Illegitimi Non Carborundum.

IMG_0135.JPG

Does anybody here remember Vera Lynn?
Remember how she said that
We would meet again
Some sunny day?
Vera, Vera?
What has become of you?
Does anybody else in here
Feel the way I do?

Vera, Pink Floyd

The church gets uncomfortable with real. So let me be as real as I can for you.

You know, I wish I could convey how devastated I am at what the enemy was able to do through my wife. How shocked I was at the events. I wish I could communicate the misery that consumes me because I’ve not spent time with my kids since April 29th. I wish I could let you feel what I feel when she explains I won’t be seeing them and knowing I will have to fight it legally when I don’t want to.
I wish you could plug into my heart so that you could look back over the years and feel that all of it counted for nothing. That my life benefited some with our prayers and teaching but as a minister, you are easily forgotten. I wish you could feel a vision die that you have given everything to or watch people that you love fade into the distance as they seek better things for themselves. You stand holding an empty bag of promises and hope and try to imagine how you can ever hope again.
I wish you knew the gnawing fear in the back of your mind when no one gives and no one prays. The awful realization that despite all of the encouraging one liners, all that you loved is gone and you are embarking on a new journey, sight unseen.

I wish you could feel betrayal by the church. Those that counsel a spouse deeper into sin based on humanism and modernism but never by the Word of God.
I wish many times I would never have been called by God. I wish I would never have met my wife or had those children. Not because they did not give me joy in the past and not because I don’t love them but because the loss of them has hurt me beyond human endurance, I love them too much.

What hurts even more is the seeming silence of God. I saw a missionary online today asking for funds so that he could eat. Not to buy a jet, not to add a new wing onto the church- just eat. But the conservative corporate business model Spirit has so infiltrated the church that we freely equate prosperity and success with the blessing of God. And to those that have, we send more because God is with them. To those that don’t, we ignore because there is obviously something wrong. By those standards, you would have rejected every prophet and preacher in the Bible including Christ himself. I’ve gotten messages telling me to quit begging and go get a job. These people whose only sacrifice for Christ has been to get dressed and go to church once a week sitting back in judgment of someone that has given their life. That’s just par for the course, forgive them Lord.

Funny how it happens after the worst attack in my life as I sit back in awe at the damage, unable to even address the situation and having to move forward into a future when I am honestly worried whether I can trust God or not. There are good days and bad days. There are days that I hurt so bad, I can’t hardly function. There are days when I am locked in place by anxiety because no one wants to give and I am past the point of need. There are days when there is hope and when I can see the good things that are still in my life.

The problem is, I am still limping. I’m better by far but like the old wound that knows rain is coming, I still feel the effects of the worst betrayal and trauma I’ve ever experienced in my life. And I have needed help as I battled illness, I have needed help as I came to terms with PTSD. My life has always been about helping others and I needed some of that.

I still do.

Some of you have communicated that if my needs or goals for the immediate future in ministry are God’s will, he will provide. Then you feel safe in not giving and not praying. Friend, God could plant a perfect field of corn if he desired but he chooses to use farmers. And all the enemy needs to do to shut down a man or woman of God is to convince the church to do nothing.

I have been through a living hell this last year and a half. For a few years before that, I had a breakdown and fell off the map and no one bothered to check on me. I was alone, flustered by the seeming abandonment of God and wrestling with a mental condition that I knew nothing about- ptsd. And no one cared. Those that I did reach out to grew uncomfortable and broke off communication. I needed help, real help, due to the excessive traumas that I have experienced in my life. None came, God was silent, life fell apart, I died.

Yet here I am. Not for your benefit or amusement but because I have nowhere to go but to him. I have lost all in my pursuit of the answers to the salvation of Gen-X. I have made many mistakes along the path as well, believe me. I believe that the need for the answer must be greater than the price paid to attain it.

So here I go into the breach in the enemy’s wall once again. I go to start something that will speak as the oracles of God to a generation with a 3% occasional church attendance rate.  And once again I look for you to hear from God and be his hands of support.

The price has been too dear. The change too complete. The wounds too deep to ignore. I don’t feel ready but I do feel compelled.

Pray about your involvement this time.

JC.

Advertisements

When the rooster crows

cfrp-t1
‘Every man for himself’ is at the heart of American Christian ministry. Now that is a dirty little secret that not many would admit to but I can say with all confidence that it is exactly the truth. When it is all said and done, most of us are nothing but religious corporations who depend more on fickle public approval trends than real politicians do.

I heard a preacher say recently that all of what we perceive of as “ministry success” boils down to the fact that people love a winner and despise a loser. When crowds are coming and smiles abound, everyone wants to be near you. But when that tide appears to change, people jump off board so fast it will make your head spin.

Like many of our American politicians who are really nothing but poll whores and puppets, changing their stances depending on which way they feel best preserves them, so both ministers and members alike throw their approval behind whatever will enhance and not harm them.

