The Eucharist and the Homily

The Debate over what is central to Christian Worship is an old one, but it may be based on the false dichotomizing of traditions that were meant to be co-equal.

Jonathan Faulkner

What is central to the Worship Service? That was the question that Francis Chan addressed in a recent video sermon that made the social media rounds last week and sparked debates across platforms. I haunt various Facebook theology groups including a lay group based on discussing the ideas in Chan’s book Letters to the Church so I have had a chance to see the multiplicity of perspectives argue back and forth on the content of this video and the claim Chan made that for “1500 years it was the Lord’s Supper that was central to Christian Worship and not the Pulpit.” I have enjoyed watching Chan take this journey since he stepped down from Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley CA and thought there was a lot of good in “Letter’s to the Church” even if Chan went too far in some of his conclusions. I would never consider myself part of the Emerging Church” movement which emphasizes a “burn it all down” approach to the organized and institutional protestant Church that has more in common with the Roman Catholic Church on 1517 than the Church as described in Acts. But as a serious historian and serious student of the scriptures alike, I recognize that Scripture was meant to be applied and the example set for us by the early Christians was meant to be our universal model and can be applied to an institutional church with great care and dedication.

Chan’s assertion however, that: “for 1500 years the Lord’s Supper was central to Christian Worship, not the pulpit.” Actually, fails the sniff test of the very passage his argument in Letters to the Church hinges on, Acts 2:42-47. Not to mention that this is a Roman Catholic revision of History that makes Peter the first Pope of Rome and over emphasizes some parts of the activities of the early Christians that should be held in equilibrium with others. Holding to the doctrine of historic development: The idea that the Holy Spirit guided the development of the Early Church and is still working to lead the development of the church in modern times. It would seem blasphemous that the Spirit would hold up the practice of the supper above the preached word. It would make more sense that because the early Church seemed to have held them in tandem that the Holy Spirit would hold them in tandem. That is, we cannot over emphasize one or under emphasize another. To do so is to create a false dichotomy that only confuses new believers and creates “sides” and parties.

Chan is right in that the Protestant Church has often neglected the supper in favor of the preached word and nothing more. It bothers me when I hear Christians say that they do not want to have Communion more than 3 times a year because they do not want to become numb to what it means. When the early Christians daily partook of the bread and wine, yet many protestants are hard pressed to do so once a month and once a week is absolutely out of the question. The opposite was true of the Roman Catholic Church at the time of the reformation. The Eucharist was done every week and the preached word was just sort of thrown in there for five or ten minutes. Martin Luther’s concern grew out of finding a people starving for the very word of God and bread of life (most of the peasant class were not allowed to take full communion either). That is one of the reasons the preached word became so central to the reformation alongside the Eucharist, the masses were literally spiritually starving. Similar to Jesus when He looked out on the crowds and: “Had compassion on them because they were harassed, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). The Eucharist was still important, as evidenced by the vigorous debates over the elements and various views of the Supper. That is, until the next generation of protestants began to over emphasize the preached word over and even at times against the Eucharist.

It is hard to pinpoint exactly when the initial distortion occurred within the Roman Catholic Liturgy. It is less of an intentional change and more of a gradual transformation as the liturgy developed. The Formal Principle of Protestantism; that is the authority of the Word of God, was a corrective to the authority and abuses of the church that had neglected the authority of the Word under infallible Popes, some of whom had no ecclesiological training whatsoever and had no business leading in any church. If the word of God was authoritative, then the tradition had to answer to it and even be dictated by it and whatever was not biblical, such as the sale of indulgences, had to go. We baptize because scripture commands us to baptize, whether as sign and seal of covenant or believers’ confession of faith, we baptize. We partake of the body and blood of Christ because Jesus and the Apostles instructed us to. We greet one another because the Ancient Christians greeted one another, us with a handshake and them with a Holy kiss. The sacraments are part of the tradition, they answer to and are dictated by scripture and we should be wary of neglecting them, but we should also be wary of neglecting the preached word. Both are essential and both are central, they are not at odds, and for 900 years they were side by side with one another in near perfect harmony.

If Chan believes the Roman Catholic Argument that the Eucharist was central for 1500 years and emphasized over the preached word. Then he should go read the works of Cyril, Irenaeus, Tertullian and other church father’s who devoted a great deal of time to the preached word but also consistently and constantly observed the Eucharist. Men and women who quite obviously believed both were central to Christian Worship and both were important. Afterall, how can one define Apostolic Succession as the passing down of the teachings of the Apostles, without expounding on and expositing the teachings of the Apostles. The idea that the Popes were the succession to the Apostles is a later development of the Papacy, not the belief of the Early Christians. The early Christians were simultaneously devoted to the teachings of the Apostles and the breaking of bread. Not to the Apostles themselves, but their teaching which was exposition on the Old Testament and on the life, words and actions of Christ and from which came instructions concerning the breaking of the bread which was the body and blood of Christ.

This was a daily activity, not a casual weekend hour long get together with some loosely theological songs and a nice message meant to make us feel good about ourselves. The teachings and example of Jesus were held up to them and kept ever before them, not just in memorial but as participation in the divine life and divine family they had been adopted into through Christ. When someone came to Christ they were expected to learn about the things of Christ, not some proof-texted man driven philosophy, but the teachings of the God-Man himself.

The Sacrament and the Word should not be separated, nor should one be emphasized over and against the other. They are essential practices of the Church that have existed from the beginning of the Body and they should both hold a central place in our worship alongside the singing of praises to God. We should not longer tolerate their neglect or create spaces where both are not present and central. We need to reject the false dichotomy in favor of the biblical witness.


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.

The Tale of Two Speeches

One Speech and One Sermon, two different perspectives on the Church in America, One from the President of the United States, One from the President of a prominent Evangelical Seminary, who is correct?

Jonathan Faulkner

I just spent the last half-hour listening to the president’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast. Like many, I am tired of the insults and put downs that have become common place within these speeches and so I would not normally have watched it, but since the President tends to talk up his accomplishments and since he was before one of his primary bases, Evangelical Christians, it seemed logical to expect to see much of the same in this speech. Guess what? I was not disappointed. Listening to the speech made it sound like Christianity was alive and well and he even used the word “Thriving” to describe what was happening. A similar word was used by Pew and Lifeway when they did their research on the ever-marginalized Churches in New England, Churches that are no longer sitting at the forefront of social influence and power and are increasingly further from those centers. The President also made mention of how he has done more for Christians than any other political leader in the nation’s history and one could infer “Since Constantine.” Still, between the self-endorsement and the attacks on political enemies one saw what the second speech reiterated over and over again.

The Second speech, which was actually a sermon on Psalm 85 by the new president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary Dr. Scott Sunquist from GCTS Spring Convocation which served as my wife and I’s spiritual nourishment and preaching as we sat at home Sunday Morning waiting out the snow storm that canceled our own service. The sermon opened with one poignant and heart-wrenching line: “The Church in the United States of America is sick, Evangelicalism is sick, brothers and sisters, we are sick.” He then went on to paint the grim picture, combining for us all the statistics on church-decline all the reasons the people in our pews are so anxious, but at the end of that he gave us hope, he showed us the way back to health, his solution? Reach out to God and ask Him for restoration. I know this is likely the first time some of you have heard of this sermon so please go and take a listen before you continue reading.

I said above that the presidents remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast proved, in many ways what Dr. Sunquist said in his sermon, I will get back to that in a second. First, I want to ask the question that I asked in the tagline on this post because these are two very different views of the state of the Church in the United States of America. There is no compatibility here, either the Church is doing amazing and things are great, or we are sick and in need of a biblical restoration. The question we have to ask here is “What is the truth?” Is one of these men passing around false information meant to make himself look better in the eyes of a constituency? Or are they both way off base and the truth is somewhere in the middle? Many of us would like to believe the president, as a Pastor that would take a load off my mind. I would like to say that Christianity is thriving here in the United States of America. I would love to be able to stand before my congregation and say that all their fears are for not, we are in great shape.

However, I cannot ignore what I see with my eyes and hear with my ears. I cannot ignore what the cultural exegetes tell me, those people whose job it is to know exactly what the state of the church in America is like. I cannot help but think about Peter Bienart’s article in the Atlantic in 2017 that talked about “America’s Empty Church Problem” or the pianist at my church who lamented about a town where all the churches are either museums or condo’s or homes now (that was a town in Wisconsin no less). I think of what Barna Group calls: “the rise of the none’s” and what David Kinnamen calls: “the dropout problem” where young Christians who leave the church are not coming back and many are abandoning their faith altogether and the heartbreaking reasons why this is so. I think of the increasingly close entanglement between cultural evangelicalism and Political Power and the promise that all these things I mentioned above are no longer true, even though they are. I think of Dr. Peter Kuzmic who told the church we attended in Hamilton in 2019 that the president of the United States was: “Absolutely hindering missions work all over the world because of Evangelicals association with him in American Politics.” I see and read all of this, I hear the way people in my town talk about the people on the other side of the isle, people who are otherwise perfectly kind men and women who treat bitterly their political rivals. I cannot help but think that Dr. Sunquist is right, that we are in need of restoration. We have violated what Philip Schaff defined as the definition of Religious Freedom in the United States: “It is a Free Church in a Free State, or a self-supporting and self-governing Christianity independent but in friendly relation to the Civil Government.” That the very people who once wrote into their founding confessional documents like the Saybrook Confession that Christian Magistrates could not “proselytize” are now looking to the government to do just that.

Yes, Dr. Sunquist is correct, we are sick, and the president is incorrect, we are not barreling towards a brighter day, we are headed for our own destruction. Yet, I would be a fool to not look at the positive things that are happening in Christianity. The article by Peter Beinart I mentioned above does point out that one affect of our current situation in American Religion is that cultural Christianity is declining and biblical Christianity, which at the time was apolitical, is on the rise. According to a 2018 article in the Washington Post: “Conservative churches” which would better be defined as “Bible Believing” are growing while Liberal churches are dying on the vine. It is also true that 4 Million people between the age of 20-35 classify as what Barna calls “Resilient Disciples” that churches in the places where they are not longer the dominate power structure and where Power Religion is mocked and the church marginalized are laying down their denominational hard lines and embracing a biblical definition and the biblical example of the Church. In short, the Church is reforming, and though this time around there is not a one pivotal figure who has walked up and nailed 95 thesis on the Cathedral doors, there are many spirit led men and women who have found a more ancient voice, the voice of the Holy Scriptures. This new Reformation is taking place around our dinner tables and our fellowship times, at Theology on Tap and in Post-Sermon Q&A sessions. It is active and extremely organic, at times to a fault. Jesus is once again eating with the sinners and the tax collectors and the religious pharisees are once again condemning Him. It is true in Church History and it will prove true again, anytime the church aligns itself with the halls of power it never ends well for the church. Further, anytime we lose our power and influence it forces us back to a time when we had to live out what we believe rather than speak from a place of assumed authority. As Schaff predicted in The Principle of Protestantism, the cultural sects are dying off or reforming and rejoining the main body. Sectarianism has proven untenable.

