Power and Influence

 

 

Please Note: While a point of contention in some circles the correct usage of the Messiah’s name is Y’shua and is used extensively in this article with the exception of when quotes are made by commentator Bob DeWaay referring to the more popular but linguistically incorrect name Jesus. In either case the person being referred to is one and the same, that being the Son of the Living God who lived a sinless life on earth, died for the sins of mankind on Calvary and rose to everlasting life on the 3rd day as described in the Holy Scriptures, without whom there is no salvation.

 

And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits; And commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse: But be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats. Mark 6:7-9 (emphasis mine)

 

Does the church need to be powerful, rich and influential in order to 'impact' society for God as some deluded visionaries assume? In our last Watchman Report (June 24, 2007) we raised the issue of compromise being used to secure unity. In that article we made mention of the churches described in Revelation 3. We pointed out that the only two churches commended without rebuke were both poor [lit: abstract poverty], small in number and without influence while the only one rebuked without commendation was rich (in worldly terms), large in number and influential. Senior pastor of the Paradise Community Church here in Adelaide South Australia, Ashley Evans, whose congregation and affiliates clearly suffer from terminal affluenza, along with AOG big cheese Brian Houston [of Hillsong fame] both maintain that popularity, prosperity and power are prerequisites for reaching the lost, a delusion the Scriptures emphatically refute.  The clear failure of ‘seeker sensitive’ churches can be found in their cowardly capitulation to compromised theology in the preaching of the ‘nice’ news as opposed to the ‘Good’ news.

 

Writes author Mac Dominick:

“In spite of the trends dictated by today’s “Christian psychologists,” the mission of the Church is not now, nor ever has been, the provision of a source for the acquisition of the skills necessary to attain cognitive relevance in all aspects of human experience. To state this more clearly, the Church today is still in a high stakes war with the eternal souls of men hanging precariously in the balance, and most church members seem to be so preoccupied with themselves that they have completely forgotten or choose to ignore that very vital fact. Furthermore, if Christians as a whole would take their induction into the Army of Heaven seriously, they would realise that Satan is not some cartoon-like, pitchfork wielding buffoon; but rather a deadly, deceptive, formidable enemy with strengths and weapons far beyond that which frail human imaginations can comprehend.”

 

In this report I want to build on the whole concept of what Y’shua considers important for His Church while at the same time justify my statement that Ashley Evans, Brian Houston and an equally blind myriad are indeed leading their congregations down the wide road to perdition. I also raised the issue of unity in that last report and I would like to expand a little on that thought as well [and let us be reminded it is HIS Church and HE alone is building it, contrary to the delusions of the dominionists - Psalm 127:1]. Y’shua will NOT enlist the help of man to establish His Kingdom on earth, and the Kingdom of God on Earth is not and will not be revealed in the Church. The Kingdom of God will be established only at the Second Coming of Y’shua. He ALONE – without the aid of man – will establish His Kingdom, and He then will rule the entire earth from Jerusalem for 1,000 years otherwise known as The Millennium. Therefore, the socialistic kingdom now being constructed by the World Council of Churches and its high priests Rick Warren, Robert Schuller, Pope John Paul Whomever and other puerile, purpose-driven puppets is the [to be] short lived kingdom of Antichrist. Shock Horror!

 

As you will recall I have always been an exponent of the view that unity that comes at the cost of the truth is a unity not worth having. I am relentlessly unrepentant on that point and refuse to be persuaded otherwise because it is a biblically based contention. I am aware of all the ‘unity amongst the brethren’ verses often trotted out by those who believe in harmony at all costs, however true biblical unity is and must be gospel centric. Unity outside of biblical constraints is a false unity. Unity that compromises the church’s commission to preach the gospel (especially including the doctrine of sin) and make disciplined believers (disciples) of those who receive it by faith, is not a true unity and must be rejected no matter how appealing it may seem. Charles Spurgeon said, “Fellowship with known and vital error is participation in sin”. He also wrote, “That I might not stultify my testimony I have cut myself clear of those who err from the faith, and even from those who associate with them. Cost what it may to separate ourselves from those who separate themselves from the truth of God is not alone our liberty, but our duty.”

