Top 20 Christian Albums of the Decade: 2010-2019

The Top 20 Christian Albums of the Decade

Jonathan Faulkner

After I left ARLCMG in 2013 it is true that I have not been as up to date on the Christian Music Scene outside of the bands I regularly listen too. That is not to say I do not still get updates and am not still on the mailing lists for several of my old music industry contacts. I still get their pre-releases and have even occasionally released reviews of various albums. Still, I want to post a top 20 of the decades (and some honorable mentions) because this has actually been a great decade for Christian Music across the spectrum. In fact, from Lecrae, to Third Day, to Demon Hunter to Thousand Foot Krutch to Tenth Avenue North, and across all sorts of genres from Ska to Metal to CCM to Rap, it has been an incredible decade. So let’s lay out the criterion, or dust it off as it were, for what makes an album worthy of a top 20 list, or even for a top review.

  1. It must have staying power: It must be one you come back and listen to over and over
  2. It must show the creativity of the band: No cookie cutter albums here
  3. It must be relevant to the times: This is the hardest category
  4. It must have clear Christian themes and messages: Like, from the Bible.

So, with these in mind, let’s start working through our top 20 of the Decade. They are listed as Album, Title, Year.

Honorable Mentions: “I Quit Church” Matt & Toby, “Love Letter Killshot” Disciple, “Come In” Children 18:3, “The Things We’ve Been To Afraid to Say” Tenth Avenue North, “The Mountaintop” The City Harmonic, “Good News” Rend Collective

20. Between Pavement and Stars, Five Iron Frenzy, 2015: This EP really makes the list for one reason, it is the only time in Christian Music when an artist has properly addressed the problems with Westboro Baptist. Well…that’s not the only reason, but “God Hates Flags” is one of the few songs of the decade that tries to deal both in grace and truthfulness with the so-called church in Topeka. Every song on this EP except for the fun “To Astoria!” addresses some issue of the culture which they have seen in abundance at their church in Denver called “Scum of the Earth Church.”

19. Blacklight, Tedashi, 2011: One of the many albums I reviewed at ARL still makes its way into my CD player (an old music listening device) today. The album has not only increased in relevance as times have changed, “Burn This House Down” feels more relevant than it did when it came out as Tedashi and other Christian Rappers both Black and White have moved away from cultural Evangelicalims/Christianity. This album is a work of art from start to finish with few exceptions (there is actually only one), the more you listen the more you learn.

18. How to be Human, The Classic Crime, 2017: Some might be surprised to find this album here given that it actually moves away from American Christian Orthodoxy, but in this case, that is a good thing as the band wrestles with their move away from simple faith to one of people questioning faith and even questioning all that they’ve been told. This is relevant for the same reason Matt and Toby’s “I Quit Church” is, it reflects the feelings and thoughts of the current generation. Helping us better understand the culture into which we are ministering. Authors note:“I Quit Church” is an honorable mention.

17. Extremist, Demon Hunter, 2014: There have been six Demon Hunter albums between 2010 and 2019 and two of them make this list. “Extremist” first because it addresses Christian Music’s tendency towards easy, irrelevant answers that point people to conventional, feel good, wisdom, not the truth of the Gospel. It starts with out “Artificial Light” and ends with the natural resting place of worldly wisdom: “The Heart of a Graveyard.” It addresses our modern religious western Pharisaic (“Cross to Bear”) and shows the bands ability to transition their sound while staying true to what makes them Demon Hunter.

16, Neon Steeple, Crowder, 2014: Another artist with two albums making this list is Crowder. I am not sure any of us expected such a solid first outing from the man once he left The David Crowder Band, and yet, here we are with two. Crowder shows he is not just a pawn on the industry, that he can speak to issues within the Christian Community. He does so in a way that points us to Christ and to the Scriptures. Something sorely missing in CCM today.

15. Inland, Jars of Clay, 2013: Can you believe this is the only Jars Album to come out this decade? It just confirms I am pushing 30…. Anyway…. Jars of Clay was known for their relevancy and Inland does not disappoint. From “After the Fight” to “Loneliness and Alcohol” which addresses our cultures isolation and alcoholism to the haunting “Human Race” and the need for a “Reckless Forgiver” This album speaks into the darkness and dissolution of our lives in ways lost on much of CCM.

14. American Prodigal, Crowder, 2016: There are certain albums you start to listen to and realize you need to wait because by the end you are going to be crying. This was one of them, and if you got the Deluxe Edition, well you were probably crying even harder when “Praise the Lord” came on and you realized that all your cultural Christianity had failed you. For Crowder this album seems like an unworking of all he worked to build, his next album feels more so, but this one knocks down the foundations to take us “Back to the Garden” when Christian Music was good and God was the focus. This album challenged Christian Music’s fundamental assertions and for that it did not get quite the credit it deserves.

13. You Were Never Alone, Emery, 2015: It’s hard to think of a band more accomplished in the last decade than Emery or a musician more accomplished then Toby Morrell who has gone unnoticed by the wider market. The first independent record from Emery was quite a showing and in true Emery style, completely different than what they had ever done before. “Rock, Pebel, Stone” was probably one of the best songs of the decade, as were “Thrash” and “To The Deep.” I should pause here and say that a lot of bands could learn from Emery’s business model. I have never been part of a community of fans were the artists connect better and address topics better than the BadChristian brand does. Forget Christian music learning something from this, the Church as a whole should.

12. Blurryface, Twenty-One Pilots, 2015: From one of the most underappreciated bands of the decade, to one of the two most appreciated. I had to catch myself one day recently when I almost referred to Twenty-One Pilots as a “new phenomenon.” I forgot that they have been around for over 10 years now and have only grown in popularity. Blurryface, a record about the artists inner mental health struggle and sins speaks to our generation in a way we understand and can identify with while seeking to point us to God, even when we feel He is absent.

11. Move, Third Day, 2010: This wasn’t the best Third Day Album of their long and historic career, but it was the best of the decade and deserves a spot on this list, it also holds the distinction of being the only album from 2010 on the list. This was a return to Third Day’s Southern Rock roots which made them famous. Yet it showed they could blend their propensity for worship with scripture-based encouragement. Oh and the beginning of “Lift Up Your Face” still grabs my attention and kind gives me chills, ten years later. Third Day may be gone, but their music is not forgotten.

10. Until We Have Faces, Red, 2011: Back in the day I stood in the front row and covered the Redvolution Tour with TFK, Manafest, Kiros and Nine Lashes. RED’s “The Machine” still stands out in my mind as the greatest stage prop I have ever seen and whenever I listen to this album now I still see that thing, I mean, it was incredible. That being said, of all the RED albums released this decade (5), and I know some will disagree, it was probably the best of them all in regard to message and cohesiveness. It also became the launching point for the next two or three albums. It was also the best balance (in this decade) of RED’s incredible rock and string arrangements.

9. Mansion, NF, 2015: Has it really been four years since a friend popped this album into the car CD player on our way to a “The Classic Crime” concert in Wichita? Or better question, has it really been an album a year since then? The first album by NF is the album that launched the career of one of the greatest wordslingers the world has ever seen (yes, he is better than M&M). I know a lot of parents complain about NF and his music, but maybe they should be asking why their kids identify so completely with the songs he is writing on everything from depression to trauma to the fallout of the Opioid Crisis. Mansion started a journey for Nate’s fans, and we all feel we have grown with him on this journey.

8. Anomaly, Lecrea, 2014: I have jokingly referred to this album as the one that woke up the “Gospel Coalition” but as one who has sat at the feet and learned from people like Lecrae Anomaly only shows how much more we have to learn, and that is okay. The weightiness of the issues discussed on this album are issues we need to make a greater effort to discuss and talk about with biblical truth and love in mind.

7. Long Live the Rebels, Disciple, 2016: Disciple has been making scripturally based, relevant music since creation…or so it seems…and their new role as an independent artist has only made them more so. Not only that, but they have become the epitome of Christian Rock bands, that is, all the veterans of the industry have played with them or been a part of them. Just when you think they are done, they come back with another one. That is the case with LLR, it shows again their staying power and ability to move seamlessly between themes while incorporating new sounds into a tested and true formula that keeps them relevant and on top.

6. Cathedrals, Tenth Avenue North, 2014: Maybe worthy of a top 5, but coming in here at number six is Tenth Avenue North’s 2014 outing “Cathedrals” which began the move towards albums with more relevant content rather than just the fun “Uplifting and Encouraging” anthems that made them famous. Songs like: “We Won’t Number the Pain and “For Those Who Can’t Speak” which features one of our top 5 artists, helped CCM gain back a small amount of relevance on modern social issues while addressing them in a gospel centric way. We need a lot more of that and Tenth Avenue is heading in the right direction, especially with their brave follow up EP that came out this year “The Things We’ve Been Afraid to Say” which was is among the honorable mentions.

5. The End is Where We Begin, Thousand Foot Krutch, 2012: I know, I get flack all the time about my bias towards the Canadian Rockers, but I really think that TFK’s reinvention as they moved from Label to Independent deserves to be here. Especially since they continued a trend of Christian Artists going independent and then releasing the best music of their careers. The fact that this album thrust TFK back into the spotlight and headlining tours again only makes it more important. The entire premise of the album, that we end before the throne of God and also begin their as new creatures, is profound in a world desperately trying to be somebody relevant even though Christ bids us to come and die. The album also shows that TFK’s reinvention was really a rediscovery of the very style that made them famous. Rawk on guys!

4. True Defiance, Demon Hunter, 2012: I do not think this album would have been here if I had not been listening to it a few weeks ago (by the way I reviewed this when it came out and did not catch this) and realized how cohesive the theme is from “Crucifix” to “I Am A Stone” the haunting ballad that closes the deluxe edition. The True Defiance Demon Hunter talked about in their return to “true metal” was the defiance of the Cross, yet we are defiant when we blaspheme the cross by continuing to live as if the Crucifixion did not happen. We mock Christ and Christ’s work when we continue in sin. The end result of a lifelong rebellion of the person who claims Christ is “A stone, unaffected, rain hell down onto me” a person worthy of judgment because they have claimed Christ and His cross but not been changed by it. This is theologically powerful, and it only makes the album more powerful once one picks this up. This is interestingly enough part of the message of 1 John 1:5-10, go look it, and this album, up.

3. Today We Rebel, KB, 2017: While one could maybe argue that Tedashi, Lecrea and NF have a bigger share of the spotlight than KB, this list isn’t about the number of albums sold alone, nor is it about how many awards the album or artist won. But about how the album has impacted the Christian Music Scene and how relevant the album is. KB may not have sold the albums the other rappers or artists on this list did, but Today We Rebel, with its stinging critique of White Evangelicalism (“New Portrait”) to the haunting and honest (“Art of Hope”) to the anthems for the rebellious against the world and the status quo, especially the quo of white-nationalism, like kB (“Rebel, Rebel 88”) This is an album worthy of a deep listen and its themes worthy of deep consideration by those outside of KB’s traditional listener base.

