Today an email popped up from Ronnie Smith, a teaching pastor at Austin Stone Community Church. Most of it was addressed to Matt and is in the nature of a personal correspondence, but I thought I’d excerpt the opening paragraph as it pertains to the show in general. (Note: Ronnie’s statements here are themselves not meant to be taken as an official communique from Stone Church, but simply voicing his own concerns as to the impression Mark may have been giving viewers of the show.)
My name is Ronnie Smith and I serve as one of the teaching pastors at the Austin Stone Community Church. You may have heard of us from “Mark” whoever that guy is. Anyway, first, please don’t let guys like “Mark” color your perception of our congregation. You were raised in a Southern Baptist church for a while and I’m sure you encountered your share of crazies, that you wished hadn’t identified with you. We have about 8,000 people attending church each Sunday so we can’t really deal with every person that walks through the door. I’m sure it bothers you as well when fellow atheists either spew things you don’t really believe or act in a way that doesn’t represent your character.
Fair enough. Though I’m sure Mark will be unhappy to hear, next time he calls, that the church he’s so eagerly defending is rushing to distance themselves from him, claiming him to be nothing more than an anonymous face in the crowd. In truth, many of us had already suspected as much, as Mark seems utterly unequipped in any of the conversations we’ve had with him on the show to respond to literally anything thrown at him. He isn’t a fellow who understands what he believes or why he believes it, whereas someone who actually represents a large church such as this ought to, at the very least, be able to hold his own in a discussion. (Even if he’s only doing so with PRATT arguments.)
Hopefully, this will open up some more dialogue with the Stone Church folks, and we’ll get some really enjoyable phone calls coming in from people who actually represent the church and can engage us in spirited conversation.