 

Author Bob DeWaay correctly states that there is no true Christian unity unless it is unity grounded in the Gospel of Y’shua. He writes:

 

“A regrettable development in current evangelicalism is that the term “gospel” is often used in a way that lacks the content of the gospel as preached by Christ and His apostles. Today we hear, “come to Jesus and have a better marriage,” or “come to Jesus and find purpose in life,” or “come to Jesus and He will solve your economic or emotional problems.” None of these statements is the gospel. First of all, do the hearers of this weak message know who Jesus is? Perhaps some are Mormons who claim to believe in Jesus, but have a different Jesus. Secondly, do those who hear this message know what Jesus did for them? Maybe they hear that Christ died on the cross; but why? If Jesus came to solve their marriage problems, give them a better job, or get them off of drugs, why did He need to die on the cross for these matters? This confuses people because it is confusing. Jesus could help people solve problems without dying on the cross. God has the power to give people better marriages and find them better jobs without having His only begotten Son killed by murderous rebels”.

 

The false “gospel” being preached today says that Y’shua came to save people from a lack of purpose, lack of happiness, or from living a stress filled and problem filled existence. The true gospel however delivers sinners who are God’s enemies (whether they know it or not) from God’s wrath through the blood atonement. This is the gospel Paul preached and this is the “faith of the gospel” around which Paul told the Philippians they should strive to unify. Any church that does not clearly and publicly preach this message from the pulpit, yet talks about “unity,” is promoting a false and man-made unity that is unbiblical.

 

The gospel says, “repent and believe.” If repentance is not preached, then the apostolic pattern is not being followed and the Great Commission is not being obeyed (see Luke 24:47). After God established a church in Ephesus through the gospel, Paul nurtured them. Here is his account of how he did so: “Therefore I testify to you this day, that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27). Whatever of God’s purpose is revealed is to be declared publicly. The implication is that the preacher who knows the whole counsel of God but fails to preach it is guilty before God.

 

The epistles show that Paul always publicly refuted teachings that were changes or additions to the gospel of God’s grace. God graciously saving people through the gospel is the beginning and foundation of Christian unity. Those who teach things that are not consistent with this principle threaten true Christian unity. Paul’s response to those people who preached the true gospel with bad motives as opposed to those who preached a false gospel show how important it is that the gospel is preached accurately. He rejoiced about the former (Philippians 1:18) and anathematized the latter (Galatians 1:9). The content of the gospel is everything. If we cannot get that right, we are in grave peril! Paul writes, “But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). The content is key; not how nice, kind, wonderful, or charming the preacher might be. If an angel from heaven preaching a different gospel should be rejected, how much more should some kindly pastor who seems so endearing. Some of the wolves devouring the church today are very nice people.

 

For Paul, to “Strive for the faith of the gospel” meant to fight all changes to the gospel and to challenge all compromises of the gospel. To so strive is the essence of Christian unity. But, when pastors tell their flock that members are violating Christian unity when they ask their pastors to preach the gospel—that is a perversion of the Biblical idea of unity. Those pastors are not concerned with the unity of the faith; they are concerned with conformity to their man-made agendas. Do not be intimidated by such persons. Those who strive for the faith of the gospel are true friends of Christian unity.

 

Bob goes on to point out: “The Bible is God’s unchanging authority for all true Christians throughout the church age. It stands to reason that the more our thinking and practice are in line with the Bible, the more unified we shall be. People with a love for God because of His work of grace through the gospel and a love for the truth of Scripture will be more unified with one another as they learn Scripture together. This is how the very first church came together: “And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). It should be obvious that the “apostle’s teaching” is found in the New Testament, not in some new book that appeals to the unregenerate mind. Recent movements are promoting small groups using Acts 2:42 as the proof text.4 This passage is not about the size of the group; but about what they did that nurtured their faith. It is a perversion of this text to use it to promote the study of anything besides a literal translation of the Bible.a

 

When human wisdom rather than God’s Word is preached in the public assembly, Christians are being robbed of one of God’s means of changing lives that would preserve the unity of the Spirit. When Christians are not nurtured with the “pure milk of the word” we are not progressing toward the ultimate goal of the “unity of the faith” (Ephesians 4:13). The words of man that are substituted for the Word of God are a hindrance to the unity of the faith. Though “life enhancement”b preachers may be popular because they appear to be more practical (i.e. relevant to the perceived needs of “seekers”), they have laid aside God’s agenda for the church.

