Modern Church

This is the first in a series of 5 articles addressing the changes in worship and other areas of church life regardless of its age or size. Without delving into the background of this phenomenon just yet, we will get right to your questions, questions, as you shall see, indicating you are not alone in having. I know these questions are quite disturbing to you, as they should be, and are to us as well. Please take your time as you read through the articles and we recommend reading them in the order given.

Each article is based on a point of discussion as these questions began to come to me. In the fourth and especially the fifth and final article, we will try and lay out more specifically some things behind your questions and give some implications we see where this might be headed. Thank you for taking the time to consider this and we pray you will find at least in part some understanding that evades you just now, and that God will give you a peace about what you are experiencing.

End Preface

Is your church emulating and imitating the world more and more? Do you find within your own house of worship a look that mirrors in alarming similarity the same on Sunday as an arena you sat within on Friday or Saturday at a secular event—a music concert, basketball game, a stage performance, etc.? Are the sights and sounds surrounding "worship" becoming all to familiar of such places of mass gatherings or media presentation, complete with its own version of a JumboTron switching scenes down to the calculated second of the average attention span? Is the music becoming more and more exclusively contemporary in secular sound, repetitive in chorus or extended refrains for emotional excitation, as though mimicking that of chanting for a favorite team at a sporting event? Is there a conformity by your church to the designs and creations of modern culture to appeal to greater numbers for increased size, budgets and programs? Is the decision making of your church being centralized more and more into the hands of a few or one person, with no voice allowed from the people? Is there a design by that leadership for members to treat certain other members with deference or prejudice, even to ostrasize and marginalize them in fellowship, to be treated in ways other than as Christ commanded—to love one another as He loved us—all for the purpose of "unity of the church" rather than unity in Christ as He prayed in John 17 and Paul teaches in Galatians 6:10? Is there a move to remove all traditional sights, sounds and symbols of those employed in previous generations in representation of the appearance of a religious "church" building within the community, even eliminating the use of the word altogether?

We will stop; but these are only a few questions in the rapidly growing list of many the serious worshiper and follower of Christ should consider in his or her changing church life today, more so than in any previous generation in America, or the world for that matter. Oh, and one other important question: What is the role and will of the Holy Spirit in all this? (John 3:8) We raise these questions, not because we are against all change in church polity and practice, especially those that would take us back to our Biblical roots, but that you may know what is happening right now in church offices all across America and around the world, look to the Bible to answer the questions for yourself, know where you stand, not be led blindly, and finally, as Jude teaches, we "... exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith..." (Jude 1:3)

As in Jesus' own day, the true worshiper who comes to worship in spirit is becoming and will be almost non-existent at the end (Luke 2:25-38). The "house of God", as then, is now becoming something to "behold." (Mk.13; Lu.21) As we move closer and closer to the time of the end as Jesus foretold, the false, or as is called the prostitute church of Revelation (chapter 17), will emerge, subtly as it manifests itself in the beginning, as more and more are awakening to this reality, until it has drawn many away from sound Biblical doctrine, principles, teachings and practices. As a consequence of this allure and worldly practice, many also will be drawn within her proud campus walls and lulled into a false sense of salvation and security without ever being truly regenerated, born again (John 3), and expected to submit to a life set apart from worldliness to holiness. Whether intended or not, what is developing across America, and around the world for that matter, is the sad scene of "church" becoming a spectator sport and attendees fans of their team. They can't tell you much about sound doctrine but they can sure tell you how exciting it is to see what awaits them each Sunday, enthusiastic to give free tickets to friends, family and co-workers for their attendance. Finally, in that end-time of which Jesus spoke, a great confluence concomitant with the convergence of world political power, there will be the death of many of its followers before she herself is slain by the very political powers she has sought, and aided, to gain favor and to whom she has aligned.

