August 19, 2017

Three Days Among the Mainlines

ginnyellisportraitfulllength.jpgUnless you’ve been brought up in the insular confines of fundamentalism, it’s going to be hard to understand what it’s been like for me spending three days with “the other kind” of Christians this week. “The other kind” in this instance are mainline protestants, almost entirely Presbyterian Church USA, ELCA Lutherans, ECUSA Episcopalians and a few United Church of Christ. Out of about 70 ministers, mine was the only Baptist name tag I saw. There was a United Methodist, a Vineyard pastor, a Plymouth Brethren, an AME and a few others I don’t recall, but most of the ministers that surrounded me were what the conservative evangelicals I know call “liberals.”

I’ve been to a lot of meetings of Southern Baptists and various other kinds of conservative evangelicals. The last couple of decades I’ve spent considerable time with Calvinists of various persuasions. I’ve logged many hours in those circles and very few among “the other kind” of Christians. Even though I’ve done a lot of supply preaching among Presbyterians here in Appalachia, that’s been a tiny slice of my experience of Christian fellowship compared to my days surrounded by Southern Baptists and various other kinds of well-to-the-right-of-center Christians.

My crowd is made up of creationists, hardcore Republican culture warriors, pro-lifers, complementarians, Biblical literalists, polemicists, internet theologians, evangelists, Charismatics and people who enjoy TBN and K-Love. What you should have noticed down through the years on this web site is that even though I’m not “one of them,” they are the crowd I live with, work with and understand. Whenever mainliners come up. it’s usually when someone has heard something in the news about gay marriage/ordination or someone wants to denigrate a church as dead or apostate.

Mainline Christians? I’ve always known they were out there, but I was warned to avoid those “liberals.” I graduated from a United Methodist college. I attended seminary when my school was still left of center. I’ve been a supply in PCUSA churches for many years. I read mainliners like Will Willimon and Robert Capon. When I get the chance, I enjoy a good liturgy at an ECUSA church.

But these past three days were some of my closest times actually meeting and talking with my mainline brothers and sisters. Maybe it’s where I am on my own pilgrimage right now or maybe it’s the fact that I’m the recipient of real generosity from mainline friends, but I was more open to the mainline ethos than I’ve ever been before and I thoroughly enjoyed my experience. It was a wonderful time in the fellowship of those whose lives are seeking to know and serve God through Jesus.

Just to scare the fundamentalists keeping an eye on me, let me give a bit of a report.

A third–at least–of the ministers and pastors present were women. That’s ordained women, pastoring churches. From what I could see, they were doing great jobs in tough places. They were intense, devoted, strongly called and gifted, and deeply committed to their ministries.

They were also comfortable and confident. I’ve always been told that women in ministry had attitude and “issues.” I missed that. These were….normal people. Young mothers. Experienced older pastors. Campus ministers. They were eloquent, intelligent and busy doing the work of pastors. They were comfortable with what God had called them to do. They were prepared, experienced and positive. One young ECUSA pastor was a mother of four and had just been given pastoral oversight of 15 other pastors in her large diocese. Another woman was the minister of pastoral care at a large church in Kentucky. Many of these women were pastoring the kinds of little churches men leave quickly. They seem to have stayed. Hmmmm.

Not even once did we pause to discuss “women in ministry.” That issue was a done deal, and even when it became known that a Southern Baptist was in the room, no one stopped to start “the discussion.” We were pastors and ministers. We were there to listen to Eugene Peterson, to get to know one another and to be better shepherds.

No one seemed to know or care what Mark Driscoll or the SBC thought. We just talked about our churches, our dreams and our journeys so far. I treated them with dignity and respect and they did the same to me.

I liked that experience of fellowship a lot. Can I get away with saying that turning the “ministry” into a boys’ club–no matter what you believe about ordination–produces an atmosphere that I don’t really like? I don’t think I’m alone in that, and I assure you I’m not a mama’s boy. I’m just suspecting a lot of the grunting and chest hair in recent discussions of the “ministry” isn’t really necessary. God calls and gifts women. Even if you don’t ordain them, you believe that.

