altar call

The altar Call is an outward show of how the pastor can emotionally manipulate his followers to do what he says through guilt and other pressure tactics.  It is a power play so that there is visible evidence of a successful sermon.  The (so-called) “Altar Call” is the pastor’s way of  “proving that he is worth his paycheck.”  It is part and parcel of the Man-centered Gospel of the Church Growth Movement in Modern Churchianity.

The church lecture series is all about the man in the pulpit no matter how much he claims to the contrary.  The Cult of Personality is the glue that really holds the congregation together.  Take away the charisma in the pulpit and the so called church that meets in the temple they have built for themselves will dwindle down and die.  The sheeple will find themselves another proxy god to put in the pulpit.  They must have their very own idol to listen to and to worship.

“Not a god,” you say?  Really?  Pastors are the gods over their congregations.  His is the only voice allowed to speak during the lecture and he cannot be questioned about anything he says from behind the so called sacred desk.  He is infallible and not to be questioned.  He demands loyalty and obedience.  His word is law.  The sheeple are conditioned to passively, and unconditionally accept what the man in the pulpit is saying no matter what he says.  The pastor is in fact speaking “ex cathedra” as he is the head of his church no matter who he gives lip-service to.

“I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption, it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or certainty of corruption by full authority. There is no worse heresy than the fact that the office sanctifies the holder of it.”   -Lord Acton  expressed this opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887

My premise is that any man who is given authority over others will, if left unchecked, make full use of that authority for both personal gain and personal power. The amount of corruption by this person will ultimately be decided by the amount of power that is available. As Lord Acton says, “Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or certainty of corruption by full authority.”

In modern Christianity most church congregations are based on a simple design. The authority is vested in the persons of the (so called) clergy, usually at the consent of, or at least the tacit agreement of the (so called) laity. This Catholic Idea of Clergy/Laity came from the teachings of Ignatius, Irenaeus, Cyprias, and Augustine who created and promoted the whole “Christian” class/ caste system. While not addressing the theological issues of this problem Lord Acton actually does a marvelous job of attacking just such a system, “There is no worse heresy than the fact that the office sanctifies the holder of it.” As true today as when Acton said it.

-excerpted from my blog:  https://persifler.wordpress.com/2010/04/12/corruption-is-directly-proportional-to-the-level-of-control-that-is-available/

The “Altar Call” is nothing more than a way for the Pastor to practice his manipulation tactics while stroking his own ego.  I dare say that what most people claim to be a movement of the Holy Spirit is at best ginned up emotionalism brought on through guilt and spiritual/emotional manipulation.  Why would I say such a thing? Because the “feeling” is generally gone by the time you reach the parking lot, that’s why.

Finally, and most importantly, the Altar Call promotes a man-centered humanistic approach to religion and “salvation.”  It portrays a weak frail god who can only work in “his building” following the pastor’s sermon.  I have heard testimonies from folks who sweated bullets all week long until they could get to the Altar Call part of the service so they could get saved.  That screams of a god in a box who is so weak and so inept that that he has to have the work of the Man of god (little “g” on purpose) in order to save someone.  I have also heard of so called soul winners who got people to say the sinners prayer on visitation coaching them to come to church on Sunday and come down during the altar call in order to make their decision official with the preacher.  *groan*   No, no I don’t have all the answers.  I’m just now asking the right questions.  I just know that this Kabuki theatre that is being called “Church” these days is a sham and a shame.


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Sri Lanka: Acknowledgments

The last ten days have been inspiring and life-altering for me but none of the things I have written about would have happened without the love and help of so many people that I felt it appropriate to list a few of them here.

First of all I’d like to thank Matthew Paul Turner for considering me to go on this trip at all. We had never met in person and I know he took a risk asking me to come sight-unseen.  He may still well live to regret this decision when he finds the snake I cleverly hid in his luggage. (Just checking to see if you’re reading this, Matthew)

I also have to thank World Vision for investing in this trip by paying our traveling, lodging, and meal expenses. I only hope that the return on their investment in a lifetime of kids sponsored is an astounding success.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also thank Lindsey Minerva and Carla Gawthrop from World Vision for their leadership on this trip. Together they presented the perfect mix of cool confidence and amusing weirdness that was just what we needed to get us through the rough patches. Lindsey and Carla, I’d travel with either of you again pretty much anywhere.

