Our intrepid pollsters, abacus boards in hand, have been galloping from church to church in quest of the answer to the pressing question: "Who is the least appreciated and most abused member of the local church staff?."

The results are shocking. Not the senior minister. Not the minister of music. Not even the youth pastor.

Ready? It's the church custodian, janitor, or building superintendent, depending on the size of the church. (Megachurches have Edifice Engineers.) The one who keeps the premises tidy is criticized the most and thanked the least.

This being the case, we're starting a cutting-edge new ministry just for their encouragement. We're calling it Premise Keepers, and its purpose is simply to let church janitors know that they're loved, honored, but rarely obeyed. Being together with thousands of their fellow janitors will assure them that they aren't alone in their never-ending battle against nasty bugs, dirty rags, burned-out plugs, and long weddings.

Our first giant rally will be held in Racine, Wisconsin, at the Johnson Wax Company auditorium, presenting a program with a lot of polish. Keynote speaker will be Dickie Donn Gaston, church janitor for 43 years at First Community Church, Lands End, Missouri. He has lived through nearly 600 weddings, 500 funerals, 40 vacation Bible schools (for three years be refused to unlock the church), and 32 pastors. With him will be James Duncan, who has served as chairman of the church board of trustees during all of Dickie Donn's ministry. Dickie Donn is the only church janitor to receive an honorary degree from a seminary, a Doctor of Utters.

Music for the rally will be provided by The Musical Moppers, a unique sextet whose songs have been sweeping the country. Their hit song "Bristle While You Work" has been heard on Christian radio stations across America.

Premise Keepers is an idea whose time has come, and we hope you will come, if you are among the abused. We'll send you details later; but in the meantime, keep looking down-the job you save may be your own.


"Selling Out the House of God?" [July 18] demonstrated a noted blindness on the part of mainstream evangelical critics. The precision with which the mote was detected should have been directed toward the beam. The cultural captivity of the Protestant church in general could be well examined by most of the points raised by the theological critics of Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Church. It seems to me that Willow Creek is only the logical and consistent extension of several centuries' worth of Protestant assumptions.

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Worship within mainstream evangelical Protestantism is of a piece with Enlightenment culture. Any unbelieving secularist from off the street can walk into a modem evangelical church and know precisely what to do. The worship cults of mainstream evangelicalism, while sometimes boring, is never foreign. If David Wells is correct, and culture is not neutral, then we can likely postulate that modern evangelicalism is captive to some version of American culture. I would argue that modem evangelicalism's revivalist roots are little more than the theological expression of an American anthropology.

There is a need for a serious self criticism within modern evangelicalism of its relationship to culture and its justification for its present form.

- Stephen Freeman, Rector

Saint Stephen's Episcopal Church

Oak Ridge, Tenn.


Some people just don't get it. They do not understand the energy, the drive, the motivation. Willow Creek Community Church is a manifestation of many different things to many different people. To lost and searching souls, it is a beacon of light and hope. To the wounded and hurting, it is a spiritual hospital and a safe environment where healing can be accomplished. It is a place where people gather faithfully to praise and worship God. It could also be argued that it is a grand celebration of the grace and glory of Jesus Christ.

- Vicki Chasen

Inverness, Ill.


Was Jesus "seeker-sensitive" when he came to "seek and save the lost"? In one sense, he was. He understood and sought to understand his audience. He was aware of various needs around him and addressed them in different ways. Moreover, he didn't try to reach everybody but focused on a few.

On the other hand, his solution to the human dilemma was not market-driven. It was absolute, unchanging. And what was it? Himself. So far, I don't see Hybels prescribing a solution other than Jesus Christ. What I think he needs from fellow Christians is prayer support and encouragement, not a dressing down.

- Willy D. Marquez

Boston, Mass.


"Seeker-sensitivity" includes honoring the God-implanted craving for transcendence in unbelievers by banishing manmade blockages to its fulfillment, like cold formalism sometimes seen in church.

- James Hilt

Director of Counseling

Chapel of the Air Ministries

Wheaton, Ill.


