Eulogy for the American Preacher

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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The American preacher, that icon of modern religion, the last of a long and noble line, has been on an unpublished endangered species list for decades.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.

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Doctrinal Distinctives: Tithing

Not many areas are as contentious as tithing due to the fact that no other area hits us squarely in our pocketbook as tithing certainly does. We are a self-motivated people and those motivations are seen the clearest when the issue of tithing comes up. It is of the utmost importance that we tackle this subject however because very few areas of the bible have as far-reaching consequences as this area does because God himself has placed an incredibly heavy emphasis on it.

The exact reason why God stressed the tithe so adamantly has been a subject of debate for a long time with men both arguing for and against the tithe. In this teaching, I am not going to attempt to refute every argument; instead I am going to attempt to communicate the revelation that I have gotten on this to you rather than just more information.

The foundation of tithing is found in two places before the giving of the law on Mount Sinai. In Genesis 14, Abraham returns from the Battle of the Kings and gives tithes of all to the priest Melchizedek:

“And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people. And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king’s dale. And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.” Genesis 14: 16-20

This is the first evidence of pre-law tithing found in scripture. It also holds consequences for us today in that it is the portion of tithing directly referenced in the New Testament (Heb. 7:5-9). Later we find Jacob making a promise to God that in return for his support, Jacob would give God a tithe of everything (Gen. 28: 20-22). He did not do this as a requirement because Jacob’s life was lived before God gave the law to Israel. But we still see an important theme being played out that supersedes law and that is, God’s people tithe what they owe to God whether they are under the law or apart from law.

Before we go any further, I think that due to the overwhelmingly antinomian attitudes of today’s church, I need to make some distinctions. Firstly, the usage of the term “the law” has to be understood in context. When someone says to you that they “are not under the law”, it would be good to ask them which law they mean exactly. There were three specific divisions of the law; the ceremonial law (gave you righteousness if perfectly followed), the civil law (rules for behavior in Israel) and the moral law (rules for righteous behavior towards others). Out of the three, it was the ceremonial law which Christ fulfilled. The civil law is the foundation of modern law in general and no one in their right mind would argue that we have no need for laws of the land, right? And the moral law was perfectly exhibited in the behavior of Christ and still serves as a guide to our lives and behaviors now.

The antinomian premise that all three aspects of the law were perfectly fulfilled by Christ and imputed to us is just plain dangerous. Should we say that it is okay to murder our neighbor because Christ bore the punishment for murder and has imputed his righteousness to us? Absolutely not.

We say that tithing was not included in the ceremonial law of the Old Testament but was instead a principle falling under the moral law. The reason why we say this is because the moral law is about the duties that we owe to man, as the elect people of God. God has no use for your dollar but he is very interested in your acts of sowing and reaping and your care for others. This is the heart of the commandment to tithe and is the reason why God felt it necessary to tell the people that they had robbed him by not giving what was due (Mal 3:7-12).

Let’s look at the specifics of what tithing was about. Firstly, there were three tithes in the Torah and also the tithe of a tithe, which fell on the priests. The first, called the Lord’s tithe, consisted of the 10% of the harvest that went to support the priests and Levites since they were given no inheritance of land. (Numbers 18:21) Then there was a 2nd tithe on the remaining 90% that the people consumed themselves each year at the Feast of Tabernacles in a nationwide celebration of God’s provision. (Deut. 14:22-27) It was called the Festival tithe. The 3rd tithe was the tithe for the poor. It was given every third year to help the poor and indigent. (Deut 14:28-29).

So for those who take issue with giving God ten percent, just be glad you were not an Israelite, paying 29-30% in tithes in some years.

The first tithe is what we are going to focus on in this article, the one called The Lord’s Tithe and that was for the support of his priests:

“And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel. And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation. Neither must the children of Israel henceforth come nigh the tabernacle of the congregation, lest they bear sin, and die.

