Saturday, July 26, 2014

The church is the problem, not the solution

It's been over three months since I last posted. Life has simply gotten in the way and I haven't disciplined myself sufficiently to carve out time to write.

As an update to the last post, our friends have now moved to North Carolina and Kent has received his last chemotherapy treatment and all is well at this juncture. He is a walking miracle and God is now preparing to do the very hard things in Kent and Julie and D.J.'s lives that only he can accomplish.

The title of the blog may upset some folks, but I really don't care. I do care about what happens next.  During the past three and a half  months we have lost one set of boarders and gained another. It seems God is using us and this home to minister to folks in ways we had never anticipated. Our current boarder suffers from alcoholism and depression but the healing is progressing. God is good.

During this time I have had the opportunity to observe others I work with, people with whom I do business, neighbors and others around me. In short, people's lives are a general mess and most do not have a clue what to do about it. When I tell them the solutions to your problems are found in the pages of the Bible and through a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, the solution is politely dismissed.  Why is that?

One of the banks I deal with has several young tellers who are professing church-going Christians who are living with their boyfriends. They say they are active in their church but are not least bit embarrassed about their living arrangements despite what the written word of God says.  One young lady told me her mother encouraged the arrangement so the boyfriend would marry her. That was nearly four years ago.

Another one attends a "prosperity church" where it is all about feeling good about yourself  and being a "champion". She has two children out of wedlock and is living with the baby's daddy and attends church regularly. These women have been taught by society this is ok. Television celebrates non-married relationships, adultery, homosexuality, abortion, psychotherapy and anything with real Christian values is virtually non-existent. It isn't what people want to hear. It makes them uncomfortable. 

My question is, what is the church at large teaching?  Perhaps the better question is what isn't the church teaching?

As I view on-line church services in the area and around the country, talk to folks on discussion forums and visit with folks of my generation (60 plus), the results are the same. The church is trying to stay "relevant" in society and part of staying relevant is presenting a watered down gospel of easy believeism  where repentance and sin are rarely ever mentioned. That makes people uncomfortable. It is more about what God will do for you in your life and what you should do for others. The focus is on the created being instead of on the Creator. It is the classic Ephesian church model of Revelation chapter 2. This is what the scripture says:

 "To the angel of the church of Ephesus write,
'These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:  2 "I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars;  3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary.  4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.  5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place — unless you repent.  6 But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
7 "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God."'
(Revelation 2:1-7 NKJV)

Success in the modern day church is no longer measured by spiritual depth of the congregation and its service to others or doctrinal fidelity to the written word of God but by how many "butts in the seats" they can get. It is a numbers game. The biggest churches in the country  send their speakers out to conferences to teach others how they, too, can have a "successful" large congregation. When the messages stray from biblical fidelity and balanced doctrine and "watchman sites"  point out the errors of doctrine and practice, information from those sites is discounted and irrelevant. I had one ordained cleric tell me . "I don't really put any stock in those sites." 

Why do these churches grow numerically but not with real spiritual depth?. Be seeker friendly and don't talk about sin and repentance. Love them into the kingdom of God and get them involved. The rest will sort itself out. Worship has degenerated to the three songs about what the created beings need (generally), an offering and a short 20 to 30 minute teaching talk of how life can be better. Jesus will be mentioned as the solution but those attending the service won't hear of repentance, conversion and sin and what Jesus did to wipe away that sin.

 And they won't hear any messages in the vast majority of the modern churches of the Lord's second coming despite the biblical signs all around them. At Christmas this past year, I listened to several recorded messages from various churches. One didn't even mention the Incarnation or why Jesus needed to become a man. It was more of a feel good service.

And forget about the Holy Spirit, especially in the modern "Pentecostal" style churches. I saw a couple of messages where Pentecost wasn't even mention on Pentecost Sunday, the birthday of the church. I wonder what is with these "leaders".

So the modern church, instead of being a haven of hope and truth for those hurting in society, has become the biggest problem in failing to deliver the truth of the gospel message. Churches have lost their first love, which is a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ that is preceded by confession of sin, repentance and then acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Savior. That is where it all starts. Look at what the apostle Paul says to Timothy:

 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
18 This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, 20 of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.
(1 Timothy 1:15-20 NKJV)
The seeker-friendly/emergent churches are at least reaching out to a generation that has been failed by the traditional churches. That is great and restoring an imbalance that has existed for too long. However, without preaching sin, repentance, godly behavior first, they are getting the cart before the horse.
And that is the problem. 
How do the biblically faithful remedy it? Contact you elders and pastors when you see this pattern.  Demand biblical fidelity and the pattern of preaching and teaching shown in the New Testament. It's not about "butts in the seats" but the relationship of the heart of those attending services to God through Jesus Christ. And don't be surprised if you are met with resistance. The classic line of preachers and pastors is "we are anointed." .
They will generally understand that as God has given them direction and this is what they are going to do. If you don't like it you can leave. They don't want to have any strife and any thing perceived as other than what they want, especially from the congregants, is not accepted. I saw this line of reasoning on a watchman site where a video of an east coast seeker-friendly pastor railed against those who held a view contrary to his. Just remember, Saul, too was anointed and look what happened to him.
Time for members of the church to pray very hard for their pastors and leaders to adhere to the basics of the Gospel. As scripture says:

 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
(Hebrews 4:12 NKJV)
Scripture also says God's word when preached will not return void. It will have effect. The Gospel doesn't need to be soft-pedaled to anyone. It is because of this soft-pedaling that the Church has become weak and afraid to stand up for what is right.
I pray that God would cause these pastors and leaders to re-examine their methods and teaching and to repent of these errors and return to biblical fidelity with a balanced gospel that does not tell people what they want to hear but what they need to know. If not, I pray God would allow the church to be persecuted and purified as Smyrna and become a church like Philadelphia of "little strength" in and of itself and rely upon God alone. These two churches were not criticized by Jesus. They remained faithful.
How is your church doing?