I also noticed that there was far more mature reflection on the experience and identity of the pastor in this group than in the other gatherings of ministers I’ve been a part of. Instead of being a driven kind of atmosphere, there was generosity, encouragement and thoughtful insight. I was really surprised that out of the whole group, over three days of discussion, I never spotted an ass……..well….a jerk. Or whatever term works. Not even one. In a room full of ministers listening to one another for three days, that seemed almost eerie to me. I’m used to gatherings of ministers being overt competitions of alpha males bragging, jousting for attention, bullying one another, playing games. My experience this week was absent all of that, and it had something to do with the fact that the role and person of the minister was taken more seriously than in my other experiences.

There was also an obvious gentleness in the leadership. No one seemed to have the need to vent their spleen and call it “leadership” or preaching. In the times of preaching, egos were set aside. Lots of scripture read, simple liturgies followed by 25-minute homilies. Where was the 1 hour 15 minute exposition telling us all what to do? Where was the parading of “names” to imitate? Not there…and I liked it.

There was a generosity toward other traditions that amazes me. All of these denominations together and I never heard ONE denominational or doctrinal discussion of any kind. Not one. Not even close. This was not the world I know, a world where anxieties about doctrine and theology seem to be, frankly, driving more than a few people to the point of distraction, illusion and obsession.

Yes, to be honest, there were some liberal stereotypes. Fever for Obama was high. If I had said I voted for Bush twice I would have quieted the crowd and guaranteed that seats next to me at meals would be open. Dinner was preceded by an open bar…..and it was roundly enjoyed by all. Definitely not something you see at the SBC Annual Meeting. And there were probably some gays and lesbians present. No one brought it up and it wasn’t my business. No one decided we needed to talk about it. Good.

One thing for sure. I was among people who knew and loved God and his Son; people who loved, read and preached the Bible in large doses; people who take the Gospel seriously; people very much desirous of the power of the Holy Spirit and genuine prayer. Certainly, they were people for whom the word ecumenical meant something important.

I learned to love these brothers and sisters. I’m sure we would disagree on some things–perhaps many things–but I was encouraged by their faith and confirmed in my call by their joy in theirs. We all faced many of the same issues, from empty nests to angry board members to family and financial stress. When we prayed and worshiped, we were one in Christ, and I enjoyed the feeling.

These are our brothers and sisters. We have a lot to say to one another, much to share and very much to offer one another. We can learn from each other and love one another. But will we? Will we?

In fact, I’m missing those good people and the fellowship of Jesus I felt with them. Maybe someday I’ll find it again. It was a good, healthy, positive experience of the Spirit.

Comments

  1. Some in the mainline leadership put a much heavier emphasis on social justice than some evangelicals. But then, how do you explain Falwell, Dobson, Mohler, etc.? Martin Luther King has many fans in both camps.’

    But the average mainline pastor and congregation are not raging social activists, in my view, they have a very healthy balance of Gospel proclamation and resulting action in the community. When you look at who funds and houses the homeless shelter, the soup kitchen and the local pantry, the mainlines have been long way out in front of denominations like the SBC, who are relative Johnny Come Latelies. (The SBC does great work in this area now, but it has come relatively recently. In the large fundamentalist church I grew up in, we did zero social ministry beyond Christmas baskets.)

    I think we should be cautious in letting denominational/academic rhetoric portray a whole church as “liberal.” I don’t use the word inerrancy, and I’m only liberal in contrast to people like reformed Baptists. I’m egalitarian, but it’s out of scriptural conviction.

    The cross is where it ought to be in the minds and hearts of many mainline people and pastors. The cross is replaced by the culture war in the minds of many evangelicals.

  2. It is a shame that there seems to be so few churches that remain in the “center”.

    Whenever we disuss the state of the church in America we inevitably go the “left”, or the vast majority of mainline denominations, or we go the “right”, or the fundamentalist evangelicals including the non-denominational denomonations.

    There are some (not a whole lot, granted))churches that remain in the “center”.

    I am very blessed to have found a church like this. We officially are a member of the ELCA, but we don’t have very much to do with them anymore since the lefties have taken over and have pretty much hijacked the gospel, in favor of the law.

    We remain for legal reasons and also in the hope that God will foment a reformation movement within that body of churches (although for the moment that appears to be dead in the water).

    The “center” has not given in to the literalist interpretation of scripture, nor traded the objective quality of the Word, for the subjective. The “center” refuses to get involved with so-called church growth movements which cave in to the culture at every turn and make the church into a circus of spiritual trapeze artists.

