The Hensley Plan

On my 30th birthday (a year and a half ago) I made a committed to pursue the dreams and talents that I have in a more focused way during the next 30 years of my life.

Since I was a kid I have wanted to teach and to write. I didn’t want to write books for the sake of books or write for the sake of proving the wealth of my intelligence. I wanted to write because I wanted to be like Thomas Paine. I want to write the pamphlet, or paper, that starts a revolution.

Even to this day it’s often on my mind. I have a stack of 30 notepads in my desk filled with ideas, stories, and musings birthed in times of prayer and studying the word. I pray, fast, seek God’s heart because I love Him, but with the added request that He use me as an instrument to prophecy His heart to this generation.

Stack of journals and notebooks

When I turned 30 I had some time to reflect. In reflection I realized that while I was putting forth the effort in dreaming, praying, and some study about being a teacher/ writer. I needed to implement some practical disciplines in order to make it happen. I was reminded of Thomas Jefferson and Jonathan Edwards’ plans. Jefferson would spend 12 hours a day studying and writing. He broke down each hour of the day by subject he would study, and the subjects were vast in genre. Edwards very similar. So I came up with a plan that I knew would take a few years to get going, but if I kept aiming for it I figured I could build the discipline by the time I was 35. Here is that plan:

1. Read a Book a week.

2. Write 3,000 words a day. (on anything. It can be journaling. But it has to be in a proper writing format.)

3. Write a book a year.

I share this for 2 reasons, both are selfish.

First reason, I know the more I talk about this online the more folks ask me about it, therefore the more I’m challenged to stay the course.

Second reason, I want to challenge other writers/ teachers/ leaders to take on the challenge. Not just because it’s a great discipline, but like the first, the more folks who are doing it and talking about it the less I am let off the hook.

At 31 years old I have 4 more years to nail this down. I’m probably at a book every 2 weeks and 3,000 every 3 days. While I have written an outline for a book, I have little hope of it being finished this year. The point isn’t to be perfect at it, the point is to aim for it. If this is always the aim, and I don’t quit after failing to do it the first year, I have a chance at living up to it.

So take the Hensley Challenge and let me know about it, so we can push each other to be excellent!

My Top 5 Favorite Albums right now

Since I was a kid, music has been important to me. All through my adolescence I was exposed to a very broad musical buffet. My mom saw my love for music and would take me to symphonies, musicals, jazz concerts, rock concerts. Where ever music, creativity and poetry were being expressed. I played in many different genres of music from Marching band and jazz band, to hardcore/ metal bands to Hip Hop groups. (yes hip hop).

My taste in music seems to be a very eclectic evolution. To say that any one album is my favorite of all time would be dishonest. What I liked to listen to a decade ago is different then what I enjoy now. What I enjoy in a decade from now will be different then what I find delight in now. However what wont change is my heart. I want a heart that’s alive and not dulled by the music I enjoy.

With that said, here are some albums that for the last couple of years seem to end up in every playlist I make:

Alexi Murdoch “Truth Without Consequence”


Alexi Murdoch “Truth Without Consequence”

For years I was a huge fan of Nick Drake and his folky stylings. The one sad thing about Nick Drake, is he was so sad. I used to have him on vinyl, and I swear every listen made it rain outside. Murdoch in style is incredibly reminiscent of Drake, but with lyrics that come from a heart that’s alive. The first track “All Of My Days” is a track I play for my wife. It’s one of those sweet tracks that if I had heard it years ago before I got married, it would have been the song we danced to at our reception.

Truth Without Consequences” has a very mellow, classic folk sound, but with a modern rock vibe subtly in the peripheral. I often find this album soothing in the background as I read on my day off, or when I take long drives through the New York country side. It’s an album that I

seem to fall more in love with every listen.



Son Lux “We Are Rising”

I have always been a fan of the surrealists. As dark as many of them are, as a young junior high student I was always drawn to the works of Salvador Dali. His famous “The Persistence of Memory” encompassed my imagination for days after I first saw it. The one man band of Son Lux, Ryan Lott, adds much of the same stimulation to my imagination. If he was a painter, he’d be a surrealist. The creative yet chaotic sounds feel very dream like yet cognizant with deep meaning at the same time.

Perhaps some of the chaotic elements, that I love, of this album can be attributed to how it was made. Ryan entered into a NPR radio contest to see who could make an entire album in one month. Lott submitted this album and won.

Songs like “All The Right Things” and “Flickers” carry the mainstream electronica sound I love, while songs like “claws”and “leave the riches” carry the forlorn, dub-step-ish, dreamland world that secure Lott as a surrealist in my opinion. Songs like “flowers” and “chase” escort you into Lott’s dream world of creative complexity. It’s here that we encounter his message. Where you don’t just hear his heart you feel it. To orchestrate the complexity of this album over the course of a month is a feat I’ve never heard of. These aren’t sloppy written songs, but powerful poetry. Download it. Even if you don’t love obscurity, its worth the listen.


