Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Suffer little children... but not in OUR church!

This week has provided a lesson in contrasts. To begin, let me make it clear I'm no fan of Mark Driscoll. Google the terms "Mark Driscoll" and "bully" or "sex" if you're not already familiar with the man. The Wartburg Watch is but one blog that has published several telling articles about Driscoll.

Assuming you're all up to date on Driscoll and we're on the same page now, I trust it's apparent why I was surprised when someone sent me this statement that Driscoll tweeted Sunday.  It doesn't seem to fit his "beastly" persona.

Now for the contrast...

Below is an excerpt from a comment on a previous thread by "Super Sleuth" which encapsulates what people have been telling me for the past month. I've heard it from enough different sources to know it's the truth. Besides, I've heard Steve Gaines opine on these subjects for years now. It's really nothing new. It's just become an obsession for some reason.

In the last 3 or 4 Sundays, Steve has been raving about something.

1) He chewed us out (9:20 service) for not embracing the New Age rock music and belittles us for still wanting the old tried and true songs of the faith.

2) He told us to get the heck out now if we must, because he does not want anyone leaving before or during the invitation.

3) He said kids should not run up and down the aisle or cry while he was preaching; he went on and on about it and told them where to go to take restless kids. (There were no kids running the aisles and no babies crying, but he kept on and on about it.)

I've heard Steve Gaines go off on parents with crying children before. I grew up with a pastor who would not tolerate crying children, so Steve is not alone here. And, as someone who is easily distracted and occasionally aggravated by crying babies and even more, by misbehaving older children whose parents don't make any effort to take control of the situation (i.e. spoiled brats), I am not totally unsympathetic. I'm equally annoyed by loud "ameners" and hand-wavers, too, but when confronted with such distractions I try to tune them out. I just think this "problem" could be handled more delicately.

Here is a great compilation video of Steve vs. crying babies. Listen to what he tells the congregation of Golden Gate Cathedral about the consideration they should extend to children.  Then contrast that with how he acts at home at Bellevue. He loves them. He loves them not. He loves them. He loves them not. Which is it?

If looks could kill, the expression displayed at the 54-second mark would constitute a felony!

Apparently Mark Driscoll, somewhat surprisingly, loves them. "You chose life and chose to bring your blessing to church."  Video of Driscoll on kids in church.

For years one thing about Bellevue that has struck me is the absence of children under the age of about 12 from the worship services, and this began long before the Gaines era. With the advent of separate "children's churches" there's little incentive today for parents to keep their children with them during "big church" and teach them how to sit still. So is it any wonder they act up when they finally do attend worship services? Perhaps this contributes to the drop in attendance once they reach high school and college age. They're no longer being entertained.

I do think age-segregated Sunday School (or whatever they call it now) is appropriate, but when it's time for the church body to gather to worship corporately, if a child is above the age of 3, s/he's old enough to sit with mom and/or dad. Of course, preachers like Driscoll are going to have to clean up some of their sermons, but that's okay. I've heard a few of Steve Gaines' sermons that weren't exactly G-rated either, so that would be a good thing. Then if the child cannot control him or herself, I think parents do need to escort the child outside as a courtesy to others, including the speaker, but only until the kid gets a grip and can return with the parent. So I have no problem with the "parents' room" and politely reminding people (before the service, not during) that it's available, but it shouldn't be a substitute for a child attending the service "live" with the parent(s).

After reports about him "going on and on about it" for the past couple of weeks, it culminated Sunday morning in a speech directed at parents of young children that was "blued out" of several minutes of the live feed and will likely be edited out of Sunday morning's sermon if it's eventually posted on the church website. (By the way, what have they done to the church website? It's completely messed up.)

In Sunday's bulletin was this announcement about Ryan Wingo leaving:

Which makes another part of Sleuth's comment... interesting.

And the clicker is that Ryan and Lindsey Wingo and 2 kids are leaving to go to Apex, NC. This is a real shocker.

Yeah, I didn't see that one coming either.  Does anyone think a church with a staff of about a dozen people is going to pay a music minister anything close to what Bellevue does?  Perhaps as someone said, "Maybe they decided There's Gotta Be More."

We now know what transpired during the missing minutes. (Thanks to the anonymous person who contributed that. I have verified its authenticity.)

First was a short announcement about Ryan Wingo leaving and a short, slightly awkward statement by Ryan. Then came the real meat...

