A Circus, a Church, and the Death of Jan Crouch


“Everyone loves a circus.”

Or so it is said.

You want a circus? Follow the link and read the posts on Facebook regarding the passing of Trinity Broadcasting Network co-founder Jan Crouch.

If you become disoriented and never make your way back here, I’ll understand. No hard feelings.

A sampling:

You have the adoring masses who called her “Mamma Crouch,” and who felt compelled to send TBN their “grocery money” as a tithe, because despite the Marie Antoinette-levels of gaudiness and gilded Rococo glitz evidenced on the hallmark “Praise the Lord” program, TBN seemed perpetually low on turnips and Cheetos.

You have the men (mostly) who have a form of godliness but deny its power, who seem incapable of not getting in one last dig about some “charismatic leader,” because the only thing sacred to them is their own rightness. And strange fire. Lots and lots of talk about that.

You have the (non sequitur alert!) funny Calvinist site and increasingly shrill internet darling, The Babylon Bee, posting a pile-on jest about Crouch. Because, low-hanging fruit—and bandwidth costs a lot. Buy a BB T-shirt, please.

You have the folks who talk incessantly about the Gospel, yet at the same time they can’t help but comment about the spiritually blind Mamma Crouch people who have this weird idea that if they have enough faith in God, anything is possible. Because it’s childish to think that faith can move mountains. “You see any mountains move lately, Buddy? No, I didn’t think so. Now go back to waiting to die so you can go to heaven.”

You have the hardcore Pentecostals that see TBN as a mighty force for Truth, Justice, and The American Way, promulgators of genuine Kingdom Living, advancing the Cause of Christ against the bulwarks of the Enemy in this End Times Dispensation. Hallelujah. Oh, and Creflo needs a big jet.

And lastly, you have all the comments from homosexual men and drag queens, who saw Crouch’s purple hair, Cleopatra-inspired makeup, and “Stevie Nicks gone pink” fashion sense as a life-changing inspiration, though probably not in the way Crouch intended.


I could post a picture of Jan Crouch here. I could, but I won’t. You probably saw enough at Facebook.

I don’t know what to think about Jan Crouch and her husband, Paul, who died in 2013. As a young charismatic, I sometimes watched TBN to catch Christian music videos (“Real Videos,” anyone?) and to see if I could find something, anything, that showed what genuine Holy Ghost Christianity looked like. I found something else instead.

I do know this…

TBN presaged the slow turning of the Church in America. If anything, its success led to copying—if only tangentially and with massive denial of any hint of doing so—of its model. That glitz and showmanship crept into the larger Church, and larger churches was what it all became. Expand, take in money, and expand some more. Lasers. Disco balls. High-energy worship leaders. More, more, more. What we saw in TBN and decried, we saw in the wider Church just a few years later and embraced.

I have only one thing to say about all of this.

More than anything else, I want to start walking. I want to walk and walk until I can find some quiet place by a lake, where the breeze blows crisp and refreshing off the still waters, and I want to lie down on the shore and say, “God, I’m here. Please be with me. I need you so much.”

I don’t want frenzy.

I don’t want circuses.

I don’t want gilded lilies.

I don’t want darkened theaters filled with strobe lights and “high-octane worship.”

I don’t want a church that—no matter where you go or which denomination you turn to—feels like the same dog and pony show.

Somewhere, in the so-hard-to-find stillness, I just want to be where God is and dwell there in His embrace.

Maybe you do too.

Jesus Killed My Church–My Meditation on Guidance, Destiny, and The Big Lebowski


Jesus Killed My Church by Randy BohlenderSteve Bremner at The Fire on Your Head podcast pointed out that Randy Bohlender‘s book Jesus Killed My Church was free for Kindle on Amazon, so I bit. Hey, provocative title–and I’d met Randy years before when our paths crossed at Vineyard Community Church in the Springdale area of Cincinnati.

The gist of Randy’s book: God leads. Put yourself in a place to hear His Spirit and then go with the flow.