Over a decade ago, I attended a board meeting that included several pastors. I had lunch with Bill Hybels and another pastor who appeared envious and negative toward what he seemed to perceive was a narrow Willow Creek ministry. In an obvious effort to bait Hybels, the pastor asked, in a condescending tone, "And how many do you have in your Sunday school?" Bill quietly responded by saying, "Oh, we have about 450." He then extinguished the gleam in the questioner's eye when, after a pause, he concluded with the word "teachers." The conversation quickly turned to other topics.

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- Robert Baptista

Winfield, Ill.


While working on material for Toxic Faith, I visited Willow Creek, sat through all the services, met with Hybels and his team before and after, and sat in on a small-group leadership meeting. I have followed up with Hybels and some team members each year since then. The critics are wrong. This is not just a place where baby boomers are entertained or simply made to feel good by increasing their self-esteem. Hybels is unashamedly preaching the gospel, and people are accepting Christ and then using their spiritual gifts to serve others.

It is easier to criticize while examining someone else. I wonder what the critics will say when they discover another movement sweeping our land that is succeeding in winning the ever-resistant baby buster generation.

- Stephen Arterburn

Co-Founder, Minirth Meier New Life Clinics

Laguna Beach, Calif.


I was disappointed in Kenneth Kantzer's comments about the accord "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" in his "Should Roman Catholics and Evangelicals Join Ranks?" [July 18]. I have pored over every page of the accord several times, and I have come to much different conclusions—even though I count myself as an evangelical Protestant. I believe the accord provides an excellent foundation for alliance-building among Christians of all traditions and confessions to make common cause in contending for the culture. And contrary to Kantzer, I do not think this document glosses over or ignores "essential doctrines that still separate evangelicalism and Catholicism," including the doctrine of justification by faith.

In regard to justification by faith, the accord states, "We affirm together that we are justified by grace through faith because of Christ. Living faith is active in love that is nothing less than the love of Christ." While the accord's drafters do not go into detail about all the differences (or even similarities!) among some Protestants and many Catholics on justification by faith, they do clearly state that "Evangelicals hold that the Catholic Church has gone beyond Scripture, adding teachings and practices that detract from or compromise the Gospel of God's saving grace in Christ" while "Catholics … hold that such teachings and practices are grounded in Scripture and belong to the fullness of God's revelation." Does this sound like the accord totally ignores justification by faith?

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Kantzer's statement that "the Reformers argued from Holy Scripture that it is by faith and not by good works" that we are justified is a slap in the face to informed Catholics. They would rightly contend that their understanding of justification by faith, while not Calvinistic or Lutheran, is certainly drawn from Scripture.

The bottom line is that the accord calls for spirited dialogue between Christians on their differences, but it also calls on Christians to cooperate together on what they hold in common, which is far more than what divides them. I side with the accord.

- William D. Watkins

Smyrna, Tenn.


Some in the evangelical community have raised questions regarding the NAE due to the [accord]. Two facts must be understood: (1) each participant was involved on an individual basis; none represented an organization, association, or denomination; (2) the effort was not intended to reconcile theological differences. It was an alignment of values shared with the goal of standing together against many of the maladies of our disintegrating culture, particularly as to how to pursue the protection of religious liberties in legislative battles.

It is the Catholics who are placing the focus on the closer range "theologically" while evangelicals are emphasizing our working together on cultural issues. The Reformation is not over! The pope has not renounced his position as the sole representative of Christ on earth speaking ex cathedra, or Mary as the co-redemptrix with Jesus Christ. Many other theological differences remain.

NAE continues to abide by its sevenpoint statement of faith. We have a theologically defined identification as evangelicals that provides the purposes for our existence. We have a tough world in which to be faithful in spiritual warfare. It demands a doctrinal integrity, holiness, prayer, and a core commitment to God's Word.

- Darrel L. Anderson

National Association of Evangelicals

Carol Stream, Ill.


I have three thoughts concerning Richard Mouw's article "Ending the Cold War Between Theologians and Laypeople" [July 18]. First, I agree with his hermeneutic of charity toward those who make statements about their religion that may not reflect schooled theological verbiage. This loving attitude is refreshing!

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Second, I applaud his affirmation that we can discern practical messages from the Spirit of God through reflecting upon the yearnings of the entire Christian community. This is particularly important in respect to what Mouw labels the therapeutic. Clearly, people sense a need for healing.

