Think On This
Walking With God Walking With God Walking With God Modern Church

PREFACE
The following is the second article to date addressing the changes being seen with alarming detail in modern churches. It is more practical in nature in response to this common dilemma occurring in more and more churches today. The members of these churches are being forced to choose whether to submit to obvious changes over which they have no control or say or look for another path that will be consistent with their beliefs and practices in their Christian walk and worship. The article's focus will sometimes shift from speaking to the opening question being asked to addressing those causing it to be asked—namely, their church leaders. I trust the reader's own wisdom to discern those pivot points for their intended purpose. Thank you for understanding. Please know these thoughts were not written without much prayer and consideration. I, too, am alarmed by these questions being asked about the fundamental changes occurring on a broad scale that spans denominational ties.

There is a clear redefinition of church in today's modern world by a different class and generation of preachers stepping forward in church leadership. What is witnessed in most megachurches within large populations is rapidly being duplicated in smaller churches and communities as well. The meteoric rise of this model and movement whose origins can be traced and identified is catching up young impressionable ministers who are not yet grounded in sound Biblical doctrine and New Testament practice, and deficient in Godly wisdom. It is appealing. It is glamorous, almost in the same vein as the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness by satan for power. It is dangerous! Buying into this new model, they are pushing their people into compliance in extraordinary unBiblical ways. The sad thing is there are many older and much wiser pastors and leaders who are succumbing to this pressure or temptation and going along to get along. They know, or believe, if they too don't assimilate into this new church culture and way of doing things, their people will be drawn away by others who do. Their numbers will decrease, their budgets will decline and the status they once held in the church world will vanish. They excuse themselves by asking: What are we to do? Rather than grounding their people in sound Biblical doctrine that will root them firmly in their faith and place of service, the appeal begins for more money to fund the architecture of this new church model. Yet others see it as a way to raise their level of standing among their peers once thought not possible. No matter which angle this new movement is viewed, once you look past its facade you see the imprint of man all over it. That alone should be a clue for anyone still wondering whether they should step within its path and walk in that direction causing others to follow. True Christianity is not a cult with a following. What we are seeing more and more has many traits of being just that, with each church having its own adored charismatic superstar.

His Word clearly teaches we are not to turn to the wisdom of men in matters of faith and service in His name (1 Co.1:19-20). When leaders come to the point they think God is not capable without their human wisdom and that gleaned from worldly construct they have moved away from walking within the footsteps of Jesus as He walked within the will of the Father and power of the Holy Spirit. When the Bible is used to find, pick and prove some idea the leader has devised and arrived at for imposing their view of success the church stands in danger. It has already been down this road before. Success is not nor should ever be the goal of any church! In the eyes of the world, Christ was an utter failure. They crucified Him at age 33 because He would neither court it or compromise with it. Why, then, are these Johnny-come-lately so-called Christian leaders courting it today? I would suggest more time is required on bended knee than in book stores and seeking ways to make themselves more profitable and popular by appealing to the world. I will say at the outset, this new structure will eventually collapse. It cannot be indefinitely sustained on the foundation of mammon and the wisdom of men upon which it is built. Always true to His Word, He will destroy the wisdom of men. Look at the tower of Babel if you question His veracity in such a serious matter (Gen.11:1-9). When this destruction comes, possibly when the coming tide of economic collapse sweeps across the lands where it stands, it will crumble, as did the house of which Jesus spoke built upon a sandy soil. JumboTrons will be out of place in the basements and closets of homes where genuine Christians will be forced to retreat as in the beginning. With their place of worldly assembly decimated, a tide of unregenerated people caught up in this meteoric fancy will be abandoned with no where to seek for shelter and swept away as rubble in the wake of so great a collapse, comparable possibly to the flood in the days of Noah.

