Sam Kean Moves on from Horizon Christian Fellowship — Morgan County

Sam Kean is transitioning from associate pastor at Horizon Christian Fellowship — Morgan County in order to follow God’s path for him… which is to be further equipped for biblical therapeutic healing & deliverance ministry. 

In light of this transition, below is the audio recording of Sam’s “send off” from HCFMC, as well as an accompanying PowerPoint presentation on the biblical theology of “Departures in the Ministry.”

Departures in the Ministry — A New Testament Theology (PowerPoint)

Departures in the Ministry — A New Testament Theology (audio recording)

Mercy Wins When Abusive Church Leaders Threaten

“For He is Good; For His Loving Mercy Endures Forever.” 2 Chronicles 5:13-14

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

Beware those who seek God’s power, instead of transformation into the likeness of Jesus Himself.

Abusive church leaders use abusive “teaching” to explain why God has not yet sent revival power/blessing. It is equivalent to spiritual blackmail. The church members correctly believe revival blessing can be poured out on them, but the leaders also believe that they (the people) somehow have forfeited revival blessing by certain disobediences as a body or by certain slacking in “rising in faith-filled obedience” to the “faith step” which the leaders say God set for them as a body. This is dangerous, because it is meritoriously working for revival power/blessing.

Also, great tension occurs between the leadership and the people when the leadership—like some divine oracle—says, “This is the faith step we must take…God cannot bless if this is missing from our hearts as a congregation.” Why? It is meritorious thinking. When the body takes that step sincerely (such as sacrificially giving themselves of time, money, resources, energies – or – giving up certain right pleasures or expressions of personality) they believe sincerely that they have done something, which will make God pleased with them to the point that “hindrances to revival blessing are removed.” Then, they wonder why God is not blessing, and the striving goes deeper and deeper. Worse yet, they fear God will punish them. Soon, the Pastor(s) is subtly turning against his people for “not meeting the mark,” and the people are subtly doubtful of the Pastor’s leadership because of his “brow beating” them for their lack of faith….and they are weary from heavy burdens. One can never be sure if God is pleased. These are the results of abusive, meritorius religion.

In leading people toward revival, we must not make any subtle or overt emphasis of having our music just right, and then, God will bless us with revival as opposed to those whom He won’t. We must not say that God cannot bless us with revival blessing, if we do not have faith promise missions or a ritualized “hour of prayer.” We must not make the issue our having the minutest of doctrine correct as opposed to those who don’t. We must not think that if we change our style, modes, and fashions to exude all manner of visible, outward “holiness” that God will bless us and not those who differ. 

God does not promise revival blessing because we have this or that “right.” Neither does He withhold revival blessing from those who do not. [The only time God promises to bless separation is when we separate ourselves from worshipping and serving together with heathen in the ways they worship and serve. (2 Cor. 6:17)] Rather, God shows mercy on whom He will show mercy, and that means only on those who count His mercy THE thing to be had… who “love mercy.”

Also, let’s be careful about teaching people what we mean by “purity” in the churches. Do we mean, “every person in the congregation has no sin issues?” Is that what we believe revival is… the absence of sin? Is that rational? Do we think that glorification can happen this side of eternity? Or yet, do we mean, “no outward trace that our members were once lost men, even though they might have been newly saved”? In the same vein, everyone knows that God must turn His face away from those children have given themselves over to wickedness. But, those prodigal brothers just may be revived before those who look down upon them.

In conclusion, let’s not strain at gnats and swallow camels. We don’t need to wonder why God’s blessing is not upon us as persons or as a movement, when so much spiritual pride and meritorious thinking saturates our hearts. We should turn away from the carnal comparisons and circles and camps and labeling. Dear one’s, let’s realign ourselves with Christ’s agenda – 

  • PRAISE Him and bask in His mercy! 
  • Get His Good News of MERCY to every soul. 

By now, we all know that we cannot earn the power of His saving influence for ourselves or for our churches or for our movements. God will not grant His likeness on us, until we are looking for His mercy… until we see ourselves utterly in need of His mercy and do Him sacrifice – the sacrifice of the lips – a thankful heart for His goodness, for His loving mercy which endures forever.

