Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Today I'd like to print an email I got and ask you for your impressions, feedback, etc. You know, sometimes I feel like I am standing in the middle of this shouting match--the world on one side asking to be heard and zealous religious legalists on the other side (from all points of view) screaming that their way is the only way. Frankly, I'm exhausted from it. I'm exhausted from those who say if you don't believe in just the right way, you're condemned forever and I'm exhausted from those who say if you DO believe, you're not quite as enlightened or intelligent. One of my favorite quotes from the Emergent Conference was from a really funny woman who was talking about a need for balance. She said, "About the only thing I know of balance is swinging through it from one extreme to the other!" It was meant to be funny--and it was. I'm guilty too.

Here's the email. I'll let it speak for itself. And--honestly, I get stuff like this a lot. Perhaps I am reading too much into it--but all you have to do is read the wording carefully and you'll understand their position. What would your response be?

We are in search of answers to identify your groups beliefs, so can you please answer the following questions:

1) How does your group define the steps necessary for eternal salvation?

1) Must one read the New Testament in order to be saved? Or can it be revealed directly from the Spirit without the necessity of the printed word?

2) Must one believe all biblical scripture as divinely inspired? Can there be other authoritative documents, besides the "Bible"?

3) Who must one believe in as crucial for salvation? The God Father? The Holy Spirit? Jesus? Mary?

4) Must one repent of "all" sin in order to be saved or can "Grace" save without "complete" repentance?

5) Is any type of confession necessary for salvation, such as: confessing "Jesus as the Son of God", or can one confess "Mary"; the "Holy Spirit" or "God the Father"? Or any mix thereof?

6) Is baptism essential for salvation? If so, what type, "spirit baptism", "water sprinkling", "immersion baptism"?

7) Is there a specific order of events for salvation?

8) What type of worship do you endorse? Accapella singing, instrumental worship, speaking in tongues? etc?

9) Can one believe in any form of "Christian" movement / denomination / body and be "saved", such as Catholicism, Seventh Day Adventist, Southern Baptist, Methodist, etc?

As a group we are looking for the answers in order to determine if we will endorse (and or embrace) the use of "ZOE Worship", conferences, etc., within the body we represent. So as to determine unbiased answers, we at this point have elected to remain anonymous to you. We seek your response without any preconceived notions as to how you may view our group by name. If you are not qualified to answer these questions (for the ZOE group, conference, worship, etc), then please forward the email to the appropriate individual.

We Thank You for your consideration in this matter.


Steven J Bruce said...

Yikes! I'm not sure how I'd respond to that...actually, I'd probably use the "if you are not authorized" clause to my advantage and pass it off to someone else :-) I know, that doesn't solve the problem...on a slighty different note, I recieved this email today. How would you respond to this?

Hello... I am looking for a church home. I am wondering if your church is ONA. As a transgendered person on the path to ministry, I am looking for a church that will welcome my family and me with open arms. Please give any information you can. Thank you.

By the way, ONA stands for "Open and Affirming".

Brandon Scott said...

wow. Yeah--see now that's the kind of issue I'd rather be dealing with--believe it or not. At least it's someone interested or hungry for the presence of Christ and fellowship with other believers. At least that's an assumption.

I don't know, bro. That's a tough one. I think I'd respond and ask if you could meet. Develop a relationship there and find out what's going on.

Finally an Abrigg..... said...

I admire the leaders and ministers at my church for this specific reason. i don't pretend to have the correct words to respond to such an email. Breaking down the walls....Lord, please break down these walls. Brandon I was beaten down by that email, and my eyes were caught rolling back in my head! :)(that happens alot becuase I'm a middle school teacher.) I'm not understanding why this person chooses to remain anonymous. I personally would press delete. My pastor tells us all the time, as a pastor, he has to choose his battles carefully.
He has to take things with a grain of salt. Lots of theological questions. Maybe ZOE has a mission statement that could "answer" all of these questions....
Molly Carrigan
(I don't pretend to have any wisdom in this area..just my ridiculous thoughts vomiting out maybe in an unhealthy way.)

judy thomas said...

Oh, my goodness--I might say I John 4:19-21 We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother."

