Creed Sign

The Apostles’ Creed, not an apostate screed!

Is your neighborhood filled with signs proclaiming the secular progressive creed? You know the one: “In this house, we believe: Black Lives Matter, Women’s rights are human rights, No human is illegal, Science is real, Love is love, Kindness is everything” — or some similar variation.

Well, we believe in something, too. In this house, we will serve the Lord.

Introducing a We Believe” sign for Christians — not for progressive secular humanists.

Find it at

The Creed Sign is available as:

  • 3″x4″ stickers ($5)
  • 2″x3″ stickers ($4)
  • Digital download ($5)
    Digital download includes high-res, print-ready files (PDF and .jpg) sized for a yard sign (18″x24″ vertical), postcard (4″x6″), greeting cards (5″x7″), and standard printer paper (8.5″x11″).

The stickers have a limited supply while I wait for the next shipment to arrive. And, unfortunately, pre-printed yard signs are not yet available; I printed mine online at, but be warned that printing one at a time is expensive.

I made the Creed Sign because the more typical “We Believe” sign expresses a different religious creed, and most of its tenets are incompatible with historical, orthodox Christianity.

The “We Believe” sign is a catechism for progressive secular humanism. There are many people in the church who are genuine apostles for those beliefs, and it makes sense that those people would put the sign in their yard — say, someone who worships at the Unitarian church down the road.

But there are also plenty of orthodox Christians who disagree with progressive secular beliefs (e.g., regarding abortion, gay marriage, transgenderism, scientism, critical race theory, etc.) but who put the sign in their yard anyway; those Christians have been duped into uncritically evangelizing their neighbors with a competing gospel.

Sure, at first glance, and with only a strictly literal reading of the text, there’s nothing especially objectionable to the progressive creed: Black lives really do matter; love is, in fact, love; women’s rights are indeed human rights; etc.

But with a closer reading — and an accurate understanding of the times (1 Chronicles 12:32) — we can see that the secular creed is actually a list of platitudes that either:

  • Mean something other than what they say
    (e.g., “Women’s rights are human rights” really means pro-choice/pro-abortion; “Love is love” really means pro-LGBTQ+; “Black Lives Matter” really means support for Critical Race Theory/Intersectionality/anti-racism)
  • Are things that every reasonable person in the world agrees with
    (“Black Lives Matter,” “Science is Real”)
  • Are responses to strawmen that no one is arguing
    (“Black Lives Matter,” “No Human is Illegal,” “Science is Real”)
  • Are absolutely nonsensical
    (“Love is Love,” “Kindness is Everything”)
  • Or are some combination of the above

In fact, I would go so far as to say that, to the extent that the words mean anything at all, I wholeheartedly disagree with Love is Love (Christians believe that God is love) and Kindness is Everything (Christians believe that kindness is good, but not everything).

Still, we all know that what the sign says and what the sign means are two different things. It’s like those LGBTQ+ rainbow “Safe Space” signs on office doors throughout my workplace — that sign doesn’t actually mean, “This space is safe for LGBTQ+ individuals”; it means “I affirm progressive cultural and political positions related to LGBTQ+ identities.”

Or preferred pronouns in people’s email signatures: I’d never put “he/him/his” in my signature line because that doesn’t actually mean, “My pronouns are he, him, and his” (which is certainly true); instead, it means, “I believe that gender identity is not meaningfully connected to or determined by biological sex” (which is not true).

It’s not that safe space, preferred pronouns, and “We Believe” signs could be true depending on an alternative, literal, Christian-friendly reading of the plain text. No, the bigger problem is that spreading those messages advances a worldview that actively undermines orthodox, biblical Christian teaching.

Too many Christians have been hoodwinked into becoming unwitting apostles for a contrary, competing religion just because it’s the “nice” or popular thing to say. Sticking the “We Believe” sign in your yard is not a neutral act; it actively contributes to the problem.

We’re in the middle of a spiritual, ideological battle against “arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5). And you don’t win a war by putting the enemy’s propaganda posters in your own front yard. Put a Creed Sign there instead.

A Plea to Recover the Church Calendar

First, the obvious: This post is not intended for my Anglican or Catholic or other high-church friends but for those who, like me, were raised in the low-church or nondenominational world of American evangelicalism, where the faith was once for all delivered to the saints by an orange puppet named Gerbert.

So, to make the title more precise, what follows is a plea to recover the church calendar in evangelical, nondenominational, and other low-church congregations


Ordering time is natural, and therefore inescapable. We are time-bound creatures, so the question is not whether we will order our time, but how we will order our time. 

Nature presents the world to us in an orderly way. The world moves according to daily (sunrise, sunset), monthly (cycles of the moon), and annual (seasonal) rhythms. But it’s not just natural in the sense that nature does it; it’s also natural for man to structure his understanding of time in similar rhythms. 

It’s not whether we follow a calendar, then, but which calendar we follow. Hasn’t your year so far been marked by New Year’s Eve, the Super Bowl, and March Madness? Do you follow the Hallmark calendar (Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc.)? The academic calendar (Spring Break, Summer Vacation, Back to School)? American holidays like Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Thanksgiving? A newfangled pop culture calendar that includes Mario Day (March 10 = Mar10 or MAR10), Pi Day (March 14 = 3.14), and Star Wars Day (May 4 = May the Fourth)?

