The Capranica

Comments on theology and life

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Location: Hemet, California, United States

Co-Pastor of First Baptist Church of San Jacinto, California

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Influential Books

The Barna Group has published a new study detailing the most influential books on pastors' bookshelves. Justin Taylor referenced comments at in regard to the study. Worth the read.

Seeker Gymnastics

Dan Southerland, “the leading expert on implementing the Purpose Driven paradigm in existing churches”, writes a recent article published on the popular “” website, entitled, “Seeker semantics.” According to Pastor Southerland, there is a chief difference between “Seeker Driven” churches and “Seeker Sensitive” services.

“Seeker Driven” are those weekend church services that make “winning the seeker” the main goal. To accomplish this goal and emphasis “they’ve added contemporary music, topical teachings, videos, drama and multi-media – all of which are good methods – to their focus on the seeker. Since the goal of the weekend service in such models is to reach the seeker, worship time is reduced, performed music is used more than participatory music, and the teaching is kept ultra light in its topic and tone.” Southerland offers no examples of current “Seeker Driven” churches and the tone of his article assumes that Purpose Driven Churches are NOT “Seeker Driven” churches.

“Seeker Sensitive” services, according to Southerland, are distinctly different from “Seeker Driven” churches in that, “The purpose is still for the family of God to meet together, to worship and to be fed.” “Seeker Sensitive” church services have merely changed their awareness of who is present and they adopt appropriate manners for seekers who may be present.

This is fascinating! Why? Because Dan Southerland, “the leading expert on implementing the Purpose Driven paradigm in existing churches”, has just re-written the best selling Purpose Driven Church (PDC) paradigm. Consider Rick Warren’s comments in PDC:

“Each week at Saddleback, we remind ourselves who we’re trying to reach. . . . Once you know your target, it will determine many of the components of your seeker sensitive service: music style, message topics, testimonies, creative arts, and much more. (253-254).

“The style of music you choose to use in your services will be one of the most critical (and controversial) decisions you make in the life of your church. It may also be the most influential factor in determining who your church reaches for Christ and whether or not your church grows. You must match your music to the kind of people God wants your church to reach. . . . If you were to tell me the kind of music you are currently using in your services I could describe the kind of people you are reaching without even visiting your church. I could also tell you the kind of people your church will never be able to reach” (280-281).

“At Saddleback we categorize songs according to target. Songs on the crowd list are appropriate when unbelievers are present (at our seeker services). Songs on the congregation list are songs that are meaningful to believers but wouldn’t make sense to the unchurched (we sing them at our midweek worship service)” (286).

“Use more performed music than congregational singing in your service for seekers. Visitors do not feel comfortable singing tunes they don’t know and words they don’t understand. It is also unrealistic to expect the unchurched to sing songs of praise and commitment to Jesus before they become believers. That’s getting the cart before the horse” (291).

“The style of preaching that I use in our seeker service is very different than the style I use to teach believers. . . . When preaching to believers I like to teach through books of the Bible, verse-by-verse. . . . Verse-by-verse, or book, exposition builds up the body of Christ. It works great when you’re speaking to believers. . . . But what about unbelievers who are not yet motivated to study Scripture? I do not believe verse-by-verse teaching through books of the Bible is the most effective way to evangelize the unchurched” (294). [By the way, Saddleback no longer has a mid-week believers’ service].

The quotes could continue. Obviously, Rick Warren advocates a “Seeker Driven” service on the weekend. Has Dan Southerland changed? Are Southerland and Warren divided? Has the Purpose Driven movement changed? No. Nothing in Warren’s book has been openly disavowed or publicly altered. This is more typical Seeker Service verbal gymnastics.

It appears to be typical for proponents of the seeker driven approach to counter their critics by assuming for themselves the very criticisms made against them. If the critic says the purpose of seeker services is driven by the lost and leaves the believer behind, the PDC proponent says the opposite, despite what is publicly written in the PDC handbook. For another example of this approach, seek Rick Warren’s article, “What a Purpose Driven Church is Not.”