2. Resurrection Letters Vol 1, Andrew Peterson, 2018: When I worked at ARL I was not allowed to give a perfect rating, but if there were albums in the top 20 of the year that would have earned perfect ratings, the top three on this list would have perfect ratings, were I allowed to give them. That being said, Andrew Peterson is CCM’s best kept secret, and when I say that I mean you have undoubtedly by now heard “Is He Worthy” sung by Chris Tomlin or Shane and Shane and not know that the song originated on this album. Not only that, the album brings out the fullness of the resurrection and all its implications for Christianity both historically and in our present times. Have you ever considered what happened at the time Jesus awoke from the dead? The full implications? Andrew Peterson has, and its entrenched here in just under an hour of music.

1. On the Altar of Love, Downhere, 2012: Like Jars of Clay’s Who We Are Instead in the late 2000’s every decade there is an album that qualifies as an absolute gem. As in, yes it deserves a perfect rating and it often ends up being the one that the radio stations overlooked. Downhere’s “On the Altar of Love” is one such album, musically, message-wise, this is one of those albums that though under considered at the time of its release, gets better with every listen and though it did not produce a hit, it holds a special place in the Downhere fanbase


So, there you have it, the top 20 albums of the decade, you may disagree with my placements and choices, but you’re allowed to do this, it’s a non-essential issue. Still I hope you will give these albums a fair listen if you have not already, they are worth the time and energy you can put into them. Now, if you’re not a fan of some of these genre’s that okay too, I have extremely eclectic music tastes, I own that, just enjoy what you enjoy and we will maintain the bond of peace and the spirit of unity.

Christian Music can have a bright future, provided we listen to the people who God has given a voice too. Here is to another decade of great music!


Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife Rachel and daughter Erin in Buffalo Center Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center.

If We Believe the Word of God is Authoritative


Jonathan David Faulkner

The irony here is that Christians are supposed to be a light to the world and are supposed to influence culture…

We live in a modern and now post-modern world. The idea that man can attain the highest precipice of knowledge is giving way to the idea that man can know nothing in certainty at all. We are moving from a pluralistic society to one driven by primal emotionalism, so even post-modernism is breaking down. Now groups share their tribal beliefs and gravitate towards others who share those same tribal beliefs. Each thinking their tribe has all the answers to cure what ills us and the one who screams loudest gets heard while each claims to stand up for their own “Little-guy.”

This is a bleak picture, but should it surprise us in the Church and as Church leaders? After all, if we study the trajectory of the Church in the United States do we not see the same trends starting from the moment we set up the first church in the colonies to today with all those above forces still at work today. As my friend and fellow Historian Cameron Brock once said: “We are swimming in the soup the Church created.” Now, before you call me a cynic, go and study the history of theological debate in our country. From Puritan separatists to Fundamentalism, to the Internecene controversies of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries you will see Modernism devolve into Post-Modernism with the advent of the German Higher Textual Criticism Method to Tribalism with the rise of Fundamentalism and Reconstructionism to primal-emotionalism evidenced in second, third and fourth wave Pentecostalism, the Health and Wealth Gospel and the continued revialistic traditions started in the 1730’s. Go and read Charles Hodge’s arguments in favor sect and schism or Rev. Thornton’s arguments in favor of Slavery and Segregation. You will quickly see that the world learned all this and more from us. If Church tech is 20 years behind the culture, the church is about 100 years ahead of the culture as cultural Christianity (I say cultural because the number of actual Bible believing Christians is growing at the same rate as secularism, See Timothy Keller’s “The Reason for God”) shrinks and cultural secularism grows (as does religious curiosity) these trends affected the Church after 1955 and now here they are in the culture. Even the culture’s look towards Politics as savior is something that secular tribes learned from watching the Church produce the “Moral Majority” and the Religious Right which has descended into all sorts of delirium and delusion in recent years, place its hope in politics rather than God, leaving the sheep in the pews to be devoured by the wolves.

Whether we like it or not, we are to blame for the mess our culture is in. As one of my professors once said: “As the Church goes, so goes the culture.” Now, my secular readers may say: “You’re giving yourself a little too much credit here aren’t you?” And to them I would say, go back and study what I have outlined above, there’s more research than ever on this topic, some of which I have written. Now, this does not hold 100% true for 100% of churches 100% of the time, but there is an over arching narrative that has contributed to our ever-shrinking influence over our culture in America.

The solutions then have been to 1. clamor for more influence and power 2. Slip into auhindered legalism that makes us Pharisees or go the opposite direction and embrace Antinomialism, rejecting both the teachings of Jesus and the Bible from whence they come or 3. reform back to a biblically informed and biblically based Christianity which holds to biblical authority but does so with love and grace and from a place of transformation where we are actually “In Christ” and seeking to be transformed by Him through the Holy Spirit.

The current spokespeople for Christianity, as I have commented in the past, have chosen this first option so that the Mouth of the Body of Christ is rejecting the brain and allows the masses to be fed to the wolves. In their clamor for power they have embraced ideologies and politicians who scripture would likely, in fact- label as “Antichrists.” They have mastered the art of hermeneutical gymnastics to make biblical texts mean things they were never meant to say and have never said in history. They are Pharisees, imposing the laws of man and employing the strategies of men to advance not Christ, but a political agenda that holds morals over the secular world that the secular world does not want. If we cannot legislate morality, then why are we trying?

The second group are the John MacArthur’s and Rob Bell’s of the world, two different ends of the same spectrum. MacArthur sees the higher critical method as a threat to biblical authority and so has rejected the hermeneutical spiral altogether. He has chosen a legalistic “Plain reading” of the text that comes from the English and though he is one of the most learned men of his age, he has rejected that education in favor of a legalistic interpretation and then doubled down on it. He believes in the authority of scripture, but that authority these days seems to be limited to the “English Text” and disregard any type of cultural or historical backgrounds that might accompany and in fact aid our interpretation. Rob Bell on the other hand has let the Higher Critical Method do exactly what Charles Hodge and now John MacArthur fear it would do. He has used it to stand over the text and dictate to the text what the text does and does not say rather than letting the text stand over him and dictate to him what He should believe and using the whole council of Church History to help him understand how that applies to his life now. The ironic thing here is John MacArthur is doing the same thing, bringing a cultural presupposition that scripture in context would not recognize, nor would its writers, and placing that ideology in the text or into two or three verses in the text while ignoring a large swath of biblical council.

The irony here is that Christians are supposed to be a light to the world and are supposed to influence culture, we should, if we are able, participate in the government of men, so long as we do so first and foremost as citizen’s of God’s kingdom. The laws and morals and teachings of God’s kingdom should inform how we interact in those spheres, they are not weapons meant to destroy our opponents in secular arenas, but bread and wine for those who are starving to literal death and who need Jesus who made them and loves them, bread that to a secular world will at first taste bitter until they see demonstrated for them their life giving properties as we who partake of them daily are transformed by the Word who dwells inside us as the Holy Spirit.

It is also true that methods of higher criticism can be extremely helpful, especially in exegeting difficult passages such as 1 Timothy 2:12-15 or the entire book of Romans. But when we approach text criticism assuming our superiority over that of the superiority of the text we are always going to fail at biblical interpretation. We also have to remember that the modern chapter verse structure was not the way the writers intended scripture to be read. That is a helpful way of breaking up the text until you start pulling texts out of their context and dealing with them as if they are singular units unrelated to the whole from which they were taken. Every Christian can be a biblical theologian, meaning we can all consider the whole and full council of scripture. Biblical Theology and broader hermeneutics require us to orient ourselves not just on one text in a vacuum, but within its surrounding texts, it’s chapter, it’s book, its testament, it’s place in all of scripture Old and New Testament. When we boil scripture down to morals or a book outlining good things to do, we make it about ourselves, but the Bible is not about us, it is about Christ and all that He has done. The Old Testament is pregnant with it, the new testament explains and expounds upon it. But scripture was also written into a specific context, for specific reasons, it’s writers responding to specific issues, some of which we still have issues with today, such as the Elitism in John’s community and the elitism of modern pietistic, certain charismatic and fundamentalist movements and even in some forms of modern Christian Conservativism and Liberalism (1 John 1:6-7).

We, as man, do not get to decide what an almighty God may or may not have said and unless it is expressly said to Israel or has found complete fulfillment in Christ, such as the Ceremonial and Sacrificial Laws, then it is still binding on us today. In our modern individualistic and consumeristic mindsets, we tend to look for the parts of scripture that “suit me” and throw out the rest. Like Benjamin Franklin cutting out all the things he did not think Jesus actually said or did, we want to dictate to the text what it should and shouldn’t say and especially what it should or should not tell us to do. It is a reality though that if we actually went to scripture and read it and let it stand over us many of us would either have to stop calling ourselves Christians or repent of a histories worth of sins that the American Church has openly and intentionally engaged in.. We would find things like Dominionism and the Discovery Doctrine are in fact sinful because they deny the image of God in His creation and destroy human flourishing and dignity through stark and totalitarian injustice. These are not “Liberal” terms mind you, they are inherent in God’s original creation, back to Genesis 1 and 2 where we were made in the “Image of God” and told to cover the Earth with “Image bearers” as we were “Fruitful and Multiplied” (See Genesis 1-3). That means that all humans, by nature of being made in the image of God, have dignity and worthy of respect. Even though the fall has happened, the image of God is still there and through Christ we are transformed back into what is already inherent in us. The Transformation of Christ is not as much a recreation but a restoration in the manner which is described in Revelation 20.

We have all read Genesis 1-3 and we know there are a myriad of interpretations out there and we tend to chose which one fits us best, but when outside opinion and individual preference reigns, unity is destroyed. Individual opinion must be brought in and held against the entire council of scripture and church History and if it does not hold up to these two, the Special Revelation of Christ in His Word and the General Revelation of God in History then the opinion should be relegated to the ash-heap of history, not a new denomination formed around the opinion that both Scripture and Church History reject. But unlike Christ, we prefer to please ourselves (Romans 15:3) and go after “every wind of doctrine”” (Eph 4:10) that “tell them what their itching ears are longing to hear” (2 Tim 4:3). When we try to make scripture about us and our preferences, when we approach scripture with the hopes that it will justify our own egocentricism and elitism or theological position we are apt to twist scripture to say something it does not say, nor has it ever said.

