Category Archives: Pastors

Pastors

Context, Context, Context

How many times have you heard of an argument between two people where one person accuses the other of taking their words out of context? Or how many times has some public figure been vilified in the media for a comment he or she made and their defense was that their comment was taken out of context?

The context of anything we say, or do for that matter, must be taken into account in order to understand the true meaning of our words or actions.

For instance, what about the words “Justin! I could just kill you!”? Or what if someone overheard something racist come out of your mouth but failed to hear the part about it being a comment a coworker had made and how you had chastised the coworker for the comment?

What about certain behaviors? What if a girl had been sexually abused much of her life and as a young adult became promiscuous? In light of her past, could her behavior at least be more easily understood? Would you be more inclined to excuse some of her bad behavior when understood in the light of her past? Additionally, what about cultural context? Words and actions that are appropriate in one culture can easily mean something else in another culture.

Context is everything. When we fail to understand people’s words and actions apart from the entire context of the conversation or culture, misunderstandings easily occur.

Most American churches today are being led by pastors who are handling the Word of God the same way a journalist might take a politicians words out of context and tell a story to suit the journalists own political viewpoints. They hand-pick one or two verses out of the Bible and preach an entire sermon based on those two or three scriptures while rarely returning to the Bible. Additionally, it’s not too hard to turn on any “Christian” TV show today and find a televangelist who has built and entire framework of doctrine around just one single verse.

2 Timothy 3:16,17 (ESV) states the following:

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

The entire Bible, from cover to cover, is the Word of God. Just like taking one sentence out of the President’s speech and trying to explain the entire meaning of his speech based on just one or two sentences, you can’t take one or two sentences out of the Bible and expect to completely explain the meaning of the text.

While writing to Timothy about how to be a good pastor of the people, Paul states:

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching (1 Tim 4:13, ESV)

Paul understood the likelihood of error being introduced into Timothy’s teaching by simply reading one verse and giving an hour-long talk on what it means to the congregation. Paul understood that the context of any given verse was of utmost importance.

Taking one or two verses, or even three, out of the entire context in which they were written and preaching for an hour is exactly what is happening in much of the churches in America today. Particularly those of the Pentecostal, Charismatic, and “Purpose-Driven” variety.

A common method of sermon preparation for these pastors would look a little like this: First they would determine a “theme” for a series of sermons. All of the sermons for several weeks will center around this central sermon theme. For instance, the central theme may be about “Wise Stewardship”. the pastor would then develop several points he would like to teach his congregation about wise stewardship. Each of these points would be an entire Sunday sermon and would teach a particular aspect of using God’s resources wisely. As an example, one Sunday would be about giving to the poor, another would be about giving of your time, another sermon would include tithing, and so forth.

Thirdly, while preparing for a particular Sunday sermon, the pastor determines what he would like to teach the congregation about “Giving”, for instance. Using his knowledge of the Bible, he would determine which passage of scripture best fits what he would like to teach his church and he uses this verse or two to back up what he is trying to teach the people. As he preaches along, he may quote a verse or two as he preaches to further establish his points.

This method of sermon delivery actually has a name. It’s called a topical sermon. The topic is chosen by the pastor and then scripture is then used to establish the credibility of the sermon. While there certainly is a time and place for topical sermons, this is a bad choice for most sermons. Topical sermons lend themselves, by nature, to introducing too much of man’s opinion into the sermon and too little of the Word of God.

The proper way of handling the Word of God is called expository preaching, or inductive teaching. These methods basically take an entire section of scripture and “expose” its meaning. By going through an entire book of the Bible chapter by chapter and verse by verse only then can each individual scripture be properly understood in light of its original intent to its original readers, its cultural meaning when it was written, and what the scripture is telling us today. There is no other way to properly interpret scripture and it’s one of the reasons we have so much goofy doctrine being taught today.

When a pastor is committed to the public reading of scripture, as Paul commanded Timothy to be, and he teaches through the Bible book by book, chapter by chapter, and verse by verse there is far less likelihood that error will be introduced into his teaching. Though pastors are still human and errors will still be made, it’s easier for the average Christian to spot errors when the scriptures are taught in this manner. Additionally, the difficult-to-interpret scriptures aren’t glossed over, as most pastors tend to do when teaching topically.

