Tony Campolo Lecture at RTS, part 2.

The church in transition from sect to Ecclesia


[Tony Campolo is currently Lecturing at RTS.  These are my own notes from his lectures.  I haven’t been able to type fast enough to quote him directly, but I think I have captured the sense of his lecture and the majority of his comments.]


We have been using the categories of “sect” and “ecclesia” as we talk about the transition within the church.


What is a sect, what is ecclesia?


A sectarian movement is characterized by the fact that the members are all converts.  They all have an excitement and zeal that people raised in the religion don’t have.


Converts can’t understand why people who grew up in the church don’ t have the same kind of excitement or zeal that they do.


Most of the people in megachurches haven’t been taken from other churches, they’ve been converted, and as a result they’re full of energy.


If you go to a church where people have grown up in the church, it’s hard to get them to evangelize, to get them out there.  New converts have an excitement, a zeal, that others don’t have.


Sects have evangelistic zeal, ecclesiastical organizations have a staid mentality.


Within a sectarian movement, things are very spontaneous.  Reformed Presbyterian churches have an order of worship, and if HS was going to move, He would have to be cleared through 3 committees.  Now, there needs to be both.  I’m no fan of the new worship movement.  But young people love it.


We have voluntary chapel at our school, you know who shows up – the God Squad.  They’re upset that the rest of the school isn’t as holy as they do.


Our new chapel has a new pastor, and he changed the worship style.  I hate the new worship.  The only difference between a machine gun and modern worship is that a machine gun only has 100 rounds. 


“I will sing of His love forever” – they mean it.


Worship music will change what you’re doing.  At my school, 1200 out of 1700 kids show up to worship during the week.  They’ve all got their hands up and tears streaming down their face, loving Jesus.  God is in the middle of it.


These kids love the spontaneous, Pentecostal style worship.  When they graduate, they are asked to fill out a form and talk about what they like and don’t.  Many of the graduates actually come to faith in their worship service.  Unfortunately, its not because they have this great sociology professor.  [Laughter].  It’s because of the worship, which is exhilarating.


I go to a black church.  I joined a white church but all the white people moved away, and all the black people moved in, so now it’s a black church.  In the middle of worship, they might stop the worship service and just stop everything and wait until the Spirit shows up.


In ecclesiastical churches, you have a theology of prayer, but you don’t pray in the Spirit.  Of course, Pentecostals get crazy half the time.  I heard that a woman stood up and said, “Thus sayeth the Lord, just as Moses led the animals onto the ark, so I will lead my people.”


10 minutes later, she stood up and said, “The Lord says, ‘it wasn’t Moses, it was Noah.”


Pentecostals are growing – they will be the most dominant denomination in the US and in the world before too long.  But I love Pentecostal people.  Before you speak at their seminaries, they pray.  They pray long.  They go on and on.  Which is good, because I need a lot of prayer.  They pray so long they get tired, and they begin to lean.  So you get 11 guys leaning on your head.  And then this one guy starts to pray for somebody else, and that’s dirty pool, because he’s leaning on my head.


Sectarian spirituality is fluid, it’s spontaneous… you gotta be ready for it.  There’s room for the old stuff too, though.  Jesus said that the Kingdom of heaven … old stuff, new stuff.


If there isn’t room for the old stuff, the old theology, the old hymns, it’s not the Kingdom of God.  But there is this tendency.


The Methodist movement was a sectarian movement in its early days, with John Wesley.  Now, it has become ecclesiastical.  It looks like the very Episcopalianism that it originally rebelled against.


The next difference is that the sect leader is always charismatic – not meaning tongues, but meaning one who speaks with authority, like Jesus spoke with authority.  The Pharisees had all the right training and authority, and Jesus comes along.  And the Pharisees want to know where he got his credentials.


You know that Paul would never get into a Reformed Seminary.  Can you imagine his testimony?  “I was walking down the road and I saw a bright light.  But none of my companions saw it.  But now there’s two of me: Saul and Paul.  But they don’t get along!  They hate one another!  Wretched man that I am!”


The black church that I went to didn’t care a lick about a degree.  The black pastor I had told me that “by the time seminary is done with you, you won’t be able to preach the fuzz off of a peach!”  Young people come in alive and excited about Jesus, and when they leave, all they care about is education and credentials.  Gotta watch out for that.  You know if you’re gonna preach already – if you have the gift.  I taught one year, and I was surrounded by kids who wanted to be pastors, and I knew they were going to go out and kill churches.  Because they didn’t have the charisma.  You have to electrify the audience, to turn them on, and that’s what they look for in the black churches.  Do you have that spiritual dynamic.  Do you have the gift?  Quite different from someone who has academic credentials, and that’s what makes him a pastor.