Despite what Southerland writes, the Purpose Driven movement is still one driven by what the lost want and not primarily by what the Bible says. One has to wonder why the PDC leadership is going to such great extremes to play both sides of the fence?

Monday, May 30, 2005

The Singing Spurgeon

While studying and meditating on Psalm 95 in preparation for preaching on this Psalm, I appreciated Spurgeon's comment: It is to be feared that very much even of religious singing is not unto the Lord, but unto the ear of the congregation: above all things we must in our service of song take care that all we offer is with the heart’s sincerest and most fervent intent directed towards the Lord himself. From The Treasury of David, Vol 2, 164. - a good reminder for our preparation for corporate worship.

New Blog - Nice Template

Professor Jim Hamilton of Southwestern Seminary is blogging some great material and he's using a really nice template also.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Stem Cell Theology

Please read today's blog by Albert Mohler regarding the New York Times' editorial on The President's Stem Cell Theology. The editorial is another interesting read in how pluralism desires to be inclusive of virtually everything other than Christianity.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Another Way to Blame God

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)! What is SAD? It is another disorder drawn from the objectivity of science (**heavy sarcasm**). SAD is another possible explanation for why people become depressed. According to the study, in months where there is little sunlight, the brain begins to shrink (at least it does in rats). This creates more depression-causing hormones to be released from the hippocampus. About six percent of Americans are affected by SADness. If the study were true, there would be no depression here in sunny Southern California. However, from my estimation, our sunlit culture pops prozac like Skittles and lives under the dark clouds of their depression despite the year-round sun. There must be a different depression disorder for those who live in too much sun. This report is simply another way for the poor victim of God's creation to say, "It's not my fault; I was just made this way; I'm not responsible" It is eerily similar to Adam's statement to God (and about God) in the garden, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate" (Genesis 3:12). SAD is another piece of evidence that Solomon was right: there is nothing new under the sun (or the clouds).

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Joylessness of Christlessness

The land that once produced the puritans, the Wesley's, Whitfield, Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones and other colossal names in Christian circles has lost her joy. The referenced report is an interesting read, especially when one considers that Great Britain is a country given to the application of modern liberalism, where once she was the propagator of the gospel to the world. This secularized country now faces the results of Christlessness: joylessness. "Money worries, relationship woes and even political concerns were among the reasons given for the collection of grim faces, according to the data, collected for the cruise company Ocean Village." Rather than examining the ramifications of Britain's social issues, the group researching England's joy attributed their sorrow to: "Factors such as weather, time of day and age, were all cited as being able to spark the blues." What about England's measured move away from the Bible, the gospel and the Lordship of Christ? While no secular survey would turn up such causes to unhappiness, it should come as no surprise to those who know the strength of the joy of the Lord. "Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4. "I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in all riches." Psalm 119:14 "I have inherited Your testimonies forever, for they are the joy of my heart." Psalm 119:111 "I rejoice at Your word, as one who finds great spoil." Psalm 119:162 "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!" Philippians 4:4

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Finding Heaven Through a Harley?