But the Levites shall do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they shall bear their iniquity: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they have no inheritance. But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering unto the LORD, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.” Numbers 18: 20-24

So, the priests had no inheritance with the other tribes and did not supply for themselves because they were especially consecrated to serve the Lord with their time and talents. For anyone raising the objection of the unfairness of this due to the priesthood of all believers, see the previous section article entitled “Doctrinal Distinctives: Priesthood”. This idea of inheritance is important in what we are talking about regarding the necessity of the New Testament tithe for exactly this reason. These priests spent their entire lives in service to both God and man and for that reason, God declared that it was the moral obligation of the congregation to support them with 10% of what they had. No doubt had God not included this in the moral law, these priests would have been left to their own and been forced to offer their services for next to nothing.

I say this because it is stated that 90% (that is 9 out of 10 for those of you in Rio Linda) of people who start out in today’s ministry do not retire as ministers.

And so in the Old Testament God built protections into his system so that his priests could minister to the people without fear of starvation, eviction or crippling poverty. God even went so far with this protective cover that he equates the withholding of tithes to robbing himself.

“Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return? Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.” Mal 3:7 -12

The tithe was not meant to provide lights, pay mortgages, fill up building funds or be continuously rolled over in a savings account for the congregational needs. The tithe was designed for the support of the priests and their families, period. Any needs of the congregation or the temple were collected through freewill offerings above the tithe itself (Exodus 36:1-7). And when Israel was asked to provide these extra funds for the work of the temple, they gave so much that they had to actually stop the giving because it was too much! That is a good problem to have!

Today most churches stress a tithe but its usage has been bastardized to build buildings and pay light bills. This is of critical importance because if the original intent of God has been compromised, we cannot expect God to keep his promise of supply. He promises in Malachi that if you bring the tithes into the storehouse (if it is inconvenient to give tithes of your cows, sheep, corn and grapes, it is perfectly alright to turn it into money according to Deuteronomy) he will open up the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing until you don’t have enough room to contain it. Not only that but he promises that if you bring your tithe to supply for your priest, he will rebuke the devourer for your sake and your harvest will not be touched by the enemy.

Some teach that the Old Testament requirement was to tithe 10%, but since Christ we are to give our all. This is incorrect doctrine. The number ten represents the whole, and when we give our 10% we are giving our all. If we are not tithing it is not only willful disobedience but an outward showing of the condition of our own hearts. The WORD talks about a people who say they love Him with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him. Isn’t this the evidence of hardened hearts today? Many say; ‘I love the Lord’ (but) don’t ask me to give my money to make preachers rich, don’t ask me to spend gas money to get to Church Service. Or how about this one; I will give to God after I pay off the credit card, the loan, or buy my computer, boat, car – or whatever. “You shall not delay the offering from your harvest and your vintage”. Exodus 22:29

There is no mention of I.O.U.’s here, it is always Him first.

The purpose of the first tithe was to set right the neglect of the things of our spirits. For when we give it is a sign that our spirits are right with God. When we do not give the tithe, our hearts are not with Him. The first tithe was to go to the Levites who taught the people the Torah and what to do. God said this tithe belonged to the Levites as an inheritance in return for their work. This was an ordinance to them forever. The Levites then tithed from what they were given. Today whoever is ministering to the congregation by delegated authority of those above him in the Lord and ministering in both word and doctrine, they are the true Levites and priests today (Ezekiel 44: 23,24).

“And he gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors-teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ”. Ephesians 4:11

The true teachers of the WORD are the priests today. Scripture is clear, not everyone is a teacher, though many could teach. Not everyone is a prophet, though many can prophesy etc…

This is where our tithe and offerings reside. God called the tithe a lasting commandment throughout our generations. This tribute we give becomes the commitment in our hearts. We are not to take some of the tithe and place it over here and put some of it over there, doing with it as we please. This is like church hopping and reflects a double mindedness. Just because you believe what you’re doing is correct, doesn’t make it right. We must verify if our idea lines up with the Word, if it doesn’t the issue is with US and we need to change.