Look back at the last 30 years of ministry here in the US and let me throw out some names to you; Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Larry Lea, Mike Warnke. All of those men were “top” names at one time in the church. And every one of them had the tide of public opinion turn on them. When it did, we turned on them as well. We got rid of their books and records, threw out their teachings and denied that we ever knew them at all.

I can not really imagine what that felt like for these men. One minute, they were surrounded by people who supported them and loved the ministry that God had them doing. The next moment, they looked around and found no one there anymore. They had gone from being celebrated by the church to virtual religious pariahs, social outcasts, in the blink of an eye. And man, did we ever take notice of their fate as ministers of the Gospel. In the span of a few short years of public witch trials, the most terrifying thing that we could think of was no longer standing before the judgment seat of Christ; it was sharing the fate of those that had stood before the judgment seat of Primetime Live or professional heresy hunters and been declared guilty.

So to prevent sharing their fate, we as ministers began to court the public and keep our nose as clean as possible. We stopped rocking the boat and just said what people wanted to hear. We became slaves to what people thought about us and by playing the game properly, we began to see mega-churches spring up all over. The recipe you are to use is fairly simple: Just repeat the following over and over until you are as big as you want to be- God has a plan for just you, God wants you to prosper financially, positive self-image is God’s ideal for you, you can have all that you want and God will help you, once you are saved you are always saved. Avoid the negative, focus on the positive and people will come to hear you. And if people are coming, it must be God.

There is just one problem with that- it isn’t true.

The bible says that “They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.”1 John 4:5. Of course people are coming to hear them; they are speaking the language of the world. They are motivational speakers that give the added benefit of promising eternal life and divine favor in exchange for your approval. I can’t imagine people not wanting to come and hear that sort of thing to be honest. If I offered a thousand dollars to whoever answered an altar call, would I be shocked to see the altar full? What if I charged a thousand for the honor of answering the call, what would happen then?

And so we live in an age of preachers for hire, Balaams’ crisscrossing the globe teaching whatever the people want them to teach. And in exchange, we remain on the safe side of the bema of public opinion and can continue to make our living doing what we love. We placate ourselves by thinking that at least they are getting some truth when they come to hear us; at least they are getting some Jesus. But a little religion won’t save you and there is no resurrection for you at all without going through the death of the cross.

This mercenary thinking has trickled down to every area of the Christian life. As an Evangelist, when things are going well, people want nothing more than to have their name attached to yours. Once that pendulum swings, they want nothing more than to not have their name attached to yours. When there is a buzz about you, they all want to cozy up and bask in it with you. But when hard times come, they all deny they ever knew you at all.

I have sat astonished myself as I watched this little dance unfold time and time again in my own life. When I get discovered (which happens all of the time) then I am celebrated and the ministry applauded as being cutting edge and the “next big thing”. But when I struggle and the enemy comes in to attack, I look around and discover I am more like Uriah the Hittite than David. Because when I stepped up to fight and the battle was joined- I looked around and everyone else had stepped back until they saw for sure which way the outcome was going to go.

If I win and gain the victory they will all clap and pretend that they were there all along as they sing songs of my bravery in the face of the enemy. If it goes badly, they never knew me at all. If it goes really badly and they could be hurt by their association with me, then it was God who judged me.

I am sure that some of you thought exactly that when you read the names of those ministers earlier. Jim Bakker was a crook and God exposed him, Jimmy Swaggart was a judgmental pervert and God exposed him, Larry Lea was a greedy liar and God exposed him, Mike Warnke lied about his testimony and God exposed him.

So what are you guilty of that God needs to expose? A recent study found that upwards of 70% of Pastors view online pornography at least once a week. Is that you, speaking to the sheep on Sunday morning and masturbating to online porn on Saturday night? Or are you simply a liar, a glutton or a self righteous religious bigot? Or maybe you haven’t prayed in a month or cracked your bible in 2 months and yet you get up there and like a Pharisee you show your white washed exterior while inside you are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.

The real issue is not that those men fell; it is what we did as it happened. I believe that we really lost something important with Larry Lea, he got hit in a massive smear campaign and we gave him no chance to explain, we just wrote him off. Mike Warnke was honestly repentant but in the church the restoration is never as public as the fall. We have set a pattern into motion here in America that we should be horribly ashamed of. We are Peter, denying the Lord when it looked like he could be harmed by Jesus’ “fall”. We don’t know them, we were never with them, don’t judge us by them. So those who need support never get it because we are constantly prepared to ignore that they exist or stick a knife in them if we have to.

Oh God have mercy on all when we finally hear the rooster crow and see ourselves for what we really are- mercenaries without honor, in it only for ourselves, in Jesus’ name.