Our local Inland Empire newspaper (The Press Enterprise), published the referenced report yesterday about a local congregation that will do anything to "reach" people, including giving away a new $25,000 Harley-Davidson Road King. The 6500 member Crossroads Church in Corona gave away the motorcycle in the name of the gospel. "I guess they feel the bike has significant value in the people they're trying to reach. ... Barry McMurtrie is a no-nonsense kind of a guy. He'll do anything to reach people, but he'll also make sure they have the opportunity to know the Gospel. When he opens his Bible, there will be no misunderstanding." The bike was given away not to a visitor, but a year-long member who won the bike through having his name pulled from a hat. Obviously with the seeker driven emphasis among contemporary American churches, this latest show should not be surprising. In fact, the article notes that such a feat is being replicated across the country. "The River at Tampa Bay in Florida gave away a Humvee in January. On New Year's Eve 2003 Abundant Life Christian Center in La Marque, Texas, raffled off a Harley-Davidson Sportster and a Chrysler PT Cruiser to visitors and members. And Christ's Church of the Valley near Phoenix appealed to unchurched young adults by giving away two tickets to a sold-out U2 rock concert to people who visited the church's Web site." All of this is done in the name of Christ and promoted as a means of attracting people to hear the gospel. However, with the gimmicks used to attract the lost, one has to wonder exactly what gospel will be preached? The Corona congregation insists, "We want to show people what we're about," Bailey said. "It's a real comfortable place. It's no-nonsense Gospel. ... Christ comes first here. We want to do church in a different way. Our motto is that this is a church anyone can come to, from the motorcycle rider to the minivan driver." It is hard to imagine how Christ comes first, when it appears that a great amount of church energy is spent centered on the non-churched consumer. The following quote from the Press Enterprise article may help to demonstrate what kind of approach to the gospel the Crossroads Church takes: "Members carry their ice-blended coffee drinks into the service and park them in the armrest cup holders. They chat during loud numbers by the five-piece band. The Bible lesson features the cartoon, "Moses," and communion is self-serve." The band plays loud and the congregation chats during the numbers, much like a good concert. The Bible is focused on a cartoon and there is no sense of community or corporate remembrance of the atonement during communion - it's self-serve. "Self-serve" seems to be the theme of such churches. What the New Testament does reveal to us about the priorities of a biblical church is a far cry from what many of these "self-serve" congregations are offering up. Acts 2:42-27 appears to be a far cry from the emphasis of Crossroads Church. How is it that the eternal, transcendent, holy and majestic God can be biblically understood when such a casual approach is taken toward Him? Where in the New Testament is the gathering of the church to be focused on consumers rather than the corporate worship of Christ? They have replaced the worship of God with the watching of a concert and the preoccupation with what is really non-eternal. Such congregations will undoubtedly draw a crowd, but will inevitably not create a church. More could be said, but this is another example of the American church missing the purpose of the centrality of Christ, replacing Him with the centrality of the consumer.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Bush @ Calvin

For a good read on President Bush's experience at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, see Al Mohler's blog today entitled: "President Bush at Calvin College."

Ah, Evidence of Scientific Objectivity

To tan or not to tan, that now is the question. The report has now emerged: being out in the sun is good for you and will help you avoid cancer. Wow! Just the opposite of what we have all been told. So says a new report advocated by Dr. Edward Giovannucci, a Harvard University professor. Dr. Giovannucci is convinced that the sun is really good for our skin and if we have enough vitamin D, we will not only cut the risk of cancer but protect ourselves from it also. A dermatologist, Dr. Michael Holick slams the conventional thinking that has fueled the sunscreen industry for years saying, "The problem has been that the American Academy of Dermatology has been unchallenged for 20 years," he says. "They have brainwashed the public at every level." Dr. Holick, former chief of endocrinology, was stripped of his professorship when the head of his department noted that he had been paid over $150,000 from the Indoor Tanning Association. Ah, objectivity driving science. I love it. This story ranks up there with the back and forth commendations and condemnations of coffee. I write this with a large cup of Starbucks in front of me. My interest in this story comes from the once again sham of those who claim that science is purely objective and therefore completely authoritative. Does it bother anyone that scientists can't make up their minds? Is anyone intrigued by the fact that many so-called scientific facts are tainted by agendas, grants, academic stardom and public status? Science is not amoral because it is observing a sin-stained world through sin-tainted eyes. So, when evolutionists claim that the earth is dripping with Big-bang evidence, believe them only as far as their secular, anti-God presuppositions will take them. They hamstring their objectivity by their presuppositions. So, until the next objectively produced scientific report, enjoy the sun, take high doses of vitamin D and drink a cup of coffee, just to be safe.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

All Things "Capranica"

I am often asked, "what nationality is that name?" In my quick browse around the world-wide web, I've found some very interesting stuff about "Capranica." Here's a sampling: It is a medieval city in central Italy. Note the city emblem.

