Saturday, January 28, 2006

A Tale of Two Pastors

The similarities between Ed Young Jr. and John Piper are there if you look hard enough. Both have fathers who spent many years as preacher/evangelists. Both were athletes in college. Both have been married to their wives for many years. Both come from Baptist backgrounds. Both teach the importance of tithing to your local churches to fund the work of ministry. Both have larger than average families- Young has four children, Piper has five. Both have written books and have daily radio programs. But when you examine the men and their teaching closer, the similarities soon run out.


I spent about four years as an attender/member of the Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas (DFW) where Ed Young is the lead pastor. The church is one of the largest in the US- over 15,000 attend this church per weekend. The church is high-tech and high-toned. From the auditorium to the Source bookstore/cafe everything is done with a passion to be the best. Most of the people that attend this church also have the drive to succeed.

From the luxury cars in the parking lot to the designer clothes that attenders wear, it is evident that there is some level of worldly success at Fellowship. Fellowship Church is commonly referred to as the church of the "beautiful people".

There is a strong emphasis at Fellowship of building the Fellowship Church brand. The church is run like a fortune 500 company. Ed Young comes on stage like a rock star. He is always dressed in the hippest of designer clothes. He's a polished speaker with a commanding presence. His talks are normally centered on a biblical theme with some creative visuals to illustrate his point. He has created a marketing machine for his presentation- from TBN television appearances, to the Ed Young bookstore (aka The Source), Creative Connection Conferences, daily radio show and website.


John Piper is the lead pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I have been fortunate enough to attend this church several times when I am visiting clients who live in the Minneapolis area. On first impressions, the parking lot is filled with more modest automobiles than the Fellowship Church. The bookstore is stocked with excellent resources to grow in the Christian life- mostly books instead of apparel and knick-knacks. The prices for these items are generally 25-30% less than similar items at Ed Young's bookstore.

There is a strong emphasis at Bethlehem in promoting missions around the world and teaching biblical doctrine. Piper preaches in the more traditional manner of reading a text of Scripture and then explaining its meaning and relevance for today. He worships with his congregation and sticks around after the sermon for a long time to visit with people.

The differences between Young and Piper are many. They represent a clash between how Christianity is in America and how it should be. Young teaches that salvation is walking an aisle, saying a prayer, "doing the deal" in his words. He emphasizes baptism as the first act of obedience and no one baptizes more people than Fellowship Church- over 2000 people per year in their outdoor heated jacuzzi.

Piper teaches that conversion is an act of God and that evidence of conversion will be seen in the obedience that the new believer displays in his/her life. Therefore, the emphasis isn't so much on a one-time decision but instead on a life of continual belief and faithfulness. Piper teaches regeneration, justification and sanctification as requirements for eternal security not a one-time emotional decision.

Ed Young lives the good life. His "parsonage" is listed on the property tax rolls at over $1.4 million under the name of Palometa Revocable Trust. He buys the finest clothes, cars, vacations, swimming pools, nannies for the children that money can buy. He teaches that tithing- giving 10%- to the local church- Fellowship- is required obedience. He preaches that curses await the one who doesn't tithe and blessings are prepared for those who do. His lifestyle communicates that what you do with the other 90% of income is your own business.

Piper believes heaven can wait. His home is valued at $165,000- purchased for $65,000 (Average home prices are higher in Minneapolis than DFW). He dresses and lives modestly. He also teaches the importance of tithing as an act of obedience, but Piper emphasizes radical generosity and self denial. He believes that 100% of income matters to God and that we are merely stewards of His resources. His lifestyle communicates this. He can be seen walking to work- he chooses to live in a urban area of Minneapolis to be closer to his congregation.

Ed Young's website is http://edyoung.com. Piper's website is http://desiringgod.org. I'll let that speak for itself. Ed Young charges pastors $275 each to attend the Creative Conference- C3. Piper charges $125 per pastor to cover the cost of resources at the Desiring God pastor conferences. Ed Young is accountable to God but deems accountability to a board of elders as unnecessary. The finances of Fellowship Church are cloaked in secrecy. John Piper is accountable to God and an elder board- biblical model. The finances of Bethlehem Baptist are transparent and can be viewed by anyone on their website.

I wish America had more of Piper's brand of Christianity than Young's. The exaltation of God rather than self is much needed in our churches and world.

In His Grace,

Ashley Hodge

22 comments:

Tertius said...

Great post, Ashley. Many of these same thoughts went through my mind when I was attending Fellowship. I was introduced to John Piper and left Fellowship a few months later back in 2000. It is really hard for me to believe how a person who is in the word and fellowship with God daily can continue to attend, support, and serve in their ministry. Anyway, there is a lot to be said here and what you said is accurate.


IN HIM,
Jared

FreeGoodNews.com said...