End Preface

Couple I am often asked about today's Christian or church culture of worship. Many who are rooted in sound Biblical doctrine and have achieved spiritual growth far beyond their early days of salvation are questioning what is happening within their church today. With increasing dismay, they are walking out the doors of their church on Sunday questioning their own spiritual condition as, apparent to them, there is a change occurring within them of their sense of having worshiped, or, whether what they experienced was worship at all. Husband and wife walk together with their heads drooped in silence, each reflecting on the events of the morning. As they walk or drive away, they begin a discussion of their thoughts and are unable to point to anything they have seen or heard as being at odds with their core beliefs. But their hearts tell them there is really something amiss—something serious. I am even asked whether they should participate in singing what they are now required to sing, or chant. Astonishing that I would be asked such a question! The music has changed as well as its presentation from what they have been accustomed. Some tell me they refuse to participate. They stand when required but hold to the back of the pew in front of them in silence. Others, for various reasons given, accept it to some degree with the modern changes they see in every other area of their daily life. No, there's more to it than that. But what, they ask themselves. Revisiting in discussion the sermon heard from the pulpit, they find no fault with their pastor's words. All seem to be true. But the sermons are different. The subjects, style and tone have changed. There seems to be something missing they can't quite put their finger on. They believe him to still be a Godly man. With no answers to these troubling questions, they plod along, Sunday after Sunday, falling into deeper desondency over their worship life and the life of their church. They are affected both spiritually and emotionally throughout the week. Their joy is not as prevalent as before. Their hunger is no longer being fed with that Authentic Bread. Where is the Rock from which they once drank?, they ask. Should they leave? But so many friends, they say! So much of their lives invested! And where would they go that is any different? Many have already left. These are serious matters!

When I hear those accounts I am deeply saddened. I am also reminded of the accounts in olden times when God's people similarly thirsted and experienced an emptiness for various reasons, some due to their own disobedience, but others because there was no true shepherd. Without casting any aspersion on any one report of this phenomenon, think of those times yourself as you reflect on the record of the Old Testament. The Psalmist spoke often about being in a dry land where there was no water for his soul. At others, the people went without rain for years and thirsted because their leaders had led them astray. The Hebrews complained often of thirst in the wilderness during their exodus from Egypt. Twice they were led to a rock where Moses smote it and there gushed from it a stream sufficient enough for all to take their fill (Sinai and Kadesh; Ex.17:6; Nu.20:8). Not one went away without being refreshed when God gave the increase—when God gave the increase. Imagine their joy, a scene in stark contrast with their worship before the golden calf constructed by Aaron! When God divided Solomon's kingdom after 40 years reign, the ten tribes in the northern kingdom split were banned by its new king, Jeroboam, from visiting and worshiping at the Temple in Jerusalem for fear of their lack of loyalty to him (I Kings 12). Consequently, he built two places of worship at his kingdom's southern and northern borders, Bethel and Dan, erecting symbols forbidden by God in worship. What followed in the next 200 years was a bloody succession of nineteen kings with little or no peace for the people. God's judgment was finally brought upon that kingdom by a Gentile nation and the people were led away in captivity and dispersed throughout other vassal kingdoms it had conquered. You likely know them as the "lost ten tribes of Israel", all because they turned from His way to their own ideas and ways of worship. One only has to read Romans 1 to see the dangers and warnings of forsaking God's way.

We need always to remember what Jesus told His eleven disciples would be their experiences when He left them to return to His Glory (Jn.15&16). Please read it and if you will, permit me to summarize and paraphrase: "I have to go but you have to stay. But know this, if you decide to continue to follow after me when I'm gone, you will do it at your own peril. Right now the light and focus of Satan's wrath is not upon you, rather upon me. But when I'm no longer around for him to come after, trying to extinguish My Light, know this without doubt, the more you identify with me and become like me rather than the world, and you will if you follow after me, he will turn his vengeance from me to you! He will attempt always to extinguish my Light (message and influence) wherever it is found in my people in the world. Remember also, when he (and the world) hates you he hated me first. His hate for you will only be because of me as you conform and become more and more like me, my Light becoming brighter and brighter in you. So, if you want to escape his (and the world's) eye, and thus his wrath, the more you conform and identify with the world than me the better it will be for you in the world. You will be loved by the world and the more you become like the world the more they will love you and be drawn to you."

Megachurch

In those final words, "...the more you become like the world...", we begin to see what is happening with regularity and spreading from church to church, denomination to denomination in today's church life, not just in America but around the world (See other articles on the Modern Church). The church is changing and I'm afraid to a large extent not for the better. By design, there is a new catholic (universal) church emerging. It is increasingly becoming either apostate or Laodicean. It is renouncing its salt in favor of sugar. The key is found in looking at what is commonly being employed in drawing people to the church and who it is being drawn. Remember His teaching as just illustrated when you ask who it is your church is attempting to draw and what emotion are they trying to elicit from those drawn. How often do you hear today: Oh! I just love my church!? Wow! As one observes this change the question begs to be asked: Is the world becoming more like Christ and His church, or, is the church becoming more and more like the world? There's the distinction! And there is a fundamental distinction. It isn't something that cannot be tested to see which may be the case. There are many ways, both with the natural eye and with the spiritual by any with a modicum of spiritual growth and discernment. Study the New Testament. Understand the purpose behind most if not all of Paul's letters to the church in his day, churches he himself founded and established at the peril of his own life. Read the brother of our Lord when he earnestly pleads for the true believer to "contend for the faith." (Jude 3)