    And the other hand, the “center” refuses to go along with the so-called enlightend and informed crowd that dominates the “left”. The group of sixties-style liberals that pretty much runs the show in the mainline churches.

    Their notion that the Bible is an ancient book with antiquated ideas that were maybe relevant way back then, along with the idea that this world is the one that needs pefecting because in the end,(for rational, enlightened, post post moderns)this is all there really is, is just another way of telling God who is really in charge.It’s just another form of idolatry while playing church and running around all dressed up like Astor’s pet horse. There is virtually no doctrine of sin, and basically..anything goes as far as your personal life. So what you end up with is Social gospel. Another law project that boils everything down to what you ought be doing for the world, the environment, or..whatever.

    So, the “center”, those churches which remain focused on Christ’s work on our behalf, which still hold that the Bible’s message is inerrant, while admitting the text can and does contain errors, seems to be the only place remaining where Jesus doesn’t take a backseat to the project that is the self.

    One can talk about, pray about, and sing about Jesus all day long…but which Jesus are you talking about?

    Everyone puts a different suit of clothes on Jesus and remakes Him into their own image, or the image of Moses.

    When you find the “center”, Jesus takes His rightful place in the center. His work, for us, not our work for Him. His death on the cross, our death in baptism and in the hearing of God’s law.
    His being raised and His raising of us…daily, to new life.

    Freedom (Galatians 5:1). The freedom won for us by Christ, and the freedom to be what God made us to be..creatures in His service and service to others, not goaded by the law, but acting out of faith and the inspiration of the Spirit.

    That, I believe, is the “center”.

    I believe if churches were to turn around and head in that direction, just a little bit, it would be a breath of fresh air on the American church landscape.

    Respectfully,

    – Steve

    PS- I hope you’ll realize that I must speak of these chruces in generalities (otherwise we couldn’t speak of anything of importance)

  3. I think you’re misunderstanding something there, Michael. John Shelby Spong’s audience is, certainly, partly made up of atheists and skeptics, some of whom listen with unseemly glee as he deconstructs orthodox religion; but it’s also made up of religious people who simply think that the fundamentalist understanding of the Bible is wrong. Not church-haters, just honest people looking for answers that neither mainline nor fundamantalist Christian denominations provide for them. I understand why you disagree with them, but dismiss them all as people who hate the church is unjust: they’re still looking for it.

  4. Looking for the “church” under the guidance of a bishop who blatantly denies the resurrection is looking for something else entirely.

  5. Could someone please post a “Parchment and Pen”-style Ven diagram with the denominations so that I can know if I’m saved or not. Thanks for the assurance…errr assistance.

  6. Brother Grub,

    Of course you are saved. Relax, and enjoy that salvation that has been won for you.

    I think all the hubbub is about focus, sanctification,..and what you mentioned, “assurance”.

    Christ wants you to have the assurance of your salvation.

    When churches start in with the religious project, that often (with the best of intentions) help you to lose that assurance. Or, when they lose the doctrine of sin, you lose sight of the fact that you even are in need of salvation.

    I think that’s what got St. Paul so fired up at the Galatians. They started to get ‘religious’, and to forget about faith in what Christ has done for them.

    God is at work in all these churches. But, the focus still is important. St. Paul makes that quite clear in all of his letters to the Church.

    If St. Paul were alive today, many would tell him to calm down, and to let people do their own thing (all roads lead to Rome, kind of malarkey – by the way all roads don’t lead to Rome, some lead to Cleveland).

    The gospel can be lost, or smothered by the church, if we don’t recognize and correct these things. That’s also what got Luther and the other Reformers so fired up.

    Anyway, that’s what I believe all the fuss is about.

    – Steve

  7. Ron, I like your characterization that the left often follow Jesus the social reformer, and that the right often follow Jesus the life coach. What’s telling about both paths (or a combination of both) is that neither is inherently Christian.

    Re the social reformer, we creatures were created for each other, in that it is written on our hearts to think that it is “correct” to help out our neighbor. As such, there are plenty of atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, etc. (along with Christians) that are respectable creatures in terms of charity, feeding the poor, and so on.

    Re the life coach, the old Adam in us creatures is always striving to be a better little god. It is evident by a walk through the bookstore that the self-help project is a universal theme among us creatures.