From the World Vision team in Sri Lanka I have to thank our interpreter and communications specialist Hasanthi. I’ve never met a person who has been more patient and kind to a bunch of silly Americans than she is. She is a rare and beautiful shining light in Sri Lanka. Along with her I also have to mention our drives Nixon and Manjula who (for all Matthew’s screaming) got us where we needed to be safely every time through some pretty harrowing traffic situations. They even provided an oldies soundtrack for some of it.

While mentioning the support team in country, I’d also like to thank the staffs of the Carolina Beach Hotel and Amagi Lagoon Resort for their amazing customer service and and attention to our needs during the few precious hours we had each day to write about our experiences. They made our live as easy as was physically possible. If I ever start a hotel chain I’m staffing it completely with Sri Lankans.

Many thanks to Joy, Allison, Roxy, Tony, Shawn, and Laura, my fellow bloggers on this trip who put up with my wise cracks and constant reminiscing about my childhood without (as would be understandable) leaving me stranded on the side of the road. They have the patience of Job and great shall be their reward in heaven. (Except for Tony because he doesn’t go in for that sort of thing.)

And last I need to acknowledge so many of you.  Our own RobM lent me the laptop that I’ve been using all week. Others of you sent gifts of money to help with my passport, immunizations, travel supplies, and other expenses. And most of all so many of you have offered words of encouragement, prayers for safety, and advice on dealing with charging cows. (Actually you didn’t do that last one but it would have come in handy if you had.)  You all share in the success of every child that is sponsored as a result of this trip.

I offer you all my weary, jet lagged thanks. It has been an amazing week.

Oh, and I’m taking tomorrow off.

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Sri Lanka: Re-Entry

Maybe it’s just the jet lag and sleep deprivation but whenever I have a quiet moment I find myself trying find answers to my own internal debate over what this trip to Sri Lanka means to me. After all, It’s not my first time seeing poverty but it’s the first time I’ve seen it as an adult with a career and children. It’s the first time that the eyes of my understanding have been fully opened to some realities of poverty that I would rather not have to think about such as exploitation, child endangerment, and perpetual hunger. When I was a child on the “mission field” I only understood as a child. Much of that innocence has now been lost.

It not easy being confronted with uncomfortable truths about poverty.  At some points I’ve almost convinced myself that the best course would be to think about happier things than hungry kids or hopeless parents. “Enough!” I tell myself, “You have your own problems to deal with.” Then having determined to harden my heart and rid my mind of such upsetting things, I immediately proceeded to  think about the heartbreak and undiscovered joy found in Sri Lanka that much more.

I pour my daughter her cereal and wonder if a boy I met went hungry this morning (as he often does) so that his little sister has enough to eat. I turn on my kitchen sink and marvel at running water clean enough to drink right from the tap and think of a family that has to buy its drinking water by the jug. I take out the garbage and think of how much food I throw away in a year simply because it’s more convenient than trying to save it and wonder how many children I could feed on the leftovers. I haven’t even been back to a grocery store yet. I’m not sure I’m ready to be reminded of our American eating habits just now.

It’s not that I fault anybody for living the Western-style life that we enjoy. I work hard for the few things I have. But now I know the names and faces of people who work much harder and have much less to show for it. That disparity may not be my fault but what I have seen cannot be unseen and I am now responsible for how I respond to what I know. Can I somehow improve the life of a child, a family, or a village? That question now perpetually follows my soul.

Perhaps these thoughts will end and I can put it completely out of my mind someday. I’ll care only a little. I’ll love only slightly. I’ll rebuild the walls around my heart and fiercely guard them against every uncomfortable thought and feeling. But trading away my compassion in hopes of comfort would seem to be poor bargain. What does it profit if I keep my heart safe but lose my humanity in the process?