In building His church, Jesus gave us the command to go and make disciples. He defined by His own example and by command preaching as the primary tool for proclaiming His gospel. He also defined the mission of each to be one thing, witnesses (Lk.24:45-49), and to preach Him crucified and the power of His resurrection, to lift Him up and He alone would draw all men to Him (Mt.10:27; Jn.3:14: 12:32; 1Co.,key vs.23; Ro.1:16. Word search: "preach" for your own study.). We were never charged with winning the world for Christ and wooing the lost within our walls so someone with the alphabet after his name appear on a giant TV screen and appeal to their worldly and emotional needs by his superior knowledge and charisma and then sell them a cart full of books authored by him on their way out the door. We were instructed to be witnesses of Him as we went into the world, and to those things He taught and showed us, each and collectively. I know, that comes as a shock to some. But show me where that is taught. You can't. But yet we hear shouted: "Come. Come and see what great things He has done!" They ran after Him in His day on earth because of the great things He did, but when confronted to partake of Him (which would transform them into being like Him) and not just those amazing temporal things He did, they turned and walked no more with him (Jn.6:66). Two things always amazed Him, one when He encountered someone of little faith (Mt.6:30) and the other when encountering one of great faith (Mt.8:10). This led Him to ask after teaching a parable on a widow's faith: "...when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth" (Lk.18:8)? I wonder what would be His reaction if He were to show up at one of these grand temples today? Might it not be as He did with the whip in the Temple in His day, causing His disciples to remember: "...that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up" (Jn.2:17)? Just asking. How many "houses of prayer" remain today?

If he had not given us clear instructions as to our mission it would be understandable why some learned theologians or published gifted motivational speaker might develop their own strategy of being in compliance to His command. But He did, therefore, there is no excuse to impose upon His methods man's own blueprint, a blueprint taken from the world, for this task. Now be prepared for another statement you may take exception. It is the mission for every individual, as he is going. Christ's church does not need a business model for marketing to "win the lost." One only has to look at how He trained and employed His disciples to see this. I'm not saying the church should not be engaged in missions. Don't misunderstand. However, the unintended consequence when we make it the mission of the church is that it becomes too easy for the individual to excuse himself of his own responsibility. The church today attracts literally millions into its pews, sorry, arena, who become quite comfortable, and complacent, being entertained and think they are doing their part just by coming and giving so others can go. The church promotes the role of the individual as primarily inviters rather than disciple makers. Let me ask you this: Have you ever witnessed a shepherd giving birth to a sheep? No! Sheep give birth to sheep. Then why does the church expect the people simply to go and invite or bring only the lost to a Sunday service? This is where everything is turned upon its head. With this unBiblical approach, the church now has to restructure every thing so as not to offend the lost when they come. Seriously? As though Jesus' message of sin is not offensive to the sinner? The message of repentance is not offensive? The message of the bloody body standing before Pilate and hanging in agony on the cross is not offensive? The message of hell is not offensive? How are you going to dress that subject for consumption by the lost without being offensive and making them feel guilty? Isn't guilt what is expected from one when confronted with their sin and required in repentance?

So, what is all this about trying to make the sinner who comes not feel guilty and to be comfortable? Why? What are you trying to achieve? Are you afraid God doesn't have power enough to handle a sinner and his guilt in His presence without your help and cunning psychological devices. He doesn't need your trying to coddle and shield them from their discomfort! Why are you making apologies for Him and His message, twisting the truth to suit your narrative and avoiding Biblical words so as not to seem churchy? He doesn't need your deception to prebake and not turn them before feeling the heat of the oven of hell break through when He finally confronts them with their ultimate fate if they remain unregenerated. The church is being filled with modern day Ephraims, half-baked and unturned (Hos.7:8). If a sinner leaves your service without being offended it is safe to say the pastor has not done his job. Don't any member or leader go chasing after them trying to offer apology for the exclusive convicting work of the Holy Spirit (Jn.16:8). Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. In love. Now that's being offensive! (2Tim.4:2) Or, is it that you're only offering up a feel good gospel or religion that doesn't upset their worldly nature in order for them to like you and redefine and construct your own idea of what church should be to remain popular for them to return? It's almost like the parent who bribes their children to get them to eat their vegetables or to do something they know the child would find offensive. They are afraid if they offend them they won't be their friends any longer. It is not the role of a parent to be a friend to their children. Nor is it the role of a pastor or leader to be a friend to the world. "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (Js.4:4).

