This is part of a series of posts on the sin of Assimilation. Click here to see the entire series.
Paul describes the ministry of a leader in the church in II Corinthians 10: 5-6 where he says, “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience…”
Peter describes the ministry of an elder in the church in I Peter 5: 2 where he says, “…shepherd the flock of God among you, not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness…”
Acts 5: 11 describes the attitude of the church towards the leaders in the Church (Peter in this case) after the example of church discipline displayed in the deaths of Annanias and Sapphira. It says, “And great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all who heard of these things.” The fear that came upon the whole church was the proper fear and respect due to the leaders in the church because of their powerful position.
Preaching that takes captive every thought of man; elders who shepherd the flock of God by means of the practice of preaching, teaching, discipline, and the administration of the sacraments; and a tremendous respect on the part of the church members for the elders; these are all examples of a church that is being blessed. Are they characteristics of the churches in America?
Preachers no longer preach the whole counsel of God. Hard doctrines like hell, predestination, the reprobate, the law of God, and many of the sayings of Jesus are routinely ignored because they do not fit into a program of “uplifting sermons for the family”. Elders are intimidated by the federal government into believing that they have no right to comment on political issues lest they find their federal tax exemption revoked. Preachers are trained by their congregations that they are to deliver short, witty, entertaining sermons that are filled with uplifting anecdotes all designed to allow a church member to go home on Sunday afternoon with a warm feeling in his heart. The cold hard fact of the Gospel, that it is impossible to know the Good News until one is fully aware of the bad news, is swept under the carpet in the foyer.
Rather than focusing on the careful exposition of the Scriptures in both the preaching and teaching ministries of the church, the leadership of the church carefully structures emotionally positive, family oriented messages that will rarely touch upon any of the real contents of the Bible. Simply put, the leadership of the church knows full well that they are in competition for the people sitting in the pews with the church down the street. The church that does the best job of “meeting the felt needs” of the people will prosper. It does not matter that the felt needs of the people have little or nothing to do with their eternal salvation and current spiritual welfare. It does not matter that what the sheep want will generally only be helpful in paving their pathway to the fires of hell. What does matter is that the pastoral staff needs to provide an entertaining program in order to fleece the sheep and provide enough income to maintain their salaries and building program.
These words seem harsh and intolerant but who does not really see the truth in them? Where is there biblical fear of the pastor? I am not talking about the respect given to a Hollywood celebrity. I have seen many of the mega-church pastor-stars who have tremendous popularity because they allow people to feel good about themselves just the way they are. I am talking about men who take seriously their responsibility to preach the entire Bible without compromise. Men who purpose to preach the entire Bible are quickly relegated to “other works where their gifts are more appreciated”. That generally means they get to minister in the church of twenty true believers far away from the bright lights of the mega-church.
Where is the faithful exercising of church discipline? Whenever I ask that question of a believer I almost always receive the answer, “Well, our church did excommunicate this one guy who divorced his wife and moved in with his secretary.” Good! But there is more to discipline than the occasional example of discipline for the flagrant, unrepentant, public offense. Unless the church is extremely sanctified and, therefore, has very little sin taking place within its membership, there should be plenty of opportunity for those other sins that are routinely ignored. What about the sins of gossip (the scourge of evangelicalism), slander, backbiting, bitterness, factions, hateful speech, silly speech, coarse jesting, fornication (especially among the teenagers), materialism (especially among the yuppies), jealousy, gluttony, outbursts of anger, envy, and drunkenness? Do none of these occur in the church of today? Is it not the sworn duty of the leadership of the church to discipline for these offenses?
I once had the misfortune to sit in a worship service in which the pastor actually prayed to God that it was, for some reason known only to him, impossible for him to discipline the members of his church but that he was nevertheless “grieved” by their behavior! Why was it impossible? The church was not large and he was fully aware of the cases of discipline that he was praying about. This church, however, was growing numerically and the pastor was astute enough to know that the growth in numbers would come to an abrupt halt if he ever actually did anything about the sins of his flock.
This lack of leadership is especially evident in congregational churches where the pastor is subject to the dreaded “vote of confidence” at any time. When the preacher is preaching while standing on a trap door and the members hold the latch to the trap, it does not take a genius to figure out that his preaching will be designed to tickle the ears of his congregation.
In conservative churches that have entirely assimilated to the cult of the federal government it is necessarily the case that the pastor be a patriot. Displaying the flag on the podium and singing patriotic “hymns” is a requirement if he is to retain his position. Any attempt to move the church away from the position of being subservient to the state is met with immediate dismissal. There can be no doubt that with respect to the leadership of the church, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that we are under the judgment of God.