In truth, we all pick and choose from these varied calendars, but the central point is that none of us gets to opt out of following a calendar. Remember: It’s not whether, but which


So, if it’s true that we inescapably order time, why would Christians not order it in a manner that commemorates the Lord of time? 

J. Brandon Meeks wrote, “When Jesus died and rose again, he conquered sin and death — but he also conquered the calendar.” And so we recognize Jesus as the King of the Calendar when we structure our year according to the great work he has done in our redemption.

Although the magisterial Reformers jettisoned much of the liturgical calendar, Daniel Hyde pointed out that they “retained what they called the ‘evangelical feast days,’” which are those days that celebrate “the salvation which Christ had already accomplished for them in his Incarnation (Christmas), death (Good Friday), resurrection (Easter), ascending to the Father (Ascension), and giving of his Spirit (Pentecost).”

We see in Exodus 12:2 that the first thing God does when he frees his people from Egypt is to reorder the Israelites’ calendar: ”This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you.” God reorders their sense of time, centering it around his redemptive work in the world. It seems appropriate, then, that when Jesus freed us from slavery to sin in the greater Exodus, we should reorder our own calendar, our own sense of time itself, around that historic event. 

This church statement says it well: 

“[W]e gladly encourage the celebration of the historic church calendar as a glorious testimony of the victory and rule of Christ over time. Rightly understood, His life celebrated and remembered in our days and weeks and months is a continuation of the triumph of Christ over the principalities and powers.”


“Calendars are not neutral,” wrote Andrew Wilson, “they narrate a particular vision of the world.” In contrast to the narratives told by the tax year, or the academic year, or the seasonal calendar year, “the Church calendar,” Wilson continues, “tells a different story again, one shaped by the gestation, birth, appearing, temptation, death, resurrection, ascension and gifts of the Lord Jesus. If you’re going to use a calendar at all, and most of us are, it might as well be one which holds together around the gospel.”

Matt Chandler picked up on this narrative theme in a video explaining why his church follows the church calendar:

“You and I, we are storied people,” Chandler said. “We live basically out of our gut and out of our heart, and those things are informed by stories.” He points to the consumerism and hedonism prevalent in our culture and says, “These are the stories of our day, and we want to counteract those stories or stand in opposition to those stories by living the story of Jesus.”


Did you notice Chandler’s subtle shift from narrative and storytelling to story-living? It’s one thing to hear the story of Jesus, but it’s another thing altogether when we enter into and rehearse the story ourselves. “We want to experience as embodied souls the story of Jesus,” Chandler said, “and we believe that by doing this, it shapes and molds us as the people of God.”

Back to Andrew Wilson for an extended paragraph on how living the Christian calendar “shapes and molds us”:

The Church calendar does not just say things, it does things. When (as I do) you give something up for Lent, you find yourself pining for the resurrection. When you pray or study your way through Advent, you focus on the return of Christ in a sustained way that might well not happen if you didn’t. When you take Holy Saturday as a day of contemplation and quiet, you feel the silence and confusion and sheer weight of the period between crucifixion and resurrection, and notice the connections between that day and the rest of the Church age. When you baptise people on Easter Sunday, you enact new life at the same time as you celebrate it.

Can you see how the Christian calendar helps you practice — not just hear — the Christian story? We aren’t just told the story; we live it. And as we live it, we are being shaped by it.


We are in a battle over time itself, and the enemies of the church know this better than we do.

“Cultural dominance requires two things,” wrote Carl Trueman: “control of time and space.”

If we understand that restructuring a culture’s time is a means of gaining cultural dominance, then we can begin to understand why contemporary battles over the calendar have become so important. That’s why we have Pride Month, now; it’s why Columbus Day is disappearing for an ascendant Indigenous Peoples Day. This is why we’ve replaced BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini, the year of our Lord) with BCE (Before Common Era) and CE (Common Era). These shifts in our calendars are really the pursuit of secular cultural dominance. 

Christians had that cultural dominance once: “Liturgical calendars developed in the fourth century and beyond, as Christianity came to dominate the empire,” Trueman wrote. In this first Christendom, controlling time “was achieved through developing a calendar which gave the rhythm of time a specifically Christian idiom.” 

It follows, then, that if we want to build the New Christendom (and we do), then reclaiming the church calendar is one critical way to do so.


None of this is to say that the church calendar should be required, only that it is, in the words of Daniel Hyde, “not holy but helpful.” 

There are more reasons than those above that the church calendar is helpful, including:

  • It is a reminder of the historical nature of our faith — the Christian claims happened at particular times in history
  • It unites us to the universal, catholic church through shared practices
  • It demonstrates a respect for Christian tradition
  • It provides a structure for disciplined times of feasting and fasting

Hopefully, some of you have been convinced by my plea — my invitation — to step into the benefits of ordering your time according to the Christian story. I’m not trying to implement a mandate here. But whether you’re convinced or not, either way, remember:

“One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5).


