Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Learning from the Failure of a Leader (Tullian Tchividjian)

By Dr. Roger Fankhauser, FGA President

The fallout of Tullian Tchividjian's admission of an "inappropriate relationship" will sweep broadly through the Christian community.

First, how does it impact the message of Free Grace? I'll call Tchividjian "Free-Grace-ish," as he seems to have moved substantially towards a free grace position, but may not be fully free-grace. His views recently led to a separation between him and the Gospel Coalition, as explained by Tim Keller and Don Carson:

It was obvious to observers that for some time there has been an increasingly strident debate going on around the issue of sanctification. The differences were doctrinal and probably even more matters of pastoral practice and wisdom.[1]

So, reformed theologians already have their eyes on him. As I write this, I have yet to see any article by a prominent reformed writer which connects his fall with "antinomianism" or his free-grace-ish views. I hope that trend continues. But it would not surprise me if rocks are thrown connecting his doctrinal convictions and this issue. A well-known Lordship author wrote some years ago when a Free-Grace pastor he knew fell to sexual immorality:

Was his theology an accommodation to his sinful lifestyle? It surely might have been. This much is certain: No-lordship theology [aka, Free Grace] would have a soothing effect on a professing Christian trying to rationalize their long-term immorality... Certainly preaching that constantly touts 'grace' but never features law could help someone like that find comfort while sinning.[2]

Such thinking has no room in the free-grace position. The issue is not faulty theology but faulty obedience (aka, yielding to sin). No theology prevents sinful choices; only faithful obedience relying on the power of the Spirit prevents it. No matter what system one accepts.

For those of us in the Free-Grace camp, two issues: (1) Be alert to those who use faulty logic (the fallacy that correlation implies causation) to incorrectly conclude that the system lead to the actions, and (2) teach and practice the truth that Free Grace theology should motivate towards righteousness, not lawlessness and  licentiousness. Paul addresses this very issue:

1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? (Rom 6:1-2)
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! 16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? (Rom 6:15-16)

Second, this situation should remind Christian leaders of two important truths: (1) The failure of a leader causes greater repercussions than the failure of a "person in the pew." The sin is not worse (infidelity is horrible no matter who is involved), however, because of the influence held by a leader, the ripple effects of his failure significantly harm the ministry he serves and those who choose to follow him. Leaders who fail cause greater damage to the cause of Christ and provide great fodder for critics precisely because they are leaders. (2) We are neither immune to temptation nor beyond its power. We must guard our walk and our lives carefully.

Third, when anyone falls, whether or not someone in our camp, all of us (not just leaders) should remember the warning Paul gave the Corinthians: "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall (1 Cor 10:12)." None of us can completely avoid temptation, however, we have the ability in Christ to resist it. We can look for "the way of escape" promised in 10:13; we can recognize the truth that we are no longer slaves to sin (Rom 6:6); we can "walk by the Spirit and not carry out the desires of the flesh (Gal 5:16).

I don't know what lies ahead for Tullian Tchividjian, his wife, his church, his future ministry. I do know it will not be easy. We can and should learn from this situation, but at the same time, pray for him, pray for his wife, pray for his family, pray for his church, pray for other who looked up to him as a leader. Pray that God will be glorified in the long haul through this trial, because "we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Rom 8:28).

     [1] http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2014/may/tim-keller-don-carson-explain-why-tullian-tchividjian-tgc.html, accessed June 25, 2105, emphasis added.
     [2] John F. MacArthur, Jr., Faith Works: The Gospel According to the Apostles, (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1993), 124.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Request and a Prayer For 2015 and Beyond

Dear Friend of the Gospel,

As you consider year end giving, would you consider helping the Free Grace Alliance? I'm prayerfully asking God to give us $25,000 or more. Would you help?

The FGA turned 10 this year. And the need to "connect, encourage, and equip" is greater than ever! 2014 was a good year. We heard great speakers at the annual conference in October. Dr. Charlie Bing, one of the founding members of the FGA presented a excellent workshop about our history some of the misunderstandings about the Free Grace Movement. You can read his manuscript on our website (http://freegracealliance.com/). We held several regional conferences throughout the year. Many FGA members travelled around the world, helping to connect with, encourage, and equip church leaders who might otherwise not receive much grace-friendly training. As I was typing this appeal, a man who was one of my students in Ghana called me and thanked me (again) for the training we brought. All around the world, we find church leaders who want to learn more about God's amazing grace! We want to explore ways to help those around the world who hold to Free Grace but have limited resources and opportunities to interact face-to-face with us.