Now, back to a point I made earlier, I said that the President’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast points to the truth of what Dr. Sunquist said about our sickness. If you listen to the president’s speech, he does exactly what James 3:9-12 tells us not to: “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and saltwater flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olive, or a grapevine bear fig? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” In almost the same breath the president of the United States both cursed and attacked his enemies, those who he saw as working against him, and then praised God and even, at points, touted his own accomplishments as being from God. It may also surprise you to find that the general way of speaking, by the president, or tweeting, by the president, tends towards cursing man more so than it does to praising God. This is a sign of how sick we have become; we have propped up and praised a man who is in direct violation of the commands and text of scripture, and not only James 3:9-11. We have embraced a man who regularly participates in “course joking” who has openly admitted to sexual immorality a man who, at the National Prayer Breakfast, openly and brazenly admitted to hating someone who is very possibly his sister in Christ and accusing that sister of making false claims about her own religious practice. His harboring of anger and hatred puts him direct violation of Jesus own commands in Matthew 5:27. If this is not proof of illness, I am not sure what is. We claim the bible is authoritative, we claim that scripture is the means by which we are to live through the Holy Spirit, but then we do not live it out in our own lives and ignore it when it is convenient or expedient.

We are quickly coming to a point of no return, will we pray the prayer of Dr. Sunquist, “Restore us oh God.” Or will we continue to whore after the god of political power and influence? Will we continue to ignore scripture in favor of our preferences and our safety? Or will we repent and remember that it was not Christians in power that brought the Roman Empire to its knees, but a Church under persecution? IF we continue this line of pursuit, we put ourselves in danger of increasing persecution (some places this has already begun). Or we can return to the intention in Schaff’s definition above, two separate and free entities with only a friendly relation unless that government is openly apposed to Christianity. We may not be able, at this point, to back to what Schaff described as: “The relationship of church and state in the United States secures full liberty of religious thought, speech and action within the limits of the public peace and order. It makes persecution impossible. Religion and liberty are inseparable. Religion is voluntary and cannot, and aught not, be enforced.” I fear we are passed the point of a return to this vision and continued attempts to use the government to proselytize we will only face increased persecution.

This is why the president was wrong and Scott Sunquist right, all that is happening that is good in the church right now is actually in spite of what the president is doing or not doing for the church. His own speech and actions, violation of the biblical text which we claim is sacred, and so on and so forth are proofs to Dr. Sunquist point. Further, As David French pointed out our propensity to make excuses for him and to justify his behavior is even more damning and destructive. As we have seen countless times, in the attack on Russell Moore, in attacks on Mark Galli and in too many other cases to admit, we have violated Biblical teaching and done damage to our Gospel witness in a world that already wanted nothing to do with God. We are certain not in the favor of all the people (Acts 2:42-47). Just the opposite, we have taken the offensiveness of the Gospel (you cannot save yourself) and added our own offensiveness to it by not turning to God, but to man, to save us. We should be quick to repent before it leads to our destruction.


Bornman, Adam S. 2011. Church, Sacrament and American Theology: The Social and Political Dimensions of John Williamson Nevin’s Theology of Incarnation. Eugene : WFPF & Stock Publishing .

Fea, John. 2019. Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump . Grand Rapids : Eardhman’s Publishing .

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. “The Church .” In One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, John Nevin’s Writings on Ecclesiology (1844-1849) Tome One: The Mercersburg Theology Study Series Colum Five, by John Williamson Nevin David W. Laymen, 144-159. Eugene : WFPF and Stock .

Nevin, John Williamson. 2017. “Thoughts on the Church .” In The Mercersburg Study Series Vol VII: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Tome Two: John Williamson Nevin’s Ecclesiological Writings (1851-1858, by John Williamson Nevin David W. Laymen, 131-152. Eugene : WfPF and 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.

Schaff, Philip. 1888. Church and State in the United States or The American Idea of Religous Liberty and its practical Effects . New York : Charle Scribner & Sons .

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.

Bring Back the Creatives

David Kinnaman notes that many “exiles” who have left the church are creatives who felt their gifts are unwanted in the Church. Yet we lose something valuable when we lose their unique, Spirit guided insights.

Jonathan Faulkner

How many of you know that I am singer/songwriter? Yes, many of you know that I have a picture at the end of each article of me from a few years ago holding Rose my Electric Guitar after a Chapel service at Gordon-Conwell. But did you know I have written over 300 songs and performed over 100 shows made up of primarily my own music. While I was working for AltRockLive CMG I would even talk to artists like Kiros and The Classic Crime about my own music, got to sit down with Matt Bronleewe and somewhere have an email exchange between us with critiques about my own music. There was a time when, before John Walk and the Opened Eyes and the “Land of the Living EP” I was seriously pursuing a music career. When I got to Graduate School, I put that dream on hold except for the occasional John Walk concert with the guys. I was in the process of recording another EP when life just got to busy, and I gave up the pursuit altogether. On top of that I was starting to feel a little tension between my music and what I sensed those in the church wanted me to play. I lead worship at Chapel a few times with my unique folk-rock blend (and Crowder songs), then was never asked to lead again until my fourth year when I volunteered and the day I was asked to lead something with my schedule or the new baby, I can’t remember, kept me from doing so (though I played drums and guitars multiple times).

The message was becoming clear, your music is great for Broadway Market in Sterling, or the Youth Group Lock-In at the Baptist Church or even the open Mic at that bar in Wichita. It works wonderfully for entertainment during the Seminaries big clam festival and the yearly Kalos Talent Night (which I organized one year) but your music is not ‘church music’ so until you learn to play Chris Tomlin or “Mighty to Save” we will see you later. I understood, or at least I thought I did, I was different from the Hillsong types that seemed to be the ones leading worship with their droning keyboards and questionable theology were what was in and I should conform or stop trying.

Louis Cranach’s depiction of the Reformation, showing the Catholic Priests tending a dusty and dead garden compared to the living garden of Martin Luther.

Okay, it was not that bad, and to be fair, the worship at the seminary became something so much more than that by the time I graduated. I suppose I am not even bitter; I have never claimed to write or sing church-music but prefer Downhere’s self-description of “Ministry-Music.” That is, I write songs that are designed to minister to people in the moment they are in. I write songs to express my own longing for Christ and to process with my brothers and sisters the pain of reconstruction and healing. If someone hears one of my songs and knows they are not alone in what they are experiencing or that they can be pointed to Christ through one of the songs I wrote, I consider it a service to Christ. I have experienced a lot of hurt and joy in my life and the outlet of songwriting has allowed me the grace of processing with God and others. I have also had the blessing of hearing those stories of the few people who have been impacted by the music because God used it to minister to them. That is a humbling thing, and now that I am not playing as much, or if I am it is someone else’s material, I do not get to hear those things as much.

I have been thinking about this because I just finished reading Andrew Peterson’s new book “Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling and the Mystery of Making” and because of it I am deeply aware of the way I have allowed myself to put aside a part of myself that God has put deep within me, that is part of my created personhood in Christ and an essential part at that. I have also been reminded of a central ideas within the David Kinnaman book “You Lost Me” which states that Exiles (of which I would be one were I not a Pastor) are exiles because they have felt the church has stifled a part of the way God has made them. Creatives, like myself, have been told there is a way to do these things like worship or art or novel writing and any diversion from what is often strict, and rigid is seen as an annoyance, or worse, rebellion. The status quo is prized above all else, even above God’s calling on the community, and if one violates that status quo it is demanded they either fall back into place or leave. The result has been that creatives have either left the church and the faith all together like the award-winning worship artist Michael Gunger now agnostic. Or they seek out other avenues to use the expression of creativity God has built into them outside the church which usually involves leaving the church altogether. Their faith is remaining intact, but their relationship with the body of Christ is severed on a relational level because they have been told they do not belong there.

I know Andrew Peterson necessarily has no qualms with the praise craze of the 2000’s but CCM lost something when it happened and continues to lack something because it is gone. For instance, I am listening to Caedmon’s Call right now, at one point they, Andrew Peterson, Rich Mullins, Jars of Clay and others were the standard bearers of Christian Music. The music was intricate and beautiful, and the lyrics had a lot to say. The closest equivalent to them in the 2000’s upward was Casting Crowns who succeeded despite what the rest of the industry was doing. I started listening to heavier Christian Music in High School precisely because the CCM that adorned our car radio had almost (Casting Crowns and Tenth Avenue North being the exception) nothing to say to what my friends and I were experiencing and “positive and encouraging” did nothing when a friend took their life to suicide or when I was struggling with suicide after my brain injury in 2015.

I know this sounds incredibly selfish, but what BARNA research has shown us is that many people my age feel as though the institutional church and its products (like CCM) do not speak to what they are experiencing in a way that draws them to Jesus or addresses relative issues that are important to them in any meaningful way. When they need answers to questions, CCM has given them a gentle pat on the back and given them the power of positive thinking over and instead of the Gospel. This is why one of my criteria for reviewing an album at ARLCMG was the relevance to cultural issues. It is also why one of my top five albums of the last decade was KB’s “Today We Rebel” because it addressed topics people our age were concerned about, mainly justice and how the Bible tells us we should pursue it in obedience to God, not man-made laws.

Perhaps ironically, what has happened in the church is captured perfecting in a CCM song, namely, Casting Crowns “City on a Hill” which in the first verse says this: “Have you heard of the city on the hill, said one old man to the other, it was shining bright and it would be shining still, but they all started turning on each other, you see the poets thought the dancers were shallow, and the soldiers thought the poets were weak, the Elders saw the young ones as foolish, and the rich man never heard the poor man speak.” I have a hard time imagining a more accurate poetic description of church culture in North America than those lines, and they haunt me as I pastor in a ministry where I am the youngest adult there most Sundays. If I had a penny for everything, I have had someone grumble to me about my generation only to follow it up with: “but not you, you’re obviously an exception.” I can tell you that hurts, and so do the facebook posts about millennials based on stereotypes that are not true. Of course, I do not want to turn around and do the same thing to them by using the equally disrespectful cultural phrase that has gained popularity in the last several months, “okay boomer” because that only perpetuates the divide and returns the animus inherent in these debates.

What Andrew Peterson has done in his book though is to remind us what C.S. Lewis did a generation ago, that we as Christians are called to create and to do so with the Gospel in mind. Through the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us and when we do that the entire body is edified and encouraged in Christ, through what God is doing through creatives. Though he never quotes the Casting Crowns song, you can hear in the chapters of the book the second bridge: “It is the rhythm of the dancers, That gives the poets life, It is the spirit of the poets, That gives the soldiers strength to fight, It is fire of the young ones, It is the wisdom of the old, It is the story of the poor man, That’s needing to be told.” One thing that Peterson hits one, perhaps without knowing it, is that we are literally all connected as the lyrics quoted above remind us. Everyone in the body of Christ needs everyone else and needs to be “devoted to one another in family love, showing preference for one another” (Romans 12:10 translation and italics mine).

Last night at Men’s bible study we talked about what it means to do exactly what the verse above states. We talked about how a better translation of Philadelphia in scripture than brotherly love would be “Family love” or “Christian family.” The word, which appears 220 times from Acts to 2nd Peter literally means: “Love for those of the same womb.” The Christian then is not a lone, wondering soul trying to figure out his discipleship on his or her own, but a brother and sister in love and in fellowship and communion with other members of the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit. This isn’t just community as we know it in the modern day, but a remaking from a person to a people who all share the same spiritual parentage, God the Father who has adopted us through Christ (Gal 4:4-8). I like what Joseph Hellerman says then in “When the Church Was a Family,” that we should, so much as copyright allows, sing our worship songs using corporate pronouns like “we” and “us” instead of “I” and “me.” This would better foster a sense of family over and against the radical individualism we love so much and which may not survive another generation anyway, at least not in the church.