A  few quick, closing thoughts:

Recovery in the Church

Again, remember that the question isn’t whether your church follows a calendar, but which calendar it follows. In many (most?) parts of evangelicalism, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Super Bowl Sunday, and Spring Break are more likely to get a mention from the pulpit or programming than are Epiphany, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, or Ascension Sunday.

As a baseline, I’d like to see every single church reclaim and celebrate the five evangelical feast days of Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost. Almost every church already celebrates Christmas and Easter, and many or most mark Good Friday, so we really only need to do the heavy lifting on Ascension and Pentecost.

The other days surrounding this can be practiced according to conscience or tradition, including Advent, Ash Wednesday, and Lent (not to mention the numerous other days of feasting, fasting, and commemoration in various liturgical calendars).

Recovery in Your Personal Life

If you’re personally convinced of the benefits of the church calendar, you can mark the days yourself, even if your church doesn’t. Simply find a church calendar (I use and recommend the Anglican one) and begin paying attention to it.

A lot of this will be unfamiliar at first. Start small — stick with the big ones, like the five evangelical feasts or some of the others (Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Christ the King). Don’t worry about what Whitsunday means or which days are Days of Rogation or whether to fast on Ember Days. Start with the basics and add as you go.

You can also work to structure your life according to seasons of feasting and fasting — whether you do this with or without the church calendar, these disciplines are both biblical and good for you.

A quick note on saints’ days or feast days:

I used to be uncomfortable with saints’ days, but the truth is, I already commemorate people all the time. My personal calendar is full of birthday reminders for my friends and family members, and as I grow older, it’s beginning to fill with days remembering my friends’ and family members’ deaths. For a long time, I’ve noted the births and deaths of authors or public figures I’d like to remember (e.g., C.S. Lewis, Jonathan Edwards, John Bunyan, P.G. Wodehouse). I even mark the birthdays of some fictional characters. 

Fictional characters notwithstanding, it is normal and human and good to remember these things — so we should do so. And if we’re going to commemorate our friends and family, why would we not also commemorate our fathers and mothers in the faith? One helpful tool for me has been Our Church Speaks.

Recovery in the Culture

As I said earlier, one reason we lost the culture is that we lost the calendar. And one way to win the culture back is to reclaim the calendar — which is to say, reclaim time itself — in the name of Jesus. But we can’t give the world something we don’t have. Start in the church and your own life, then look to the culture.

We can look for ways to re-Christianize the major cultural holidays that come from the church: Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day. But we can also begin to publicly celebrate the rest of the church calendar as a means of reasserting a peculiarly Christian culture. 

Think of the way that restaurants in certain regions still have Fish Fry Fridays during Lent, or whose businesses still close on Sundays — this thoroughly secular sphere has responded to the cultural demands of Christians who follow the church calendar. We want more of this, and we want it on many more church holidays. Our goal here should be to aim for a critical mass of Christians, such that the culture notices and begins to change in response.

‘The Lord’s Supper’ by Thomas Watson

Several weeks ago, my wife and I served communion at The Gathering, a Sunday evening service on the campus of Hope College, where I work. Communion is served at The Gathering every week, as it is at a number of other local churches — but weekly communion has never been a part of my church experience.

I suspect that the less frequent celebration of the Lord’s Supper in the broadly Evangelical, nondenominational churches where I’ve worshipped for all of my adult life is largely a function of their understanding that communion is only or primarily a means of remembering Jesus’ crucifixion: “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).

If communion is what Pastor Uri Brito calls “a matter of subjective mental recollection,” then infrequent communion is just fine. But what if communion is something more than that? I suspect that churches which celebrate the Eucharist weekly do so because they believe that communion actually does something. And if that’s true — if communion actually does something — then what does it do?

To help answer that question, I turned to The Lord’s Supper, a small volume by Puritan Thomas Watson (c. 1620–1686), originally published in 1665 as The Holy Eucharist. I don’t intend for this post to be a comprehensive review of the book or a complete summary of Watson’s argument — only to share some excerpts from the book that I appreciated as I read it.

In the first place, Watson argues against the remembrance-only view of communion, writing that a proper view:

“confutes such as look upon the Lord’s Supper only as an empty figure or shadow, resembling Christ’s death, but having no intrinsic efficacy in it. Surely this glorious ordinance is more than an effigy or representation of Christ.… Such as make the sacrament only a representation of Christ do aim short of the mystery, and come short of the comfort.” (18–19).

(He also argues against the “Papist” view of transubstantiation in language that would likely offend my Catholic friends.)

So if communion is more than a remembrance, what is it?

Throughout the book, Watson repeatedly insists that the elements of the Eucharist actually are the body and blood of Jesus. When a Christian partakes of the bread and the wine (or, sigh, the grape juice), he is consuming the body and blood of Jesus Christ — not in a literal, physical sense, but in a very real, spiritual sense:

  • “We hold that Christ’s body is in the sacrament spiritually” (17).
  • “Christ… gives us his body and blood in the Eucharist” (26).
  • “[I]n the blessed Supper, Christ gives himself to believers; and what more can he give?” (26)
  • “Christ offer[s] his body and blood to us in the Supper” (39).
  • We “receive Christ in the sacrament” (40).
  • “In the sacrament, the whole of Christ is served up to us” (49).
  • “We shall have not only a representation, but a participation, of Christ in the sacrament” (59).