Yet, if we really believed in the Authority of Scripture, not Solo Scriptura mind you, but actual Authority that these are God’s words written down to testify to Christ and to show us how to do the same. If we actually believed scripture was authoritative we would let it stand over us and inform us about God and His works and show us the way to live instead of looking to culture and recent inventions of history such as revivalism that appeal to emotionalism before and over scriptural authority, or an attractional model of Church that looks good on Paper, but as Josh Wilson discussed in his book “The Gospel Driven Church” rely not on scripture but on tricks and gimmicks over and above scripture, so much so in both cases that scripture is often lost completely. If we are doing good Cultural Exegesis we know that these are placebos, they do not work, they do not proclaim Christ, they do not make disciples, all they do is glitter the way to eternity in outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Luke 13:52, Matthew 13:42).

Pastors, believing the authority of the Word of God must start with us. And if we truly confess the word is authoritative, we need to expend every orthodox resource available to learn about the Word and its surrounding and varying contexts. If we stand up in our pulpits on Sunday’s and read a text and then spend 15-20 minutes telling fanciful stories or trying to sanitize the text we will only lead the people entrusted to us astray and then we get to stand before God and explain why our congregations are lost. There are two reasons why James says that those who aspire to teach will be judged more harshly (James 3:1), we will be judged harshly by men and we will be held to a higher standard before the throne of God, we who served as Under Shepherds of Christ. May it be said of us that we led them to The Word, that is, to Christ who is the Living Word (John 1:1-15) and not to the wolves as too many of us have today. We should be as careful handling scripture because of its authority as St. Francis tells us to be when handling the actual bible itself: “If you see that the Holy Scriptures have fallen from the alter you should walk to them and put them back neatly and in order on the Altar out of respect for their being the very word of God” (The rule of 1221). We should be careful exegetes, letting scripture stand over us and dictate to us because we have reverence for the text and more importantly for the one whose authority is behind the text, Jesus Christ (Rev 22:21). But we also must avoid legalism in our applications of the text, pursuing the life-giving nature of the living word and not the death-giving nature of the dead, man-made, letter. That means we need to approach the Holy Word of God in communion, through prayer, with the Paraclete who leads us into all truth, the Holy Spirit who makes our divine Union with the Word (Jesus) possible in the first place. If we seek to interpret the Word of God without the third person of the trinity, we are no better than the Pharisees who enforce their own interpretations of the law rather than God’s intentions behind the Law. The Holy Spirit is meant to lead us into all truth, and they will, if we let them. We need to remember that the scriptures show us not a list of morals, but how to live a life that points to, testifies to and bears witness to Christ, the one whom the entirety of scripture are about. Not how to build better humans, or be the ‘best version of ourselves’ but how to bring glory to the Triune God.

To the Lay Person, the scriptures are a gift to you, as they also are to the pastor, You are meant to be in them daily, reading them, discussing them with other believers, hearing them taught and expounded upon. The early church did this daily and for many of us it has become a burden to even do this once a week. If we read scripture as a self-help book, we are going to find it sorely lacking in self-help material. Given that it is not about us, it s about Christ and carries behind it the authority of Christ. Scriptures job is not to make you a more moral person, it is meant to show you Christ, point you to Him and then guide you, through the Holy Spirit, into deeper communion with Him that leads you to a life overflowing with Joy and love (John 13-17) and so by default you testify to, bring glory to and bear witness to Christ and what He has done. This is the singular calling of the Church that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 4:1-6. It is for this calling that we should be “eager to maintain the bond of peace and the spirit of unity” (4:3) and that we are “One Body, with One Spirit.” Living by scripture and in the Holy Spirit should make us naturally care for one another and for those who are not part of the church. It was this outward care that was evidence of an inward reality that caused the incredible expansion of the Church in the first century and it is precisely this kind of fellowship, deep and intimate, “having everything in common” (Acts 2:44) that the cultural exegetes are telling us unbelievers in our nation are looking for, the family atmosphere that is described in Acts, but is sorely lacking in much of the church in the United States. We should grieve when gangs and secular clubs are better at living in community than Christians are, and in many cases, they are. Read Francis Chan’s book Letters to the Church” for some stories that should shock us and make us mourn. I have been in secular communities that were better at loving one another than the church has been in history, one of which, the All-Ohio State Fair Youth Choir I still have friends who I am regular contact with. One even sang at our wedding and two wrote for 10:31 Life Ministries during college. It baffles me that God has laid out what His expectations are and we who claim His name prefer to replace those with our own preferences and our own authority rather than God’s. This is rebellion against Him, and it is rebellion we will answer for one day.

One of the underlying issues here is that most people have a relationship with the church as institutions and not a relationship with Christ which includes them in the organic body of Christ. If you read scripture outside of a relationship with Christ, you end up like one of my Atheist friends from my choir days who read the bible daily because it had “good morals.” The requires you to reject a large swath of what scripture says about the one who gave it to us, Christ, the Son of God and second member of the Trinity. We should make sure we actually have a relationship with Christ before we apply scripture to our lives and apply through the paradigm of one who is in mystical, divine union with Christ. Just as we come under Christ then we should come under the authority of His word and let it stand over us to teach us how to live as Christ.

If we believed in the authority of scripture, what would happen? Christian, stop praying for revival and start living as one revived. Lay down your moralism and start living as one transformed, give up your dead-letter legalism for the life-giving words of the living God. Stop claiming the name of Christ and actually have a relationship with Him and above all else: “Let the word of God dwell in your richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossian 3:16).


Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife Rachel and daughter Erin in Buffalo Center Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center.

More Than Mere Ecumenicism: #FortheUnityoftheChurch

Party-Spirit is something explicitly rejected in Scripture, yet it is something the Church in America has openly embraced. A New Reformation may be one of restoration, the question is will we join the Holy Spirit or fight against Him?

Jonathan David Faulkner

Authors Note: There is a bibliography attached to this article for your further reading. I pray you will prayerfully consider both sides of this issue and deeply consult scripture concerning these matters.

One of the places I would most like to visit in life is the Gravestone of Dr. Philip Schaff which reads: “He worked for the Unity of the Church.” The great church historian’s legacy is one we should aspire too, he was able to work across lines that were even more fervently drawn in the sand, and which would become more-so as the nineteenth century would draw to a close with the rise of reconstructionism and its particularly schismatic brand of fundamentalism that claimed to be: “the only true church.” Schaff understood what the Reformers after Luther did not, that the church is meant to be defined by its historical definition, that is as “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.” That no matter how many lines we drew in the proverbial sand, this is how scripture instructs us it should be and tells us a violation of through party spirit is tantamount to Antichrist. Schaff provides the Anti-Thesis to Hodge’s idea that schism is necessary to “Preserve the Gospel” pointing out that Hodge assumes it is a work of man that the gospel is preserved and not through the work of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. Hodge’s inability to see the church as an organic body made one by the Holy Spirit and defined by its Love for one another (John 14:21) gave Schaff pause and it should give us pause as well. Schaff was right to say of the American Church that we were a Church without History, working so hard to preserve salvation by grace through faith that we neglected everything after thus reducing Christianity to mere conversionism where we bring people to the cross, but never into discipleship. If Billy Graham said in the 70’s that Christianity in America is “A mile wide and an inch deep” how much worse are we today?

Brothers and Sisters, I love the Church, not the brick and mortar buildings that we call the Church, but the flesh and blood, Spirit indwelled people that is the biblical church. I know the argument is: “Well that’s how it should be, but this is how it is and we cannot make it how it should be.” But if this is how it should be then why are we not falling on our knees, asking God for the unity of the Spirit that Jesus prayed we would have in John 17. The scriptural view of the Church is possible by the Holy Spirit and yes, if we are living out what scripture says the Church should be, it won’t make sense but to the outside world but Jesus promised us it wouldn’t and our refusal to even try, our demands that we keep up the dividing wall of hostility between one another that Christ worked to tear down. Our capitulation to Party-Spirit as some follow Presbyterianism, some follow Congregationalism, some follow Lutheranism, should absolutely break our hearts that in doing this we are doing exactly what Paul warned us against in 1 Corinthians 1:12 and 3:4. I love the church so much that our current reality has made me weep, as a pastor and as a member of the Body. We have taken the very thing Paul warned us against and, ignoring the questions: “Is Christ Divided?” We have cut him into twelve pieces and shipped him to the four corners of the globe. Oh God, please forgive us.

But before I get accused of being a romantic or emotional or even an ecumenic I want to make clear what I am saying here. Schism and Sect and Segregation do not preserve the Gospel, they divide up Christ. Going out and finding a church that meets our preferences and refusing to fellowship with churches that do not, divide Christ, Spreading rumors about the pastors of other churches or hoping that the other churches in town die so you can absorb them is sin and divides Christ. We have become so arrogant that we stand over the church and dictate to it how it should serve our preferences and theological viewpoints instead of relying on the living word of God which we claim is our ultimate authority.

These things even find their way into how we translate the Creed. For instance, in a hymnal your Creed may read: “I Believe in the Holy Spirit, The Holy Catholic Church, The Communion of Saints…” or that second line might read: “I Believe in the Holy Church” or “Holy Christian Church” I even saw one hymnal that said: “Holy Presbyterian Church.” The translation “Holy Christian Church” comes out of reconstructionism and fundamentalism that arose in the 1890’s, from a group claiming they were the “Only true expression of the Church and all others were apostate.” This is the height of party spirit; this is the people in 1 Corinthians 1:10 who said: “I Follow Christ.” The super-spiritual who looked down in mocking jeers at their peers who follow “Paul” or “Apollos.” We see the word “catholic” which in the Creed simply means “universal” or “part of the whole” and think it means “Roman Catholic” instead of digging deeper we just let our prejudice run wild. We then go a step further and try to make our denomination the only true denomination, rebuilding the walls of hostility that Christ worked so hard to tear down (Eph 2). This is sinful and denies both the power of scripture and the power of the Holy Spirit to the point of both quenching and grieving Him. Oh God, please forgive us.

I am not talking about mere ecumenism here; I do not just want denominations to work together across denominational isles. I am talking knocking down the walls of denominationalism altogether in favor of the biblical and historic definition of the Church. I want us to stop acting like our expression of the Church is how it is meant to be and return to a biblical model of the Church. I want the church to be what God intended the Church to be, a universal, set apart, family united by the Holy Spirit that bears witness in our words and actions to Christ and follows His teachings. That would make us the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic church that we read about in scripture. Denominations are not even the problem, it is the human sinfulness, the hardness of our hearts towards the things of God and our neglect of those things in favor of what we want, not even what we find in scripture, but what our individualism says we deserve. Brothers and sisters, this is sin, this denies scripture, breaks fellowship, grieves the Holy Spirit and divides Christ.

