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Dr. Joseph Zichterman

Wrong Dr. Joseph Zichterman?
Church-Growth Movement
 
Background

Employment History

  • Bible Professor
    Northland Baptist Bible College
  • NBBC

Board Memberships and Affiliations

  • Member
    Willow Creek

Education

  • Bob Jones University
  • Ph.D.
    PCC
  • Ph. D.
    Pensacola
  • honorary degree
16 Total References
Web References
A few hours ago, I carefully ...
www.sharperiron.org [cached]
A few hours ago, I carefully listened to an MP3 in which Joe Zichterman, former Bible professor at Northland Baptist Bible College (Dunbar, WI), discusses his reasons for joining the Church-Growth Movement (CGM) in general and Willow Creek Community Church (South Barrington, IL) in particular.I'm sure I'm not the only one who has found his presentation both moving and disturbing.
My heart goes out to Joe and to his family because it's evident to me that he or someone in his family (or both) has suffered something very painful at the hands of fundamentalists. (In the talk, Joe doesn't target Fundamentalism by name but clearly includes it under the "high-control groups" label.) Whether what was painful was also wrong I'm not in a position to know, but it's certainly possible.
I'll respond to a few points in Joe's presentation, but the larger goal here is to encourage anyone pondering a similar move to rethink his options.
Pensees: Why He Joined Willow Creek and My Knee-jerk Reaction
weblog.wordcentered.org [cached]
Dr. Joseph Zichterman is a graduate of Bob Jones University, taught at Northland Baptist Bible College, and is now a member at Willow Creek. He is an expert on the Church Growth Movement, once as an antagonist, now as a friend.
I do not know Joseph Zichterman personally, but he and I share mutual friends. Last night I received an email from him that had been sent to thousands of his contacts. It included a link to his new website and a short notice that he and his wife were taking a "new direction. I immediately scanned through the website, saw the audio file "Why I Joined Willow Creek" and read Joseph's bold affirmation of his involvement in the Emergent conversation.
...
And, though I don't know Joseph, I think I know what would drive him to get as far away as possible from what he calls (I would find out later) a "high control" group.
I feel that if I knew Dr. Zichterman personally, I would probably like him. We could possibly be friends. I know nothing of his personal experiences within the circles of fundamentalism that he knew (the same that I know), but I know enough to know that his critical analysis of these circles as "high-control" cultures is pretty much right on the money. His insight into the way leadership functions in these circles sparkles, I think, with the intrigue of personal experience. I should be very clear here: he never names his former circles specifically. He is careful to use as illustrations Mormon polygamists and the like. But even a dullard can connect the dots.
He speaks well.
...
1. Zichterman's was a Church Growth Movement expert as an antagonist in fundamentalist circles prior to his "Damascus road experience" where he switched sides. His first dissertation was on the Church Growth Movement. 2. Zichterman abandoned fundamentalism for the Church Growth Movement in part because of the spiritual abuse he experienced within fundamentalism. 3. Zichterman is well-read on the subject, emotionally-charged, and lays out a very articulate case for the Church Growth Movement which, though I believe it falls short of giving an adequate defense, at least masterfully exposes the fatal flaws of fundamentalism. 4. This lecture has all the vigor, zeal, pathos, and conviction of a new convert who is unmistakably calling out to his fundamentalist brethren to break the shackles of their high control group and repudiate the John MacArthur-esque suspicion of the Church Growth Movement.
For these reasons alone, it is worth listening to. If Fundamentalist leaders try to ignore it or discourage their followers from hearing it, particularly the ones who may be sympathetic to Joseph, they will only prove Zichterman's point.
...
Here Zichterman briefly outlines the theological and philosophical foundations for the thinking of such men as Bill Hybels and Rick Warren.
...
Among the basic tenets of the CGM that Zichterman offered are the
...
Here Joseph gave three non-negotiables that the CGM agree on: a. The inspiration of the Bible b. The Person of Christ. He is God and Man. c. Salvation is in Christ alone.
At this point, Zichterman opened the can of worms he would dive into again a few minutes later: the issue of women in the church. While I sympathized with him on many points, one of his arguments struck me as a bit histrionic:
What an absolute tragedy it would be if a woman in your community refused to get saved because she was given the unscriptural impression that she would have to step down socially [from her status] in modern-day egalitarian America."
Frankly, it is hard for me to imagine an unconverted woman even contemplating whether she could be a preacher/teacher in the church when she is first confronted with the Gospel. And, if that is in the back of her mind, I hardly think that she really understood the Gospel in the first place. We all step down. And we can't even bring ourselves to look up. Oh, well. . .