Third, where is the pastor in Mouw's article? I recognize that the article's title defines his focus: theologians and laypeople. But shouldn't the pastor serve a vital connecting role between the two? Clearly, the pastor is (or should be) in touch with the heart of laypeople. Perhaps we should ask whether pastors and professional theologians are in touch with each other? Perhaps the real "cold war" is between these two!

-Pastor Bruce Konold

Aspen Hills Community Church

Eagan, Minn.


Mouw misrepresented my views. I have never said, nor have I given anyone the grounds for thinking, that I distrust the laity or that I am hostile to them. What I have said is that the evangelical church is in danger of being overtaken by worldliness, and so it is important to be able to discern how worldliness works. It is worldliness that is the church's enemy, not the laity or the academy per se. Because Mouw cannot see this distinction, he feels obliged, in the name of charity, to embrace any fad or trend in the church simply because it is popular. By contrast, the biblical ideal is to have charity and discernment and to have both at the same time.

- David Wells

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

South Hamilton, Mass.


I am not so much troubled by Mouw's article, which I found to be informative and well-reasoned, as I am troubled by the smug (contemptuous?) elitism of certain theologians. As a believer who would like to have a better understanding of God's Word and Bible doctrine, I certainly desire to learn what theologians can teach. Yet, I instinctively mistrust anyone who despises me as being "tacky."

I believe that, if the trappings and credentials of learning, as opposed to learning itself, were of value in teaching God's way, the Son of Man would have come as a priest and not as a carpenter. Paul would have taught what he learned at the feet of Gamaliel, not what he learned on the road to Damascus; and Peter, who depended on Mark to write his gospel, would have lived and died a fisherman in Galilee.

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I believe the Lord came in the form he did, and chose the men he chose to spread his gospel, because he understood that, compared to him, we are all laymen who learn only by being spoken to, not spoken down to.

- Ronald M. Jacobs

Gowanda, N. Y.


Your article "Conflict Divides Countercult Leaders" [News, July 18] was correct in identifying the furor over Christian sociologist Ronald Enroth's forthcoming "Recovering from Churches That Abuse," and my criticism of Enroth's one-sided research methods was accurate. However, had journalist Doug LeBlanc done a reasonably thorough job in investigating the dimensions of the controversy, he would have reported several things otherwise ignored.

First, he allowed Enroth the inevitable reply to my criticisms of methodology (i.e., simply taking at face value what angry apostates claim about a group they left). Enroth said I was, along with "a handful of sociologists," a cult apologist. A check with the Moonies as to what I've been writing about them for the past five years would belie that claim. Second, a critique of Enroth's naive approach to constructing the "reality" of any group's ex-members' experiences is not simply a disagreement between an evangelical social scientist and a secular one. The Cornerstone issue that took Enroth to task featured criticisms by respected journalists Robert and Gretchen Passantino, well-known evangelical historian Ruth Tucker, and psychologist William Backus.

Third, LeBlanc danced around what the real issue is in this controversy: money. Zondervan did handsomely with Enroth's first book, Churches That Abuse. They smell a winning sequel, no matter whom they malign.

- Prof. Anson Shupe

Indiana University-Purdue university

Fort Wayne, Ind.


I thought reporter Doug LeBlanc did a pretty even-handed piece on the controversy. However, there is a slight factual error as it pertains to EMNR that should be corrected. Bob Passantino is identified as an EMNR board member, which is not true. He resigned from this ministry almost a year ago.

- Bill Alnor, Executive Director

Evangelical Ministries to New Religions

Philadelphia, Pa.


The issue is not whether JPUSA or Enroth is "right." From our own experience as members and leaders in a Christian church community, we know that well-intentioned groups and godly leaders have at times over-exercised their authority and hurt people. No doubt some truth exists on both sides of the controversy.

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The real issue is what should be done about people who feel hurt or disaffected (whether real or perceived). The biblical answer is that all possible steps should be taken for healing and reconciliation (Matt. 18: 15-17). Unfortunately, in publishing this book, Enroth and Zondervan have proceeded directly to "telling it to the church."