I submit that the primary role of the church is not to woo by all means the world to her doors. The world will come. Jesus promised this. The gates of hell will beat against it if it is being true to its calling (Mt.16:18)! It won't have to spend millions trying to attract it. The role of the church, as defined in scripture, is to make disciples of its people, equipping them to go out into the highways and byways, birthing sheep as they go, and then bring them in, not simply invite them to come hear their eloquent, wonderful and lettered pastor. That is not Jesus-centric. It is man-centric! Paul warned against that in the problem the church had in its shifting loyalties with himself and Apollos (Acts 18:24; 1Co.3). In Jesus' on words He declared there to be no greater prophet than John the Baptist (Lk.7:28), yet John deflected any appeal to himself to Jesus, saying, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (Jn.3:30).

Jesus spoke of coming to seek and save that which was lost (Mt.8:12). Isn't that what He has asked us to do (Jn.21:17)? Any gifted tongue or team can attract the world. That is proven with every staged political rally and sporting event witnessed almost daily in the national media today. As His disciples, anointed by His Spirit for the mission, we are to go and find in our daily living that one lost sheep out of an hundred and bring him to The Shepherd and then to our shepherd for administration of our Lord's ordinances and growing and leading him in the kingdom. Those who walk the isles should already be sheep having been born by those bringing them now to the baptismal waters. Manuel Scott Sr. told in a sermon I was fortunate to hear many years ago about answering someone who asked him how he got so many to walk the isles in his services by telling him they were sheep won by his people ever before they came. To those when they come, there is nothing offensive in what Christ requires and offers! They embrace with glad heart those symbols of His gospel they have received. God gives within them a sense of being "home" in their new surroundings that should be different from those with which they are accustomed in their worldly life from whence they came. I'm not saying I'm opposed to or for it, but if you think stained glass and stained glass words might be offensive to the lost who do come without already being reborn, don't let them read Revelation 22! Nor describe to them the scenes of hell as Jesus taught! But wait, isn't that precisely what is happening that has so many mature Christians dismayed? When you search the scriptures, you cannot escape the fact that Jesus spoke more of hell than heaven in His discourses. What's needed today from our pulpits aren't weak-kneed apologists and psychologists who try to get into the heads of the lost who are invited through their doors. No. It is callous-kneed men of God who have spent time like the early James on his knees before the Lord and in His Word before coming to meet those Jesus has found and brought out of the world to him to receive into His fold. This doesn't mean there won't be a lost one attracted in the process yet unborn (or many in a time of outpouring of His Spirit), but it won't be the works of your hands, imaginations of your minds or gifts of your speech every Sunday that attracts them. It will be the power of the Holy Spirit moving and drawing them as others are won and drawn by Him!

For some leaders, they view themselves successful if they can point to great buildings, budgets and numbers achieved by their efforts. This is the new definition of success in God's work. It doesn't matter if those who come are regenerated so long as they come and keep coming, and giving. They advertise to the world and it comes. The flash of great presentations on JumboTrons attracts them by the thousands every Sunday. Video venues they call it, with some now franchising their church into multiple cities across America. They buy out small struggling churches and erect their video screens up front to project the speakers and services from a church thousands of miles away. Come and be our guest, they say. Join us and be a part of this great, exciting and wonderful emerging and expanding church we hear echoed through elegant corridors and beautiful campuses. Look around you, we have so much to offer to whet any appetite you may have in the world. Latte, anyone? Sandwich shoppes. Bookstores. Medical clinics. Counseling centers. Shopping. T-shirts. Souvenirs. What a Bazaar! From this logic, I'm waiting to see appear at any time oversized Biblical characters in fuzzy costume walking around greeting children as they arrive on campus. A city within a city with its own themepark and pastor as self-described mayor! You scoff. Just wait. It's coming to a neighborhood near you, if not already there!