What is interesting is that God is starting to heal these divisions. All over the united states now there are churches that are combining. Black Churches with White, Older churches with younger, Rich churches and poor. God is starting, by His spirit, to erase these lines sometimes even against our will. We seem to be at the beginning of a new era of reformation one not marked with unintended schism but with God-driven restoration. There is even a Church near me here that is made up of multiple Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches.

I have said before and I will say it again. Sect, Schism and Segregations are the unbiblical luxuries of the Church in Power, we are no longer in power, we are even starting to see persecution. Instead of grasping at the last vestiges of the “glory days” of Christendom, instead of denying this work of God of restoration. We should actively embrace it, work to see it through by the Holy Spirit and return to what the Church is biblically meant to be. We do not have the luxury of our consumeristic mindsets in the Church anymore and that reality is only going to keep growing and the church gets pushed more and more to the margins.

And this is a good thing, it may surprise you to know that the places in America where the Church is growing the fastest are places where the Church has already been pushed to the margins. Places like New England where the Pew Research Center recently found that the church in New England is actually “Thriving” when they expected to find it on death’s door. God is doing a work, but it is not the work we have been taught to expect Him to do with our late stage revivalism, unless you read scripture. God is calling His people back to himself, away from all their “isms” and back to one another. The Church in the Majority world has already experienced this and knows that a united church is better than a divided one.

Brothers and Sisters, I plead with you, do not divide Christ or let Him be divided. Our mission is meant to be carried out as one, not several splinters trying to do the same, or not doing what God has called us too, but trying to make sure our own preferences are met and our seat at the table of influence bought and paid for. John Williamson Nevin writes that: “The Church is One and universal (catholic). Unity is essential to her existence.” We no longer have the luxury in America, just as our brothers and sisters in the Majority World have never had the luxury of dividing. Secular Society is looking at us and our bible and asking us if we truly believe what is in there and telling us that if we truly believe then we should practice it. The Doctrine of the Organic Unity of the Church is an essential doctrine of Scripture. It pervades the entire text; it is one of the central themes of three of Paul’s Epistles. It is what Jesus prays for in John 17 and what the Holy Spirit living community of Acts demonstrates for us.

As I said earlier, I love the Church, but not the brick and mortar buildings that are the gathering place of the church, but the people, indwelled by the Holy Spirit who make up the Church who are the Body of Christ. If the government came in and locked all our church doors today and told us we could not gather, that would not be an end to the church, we would just have to follow the example set forth by many of our Asian brothers and sisters who have had to meet in secret.

The ironic thing is this may be the only way to preserve the Church in Rural America, by choosing to live out Gospel unity in a manner that gives up willingly our denominational lines drawn in the sand. This seems to be the path the Spirit is already leading us on as we see it happening more and more in towns and cities across the nation. The question is, are we going to fight against the Holy Spirit or join Him in the work of restoring His people, teaching us again that we are to be “Members, one of another” (Rom 12:5).

So let’s reject party spirit and do that which God has made clear in His word that we are to: “be eager to maintain a Spirit of Unity and the Bond of Peace” (Eph 4:3). So that we can carry the message of the Gospel to the ends of the Earth “Making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:20).



Charles Hodge, A.A Hodge . 2001. Discussions in Church Polity . Scarsdale : Westminster Publishing House .

Debie, Linden J. 2008. Speculative Theology and Common-Sense Religion: Mercersburg and the Conservative Roots of American Religion. Eugene : Pickwick Publications .

Evans, Tony. 2011. Oneness Embraced: Reconciliation, the Kingdom and how we are stronger together. Chicago , IL: Moody Press .

Ford, John T. 1988. “Ecumenical Studies .” In A Century of Church History: The Legacy of Philip Schaff, by Henry Bowdenn, 245-293. Carbondale: Soutern Illinois University Press .

George Marsden. 2006. Fundamentalism and American Culture, . London: Oxford University Press .

Hodge, Charles. 2017. “Response to the Principle of Protestanitsm (1845) .” In The Mercersburg Theology Study Series VIII The Devolopment of the Churh: The Principle of Protastantism and the Historical Writings of Philip Schaff , by Lee C. Barnett, David W. Layman, David R. Bains, Theodore Louis Trost W. Bradford Littlejohn, 209-224. Eugene : Pickwick Publications .

John Williamson Nevin, Sman Hendrix Jr. Charles E. Hanbrick-Stowe, David W. Laymen. 2017. One, Holy, Catholic & Apostolic, Tome One: John Nevin’s Writings on Ecclesiology (1844-1849) . Eugene : Wfpf & Stock .

Miller, Samuel. 2016 . A Treatse on Mercersburg Theology or Mercersburg and Modern Theology Compared (1866). Philadelphia : CrossReach.

Nevin, John Williamson. 2017. “Antichrist: Or the Spirit of Sect and Schism (1848) .” In The Mercersburg Theology Series Vol Vi: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Tome One: The Ecclesiological Writings of John Williamson Nevin (1844-1850) , by John Williamson Nevin David W. Laymen, 160-245. Eugene : Wfpf & Stock .

Nevin, John Williamson. 2017. “Catholic Unity.” In The Mercersburg Theology Study Series Vol VI: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Tome One: The Ecclesiological Writings of John Williamson Nevin, (1844-1850), by John Williamson Nevin, David W. Laymen, 112=133. Eugene : Pfpf & Stock .

Philip Schaff, . 1964. “The Principle of Protestantism .” In The Lancaster Theology Series on the Mercersburg Theology V: VI , by J.W. Nevin, Ed Bard Thompson Philip Schaff, 48-219. Philidelphia : United Church Press.

Saneh, Lamin. 1995. “Global Christianity and the Re-Education of the West. .” The Christian Century 112.22 715-718.

Strange, Alan D. 2017. Ecclesiology of Charles Hodge. Phillipsburg : P&R Publishing .


Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife Rachel and daughter Erin in Buffalo Center Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center.

A Broken Fellowship: This Is Not Reconciliation

The Gospel demands that we be made new, but if we cannot admit our wrongs and ask for forgiveness how can we expect to be transformed or even be reconciled to God or one another?

Jonathan Faulkner


I woke up Wednesday Morning of last week to the same images you did. Brandt Jean hugging Amber Guyger, his words “I forgive you” hanging in the air. The full transcript of his words touching the human heart and bring tears to the eyes. USAToday headlined it as a “touching moment” and compared it to when members of Emmanuel AME forgave Dylan Roof who walked into a bible study in the historic Charleston Black Church and killed 9 people at a bible study. “It was so powerful” one Facebook friend wrote. “God’s forgiveness is so powerful, wow” wrote another. Below was the link to the video or the video itself. It really was a touching moment, but as soon as I saw the video something instantly sparked in me and another Facebook post I read later in the morning helped me put a finger on it.

First, I want to say I do not think that Brandt’s forgiveness was disingenuous, I think it was likely the real thing born out of actual Christian love and faith. It was also an extremely brave move during what I am sure is deep pain in the Jean family from the life that has been taken from them. My point here is not to question Brandt’s sincerity, but to point out a flaw in the western or distinctly American view of forgiveness and reconciliation. Especially since some act like acts of forgiveness like this are akin to reconciliation. It is as if we go: “He forgave her, now we can all move on and rest in peace.” The problem is, forgiveness and reconciliation require an admission of guilt by the party who caused the hurt in the first place, that is, forgiveness that leads to reconciliation and restoration. One can forgive in their heart, and indeed should, but just because the injured party has forgiven, if the injuring party is unwilling to acknowledge the action or actions that led to the injury then restoration and reconciliation have not happened, indeed, if the person who committed the injury or crime or injustice is unwilling to change their way but expects the person to simply forgive them and bring them back into full relationship, the stage is just set for that harmful behavior to continue in a pattern.

In fact, this idea that the injured party needs to just forgive and move on as if nothing happened does nothing but infantilize the injured party. As one of my mentors said recently: “It is basically how we tell little kids to forgive one another, but adults should be willing to listen and change their behavior when someone comes to them and says: “That behavior has hurt me.” Adults should be able to reach restoration and reconciliation because they are supposed to be the mature ones who can handle their issues like adults. To use the phraseology of psychologists: adults should be able to: “Do their own work.”

Whether we like it or not, this is precisely what the message WASP communities have been telling Black communities since the beginning of chattel slavery. One can find records of slaves being told by white preachers they need to; “forgive their masters the moment they whip them.” During Jim Crow and the Civil Rights movement Blacks were told to just “Get over the injustices and forgive white people.” There was no effort on behalf of WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant) communities to even encourage them to do the work within themselves to seek forgiveness for Slavery, Jim Crow, Bussing, Red-Lining and many other injustices committed against ethnic minorities in this country by white dominated power structures. Yet the message those victims has been plainly: “Forgive and move on” as if victims of those injustices were children on the elementary playground who were told they couldn’t join the pickup football game. This has been the modus operandum for the last 400 years, in fact it would be hard for one to say: “Well I did not own slaves, so I shouldn’t be expected to seek forgiveness” because the notion of infantilizing Black and other minority communities is part of the American Zeitgeist and has been for 400 years. It goes beyond infantilization to dehumanization as this site has documented in the past. Yet the average person thinks these problems are a “part of our past” and when you say something along those lines you shut down conversation and the one who has been hurt goes again unheard, the pattern continues.

Or, to make ourselves feel better, we try to state events in the positive. We say: “Look how much that whites have done to amend our wrongs towards you, affirmative action, equal housing and employment laws, so on and so forth.” As if our benevolence somehow makes up for all the injustice that is still practiced in certain areas even though it is against the law. These are mere band aids when we think the small gains made last sixty years make up for the previous 340 (hint, they do not) and when they are used as excuses for why we should not be held accountable for modern forms of injustice or historical ones.

Which brings me back to Brandt Jean and Amber Guyger and their exchange yesterday afternoon. Brandt’s forgiveness, though likely sincere, does not release Amber Guyger from guilt or excuse her from doing her own work. In fact, to my knowledge there has never been one admission of guilt of Guyger who enacted the Castle Defense, insisting throughout the entire trial she thought she was in her own apartment. There are records on racist texts, one even including an admission that she is in fact, racist herself. Amber Guyger has not, to anyone’s knowledge, done her own work, nor has Dylan Roof who admitted gleefully to what he did and who stood there stone faced as members of Emmanuel stood to say they forgive him. Roof is getting the sentence he deserves, Guyger is getting off easy.

The fact is, Amber Guyger was off duty, walked into the wrong apartment where her neighbor was easting Ice Cream and shot him because she did not take the time to check her situation and her emotions and killed an innocent man. One cannot even argue on the job stress, and yet it is not her who has to repent of her actions, the court is holding her barely accountable, but Brandt that has to forgive? Welcome back to the schoolyard, forgive the bully, but do not expect the bully to change. Are we adults?