Whenever God comes down to pour out His Spirit, He does it because people have realized He alone is good. If His Presence is going to be known, then it shall only be because His mercy endures forever, not because our “holiness” finally met His “standard.” God does not see movements. He sees men – humble men & women, who hope only in His mercy as their happiness in service and sense of success. Only these men know what a freeing and glad thing it is to shout the message of mercy loud and clear, so all the world may hear it. God is not withholding blessing from us or waiting for us to earn it. He wants us to be ready to receive all that He has. He counts us as not ready until we, like Solomon and the people of Israel, make our theme song, “For the LORD is good; for his mercy endures forever.”

What an IFB Cult Leader Sounds Like When Demanding Money

If one says the name Colonial Hills Baptist Church (Indianapolis, IN), then you might remember having seen the 20/20 news report about the church’s publicly blaming/shaming and shunning a statutory rape victim, while failing to properly report her perpetrator. Chuck Phelps was the presiding pastor at that time, and he still is the senior pastor. If you think the church bettered after the debacle, then you are sadly mistaken. 

Colonial Hills recently brought on a new international ministries development consultant, who is associated strongly with the cult known as Falls Baptist Church (FBC) in Menomonee Falls, WI. Matthew Barfield, also a VP at IPM, recently spoke (February 19, 2017) at FBC’s annual Faith Promise Giving special meeting, and his sermon is a proper example of what a cult leader sounds like when demanding money.

One can listen to the audio recording HERE, if FBC will not remove the recording. I provide a correctional critique of his “sermon” below. The text of his message is Matthew 26. [See also John 12, Luke 7 & Mark 14]

>>Barfield’s sermon is not bringing out of the text what is there, but he is using the text as a platform to preach his own talking points… which include some self-given accolades on his mastery of language(s) and ministerial exploits. 

  • The full context of the biblical account is not focused on Mary’s gift or on the doctrine of giving (contrary to what Barfield’s sermon leads one to believe) but on her great love for and belief of Jesus. Mary knew that she had been forgiven much by Jesus; and she was moved to loving action, due to her believing Jesus’ death would be soon. That was a thing even the Disciples themselves did not believe at that time. Ironically, the disciples were the ones misfocused on the gift and “giving,” just like Barfield.
  • Mary had been a prostitute. Would many churches like FBC or Colonial Hills allow a suddenly repentant prostitute to give the result of her “wages” to Jesus, let alone command that she be remembered all over the world for it? Jesus did. 
  • She did what she could” to Barfield means she sacrificed greatly in her gift giving. Contextually, it means nothing other than, A: this was a pre-purchased supply, out of what she already possessed, not what she did not have; B: Mary could not prevent His death, but she could honor His death!! She did what she could.
  • Mary’s anointing Jesus was indeed costly as Barfield notes, but the modern-day equivalent would be to give Jesus embalming fluid. That’s shockingly practical & not exactly flattering. The act sent a poignant, albeit worshipful message. The ointment Mary poured out was used in ancient days to keep stink of death down, but she used it to anoint Him before His death. In contrast, the Pharisees and disciples did not believe; and so, they did not offer to customarily wash & dry Jesus’s feet. The context draws great attention to this contrast. She believed He would die, so she anointed Him is burial ointment. They believed he would not die as Messiah, so they gave Him no common courtesy at all. The only application to be drawn from this context is that disbelievers today still refuse to give Jesus honor… not that believers must give extravagantly, to prove they are truly believers.
  • Mary was giving directly to Jesus’ physical body. Mary was NOT giving to fund missions or raise the budget via “faith promise” (pledging what she did not have on “faith”). In fact, Jesus rebuked the Disciples (particularly Judas) for making the suggestion that the money should have been used for the “Jesus mission fund.” [It is doubly ironic that Barfield is raising funds for missions. He is more Judas than he knows.] 
  • Jesus clearly states the purpose of the passage, when He commands that Mary should be remembered for what she did, after saying she did it for His burial (v. 13). In contrast and in illogic, Barfield charges the audience to give, or they may not be a true believer. If they truly believe in Christ’s return, then they should give extravagantly in light of Jesus’ return, just as Mary gave extravagantly (in light of His death). There’s nothing like a cult leader telling people to give, or else they may not truly be a believer (i.e. headed for Hell & damnation); and by the chance they are a genuine believer, then they certainly won’t have rewards in Heaven unless they give like Mary—extravagantly. 

