To my reader who may not know Christ as your personal savior. My hope is that in reading the following post, you’ll know what to look for in a church fellowship. As Christ followers, we are called to love you. You won’t find perfect people, but you can find a Christ fellowship that shows Christ’s love to each other. And that love starts with a true understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So look for the Gospel being presented, open your Bible and trust Christ to be your savior. But beware, there are places that call themselves churches that do not show the love of Christ. They may have a good show, but don’t preach the forgiveness of sins which is the starting point for understanding the Love of Christ. Instead, they concentrate on dopamine experiences entertaining and pleasing the flesh. This blog post will hopefully provide you with tips on finding a good church family and staying away from the destructive ones.
In the end when our lives are done, we will know that humans will always fail us. But with our faith in Jesus, the real Jesus, you have hope for now and eternity. Trust Christ.
And to my reader who knows Christ, the Bible is clear. We are to love God and love others. We are to make disciples. That is it. However, the challenge today is many churches mega or small are not fulfilling the law of God. Nor are they making disciples instead they are making minions or cult followers maybe; but not Christian Disciples.
Romans16:17 Now I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who create divisions and obstacles that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Turn away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.
The Catalyst – Ready? Ok, here we goooooooooo……
“There is a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill Bus and by God’s Grace it’ll be a mountain by the time we’re done. You either get on the bus or you get run over by the bus. Those are the options. But the bus ain’t gonna stop.” – Pastor Mark Driscoll” A statement he made to a conference room full of pastors.
Being raised a preacher’s kid, I have witnessed all kinds of disgusting behavior in the name of God. The above statement is one of those most vile I have heard. Mark Driscoll pastored over 14,000 people in 5 states, and this was his approach to representing Christ? A former megachurch star, Mark Driscoll left the church he co-founded after allegations he plagiarized his books and bullied people who worked for him. You can learn more from the podcast, The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. If only this was an isolated incident. But it is not. Many mega church pastors like Mark take on a cult like image; church vision and culture is god because it increase numbers. And anything goes to get people in the seats, make them happy, and have them give money. Cynical? Yes. True? Absolutely.
At the root of Driscoll’s and other mega, and mega wannabe pastors’ methodology is something called Vision Casting. Vision Casting churches have what some consider a cult like structure. I would call it corporate methodologies. As you hear from Driscoll in the video above, people were to do as he said or get thrown off the bus and run over. It is eerily similar to a corporation. You have someone at the top, the CEO for example, he or she casts the vision for the corporation. It is expected that everyone will sign on with that vision, and those who do not serve the vision will find themselves moved out of their positions or fired right out. Either way, it is the corporation’s way or the highway. People are what they are, subjective employees.
With the rise of seeker-friendly and progressive churches, one thing many have in common is a move away from teaching Biblical doctrine. Instead, they are centered around an experience at church, and the cult like vision casting leader who is responsible for growing the church. And how is that done? By providing what people want to experience. Consider Mega Church Pastor Joel Osteen, he would make a good motivational speaker, but his sermons lack significant contextual Biblical foundation. Sin is called mistakes, and God’s power is replaced with a narcissistic doctrine such as the ‘little god’s’ doctrine. Many churches have found out that if you feed people’s narcissism and call it Christianity, that will fill the seats for sure. This method produces many mega churches that are often centered around the vision caster. I recently read an article about Ron Carpenter leaving his church. The article described many of his congregants as ‘spiritual orphans.’ I call that the Cult of Church Worship
Matthew 28:16-2016 But the eleven disciples went into Galilee, unto the mountain where Jesus had appointed them. 17 And when they saw him, they [a]worshipped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: 20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you [b]always, even unto [c]the end of the world.
There can be only one goal of the church. That’s it, that is the only ‘vision’ or direction that each Christian church has. To say a local church as a specific vision that another church doesn’t implies that God has spoken to that church something contrary to what Jesus said in Matthew 28.
If ‘Vision Casters’ like Mark Driscoll and others were honest, they would just say what they really mean, ‘this is how I’m going to run the church, all of you work for me paid or free, and I’m going to do what I want, and if you don’t like it, hit the road.’ But it is much more manipulative to say ‘I have a vision for the church that God gave me.’ That implies a direct revelation from God, for a specific group of people. Something that is not supported in scripture.
Matthew 20: 24When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25But Jesus called them aside and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their superiors exercise authority over them.26It shall not be this way among you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,27and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave— 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
So why do many modern churches not love? Just a theory.
Number 1: In today’s self indulgent culture, we are in it for ourselves. So why would we listen to a church leader who talked about serving, and actually showed us what serving is? Well, because we don’t want to serve ourselves. We’d much rather go to church, get what we can out of it, and feel better about ourselves. Jesus tells us in Matthew 20 that he himself came to serve. This is what we as laity (regular folk) and church leaders should exemplify. In other words, the laity is not the servants and the church leadership the masters. We are to serve each other. But that requires us to be aware of our sinful flesh. We are no good people at birth. Even Jesus said that only his Father is good.