Another thing:  The social class that tends to attract sects.  Sectarian spirituality is attractive to those who are lowest in the socio-economic class.  It is non-formalized.  Something like the RPC is going to grow from people who are disgusted by people who are sick of liberalism.  Who want sound Biblical teaching.  But you’re not going to attract social rejects – Pentecostal churches are going to attract the pimps, the hookers, and the druggies.  People who have been rejected by the world, and in turn, reject the world that has rejected them.  They want to be a part of something that rejects the world.  You’re churches [here from RTS] attract people who don’t want a world-rejecting church.  They want to have a better marriage, they want to get along with people, they want to get ahead.  Sectarian groups reject the world, and see it as an evil place.  Being a Christian requires that you live a separated life.  Reformed theology is about transforming the world.  The task of the church is to be agents of change to change the world.  But Pentecostals are threatened by worldliness,,. they want to reject it.


Evangelicalism has become mainstream.  As a kid, we rejected the world.  We didn’t drink or dance, and guys, if you can stand in front of a woman and move like that, and not get turned on, you’re not spiritual, you’re dead.  [Laughter].  So as a kid we would never have a dance, we’d have hayrides.  [Laughter]


The motif, when I was growing up, said, that society is a sinking ship.  The church is a lifeboat.  The church’s task is to get as many off the ship and onto the lifeboat as possible.  The idea was that society is going down the tubes… get as many as possible into the boat.


The mindset of the Reformers is that God loves the ship and the lifeboat, and God wants to save the ship, and the culture and the system.  The Reformed mindset doesn’t buy into the social mindset that we can make the world a perfect place.  WWII taught us that.  But we are caught up in a matrix of evil, and we are not going to create a perfect world.  The Titanic was unsinkable.  The First World War was the “Last War,” but we now know that we are not people with a few flaws that can be overcome.  We are dead people who need a radical miracle… we need to be transformed.  But the reality is that we can impact society.  Many white people think things are getting worse and worse, but black people don’t want to go back 75 years.  There is progress.  Some things are worse, better.  Can you create a utopia?  Sure you can. 


Every war has a decisive war, and after that war, you know that you’re going to win or lose.  Gettysburg.  Waterloo.  Normandy.  Rommell knew that if the Allies have a beachhead in Normandy, they could get more troops in Europe, and Germany would lose.  If they could put them back in the water, they would win.  Rommell joined the movement to assassinate Hitler, because he knew that Hitler would never give up, and Rommell didn’t want to see all of Germany, all of Europe, be destroyed.


Now, more people died after D-Day than before.  More death followed the decisive victory.


That’s Calvary.  On Friday, it looked like evil won.  But Jesus staged a coup, and then we knew that all the powers raised against Jesus, at their strongest, are not stronger than Jesus at His weakest.


Billy Graham said, “I have read the New Testament and I know how it ends: we win.” 


Between D-Day and V-Day – the crucifixion and the trumpets sounding, there will be death and destruction, but we know we’re going to win.


If you told the French Resistance that they were fools, they would have said, “Look, across the Channel, there is a huge force, and someday it will come to help us.  So we struggle, and we will win.:


Here’s the good news: one day the trumpet will sound, and there is a huge invasion force in heaven that is going to come and join us, and we… will… win!  [Applause]  We are not going to lose.


The truth is that Jesus is coming back to join us.  We are moving forward to Christ’s V-Day.  We are saying the world is there, and we are called to transform society.  That is what makes the Reformed tradition distinctive.  We don’t think we can create the kingdom without a second coming, but we know that we can do a lot.


Third thing:  The sect has a different theology, a ‘religio-magic religion.”  There are a lot of miracles in the sect.  In the typical Presbyterian church, you’d be embarrassed by it.  I was lecturing at this small school, and this woman came forward with a crippled child, and she said, “God told me to come.”  (The least God could have done would be to tell me she was coming!)  “God told me that you would pray over my boy, and he’ll be healed.”  A young man came to me and said, “let me help.”  So the young man said, “If you don’t believe that this boy can be healed, please leave, because even Jesus couldn’t do miracles when the people didn’t believe.”  So they all left, but for 5 Pentecostals.  We got some oil, and we turn to the book of James and read it like it’s a cookbook.  And I gave this phony prayer, like, “If it be your will…” and all of a sudden, I felt the Holy Spirit, and it was awesome.  And I have to tell you, people, I fully expected the child to be healed. 