Steve is concerned for his personal safety and does not want crying babies and misbehaving children distracting him! (After listening to this, might I suggest eyeglasses?) I have no idea if he's received a credible threat, if it's his imagination, or if he's using one incident of a man walking down the aisle holding a hat to make it sound like someone's crying baby and someone else's toddler running around all led to him feeling fearful. It's a mystery.  I also do not understand why they felt the need to omit this from the live feed.

I stumbled across an excellent article on church "crying rooms" on the blog Monstrous Regimen of Women (a title which probably strikes fear and loathing in the hearts of most Southern Baptists).  The blogger made some good points which I think Steve Gaines and all of us should consider:

1) The children behave better if there is no crying room or 'play room' as they see it. They sit in the pew next to us, leafing through books or drawing. If they get disruptive, one of us takes them outside to calm down before they come in again.

2) There are more young families present, possibly because they do not feel duty bound to sit apart from the rest of the congregation like outcasts because they have embraced the Church's teachings and been open to life.

3) People are more accepting of the fact that there are children in church because they do not expect them to be shut up out of hearing in a glorified cupboard. When an old lady attacked me for having 'distracting' children, she kept saying, "there is a facility, there is a facility. Your children should be in there."

Here is another excellent article from the parents' standpoint. Both these blog articles were written by Catholics, but the same principles surely apply to Baptists. On the one hand, Steve doesn't want crying babies disrupting the service, but never mind that the sound system is turned up so loud, in all services, during the music, sermon, and especially, for some reason, the announcements, that you either need earplugs or must be willing to sacrifice several decibels of your hearing every time you walk through the doors. I suppose the "source" of the noise is what matters.  No wonder babies are crying.  Their ears hurt!

Steve says, "It's the difference between heaven and hell."  Well, it may mean the difference between a young couple or single mother ever darkening the doors of Bellevue again, too.

All this recent paranoia about Steve and the church being under attack... I do not believe "demons" are waging a full-fledged "attack" on Steve Gaines and Bellevue. I do not believe anyone at Bellevue, or in the USA for that matter, is being "persecuted" for being a Christian.  Sitting in an opulent air-conditioned building worshiping freely without the threat of physical harm, I don't think Steve or really any of us appreciate how blessed and privileged we are. If a crying baby in a worship service is the worst thing Steve has to deal with, thank God! We have no clue what persecution is. One only has to look at several middle eastern countries right now to see examples of real persecution. To compare American Christians' situation to those of people around the world who are being tortured and killed for their Christian faith is a grave insult to all of them.  So enough with the "we're being persecuted" schtick.

Most of Bellevue's problems are the result of a narcissistic, ham-fisted, my-way-or-the-highway pastor, spending way too much money on salaries and facilities and programs, and the sheer size of it. It long ago became more of a business than a church, and recent developments hint that it's veering dangerously close to cult status.  In other words, Bellevue's leadership is their own worst enemy. And maybe, just maybe, that's the real clicker.


Anonymous said...

Steve Gaines says it in that video clip, that he can feel that God is stirring "winds of Revival", not realizing that it is only leaking gas from the bilge of a sinking ship.

When Steve Gaines first came to Bellevue Baptist church, there was the "AMEN" man that rattled Steve, so much so that he had the Associate Pastor Mark Dougherty, deal with him privately.

Now, that he is in control, Steve does it from the pulpit, and on a regular basis. (so be careful how you move during the service, Ushers and Security personal have been put on notice, by Steve)

This is at least the 4th time with concerning a child,

and at least the 3rd time with an adult.

What is also interesting here is that now steve is seeing guns, running toddlers, crying babies in the service and that rattles him not knowing what is real and who is doing what. While back in 2006, the story went that Steve had a dream (a spiritual encounter) and how he told Mark Dougherty the next morning to silence this person who was saying "Amen"

When questions were raised concerning this, Steve Gaines then denied ever having or saying such a thing.

Old quote from 2006 by Steve Gaines:
“Let me talk to you about something that was pretty amazing to me. That was that I had a dream and that that caused me to do something. We have a member of our church- I've met him. The Lord has saved him- he's an awesome person. And he gets excited, and I can appreciate that. He says amen quite a bit. And that's fine. But it was getting to the point where it was a little hard for me to concentrate on my preaching while that was going on. The Bible says you ought to handle things like that in public. By the way, it says you handle anything like that- in private rather- you ought to handle it in private- and any confrontation like that. And so, I woke up on a Monday morning - it happened the day before- I woke up, didn't have any dream. I told Mark Dougherty- I said I really want us to talk to this church member and just ask him in private in a very simple way if he would not say that as much. Just kinda back off a little bit. Well somewhere between that and- somewhere- I was told, somebody said you had a dream or a vision about this in the night and that's why you told this man that that's the case. I never had a dream about that. I never told anyone I had a dream. No staff member I've talked to- three of the staff members involved- None of them said that I said that I had a dream. I want to read to you and I'm not trying to promote my little devotional book. If you want to know what I believe, by the way, I believe I put it in print. 365 pieces of my heart.”