Number 2: This is related to number 1, but we like our idols. We want to believe in someone tangible. Someone who feeds our narcissism. That’s what you see from Mark Driscoll, for him to be so abusive and have such a large following, he was feeding people what they want and was in ministry much longer than he should have been. But as you see with Mark, when the gods people hold onto fall, there is devastating damage. I’m so glad I don’t put any faith in any human. They are imperfect just like me. They are sinners like me. And one day they will die like me.
Number 3. And the final reason church people don’t love is, they have a false sense of who Christ is. They believe the fairy tails learned growing up and don’t understand that Jesus came with one purpose, to save those who believe, this was his Father’s will. Luke 22:42. Even Jesus did his Father’s will. If we would read our bible, we would see that Christ came to serve, and tells us to do the same. I once heard someone say, ‘church is not about you.’ While I see what they are trying to say, I would disagree. Church is about you loving God and others. Saying it’s not about you does nothing but insult people. Words matter.
Love as Jesus explains it: In Luke 10, Jesus tells the story of the Samaritan helping the man in the ditch who was robbed and beaten. A man asked Jesus what it took to inherit eternal life? “27 He answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’c and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’d” I think we have that love of self perfect eh?
There is so much we could exposit from this story, but one key point is Jesus said ‘Go and do likewise.’ Go and do what? Help those in need.
Close your eyes! Wait. Then you can’t read.
Matthew 7: 15Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20So then, by their fruit you will recognize them.
My mom told me that we are fruit inspectors. So in church, it’s pretty easy. Those who do not love, choose to rule, dominate, and disregard the sheep as merely bodies instead of serving and protecting the sheep, they are wolves. Strong? Yep. So about that fruit.
16So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17For the flesh craves what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are opposed to each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; 20idolatry and sorcery; hatred, discord, jealousy, and rage; rivalries, divisions, factions, 21and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by the Spirit, let us walk in step with the Spirit. 26Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying one another.
-But we can’t know the fruit of the Spirit if we are not -producing- it ourselves. If we are selfish, if we misuse people, and are led by our flesh, we are on the wrong side of Jesus. –
Jeremiah 23:1“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” declares the LORD.
2Therefore this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says about the shepherds who tend My people: “You have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your deeds, declares the LORD.
3Then I Myself will gather the remnant of My flock from all the lands to which I have banished them, and I will return them to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will raise up shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or dismayed, nor will any go missing, declares the LORD.
For those like Mark Driscoll, save he repent of his sins, God’s judgement will be upon him. And to the same extent, those in our local churches who sow for greed, how cause the church to scater instead of ‘feeding’ the sheep, this judgement is theirs as well.
My friend reminded me the other day that as Evangelicals, we love 1 Corinthians 12 but will skip right over most of it to talk about what we get out of it; Vs. 27, “First are apostles, second are prophets, third are teachers and so on.” But in my lifetime of going to church, I can not remember hearing a message about what comes before in verses 12 – 24.
One Body with Many Parts
12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24 while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.
English Standard Version
To the Church in Ephesus
2 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of ehim who holds the seven stars in his right hand, fwho walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 g“ ‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but hhave tested those iwho call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up jfor my name’s sake, and you khave not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned lthe love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do mthe works you did at first. If not, nI will come to you and remove your lamp-stand from its place, unless you repent
When Paul visited the church in Ephesus, he spent time teaching Christ, love for each other and warning the Ephesians to beware of false teachers, idolatry which Ephesus had plenty. So why does Revelation 2:2-5 criticize the church at Ephesus? This church while working hard to preserve doctrine had lost their love for one another. Throughout Paul’s teaching, he continues what Jesus taught us, and that was to love other. If we are to love our enemies and pray for them. Matthew 5: 43-48
Alternative analogy: The Goats
There seems to be a theme eh? One of my favorite songs from Christian Singer Song writer Keith Green is “the Sheep and the Goats”
He said it best. There isn’t a way for me to improve on it.
The story of Mark Driscoll is sadly being repeated over and over again in churches today. Church folk are looked at as employees, things to be used for vision caster’s purpose. I’ve seen it over and over.
I personally struggle to understand why God would add folks to an unloving church. God is God and he can do what he wants. Psalm 115:3 But hopefully the wolves show us how much more we need to love each other, support each other, and do as God; count the weakest as the most necessary. Hopefully we recognize that we are to serve, to love, not to be served. Just as Christ did.
A final thought on 1 Corinthians
So if we continue on in Corinthians, we come to the passage more people are familiar with;
1 Corinthians 13:1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a ringing gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have absolute faith so as to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and exult in the surrender of my body, a but have not love, I gain nothing.
Or to put it in todays vernacular
If I go to church and don’t have love, I’m a seat warmer.
If I am positioned to shepherd over people in church and don’t have love, I’m just a boss.
If my church serves coffee, but doesn’t have love, then it’s a Starbucks knock off.
If we have great programs at church, but don’t have love, then we are just a Moose Lodge.
And if we have the best entertainment with all the fog, silly light shows, and best music and have not Love, then we really should pay 10 bucks at the door and expect popcorn.
About the author: Steven Davis is a overcooked preacher’s kid, musician, former social worker and media producer.