Personally I think the whole affair stinks to high heaven. I get very weary of the game, to be quite honest. I have to watch my back more around Christians than I ever did in the world. In the world, I had friends and I had enemies. My friends loved me for my good points and overlooked my faults. Just because I was shown to have issues did not disqualify me from being their friend. But in the church it does. I can’t think of anything more hypocritical than people judging others for this fault or that fault while harboring a thousand faults that just haven’t been exposed yet. It is truly pathetic in every sense of the word.

Because we are not here to be politicians, we are here to be an army. But if any army in the world acted like we do they would be overrun by the enemy. The very fact that we are not overrun tells me that not only are we not any threat at all, we are more than likely the Keystone Cops of the Spirit world, more entertaining in our folly than actually a serious force to be reckoned with.

So how do we deal with this pattern that we have all set in motion? Is there any way out of this cycle that we are all caught in?

We must begin right where we live with one word: love. We must love one another enough to help when help is needed. We must honor what others are doing for the Lord and throw in our lot with them to help see it come about and forget about what the court of public opinion will say if they fail. We must honor our relationships with one another no matter what happens and make the decision to never leave a man behind. Above all, we must start to place ourselves in other’s people place and ask ourselves what we would need if it were us in their place.

And don’t even utter the word revival until you are prepared to do all of those things. Because when that word is spoken and steps are taken in that direction- the enemy will take notice and the fight will start. If we are the type to play Peter and deny others when they get into trouble, the enemy will pick us apart one by one until none are left standing any longer. I have seen it played out a hundred times, the mercenary spirit that comes into the church when the real attacks start and scatters everyone involved to the four winds because we are simply too weak, too selfish and too petty to just hold the line as the enemy charges.

When the enemy comes in, we get most concerned about ourselves. And it is with the banner “MY FUTURE” flying proudly above our heads that we break ranks and leave our fellow soldiers to hold the line alone. And what kind of army is that?

Before we utter revival maybe we should take a moment and listen for the rooster’s crow before we say we are ready for a move of God.

The Corpse of God


“Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: “I am looking for God! I am looking for God!”

As many of those who did not believe in God were standing together there, he excited considerable laughter.

“Have you lost him, then?” said one. “Did he lose his way like a child?” said another. “Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? or emigrated?”

Thus they shouted and laughed. The madman sprang into their midst and pierced them with his glances. “Where has God gone?” he cried. “I shall tell you. We have killed him – you and I. We are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon?

What did we do when we unchained the earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving now? Away from all suns?

Are we not perpetually falling? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space?

Has it not become colder? Is it not more and more night coming on all the time? Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we not smell anything yet of God’s decomposition?

Gods too decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, murderers of all murderers, console ourselves?

It has been further related that on that same day the madman entered divers churches and there sang a requiem. Led out and quietened, he is said to have retorted each time: “What are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?”

Friedrich Nietzsche

“Joyous Wisdom”

God is dead. What a frightening thought. To think that the universe spins out of control, perched delicately on an axis that He created, seconds or minutes or hours from the moment when the centrifugal force proves too much and the inevitable tumbling into oblivion takes place.

To think that he is gone, that our lives spent in loving service have been for nothing and no one except for a God who no longer exists.

We are faced every day with more proof that God is indeed dead. We watch the televisions here in America every night; see the massacres in Rwanda or the Genocide in Croatia. We see the young black men killing themselves in record numbers or hear stories of mothers tossing babies into dumpsters or selling them into child porn for a fix.

We as Christians insulate ourselves from the harshness of the world that we live in rather than deal with any of these things. We need more reality positioned about two inches from our face because that is the world we live in. Not the frilly interior designed pre-fab world that Christians surround themselves with.

Rather it is the dark dirt, the black-foaming sewer of real life that is right outside our doors.

It is the view of a world living in the reality of a dead god. And we have created that reality for them. We the Christians have killed god for all intents and purposes.

Like the movie from a few years ago called Weekend at Bernies. We show up for our Christian get-togethers lugging in tow a dead body that we try to present as alive. We kneel in church buildings when we should. We say all the right words. We have a spiritual excuse for every single wrong that happens.

Like a magician who specializes in luring the eye away from where it should be, we are common street hustlers and our hustle is religion.

We tell everyone that God is alive and well. We add to our repertoire several stories that we have heard that help to corroborate this fallacy. Then we sit back and perfect our inner spiritual journey while the world feeds on the filth of its own demise.

And we call it good.

We stand bloody-handed over the body that housed God. And then add insult to injury by painting the corpse up in some mock imitation of whatever representation we need at the moment. We carry that corpse up into whatever building we can afford and prop him up for all the world to see. Not to gaze at the awesome power of the creator, oh no. No, we instead prop him up so that everyone can tell that we have managed to tame him. We have him controlled by our dogma, our statement of faith, our by-laws and boards.

Its safe to come in with us, we cry, look how peaceful he is!