Capranica in the winter. It is a theatre in Rome. Check out the great pictures.
It is a restaurant in Rome.
As noted previously, it is a college, or residence for Vatican seminary students.
So, yes, the name is of Italian origin, making me, therefore, a Roman Baptist.

Star Wars and Theology?

No, I am not one of those who attempts to find Christian or moral themes in movies like Star Wars in order to commend them to you and your family's viewing. The article referenced, however, uses the recent release of George Lucas' final movie in the Star Wars' saga to discuss the age old theological (it is more theological than philosophical) issue about a person's essential nature. Are we born good or evil? Popular culture postulates ideologies, not just entertainment, even through entertaining movies like Star Wars. The article notes, How about it, George? Was Anakin born bad? “No,” Lucas told The Associated Press. “That’s why most people got upset about ‘Episode I.’ They said, ‘Well, he should be a monster.’ But he’s not a monster. He has sort of heightened skills and awareness, and he’s smarter than most people, but at the same time, he makes rather bad decisions.” Lucas' response about his movie character reflects the idea that many have about our human nature. Many believe that we are essentially good, but our environment and personal "bad decisions," lead us astray. One psychologist quoted in the article says,

No one is born with a Napoleon complex. Yet our genetic raw material does establish tendencies for how each person will respond to environmental factors, said Alan Hilfer, a child psychologist at Maimonides Medical Center in New York. “We come into the world with a personality, a character. Some kids are more irritable, some more sensitive, some kids are easygoing,” Hilfer said. “We all come in with a particular set of biological pieces to make up who we are. How things act on those pieces determine how we navigate the rest of our lives.”

In other words, we are all basically good natured protoplasm shaped by experiences outside ourselves that compel us to be the people we ultimately become.

Needless to say, our culture's take on the nature of man is one starkly different than that portrayed by our Creator in the Scriptures. According to the Bible, we are all "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1). We are "indulging the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest" (Ephesians 2:3). We are plagued by hardened hearts given over to "sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness" (Ephesians 4:18, 19). We have been sinful and not innocent from the time of our own birth (Psalm 58:3). Our helpless state to do anything that would make us worthy before God puts us in the perfect position to see the need for the one and only means of salvation: the perfect life and only acceptable sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We become new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Through Christ alone and faith alone in Him we are made alive by God (Ephesians 2:5). Through faith alone in Christ, we are no longer slaves to the sinful nature with which we were born (Romans 6:5-7). Through the latest Star Wars movie, popular culture has reflected another ideology worthy of being captured and brought into obedience to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). So while you enjoy the movie (I did see the 12:01 release Thursday morning), reject the ideology. We are desperately in need of a radical transformation and faith alone in Christ alone is the singular answer to our plight.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Devaluing the Reformation

Do we need another reformation within Christianity? Rick Warren says we do. However this time, the new reformation needs to be one not based on belief, but on behavior. In a recent gathering of over 12,000 people in Dallas, Warren spoke about how the Reformation of the sixteenth century divided the church, but how a new reformation centered on planting churches, developing servant leaders, feeding the poor, curing the sick and educating the uneducated will unify the church. And with whom will we be unified? The meeting was a gathering of "Baptists, charismatics, nondenominational evangelicals, and others [I wonder who these folks are] at Dallas' Reunion Arena for a Global Day of Prayer rally May 15." Warren commented about the first reformation and the new reformation, "The first one was about creeds; this one's going to be about our deeds. The first one divided the church; this time it will unify the church." Warren led the assembly in "praying against the global giants" that lead to fear, loss of direction, and lack of purpose, noting spiritual emptiness is the greatest giant." This push for a global response of the Church to issues such as health, education and poverty is a necessary one. My concern is that we are approaching such issues without a common conviction about what is actually most basic: the gospel. To link arms with religious groups who do not agree on the content of the gospel in order to cure societal ills is eternally meaningless. In my estimation, Warren's approach is picking up the ball where the Promise Keepers left off: unity without theology. He seems to speak pajoritively about the sixteenth century reformation when he states, "The first one divided the church, this time it will unify the church." Remember why we had a "first" reformation? Recall why the church divided? The gospel! Justification by faith alone in Christ alone by grace alone. Was this uncalled for? Was the first reformation an unnecessary distraction from what the church should have been focused on, like global health, education and poverty issues? Our culture is ever ripening toward a society that pursues unity in the name of Christianity, while rejecting the very gospel the church is charged to proclaim. Perhaps a clearer and biblically faithful alternative will be communicated in the upcoming "Together for the Gospel" conference.