I am not saying Brandt should not forgive Amber, or that I should not forgive those who have wronged me. Scripture commands that I do, but there is never going to be restoration and reconciliation until the people who have done the hurting, in this case WASP communities going back 400 years, are willing to do our own work and ask for forgiveness. That is where we reach biblical reconciliation and full biblical forgiveness.

Mathew 5:23-24 tell us: “Therefore if you bring your offering to the alter and remember your brother has something against you leave your offering there and first go and be reconciled to your brother and then go and make your offering.” The point is this, if you hate your brother or sister and realize he has something against you for that hatred or if you have mistreated your brother or sister and fellowship has been broken because of that mistreatment, then you need to go and do your own work internally and seek to have your relationship restored lest you offer your sacrifice still committing murder by the hatred in your heart.

The reality is there are a lot of people in WASP communities that come to offer praises to God on Sunday while they are still unreconciled to their brother or sister. And I do not mean just their Black or other minority brothers and sisters but also many of their own white brothers and sisters. Its endemic in our own community too as we infantilize one another, insisting that we do not have to change, treating the crucifixion of Christ as nothing more than a get out of jail free card rather than atonement for sins that makes it possible for us through the power of the Holy Spirit to no longer sin habitually.

Our hands are extremely bloody, both across ethnic lines and within our own communities. And please do not comment with “whataboutism” and trite folk religious sayings that are actually contrary to scripture. All of us have sinned and fallen short of the goal and all of us (in WASP communities) are guilty of embracing a sinful and rampant individualism that says: “I do not have to change, you should forgive me for my sin anyway.” That is not how this is supposed to work.

So, to my fellow WASP brothers and sisters, let’s stop this and take the time to do our own work. To then go humbly to our brothers and sisters both in our own culture and those of other cultures whom we have infantilized and harmed and abused and enslaved and killed off and so on and so forth and humbly ask for forgiveness. Lest we one day stand before the judge unreconciled and are thrown into prison.

What I would love to see in this case is Amber Guyger come to faith, because there is no evidence she is a believer, confess her sin of murder, both the murder of Botham Jean and the sin of her hatred at the root of her racism and be reconciled to everyone in the Black community. I would like to see the same thing among those who call themselves Christians who literally have no excuse not to do their own work and seek forgiveness where it is needed.

What might it look like? I have told this story before, but I repeat it here because it is necessary. By the way, it has taken me years to do my own work and reach a point where what racism I did pick up as a kid was anathema to me and I could repent of it and ask my Black brothers and sisters for forgiveness for it. So I praised God when on a flight here to Iowa from Boston I sat next to an older Black woman from Framingham who upon hearing my last name said: “Faulkner, there is a lot of baggage with that name isn’t’ there.” She was referring to the southern Faulkner family, wealthy plantation owners in Mississippi and North Carolina who fought on the side of the Confederacy during the civil war. They were also among those who stood on the doorsteps of southern churches to make sure freedom riders could not enter their all-white churches during the Civil Rights Movement (you can read this history in Carolyn Renee Dupont’s book “Mississippi Praying” where several Faulkner’s are mentioned by name). Though not my immediate family they southern Faulkner’s are related to the northern Faulkner’s as cousins who came over from Ireland before the four brothers I descend from. They are still family members though and some of those same racist attitudes are still present in current descendants of the northern family. Because I have done my own work on this issue I was able to admit that this was a sin my family had committed against Blacks, slave holding, fighting to uphold slavery, fighting the civil rights movement and those who still hold racist viewpoints in the modern era. This woman was aware of that history and in that moment I could have arrogantly defended the actions of my family or myself by saying I am not them, but instead I owned their actions that though I did not commit, the name I bear still recalls in their minds and apologized, asking for forgiveness. My hope is that she and I left that plain ride reconciled, though we will likely never meet again. Not so I do not have to stand before the judge unreconciled (for my own gain) but for the mutual gain of our Christian Faith and the glory of the God whom we serve.

That is the reconciliation we want, so let’s do our own work and get there…together.


Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife Rachel and daughter Erin in Buffalo Center Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center.

Rebellion Against the Wrong Kingdom


Jonathan Faulkner


There is a saying among many Church Historians, I first heard it from Dr. Dennis Hollinger the now retired president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, but from my own study of Church History already believed to be true. That is this: “Anytime in Church History when the Church aligns with the government of man, it never ends well with the Church.” There have been entire books written about this, many refer to Catholicism when they make this assertion and while pre-reformation Catholicism is a grand example of this maxim one can find a more modern example within the confines of modern Western American Evangelicalism specifically in relationship to WASP Congregations and Culture (WASP = White, Anglo Saxon, Protestants). This has been the topic of several books in recent years, both from the Church and from without. Most noticeably have been Francis Fitzgerald’s “The Evangelicals: The Battle to Shape America” and John Fea’s ‘Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.” Both are great books if you want to know the History behind where we are now in WASP Church History. Much has already been said concerning this topic within the arena of Church History so my goal here to not to rehash what has already been done, but to add my theological training and my Church History training together.


At my church over the last few weeks I have been preaching through the Apostles Creed with the goal of teaching my Church not just what Christians believe but why we believe these things we confess and how those things effect our lives. Two Sunday’s ago, I preached on two words in the Creed: “Our Lord” and preached from Colossians 1:15-20. I wanted to address these two words on their own for a couple of reasons. The first being that Christ’s Lordship has been used in one of two ways in American Evangelicalism, either it has been rejected outright in favor of individualism, consumerism and nationalism. Or it has been used as a legalistic hammer to suck the life out of believer before they even become a believer as in Lordship Salvation. We need a balanced and theological view of Christ’s Lordship and Colossians 1:15-20 is a good starting place for such a view. The text reads as follows:


He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities– all things were created through him and for him.

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,

and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (ESV)


As I told my congregation there are two reasons Christ is Lord of all. The first is on account of who He is, as the image of the invisible God, the one present at creation (see also John 1:1-3), since He is the one who created all things and came before all things, He is Lord over them. He is also Lord because of what He has done, by the very fact of His death and resurrection which is what makes him the “Firstborn” among the dead. Christ is one with the father, if you have seen Christ, you have seen the father (John 14:9). So, In Him the “fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” This means that Christ is Lord over everything in creation. There is no realm where His Lordship does not touch. Yet He is Lord not just because of who He is, but because of the good and gracious thing which He has done for us. He is Lord not just because He is creator, but because He also served His creation by making a way to salvation for it (again, death and resurrection). Revelation shows us that one day He is going to claim that proper Lordship and that the rebellion of man is going to be overthrown once and for all. The Church then is to guide as many people to Christ as possible as it humbly serves people both “inside” and “out.”


Because all creation is in rebellion, as Matt Chandler is fond of saying: “We live in a Genesis 3 world.” Our world is post fall, it has denied it’s Lord in favor of self-government and aggrandizement. Due to that reality man rebels but setting up its own governments and turning to government leaders before and even instead of God. Israel is a potent example of this when in 1 Samuel 8 they ask Samuel to “Give them a king so we can be like the nations” and when God tells him to grant them one He says to Samuel: “They are not rejecting you, but me.” Of course there are other examples of this rebellion in western church history, starting with the Roman Catholic Churches election of Emperor Popes and culminating the Religious Right and then overwhelming support for Donald Trump. Asking for a king did not go well for Israel, Emperor Popes did not go well with the Roman Catholic Church and the American Evangelical sellout to Political ideology has not gone well for the Church in America in the modern day.


Christ’s Lordship though should rule out the very Christian Nationalism that First Things and the Christian Scholars behind it are currently advocating for. It should have ruled out the extremes that the Moral Majority has gone to secure the election of a president whose record of immorality can be read in almost every major magazine going back 40 years. I said back then that those who represented us were not protecting their people, but their power. Instead of being Isaiah in the court of Ahaz they were the false prophets who told Israel their exile would only last five years (See Isaiah 7 and Jeremiah 28-29). They sacrificed the church on the alter of their own reputations and the people are paying the price. Christ’s Lordship should have ruled out any form of capitulation to a government of man that was not first subservient to the Kingdom of God.


Note that I am not advocating for a “pulling out” or “Christian Isolationism.” As much as I enjoyed reading Rob Dreher’s “The Benedict Option” I do not think Protestant Monasticism is the answer. Instead, our participation in Government should be one that is first and foremost submitted too and informed by our participation and allegiance to the Kingdom of God. That may mean that we are more like Dietrich Bonhoeffer than Jimmy Carter (who is an evangelical Christian). Of course, there very well may come a time when the Benedict option is necessary, it certainly was in the church of the first century where confessing Christianity could find you lighting the streets at night as a human torch. For now though we can still participate in government activities so long as our participation come secondary and in submission to Christ’s Kingdom and the Word we are given to live and be governed by.


The goal should not be to make our Earthly kingdoms like the heavenly one through changing their governments and seeking power (theonomy) but by seeking to live out the kingdom among ourselves and showing how different the two really are. “Power corrupts” is an absolutely true statement, participating in a government that is increasingly apposed to the kingdom of God by seeking more power is not the answer, it’s the problem.


The modern Christian should be quicker to adopt the mantra of the band Demon Hunter’s Ryan Clark who penned the words to the song “The World is a Thorn:” “Won’t bow to man. Won’t bow to government. Won’t bow to greed. Won’t bow to false hope. Won’t bow to self. Won’t bow to modern code. Won’t sell my soul to a dead world. I defy.” Than to adopt one of Christian Nationalism or even try to turn our secular governments, in rebellion against God, into Theonomy’s. The secular world is secular, it is going to participate in its own destruction, the churches job is to bring as many into the light of Christ as possible and as we have seen throughout church history seeking government power is not the way to do that, in fact it works against the purposes of the church as laid out in scripture, rather than for them as Christians find power seductive and servanthood outdated.


Therefore, pastors should work to create separation between the church and Christianity and the civic religion, not tighten the tie. The Church needs to be the Church and it cannot do that if it is busy pursuing the things of this rebellious world, rather than the things of the Kingdom of Christ. We are to seek first the kingdom of heaven, not man. Yet the very heart of American Evangelicalism it seems has gone full blast after an idol called political power and the effect has been detrimental and destructive to the church in the United States.


May God have mercy on our souls, may we listen as those who profess His name are called back to His side. May we once again take up the towel of service to one another and to our neighbors and pledge allegiance to the kingdom of Christ instead of the Kingdom of man. May we stop this rebellion against the Kingdom of God and rebel against the isms of this world.


Someone needs to say again: “Choose this day whom you will serve! As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Bikes On the Lawn

The Church Is a Family with a Mission, not a Social Club waiting to be taken Home. We Need to relearn how to do Ministry in a Post-Christian World and that change starts with us.