Shocking? Maybe. But it is also the truth. This world is dying everywhere around us while we compromise. The masses are herded over the cliffs of eternity while we posture. It is unbelievable to me. It is incomprehensible how some people can continue to choose to be asleep in the light while the world burns.

And yet here we are. Beyond all reason, here we are. We continue to worship the monument rather than the creator. We continue to make cheap excuses and formulas rather than dare to ask the questions. And so we have killed God.

We have killed him in the minds of the world that surrounds us. They see our blatant disregard for the tenets of the faith and stand in transfixed awe at our stupidity. We posture as if he is alive and blessing us but where is he?

When I see preachers in some churches driving overly expensive automobiles and being given sympathy cruises to the Bahamas, I hope that God is behind the blessing.

But I have gone out to the reservations to preach to the First Nation. I have worked with the homeless kids in downtowns across America. I have seen the preacher on the reservation that no one cares about, who works three jobs to provide not only for his family but for the church as well.

I have prayed with the preacher who has quietly endured a living hell so that the sheep are safe. I have hugged and loved the AIDS victim living out his last moments in a free hospice and been told that no church has ever come to see him because he is gay.

And I scream at the sheer audacity of these charlatan thieves. The world thinks God dead because we have settled for the lie. Rather than dare to live in the reality of God, we choose the safer path.

The disease of the church is systemic and real change can only come to it from outside of it. The church speaks to themselves for themselves and shine one another’s unused armor while the world burns and the graveyards fill with the bodies of those who have lived and died in a world where God was dead.

I know many of you recoil at me saying that God is dead over and over. But let me ask you, if he is not- could you tell me what he looks like?

Is God clean or dirty? Is he rich or poor? Is he beautiful or ugly? Is God a capitalist, placing money above the needs of the poor and degenerate among us? Is he a Republican or Democrat? Is he a socialist or communist, placing all power in the hands of the state and stripping people of their rights and identity? Is he middle class, upper class or lower class? What does he look like?

I used to think that God looked like a TV preacher or an ancient Greek God, high up on the mountain hurling lightning bolts.

But now I know the truth. God looks like the suffering, the broken and the wounded. God looks like the homeless man and the hopeless drunk. God looks like the one you would least expect because his heart is just not in the same place as ours is.

In the film Entertaining Angels, Dorothy Day, exhausted from a life of serving the outcast and the poor, runs to a church to pray. Looking up at a statue of Jesus, she breaks down and appeals to him in a raw, heart-wrenching way.

She says to God: “Where are you? Why don’t you answer me? I need you! These brothers and sisters of yours, the ones you want me to love, let me tell you something. They smell! They have lice and tuberculosis! Am I to find you in them?—Well, you’re ugly! You stink! You wet your pants! You vomit! How could anyone love you?”

But she did love them and by doing so, she loved Christ.

So, I have this to say, friends. God is not dead. We are. We have forgotten whose we are and whom we serve. We have been playing marbles with diamonds. And shame on us. Shame on us for what we have done.

But remember this one thing; Leonard Ravenhill said that revival is what happens when God gets so sick and tired of being misrepresented that he shows himself.

We need a revival of remembering, a revival of humility and meekness. We need a revival of the genuine selfless love of Christ. We need a revival of purity, power and hope.

We need a revival of true Christianity in an age of Laodicean compromise.

Because the world doesn’t need our churches or our programs, they need our Jesus and no one is talking about him anymore.

Eulogy for the American Preacher

image

I am sorry. I am sad to report that preparations are underway for the funeral of someone who has been, up to this point, an American mainstay: the Preacher.

I regret to inform you all that in the event of his death, there will be no open casket or even a time of visitation, as most who would have mourned his passing in the past, today would no longer much care.

For those who are unfamiliar with the preacher, his story can be found in virtually every chapter of our American history. He is seen in the first colony that landed on Plymouth Rock and you could find him shaking the windows of Philadelphia and the rest of the 13 colonies during and after the American Revolution. It was the Preacher in those days that rallied the troops and caused the swelling of national pride as he rode far and wide in the Black Regiment.

The preacher was active on both sides of the War Between the States. D.L. Moody served as a missionary on the front, finding out if dying men were saved before they perished. And in the South, the preachers would hold impromptu baptism services whenever they could, sometimes even in the midst of battle and in full view of the enemy.

America has heard the voices of A.W. Tozer and Paris Reidhead preaching a true Prophetic call. We heard the voice of Edwards, Whitefield and Ironside, Roberts and Ravenhill tell us that God was terrifying, loving and infinitely just. They would level a room with their voices expressing the holiness of God and the depravity of man. And in their voice the depraved heard the soft and tender call of the grace of God.

And yet today in America the voice of the preacher has nearly fallen silent. And I am grieved to carry to your itching ears the somber news that the voice that we need to hear now more than ever, may never be heard from again.

