"Suddenly it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or, more accurately, what you haven't done, (for that was all that was required of most of us: that we do nothing). You remember the occasions in which maybe if you had stood others would have stood too. You remember everything now, and your heart breaks. Too late. You are compromised beyond repair." (They Thought They Were Free, The Germans, 1938-45 University of Chicago Press, 1955)
In the past few weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state bans against same-sex marriage and rescued ObamaCare. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has passed against the will of the American people. The White House was lit up with rainbow colors to "celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage." Confederate flags have been pulled from vendors such as Amazon.com and EBay. Even Dukes of Hazard reruns have been pulled by TV Land because of the Confederate flag painted on the roof of the classic orange Dodge Charger - all stemming from the recent false-flag shootings in Charleston, S.C. by an alleged "racist", Dylan Roof.
The homosexual problem alone should make any sane person pull their kids inside and bolt the doors. You would think Christian leaders would be plastered all over the papers and the evening television news, standing up for the Word of God, our history and our culture. Instead, we see only sexually-confused people with purple hair publicly holding hands, kissing and carrying signs through the city streets. They are triumphant. The very system built by our God-fearing, hard-working ancestors has been turned on us. They have won.
Everybody is screaming: HELLO, OPEN YOUR EYES, TAKE A LOOK AROUND YOU, CAN YOU NOT SEE WHATS REALLY GOING ON?
A friend of mine (who isn't an active church-goer) lamented: "Where is the Church?" This is a very, very important question. In this three-part series, Where is the Church? we will first establish where the Church cannot be. Then, we will establish where it currently is, and why.
The tone of this message is not bright and cheerful, because I do not believe the authentic Church is found in a great number of churches (little "c") that dot the landscape today. In fact, I believe that most of those that remain are currently in quicksand and sinking fast.
My experience is largely limited to the Christian Churches/Church of Christ, but I know there are old Methodists and Baptists, Brethren and independent Presbyterians that have resisted the seductions of contemporary thought. I don't mean to impugn them or the God-fearing men and women in those assemblies. My intent is to call attention to the problems the true Church of Jesus Christ face today to the thinking, informed leaders within the Body of Christ, and challenge them to take the steps necessary to avoid His rejection and Judgment , as found in Revelation 3:14-22. There is a contemporary Church of Laodicea, and I believe a great number of large, prominent congregations in this nation fits her description.
The Church of [Mission Statement]
When I was a member of the local Christian Church, the growth-oriented board decided to roll out a "Mission Statement" coincident with their building a new facility. This dubious idea came from the corporate world: tell your customers who you are with a short, direct statement having a maximum impact. It's "best practice." If you want to grow, select proven action words from a predefined pallet. Now, there is even a Web site, churchrelevance.com, which provides 50 examples of mission statements used successfully by large congregations throughout the United States.
King of the current "action" words are "connect", "love" , "loving", "helping", "hope" and "disciples." Here is one from Red Rock Church of Littleton, Colorado:
To connect with God, connect with others, and connect others with God
The word "obey" only appears once in the list of 50 top mission statements. The words "sovereign", "covenant" and "dominion" do not appear at all. You see, these mission statements reflect the pastoral passion to respect, love, and nourish but have nothing to do with dominion, Kingdom government, and unwavering obedience to a King Who is Sovereign over all! Please refer to my previous blog and podcast, entitled A Different Gospel.
The function of the Church isn't determined by elders sitting around a table, hammering out a catchy phrase to reel in people (the "market"). But - if you must - try proposing this mission statement to your church board:
A Covenant-empowered institution seeking absolute dominion, in obedience to our One Sovereign Authority
This is indeed the mission statement of the Church instituted many centuries ago. Does it sound loving and inclusive? Does it sound anything like unconditional acceptance of anyone, just the way they are? Of course not! Put a mission statement like that in front of your church, and the media would descend upon you like moths on a porch light.
A mission statement is a statement of the purpose of a company, organization or person; its reason for existing; a written declaration of an organization's core purpose and focus that normally remains unchanged over time. (Source)
If the core purpose of your congregation is revealed in a mission statement, and that mission statement only reflects an interest in growth and being nice to each other, then the authentic Church is likely not found in your congregation. You can also find that kind of core purpose in your local lodge, community center, food pantry or Harley Davidson club.