3 years later, the woman came back to me.  She was there with the boy.  And he was healed.  “What happened?”  “Every morning, the boys legs were healed a little bit more every morning.”  A Reformed friend said, that doesn’t fit into my theology.  “Maybe God is bigger than your theological categories.”  Somehow we have to bring together the best of it all, because I’m sick of people putting God in a theology.


Is it inevitable?  Does every sect turn into ecclesia?  There is an increasing cycle of charisma filling the ecclesiastical organization, and a new sect starting, and the new sect turns into an ecclesiastical organization.  But this doesn’t have to happen.  If you are not constantly bringing in new converts, your church will turn into an ecclestic organization.  You need new converts to bring fresh vision, new energy into the church.


A guy told a story to me… He said, “I was in Australia and a guy asked me, ‘if you were to die tonight, where would you spend eternity?’ “ That’s how he became a Christian,  And two guys came to faith like that.  And after 7 years, this guy finally found out that 2 people came to faith.  [Long story short] turns out that thousands of people had been impacted by John Childs – they didn’t find out until Campolo went on a radio show.


On Waikiki beach, a crazy guy was shouting and holding his Bible.  He’s a fanatic.  He’s being a fool, making a fool out of himself.  An hour later, this crazy guy was praying with two other guys, these two businessmen, and they’re asking Christ into their hearts.  My wife asked, “How many people have you led to Christ today?”


We need an aspect of sectarian theology.  We need all the forms of Godliness that are crazy, that are out there, and are willing to be fools for Christ.


[He offered a Q&A afterwards.  These notes will probably be only useful to those who attended]


In the stillness of the morning, I ask the spirit for nothing.  I just sit there with him. 


How do you introduce the “Sect” without destroying the people?

1.  People want the Spirit and the life He gives.

2.  Don’t be critical of those who aren’t into it.

3.  Take the ones who want to meet God and teach them – they’ll teach everyone else

4.  Get your people to the third world at least once a year.




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…I understand why people become Pentecostals. Why rock music is ridiculously loud.

Being “cool” is a virtue among our kids, but “cool” means unaffected. They want to be unmoved.

A Prophet: [#2] Offers an alternative view. It is easy to condemn, but a prophet has a critique, and weeps, and gives hope with a vision and a dream of another reality.

Democratic Capitalism will end. The Kingdoms of this world will end. But the Kingdom of our God will never end… He shall reign forever and ever!

The voice of Paul comes out and says, “Present yourself to God as a living sacrifice!”

How much do we stand against what is really killing us? Prosperity Christianity makes Jesus a means of getting more stuff.

I knew a young man who was living in poverty, in community with other Christians, on purpose. The father came into my office and said, “Look what you’ve done to my boy! I don’t mind being a Christian up to a point…”

And the son said, “Dad, do you think that the point might be the cross?”

I’m glad I went to seminary, because seminary taught me that I don’t need to really believe what the Bible says. Before I went to seminary, I thought that when Jesus said, “Sell all you have and give to the poor,” He meant that. Seminary taught me the right answers… that Jesus meant “It’s OK to have money, as long as it doesn’t control you.”


There’s nothing wrong with making a million dollars. There’s something wrong with keeping it.

A BMW is more than an automobile… can you imagine Jesus saying, I know that people are starving in Haiti and dying of AIDS and hopelessly uneducated, but go ahead and buy an $80,000 status symbol to make yourself look better.

You must be counter cultural why did Mother Theresa have more authority than the Pope? He was surrounded by billions of dollars worth of stuff. She gave up everything and lived in Calcutta.

YES! Being a Christian means asking ourselves difficult questions! Are you ready to deal with that.

[TC here told a story of a death row lawyer, but I didn’t get enough to give you good notes.]

I knew a young man who went to Haiti, and he saw the poverty and the need, and he declared, “I’m going to be a doctor, and I’m going to come back here and help people.” Well, he was half right. I ran into him years later on the streets of New York City, and do you know what he did? He sold out. He did cosmetic surgery – and not reconstructing mangled people. He’s helping people buy into a culture that objectifies women’s bodies: breast enhancement. I told this young man, “Stop talking. You’re making me sick, because you sold out.”