I have been a part of what can happen when the church does this, it was the hallmark of my last two years of seminary. I saw what can happen when we think of each other as brothers and sisters instead of just the people we go to church with. What I did not mention before is that even though I did not lead worship, many of the other super creative and talented people in our community did and it was awesome what the Lord did with it. I think of my brother Brandon who introduced his own songs into worship, something I had tried to do two years prior only to not be asked to lead again. I think of my sister Tiffany whose passionate piano playing and vocal style was a cry to God that vocalized what our hearts were feeling. Outside of Chapel I think of Neil and Tyler and Frank and Gerald, the amazing musicians who made up John Walk & The Opened Eyes. From day one of making music together we just used our gifting on our instruments and voices to make music for the glory of God. As a side note, those four are the best musicians I have ever worked with, and I am unlikely to work with better. I think of the girl whose name I do not recall, who painted a picture on stage of what the Chapel speaker was describing, her way of worshiping and praising God for His death and resurrection. I think of my friend John, a seminary employee, who wrote poetry and would recite it at Kalos (I encourage you to read it, click here). My friend Mark who used his significant theological and philosophical powers to bear on issues in our culture in hopes of having a theological discussion on how we might address them biblically. I think of Dr. Adams whose “Story Theology” shapes my spiritual formation and devotional life to this day. Dr. Singleton whose creative means of lecturing mean I will not forget his stories or his wisdom (Nor will I forget Neil’s impression of him).

Artists rendition of The Battle of Milvan Bridge where Constantine claimed heaven opened and he accepted the Christian God.

Without these men and women and so many more our family at the seminary would not have thrived in the way that it was by the time we graduated. I pray that not only do those things continue, but they find greater traction and draw in more and more people. But also that this might be an example to the church in the United States on how to live as a family that uses the “ingrained desire to follow our creator in creating,” as C.S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity. I create music because my creator created everything and like Him, because I am made in His image and reflect Him. If I suppress that creativity because it is not kosher in the evangelical church culture, then I am denying something which God put within me to do. If I tell God I will use one gift He has given me, the preaching gift, but not the other gift, the musical gift, then I am not functioning in my full capacity. If I tell the artist that they are not allowed to draw or paint and donate those items to the church to be displayed, I am stifling their ability to use their gift for the edification of the family of God. If I tell the poet that poetry is only for the worship song writer or hymn writer, then I am not allowing them to fulfill their full calling within the body that is meant to build up the body. God is not the God of the status quo and we should be endlessly grateful for that reality. We should be ashamed that there are Christian Communities are popping up outside the church for creatives because they have been told they have no place in the church.

Yet just a cursory glance at musicians would show us that the majority of Christian Music is not the mainstream praise craze stuff that feels skin-deep and even fake at times. But is the deep, faith infused, beauty-oriented music of the margins. If you look at art, (in every medium) you find a renewed interest in theological art that depicts scripture and its stories. If you look at poetry, there is a renewed interest in poetry modeled after the psalms with their many styles and ideas. What is happening on the margins, though in need of some guardrails in places, is quite deep, quite biblical and quite good, and there is a lot of it out there encompassing just about every style, genre and theme you can imagine. Not only do these young men and women point to a brighter day for the church, they also are restoring something to Christianity that has been missing in this depth since Cranach painted his famous painting of the reformation. I even picked up my guitar the other day, which has not been used to write since I wrote the song “Type A” in 2015 and wrote a song based on what I have been studying about the Church as a Family of God bound up in and devoted to one another in that love that only exists in the family of God. Not one of those happy-clappy “God loves you” songs, but a deep lament over what has been lost by making the church just another institution that we attend, not the family of God and a prayer that we would be called back to that. It felt good, other than sermons, which are an artform all their own, I had not crafted much of anything since I graduated from Seminary and The Opened Eyes all went our separate ways.

Community has been another area the church has struggled, but it is something that our artists tend to be good at. I have rarely met anyone who likes to create and keep that creation to themselves. Like Andrew Peterson and the Rabbit Room, we want to share with one another. That was the premise behind the band at Seminary, God has gifted us with talent on different instruments (and these guys were seriously good) and so let’s use those gifts for God’s Glory to make music to encourage the flock. When we were all exhausted because Seminary, life and kids were piling up, we knew we could gather to play music or go grab a drink at THE FARM or Fibber McGee’s to unwind. We also knew we had other friends, brothers and sisters in Christ who we could take with us and who would encourage us as we encouraged them. This type of community built on mutual love and encouragement was something we were worried we would not find when we moved to Iowa. God, however, had other plans as my first week there we met another couple just a few years older than us who we instantly connected with and then a chance meeting at the park between my wife and another young mom would spark another friendship and that those two couples were already friends. The first six to eight months of pastoral ministry, usually known as the Honeymoon period, can be the loneliest for a new pastor and family, and though they have been lonely, the loneliness has been lessened a great deal by what have becoming monthly gathering at one another’s homes built on an understanding that we are brothers and sisters in Christ living in mutual love and encouragement.

Both these families are farm families and I think farmers are the greatest artists of all. Think about it, you would not be able to look down from an airplane in the summer and see that patchwork of yellows and greens without the farmers who plant the seed and tend the crops. God uses them to magnify the beauty of His earth, especially when you drive by a golden Kansas wheat field right before harvest, or the deep green on an Iowa bean field right before it turns brown and is ready for harvest. The farmer becomes the instrument through which God paints His landscapes, making them the greatest artists of all. I know this is probably a really mushy thought, and I promise I am not just trying to curry favor with our new friends, I really do think that way, as one who has flown in and out of Wichita many times in my adult life, and have wondered at the beauty of the fields.

I say all of this to say this: We need to bring back our creatives as a church and create space for them to create whatever the Holy Spirit guides them to create. There is still room for theological guardrails, because they have to exist, but we should drop all lot of the manmade junk that has determined what is and what is not Church music. I love the organ, I do not want to get ride of it, but I also love guitar, violin, drums, clarinet and banjo. I love the old hymns but there is a lot of new hymnody that is just as deep if not deeper than some of what we consider deep in our churches today. I want to have a space where I can create what God has given me to create and in such a way that I can ask the hard questions and even try to answer the hard questions. And I do not just want this for myself, I want it for my brothers and sisters who love the Lord as deeply as I do but do not think they have any place in the church because their creative expression is not “normal” within the walls of the church.

Religious Art is one of the ways Historians learn about the people of the past. I fear our lack of it will speak volumes to the archaeologist who exhume the remains of our buildings. That thought saddens me, so much so that I want to fling open the doors and tell my creative brothers and sisters to come in and dwell with me on the deep things of scripture and God and then by the Power of the Holy Spirit create together wherever God leads us. I want to see Achdenbuilds lining the walls and hear every kind of instrument reverberate off them, I want us to do what the early church did and use whatever we had before us for the glory of GOD and I want everyone who can in on it.


The Altar in an Ethiopian Coptic Church, one of the oldest Churches in the world.


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.

Our Culture of Proof Texting

Complimentarianism and Egalitarianism both require proof-texting to make their points, reading their own ideas back into the text whose writers would not recognize them. Both sides fail to address the proof-text for the others arguments and so a stalemate ensues and the church remains divided.


Jonathan David Faulkner

As a budding Historian of the Church in America in the 19th Century I get to study all the various debates that raged through that century. I also get to study the origins of those debates either in the enlightenment or in eighteenth century revivalism. Wrapped up in the radical individualism of western culture they end up dividing and splitting the church into fragments. Instead of engaging other ideas, writers would just dismiss the argument and attack the person making the argument. This was the case in the debate between Jonathan Edwards and Charles Chauncy during the First Great Awakening and between Charles Finney and Charles Hodge during the second. Or in the debate between Mercersburg and Princeton, though the Mercersburg Theologians do a better job than most actually addressing their opponent’s arguments theologically rather than just tossing insults back and forth. John Williamson Nevin understood that personal opinion and preferences were no basis for an entire theological system. Adam S. Borneman in his book “Church, Sacrament and American Culture” notes that: “Nevin was not anti-individual. Proper reason and proper religion, however, only took place when the individual submitted their own subjective reason to universal, objective reason. Private judgment, if it remained private, was not sound judgment. In order for it to be rational and accurate in its interpretation of the outside world, it was necessary for such judgment to show “itself to be truly general.” In other words, there was room for opinions within the Church, but those opinions should not be the basis for private, individual theologies that you then chose to associate only with like minded individuals. To both Nevin and Schaff Party Spirit was a worst enemy to the church than Roman Catholicism, a point I agree with them on. The result of all these debates, and what is still true today, is that both sides present railroad arguments that either dehumanize their opponents or make them into some identarian boogeyman. Like the gentlemen who said to me once in a theological forum concerning the interpretation of 1st Timothy 2&3. When confronted with Gordon Fee’s insistence that you cannot interpret 2$3 outside of chapter 1 and the cultural issues going on at Ephesus, he said: “Fee is tainted by Feminism, we cannot listen to him.” Fee, one of the preeminent biblical scholars of our time and likely one of the more conservative, was dismissed because of the boogeyman of feminism. In our 21st century context we are still inundated with the debates like this, we still practice party-spirit.

Here is the thing though, if you look at the basis for most of these debates, they center around one or two and sometimes three passages that rely only on a plain reading of the English text without any critical thought. Basically, these opinions get blown up into essential doctrines based on building an entire philosophical framework based on dealing with a text in a complete vacuum, wrestling it away from its cultural, literary, historical backgrounds and at the expense of the consideration of the full biblical council about the topic at hand. Some translators, like in the case of the ESV’s, have even admitted to making lexical decisions on difficult passages based on their preferred theological framework. This approach to scripture is dishonest, but at least consistent with the dictates of both modernism and fundamentalism (another debate from the 20th century). Reject the full council of scripture in favor of a personal opinion that is built on one passage that in the Greek is actually not as black and white as the English text makes it. The result is that we come to the philosophical system before we come to the truth of scripture and then we pigeonhole the text into that philosophical system. Thus we create a culture of proof-texting based on nothing more than two or three texts (sometimes only one) in the English rendering and claim those opinions are infallible. As I said in last week’s article, we love to read those opinions uncritically back into the text, the fallacy of Presentism.