Steven J Bruce said...

thanks for the comments...about your post, I guess I don't understand the whole "endorse" thing. do they ask these questions of everybody they may come in contact with? that's a lot of work :-) thinking about it, I would probably take the easy way out and invite them to attend the main session at a Zoe conferance free of charge :-) And in reality, can "The Zoe Group" as a whole even answer these questions?

Amy Boone said...

Gotta say those kinds of emails send smoke out of my ears! Wanna guess who sent it?! OK, I won't go there. Anyway, I'd respond that the only endorsement you are seeking is the Lord's and the only people you are seeking to embrace Zoe are those who are whole-heartedly seeking to surrender their entire lives to the mission of Jesus. Let them know if they fit that profile, the questions become less relevant. Also, add the comment your mom made! Can't go wrong with that!

Bless you my friend. I don't envy that. I can see why it just exhausts you.

I'm dying to hear about baby Sam! I check the blog every day to find out! For the record... I'm going to say June 4th in the afternoon and let's say 9 1/2 pounds!

Anonymous said...


I hope you respond in some way. Whatever their opinions on these subjects are, it is commendable that they are coming to you to determine this. Many people would just listen to all of the gossip.

Take a few days and pray about it. It's easy to be frustrated by this. Remember God loves this emailer.

See you tomorrow,
Rob Cox

Chad said...


Let me introduce you to the wonderful thing called the "delete key." :-) Just because someone sends you an email, don't feel any obligation to respond - especially if it's anonymous. Treat it as junk mail and feel no guilt. If they're really interested in knowing, they can come to ZOE to see for themselves.

Delete away!!!

PJ said...

To quote a semi-wise man, "I think I'd respond and ask if you could meet. Develop a relationship there and find out what's going on." If they are unwilling to give you that, proceed to advice regarding the "Delete Key". If they email you again, report as spam.

Tony Arnold said...

Brandon, my answers, but they probably cause more issues than resolve:

1. God defines the steps for salvation not my group.

2. I don't know. However, the NT is a wonderful gift from God for this purpose and it contains scholarly and historically recognized quotes from Christ himself. Certainly harder to be a Christian without it.

3. All of the above. If you truly believe in one you have to believe in all. John 5:46-47.

4. Grace will drive you to confess all. This is not a chicken or egg issue.

5. Actually there is scripture that tells us to confess our sins one to another.

6. Honestly, I could not say definitively that baptism and immersion is absolutely required in every single case for every single person or else you are not saved. However, it is mentioned consistently in scripture and I know that baptism is certainly not wrong. Personally I did not want to take a chance. I certainly wouldn't let the issue stand in the way of salvation. Get baptized and remove a doubt. I was moved by grace to accept Jesus as my Savior. When I did this I was immersed and it was the most Holy moment of my life.

7. Yes, but they are different for each individual.

8. If you are focused and glorifying God, you are worshipping. Also, I find it difficult to worship out loud without my using my tongue. But worship can also be silent.

9. God alone decides who is saved. He is not going to put His arm around me and ask my advice on judgement day.

These answers may seem sarcastic but they are not meant to be nor are they meant to avoid the question. They are meant, however, to avoid the a trap illuminated by the questions. Also maybe the most Christian response is, "Zoe does not need to approve its listeners, we hope the feeling is mutual."

Peace brother and good luck,

Tony's Blog

Joel Quile said...

Brandon, feel free to cut and paste my answers.

1. We don't. That would Jehova's job.

1. Yes. That is why the disciples are now buringing hell because it wasn't writen while they were alive. (ps: your doctrine is sound but your numbering skills are whack! Last I checked there is only 1 #1)

2. Anything by Lucado is fine.

3. Jesus. Or his boy Thaddeus can hook you up!

4. All sin. By name. In other words if you ever sin without knowing it and don't repent of it you ain't getting in! Note: you are also disqualified if your left elbow doesn't get completely wet during baptism.

5. If you shout out, "Jesus - Son of God born of Mary through the Holy Spirit sent by God the Father" you'll be fine! Saying, "son of Corky" will not count. Note: if you say the right thing but fail to specifically recognize a sin and therefore fail to confess it all of the above is null and void and you will burn in hell. Bummer huh?

6. Yes. Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross is optional but Baptism is not. Jesus died for our sins so that we have a shot at saving ourselves through baptism. I'm talking about complete immersion in water. Of course it has to be unleavened water.