Jonathan Faulkner

My town has a small community wellness center that is attached to the High School a couple blocks from our parsonage here in Buffalo Center. This is similar to what we had at the High School in Sterling Kansas, a place where the community can go to work out. Since it is so close my wife and I will just walk over when her or I go. We may have to re-evaluate this once winter arrives, but for now, it’s extremely convenient to have the ability to run a block over to work our during my lunch break. To get there I always walk through my churches yard, down the block, past the Methodist Church turning to walk past North Iowa School District. A Pre-K-12 building that houses the school district for our town and five others around us. I must pass two entrances to get down to the Wellness Center Entrance. Whenever I make my way down there during the school year (which just began) there are always about twenty bicycles sitting between the two East entrances of the school (the second is the Wellness Center Entrance).

One of the things Rachel and I thought we would miss when we left the cloistered community of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary was the sound of kids playing. We were used to Cape Ann where if you are a kid who wants to ride their bike in the street you must be extremely careful and so you do not hear see kids playing out in town. The seminary was different, though not exactly kid friendly streets, one had to watch out for kids in parking lots and on sidewalks and on side streets. Even when I lived in Sterling there was less of a “Free Range’ mentality among parents, yes you could see kids riding bikes around town and playing at the town’s parks, but here in Northern Iowa it is still a regular occurrence. Everyday from my office window I see kids riding by on bikes or scooters or walking to and from school. At our community pool we often saw many kids from town and their parents and at the park my wife often runs into other moms taking their kids to the park or kids coming to the park to play by themselves.

Honestly, in a culture that is increasingly isolating and where we have less and less trust for one another and for institutions it is refreshing to know that there are still places in existence where the community bands together to watch the kids. Not that these attitudes of isolation and mistrust are not found here in our town, but they seem to so far be in lower quantities than other places. The advantage is the strength of our social institutions, the local school district, the thriving Main Street.

I want you to notice what institution I did not mention there, it was an intentional omission, that is the local church. Not because the local churches are non-existent but that they are uninvolved, even though they have their own pages in the local newspaper and host community-oriented events but the ones who come to these community events are the same people who attend the local churches. It lends itself to more of a social club mentality rather than an outreach mentality in today’s climate. Not that those things were not once effective, they actually were otherwise we would not have done them, but we are making assumptions about the culture based on what used to work and not asking what we may need to do differently to reach the world now and what is required of us now is to go where the people are and go humbly. To go to a place where their may be things that we do not like or which we have historically condemned or abandoned to darkness and be with people where they are at long before we even begin inviting them to Church. People need to know not how much you care but that you care, and they need to see that your faith is real and that you are real, long before they will even consider coming to Church with you. This is one advantage to our increasingly isolated culture, you must be genuine, you must intentional and you must be willing to stick out the relationship in the long term. Eugene Peterson describes the Christian Life as a “Long Obedience in the same direction” our relationship with Christ and with others should be the same.

Think what it would mean for a second if all those bikes on the school lawn were bikes on the Church lawn on Sunday. I know, I know, I have heard the argument too many times about how sports are scheduled on Sundays, usually during Church, but what if they were there for a contemporary service on a non-sports night of the week? Just dream with me for a second! What would a church with a yard filled with kids bikes and their parents’ cars look like?

The sad reality is, most small-town churches are not ready for that reality. They do not have the infrastructure in place, they do not have the facilities, and their congregations are aging and many of them are burnt out. They also lack access to teaching materials that will help them understand and minister to a new generation such as David Kinnemen’s book “You Lost Me” or other Barna Research. Most of those who have served on the board have served their 30 years and are ready for the next generation to take over, the generation that’s not there. Some think simply by calling a younger pastor they will experience growth, it is true that a pastor will attract those fifteen years on either side of them, it is also true though that only 2% of people who are invited by a senior pastor come to church, meanwhile 94% of people who are invited by a member of the church come. Yet, most people in churches know each other, 64% say that evangelism is a mission of the Church as stated by Jesus, 0% have actually engaged in sharing their faith in the last six months according to Pew research.

Further, we sit in our pews and balk at how bad the world has gotten while taking no action to enact change other than supporting a political candidate. We look at the empty pews and the lack of children and we start to feel anxiety about the future, we look back at the good old days and we get lost in the nostalgia while the world that God loves (John 3:16) slowly slips away into ever increasing darkness, loneliness and depression. Trust erodes and instead of seeing what Christians should be, people learn about Christianity through the news media.

Let me be clear, there is no easy fix to this solution, the fix is the preaching and living out of the Gospel as Disciples of Jesus and that is an extremely costly proposition. The truth is, most people know exactly where the Midwestern Churches are, they are just wondering what they have done lately, and the answer for many of those churches is “nothing.” A Church on Mission is one that is reaching into the community, meeting needs regardless of who has them. It is an open-ended hospitality that breaks down barriers and build relationships. Not so we can show people that the Christianity of the Media is false, but because the Gospel demands a God and others focus. As Rosaria Butterfield says: “The Gospel comes with a housekey.”

The mat outside the door to the Church Office reads: “Come as You Are.” My wife and I were intentional about what message we sent when we ordered a doormat. We also hope that it is a mantra that God will test us with, hold us accountable too. We have been blessed with a beautiful home and we want to be good stewards of what God has given us. When we tell people: “Don’t be alone” we want them to take us up on that and not be alone.

The key to seeing bicycles return to the lawns of our churches is not to create flashy programs or have modern worship with huge laser light shows. My generation is rejecting that kind of showy Christianity. Yes, we should update our facilities and if we are doing so with the intentionality of using it for the advance of God’s kingdom, God will honor that and help with that expense. We need to move away from a social club model to a family that fellowships. Most importantly we need to be men and women after God’s own heart, authentically and sacrificially serving Him with our whole being and full submission to His call on our lives that comes from the Joy of knowing how deeply loved we are by Him and how much He delights in us just for believing in Him. In all this we need to practice a radical, visible and unprecedented hospitality that shares the love of Christ with everyone regardless of their background in a manner that is authentic, organic and focused on Christ.

Everywhere in the world the Church is growing, except here in Post-Christian America, you want to change that trend church? Then go live the Gospel!


Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife Rachel and daughter Erin in Buffalo Center Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center.

Protestant’s Own Penitential System.


We may not be selling indulgences…never mind, maybe we are.



Jonathan Faulkner

I am starting to think all Pastors should take more than your typical Church History survey course, perhaps a class in the historical doctrines and their developments from the Apostolic teachings to modern times would be more helpful. I know that my Alma Mater has moved towards teaching historical theology survey in place of Church History 1 & 2. That course would also have to systems of thought and their influence on Theology and biblical interpretation. For example, the fundamentalist and evangelical insistence on a “Literal” or “Plain reading” of the text comes from the Enlightment belief in foundationalism and Scottish Common-Sense religion which necessarily adopts a literalistic interpretation because well, it just makes sense. Yet, we also tend to be Neo-Gnostic in our approach to the world. As I have written before, we have tended to view the body as evil, unintentionally adopting Marcionism which viewed the created order as “Evil” because to Marcion “Yahweh” was an evil god who created against the will of Elohim. So, we focus almost completely on the heavens and become escapists, always waiting on the next life. Yet our literalistic interpretation of scripture is also a knee-jerk response to German Liberalism and the rise of the text critical method in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A justifiable reaction, though an overreaction as David Strauss’s “Deus Liebner Christus” (Life of Christ) with its rejection of Christ’s divinity had destroyed the faith of many at Tubingen in 1826. Still, a “Plain Reading” of the English text in interpretation is a new phenomenon and one that should trouble us as it has reinforced an anti-intellectualism that prompted Church Historian Mark Noll to write that: “The scandal of the Evangelical Mind is that there is no mind.”

One of the deep ironies that serious students of Church History recognize is how quickly history can repeat itself. For example, as I was finishing up my Masters in Church History I had a discussion with a fellow student about how a generation after the reformation you start to see a total abandonment of the implications of the doctrines for Christian Life put forward by the reformers. They paid lip-service to reformation ideals, but they essentially reenacted the Catholic Penitential System. Something that took 8 centuries to accomplish in the early Church tool one for the protestant church. I will return to this thought later as this is the main topic I want to address here but suffice it to say that it did not take long to abandon Justification by Faith alone.

The Church Fathers are somewhere turning over in their graves. Though they would have struggled with Justification by Faith alone as a purely legal transaction, or the Federalism, the idea that Christ did good things so that we who did bad things could be off the hook. Since they understood Christianity to be an incarnational movement where Christ dwelled in Divine Union and in which Salvation was based on the grace of God who dwelt within us in the person of the Holy Spirit. The best modern representation of this lies in the ancient doctrine of Theosis still at the center of the Eastern Orthodox Mass. The idea being that Christ’s indwelling constantly and continually changes us and makes us more and more like Christ, that we participate in divine life and even take on characteristics of the divine life. It was this realization that almost caused John Williamson Nevin to return to Rome in 1849, though he eventually recognized that Rome was purely Augustinian and out of touch with the Eastern Fathers (it was out of touch with Augustine too, but that’s another article for another time). Still the Church Father’s would take issue with us for returning to Rome in another way but reenacting the Penitential System that defined the Roman Catholic Church throughout the Middle Ages.

One of the best historical examples I can think of is the New Measures revivalism of Charles Finney which stated that a new convert had to be worked up into a frenzy over their sin and cry out in repentance for that sin before they could become a believer. Likely converts would come and sit on the anxious bench and then receive special preaching and encouragement from the revivalist until they “got through.” At the time John Williamson Nevin equated it with the Roman Catholic System, especially since some would be “effectively converted to Christianity two or three times a month.” As if sitting on the bench repeatedly and confessing repeatedly their sins with wailing. It should be said that confession is a good thing, there is a reason our liturgy has a prayer of confession for sins within, so that we can move beyond our sin to the assurance of forgiveness or pardon and live in the light of grace. However, when confession becomes emotional penitence, I must make myself feel so sad that I weep for my sin before I can be truly forgiven. You are adding an unscriptural step to earn forgiveness, as if God is going to be more gracious because you worked yourself into an emotional tizzy and then confessed. Scripture says plainly in 1 John 1:9 that “if we confess our sins, we are faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleans us of all unrighteousness.” If anyone says that “God will not forgive you until you do XY&Z, my advice to you is “Run” all that is required for forgiveness is confession and repentance from sins. I once read in a Church History book that the practice of confessing to a priest began as a good thing, it was when penance was added that it became problematic.