The Purpose Driven Church
Metrics-driven, corporate philosophy has also made its way into our churches in many ways. It is no exaggeration to claim that Rick Warren's immensely popular book, The Purpose Driven Church, has introduced growth-focused, corporate best practices into our traditional little churches in every community, large and small. You can now buy materials to establish a transformative church growth campaign and get free booklets and inspiring sermons from Warren, with titles like "What makes God smile?", "How to connect with God", "How to tell God you love Him" and "Connecting with God in a crisis." Of course, you can send your elders and deacons to sponsored prayer walks and retreats. The well has been poisoned.
Corporations know that if they to be relevant in their area - and to their stockholders - they must market their product or service to the dominate market. Warren, too, is focused on church relevance in today's culture. Not the "get on your knees and repent" kind of relevance, but the "like us on FaceBook" kind of relevance. To him, this is "developing vision."
The measure of the Purpose Driven Church's success, then, is its execution of the formula at all costs. Warren is reported to have said:
"When you reveal the vision to the church, the old pillars are going to leave. But let them leave...they only hold things up."
The damage Warren has done to the Church may be immense, and it appears that many have noticed. In fact, Google "24 SIGNS THAT YOUR CHURCH IS GOING PURPOSE DRIVEN" and you will receive over 1.6 million hits. Here are the signs:
1. Change in music to a contemporary rock style.
2. Removal of hymn books; eliminating the choir.
3. Replacement of organ and piano with heavy metal instruments.
4. Repetitive singing of praise lyrics.
5. Dressing down to casual and informal attire.
6. Eliminating of business meetings, church committees, council of elders, board of deacons, etc.
7. The pastor, or a new leader with a few assistants, usually four, takes charge of all church business.
8. A repetitive 40-day Purpose Driven Church study program stressing psychological relationships with each other, the community, or the world, begins.
9. Funded budgeted programs are abandoned, or ignored, with ambiguous financial reports made.
10. Sunday morning, evening, and/or Wednesday prayer meetings are changed to other times; some may even be eliminated.
11. Sunday School teachers are moved to different classes, or replaced by new teachers more sympathetic with the changes being implemented.
12. The name “Sunday School” is dropped and classes are given new names.
13. Crosses and other traditional Christian symbols may be moved from both the inside and outside of the church building. The pulpit may also be removed.
14. In accordance with Rick Warren’s instructions, new version Bibles are used; or only verses flashed on a screen are referenced during regular services.
15. Purpose Driven Church films, purchased from Saddleback, precede or are used during regular services.
16. The decor, including the carpets, may be changed to eliminate any resemblance to the former church.
17. The word “church” is often taken from the name of the church, and the church may be called a “campus.” Denominational names may also be removed.
18. An emphasis on more fun and party sessions for the youth.
19. Elimination of altar calls or salvation invitations at the close of the services.
20. The elimination of such words as “unsaved,” “lost,” “sin,” “Hell,” “Heaven,” and other Gospel verities from the pastor’s messages.
21. The reclassification of the saved and lost to the “churched” and “unchurched.”
22. The marginalizing, or ostracizing, of all who are not avid promoters of the new Purpose Driven Program.
23. Closed meetings between the pastor or chosen staff members without any reports made to the general membership.
24. Open hostility to members who do not openly embrace the new program, or who may have left for another church. (source)
My whole family has resisted this movement. We are steeped in the old hymns and a traditional, respectful form of worship. It's been years since I heard an impassioned plea from the pulpit for me, the humbled sinner, to get on my knees and repent in the Presence of my Sovereign God. It is, after all, only after we repent that we are transformed in accordance with His Will and His Purpose - not our will and our purpose.
Oh yes, the old leaders of the pre-corporatized Christian Church have indeed been marginalized; pushed out of their places in their little congregations by a herd of motivated emissaries of a new gospel philosophy. They have, like myself, become "unchurched." How I miss the sanctuary and the fellowship of like believers, singing "You're Drifting Too Far From the Shore" from our hymnals, bearing our King James Bibles and wearing our Sunday best. The quiet sanctuary, with its altar, are now "fellowship centers" with folding chairs with drop-down screens, drums, electric guitars, and what my mother used to call "7/11 music" (seven lines of words repeated eleven times). Most don't even bother to bring their Bibles.
A great number of churches today are actually corporations, and ultimately liable to secular authority. Their very existence is contingent upon their willful reporting every year to the IRS. More on this later.