Personal preference over God’s principles can stop the flow of support for Christ’s work and His priesthood; and without a priesthood, the temple falls. Here lies the fundamental question; do we want to do things HIS way or elevate our opinion above His word? If we chose to do that, we transfer into the traditions of men and the Spirit goes somewhere else. What we sow, we will reap (Ezekiel 43:6-7, 10,11; 44:23,24)

We are to understand that the tithe is for our benefit, they are holy. After the people give the tithe to the priest, then the priest gives a tithe and offers up a ‘heave offering’ and God receiving it brings forth the blessings of abundance. How we handle the tithes and offerings determines our inheritance both physically and spiritually.

The tithe of a tithe is the principle that when you give your tithe for the support of a priest, he then takes a tithe of that and distributes that. When he does this, the anointing of increase falls on everyone that gave. We can see this played out with the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Someone brought for the supply of the priest, he thanked God, broke it and gave. When he did, everyone experienced abundance, to the point that the 12 disciples each had a basketful of their own. How exciting!

We can break all of this down as follows:

You give God 10% of what you make, without fail.

This goes to supply for the priest (the gift of God to you according to Ephesians 4).

The priest then gives a tithe of a tithe and releases abundance to everyone.

In addition, you should also put aside 10% for a huge party at the end of the year so that we can all celebrate God’s blessings. If you want steak, buy steak. If you want lamb shanks, buy those. If you want single malt scotch or expensive wine, feel free! Really, it’s in the WORD. Deuteronomy 14:22-29.

Also, you should tithe the increase of what you get each year. So, if last year you made $50,000 and this year you make $90,000 then you would tithe $9,000 to the priest, set aside $9,000 for vacation and then according to the moral law, you need to set aside an additional $4,000 (the increase from last year) and make your vacation even greater!

This is because God both knows that if you tithe, you will increase and because he wants you to be sure to set money aside and pay yourself and have some enjoyment.

Some of you may very well say, “I can’t afford to tithe, I am barely making it now!” To this, God says that if you were to tithe and the proper system was in place to receive it God’s way, you would always have more than enough and wealth and riches would be in your house.

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: Pragmatic Modernism

The disease of the church truly is systemic at this point. Everything that it once was, it no longer is. Instead, it has become a steadily focusing mirror of the predominant groupthink of the day. This may sound extreme to you, it does to most people. The reason for that is very simple; you tend to normalize your surroundings in order to keep sane.  Most kidnap victims will begin to have empathy with their kidnappers. A recent poll of girls aged 12-25 revealed that over 45% of them thought there were grounds for a man to hit a woman and 40% said they would take him back if he did it.

You normalize your surroundings and so you bob and weave through life normalizing everything you see until you eventually come to believe that ‘it has always been this way’.

Case in point; in reformed circles today you will hear about how everyone that the Father gives to the Son will come to him. Therefore, why sweat things like evangelism? Since God is the one who seeks you out and since it is he that draws you with irresistible grace, why go through all of the rigmarole of troubling yourself with evangelism? And yet they have forgotten George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards and Charles Spurgeon, all champions of evangelistic effort.

In Arminian circles there is also massive confusion. Everyone is so focused on the newest revelation, the freshest program and the most relevant façade that they have forgotten their own history and thrown orthodox doctrine out the window.

We are a product of the age that we live in, have no doubt about that. And the modernist mindset has held sway in the church for a very long time now. And it is that pragmatic, humanist mindset that has led to the decline that we currently see in the church.

To those under the influence of the zeitgeist, it may seem like there is actually no problem at all. There are large churches; there are Christian radio stations and Christian television channels. There are Christian schools and universities that you can send your kids to. There are Christian bookstores selling Christian mints that you can use to “evangelize” your unsaved friends and loved ones. What could possibly be wrong?

I am going to lay out for you one of the issues that I think is most hindering us at this point and one that I feel we must correct if we are ever going to see revival: pragmatic flesh-based ministry. What do I mean by that exactly? A pragmatic flesh-based ministry is one that sees everything totally based on a human’s viewpoint and then sets goals and meets them based on what works best.