The American preacher, that icon of modern religion, the last of a long and noble line, has been on an unpublished endangered species list for decades. And here at the turning of the tide, at that moment when it would seem that we need him the most, his absence leaves a hole that can be felt only by the discerning heart that longs after God.

For in these days of the soft Prophet, the buddy, the encourager and the snake-oil salesman, the voice that calls you to awaken from your hyper-grace induced slumber is not welcome. Who wants to hear someone yell in a service anyway? Who in their right mind wants a return to the days of fire and brimstone when men spoke for God and called the comfortable to repentance and the lukewarm to task? Why should I repent, change, convert, awaken, give, love, serve?

Why should I give anything back in exchange for the grace that I lavish on myself, like the murderer who desperately tries to cleanse his hands under an open tap from the blood that he has just shed?

Who would want a return to those days when the church sought those who were lost, called the prodigal home and the truth searched the hearts of the un-consecrated in the sheepfold? Many eagerly await the news, it seems, that the voice of the preacher has fallen silent for good. That the one who troubled us is gone and his like shall not be seen again anymore.

But the annals of history shall reveal the terrible truth: that should we choose to let the preacher die- we choose to let the hopes of revival and indeed, the salvation of our nation die as well.

And choose it is, have no doubt about that. We choose when we do not pray for those standing between the living and the dead, calling for reinforcements in the battle of the ages. We choose when we withhold support, we choose when we do not attend meetings and we choose when we do not invite them to our churches and communities.

We choose, all of us. And that choice is to leave this nation in the spiritual hands of the mealy-mouthed purveyors of the humanistic Gospel. It is to abandon the morals of our nation to the oversight of those who will not offend the masses- so long as they continue to give. We will give over the helm to those that would abandon absolutes for post-modern questions with no answers, leadership with no authority, eternity with no certainty and doctrine with no foundation, other than the bi-polar whims of the Adonijah that stands before you.

God help us but the church has been all but usurped by businessmen who equate spiritual success with physical numbers and money. And in order to achieve that, they say nothing that may offend. When the goal is numbers and money, why stand for truth?

Who speaks for God today, the High and Holy One that does not look at crowds but individual hearts? Do we remember that He is still the One that overturned the tables of the moneychangers in the temple as they merchandized worship? The one who desires obedience and not sacrifice? The one who rejected the mammon of this world for true riches and told us that a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his goods? Will we give over the reins of the Church to those who would attempt to crown Him with those very things that He rejected, as Tozer said?

The American Preacher is not extinct, not just yet. But he is rare enough that even spotting one deserves observance. Like the nature photographer who sees a Siberian Tiger feeding in the wild; it is not impossible but neither is it expected. And how we need him today.

God, raise up prophets once again, those who cry loud and spare not. Give us those who come to the pulpits and the streets fresh from an encounter with your Spirit in prayer. Send us those who carry in their hearts and upon their lips, hot coals from the altar of God. Give us those who are beautifully broken, who do not abuse in anger, but plead in earnestness. Give us those whose passion for you far outstrips their fear of man. Send us the Reformers, the Revivalists, the Repentant who cry for repentance, the Radicals who see no value in mere money but desire justice above all else. Send us our Whitefield and Wesley, our Edwards and Luther.

Deliver us from Adonijah and Absolom, God. And glorify yourself once again in us, in our churches, in our cities and in this land.

Battlelines: The Wal-Mart Church

So, I have watched as the church has transformed over the last 21 years. Actually, it has been even longer than that because I have been around some aspect of the church my entire life. When I was growing up, it was in a small Pentecostal church in Pennsylvania. The church was never large, that was not even on the radar in those days. The question was one of effectiveness, not numbers.

If someone were getting saved, delivered or healed, the church was a success. They might struggle for finances or stay in the same building for 30 years without anyone raising the question of whether or not they were supposed to be there. If God was present, that closed the issue.

When I was first saved, it was pretty much the same. In fact, if you were a big church it probably meant that you had compromised something vital in order to get the numbers up. The focus was still not on size but rather quality of ministry, purity of the Word spoken and effectiveness in evangelism.

Back then there was still street ministry and witnessing that took place, imagine that. And a preacher could still get a crowd if he came to town. If you spit hard enough you would hit an evangelist in shiny shoes. True story. I began my ministry as an Evangelist, first on the streets and then travelling from town to town.

Then Swaggart and Bakker happened. Suddenly, being an Evangelist was linked to money and televangelist flash and it became one of the least popular professions in the country. Pretty soon, you couldn’t find an Evangelist to save your life, unless it was in Africa. Everyone here in America started being “teachers” (during the Word of Faith craze) and then later “prophets” (during the prophetic movement).

Today we just have a hole where a foundational gift to the church used to be.