Here also, Joseph began to repeat a phrase about the danger of being too conservative and he championed the virtues of discernment. Anyone serious about God, he said, knows that "being an inch too conservative on any issue is not God's best."
...
The latter part of the lecture is where Zichterman hits the nail on the head, I think. His grief with high control groups (read fundamentalism) come to the forefront in this section.
...
I hold to a strong complementarian position (Joseph obviously leans to egalitarianism), but I have been distressed to the point of anguish by the abuse women have undergone in right-wing, fundamentalistic churches. I have counseled enough women who have undergone spiritual, emotional, psychological, physical, and sexual abuse in mute subjugation because they are supposed to honor and obey their husbands. It is horrible. There's no doubt about it.
But one gets the impression that Zichterman has an axe to grind and while he does his best to insinuate age-old egalitarian arguments as if they are fresh into the minds of his hearers, he really says nothing new or fresh himself.
Except for one thing.
In this section here, Joseph touches the nerve of the fundamentalist error as far as I am concerned. He commends the CGM for restoring a true understanding of the one-ness of God's people. While I doubt that the CGM has restored a true understanding, I would certainly concur with Zichterman that most high-control groups (read fundamentalism) have so de-emphasized unity that they have practically purged it out of the Bible.
...
I found Zichterman's solution for spiritually abused people who are just coming out of high-control groups to be appalling.
...
If this doesn't describe the fundamentalism that Zichterman and I both know, I don't know what does. Zichterman goes on for some time about the lack of accountability in several areas, including the phony degrees that people can get online and elsewhere. He also talks long and hard about non-accredited schools and, once again, one feels like he has an axe to grind.
Fifthly, money is another reason why high-control groups keep control. If they lose control, they simply can't compete with mainstream evangelicalism. Group leaders always live better than staffers, he says, and many staffers have to go on welfare to survive. Fine. I'm not sure that I would have made that one of my five characteristics of spiritual abuse, but again, Zichterman wants this message to be heard. It's not hard to imagine who his target is.
Finally, Joseph Zichterman suggests three insightful reasons why people won't leave the high-control groups.
1. They have improperly educated consciences. I totally agree with Joseph here, and he makes a tremendous point when he says that one of the best ways to re-educate the conscience of a defector is to teach him church history. There are a number of people in this city who would love to come to a church like ours but they hear that Calvinism comes from the pit of hell and Spurgeon would agree with that! Fortunately, some of them are googling "spurgeon" and finding their ranting pastors to be mis-leading. 2. The loss of relationships. This is perhaps the most insightful analysis because one gets the impression that Joseph speaks from experience. As one who has been trashed by fundamentalist leadership in the most unethical and unchristian ways, I concur with Joseph that "there will be a witch hunt" the second you defect.
...
Joseph is right to say that the only ones that will understand it completely are the ones who have been at the brunt end of this treatment.
...
In the main, I found myself sympathizing and empathizing with Zichterman.
The fundamentalism I hate is the fundamentalism that gives no answers. Just imbibe groupthink and God forbid that you should ever fall out of grace with the powers that be. Recently I talked with a mutual friend of ours. Our conversation was about Zichterman. I knew nothing of the man and, therefore, took at face value all the high things that our friend had to say about him. I have sung some songs by Zichterman and have appreciated the work that God has done in my heart through his songs. However, I told our mutual friend that I was sorely disappointed that Joe (as he called him) had joined Willow Creek. I asked him what Joe was going to do with the Emergent philosophy that was there.
Our friend, wounded himself, said that he had no idea what Emergent was, but that "Joe" would certainly not embrace the errors of the Emergent as I portrayed them to him. Perhaps not. I hope not. But Zichterman is in the "conversation," as he says. Our friend said that since we had to hear fundamentalists blither and blather errors on one side and we survived that, why not hear evangelicals blither and blather on the other side. Certainly, we'd survive those errors as well. Basically, pick your poison, he said.
...
Sooooooo... your knee-jerk rea
Pensees: My Criticism of Zichterman’s “Coming Out”
weblog.wordcentered.org [cached]
Dr. Zichterman is still a relatively young man that has been all over the map theologically and ecclesiologically. Not only has he wandered all over the Evangelical landscape, but he has promoted himself as a champion for whatever sphere he found himself in. Thus, with his Ph.D. from right-wing, ultra-conservative Pensacola Christian College he presented himself as the de facto authority on the fallacies of the Church Growth Movement. Now as a member of the Church Growth Movement's mother ship, he is practically begging people to join the church by employing as much academic clout he can pack. Zichterman wasn't merely a passive hearer, but a teacher of opposing views. All of this in a very short amount of time.