>>Barfield—with his many appeals for “surrender”—creates (as a cult always does) a false dichotomy between the sacred & the secular, between “the ministry / mission field” and a secular profession… which—in reality—leads to the discontent Barfield describes as a common thought pattern among clergy, when people are not giving enough to missions. Instead, missionaries should just hold “tent-making” jobs like the Apostle Paul.

>>Barfield’s allusion to 2 Corinthians 8 and the example of the Apostle Paul receiving gifts from the Corinthians vs. Macedonians is stretched beyond the context. The context is DISASTER RELIEF for fellow churches to relieve the suffering of the saints (2 Corinthians 8:4). It was a one-time offering asked to be received… not an every year or even every month or week collection. In fact, the Bible never commands the New Testament believer to give a tithe. The passage actually teaches that churches are supposed to note when other churches have endure peril, and then, seek to relieve their plight by whatever means possible. More importantly, Mary’s gift (Matthew 26) was also a 1 time gift… not an annual thing.

>>Barfield forgets verses 12-13 of 2 Corinthians 8, which state believers should give out of what they have AND not give in a way that causes themselves to be in need… which also happens to make Faith Promise Giving unbiblical. 

>>Barfield directly implies—near the end of the sermon—that if someone does not give like Mary, then he/she does not love Jesus the way He loves us… and is on the side of Judas. That is a twisting of the Scriptures!

Conclusion:

Thankfully, the Bible does not teach anything close to “Faith Promise Giving.” In fact, the New Testament believer is never instructed to give a “tithe.” Rather, the Bible teaches free-will & joy-filled giving to those who are in need, but not in such a way as to put the giver in need. There may be ocaisions where disaster strikes and sacrifices are warranted, so that others may have food and shelter and clothing; but to state that extravagant giving is expected regularly by God… or, to say that one may not truly believe if he does not give extravagantly… is sheer cult tactic by a cult leader.

The Difference Between Medical Anxiety and/or Depression & Anxiousness and/or Self-Pity

The physiological disorders, which the medical field diagnoses as “anxiety” or “depressive anxiety” or “manic depression” or even “bi-polar disorder” are different from what the Bible means when it says, “be anxious for nothing” (Philippians 4:6). The biblical term “anxious” refers to someone’s needlessly worrying about life matters or social situations, instead of practicing and growing in trust toward God as the One Who provides, protects & guides us… and from Whom comes our true identity and self-worth as believers. 

Well-meaning pastors such as Steve Furtick and Tony Evans make blanket statements about anxiety and depression like,

Depression is well described as anger turned inward. –Tony Evans

And 

Anxiety is the result of a pride (“I”) issue. –[Paraphrased], Steve Furtick

Now, I realize that even these statements were made within certain contexts. But, I think they are general enough to consider the topic of “broad-brush or blanket statements” that express a common , error-filled notion within Christendom. I will explain this misconception farther down. 

Without contest, the Apostle Paul does use “I” as a selfish and sinful identity concept, often called “the flesh” in his many New Testament letters. Anger and bitterness toward God and others is also a human tendency. But, to say anxiety or depression is ONLY a matter of pride or inwardly turned anger is plainly wrong and detrimental to any audience. Here’s why:

The medical term for depression and/or anxiety means someone who—due to physiological (chemical) imbalances and/or emotional/psychological traumas—cannot function normally, due to the paralyzing fears or feelings of overwhelm or depressive thoughts directly associated with their condition. There is a big difference between that and what the Apostle Paul describes.

The Scope of the Bible

The scope (intended purpose) of the Bible is to deal with things spiritual. In other words, it provides the worldview for human origins, a corrupted creation, brokenness, disaster, disease and death. It also gives maxims and warnings about how our spiritual existence directly affects our physical existence, and vice versa. Yet, the Bible does not attempt to diagnose and prescribe medical treatment for individual medical conditions, which mankind can diagnose, treat and prognosticate on his own. [This is not to say there are no dangers with medical treatments] It DOES describe a miraculous Healer (Jesus) of all sickness, with a priority given to the spiritual healing and restoration of souls to God and His intended design for life.