Recently, I had someone get very, very angry with me because I said in a service that it is absolutely wrong to go to church. They were shocked and offended because they had been a church-goer for years and it was a main part of their life, how could I even suggest that going to church was wrong? I can just hear some of you now wondering if I actually said that to the group. I did.

But my point was not that you shouldn’t attend a service or be a part of a group of the Elect who are walking out the dominion of the Kingdom of God on earth. My point was that if you “go to church” you are already deceived because we ourselves are the church. But for most people, it is easiest to confuse the terms because that way, you can assume that you are the church because you attended one. But as Keith Green said, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to McDonald’s makes you a hamburger”.

Pragmatism says that the most efficient way to be a Christian is to decide to and then proceed to do the things that Christians do, like go to church. You should sing songs, learn the lingo and read a bible. But the Word does not say to do any of that in order to be a Christian. It says that you must repent, it says that you must die and be raised with Him through baptism and receive the promise of the Holy Spirit. But pragmatism can’t be bothered with any of that, it takes too long and is generally outside the comfortable confines of our convenience.

Let me ask you an important question; what is the church? Is it a group of like-minded individuals who gather together regularly to worship? Or is the church truly people of differing skills brought together by God under a single head that serves as the government of God in the area that they occupy?

If it is the former then everything is fine. You can afford to qualify its success or failure on tangible things like the number of people who attend and the amount of money that they generate. As the Pastor, you can drool your seeker-sensitive affirmations all over them and lull them into an eternal sleep because all that matters is the number of people attending not what they are doing. If you know whether or not God is with you by the amount of income generated then use any means that you can to generate it. Go ahead, help yourself.

But if it is the latter then we are in deep trouble. If you can’t determine the success of intangibles using tangibles, how should you determine the success of what you are doing? If we are truly people of differing skills brought together by God under a single head that serves as the government of God in the area that we occupy, how much area do you occupy? How do the poor fare in your district? How is injustice ended? How are your people living under common grace? Is Eden being spread and has the Kingdom come and is his will being done in your district as it is in heaven? If we asked the poor, the drug addled, the suicidal, the criminal individuals in your district who the Christians are, would they say it was you? Or are you hoping that they would say it based on the numbers and money that you generate?

The Westminster Confession states that man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. We like to assume that God is glorified in our buildings and programs. Just like the Crystal Cathedral, right? I mean, they had people and money so God was obviously glorified.

Doxazo (Glorify) means to make something renowned, to render it illustrious, to cause the dignity and worth of some person or thing to become manifest and acknowledged. Most of what we do glorifies ourselves and our inflated sense of calling and importance but does little to nothing for the glory of God.

We are flesh and we have adapted our methods and goals to the flesh. It is as Tozer said, one fallen head instructing another fallen head. But it has been normalized and become convenient and finding the truth would be so darned difficult. Besides, I have to pay bills and eventually retire. So, while truly pursuing the glory of God sounds nice, it is not pragmatic nor practical.

God help us all before the Bema.

So, here is my challenge to you today; read only the red that Jesus said for the next week. Don’t bother with the Old Testament or Pauline sections, just stick to the red bits and ask yourself how closely you are following what He said. Then read just the Book of Acts for the next week. Write down everything that they did and the way that they did it. And then juxtapose that with what you are doing right now. If we are going to get it right then we must base everything on the original intent. It can’t be Luther, Calvin, Finney or Spurgeon alone. We must get back to the whole counsel of the Word of God outside of the zeitgeist.

And then I double dog dare you to begin to live out what Jesus told you to do and to begin to conduct your church as they did it in the Book of Acts. I am not telling you to only meet in homes as cell groups or totally eschew the use of buildings, I am telling you to do what they did; meet together in homes daily for prayer and fellowship, breaking bread together. Voluntarily redistribute your goods. Care for the widow and orphan. Evangelize the world. Stand against tyrants and usurpers. Take correction and love others enough to correct them. Be merciful. Bear fruit. Make disciples.