Anonymous said...

The last paragraph of this article says a lot about the state of BBC.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that all this is happening at the same time the women's ministry is teaching from Evan Lenow's book which condemns birth control, remarriage, and wives working outside the home. Is Steve making an all out push to change the church's beliefs on everything he's against? He did say that Bellevue was doing things wrong when he came here.

New BBC Open Forum said...

Evan Lenow on "Gender Roles"

Anonymous said...

Curious ... What kind of send-off did Ryan Wingo get today?

New BBC Open Forum said...

Note to the "senior pastor" who sent me this.

Thanks for the laugh. If I were James MacDonald I think the last thing I'd be talking about would be dirty laundry. LOL.

Anonymous said...

Here's a interesting article"

"Preacher or Performer? The Crying Baby Test"


I was recently at a conference where each day the Bible study was led by a performance artist/theologian who acted out the biblical story and gave some exegetical/theological insight to the Scriptures. The content was terrific: substantial and challenging. But on the second day, a baby began to jibber-jabber loudly in the audience.

After a few minutes of this, the performer stopped the show, looked in frustration at the baby and parent, and said, “I love children, but I’m getting really distracted.” The parent and child got up and left the room … followed by several other parents who went out in solidarity and in protest.

I talked later with the parent and made this claim: A crying baby is a test as to whether someone is preaching or performing.

A performance is about focus and transmission of content—a solo or group act is on-stage doing an activity (singing, dancing, speaking, painting, instrument performance, etc.)—and it is the audience’s job to receive the content and appreciate or engage it.

A sermon (and I tend to appreciate black preachers’ definitions of sermons and preaching) is “verbal and nonverbal communication of the inward manifestation of a command by the Holy Spirit to relate to others something about God’s presence, purpose and power in one’s life and in the life of all of humanity.” (Teresa Fry Brown, Delivering the Sermon, pp. 17)

Given these two definitions, I get how babies can be a distraction to a performance. As a parent of an 11-month-old, my crying baby seems to be about 10x louder for me than she is for other people. Her cries are amplified, and her running commentary on her dad’s sermon pierces through a crowd. So I get how a baby would interrupt a performance’s transmission of beauty or message because they interrupt that well-crafted focus.

But preaching is about naming and claiming God’s love present in the room. It’s about that Holy Spirit that isn’t given to the preacher and then transmitted to the people: that Spirit is in each one there and they communicate back and forth. Churches that have call-and-response to the preaching moment get this phenomenon, and to them, crying babies are just another “amen” section. The preacher is preaching if they connect with the congregation: calling out a crying baby and causing them to leave idolizes the spoken word as more important than the body of Christ fully present in the room.

There are practical considerations: Churches create “cry rooms” so that parents feel more comfortable (and, to be honest, some non-parents, as well). Other parishioners can help comfort the baby if the parent is OK with it. I’ve seen my share of church-fails such as when another parishioner took a baby out of the parents hands and walked with the baby out of the sanctuary—had I been a more fully aware preacher, that would have merited a call-out! Let’s be clear: Parents self-selecting to take a baby out is one thing; public shaming or pressure to send a baby out is wholly another.

It’s my belief that if I can’t preach over, above, through or alongside a crying baby, then I have no business preaching. And I should do serious reflection as to whether I am performing the Word of God or if I am allowing the Word to speak through and without me—and the latter will not be stopped by a crying baby, and indeed, it is incomplete without the presence of all who need to experience it.

What say you?

Jeremy Smith

Anonymous said...

Memorable quote from Steve Gaines after the 11 o'clock Sunday invitation:

"nana nana boo boo , we're not racist , we're not racist"

Anonymous said...

Off topic but what is the deal of the AWAKE at Bellevue?
I guess my concern is I see that my church will be there in October.
My church has not even mentioned it but saw it on Bellevue site.
Is there a purpose in Steve's plan? Like all the churches consolidate into one big Bellevue.

New BBC Open Forum said...

Pardon my ignorance, but what's "AWAKE"?

Anonymous said...

AWAKE is listed under the NEXT STEPS tab on the Bellevue Web page.