But battles are also erupting against Free Grace. One well known reformed theologian chose to publicly critique the Free Grace Movement and the FGA. At one of the national meetings where he spoke, we were denied the opportunity to present a defense of Free Grace. But in a way, his presentation is good news! It means this man thinks the Free Grace message is dangerous enough (from his perspective) to warrant this kind of attention! We provided a lengthy response to this individual and we and made this response available to our members.

The coming year looks exciting. Of course, we will meet again in October for our national conference and we will hold regional conferences around the country. Right now, we are working on one in Salem, Oregon and in Houston, Texas. If you are interested in hosting a regional, contact us and we will be happy to help you. We are also working with the publishing arm of Grace School of Theology to provide opportunities for publishing high quality Free Grace books. We are redesigning our website in general and specifically our church and job opportunity listings.  We are working on a paper for members summarizing grace-friendly views on an often misunderstood concept, repentance and hope to have that available to you mid-year. And of course, in all of this our main thrust continues to be "sharing grace graciously" as we strive to expand awareness the grace gospel and living by grace.

And that gets me back to the original request. Our membership dues are pretty low ($25 per person) and do not cover the cost of running the organization. They certainly do not allow us to expand our scope. That's where we need your help. I am trusting God will provide our needs. In fact, between the time I started writing this letter and the time I finished it, someone handed me a check for $1,000 for the FGA (I'm not making this stuff up!). So, $1,000 down. $24,000 to go. Would you help us? You can give directly on-line (http://freegracealliance.com/support.htm) or you can mail a check to the address below.

Thank you in advanced for your help. I am looking forward to seeing what God does this coming year!

In His grace,

Roger Fankhauser
FGA President

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Membership Has Its Privileges!

Okay, we stole the line. But it is a true statement!

Some of you think you've joined the Free Grace Alliance or that your dues are current, and thus you think you are a current member. Here are a few tests to see if this is true:

  • If you have joined the Free Grace Alliance and your dues are current, you recently received access to the "Members Only" page, which allows access to a "live" membership directory. What a helpful tool if we really want to connect - encourage - equip!
  • If you joined the Free Grace Alliance and your dues are current, you recently received a paper addressing a critique of free grace in general and the Free Grace Alliance in particular given by a prominent reformed theologian. The paper corrected many of the misconceptions this theologian had about free grace.
  • If you joined the Free Grace Alliance and your dues are current, you recently received an invitation to provide literature on your ministry for us to include in the folders given to those who attend the FGA conference October 13-15. 
If you didn't get these, then chances are:
  1. Your dues are not current (you can quickly take care of that by clicking the link http://freegracealliance.com/join.htm), or  
  2. Our e-mail address for you is incorrect (send corrections or questions to julie16689@aol.com). 
Either way, if you are in agreement with the Free Grace Covenant, we want you.

There are a lot of reasons to be part of the Free Grace Alliance. These are just three! By the way, we have done a great deal behind the scenes to improve keeping up with dues and notifying you when they are due (or overdue). And we'll continue to provide valuable resources to our members. 

Membership does have its privileges.

Still not sure if you're dues are current? E-mail Julie (julie16689@aol.com). She'll check and let you know. We DO want you!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Member Update - August 2014