We all change our minds, but one has to wonder a little bit about Zichterman's "Damascus Road experience.
...
As I have said before, I do not know the man, feel like I would indeed like him very much if we were to meet personally, but strictly on the merit of the trajectory of his Christian pilgrimage, the brevity of his years, and the radical extremes of his cherished opinions, I think Zichterman has good thoughts, but zero authority.
Zichterman's leap from high-control fundamentalism (his Ph. D. was from Pensacola) to Willow Creek is really not so much of a leap. Both are extremely man-centered. Zichterman did not replace the hero-worship of radical fundamentalism. He merely replaced the hero.
...
Zichterman is surprisingly like right-wing fundamentalists when his sources of authority are contemporary men, particularly the ones who are the chieftains of his current tribe. Zichterman celebrates his "Damascus Road experience" and even suggests that we may need to have our own. It is even hinted that if we read the three books and watch the two Hollywood movies that sparked his own "Damascus Road experience" we might have one ourselves! While he doesn't actually describe the "experience," he promotes three books (one by Hybels, of course) and the movies as must-reads/sees. One movie he watched a number of times, he said.
...
The pap that Zichterman recommended as life-changing, Damascus-road-experience-inducing material might indicate a shallow mind, if not one that is emotionally unstable. He seems, in spite of his doctorates, too much like a soft, feather pillow in that it bears the imprint of the last rump that sat on it.
...
Zichterman seems to be doing the same thing by suggesting that the qualities of the CGM are unique to the CGM. Since the Doctrine of Oneness and the burden for growth are, according to the CGM, the cardinal virtues of the Church then all who do not comply with their views must be heretics. They may not say that in so many terms, but the implication is obvious. If Zichterman loved the Body of Christ so much, why doesn't he have the chutzpah to stay as close to the circles that he mis-led as possible and help us all come to the light?
I understand that he may have been hurt, but good grief! I perfectly understand how the CGM may end up being a harbor for hurt people to heal, but I hardly think people who have to escape so radically can turn around and wag the finger at those of us who voluntarily adopt to bloom where we have been planted. I do not deny hurt, but I do deny the right to leadership and authority those who can't get over hurt.
This criticism may seem harsh, but even the most brain-washed fundy realizes that the mass emailing of a link to his new ministry that essentially says nothing substantive about what the ministry is actually about except that it has in the most prominent place possible a link to his audio file on Willow Creek is really an attempt to get us all to hear his "coming out."
The fact of the matter is, as one friend pointed out to me, Dr. Zichterman has found his crowd in the Emergent Conversation. They are seeing all the problems, asking all the right questions and getting the wrong answers.
...
Joseph Zichterman has made a small step from man-centered "hyles" to man-centered Hybels.
...
Is Joseph Zichterman a brother? No doubt. Does he have something important to say?
...
Not to disagree with your overall point - believe me, I don't and I am greatly saddened by this whole situation as one who knows Joe (or at least used to know Joe, but has lost contact with him).
However, the PCC Ph.D. was not an indication of his agreement with their brand of Fundamentalism. He got it there because it was the situation that allowed him to get his Ph. D. while he was teaching at NBBC, Pastoring a church and taking care of a large family, not because he viewed their philosophy as the correct philosophy. (He did say that they treated him well despite being from a school that was on the other side of the KJV issue.)
Ironically, he received his Ph.D. from PCC and his honorary doctorate from BJU the same weekend.
...
This is where Zichterman fails miserably.
...
Zichterman did not replace the hero-worship of radical fundamentalism. He merely replaced the hero.
...
The potential weakness in Bob's argument here is that I think the people who've known Zichterman would agree that his ties have been far more close to Northland, Bob Jones, and the Wilds than to Pensacola.
...
Or, put this way, PCC is merely the far fringe of the group Zichterman has abandoned which includes BJU, NBBC, and the Wilds, but as far as I am concerned it is still the same group, and I would be willing to wager Zichterman would agree.
...
I just finished writing the same points, however, before I noticed your post: the soteriology which I understand Joe promotes really makes the jump far less surprising than most think.
...
Assuming I am correct in my assessment, this is hardly unique to Joe.
...
I don't think there is much profit in any of us trying to figure out the mental/emotional state which produced these changes in Joe.
Was he hurt?
...
Joe has made choices that reflect the desires of his heart and the nature of his thinking regarding biblical truth. Frankly, the Bible is clear that he can't even figure out the complexities of his own heart, so why should we try to do so via cyberspace. His actions and ideas deserve discerning scrutiny.
...
If Joe has turned away from biblical truth, and I think he has, it's an inside problem, not outside one.
...
Are only white affluent males capable of these sins, Joe?
