ON RESPONDING TO FALSE ACCUSATIONS
Dear Saddleback family,
A week ago a reporter published an article in the Orange County Register about Saddleback Church that contained many errors and false assumptions:
It erroneously stated that we have a partnership with a local Muslim mosque.
That is false.
It erroneously reported that we had agreed to not evangelize with Muslims.
That is false.
It erroneously reported that we believe Saddleback and Muslims worship the same God.
That is false
It erroneously used a picture of our new PEACE Center as the example of a program of cooperation with Muslims.
That is false.
It erroneously reported that our church had agreed to a theological document with Muslims.
That is false.
Usually, we try to ignore the false statements made by media, and especially irresponsible bloggers, because 1) Reacting to every false report would take up most of our time, 2) It is almost impossible to undo an error’s damage once it is on the Internet, 3) God knows the truth and he is the only one we must please, 4) It is Christlike to remain silent in the face of false accusations, 5) God blesses us even more every time we trust him with our defense, and 6) We have far more important tasks to accomplish with our time.
When opponents publicly attacked and openly criticized Nehemiah for the work God had assigned him, Nehemiah responded wisely, saying “ I sent messengers to them with this reply: ‘I am carrying on a great project and the work is too important for me to stop and respond to you. Why should the work stop while I leave it and meet with you?’" (Neh. 6:30) When people have already decided to not like you, nothing you say will change their minds . . . not the truth, facts, proof, or logic. They only get more defensive and angry. It’s a waste of your breath. We’ve seen this during the past week.
But because YOU value the truth, I agreed to do an interview to correct the errors of the article, and send it to you. Of course, anything I write to you also goes public. Once my interview was released, the “I-hate-Saddleback” bloggers refused to accept the facts, and they began looking for something else to attack or to claim that I had lied. Since I wasn’t asked in the interview about the fifth error (Has Saddleback signed a theological agreement?) the bloggers began looking for a loophole, or even a “cover-up.”
Of course Saddleback has NEVER agreed to any theological document with Muslims or else the elders and I would have seen it first! No agreement or document could possibly be approved without our consent! But the first time our elders and I even heard of a document was from the article! So this week I tracked down the rumor and here’s what I found:
A member of Saddleback started a Bible study, called The King’s Way, with some of our Muslim friends. During the study they started writing down things that they noticed Muslims, Jews, and Christians might have in common: They noticed that all three claim to believe the Great Commandment (“Love God with all you heart and love your Neighbor as yourself”), all three accept the Old Testament as Scripture (and Muslims claim to accept the New Testament also) and all three are monotheistic (one God, not many). They presented these thoughts at the Bible study’s Christmas dinner in December. That’s it! End of story! It went no further. No document was signed. No agreement was made. No covenant was approved. It was just two men sharing their observations at the Bible study dinner regarding what Muslims, Jews, and Christians have in common.
That’s a huge difference from the way it was reported. It was not a new partnership. It was not a theological covenant. It was not a new religion called “Chrislam.” The fact is, the Bible study discussion paper was never even seen by anyone on Saddleback’s Leadership Team (40 pastors,) Saddleback’s Pastor’s Management Team (14 pastors), Saddleback’s Trustees (6 business leaders), or Saddleback’s Elders (7 pastors).
Predictably, to defend himself after my interview corrected his errors, the Orange County Register reporter released a segment of the so-called “document” to the I-hate-Saddleback bloggers – giving them a supposed smoking gun. Unfortunately, he forgot to ask if any Saddleback pastors had actually signed or even seen this paper. We had not! But now we’ve heard that there will be a second article this Sunday in the Register giving a platform and legitimacy to attackers who didn’t know the facts either. So don’t be surprised if it’s wrong again.
If you missed reading my interview, click here to read it.
If you’d like to read what our Muslim friend said, click here to read it.
Let me be clear: This entire misunderstanding is neither the fault of Saddleback members nor our Muslim friends who accepted the invitation to study the Bible together. It’s the result of poor reporting and the willingness of irresponsible bloggers who hate us to automatically believe anything negative about our church. They shoot first, publish a report, then ask for clarification after they’ve done the damage, and finally, they never retract anything when proven wrong. When a national news agency contacted us this week, their conclusion was “There’s no real story here.” Duh!
This incident also highlights the gullibility of people who believe everything negative on the Internet without fact-checking and the willingness of Christians to pass on bad reports about others that they can’t confirm. When people WANT to believe the worst about you, they always pass on negative reports without validating them first. It’s a motivation issue.
“Only a fool believes everything he's told! A prudent man understands the need for proof.” (Proverbs 14:15)
That’s the rest of the story. We will continue to ignore the irresponsible bloggers who just want to fight, but we will keep you informed when blatant lies are told about our church family. I love you all!
“ALL ACCESS”, OUR NEW SERIES, STARTS THIS WEEKEND! I can’t wait for this powerful, fascinating, and life-changing study of what the Tabernacle teaches us about how we connect with God and his amazing grace to us!
PRAY FOR OUR SADDLEBACK SAN CLEMENTE MEMBERS. This weekend, they are having a special Decade of Destiny offering and making their two-year giving commitments in order to move in to our first permanent building there.