Ashley- excellent article. Thanks so much for your time and research. America is like the lukewarn church of Laodicea-- time to see the difference between hot and cold and make a decision.

...Bernie
(FreeGoodNews.com)

Pastor Shane said...

great contrast... important issues

lljams said...

I have been attending Fellowship Church for over 7 years now. I grew up attending a traditional Baptist church here in Texas. However I never relly understood what it truly meant to be a Christian until I attended Fellowship church. It is not for everyone. There are a lot of people that don't like the church for whatever reason however, I have grown quite a bit since joining. Yes Ed dresses differently than most pastors, and yes he lives in a very nice house but why shouldn't he? God tells us that when we bring the tithe to him, he will pour out His blessings on us. Does that mean it's different for pastors than it is for the everyone else? No. That would be silly to assume God meant every one but pastors. I don't believe there is anywhere in God's word that He said we all have to be poor. He wants to pour out all His Blessings on us. When I first visited Fellowship Church, Ed would have been considered in the low class. God has blessed him greatly over the years. Also not everyone drives a great car. I drive a decent car and most the people I see at church don't wear designer clothes. You see eveerything from shorts on Saturday to dresses. I wear my blue jeans and tennis shoes because that is what I feel comfortable in. Ed teaches the truth and some people don't like the way he teaches or how he teaches it and that's ok. I'm glad you found a church you like but I don't think you should go around knocking other churches just because they don't fit what you think is right. Not sure how old you are but believe me i have been to many churches in this area. I have been to the churches that only want to rip you off and don't really care at all about you or GOD. They are just in it for themselves and I don't beleive Fellowship church is one of them. I will say this about Fellowship. It is a place where you have to get involved. It's not a church that you come and listen and go home. To really get the most out of it you have to volunteer and be in a home team. It's too big not to. Then it is more of a little church inside a big one. I praise God for this church and the blessing it has been to me. Remember different style teachings are ok. It's when the message is short or void of the truth. And Ed always tells us not to take his word for it, but to see what the Bible says. I've yet to find him saying anything that is in contridiction to God's word. God Bless you all.

Ashleyhodge said...

lljams,

Thanks for posting your thoughts. I think we will have to agree to disagree on some issues. I have many friends that are members of Fellowship Church. I love them and consider them to be seeking God's direction. But I can't drink the Kool-Aid.

I see Ed Young as a prosperity gospel teacher. He lives like one. He talks like one. He is on TV with them. He uses the same attorney. I personally think the prosperity gospel is destructive to the message of true Christianity.

What is true of Christianity in America must be true all over the world. Tying tangible, financial blessings to tithing is a bastardized American version of the gospel.

Do I think God has blessed me and other American Christians financially? Absolutely. Is it because we are more faithful than Christians in Africa? No. Why has He blessed us? I am convinced of one thing. It is not to live self-indulgent, consumptive lives. This form of Christianity lacks maturity and is ultimately going to lead to despair on the day of judgment.

Heaven can wait. We don't have to live poor, but it is hard to make a scriptural argument that we should be living rich. We have to tear out chapters from our Bibles like Luke 12, Luke 16, James 5, I Timothy 6 and many others.

I am 38 years old. I know there is no perfect earthly church and I rejoice in the fact that you are growing and serving in the body of Christ.

God Bless,

Ashley

The Tennis Hacker said...

I think I saw Ed Young on TV last Sunday.

Jim said...

Actually if you do research you will find that tithing is part of the law and most biblical scholars agree that it is not for today. It is part of the old covenant and was meant to point us to Jesus, who is the tithe or part who was given by Father to sanctify the world. So both these mean are preaching the law in this regard.
Otherwise I agree with Ashley. I have traveled and done mission work in Nepal and Africa and the prosperity gospel doesnt work there. The real gospel does though. What is the real gospel? Be content with food and clothing. It is in the Bible, read it.

Pk said...