Future of Forestry “Young Man Follow”

A few months ago I found myself standing at the gates of the White House in Washington DC at 2am in the morning. My connection flight had been cancelled and through a series of events I was stranded in DC for 24 hours. Those 24 hours meant I strolled our nation’s capitol praying for our nation listening to the album on repeat. I was actually a little happy to be stuck there, because I had actually wanted to spend some time praying there. However it was during that time I fell in love with this album.

Slowly, these guys have been climbing in to my all time favorite band category for about 4 years now. If we still listened to cassette tapes, the travelers album series would have been totally worn out with as much play time as I have given it. “Young Man Follow” was very similar to those 3 albums, but more grown up. I felt like this was the album the album were FOF went from cool hipster indie band, to legit musical/ song writing contender among the greatest of bands out there.

Named after a poem written by C.S. Lewis by the same name, Future of Forestry carries a Lewis-esque writing style in this album. The songs are filled with depth and whimsy, great storytelling with an ethos that is felt more than even understood at first.

This album (and the next two) you should stop everything you are doing and download it now.


Jon Foreman “Fall”

There isn’t a song writer on the planet that I presently love more than Foreman. Sure I get that I can’t say that with out saying names like Dylan, Duritz, Coburn, Springsteen, Young, etc. Oh wait actually I can, because it’s my list. What pushes it over the edge for me is that Foreman sings from a heart in love with Jesus.

This album series (he also has spring, summer, and winter) is a side project to Foreman’s normal claim to fame: The front man of the band Switchfoot.

Over and over I have listened to the song “equally skilled” talking about our brokenness in humanity, and God’s ability to love us and transform us in the midst of our weakness. Every song on this short album is more of a lyrical experience that then a song. The music is a nice deviation from the pop rock prowess of Switchfoot. It has a Jon with his guitar and a few friends playing a living room show, sort of feel.

Every song is genius. I have spent an entire 8 hour work day in my office with these 6 songs on repeat and never gotten tired of them. This album, but really the whole “seasons” series is a must own.


Pas Neos “Who Do You Say That I Am”

This album. Pause. I love this album. Some folks could accuse me of being biased, being that these two are some of my best and closest friends. Guys I hang with, play fantasy football against, minister and travel with, I even had them play behind me at a conference while I preached once. I have relationship with these guys it’s true, even still I love this album more than any others.

I remember the first time I heard U2’s “Joshua Tree” album in Junior High School. I remember what I was doing, where I was, and who I was with as we listened to the whole album all the way through in wonder through my friend’s brand new CD player. When I heard this album, I had the very same feeling. I thought I’d put it on and listen while working in my office. I froze. I was stunned by the entire album. From beginning to end this album was unbelievable. I knew I wasn’t just listening to a good album, but one of the best I had ever heard.

Bobby is a song writing genius, who much to his chagrin, I would easily pit against any of the greats. Every song has both biblical and theological depth, with an overwhelming sense of prophetic unction. (especially the song “Pharisees”) It’s obvious that each song is not merely crafted from his heart, but from the heart of Christ. The song “Myrrh” brings tears to my eyes often as we hear Jesus in the garden right before going to the cross. Even the ordering of the songs is a journey through the Gospels. one of those albums where you actually want to listen from start to finish to get the full effect of the message and lyrical flow.

The last song Ascension, I actually put on repeat sometimes. I close my eyes and think of the paradox of emotions the disciples felt on that day. Excited to see Him ascend, terrified that he’s gone, bewildered because they thought He was going to begin a military campaign against Rome, but feeling the words that Bobby belts out at the same time. The same words that give us hope today: “Hold on, Don’t lose hope, because the better days are before you now”

The musical orchestration that Caleb devises here is unreal. Rock electronia, with some dub step-ish tones, with some of the surreal melodic tones that I love. If Caleb was alive 200 years ago, he would have been a famous composer. While he doesn’t do it alone, him and Bobby are a team, his musical orchestration is truly genius. I love Ryan Lott of Son Lux, but I’d pit Caleb against his genius any day. As with Bobby, the difference is that these songs, sounds, composition come from a heart that has touched Heaven. When you submit yourself to the greatest composer of all time, you get melodies and sounds that are unreal.

What may have possibly pushed this album over the top into epic greatness is the fact that Eric Owyoung, the front man of Future of Forestry, produced this album and was apart of it. Only I think one day, on the all time list, Pas Neos will one day surpass the brilliance of FOF. Owyoung’s subtle fingerprint can be felt from time to time.