Watson writes, “in the right celebration of it, we have sweet communion with Christ” (18–19). In other words, we spiritually commune with Jesus. (This is, of course, what the word “communion” means. Duh.)

We receive the nutritious benefits of the medium-rare ribeye and cheesy potatoes by eating them; in a comparable way, by consuming the elements — which is to say, by consuming the body and blood of Christ — we receive the spiritual benefits of Christ’s crucifixion: “as surely as [we] receive the elements corporeally, so surely [do we] receive him into [our] hearts, spiritually” (7).

“In this gospel ordinance, Christ does not only show forth his beauty, but sends forth his virtue. The sacrament is not only a picture drawn, but a breast drawn; it gives us a taste of Christ as well as a sight” (19). By “a breast drawn,” Watson means that we nurse on Christ as an infant nurses on his mother’s breast: “We need but cry, and he [Jesus] gives the breast” (44). Except, in this case, we nurse not on milk but on blood.

Watson spends much of the short volume outlining the benefits of Christ crucified that we receive in the Lord”s Supper: “All kinds of virtues come from him: mortifying, mollifying, comforting. Oh, then feed on him. This grace of faith is the great grace to be sent to work at the sacrament” (49).

At the beginning of the book, Watson responded to an important objection, asking, “But why was the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper appointed? Is not the Word sufficient to bring us to heaven?” (2). And he answers:

“The word is for the engrafting, the sacrament for the confirming of faith. The Word brings us to Christ, the sacrament builds us up in him. The Word is the font where we are baptized with the Holy Spirit, the sacrament is the table where we are fed and cherished. The Lord condescends to our weakness. Were we made up all of spirit, there would be no need of bread and wine, but we are compounded creatures. Therefore God, to help our faith, does not give us an audible Word, but a visible sign” (2).

Now, I do know that a lot of this is basic — especially to my friends in confessional and sacramental churches. But to those of us who were raised in Evangelical and nondenominational churches, this is a fairly revolutionary, radical view. In some ways, reading this book felt like a halting lurch toward a recovery of an inheritance that has been kept from me: Communion is not only a remembrance; rather, it actually does something.

To bring it back to my brief, initial comments on the frequency of communion: If in the Eucharist we commune with Jesus himself, and are fed his body and blood, and our faith is strengthened, and we receive comfort, and we are built up in him, and we are cherished by him — then it follows that we should eat at this table often: “There is no danger of excess at this Supper… the more we take the bread of Life, the more healthy we are, and the more we come to our spiritual complexion” (44).

At the very least, Watson’s book made me hunger for the Eucharist. I don’t expect that America’s non-confessional churches will move away from a remembrance-only view of communion, but as for me and my house:

“We should pray that God would enrich his ordinance with his presence; that he would make the sacrament effectual for all those holy ends and purposes for which he hath appointed it; that it may be the feast of our graces, and the funeral of our corruptions; that it may be not only a sign to represent, but an instrument to convey, Christ to us, and a seal to assure us of our heavenly jointure [union]” (57).

Jesus is Lord of Holland

This is a guest column that I wrote for our local newspaper as a means of encouraging the saints in Holland, Michigan, and throughout West Michigan. The paper declined to print it, so I’m putting it here instead.

I’d like to speak for a moment to the conservative Christians in West Michigan, and what I want to say is this: Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for supporting public policies that are in line with your Christian beliefs. Don’t feel bad for wanting West Michigan to be a decent, Christian place and then working through the political process to make that happen. Don’t feel bad for wanting a Christian culture and a Christian public square.

I’m sure you’ve heard the arguments against this view, and they’ve been effective at cowing Christians into quietly accepting an increasingly pagan culture. If you support Christian policies, you’ll be accused of violating the separation of church and state. You’ll be accused of wrongly imposing your morality on others. You’ll be told that because Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, Christianity has no place in the political process. None of these things is true.

First, the naysayers don’t really believe any of it. They’re happy to leverage Christianity so long as it helps them get the public policies they want. Immigration reform, refugees, climate change, masks and vaccines, affordable housing, minimum wage — all of these and more are defended and promoted in explicitly Christian terms. And, in many cases, they’re right. But Christian policies related to marriage, family, sexuality, gender, or abortion? Ha! You’ll have them calling you a Christian Nationalist and waving their picket signs quicker than you can finish saying, “What is a woman?”

So no, they don’t really want to keep Christianity out of the public square; they want to keep traditional Christianity out of the public square. They want to keep your Christianity out of the public square. Their progressive version is just fine, thank you very much. You simply need to understand that theirs isn’t a sincere objection — it’s a political tool designed to keep you quiet.

And, second, secular neutrality is a myth. It’s not possible to have a values-free public square. The question is not whether our culture and laws are informed by morality, but which morality informs them. The question is not whether our laws impose morality on others, but which morality our laws impose. The question is not whether we enforce blasphemy laws, but which blasphemy laws we enforce (curse Jesus, and the world will yawn; use the wrong pronouns, and your job may be on the line).

