Dear Brothers and Sisters: Please Stop Boasting about a local Church/Pastor.
As many read this, it is already possible to see the smoke coming out of many ear canals spelling “How Dare You!” “You’re harming the church!” “You have a spirit of criticism!” and so on. Speaking of spirits, recently I had someone cast the spirit of criticism out of me on Facebook. Not sure if it took.
So before my reader’s head explodes, lets look at the Biblical reasons we as God’s Collective Church should not boast about a local church or pastor. If you believe we have something to boast about regarding ourselves according to Scripture and separate from Christ, then feel free to leave your comments below.
Ready? Here we goooooooo.
Reasons we should not boast about a local church/pastor.
There have been many Biblical critiques of Hillsong over the years; here here and most recently here. There are many many more. Needless to say, Hillsong has been a train on the way to a wreck for a long time. Many who boasted about Hillsong, used their songs, let Hillsong take over their churches, now are abandoning the brand, why? Because of the latest video by Discovery. Why didn’t they abandon Hillsong over the many years of scandals and false teachings?
There will probably be years of post mortem done on Hillsong. Hillsong, being what it is, a cultural movement that doesn’t preach the true gospel of Jesus, will continue to present the ugly truth about itself. The more they peel the onion, the more tears. Hillsong’s implosion will harm the faith of many because it is far from what a church should be and operated outside of Biblical teaching in both government and goal, to make disciples of Jesus. Hillsong has always been more of a religious pyramid scam based on false promises God did not make- send in money for a blessing-. Those who idolize(d) Hillsong will be lost as to what to do next. Their god is fallen and rightfully so.
So that’s exhibit A.
REASON PRE-UNO: JESUS
As it is written in Phillipians 2:5-11
The Mind of Christ
5Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: 6Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,a 7but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8And being found in appearance as a man,
He humbled Himself and became obedient to death even death on a cross. 9Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name above all names, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
If Jesus humbled himself, and he is who we should imitate, then we really should be able to stop there as a really really good reason not to boast about anyone but Christ. But many will want to include many ‘buts.’ So we continue…
Reason UNO: Idolatry
Can a local church become an idol? Of course. Anything that we replace God with, is our god. It could be our sin, it could be a relationship, it could be a job, and yes, it can be a local church. So how does a local church become an idol?
- Loving the local church instead of the God who gives us the local church is one way. 1 Corinthians 12:12-21 Today’s buzzword is community. And that is absolutely one of the biblical tenets of what the local church should be, it must be community welcoming all in Christ’s love. Shepherds don’t get to pick their sheep. It’s not the case that a pastor cares for those who meet certain qualifications. If this sounds like fiction, it is not. See our post “Get on the Church bus, or get run over.” Church idolatry leads to abuse.
- Exodus 20:3 is clear, we are to have no other god before Yahweh.
Squirrel moment: Many progressive churches have become more cults than a place that creates disciples. See the statement put out by Steven Furtick at Elevation where he says, his church is not for people after they become Christians, his church is only for non-believers. His church has become his own idol because he has strayed away from what God wants his church to be. Matthew 28:19-20
If the local church moves away from God’s biblical calling, we have made the local church our God. aka A unique vision for a local church is not Biblical and is instead a man made doctrine, an idol. God told us what we should be doing, another mission is an idol before God. It’s that s-i-m-p-l-e.
Personal Story: We visited a church once and asked some staff what they liked about the church. I heard how great the pastor was. I didn’t hear anything about the Gospel or how it is practiced inside the church. Did they mean well, yep. Did I care about how great the pastor was, nope. I don’t worship pastors, I worship God.
REASON DOS: Pride
One of the main criticisms of the Christian church is it’s full of hypocrites, because we say one thing, and do another. And to be honest, after all my years in church, we own that reputation in some way or another. Mostly because we forget who we are in Christ AND who we would be without Christ. You see, the one and only difference between us and an unbeliever is God’s saving grace. 1 Corinthians 6:11 We have nothing to boast about in ourselves. As Carmen said in his song, we need to keep our eyes on the Creator, and not on the creation, including ourselves.
Romans 3: 10 As it is written:
“There is no one righteous, not even one. 11 There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The venom of vipers is on their lips.” 14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16ruin and misery lie in their wake,
17and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Trigger Question: When is the last time your pastor or church leader apologized for a church decision that had a negative impact on the sheep? It doesn’t happen often. When is the last time we apologized to someone in the body of Christ? It’s just a question?
The BAD: Historic Downward Church Trends:
So, for the past couple of decades, the effort by the Emerging Church was and now the New Apostolic Reformation Church movement is to make church attractive as possible by avoiding the true Gospel of Sin and Repentance. There’s even a term for it, “Attractional Church.” Many in this movement discard Biblical liturgy for an ‘experience.’ Take Andy Stanley, he recently discarded the Ten Commandments. Instead of the Gospel, which convicts us of our sin, attractional churches have invested in professional musicians, lights, smoke, dancing, massive themed sets that look more like Disney wanna-be efforts. Some don’t resemble Christianity at all, the Gospel of Jesus makes a last minute appearance if at all. Like most man-made efforts, this fails as well. These churches provide plenty of dopamine trips, but lack the understanding, willingness to preach or lack faith in the one and only Gospel. It is in error and prideful to make the local church themed around man made efforts to ‘reach the lost’ and not the saints because it is contrary to scripture. For example in these ‘churches’, euphemisms are used for Biblical principles; Sin become mistakes, Repentance becomes finding a new purpose, and serving Christ has become ‘getting plugged in.’ Those in the church growth movement have surveyed the culture and decided that preaching on sin and repentance won’t draw large crowds, so just don’t do it. The Gospel has left the building. Some how these folks know better than God, and have come up with their own gospel. Pride.
