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Monday, September 27, 2010

Thinking Biblically about the Eddie Long Scandal

It’s not often that a pastor, particularly in the black community, is the lead story
 on CNN, and for that matter, the top news story in the nation. Proud day for the church? Not exactly. Tragic is a better description. Four young male members of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church accused their Bishop, Eddie Long, of abusing his pastoral authority by coercing them into having sex. Alleged salacious details and pictures of Bishop Long clad in skin-tight muscle outfits supposedly texted to the young men flooded the news waves. Added to the shocking nature of this is Long’s long-standing adamant position that same sex sex is sin. The result: an irresistible titillating news story and a nightmare of reproach for every predominantly black church (good ones and bad). The growing consensus to this scandal seems to be that Bible believing Christians in predominantly black churches are homophobic hypocrites, and the obvious solution is that they must become more lovingly inclusive of homosexuality so people can stop pretending to be straight in their churches when they are really not.

As a Bible-believing pastor in a predominantly black church, I feel obligated to respond to this story, one, because the growing consensus misses the biblical mark, and two, because the Bible more than sufficiently instructs the church how to handle pastoral crises. Therefore, let me offer ten brief points regarding what the Bible says about a scandal like this.
  1. Before drawing hard conclusions, let the whole story come out. “He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him,” Proverbs 18:13.
  2. Don’t ignore the obvious. Jesus warns, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. . . . every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit,” Matt 7:15-17.
  3. There are certain kinds of sins that if present in a person’s life will produce other grosser sins. The apostle Paul teaches, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith,” 1 Tim 6:10. Therefore, the Bible absolutely forbids churches from calling men as pastors who are not “free from the love of money,” 1 Tim 3:3.
  4. Whenever someone is truly innocent, God will vindicate them. “[K]eep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame,” 1 Pet 3:16.
  5. Conversely, the Bible teaches that God will expose those who try to hide their sin in the name of religion. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap,” Gal 6:7.
  6. God loves all sinners, straight and gay, because he sent His Son to die for all sinners, John 3:16. He also loves too much to leave people in their sin, so He calls all sinners to repent. Those who will, straight or gay, He forgives and transforms. Those who won’t, straight or gay, religious or irreligious, He judges, 1 Cor 6:9-11.
  7. God holds leaders to a stricter judgment. “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment,” James 3:1.
  8. Church leadership must not be a good ol' boys club that covers up sins when allegations are substantiated by two or more people. They must be taken very seriously. Scripture admonishes the church, “Do not receive an accusation against an elder (pastor or bishop) except on the basis of two or three witnesses,” 1 Tim 5:19, but if found to be true, the church cannot be a respecter of persons and show partiality to its leaders. The Word of God demands that “Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning” 1 Tim 5:19, also see v. 20.
  9. When brazen sin in the church is not rebuked then it spreads like cancer corrupting the whole church. “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump,” 1 Cor 5:7.
  10. The obvious solution is that churches in the black community need to regain the spiritual power to live the lives of holiness that they claim to believe (Gal 5:16-13) and refuse to dismiss what the Bible calls sin in order to accommodate our cultures new sexual morays (2 Cor 6:17). “Be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy,” 1 Pet 1:15-16.

In summary, it blatantly misses the point to suggest that black churches are filled with homosexuals who are afraid to come out because the black church is unloving. I know of no church that is more forgiving and willing to receive hurting people than the black church. However, the black church has also been taught to accept the Bible literally, and many homosexuals in black churches don’t come out because they know that the Bible calls homosexuality sin. So while the Bible plainly teaches that God is love, it is also teaches that God is Holy, and He hates sin. The real issue then, for professing Christians who struggle with homosexual urges, is will they turn to God for the power to live holy lives? All Christians will struggle against temptations, and God provides each and every one of them overcoming grace so that they can live consistently holy lives and experience His liberating grace of forgiveness when they repent each time they fail. In due season, God will lift the clouds surrounding this scandal, and He will make it very clear what kind of man Bishop Long is. I have a feeling that through this, God is going to reveal where a lot of us stand—if we are indeed truly loyal to our loving and holy God or not. I pray that this will be a wake-up call to many and that we will heed the words of the prayer of the  OT's wisest man to ever live, “If [God's] people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land,” 2 Chron 7:14.

Friday, September 24, 2010

What Should the Church Do about Bishop Eddie Long?

Without all the evidence that may support or contradict that allegations against Eddie Long, I thought the article below captured the essence of what the discussion should be about. The church should pray that the truth comes out—all of it.