Our culture is becoming less Christian because Christians have been duped. We bought the big lie that if we jettisoned Christianity from the public square, we’d have a neutral, utopian space where every view would be welcome. But that’s not what happened. Christians vacated the public square, and secular progressives quickly claimed the ground we abandoned. As just one example, Pride Month has become a public celebration that puts the religious pageantry of the medieval church to shame — but you’d better keep your Christianity at home where it belongs, you bigot, and lock it up so the kids can’t find it.

In the book of Acts, an angry mob accused the early Christians of “acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus” (17:7). Today, do not be surprised when the angry mob accuses you of acting against the decrees of the people, or of the neutral public square, or of secular liberalism. Perhaps they’re right — but we’re Christians, for Christ’s sake, and there is another king, Jesus. “And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him” (Daniel 7:14).

One of the central Christian creeds is this: Jesus is Lord. All authority in heaven and earth — all of it — has been given to him (Matthew 28:18), which means that Jesus is Lord of America, and he is Lord of West Michigan. Jesus is Lord of Holland. Live and, yes, vote as if that’s true, because it is true. All you need to do is stop feeling bad about it.

Rejoice With Those Who Rejoice

Here are a few ways I’ve been thinking about my celebratory response to Dobbs:

First, the Lord has prepared a table for us in the presence of our enemies (Psalm 23:5), which is to say he has prepared this table publicly. It’s a feast of rich food, fatty meat, and fine wine (Isaiah 25:6), and he has commanded us to feast with joy (Nehemiah 8:10). So if God has commanded me to publicly feast with joy, it will not do to simply wrap a dinner roll in a napkin, slip it into my purse, and sneak away from the table to chew it in the corner at home. Feast! Laugh! Invite your neighbors to pull up a chair — the food is plentiful, the bread and wine are on the house (Isaiah 55:1), and there’s plenty of room for more. Let us eat and celebrate, for death has turned to life (Luke 15:23–24)!

Second, public celebrations tell the watching world not only what the law of God is (don’t kill babies, duh) but that the law of God is good. His law is good (Psalm 19:7)! His justice is good (Psalm 98:9). His Word is good (Psalm 119:103). His work in this world is good (Genesis 1:4,10,12,18, &c.). We delight in his laws (Psalm 119:16). When we see the righteous judgment of God fulfilled on this earth, it is a very good thing indeed! And when we rejoice and celebrate in public, we are giving a public testimony to God’s goodness.

Third, rejoicing at the end of wickedness is a biblical model. When the Egyptians were thrown into the sea, Moses, Miriam, and the Israelites danced on the shores of the mass grave (Exodus 15:1–21). When David killed Goliath and cut off the giant’s head with his own monstrous sword, the people sang and danced in the streets (1 Samuel 18:6). When God gave the Ammonites into Jephtha’s hand, his daughter met him with tambourines and dancing (Judges 11:34). “When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous” (Proverbs 21:15).

Fourth, we too often forget that the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Do you want to be strong, church? Do you want to be strong, Christian? Then be joyful! Delight in the Lord and in his rule! When you see the work of God in this world — when our prayers that God’s kingdom come and will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10) are in some measure answered — then rejoice, and be strong in the Lord (Ephesians 6:10).

Fifth, C.S. Lewis wrote, “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.” In other words, our joy is not complete until it becomes praise; unexpressed praise is unfulfilled joy. If you’ll pardon the metaphor, enjoyment without praise is a joy that’s aborted before it reaches full term. Does the end of Roe bring you joy? It should. And if it does, then publicly praise the God who ended it.

Sixth, there is a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance (Ecclesiastes 3:4). This is a time to laugh and dance. The great dragon Roe has been slain by the Lord Jesus Christ! There will be time for mourning and for tears, but if this is not the greatest cause for celebration in my lifetime, I don’t know what is. Read the times, and respond appropriately (1 Chronicles 12:32).

And finally, yes, we need to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). Christians everywhere will continue providing support, comfort, and care to women who find themselves in unwanted pregnancies and difficult circumstances. Do I care about the struggling single mother who doesn’t know how she’s going to support her baby? Absolutely, I do. You should, too (James 1:27). Do I care that she may not be able to legally kill her own child? No, I don’t. Not even a little bit.

Not incidentally, Romans 12:15 (“weep with those who weep”) also commands us to “rejoice with those who rejoice.” I am rejoicing, so please, join me! “Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me!” (Philippians 2:18). God would have it so.

A letter to our (former) elders


Some time ago, my wife and I met with the elders at the church we were attending to address some concerns that we had about perceived shifts in the teaching and practice of the church. Specifically, we were concerned about two things:

  • An overemphasis on Christianity as a means of lifestyle improvement
  • The failure to confront false beliefs held by those who attend and lead the church, including the promotion of heterodox teaching and personalities

What follows is a copy of the email we sent to the elders to express our concerns and request the meeting. We met to discuss these concerns (and others), and we later left the church.