Is this what Jesus was really talking about when He said upon this Rock I will build my church? Some say it is. Fine. But what message are they hearing and what are they witnessing when they come? What is center stage? What is stirred within the comer? What is being used to stir and who is doing the stirring? What is causing emotions to rise to fever pitch in what seems more and more a concert or drama rather than Simon Magus worship? Why emotions at all? (See article dealing with the hormone, oxytocin, and how it is being induced and exploited in social gatherings.) Show me in scripture that is a requirement for successful worship, or for salvation for that matter! It is not! The true emotion stirred within the individual worshiper is only that by the Holy Spirit and not those produced by the incantations of repetitive choruses written by so-called contemporary musicians for precisely that purpose, or other methods knowingly promoted in group gatherings. Listen to His Word: "I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please" (S.S.2:7; 3:5; 8:4). Do they not also know Jesus Himself warned against vain repetitions? (Mt.6:7; 15:9)! Finally, the lesson of Simon Magus warns against trying to buy that power to achieve a desired outcome (Acts 8:18-25). If these modern leaders can justify the ends by their means that cannot be backed by scripture, He will sort that all out when He comes (Mt.13:24-30). But I caution. He is jealous of His Bride! Any who deceives or abuses her, or say they do what they do in His name, be forewarned (Mt.7:15-23)!

Satan is capable and does duplicate the authentic for the counterfeit and to the outward carnal eye it appears genuine. Jesus repeatedly taught His kingdom could not be seen with natural eyes, only after entering into it as a child (Jn.3:3). Possessing only human senses, they can only see what is affected in their natural world when the supernatural touches it, often mistaking the counterfiet for the real. This leaves them highly susceptible to forces beyond Him who also can alter, mimic, and appeal to their natural state. Who better to know the inner workings of God and His Heaven than one who once was His top angel in it? Who better could construct a knock off of the genuine? And who is the most likely to be able to tell the difference than one skilled in the workings and use of the original? This is why it is so vital for the Christian to become developed in God's Word and practiced in walking in His Spirit in order to know at first blush the authentic from the counterfeit. If this was the problem in the Garden with Satan why do we expect it to be any less outside its gates?

Paul says in Ro.12 that we (and the church) are to be conformed ONLY to Him, as Jesus indicated to His eleven disciples in Jn.17. His church is the ecclesia, the "called out", distinct and separate from the world. So, there it is. A Christian should be guided by that principle by all they do or say. All should be filtered through that. We should ask ourself the question: Am I conforming to the world or some idea, concept, rationale, method, tactic, etc, coopting something created first from the world in my Christian or church life? Or, is my conformation more akin to the person and character of Christ? In other words: does it have its origins and roots in Him or in the world? Is it original or merely a counterfeit, or duplicate, variation, modification, or adaptation of the world? Clearly, for the Christian, if it is a creation of the God-less world being used to "conform to Christ", we should want no part of it. So, music that emulates the world whose beat is no different from those heard in pop culture, not on your life! nor any other God-less worldly creation employed for reaching others for Christ. When it comes to instruments being employed in lieu of traditional, many fundamentalists argue against that. I will only say, if what you see before you in worship is a scene replicating the album cover of pop bands down through the decades, you know, the four-piece kind, I have a serious problem with that. Many churches employ orchestras, typically removed from central stage, who are used sparingly to complement worship, not lead worship. That is the key distinction—what is center stage? One of the most troubling things of all is the vanishing pulpit, including His table. All those symbols are systematically being removed to make the world who have been invited comfortable in their surroundings—so they won't feel out of place that would hinder them from coming again. This is admitted by those who are transforming the church's visual appearance in the community. So too is the lexicon in teaching Biblical truths and doctrine. Words like sin, repentance, redemption, substitution, sanctification, etc. are being struck from use in this appealing tactic of modern leaders, especially by the younger (See video: Creating A Church That People Will Bring Their Friends To). I ask, can any product of the world or language constructed apart from scripture purge one from the things of the world? Don't think so. The psalmist clearly states there is only one thing capable of doing that: His Word—His Word and the work of the Holy Spirit in employing it within the heart of the hearer (Ps.119:9; Ro.1:16; 2Tim.3:15). Sugar coating it in the hip language of the listener will not aid the Holy Spirit one iota. It is arrogant to think so. His Word, His Holy Inspired Word, not ours, has the power of God unto salvation whether it be read by one or heard spoken by another (Ro.10:7:17).