The most hot-button issue where this happens is in the debate between complementarianism and egalitarian debates of the 20th and now 21st century. Both systems can trace their roots back to the nineteenth century and both sides practice this kind of proof-texting to make their point. Complementarians love 1st Timothy 2:11-15 and 3:1-13 with Titus 1:5 and a passage in Corinthians as the basis for their arguments and Egalitarians love to use passages like Romans 16:1-8, Matthew 28:1-15, and passages in Acts to make their point. Both are convinced they are right, both are built on proof-texting, both refuses to answer questions asked by the other. The closest thing to reconciliation between the two parties is Gordon Fee’s “Complementarian without hierarchy” but even this falls short because like the other two it requires proof texting and a though slightly larger, limited view of scripture. I have even heard it said that: “The Bible preaches complementarianism/egalitarianism” and absurd claim because scripture knows nothing of either philosophy and does not serve the purpose of preaching to anything other than Jesus Christ and His saving work through his death and resurrection for the Glory of God. Being first an ABC and then a CCCC Pastor I have had to study this issue in depth, I minister regularly with both men and women and associate with churches that have women pastors, women deacons, women Elders and so on and so forth. The second-highest ranking person on my denominations board is a woman and when we were securing the Board for 10:31 we explored thoroughly the debate and the scriptures associated with both sides. I also attended seminary with extremely qualified women who know the scriptures better than many men I know. The Pricilla’s to our Aquilla’s if you will. Because of this I have worked hard to study both the book of 1st Timothy and the role of women in the early church. I have talked to scholars on both sides of this debate and delved as deep as possible into the ancient world of Ephesus to learn what was really happening in the Ephesian Church that Paul might do a basic reset of the church. Because of this I have concluded through thorough study and teaching on this subject, just a few things. 1. It is dishonest to interpret 1st Timothy 2&3 in a vacuum that neglects chapter 1 and dishonest to deal with any passage in that way, 2. That there is a very specific cultural reason Paul gives for his words in those two passages and that has to be considered. 3. Women were not exceptions within the leadership of the Early Church, but regularly worked alongside men as Deacons and Elders, with even one serving as an Apostle. And 4. Both sides of the debate are wrong because they are predicated on proof-texting and ignore sound biblical theology making systematic theology impossible, doing damage to the text, dividing the Church into factions, are based not in the texts themselves but man made philosophy and have been used to justify all kind of heresy and mistreatment of others.

Now, I am not saying there no room for dissent on this issue, but if we cannot disagree without being disagreeable, to use a phrase from one of my mentors, then we have already failed. There is also a deep hypocrisy behind telling someone that the English text says: “Husband of one wife” while you yell at them and berate and threaten them to put you in violation of the rest of the text as a church leader. In that moment you cease to be “Above reproach” or “Sober-Minded” and you certainly are not in good standing with all the people. This again is the problem with this type of hunt and peck individualistic theology, apply what you want and leave the rest, even if what you apply makes you a hypocrite in another area.

So, what do we do with these ideas? It is important to remember that the world the bible was written into know nothing of these ideas. For complementarians then, I want you to consider passages like Romans 16. The text is clear there that Pheobe was a Deacon or Minister in the Church in Conchrene and that Junia (not junias, no self-respecting Roman would name their son after a goddess), who was “Premiant/well-known among the apostles.” Or Pricillia and Aquilla who were foundational for the founding of the Church in Corinth and who the ordering of the way in which they are addressed would imply Pricilla had some greater role in the church than her husband. They are even credited with having taught Apollos. They should also consider later evidence of women serving in the church such as John Chryssosotem who refers to his older sister Matilda as “The Teacher.” Consider that the book of 1st Timothy is not as black and white in the original Greek as many would like to make it, that there is actually ambiguity and confusion to this day among translators and scholars because the language is not as cut and dry as our English text makes it. It is possible Paul built this ambiguity in chapter 3 on purpose so that once the women learned quietly as the Jewish School boys and Catechumens were required to do they could lead again, in short, once their witnesses were restored, following how they had been destroyed by participating in the Cult of Artemis and the eve cult that may have been present because of it, and they knew the scriptures well, they could minister again. If the historical data we are starting to learn more about yearly is what happened, then we must consider it in interpreting the text. One might even look up N.T Wright’s arguments on this point and his translation of the passage which brings out the cultural nuances of the words used in 2:11-15. This is not a rewriting of scripture, but a translation that is built upon a deeper understanding of how the culture of that time would have interpreted the words. Also consider the implication of Jesus first instructions after raising from the dead was to instruct the women to literally preach and proclaim his resurrection to His brothers. Apply the same criterion for interpreting these passages in Ephesians that get used for this argument as well.

To Egalitarians, consider the texts in 1st Timothy, that there are standards for those who serve within the rank and file of God’s family. And those standards mean that not just anyone can teach and lead within the Church. There must be a standard and that standard cannot be built on man-made agendas, philosophy and criterion but on the Word of God. There is nothing wrong with desiring leadership within the church, as we have seen there is lots of biblical precedence, but that leadership comes with a requirement that starts with “Above Reproach” and includes being able to rightly divide the word of truth. The pastoral calling is a high one and it has been disgraced by too many preachers both men and women who have failed to maintain the integrity of the office and the integrity of biblical interpretation. One should not enter this calling lightly and those who do should consider both the internal and external call of God to make sure this is what God is calling them too. If we all did this there would be a lot less of us in the calling today. Women and Men both called to the ministry must be students of the Word of God and learn all they can about it if they are going to teach it. They must guard against dealing with a text in a vacuum and seek to become good and solid biblical theologians before they are good and solid Systematic Theologians.

Neither side then should ever Lord it over the other and demand the other should shut-up or “go home.” That is neither respectful nor consistent with how the Bible teaches we are to interact with one another as Brothers and Sisters. Instead, each side should mutually submit to the other, making allowances for the others viewpoint and considering the others arguments and doing so in a manner that does not cause further division, oppress the other or harm the advance of the Gospel. Too much of our discourse from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries are marked by this kind of toxic sectarian discourse that we are now carrying forward into the 21st century. In doing so we have continued to do damage to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and hinder its spread because Christians have lived and acted offensively in the name of the Gospel. The message we bear is offensive enough in our hyper-individualistic society, it ill-behooves us to live in such a way that is a stench as well. The early Church lived a life that was attractive to the outsider and they had favor with all the people (Acts 2:47), knowing how offensive their message was. Yet the way they lived attracted people from the lowest and highest strata of society and made them a family defined as members, one to another (1 Corinthians 3:1-3, 12:14=26). Both sides of this issues should work to “Maintain the bond of peace and the spirit of unity” (Ephesians 4:1-5) which means we cannot angrily shout each other down and work hard to eviscerate the other in comment sections.

Finally, let me address you from the other side of my calling, the pastoral side, not as a Church Historian who studies these debates, but as an under shepherd of the Christ. Through the Holy Spirit you are Brothers and Sisters, Heirs and Co-Hers with one another and with Christ. You are not individuals existing in a vacuum, the way you act, the way you treat one another in debates like this reflect the attitudes of your heart towards you brothers and sisters and have consequences and affects on your brothers and sisters. I have been deeply, deeply hurt by brothers and sisters on both sides of this debate because in their mind this is an essential issue. But no theological or philosophical position, held corporately or individually should ever be held over your brother or sister in Christ in a manner that denies them the love of Christ, the compassion of the Body or the dignity they inhabit by being made in the image of God. There is a time and place to contend for biblical orthodoxy but that orthodoxy cannot be divorced from orthopraxy and must be rooted in the full council of the authoritative Word of God, Holy Scripture, Old and New Testament, Genesis to Revelation, not the ideologies, philosophies or opinions of man. This requires us to lay aside our confirmation biases and approach one another with a spirit of listening and understanding. We must work to be biblical peace makers, not body dividers.

Consider too that we are entering a cultural moment in the South and Midwest that the East and West Coast churches have already experienced and had to respond to. One where we no longer have the luxury of these debates, when we will need all hands-on deck and devoted to Holy Scripture if we are going to survive it with our distinct Christian Identity, rooted in scripture, intact. Those who have doubled down on these positions on both sides, have made fools of themselves and made fools of the church in the public square. We are no longer in a place where we can afford our comfort and those churches which want to maintain the status quo of American Individualism and theologies based on individual opinion and built on two or three verses of scripture are dying and will die. If Jesus were walking among us today would he look at us who claim to be His children and say: “You wicked and unbelieving generation, how long must I endure you” (Matthew 17:17) or will we all hear: “Well done my good and faithful servant.” As much as many of us would like to hear the latter, I fear it will be the former that we would hear. Our hope is not in man, its not in rooted in Western Individualism or modern Western philosophy or any construct of Man, but on Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior and the Gospel which He has left us. The only way to restore the Church in America is through a return to the Holy Word of God and a rejection of the man-made ideas that are causing our death.


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.

Jesus Was Not A Socialist, and He was not any other modern category either.

A Decade ago the band “Downhere” asked the question: “Can anybody show me the real Jesus?” Not only have we not found Him, we have made Him even more unrecognizable

Jonathan David Faulkner

I have written before about the historical fallacy called Presentism: the practice of reading modern ideas back into history. Recently I had the occasion to think through the fact that while we encourage historians to avoid this practice, we encourage theologians to do so. For instance, Jesus and the Apostles would have known nothing of our modern idea of complementarianism, it did not exist, but we are quick to pigeonhole verses into this modern philosophy and then make bold statements such as “Paul was a Complementarian, see! His verse backs up my philosophy.” Or we look at specific stories and try to apply them to modern philosophical constructs that did not exist in the ancient world. It does not matter how and ancient church applies biblical texts, the church fathers could not have been _______ because they had no concept of ______.

The place on the left this often happens is the claim that Jesus was a Socialist or would support a form of socialist government over and against the capitalism that marks our modern economic system in America. Because Jesus was a Socialist, they argue, we should have a forced socialistic society. Both the right and the left have made the same error or turning to use the government to enforce their views of Jesus onto a secular society. Not only are we presenting onto Jesus our modern understanding of socialism, we are demanding that the agency which should carry that socialism out is the federal government. The right turns to the government to enforce religious morality which largely fails to be Christian morality, though based loosely on scripture or conservative philosophy. Both sides are looking to the wrong place both for their worldview and for the application of their worldview. The secular world wants nothing to do with Christian Morality and government forced proselytizing has only failed Christianity. The same is true in the history of pure socialism or communism. Forced collectivization has only ever benefited those at the top, usually the totalitarians leaders who have forced the collectivization. Even Democratic Socialist countries often run into the same issues of delay of services. In these countries’ collectivization revolves around a few services but is not voluntary and those services can be (but are not always) of lower quality than in non-democratic socialist countries.

Neither of these categories, capitalistic or democratic socialist, capture life in ancient Mesopotamia for the Early Christians. And for the Early Christians, our tendency to look to modern government, left or right, to fulfill our agenda would seem to be anathema. Yes, there were Christians in government positions, but until Constantine, proselytizing through government would have gotten them killed for denying the Pagan god’s of Rome. The point being, Christians should not turn to government to advance the kingdom of heaven because the secular governments of man are 1. In rebellion against God the Father, which means we should not make kings as Christians (see 1st Samuel 8:7) and 2. Are secular and therefore apposed to the very foundations of Christianity, Jesus Christ himself. When Christians turn to a political strong man to advance an agenda through government we actually do damage to our witness, especially when that strong man is extremely immoral and does not reflect the character which we have long insisted that Leaders, Christian or not, embody.

And yet, here we are. Both sides, let and right, within the church have turned to government to fulfill their agenda and they both look back to Jesus as their authority. The problem is Jesus does not fit either side of the debate, he is completely and utterly unique and His kingdom requires a greater amount of loyalty than any man-made kingdom ever. Jesus is neither the left-leaning hippie of the left, or the heavenly gift-giver who makes us more moral people if we want to, otherwise, no change is necessary. Nor will I make the claim that Jesus was a centrist, not because I do not think he was likely in the center on all these issues, holding a perfect balance because He was the perfect Son of God who had been from the beginning  and will be to the end. But because calling Him a centrist would be yet another attempt to make Jesus into my own political mascot, something I am writing against in this piece. It would also continue to perpetuate presentism because once again, centrism is a modern American Political position, not something the early Christian would have identified himself as.

