It was three years ago today that I sat through my last Sunday at a seeker-sensitive, man-centered social club operating under the guise of a church. Prior to that liberating Sunday I had begun reading the Bible through; not just selected parts here and there, but book by book, chapter by chapter, line by line, verse by verse.
As I was doing this, God began working on my heart and I began to notice a striking disconnect between the Church in the New Testament and the church I was sitting in (and the various others I had gravitated to in my life). I began to slowly see that something was terribly wrong.
I arranged to meet with the pastor to discuss some of the many issues that I simply couldn’t ignore. One of these issues happened to be the pastor’s proclivity to treat the pulpit as a venue to tell jokes and quaint little stories. When I urged him to stop telling so many jokes and instead preach the Word, his response was that God made him funny and that’s how he was going to be.
Our two-hour conversation ended on a promising note, but that quickly vaporized and it was apparent that it was time for me and my family to separate from that church amidst the scowling gossip that I was a “judgmental Pharisee” (not a surprising ad hominem attack—without any foundation in truth—from a congregation woefully ignorant of Scripture as they nursed on watered down milk year after year from the “funny” pastor).
After we left we began participating in a home church with a few other couples who had also left since there were no other churches in the area that we knew of where we could go to hear the preaching of the Word without compromise.
Shortly after we began our home church a couple that were friends with another couple already in our home church joined. This new couple had not been attending any church for quite some time as they were disenchanted with things that were happening in the local churches, yet they were fans of Joel Osteen.
We were meeting regularly for almost a year, during which time we also fed on sermons downloaded from the internet from great Bible teachers and we regularly went street witnessing. Everything was going good and during that time there was an incredible amount of growth among all of us, unlike anything we ever experienced in the lukewarm churches we had been attending. It wasn’t until later that I discovered the last couple to join us (the Osteen fans) were actually there to infiltrate the group to report back to the pastor what it was that we were doing and what I was “teaching.” The reason for this was that the pastor’s own son had defected from his father’s teachings and church and was meeting with us. After seeing that I was not a “Pharisee” as initially alleged, the couple sent in as spies remained with us . . . for a while.
As time went on and as their husbands sat idly by, a couple of the women were getting more vocal in opposition to our non-compromising and fundamental stance on doctrine, Scripture, and holiness. Apparently they were willing to go a short distance but were not willing to take up their crosses. Eventually they went back—like a dog to its vomit (Proverbs 26:11)—from whence they came. One couple (the pastor’s son) even went back to the same church; the very church where his father, the “funny” pastor, called his own son a “Pharisee” for leaving his church and attending our home group. (Evidently calling someone a Pharisee was quite a popular way to polarize those who wanted to leave this lukewarm church to actually grow in the Lord and the Faith.)
After those in the home group went their separate ways, time eventually revealed that those who went out from us were never really of us (1 John 2:19), but it was still disappointing to see them return to their old ways. Those who were coming along and learning and growing (so we thought) had returned to the very things that they previously had recognized as gross error; this was just further proof that many are called but few are chosen (Matthew 22:14).
Since then, my family found two wonderful churches that boldly preached the Word of God and honored Christ. One has since closed and the other is 45 minutes away. We now drive past a plethora of churches every Sunday morning just to get to one that is sound in its doctrine, but we don’t complain because we know that we live in a nation in which there’s a famine of the Word (Amos 8:11-12 ), and we are grateful that God has provided at least one oasis in the spiritual desert in which we live.
The More Things Change, The Worse They Get.
Recently I perused my old church’s photo gallery on their website only to find it’s gotten worse since we left. It’s funny how that always happens; compromise always takes a man (and a church) farther than they expected.
The youth group of this church hosted the youth group of another seeker-sensitive social club in town as they teamed up to participate in the 30 Hour Famine sponsored by World Vision (which is another whole issue).
During this time of abstaining from food for 30 hours, there were plenty of activities, crafts, games, and music to keep the kids busy. I didn’t see many Bibles being read from (if any) and certainly none of the kids had a Bible with them, nor in all the activities did I see anything that would differentiate this church event from a secular one, but that would be par for the course knowing these two churches and World Vision who claims on their website:
Relationships are the starting point and the end goal of World Vision’s work. Through relationships with community leaders, World Vision’s staff help communities set goals that families can achieve by working together. By our demonstration of God’s love through our work, we hope that people will experience life in all its fullness.
But then, while perusing these photos, I saw what shocked me. I never thought my previous church would stoop to such a base level, but there it was; proudly displayed on their website for all the world to see.
All the kids went outside the church where several of them removed their socks and shoes and placed their feet into a big plastic tub. Then the tub had several gallons of water poured into it over the participants’ dirty feet (and dirt was also added) till the water was a milky brown.
Now, did they then wash each others’ feet as Christ did His disciples as a moral lesson to serve others, or to teach humbleness and humility? No. Instead they filled glasses full of the dirty foot water from the tub and several of the kids proceeded to drink the contents, one of which was even one of the daughters of the pastor.
I later found out from an “insider” that the point of this spectacle was designed to demonstrate third-world water conditions and that the drinking of the water was the kids’ idea. This was explained to me amidst giggles by the “insider.” So, although drinking the water was not on the itinerary, the event leaders still permitted it and approved of it.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. I never imagined that this church would ever participate in such worldly behavior and gross-out games, the very repulsive type of behaviors that we’ve covered on this blog in the past from other churches (like seen here).
