Much has been written in the secular media over the past 18 months concerning Evangelicals who are “flocking away from churches” in significant numbers. Time Magazine, USA Today, and the Washington Times have all put their own spin on the topic. I too believe that the 21st century church is in decline. Allow me to explain.
The reinvented church has become so much like the world, there is little left for anyone to come to that they can’t find in greater quantity and quality elsewhere. After all, the church didn’t invent entertainment, marketing, recreation, networking, volunteerism and psychotherapy – they simply adopted these practices from the world because the world loves such things – and the church loves the world and covets its love in spite of scriptural commands to the contrary:
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.
If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in
him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh,
and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is
1st John 2:15-16
[Bruce’s powerful insight about the “Reinvented Church” is startling at first sight, and it hit me square in the gut and knocked me out of breath. But when I recovered at least to a point, the thought occured to me that man has “Reinvented” for his own purposes everything that God has created, whether it is government, church, marriage, family, sexuality etc!
Bruce’s observation about the “Reinvented Church” is so precisely descriptive of what indeed is taking place. In the “Reinvented Church” we see that entertainment has replaced worship, marketing has replaced ministry, recreation has replaced discipleship, networking has replaced doctrinal distinctiveness, volunteerism has replaced covenant commitment, and psychotherapy has replaced repentance and the confession of sins.,
I too am afraid that the modern-adult churchgoers on Sundays have become like school children on Saturdays who demand that their dads take them to the zoo, the circus, the amusement park etc. To get up Sunday morning and attend a church of the old time religion and Gospel without lots of snap, lights, sound and action (entertainment), is to many modern church goers like a life-sentence in solitary confinement. We have become addicted to sense-satisfying religion.
But the fact of THE REDEFINED CHURCH is much broader than we realize. Each one of us is confined somewhat to his or her own smaller circle of involvement and awareness. That is true of Bruce, Bob and you.
Recently I attended a church of the charismatic variety. I was very struck and offended as the young pastor asked the people to shut their eyes in prayer and then for 10 minutes he stood before his people and shouted the words I BLESS YOU. He went on to say things like, “I bless your home,” and “I bless your finances,” and “I bless your bodies” etc. He never once asked God for a blessing upon them. He stood there as God and blessed them.
Then I realized that prayer in this church has also been REDEFINED. The young man was referencing himself as the source of blessings. He did not ask the Heavenly Father to bless the people in all of the many areas of life. He instead blessed them. No, not praise God from Whom all blessings flow. Rather, praise pastor from whom from all blessings flow.
I know that it must sound nuts to many, but that is where we are, in that prayer is no longer humble petition to God but loud pronouncements as gods. I would not have the unmitigated gall to stand there portraying myself as the origin and conveyor of blessings. To borrow the words of Joseph from a different context in Genesis 39:9,
“How can I do this great evil, and sin against God.”
Everything is fair game in THE REDEFINED CHURCH. Therefore, never forget this principle when it comes to the fundamentals of the Christian faith:
“NOTHING OUGHT TO CAUSE US TO BE JUSTIFIABLY SUSPICIOUS
OF RELIGION AS THE CONSTANT REINVENTION, REDEFINITION,
AND INNOVATION IN THE DOCTRINES AND PRACTICES OF
THE CHURCH, SEEING THAT THE LORD OF THE
WORD CHANGES NOT.” (Malachi 3:6)
Or again in the area of Ethics, we now have study committees in the church to determine if homosexuailty is really a sin, or is it genetics and therefore a valid alternative lifestyle. Remember:
“WHEN THERE ARE NO MORAL ABSOLUTES COMING FORTH FROM
FROM THE PULPITS IN THIS STARKLY IMMORAL GENERATION,
AND THERE IS A CONSTANT HEMHAWING ON MORAL ISSUES,
IT IS A HUGE SIGN THAT THE CHURCHES AND THE PASTORS
ARE AS SICK AS THE MAN WHO TOSSES ON HIS BED FROM
ONE SIDE TO THE OTHER ALL NIGHT LONG.“
“CONSTANT REINVENTION AND NOVELTY IN MATTERS OF
DOGMA AND MORALS ARE ALWAYS THE PRESUMP-
TIONS OF FALSEHOOD.”]