...
As I read this well-written article about Joe Zichterman's switchover from one branch of Christianity to another I noticed criticisms of Tom Farrell's preaching an invitation style.
...
As I read this well-written article about Joe Zichterman's switchover from one branch of Christianity to another I noticed criticisms of Tom Farrell's preaching an invitation style.
...
As I read this well-written article about Joe Zichterman's switchover from one branch of Christianity to another I noticed criticisms of Tom Farrell's preaching an invitation style.
...
As I read this well-written article about Joe Zichterman's switchover from one branch of Christianity to another I noticed criticisms of Tom Farrell's preaching an invitation style.
In his lecture, Joe ...
www.sharperiron.org [cached]
In his lecture, Joe Zichterman made many references to Christian liberty and Romans 14.
...
Joe used an example from an Amish acquaintance:
[He] told us that he dreamed . . . about going wild one day and putting on a red shirt . . . . [T]he first time he finally decided to wear a red shirt when he walked down the street . . . He felt like everyone was looking at him . . . and that they were getting riled up emotionally when they saw him . . . . And he was literally in tears talking about how he wished his family and friends could bask in the liberty he had now found in Jesus Christ (20:10). (more…)
Discuss this article.
Your First Step Won't Be Your Last
...
A few hours ago, I carefully listened to an MP3 in which Joe Zichterman, former Bible professor at Northland Baptist Bible College (Dunbar, WI), discusses his reasons for joining the Church-Growth Movement (CGM) in general and Willow Creek Community Church (South Barrington, IL) in particular.I'm sure I'm not the only one who has found his presentation both moving and disturbing.
My heart goes out to Joe and to his family because it's evident to me that he or someone in his family (or both) has suffered something very painful at the hands of fundamentalists. (In the talk, Joe doesn't target Fundamentalism by name but clearly includes it under the "high-control groups" label.) Whether what was painful was also wrong I'm not in a position to know, but it's certainly possible.
I'll respond to a few points in Joe's presentation, but the larger goal here is to encourage anyone pondering a similar move to rethink his options.
Pensees: Why He Joined Willow Creek and My Knee-jerk Reaction
weblog.wordcentered.org [cached]
Dr. Joseph Zichterman is a graduate of Bob Jones University, taught at Northland Baptist Bible College, and is now a member at Willow Creek.He is an expert on the Church Growth Movement, once as an antagonist, now as a friend.
I do not know Joseph Zichterman personally, but he and I share mutual friends.Last night I received an email from him that had been sent to thousands of his contacts.It included a link to his new website and a short notice that he and his wife were taking a "new direction."I immediately scanned through the website, saw the audio file "Why I Joined Willow Creek" and read Joseph's bold affirmation of his involvement in the Emergent conversation.
...
And, though I don't know Joseph, I think I know what would drive him to get as far away as possible from what he calls (I would find out later) a "high control" group.
I feel that if I knew Dr. Zichterman personally, I would probably like him.We could possibly be friends.I know nothing of his personal experiences within the circles of fundamentalism that he knew (the same that I know), but I know enough to know that his critical analysis of these circles as "high-control" cultures is pretty much right on the money.His insight into the way leadership functions in these circles sparkles, I think, with the intrigue of personal experience.I should be very clear here: he never names his former circles specifically.He is careful to use as illustrations Mormon polygamists and the like.But even a dullard can connect the dots.
He speaks well.
...
1. Zichterman's was a Church Growth Movement expert as an antagonist in fundamentalist circles prior to his "Damascus road experience" where he switched sides.His first dissertation was on the Church Growth Movement. 2. Zichterman abandoned fundamentalism for the Church Growth Movement in part because of the spiritual abuse he experienced within fundamentalism.3. Zichterman is well-read on the subject, emotionally-charged, and lays out a very articulate case for the Church Growth Movement which, though I believe it falls short of giving an adequate defense, at least masterfully exposes the fatal flaws of fundamentalism.4. This lecture has all the vigor, zeal, pathos, and conviction of a new convert who is unmistakably calling out to his fundamentalist brethren to break the shackles of their high control group and repudiate the John MacArthur-esque suspicion of the Church Growth Movement.
For these reasons alone, it is worth listening to.If Fundamentalist leaders try to ignore it or discourage their followers from hearing it, particularly the ones who may be sympathetic to Joseph, they will only prove Zichterman's point.
...
Here Zichterman briefly outlines the theological and philosophical foundations for the thinking of such men as Bill Hybels and Rick Warren.
...
Among the basic tenets of the CGM that Zichterman offered are the
...
Here Joseph gave three non-negotiables that the CGM agree on:a. The inspiration of the Bibleb. The Person of Christ.He is God and Man.c. Salvation is in Christ alone.