After this monumental distraction was finished it was back into the church sanctuary where happy, positive, and encouraging Bible verses adorned the walls which spoke of God’s promises that did not apply to most of the unregenerate youth that packed the church for the famine.
Then the event proceeded with more games, including something where teenage boys and girls huddled themselves into a tight group, pressing their bodies against each other; then more music.
Later, two of the youth leaders let the kids dye their hair and eyebrows multiple colors with colored gels and sprays; then more music.
Then it was time for communion. It was the end of the 30 hour famine and as tons of hungry kids lined up to grab the body and blood, it was now time to “get serious.” After bowing their heads in prayer while holding the elements (including in one picture the youth leader still wearing pink and green hair with colored eyebrows), they partook. Is there any reverence or respect left in the American church anymore?
Now it was time to eat! The kids sat at tables consuming large plates of food while each table had a picture of a starving third-world child prominently displayed in the center (this one really appalled my wife).
While viewing these images I went from shocked to saddened, to feeling righteous indignation. They are crossing land and sea (drinking foot bath water and taking communion while looking like a clown) for one proselyte, but are making them twice the sons of hell (Matthew 23:15).
The most ironic part of all this is that one of the couples leading the event was none other than the couple that used to attend our home church group (the pastor’s son), and had listened to and claimed to be impacted by Paul Washer’s Shocking Sermon. How they went from Washer to overseeing the juvenile foot bath drinking extravaganza of the flesh simply blows my mind and is deeply saddening.
I remarked to my wife that if there were any doubts that our leaving that church three years ago was the right thing to do, those doubts have completely been expunged.
I then viewed their pictures from their Easter weekend event. Candy, Easter baskets, ponies, face painting, and a rock climbing wall were just some of the “church” activities. I then listened to the pastor’s Easter sermon which was also made available on their website.
He began by telling of how much trouble he was having coming up with an Easter message; that his “mind kept going in a different direction” from what he was intending to talk about. But then he finally asked God, “What do you want me to talk about?” And God answered him. He claimed that God answered his question with a question: “How’s it goin’?”
Then the pastor said:
What the Lord was showing me is that [Easter is] not about just the resurrection; it’s about the cure for an empty heart. And it’s the empty tomb that is the cure for an empty heart. That it’s actually the fact that the tomb is empty that there is a resurrection that took place that allows us then, if we’re willing to apply that in our lives, to receive that in our lives in such a way that a change comes about.
This pastor then said that the resurrection is “about questions.” Then he turned an opportunity to preach the glorious truths of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God that was slain as a propitiatory sacrifice to incur the wrath of a holy God that we justly deserve (the death of the innocent for the guilty), into a man-centered pep-talk about us, our needs, our questions, and how to fill our empty heart. Is there more to life? Is there a purpose to my life? What happens when I die? Who am I? What’s missing in my life?
The problem with claiming that he had this extra-biblical source of revelation is that he elevates himself to a higher spiritual plane than everyone else in the church because, after all, no one else in the congregation is personally hearing from God (or at least most aren’t) but this man is, and with that comes an elevated view of who he is. And exactly how is that any different than the pope, a Mormon prophet, or the Watchtower Organization who claim to have divine extra-biblical revelations from God?
The whole sermon started with the assertion that this has verbal conversations with God, to Easter being about God answering our questions and filling our empty hearts, to appealing to reason (employing the probability of Jesus fulfilling just 16 of the Messianic prophecies), to an emotional appeal with mood music and dimming the church lights, to having open communion where this church’s requirements are far from that of Scripture:
If you’ve not been here before, communion’s a real simple process here. We don’t have a requirement for membership or anything like that. The Lord’s table is open to anyone who chooses to receive it. The Lord Himself said that in order to receive these elements that really all you need to do is be willing to remember the sacrifice that he made. That we need to do so understanding that if there’s anything that is separating us between Him and us, if there’s sin in our life that we need to confess, we need to make that right with Him as we go before the table that He placed in order to demonstrate just how much he loved us, and was willing to die and sacrifice Himself for us. So as the music plays, as the lights come down, as the elements are being passed, I want you to take just a few moments, I want you to reflect on How’s it goin’? How’s it goin’? How’s your heart? Is it full or is it empty? Is it broken or is it whole? Is it longing or is it content? And you seek the Lord as He’s seeking you. Amen? Amen.
Three years ago I was unable to put my finger on the problem with this man’s preaching (aside from his stand-up routine), but after saturating myself with sound, expositional, preaching from a myriad of serious pastors and Bible teachers, I was able to spot the problems in this sermon immediately.
The theme of this Easter message (just like the theme of this church) was about adding Christ to your life to make it more comfortable. I have since learned that the true Christian church is about dying to self, completely surrendering oneself to the One who purchased us with His own blood, and lifting up the lamb of God (not man’s wants and desires).
One type of preaching pleases man and feeds the flesh, the other type of preaching pleases God and feeds the spirit.
I am sad for those still trapped in that church, but I wonder, are they really victims or are they those whom Paul spoke about in 2 Timothy 4:1-4, turning away from sound doctrine and turning to those who will tickle their ears?