When scripture is taught by reading through it verse by verse, we get a good balanced diet of God’s word each week. I used to attend a church where each year we focused on the “vision” and our “mission” at the beginning of the year and as the year progressed we moved into sermons about “serving” the body of believers. Towards the end of the year came the sermons about “giving”. Year after year this “topical” style of preaching continued. It did nothing more than keep the people in spiritual infancy feeding on spiritual “milk”.

There are many pastors and churches committed to verse by verse teaching. Even many pastors in denominations that have abandoned this type of teaching still teach in this manner. Calvary Chapels are churches that are all committed to teaching verse by verse. Churches that identify themselves with 9Marks are also churches that are committed to teaching in this manner and there are many others out there.

Although I’m not suggesting that anyone leave their church they are attending, I am suggesting that you take a long hard look at the manner in which your pastor is handling the Word of God. If topical preaching is the order of the day, I would almost guarantee that the people aren’t being fed the Word properly. If you need to find another fellowship, look for one that teaches line by line through the scriptures…….your very soul may just depend on it.

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My, My, Pastor. What Big Teeth You Have.

I was reading a post on a blog I enjoy reading from time to time, m’kayla’s korner, about someone in the UK whose church became ‘Bethelized”. Now, this isn’t a word you’ll find in any dictionary, but this isn’t the first place I’ve seen it used. For a church to become “Bethelized” is to adopt the ways and practices of Bethel Church in Redding, California.

For those who aren’t familiar with Bethel Church or their practices, they are a church in Redding, CA that’s pastored by a man named Bill Johnson. They started out as an Assemblies of God church but around a couple of years ago, they voted to withdraw from the Assemblies and go it on their own. They didn’t want the restraint of a denomination keeping them from promoting some of their heretical doctrines, as if the Assemblies of God are much of a restraint these days.

This blog post, here on m’kayla’s korner, got me to thinking further about some events that’s transpired this past few weeks in my own life. As I’ve stated here before, my wife and I have been on a search for a new church for over a year. As it turns out, I guess God led us to a church within a couple of months of our searching, but we were still too hurt to recognize it. We ended up moving on from that church and looked for another six months before we realized that was where we are supposed to be in the first place.

This church we’ve chosen isn’t perfect. We would wish for some other things if it was up to us, but one thing I’ve come to learn on our journey for a new church home is that there aren’t many pastors that open a Bible and teach extensively from scripture. This church we’ve chosen does. The pastor doesn’t sweat, he doesn’t yell, and he doesn’t “impart”. He simply teaches line by line and verse by verse through each book of the Bible, the way the Apostle Paul instructed Timothy to do. It’s done the same way in our children’s church……line by line, verse by verse so that as little of the pastor’s philosophies are woven into the teaching as possible.

Now back to what’s been on my mind the last couple of weeks. We still have some friends that attend our old Assembly of God church. Our old Assembly of God church along with all of the other Assemblies of God in the area have been at youth camp this past week. Each year the camp gets a themed name. This year’s themed name was “Supernatural Camp“. I thing it goes without saying just what the camp focused on this year, and it wasn’t preaching the Gospel (though I’m sure they thought that’s exactly what they were doing).

The focus was on imparting the “Fire of God” on the kids for them to take back to their local churches.

The focus of the camp wasn’t on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was on acquiring the “power” of God, the dreams, visions, the supernatural knowledge. In fact, I would go so far to say that most of these AG kids left camp and weren’t able to articulate the Gospel at all. You see, I know they can’t, because none of our former friends’ kids can.

The youth pastor of our former church was trained at another AG church who adored Bethel Church. If you was to go today to this church’s website in Irving, Texas it’s really nothing more than an idol to Bethel Church and Bill Johnson. There’s nearly as much on their website about Bethel as their own church. The sad part is that the pastor of this church in Irving, Texas is a Section Leader of the Assemblies of God while promoting a church that cast off it’s restraints from the Assemblies of God. Probably all done in a spirit of “interdenominational unity”, of course.