 

Notice the problems that are to be laid aside: “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14). The winds of doctrine that are blowing people about and undermining their precious faith must be resisted. Equipping the saints with God’s Word will give them the spiritual strength to withstand these winds and to progress in true Christian unity.

 

In the New Testament, true unity is gospel-centric. The false unity that is being promoted today is not like that. In most cases it is unity under a religious leader’s “vision.” What is meant by the term “vision” is not the same as the Biblical usage. It is used in a modern marketing sense and relates to the leader’s mental image of what he wants the product and corporation to be like in the future.

 

The vision that is cast to church leaders and then to the whole congregation is a plan to achieve church growth by studying a target market group and designing a church service that will appeal to that targeted group. People from that group are enticed to join the church and help reach more people like themselves.c The clash comes because, to achieve this outcome, gospel preaching and pure Bible teaching from the pulpit have to go. Sinners need to hear the gospel to be converted. Regenerate Christians need Bible preaching and teaching to grow. The target group will never want it”.

 

The fact is that we are by nature objects of God wrath against sin (Ephesians 2:3). No unconverted sinner is going to say that he wants to hear that. The truth is that by nature we are rebels who trust self and man-made religion rather than come to God on His terms. Whatever “righteousness” we have before conversion is filthy rags. Which neighbourhood sinner is going to say that he wants to hear preaching on such things? What people need (for the gospel to be preached calling them to repent and believe) and what they want (to have their religious appetites met) are totally incompatible. If what they want determines the message of the church, the church will become useless salt without savour (Matthew 5:13).

 

Once the leaders have made one simple decision - that the prevailing concerns and needs of the unbelieving community will determine the program and message of the church - the inevitable result is that gospel preaching and Bible teaching cannot be the mainstay of the church.

 

Once it is adopted, the new corporate vision for church growth will change the nature of Christian unity. The vision is only successful if all the “team members” are willing to commit their talents, time and effort to in unity see the vision to fulfilment. Like the business corporation counterpart it was copied from, it requires everyone from the CEO to the warehouse workers to pull together for the same corporate vision and purpose. That is the reason books that train pastors to adopt this view and thereby change existing churches, teach them to be prepared to lose previous members, even most of them if it is necessary. They cannot succeed while spending energy trying to fight or cajole naysayers (i.e. true born again believers who think the gospel should be preached). The result is organizational unity under human authority in support of a corporate vision that has little to do with God’s true vision which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).

 

One tactic that is commonly used by leaders who are converting Biblically defined churches to religious organizations designed to meet the needs of religious consumers is to accuse those who resist of being “divisive.” They cite Bible verses to unsuspecting Christians who have tender consciences and do not wish to do anything that would be harmful to their churches. These Christians know something is wrong and they notice the church becoming more worldly, less godly, and placing less emphasis on important Biblical doctrines. These Christians are told they are dividing the body and that the Bible warns about such people: “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them” (Romans 16:17). The problem is that this verse is not about unity under a new corporate marketing plan. The verse says “contrary to the teaching which you learned” (i.e. from Paul).

 

Those who have replaced the unity of the Spirit and the unity of the faith with unity of the pastor’s personal vision are the truly divisive ones. They are guilty of the very charge they level against dissenters within the flock. Such leaders are causing dissensions and hindrances because they have willingly laid aside the teaching of Y’shua and His apostles in order to promote the wisdom of man.

 

Bob concludes the subject of true biblical unity this way:

 

Jesus said, “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division” (Luke 12:51). The gospel is divisive when preached to the unregenerate. Those who respond in faith are divided from those who reject it. Christian unity is unity under and through the gospel. It is created by God when He regenerates people and makes them one in spirit with other believers. It is nurtured through the teaching of sound Biblical doctrine that has as its goal the unity of the faith. False unity is unity that is demanded and prescribed by religious leaders to their own ideas and organizations. This is the unity that the religious leaders of Israel wanted and that Jesus threatened. His gospel divided their religious system and spoiled their unity. They decided they had to get rid of Him. The gospel will divide churches as well if they are not based on the gospel itself. The false unity of corporate vision to create growth through adding religious consumers to the organization will create a “church” that would be divided by the gospel if it were preached there. Those who promote pure gospel preaching are the friends of Christian unity. Those who promote man-centered “vision” for their religious systems are enemies of Christian unity. Be encouraged in your support for the gospel; the Bible says that you are pleasing Christ by so doing (Philippians 1:27).

