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Well, the internet is a strange place. With all the enthusiasm for and against Jeff Bethke’s viral video and now all the enthusiasm for and against my critique, it may seem like all we have here is sound and fury signifying nothing. Maybe another Bellesque brouhaha in the making.

But sometimes good things happen on the internet, even in exchanges like this. Jeff sent me an email yesterday afternoon and we exchanged several emails since then. I have his permission to post parts of that exchange.

This was his first email to me:

I just wanted to say I really appreciate your article man. It hit me hard. I’ll even be honest and say I agree 100%. God has been working with me in the last 6 months on loving Jesus AND loving his church. For the first few years of walking with Jesus (started in ’08) I had a warped/poor paradigm of the church and it didn’t build up, unify, or glorify His wife (the Bride). If I can be brutally honest I didn’t think this video would get much over a couple thousand views maybe, and because of that, my points/theology wasn’t as air-tight as I would’ve liked. If I redid the video tomorrow, I’d keep the overall message, but would articulate, elaborate, and expand on the parts where my words and delivery were chosen poorly… My prayer is my generation would represent Christ faithfully and not swing to the other spectrum….thankful for your words and more importantly thankful for your tone and fatherly like grace on me as my elder. Humbled. Blessed. Thankful for painful growth. Blessings.

Grace and Peace,

Jeff

I wrote this in reply:

Thanks for your email. It confirms my impression of you—humble, sincere, a real love for God and the gospel. I can’t remember ever receiving such a teachable response to criticism. I’m grateful for you and your courage in taking time to write me a note. Really grateful.

I know that criticism can be hard. You are probably getting it from right, left, and center, from Christians and non-Christians. I’m sure you are getting a lot of affirmation too, and that presents its own challenges. I tried to my write my post as a friend, not as a hater. I am rooting for you, not against you. I wanted to approach this like Acts 18:26. Thank you for receiving it in that spirit….

What can I do to help you? Have you thought about posting a clarifying follow up to the video? Or maybe writing something on “what I wish I had said differently?” It could be a powerful example of the things you were talking about to come back and say, “Hey, I didn’t get everything right here. I don’t want people to take this in the wrong direction.” Do you want me to post some of your email to me on my blog so people can see your heart in this? Let me know if there is something I can do.

Your friend,

Kevin

Later Jeff wrote me back. This is part of his reply:

Wasn’t expecting such a quick response. I appreciate you a ton, and your words really hit home…My biggest fear is that I will say something and it will be out on the internet forever. But already quickly learning all praise goes to Jesus, and same with critique…Feel free to share parts of my email on the blog if you’d like! The tone is already gracious enough but it’d be cool to show that we have had some correspondence and it’d mean a lot.

The actual emails were longer, but these excerpts give you a feel for the tone. I’m immensely grateful for Jeff’s response and feel like I’ve made a new friend in this process. We talked on the phone this morning and had a chance to get to know each other better. We talked about the wonders and trials of the internet and the difficulty in receiving praise and criticism. We both talked about what we could have done differently in retrospect.

A friend wrote to me yesterday and said, “This is a good test for both Jefferson and for yourself. Is he the kind of guy who would be willing to write a critic with humility? And did you write the piece in such a way that the one being criticized would feel comfortable chatting with you?” I hope we are passing that test. Through the years I haven’t always aced this kind of exam.

I hope everyone reading this blog will share Jeff’s heart and mine for getting the gospel out as far as we can and as right as we can. I look forward to seeing Jeff’s next video.


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Comments:


444 thoughts on “Following Up on the Jesus/Religion Video”

  1. Brett says:

    I am coming late to this discussion. Also I am not young. But Bethke is not completely wrong.

    Religion is the product of Man and has all his flaws built in. The clergy enjoy a measure of power and many abuse it. Others just revel in it. And the churches accept the donations of their believers while delivering… what?

    Whether Jesus did or did not like religion is immaterial. The scriptures have been rewritten so many time, translated and interpreted, by well meaning people but they were just men and women trying to make their church the one true church. So one or two little things get changed. The Greek says [abc] but it could also be interpreted as [bca] or [cab]. One way inserts support for our church and that is the one that is chosen.

    At the risk of sounding like a line in a cheap movie, “Trust your feelings.”

  2. Mark Breza says:

    Does resurrection theory by definition cross out orthodoxy
    & therefore become anti Semitic , burning the phoenix ?

  3. Bud Coover says:

    Mark please research the history of the Bible and it’s interpretation and I think you will find that it is amazing how God has protected the integrity of His Word.