As with the last two, this album especially, you should stop reading, open up iTunes or Amazon and give this album a download. You will waste $10 on all kinds of things this week, spend it on an album that will possibly change your life. ;)

The Cure For “Post Christianity”

Below new research by the Barna group on the continued decline of Christianity in America. I was shocked and sobered to find that of the 100 cities listed every major area in New York ( save Binghampton) is in the top 21. My current city, Rochester New York, being at 21.

While I’m not that surprised as every church in my region seems to be in decline, it has strengthened my resolve to hold the line on the gospel.

Many respond to stats like this, and wonder what the church has to do to become relevant again. They lament at old church models, and point to new cooler ones as the answer to the question of our lost relevance. I want to assure you, that asking that question is in fact why we are where we are.

Jesus, the firstborn from the dead, who spoke creation into existence and formed Adam with his bare hands, who holds the church in His hands and upholds all things by the word of His power, will never lose relevance.

The church is in decline for a number of reasons, but the foremost being clear.  We as a church have worried too much about saying what people want to hear to keep them in the building, that we have forgotten to declare the needed relevance, though sometimes hard to swallow, truth of Jesus Christ and His Gospel. The Gospel is offensive to the world. The Gospel is like putting iodine on an open wound. It hurts and stings like crazy, but it kills the infection and seals the wound for rapid healing.

For me as a pastor of a church is western New York, this only strengthens my resolve. We need to preach Christ! We need to live Christ! We need to declare Him in his present love and in His future return. My life must represent His message of tender love and meekness He showed to beggars and prostitutes, while flashing His tremendous zeal for righteousness that He expressed in the temple to the money changers. My life must represent the understanding and patience He showed to Nicodemus, and the willingness to lose everything for the sake of love and the message of the coming kingdom.

Give me 50 pastors in Western New York to run with, that are known in Heaven for the time spent on their knees. Who tenderly, with genuine love, are unashamed to declare the truth of the Gospel without compromise. Who would rather build a legacy in the next age through prayer and fasting then books and accolades in this life. Give me those men and I promise we will see a habitation of the Holy Spirit in this region that is so tangible that the hearts of many will return back to the Lord at neck breaking speed.

As for me and my house at New Hope Fellowship, this is what we are contending for.

God give us grace to contend for a historic revival of the lost in this region. And if it’s your will to tarry, then give us the grace to contend until we die. That our lives would be wasted for your glory, because we’ve have touched your glory, and it’s all we desire.

The Call For Atheist Chaplains?

A blogger for the Huffington Pots Religious section posted this post about the need for Atheist chaplains, or Humanist chaplains as some have called it.

The author Chris Steadman writes rather boldly and confident about a subject that few understand. He calls out Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council for his comments about Atheist Chaplains being as paradoxical as “Vegetarian Carnivores”. Which I thought was a rather apt comparison.

Steadman says here: “As a humanist chaplain (for more on what exactly I do as a chaplain, check out a short piece I wrote last year), I frequently hear a version of Perkins’ argument: “[Advocates] argue that nonbelievers suffer the same fear and pain that affects every service member. But isn’t that why the military has psychologists?” (A serious question: Does he mean to imply that religious people don’t visit both chaplains and psychologists?)

The ironic thing here is that humanist psychologists would agree with Perkins’ question that Steadman seems rather snarky about. I mean, Im pretty sure Abraham Maslow and William James would say that psychology is the method of self actualization and connects us to our human power, ability, and care apart from faith.

The point is that chaplains were always intended to serve soldiers in their faith. Religion is a faith. If faith is required to believe that there is no God, then maybe they should relax and accept the logical conclusion that there is a God. :)

Obviously Im being tongue in cheek.

But we are talking about “vegetarian carnivores” here.

Article LINK:

Strange Fire…

John MacArthur is one of my favorite Bible teachers. I find his books insightful and compelling.

However he is holding a conference in October called “Strange Fire” calling out the dangers of the Charismatic movement, and it seems to be more of a personal vendetta than a helpful dialog about the activity of the Holy Spirit in our present age. From the videos, and based on his books and previous teachings on the subject, it is being heralded as a stage to blast the “Charismatic church/ movement” as heretical, a false doctrine, and a blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. He even goes on to call it a “work of Satan”. Which I personally believe is dangerous and quite a loaded and scary accusation to make at fellow believers.

(site is here:

His 3 main points:

1. The charismatic church has emphasized the third person of the trinity over the second. The Holy Spirit is meant to testify of Christ and not have attention drawn to him.

2. That the Charismatic movement has emphasized prophecy as equal to or greater than the canonized scripture.

3. That Speaking in tongues and the Holy spirit gifts were for establishing the cannon, and not for today. and can jeopardize the cannon.

As one who not only grew up in the Charismatic movement, was a leader at the International House of Prayer and served under Mike Bickle and Lou Engle, and now pastor a Charismatic church in upstate New York, I must say that most of his conjectures are more accusatory then based on fact.