7. Step #1 Creation. Step #2 Calvary. Step #3 Getting it all right all the time.

8. Acapella singing about going to Canaan's Land while your face looks like you are getting whipped in Egypt. Forget that Roman's 12 junk too. Of course if you sing Acapella in a non church of Christ building God will put his fingers in his ears and refuse to listen. Okay, let's recap: Acapella without joy in the right spot will get God's attention.

9. Unless you are like one of those "Wonder Twins" people from Super Friends then I don't think you could be the form of "Ice Christian" or "Hawk Christian"
I feel pretty certain that the following "forms" are pretty well going to burn in hell: That Mother Teressa lady, 6th Day Adventists, any Northern Baptists, and the HitandMiss-odists.

I hope everyone knows that I'm kidding. I wouldn't send this out. I'm not dumb or unspiritual.

I know there is no such thing as unleavened water.

Brandon Scott said...

HAAAAAAAAA!! I love you, Quile!!!!

slipperycatsanddogs said...

1 of 2 responses from me.....

1. Invite them to attend the Zoe Conference


2. Delete Key, Delete Key, Delete Key, etc.

That Girl said...

Anonymous communications don't get responses. I'm sure if they'd like to come to your office, you could speak with them face to face.

Keith Brenton said...

I am just a wicked person. But I would be sorely tempted to send this reply:

"Thank you for your interesting survey. Since the ZOE Group is comprised of many individuals, including our board of directors, some ministers, and a few recording artists, I have sent a copy of your survey to each one. As many as wished to have responded, and I enclose their answers.

"We appreciate endorsements, but feel constrained to accept only those from parties who share our beliefs.

"So, if we are deemed worthy of your endorsement, would you indulge us in the kindness of circulating your survey among your church/organization's membership and forward their responses to us?

"We will in turn respond as quickly as possible to let you know if we can accept your endorsement.

"Thank you very much for your interest in the ZOE Group."

But, as I said, I am just a wicked person.

Deb said...

Dearest Brandon -

Basically, the first sentence of this E-mail query let's you know several things:

1. The authors are not really 'in search' ... they have already searched and have now formulated their own perception of Zoë Group's beliefs, etc. They therefore know the answers they want to hear from you. Certainly if they searched, they have looked up the statements of faith, etc, on the OC site. They also would have read several of your blog entries to see where you are coming from musically, spiritually, and doctrinally (forget theology). By your personality type and caring, sanguine nature, you reveal much.

2. If this group is honest from their initial contact to you, you should not have to anguish over their identity. Waste of space and emotional energy. (‘So as to determine unbiased answers, we at this point have elected to remain anonymous to you. We seek your response without any preconceived notions as to how you may view our group by name.’)

3. It’s apparent this group has their own agenda and perspective. No matter how hard you try to formulate the correct answers, your efforts will not 'fit' their design. More importantly, God's design for you, the worship ministry at OC, or Zoë Group's purpose will not be served by chasing ‘rabbit trails’.

4. Because of your sanguine, caring nature, you will worry some (ha!) if you do NOT answer this group. You are authorised by virtue of your answer to God’s calling. But, before you answer, should you decide this is God’s mission for you at this time (?), PRAY with an elder/spiritual mentor. Then take the time to read the following: Matthew 13.1-30; Luke 12.49-ff; John 5.31-47.

5. If you are then led to answer this group’s E-mail query, suggest only that they contact you through the church, and set up an appointment for a face-to-face with you and your spiritual mentor. Do not attempt to meet with them by yourself.

6. If they are not willing to consider your suggestion (keep it short and simple, not patterned after my comment here), then in all fairness, they are not interested, and, simply and sadly, fraudulent. You will know God does not want you to pursue this. But He may want to, in His own way and time, and through a different party.

And remember this: only God endorses Zoë Group. God has blessed you and Zoë Group, and those you lead in worship, with many ‘embraces’. He will continue to do so.

Now go get some rest, and prepare for the miracle gift God is about to present you with. He wants your full attention and enjoyment!

Love ya!

Tiffany said...

Honestly, their insistence on anonymity would worry me more than anything. You don't know who they are or what their reasons really are, only what they say.

Anyone who pays attention to media knows that answers to interviewer's questions are frequently taken out of context and used to create drama. Unfortunately, the gossip-mongers in our midst use the same techniques.