If you do want to describe Jesus and the early Church, I think a combination of two words used by Howard I Marshall in his commentary on Acts and Joseph Hellerman in his book “When the Church was a Family.” “Voluntary Collectivists.” Hellerman is right in his assertion that the Early Christians came from a primarily collectivist culture, most cultures around the world are still collectivist at the grass roots level. There is a sharing and caring involved among the people and family is valued above all else but at the same time this wasn’t forced, the government was not making people share their belongings. If anything in Isaiah the Government is hindering this kind of care for neighbor as the elites horded wealth and neglected the poor and the foreigner. Since it wasn’t a forced collectivism it had to be a voluntary one, stemming out of the genuine love that God had shown the people, the outpouring of which resulted in a natural caring and need meeting among the alternate family of the Church. Nor does it seem that the Apostles demanded that people sell their possessions and then redistribute them as the need arose, but that people, seeing a need, would sell possessions and give the proceeds to the church who would then meet the need. Unlike the Collectivism of Russia under Stalin’s five year plan, no one was forcing the early Christians to give up goods against their will and under pain of death, but out of the gladness and humility that came through fellowship with Christ and through one another. This would follow the teachings of Jesus of Self-Denial and Self-Denunciation. One had to choose to follow these teachings, deny themselves and follow Christ. Interestingly enough, in this strong group society, it was the voluntary nature of the collective that made the early church so attractive despite how offensive the message of the Gospel was even to a Roman World that was also collectivist in thinking.

Now, in modern America, both left and right-wing circles, any kind of collectivism is considered evil because it tramples on the radical individualism we value so much. We have been taught and conditioned that the accumulation of things (consumerism) is what is required for the ultimate happiness of the individual. That the happiness of the individual is the chief end of life and so we should do everything we can to attain for ourselves the ultimate happiness and anyone who gets in our way or who points out those we have trampled on is in our way. But this also plays out in today’s tribalism which advances the claim that an individual’s self-disclosed identity, even harmful ones, are paramount. The accumulation of stuff has not made us happy as individuals, so now we must form an identity based on “our truth”  Jesus, once again, gets co-opted, just as He did with consumerism, into his usual role, not as God incarnate, but as therapist, and not a very good one, who sees whatever cognitive distortion the individual has bought into and affirms it.

Those who use Jesus in this way apply him to those who really want nothing to do with His message of “come and die to yourself.” We are apposed to his ideas of self-denunciation because they require to give up the idea that we have our own truth and to look beyond ourselves to find this truth. We are opposed to this because not only is it uncomfortable, it goes against the foundation of radical individualism.

In Voluntary Collectives, people have a natural bent towards working together for the good of the community, not the good of the individual though the good of the individual may be what is best for the community. In Voluntary Strong Group Societies, we still find to this day what is described in Acts 2:42-47. A group committed to one another and following their leaders who taught and ministered to their needs and arbitrated fights between them and none of it is forced, it comes from a natural love for one another and in the case of the early church, the outpouring of the Love of God for them.

The closest instance in our time we can look at to display this sort of voluntary collective would be the Moravians at Herrnhut who sparked the first protestant missions under Nicolas Von Zinzendorf in the 18th century. The Moravians, descendants of John Hus, practiced what was called “Communitarianism” adapted from Peter Walpot’s “The Yieldedness and the Christian Community of Goods” written in 1577. As a theological descendant of John Calvin and Martin Luther it might seem strange for me to support an anabaptist idea, but this is the one instance when I think the anabaptists got it right. The argument was that because God has given much to us, we should then share with one another so that no one lacks anything. Walpot himself said: “The more possessions one has the more one wants, whoever wants much, whoever wants feels the lack of much, whoever covets much feels left wanting much. That is the most poverty-stricken and dissatisfying life kind of life on Earth. And Christ, at those who walk at home in the true sabbath, Pentacost and Easter will have none of it.” Walpot has no problem with someone owning goods, but goods were not to be an end, but a means to ensure the security of neighbor. Basically a direct application of the “They had everything in common” of Acts 2:42. Again, this was not forced, the Moravians, who adopted Communitarianism, applied it willingly and only enforced it when their second community because practicing excesses and had to be reminded by Zinzendorf the basic tenants of their voluntary collective.

The historical fact is that when the Moravians launched their mission’s movement to St. Thomas in the 1730’s it was this idea of “Communitarianism,” this voluntary collective, that made them effective missionaries both among the slaves and among the merchants. They lived within their means, started business and became self-sustaining missionaries. To this day, the Moravian Church is strong in the Caribbean because of its willingness to get down alongside the people and work alongside them.

Contrast the Moravians with other cultures approaches to Missions, either coming in and destroying the local culture or acting as a colonizing force for the government. I have written before that every missions movement in history that is based on these two systems has failed. They are also based on doctrines like “The Discovery Doctrine” that are extremely sinful and harmful, hindering the spread of the Gospel in the same way the marriage between Evangelical Populism and Nationalism (Christian Nationalism) are today. Dominion theologies are destructive whereas the Moravians built something, learned the language, contributed to the local  and aided the people as neutral parties during the many wars that spread through the region in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Communitarianism was the closes thing we could get to Jesus in our time, yet he is not one of those either. Nor can we go so far, the other way, as some have, and call him a capitalist. Capitalist Jesus is just as deadly as Socialist Jesus. No, Jesus formed a voluntary collective of Brothers and Sisters that formed a voluntary collective built on mutual love and understanding, love for one another and their neighbor. They were defined by their radical care and that radical care put them in good standing with all the people outside the faith, even though the Gospel message was offensive.

We need to stop appropriating Jesus for our own pet causes, especially those that cause us to live in the direct opposite manner as He has put before us to live. Jesus is not the ultimate affirmer of our own personal truth, He is, though the Holy Spirit and the Word of God in agreement, the arbiter of truth and the one who imparts it to us. I cannot say that Christians need to reclaim the total and utter distinctiveness of Jesus because it is a universal and absolute reality, instead, I can say we need to embrace and insist upon His distinctiveness in a biblical manner that makes us again a voluntary collective that is defined by mutual love and understanding. The early Church was meant first and foremost to be a family of believers, and it was until it came to power under Constantine. It was Jesus, the real Jesus, who made that ragtag group of fisherman and tax collectors into a family with fathers and mothers and sisters and brothers. An alternative family to the ones that Jesus said His Gospel would divide.

A decade ago Canadian Ministry Music Group Downhere asked the question: “Can anyone show me the real Jesus?” in the song they listed all the places Jesus appears and how He gets used for everything under the sun. The song was the first time I ever considered the reality that “Jesus isn’t white,” something that has stuck with me this last decade. The point of the song is that Jesus is the opposite of all society makes Him out to be simply because He is God incarnate. The bridge sings like this: “If anybody walks behind the Good Shepherd, If anybody holds the hands that heal lepers, And if you recognize the eyes that see forever, please…”

Jesus, the one who is not a socialist or a capitalist, democrat and republican, the one we have not presented our modern ideas onto, can only be found in the pages of scripture, the Old and New Testament in their entirety. You want to find the real Jesus? You have to approach His word and do so by laying down all your modern ideas and philosophy’s. Come with the mind of a child, and the heart of a ten-month-old hugging her father tightly. Lay down your preconceived ideas and culturally informed ideas about scripture and read it, and if you feel so inclined, read about it. Learn about what God has left us, the culture into which it spoke, the people whom it spoke too and how it affected and impacted their lives and the way they live. Then, to the bewilderment of the world, do what you can to live like they did, those who saw, heard and reacted to the Real Jesus.



.\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.

The Scandal of Carl R. Trueman’s Mind

Critiques of Populist Christianity are needed and should be heeded, adopting a “Thou Shalt Not Question” attitude puts both Orthodox, Biblical and Historical Christianity at risk and damages the witness of Christ.  

Jonathan Faulkner

I want to start this piece by acknowledging the role that Carl R. Trueman has played in the development of my thought life as both a Historian and a Theologian. His book: “Histories and Fallacies” was essential in being able to identify Historical Fallacies such as Presentism. I also recently used his critique of Mark Noll’s “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind” titled “The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.” I have a lot of respect for his body of work and for his mind in general. However, since his article in First Things responding to Mark Galli’s CT Editorial both of which came out last December I have been sadly disappointed by both the lack of care in his response and the descent of First Things (which I still subscribe to, perhaps as a vain hope) as a serious enterprise into populism. In doing this, in my view, Trueman has not only made Noll’s point, that there is no Mind in Evangelicalism, but also his own, that there is no Evangel in Evangelicalism because we keep outsourcing it to groups outside Christianity.

I have always found both critiques entirely accurate 80% of the time and I had to chuckle at the irony of Trueman, in one line on a keyboard proving both correct. What little mind there is to Evangelicalism has sounded a lot like Mark Galli over the last four years and what little Evangel is there has been severely hindered and damaged by the cultural populism that claims to be Christian, yet neither has a mind or an evangel and has chosen to let the rich and power speak for them in the public square thinking that the government of man can save them before, over and against the kingdom of God because they have told that this is the only way to protect Christianity.

I have noted many times that this approach is not protecting Christianity but is in fact feeding it and the Christians who daily practice what the bible says, to the wolves. Trueman meanwhile, seems to imply that any critique of Christian Populism is the: “lambasting populist evangelicals as hypocrites or dimwits will simply perpetuate the divide.” By the way, Galli does not do what Trueman is accusing them of, instead he calls them to “Remember who they are” and to consider how supporting someone who is as Immoral as President Trump does to their Christian Witness. Trueman’s point is that Galli and other Evangelical Elites are “out of touch” with the evangelical populists. Trueman points out that he lives in Trump Country and that most of the people he knows who voted for him did so with noses plugged because the alternative is no better. He asks the serious question “was the alternative any better?” and of course, it is true that the answer was no. Neither option was good, both required us to give up our moral high ground and get dirty and both demanded complete and total loyalty to their platforms Something Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian noted actually means we as Christians cannot support either party because 100% buy-in is required. A point that Keller has doubled down on in his recent New York Times Editorial. For my part, I agree with Keller, the church should not be associated in totality with any one political party for theological reasons, most importantly being that Party-Spirit is expressly forbidden within the church by 1 Corinthians 1. That means to say that you follow anyone other than God in Christ first and foremost is to violate the spirit of unity. That means the identarian expectations of both the right and left are off limits to the Christian because they require us to identify ourselves wholly and completely with the party and the party leader. Taxes and to be paid to Caesar, but sole loyalty belongs to God (Matt 22:15-22). The Church then should not be aligned with the powers and principalities of this world but with the Kingdom of God which every Earthly Kingdom will one day bow to. Every time we have aligned with the kingdoms of this world (which in First Samuel God equates to rejection of Himself) it has never ended well for the Church going all the way back to Israel’s days as a Kingdom.

Trueman also commits the unfortunate mistake of reversing the order laid out in scripture for where every Christian should receive their instruction from. In Trueman’s world it seems the theologian should be takin their cues from the populace and so I as a preacher and thinker should just confirm the biases and opinions of my congregants on matters of politics. Yet, Acts 2:42 lays out for us the direction our instruction is to come from: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” If we are going to testify to the authority of scripture, it needs to inform our discourse and be the place from which our discourse begins. If we are to “Devote ourselves to the teachings of the apostles” then that means we should today be devoted to the teachings of the apostles and listen to those whose job it is to pass down those teachings to us, our pastors on the front lines, our seminary professors and our scholars, the mind of Christianity. Trueman, who would likely affirm the Apostolicity of the church, should understand this and direct the populace to listen to the mind of Christianity and weigh that against what the mouth is saying to see if it reflects the truth of scripture.