"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap..." (Ga.6:7-10; Hosea 8:7;13:3. Have we forgotten the lesson to Israel and the wife of Hosea?) When a church chooses to court and conform to the world rather than convert it as Jesus commissioned her, why should we be surprised when Satan slips within it? Since the dawn of time, every ordained holy institution or creation of God, be it man himself, marriage or the church, Satan has sought its subversion of purpose, reduction in influence, and final outright destruction, even the attempt to kill the Holy God Himself. His strategy has never been in the beginning an all out frontal attack, open and plainly detected even by the least wise. No. He comes by way of deceit, turning what God has declared and provided for the benefit of His creation into both a lie and an illusion, having the "...form of godliness but denying the power thereof." (Romans 1:18-32) God warns, to those who will listen and benefit, "...from such turn away." (II Timothy 3:5) Jude writes and cautions sternly of such men and their worldly designs.

As with our country, our houses of worship are being transformed right before our disbelieving eyes, in some cases, literally, overnight—from one Sunday to the next. A great confluence is occurring in our time within the world and the church, moving us toward that final stage of world history. Power is being centralized in both secular and church governments and the people more and more manipulated and marginalized, all for the agents of change idealogy of "success." Asked by a new Christian recently, senior in years, as he observed with fresh eyes the events within our world whether God would someday grow tired of man's "messing up" and adding to what He has given us and intended, I answered: "The Book and Final Chapter has been written by Him on that sentiment, decision and Judgment. He has set the day and the hour. And yet, we continue to be led down that path by those who, at the least do not know or believe, or, at worse, know and are blinded by their disease and do not care." Power-drunken men, often appearing in "sheep's clothing", have sought to rule over other men since early man with the philiosophy: What Great Men Can Accomplish When The Little People Get Out Of The Way. History has shown no institution is immune to this phenomenon or deadly cancerous disease. The church is no exception! Men aspiring for greatness at great extent! People seen as expendable in that quest. Dissent is seen as destructive, intolerable and non-conforming, or as they call it: "not promoting unity." To the student of history, does this not sound familar, even recent? (Some "church leaders" are acting and teaching as though they do not even know the true meaning of "fascism" in its generic sense. As a result, a "creeping fascism" is growing within the church and among its members, all for the sake of growth, success, and "church unity", which, as I have said, in reality nothing but mere conformity. Do not be fooled. I must remind these of Paul's stern rebuke of Peter's actions in the Antioch Church!)

From the church's earliest days men have sought, even tried to buy, this power and success within the church (Acts 8:18). In the centuries that followed, they succeeded over many, still today. Far down that road, in some of the darkest hours of "Christianity", those who refused to submit their necks were labeled as heretics, ex-communicated, imprisoned, tortured and often times put to death. Sadly, within the ranks of today's descendants of those who were awakened and broke free generations ago from that dominance and control is arising a new generation who, ignoring history, now, leaning unto their own understanding and the wisdom of modern men, are plotting a course that will return the "church" to a single order under universal control.

Today, as you read, in church offices all across America and spreading into other nations, in both small and large community churches alike, the genesis of that blueprint written by men is being disseminated and implemented without the church body's knowledge or approval. Biblical doctrine for leadership and governance is being dismissed out of hand as old and outdated. Deacons are relegated as relics in lieu of secular academic business models for administration and marketing for success. The vote and voice of the people are being taken away without approval or authority, all by design. Paid staff who refuse to "go along" are being fired, and in some cases, a "bad report" is issued to their new church's pastor, telling them not to put them in positions of leadership. Without shame or remorse one such leader proudly defends his un-Christlike conduct: "Sometimes you have to play hardball!" Another "well respected leader" is on record boasting, saying he viewed himself as mayor, not pastor, over a "city" of 100,000+ listed among his regular attendees. Even church members are methodically being indoctrinated to shun and criticize others of the church who don't "go along" with the new "order." Unbelievable, right? The young and unstudied in the Bible are most vulnerable to this phenomenon. They are being brainwashed into this new theology. Older members who haven't resisted and remain are being reindoctrinated in small groups led by trained team members. Those who don't are forced out through intimidation, criticism and ostracization. Again, we have only to look at history to see we have been down this road before and the result of it and its evolved monolithic centralized power and its popery stands as a giant warning to those who will listen today. The New Testament church has no Husband but Jesus, no Priest but Melchisidek, no Confessor but Christ, no Absolver but the Anointed, no King but the Savior, no manuscript for authority and compliance but His Word. Having broken the burdensome yoke placed upon the people by religious zealots in His day and setting them free, let any of the violators' kin who attempt again to re-yoke take heed of Jesus' final warning and condemnation found in Revelation 22:18-19.