I would respond (if you decide to respond at all) with a request that they reveal their identity before you answer anything. That way you can hold someone accountable for how your answers might be later used to tarnish Zoe/Otter Creek/BST etc.

slipperycatsanddogs said...

One other thought. If you ever answered these questions, I'm sure your answers would appear on some website, promotional material, etc., and they would not truthfully represent your positions. I hate to be so negative but these groups do no good, therefore why should you fuel their fire?

Mae said...

My left elbow didn't go under, so I was dunked twice! Seriously, kind of ruined the moment... sigh.

Dwiggy444 said...

I can't wait to hear your anwsers Brandon! We've been mightily blessed by the ministry of the ZOE Group and we sing ZOE arrangements pretty much every Sunday so I really need to know if we need to repent and perform a ritual cleansing. :-)

Chad said...

Don't you just love anonymity? Maybe you can not reply anonymously...Honestly, there are bigger questions to answer...Like how to help people engage God in worship that is tranformational? I appreciaten all you do, brother.

Brandon Scott said...

Honestly, it didn't ruin my day. As I said, I get that kind of stuff more than I wish I did, but after a while you just kind of shake your head.

Deb--hilarious that you pegged me as a sanguin. I think I was like 110% sanguin in that personality test.

I actually did respond. Wish I had read Tiffany's post first. I didn't say much. I mostly asked questions back. But did say that I believe we came from apes and all worship should include ritual breaking of the banana. (just kidding). can you imagine the next Contending for the Faith or ol' what's his name on piney.com writing me up for that one? "ZOE Group Sacrifices Bananas In the Name of Mother Mary"

Maybe we should do a conference on that?

James said...

Anonymous emails & deceased Nigerian bankers' wives emails always go straight to the Trash file. However, I really like Judy Thomas' 1st John suggestion.

Sarah W. said...

Honestly, I thought of piney.com first thing after I read it. Maybe they are out of material to write about. :)

Josh said...

I don't think these questions are good at all because people outside the Christian ghetto aren't asking them. These aren't your issues, bro. If you swing at this, you'll whiff big time. This wreeks of an impure motive. I could be wrong.

Let's be honest about these little queries. Most, if not all are hardly genuine. If they were, they probably wouldn't come in the form of cold, impersonal, anonymous emails. You've got bigger fish to fry in my book.

One more thing - engaging in such a conversation only fuels their fire. Sometimes the best expression of love is silence.

Jeremy Houck <> said...


I am sorry that you are not being shown the love that God has so richly outpoured on those who are asking these type questions (this e-mail and others)

I would suggest that you take a page from Wayne Kilpatrick’s book. If it is not signed then it is not read.

We are praying for you and all of the girls as you go through this wild time. As a dad I want to remind you that Ella and Maddie endorse you, I am sure that Sam will also so who needs this other crap.

Fajita said...

Just point them to my blog and tell them that "Zoe believes everything this guys writes. He is a prohpet and his word is infallable."

Mark my words, you'll get the same response to that as you will anything else you say. Besides, I'm looking to stir up some contraversy.

Anonymous said...

May God's richest blessings continue to be on you, your family, and your ministry. Zoe has blessed so many churches with your music and worship teachings. It is my prayer that when people feel compelled to question your motives, your "doctrine", and your ministry, that you will remember that so many others have been drawn closer to God because of what you do. Thank you for following close to Jesus, and leading us there too. And always remember. What Jesus did led him to the cross. We are following a man who the world crucified. Why would we be surprised when that same spirit attacks us? May God give us all strength.

pegc said...

Boy, this brings back bad memories! Are they from Beaumont?

All these questioners want is to be validated in their beliefs, to prove they are right and you are wrong. To puff up their chests and say see what we know? We know the right way and I believe you are the wrong way and I want you to know it.

I don't think I would respond, even though you said you had. I admire your ability to stay calm in the face of attack! I would be livid and want to strangle them all.

I guess my question to them is why are they interested if they have already formed their opinions of who Zoe is? And my other question would be, "have you checked all your group's families and made sure they are not listening to the radio?"

Thanks for standing firm and strong in the Lord.

Peggy in Texas

Justin said...

Brandon, these people are legit "concerned members" of the "Lord's Church" You definitely should have replied...

Jana said...

Why, why, why? Do we Christians not have better things to do with our time than create surveys like this?!? WHY?!?

D.J. Bulls said...