Now, that is not easy in our time when the mind is seriously divided over politics, but the mouth has given up listening to the warnings of either part of the mind altogether and the result is a Christianity that is schizophrenic and divided. Mark Galli expressed in writing what so many of us have been thinking over the last four years. Not just what Trueman calls the: “the sanctimonious subgenre of self-regarding anti-Trump noise created by hokey-wokey evangelicals—those who tweet endlessly about white privilege and misogyny in between writing checks for their children’s elite private schools and knocking back Martinis and Manhattans at the country club or the art gallery opening.” An insult to someone like me who has been a #NeverTrumper from the beginning, retained the name “Evangelical” because it is a global movement, not a strictly American phenomenon, who also does not tweet in this way, or cut checks to my children’s Elite Christian School. This insult serves to do exactly what Trueman is accusing Galli of, deepening the divide within Christianity as he takes a shot at more liberal or centrist Christians who have their own cultural Christianity to deal with. Galli expressed what a large swath of younger Christians have been asking for four years, if we had this standard for Clinton, why do we not have it for Trump? This is why I found Franklin Graham’s critique of Galli’s editorial amusing, those of us who have been unable to support Trump or right-wing politics (I cannot in good conscious right now support either party) have watched as over and over again Christianity Today has played it safe on the right, we have been waiting for someone on the right to express what many of us have been thinking and finally Galli has done that.

But what about Trueman’s assertion that Galli’s critique of “Populist Evangelicalism” is: “ symptomatic of the same underlying pathology” as the “Pharisees” who “standing in the Temple of Twitter, thanking God that he is not like other evangelicals—white supremacists, misogynists, or even this Trump supporter over here.” Does this mean there is no room to critique populism or populist evangelicalism? Is any critique or more accurately in the case of Galli’s Editorial, call to reformation based on Scripture and Christian Identity as well our historic demands that our leaders be moral. Would Trueman have attended the council of Nicea and told Athanasios or Nicholas to “leave Arius alone” over his heretical doctrine that was dividing and destroying the church in the ancient church? It makes sense if you follow the “Thou shalt not question” mentality of many within the upper echelon of the Ivory Tower that is certainly a cancer, and which has become Cult-like in its application. Instead of being like the Bereans who “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 11:17) we have become like the Galatians who have been “bewitched” by the circumcision group and proselytizers who stirred up trouble for Paul and the early Christians. We are more like the catholic hierarchy immediately before the reformation who made the people live off the bread of the pope rather than: “every word that comes from my Father who is in Heaven” (Mat 4:4). We would rather take the steady diet of fear of the world that is being fed to us by the leaders of evangelicalism than the very words of scripture which tells us that those who are in Christ are secure regardless of what the world may do against us or to us. We have been told not to question what we are being told and Trueman seems to perpetuate that fallacy in his response to Galli. If we cannot examine and question ideas and search the Word of God to see if they line up with what God has said, then we have given up our ability to think and reason for ourselves and together. Christians are not called to follow an earthly leader blindly, God made our minds and gave our us the ability to think and reason, we are to learn discernment then, even to discern the things of scripture and how they apply to life or if they apply to life. If we are not allowed to question something happening in the culture and examine it in light of scripture and critique in based on what scripture shows us, then we forfeit our ability to guard biblical and historical orthodoxy that has been handed down to us from the Apostles and the Early Christians. If we are just meant to live on the words of men without questioning them, swearing undying loyalty to them then we risk missing scripture altogether in favor of the gospel of man. I should not have to iterate the dangers of doing this, yet it seems that evangelical populism has opted to do just that.

Now, none of this means that Christians should not participate in politics, there is a long history going back all the way to the early Church of Christians doing just that. But how we participate is what matters. Do we mindlessly give ourselves to a political party? By no means! Nor should our participation be built on pushing an agenda, for the early Christians involved in politics this would have been a death sentence. Our involvement should be that as Stewards of the biblical justice. As Timothy Keller has said at other times it is the Christians responsibility to address injustice when it is seen and to work towards the correction of it. We should ask ourselves, if we are going to be involved in politics, am I contributing to justice or injustice by my actions here. Am I violating God’s mandate to “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8)? Is our religion true and unstained by the world in that it is marked by “caring for widows and orphans” (James 1:27)? Or are we pursuing political power to push through an agenda and enforce a system onto a secular world, choosing conversion by Proselyte rather than by genuine belief that can then be discipled. The secular world does not want our morality, day-in and day-out they fight against it and imposing an unwanted morality on a secular society only makes Christians a stench for all the wrong reasons. If we are going to be offensive, let it be because of the cross, not because of our participation in politics or proselytization of a people that do not want it. Let’s make Christianity attractive for the reasons it was attractive in the ancient world, by being an alternative community that cares for the needs of its lowliest members for the sake of the Gospel, a Family on Mission, if you will.

I fear Trueman has proven both Noll and his own critique of Evangelicalism correct. He has shown that there is no mind and has sided with the populists who look less and less like the biblical Christians they claim to be every day. This moment should give us pause but also make us mourn, have we really gone so far that we think that just because our strong man is in office Christianity is going to be great again? Similarly, have we really abandoned and even shown to be a sham our claims that morality matters? We have abandoned our responsibility to think critically and discern what is going on in the world in favor of blind following of strong men who, when the pretense is removed, actually care nothing about you or I outside of keeping them in power. Trueman as a scholar, First Things as a scholarly work should know better. The only thing that can save Christianity is Christ and the only thing that is going to stop the decline of the Church is His people showing the world the blessings and benefits of a relationship with Christ in this life. No strong man, no promises of restored greatness from politicians who do not care about people. The soul of Christianity will only be recovered through Christ Jesus our Lord and living by the Word He has given us to live by out of gratitude to Him for the things He has done.

May God save us and have mercy on our souls.


\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.

10 Years after the day my Faith Almost Collapsed.

It has been 10 years today since the Night With the Grace Killers and I am not where I thought I would be.


Jonathan David Faulkner


Deconstruction is a painful process; it is one that has been in the media a lot lately too as many have come and announced their “deconversions” from Christianity. Some have even written that Deconstruction’s natural end is a deconversion from all forms of faith altogether. I have many friends whom I still love dearly who have gone through this process and deconverted from faith altogether. It is easy to understand why, especially if you are deconverting from a cultural Christianity that is built on a relationship with the church and not on a relationship with Christ, why one might abandon faith altogether. You are deconverting from a civic religion, not true, biblical Christianity. But still others go through deconstruction from that cultural faith, or a cultural faith that at least hinted at the real thing, and we do not deconvert from the faith. Many of us have been hurt deeply by the church and we have seen firsthand the hypocrisy that is often perpetuated in the church, and often in pastors’ families. We see a faith that is not in Christ, but in cultural practice or we become the victims of abusive leaders who Lord their power over us, or parents who infantilize us, who never let us grow to adulthood. Instead of answering the questions that arise from these things we end up being told not to question and if we do we are in rebellion.

Most of you know that this is largely my story. Raised in the culture of “easy-believism” that so vibrantly marks both evangelicalism and general conservative Christianity. The kind of Christianity where all you must do is believe and you’re good to go to heaven. The what is generally perceived to be Jesus or the Bible, or God or even just what your parents or the church tell you. Then you go to AWANA and memorize a bunch of verses that are disconnected from their context and your good to go. Of course, everyone is a Christian and questioning that statement is tantamount to losing your faith. On top of that, my chosen medium for expression of my faith, rock music, was viewed as “not edifying” or “dark” by parents whose own parents leveled the same critique of their own music in the 60’s and 70’s. The music I write for now, Folk Rock, does not fit the current idea of worship prevalent in CCW (Contemporary Christian Worship) today. Even though I made a profession of faith in middle school and had been baptized, looking back it always felt like Christianity was something you did more than something you were. You always did all the “good Christian things” like instantly obeying every word that came out of your dads’ mouth or not smoking, drinking or having sex before marriage. Consequently, these were the things that most of my friends were sneaking around to do before and after youth group.

Then of course, was the infamous “Night with the Grace Killers” that happened 10 years ago tonight, the night when everything I had learned about scripture got tested and if it were not for my pastor and professor at Sterling, would have been the last night I ever stepped foot in a church building. After all the accusations, the lies about me and my family circulated by that pastor, being told to “shut up” because I was just a first semester college student who knew nothing about pastoral ministry and church discipline. Told that I was not “Jesus” or “Paul” or “Peter” and had no right to question the inexcusable actions of that senior pastor against my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in the youth group. I walked out of that building that Wednesday Night vowing to never step foot inside a church building again. As I said, I probably would not have had it not been for those two men. In that moment, everything I had ever thought about God before I was converted in Middle School, (I still believe I was converted in Middle School but came of age and a deeper understanding of Faith on that mountainside in Denver). In that moment I was either going to become what David Kinnamen calls either a: Prodigal, those who leave the church and the faith altogether after making professions of faith, or an Exile: One who feels they have not place in the organized church because of their music or artwork or whatnot but still retain and active and vibrant faith that they live out outside of the organized church.

God though, had other plans, and the fact that I am a Pastor today is a testament to His grace and healing work.

For the next two years after the night with the grace killers though I wondered aimlessly in my faith. I was having regular meetings with counselors and relearning everything I had ever been taught about Christianity. That was when I really started reading and reading and reading. Systematic Theologies and introductions of the Old and New Testament. I started learning not just the bible but about the bible. In the process I did not just learn about Christ and God, I learned to be in relationship with them. Then this hurting and broken kid went to serve the homeless in Denver Colorado for 3 months as part of the requirements for his bachelor’s degree and God literally met Him on the side of that mountain that cool July 4th as he prayed and walked the labyrinth. It was then, for the second time in my life, God broke through the noise of the pain in a powerful and mighty way and did a major healing work. Three week’s later as we prepared to finish up my time in Denver, as I was praying one morning, God gave me the definite and undeniable call to Pastoral Ministry.

I have many friends and family going through or who have gone through deconstruction. ba Whether that be from a legalistic fundamentalism or the libertine “easy-believism” that says so long as you believe in Jesus, do whatever you want except for smoking, drinking or having sex out of wed-lock. The truth is this is a painful process, it requires us to come to the realization that the Christianity we have inherited is not the Christianity of the bible which needs to be thoroughly thought through and which it is okay and even invited to ask questions of. Like the church member who, after hearing me preach on the cross of Jesus where I mentioned the two sections of the cross, one carried and one already waiting at the crucifixion site said: “I learned that the whole cross being carried all at once was an invention of the Italians in the eighth century. Who knows what to believe anymore?” This was after a trip to Israel. That is why we have to avoid a “Thou Shall Not Question” mentality, when someone does go through deconstruction they can do so in the safety of the Church with Church Members and leaders who are going to sit next to them, walk with them and help them reconstruct a deeper, biblical and Christ-Centered faith rooted in the history of Christianity and Christian Witness.