New Birth's mission: Pursue truth about Bishop Long

I feel a particular burden to respond to this scandal because a few years ago (2006), I was engaged in a back and forth series of emails and phone conversations with a prominent evangelical African American pastor regarding Eddie Long. The prominent evangelical pastor had invited Bishop Long to preach at his conference. I pleaded with him to disinvite Eddie Long because of his outrageously heretical statements.  Sadly, my plea went unheeded. My pray and plea for the church today is that God will somehow use this ugly scandal to bring about repentance, a reaffirmation to cling to truth, and a renewed longing for holiness. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

LACBC is a Fundamental/Evangelical Church


The wave of Modernism that swept over the West in the 19th century brought with it an insidious attack against the church—the lie that reason could replace faith; and science the Bible. Virtually all of our once great bastions of Christian thinking, our Princetons and Harvards came to embrace that lie. This supposed secular enlightenment also infected the thinking of nearly all of our major denominations. This new attack—theological liberalism (not synonymous with political liberalism)—is still alive and well in the church today. Armed with scientific dogma, emboldened by Darwin’s evolution, made vogue through appealing social and psychological jargon, modern man and woman openly exchanged the truth of God’s Word for a lie.

In layman’s terms this means that many people in the West grew to no longer accept the Bible as the error-free (inerrant) Word of God. To many the Bible is at best a book with good moral teaching and at worst an intellectual crutch for unreasoning, dangerous, fundamental radicals. 

Can you think of time when you encountered theological liberalism (e.g., black liberation theology)? How did it contradict the Bible, and how did it tempt you to compromise the truth?


Like with Elijah, God raised up men who would not bow a knee to Satan’s new attack against the church. On September 4-6, 1923, at the Lake Okoboji Tabernacle in Arnold Park, Iowa, 24 men from ten states met to organize a fellowship for true Bible-believing pastors and churches who were opposed to the apostasy of their denominations. This movement eventually became known as the IFCA and was a counter-movement to Liberalism. These new churches were committed to holding to the fundamentals of the Christian faith: the virgin birth of Christ, the resurrection, the deity of Christ, miracles in the Bible, and the inspiration of Scripture.


With similar convictions, but with a non-separatist approach, men like theologian John Gresham Machen (1881-1937) choose to stay in their Christian denominations and schools of theology and to fight against liberalism. Eventually they too would have to leave their churches and schools, but they refused to leave their biblical academic pursuits of the faith. They vigorously clung to the conviction that the gospel needed to be actively shared, conversion meant having a born-again experience, and that the Bible is the authoritative inerrant Word of God. They also believed that all truth (scientific included) is God’s truth but only the Bible is God-inspired truth. So they held to the conviction that when rightly understood science and the Bible would agree. This movement called evangelicalism, at times stood in opposition to fundamentalists stronger separatist (and at times anti-academic) conviction.

LACBC in direct ways is linked to both of these movements. Our church was organized with the help of the IFCA and our pastors have been trained in solid evangelical seminaries. We tend to hold the historic convictions compatible with both fundamentalist and evangelicals, and we fellowship in both groups.


Liberals reliance upon the goodness and brilliance of mankind instead of the inerrant Word of God leaves them depending upon a utopian hope that contradicts reality. The conclusion that man’s reasoning is incurably flawed is forcefully taught throughout Scripture.

  1. What does the Bible teach about the reasoning of the lost mind? According to the Bible man’s mind is: debased, Romans 1:28; hardened, 2 Cor 3:14; blinded by Satan, 2 Cor 4:4; darkened, Eph 4:18; hostile to God & spiritual truth, Col 1:21; deceived, Col 2:8; sensual, Col 2:18; depraved, 1 Tim 6:5; corrupted, 2 Tim 3:8; and defiled, Tit 1:15.
  2. What is the source of fallen man’s wisdom when it defies God’s Word? Man’s wisdom when in contradiction to God is rooted in demonic sources: “This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic,” James 3:15. Satan who lied from the beginning is the instigator who tempts mankind to question God’s Word, Genesis 3:1.
  3. According to the Bible how are Christians supposed to respond to so-called philosophies that stand in opposition to the teaching of Scripture? Read 2 Timothy 2:14-18 and paraphrase Colossians 2:8.

KEY TERMS: Modernity, Liberalism, Fundamentalism, Evangelicalism, Inerrancy


Remember the story of the camel who asked if he could just put his nose into the travelers tent? Once he got his nose in, he kept pressing to come in further and further until he took over the entire tent and kicked the traveler out. Beware! There is a lesson in this for us. In too many professing churches, the truth has been kicked out and replaced with what sounds socially and scientifically relevant.

We must not comprise our stand on the Word of God for the sake of appearing intellectually astute to a world that is spiritually blind to the truth. There is a price to pay for forsaking the truth for worldly wisdom. According to Jesus, the truth is the only thing that will set us free, John 8:31-21. This means if we forsake truth two consequences will follow: (1) we lose all hope of becoming free from sin and (2) we will allow ourselves to be imprisoned “through philosophy and empty deception,” Col 2:8.