I’ve changed the names of the church and pastor in the email below, but I wanted to share it because:

  1. I think it does a good job of modeling firm yet respectful disagreement with church leaders
  2. I still see these concerns in the broader church, and I suspect others may feel the same way without necessarily knowing how to articulate it
  3. It presents the hope of the gospel as an alternative
  4. I am regularly asked about this letter and the topics it addresses, so I know it’s still relevant

I pray it’s helpful.

The Letter

Hi everyone,

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I love Fourth Church, and I especially love its people, and it’s been a pleasure to be a member of Fourth for nearly a decade. Over the past few years, though, I’ve grown increasingly concerned about a shift in the direction of the church and certain elements of its teachings and practice. I’ve shared some of these concerns with a few of you before, but I believe it’s time to formally present them to the entire board in hopes of earnestly addressing them together.

First, and most seriously, I’m concerned about an overemphasis on Christianity as a means of improving our lives

I typically see this happening through the prolific use of vague, feel-good, and poorly defined Christian buzzwords (e.g., breakthrough, victory, abundance, impact, healing, overcome, flourish, purpose, favor, etc.) that are routinely illustrated in temporal terms and promise to meet our felt needs in, for example, our finances, marriages, careers, health, etc.

Pastor William has previously described this to me as an “inaugurated eschatology,” but I continue to worry that, at times, it’s actually an over-realized eschatology that gets perilously close to (or perhaps actually is) a thinly veiled, and therefore more palatable, version of the prosperity gospel, which is an anti-gospel.

God can, of course, provide all these things and more; he can and often does. But nowhere in the Bible are lifestyle improvements and the fulfillment of physical, felt needs promised to Christians, and nowhere are they taught as necessary implications of the gospel. (‘Felt needs’ is here distinct from real needs; see Matthew 6:31–33, Philippians 4:19.) The gospel is a proclamation of what God has already provided for us in the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; it is not the promise of what God will do to materially improve our lives in the future. Yet I worry that this gospel truth is being shrouded at Fourth Church behind language that encourages people to interpret Christianity according to their own personal desires for bettered circumstances.

I think it’s worth sharing here that I’m convinced that the promise of an inaugurated eschatological breakthrough in this life, as commonly understood and if preached without careful definition, would be unintelligible (and likely offensive) to the Apostle Paul, who was imprisoned, beaten, stoned, thrice-shipwrecked, thorn-afflicted, and executed; to Stephen and the martyred Apostles; to those in Hebrews 11 who were tortured and sawn in two and killed with the sword; to the faithful martyrs of Revelation, slain for the word of God and their witness; to the 21 Coptic martyrs beheaded by ISIS in Libya just a few years ago; and to the countless faithful Christians around the world who are today worshipping in secret and suffering persecution for the faith.

The gospel of Christ is good news even for a man who is downwardly mobile, suffering, poor, and miserable, and who lives in that worsening state until he dies. It is good news for the young, single mother with cancer, struggling to feed her children and avoid bankruptcy while receiving medical treatment that will destroy her body until her organs fail and her children become orphans; it is good news for her orphans. It is good news for the house church pastor tortured and forever disappeared into a communist Chinese gulag. 

Has God failed these people? Have his promises failed? Absolutely not! All of God’s promises are yes and amen in Christ; if they have not received breakthrough in this life, it is because God has not promised it. Still, he has saved even these from their sins and guaranteed their eternal joy in the presence of God. That Christ is the Christ we need. Preach that Christ alone, and leave behind whatever false promises or winking intimations of earthly breakthrough that distract from his gospel. 

I do know that Pastor William is careful to include a proclamation of the gospel every Sunday, so my concerns are perhaps a matter of priorities or relative importance. Still, I want to see our church clearly elevate the gospel of Christ crucified for sinners as supremely important and to dial back or, better, do away with any assertions or insinuations that God will materially improve our lives. There is no potential temporal breakthrough that can improve the gospel of Christ, and no definite hardship in this life that can make this good news even the slightest bit worse.

The coronavirus pandemic (encompassing fear, anxiety, social distancing and isolation, joblessness, the prospect of national or global economic recession or depression, sickness, death) has highlighted my concerns, and I believe it demonstrates the ways that imprecise assurances of breakthrough can mislead people with a false understanding of God’s promises and his work in the world. I deeply question how well we’ve prepared people to suffer in this time.

Second, I’m concerned about a failure to confront false beliefs held by those who attend and lead Fourth Church, including the promotion of heterodox teaching and personalities.

I am primarily referring to the people at Fourth who adhere to the Word of Faith movement or the prosperity gospel, whether wholesale or piecemeal. I worry that these individuals are encouraged in their confusion and error, at least in part by Fourth’s use of the terms and concepts I previously mentioned. 

Please hear me: There are, of course, careful, faithful, and biblical ways to use concepts and terminology such as “breakthrough,” “abundance,” “victory,” “authority,” “declare,” “claim,” and other, similar words. When used in an ambiguous or sloppy manner, however, they serve as dog whistles to the many people in the congregation who have adopted erroneous beliefs, and it allows those beliefs to continue unchecked — even if Fourth Church’s theological lexicon carefully avoids particular Word of Faith applications.