Please do not hear me wrong, I am not throwing out the faith my parents handed down to me, it is dangerous to throw the foundations out if they are sound and my parents did a good job laying the ground work for the faith I have today. What I reject is the Easy-Believism that I heard preached from the pulpit on Sunday when Scripture was telling me that yes, you just had to believe to become a Christians, but then through Christ you had to become someone totally knew. As C.S. Lewis put it: “God is in the business of making old men knew” yet the Christianity of Easy-Believism taught me that “becoming new” just meant being more moral, behaving my parents and serving people. A deep and personal relationship with God seemed to be reserved for times I needed my anger checked. It was not deep, it was not wide, it was a pool, a tiny puddle. It required not actual change outside of changed outward behavior until you got angry and then you had to ask God to change your inward attitude. This is sadly nothing more than mere behaviorism, the kind popularized by James Dobson in the 70’s-90’s. It focuses on behaving as ones parents tell them to behave which may have been loosely based on scripture. Meant to make “nice Christian kids” who ate their peas and followed their chore chart.

But what almost kept me from faith altogether before Middle School and my final conversion in Cleveland at an Acquire the Fire rally was that this did not make anyone I knew any better people and in fact I saw those who believed for decades longer than I had been alive act worse than they were telling me too. Easy-Beleivism was a foundation because it’s premise is true, all you have to do to become a Christian is believe in Jesus as Romans 10:9 says, but this is a foundation and not the whole building. Behaviorism on the other hand is legalism disguised as good biblical principles but if you peel back the curtain you find a lot of verses taken out of context to demand loyalty not to Jesus but to the family unit. My parents laid a groundwork for faith, but by making that foundation all their was when the last straw was to come, when I sat before the pastor who had spiritually and emotionally abused me I had literally nothing to fall back on. Perspective is a funny thing huh.

Where was my faith nourished then? Obviously, I still do not smoke, when I do partake of Alcohol it is on a limited capacity and with the conscious of my company in mind, and my wife and I did not sleep together before marriage. I did not abandon faith altogether, in fact, today my faith is deeper and richer and my relationship with God stronger than it ever has been. My faith was nourished through reading and internalizing the words of Jesus, in Denver as I served the homeless and, on that mountainside, when God came in force during the week in silence. Through many great men of faith who have spoken life into me, introduced me to the reformed faith which introduced me to the Church Fathers. Retaught me how to think through my faith beyond the black and white legalism I ended up with by the end of High School. It was formed in conversations, both with God and brothers and sisters, it was formed in the pages of ancient books, in libraries, in cathedrals and monasteries, classrooms and cross cultural worship sessions. It was formed in the 10:31 Office, in the long conversations with brothers who were my peers, in the now three years I have been reading through the Psalms everyday. Most importantly it was formed in the pages of scripture, spending hours and hours with Jesus, discovering a faith that you enter by just believing and which exposure to the one at the center, Jesus, leaves you totally and utterly transformed, not just by the Gospel, but by Jesus himself. Someone has said: “Christianity is the only religion where its leader bids us come and die so that we might receive eternal life.” I found a faith where you die to all your selfish ambitions and your selfish desires and you become like Christ because He lives inside of you through the Incarnate Holy Spirit and transforms you into His likeness. I do not think I am perfect or have found perfect Christian Faith, but I know I have seen God’s blessings as my wife and I seek to follow Christ and raise our daughter in covenant with Him. Praying she receives the promise of her baptism and believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and savior.

Yes, this change has caused tension and it has not made life any easier. If anything, I am the crazy one now. I still talk to a couple of therapist friends at times for wisdom and prayer and have many counselors helping me walk this Christian Walk. Brothers and Sisters who do not tell me how great I am or how I can do anything I put my mind too, but who help me walk with my weaknesses and strengths, who help me understand scripture and my faith as a member of that family of faith whom I love so much.

In some ways 10 years later, I am still the same person who left that church building 10 years ago. I am still passionate about the truth of scripture, I am still a musician, still try to do my best to stand up for the little guy. But in many more ways I am completely different than the kid who walked out of that church building. I am not where I thought I would be that night, instead, I am not able to make sure no one else experiences that hurt and pain so much as I can help it. I can now help others who are willing heal as they walk through deconstruction and help them as they ask questions about faith and the Bible and so on and so forth. I have also been equipped with the tools and resources, by God’s grace, to do this and God has placed me where He wants me to do the work of sharing what scripture has given us all to share.

As I look out my office window at the parsonage after a long day where I had the blessing of burying a dear saint and sister in Christ. As I think of the kindness of my congregation and the wonderful relationships we are forming here with young and old. I do not regret how painful this road was and still is. I do not regret how hard it is, it just drives me to the cross and the empty tomb. I desire for others to know nothing of Christ and Him Crucified and this whole story of the 10-year journey points not to anything I have done, but everything that He has done. Praise the Lord for His incredible grace and joy.



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.

Sermon Script: Small Christmas Rebellions – Preached on 12/22/19

Jonathan David Faulkner 

 You can listen here:

Reading of the Text:

Micah 5:2-5a

2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. 3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. 4 And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. 5 And he shall be their peace.


6 “With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” 8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

May God Bless to our hearts this reading of His Holy Word.

Introduction: This morning I want to once again peel back the curtain for you, to give you just another glimpse into the pastor’s tool bag and show you another of the tools they equip us with in Seminary. I have told you about the tool of Biblical Theology, searching the full council of scripture one a topic and hopefully have demonstrated that to you. Now I want to tell you about the tool of what is called “Cultural Exegesis” The tool of Cultural Exegesis. What Cultural Exegesis is for the pastor, his ability to read what is happening in the culture and interpret the popular ideas and even, as C. Gene Wilkes puts it in his book “Jesus on Leadership” see the future in a manner of speaking. It is, as Karl Barth put it, preaching with: “The Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.” Cultural Exegesis shows us too things, 1. What the trends and changes in the culture at large are and 2. The tools which God is using to reach the culture at large. In our time we have been blessed with incredible Cultural Exegetes such as the Barna group and Pew Research Center who give us a fairly clear picture of both of these things. Many of you have heard me talk about statistics like 98% of people who come to church, and stay are invited by a church member and only 2% are invited by the pastor. That is cultural exegesis. It is also from cultural exegesis that we learn that there has never been a bigger difference between the oldest generation in the work force, and now the second youngest, my own generation and the reason for that is the internet and smart phones. But it also shows us the unique ways God is using the tools of the day to reach the younger generation and gives us a good blueprint for how to join in Him in that task. That is why you should read books like David Kinnemen’s “You Lost Me” or James Emory White’s “Meet Generation Z” Or look at what a mission we support, Network Beyond is doing in Fort Collins to reach their neighborhood, I can tell you after talking to Steve a few weeks ago, it is pretty exciting and all of it is applicable here in Buffalo Center, believe it or not.

God Reaching the World: Now, many of you may be wondering what any of this has to do with Christmas and especially with the Christ Child and our text for today. Well, there is no better time to talk about how God is reaching the world than when we celebrate the season when God’s plan for reaching the world was unveiled through the incarnation of Jesus Christ as a Baby. In fact, it says in verse Micah 5:3: “He will give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel.” Jesus coming was meant to be one that reconciled God to man and man to each other. And our text this morning gives us a closer look at that, so let’s dive in.

As we come to the book of Micah we are dealing with a contemporary of Isaiah, in fact, there are a lot of parallels between Micah and Isaiah, Isaiah the court prophet and Micah the wilderness prophet, both preaching in the time of Hezekiah and both witnessing the carrying off into exile of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. They both speak of Israel and Judah’s sins and the coming punishment for those sins, they also speak of the way to renewal that God himself has laid out for them and is laying out for them. We all know the famous parallel passage to our text this morning, Isaiah 7:14 where Isaiah tells Ahaz, “The Lord Himself shall give you a sign and Behold, a virgin shall give birth and you shall call his name Emmanuel, God with Us, Mighty Counselor, Prince of Peace and the Government shall be upon His shoulders.” In Micah 5 then God reveals where that counselor will be born, Bethlehem Ephrathah, the city where the great King David had been born and lived and where Solomon even ruled for a time in 1 Kings 3. Yet by the time of Jesus birth it would become the “least of the cities in Judah” so small it likely was not even counted among the tribe of Judah. Matthew Henry writes this about Bethlehem: “having down how low the house of David should be brought and how viley the shield of that mighty family should be cast away as through it had not been anointed with Oil. To encourage the faith of God’s people who might be tempted now to think that His covenant with David and his house had been abrogated he add an illustrious description of the Messiah and His Kingdom, in whom the remnant should be established and the honors of that house should be revived, advanced and perpetuated.” Bethlehem, which had become so low it was nothing more than a hamlet, Mary and Joseph, from a family that had been so humbled they may as well have never been kings. All of this because of the breaking of the Covenant and disobedience of God’s chosen people. Yet, through this humbled family would come the Great Shepherd, the one Servant King of Isaiah 53, the one who would lead God’s people back, the one from whom the remnant would be formed. He would rule with the strength and name of the Lord, bring glory to God, in Him they would dwell secure and be at peace. God would continue his work of lifting up the lowly as he had done time and time again form the raising of a lowly shepherd boy from Bethlehem as king, to the choice of a poor virgin girl in Galilee who proclaimed in Luke 1:52 “God lifts up the lowly.”

Peace with God: But Judah had a problem, a problem that comes out again both in the book of Isaiah and in our second passage for today, that is they kept trying to attain peace with God through their own sacrifices. They kept seeking peace in the blood of one year old calves, in the blood of thousands of bulls, Micah even goes so far as to suggest in verse 7 that they were offering their children as the Pagans did, the fruit of their wombs, all to achieve peace with God, to get on His good side. It is interesting because if you look at the sins of Israel it is very clear that they were not just sins against God, but sins against others, against one another and against the foreigner. Or they were sins of misplaced trust, turning to Egypt as Ahaz did in Isaiah 7 for protection from the Assyrians instead of trusting in God for peace and deliverance. Now they had turned to the daily slaughter in the temple, the blood of bulls and goats and lambs and even the fruit of their wombs, burning incense, thinking that this was the way to stay the wrath of GOD. Yet God himself says both in Isaiah and in Micah that these are not the way to renewal and are in fact an abomination to him as He says in Isaiah 1. One of Micah’s key concepts is that Spiritual Renewal begins not with the spilling of blood or burning or incense but with the ending of ones unjust treatment of others. This is not all there is of course, but it is the essential first step. Micah concludes his section on renewal that starts in 5:2 with 6:8 “He has told you oh man, what is good, to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God.” This should take us all the way back to God’s first promises to Abraham in Genesis, before the sacrificial system was enacted at Sinai under Moses, that his descendants are to be a light to the nations not through sacrifices but by their obedience to GOD. Yet by the time Micah was prophesying they had abandoned obedience to the word of God in favor of seeking wealth, hording up for themselves the riches of this world, even boasting in it, they mistreated and abused the sojourner, refusing to care for those who came in the midst, indeed, even refusing to care for their own poor, turning to the might of the king instead of the greater might of God. Everyone was out to get his own and it did not matter who got in the way. That is why Micah appeals here to the two tables of the covenant in reverse order: “Love people” “Do justice, love mercy” and “Love God” “And walk humbly with your God.” God does not desire sacrifices but right relationship. It is the horizontal and vertical beams of salvation that we talked about a few weeks ago, out of their relationship with God Judah should become a just and upright people who because they walk humbly with God do justice and love mercy and kindness.