And then there’s this other group of people

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Dr. Anthony Campolo is a guest speaker at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, for what is known as the “Kistemaker Lecture Series.”  I am aware of the controversy that seems to surround Dr. Campolo, and I don’t really know what to make of it.  More importantly, I don’t really care.  He’s not my Pastor and he’s not even in my denomination, so I intent on listening and critiquing what I hear, not what everyone else hears.
With that in mind, I intend on attending the entire 4 part lecture series, and offering my notes here.  Bear in mind that these are his words, filtered through my mind and my hand onto paper, then again from my paper, back into my mind, and into the keyboard.  None of what follows is a direct quote, but ” ” indicates that I’m pretty close.  Through my notes I have tried to convey the sense of what Dr. Campolo has put forth, but don’t quote Tony Campolo off of this, it has not been approved by Dr. Campolo and would be fairly unfair to him, lest I put words in the man’s mouth..  I’ll offer my own thoughts after I’ve put all my notes in here.  Anything I add will be in [brackets].
[Steve Brown introduced Dr. Campolo], saying that Tony Campolo (TC) lectures everywhere and to all sorts of people.  “We don’t agree on much except Jesus.”  SB goes on to say that TC is controversial, but that he (SB) doesn’t know anyone more faithful to Jesus, or anyone who embraces his calling more than TC does.
FF said that history is a succession of societies living out great ideas, and that we are at the end of history, because we have found the model idea, the idea around which all future societies will be organized: DEMOCRATIC CAPITALISM.  (TC notes, “That’s it?”)  The last 2 challenges to Democratic Capitalism (facism and communism) collapsed.  3rd world nations want to enter into it.  China is slowly getting there. 
Why is this?  Why has this occured?  Has democratic capitalism been ordained by God as the final, greatest structure of society?  The reason it’s so popular and effective is because it is the most efficent at creating consumer goods at the lowest possible price.
We invented a system that makes…”stuff.”  Eastern Europe didn’t have as much stuff as the West, so the West won.  The wall fell for the sake of stuff.  We are so efficent at making stuff, when we have everything we need.  And if you are sitting here [at RTS], trust me, you have everything you need.  Your problem at the holidays will not be a problem of finding money to buy gifts… it will be how to buy stuff for people who have everything already?  You’re not courageous enough to just say, ‘That’s it, family, no gifts this year!’ [Laughter].  It takes a lot of energy to get people stuff they don’t need.
Why are our houses so big?  Look at the size of houses being built here in Orlando.  Is it because our families are bigger?  Our families are actually smaller these days.  We’re working longer hours, outside the home, with two incomes to buy stuff we don’t need.
[He commented here with high praise for his wife, about how she raised their children, and about how being a stay-at-home-mom is one of the most important and difficult jobs one could have.]
… Raising children is the ultimate task, but we’re neglecting it, having to earn more and more $ to buy more and more stuff.
The average married couple talks for 11 minutes every day.  The average father talks to his children 4 minutes per day, and we’re exhausted, trying to buy all the stuff we don’t really need.  We don’t have time for marriage or family… how do they get us to exhaust ourselves?  We don’t even know how to stop working when we go on vacation.
We are marketing genuises.  Marketing is one of the most popular majors at the University of Central Florida.  We can get people to buy stuff they don’t need in a heartbeat.  But we market by faith, not by product.  We sell the context: love for one another.  Faith.  Hope.  But in the end, all you have purchased is a can of beer.  What is the one thing that has brought perfect harmony to the whole world?  Black and white, Catholic and Protestant, all together?  Coca-Cola.  You remember the ad.  It was just like Pentacost – everyone singing together, singing the same song.
But Jesus said you can’t have it both ways: God and Mammon.
Your biggest problem, as young pastors, going out to teach and lead, is not going to be secular humanism… it’s going to be consumerism.  We are willing to neglect God and His Kingdom for stuff we don’t actually need.
A modern prophet, if we had a new one, would see what we’re facing and he would:
[1] weep.  Prophets weep before they shout.  A lot of us think that prophets are here to shout but they’re not.  They’re here to weep first.  Jeremiah was the weeping prophet.  Amos.  Isaiah.  Jesus wept over Jerusalem.  We should weep because we have all been duped into the consumerism, and just like the prophet, we know that as our people go into captivity, we go into captivity as well.  So we weep.
Sin isn’t what’s going to kill us, a lack of passion will kill us.
I was in an elevator the other day, with a young man with pants hanging down way too low.  When we got to the bottom, the door didn’t open.  I started banging on the door, and hollering, “the elevator’s stuck! Let us out!”  Well, it was one of those elevators with two doors, and I was looking at the wrong door.  It had opened up behind us.  And that kid just stood there, and so I grabbed him and shook him and said, “Laugh already!  That’s funny stuff!”  But young people don’t have any passion today. 