 

And I couldn’t agree with him more!

 

In another brilliant and insightful article entitled: ”Church Health Award From Rick Warren or Jesus Christ? - A Study of the Seven Churches in Revelation” [which I wholeheartedly recommend you read Bob DeWaay concludes this report as he writes…

 

“The church in Laodicea was rebuked only and received no commendation. The one “attribute” that this church possessed was a positive self image: “Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17). The Laodicean church boasted of being healthy and prosperous. Ladd translates this, “I have gotten riches” pointing out that they did trust their own successful efforts.1 They were a strong, wealthy, successful church, at least in their own eyes. This attitude reflects the local attitude of the city, which was a very wealthy city that prided herself in having been rebuilt after an earthquake with no outside help.2

 

The Laodicean church was self-deluded. Perhaps the most dangerous time for the church (as is born out by church history) is when the church is wealthy and successful. It does not necessarily follow that an outwardly successful church must of necessity be one that has compromised. We need more information before we can make such an assessment (like whether the law and the gospel are being preached without compromise). However, the key problem is the thinking that because we are successful, therefore we must be pleasing to God. The Laodicean church makes it clear that such thinking can be the result of tragic self-delusion. This shows how badly we need objective criteria from God Himself to determine if what we are doing is pleasing to Him.

 

Here is what Jesus said to this seemingly “successful” but self-deluded church: I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I would that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth” (Revelation 3:15, 16). The common interpretation of this is that cold signifies the lost or spiritually dead, the hot signifies fervent Christians, and the lukewarm are complacent Christians.3 However, the passage is more likely a reference to local water supplies. Just north of Laodicea was Hierapolis famous for its hot springs that were deemed medicinal.4 Colossae was known for cold pure waters.5 Laodicea did not have a suitable water supply: “The city’s lukewarm, mineral-laden water was suitable only as a means to induce vomiting.”6 So the cold water was useful as was the hot water, but the Laodicean water was useless. The church was being rebuked for the spiritual uselessness of her “deeds.” Jesus was saying that the deeds of the Laodicean church were as nauseating to Him as their own local water was to them. What a graphic and stunning rebuke!

 

Jesus instructed this church, “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich, and white garments, that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see” (Revelation 3:18). Jesus spoke to their real needs which were many, not to their “perceived needs,” which were none. Refined “gold” would be spiritual wealth that has been through the refiner’s fire of testing and discipline.7 White garments are the righteousness of Jesus which, if they had received it by faith, would cover the embarrassment of their spiritual nakedness. The eye salve is another local allusion. Laodicea was famous for producing eye salve that was said to have curative power.8 They were spiritually blind and did not know it. Here was a church with a total lack of discernment, particularly concerning their own condition. Their wealth and success had blinded their eyes to their beggarly spiritual reality.

 

There is another passage in Jesus’ address to this church that needs comment in regard to the virtues and vices of churches. It is this famous passage: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20). This passage is not an evangelistic verse about a sinner asking Jesus into his or her heart as it is so often misused. It is an ironic rebuke to the Laodicean church. Dining should be understood in the context of Jewish table fellowship. Jesus used this concept to rebuke others who, like these Laodiceans, were self-sufficient and blind to their spiritual condition. For example He said this to His Jewish brethren who were not believing in Him: “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth there when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being cast out. And they will come from east and west, and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God (Luke 13:28, 29). When we receive communion in the manner the Lord prescribed we, “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1Corinthians 11:26b). True Christian fellowship is centered about the person and work of Jesus, and His spiritual presence in our midst. In Laodicea, the Lord Himself was excluded from their table fellowship. He asked to be brought back in. Mounce comments, “In their blind self-sufficiency they had, as it were, excommunicated the risen Lord from their congregation.”9

 