Good news... and a headache or two! 
Good news #1: The Free Grace message seems to be gaining some momentum. I think this in part because we are getting some "push back." For example, one of the sessions at the next Evangelical Theological Society is called "Salvation without Repentance from Sin? A Critique of the 'Free Grace' Gospel." Why do I consider this good news? Because a prominent, globally known reformed theologian thinks the Free Grace message is worth critiquing at the ETS meeting, and thus sees it as more than just an inconsequential viewpoint! I'll say a bit more about this workshop below.
Good news #2: We see the message going around the globe. I recently returned from Ghana, where we  trained church leaders, focusing on a strong emphasis on grace. I know of a number of other "free gracers" who have traveled or will soon travel. And I know of many around the globe, such as a friend of mine in Nepal, who receives grace-based theological training via the internet. Incidentally, in most of the places I've been outside the U.S., the predominant issue has not been reformed theology but rather eternal security.
Good news #3: "The mission of the Free Grace Alliance is to connect, encourage, equip and lead the body of Christ to advance the grace message throughout the world." In order to better connect with one another, we will soon be unveiling a "members only" page on our website. One link on this site goes to a new database we are using that will allow up-to-the-minute access to other members of the FGA. It will function like a "live" version of a member directory. And, there are some helpful tools for individual members. More information will be coming soon.
Good news #4: The 2014 Annual Conference is shaping up well! Don't forget to enroll by September 10 and receive a free coffee cup. As an avid coffee drinker, I am thinking about enrolling twice!
Good news #5: This year marks the tenth anniversary of the FGA!
Of course good news does not preclude a headache or two. It is no surprise that the Free Grace movement in general and the Free Grace Alliance in particular has its detractors. Recently, a well known reformed theologian publicly criticized both in two separate settings. And, as mentioned above, he is scheduled to critique the "problem" of Free Grace Theology at the Evangelical Theological Society Annual Meeting in November. Unfortunately, some of his critique misrepresented Free Grace thinking. And he's not alone - others have also criticized us while painting an inaccurate picture of our position. Equally unfortunately, ETS declined an FGA member the opportunity to present a workshop defining and defending Free Grace theology. Of course this theologian is free to disagree with Free Grace thinking. But we hope that he would critique an accurate picture of Free Grace theology, not a caricature of it. We wrote a paper which we sent him (and also made available to FGA members) to clarify and explain our position. Only time will tell whether he represents a more accurate picture of Free Grace in the ETS session.
While our primary focus should be teaching and promoting grace positively, we sometimes do need to address our critics. When we do so, we need to do so graciously and accurately.  And in all we do, let's "share grace graciously!"
Walking with you in grace,     
 Roger Fankhauser, D.Min.
 FGA President   

Monday, July 7, 2014

President's Update July 2014

After having great intentions of writing something each month, I find I am behind a month or two. Please forgive my tardiness! I have lots of excuses that I won't bore you with, but some of them are legitimate!

I want to briefly address four ideas this month.

First, how is the Free Grace message getting spread? I am leaving for Ghana two days after writing this and I know others of you travel to other countries. We'd like to know where you are going! Our mission is to "connect, encourage, and equip," and hearing about what God is doing through your work is a great way to encourage and be encouraged.  I know of trips either "on the books" or recently completed to Ghana, Finland, Burundi, Ukraine, Nepal, Philippines, India, Honduras, and Papua New Guinea. I'm sure there are others. Drop a note on Facebook and/or send a short write-up to our blog master, John Correia (pastorjohn@westgreenway.com), and we'll post it on the blog! Let us know, too, if you are involved in a church plant or other work. We need more Free Grace churches on our own soil! A couple in my church is being transferred to another city in which no Free Grace churches exist (well, to be honest, no Free Grace churches I that I can find). And if you have published something promoting Free Grace, let us know about that as well. In other words, let us know anything you are doing to promote Free Grace!

Second, mark out Oct 13th - 15th for our annual National Conference. This year's theme - "What's God Got to Do With It? - The Divine Side of Salvation" promises to provide fascinating sessions and discussion after the sessions. Dr. Norm Geisler will be our special guest this year. Come if you can! And if you cannot, think about attending a regional conference - or even better, hosting one. Contact us and we'll send you the information you need to set up a conference.

Third, we have had a lot of "behind the scenes" activities going on. We recently sent out a first draft of our directory to everyone who is an active member. If you did not receive the information, has your membership lapsed? Join (or rejoin!) us (http://www.freegracealliance.com/join.htm). In the months ahead, we hope to improve our ability to connect with one another. We have some other activities in the works but which we can't yet comment on. Pray for us as we move ahead on these.

Fourth, even though our overall goal is to positively promote the Free Grace message, sometimes we have to get involved in "fire fights." Some of these we choose not to participate in; others we choose to. Recently, as many of you know, a well-known reformed theologian chose to point out publicly the errors he perceives in the Free Grace message and in the FGA in particular. Some of what he said is based on a misunderstanding of Free Grace theology. We are crafting a response for him to help point out those misunderstandings, without attacking him or his theology. We know many disagree with the Free Grace message we promote, but we want to help them understand our position.  We tentatively plan to send this response to all FGA members for their awareness and for them to use as they see fit.

The more work I do related to promoting the simple message of Free Grace, the more I am in awe of the God of grace and the incredible message of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Thanks for all you do to promote this incredible message. Keep on connecting, encouraging, and equipping!
In His grace,

Roger Fankhauser, President