My wife posted on her Facebook this past Sunday something along the lines of “Something I love to hear in church on Sunday, ‘Church, open your Bibles to………’ “. I can’t count the amount of churches we went to that claimed to be Bible-centered, Gospel-preaching churches. These claims were made proudly on their websites and in their bulletins. But, you see, just because a pastor gives a 1-hour sermon on something and backs it up with several scriptures scattered from across the range of the books of the Bible, doesn’t mean it’s Bible centered. It only means they’ve used scripture to support their teaching. All those mis-contextualized scriptures makes the sermon sound so…..scriptural. But in all but one of these other churches, we never heard the Gospel presented. I’m not talking about an invitation to “receive Jesus”, but the actual death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, with a call to repentance.

In other words, there are more than 60 churches within a 5-mile radius of our house (this IS Texas, ya know) and of the 20 or so churches we tried, only two preached gospel centered preaching directly from scripture. Two. By the way, the other 40 or so churches were easily dismissed from their websites. It was obvious we weren’t going to hear the Gospel in those churches.

It’s a sad state of church affairs out there. I guess I was in for a shock just how complacent God’s people have become. Oh sure there’s a lot of hollering and screaming in churches all across America every Sunday, but that doesn’t equate to line by line, verse by verse Gospel centered preaching. The infection is only getting worse as churches like Bethel, and IHOP, and Morningstar among a growing tsunami of other self-promoting ministries take their heresies worldwide.

So if you’ve become a frog in a pan of water on a stove, I can’t advise you to run from your current church. What I can advise, however is to search your heart, search out God, and search out the whole council of God’s word, the Bible, and see if you’re sitting under a self-centered, empire-building wolf…….you might just have become so used to your surroundings that you’re failing to realize your about to be eaten.

Most of all, be a Berean and hold every minister of the Gospel accountable for every word that comes out of their mouth. Remember, Luke called the Bereans noble for holding the Apostle Paul accountable.

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Not That Kind of Rock

I ran across this article here about a church in Mill Creek, Washington that is coming under fire from its neighbors in the surrounding housing about the volume of its music during worship services. In yet another distorted witness to the world about the true character of Jesus, this church is choosing to demand their rights rather that take the high ground and make some modifications to the volume levels.

Over a year ago, I had written a blog post here about this same “church”, Gold Creek Community Church. The stunt they were using back then was to tattoo a person on stage as a means of some sort of sermon illustration.

Over the years, this church, using man-centered techniques to draw a largely young hip crowd, has grown significantly. The growth has been so large that during Sunday morning worship services the police are required to direct traffic. Strangely enough, the neighbors have no complaint about the traffic, just the loud music.

All the church has to do is turn down the bass, said neighbor Lou DeFranza. The bass is so loud and pulsing it rattles and vibrates their homes.

The neighbors aren’t complaining about such things as increased traffic from the church. It’s mostly the bass, not even the actual music, he said.

In a classical “Gawd Bless America” response from the church leadership their freedom of speech rights are held up rather the servant heart of Jesus Christ:

“Gold Creek is a Christian Church and we believe our First Amendment right is freedom of religion,” Ehoff wrote to Ronglien. “You have said ‘just turn it down,’ but I want to worship in the way I want to worship and I don’t want someone else to tell me how I can do it.”

According to the article, however, I guess Mr. Ehoff has a very loose definition of just what worship is:

On Sunday, Ehoff, dressed in black jeans, T-shirt and a hoodie, sang “Rope,” a rock hit by the Foo Fighters, and Kellogg based his sermon on hanging onto God as the ultimate rope. As he spoke, images of rock climbers played on the screen behind him.

I couldn’t sleep the other night so I got out of bed and went into the living room to watch some TV. As is always my habit on the mornings I can’t sleep, I first turn to the “christian” TV channels to see the “heretics on parade” at that time of the morning. I never watch it for long because it actually turns my stomach, but at 4:00 AM it’s a good time to watch the televangelists that are really “out there” beyond even the fringe of sound biblical teaching.