Do Tony Evans’ and Steve Furtick’s assertions account for those who have been (against their will) repeatedly abused, physically, mentally, emotionally, sexually… or even drugged? There are so many trauma-based mental disorders diagnosed in the criminally abused or cult abused (ex. trauma-based schizophrenia / split personality, dissociative disorder, hostile attribution bias, Stockholm syndrome, PTSD). 

Do assumptions like Furtick’s and Evans’ account for those who have chemical imbalances due to postpartum or other physiological conditions (e.g. Autism, Menopause, biologically induced forms of Schizophrenia, Thyroid dysfunction, Sleep Apnea, or depression in chronic illness patients… like Diabetics) that stem from our living in a fallen world & in mortal bodies? What about soldiers who have been exposed to/taken part in such atrocities and chemical warfare that they may never fully recover from PTSD or other mental/emotional or physiological disorders?

All the above situations are not far fetched. They are more common than one from a privileged life can know. Sometimes the depression is really just a physical condition, other times it is spiritual oppression (warfare) which requires deliverance; yet other times, counseling and joy & relational trust building are required. Still, there may be a combination of two or all of these needs. 

Thankfully, there are levels of healing for all of these cases, but we must be careful of blanket statements. They tend to smother the most needy and innocent, not to mention shame/blame the victim for their valid struggles. Some inward hurts are just as serious as outward broken bones or damaged organs. They take serious attention, treatment and recovery time to heal. Instead of generalizing and inadvertently scolding the wounded, we must temper the statement by context… saying, “For someone without any medical condition or heritable disease/disorder…”

Human Reason & Divine Revelation

Too often, Christians hold a hyper & cultish view regarding the Bible’s scope. “If the Bible doesn’t say it, I don’t believe it,” is their (unspoken) mantra. They add to it an insistence on disregard for context and genre and employ a rigid literal interpretation, for which even the most conservative scholars (ex. B.B. Warfield) of the early 20th century derided them. Their insistence is spuriously bolstered by their blindly lifting out of context and misquoting, “Let God be true and every man a liar” (Romans 3:4). This cultish peculiarity reveals itself in a staunch disregard for and fear of human reasoning and philosophy and the sciences. God uses many methods and many people (even disbelievers) to bring healing into the lives of the needy.  These sort of believers forget that “all truth is God’s truth,” and such a set of positions fails to see that the Bible is a collection of Holy Writ that carries out a specified agenda, and therefore, does not speak to every matter known to mankind. Some things, mankind is to arrive at on his own.

They take too far the warnings against “science so called” and “empty philosophy” (1 Timothy 6:20; Colossians 2:8), which—in context—were warnings against the Gnosticism and Judaizers of the Apostles’ era… the same 2 antithetical systems that were directly attacking the Christian Faith, and for which Faith, the Apostles were giving reasonable defenses. Modern-day equivalents of Gnosticism and Judaism would be anything that undermines the Christian worldview about human origins, the reason for human mortality, (i.e. the spiritual condition of humanity) and/or the Divine Trinity, reconciliation to God only by Jesus, etc. Medical disciplines—in so far as they do not alter humanity at the DNA (germline) level or otherwise chemically or technologically augment human brain functionality—do not match the context of Paul’s warnings against empty philosophy or “so-called” science.

Again, some things, mankind is to arrive at on his own. As Cheryl Lowe writes, 

“most things mankind can discover for himself – geometry, logic, the principles of history, government, literature, the sciences, etc. These things were first discovered by the Greeks. God did not reveal to man what he could discover for himself through reason and experience. To do so would have confused human reason with divine revelation.” (http://excellence-in-literature.com/why-study-the-pagans-by-cheryl-lowe/)

The Balance:

Now, all the above is not to say a person cannot induce medical anxiety upon himself or herself by using drugs, doing illegal and risky stuff and/or continually worrying, being petty or cross or caustic. A person can induce a physiological condition by cognitive habit or by substance abuse. Any number of lifestyles, including something as simple as a poor diet / no exercise, can bring on medical disorders just as easily as a physiological predisposition makes one susceptible. This is a chief reason the Bible provides spiritual maxims and warnings about our beliefs and personal conduct. God just wants us to experience the best that life can be, such as it is in a fallen world.

