When I have the opportunity to visit a local church housed in one of those late 19th or early 20th century church buildings, I can’t help but think about the old neighborhood churches of the early and mid 20th century. In the part of the country where we live, there are many older communities which date back to the early settlers in this country. This era is still on display in many of the older buildings. These church buildings were the home of the nearby local residents who had chosen the particular denomination housed in the building closest to them, in their neighborhood. I recently had the opportunity to perform a wedding ceremony in one of these older church buildings. I do believe the only thing newer were the cushions on the pews. It was extremely warm and the building had never been updated with air conditioning but it was a privilege to conduct the ceremony in this building and proved how spoiled I have become. It always stirs my mind, concerning the way church service and worship was conducted, in the era of time when these buildings were filled with Christians on Sunday mornings. Well, this is not a post concerning the architecture of church buildings but the way the Church itself has progressed into what it is today as compared to where it came from and what the Lord wants it to be.
As I read current news about the churches in this country and the activities of various ministries, I often wonder how the Lord looks on these. Is He pleased that some pastors are referred to as celebrities or even refer to themselves that way? Is it really His plan or will for pastors to be the stars of realty TV programs and to be flaunting their wealth? (Are pastors supposed to be wealthy?) Should the Church be divided by race or by ethnicity? These are questions which only God knows the real, truthful answer to. There are many more questions, I’m sure, but these are the ones which were foremost in my mind. Is Jesus pleased when a man stands on the platform of an arena or church building telling those in attendance that he needs their money to continue his ministry (his ministry?) or that the folks need to give until it hurts in order to be financially blessed in return? Is Jesus blessed when someone who has cancer is lied to when told the cancer has been healed? I don’t think the Lord is any way involved in these acts. The Lord can bless His people financially when they are in need; He can heal when it is His will to heal and return a person to good health but He is not a part of the antics which some of these so-called healers or evangelists perform.
Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Acts 20:28-30 NKJV www.biblegateway.com
Now, I am not the expert on how to do church or organize a ministry but I do know what the word of God says concerning His Church and His ministry. I work hard at studying the scripture and praying for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help me in my understanding and proper interpretation. And, after all that, I’m still not the expert and there are many others who are far more gifted than I am when it comes to all this. But I do know that the Lord has put on my heart a desire for the truth and spiritual discernment. I was told as a young Christian to pray for discernment, pray hard for it. So I did and I really think, at times, the Lord gave me an overdose. When I hear something that really doesn’t line up with the truth of God’s word, it is like bells, sirens and whistles going off in my head. I am sure there are others like that, I certainly hope there are others like that! OK, that may be an extreme example but it is true, concerning the alarms.
When I hear the term, celebrity pastor, I cringe. Does Jesus have celebrities in His ministry? I know that many of these guys would prefer not to be called a celebrity and then there are those who have the tendency to enjoy it. Most of those who have had the church they pastor explode in attendance, is the result of their following the will of God and simply being obedient servants. They teach the truth of His word, they are true servant leaders and pastors as the scripture describes in 1 Tim. 3:1-7. But there are those who offer all the pleasures of the world, right inside the Church. They will promote their church services to sound like it is just another worldly event. There are many worldly things offered up and some will even tell you, “You won’t believe this is Church!” Well, I want to believe this is Church, that is why I attend the services. But, in an attempt to get un-churched people in the doors, these types of promotions are heard. Then, once inside, these people must be given something they will be attracted to so, there is a tinge of worldly atmosphere and, in many cases, a message which is careful not to offend. Coming on too strong with the Word would only force them right back out the door. This is a general example of the new 21st century Church. There are so many variations it would fill volumes. Now, as a disclaimer, I am not saying that every contemporary church ministry is like this. There are many which are but not all. I attend a contemporary church which is part of a fellowship of churches that may have been the leader of this movement way back in the 1960s. It has progressed through the years but has never strayed from the word of God or depended on worldly schemes to get people in the doors.
