If you live in Kerrville over the month of September you probably saw promotional materials for The Gathering, an event October 3 at Tivy stadium hosted by the Kerr Ministerial Alliance, a diverse, ecumenical alliance of local ministry and church leaders.
Event organizers believe some 4,000 people would attend. Reports came in that it was less than that. I’m writing today to sound a note of caution and a plea for discernment if you chose to attend.
First, let me say I praise God that religious events like this can be freely held. I praise God for the freedom of speech and religious expression. These are wonderful blessings from God and seeking to hinder or diminish these in any way is not what this blog is about.
I’m all for true, biblical unity of Christians across denominational and church lines. I have no issue with large gatherings of Christians worshipping God and hearing from Scripture and expressing broader unity beyond our church walls.
But in any and every gathering, we must be discerning, comparing everything we hear and see to Scripture and to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul said it plainly, “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good” (I Thess. 5:21). That includes this blog and every sermon you hear and every gathering you attend.
I guess to come right out and say it, my biggest concern is with the speaker chosen for this event, Dominic Russo and his theology.
I’m not saying that everything this man says or believes is off base or that he’s not a Christian. I’m not saying that his organization and efforts haven’t done any good. I’m sure he is sincere. He is clearly a motivator and I’m sure means well. I have nothing against him personally.
My first concern is his level of biblical knowledge and understanding, given this great responsibility to address such a crowd. Here are a couple of examples. One, I watched a YouTube video of him on TBN. During the 10 minute segment, he referred to Paul’s statement in Gal. 6 of being crucified to the world and used this to motivate viewers to love the world. On the video, Mr. Russo incorrectly blended Rom. 9:1-5 with Gal. 6:14, where Paul actually writes, “But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
By world here, Paul means the fallen world system, the “kosmos” in opposition to God and ruled by Satan. Paul is saying that through his conversion to Christ, he has died to the world and the world to him (much like our dying to sin in Romans 6). It no longer has the same sinful sway that it once did in his heart.
Another example is from last’s year event at Tivy stadium. Mr. Russo referenced the Tower of Babel event as a positive example of “what people can accomplish when they come together for a common purpose.” Surely he knows the rest of the story, where God judged man’s pride at the Tower of Babel.
My second concern relates to his ministry claims on his personal and church web sites. I find it striking and ironic that his ministry claims to have changed the nation of Honduras in a single day through a one day, short-term mission campaign. The whole nation was “reached” and “changed” and “transformed.” Yet in the last year our borders were being overrun by children escaping Central America, Honduras included. I recently talked to a traveling evangelist who just returned from Honduras. He said, “Chris, I can assure you, the whole nation is not changed.” This claim is either naïve or quite an exaggeration.
Consider that the very Son of God came to earth, carried out three years of intense public ministry and yet even Jesus Himself did not change a nation in one day. Years of public and private ministry, true miracles and untold healings, exhausting travels, preaching and all night prayer sessions and still Israel as a nation was not changed in a one day or even 1,000 days! After His ascension, only 120 were gathered in an upper room, praying and waiting and afraid.
Even after the sending of the Spirit in Acts 2 and a great Jewish revival, only a tiny fraction came to Christ. The way is narrow and there are few who find it said Jesus.
Maybe my greatest concern is his apparent Word of Faith or prosperity theology that undergirds his message and ministry.
Here’s a quote in one of his motivational moments: “You can change the world.” But can we, really? The world is under the curse of God and lies in the lap of the wicked one. We can be used by God to reach individuals for Christ, but we can’t change the world. It’s too big and it’s too bad. The world is doomed and headed for judgment and then the return of King Jesus, who alone by His presence, will change the world.
From the web site promoting the event locally, we read about four commitments participants are called to make. One of the four reads, “I commit to speak change into Kerr County.” This is classic Word of Faith jargon that doesn’t square with Scripture. Only God can speak change and it come about. Only God can speak things into existence, like He did at creation. We can speak with love and speak the gospel and plead with God and plead with sinners to be reconciled to God, but our lives and community and county are in His hands. Let’s not overstep our proper boundaries or set up unbiblical expectations that then go unfulfilled.
Here’s another quote from a video on Russo’s website: “Heaven wants to do so much on earth… you are the door way from heaven to earth.” They take the correct teaching that God responds to the pleas of His people and run to the point where God is essentially handcuffed until we release Him to work by our words and works of faith. What else can be meant by “you are the door way from heaven to earth”? Rather, Jesus Christ said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.” He said, “I am the Way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Jesus is the only door way from heaven to earth.
Dominic’s web site says his ministry exists “to awaken and inspire the dreams of God in hearts worldwide.” I’m not sure what this means. God doesn’t have dreams. He’s the all-knowing, never sleeping, sovereign God of the universe who reigns over all things and “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11). He has plans and He executes His plans and no one can stop Him or say to Him, “what have you done?”
The organizers of this event are citing statistics on their website about how dramatically things have changed in our local economy, in crime, in our schools, and in our weather throughout Kerr County over the last year and attributing it directly to last year’s event. Frankly, I find that insulting of all the hard work and prayers of God’s people that have been going on in this area for years, not to mention God’s common grace as the rain falls on the just and unjust alike. To trace the coming of Chic-Fil-A to Kerrville to a one day event last year is absurd.
This word of caution and critique is given in love for Dominic Russo, for the organizers and supporters of this event and for all of Kerr County. I pray it can be received in that light.
I have a helpful resource I’d love to give you free of charge. It’s a DVD called Clouds without Water from Justin Peters Ministries. Just come by our church office at 898 Harper Road to receive one while supplies last.
Unless otherwise noted, all posts are written by Pastor Chris McKnight