If this sounds like idolatry and pride, you’d be correct. Without pride, we can’t have idolatry. In Exodus 32, the children of Israel made a golden calf in part because it was what they were used to, culturally relevant and attractive. And in their pride, they thought they could actually replace Yahweh by their hands. And today, the same is the trend, to replace the Gospel with man made philosophies, methods, ‘visions’ and ideologies. Is it, that these ‘shepherds’ are stupid as Jeremiah 10:21, or is it a sign of the times, the great apostasy? Only God knows, but there is a big move away from the preaching of the true Gospel in many many churches. It scares people away right?
So boasting about anything other than Christ is not worshiping him, and that pride is a sin.
Every local church should routinely exam itself for sin, error, pride, wolves (even small ones), efficacy of church services as well as if the pastor’s head is getting too big. When people are beginning to worship staff instead of Christ, that’s pride with a flavor of idolatry. A pastor who presents as being perfect might be having a pride complex. On the other hand, self-deprecation by a pastor is not Biblical either. A pastor should decrease as Christ increases. If he doesn’t talk about Christ, that’s difficult to achieve.
It was Pride that changed angels into devils;
it is humility that makes men as angels. – St. Augustine
REASON TRES: Competition
For the record, I don’t own this recipe book. The book has taken it on the chin in the ratings and is too low in ratings for me to spend even $4.99 on it. And when we boast about a local church, we present a similar rating system to the community related to local churches. We start using words like, awesome, the best, amazing, and so forth about a local church. However, only God is awesome, He’s the best, He is amazing. These words mean something and should be reserved for Him.
Micah 6:8 ESV
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness,and to walk humbly with your God?
Think about it this way. You go to ‘A’ church, your friend goes to ‘B’ church. If you’re on social media bragging that your church is the best, what are you saying to your friend? Words matter.
I realize in our American captialist system, one way we choose almost anything is to see what other’s have chosen. Confession: I do that with Amazon. If 31,324 people gave something a 5 start review, I want to buy it even if I don’t need it. After all, everyone else likes it. But we know from scripture that the gate is small and the road is narrow, and only a few will find it. Matthew 7:14 I’m always leary of large crowds following this trend and that trend, especially in church. Hopefully the dopamine tricks are a trend, but I fear it is a long one.
We as a local body can get in a comfort groove and ignore real deficiencies in how we as humans put together a local church. We are comfortable to boast about the things we like, after all, the pot lucks dinners make us fat and happy. Why should we examine what we do in a local church? The saying goes there is no perfect church, and that’s true. But we can aim for being a Biblical church. But that will require adherence to the sacred Scripture.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Before we end this; let’s honestly, for real-real examine a local body from a Biblical perspective. Because the local church is full of humans, the same sin that is outside the church walls is the same sin inside the walls. There are cases of bullying, sexual sins, lying, emotional and spiritual abuse, greed and so on in the local church. We would be foolish to think different.
So why boast?
In evangelicalism we like to boast. So IF we are to boast, what do we boast about? Consider how we may boast.
Steps to Boasting from the Apostle Paul
But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6:14
Words matter so consider…
- If a local church body centers around the Gospel of Christ, then we can boast about Christ’s truth being proclaimed in that local body. If not, we have nothing to boast about and resemble a moose lodge with Christian sprinkles….Mmmm sprinkles.
- If a local church loves more than demands of the sheep, then we can boast about Christ’s love in that local body. If not, we have nothing to boast about. We labor in vain. 1 Corinthians 13:1
- If a local church boasts about Christ instead of the sheep, then we can say Christ is teaching humility. If not, we have nothing to boast about and should repent of our pride.
- If a local pastor presents the Gospel of Jesus Christ as dying for our sins and our need for daily repentance in word and action, then we can boast about God’s truth being proclaimed. But if his sermons are full of self-help are more Christianeeze and Oprah in a blender, then he needs to repent and do as he’s been told in 2 Timothy 4:2.
- If the local church is seeing the fruit of the Spirit through discipleship, then we can say we are following Jesus’ commands. But if it’s all experience, dopamine trips, perfect this and perfect that without true spiritual fruit, then we are entertaining ourselves and might as well go to Dollywood instead.
This list could go on forever because we as humans have a sinful nature and we consistently fail presenting Christ in our lives and even the local church. If you think differently, then I’ll pray for you and your pride. You unlike the rest of us have arrived at perfection.
So let’s practice humility in understanding that but for God’s Grace, we are damned to hell. It is for Him we boast. God is awesome, He’s the best, He is amazing. Let’s reserve the highest rating for HIm.
Steven Davis is a burnt preacher’s kid, media producer, musician and reforming evangelical.