This particular morning there was a show on with Juanita Bynum, the self-proclaimed “prophetess”. She was screaming and prancing before a jam-packed stadium of some sort. It looked like it was as large as a football stadium. Juanita was screaming in tongues, prancing in a stance just like a prairie chicken, and wearing long white robes.

I watched as Juanita made a complete mockery of God for around 10 minutes or so without ever a bit of biblical teaching coming from her mouth. During this entire time, there were literally thousands thronging the stage, hands in the air. I was amazed that this woman could pack this huge stadium just like a rock star………then it hit me.

They weren’t worshipping Jesus. They were worshipping her and her image. They weren’t drawn together around the unity of the Holy Spirit, they were drawn to her showmanship.

I didn’t start this post out to go off on Juanita Bynum. That morning I was watching her I realized something, though

If she could draw 50,000 or 60,000 people to one event and there are literally hundreds just like her all across the world doing the same thing, and there are literally thousands of churches of just like Gold Creek CC in Mill Creek, WA playing their games without any understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ at all, this great apostasy the Bible speaks of is already here. America is already under a great delusion.

On any given Sunday there are millions in America thronging to watch a carefully orchestrated show put on by pastors who are under the delusion that they are somehow able to “convince” someone to follow Jesus Christ with their personal skills and talents rather than the Gospel. It’s a lie from the pit of Hell, and it’s here. It’s infiltrated and infected the overwhelming majority of churches in America, which is the media outlet to the rest of the world. This in turn is how the rest of the world is becoming infected. In other words, If satan can deceive America, the rest of the world follows suit.

We are at a time where we all need to understand the Gospel like never before. It’s not accepting Jesus into your heart. It’s not speaking in tongues. It’s not helping the poor or feeding the hungry. It’s the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the repentance and forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ. It’s God’s sovereignty in all things.

Search the scriptures. Put the latest Christian authors down and turn off  TBN. We each need to get back to the basics of the faith and what the first apostles taught. We need to hear it every Sunday.

I can assure you no staged tattoo session, guitar solo, or chicken dance ever ushered anyone into heaven. Only through the desperate realization of our sinfulness before a holy God through the preaching of the Gospel has anyone ever entered the Kingdom.

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Of Sheep And Men

This journey my family and I have been on for over a year, searching for a new church, has been a long and grueling one. As I’ve said before, there have been a lot of mistakes made on my part.

I don’t know why I’m having a difficult time letting go of the past. I guess it was because we had so much wrapped up in our last church. It was our life. It was where all of our friends were at. It was where all of our time and life was spent. It was where what we thought was God’s plans for our life were going to be fulfilled.

It was where we were tossed to the side like yesterday’s trash.

We first came to the church because my wife came to know the pastor’s wife through my daughter’s kindergarten class at school. In other words there was a friendship developed outside the church first. We were never invited to the church, and looking back, we had to even do a little research to find out which church her husband pastored.

Once we started attending this church, we were hooked. The pastor was a good teacher. He preached through certain books of the bible expository style. Just the way proper teaching of God’s word should be. In fact, when the pastor went overseas on mission trips he taught expository preaching techniques to foreign bible school students.

Over time this expository preaching style changed to more of a topical style. This main topic of preaching, of course, became a “Fulfill God’s Destiny For Your Life” subject nearly every Sunday for about 3 years. During that same time the pastor stopped Sunday schools, Sunday evening services, and Wednesday night Bible study. Outside of his Sunday morning preaching or his pre-taped DVD’s for home group use, there was no longer any group Bible teaching.

The youth group and children’s ministries had turned into nothing more than games and candy giveaways. There was absolutely no biblical messages at all. It was this more than anything that caused my wife and I to know it was time to go. My kids weren’t getting fed at all.

Before I made the decision to leave, I had a meeting with the pastor. Keep in mind we were personal friends. We had done much outside church with each other. We had gone on a mission trip together to the Republic of Georgia south of Russia. We homeschooled our kids together.

First off I asked the pastor if we were ever going to return to Sunday school or Wednesday Bible study or any other form of systematic Bible study. He informed me that was so “old fashioned” and now days people weren’t making decisions for Christ that way. It was through relationships that people made decisions for Christ and we were going to head in a more “serving the community” direction instead of studying the Bible.