As benign as this new movement may seem at its outset in today's churches, the question, again, must be asked: Where is this leading? Emerging facts cannot, nay, must not be ignored. Serious detrimental consequences are already developing with an alarming trend—lives devastated, spiritual growth arrested, churches splitting, the witness to Christ tarnished, and who knows what yet to come? Arguably, some may be unintended consequences but they are detrimental consequences nevertheless! Did Christ not say in His great Sermon, blessed are the peacemakers, and warn in His Word about sowing discord among the brethren? When we plant a tree, we must look at all the fruit it bears; when we dig a well, we must consider all the water which springs forth. For once having planted, once having dug, it is hard to stem the contaminate growth and flow of that which we did not consider. (James 3:11-19) As a consequence, we compromise, accepting the bad with the good to justify the good, if it can be called good. Would it not be better to leave that fruit and its rotten seed on the tree? Would it not be better to plant only or graft that which stems from the Main Trunk itself, one Judgment whose fruit is already proven, whose source of life unmistakably uncontaminate and eternal? Why must we adopt from the world to adapt to His established body that which would be cancerous to that body? Did He not teach to count the cost before ever beginning a building? When we look at the building rising from the foundation already laid by the Master Architect and Carpenter, does it all appear to fit and bear the signs of a single Potter's hand? Or, can and does one stand back and point to one or more blocks any individual may have attempted to place with human pride? Know this, when the fire comes, and it will come precisely as He teaches, that which was formed by any man's hand will burn, to leave standing only the pure and tried of which the Master formed and fitted Himself! (Study Mat.24:24; II Timothy 3:1-10; Galatians 3:1; Eph.6:12; Col.2:8; I Jn.4:1. I will address these and others as this writing unfolds.)

To repeat, with emphasis, I am not averse to changing methods, strategy, and tactics that follow strict Biblical doctrine, guidelines and practice, but I am skeptical of men who speak of "shifting" or "new paradigms" and "3-legged stools" relating to new church polity and direction. In addition, I am opposed to conforming to the world, its culture, wisdom, and standards which pollute the church, the bride of Christ. I am opposed to imposing conformity under the guise of "unity" for which Christ prayed. I am opposed to interjecting the church into politics with an attempt to change the hearts and minds of the unsaved world. I am opposed to the church taking on the role of king-maker for Caesar's government. I am opposed to inviting Caesar into the pulpits of our churches, allowing them to pander to our people. Is that the role of a shepherd? Or, is it simply to encourage by both example and word those he shepherds in their own individual responsibility of citizenship. As individual christians, we should be informed and act responsibly toward our freedoms within the democracy we helped, with the grace of God, found. However, it is not our duty to make Christ's kingdom over into Caesar's. Our example is Christ in both our individual and collective conduct.

When we attempt to mass or harness the power of His church for political persuasion we step outside His command and orders for behavior in an earthly kingdom; we neglect our first duty and confuse the populus of our mission as given by Him. I ask: did He ever once engage or allow his disciples to engage as representative of His body in political activity to persuade the powers of Rome or Herod on matters of state? He did call to himself from those ranks who had in their previous affairs in life engage in political duties and causes, some even zealots in their commitment (e.g., Simon Zelotes and Matthew the publican). Did He not clearly state when approached and accused of doing so that His kingdom was not of this earth, thus leading to His innocence when falsely charged of political activity and ambition at His trial? He kept both Himself and His newly constituting church spotless and blameless before both the state religious and civil governments of His day. No disciple was crucified with Him as a consequence of the false political charges brought against Him. Let this be our lesson. Let Him be our example. As He came to win, not seats of power, but the hearts and minds of the people, who would then individually, in numbers, change the society in which they lived, as His church let us follow. As His church, let us lift His banner: King of kings. (II Timothy 6:15) Let us lift Him up that He: draw all men unto me. (John 12:32) Let us speak His message to both Caesar and citizen: Ye must be born again. (John 3:7) Let us forever remind those chosen or appointed to lead they are ordained of God for the care of the people and as such will be held accountable to Him in the day of Judgment: ...For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God... (Ro.13:1-5) . Let us persuade with a Power beyond the political speech of the most eloquent of gifted modern statesman: shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8) In doing so then it will be said of the church of any generation who follow His teachings and example in life, winning hearts and souls which does threaten a false and corrupt civil and secular power: ...These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also. (Acts 17:6)