Sure the Charismatic movement has it’s quirks. It has guys like John Crowder, Todd Bentley, Patricia King and others whom I pray for, consider them brothers to the extent I’m required to by scripture, but wouldn’t want to be known as “affiliated” with them. Not anymore then MacArthur would want to be known as “Affiliated” to Brian McLaren. The Charismatic movement has had strange “revivals” where interesting things have transpired that cause even this charismatic to tilt his head side ways and wonder at times. But it’s had it’s necessary breakthroughs as well.

The streams of the Charismatic river I’ve been apart of, especially IHOP, have taught me the opposite of what John claims they teach.

To MacArthur’s first point. I have only ever heard that the Holy Spirit is the witness of Christ and is important and not to be devalued because His job is to reveal Christ to our hearts. I’ve never heard a message (aside from some of the more wacky folks I mentioned) where the Holy Spirit was to be exalted higher than Jesus, or even equal to Jesus.

I believe there was a season in the last thousand years where an emphasis, or reminder of the Holy Spirit’s ministry was and is important to remember in our living, teaching, and talking about the Gospel.

To Mac Arthur’s second point. In 20 years of Charismatic Christianity, 11 years at the International House of Prayer, I never heard that prophecy was equal to or greater than scripture. In fact it was at IHOP I learned about the 5 “Solas of the reformation” and specifically MacArthur’s favorite “Sola Scriptura”.

I have watched people get rebuked tenderly for trying to hijack meetings with un-biblical prophecies. I have only ever heard that prophecy is to testify of Jesus and the person of Jesus embodied by Scripture and taught about through scripture. I’ve only ever heard that the Bible is the living, active word of God, and is to be defended and protected at all costs. On that note I can at least appreciate MacArthur’s energy to defend the word. I think he’s misguided here.

To his third point. It’s true, we are called the “charismatic” Christians. We aren’t cessasionists. Meaning we believe in the present activity of the Holy Spirit and the gifts. However I don’t believe that is a heresy, in the way he would like it to be. Nor do I see the Bible either condemning the gifts after the cannon. Nor do I see it causes them to cease after the cannon. In fact cessasionism is a hard Biblical argument to make. Which is why it’s usually made through church history and subjective experience. Also why Reformed Calvinist teachers such as Wayne Grudem, Mark Driscoll, etc are not cessastionists.

I’ll state again. I love MacArthur for his zeal for the integrity of the word. It’s needed. However, he seems to be barking up the wrong tree here and making enemies out of friends. To call Charismatics “debased”, “unbiblical” and “a work of Satan”.

Well them’s is strong Words.

Changing Our Stance On Homosexuality

This morning I watched the news feeds light up because of a few casual comments by the current Pope on not judging people who are gay. Besides the fact that I really truly am starting to like this Pontiff, I thought the reaction by people everywhere was very telling.

It’s been going on for months now. Last month we saw DOMA overturned and Exodus

Pope Francis saying: “Who am I to Judge Gay people?”

International president and founder Alan Chambers change his stance on homosexuality. Desmond Tutu coming out say God is not homophobic. The pressure is so intense on every side for the church both protestant and catholic to “change it’s stance” on homosexuality. Never before has there been such a drive by secular culture to infiltrate faith/ religion and change it’s meaning so the world can feel less judged.

The Pope’s comments from yesterday are sentiments that I echo. It is not for me or anyone to judge another person for who they are. We are all sinners. All are in need of grace. All are in need of transformation into the likeness of Christ, not the likeness of who we want to be. At the same time no man can change the “churches stance” on homosexuality, because no one can change God and His word.

I fear that we have done such a poor job at representing Christ to the world as believers that we have led them to believe that God is a moral idea that changes with time. That Christianity is simply a moral code to live up to and should evolve with culture and time. Which Christianity is not morality; it’s a man who is God.

God is a person. Doctrine is not a man crafted truth, but a God birthed truth to show us who we were meant to be in his infinite and beautiful imagination. It’s a road map to His heart where we can experience the love, joy and peace we were created for where sin has robbed us.  You can’t change His stance, no more than you can reorder the atoms in your hand.

That said, I have many gay friends. Guys I grew up with. Guys that used to serve with me in ministry. Girls who I consider friends who are now lesbians. I love them. When I see some of those guys I give them great big hugs. I listen to them. I don’t treat them any different then the other acquaintances I have. I do not change my beliefs on their lifestyle. However their lifestyle is between them and God.

We face a difficulty in the church, that wont go away or change. The Homosexual movement is only going to grow. The pressure is only going to increase. We as Christians can not give into the pressure to change God’s stance on Homosexuality. Because it’s His stance, not our own.

That said, In our resolve to stand firm with God and His word, we could use to love and accept the gay community as fellow humans. We don’t need to be constantly known for what we are against, but what we are for. We are for love. The love of Christ that saved our hearts, is available to homosexuals as well. They are brothers and sisters we want to see walk in the fullness of who they were created to be by God.