I’m not sure exactly what my future holds now but I’m sure that my heart is now set on a different course that I’m sure my feet will soon follow. I hope that I’ve helped in some small way to let you all see what I’ve seen this week. And I hope your heart has been opened as mine has. If you haven’t yet checked out the child sponsorship program I’d ask you to set your fears aside and let your heart be open.

You cannot unsee the needs you’ll see. I can’t imagine wanting to.

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Sri Lanka: Share The Love

I have a small confession to make: I haven’t sponsored a child through World Vision. My financial reality right now is such that I simply can’t afford to promise more than I can pay. But instead I’ve given “such as I have” by taking all of my vacation hours from my day job to travel here and act as an ambassador for the children of Sri Lanka by taking their message to you. As blessed as I have been I would hardly call that a sacrifice; my cup runneth over.

Perhaps you too are feelings some pangs of guilt because you cannot give or perhaps you are currently giving to some other great organization. If that’s your reality then let not your heart be troubled, God understands. But here’s something you can do even if you can’t send money and that’s to spread the stories of this trip to others who may have their hearts touched in turn and be in a better position to give.

I understand that that given our background admitting to reading SFL is a bit of a sensitive topic for some folks so I’ve also posted all of the stories from this week over at WhereisDarrell.com so feel free to share that link on Facebook, Twitter, or your own blog. Just tell them that your friend Darrell has had an amazing week and he’d love to share it with them.

If you are able to give yourself then share the story of your sponsored child with others to let them know what you’re doing and invite them to check out the child sponsorship program as well. If you sponsor a child do feel free to share what you’re doing here on SFL as well! I’d love to hear all about it.


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Sri Lanka: A Tale of Two Fathers

I worry.  In fact I worry almost all the time. Of course I don’t call it “worry” that because it sound weak  and needy so I call it “concern” or “caution” or “just thinking ahead” but the truth is that over the last few years I’ve let a lot of worry consume my soul. I worry about my job and the uncertainty of my future with pay cuts and layoffs as an ever-present threat in my industry. I worry about my children and how to raise them into healthy and happy and educated adults.  I worry about where we will live, how we’ll pay our bills, and a thousand other unknowns that the future hold.

Today I traveled to the brand new work being founded in the village of Mundalkaduwa and I met another man who worries about most of the same things I do. Amila is only four years older than I am and like me he has a wife and two children. He works when he can find work but sometimes there isn’t any to find. He and his wife plan and fret over how to come up with enough money for their children’s education. He wonders what his future holds and whether his life will ever improve.

There is one major difference between Amila and myself.  While I make about the median income for an American household, he worries about these things on an average wage of less than five dollars a day when he’s lucky enough to find work at all. To put that in some perspective, that means that it takes him almost six weeks to make as much money as I make on a normal day. Or put another way, I look to him like what a person who makes over two millions US dollars a year looks like to me. The disparity is staggering


Someone asks him through our interpreter what kind of work he does. He says he climbs the palm trees to pick coconuts. A glance as his feet shows the callouses and shaping of long hours spent clinging to the tops of swaying trees as they tower above the ground. We tell him he must be very strong to do this work and he smiles but when we ask him what other work he does when there are no coconuts he raises his hands wide. “Anything” the interpreter tells us. “He’ll do anything because he needs to feed his family.”

In the world of this kind of subsistence living there are no easy answers or quick fixes because Amila’s story can be repeated throughout this entire village and likely through surrounding villages as well. The issue is food security. Because the biggest worry of all whether or not you’ll have enough food to eat or if your family will starve. When your main focus is just getting enough rice to make it through a day there is no money to get an education or start a business or improve your life in any visible way. Until the food and clean water issues are settled, there is nothing else that matters more.

So how does child sponsorship help an family like this one? Here’s how it works:

When you give money to a sponsored child in the area we visited yesterday, those dollars are funneled into projects within the community that are selected by the community itself, and managed by community-based organizations. World Vision provides support, resources, and experience in advising these groups but they do the work themselves. This creates long-term sustainability in these projects since even after World Vision reaches the end of its project and leaves the area, the benefits continue to serve everyone.