Never before had we ever had cross words. At all. But after about a 45 minute monologue of his vision for the church I was asked to leave. Just like that. It hit me like a ton of bricks. In fact it didn’t really register until I got home exactly what he had told me.

Over time there have many good solid families that have had similar discussions with the pastor. All personal friends of the pastor and all have been asked to leave. The church has been emptied of its leadership. I can only guess that’s the way he wanted it all along.

I give all of this previous story for this: on the Gospel Driven Church Blog I ran across this post here called 10 Simple Things Good Pastors Say describing what a good pastor is like. We’ve ran across a lot of pastors this past year. You can see the ones that like the spotlight. The ones that like to control the attention. They’re the ones that like to use stories and a lot of illustrations in their preaching. The good ones get right to the scriptures without a lot of flamboyant excess.

I’m beginning to wonder if we’ll ever find a place to settle. I don’t know. I do know one thing, however, I can’t take another narcissistic pastor who puts no preeminence on the systematic preaching through scripture. I guess that’s getting harder to find the closer we get to Jesus’ return. I guess it’ll only get worse.

Again, take a look at this article linked here. It’s pretty good.

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Tell You a Story ’bout a Man Named Jed

Jesus used parables to teach. I’ve read commentaries where people thought He did it to help it stick in people’s minds more. Some said it was to confuse the spiritually blind, and still others say it was due to the cultural methods of storytelling of His day. I’m not sure as to His reasons, but a good story does help bring to light things you might not otherwise consider.

I’m not sure what classifies a parable from any other type of story. I guess I could look it up, but I really don’t want to. I mean, what exactly is the length of a parable. When does it become a  story? A fable? A tale?

I’m going to attempt to tell in parable form something I’ve been contemplating for a while now. On Sunday morning, while singing hymns in our new church, I got the idea to tell it in a story, so here it is.

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In a small suburb of Dallas, Texas there lived a man named Jed.

Jed, along with his wife and two children, attended a local congregation  of a popular worldwide pentecostal (charismatic) denomination. Jed had a good job at a local engineering firm and his local church was alive and growing. Jed had what many feel was a pretty good life.

Jed’s local church had just built a new building and experienced growth as a result. Along with that growth brought many new faces and lots of new talents. As a result the worship team had grown significantly in skills and abilities. Additionally, people came who were skilled in computer graphics and the skills and abilities of these people began to be utilized during the worship (singing) part of the Sunday morning services. To come into a Sunday morning service with this great worship band and the sound, lights, and computer graphics was quite an experience.

Now back to Jed.

Jed’s boss also attended the same church as Jed. In fact, it was Jed who had invited his boss and shortly thereafter Jed’s boss raised his hand during a salvation invitation and “accepted Christ”. Although there was significant change in Jed’s boss, overall he was still the same difficult boss to deal with he had always been.

Overall his boss was good to Jed, but he would make crazy decisions and implement difficult policies at work. He would seemingly discipline co-workers for no reason and was just a difficult to understand type of boss; very difficult for Jed to grow close to. In general, Jed didn’t really like or understand his boss. He thought that if he was boss he could do a much better job.

Jed found it difficult to obey his boss’s seemingly strange commands and pointless policies. At every opportunity Jed did it his own way and covered it up to where his boss didn’t know.

Jed was a pretty smart guy, though. Because he attended church with his boss and because the engineering firm he worked for was a pretty tight-knit community, Jed was careful not to talk ugly about his boss openly, but he held his contempt for his boss in his heart. In fact Jed always spoke highly of his boss.

On Sunday mornings He would greet his boss with a hearty handshake. At the company Christmas parties he would say glowing things about the direction his boss was leading the company. Whenever Jed’s wife complained about Jed working late or how Jed’s boss was treating him, Jed defended his boss with “Well, he has a difficult job and is under a lot of stress”. 

Jed never missed an opportunity to “suck up” to his boss and sing his praises, just in case Jed might be the next in line to manage the engineering firm. Jed felt like all of the praises would someday result in his boss taking note and heaping a blessing of some sort on Jed. A raise. A promotion. A bonus.