As writers, we understand the pressure to publish. But in this case, Enroth should have evaluated whether his "professional ethics," which allow anonymous persons to make charges in print against individuals by name, actually violate "biblical ethics." How much more powerful "Recovering From Churches That Abuse" would be if it chronicled the healing and reconciliation process between disaffected ex-JPUSA members and JPUSA leadership! Now that would be true "recovery."

- Dave and Neta Jackson

Evanston, Ill.


Three cheers for Philip Yancey's "Christian McCarthyism" [July 18]. He asks why all the stone throwing takes place. I have seen all too many times judgmental and mean-spirited people attracted to Christianity and particular theological views because it is a way of cloaking their sin in religious garb. If God is on their side, they believe, this gives them the right to speak as a judge attempting to control others. In humility we must remember that, though the truth of Christianity is absolute, Christians cannot claim to grasp absolutely and completely that truth in all the ways it would manifest itself within our society. We are disciples and learners; we are not judges. The most unfortunate consequence of this behavior is that many unbelievers do not want to become Christians because they do not want to become judgmental and bigoted. How ironic; how tragic.

- William T. Branham, Jr.

Plymouth, Mich.


Yancey could have used a little more room so he could finish his article. He said plenty about the need for love among believers in conflict, but he needed to say more about truth. Abusive behavior in conflicts among believers is grievous, but Yancey's column appeared to make the lack of love among believers more important than the matter of truth in the conflict.

To rightly love one another we must practice love as defined by Scripture. Too often "love" is used to mean "never dare to offend." Biblical love (agape) is the manner in which truth should be upheld, but the bottom line is truth. We are to be "speaking the truth in love."

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- Duane L. Burgess

Tucson, Ariz.


Yancey rightly condemns untruthful attacks on himself and other well-known Christian writers and leaders. However, I believe he has missed a key point of his debate. He mentions that "the real enemies are outside, not inside the tent." Really! A major portion of the churches surrendered on many of the major issues in the twentieth century-particularly abortion, homosexuality, and the moral law. What is left is a meaningless, cheap grace, where we can do anything and still love each other. How does one love when there is no law to define the parameters?

Instead of being the leaders of morality, we support churches a large portion of the population find irrelevant. The fundamentalists have pointed out repeatedly that we continue down a path that can only lead the church and our country to destruction. The vicious tone comes simply from frustration.

- Jeffrey Heyl

Bluefield, W. V.


In Bob Davies's review of Mel White's book [Books, June 20], Davies says, "Incredibly, [White] was still heavily involved in writing projects for top evangelical leaders" while he was an active homosexual. To me (and I hope to others who believe the doctrine of original sin), this is not incredible at all. At least, it is no more incredible than Jim Bakker continuing his ministry after converting Jessica Hahn from church secretary to national notoriety. In White's case, he was selling a service to Falwell, Graham, Kennedy, Robertson, and others. Gifted writers can communicate things they themselves understand only on the surface. The church, following after our culture, puts competence above character. Skill in writing, like skill in athletics or auto repair, is no guarantee of high morals—and a good predictor of arrogance and pride.

Sexual sin is the point that should most sharply separate cultural conservatives from orthodox believers. Cultural conservatives think responsible fornication and adultery with extenuating circumstances are acceptable. We Christians should put every sort of sexual activity outside marriage in a single category. White is an unrepentant sexual sinner, period. He is no better and no worse than the one million couples each year whose coupling ends in abortion. White was used for his skill; his character was not an issue until it was too late. Now he is yet another stain on the mega-ministries.

- Neil Gussman

Lancaster, Pa.


Your review of Stranger at the Gate was worth the price of a year's subscription add more.

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- Rev. Robert S. Vanderschaaf

Alton, Iowa


In the August 15, 1994, News article "Mixing Politics and Piety," we reported allegations made against the Christian Research Institute, headed by Hank Hanegraaff. The editors did not intend to judge the truthfulness of the charges of financial impropriety by having it run under the section titled "When Leaders Stumble." Hanegraaff was offered an opportunity to respond, but he failed to return repeated telephone calls.

- The Editors

Brief letters are welcome; all are subject to condensation. Write to Eutychus, CHRISTIANITY TODAY, 465 Gundersen Drive, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188; fax: (708) 260-0114.

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