Thursday, January 2, 2014

Destiny the Book: Some Thoughts

One of the blessings of holidays is that you can read. I have just read Destiny: the Life and Times of a Self-Made Apostle, by Peter Lineham. I have to say it was a great and interesting read. Well done Peter Lineham.

The book leaves me a little uncertain of how to respond to the Destiny phenomenon. On the one hand, it is great that a Maori has risen from a difficult past to develop a genuinely powerful church. Many Maori and others have turned from destructive pasts to meaningful lives as a result, and for that I praise God. Our nation desperately needs the likes of Brian Tamaki to give leadership not only to Maori, but those who are lost in lives of brokenness and pain. What BT has achieved is also amazing. He is a shrewd and capable entrepreneurial leader who can clearly draw people to him. I certainly do not have the skills to do what he has done. I also admire the way that Destiny has stood up for moral issues; although Lineham’s critique that they have been overly aggressive and selective in what they confront is valid. On one level I have a lot of admiration for him.

On the other hand, having spent thirty years of so immersed in Scripture, the type of Christianity propagated by the Destiny movement and others such as City Impact worries me deeply. It is very money-centric with its prosperity gospel a severe corruption of the call to simplicity, contentment, and radical generosity of the NT. When we consider that mammon is one of the most fundamental “gods” of this age, I feel deeply disturbed by the seeming theological blindness of these churches. Have they not read 1 Timothy 6 or Luke’s Gospel?

The autocratic style of leadership is also counter-gospel with Jesus’ call to servant corporate leadership distorted. It is deeply disturbing when power lies with one couple. I also struggle with Christian churches that are blatantly happy to plunder other churches in their quest for growth. I myself ran into this when ministering in Rotorua in the mid-90s when BT targeted some of our better musicians seeking to woo them to his church. Thankfully they were not interested. There are also many other areas that worry me such as the covenant, the ethics of the Maori Women’s League affair, and their flawed eschatology and kingdom theology. Passing a church on to one’s son is also worrying, is dynastic Christianity the way to go? While I agree with Peter that this is not a cult, it is certainly sectarian and concerning.

It is not for me to resolve this sense of ambivalence; God is the judge of our ministry and work—I will leave it to him. That said, Peter Lineham’s excellent work is a must-read for all of us who are struggling to come to terms with what it means to be Christian in these difficult times. BT is a one who is “having a go” and dong good work, and for that I commend him. Beyond that I am not sure. Thanks Peter Lineham for deepening my understanding.

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