    As such, the only thing that really identifies us Christians from the rest of the creatures on Earth is that fact that we can proclaim Jesus the savior. Therefore, if Christians want to follow the social worker and life coach during the week, fine. But on Sunday morning when the preacher is up front, I want to be hearing Jesus the savior–and the savior only–without throwing the social worker and life coach into the mix.

    Unfortunately from my point of view, like a blind man shooting skeet, it is sadly often more “miss” than “hit” in churches these days.

    In His grip,
    Eric S.

  8. Eric s,

    Well put!

    What we are critiqing here, mainly, is the preaching. Is Jesus, the savior, the forgiver of YOUR SINS, being handed over to you…without strings attached?

    This is what is sorely missing(for the most part) in both the right hand and left hand sides of the Church.

    – Steve

  9. I’m not linking anything from Spong’s site. Sorry.

  10. From my limited perspective (I’m only a shiny new 25-year-old Anglican), it seems that at some point in the early 20th century there was a sharp split in the agendas of ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ Christians, so that it became very difficult to affirm that God is working both for justice and salvation. I hope that in my generation of ministry we can bring them closer together. I don’t want us to waste another fifty years arguing about blatantly stupid things like whether Christians should only worship Jesus or if it’s a good thing to help the poor. To that end, I think Michael’s experience is great.

  11. Andrew,

    Here’s an experience I had today that wasn’t so great:

    I went to a friend’s funeral service earlier today in Huntington Beach, CA (about an hour North of where I live). It was at a United Methodist Church (there are probably more than a few UMC’s in Huntington Beach).

    There were about 250 people in attendance. A golden opprotunity for the presiding pastor to speak of our Lord to a lot of folks that probably have never darkened the door of a church before.

    The service was about an hour long. They brought my friend’s Harley Davidson into the church and placed it in front of the altar. There was a screen set up next to it that played a video and showed still photos of Rick’s (my friend) life.

    The pastor read some letters about Rick from some of his co-workers and friends. One of Rick’s daughter’s spoke about what a wonderful father and man Rick was.

    I sat there, stunned. Not one reading of scripture. Not one hymn sung. Not even a single mention of the name of Jesus. Not once.

    The pastor could’ve mentioned something about the inevitability of death that awaits us all. He could’ve mentioned that because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross that death does not have the final word. That Rick’s sin was died for…anything like that would’ve been the least that a Christian pastor could have done.

    It’s enough to make you cry.

    I’m telling you that what happened today at my friends funeral service is happening all over this country…every week.

    In the name of tolerance and acceptance, this man let starving people go hungry.

    What a shame.

    – Steve

  12. Two things:

    1) We need to keep these discussion threads on topic with the post. I’m willing to accommodate a wide discussion range, but it is starting to be a bit of an “alternative blog” down here in the comments.

    2) I agree with you that many funerals are without Christian content, but having done many funerals, it should be said that funerals are the domain of the family and it is families that insist on the kinds of things you are mentioning. If the minister came up with them, then shame on him. But I suspect that the family told him what the funeral was going to be. He has options of course, but the minister isn’t operating solo in that situation.

  13. Michael,

    I’m not all that familiar with the way funeral services are handled in many churches. And your explanation is a logical one. (although I don’t think it is the right thing to do in a Christian church)

    I was raised a Roman Catholic (sort of), and have attended many Catholic funerals. I am now a Lutheran and have been to around 10 or so Lutheran funeral services.

    I guess there are churches and pastors that will accomodate the wishes of the family at the expense of the worhip of God and the proclamation of Jesus, I just had not experienced it personally until today.

    The intent of my comments was to say that I believe the liberal leanings of mainline churches, often lead to an accomodation to culture at the expense of the gospel. I had heard about it and read about it, but today I experienced it first hand.

    Sincerely,

    Steve

  14. Enoch McCarter says:

    Among all this acceptance it was arresting that if you said you voted for Bush (twice) the seats around you would have been empty. I don’t buy the mainline acceptance line…they don’t live it out in real life. They only accept the groups that fit their narrative. For the most part, they are no different than closed minded fundies. The sins change but the behavior of those in power does not.

  15. Enoch, as Michael clearly said, that was only a fear that he had. He didn’t test it, so we don’t actually know what the reality would have been. Your comment is perhaps too harsh for speculation about an untested fear?

  16. Good post.

    I was once a mega-ditto head( i.e. 17 and a half hours a week of Rush Limbaugh), embroiled in politics ,aligned to the right of Atilla the Hun, terrified of Democrats ( Democrats in church = heresy ),avoided people with strange hair, believed AIDS was God’s vengance, believed heretics and demons were everywhere.