At this point, Zichterman opened the can of worms he would dive into again a few minutes later: the issue of women in the church.While I sympathized with him on many points, one of his arguments struck me as a bit histrionic:
What an absolute tragedy it would be if a woman in your community refused to get saved because she was given the unscriptural impression that she would have to step down socially [from her status] in modern-day egalitarian America."
Frankly, it is hard for me to imagine an unconverted woman even contemplating whether she could be a preacher/teacher in the church when she is first confronted with the Gospel.And, if that is in the back of her mind, I hardly think that she really understood the Gospel in the first place.We all step down.And we can't even bring ourselves to look up.Oh, well. . .
Here also, Joseph began to repeat a phrase about the danger of being too conservative and he championed the virtues of discernment.Anyone serious about God, he said, knows that "being an inch too conservative on any issue is not God's best."
Frankly, I agree.But it seems to me that discerning people would also opine about the danger of being an inch too lax about issues that may be really important to God.Joseph's fascination with the Emergent Conversation which is fascinated, so they say, with historical theology, should inform him of the ancient history of certain men named Nadab and Abihu who were a bit too lax.Or does the fascination with history only go so far?
The latter part of the lecture is where Zichterman hits the nail on the head, I think.His grief with high control groups (read fundamentalism) come to the forefront in this section.
...
I hold to a strong complementarian position (Joseph obviously leans to egalitarianism), but I have been distressed to the point of anguish by the abuse women have undergone in right-wing, fundamentalistic churches.I have counseled enough women who have undergone spiritual, emotional, psychological, physical, and sexual abuse in mute subjugation because they are supposed to honor and obey their husbands.It is horrible.There's no doubt about it.
But one gets the impression that Zichterman has an axe to grind and while he does his best to insinuate age-old egalitarian arguments as if they are fresh into the minds of his hearers, he really says nothing new or fresh himself.
Except for one thing.
In this section here, Joseph touches the nerve of the fundamentalist error as far as I am concerned.He commends the CGM for restoring a true understanding of the one-ness of God's people.While I doubt that the CGM has restored a true understanding, I would certainly concur with Zichterman that most high-control groups (read fundamentalism) have so de-emphasized unity that they have practically purged it out of the Bible.
...
I found Zichterman's solution for spiritually abused people who are just coming out of high-control groups to be appalling.
...
If this doesn't describe the fundamentalism that Zichterman and I both know, I don't know what does.Zichterman goes on for some time about the lack of accountability in several areas, including the phony degrees that people can get online and elsewhere.He also talks long and hard about non-accredited schools and, once again, one feels like he has an axe to grind.
Fifthly, money is another reason why high-control groups keep control.If they lose control, they simply can't compete with mainstream evangelicalism.Group leaders always live better than staffers, he says, and many staffers have to go on welfare to survive.Fine.I'm not sure that I would have made that one of my five characteristics of spiritual abuse, but again, Zichterman wants this message to be heard.It's not hard to imagine who his target is.
Finally, Joseph Zichterman suggests three insightful reasons why people won't leave the high-control groups.
1. They have improperly educated consciences.I totally agree with Joseph here, and he makes a tremendous point when he says that one of the best ways to re-educate the conscience of a defector is to teach him church history.There are a number of people in this city who would love to come to a church like ours but they hear that Calvinism comes from the pit of hell and Spurgeon would agree with that!Fortunately, some of them are googling "spurgeon" and finding their ranting pastors to be mis-leading.2. The loss of relationships.This is perhaps the most insightful analysis because one gets the impression that Joseph speaks from experience.As one who has been trashed by fundamentalist leadership in the most unethical and unchristian ways, I concur with Joseph that "there will be a witch hunt" the second you defect.
...
Joseph is right to say that the only ones that will understand it completely are the ones who have been at the brunt end of this treatment.
...
In the main, I found myself sympathizing and empathizing with Zichterman.
The fundamentalism I hate is the fundamentalism that gives no answers.Just imbibe groupthink and God forbid that you should ever fall out of grace with the powers that be.Recently I talked with a mutual friend of ours.Our conversation was about Zichterman.I knew nothing of the man and, therefore, took at face value all the high things that our friend had to say about him.I have sung some songs by Zichterman and have appreciated the work that God has done in my heart through his songs.However, I told our mutual friend that I was sorely disappointed that Joe (as he called him) had joined Willow Creek.I asked him what Joe was going to do with the Emergent philosophy that was there.
Our friend, wounded himself, said that he had no idea what Emergent was, but that "Joe" would certainly not embrace the errors of the Emergent as I
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