The Church of Ambiguity
To be ambiguous is to be vague and indistinct. The authentic Church of Jesus Christ will never find its voice when fails to unambiguously target sin as sin, and sinners as sinners.
The paradigm for the large corporate churches with a mission statement is to be ambiguous. It these churches which, having near-exclusive media access, establish "Christian" norms and apologetics to the secular world. Consequently, the sheep are not being fed.
Because large corporate churches with a mission statement are not motivated by scriptural knowledge and integrity, yet have become the mouthpiece of the Church, its doctrine is deservedly viewed as a contradictory jumble of nonsense. Consider this statement from a decidedly secular source:
There are in excess of 1,000 Christian faith groups in North America. They teach diverse beliefs about the nature of Jesus, God, the second coming, Heaven, Hell, the rapture, criteria for salvation, speaking in tongues, the atonement, what happens to persons after death, and dozens of other topics. On social controversies, faith groups teach a variety of conflicting beliefs about abortion access, equal rights for homosexuals and bisexuals, who should be eligible for marriage, the death penalty, physician assisted suicide, human sexuality topics, origins of the universe, and dozens of other topics. (The Bible: Ambiguity vs. inerrancy, religioustolerance.org)
In a previous blog several years ago I asked the question:
"Will mainstream teachers stop to consider that they cannot all both be inspired by the same Spirit, and simultaneously proclaim completely different things?"
Even though many thousands have read it, I have not heard an answer. It is apparent that today's Christian leaders will not address the obvious problem - and don't get angry at flaming liberals, atheists and pagans for pointing it out!
Today's Christian colleges and universities fabricate and teach myths and fantasies which do not hold up under Bible scrutiny - or even common sense. They capitulate to the accepted secular philosophy that everybody is equal, that the Jews are "God's Chosen People", that Jesus failed to gather, restore, and justify His Covenant people in consummation - as He and the Inspired apostles proclaimed - in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. In their striving to universalize the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they have failed to identify the people to whom the Covenant problems were given. With profound oversights like these in Christian academia, how can there not be profound ignorance - and error in understanding - in our leadership coming from them?
Church leaders cannot afford to be vague and indistinct. They don't have the luxury of assuming that "disbelieving" people are weak-minded and moral-less because the people don't see the "vision." What is that vision?
The Universalist Church
The maddening public-facing vision of the ambiguous, large corporate churches with a mission statement is that all peoples of all ethnicities and all nationalities and all faiths are equal in God's eyes, and God has a plan for each and every human being on planet earth. But, actual practice, there is for them two kinds of people: the "saved" and everybody else. Everybody else are either potential converts or potential enemies to be vanquished.
If you do convert ("churched") don't ask questions. If you don't convert ("unchurched") you should prepare to face eternal damnation in some fiery, earth-ending cataclysm, along with all the other bigots, racists and anti-Semites that have plagued the earth since the Church began. Accept or die.
But don't believe for a second that any universalist Christian actually believes we are all equal in the sight of God; they only profess it. Moreover, if you don't think a Bible-believing man or woman, seeking knowledge and wisdom, will not face censure and banishment in today's polluted church culture, think again.
Consider that the false gospel of absolute equality and value is compliant with secular views of how we should govern ourselves and interact with each other. As long as the churches teach that we're all the same, that God loves each and every one of us, and that it's all about loving one another, the churches are not a threat to its adversary, which is all about glorifying multiculturalism and suppressing our white tradition and heritage. Oh yes, it's racial. It always has been.
That the mainstream, universalist churches are anti-white is demonstrated in their quiet acceptance of - and participation in - the systematic removal of important elements of their distinctively white culture. The current anti-white sentiment found in the media is demonstrated in the recent removal of the Confederate flag from the North Carolina statehouse. According to the major media, the flag "represents hate" and its coming down should not be seriously contested by any moral person. Of course, what its removal really represents is a rejection of white rebellion, and any honest, thinking person of any color with little knowledge of American history knows it.
In a like manner, in order to attract all the peoples with their false gospel message, the mainstream, universalist churches seek to de-emphasize or remove the distinctively modest and respectful white worship services in favor of the noisy, distracting multicultural environment that elevates the perceived worth and value of worshiper (regardless of their actual worth and value). This amounts to treason and betrayal within our own ranks . The universalist, ambiguous, corporate churches with a mission statement actively seek racial diversity in their congregations. However, diversity is a code word for too many whites, and we're not too stupid to figure that out.
