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Ken Silva’s Internet Para-Church of the Remnant

John on May 11, 2007 at 12:08 am

Slice is back as of May 3rd. It seems Ingrid created Christian Research Net, put Ken in charge, then moved back to her old URl without him.

I came across this article today featuring Ken’s latest attack on Rick Warren. And to be perfectly fair, I think Ken may have a point in this case. Warren should excercise some discipline, if he’s really in a position to do so. That said, Ken is not Warren’s pastor. He’s barely anyone’s pastor. And, frankly, the idea that Ken is in a position to advise Rick Warren on how to run a church is just laughable.

Why laughable? I’m glad you asked.

Last year, this blog spent an extended time arguing with Ken over his language, tone and methods. One of the things that became clear after two months of discussion was that there are many troubling signs in his life and minstry, both online and off. Ken is literally making a career out of bashing well-known believers, but what do we actually know about him? Read the rest of this post and you’ll have a much better idea who Ken Silva is:

As you know I am also pastor of Connecticut River Baptist Church (CRBC), which is a small church of about 8 members that is currently meeting in the home of one of our members. This church was once a fellowship of some 100 members in the 80′s that had shrunk to 13 or so by the time I was called a little over a year ago. My stand against PDL then caused us to lose around half of the remaining members–including our largest financial supporters–and would find us being shunned by both our state and regional associations.

Elsewhere, Ken is more specific about his tenure at CRBC:

When I came in [to a church of 13] we would then lose another 6 through God’s weeding process as He turned us into a church while I preached what the Bible actually says and through my standing against the things that I am now writing about at AM.

This is an interesting comment in many ways. First, the suggestion that half of the people who’d been there as the church dwindled from 100 down to 13 were insufficiently committed seems odd to me. If you’re attending a church of 13 after 80% of the members have abandoned ship, I don’t think commitment is really a problem. And yet, Ken describes those who left as weeds. In the scripture, weeds are those destined for burning. It’s not a light thing to label someone a weed.

We got a first hand account of how this weeding took place from one of Ken’s remaining members who said:

With people from our Church bristling under teachings against blatent [sic] disregard for Truth, Ken had to delve deeper into what caused all of this.

So in the case of his own church, people who “bristled” under Ken’s teaching were weeds. The assumption by both Ken and the person quoted above is that anyone who could not abide the pure truth of Ken’s teaching is, quite literally, destined for hell. That’s certainly one way to look at it. Is there another way?

Look again at Ken’s comment and this time notice the structure of the sentence I’ve made bold. “We would lose…through God’s weeding process…while I preached.” This is something we’ve seen repeatedly with Ken, to the point that it seems to be a genuine part of his thinking and not the result of simply typing too fast. There is an assumption in this sentence that what Ken did was what God did and what God did was what Ken did, almost as if the two are identical. That’s certainly something for all of us who follow the Lord to strive for, but is it something any of us have really reached? More specifically, has Ken?

So with the bristling and the leaving from his own church, Ken turned his attention to the internet. His plan was to create an “internet church” that would be a refuge for the remnant seeking shelter from false teaching. I think there are some problems with this which I’ll get to later. That aside though, we very shortly find that Ken’s internet church is not going very well. He writes:

[F]or whatever reason, people who had said they were going to assist in this venture never did, and virtually all of those who initially supported our work have since fallen away.

And things aren’t going much better back in the real world where:

I have not been asked to come speak in any capacity whatsoever at any churches in this local area! Not even one church of any denomination in this entire seeker friendly area for the whole year after sending information to them concerning this work which also handles general apologetics, pulpit supply, non-Christian cults, etc.

Ken’s big break was when he was asked to join Slice of Laodicea as a regular contributor about 6-8 months ago. As this post and others probably indicate, his tenure at Slice has also caused a strong reaction. About that reaction, Ken recently wrote:

[A]s pastoral advisor and contributor to Ingrid Schlueter’s very much in discussion Slice of Laodicea website, what’s being said about it is indeed very close to me. Let me point out that we are well aware that there are a growing number who feel it has become a “hate site.”

I think a large part of the reason for the growing number of people who think so is Ken’s addition to the site. I haven’t seen them, but I’m told that some of the regular commenters at Slice have been pleading with Ingrid to reconsider Ken’s appointment. I think that would be wise, though I don’t expect she’ll do it.