In other words, settle for no less than actually being a Christian.

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.

Mercenary Loyalty

O love the LORD, all you His godly ones!
The LORD preserves the faithful
And fully recompenses the proud doer.
Psalm 31:23 NASB

Years ago, when I was a very young minister, I went back to Pennsylvania where I was born and where I grew up for part of my childhood. I held some evangelistic meetings in my hometown for 3 days and started to reconnect with some folks that I knew. On the last day of the meeting, one of my childhood pastors came to hear me preach. Afterwards, as we were visiting over some coffee I asked him why in the world was he still there, in the middle of nowhere, dealing with the same 16 welfare people that he had been dealing with for years. His answer made me ashamed of myself and my ambition. He said, “Son, God called me to be faithful”.

Faithful. Just that. He didn’t say that God had called him to be successful, rich, well known. He didn’t say that God had called him to make tons of money through offerings or to grow a big church. Just be faithful.

That lesson has stuck with me through all of these years. And while the temptation is always there to water things down for the sake of notoriety or worldly success, I can’t help but wonder if maybe on the Judgment Day, I will only be asked about my faithfulness and not my success. That has been what has kept us where we are for the last few years. Our church is still small (people have stayed away by the thousands) and we still struggle to make ends meet most of the time. I look at some of the big churches within driving distance, mostly seeker-sensitive drip pans, and the temptation is always there to get mad at God or frustrated due to a lack of big success in my recent service to god. And most times when I am ready to get despondent, I remember that I am called to be faithful, no matter where I am or what I perceive as the high cost that I am currently having to pay.

Faithfulness is a rare thing in the modern church. I have not found it very much over the last twenty years. While I was in the world, I had tons of friends. And those friends were my friends no matter what. Shoot, most times they would defend me even when what I was doing was wrong. And so I learned about the idea of fealty, devotion, loyalty and faithfulness from the world. Your friends had faults but then again, everyone did. And while they had genuine weaknesses and faults, you chose to look past those and glean the good things from them, things that were enjoyable to you about them while you were together. If a friend was in trouble, you helped, period. And if a friend was in danger, you went into it with them because that’s what friends did.

I came into the church after losing all of my friends due to my conversion. But I came with those same street values that I had my whole life. And man, was I in for a surprise.

In the church we do not know what the term loyalty means. We give no grace for growth. So many times, we bolt from churches and relationships because someone reveals (intentionally or unintentionally) their humanity. And while none of us are perfect, we are only too happy to end a relationship when someone else is imperfect in some way. We do not go into danger with one another, we do not share the burdens of life, loss or ministry. For all intents and purposes, we are just simple mercenaries, out for ourselves and willing to team up for brief periods but never forming lifelong relationships with others.

What makes it all worse is the stinking self righteousness that blankets us as Christians. We are more than happy to begin a relationship with someone but once we spot flaws, we immediately begin to distance ourselves. Eventually, when the person comes to be seen as a real, genuine, flawed human being (*gasp*), we decide to destroy them and all that they are doing as well. Because we simply can not believe that God would use a vessel of clay to act as a recipient of his spirit. And we do this with the full knowledge of how flawed we are ourselves, yet we consider this act of fratricide to be safe because our flaws are still hidden away. You know, shoot them before they can shoot you. And this is why so many leave the church and why countless more refuse to even darken the door. It’s not our singing, lights, greeters or programs that is keeping people away, it is our hypocrisy.

One of the most valuable things in life is the fellowship of a true friend. And some of the least important things are the flaws that everyone shares in common. But we will never be the people that God wants us to be so long as we continue to shoot our wounded and defend ourselves from anyone stupid enough to try and be our friend. So for me, I must leave the church yet again. And instead of patterning my behavior on the bad examples of the Christians that I have known over the course of my life, I will go back to the education that I received on the streets and just be a faithful friend, no matter how jacked up the person is.

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.