Worse, some of Fourth Church’s ministries openly promote heterodox teaching and personalities. As just a few brief examples, I would point to:

  • The use of videos by Todd White as training for the prayer team. White is a charlatan who peddles videos of demonstrably fake healings, shares platforms with false teachers including Kenneth Copeland and Bill Johnson, denies the full deity of Christ, and claims to be without sin (see 1 John 1:8).
  • The adaptation of Randy Clark’s material for use as Fourth Church’s prayer manual. Randy Clark is similarly associated with false teachers (including Johnson, White, and Shawn Bolz) and the New Apostolic Reformation, and has conducted frenzied “School of Healing and Impartation” events at Bethel Church and elsewhere. 
  • The inclusion of material from Shawn Bolz in the prayer manual and in communication from other ministries. Bolz claims to occupy the office of Prophet (as distinct from exercising the spiritual gift of prophecy), delivers false prophecies, and has been credibly accused of using the same cheap parlor tricks practiced by stage-show psychics. (Importantly, removing Bolz’s quotes from the prayer manual does not exorcise Bolz’s theology from the manual or from the church.)

These men are wolves on the prowl for your sheep. Each of these examples signifies a theological drift toward teachings that are more in line with the New Apostolic Reformation and the prosperity gospel than with the teachings of the New Testament and the gospel of Christ. Taken as a whole, they indicate an undiscerning shift, whether intentional or unintentional, toward troubling, heterodox influences in our church.

(I should note here that if this is an intentional shift, then Fourth Church’s leadership should state its new direction explicitly so congregants and members can be aware of it and, as their consciences dictate, choose to worship elsewhere.)

To be clear, I’m not a cessationist: I believe the Holy Spirit works supernaturally in the world today and that the gifts and fruit of the Spirit are available to believers today; I believe that God can and does provide miraculous, physical healing. My concerns are not with charismatic gifts and signs, but with the failure to carefully distinguish between a faithful, mature, and biblically-grounded approach on the one hand and, on the other hand, the undue and improper influence in our church of false teachers who hawk an undiscerning lust for signs, healings, and miracles that can lead unwitting people away from historical, scriptural Christianity.

I would like to see Fourth’s leadership provide explicit, specific, and public correction of false beliefs that are present within the church. Much of this can be accomplished by clearly defining what is meant and, just as importantly, what is not meant by the language we use. I also think Fourth’s leadership (both staff and elders) must play a more active role in holding accountable the leaders, including volunteer leaders, of ministries in which this dangerous influence is present (see Titus 1:11, 13b).

So, in summary: I’m very concerned about the overemphasis on Christianity as a means of improving our material lives and about the proliferation or tolerance of false beliefs and false teachers that have gone unchecked among some leaders, members, and congregants.

Finally, on a deeply personal note, I’m aware that much of my concern for, and heightened sensitivity to, these matters comes from our family journey with Becca’s epilepsy. 

My ultimate hope for Becca is not that she will be healed of epilepsy. I wholeheartedly believe that God can heal her epilepsy in this life, and I plead with him in faith every day to do so; I am confident he will heal her fully, in the next life if not in this one. But I do not place my hope or my comfort in her healing or her breakthrough or her victory over epilepsy. Christ has made it possible for her to have life and have it abundantly, even while having seizures.

Any expectation of a coming breakthrough in Becca’s health is thin and watery gruel compared to the bountiful feast of the gospel — the sure and certain promise that God is near her in her suffering, that God has through Christ made satisfaction for her sins and will one day make her whole, that he is working even in this disability for his glory and for her good, and that she will look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living even if she has epileptic fits until the day God calls her home, where she will behold at last her savior’s face. This is the glorious hope of the gospel, the good news that a hurting and broken world needs to hear.

So I plead with you: Make sure that this gospel, and this gospel alone, is proclaimed loudly, clearly, and unapologetically at Fourth Church. Do not let the treasure of the gospel lay beside the trinkets and baubles of lifestyle improvement and vague promises of coming breakthrough. Do not allow the clear, cool water of the Christian gospel to be diluted with the pond scum — not even a drop! — of the prosperity gospel, the Word of Faith movement, or the New Apostolic Reformation. Do not allow snake-oil salesmen to peddle their quackery within our walls. Do not yoke the gospel message to the dead weight of expectations that God has promised us personal lifestyle improvements. Preach Christ and him crucified — not so that we might get a promotion, but so we might be forgiven of our sins and reconciled to God.

Underlying all of this, I suppose, is a plea for more robust oversight of the church’s theology, preaching, and practice. In 2012, after the Fourth Church members voted to leave our denomination, I sent this appeal to the elder board:

I can’t encourage you strongly enough to continue looking into options of external accountability and authority for Fourth Church, whether that’s in the form of a network or organization, or a denomination that is more compatible with our mission and personality, or simply a small group of trusted leaders and pastors who audit and regularly report on the church’s theology, preaching, and practice. Please, please, please look for a responsible way of answering to someone outside of our walls.