  4. Shelama says:

    There’s a reason why the Gospels sound like a synthetic, contrived exercise in turning a failed, dead Jewish messiah into a successful, living Christian messiah. There’s a reason why Paul’s gospel and Christianity succeeded only among Greeks ignorant of Hebrew scripture and messianism. There’s a reason why nobody with critical understanding of the Bible converts to Christianity. There’s a reason why the growth of Christianity is greatest where profound ignorance of the Bible is endemic.

  5. Bud Coover says:

    sorry Mark that was meant for Brett

  6. David says:

    A lively exchange well worth reading and pondering! Provides much food for thought.

  7. In all of this no one defines Religion.
    Without it, a discussion of Religion is worthless.

    Joseph

  8. @Joseph B. Yesselman

    From Dictionary.com

    The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods.
    Details of belief as taught or discussed.

  9. Anita Hiltz says:

    This is an E-mail I sent to the young man who made this video and it is also a word to the church.

    Dear Sir,

    Your video is scripturally incorrect. The error is that the church has misdefined what “religion” is.

    God’s word says this:

    James 1:26-27
    ” 26If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.

    27Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (KJ)

    No where in God’s Word does it say that God hates religion. This is a lie that Pentecostals have been teaching for centuries. I know because I am one! Christ is the one who defined religion! If He made the statements you say He said, He would be speaking against His own Word. God’s Word is a rule book whether mankind likes it or not. You can’t keep yourself “…unspotted from the world” (KJ) and go outside the boundaries of His Word. Unfortunately, many people have been deceived. Being a son of God means you follow Him, it doesn’t mean anything goes. Many people have misdefined the word “grace” to mean they can do whatever they want and it’s O.K. with God. It isn’t. The church as a whole needs to repent for this error and what they have modeled in their own behaviors which has created this disception. If you want to get out of torment, which you probably are in by now, then you’ve got to get that video off of the web, and repent for distorting the truth.

    Anita

  10. Jason Stylite says:

    Maybe Mr. Bethke will do his scriptural, theological, and philosophical homework and embrace Christ’s true bride, the Catholic Church; no sect of the protestant revolt can fully satisfy the heart that longs for union with Christ.

  11. Kim Frodine says:

    This brought tears, I am so thankful Jeff received your words with a spirit of humility…that takes a very mature person to not let pride get in the way. Thank you for pouring your life into each others, it’s beautiful.

  12. Amy says:

    Anyone who agrees with Bethke should check out this article entitled “The top 100 signs you are following Moses, not Jesus”. http://nodarknessatall.com/mosesorjesus.html. Bethke, we love you!!!

  13. Susan Hammond says:

    Thank you so much for this, Pastor DeYoung (both your original response to Jeff Bethke, and this follow-up). Jeff was recently scheduled to come to our ministry workplace and I hadn’t heard of him before. After watching his YouTube presentation, my heart just sank. You’re right – he said a lot of good things and many not-so-good. But my workplace was ready to jump on his bandwagon and go for a ride. For some reason, Jeff’s visit to our work was cancelled.
    Thank you for taking the time to communicate what was good and what was not and why, pointing back to Scripture. So thoughtful, humble and edifying. And, I am so very glad to learn of Jeff Bethke’s response. Good for him. I hope he takes your advice and gets some solid theological training and continues to put his musical and writing/communication gifts to work for the glory of God and the good of the Church. Thank you for your pastor’s heart toward him and others in this whole drama. We sure do need to talk to each other, in love, grace and truth.
    May the Lord continue to bless you in your life and ministry.

  14. Brian says:

    4/26 Daily Bread – Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. —James 1:27

  15. dayna says:

    I was only saved this year in jan and baptised last week, so i am new to this all and a spounge at the moment to things i read and see.
    I heard from alot of young christians to look at the you tube clip which i did and i had 2 mind sets about it too. loved the passsion and the message behind it, but i also felt i didnt understand it fully, so it was great to read this site. what i think is amazing is jeffs response. the man :)
    thanks for putting it in easier text to understand :)

  16. I love this post, and the post that preceded it because it shows how disagreements can happen in God’s family but a humble heart will take in the learning. As long as Christ and the biblical truth remains in the center, we will be okay. :)

    just wanted to share how it touched me and how i feel blessed knowing that the older generation is mentoring the younger. I’ve learned so much from older women and men.

  17. Jerry Clifford says:

    I was baptised in the Holy Spirit in 1985 and have worked as a missionary in some of the worlds worst disaster zones where there were not any churches left standing. This focused me on my relationship with Jesus and not the church as I knew it.
    I am very interested in the words of this young man’s spoken poem and indeed his motivation to actually make the considerable effort to get it out there…….a good lesson to armchair Christian critics of such an entrepreneurial stroke ‘desperate’ spirit.
    I’m still actively working for Jesus but now in Asia, and I do have many questions about the church as an establishment. I have belonged to some excellent churches who blaze a trial in this very confused world in which we live. But I have to say Jesus didn’t conduct his ministry in churches (synagogues) he went out onto the streets and found those he needed to continue His ministry after he had left the world…………shouldn’t we be doing that as His followers??