You see, today’s church is reproducing customers, consumers, compromisers and social engineers – not committed Christians – people who seek affection, affiliations and alliances to enhance and advance their interests and objectives instead of being the “peculiar people” God has called us to be.
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy
nation, a peculiar people; that you may proclaim the
praises of Him who called you out of darkness
into His marvelous light…” – 1st Peter 2:9
“BUT WE DON’T WANT TO BE PECULIAR, DO WE? NO, WE WANT TO BE
POPULAR. WE WANT TO BE JUST LIKE THE WORLD AROUND US
SO THE WORLD WILL LIKE US AND JOIN US, WHEN IN
FACT WE ARE JOINING THEM.”
[Bruce is again so insightful and accurate here. Today we have in massive proportions what may well be referred to as “Nonchalant – Casual Christianity” Why? It is the attempt on the part of the church to be “low key,” “toned down,” and “seeker friendly” so as to be PALATABLE and POPULAR with the world rather than PECULIAR in the world.
However, the saints of God in the Bible realized something about themselves that not only has been lost today, but intentionally avoided, and that is what we read about them in Hebrews 11:13,
“…and having confessed that they were strangers and
exiles on earth.”
Of course they were, and so should true Christians be today. As a matter of fact, we should be strangers and exiles more than ever before in this spiritually and morally bankrupt society. When you are strangers and exiles on earth, that means you will stand out as those who do not belong. You are out of sync with the mainstream around you because your citizenship is in Heaven now (Philippians 3:20) and not on earth. Therefore all of your values and priorities are Heavenly and not earthly like the earthlings around you.
But as Bruce points out, we want the world to join us when in fact we are joining them! So we socially drink which is rampant today in church circles. We make a mockery out of holy matrimony by having cash and open bars at wedding receptions with dancing to competely secular, heathen music and bands. Church women show their cleavage like porn stars, when the Bible tells us to not even touch, let alone wear and flaunt, the garment spotted by flesh. We rent “R” rated videos which are saturated with lust and violence, and never give it another thought. Why? Because we have become like and joined the world, while the world smirks and looks at us as double-tongued hypocrites.
Today, we as Christians have forgotten that we are not a subculture to the main culture. No, nothing that benign! Rather we are a counter-culture to the predominate culture around us. We are as distinct and different spiritually, morally, socially, economically and every way as the Amish are from mainstream Americans. (Oh my, can we ever learn from them!) In short, we should stand out like a sore thumb and should be a pain in the neck because everthing the world is against we are for, and everything the world is for we are against. Hear me:
“CASUAL, NONCHALANT SEEKER-FRIENDLY POPULARISTS CANNOT
AND WILL NOT STAND THE HEAT OF CONFLICT, SO INSTEAD
“CHRISTIANS COUNTERACT THEIR CULTURE, AND THEIR CULTURE
COUNTERACTS THEM IN EVERY WAY. CHRISTIANS AND THE
WORLD ARE NOT MUTUALLY COMPLIMENTARY OR
COMPATIBLE. THEY ARE IN FACT THE PERFECT
AND TOTAL CONTRADICTION ON EARTH.”]
In 2008, Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen, raised a big stink by calling Jesus a “community organizer“; and I would submit to you that this liberal perception and perversion of Jesus Christ has so infected the church today, even among conservatives, that our pulpits are now occupied more by community organizers than preachers of the Gospel.
Why do you think so many churches have done away with Biblically or Denominationally distinctive names and chosen instead generic and benign titles to describe their fellowship while embracing a blasé attitude toward sin and rebellion? Is it not to be more attractive to the world and increase their market share in the community? Is it not to bring people together regardless of their conflicting values, beliefs and religions? [Wow! Amen!]
[Now really pay attention to what Bruce is about to say] Many of those leaving the institutional church today are not backsliders. A large number of them are faithful and mature Christians who are being driven away by backsliding churches and their leaders. They are essentially protecting themselves and their families from a faith-destroying environment of covetousness and pragmatism. Today’s church has become so obsessed with results and relationships that they no longer have an interest in the things of God – only “building community.”