    A good long crisis changed those attitudes and it is good to be free. Don’t worry, though; sin is still sin and Jesus is still Lord.

  17. I’m a member of the Disciples of Christ tribe, which I guess makes me something of a mainliner. I have, however sojourned in the land of the SBC for some time before returning to my childhood church. Anyway, in a discussion my group was having one day, i found myself saying about our denomination, “We’re better because we don’t judge.” Unfortunately, too many of us don’t see the irony in that statement. The SBC and DoC churches I attended aren’t all that far apart in practice or theology.

  18. Well, of course they’re not going to argue about doctrine once they’ve decided that doctrine isn’t something churches really need to have.

  19. From my limited perspective (I’m only a shiny new 25-year-old Anglican), it seems that at some point in the early 20th century there was a sharp split in the agendas of ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ Christians, so that it became very difficult to affirm that God is working both for justice and salvation. — Andrew

    A few months ago Wall Street Journal‘s Taste Page had a book review about “The Social Gospel”, the early form of what you refer to as “liberal” and “God…working for justice”. (I’ve experienced the fermented form of it in the “Social Justice Movement” of the early Eighties, when it became Marxism with a Christian coat of paint before Pope John Paul shut it down.)

    One line from the book review stuck with me: “They ended up with a Gospel without personal salvation.”

    And we’ve also seen the reaction to it, from Fundamentals of the Faith in the Twenties to Left Behind: A Gospel of personal salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation.
    (See “Wretched Urgency”, “Leave Your Seat, Leave Your Sin”, and “Marriage Made in Hell” in the IMonk archives.)

    Well, of course they’re not going to argue about doctrine once they’ve decided that doctrine isn’t something churches really need to have. — Josh S

    Then, just like “Non-denominational Denomination”, they have “Non-doctrinal Doctrine”, i.e. a Doctrine that states “We Need No Doctrine”.

    Looking for the “church” under the guidance of a bishop who blatantly denies the resurrection is looking for something else entirely. — IMonk re Spong

    Yeah, that does kind of defeat the whole purpose of the exercise…

  20. What is it about us as humans that we swing wildly from one extreme to another such that we get a church that emphasizes relationships, love and social justice at the expense of clear Scriptural commands regarding sin or we get a church that talks about almost nothing but sin and redemption in Christ but virtually nothing beyond that? Of course, the truth is not either/or, it’s both/and. We’re called to uphold biblical authority as it pertains to sin and personal conduct, but not at the expense of being welcoming and fighting for the poor and powerless.

    It’s funny. Jesus was never shy about telling people about the ugly reality of sin, even pointing out that His law, while certainly having an outward dimension, goes deeper to a person’s motives (such as adultery not just being about not having intercourse with someone other than your spouse, but the lusts from which such actions spring). Yet at the same time He was calling people to repentance and personal holiness, so many people didn’t recoil and feel beaten down and unwelcome. They flocked to Him, drawn in by the warmth of His love and wanted to be around him (not something you can often say for modern conservative Christians.) Yet down here in the 21st century, we try to choose one aspect of His character and virtually ignore the other.

    That’s simply not an option.

  21. Ragmuffin,

    They flocked to Him while the going was good. As soon as they figured out what He was about,they left Him in a N.Y. minute.

    Who was left with Him at the cross? One or two of His disciples and His Mother. The disciples were probably only there because she was there.

    We aren’t much different than they were. Dying, for us, just doesn’t seem to be at the top of our ‘to do’ list. Selling evrything we have and following Him just seems a bit too radical. Crossing into the bad side of town and eating with drug users and prostitutes isn’t our idea of a nice relaxing weekend.

    Our personal holiness comes about when He gives it to us, at our baptism, and in His supper. If we have to somehow rise to the level of personal holiness by being obedient to His commands, well…it aint’t gonna happen.

    I do agree with you, Ragmuffin, that we stray to either end of the spectrum far too easily.
    Instead we ought look to the center, which is Christ and His work for us. The center is anchored in Word and sacrament, lest we get too uppity and smug in what WE are doing for God, for others, or for ourselves.

    The center is the place of death, and of ressurection. A daily dying to the self, and being raised again to new life by the forgiveness of sins for Jesus’ sake.

