Re-Arranging the Deck Chairs on the Titanic and Steering into Another Iceberg
John Partington’s New Strategy To Rescue The Declining British Assemblies of God
A defective product line driving an enterprise towards bankruptcy must be redesigned and not put into a new box with new packaging. Merchandising the same old junk that caused the crisis to begin with by adopting a new marketing strategy or a new company re-organization or a new catalog or a new website will not solve anything. Indeed, it cannot. Every businessman, marketing consultant, and corporate executive knows this. Unfortunately modern Pentecostal theocrats do not.
Thanks to Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, and C. Peter Wagner, church growth principles of Scripture are either being ignored completely in favor of ‚ secular marketing strategies and consumer psychology, or at best being subordinated to them. One would expect those denominational leaders who are buying into this pseudo-scriptural rubbish would at least have the common sense to learn the logic of the missiological philosophies they adopt from Peter Drucker via Rick Warren, which are essentially the principles of business and enterprise. These approaches demand an honest evaluation of marketing programs to quantify results.
The entrepreneur in the secular business world they imitate however, must live in the real world of economic and financial reality, while theocrats who try to mimic them can delude themselves into the escapism of a religious fantasy they falsely imagine to be spiritual or scripturally oblivious to the failed results of their faulty endeavors. As both the Brierly and Barna statistical reports verify, an evaluation of the church programs embarked upon in recent years have failed categorically. Islam, cults, New Age, and Neo-Paganism have all grown; supposedly Evangelical churches and denominations have not, as Western society has steadily further degenerated spiritually and morally in the face of a failing church and a compromised presentation of the scriptural Gospel or even a de facto abandonment of it.
The figures are in. No promised revival ever materialized from Kansas City, Toronto, Pensacola, or most recently Lakeland. ‚ Since the ecumenical Alpha Courses began in the UK the Church of England has decimated itself, ordained homosexuals and lesbians in increasing numbers, appointed a Druid Archbishop of Canterbury, and more mosques have been built in Britain than churches. As Nicky Gumbel and Sandy Miller in The Alpha Times said, the purpose of Alpha courses is the Holy Spirit weekend away to introduce people to the Toronto Experience. From Jim Challenge to fake gold teeth the programs and fads marketed as shortcuts to revival have repeatedly failed. From the financial scandals of televangelists to the sex scandals of Hill Song, the promised moves of God have failed to materialize. The hollow proclamations of Gerald Coates and Terry Virgo, and the false prophecies of Mike Bickel, Rick Joyner, and The Kansas City False Prophets have all not come to anything but transfer growth of scripturally illiterate Christians leaving one church fore another to see the latest show in town (or in some cases “Freak Show”) before moving on to the next.
From the demise of Jim Bakker’s PTL Club onward, the crowds have disappeared from Toronto Airport Vineyard, Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, Ken Gott’s attempted clone of it in Sunderland, England, Florida’s Church Without Walls after Paula White’s last divorce, ‚ and Lakeland, Florida after Todd Bentley abandoned his wife and kids to marry someone he was in an adulterous relationship with. Now Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral near Los Angeles is $55 million in debt. ‚ Ray Bevan’s church in Wales and Rick Godwin’s Eagles Nest in Texas among others were embroiled in financial scandal covered by the press. TBN’s Paul Crouch was exposed three days running on the front pages of California newspapers reporting his $425,000 payment of a settlement containing a hush clause to keep quiet about allegations of homosexuality. (Who is going to pay that kind of money to silence charges that are not even true?) More morally sick has been the Elim Movement. Its New Zealand leader Ian Bilby, who led the Toronto Experience in that country, was the whole time a serial adulterer along with his worship leader involving at least 20 women. The leader of Elim on The Isle of Man was having sex with an underage kid in the church nursery. Now Elim’s Kensington Temple in London appoints Roberts Liardon to direct its Bible school after his American ministry diminished when he was found to be a practicing homosexual. The legacy of shame, scandal, failure, and depravity goes on and on.
The debacle sunk to the point where John Stott and Roger Forster wrote we cannot say there is such a place as eternal hell and Colin Chapman said he cannot say that Hindus and Muslims cannot be saved without a belief in Jesus, and Rick Warren said we should work for a peace devoid of the centrality of Christ by aligning with other faiths including Muslims and Hindus in Warren’s global peace plan. Then Steve Chalk, Brendon Manning, and author of The Shack William P. Young all agreed that Jesus Christ did not die for sin because it would make God a “quintessential child abuser”. ‚ Predictably, even as the fundamental substance of the Gospel itself was thrown out the window, the UK Evangelical Alliance as usual did nothing of substance and church bookshops continued to sell their books. When the Gospel itself is abrogated by supposed Evangelicals and other supposed Evangelicals go along with it, it is moronic to suggest any authentic revival can be possible. Indeed, the church is preventing it.
The product line is defective. The jury is no longer out and the figures are all in. Once a product line fails, any sensible member of the business community would realize it failed. Any competent preacher would have realized it would fail even before it happened. As has been rightly said, “When the church uses entertainment to draw people, it must use more entertainment to keep them”.