Also, it is my opinion that someone with medical anxiety should not rely on meds alone to defeat anxiety/depression. If they train their thoughts and emotions to grow in trusting God more than being co-dependent upon people (i.e. insecure), then stepping down medication is always possible. But those who simply trust in the meds will only need more and more meds. Moreover, forgiveness at the decree of God is a powerful thing for eliminating paralysing guilt and for getting one’s conscience & identity rooted and grounded solidly in unconditional, loving grace. Even if someone brings a condition upon himself or herself, then God is abundant in mercy and will rescue & redeem us from our own self-inflicted peril… if we call upon Him for that in humility. [It may take a while or no time at all. Healing is His business, and we just keep on trusting & expecting Him to do His thing in His way and time].

The Encouragement for Spiritual Anxiety / Depression:

Feeling down, depressed, and discouraged? You are not alone. Moses, Elijah, Job, and even the Apostle Paul at different points of their lives were overcome with these emotions. They all got to the point that they wanted to end their lives. In the darkness they failed to see that God was working. We often are looking through a microscope at our problems, instead of looking through a telescope at our God. Depression never tells us the whole story or let’s us see the entire picture. Even when we are at our worst, God is at His best. In 2 Corinthians 1:9, the Apostle Paul tells us that it was in the darkest moments of his life that he learned to trust God the most. When you come to the end of your rope, God is there. Have faith and don’t lose heart!

On Meddling & Professional Ministry

After some years away from the IFB movement, I began to see that a common sin in nearly every sect of clergy is “Lording” (1 Peter 5), whereby they act as divine mediators between God and mankind. No one starts out by saying, “Today, I am going to play God with people’s lives.” So, I tried to understand why a leader would get sucked into Lording. The most obvious answer is their subtle desire for position, power & empty glory. Another reason is their practical distrust of God’s ability to direct or correct someone Himself. 

Then, it occurred to me. There is something more elementally wrong and more widespread than the above reasons. It has to do with making a career out of “professional ministry.” These people are paid to sit around all day and basically try to think up ways of both adding attendees and turning them into their brand of “Churchianity.” They must do this, because they view ministry as only what happens inside the church building or church-sanctioned activity. It is true that believers edify one another as they gather together. Yet, leaders often do not see that their only role is to equip the believers for the true, everyday ministry which happens out in the world… and to which God has called every believer in his/her place (1 Corinthians 7:17ff).

Instead of knowing / holding down “real world” jobs themselves, they hole up in the 4 walls of a church building or other Christian institution, where their analytical minds inevitably turn critical and obsessed over minutia… which only leads to meddling in others’ affairs. They think they are serving God, but what they are really doing is meddling.

Meddle: to interfere in or busy oneself unduly with something that is not one’s concern.

Jesus and all of His Apostles had either trades or professions that they did not see as “in conflict” with accomplishing the Great Comission. The difference between the Apostles and modern-day clergy is the Apostles could have expected pay but they did not for the Gospel’s sake (1 Corinthians 9; Philippians 4). Even the Bible itself warns against meddling and states that suffering comes from it. What is more damning, the Bible states that idle people are often the ones who meddle most… and that, meddling is a sin listed right alongside murder.

Once I learned these truths, I decided I would never make a career out of “ministry.” Even though I studied the Bible and ministry for 8+ years, it would be something I would do voluntarily—willingly but “not for filthy lucre.” And I vowed that I would hold a “real world” job. To this day, I do not receive any pay for pastoring; and I—as a result—have more compassion and empathy for others. [I do receive random gifts or “buy outs” for my time] 

I see no need to make others into a sectarian poster child or just like me or like anyone else for that matter. I trust God is able to direct and correct their lives. They are His disciples, not mine. If I do anything, it is to serve others in their struggles… to point them to a direct relationship with God Himself, teach them how to correctly interpret the Word for themselves, to supply what is needful for faith, hope and love; to ease their burdens, lift up the downhearted, to see the “stuck” and overwhelmed get freed up and try to be a healing ointment for their wounds.