  18. Mike Gantt says:

    Jerry Clifford,

    Yes.

  19. Jerry Clifford says:

    Thanks for that comment Mike, as I was becoming very confused indeed……….??

    Also I greatly appreciate your brevity and concise reply.

    Jc

  20. Jerry Clifford says:

    Mike,
    I’ve just googled you………….boy are you right on the mark!!

    It would be good to keep in touch with you directly as I completely agree with your ministry.
    If that suits you then please advise me how we can do this. I’m happy to leave my corporate email address by this means and also my current position in the commercial world.

    Jc

  21. Alejandra Vargas says:

    I really like the final feeling after reading the critique and the follow up emails, it just seems as a test by God to see how Jefferson would react to this and show his real heart for Jesus… and also the careful tone in the critique shows a lot of the heart of Kevin. It’s a nice read and learning… Most things I agree with Pastor Kevin.. there’s definitely a ‘religion’ which God intends there to be which is pure.. in our hearts.. it’s just that the main 3 worlds’ religions, under which sadly most people fall in, fall out of this idea of godly religion and more into what Jefferson describes in the poem…(there are always exceptions to the rule, this is just what I have observed and learned in my life) The world has been using the word ‘religion’ to refer to these ‘man made’ religons.. so the word is now widely misused and misrepresented… but I believe there is a real religion… not one with a denomination, specific name nor temple necessarily (not that this is bad either just not the core of it), but the one in our heart that makes us live above this world to give all glory to Jesus, keep His word and shine for Him to bring others to His feet.

  22. DAVID says:

    Jesus never demonstrated that he condoned the tradition of a weekly service or any other religious activity. If I were to trust that Jesus wants me to attend church every week like a good sheep, then I must assume that his example is the one I should follow. Anytime Jesus was around the religious experts of his day, he either shut them up with his wisdom or pissed them off to the point of having to escape their violence. I also recall Jesus committed premeditated assault when driving out all the faithful attendees and animals from the temple. Not to mention that he obviously was furious to the point of having to violently overturn inanimate objects in the temple. Nowhere in scripture is it recorded that Jesus taught his followers to remain faithful in attending a particular church building every week. Further, not a single New Testament scripture condoning the fellowship of the brethren can be used to substantiate that we must religiously attend a particular church building. No scripture that speaks of ‘The Lord’s Day’ is of any use to support the idea of any religious act. Any propping up of the ten commandments as support to recognize the sabbath is quite a slap in the face of New Testament writings which clearly speak against us living under the law. You religious experts are closer to being religious hypocrites than a layman as myself. I have been incorrect much in my life and I have always strived to know and understand the One who desires to know me. Not a single religious act or tradition to which I have adhered in the past has ever proven to be an ultimate benefit in my life or in my personal relationship with the real God. Not a single period in history shows us that religion proves only helpful. To ignore the example set forth by the first century church, in that they gathered nightly in different homes throughout their community, and to try and point to home groups that are set up by churches as an argument for attending church regularly is only pathetic in my God’s eyes. To speak for religion is to fully please Satan. It is religion itself that opens the door for the AntiChrist to set himself up as God. It is the religious who called Jesus crazy and deemed him worthy of torture and death. The only true support for religion exists in the Old Testament and we are even instructed in the New Testament that we are to learn from the mistakes of those recorded in the Old Testament. One constant exists in the recordings of the Old Testament. That constant is that there is no proof that Judaism helped any society. Even those who are commended by God in the Old Testament are never commended for their faithfulness to religious traditions set forth by God himself but rather they are commended for their faith in God and not his rules. Nowhere are we instructed by scripture to have faith in our following of religious traditions in order to have a proper relationship with God. It is amazing how completely blind and ignorant the religious experts are. Thousands of churches close their doors every month and it isn’t because the people aren’t doing church right, it’s because church is never the answer. Religion will not exist on Heaven and Jesus told us to seek God’s will on Earth as it is on Heaven. Therefore, we should seek relationship with God through means other than those of a religious nature. Religion has only proved as a failure as is why Jesus came in the first place. The Jews disliked Jesus, not because they were mistaken in his claims but because Jesus was emphatically against the practices of the Jews of his day and he was not unclear about it whatsoever. You religious hypocrites are doing the Devil’s work. Commence the laundry list of all your accomplishments and religious deeds performed in the name of Jesus and look forward to being turned away by him when you claim your religious acts as being related in any way to a showing of strength in your relationship with God.
    TaTa, for now!