I repeat this plea today: Please, please, please find responsible, faithful, and proven accountability that can ensure Fourth Church does not stray from the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 

I’m hoping that this email is received as a loving corrective that motivates careful introspection, increased oversight from the elder board, and a decisive, noticeable shift in some of the church’s practices. 

Becca and I hope to meet in person to discuss these matters and hear your response.

In Christ,


Comfort & Security in Times of Suffering

“Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?”

Amos 3:6

This isn’t a very popular sentiment. I know a lot of you will disagree with it; many of you will find it offensive. But it’s a great comfort to me. Not only is it a great comfort, but I believe it’s the only solid ground to stand on during these anxious times. If you’re looking for those things — comfort and a firm place to plant your feet — then I recommend resting in the providence of God.

When Becca was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2017, our world was rocked. In many, many ways we’re still struggling to get our feet back under us. I’m a reader, so the first thing I did was turn to books about suffering in an attempt to wrap my head around what was happening to us and why; I never expected my bookshelf to have a whole section devoted to suffering. The books that gave me the most comfort were ironically, unexpectedly, the ones that insisted that suffering is part of God’s good purposes, that he wills it for his own glory and for our ultimate good — even though we may not understand it or like it.

I’m not saying it’s easy to believe these things. At first, the idea that God might be responsible for suffering (for Becca’s epilepsy or the coronavirus or anything else) was repulsive to me. But as I kept pressing in, I became convinced that this is the plain testimony of the Bible. (Kevin DeYoung has an excellent post summarizing this.) Once I saw in the Bible that God exercises his sovereignty for the good of his people, even in painful ways, I couldn’t un-see it. But I still didn’t find it comforting.

The comfort comes when I consider the alternatives. I would rather rest in the arms of a God who loves me and who has promised to work all things for my good, even if I can’t understand how this particular thing is truly for my good, than turn myself loose into a world where God is either too impotent or uncaring to do anything about the suffering he didn’t intend. If this is only of the devil, or merely random and meaningless, or simply the way of the world — none of these can give me more comfort than the truth that there’s a Father in heaven who loves me, is watching over for me, intends all things for my good, has promised to be near to me in my suffering, and has reconciled me to himself through Christ so I will one day enjoy him forever.

And the thing is, I can see it. I don’t need to imagine ways that God might eventually use Becca’s epilepsy for her good — I can see many of the ways he’s already using it even now. Her faith and character are stronger. Her testimony is beautiful. Our family is being refined and improved. Our children will be better men and husbands and fathers than they would be without this. And while I may not be able to identify ways, yet, that he’s using coronavirus for good, I absolutely trust that he’s doing something in and through it that couldn’t be done any other way; and if it could be done in a better way, I trust that he’d do it that way instead.

None of this is to say that I can wrap my head around all the ins and outs of the dilemma. How can God be providentially sovereign over suffering without himself being responsible for sin? I don’t know, exactly. How do we balance God’s providence with free will? I’m not sure I can adequately answer that question. I honestly don’t like all the implications of this; if it were up to me, I’d often choose differently — but if it were up to me, I’d’ve made a wreck of the whole thing a long time ago; I can hardly manage a family of four, much less a whole universe; and I certainly wouldn’t have given my wife a disability, which means we would’ve missed out on the blessings and growth that have come from our suffering together.

So, yes, there is comfort and security here. If you do not yet know the love and care of the one true God, consider this your invitation: Repent of your sins and turn to Christ. He died to save sinners like you and like me. And, having done so, he blesses us with the assurance that he is caring for us and that all things work together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose.

Why My Boys Believe in Santa Claus

My favorite thing about Christmas is the waiting. It wasn’t always that way: When I was a kid, my favorite thing was opening my presents. (We didn’t do Santa, so the presents came from mom and dad.) As I grow older, though, I could sit with the waiting for what feels like forever—because I know for a certainty that the waiting will pay off. The seasonal anticipation builds to a climax that happened in history more than 2,000 years ago. Continue reading “Why My Boys Believe in Santa Claus”

I need Christmas more than ever before

We’re about three weeks from Christmas, and we haven’t put up any decorations. No garland, no lights (inside or out), no tree, no angels, no stockings. Our house looks about as festive as it did around Labor Day, which is to say that it looks exactly how it has looked on any given day since we took down last year’s decorations. Continue reading “I need Christmas more than ever before”

Spurgeon: Rejoice in creation (old and new)

This is a guest post by the Prince of Preachers, C.H. Spurgeon. I would say it’s my favorite excerpt from his sermons, but that’s not entirely accurate, as it’s the only Spurgeon excerpt I’ve ever read. Still, I can’t imagine finding one I like more than this.


I must confess that I think it a most right and excellent thing that you and I should rejoice in the natural creation of God. I do not think that any man is altogether beyond hope who can take delight in the nightly heavens as he watches the stars, and feel joy as he treads the meadows all bedecked with kingcups and daisies. He is not lost to better things who, on the waves, rejoices in the creeping things innumerable drawn up from the vasty deep, or who, in the woods, is charmed with the sweet carols of the feathered minstrels.

Continue reading “Spurgeon: Rejoice in creation (old and new)”