During these years we also saw the rise of the monster named Rex Walmartasaurus in corporate America. They would plant one of these stores in a town and slowly drain the life from all of their competition. First it was the competition in the city falling by the wayside as Kmart, Shopko, Sears and many others started to tank. Wal-Mart offered everything and they offered it cheaper than everything else. And in a culture addicted to convenience, having everything available in one great location became like crack. Soon, small mom and pop stores had to start shutting the doors because they simply could not compete with the Wal-Mart juggernaut.

Even in the town where we live, prices are dollars higher per item in our local store than at Wal-Mart. And in a slow growth economy, who is going to drive around looking for different items when Goliath has everything right there at your fingertips.

So, small stores in small towns have been forced to adapt in order to survive. The only way to do that is by carving out a niche as a boutique and offering super specialized items that can’t be found at a big box store.

Get the picture? Our small towns have become bedroom communities as our industry moved to big cities and then our commercial businesses got smaller and more restricted in order to stay afloat. The big box dominates all and a person is hard pressed to start a business and prosper by offering goods and services to their own town. Everyone drives 30 minutes to the nearest Wal-Mart rather than pay higher prices for a smaller selection.

The same is true in the church and the changes took place at the same time.

Today, you have mega churches (where God is interested in what they are doing), upper-middle sized churches (that are on their way to being mega) and the small churches serving communities (where God ignores them because they are too small, because if you are from God, you gots to be big, baby).

The mega church offers everything: campuses designed to look like city streets with shops, bookstores, jungle gyms, Kids areas designed to look like castles, programs for everything from singles to the Latvian Lesbian midget support groups. Everything is right there at your convenience and you can rest assured that the teaching is good because the preacher is on TV, which is a sure sign of personal integrity, dedicated prayer lives and orthodox teaching. These are the Wal-Mart’s of the church world. Everyone from the area goes to these places because they can be anonymous, catered to, they are offered convenience and the chance to be a part of something big.

The mini mega church is like the Target chain. They have some of the good stuff, just less of it. But they really want to be a Wal-Mart and so they adapt to whatever Wal-Mart is doing. Ambition drives these churches, usually helmed by a preacher who is certain that he is the next big thing. They have all of the things that it is going to take to break the ceiling and become big and solidify what they have always known: they are from God (I am big! You like me, you really like me!).

At the same time that the fight for growth is occurring, you have those that don’t really matter laboring on anonymously inside of a small church. These churches are like bases in baseball where all of the church hoppers, ne’er-do-wells, dysfunctional elites and know-it-alls have to make brief stops before quitting the system altogether. They are usually hampered by a lack of finances, a lack of devotion, an overabundance of tourists and the crushing weight of ineffectiveness and obscurity.

Now, let me ask you; is this the way that it is supposed to be?

The answer that we need isn’t as simple as some would have us to believe. It is not a matter of the first church having met in houses and so we should meet in houses too. Because near as I can tell, church buildings and houses both have walls, floors, ceilings and windows. They are both buildings, Copernicus. The reason that the first church met in homes was because it was illegal to be a Christian, the synagogues (where they preferred to meet) were closed to them and they couldn’t build a temple.

No, the answer isn’t about location, style or format; it is all about motivations.

Why are any of us doing this? Is it to get rich or famous? If it is, go sit in the back of the bus.

Is it to fulfill our own ego by equating ministry success with personal worth? Go to the back of the bus.

Is it to control people and build a cult following? Sorry, back of the bus for you.

God needs a people that are interested in effectiveness rather than notoriety. We need to change our definition of success so that the question of God’s glory is included somewhere. We need to stop basing our determination of spiritual success on material possessions. And we need to start counting bodies healed, lives changed, hearts melted, lives repenting and salvations occurring as the primary gauge of ministry effectiveness.

We as ministers must start speaking the truth in love with boldness, no matter how large the congregation that God has us serving. We must hear from Him alone as to what He wants our branch of the government of God to be doing.

We must act as ambassadors, regardless of the region that we serve. We have to care for the poor, shower the region with common grace, preach boldly so that the elect hear the message and respond and change the spiritual temperature where we live. Bringing the Kingdom of God to where we live and making that area resemble heaven- that is our calling.

It has nothing to with the flesh, with numbers, with money. And many big time preachers sitting in big time churches are going to be in big time trouble when they approach the Bema and find out that God was more interested in how they treated a little obscure pastor or how they overlooked the poor and hurting than in how big of a building they built to house their congregation of spiritual pygmies.

Have you been reading the red and the book of Acts like I suggested in the last article? Then you should be ready for this next bit.

You will not find success in Christ by buying into the Wal-Mart doctrine. It isn’t through being clever or different that you will see numbers go up. That is the boutique mindset and it can only survive, not thrive. You won’t find personal fulfillment by chasing mega churches or mega preachers either. You will only find success as you get back to basics, shun the system, leave the camp and seek God. See, I have news for you preachers- numbers are no gauge as to God’s favor because it can be counterfeited. No, God’s favor comes through the fire, through prayer and through the breaking of a man until he resembles the Christ that he serves.