It sounds so benevolent, doesn’t it? And that’s just what community organizers do – they “build community” – which has absolutely nothing to do with repentance and faith in Jesus Christ – the One who said: “My kingdom is not of this world.”
[What an incredibly tragic and devastatingly sad observtion by Bruce when he states:
“MANY OF THOSE LEAVING THE INSTITUTIONAL CHURCH TODAY
ARE NOT BACKSLIDERS. THEY ARE FAITHFUL AND MATURE
CHRISTIANS WHO ARE BEING DRIVEN AWAY BY BACK-
BACKSLIDING CHURCHES AND LEADERS.”
The above statement speaks volumes. The fact is, while true Christians do not feel at home in the world, the world today feels at home with and even in the church. So therefore, Christians no longer feel at home in their worldly churches. How heartbreaking is this for them and us! Who would have ever imagined such a thing on such a global scale?
But I must point out something here for those who are being forced out of their churches by heresies and moral relativism. These dear saints must remember that we are now at that very point in church history which the Bible calls the GREAT APOSTASY. As I team up with Bruce Wells in his powerful series, we here in Michigan are in the dead center of winter between December/January and February/March. So too in the world, we are already deep into the winter of the GREAT APOSTASY of the church.
You ask, “What is the GREAT APOSTASY?” It is prophesied by the Apostle Paul in II Thessalonians 2:3. APOSTASY means FALLING AWAY. The world does not fall away from Christ because they have never been in Christ. The GREAT APOSTASY refers not to the world but to the endtime church falling away from the Lord of the Word and the Word of the Lord. Which is why churches hand out condoms to teens for safe sex and encourage fornication. Which is why churches now sanction homosexuality and same sex marriages, and hire gay and lesbian priests and priestesses. Which is why churches no longer exercise the discipline of adulteress spouses, for after all, they are just victims of incompatible marriages.
That is where we are today and what we are smack-dab in the middle of. It is small wonder that people are leaving their ancestral churches in pained brokenheartedness and don’t know where to go.
Have you ever worked in the church nursery where one or more of the babies has a dirty diaper. You know the smell as well as I do, and it is enough to drive even a skunk off from the farmyard. It gives the church nursery the putrid air of a biological test range.
So with many faithful ones in the REDFINED CHURCH, they have all their born-again lives had the scent of truth and holiness in their spiritual nostrils. But now there is the stench of heresy and immorality in the REDEFINED CHURCH that is strong enough to drive flies off a gut wagon. The saints cannot endure the smell any longer, for their spirits are nauseated and sickened unto death. They must leave for the sheer survival of their faith!
According to the Bible, this must happen just before the rapture of the true and faithful church. So I say to the faithful ones though we are already far into this apostate mess that the Bible prohesied:
“DON’T BECOME DESPONDENT OR FATALISTIC WHEN YOU SEE
MATERIALISM IN THE CHURCH REPLACE THE SPIRITUAL, THE
TEMPORAL REPLACE THE ETERNAL, PROFIT REPLACE MORAL
PURITY, A FALSE GOSPEL REPLACE THE TRUE GOSPEL OF
GRACE, AND CARNAL WISDOM REPLACE THE WISDOM
OF GOD. RATHER, LOOK UP, FOR YOUR REDEMPTION
Also, quite often these days I get the feeling that the Holy Spirit is sovereignly doing major surgery on the souls of folks inthe sanctuary. But thepreacher doesn’t want to go too deep or too long, so he quickly brings the service to a close and tells the people to have a good week. He reminds me of the surgeon who confidently sews up the patient, when in fact there are still some important looking organs lying on the operating table.
Listen, the work of the Holy Spirit in worship service isn’t over until He says it is over. And sad to say, some modern day liberal pastors wouldn’t recognize the Holy Spirit if they fell over him. However, the work of the Holy Spiritis declared to us in John 16:8,
world of sin, righteousness and judgment.”
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,
teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should
live soberly, righteously, and godly, in the present age; looking for
that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God
and our Savior Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that He
might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify for Himself a
[Bruce Wells “Flocking Away from the Church” Part 2 will be posted shortly. Be sure to look for it, as this series will unfold in several parts. You don’t want to miss any part of it.]
In His Strong Love,