If you should find sameness in the old steepled churches that remain in our nation, it is because the sameness found in our people, our culture and the Word of God. If you should find sameness in the modern, rambling monstrosities claiming to be churches, it is because of their adherence to uniform, well-defined marketing policies and corporate best practices.
The Relevant Church
The Relevant Church in Pedukah, Kentucky proclaims: "Relevant church exists to empower people to reach their full potential in Christ" and "every person is a 10 in some area". The Relevant Church in Locust Grove, Ga sports a "live band [which] plays music that is upbeat and energetic, with a rock and roll flavor. The atmosphere is casual and welcoming." They even have an Android App you can download so you can be more relevant. Possibly hundreds of churches and Christian books have "relevant" in their name. Churches that don't actually have "relevant" in their name clamor to be relevant.
Back in the 70's it probably worked to some degree. Prayers became more conversational, and - before contemporary pop/rock Christian music" - there were quiet, reflective folkish campfire songs. Many of the current poor translations of the Bible had not yet been published, and the Hal Lindsey view of the Last Days was brand new. Things were still rather positive, and preaching against sin had not yet been banished as the sideburns grew on the faces of the elders and deacons.
I believe the attempt by today's churches to be "relevant" to the "changing" world is now like putting cheese on a mouse trap; many mice are starting to figure out it's a setup. That the "relevant movement" is starting to backfire is becoming evident:
My private theory has been that many young people avoid churches these days because they sense a creeping cheesiness in the very way churches try to appeal to them. As twentysomething Sarah Hinkley wrote in First Things magazine, “We know you’ve tried to get us to church. That’s part of the problem. Many of your appeals have been carefully calculated for success, and that turns our collective stomachs.” (The Relevant Church, Kevin D. Hendricks)
Nevertheless, these churches stubbornly persist as membership declines for most of them. Although the new formula is now old, they still try to "reach out" to everybody, everywhere rather than entice in the humble and repentant.
It's time to define terms. Don't miss this: these churches have a different gospel than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you believe that the "good news" of the first-century Gospel applies today to all peoples of all cultures, you believe in a universalist gospel. When you believe that the "good news" of the first-century Gospel applied to the first-century Disapora, and was specific to the redeemable Covenant people and their cultures, you believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Those who believe in the universalist gospel maintain that we need go out to all the different peoples, with their different gods and cultures, in order to reach them. But, those who believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ believe that the sheep (the Bride) hear His voice, and come to Him. It is to the Bride alone that Jesus came to redeem, sanctify, justify and restore to their Husband: Yahweh. It was to the Bride alone that the promise of the Kingdom was given - not to every person of every ethnicity, who were never given the Law on the mountain!
Where there is no covenant context for the gospel, ultimately it's open season for the all-inclusive gospel for anyone and everyone. (Dr. Lawrence Blanchard)
The Gospel of Jesus Christ concerns "spiritual things to spiritual people" (1 Corinthians 2:13) which leaves little room for many of the targets of modern "outreach ministries." It is they that seek the LORD which understand all things (Proverbs 28:5) - not the savage and barbaric peoples of the darkest corners of the earth, or the depraved predators swarming the streets of Detroit at night.
As gently as I can say this: if you believe that the universalist gospel of mainstream Judeo-Christianity is the same as the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then you don't know your Bible or your history. You have no business forcing your dangerous gospel on those that know better, and you certainly have no business removing my inheritance (and the inheritance of my children) because of your ignorance! Just because you have a "vision" doesn't mean that I have to agree with it.
Covering the problems with the "relevant" movement in the churches today itself can take a lot of time. But for now, I ask my readers to listen to Part 1 of a five-part audio series entitled The Relevant Church by Access Church in Tulsa, whose obvious universalist gospel motto is: "Using what is CULTURAL to say what is TIMELESS." The preacher concedes that the Church is losing the next generation, with a huge gap between the ages of18 and 35. He passionately proposes a plan to turn things around by becoming a "Today Church." Here are some quick notes from just the first few minutes of the sermon:
- What God wants the Church to be today is not something "warmed up" from the past.
- The ones that God brings in are those that are willing to "forget those things that are behind" (as God forgets sin!)
- The focus is to reach a society whose values and lifestyles have changed.
- As we cannot reach a foreign culture while presenting ourselves in the context of our culture, "we have to change to meet the society that God has put us in."