So then the question becomes, if the money is going into community projects, then why are we talking about sponsoring individual children. The answer is quite simply that World Vision has found that connecting donors with individual children helps them see the benefits that their dollars are reaping. If you sponsored one of Amila’s children, for example, you’d receive regular updates on their schooling, their health, and what’s going on in their lives. This helps you realize the personal benefits of a broader program in a way that just wouldn’t be possible if you simply wrote a check to World Vision every month.

In the brand new Mundalama Area Development Program there is much work to be done so that parents and older siblings don’t go hungry at night so that the smallest children can eat. So that clean water is a universal expectation and not a luxury paid for with hard earned money. So that every child can go to school and dream that same kinds of great big beautiful dreams that we wish for our own children to dream.

So once again I’ll make my plea. Don’t be afraid to let you heart be open to the opportunities to help children through the child sponsorship program. At this writing I’m sitting here with tears in my own eyes as I think of the needs I have seen over the last few days and the potential to turn such profound sorrow into unimaginable rejoicing. Don’t fear to weep with me. Don’t shrink back from writing yourself into the story of a child’s life. There is such joy just ahead and I want you and I and the people of Sri Lanka to share in it together.

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Sri Lanka: Meeting A Sponsored Child

Tony Jones has been bringing his own unique perspective to this trip and blogging about it over at Patheos. Yesterday he got to meet his sponsored child and made this short video.

To learn more about how child sponsorship works, you can check out the World Vision website.

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Sri Lanka: Beginning At The End

Let’s start today’s story at the end.  After all, every story has an ending place and without that goal in mind the beginning doesn’t matter much at all. A pretty smart fellow named Solomon put it this way: Better is the end of a thing than its beginning. Today we got to see the end result of something amazing and rejoicing such as I’ve rarely encountered. Here’s how it happened…

The morning began the same way the day ended with dancing and celebration.  After fifteen years and countless lives changed for the better, World Vision is closing up shop in this community because they’ve now worked themselves out of a job. Every function of leadership and change is now worked in a sustainable fashion by local people within those communities. Even today’s events were completely planned and organized by the community not the World Vision staff. To mark the occasion, a convoy of vehicles with World Vision staff, local community leaders, and a few wide-eyed American bloggers took off to visit different groups within this location and to bid them farewell.

I’m not sure I can do justice to what we saw along that trek.  The harvest is over this time of year and in this dry season the roads are mostly dry earth with hot breezes moving the palm trees and few remaining bits of greenery.  The houses we saw and the livelihoods represented would have made the poorest person I know in America look fabulously rich by comparison. Often nothing but mud walls and a few palm fronds woven into fences marked the spot where an entire family lives and works.

But something strange was afoot in these villages. Somebody apparently forgot to remind these people that the appropriate emotion for people with so few possessions or modern conveniences is abject misery. Everywhere we stopped we were greeted with smiles and tears of joy. Young girls danced in forms as old as time and women old enough to be their grandmothers danced too, clapping and laughing aloud and thanking us for honoring them by being there.  You see, to these people we are responsible for their success simply by being American because to them America is World Vision. To them our little group represented the people who helped make the radical transformation in the lives present. Children now get healthcare and education.  There is better food to eat and better farming techniques to cultivate it.  Most of all there is now hope and hope sings loudly from every smile that beams out wherever you chance to look.

We received flowers from Buddhists, traded blessings with Hindus, and ate food made by Muslims. We shared a delicious meal (eaten with our fingers in good Sri Lankan style) with teachers and children in their school building. “Look at us!” these gifts all but shouted “we were once weak but now we are strong. You gave gifts to us, now here are gifts from the labors we do.  Now we are proud to give back to you.” Although poor by American standards, this area is now completely self-sustaining needing no outside World Vision support to pay teachers, hire community leaders, and continue the work of improving lives by building healthy children, strong families, and unified communities.

But World Vision’s work is far from over in Sri Lanka. At this writing there are forty other areas in need of sponsorships and funding so that they can repeat the story of success we saw here today. The end of this work brings a new beginning as the staff relocate to a new area to begin the work anew.  With help from you this same celebration happen over and over again.

I wish you could have seen those children smile and dance.

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