Many of you are going to be youth pastors as you’re in seminary.  The big problem isn’t that your kids are bad kids, they’re not sinning… they’re dead.  They don’t have any life in them, they don’t have any passion.  I understand why people become pentacostals, why Rock music is ridiculously loud . . .
[to be continued]
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Here in Jesustown, we love Jesus so much, we dedicated a theme park to him.
And just so unbelievers know which cars will be all over the road at the rapture, many fine brothers and sisters pepper their cars with bumper stickers and the like. But I’ve been pondering the preponderance of stickers for Z-radio, a local radio station.

Ok, I like to hear good music just like anyone. But why do many Christians slap the ol’ Z sticker on their ride? Z-radio, to their credit, does not claim to be a “Christian radio station.” They do play many Christian musicians, and lots of songs about God. They talk about God on the air. They support causes that Christians support. But despite all that (which we Jesustownians recognize as the 3 Marks of a Healthy Christian Radio Station) they are self-refferentially “Positive Hits.”

Why wouldn’t they call themselves “Positive” but not “Christian?” And why would Christians refuse to take the Z at their word, and refer to them as “Christian” after all? Why would they play Christian music but advertise that they’re “safe for the little ears?” I think that at some point, the folks over at Z radio realized something that many Christians don’t:

Christianity is not “safe for the little ears”, and Jesus doesn’t make us positive. Anything that claims to be safe and positive may be useful, but it is not rightly considered “Christian.”

Our view of Jesus, particularly in the west, particularly in America, and particularly in Jesustowns all over America, Christians have a sanitized view of Scripture, of Jesus, and of the manner in which we are to live our faith.

And don’t think I get a free pass, either, because I’m sure that I’ve got it all in a small box of my own construction.

But I will say this: our faith is a messy place. Have you ever actually practiced Christianity? It’s filled with sin, repentance, tears, hatred, dashed hopes, and broken dreams. It’s also filled with victory, righteousness, restoration, joy, love, and consumation (a couple of kinds, actually!)

That negative Bible

The Bible is very positive about many things – our hope, the value of children, God’s covenant love for His people. But the Bible is also very negative. The Bible has a very negative view of sin, of man’s situation outside of Christ, and the end of the world for non-believers. In fact, if you’re not a Christian, the Bible is really, really awful. But not just for nonChristians. The Bible is filled with sorrow and mourning, with torn garments, ashes on the head, dying children, and good AND bad people being killed by having rocks thrown at their body… which, if you’ve never thought about it, is a pretty horrible way to die. Would the book of Lamentations have any place whatsoever on Z-Radio? And if all 66 books don’t fit, are we really ready to consider it “Christian?”

Dirty Words from God

“Safe for the little ears?” Look, I appreciate the idea that you don’t want to expose your kids to what you might hear on certain radio stations. I wouldn’t want to, either. But in all honesty, folks… the Bible is not safe for the little ears. The Bible is actually contains a book of erotic poetry: do you really want to tell the “little ears” what Song of Solomon 5:4-5 is all about?

My beloved put his hand to the latch, and my heart was thrilled within me. 5 I arose to open to my beloved, and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with liquid myrrh, on the handles of the bolt.

That’s hot.  But it’s not safe for little ears.  Two teenagers passing notes like that would land their butts in the principal’s office at any Christian school.  Or in a public school, hung on the bullitin board.  It’s good poetry.

Anyway, you may know that Canticles is just one example.  I could go on, but here’s a great link on Biblical language: whores, poop, murder, and women being eaten by dogs, digested, and deficated out all over the desert. 

So you get the idea.

Christians, do yourself a favor.  Don’t act like Z radio is Christian radio.  It’s not.  Go ahead and listen to it, but don’t give it any more sway than you do to any other radio station.  Embrace the messiness of the Bible, the reality of the negative side of life, and break out of the sanitized faith that you’ve become enslaved to.  It’s nice, but it’s not Jesus Christ.  And for heaven’s sake, stop giving money to a radio station unless it’s broadcasting in the third world.