Looking at all of the above, some people would add it up and think it was time to take a new approach. But not so with Ken. Every downturn is justified as sharing in Jesus sufferings at the hands of unbelievers. Criticism is deemed invalid because it comes from those who have been corrupted by false teaching (i.e. those who don’t side with Ken). For instance, the next paragraph after the one above reads:

Make no mistake here in this particular article I speak strictly for myself when I categorically state that in my particular view this is quite correct, Slice is a hate site. We absolutely hate sin.

So, once again, it’s a very Godly kind of hate. In fact, it’s just like the kind God himself has and, by implication, if you — dear reader — were only more spiritual you’d agree.

One of the great things about truth is that it’s still true even if no one believes it. I love the story of Martin Luther who stood up at the Diet of Worms and refused to recant his position with the words “God help me, here I stand. I can do no other.” Luther was right. His stand was important. But Luther’s accusations about the church of his day were backed up by his own scholarship and that of his associates (Melancthon). Luther was only too happy to explain the scriptural basis of his views and to contest for them, believing that through reason and argument he could sway others to his position.

This is not the situation I’ve found with regard to Ken. When questioned about specifics, he usually avoids answering or simply avows that he has no repsonsibility to do so:

As a messenger I am responsible to deliver the message as accurately as I can. This is I have done in over 350 articles this year at Apprising Ministries. The messenger is not responsible to “interpret” the message. I am to deliver it and then leave it between the hearer and my Master. This I have also done.

As an example, at one point in an ongoing discussion, I spent some time trying to pin Ken down on his view of big churches. He made some sweeping statements on a Slicecast (Slice’s podcast) which he would not retract or explain. To force the issue, I transcribed what he’d said verbatim. In response, he accused me of having poor reasoning skills and finally settled on a modified statement as follows:

By and large – if not always – those who have big ministries/followings have them because they tell people what they want to hear and are but meeting their “felt needs.”

Now, there are all sorts of problems with this assertion, many of which I pointed out to Ken. But on a more personal level, I think this is important for this reason: Given Ken’s history, we can see that a) he really believes this and b) he would undoubtedly find it difficult to believe anything else. This view allows him to portray his own ministry (causing people to bristle) as a success rather than a shambles.

When forced to step beyond his role as proclaimer, Ken often sounds agitated. He has a tendency to attack those who disagree with him as blind and/or unwise. He did so on this blog several times. For instance, in a long online discussion on this site he wrote to one individual:

There are none so blind as those who just will not see.

Then a bit later (this one was aimed at me in particular):

Your love for men and their empty “scholarship philosophy (see-Colossians 2:8) has blinded you and you are unable to hear what is being said spiritually.

And again later:

[F]or one who is a believer in Christ I do have to admit that you’re spiritual blindness amazes me.

And here’s his collective codemnation of everyone involved:

[A]ll the long-winded man-centered scholarly blether from you guys has proved absolutely nothing spiritually and now we can pray for the Lord to give you guys eyes that see.

We take heart that since this is within the will of God that 1 John 5:14-15 gives us hope that He will be merciful to you.

Ken is also fond of quoting Matthew 22:29 in arguments, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” He did that here. Are we being weeded? Is Ken about to write us all off as unworthy and destined for the fire? This seems to be his pattern.

What Ken lacks in tact, he more than makes up for in confidence. As Scott memorably put it Ken has “a COSTCO-SIZED pallet of spiritual guts.”

I fully realize I am branded as an extremist, harsh, unloving – a kind of spiritual “chicken little” – and I have absolutely zero credibility in Emergent circles. No problem to me, if I were them I’d see me this way also.

It’s also clear he realizes the stakes of being wrong:

[I]f I have misspoken my ministry will die. And this would be rightly so.

I would say that, looking at the evidence, it has died several times. I believe it is dying again on Slice. Ken, however, remains convinced his position is right in line with Jesus to the point that even his statements of humility come out sounding like arrogance:

“the Word contains more for me to learn.” By the way, people who hold my correct Biblical position aren’t saying the Bible doesn’t.

He attributes this wisdom to age and experience:

It truly is a sad indictment upon the Emergent movement where supposed Christians are so arrogant as to brazenly disregard what is said by a pastor-teacher called by Christ to instruct them in at least a tangential way.