Christmas: and that brings me to Christmas, a time when we like to quote from Micah 5, Isaiah 7 and many other passages but we never really stop to think of them in their context. Yet when you combine Micah’s words in 5 and 6 you end up with this: God has made a way for Peace with Him and that is through the lowliest of babes, from the lowliest city and a once great family brought so low they were unrecognizable compared to their former glory. Yet from this family would come Emmanuel, God with Us, Mighty Counselor, Prince of Peace, and He would shepherd God’s people with the might to the Lord and those who dwelt in Him would dwell secure and be at peace and because they did this, because they were in relationship with Him they would do justice and love mercy as a natural outpouring of their relationship with the coming baby foretold and who has now come, lived, died on the cross for our sins and rose again on the third day. The one who is coming back to judge the living and the dead and who through the Holy Spirit who dwells inside us, makes it possible for us even today to walk humbly with God and to do justice, love mercy.

Application: Now, I have heard it said in this church, by some, that what we need is a big revival, one along the lines of the tent revivals of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries to bring people back to Church. We gather everyone in and they come and hear the dynamic evangelist preach and souls will be saved and boom, we will turn back the tide of secularism. Yet this is where cultural exegesis helps us because it tells us that those kinds of tactics do not work on the younger generations. In fact, the opposite is true, most younger people will not darken the doors of a church until they have had a lengthy relationship with its members. Now, there are obviously exceptions to this, but in most cases people want nothing to do with a Christianity where people think if they go to church on Sunday they are all set, they want to see that we live what we believe and they want to see us live what we believe in the public square. Many young people, and this is true of both young Christians and Non-Christians alike look at the church and see a parallel with the sins of Israel. They see us clamor for political power, putting our trust in man’s government rather than God, even at times conflating the two. They read op-eds written by prominent theologians and pastors against foreigners of any kind, they see us pursue wealth and the power it buys us and they see us act as if that has given us peace with God. They see us acting out of fear of what might happen when we lose our position of power rather than trusting in God and going to more and more unjust and immoral means to achieve that. Brothers and Sisters, this is not the way to have peace with God, this is the way to enmity with God, this is the path to our downfall, it always has been and it always will be and I tell you that with the authority of the Holy Word of God and the testimony of History behind me. You want peace with God, you want to see His blessings follow this church, you want to reach your town? Stop worrying about who is in power and start listening to the one in your heart. Have a relationship with God that, out of gratitude draws you to care for your neighbor, no matter the ramifications. You want to see this church grow, start reaching out to your neighbors, invite them to your table, get to know them, connect with them on a deep level, support them, whether they are a believer or not. Stop bemoaning how the times have changed and do what God has put before you to do. Don’t just bring people to church to hear me preach, be the church to them. Do Justice, Love mercy and walk humbly with God. God is not reaching people through big revivals but through small gatherings at your dinner table. Depoliticize your faith and search again the baby in the manger, the lowly, servant king. Oh, brothers and sisters, I beg of you, as one who has a heart for both my generation and yours to hear the Gospel, please hear what I am saying. We think we are on the path to peace, but we are on the path to destruction, please hear me.

Jars of Clay calls these things Small Rebellions, and the best example in history I can think of is the original St. Nicholas the bishop of Nyrsa who, when he still lived in his home town of Patara, after losing his wealthy parents to the plague heard of a father of three girls who had fallen on hard times, so much so he could not afford to pay dowries for his girls. Hearing this, Nicholas took a bag of gold and threw it through the window at night, when the family awoke they found the gold, paid off some of the family debts and paid the dowry price for the first girl. This happened two more times before the father finally caught Nicholas after he placed the third bag. Throughout his life he was known for his exceeding generosity and care, especially for the poor. So much so that when three Roman Generals were freed because of the work of Nicholas and came to bestow gold and treasures on them, he distributed to the poor. That is how the legend we know today of Santa Claus began. He trusted GOD more than man, he cared for others more than he cared for himself, he did justice and he loved mercy because he walked humbly with God. These are the small rebellions we can commit year-round, not just at Christmas time, but every day. Like Scrooge at the end of A Christian Carol who kept Christmas well by his care for others, Dicken’s writes: “All year-round.”

Brothers and Sisters, I love you, you who are made in the image of God and have been called into relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ who came as a baby to the lowliest place to lift up the lowly. May you daily commit small rebellions against the world through choosing to live as Christ in this world reaching this world with love, by doing justice and loving mercy as you walk humbly with God. Lifting up the lowly, caring for the widow and the orphan and the refugee, the single mother and the abused and trafficked women, the homeless man who comes to your door or who you see on the street. May you care for the least of these for in doing so you will have done it to Christ. May you follow the greatest rebellion of Christ, who came into the world as a baby and died for you so you could live.

Let’s pray


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.


“Small Christmas Rebellions” – A Reflection on Micah 5:2-5a, 6:6-8

“Give us days to be filled with Small Rebellions, senseless brutal acts of kindness from us all, as we stand between the fear and firm foundations, push against the current and the fall” – Jars of Clay

Jonathan David Faulkner

This week I have giving great attention to the words of Micah 5:2-5 and 6:6-8 as I prepare a Sermon on them for Christmas Sunday. These passages are ones we hear quoted often but we rarely are encouraged to meditate over, so here they are:

Micah 5:2-5a

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace.

And 6:6-8

“With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Again, two passages we all hear and maybe even have memorized but rarely do we really meditate on and even rarer do we see them placed side by side or consider their placement in Micah’s prophesy.

Consider the state of Judah and Israel at the time of Micah’s writing. They have broken their covenant with God, they are in danger of being carried off by Assyria. Micah, the wilderness prophet writes at the same time as Isaiah the Court Prophet, both have startlingly similar messages. Judah has disobeyed, they have broken covenant with God and have killed the Prophets who have warned them, but they have continued to offer their sacrifices to Him in a vain attempt to appease him, they desperately want peace with him, but they done injustice, they have been ungrateful for all that God has given them. Isaiah has warned them that God really hates their burned offering, the blood of their bulls is even an “Abomination” to him (Isaiah 1:10-20). God does not want their worship, He does not want their sacrifice, especially devoid of the very thing He desires above all, a relationship marked by obedience to His Word. The Sin of God’s people was so egregious that even the righteous prophet Isaiah was not unstained (Isaiah 6:1-7).

Here we find the prophet Micah echoing much of what Isaiah himself prophesied. You can almost put the two passages (Micah 5 and Isaiah 7) together.

Israel and Judah will be abandoned by God until God himself gives them a sign, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and His name will be called Emmanuel, God with us, and he will rule Israel as a shepherd who shows the majesty of God and the Government will be on his shoulders and He who is eternally begotten of the Father, the one who existed from before antiquity, will be born to a women in Bethlehem Ephrathah which is the lowliest of the cities of Judah, so small it may not even be counted among her thousands of cities in Judah. From this town is where the one who would bring us “Shalom” peace, wholeness, completeness, this is where He would come from. If you Add in Micah 6:6-8 you can say: “You will not achieve peace with God through burnt offerings, through calves, or tithes or dedicating your children to the Lord, only by relationship with God, through this baby that is prophesied about in the previous chapter, through doing Justice, loving mercy and kindness, walking humbly with Him, then you can have peace with God, through having a contrite heart, a repentant spirit, through doing what His Word has told us to do. You want peace with God, stop worshiping Him apart from Obeying Him.

Bethlehem was so insignificant and so lowly and yet that was where the Savior was going to come from. He was going to come from a place which Matthew Henry writes had been: “having down how low the house of David should be brought and how viley the shield of that mighty family should be cast away as through it had not been anointed with Oil. To encourage the faith of God’s people who might be tempted now to think that His covenant with David and his house had been abrogated he add an illustrious description of the Messiah and His Kingdom, in whom the remnant should be established and the honors of that house should be revived, advanced and perpetuated.” The very one who by being in relationship with Him we have peace with God and peace with one another. His coming lifts up the lowest of the low, the house of David, brought into obscure poverty so that the one found from the lineage of David was a Virgin girl and a Carpenter living in Galilee. A man and his betrothed, they were not even married yet. Yet it was through them God was going to work His amazing power of opening the womb of the Virgin. God is going to do what science and common-sense say is impossible.

Yet, God in His wisdom made a way, not for us to worship him, that should be our default, but for us to have a relationship with Him. We do that by walking humbly with Him, by doing Justice and loving mercy. We live in relationship with Him through doing what Jars of Clay called “Small Rebellions” those: “Senseless brutal acts of kindness from us all.” We follow the example of St. Nicholas of Nyrsa who when he heard about a father who could not provide dowries for his three daughters. So in the middle of the night he snuck up to the window and dropped a bag of gold in for the first daughter. He did this two more times, providing dowries for the other two daughters before the father finally caught him. This is a small rebellion, it goes against what is considered normative, it goes against what we consider safe, especially in our individualism driven culture. It is a rebellion against the attitude of both Nicholas’s day and our own, that we get our own, get what the god of self informs us we deserve. At Christmas time these rebellions should be foremost on our minds, these are the natural rebellions of a Christian in relationship with the Christ Child. These rebellions do justice but correcting injustice, correct the merciless acts of others by doing mercy to those who have been abused. This is the rebellion St. Nicholas and the legend that rose up around him gave us, that like God giving His son, it is more important for us to give to others and to give of ourselves for the sake of others than to receive what would be most self-gratifying.

The World is looking at the church and wondering why we are doing the opposite of this rebellion, they look at us and say: “Your scriptures say you believe in this, why do you not practice it? Your God tells you to “Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God” it even tells you that you can do that because of and through Christ, so why do you not do it?” This is the great indictment against us, a sad reality that makes reaching this world so much harder. When we turn to politics or power or man’s philosophies to determine the life of the church we are actually killing it, doing harm to Christ, rebelling against the wrong kingdom. Christ’s coming is for you, so you can have relationship with God and from that relationship with God you can live in relationship with others, Just relationships, where mercy is enacted and we walk together humbly with God. God doesn’t want our worship, he wants our relationship and for us to be in relationship with others. Justice and Mercy come from God, they are meant to be lived out for others. What God has done is merciful and Just and you are meant to show that to one another.

Small Christmas Rebellions happen when you invite your neighbor over for dinner, even if that neighbor is less fortunate than you, doesn’t fit your view of normal, does not look like you, does not have the same socio-economic status as you. Small Christmas Rebellions start at your table, caring for the poor, the needy among us. Not letting the organizations do all the heavy lifting because: “that’s what they’re for” but doing it yourself. Just like God raising up Bethlehem to honor, we should raise up the lowly among us, for as Luke 1:52 says: “God lifts up the lowly” so should we. They are, after-all, made in the image of GOD and worthy of the dignity that this sinful world denies them and which through Christ, His body should work to restore to them.

Peace with God means you are free and clear to rebel against the world, to choose the things of God over and against the things of this world. That we do not have to fear the consequence that the world may enact against us for living out what we believe. They can kill us, but we will not die. So, commit the small Christmas rebellions, go and do what God has commanded, love your neighbor, have them at table, who cares what the world thinks, the secular world will pass away, but Christ and His Kingdom, which includes you, will not.

So, this Christmas, volunteer at the shelter, have your neighbor over for dinner, even if that neighbor looks differently from you, go visit the nursing home. Love your neighbor as yourself because God has first loved you. Do all that Christ has put before you to do in Scripture with the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit. These are small rebellions against the world, for the sake of showing Christ to the world, and they are carried out through us, God’s chosen people. All because Christ came as a baby, the one who was foretold by the Prophet Isaiah and Micah and so many others.


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.

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.