In the past week, I have read about an old Mainline denomination (Presbyterian USA) removing the hymn, “In Christ Alone”, from their hymnal because it mentions lyrics concerning God’s wrath. The consensus is they don’t like those words or that term. I also have read about other mainline denominations approving or wanting to approve of gays in the ministry. Many of these denominations are suffering divisions, splits and total upheaval over these decisions. Where are these passages in the Bible which support such decisions? What has happened inside the Church which Jesus is the head? Let’s consider the issue of gays in ministry. We are in the Church age or the New Testament era so let’s look at a New Testament passage.
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Cor 6:9-10 NKJV
If it is OK to allow homosexuals or gays into ministry positions, then it must be OK to allow known drunkards, thieves or maybe even extortioners into ministry. What is wrong with having a drunk in the pulpit on Sunday morning? So, he may be difficult to understand due to the slurring of his speech but we can get past that. You see, this scripture is describing lifestyles which are active, continuous or a way of life. The drunk is living that life, a life which always includes alcohol; a thief is a thief. He lives a life as a thief. Is this the example of what we have read in the passage from 1 Tim 3:1-7? So, when the leaders in these denominations want a person living a life of sinful activity in the pulpit, what is that telling us about that organization? It can be assured, if one of the local churches within one of these denominations was to find out their pastor was committing adultery, they would fire him before the opening prayer on Sunday morning! But why? How is his situation any different from that of the homosexual pastor. V. Gene Robinson is an openly gay Bishop, or was, with the Episcopal Church; so why not allow a pastor to continue his ministry while he cheats on his wife?! I will tell you why; it is sin and it is conduct which God will not honor and the scripture reference above tells us if those living these lifestyles don’t repent, they will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. Gal. 6:7-8 NKJV
Those who don’t inherit the kingdom of god, or heaven, will go to the only other destination following physical death, hell. Oh, there is that word again. Nobody wants to hear about hell. Does that place really exist? Yes! Today’s society and parts of the Church don’t want to hear about hell. Remember the church that doesn’t like to hear about the wrath of God? These denominations, who were at one time the mainstays of ministry among churches, have progressed right out of God’s truth. Is this where Jesus wanted His Church to go in the 21st century? Is this the types of activities He had in mind for our time? He knew it would be like this but it is not within His will for these churches and denominations to implement these anti-God actions.
I do believe that many denominational churches and some other independents have put the local church above God. They are so focused on being politically correct in the eyes of the world and with each other that they have lost sight of Jesus. Reminder to them: Jesus is the Head of the Church; if Jesus had not died on the cross, there would be no Church or no need for a Church. But, I guess that little fact doesn’t stir them or bother them since they run their churches as if Jesus didn’t exist, let alone die for them! That may sound very unfair or harsh but it is true. If anyone reading this doesn’t believe me, do the research on some of these churches. The Disciples of Christ denomination is going to allow their pastors, or whatever you want to call them, to perform gay marriages. Please, somebody show me in the word of God, the Bible, where it tells us this is OK. Tell me where to find it so I can stop writing about this and get it right. I know that nobody can show me this because it is not in the Bible anywhere! OK, this is not a gay bashing post either; I simply want to make it known where parts of the Church are in the 21st century. For clarification, this is what the Bible clearly says about marriage:
That is what God says in His word concerning the marriage of two people; a man, I repeat, a man is joined to his wife. And, the proper interpretation for wife will tell us this is a woman.
There are many, many, truly, sound Biblical churches in the world today. God’s word is as easy to hear in them as it is to not hear it any others. These churches are active and doing God’s work at home and abroad. For the Christian who says a solid, Biblical, local church is not available, isn’t looking hard enough. I realize there are some rural areas where some travel may be required but there is some place close where a Christian can receive solid Biblical teaching. This is the 21st century and there are churches everywhere, some good and some bad. Find a good one and stay away from the bad ones. The Lord set the example for us in His word on how to conduct His business and how to worship Him. The New Testament is full of instruction on how to do this. The Old Testament is also full of instruction on how we should worship Him. So, the entire Bible is available to us for instruction on how to come together and worship Him. Many of the things going on inside the 21st century church don’t follow these instructions and Jesus is not glorified by any of it!