Cross

In addition, there is nothing in this world in any generation, of any culture, from any human creativity that is capable or possible of reaching one soul for Christ. Nothing. There is only one thing that draws men to Him (Jn.1:12-13; 3:5-8). The failure to employ that, or give place for, means failure in any attempt, either on the individual or collective level. That one thing is distinctive. It is pure. It is powerful. It is original. It cannot be duplicated, substituted, modified, or adapted. It is Him. It is His Spirit—His Spirit alone who draws men to Jesus when He is lifted and men see Jesus only! Not our methods. Not our works. Not anything we can do other than as He instructed—lift Him alone. As the serpent was lifted in the wilderness for the healing of any who would lift their eyes to it, it is no less for the eye of man to Him today (Jn.3:14). He said it best: If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me (Jn.12:32)! Again, there it is.

He and He alone to be lifted by us to be seen by others, then He and He alone is the magnet possessing the drawing power to turn any man's eyes to Him for healing. Appealing to the world's emotions and base feelings in attempting to introduce fragments of the gospel message through a side door to soothe over some particular crisis of their human condition is not lifting Christ. Counseling from the pulpit is not preaching Christ crucified! There is another time and place for speaking to human needs beyond the human need. We should never allow methods to preclude His message, thus becoming an obstacle for sinners to see past those and preventing them coming to Him. If He's lifted, He will draw. He further says many will be called but few chosen...all the Father gives to me will come to me...my sheep hear my voice and I know them and they will follow me. How can they hear His voice when it is drowned out by blaring megawatt speakers cranked to their highest setting? We can cajole till the cows come home, but, and unless, the Father gives them to Him, He calls, and, they hear his call... So, unless the Father gives (Jn.6:37; 10:29), the Son accepts (Jn.6:37) and calls (Jn.10:27), and the listener hears his voice and follows(Jn.10:27), no amount of methodology will amount to one whit in drawing and winning one solitary soul to Christ. No human methodology will cause the Father to give for the Son's acceptance and call. Create all the bands, orchestras, programs, lexicons you desire. It's all chaff! Our words nor the works of our hands have the power to save one soul! Oh, we may pipe and peak and tickle with the familiar instruments of the world the ear of the world in competition with other modern draws, but what have we then? What then of the wisdom of men? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe...the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men...For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness (1Co.1:21,25; 1Co.3:19).

Speaking of music and instruments used in worship, it is debatable whether even music draws others to Him. The argument can be made that it is only through the gift of preaching (Ro.10:14-15), and that from those He has chosen from the least likely, as indicated in Scripture (2Co.2:14-15; 1Co.1:17-41), that the Spirit employs for drawing purposes. This is not the man who was born with talents and the gift of great oratory to perform for human wonderment. It is the man to whom God has given gifts of the Spirit after conversion, equipping him for his role in teaching, preaching and leading as undershepherd, all so no man can boast and God receive full glory. If a man who possesses certain qualities and training before conversion is chosen by God, and scripture indicates that is possible, God will bring that man to the end of himself ever before equipping Him with His gifts for service. I cite Joseph of Arimathaea, Nicodemus and Saul as examples. But these men never boasted of their worldly achievements (Ph.3). While I ascribe to the primary method of preaching to public gatherings, I firmly believe He also uses, as Scripture teaches, the individual testimony in personal encounters when speaking in His name (Acts 8:26). He gives gifts unto men as He desires for every purpose He wishes to accomplish within the world and the body of Christ. And the gift is never to be magnified, only Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit emanating from the person utilizing the gift.

Further, it is from that preacher who is immersed and grounded in the Bible, a life immersed and rooted in prayer, callouses on his knees, who will best be used by His Spirit. In that man, God has something to work with when he stands to speak. The most worldly, or carnal, in his audience will know there is something different, something compelling, something authoritative in his voice and emanating from his person that impresses upon them a call for decision. In this man, it matters not his worldly sophistication or level of academic standing. It was this phenomenon with the man Jesus that compelled men to come—never before had they heard one who spoke with such power and authority (Lk.2:47; Mk.1:22; Jn.7:46), a life so radiating His time spent in solitary study of scripture and knee bent in private communion with the Father. In all succeeding generations, He has conferred that power for persuasion unto those He has chosen to speak in His name (Lk:1-6; Jn.20:22; Acts 2:3-4). The New Testament calls this distinction when speaking with the anointing of the Holy Spirit as ordinary men do, unction (1Jn.2:20). When Paul's calling, teachings, and ministry were questioned, he defended himself by asserting his power and teaching came strictly from Jesus Himself (likely during his wilderness experience after conversion), not the disciples conferring upon him degrees (Gal.1:11-20). He spoke with the anointed power of the Holy Spirit. He spoke with unction!