Wow...I didnt realize churches in this school of thought knew how to use email...Anonymous letters like this i rarely even read...Delete away, my brother!!!!!

MichaelPolutta said...

If you decide to respond at all, I would say something like this:

"We in ZOE do not have 'group beliefs'. Rather, we each have an individual relationship with our Creator and Savior. We simply and humbly seek together to glorify Him and carry out His mission."

Preston said...

I wonder if Buddhists send surveys like that back and forth to each other. That would be awesome.

Brandon Scott said...

HAAAAAA! Yes! Hilarious, Preston. Why would they when they can be entertained by all the Christians fighting each other and arguing?

Anonymous said...

I think it would be important to find out if possible who needs this information for a possible endorsement. What if it is Coca-Cola or Nike or Budweiser? Then you should say exactly what they want and get some cool banners and running messages at the next Zoe conference....Can't you just see a big Bud Light streamer coming right after singing "Days of Elijah? Think of the possibilities! Just trying to be helpful....

SG said...

Love the pictures!

I like Copes take on anon. letters and e-mails. He says they are great because they let the writer get whatever off his chest and because the author didn't feel compelled to sign the letter, Cope doesn't feel compelled to read it.

If you do respond, I would get an e-mail guru like Matt Elliott on the case to find the identity of the sender and respond to the person who sent you the e-mail by name. Call their game, don't play it. Hard to believe the writers intentions are pure in this.... That was a really big understatement!

Brandon Scott said...

Hilarious! Yes--Bud Light sponsers the 2005 ZOE Conference. Larry James will be the guest speaker. HA!

Anonymous said...

Brandon and Friends,
I came across your discussion and felt the call to voice a different type of opinion. I have chosen to remain "Anonymous" for only one reason, those who truly love one another (as we all should who have Christ as the slain Lamb of God) need no name other than sister, brother or friend. Do we need to "identify" someone to hear their pain? I have listened carefully to all the comments on this blog and found only one response that comes out of love instead of another emotion. If we have so much Love to give, then why am I reading responses that sound like "the cup being half empty" instead of "the cup being half full"? I hear so much anger, frustration and cynical comments on this blog. I will pray for all on this blog that the Father reveals what he is surely trying to teach you, something I believe you have missed; never shoot the messenger for the message, even if you believe it to be a slap to your face, but rather "turn the other cheek" and communicate with them as you would a "lost child". Someone a long time ago attacked and raped my daughter. What would you all have me do? Would you have me hate her attacker for the rest of her and my life, find him and kill him or perhaps simply allow my anger at what he did to my child to eat away at my soul till none of what my Lord wants for me and my daughter remains? Instead I pray for him, that he may find the peace and love that he so obviously is missing, so that he can find redemption for his acts and one day face the child that she miscarried from that attack. If each of you believes the individuals(s) behind this email to have devious motives, then what further proof do you need to know they need our Love, Attention and Open Arms? I know in America today many "shun" the term I am about to use; if we are to truly to be "Christians" (and no that is not a name to be ashamed of) then shouldn’t we offer ourselves to ALL in need, the wicked, the weary, the rebellious and yes even those who would seek our destruction, in the name of all that is HOLY, should we not follow our Father’s example and LOVE ALL. I rejoice at any and every opportunity to “Proclaim” my “Faith” through any means of communications. My Father has taken my shyness, my imperfections, my ugliness and my doubts and replaced them all with the zeal of his Eternal Son and our Savior, Jesus. I fear no discussion. I respond to all who ask me WHY? WHERE? Or HOW? What have I or those around me to fear by answering a question with the “TRUTH”? And not my truth, but rather the truth of the greatest Love we can have in this life, the truth of our LORD. Dear Brandon and all who read this blog, I hope you each can hear my love for you all (even as an “Anonymous” individual). Release your fears, your concerns, your doubts, your suspicions and turn them over to God! After all, if any are to be saved, it will not be by any hand of humanity (yours or mine), but rather by the hand of our Lord! Peace and rest to all of you! I LOVE YOU! (And I do not fear to say it).

If you “need” my “identity” in order to respond to my message, my email address is titansall@comcast.net and I will send you my name (if my anonymity makes you uncomfortable that is, because I do not fear anything you might ask me – my Lord is my Protector and that is enough for me). Fear is the destroyer of worlds and life…Love is the answer!