If there is someone who has genuine love for Jesus, who are we to question their salvation because they are presently gay? Lets encourage their faith. Encourage their reach for Christ. Encourage them in their journey with the Lord in the same way we would encourage those who love God but get drunk regularly and don’t want to admit they are alcoholics. To condemn anyone would be to curse them and assume that our words, not Christ’s, are the one’s that save them. To judge them is to declare that their story is over when it’s not.

It is entirely possible to love homosexuals with genuine affection and hold the line on homosexual acts being a sin without shaming and condemning people. My point is that we as a church need the grace of God to learn how. Not because the church will become irrelevant or because we’ll lose the culture. Those fears are silly. Jesus will always be relevant because he’s the creator God eternal, and to think we ever had a Godly culture in America in the first place is delusional. We need the grace to do this well because it’s the Gospel. It’s who Jesus was. It’s how He treats us.

If we want to see humanity walk in restoration, and have true transformation from sin (like homosexuality) we must remember that it’s God’s kindness and mercy that draws us to repentance. It’s true that sometimes kindness isn’t nice, but it’s always kind.

Romans 2: “… Don’t you know that it’s God’s kindness that leads to repentance.” 

Father show us your love that we may learn to love well.

Benjamin Dunn… No Thank You

I recently stumbled across this video on the interwebs.

I have heard of Mr Dunn for years now. It was no surprise to me that I would not appreciate his brand of “worship” or christian music. I realize lately i’m sounding like such and old fundy. I’m really not becoming one. But there are lines that can’t be crossed  for me. Not because of a religious/ morality, but because of love. I love Jesus and want my life to please Him.

The song and video below is well done… or “dunn”? The music is great. Song is cool. Video is well done… dunn.

However it made me sick to my stomach. If ever there was a video that embodied everything wrong with my generation and where 20-30 year old Christians are headed, this video does that. Again, if as a pastor it didn’t make my heart sink, I would have probably loved it. But I can’t it’s stupid.

Christian dance party, drinking, making out, acting like kids, singing about wanting to be like kids again. It’s a great idea. Lets promote to Christians that what’s best is to stay immature, irresponsible, and do what makes us feel good and get free from all those guidelines that Christians use to imprison folks… sigh.

Give me young men and woman who fear God and love Jesus and His word first. Who serve, love and respect one another by embracing the grace of God that gives us joy, but clean joy… Any way. I could rant and rant.

Watch the video and tell me what you think and if you see what I’m saying.

An Open Letter To Our U.S. Elected Officials: End Abortion

Dear Elected Official,

Since 1776 this continent has been a beacon to the rest of humanity for the individual rights of every human being. Though it has struggled to produce freedom for every people, in the end liberty for all has prevailed no matter race or creed. Our country was founded on certain truths that though at times have been wanting in application, have ultimately remained the cornerstones that uphold the spirit of this nation. Specifically the Jeffersonian proclamation:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It is that credo that has driven this nation to the heights of glory and power it currently resides in.  The Constitution that governs this nation was founded on the belief that no man’s freedom can come at the cost of another, for all men deserve to live in liberty from tyranny, the fear of death and oppression.

In the History of this nation we have faced many challenges to this belief. At the risk of losing resources and stifling a growing economy, this nation took the necessary action and gave emancipation to those being enslaved on plantations throughout the South. The cost was hundreds of thousands of American lives but their blood was not in vain. The ultimate result was not a loss in economy but growth for a young nation torn apart. In the early 1900’s liberty was again challenged when children and orphans were being used for cheap labor to kick start a growing industrial revolution. Liberty for these children meant a drop in production and a loss in the Industrial age. The Children were freed, and instead of loss the industrial revolution grew, and 15 years later the nation would boast the largest profits the world had ever seen. Tyranny in Europe by Hitler, voting rights for women, Stalin in Russia, Vietnam, North Korea, Israel, Kuwait, and Iraq, our Nation has been dedicated to the democratic value that all men deserve the rights presented in the Jeffersonian mantra.

Today our nation has come to yet another paramount were the liberties of some have been cut off to supply liberty for another. The sexual revolution of the 60’s and 70’s has come at the loss of many. 50 million human beings have been murdered in the name of freedom. The right to live has been taken by the hands of doctors and parents around this country. Abortion has been granted as a right for a woman to choose, and lowered the value of life to a punishment on those wish to be free in their sexual lifestyles.

The liberties of countless human beings in our nation are in jeopardy. The leaders and decision makers in this nation, who serve at the leisure of the people, have failed those they serve. For 35 years they have stood idly by as a holocaust proportionate to that of Nazi Germany to have wiped out the lives of many. I petition those who hold office in congress to consider not the definition of life, but the definition of freedom. Many in government are in danger of the same type of hypocrisy that faced our nation during slavery, segregation, and manifest destiny. To take the life of a person, so as to allow another sexual freedom, is same type of injustice that inspired the actions of the continental congress 236 years ago.