New BBC Open Forum said...

Tri-State Children’s Home supervisor indicted for failure to report child sexual abuse

Failure to report child sexual abuse can get you arrested in East Tennessee.

Apparently not so much in West Tennessee.

New BBC Open Forum said...

Few penalties for keeping child abuse secret

"It's under the blood."

Super Sleuth said...

NASS, I'm sorry this is off-subject, but was just wondering: Do you know if the 3 week trip to India for Donna and 3 other ladies were paid for out of Steve's personal salary...or was it taken out of the general tithe fund? I don't mean to be vindictive, but several of us were wondering. I'm sure they flew 1st Class and 5-Star hotels and meals. This huge expense, plus re-doing the whole lobby with new carpet, coffee station, tables,chairs, etc. had to cost mucho dinero. In our tithing statement a few days ago, Bro. Steve chastised us for not giving more. I think I have decided to put my $$$ directly in to the hands of several poor local missions, poor families and whoever needs money just to pay for meds and food. Well, after this rant, I will try again not to write, but we were just wondering about Donna and the ladies' 1st class trip. I would love to have the chance to spread the Gospel there and see all the sights, but the elite is the elite, that's it.

New BBC Open Forum said...

Anything I say about that would be purely speculation, but I have my suspicions based upon what I know (and that's not much) of the last big Donna-led trip to India. I would say your suspicions are probably accurate.

I think I have decided to put my $$$ directly in to the hands of several poor local missions, poor families and whoever needs money just to pay for meds and food.

I like this idea.

... the elite is the elite, that's it.

As it always has been and always will. I'm glad people are finally waking up and realizing that today's megachurches are little more than big businesses with "Jesus" as their logo, designed to bankroll the posh lifestyles of a select few off the backs of the sheeple. Whatever you give them that just happens to go towards missions is secondary. Very, very secondary.

Nicholas said...

Some Baptist churches are last places that any children should ever be:


Anonymous said...

I've just seen a list of largest SBC churches by weekly attendance. BBC is now #21. At one time, wasn't Bellevue second only to Houston Baptist?

Here's the link: http://thomrainer.com/2013/08/03/2013-update-largest-churches-in-the-southern-baptist-convention/

New BBC Open Forum said...

Sort of. But it wasn't second to "Houston Baptist." (Did you mean First or Second or some other Houston Baptist church?) Back in the '60s Bellevue was second in total membership only to FBC Dallas. In 1966 it dropped to 4th place.

Interesting footnote #1: South Main Baptist, ranked #13 in 1966, is now a member of the BGCT and the CBF but has withdrawn from the SBC.

Interesting footnote #2: Fort Worth's Broadway Baptist made the news in 2010. Brent Beasley is the former pastor of Second Baptist Memphis, a church which formed as the result of a split from Bellevue over 50 years ago.

Interesting footnote #3: Neither First nor Second Baptist Houston made the list.

I found this from 2008.

“There are growing SBC churches in every size — small, medium and large. However, the net membership has dropped for two years in a row.”

That would apply even to some of the churches on the largest-churches list. For instance, Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova, Tenn., was ranked the 80th-largest church, with attendance averaging 6,567.

But eight years ago the church, under previous pastor Adrian Rogers, consistently averaged more than 7,500. On Sept. 13, the congregation, now led by Steve Gaines, introduced a new contemporary worship service aimed at turning around the decline.

Note that they seem to be measuring two different things, largest churches by membership and largest by average weekly attendance.

Dear Steve,

It's not the lack of a "contemporary" service that was the cause of the sharp decline. Look in the mirror.


A piece of the "trash"

Lydia M said...

Steve and Donna flew to Apex, NC on Mon, Nov. 25 to visit Ryan, Lindsey and family. On Sat. Nov 23, he put the $$$ message on our phone saying if we had not given to the Love offering that we absolutely must do so. On Sunday at 9:20 service, Nov. 24, he stated "We are not where we should be on our receipts for love offering". I think we are all disgusted, as he seems to care about nothing but receipts. He will probably find some church in NC to be a guest speaker, pulling in even more bucks to add to his huge salary. And why does he not preach on Wed. night. When he was hired, I'm sure they assumed he would preach on Wed., as Adrian Rogers always did. This is getting ridiculous and somewhat funny.

Anonymous said...

I remember charts with Steve's face as a background showing the big drops in Sunday morning and Sunday night attendance and in baptisms. Has that been updated?

New BBC Open Forum said...

Eddie Struble