At LACBC we believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God—all of it—and we would rather be Christ’s fools and be free, then have all the world’s wisdom, with all the world’s wealth, and power along with it, only to remain a slave of sin doomed under God’s judgment forever. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

LACBC is a Protestant Church

In the next two months, I will post a series of notes adapted from a preaching series I did defining the church I have the privilege of pastoring. If you want to hear any of the full sermons go to our lacbc sermon's audio link. Here are the notes.


After Constantine made Christianity the official religion of Rome in the 4th Century (AD 313) the political power the church gained began to corrupt it. As Lord Acton aptly noted, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The Dark Ages soon began and with it the need for a reformation.

Protestantism began in the 16th century. The word Protestant comes from the Latin word to publically declare or protest. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, in an attempt to reform compromising concerns in the church such as indulgencies. His theses spread like wildfire. Instead of correcting their aberrant practices and heretical doctrines, the Church of Rome put restrictions on Luther and the growing numbers who joined in his protest. Protestantism was born.

Can you explain an important distinction between a Protestant and Catholic Church? Here are several:
  •         Indulgences vs. forgiveness in Christ

o   In Catholic theology an indulgence is “a remission of the temporal punishment due to sin, the guilt of which has been forgiven,” New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia. The church grants this remission in response to some act of penance (praying Hail Marys, a certain number of the Lord’s Prayer, etc.).
o   This practice was corrupted during the time of Luther and indulgences were sold by the church for members to buy for themselves or loved ones thought to be in purgatory.
o   In Protestant theology, sins are remitted on the basis of Christ’s death on the cross and experienced through confession and repentance (1 John 1:9). We agree on these points, but disagree when Catholics add sacraments.     

  •        Revelation

o   Apocrypha are historical books recorded during the 400 yr span between the OT and NT. They accessible to Jesus and the apostles. They are never cited as Scripture. The Catholic Church only concluded that they were inspired in the 16th as a response to the debates by Protestants. They did so to substantiate the doctrine of purgatory.
o   Church Councils, the Pope vs. the Supremacy and sufficiency of the Scriptures over matters of faith.
o   1 Tim 3:16 makes it clear that the Scriptures as the breath-out Word of God is alone sufficient to prepare believers for everything God calls us to do.
  •        Purgatory vs. Heaven and Hell

o   This doctrine is based on 2 Maccabees 12:43-45, which teaches that “2.000 pieces of silver were sent to Jerusalem for a sin-offering...Whereupon he made reconciliation for the dead, that they might be delivered from sin.” Also Catholics hold to this position because of the rulings of the church councils like Trent, etc.
o   This clearly denies the sufficiency of Jesus atoning death.
o   It denies that righteousness is credited on the basis of faith alone.
o   The Catholic church fathers and their councils confirming purgatory as the means of expiating sins is in contradiction with the Bible and is, therefore, wrong. It appalled Luther to see professing believers being manipulated to give money (indulgencies) with the lie that their gifts could free loved ones from purgatory.
o   The Bible teaches that “it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,” Heb 9:27.
  •            Praying to the saints vs. The sainthood and priesthood of all believers.

o   All Christians are saints; see Phil 1:1.
o   And all Christians are priests. “But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD,” 1 Pet 2:9.


While there are many important distinctions between Roman Catholics and Protestants, the hallmark distinction is the doctrine of justification. To be a Protestant one must affirm that God declares sinners righteous on the basis of faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone.

Read Romans 4:1-6; Philippians 3:8-9; Genesis 15:6 and answer the following questions:
  1.  How do sinners become righteous? God credits it to them righteousness (define impute).
  2.   In what spiritual condition do believers receive this credit? They are sinners who trust in (rely upon, depend in, have faith, relational trust upon) Jesus.
  3.   What is the difference between the Catholic and Protestant positions regarding how a sinner becomes righteous? Answer:

a.     Catholics believe in faith + works (keeping the sacraments) and hence the righteousness is inherent or infused to the Christian.
b.     Protestants believe in faith alone and hence righteousness is given as an unearned gift. It is an alien righteousness being that of another—Jesus’ righteousness.


If God does not grant righteousness as a gift of his grace, what good works and what amount of good works could we do to earn the declaration from Him that we are righteous? The only hope, the only hope, of guilty sinners (Ps 130:3; Is 64:6) to be made acceptable before a thrice holy God is by an act His sheer grace granting us righteousness as a gift of His grace (Ps 32:2).


There really are only two religions in the world—one of human achievement and divine accomplishment. LACBC is a Protestant church because we believe that God saves sinners by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. That distinguishes our church from a whole lot of other churches.