Ashley,
I have to assume that you have not attended Fellowship on a regular basis or you would realize what you are saying in regards to the health and wealth gospel is completely INCORRECT! Infact Ed Young is much more of the variety of how you describe John Piper EXACTLY. I have assume that you have very limited experience at Fellowship and were immediately turned off by what you saw on the enterior or at least your version of it. It appears that somehow or another you felt unwelcomed and inadequate when you attended and for that let me personally apologize. That is certainly not anyones goal we all want to feel welcomed and like we belong.
Let me also say I am glad you found what you consider a more modest church to belong to and hopefully it fits all your needs.
I will say I think it shows a great deal of spiritual immaturity to try to sit in the judgement seat of ANY others. Ed Young himself tithes to the church and also has given much of himself his time and his own money and belongings when it was needed and he felt lead to do so. (you would know that if you were a regular attender or member of Fellowship)There is absolutely nothing wrong with dressing in a trendy fashion especially when you know HIS WHOLE MISSION is to attract and hopefully save those in the Dallas metroplex area who are so obviously LOST! When in Rome be Roman. As the other gentlemen stated as a member of Fellowship church you would know that the way it is ran is to a tee towards this mission. The real meat of the Word is not usually in his Sunday sermon and not meant to be..... it is in our smalled home team groups that meat in individuals homes as they did back in biblical times before they had large church buildings for believers to gather in. It keeps things more on an intimate level for those (possibly like you) who feel lost in the crowd. This is where if you were a new believer you would be hooked up with "Elders" so to speak in the church. There are also specific pastors in the church that are there to help new believers who are not quite sure of how to move forward in their faith. He most certainly does not teach (unless you only saw one sermon) that it is a 1 time decisiona dn that is it your saved? Again that is why I must assume you are not and have never been a regular attender at Fellowship. Because he most definitely teaches that if you decided to turn your life over to Christ that as a Christian you will go forward with a newly changed heart and bear the fruit of the spirit. (works) and thatit is a christian walk (process) and that more will come with spiritual maturity and walking the right path of your faith.
So again let me apologize for the fact that you somehow felt unwelcomed in our church or as if everyone you saw and didn't take the time to get to know were all superficial in someway because of what you saw and judged according to their exterior or by what cars you saw in the parking lot? It sounds like possibly you might take a minute for some introspective prayer as to what chip or burden sits on your shoulders that caused you to feel that way rather than writing a nasty mis-leading article about your limited experience there and what you saw externally and how it made you feel internally for what ever reason.
There are a lot of new believers there and we try to make EVERYONE feel welcome regardless of their race religeon or economic status. (including the reverse racism of the wealthy or popular)Regardless of how that made you feel (for what ever personal reasons none of us will ever know) everyone needs to hear the gospel and we can't only allow the poor and spiritually mature to enter those doors. It is a place for the lost and those trying to grow and mature in their faith. And if you had attended on a more regular basis you would know that is Ed Youngs mission statement for the Dallas/Ft Worth area and beyond. I hope in some small way this has helped you and hopefully not fuled the fire of an outstanding chip that may be lying on your shoulder form your past. God loves everyone........... rich or poor, well dressed or not, and regardless of what kind of car you drive. That is why God said let me be the judge because he is the only one who truly knows anyone's heart on the inside rather then judging us from the outside.

Ashleyhodge said...

Pk- thanks for your comments. I will admit that I wrote this post a while back and it was something that bothered me greatly at the time.

I appreciate your perspective and your love for Fellowship Church. I think the church does a lot of good. I appreciate Ed's creativity. He seems like a straight shooter and a faithful family man. I think God does bless his great qualities.

I was a member of Fellowship. I gave to the church. I was active in a small group for 3 years. Things may have changed dramatically since I attended 1999-2003. I wish the church well. I have lots of good friendships that were formed there.

I don't have a chip on my shoulder about it. I do stand behind the things I wrote. I gave some opinions but also stuck to factual information.

But I accept your critique that this is probably something I should have not posted. I do think lavish lifestyles, church owned jets and marketing machines are abusing the non-profit tax status. Any objective look at Fellowship Church can't ignore this.

But I do applaud any good works that Fellowship Church is doing for the kingdom. I realize that we all have our faults and sins. I think about myself as Paul said in I Timothy 1:15, "This is a trustworthy statement that deserves full acceptance, Christ came to save sinners of which I am the greatest."

Blessings,

Ashley

Tom & Marla said...

Does anyone have proof that Ed has a private Jet? I have heard much talk about this and his huge house, but I have yet to see any proof.

wadenliz said...

I'll never forget the year that Fellowship Church had a huge banner of Ed Young's face plastered on the side of the building advertising Easter services - very indicative of whom Ed Young truly promotes.

Jacqueline said...

Anybody that has been to Fellowship Church more than 2 months realizes Fellowship Promotes Fellowship.

1) Do the pastors serve anywhere outside the church? Absolutely not. They serve, I mean work and get paid, from the church and work w/in the church. Outside of the church they do not SERVE.

2) Listen to a service, just one, and you will see Fellowship Church's name is dropped, dropped again, and then dropped again as a marketing campaign.

3) Any church that HIDES their finances has something to hide. What is so hard about divulging what they take in and where the money goes? Answer, it isn't hard. Just doesn't want to be disclosed. Then, they talk abut being "above reproach". Humorous to me but it is what it is.

4) Pastor Troy page makes over $125,000 per year and that is when he was the Singles Pastor. Say hello to his $400,000 house. Did he inherit money for it? His down payment was small and just abuot the same of the house he had sold.