I cannot think of a better example of this in our modern times than Purity Culture. Which by the way, my sister in Christ Elizabeth Ross has written some amazing blog posts on this, go check them out. Many who grew up in purity culture are likely familiar with the example of the rose which has been passed around a room and when it made it back to the speaker ragged and destroyed, he yelled out “Who would want this?” It reflects an attitude that says sexual sin is completely unforgivable and if you do fall into sexual sin then there is no amount of penance you can do to make up for that sin. In fact, in purity culture there was no amount of penance your children could do to be forgiven of that sexual sin. Purity Culture is an example of over-emphasizing a sin and making that sin unforgivable. I am sure that Jesus would argue with the preacher who said this, just as he argued with the Pharisee who had invited him into his home when the prostitute came and wiped his feet with her tears and hair. Matt Chandler certainly responded to this preacher by saying “Jesus wants the Rose, that’s the Gospel.”

Penance and purity culture have this in common, they both tell you that no amount of confession of sin is enough, there has to be more and if there has to be more than God’s divine revelation is wrong. In Penance it was an action that would clear your sins and appease the wrath of God. In purity culture there is no amount of good behavior that can erase your bad. I know there are popular purity culture authors who talked about grace after sin, but that grace never made it into practice. Instead of cheap grace, it was costly grace, but the cost was you and not the one who died to take that sin away and nothing you could do could you earn you that grace. That is why Purity Culture is so often described as a culture of fear, teens were so afraid to make mistakes that they would not even talk to opposite sex. That also had to do with the absurd stigma that if you talked to someone of the opposite sex you wanted to marry them.

I admit, Purity Culture is an extreme example, but what about when we look at church culture in general. Recently I have seen a lot more Christians pushing back against the notion that the Church is filled with perfect people. The problem is, we earned that stigma during the height of the pietistic movement and later Fundamentalism. Fundamentalism has an especially nasty penitential system where any step outside the bounds of a narrow orthodoxy could get your ex-communicated. Evangelicals and evangelicalism are not different, in fact, on Sunday I mentioned that we have used the dogma of a literal six day creation as a litmus test for whether or not someone is a Christian and someone could not become a Christian until they adhered to our narrowly defined orthodoxy. Whether we like it or not, we earned the stigma that one had to get their life together to come to church and be a Christian. How ironically since most of us are far from having our lives together.

Now, I am not saying that one cannot believe in a literal six day creation, I am also not saying that purity or abstinence till marriage is a bad thing or pietism or holding to fundamentals of Christian faith. I am saying that when we make adherence to those things and acceptance into the body and grace and forgiveness based on those things we have stepped beyond the bounds of scripture. When we build a whole culture around them, we have rebuilt a penitential system that says: “Do, believe these things, act this way etc. and you will live” rather than, “because you live, do this.” We look more like Old Testament Jews than New Testament Christians. Or Roman Catholics than Protestants. Therefore, we sometimes use the hashtag #ReformedtheReformed. It may be time for us to revaluate what we believe in Gospel Truth. It may be time for another 95 theses on the Whittenburg Door of the soul of Protestantism. To return to true biblical principles and a biblical Christian Life. One of the reasons I am encouraged about the renewed interest in the early Church Father’s among young Christians is that it takes us back to where it all began and how the Holy Spirit guided the Churches early development. It helps us learn from the saints who went before, who were educated by Christ himself and those who were educated by His followers. I am also encouraged by my sister in Christ Elizabeth’s work to dismantle systems that are unbiblical, and which keep the believer bound to the sin that Christ unapologetically died on the cross for.

The Church in America, many has said, is under the winnowing fork of God. So much is being thrown on the trash heap of history and now being rejected in favor of the ancient and beautiful truth that Christ died to set us free and that those who believe in Him are free as well and that mere confession leads to forgiveness for those who believe.

One more thing; I know that when protestants hear of the “Assurance of Pardon” (or forgiveness in our bulletin) in the liturgy we can get up in arms about how we are not Roman Catholic and the Pastor should not forgive sins and what not. The problem is, most people leave Churches on Sunday like Martin Luther, wondering if they will ever be forgiven for their terrible sins and if they will ever stop sinning. These just heap shame and guilt upon the believer that was taken away at the cross of Christ. So maybe we should pronounce that forgiveness from the pulpit so that one who needs to hear it can have the peace that comes from the truth of their forgiveness.

Just throwing that out there

Now go and sin no more.

Sources –

*John Willamson Nevin: The Anxious Bench
*Charles Finney: Revivals of Religion
*Mark Noll: The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind
*George Marsden: Fundamentalism and American Culture


Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife Rachel and daughter Erin in Buffalo Center Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center.

Dear Young Pastor, The Call to Rural Ministry

Jonathan Faulkner

I know Seminary is over and the whole world is before you, but I’d like you to consider something you may not have.


Dear Young Pastor,

So Seminary is ending, you are either out and trying to find your first call or you are entering your final year thinking about all that is to come. You are young and you have been waiting for this moment for three or four years, you are confident in your call and you have the passion to back that up. You also have confidence in the God that you believe and know, that He will place you where He wants you to be. In your mind you are the next Timothy Keller or Charles Spurgeon, or in our times, Martin Luther or John Calvin. You are going to start the next big movement, pastor the next big church, you just must pay your dues and God will move you on up. You are the future of pastoral leadership in America and maybe in the world. Yes, you are hot stuff, out to change the world with your one or two seminary degrees with all your applications in for the big city pastorate.

Young Pastor, can I ask you to consider something with me for a minute?

Will you consider taking a small pastorate in the middle of nowhere, in a town with a population only slightly larger, or smaller, than your seminary student body? Will you pray about giving up your “big City” dreams and your aspirations of moving up in five years? Will you set aside your dreams of being the next big thing in pastoral ministry for something small? If you are in a small congregation at the moment and anxiously looking forward to the day God calls you to a bigger Church, if you see your current congregation as a “Starter Congregation” will you give up that view?

I am afraid, dear sister or brother, that you have been led astray by a vision and mentality about and within the church that says the City is where Ministry is needed, that’s where the “people are” and so we must go there. Pastor, I know this mentality well, I am writing to you with a Bachelor in Christian Education with a Concentration in Urban Ministry while looking out the window of my church office in my house right next to the church building in a town of 900. I believed as you do, the ministry in the city will trickle down to the small towns, right? As people carry their churches message from the city to their families at home. That’s how it works right? Besides, didn’t Andy Stanley tell parents its “Selfish” to send your kids to a small church, and he’s a mega church pastor so we listen to him right? Well, he did say that, and I told you at the time He was wrong and the idea that ministry “trickles down” from city to small town is a myth.

The fact is, while there are unreached people groups in Cities there are also unreached people in small towns. The truth is that small town churches are dying because for too long they received the “Left-overs” or were viewed as “Starter churches” where you came if you were washed up and ready to retire or you were looking to step up into the next big thing, do your time in the rural until that mega-church called and took you away because of your dynamic preaching or your insane exegesis or creative sermon style. The Fact is these small-town churches are full of people, living and breathing people who feel abandoned and alienated both from a Political and Religious standpoint. In your small town you may be the only church that is doing anything, but it may also be that none of the churches in your town are engaging and they need your passion, your energy, and most importantly the Spirit of God and Word of God that dwells within you and which you have been trained to teach from. Chances are they have been starving for the truth of the very Gospel you have been called to preach and when they hear it they will soak it up and hopefully be changed and transformed by the Holy Spirit who dwells within them. The Truth is you can have just as effective a ministry in the rural church as you can in a city church, perhaps even more so because you have a chance to get to know people and serve them on a much deeper level. The fact is the Rural church needs you and even wants you.

This does not mean rural ministry is any easier than city ministry. Indeed, it may be harder as you get to see just how messy people can get. Your Congregation may be older at first, your facilities may need some TLC and it can be lonely, very lonely at certain times. There are always going to be the naysayers and the people who just want to “maintain the status quo.” Your friends and family may question why you are devoting your time to what they see as a “pointless” or ministry that is “below your talents.” You may have to be bi-vocational; you’ll have to figure out how to have a good work life balance so that you do not burn out. You’ll have to work to change systems of apathy and exhaustion and you’ll have to fight those off within yourself. The Truth is all your education, all the classes you took, even that class on Ethnic (Racial) Reconciliation, every class you took in seminary is relevant and applicable working in the rural church. All those things that are true about the church in the city are true in your small town calling and they all ask of you to be fully engaged in your calling wherever you are.

Because if I may brother, the “starter church” mentality that many of us adopted in College and Graduate school is really quite sinful. It suggests that some churches, specifically small or rural churches are not worthy of your full potential or the service of the church at large. It prioritizes one part of the flock of God over another part and requires you to think of your brothers and sisters as somehow unworthy or less worthy of the Gospel or of your best. We should run and hide from this mentality and put it far away from ourselves for fear that one day we will stand before God and asked if we cared for all His flock.

The fact is, God has called you, or is calling you, to this small-town ministry and you are there because of that call and God has no preference between city and small town. When Jesus told His disciples to go into all the world, He meant both the small towns and the cities. These small churches need you and your training, and the small towns which have increasingly been abandoned by the church and left to darkness. Well, they need the Gospel too, maybe even more so now than the big cities that are often over-churched and over-evangelized.

When I answered the call to come to Buffalo Center Iowa for my first post-seminary pastorate. I did not come here to spend five years and move on. I came here to preach and live-out the Gospel and to spread the Word of God and the Good News of the coming Kingdom of Heaven. I came here to engage with the people in my congregation and to love them and to encourage them and to work together with them to reach the town with the Gospel. It really does not matte to me that to some I was wasting my two masters degrees on a small church in a small town because in my mind God has called me here and if He has called me here He has a purpose to work in and through me. He could have planted me anywhere; He chose to bring me to small-town Iowa and so far we are loving it. Is it lonely at times? Yes, but God has introduced us to some amazing young families in our community including another pastor and His wife.

See young Pastor, the God who gave you this call has not called you to a small town just to abandon you there. He is still God, He is still watching over you and working within and through you. Small town ministry is not the end of the line for you, it is the beginning and not the beginning to a step-up but the beginning of a ministry in which you have to trust God for everything little thing. Again, this is nothing different from ministering in the City, but the small needs you, and not just for five years, but as long as God keeps you there.

So come and join us, the mission is at hand but the workers are few.



Your fellow worker in the Faith.

Jonathan David Faulkner

Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a Graduate student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary working on Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife Rachel and daughter Erin in Buffalo Center Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center.

Young Pastor, Visit your Shut-Ins

Most people hate Monday’s…I am starting to love them.