Does Purpose Driven Result in God Centered?

What will the results of Rick Warren's blockbuster book The Purpose Driven Life (PDL, over 20 million copies sold) look like? George Barna has conducted a recent review of what "Purpose Driven" currently looks like in America. From the article:

More than four out of every ten adults – 44% – said their top priority in life is having a satisfying family life. This was nearly three times as popular as the second-most common response and more than four times as prolific as the third-most popular reply."
Despite Warren's opening appeal in PDL that "it's not about you," I found much of the remainder of the book to be "much about you." Thus Barana's research, showing that "The second-most common life priority, listed by 18% of all adults, was that of understanding and carrying out the principles of their faith," should not be shocking. As a matter of fact, even Barna's concluding comments about his survey indicate that he also believes that faith is really a means to live a better life. His survey states,
The survey results raise some questions, however, about the faith commitment of many church-going and born again adults. One must wonder,” he continued, “if the struggles evident in so many marriages and parent-child relationships are connected to the fact that people are generally more interested in pursuing a fulfilling family life than in understanding the principles for meaningful living that may help shape such a family experience.”
Does "Purpose Driven" (capital "P" "D") result in being God-centered? Barna's research suggests it does not. We live in a culture that sees God as valuable as long as the individual can remain the center. God's Word is viewed as a means to my own individualistic ends. It appears that "Purpose Driven" is simply another way to bring God into my priorities, rather than me into His. See the following for reviews of The Purpose Driven Life: Review by Paul Alexander, 9 Marks Ministry Review by Nathan Busenitz, The Shepherds' Fellowship (pdf file) For an alternative to The Purpose Driven Life, I would suggest John Piper's Desiring God.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Will We Shake Today?

The referenced link will show you a real time map not of tremors that have already taken place in California, but of poetential tremors. Now there is one more page to read when checking the forecast for the day. See also the article: Scientists Unveil Earthquake Forecast.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

This Will Be Good Reading

Phil Johnson, editor for John MacArthur's major books (and my wife's former boss), will begin blogging on June 1. I'm adding his blogspot to my links now in great anticipation.

American Bible Literacy

The Weekly Standard article referenced was written by David Gelernter, a senior fellow in Jewish Thought at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. He laments the lack of the public schools' acknowledgement of how much of early American history is saturated with biblical references. The article is a good read. However, if the Bible is properly undertood, I'm not sure even the Weekly Standard would want to elevate it in public dialogue and give it a prominent place in our public education system. If the Bible is the record of God bringing ultimate glory to Himself by saving sin-saturated people through the life, atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ alone (Ephesians 2:1-10), would this satisfy the moralism many conservative American commentators seek to press the Bible into? The Bible is not primarily about theocentric ethics. The Bible is primarily about God's elevation of Himself through Jesus Christ and changing people from Christ-denying sinners into a population who proclaim His excellencies through salvation in Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:9-12). Even our Christian ethics have as their central aim the glory and supremacy of God through the person of Jesus Christ. Is this really the message Mr. Gelernter wants the American youth to know, embrace and spread? I'm up for it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Speaking of Catholics and Protestants

For an interesting evaluation of more trends of Protestants ignoring orthodoxy and sliding toward embracing Catholic dogma, see Albert Mohler's blog from Tuesday, May 17, 2005 entitled: "Anglicans and Roman Catholics Together-On Mary."