I want you to start acting today as if your life is under the hand of sovereign arrangement. Every person that you talk to, every setback that you experience, every temptation, trial and tribulation that comes your way has a hand behind it. The true quality of your life and ministry will be measured by your responses to the acts of God’s sovereign arrangements and by nothing else.

Many of the things that we do for God will not matter at all because they did not originate in God but in ourselves. But our responses to the things that have their origin in Him, they will mean everything.

So, forget the hype and the hoopla, the game and the boy’s club. Instead, consecrate your life to him, ask for the wisdom to see his sovereign arrangements and then live those moments as you saw Jesus live and teach about and the first church carry out. Being big isn’t important, being faithful and pure is.

Battlelines: The Preamble

Revolution is about the overthrow of one system for another. In the course of time, two ideas that once co-existed have finally become diametrically opposed to one another. At the outset of revolution, one side remains entrenched in power while the other side actively seeks to supplant it. This is revolution, friends, and never mind what the commercials tell you or what the trendy youth group says that it is. Revolution is messy, divisive, chaotic and uncomfortable. Real revolution is never pleasant; the two different sides will dig in and defend their positions, violently if necessary. This was just as true for David and Saul as it is in our day. When God begins to do a new thing, the old thing starts chucking javelins.

Today we find ourselves in a pre-revolutionary period in the church. All of the pieces are in place if you look for them. They are sitting there, simmering just under the surface, waiting for a spark, a move, a shot across the bow that will send the mighty wheel of revolution turning. This is the calm before the storm, that moment when détente is being practiced by diplomats and people are seeking ways to build a compromise that will leave everyone happy.

But there will be none of that. The gulf between mindsets is too far apart now. The ideas and ideals of the two parties can’t be brought together. Saul knows that David is the next thing, his kingdom is coming to an end and his only legacy will be a cautionary tale of humanism, corporatism, gimmicks and the substitution of the real for the gimmick.

It is my experience that people generally do not want to hear this truth. That is especially true in our world today. What we want instead is a series of affirmations that what we think, feel or do is right. We seek churches that will do this, ministries that will do this and read books that do this. When we hear that something that we have been believing is wrong, we immediately get defensive, it is just our humanist nature, I guess.

The history of the Christian church is one of progressive revelation. At times the church has forgotten this and tried to introduce something that had no basis in what God was previously doing. The result of this is always the same- error, heresy and shame. The Protestant church of the 20th century bears no similarities to the church of the 19th century. The Pentecostals have lost Azusa and the Methodist church only resembles Asbury and Wesley in name only. The Salvation Army has become thrift stores without salvation, an army of retailers and not revivalists. The reformed churches have forgotten Calvin and Knox while the Presbyterians have forgotten Red River.

We have forgotten who we are and have simply started just making things up that felt good to our flesh. But God instructs us his people line upon line, precept upon precept. The revelation of the previous generation becomes your foundation and God then adds to his grand story with the lines of your age.

Like all true revolutions, this one will occur when we make a decision that no matter what, we must get free or die. The disease of the church is systemic and the only ones that support what it has become are the fat cats that profit from it. For the rest of us, we cannot live in the system as it is set up and we can tolerate no compromise with it. And so we, like Moses, must leave the camp and seek God where he is.

The fault of where we find ourselves today can be laid at the feet of a few trends that have become the norm in the last 40 years or so and an older worldview that has infected us to our core. Let me be clear, these methods and worldviews have nothing to do with the progressive revelation of God but are rather compromises with the spirit of the age. And we must begin to see them as exactly that- a hindrance to revival and in enmity with God.

  1. The church growth movement with its emphasis on numbers and money as a gauge of success.
  2. The pragmatic mindset that excuses any gimmick, fad or phase as being from God if it works to appeal to the flesh of men.
  3. The corporate mindset that tells us that we should grow real big and offer everything to everyone, like Wal-Mart, then franchise our product all over. This mindset has caused the exact same “big-box store versus boutique” phenomenon in the church as it has in the world marketplace.
  4. The individualistic mindset that constantly focuses all attention and energy on the all-powerful ME.
  5. Finally, the humanistic mindset that places the highest priority on man and his existence rather than on God and his eternal glory.

This is American Churchianity. And like seeing an embattled and aged Ali sitting ringside at a boxing match, everyone knows what you used to be and pities what you have become.

God willing, this is the start of a new series that will begin to look at each of these things in detail and offer the alternative. What you do with this is up to you. I would encourage you to read what is written, prayerfully consider the implications and then commit yourself to the revolution with wild abandon.