And this is absolutely the last time I am going to say this: I do not imply that I speak directly from God in the sense of inspiration, I am not saying I am the only one teaching correctly, and I am not above being held accountable by other of my peers as to what I teach. That said however, as one who has been a pastor for nearly as long as many of those so foolishly challenging me have even been alive. It is a shame that they apparently do not have enough wisdom to think that there’s a good chance I’ve had just a bit more time on this planet to seek God and acquire knowledge from Him than they have.

So it’s not that Ken is above being held accountable, only that he’s above being held accountable by any of the actual people who disagree with him, including me, Scott, Amy, Chris, ex-members of his church, leaders of the SBC, other pastors in his town, ex-supporters, other bloggers, and kids who take him to task on Slice — but that’s all. Nevertheless, Ken assures us that in theory there is someone to whom he could be accountable (though in practice we’ve yet to identify such a person).

Even as those who disagree with Ken are labelled and anathematized, those who agree with him are “the remnant” of the true faith:

I can truthfully tell you that as Jesus brings more people into our lives He reminds us that time is short, and that He has many in this remnant who are recognizing each other as our Great Shepherd brings us into contact.

And here again:

Interestingly enough, with so many people feeling as if the Great Shepherd is calling out a remnant, scattered though we may be all over the world

And Ken, of course, is a shepherd to this remant:

As I mentioned in “For Our Readers,” the direction we have felt the Lord take His Apprising Ministries has been toward a kind of an online “local” church with an “Internet ” pulpit through which our “congregation” could then be in touch with the remnant that is literally scattered all over the world.

And again:

the readership of AM has been steadily growing each month. Because there is no “fluff” among these writings this…speaks to the hunger of our Great Shepherd’s remnant for real Truth from the Bible.

Most of the above quotes come from Ken’s letters appealing for funds. These appeals are quite numerous, especially considering he has only been blogging for about a year. Ken states that aside from pastoring and blogging, both he and his wife work. So what does he need money for? In his first appeal explains it is meant to provide him with a chance to do “full time” ministry:

I am not anxious to return to my secular work in the local high school. Christ is no longer having me evangelize there, one can see in the Spirit He is through with it. Jesus has had me there for four years now, even coaching the football team and this Nineveh just wouldn’t repent. It is rapidly becoming a human cesspool now. It is so sad to watch. And the burden that He has now placed in my heart is to be available to devote myself completely to CRBC and AM.

And again:

[W]e do covet your prayers as we seek the direction of God in this venture to be pastor of this Internet pulpit fulltime.

He makes a more strongly worded appeal here:

Perhaps people don’t realize that for me to do this type of research and writing requires a great deal of sacrifice for Donna and myself. We both work fulltime jobs in the secular world and then come home to attend to the details of the ministry until well into the evening most nights. For those who may not know we are the only ones directly involved in AM and we receive no outside funding from any agencies. So money comes out of our own pocket for me to have the books and resources I need to properly write against the false doctrines of the Emerging Church movement.

I’ve nothing to lose at this point to ask you to consider the rarity of a man who produces the volume of writing the Lord has enabled me to in the few months AM has been on line. But I can’t help but wonder if it’s worth the sacrifice of time and money if there are more important works that need the support of the Church. It matters not to me, but the assistance is certainly not coming here, which brings us to this critical point. Please join us as we seek the Lord as to whether AM is necessary to the Body of Christ, or would His Church be better served if we were to begin steering people elsewhere?

There is nothing wrong with a pastor being supported by his flock, but this gets to the core of the problem. Who is Ken’s flock? As the quote above shows, he sees AM as an online church. He admits himself that this is a strange idea. Indeed it is. For someone so determined to do only what is spelled out in the Bible and to do nothing that is not, where is the Biblical support for an online church?

What Ken is really trying to get off the ground is an internet based para-church minstry. There are many para-church ministries in the world, some of which I appreciate. In Ken’s case, however, the goal is not to support the church but to separate people from it, at least from the large section of it of which Ken does not approve.

Join a real local church and give your money to someone who can actually serve you, hold you accountable and do all the things that real churches do. Hey, join Ken’s church if you’re so inclined! But don’t support a fake church like Apprising Ministries whose only purpose is to bash pastors of real churches. Even if he doesn’t call it an online church, be wary of any ministry that appeals for money but resists explaining itself to critics. So far as I can tell, Ken Silva’s Internet Para-Church of the Remnant is accountable to no one.

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