The Contemporary Church's Missing Link

What is it that current contemporary-driven churches lack in their approach to worship? Let me allow a friend of mine who is currently converting to Catholicism give her evaluation after attending both a Baptist contemporary service and her new-found Catholic service. Her blog reveals her opinion of the differences: Dual Church Going. While I have a number of issues of disagreement regarding the Catholic Church's view of salvation and all of the trappings associated with their sacerdotalism, I find it interesting that a young adult who is seriously seeking a relationship with Christ finds the missing link in the contemporary church to be "reverence for God" and "truth" as the basis of the worship. While I have a number of disagreements with my friend and her take on what "truth" consists and whether or not the ritual of the Catholic system is actually biblically reverencing God, I nonetheless respect her evaluation. I have long believed that the contemporary drive in many churches has less to do with God than it does with man-centered marketing. How telling that a former Baptist is looking for God-centeredness and finds less of it in the contemporary service she attended and more in the theologically errant system of Catholicism. I have addressed a number of these concerns in a sermon (and series of sermons) entitled Heaven Help Our Worship - Part 1 and Part 2

Monday, May 16, 2005

Mohler on the Evagelical Left

See Dr. Albert Mohler's review of Professor Mark Lilla's essay in the New York Times (registration required) from Sunday. Mohler's review is titled: "Mark Lilla Wonders Why Evangelicals Won't Get With the Program--and Liberalize." (Posted today at 3:13 a.m. ET. NOTE: He had already posted another blog at 2:48 a.m. ET - wow!). As always, Dr. Mohler is brilliant in his analysis and critique of contemporary issues in theology and society.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Must Science Mean Secular?

Remove a secular and purely naturalistic philosophical bent to observing the world and some scientists believe you are redefining the English language. So suggests this article regarding the Kansas Board of Education's desire to define Science as "'a systematic method of continuing investigation' using observation, experiment, measurement, theory building, testing of ideas and logical argument to lead to better explanations of natural phenomena." What could be wrong with such a definition? The definition does not even hint at a religious view of seeing the world. The problem is that it does not make a god out of naturalistic science. The definition does not demand that the world bow to a non-neutral philosophy of seeing the world through atheistic eyes. The objections to the new definition tend to demonstrate the anti-religious bias of some scientists who don't seem to be pushing for objectivity of evidence, but rather supression of any conclusion that might demand the involvement of (or existence of) deity. Here is yet another evidence of the tolerance crowd showing a lack of tolerance toward a world-view that has the possibility of lending credibility to Christianity. It is fallacious to think that secular scientists (i.e., those quoted in the article) are neutral in their observations of the earth and its functions. Their opinion seems to be, "if you have religious convictions, it impossible to be scientific", or at least, "religious convictions cannot have any scientific conclusions" and vice versa. Pure naturalism is a philosophical ideaology, not a result of unbiased, neutral observation. Why is it that science MUST be secular? My guess is that any scientific evaluation of this question would yield less than objective non-biased, answers.

The Problem with Sacred Cows

Here is another result of following false religion. The exaltation of cows. Don't get me wrong, I am originally from a "cow town" (Amarillo, Texas) and I now live in a dairy area. I have smelled, seen and savaored cows all of my life. But Hinduism's veneration of cows is virtual madness. This article is a good description of one of the temporal consequences of idolatry.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Pondering Preaching

Here is a link to sermons I have preached at my home church. They are generally posted weekly: Click HERE I am currently preaching through the book of Revelation each Sunday evening.

Opening The Capranica

Why "The Capranica"? According to a book my wife has been reading (The Inside Story of How the Vatican Really Thinks, John L. Allen - a former High School teacher of hers), Italians who are going places in the Roman religious system complete their studies at the Pontificia Academia and live at "The Capranica." Quoting John Allen: "In the European system, a college is a residence, not a place of study. Anyone who knows Italy realizes that a young cleric who is selected to study at the Academia and to live at the Capranica is going places." - p 87. Capranica being my last name, pastoral ministry my calling in life (though a protestant), and John Allen's comments, it all seems to fit. So, here is the official opening of my random thoughts on theology and life from the residence of the Capranica (the one in California, not Italy). See also: All Things Capranica