I refer you also to Moses aglow. Even the handmaidens saw and recognized the source of Moses' changed appearance after being in God's presence on the mountain (for us now, prayer), receiving His Word (for us now, reading it). You know the story. He had to cover his face because he so radiated the presence of God's influence upon him (Ex.34:29-35). It is no different today. No man-made mechanisms, no man-made methods, just time spent in His Word plus time spent in His presence then speaking in His name, this drew their eyes, this opened their ears. No less today. History is replete with examples, in every generation. James, first Jerusalem pastor, is said by tradition to have spent so much time in prayer his knees bore great callouses. God has always had a witness to this in every generation, a man whose lips have been burned by the live coals from God's altar (Isa.6). These are the men so desperately needed today, not men wise in their own learning, understanding, wisdom and human talents with great ability to write a good speech or turn a cute phrase.

There are a lot of loud voices and soft charismatic personalities today, trained in public speaking, groomed for the camera, but one has to search far and wide for that genuine descendant of such anointed men of previous generations. They're out there. God is still God. He has not forgotten His people. I've known them. Please permit but two personal examples. I was blessed to watch one in awe struck silence as he stood time and again at a mother's front door pleading with tears for hers and the souls of her children. I saw him with such great love for his people he would not be denied his pulpit by doctors after suffering a massive heart attack from a life of complete surrender and devotion in work, loosing afterwards a leg in amputation due to embolisms, and soon after, his very life. After loosing the leg and at his insistence, I shouldered him into the baptismal waters at his humble insistence, placed him upon a weighted stool and led little children to him for him to lay into and raise them from the waters. I also sat under the leadership of another giant years ago, one who was frail in age. He remained in his pajamas most days of the week until almost noon, studying his Bible and on his knees by his bed in prayer. The people came, not because of who the man was but because they were drawn by a power on display in the man when he rose to speak. God's Word and Spirit were visibly present. As a final example, I will turn to an Old Testament giant. Elijah thought at one point in his ministry he was the only voice God had left in the northern kingdom of Israel until He informed him He had 1000's who had not bowed their knee to Baal (1Ki.19:18). As they came from their caves upon God's call, it is time for God's men to come forth today and stand to counter the culture that is sweeping our churches into the river of history carrying it to its destruction. There are some who remain faithful but others need to step from the shadows of those who possess not that power.

Now for more practical matters. The question one should ask who is faced with this modern day dilemma is this: How do I find a church that is the authentic rather than counterfeit, one that isn't led by a man who hasn't "bowed his knee to Baal" and whose knees are calloused, mind filled with scripture and a heart beating the blood and love of Jesus? One who preaches "Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness" (1Co.1:23). One who possesses the power that fell at Pentecost and once turned the world upside down. One who reflects the spirit of Paul and says: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Ro.1:16). Begin by asking: Is he Aglow? Are the fruit of the Spirit evident in his personal life? Is his image distinctly his, resembling more the world, even in dress and physical appearance, or, is it becoming more and more that of Jesus as you sit under his leadership? Are His sermons filled with more of what he thinks, or, are they in the main more what God has said and his sound Biblical interpretation and application of it for his people. Is he definitive in what He believes and states it clearly? You probably are aware of the several types of sermons preachers preach. Of what type does he typically employ? Are his sermons more topical or expository and exegetical (not that they have to be all of one or the other—but what is his first choice)?

Pastors

In addition, just as there are acknowledged types of sermons, there are defined types of modern churches with easily identifiable characteristics, many commonly agreed upon, including the theatrical (see the characteristics of 7 in John's Revelation). Which, then, of the types does he pastor and promote? If he's been called to "pastor," is he averse to being called "Pastor?" (Or does he prefer to be called just by his first name, or maybe insists on his earned academic title before it.) After all, isn't "pastor" one of the gifts of the Spirit and requirement for his calling? Another question to ask of him: What are his fruits, if any? As scripture says, you will know them by the fruit they bear. When questioned about faith and works, Paul says he would show you his faith by his works. This was Jesus' life. They didn't like Him but they couldn't deny His works. His works were one of 7 witnesses that confirmed His calling by His Father and that He spoke for the Father. Both His words and works were in concert and could not be refuted by His harshest critic. Neither was He hesitant to speak or perform either with boldness no matter the unpopularity of them, which led to the world's hate of him and His death. Light dividing darkness, exposing sin and showing the way to salvation—not popular in Jesus' day and not popular in any day. Is he willing to sacrifice that popularity for truth, regardless of the consequence? When the man abdicates his role as pastor and preacher to methods and tactics, he shirks his responsibility and accountability. No film, no song, no skit, no play, and few musicians, if any, have ever been martyred in Jesus' name. When other methods are employed other than preaching or speaking in His name, it is easy for one to escape personal accountability should it be called into question, first by his own congregation and second by any outside or government authority. Is there emanating from his life and sermons light dividing darkness (evidence of his time spent in God's Word and prayer), exposing sin and clearly showing the way to salvation? Do you see the man or do you see Jesus when he is on public display? Do his words emanate with that conferred power that go beyond his own? Could it be said of him that he clearly spoke with an authority unlike the learned "religious" of our day regardless of his level of institutional education?