- "If we're not relevant, we're going to let society continue to mold us into its fashion."
The preacher quotes Colossians 4:5:
Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunities.
In context, the Apostle Paul (who was in chains at the time) was referring to the need to be tactful and discerning while "proclaiming the Mystery of Christ" to the receptive Body within the Diaspora. But this preacher interprets Paul's words as applying to us today, to make what we say and do "palatable" to other cultures so they "get it."
These professing Christians with a "vision" have not yet figured out that the spiritually indigent don't want our God; they want our stuff.
Make no mistake: to this preacher, failure to abandon traditional Church culture is sinful. Consequently, he leaves no room for existing leaders within his congregation to reject the "vision" of his universalist gospel.
When Christians talk, look, smell and behave like the world, they are indistinguishable from the world. But, using some strange twist of logic, this preacher believes that in talking, looking, smelling and behaving like the world, we do not "lose our saltiness" in a godless world. To be relevant is to embrace strange society, yet - if we don't - they will mold us. How does that work?
As an old friend once told me long ago: "When one plays in the mud, their gloves become muddy. The mud does not become glovey."
Not surprisingly, the Relevant Church is no longer relevant to older people with wisdom. In their declining years, our elder folk now often don't have the comfort of the traditional and familiar because they don't catch the "vision." They are, after all, no longer relevant. Shamefully, what was a rock to our older people and their ancestors is now a relic, to be discarded with contempt. These people are now only living fossils, representing a time when the little church house at the edge of town actually worked.
The authentic Church should focus on being relevant to our unchanging and Sovereign King of Kings - not upon the ever-changing cultures and gods of all the peoples of planet Earth.
The Unnatural Church
We find in Jude 1:3-5 that the Apostle Paul found it necessary to remind the believers that their faith is the very same unchanged faith delivered previously to the saints, and that evil men professing to be believers had crept in unawares. These evil men despised dominion, going after "strange flesh", were given over to fornication and spoke "evil of dignities." What these men were teaching is tied by Paul to Judgment against Egypt and Sodom and Gomorrah.
Bearing Paul's warning in mind, here is a Mission Statement for you:
We, the GLAD Alliance, are members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), called to join in God’s work of transforming the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) into a just and inclusive church that welcomes persons of all gender expressions and sexual identities into the full life and leadership of the church. (Source)
There are men and women today openly teaching in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) that homosexuals and lesbians can not only be church members, but also church leaders! The Glad organization is an alliance comprised of over 100 Christian Churches that are "Open & Affirming" to sexual deviants. They endorse same-sex marriage. They want to "transform" (change) the existing church structure into one which includes sodomites and lesbians.
These are men and women which have indeed turned the "grace of our God into lasciviousness." Their end is the same as the Judgment against Egypt and Sodom and Gomorrah.
But these [men] speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves. (1 Jude 1:10)
To think that it has come to this is horrifying! Both sides of my family were part of the Stone/Campbell movement. In fact, my great, great Grandfather was baptized by Raccoon John Smith himself.
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is the organization that oversees the restoration and maintenance of the Cane Ridge site where the Great Revival of 1801 took place. Think of it - Barton W. Stone himself is buried on a site that is cared for by people actively seeking sodomites in their congregations!
In my lifetime, membership in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has plummeted, and deservedly so. Thomas and Alexander Campbell would truly be outraged at what their life's work has become.
Another terrifying (but incredibly common) unnatural act both found and supported within major churches today is abortion: the murder of unborn babies. Have you ever heard of The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice? They are a group of "Christians" who advocate the "right" of the mother to kill her unborn child under any circumstance. They piously "pray quietly with women when actually making those decisions "because the Bible is silent about abortion" (of course, it is not). Consequently, they implicitly council her to commit the grave sin of murder. Member churches of this organization include the United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ.
To be sure, the true Church is not found in these organizations. Think about it: why would a truth-seeking believer expect to find wisdom among leadership that can't even get the most basic human instincts right?
In Part Two of Where is the Church? we will look at a five more churches where the authentic Church will not be found. In the meantime, let me ask you a question. If you should find you belong to a congregation is already on the slippery slope leading to Holy Judgment, what will you do?
There is no kind way to say this: as the world is full of evil people who "rejoice to do evil" and "do not preserve the way of the saints" (Proverbs Chapter 2) so are our churches.
Now we do speak wisdom among the mature, but not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are perishing. (1 Corinthians 2:6)