A Lenten Series: So What About the Church?

If we have forgotten who we are as the people of God then it is time to remember. If our morale
is low because of the shallow Christian culture around us, then let us encourage each other to
difficult honesty, sincere faith, and better works. And if we need confidence to believe that our
church is critical to changing a street, a school, a neighborhood, or maybe even us, then for the
next five weeks, will you pray that God would renew your vision as his people, his kingdom, his
body. If, on the other hand, none of these apply to you, please pray with the rest of us that
God’s Spirit will make us strong in his love and anointed in our mission.

-Jim Pickett

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to
God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his
wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once
you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” I Peter 2:9,10


“The church, however, as the community of Christ’s kingdom, can show the world an
ethical integrity it must respect. When Peter describes the impact of Christian righteous deeds
in a pagan world, he is thinking not of isolated saints, but of the people of God, called out of
darkness into God’s light. Christian witness that is limited to private religious experience cannot
challenge secularism. Christians in community must again show the world, not merely family
values, but the bond of the love of Christ. Increasingly the ordered fellowship of the church
becomes the sign of grace for the warring factions of a disordered world. Only as the church
binds together those whom selfishness and hate have cut apart will its message be heard and
its ministry of hope to the friendless be received.

The need of the secular world is greatest at the very points where its criticism of the
church is most intense.
Only God’s truth can set people free, for the church to concede the
secular assumption of a chance universe is to deny both Christ’s lordship and its own meaning.
The church is the community of the Word, the Word that reveals the plan and purpose of God.
In the church the gospel is preached, believed, obeyed. It is the pillar and ground of the truth
because it holds fast the Scriptures (Philippians 2:16)

-Edmund Clowney, The Church, pp. 16,17

An Essay on the Death of Christianity in the U.S.

The following essay may or may not represent your views but it is worth your time to read.  May it push us to think more clearly, dialogue more deeply and to discern how the church must protect its peace and its purity in the day of so much deception and compromise.

-Jim Pickett

The death of Christianity in the U.S.



Christianity has died in the hands of Evangelicals. Evangelicalism ceased being a religious faith tradition following Jesus’ teachings concerning justice for the betterment of humanity when it made a Faustian bargain for the sake of political influence. The beauty of the gospel message — of love, of peace and of fraternity — has been murdered by the ambitions of Trumpish flimflammers who have sold their souls for expediency. No greater proof is needed of the death of Christianity than the rush to defend a child molester in order to maintain a majority in the U.S. Senate.

Evangelicals have constructed an exclusive interpretation which fuses and confuses white supremacy with salvation. Only those from the dominant culture, along with their supposed inferiors who with colonized minds embrace assimilation, can be saved. But their salvation damns Jesus. To save Jesus from those claiming to be his heirs, we must wrench him from the hands of those who use him as a façade from which to hide their phobias — their fear of blacks, their fear of the undocumented, their fear of Muslims, their fear of everything queer.

Evangelicalism has ceased to be a faith perspective rooted on Jesus the Christ and has become a political movement whose beliefs repudiate all Jesus advocated. A message of hate permeates their pronouncements, evident in sulphurous proclamations like the Nashville Statement, which elevates centuries of sexual dysfunctionalities since the days of Augustine by imposing them upon Holy Writ. They condemn as sin those who express love outside the evangelical anti-body straight jacket. 

Evangelicalism’s unholy marriage to the Prosperity Gospel justifies multi-millionaire bilkers wearing holy vestments made of sheep’s clothing who discovered being profiteers rather than prophets delivers an earthly security never promised by the One in whose name they slaughter those who are hungry, thirsty and naked, and the alien among them. Christianity at a profit is an abomination before all that is Holy. From their gilded pedestals erected in white centers of wealth and power, they gaslight all to believe they are the ones being persecuted because of their faith. 

Evangelicalism’s embrace of a new age of ignorance, blames homosexuality for Harvey’s rage rather than considering the scientific consequences climate change has on the number of increasing storms of greater and greater ferocity. To ignore the damage caused to God’s creation so the few can profit in raping Mother Earth causes celebrations in the fiery pits of Gehenna. Evangelicalism forsakes holding a sexual predator, an adulterer, a liar and a racist accountable, instead serving as a shield against those who question POTUS’ immorality because of some warped reincarnation of Cyrus. Laying holy hands upon the incarnation of the very vices Jesus condemned to advance a political agenda — instead of rebuking and chastising in loving prayer — has prostituted the gospel in exchange for the victory of a Supreme Court pick. 

Evangelicalism either remained silent or actually supported Charlottesville goose steppers because they protect their white privilege with the doublespeak of preserving heritage, leading them to equate opponents of fascist movements with the purveyors of hatred. Jesus has yet recovered from the vomiting induced by the Christian defenders of torch-wielding white nationalists calling for “blood-and- soil.” 

The Evangelicals’ Jesus is satanic, and those who hustle this demon are “false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles ofChrist. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve” (2 Cor. 11:13-15, NIV). 