To cease abortion would indeed be a risk. Federal dollars for foster care, and adoption are waning. Unwanted pregnancies or statistically higher in poorer urban areas, and the quality of life the baby would face is unknown. Yet no man should have the power to determine who lives and who dies. Such power is supposed to be protected and kept from governmental leaders by democracy. I ask amidst the consequences that come with the abolishment of abortion that you would consider the lives being lost. Would you consider the blood being spilt? Would you consider the advancement in social ethics our nation would take if life were valued higher than sexual freedom? Would you consider the cessation of government funds to organizations like Planned Parenthood, and instead redirect those funds to establish a better foster care and adoption system? You hold great power that has been rented to you by one who will one day return to reclaim it. On that day you will answer before Him, the author of life, for how you yielded that power. What will your legacy be before that throne? I pray that it’s one that will please the heart of God.

Our nation has lost its way in the fight for freedom. We have forgotten the “Eternal vigilance” that is required to maintain liberty. Our personal freedoms have come at a high price. For it’s not the blood of the unborn, but patriots that should be the refreshing streams of liberty. Knowing the high price of taking on this issue, I ask would you bleed and fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. As long as it is still recited: “Liberty and Justice for ALL”.


Zack Hensley

My Confrontation With Westboro Baptist Church

For years I’ve heard of the terrible and notorious antics of the folks just up the highway at Westboro Baptist church.  I have on many occasions been left with my head in my hands in disbelief whenever the stories of Westboro Baptist’s protests are told. Disbelief was usually followed by anger as I’d hear about them protesting a soldier’s funeral, or a gay kid who was beaten to death by his hateful peers. Anger would then lead to sorrow as I began thinking about the poor families being screamed at in their time of great grief. Sorrow also when I thought about the level of deception the people from Westborro must be under to justify screaming hatred. Following the progression of emotions, I began to grow bitter toward Westboro Baptist. Eventually that bitterness turned to hate. Hate turned into slandering them whenever I saw them on the news or heard about the legitimately horrible things they would do.

Most would find my hatred of Westboro Baptist completely justified as they are justifiably doing things to munger hate. However their was one person who wanted me to change my heart and attitude toward the infamous church. Jesus tells us to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, and give to those who harm us. I often teach these things, but just like anyone, have to follow through with what I teach. When I would go to pray after having talked trash about how much I hated Westbrro Baptist, I could feel that subtle prick from Heaven asking me to change my heart. No matter the sin they were in, nothing justifies joining them in sin, nor gives me the power judge them with slander. We don’t have to condone or stay silent in our calling them out in their error, but we have to do it from a place of love least we only continue the cycle of hate. In December at our annual Onething conference I was blessed with a chance to face my hatred head on.

Last year, for whatever reason, Westborro Baptist had decided to target our conference and stand outside in protest of it. The theme of the conference was “Jesus: Our Magnificent Obsession”. Every message, song and exhortation was centered around the theme of Christology, the person and work of Christ. Not even our Calvinist/ Cessastionists friends could have taken issue with this conference. Yet for what ever reason outside was Westborro Baptist with their notorious multi-colored signs, t-shirts and mega phones. I debated going down to talk to them for about 10 minutes, until I decided to just pull the bandaid off and confront them head on. Seeing them in the distance as I approached, I began to pray. “Jesus keep me tender, Jesus keep me tender, help me confront them in love, help me confront them in love.” I kept saying those two phrases over and over under my breath until I reached them.

Their message was confusing. Some signs said “God Hates Fags”, “Your Pastor is a Whore to $$”, others said “God Hates America”, “Stop Lying, God Hates You”, I couldn’t get a handle of what exactly they were protesting. Walking straight up to the leader he began screaming in my face “God hates you! God hates you!” over and over incidentally spitting on my face a few times. I suddenly felt a little foolhardy. Like I had decided to jump into the Hyena cage in hopes of taming them while they prepared to devour me. However I felt the need to persevere. I starred at the leader square in the eyes, calmly and patiently asking him if I could have 5 minutes of his time. The notorious founder Fred Phelps was not present, however his daughter and grandson were. His grandson was the one presently screaming in my face as I solicited a moment of conversation. After about 10 minutes he ran out of breath. Which to be honest was quite impressive in context. Screaming slander on the top of your lungs for 10 minutes without pause takes some serious pipes. He finally dialed down a notch or two and asked “what do you want?”