All the while, though, Jed held his mistrust of his boss in his heart and couldn’t wait to one day receive his reward for faithful service to both the engineering firm and his boss.  He could settle in and live a better life. Be the big man. Be the boss and finally get to lead, run, direct things in a manner of his choosing.

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My family and I have been attending a new church now for around six weeks. It’s very traditional. They have Sunday school. The pastor wears a suit and preaches expository sermons from sections of scripture. And they sing hymns from a hymnal. You know, boring stuff. Stuff charismatic Christians hate.

As I sang the hymns this past Sunday I was taken back to our previous pentecostal (charismatic) church that we had dedicated so much a part of our lives to. The worship band was great. The sound and graphics were great. I loved singing and entering into what I knew at the time to be God’s presence. It was during those times of worship that I felt so close to God, so much alive.

People would weep, cry, kneel, and sway. It was always described as an “awesome time in the very presence of the Lord” and was often followed up by a prophecy of how the “sacrifice of praise” was a “sweet smelling aroma” to the Lord.

But then reality would set in. The fleshy lusts were the order of business in the church. An over-indulgence in food, spending, and sports were the order of the day. I can’t believe how many people I knew who were in crushing financial debt and thought it was normal. How many people who were severely overweight and laughed it off. How the church had to hire out the upkeep of the church. How they had to quit having men’s bible studies because of the lack of attendance.

But have a “movie night” or a showing of “the big game” along with pizza, and boy did the men come out of the woodwork.

Sunday school was cancelled. Sunday evening service was cancelled. Wednesday evening turned into a reading of whatever the current fad charismatic curriculum of the day happened to be, and even that became sparsely attended.

But Sunday morning, Oh sunday morning. How people would sing God’s praises for all the wonderful things He was doing. How they would tell God how wonderful, beautiful, awesome He was. Singing, swaying, crying, and raising their hands……..and on,  and on, and on. It would last for nearly half of the Sunday morning service.

Meanwhile, whispered in the background, was the mockery of the “Baptist” type of churches that didn’t “have the Spirit”. The ones that were dry and only sang hymns banged out on a piano. We sure were glad we didn’t attend on of THOSE types of churches. WE were led by the very Spirit of God.

As I sang my old dry hymns this past Sunday morning that were rich in scripture and spiritual truths, I contemplated back to our previous experiences in worship music. How the songs tugged at our hearts but were full of spiritual nonsense. How I would get worked into a frenzy and feel good about my relationship with God. About how people thought they were in the “very presence of God”, but always left unchanged. I thought of Jed and his boss.

You see, Jed was living a lie. He was singing his boss’s praises, but all the while he had no desire to be conformed into the image of his boss. Jed wanted to ultimately do it his way and thought if he sang enough of his boss’s praises and “blew enough smoke” at his boss, he would one day get his boss to take notice.

Ol’ Jed was full of “cow dung”.

Ol’ Jed saw sacrifice as more important than obedience, rather than the other way around. Which is how God sees it.

I can’t help but see this as a parallel to our modern worship services. No reverence. No awe. No desire to see that the words that are rolling out of our lips have true scriptural meaning and that we have a desire to actually do what they say from Monday throughout ALL of the week. Not just during the music show on Sunday morning.

I also can’t help but believe that God isn’t impressed with all of our boisterous “look-at-me-and-how-close-to-God-I-am” type of worship poses on Sunday mornings when our heart isn’t really all that into obeying His every command and feeding our lusts the rest of the time.

God’s not as impressed with “suck-ups” as we might like to think.

P.S.—Within about 30 mins or so of writing this post, I came across one written by Phil Johnson here that  drives home my point much more professionally. Please take a look at it.

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Christianity with my Flapjacks

As I was cooking some of my chocolate chip pancakes for the kids this morning, I opened up the paper and laid it out on the counter and flipped through it in between my flipping of the pancakes on the griddle. As I did this, I came upon the Religion section in my local paper and read the two articles I’ve shown photographs here in this post.