But I digress. You see, once we go down that road again within our churches, centralizing power, diminishing the role and rights of the individual within the church, the lines between our calling as a church and our mission as Christ gave will blur to extinction. Power, political power as it will evolve within our ranks, will corrupt both our mission and our methods as a church. The line between church and state will grow dimmer and dimmer. We will engage in all manner of diversions from our true calling. Our warfare is not of flesh and blood: but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12) We are and should remain as the definition of our calling by Him states, the ecclesia—the called out, the Corpus Christi—the body of Christ. We should, as He instructed: be ye separate from the world. (II Corinthians 5:20; II Co.6.) When we do otherwise we run counter and act unnatural to the proper functioning of His body. The foot will then say to the hand, "what need have I of thee"; the ear to the eye, "you are not part of the body"! Contrary to all Biblical teaching, distinction will develop among His people and all manner of unseemly behavior toward one another will show itself. History has proven this! It has already been born in our culture and has reached its current juvenile delinquent stage. False shepherds, some who call themselves reverend, fan the flames of its hostility at every given opportunity. They run to them with mouths agape blowing and bellowing words fueling divisions and strife.

To take our eyes off Him to justify the ends for success by the world's means to achieve it is to prostitute His body. No. He cannot be happy with this. He is a jealous God! I hear top denominational, conservative, leaders calling for an emphasis on "recruiting" greater "intelligentsia" for pastoral and church leadership. In other words, one basically says, we must appeal to the intellect of the young and impressionable potential leaders, those who aspire to become lawyers, doctors, or other professionals, to be become mainstream if we are to survive in an ever-changing post-modern world. This from a former head of one of the largest Baptist denominations in America. I wonder sometimes if we are reading from the same Bible or if God has given "new revelation" to a select few who speak for Him and reject any challenge to their self-absorbed authority. Herein lies the great tragedy of our day! While some of these modern "churchmen" are fully cognizant of their global goal, others, some with good intentions, blindly follow their popularity and disseminated worldly recipe for "success." Instruction manuals and course guidelines are flying across bookstore counters in exchange for millions of dollars, again, often being taught to a select few for implementation without the congregation's knowledge or permission.

One almost, or, in fact, does, want to ask: Has the church taken leave of its "collective sanity!"? How did we get here? Where is this leading? How will it end? In measuring success within the church today, questions must be asked by those who want to remain true to Christ's teaching (beginning with His Sermon on the Mount and great commandment), example, and Biblical doctrine. To begin, here are a few. By what or whose standards and metrics should success within the church be measured? What government, rules of order and discipline is the church to adopt and follow? By what authority and to whom are the leaders, the very ones instituting these changes, held accountable, if at all? What is the ultimate authority? What is the present state and fidelity of the Bride of Christ? How stained of the world is her wedding gown? There are more but you get the idea.

(This is the first issue in a series that will deal with what I think to be one of the greatest threats to the "modern church" since that in the first century and early days of Christianity, namely Gnosticism, championed by a man called, Cerinthus, whom John encountered in his pastoral journeys from Ephesus. In the second another leader, Marcion, would emerge to further this movement, producing many writings in its support, later to be countered by those adhering to pure Biblical doctrine and practice. As a result of this, we now have our New Testament. See ADAMII: Gnosticism for further study of this threat. Also, do a site search using Cerinthus and Marcion as key words for additional information. This "new order", or developing model, we face within the governments of our church and world in our time is no less grave!)