    It’s not an easy life. But it is one of freedom. Freedom from ‘religion’, and freedom for the neighbor, without having to look over our shoulder at a beetle-browed diety that demands performance.

    To me, that’s the center of the Christian faith.

    Thanks Ragmuffin.

    – Steve

  22. Thankyou Thankyou! Thankyou!!!!!!!

  23. The devil you know, the devil you don’t.

    There are many reasons you may have a positive impression of your new ‘mainline’ brethren, and one group is all the reasons you have chosen to step away from the evangelicals you knew ‘too well.’

    Why aren’t the mainline people as abrasive, etc, as the evangelicals? Well, perhaps, nobody competes to rule a ghost town. Another is that what created the separation in the first place was the massive feminization of the mainline churches, even before women were being ‘ordained.’ Purity, the ethic of main fundamentalist groups, often leads to arrogance, abrasiveness, argumentation, division, and many other nastinesses. Tossing away purity leads easily to tolerance and then pluralism, and so to a complete lack of real identity. Great. No improvement there, but it sure feels alot more soothing.

    Each group has maintained cardinal virtues; unity has been championed by the Roman Catholics, both in time and across time; collegial respect is actually the preserve of the Orthodox; purity in doctrine (and attempted purity of thought and deed) is the province of fundamentalists; evangelicals more broadly have embraced vigorous activity; mainline protestants have chosen ‘playing nice with others’ – gentleness, tolerance, etc. Each has had to largely abandon the virtues the others held to most dearly. It takes too much effort.

    This is most clear with the fundamentalists because Purity is the most demanding standard. However, the others have their own purity codes – just not for doctrine. Purity in unity – togetherness at all costs. Purity in tolerance – unwilling to accept any judgments – an often commented on seeming paradox that isn’t a paradox at all.

    Can I agree that some mythical ‘center’ is the place to be? Not really. To need all these virtues doesn’t mean we can dump purity – and purity by definition doesn’t compromise. We need absolute unity under an absolute doctrinal standard with no concession to being rude or unjust and a willingness to serve each other. Seems unachievable, but that’s the calling.

    It isn’t well served by this breathless embrace of just another failed strategy at ‘being the church.’

  24. >…this breathless embrace.

    Climbing the rhetorical heights. Really, I should see the error of my ways and appreciate the beauty of the fellowship of the doctrinally pure.

    The PCUSA just affirmed their “purity” standard for ministry.

    So they were nice to me because they have abandoned all doctrine and purity? Can I assume that’s why I also was nice to them?

  25. Thanks for your insights and reflections from the Louisville consultation. As one of the mainliners who had the pleasure to be there with you (we have ‘Oneida’ in common), I very much agree with your comments on the wonderful spirit of the folks that gathered in preparation for our sabbaticals.

    As someone who comes from an upbringing in the Catholic Church, I still sometime feel a bit out of place among some of my 3-generation deep Presbyterian colleagues even after 15 years as a pastor. But that wasn’t the case at all in our gathering; perhaps the promise of a sabbath rest allowed us to drop our denominational and theological defenses and be “real” to and with one another.

    God’s blessings on you in your sabbatical time—it should give you plenty of time to decide your vote in the next presidential election. 🙂

  26. My sister, brought up Lutheran, went to a Baptist church while in college. She said, “why don’t we hear ___ and ___ in our church?” I told her that that they do say that, but your ears have to be open.

    Our church starts each service with a confession of sins and an assurance of forgiveness. How can we confess our sins if not acknowledging them? Then I feel really “clean” for awhile, until I look at someone in another pew and judge them. (wry humor, I hope you get it.) Jesus had a lot of statements against judging. I’d say that there has been a lot of judging in many of the comments above.

    So, yes, we are all in need of forgiveness, but after we hear that we are forgiven, we move on to service. We don’t need to dwell in our sins, or not in our past sins.

    But I do think that a pastor walks a thin line: the Bible has a lot in it to tell us to live more generously, not hoard money, take care of people, etc. but pastors who only preach sin and forgiveness are not preaching the whole Bible. Pastors who preach this stewardship and caregiving might be damned as liberals, yet it is very biblical. Pastors who strongly preach this way, which is anti-current-culture, risk losing people in the pews. Pastors who preach the gospel of success apparently have the pews filled with people, but that’s not the whole bible either.