To the Christian who may be losing hope their church will ever again be the magnet of Christ rather than of men, one that not only draws them for life-sustaining power in their daily walk in Christ but one that radiates the anointing power of the indwelling Christ who draws by the magnetic wind of the Holy Spirit, I humbly say as Jude: contend for the faith. Beyond that, I cannot tell you what you should do—whether you should stay or go. I will list the following indications you might want to consider in your prayerful process in making a decision in going forward in this major aspect of your Christian life and worship:

  1. Has your church restructured its organization and administration from what once was Biblical to a form resembling secular organizational models with its offices no longer elected or accountable to the people?
  2. Is Biblical doctrine no longer being expounded with the clarity as before and you rarely hear the full message of Christ's gospel?
  3. Do the messages you hear preached and taught focus more on bettering the human conditions and experiences in a person's life or on Christ and His substitutionary life?
  4. Does the speaker focus more on specific human needs: emotional, physical, material, relationships, or on his greatest condition, sin and what God says about it?
  5. Is anything other than preaching taking center stage and becoming more the focus of the group experience?
  6. Is the music becoming more chorus repetitive and rarely or no longer reflects sound Biblical doctrine?
  7. Are emotions elicited and encouraged by external means?
  8. Is the time spent in worship programmed down to the last second as broadcasts with commercials to meet air time?
  9. Is there no allowance for spontaneity that may develop due to the working and movement of the Holy Spirit?
  10. Has audience participation become less and less an experience in worship?
  11. Is there no word from the Lord other than prepared words from paid staff?
  12. Are additions to the church more by movement from other churches than baptism itself?
  13. Is there more focus on inviting and canvassing people from the community or city than discipling and training members in witnessing and winning the lost in their daily lives?
  14. When was the last time your pastor, your actual pastor, prayed with you personally? You say, my church is too big. That just might be the problem. The crowds in Jesus' day never became so large that He could not give a personal touch if one needed Him and came.

For those presently experiencing these troubling changes in your church, whatever you decide, do so in full confidence of your heart through seeking your Lord in this matter. Know this, however, your life is already changing. It will continue to change no matter which you decide. You cannot foresee the future but you can weigh with some wisdom what those future changes may be as you look at each alternative in your decision making. To choose to do nothing is a decision and likely the easiest way out. If you stay, let it be by deliberate choice. Then determine how you will fit within the changes that course will take you. Know what you will compromise and what you won't when asked to compromise, because if you haven't already been confronted with it, you soon will be. Be prepared and know ahead of time how you will respond to the pressure of compromise. Remember the disciples post-Pentecost? There came a time under persecution they could no longer abide in Jerusalem. Wherever they went, they turned the world upside down for Christ. Maybe He is leading outside the walls we have sat within in comfort for so long and this is His way of provoking it? Change, sometimes, is a good thing, especially if it is the Lord behind it leading to other fields in His harvest in this end-time. Therefore, if the call is to go, go with excitement and anticipation in what the Lord is going to do! Go with faith! Walk with God! Sometimes it may not be where we might choose, but if God has chosen it, He will be with you. I can think of no greater place to be. Walk with Him in the valleys, walk with Him on the mountain tops, it matters not, only that you walk with Him!

Finally, I would simply let Him speak in His own Words in conclusion to you. "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints" (1Co.14:33). "For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work" (Js.3:16). "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him" (Js.1:5).

- Author: Ken Livingston

Writings Index

See also Issue #1: Modern Church.
See also Issue #3: Addicted to Experiences.
See also Issue #4: State of the Church.
See also Issue #5: Broken Churches.
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