A Body In Motion

I get tons of questions about our stances for the Lord, usually revolving around why I seem so darn angry. The majority of church folks just don’t see things from our perspective and it is easy to dismiss how I am or what I say as being “angry”.

Perspective is everything, it really is. For example, if you see a couple from behind walking down a street, him holding her close as they make their way down a dark section of town, you may assume that they are a couple and he is holding her protectively. However, what if you saw them from a different angle and saw that he was holding a weapon to her side? Why, your perception of the event would change and so would your reaction.

Or perhaps you see someone walking down a hallway and all of a sudden, they start pawing the air and wiping their face crazily. You might assume that they are a nut job and determine to stay as far away from them as possible because no human in their right mind would ever act that way. Of course, from a different perspective you might see that they had just walked into a cobweb hanging from the ceiling.

In older days, you could safely assume that if a Watchman on the wall cried “Danger!” there was a good reason for it. But in this crazy world that we live in, we simply do not trust anyone, especially Bible thumping preachers. It is almost as if we honestly believe that we can determine our own reality by choosing what watchman we listen to. If we don’t like the cry of warning coming from the south wall, we just choose to listen to the watchman at the west wall, who may or may not have the same field of view as the one raising the alarm. Or worse, he just may not care.

Today in America, any watchman who cries a warning is immediately marginalized and ignored. We prefer our watchman to build us up, telling us of our safety and of the good times that lay ahead. Those who cry loud and spare not are told that they are angry and are judging. Then they are left to starve out as all of the supply goes to the (un)holy windbags spouting worldly virtues and being nice.

Nice will not help us now, church.

Today we sit here in America with the economy in the tank, the world around us getting progressively worse each day as it revels in the godless lies of secular humanism and the signs that warn us of what is to come are growing louder and louder every single day and the church is still asleep in its ease. Now more than ever, you would think that someone would be raising the cry of alarm and waking the church. But the church sleeps on.

Newton’s First Law of Motion states that a body in motion at a constant velocity will remain in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force. The church will not turn itself, my friends. Even the laws of the universe that God designed point to this fact. No, the disease of our church system is systemic; it affects the entire Body and not just one part. And every new teaching, every sissy men’s group, every seeker-sensitive church plant, every compromise of the truth used to gain new members, every silly television preacher simply giving the people the candy everyone wants, leads us further and further into the darkness. And every sign points to the church remaining safely on course, straight to oblivion.

We discard every voice of dissent that is raised and surround ourselves with voices that tell us those things which most closely line up with our personal theology. This is because in the end, we want to be proven right in what we believe. We don’t want to know the truth so much as we want to be right. We buy the books, attend the seminars and listen to the sermons of those who most closely align with our personal views. We attend the church that makes us comfortable, builds us up, and has the proper social standing. But most importantly, the church must align with our views. We never even consider aligning ourselves with God’s word instead.

To make matters worse, the church has been infiltrated by a spirit of Korah (Numbers 16:1-35). This spirit has crept in and spread its poison among our ranks, rendering much of the church ineffective and offering strange fire in the name of the Lord. It has whispered in our ears, “There is no clergy and laity, no difference between any of us; we are all called, all anointed and all able to do the work.” And how good this sounded to our ears in the church, how enticing to hear that we were all equal and therefore, we did not have to submit to any man at any time. How wonderful it was to our itching ears to hear that we didn’t have to listen to the watchman on the wall anymore! And as we rejoiced in our man-made democracy, the enemy laughed because he knew, above all, that when you smite the shepherd, you scatter the sheep.

And so he has and so it has been done. A body in motion will stay in motion, church. Once it begins, it cannot change its path nor slow its speed on its own. Any change that comes to it must come from outside it.

The second law of motion states that if an unbalanced force acts on a body, that body will experience acceleration (or deceleration), that is, a change of speed or direction. In order to change the speed or direction of a body in motion, there must be some unbalanced force acting upon it. It cannot be a balanced force because if the outside force is heading in the same direction at the same speed, it changes nothing. So, it must be coming from a different direction or a totally different speed. And that is you and I, my friend.

You see, while the enemy tried to convince us that something was wrong with us, that we were out of step and out of time, we were right where we were ordained to be. His only hope that the path of the church would remain unchanged was in aligning us with the church. He used guile, shame, a desire to belong and pressure from those around us to try and attain this goal. He starved us out, causing finances, prayers and support to be withheld. He told us that if we were truly called to do what we were doing, wouldn’t there be more fruit? And so many listened, so many joined the great calf brain of the church and began singing the same song that it has appeared that there was no hope of ever seeing any real change occur. But God… Today, if you hear His voice, don’t harden your hearts. Step up, step out and apply all of the pressure to the church’s direction that God has placed within you. You are the outside force, the unbalanced force that God is using to steer the Old Ship of Zion back on course. Don’t you despair, you are not alone, my friends, you are right where you need to be.

Just be the change.