5) This guy bringing out that Ed Lives nicely in a $1.4 million house is true. The Property taxes on that property are more than the average family of 4 take in, in a year in america.

5) Give to the Local Church, Fellowship Church, Give to the Local Church Fellowship Church, Give to the Local Church, Fellowship Church.

6) Statement from Pastor Ed...
"Do you know why people give to hospitals and colleges? Because they want their names on buildings. You wont get your name on a Building here at Fellowship. We don't give that recognition." Mr. Ed, there are so many people that give to so many different causes as they feel "led", not coherced into giving. Many diseases have been cured by donations, very small donations that add up, and have done a lot of good for the world.

7) Several years ago Fellowship did about 7 consecutive series on tithing. Do you know why? They wanted the non-tithers to get offended and leave the church. They don't want them there...easy to see.

8) The kids ranch. Is it for God's sake or for Fellowships sake? Who else uses it? Huh, can we all share!!!

Jacqueline said...

PK, you sound like a Fellowship Church Staffer. Trust me, what goes on at Fellowship is supposed to stay within Fellowship. They also come out and make statements to defend and sway public opinion.

Facts always speak for themself. Why hide the money? Why hide anything?


I'm curious what else goes on inside those walls. Someone told me a long time ago something was going on. I didn't believe them until I witnessed it for myself.

Fellowship is a "feel good" church. Makes you feel good about yourself. They expect things of others that they do not expect of themself. They are NOT above reproach in their book. You ask questions around there and they want you to go.

A few years ago someone said something that got out. Ed made sure that that would never happen again. The staff is fearful, paid well and thus tied to the church, and brainwashed. I liked the article where Preston Mitchell says they pay well to retain talent. The truth is, they pay well to get you trapped and so they can brainwash you.

The facts don't lie.

Jacqueline said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gaylan said...

Be still and know! I am not a staff member of FC, but I am a member. There is only one judge and we will all have to answer. What some easily forget is that we do live in America and have choices. We also have the right to be prosperous and we are instructed to tithe, which I have no doubt our pastor does his fare share and more. In the end I like many others will stand behind our pastor and I hope others know that God is in control, not the media nor negative people. We still have a choice! It is not a requirement to attend fellowship, it is a choice and for me it has been a good one! God bless!

Timothy Frazier said...

Excellent comparison! The truth is coming out. See http://4fraziers.com/wp/?p=698 - Ed Young is under scrutiny.

Brennan said...

Ed Young is a clown. I have attended Fellowship once and seen videos of other sermons. At one, he came out with his hair all messed up on purpose, talking about "bad hair days" and in another he had a giant beach ball. Does he think he's preaching to 12 year olds? They have four campuses and instead of having four different pastors, all of those outside Grapevine broadcast Ed on a giant video screen. It's like that classic 1984 Mac commercial. http://youtu.be/OYecfV3ubP8

Chris said...

One word...Evil.

CYE said...

We must ask God for discernment in this matter.

D said...

It is the human condition - if you are part of the haves, you make no apologies of how God has blessed you. If you are part of the have nots, you are thankful for what God has given you.
Look at the opportunity we "all" have as Christians and conveniently turn our back on those less fortunate. Even more so for those who have so much more financially than they could ever need and think they are somehow forgiven their wicked hearts.
Fellowship and all that goes on will ultimately be in God's hands and He will bring them down or sustain them.
I too was a past member from almost the very beginning and saw a couple episodes of unabashed disdain for those who thought to question or have any ideal or opinion separate from the leadership.
All this aside, people are flawed...it is only God who is perfect. The only challenge is that this excuse seems to be overutilized to fit whatever requiremental or situational ethics are needed at the time.
So, I guess if Jesus was to follow suit, would he have sold tickets or charged entrance fees for his crucifixion?

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upret66 said...

I like the Chinese! (previous post!) Very well written contrast. Indeed, we are not to judge knowing that God Himself will pull up the wheats and the tares.
Your article is not judgementally based nor is it judgemental. It is discerning. My question to your critics or those defending Young is this "whatever happened to Christian discernment"? We are also to judge: (1 Corinthians 2:15
But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.)
This is just one passage that applies, but as believers we are to discern all things. This is what you are doing in your treatise. If believers today do not learn to Judge (not to condemn) with DISCERNMENT, how will they ever be prepared to discern things when the ANTICHRIST comes along? Answer: THEY WON'T BE ABLE TO! We are to be wise as Serpents, Harmless as Doves! Ed Young has thick skin and will not wilt because his ministry is being evaluated and scrutinized by honest believers seeking to weigh out truth. Who knows, it may even cause him to rethink some of his ways when he sees the humility of a Piper and the effects of a ministry that is more scriptural. We can all learn from one another.
M. Stevanus