Autobiographical and an apologetic for why you need to be baptized in the Holy Spirit, Jesus Killed My Church documents Randy’s and his wife’s first encounter with the Holy Spirit, learning to listen and trust the hearing, and following God along unexpected pathways. They end up at a home for wayward teens in the hinterlands of North Dakota, an old-fashioned Tennessee church, the Brownsville Revival, Burning Man, The Call, and the defunct College Football Hall of Fame in Mason, Ohio, all the while keeping their spiritual eyes and ears attuned to what God had next. In between stops, the Bohlenders get input from folks I’ve broken bread with, Steve Sjogren and Rusty Geverdt namely, and they reject some voices that attempt to steer them away from their God-directed courses. I mean, who hasn’t received a phone call out of the blue from some “prophetic” caller pronouncing words that clash with someone else’s prophetic leading? Been there, done that.

All the words, dreams, infillings, and circumstances that seem too good to be circumstance land the Bohlenders at Kansas City’s International House of Prayer and their eventual founding of a Christian adoption organization.

Oh, and the church they planted back in Cincinnati withered and died, hence the title.

Now, I’m going to tie this story with The Big Lebowski. Because it’s obvious, right?

Probably the most beloved film in the Coen Brothers’ Oscar-filled arsenal is The Big Lebowski. Aging stoner and White Russian-quaffer Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski finds two thugs in his home who, in the aftermath of a shakedown for cash, promptly take a leak on his rug, a favorite household item that “really ties the room together.” Seems the thugs confused this Lebowski for another Jeffrey Lebowski, a wealthy one, who has a pornstar wife gone missing, presumably kidnapped.

While trying unsuccessfully to get recompense for his ruined rug, The Dude encounters a panoply of weirdos consisting of anarchists, pretentious artists, criminals, and denizens of a bowling alley, that sport serving as a metaphor for life. The slacker Dude stumbles from one bizarre scene to another, hoping against hope that something positive might go his way regarding his rug. In between, he sires a child, buries a friend, and tries to make sense of this nonsense as he’s swept from one odd happening to the next. Helping him to cope is a cowboy who drops in now and then to comment on the proceedings, because, hey, every mythic story needs its oracle.

I know it may seem strange, but I see Bohlender’s story and The Dude’s as linked.

Recently, I had lunch with a friend, and as we discussed the vicissitudes of life as 50-something white guys in America, he stated that the world we live in now may be God’s best possible outcome. I wondered then if it was best for the whole of the world at the expense of being the best for any one of us in it, and I still wonder that.

God may very well sovereignly make the best that can be made of this sin-sick world, but what does that mean in the lives of you and me? To fill the gaps and to make that “best world” happen, does it come at the expense (as God may require) of individuals who may or may not live their “best life now”–as Joel Osteen calls it?

We have this tendency to think that God is always working His best in our lives, but are we the focus? Or is the world the focus?

When we attempt to look at another’s life and draw conclusions from it, what can we really know? And does being a Spirit-filled Christian mean that we can make any greater sense of the direction of our lives compared with someone who isn’t Spirit-filled?

As a Christian, I believe God leads. But what happens when He leads and the outcome is not only unexpected but downright bad–or at least bad on the surface? And what if it’s not just bad on the surface but terrible no matter which layer you examine?

Bohlender paints a picture of guidance by the Spirit that seems wonderful and freeing in close-up, but when you stand back and look at the big picture, it seems no better than the random vicissitudes of life.

Is that how God works? Is this His “mysterious ways” we always hear about?

And how is this any different than the story of The Dude, who somehow ends up okay in the end, if not exactly in the outcome he expects? What separates the drifting pothead seeking nothing more than to get through another day from the ardent Christian seeking guidance to change the world?

Now true, one is fictional and the other not, but when we survey the lives of people, Christian or heathen, fact and fiction converge.

I believe my friend is right about this world being the best possible world God can make given mankind’s fallenness. What that means for what you and I experience of it individually–well, that’s much harder to grok. Some seem destined for greatness, while others get ground up in the gears, and it’s not always clear which camp they belong to.

All I know is a Christian knows that somehow it’s all in preparation for when this life is done, and sometimes the when, how, and why won’t make any sense this side of heaven.

Christian Podcasts Worth Listening To


OK, so the title is a little hyperbolic, and perhaps I give my own tastes too much credit. Regardless, I think these podcasts are worth your time.

I want to add that while some individual churches do publish podcasts, and I do listen to a few of those, I want to keep this list unaffiliated to any one congregation. So, there are no individual church podcasts in the list. I hope that’s understandable.