You might wonder if my condemnation is too harsh. It is not, for the Spirit of the Lord has convicted me to shout from the mountaintop how God’s precious children are being devoured by the hatred and bigotry of those who have positioned themselves as the voice of God in America. As a young man, I walked down the sawdust aisle at a Southern Baptist church and gave my heart to Jesus. Besides offering my broken heart, I also gave my mind to understanding God, and my arm to procuring God’s call for justice. I have always considered myself to be an evangelical, but I can no longer allow my name to be tarnished by that political party masquerading as Christian. Like many women and men of good will who still struggle to believe, but not in the evangelical political agenda, I too no longer want or wish to be associated with an ideology responsible for tearing humanity apart. But if you, dear reader, still cling to a hate-mongering ideology, may I humbly suggest you get saved.



2017: My Conversion From Optimist to Grateful

 Pastor Jim Picket

Pastor Jim Picket

“No one is as capable of gratitude as one who has emerged from the kingdom of night. We know that every moment is a moment of grace, every hour an offering; not to share them would mean to betray them. Our lives no longer belong to us alone; they belong to all those who need us desperately.”  Elie Wiesel, Night

If you have read the book Night you will know that Elie Wiesel, as a young boy, watched his family perish at Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp.  After this experience, he left the Jewish faith and declared himself an atheist.  

Amazing, then, that he brings up the subject of gratitude.  And, that he speaks of its importance. In another place, in his book, he says that our humanity is incomplete without gratitude. He also makes the point that gratitude comes on the heels of suffering.  Then, on top of it all, he uses uniquely Biblical language—grace; offering, and a kind of sharing that indicates that our lives no longer belong to us!  We would call it a yielding of self for others, a sacrificial love.

If he was an atheist, he spoke with more understanding about giving thanks than most religious people do.

I was born to an eternally optimistic mother.  Nothing could keep her down for long or deter her spirit.  She was a survivor of the depression, of the Second World War and I think she modeled herself after Eleanor Roosevelt.   But all of the optimism in the world did not make for grateful—in any of her children.  We sometimes imitate her optimism in a “c’mon, we can make it through this if we all just give it the ole college try.” (one of my mother’s sayings) But this is not gratitude.   

For me, this has come as it did for Mr. Wiesel, emerging through the kingdom of night.  It has been in the darkness when I can no longer see, when there has been no one around to help, and when optimism is nothing but a lie because you are dying of cancer or you are holding a dead child or you have made a mistake that feels permanently damning.  

When I was ten or so I started experiencing this.  I believed there was a God but I did not know who he was.  Yet in the darkness of my spirit, I would lay on my bed and in those moments cry and beg him to help me because I was sure that if he didn’t the darkness would consume me.  I did this for eight years.

Then He came for me. It remains the most shocking part of my story.  The Lord heard my cries—those of a desperate, lost eighteen-year-old man—and he made me his son.  I still can’t get over it.  It is what I am most grateful for in my life.  

I decided to write this because this is the season of giving thanks and gratitude.  Then I realized that this past year has been one of the hardest I have ever been through.  Sometimes I feel as if it has been one long “kingdom of night.”  Even so, what emerges from these days and before my eyes is gratitude.  And for me, not to share them would be my betrayal of them. For in truth, they do not belong to me but to all of you who travel with me.

Here are a few things I have been particularly grateful for this past year.

  • The way Paul Smallman so seamlessly took up the position of being our music director when Michael left and has only made us a better worshipping community than we hoped to be.  Paul’s talents, character, and faithfulness were more than we asked for or imagined from God.

  • The way you, the congregation, prayed for me when I was diagnosed and was treated for cancer.  It was overwhelming.  It was palpable—like I was being carried along by all of you.  In that entire ordeal, even when the news was bad, I felt the covering of God’s people.  And, I believe that the good outcome I received is a result of the prayers of God’s people on my behalf.  

  • The honesty of my wife at the end of June; the honesty of my counselor at the end of June; and the honesty of some of you at the end of June; all of which spoke to a particular issue of mine that was causing relational trouble.  This sent me into my vacation with much to think on; meditate on, and some hard moments in the New Mexico desert wondering at my age what repentance looks like.  I came back extremely grateful for it all.

  • Finally, and most recently, on a day when I thought that for many reasons I just no longer had the stamina to carry the workload as pastor of East Lake, God, on that same day, orchestrated a plan by which one of our own elders, Scott Schindler, would be hired as our full-time executive director of administration for a seven month period.  The elders, the personnel, and finance committees all endorsed this plan and produced a job description within a week. So, on November 27th, Scott will inaugurate this new position.  In my twenty years plus at New City Fellowship I have never had administrative help.  Given the nature of our ministry, our needs both internally and externally, and my working so long in a state of being overwhelmed, I am not only grateful, I can’t believe it is happening.

“I will praise you, O Lord my God with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.For great is your love toward me; you delivered me from the depths of the grave.”   Psalm 86:12,13