In actual fact a broad host of Pentecostal moderates and traditional Pentecostals attempted to warn what such trends would produce. While the late Warwick Shenton and the late Wynn Lewis joined by Colin Dye, Wayne Hughes, Andrew Evans, John Lancaster, and Paul Weaver pushed these things, others attempted in vain to raise a red flag. At one point these included David Wilkerson and current American Assemblies of God leader George Wood as well as Pentecostal academic Dr. Barry Chant, former Australia Assemblies of God General Secretary Philip Powell, former UK Assemblies of God General Superintendent Aeron Morgan and various others. Sadly, their voices were ignored and the lies and hype of a range of deceivers too numerous to list prevailed. Biblical Pentecostalism lost out to Morris Cerullo, Kenneth Copeland, John Arnott, and Rodney Howard-Browne. The tangible result was decline, not revival.
Still, the show had to go on.
When David Shearman threw his canary yellow jacket to the floor at the Assemblies of God Conference claiming the day of Elijah was over and those wanting the new anointing should touch his coat, the spectacle of the UK Assemblies of God Executive and Presbytery making a mad dash to kneel down and touch that hype-artist’s yellow jacket was the fulfillment of what Charles Spurgeon predicted would one day happen in Britain:
“A time will come when instead of shepherds feeding the sheep, the church will have clowns entertaining the goats”.
Ironically it was David Shearman who issued his diatribe about a “transformational” model of leadership (a term seemingly borrowed from the pages of Todd Bentley’s cheerleader C. Peter Wagner) that spelled the demise of UK General Superintendent Paul Weaver as a recognized failed leader. Weaver seems to have been effectively deposed. ‚ There is some documentation that shows that Australian Assemblies of God pastor Danny Guglamucci from Adelaide was eyed as a possible successor but he became affected by the media scandal of his son falsely claiming a healing from a lethal cancer that he never actually had which made its way into the national press.
Enter John Partington, the new General Superintendent of The UK Assemblies of God.
In the first edition of the newly renamed Assemblies of God periodical now called RE, Mr. Partington acknowledges failed expectations, financial problems, and leadership failures. The decline they were assured would come by the saner voices they rejected 10-15 years ago as a result of their folly has reached such a point where even the denominational theocrats are forced to live in the real world. But it is not real enough. As John Partington states that he is not wanting to apportion blame for the failures and decline (by implication on his predecessor), neither is there any mention of the need for repentance and seeking God’s forgiveness for the unscriptural paths people were misled upon by their leaders. His assessment of the mess he inherits is devoid of any mention of the responsibility for the abject gimmicks, subscription to counterfeit revivals, and the convoluted decision to acquiesce to ecumenical deception. John Partington says absolutely nothing regarding the departure from what once were essential Pentecostal core beliefs such as Pre-Millenialism, and nothing of an apology to those even within their own ranks who tried to warn them.
John Partington’s plan is a new image for Assemblies of God leadership seemingly based on a football team all wearing the same T-shirt and having one captain. (Scripture conversely teaches a plurality of leaders with safety in an abundance of counsellors). John Partington now talks of rearranging the ecclesiastical polity from regions and other reorganizational concepts that fail to diagnose the spiritual, theological, and ethical infections that are the root causes of the disease. We may be assured that his proposed remedy will not even achieve much to relieve the symptoms. On the contrary, from what is in his new magazine it will aggravate its pathology.
When a movement is on fire for God it has the unity of the Holy Spirit based on common doctrine and united purpose with autonomous congregations in cooperative alliance ““ a fellowship of fellowships and not a denomination. Once a movement loses the fire of God and solid doctrine, it divides doctrinally and spiritually. The response is to try and hold it together by becoming centralized and denominational with a hierarchy where a theocratic unity based on church politics, property trusts , pension ‚ funds, and finance replaces the unity of the Spirit. As they turn further from God and His Word, His Hand is removed further from them. Then they go into numerical and ultimately financial decline following their spiritual, doctrinal, and moral decline. The assemblies of God and Elim are going the way of the Methodists and every other movement in history. They have no place to go but down and it is not likely to change.
It is not just that John Partington has simply placed the same old hunk of junk into a badly redesigned new box as a proposed panacea, but he has already done something worse. I personally believe that God has handed mainstream Pentecostalism over to their own devices in judgment. Now too many of these people and their pastors cannot see the truth; indeed some have a “spirit of error”. The Lord, whose Word they rejected, has given them over to believe in these various lies of the devil. They cannot get out.
On the cover of the new RE magazine’s premier edition is the photo and lead story of Emerging church leader Rob Bell. The apostasy into Post-Modernism and open mysticism that “emergence” represents is the paradigm shift taken to its natural but maddest conclusions. In Toronto they lost their minds. Now they will lose their faith.
Instead of RE a more appropriate new name for the UK Assemblies of God magazine would be “Re” as in “Requiem In Peace”. The once proud ship the Assemblies of God was is going down in deep water. The only question is how fast it will go down and who will escape into the life boats while there is still time. How many churches will pull out and how many will drown? The scenario is as silly as it is sad while confused and doctrinally ignorant theocrats attempt to correct and redress bad decisions with worse ones.
John Partington has not only re-arranged the deck chairs on the Titanic; he has steered it into another ice berg.