“There’s a stylized, bastardized Christianity that many politicians and celebrity pastors have peddled for years; one that has slowly but surely become our American template. It’s a bloated, opulent, consumerist, aggressive, nationalistic, might is right amalgam that really doesn’t resemble Jesus much at all.” – John Pavlovitz (johnpavlovitz.com)
In the quest to be what actually results in the above description, church leadership has stooped to tactics which include lying, manipulating and over-sensationalizing. They have misinterpreted scripture and misrepresented the Gospel. They either don’t see it, or don’t care, since they often get what they want.
If you have to lie, manipulate or over-sensationalize in order to prove what you say is right or true, then you have nothing to stand on. Besides, this is how the world works, not how things get done in God’s Kingdom.
But, there is an audience. A flock. A band of followers.
They listen. They cheer. They give money.
Nickles and noses. A faithful audience that hands over money.
They make it all sound so good and specific scriptures (often out of context or ‘clobber’ verses) are used and then, they place Jesus’ Name on it and it is all accepted as right and true.
Not all churches or ministries are like this. But, way too many in the US are. They could be a small congregation of 30 or a massive mega-church. Tactics are used to hold those people there, control/manipulate them and make sure they give money.
Rather than being “transformed by the renewing of the mind”, it is a system which would act in a manner reflecting the world system of kings and superstars…that is, being “conformed to this world”. To use manipulating tactics to attract and keep people is the world system way. To do all of this for big money is greedy and selfish. To aspire for worldly treasures…massive salaries, huge and opulent buildings, power, notoriety and huge followings are all earthly treasures, even if they are dressed up as “Kingdom building”.
2 Timothy 3 New International Version (NIV)
3 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive,disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7 always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds,who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. 9 But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.~
This has been taught as being about general sin and the “unsaved”. But, if we take a closer look, it is about the Church. Key..verse 5, “…having a form of godliness…” Another key, verse 7, “…always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth”, and “…these teachers oppose the truth”. That last one has my attention.
I am amazed how anyone who calls themselves a teacher or a preacher would dare oppose the truth. They appear to speak the truth, but much of what they spread has little to no truth. Then, if confronted with what is correct and true in scripture, they deny it. They are convinced they have all the “proof” they need for what they believe and teach. This is what makes them, basically, dangerous. This is why we read in verse 5, “Have nothing to do with these people”. They draw people in, drag them down and take their money. They do this, all the while believing they are serving the Lord.
Matthew 7:21-23 (NIV)
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!~
This is not just about the people who are “traditional Christians” or pastors by career only, nor is it about the ritualistic religious. An example of the subject of this verse in plain view, right on the television. Yes, the beloved “televangelist”. Not all people of this ilk are on TV, but these guys are the epitome of what we see in this verse. They often use false prophecies, sensational End-Time Eschatology topics, as well as, rhetoric and “clobber scriptures” to take their stands against abortion and homosexuality. They use fear tactics to sway people to the altar and shaming tactics to convince people toward certain behaviors.
The result is followers, which brings power and, often, massive amounts of money, which further feeds the power. Meanwhile, they are convinced they are doing the will of God, pointing out that they are doing His will. Often, however, their speech and actions show some things that are not Christ-like, at all.
They use Jesus’ name as a rubber stamp that they have permission to use on whatever they feel should be God’s will. They stamp it on the opulent buildings, the huge salaries, the judgmental statements and messages and even the false prophecies. If they want a specific candidate for office, they put Jesus’ name on that, too. If they want people to behave a certain way, His name (and a good deal of shaming) is spoken.
By the way…using Jesus’ name to garner favor or to persuade God or people is using His name in vain. I believe the Commandments these guys blast at people has something in there about that.
There is a faction of the Church, I believe, which will rise up. They will not rise up in power or come with convincing words. They will not seek to build huge ministries or massive buildings. Their goal will not include having a title, a following, a huge salary or a lavish lifestyle. They will bring one thing.
The Gospel. The Good News.
Their lives will reflect what we read about Jesus in His Earthly ministry.
Love will be the nucleus of what they say and do.
They will seek to be the Jesus people need.
They will expose truth to and about these modern day Pharisees.
They should be all of us.
We need to be Jesus to a lost and hurting world.
Love should be our nucleus.
As it should be.
As we walk together.