A couple of years ago an elderly woman at the previous church I attended asked me if I had seen a particular televangelist’s show on a “Christian” network the previous evening.  I told her that I watched very little “Christian” TV because I felt like those pretenders did more to damage Christianity than any of the secular TV shows out there. She said “Well, I don’t know about that!” and walked off in a huff.

I do know about that, though. Whether we want to admit it or not, every time we identify ourselves as a Christian to the world, we are judged by what the world sees on Christian TV.

Through “Christian” television and many of the megachurches that are behaving in similar manner to the televangelists, the world has come to believe we are a bunch of sexually perverted, money-grubbing clowns.

There is literally an entire generation growing up in churches that just doesn’t know what the Gospel is….oh, they proclaim it means the “good news”, but they aren’t preaching just what the good news is.

The church shown in the first photograph above are having what is called “Blue Christmas” services. People can come and light candles, sing hymns, and write their thoughts on a banner that will be the “center of their worship”….Funny, I thought Jesus was to be the center of our worship…not our problems.

The churches in the second photograph aim to draw people to the Christmas services with cool technology. I guess the thought is that if we have the coolest sound, lights, music, and video displays that people will FINALLY bow before their Savior Jesus and repent…..funny thing is, they aren’t being told that repentance is necessary.

The Gospel…that all important message of eternal life is being left out. It hurts me that the lifelong church attending kids that are my daughter Emily’s age around 16 years old have never heard the gospel. Never.

Oh, they’ve heard that Jesus loves them, that Jesus can help them with their problems, that he can help them in school and similar “slogans”…..but never the gospel.

You see, the bible says in Romans 1:16:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

The gospel is what saves. No gospel, no salvation.

All of the other stuff is just fluff designed to inflate the egos of men, for pastors to get “attaboys” from the congregation, and worst of all, to fill the pews for the purposes of having “bragging rights” to your fellow ministers at the local “ministerial alliance” meeting.

I’m afraid the “foxes are watching the henhouse”, folks, and I truly believe it’s time to turn off the Christian television and dust off that bible…..you might just be in for a shock to see what’s really in there.

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“Fighting” For the Faith

The other day, my wife and I received an e-mail from the youth pastor of the previous church we attended inviting our 15-year old daughter to the upcoming youth “food fight”, named “Crud Wars”. It was probably an errant email because we haven’t attended the church since the beginning of the year and to this date there has been no other attempt to contact us anyway. We were probably just still part of an address list.

Neverless, the errant e-mail merely cemented further why we left the church to begin with. It also brought back up why we are still so discouraged in finding another. A couple of posts here and here at Cerulean Sanctum about the state of youth ministry  in the American Church deals a little about we were seeing within the youth group at our previous church.

At far too many churches, youth service has tured into nothing more than play time without any gospel ever being presented. Oh, sure, there are sermons, more like talks, about “rockin your school for Jesus” or “being radical for Jesus” but no presentation on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus….you know…the gospel. Please don’t mis-understand me, I see nothing wrong with having fun in youth service; but at the expense of sound biblical teaching and gospel preaching, “fun” now rules the service.

Now on to the reason for the e-mail from our previous church.

Over the past several months, the pastor has been exhorting the entire congregation to get involved in helping out in the community. The sermon series he’s been presenting has been based on showing the love of Christ by serving others. Last week they had a churchwide event at a local homeless ministry where they go and serve the homeless meals. Most of the people that the homeless ministry serves have nothing. They eat only the food they obtain from the ministry. Our previous church thought it would be a good idea to show the love of Christ by serving food.

Now  the good part…..for the last several weeks, the youth ministry  of our previous church has collected food from the youth of the church. They have asked that canned goods, especially gooey ones like baked beans and pudding and ketchup be brought up to the church for an “outreach” (my term, not theirs) they will be doing. Sounds good so far. Sounds like sacrificial servant leadership. Until you find out that the food is being collected so that around 40 or so youth can get together and throw it at each other in one massive food fight.

So on Friday last week they serve starving homeless people food and by Wednesday they are throwing hundreds of pounds of food at each other in the name of entertainment.

Words fail me at the hypocrisy of a Christian wasting food in that manner in the name of  “being Jesus to the world” while at the same time getting all teary eyed at the thought of a starving homeless person.

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