No particular order follows, just good, solid content. May these all richly bless you.

Fire on Your Head (Steve Bremner)

Fire on Your Head

Fire on Your Head (Steve Bremner) is one of the best charismatic podcasts out there. A missionary in Peru and a Canadian national, Steve brings a different perspective. I find myself saying “amen” to this podcast more than any other, and for those of you who have wondered what a podcast of Cerulean Sanctum might be like, Fire on Your Head is about as close as it gets. I’m working backward from 2015 in my listening to this, but so far, it’s solid stuff. The podcast on worship alone is worth 100 listens (“Entering into God’s Presence without Even Singing Songs.”)

No Lasting City (Peter Smythe)

No Lasting City

No Lasting City (Peter Smythe) is another top-notch charismatic podcast, with a focus on Bible exposition. That alone makes it unusual. Peter is a lawyer by profession, and his reasonings on both familiar and difficult passages make sense and may even challenge you to think differently about the Scriptures. My only complaint? He needs to publish more frequently!

The Phil Vischer Podcast (Phil Vischer)

The Phil Vischer Podcast

The Phil Vischer Podcast (Phil Vischer) examines popular culture and Church oddities through the slightly off-kilter lens of the VeggieTales creator. Joining him are Miami University of Ohio grad Skye Jethani, who provides the theological insights, and Christian Taylor, who provides the heart and the grounding. Guests appear also. Interesting, sometimes controversial, but always fun.

The Mockingpulpit (Mockingbird)

The Mockingpulpit

The Mockingpulpit (Mockingbird) is a team effort by the folks at Mockingbird, ardent promoters of Law/Gospel preaching from an Episcopal point of view. The messages are from a variety of speakers/teachers/preachers, but all of them are thought provoking and grace filled. Some of the best preaching I’ve ever heard has come from this site. Not every message will slay you, but many will. Soaked through with the grace we so need to embrace.

Christ Hold Fast Cast (Christ Hold Fast)

Christ Hold Fast Cast

Christ Hold Fast Cast (Christ Hold Fast) is also a team effort, but by the folks at Christ Hold Fast, also ardent promoters of Law/Gospel, this time from a Lutheran point of view. Less preaching than Mockingbird, but still offers grace-filled discussions and interviews. Caters to a younger, hipper crowd, but even this old guy likes it.

Virtue in the Wasteland (Jeff Mallinson & Daniel van Voorhis)

Virtue in the Wasteland

Virtue in the Wasteland (Jeff Mallinson & Daniel van Voorhis) tackles culture, history, philosophy, ethics, and religion from a Lutheran perspective. The hosts are professors at Concordia University, and the smarts in this podcast will enlarge your mind. These two down-to-earth guys will help bolster your Christian worldview, guaranteed, while the connections they draw will make you smile.

Let My People Think (Ravi Zacharias)

Let My People Think

Let My People Think (Ravi Zacharias) enlightens with Christian apologetics from a man who is a treasure to the Body of Christ. What I love most about Ravi: His intellect never obscures his heart. He’s got you saying “amen” one moment, and you’re crying the next. Many of the podcasts are repeats of older talks, but fresh material arrives now and then. No matter, it’s all superb.

Unbelievable? (Justin Brierley)


Unbelievable? (Justin Brierley) is the quintessentially British take on apologetics, with a BBC-like feel. Host Justin usually features two guests from opposing sides who discuss a theological or ethical issue. Given that some of the loudest atheist voices are British, it’s often atheist versus Christian. One of the headiest podcasts out there, you’ll definitely learn a few things about competing worldviews by listening. Fire up your pipe, pour a couple fingers of 18-year-old Talisker, and have a go.

The God Journey (Wayne Jacobsen)

The God Journey

The God Journey (Wayne Jacobsen) is a podcast for folks burned by institutional “churchianity.” While I have reservations about Wayne’s association with the book The Shack (he was a collaborator with the author), I’ve found his insights into letting go of religious dross and renewing one’s intimacy with God to be freeing, plus he comes from a solid Foursquare background. Still, he remains controversial. If you feel the way we do Church in America makes cold, hard stones instead of warmhearted disciples, Wayne might be worth a listen.

So, lend these podcasts an ear if you want to be edified. And feel free to comment or to suggest other Christian podcasts you find helpful.

God bless you.