife; ThayerÂ’s Definitions. The entire passage in the original Greek is totally without gender bias or prejudice just as Paul teaches in Galatians 3:28. Women were bishops and overseers in the New Testament church. Male requirements were added by translators and believed by us because we did not have access to the original Greek or any way of decoding the original Greek. Now computer programs make this readily possible and the bias of the translators is clearly revealed. An apostate church imposed an all-male ministry and Protestants have also accepted this tradition. It was not present in the Church Jesus Christ founded. I Tim.3:11 is referring to women ministers. “Women in like manner” were to have the same qualifications as men, and were to be “faithful in all things,” just as the “faithful ones” of 2 Timothy 2:2. Spiritual Gifts 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 And there are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another {various} kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. (New American Standard) 1 Corinthians 12:27-28 “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, {various} kinds of tongues.” (NAS) All of the members of the body of Christ, His Church, receive a spiritual gift. Then all members, male and female, must work together using their various gifts to make up a local church. Each must have an attitude of service towards others, and an attitude of love. It seems that some have assumed that women were not given spiritual gifts for they have not allowed women any way to use a spiritual gift such as the gift of healing, teacher of the congregation, or what we might call “minister” today. We must not prevent women from using the spiritual gifts God has given them. All members, both male and female should be encouraged to use their spiritual gifts. Then we would not have over-worked ministers, for each member would be serving through the gift God has given. Our fair and loving God has given women gifts as He sees fit. God will judge men who forbid women from obeying Him! No one will be guiltless before GodÂ’s throne if he or she condones prejudice and mistreatment of women who seek only to serve God as He leads them. We cannot judge the calling of another person! They stand or fall before Jesus Christ, not us! All scriptures relating to spiritual gifts and ministry were written without gender bias, they were written for both men and women.

  2. You people are so bright and fun. I agree that the christian market is completely out of control. How come no one mentions “Women of Faith”. There is no bigger money making, movie stars on the planet. Big introductions, plugging product and charging you to listen to it all.

    The christian book market is hurting. Many have closed due to Walmart and other retailers. It’s a dying industry mostly do to their own fault of catering to the masses instead of focusing on the work of the Lord.

  3. why do you call her ‘general’?