- Author: Ken Livingston

Writings Index

See also Issue #2: Walking With God.
See also Issue #3: Addicted to Experiences.
See also Issue #4: State of the Church.
See also Issue #5: Broken Churches.
Read additional studies and topics in our Studies Area.
Previous Page HR Included below is an abridged list of references for further reading on the origins and progress of this "modern seeker church" phenomenon threatening the church Jesus gave His life for. He warned there would be false prophets and spirits come in the last days. They originated in that early first century and their seed has spawned to modern day. (I John 4:1) Study Jude for their description and nature and how you are to respond to them. Be prepared to be shocked as you study the Bible's exposé of them and their own words now finding their way into modern record and books detailing their plans for a one world church! My simple advice, don't be near them when the fire comes, and it will come! He is a jealous God over His House of prayer. Know your Bible. Be sound in doctrine. Walk in the Spirit who will guide you in all things true, exposing the false. Try the spirit within the man. See if it be of God, reflecting in total the true nature of the loving Christ. Know the fruit of the Spirit and the fruit of the flesh and Satan. Search them for the leaven of the Pharisee (Luke 12:1). Is Christ central in their lives? Whom do they lean to for wisdom and understanding in guiding the church, God or the ways of man and the institutions of the world (Prov.3:3-7; Isa.55)? Does he use the New Testament model and offices given for church government or has he introduced a modern, non-biblical model of privately selected and designated team members whose offices and authority are no where sanctioned in the New Testament nor approved by the church body? Do these men, or team leaders, have absolute and unquestionable authority? Do they act in ways unseemly towards Christ when that authority and their ideas and positions are questioned? Does the leader, or manager, or as one called himself in a megachurch in California, a "mayor" of a large "city", emphasize the goodness in men or the righteousness in Christ imputed to men by Redemption through His blood shed at Calvary for man's sinful condition? Are his sermons or lectures more about building up man into a better creature or the lifting up Jesus for man's salvation from God? There are many, many more questions you should be asking yourself. These are given to, hopefully, get you started for your own search into truth as revealed by His Spirit about such an important issue facing the life of the church today and your future role in it in order to remain loyal and obedient to Him. You have but one Master. Do not submit to another, abrogating Jesus' role in contradiction for loyalty to theirs! A true under-shepherd is himself led by the Lord and walks in His footsteps in leading others. If you see the man's own footprint, DO NOT FOLLOW!

But, do not fear. Jesus knew His church would come under attack but it is sound because He said He alone would build it upon His Rock and the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). The true, the genuine, the Elect, His Bride, remains safe, sound, and secure! He watches over it Himself with an everlasting jealousy. In due time, in His season, He will exact justice upon her seducers (Nahum 1:3)! Don't be fooled by what appears godly in structure and your senses. It is false. Only Christ can build His church and He has clearly defined how He would do it, by Himself drawing men through the power of His resurrection and the mysterious work of His Spirit. Oh, and one last thing, DO NOT SIGN ANY AGREEMENT OR "COVENANT" REQUIRED FOR CHURCH MEMBERSHIP (Note #2 under Membership Responsibilities at Grace Church and credited origin of covenant at bottom of page. Run.). Your statement of faith as required in Romans 10 and having already or being willing to follow the Lord in baptism is sufficient Biblical requirement for membership in any of His local churches adhering to His teachings. Anything else added is of man and is forbidden by scripture, including the delay until you have been indoctrinated in the polity, policies, and ways of that church, usually concluding with the pastor or "teams'" approval after agreeing to loyalty of that church's unity. BE CAUTIONED! And a caution to those of whom we speak: No weapon formed against His church or people will prosper. And your tongue will be condemned eventually by the very ones you seek to condemn in your opposition (Isaiah 54:17). This is the heritage God has left unto His genuine Elect and their righteousness of Him remains within them regardless of your efforts to demean, diminish, demoralize, demonize or deject them! Your great pride precedes you and great will be your fall for the house you have built (Proverbs 16:18; Matthew 7:27).

These few links should get you started in your own education of what is happening in "church" life today. See Issue 3's article on addiction to experiences, in which there is a discussion of worldly psychological tools knowingly being employed to excite and manipulate emotional responses within group or church gatherings, as well as corresponding links, including recent research into this practice. Add to your reading a study of the hormone and effects of "oxytocin" which is released into the brain by the pituitary gland during social interaction.
Modern Church Constitution (An SBC church in TN.)
Andy Stanley on his mentor - Bill Hybels