Trying to diffuse his energy rather than add to it, I asked calmly and quietly “What is it that you are protesting? You seem to be aiming in every direction.” Expectedly he launched into a tirade. “What are we protesting?! How about the fact that your church is taking millions of people’s money at this conference and whoring out the Bible. How about the fact that right now the leaders of this church are making money hand over fist from people without telling them about the coming judgement. How about the fact that you publicly support fags in ministry. How about that!” Genuinely, though not wisely, I snickered. My snickering only fueled another ten minutes of titration. I waited until he was done then I asked him the obvious question: “So you really have no idea what you are protesting or who we are do you? Because we are public about homosexuality being a sin, we are public about our belief in judgement, our conference is free, and we barely break even on it. So obviously you’ve been misinformed.” He stepped back and paused. He pondered another angle to come at us, then launched, “Well the leaders at this church are still living large while everyone else starves!” I snickered again and looked at him square in the eyes, “Sir I am one of the leaders here, and these are my only pair of jeans. If we are making a ton of money here it’s news to me.” I then proceded to laugh, honestly hoping to dial him down a even more. I coxed him along a bit, “Bro, you gota laugh a little bit. You gathered up about 30 people, printed signs and drove an hour to get here from Topeka only to find out you kinda wasted your time.” He snapped back, “But that’s not enough! You have to hate and publicly denounce gays or you’re going to burn with them.” I asked him, “What about those that lie on their resume’s, drink too much alcohol, or cheat on their taxes sometimes. Those are sins also, do those people need to be hated too?” “Yes!!” He yelled. “America is going to hell! God hates them!” Curiously, and with genuine compassion I asked him, “By that notion how do you plan to make it without going to hell?” This question struck his heart. For the first time in the conversation his face looked human. The tention and angst he was wearing disappeared. He hung his head and dropped his signs and mega phone to the ground. “I don’t know.” We stepped away from his still screaming crew and he began to open up a bit.

It was extraordinary. He told me that they simply go where they are told, that he actually never knows much about who they are protesting. He told me that they believe God is going to judge America with fire for it’s sins. He said they protest because they are terrified of being judged because of other people’s sin. He said he often lays awake in bed at night tormented by the idea that he is going to burn at the hand of God’s judgement. He felt that protesting is his way of screaming to heaven that he is not one of the sinners. He said it was a way of saying, “God don’t judge me! I’m not one of them!” Still not liking or remotely condoning anything they do, however for the first time I saw these hateful people for who they really were: broken. I offered to pray for him, and wanted to talk to him more, but he was teary-eyed and a little embarrassed about it. He gathered up his crew, they packed up their signs and left.

I wanted to feel victorious as I had taken on the most notorious protesters in the world and won. I wanted to walk triumphantly back into the conference and pump my fists bragging that I had gotten them to leave. Instead I was burdened for them. Having confronted my hatred I saw them for the lost and broken people they were. It doesn’t change my attitude toward their actions, but now when I see them on the news in a tirade of hatred I pity them. I pity them because they are trying to serve and represent a God they know nothing of. They are unknowingly agreeing with the voice of the darkness over the people they are protesting. And Sadly, they may even be headed for the very fate they are striving so hard to avoid.

They are still the object of God’s affections, the dream of his heart, and still have a chance at redemption. I pray for them regularly and I hope to run into them again.

Holy Spirit, enlighten the eyes of their understanding, that they may have their eyes opened to the truth and love of Christ.

“So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you towardrepentance?” Rom. 2:3-4

The Peril of American Manhood

Below is an excerpt from the book I’m reading this week- Darrin Patrick’s Church Planter. (from my read a book a week plan) One of the things I have serious passion about is restoring what it means to be a man. I don’t mean restoring it to be defined by outdoor recreation, sports, cars, the woman on your arm, or your ability to mask your emotions. Manhood should be defined by one’s ability to live out the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5-7) By how well one serves, loves, gives, responds in humility, meekness, and peace. While being able to bless and not retaliate on our enemies. 

The current status of men in our culture is in desperate need of revival. Manhood is in need of the power of God to turn the hearts of our nations’ men to be the Fathers, Husbands, and contributor’s to the glory of God that they were called to be. We need men who have a revelation of Jesus. We need men who have passion like the disciples, leadership like David, the work ethic of Noah, and the faithfulness of Daniel. I can only pray that God gives me the grace for biblical manhood to be alive and restore in my own life.

The excerpt below should break your heart.

Ladies pray for the men in our nation, we need you. Men let us embraces the freedom and power granted us at the cross and rise up with a cry for our creator that provokes a generation of men still trying to be boys. 