Jonathan Faulkner

In Graduate School my first semester I got one singular piece of advice that would stick with me or the final three years I was there. That piece of advice came from a pastor who had committed 30 years to his pulpit ministry, he said this: “When you enter full-time, you may not want to have Monday be an office day, you might want to schedule meetings or do your visitations on Monday.” His reasoning: “Monday is often the worst day of the week for a pastor because that is often the day he or she will experience the greatest depths of depression.”

Well, when I received a call to a pastorate in rural America in a Church where I am the only full-time staff and where all my Deacons and Trustees have day jobs, I could almost immediately rule out having meetings on Mondays. So I decided to set aside Monday’s as days to do my visitations to the nursing home here in and town and in another nearby town where we have a few members. I also decided to take another pastor with me so we could share lunch together for encouragement and a chance for me to learn the history of the area from someone who grew up here. It also gives me a chance to fill my day with incredible conversations that encourage and build up both Saints having the conversation, which of course, should be the goal of our Christian Discourse in ever conversation, building up.

I write this because I have so many friends my age who have the mentality of generational warriors. That is, they tend to see older members as the problem and they just think that if they can get those old pesky people out of the way they can do what they want. You can see this mentality at the forefront in Francine Rivers Novel “And the Shofar Blew” where Paul, the young pastor intent on turning a small, backwoods church into a mega church, something he accomplishes by pushing out the same older men who called him. Because I did not want to be that way, some of the women were given a copy of the book to read to hold me accountable. They were also told if they see the attitudes that exist in Paul form in me, to call me on it.

Many young pastors take Paul’s stance, they say things like: “I do not need to visit the older people in my church, they are just in the way of progress.” I would hope that I would not need to point out how unbiblical that attitude is, especially in a small church, but yet, it is a sinful one and one I have heard many in my generation espouse in one form or another. It is an attitude that devalues the image of God and the inherent worth that image carries with it to your older members.

I get it, our churches should not be family chapels intent on being married and buried and little else. Nor should they be entertainment centers where you come and get a nice light show and maybe a 20 minute talk about how to be a better person. Our churches should be missional, outward focused, but part of that mission are the people who have one of the vital parts of that mission, your older members, who may not be able to do much, but boy can they pray, but pastor, they do not know what to pray about if you do not visit them to tell them what the needs are.

Every Monday I visit with a 92-year-old lady who was a pillar of our church for her entire life. She’s in the nursing home now and does not make it to Church on Sundays, but every time we meet she tells me: “I am not done yet, God still has something for me to do.” Going to these visits is not about what I get out of them, but I do always leave her room with a smile on my face as she hollers to me: “Come back soon.” Another gentleman in that same wing of the Nursing Home called me right after we arrived here and told me how glad he was we had come and how he had been praying for us. He also asks me weekly how God has answered the prayer requests on the back of the bulletin or the things I have asked him to pray about. Again, even though I am there to encourage and minister to him, I always leave those meetings encouraged.

I could fill this article with pages of stories, just in the first three months, about visiting the older members of my church. Saints who once built that church and now pray daily for it and for you. The fact is, you need them, they have many years of wisdom and knowledge that has been given to them by God and by life. Some of them have more understanding of scripture and of God than your 3-year seminary degree can ever teach you.

So, young pastor put down Calvin’s institutes and go and visit your older members, they need you and you need them, they are vital to the mission of the Church. It also may open some doors for ministering to their families.


Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a Graduate student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary working on Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife Rachel and daughter Erin in Buffalo Center Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center.

“Voice of the Children” 8 Years Later.

When I wrote this song I was not expecting it to have the impact it did or be as popular as it became and still is.

Performing “Voice of the Children” at an acoustic show at Broadway Market of Sterling 2014.

Jonathan David Faulkner


I remember writing the song like it was yesterday.

It was a cold day in December and I was home from Sterling on Christmas break my senior year. I had brought my guitar home and had shut myself away in my bedroom with it to try and get some thoughts out of my head. I do not remember what specifically triggered thoughts about our attitudes towards kids in Church and our need to reach them with the Gospel, but they were there. So I sat down and wrote these words:

“You did your best, to just forget

To turn your back on all the ones that wept

And you grew numb, with a crooked tongue

As you forgot that even Jesus wept

They are waiting”

It may have had something to do with reflecting back on the pastor who emotionally abused me and that night with the grace killers just 4 years before. The pain was still fresh and I had actually started processing all the emotions and allowing God to do a healing work. This was post Denver, Post Labyrinth, post call to Pastoral Ministry. The words were just coming out, the chorus flowed naturally:

“Can you hear the voice of the children?

Rise above the noise,

We are the light, let’s shine for them

Can you hear the cries of the children?

Drowning out your choice

We are the light, let’s shine for them.

Maybe it had to do with my own experience, crying out under the weight of the intense bullying and pain I felt. A culmination of years of crying out for someone to see my pain expressed in the way I dressed, the music I listened too etc. Or maybe the Spirit was just moving.

“And now she sits, in your pew

And I wonder what you’re going to do

Will you show her love, tell her of Christ?

Or crush her innocent heart tonight

She is waiting”

When I get into a zone while writing a song sometimes it just comes.

“This world knows darkness so well

And without you there’s no heaven just hell

So let us give of ourselves

To be the light to the ones who are watching, the ones who are watching, the ones who are watching us live.

I finished writing and opened up my laptop to write the song title and number into my master list of songs written. “Voice of the Children” is number 31 on that list, it was back when I was still learning to compose but it’s the only song other than “Joy Everlasting (A Christmas Chorus)” from those first 35 that made it into John Walk & The Opened Eyes set lists and was my most popular song until “River Song” debuted in 2015. It made every set list until 2017’s Chowder Fest and was on the “Acoustic Bootleg’s EP” that we gave away after the last show in Sterling (the one I recorded in my bathroom). The song and its backstory were also featured in a “Living Room Sessions” video on my Youtube Channel. (Only Joy Everlasting (A Christmas Chorus) has received more play time because of The Service Strings Addition).

But it’s what happened after the song was written and the story that the song carries behind it that makes it so special, makes it one that I will never forget and which I will play for big sets where it fits. As I mentioned, I opened up my laptop, entered the song into the master list, typed the lyrics and chords into a separate file, saved it and checked facebook. The date was December 14th 2012 and I will always remember where I was that morning and what I was doing because the first post on my newsfeed made the song take on a whole new meaning.

“How could someone do this to little children.” My friend’s status read, no link, so that meant I had to start searching. I went to fox news (because in 2012 it had not become the propaganda machine it is today) and the “Breaking” headline caught my attention. I do not remember the headline, but I remember the contents, so do you. A gunman had entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and had killed several students and teachers. I had been writing a song: “Voice of the Children” about children crying out in desperation, as Children were crying out in desperation.

My father-in-law once described me as a man who wants to give a “Voice to the voiceless” this is certainly true, I have a passion for this, and “Voice of the Children” was intended to be just that, a voice for the voiceless. Anytime I would play the song audiences would cheer and people would cry and through my head would go the pictures forever burned in my head of the Sandy Hook kids.

In my mind these kids and I are in separable in time, as if the song was somehow prophetic, the Spirit which “Knows what we aught to pray” (Romans 8) praying within me. The song became a challenge to the church and to audiences to hear not the children in their churches but children around the world. To see suffering not as a policy or political problem but as a human problem, to see children who are suffering as an opportunity to bless those whom the world often destroys.

Which is what we are to do. In 1 Peter 3:9 it says: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless! For to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” The word “Bless” here is a participle that carries imperative meaning, that is, this is a command: “Be the one who blesses” this follows Jesus own teachings in Luke 6:27-28 and Matthew 5:16 and also follows Old Testament teachings concerning Abraham when God tells him in Genesis 15 that he and his offspring are to be a “Blessing to all nations.” We are not called to be a curse on this planet, but a blessing. That includes little children, of which Jesus also tells us that it would be better “to have a millstone tied around our neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble” (Mat 18:6, Luke 17:6).

Yet 8 years later this song still haunts me precisely because I keep seeing the plight of children get worse, not better. And I’m not just talking about the kids who have been taken into custody along the border and put in detention centers. Life for children in general has gone down hill as they often find themselves compensating for their parents histories or they are too busy they have no time to just be kids. Or I see kids in our own country who, because of their immigration status, are being denied basic human health needs like tooth brushes and soap while adults who should know better squabble over spending money on actually meeting those basic hygiene requirements. I hear the cries of the children and see those cries go ignored.

I know, I know, right now I sound like Gal Dukat coming Deep Space Nine looking for money to run his Orphanage yelling “think of the children.” But as much as this song has been on my mind lately, the words of Jesus about not causing the least of these to suffer or stumble I cannot help but think that we have missed something here theologically. Right now, the church has an incredible chance to be a light and shine for them, no longer do we have to go to the nations, the nations have come to us. I know it’s cliché, but that’s the thing about clichés, they often turn out to be true in some way. If conditions at the border are as terrible as even James Dobson says they are, even in his own corrupt, nationalistic and nativist way, then we should actually be leaning into the situation as the church, not pushing back from it in revulsion.

Just think of what would have happened if the early Christians at Carthage had done this, pulled back, there is a good chance that you and I are not Christians because Christianity would not have spread like wildfire in a time of famine and plague when it was the Christians, not the Roman Government who were taking care of the sick and diseased. God has put before a wonderful time to respond to evil with good and to care for the sick and homeless and almost clothe less and we are debating whether or not they deserve to be cared for on the basis of their immigration status.

Now, before you label me as “some open-border (place expletive here)” I will be the first to tell you that a sovereign nation has the right to make and enforce laws to protect and sanction its borders. But those laws should be at the very least humane and be enforced humanely. How does a nation balance securing its borders and treating people humanely? Perhaps it brings the one organization in the world with a God-given definition of what a human being is that should lead to a wholistic understanding of what a human being is and care for the needs that a human being has. The Church.

Voice of the Children is one of two songs that constantly and consistently come to my mind when I think of the issues before us as the Church in the United States. It also makes me wonder if the solution to some of our smaller problems and disunity are not found in working to solve the current crisis at our border and any place where Children are killed, exploited, destroyed, terrorized or dehumanized.

Because right now we have done our best to just forget, to turn our backs on all those who have wept, to crush the hearts of the innocent while they wait for the church to come and do what the church claims it is going to do.

There is hope though and I captured that right at the end of the song, Because if there is no hope, then why are we still here?

“And now she’s free

now she believes

she’s becoming who she’s called to be

and now she shines, shines like a star

and now you know her faith will take her far”

Listen to the song here: Voice of the Children (From the Acoustic Bootlegs EP).


Lovingly, Pastorally, Theologically, we no longer have a choice.


Lyrics and Music for Voice of the Children property of Jonathan David Faulkner & 10:31 Publishing


Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a Graduate student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary working on Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife Rachel and daughter Erin in Buffalo Center Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center.