  23. David said: “Commence the laundry list of all your accomplishments and religious deeds performed in the name of Jesus and look forward to being turned away by him when you claim your religious acts as being related in any way to a showing of strength in your relationship with God.”

    Interesting that Jesus said the exact opposite of this in the gospel of Matthew and James in his epistle:
    31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

    34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

    37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

    40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

    41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

    44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

    45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

    46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

    James:
    14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

    18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

    Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

    20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless[d]? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,”[e] and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

  24. Mike Gantt says:

    Dr. Rentler

    David’s comments weren’t antagonistic toward the sort of righteous deeds you referenced from Matthew and James. Rather, his comments were against the weekly liturgical rituals called churchgoing. If churchgoers would stop with the rituals and instead take on the sort of acts you referenced from Matthew and James, the world would quickly see a much greater light for Christ.

  25. Mike:
    I understand and agree that going to a church and mindless participating in rituals is useless unless your heart is engaged and you are docile to how the Holy Spirit is working through the liturgy.
    This can happen in liturgical churches as well as “non-liturgical” churches (which have a liturgy, they just don’t admit it.

    Are you implying that going to Church is useless ritual? If you and david believe that, then you are jettisoning the first 1500 years of worship for all of Christendom. The reformed churches and other churches after the reformation all had liturgy. Liturgy is not bad, what is bad is when people are not open to the work of the Holy Spirit, which can occur at a home church, cell group, praise and worship service, or solemn High Mass rituals of the Orthodox and Catholic churches. It’s all about the heart. Not the ritual.

  26. Pastor Matt says:

    Keep in mind though, that good works are descriptive ‘of’ salvation and not prescriptive ‘for’ salvation.

  27. ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

    “17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

    With all do respect Pastor Matt, I don’t see anything descriptive about Jesus or James words.

  28. Pastor Matt says:

    Russ,

    In reading verse 17 we need to note how ‘faith’ is also described in verse 19. We also read James in light of Galatians. Context, context my friend.

    As far as Jesus… Yes, I would say that the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:48 are prescriptive. “Be perfect therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” This then raises the question, “how are we doing at being perfect?” Jesus prescribes perfection, which raises the question of, “how are we doing?”

  29. Pastor Matt
    I agree Context is everything. That being said, the words of James have to be read in light of Jesus words, not just Galatians and Romans. Agreed? If James tells us faith without works is dead and Jesus tells us that what we did or didn’t do separates the sheep from the goats, then it is clear to me that works are not only descriptive but have some integral role in our salvation. Keep in mind that without Christ we can do nothing and as Augustine tells us, “What then is the merit of man before grace by which merit he should receive grace? Since only grace makes every good merit of ours, and when God crowns our merits, He crowns nothing else but His own gifts.” So without works we are dead, but those works(merits) are only performed by His grace , otherwise our sufficiency is in ourselves and not Him alone. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Heb 11:6) works hand in hand with “without Him you can do nothing” (John 15:15) and “faith without works is dead.” James 2 Seamless!

  30. Pastor Matt says:

    Isn’t it comforting that the sheep were totally oblivious about the good works that they had done?(25:37) I thank God that the works that I do are often hidden from me, for when I see the spiritual fruit that I bear… I typically end up eating it! :-)

  31. Mike Gantt says:

    Dr. Rentler,

    You say “It’s all about the heart and not the ritual,” but you don’t mean it. For if I say that I have sanctified Christ as Lord in my heart, and seek to serve him with all my thoughts, words, and deeds every day of my life, and yet don’t go to church, then you will say I still should go to church.

  32. DAVID says:

    Do all of us a favor Russ, and stop lying about being an MD. You fool absolutely noone with your nonsensical gibberish. It is quite pathetic that the one statement of mine you weakly attempted to dispute, with only scripture and absolutely no insight as to why you believe said scripture is credible in disputing said statement, is directly gleaned from the very book of Matthew to which you claim to adhere. Matthew 7:22-23. Look it up yourself and connect the dots. Jesus is the one who expressed my point before I did. If you wish to dispute my beliefs, you would be wise to start your dispute with the beginning of my statement and then go point by point disputing each one of my false beliefs. You are unwise in neglecting to address the majority of my communication and instead choosing to dispute my last statement taken straight from scripture you claim to believe. You claim that our beliefs result in a jettisoning of the first 1500 years of Christendom based solely on a gross neglecting of the fact that Jesus never condoned of the type of liturgy that exists today when instructing his followers. I would greatly appreciate it if you, Russ, would not attempt responding to me with anything other than agreement and adulation as I am clearly not here to hurt you, but rather I am here to teach you the truth. Please do not argue with me, Russ. You are horrible at it.
    Tata, for now!

  33. Mike Gantt says:

    David, you do your position no service when you speak to others that way. The Lord would have us be respectful of each other even in disagreement.

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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