“We live in a world full of males who have prolonged their adolescence. They are neither boys nor men. They live, suspended as it were, between childhood and adulthood, between growing up and being grown-ups. Let’s call this kind of male Ban, a hybrid of both boy and man. Ban is juvenile because there has been an entire niche created for him to live in the lusts of youth. The accompanying culture not only tolerates this behavior but encourages it and endorses it. (Consider magazines like Maxim or movies like Wedding Crashers.) This kind of male is everywhere, including the church and even, frighteningly, vocational ministry. Ban may be a frightening reality in the church, but he is the best thing that ever happened to the video game industry. Almost half (about 48 percent) of American males between the ages of eighteen to thirty-four play video games every day—for almost three hours. The average video game buyer is thirty-seven years old. In 2005, 95 percent of computer game buyers and 84 percent of console game buyers were over the age of eighteen. Halo 3 grossed over three hundred million dollars in the U.S. in its first week, and more than one million people played Halo 3 on Xbox Live in the first twenty hours. Astonishingly, 75 percent of American heads-of-households play computer and video games.

It may be troubling to look at how Ban spends his money, but it is appalling to see how he relates to women. One needs only to follow Ban to “da club” to see what he thinks of and wants from the opposite sex. Again the stats tell the story. There are 9.7 million Americans living with an unmarried different sex partner and 1.2 million Americans living with a same-sex partner. Every second $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography, 28,258 Internet users view pornography, and 372 Internet users type adult search terms into search engines. Every thirty-nine minutes a new pornographic video is created in the United States. In the United States, 1.3 women are raped every minute. That results in seventy-eight rapes each hour, 1,872 rapes each day, 56,160 rapes each month, and 683,280 rapes each year. One out of every three American women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. The United States has the world’s highest rape rate of the countries that publish such statistics. It’s four times higher than Germany, thirteen times higher than England, and twenty times higher than Japan.

Unfortunately, many young women today have given up trying to find Mr. Right. They are coming to the stark reality that they are probably going to have to settle for Mr. So-So. Ban is good at selling himself as a man, but the reality is that he is just a “man wannabe.” Ban typically doesn’t like absolute truth, but he proves its existence through his continual devolution into junior-high behavior and its accompanying consequences. It is a transcultural reality that assuming the responsibilities of husband and father makes a boy into a man, but Ban doesn’t like responsibility, so he extends his adolescence as long as humanly possible. And by delaying having a family, which is the rite of many cultures’ progress into manhood, Ban is able to set his focus squarely and supremely on himself. As Ban puts off adulthood, he also puts off marriage. Why bother with a wife and a mortgage when you can live in your parents’ basement, play video games all day, participate in adult sports leagues at night, and barhop every weekend? Hymowitz notes that in 1970, 69 percent of twenty-five-year-old and 85 percent of thirty-year-old white men were married; in 2000 only 33 percent and 58 percent were, respectively. And the data suggests this trend is not slowing. I think this is one of the reasons young men love watching mixed martial arts. They project themselves onto these “superheroes,” men who are everything they are not: incredibly disciplined, courageous risk-takers who have the genuine respect of their peers. It’s as if watching real men in danger taps into the brain chemistry responsible for what we call masculinity. Curiously, the testosterone and adrenaline that encourage men to seek danger and risk are rarely tapped into for honorable purposes like lifelong marriage and parenting. Instead Ban settles for virtual reality and virtual relationships.

Some men cease fondling themselves, the game controller, or the TV remote and actually participate in adult sports leagues, including the child playground game kickball. Perhaps one major catalyst for young men’s love for recreational sports is that it replicates the kind of challenge and competitiveness sorely lacking from their own personal, professional, and spiritual lives. One author called team sports a “civilized substitute for war,” which would explain why so many men only seem to come alive emotionally on the inside and feel connected socially on the outside to their fellow “weekend warriors.” It has become mainstream to be an adult boy. The masculine journey from boyhood to manhood lies largely in the transition from engaging physically by inflicting pain to engaging emotionally by absorbing emotional pain and persevering through it. Boys must learn how to use their physical strength more passively than actively as they progress to manhood and become what David Gilmore calls “real men.” Real men “give more than they take . . . are generous, even to the point of sacrifice.” Being a man is about being tough and tender. I have three beautiful daughters who have not only stolen my heart but seem to walk around with it and toss it back and forth between them like a plaything, all the while taunting me with the fact that I’ll never be able to get it back from them! But I also have a son, Drew, and because of my keen awareness of and pastoral interaction with the cultural influence of Bans, I know that my work is cut out for me when it comes to raising a godly man. As with all of us dads with similar aspirations, my only hope is the Holy Spirit. So I recently wrote a little prayer that reflects the kind of men we need. Drew and I pray this prayer together almost every night. It is a prayer for him and for me: God, make me a man with thick skin and a soft heart. Make me a man who is tough and tender. Make me tough so I can handle life. Make me tender so I can love people. God, make me a man. All of this is to say that we have a couple of generations of males who were not raised by men, and the result is a prolonged male adolescence. In a culture where the influence of godly men is desperately needed, this void results in a legitimate cultural crisis.”

Patrick, Darrin (2010-08-12). Church Planter (Kindle Locations 193-213). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.