It is unconscionable to many to even consider that today’s charismatic movement is in any way Laodicean but as is evidenced by their behaviour this is precisely what it is. Tragically, their blindness denies them the sight to see and their pride the humility to look. In light of what Bob DeWaay has written and what Scripture clearly teaches it is sheer lunacy to believe the ‘church’ would be more effective in the world if it were amassed with wealth, power and popularity, let alone engaged in worldly behaviour in order to ‘attract’ the lost. This is the very deception that has cast its long, foreboding shadow across the Laodicean church throughout the ages. The reasoning of the Purpose Driven Church Growth movement is carnal, worldly and bound for the pit. As we have seen Scripture itself testifies against it. Contrary to the train of thought guiding this movement, when engaging in God’s work, the end does NOT justify the means. God’s work is to be performed God’s way. Says author Mac Dominick, “Co-operation, collaboration and/or commensuration with the ungodly in religious efforts is specifically forbidden in Scripture; to pragmatically use the outcome of such efforts as justification of the method is a serious departure from the teaching of the Word of God.”

 

Notice if you will how the dissenting churches were rebuked: Ephesus for departing from its first love. It had become so mission oriented it forgot about the One who had commissioned them. Pergamum for violating the Lord’s grace by indulging in pagan practices. Thyatira for choosing economic wealth and prosperity over the purity of the faith and for tolerating false teaching. Sardis for having an outward appearance of Godliness, enjoying all the accolades but having a dead heart and finally Laodicea for its absolute arrogance, cowardice, vanity and pride. Sounds exactly like Rick Warren’s model for the ‘healthy’ church.

 

The Father declares that His thoughts are not our thoughts nor His was our ways.

High time we remembered that.

Bob goes on to say…

 

Rick Warren claims that doctrine is so unimportant that God will not even ask about it: “God won’t ask about your religious background or doctrinal views.”10 Jesus made doctrine very important and rebuked those who tolerated false doctrine: “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Jesus does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Jesus has both the Father and the Son.” (2John 1:9 NKJV)

 

Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven life never explains the blood atonement in the context of the gospel or salvation. Jesus commended overcomers – people are overcomers because of the blood of the Lamb. Since Warren’s readers and followers do not hear anything from him about the blood atonement or the wrath of God against sin, they have no way to become overcomers.

 

The church leaders who follow Rick Warren are told that if they follow his campaign and are typical of other churches that do, they will grow 20 percent in attendance and 20 percent in money. Jesus doesn’t care about attendance or money. Those who follow Rick Warren are investing in that which does not matter.

 

Rick Warren sets up his Saddleback Church as the role model for others to follow if they wish to be “healthy.” His positive self-assessment rivals that of the Laodicean church. He tells his followers of his many achievements as proved by numbers and the accolades of man. Jesus called another church like that “lukewarm” and threatened to spew it out of His mouth.

 

Rick Warren compromises with the pagans like the churches Jesus rebuked. He uses pagan principles in his SHAPE program which was inspired by Carl Jung’s questionable theories.11 He teaches pagan “prayer” practices such as “breath prayers” which are designed to induce altered states of consciousness.12 He consults compromisers such as Robert Schuller and encourages others to do the same.

 

Rick Warren ultimately fails to “confess” in a manner that would set his teaching apart from the beliefs of the world. His non-offensive gospel is not the one Paul preached. He has opened the wide gates of compromise and obscured the narrow gate that leads to salvation. There is no such thing as a non-confessing overcomer.

 

Conclusion

The church belongs to Jesus, not to man. Jesus, as the head of the church, will ultimately judge His church. In order to make it possible to repent before it is too late, Jesus gave us the seven inspired messages to the seven churches so that we might know what He commends and what He condemns. The great danger for each of us is self-delusion. We tend to not see ourselves realistically. Instead we think that surely we epitomize the virtues and avoid the vices. The only way to avoid such self-delusion is to carefully and objectively study what Jesus has said. Having made such a study, we need to look at ourselves and our churches, humbly asking how these things apply to our own situation.

 

We are getting a lot of bad advice from the contemporary, evangelical culture. This bad advice virtually ignores everything Jesus said was important to Him in His churches. What He cares about is deemed irrelevant for popular, “healthy” churches today. In closing, let us consider the words of our Lord as spoken to the Laodicean church: “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent” (Revelation 3:19).

 

Amen to that!

 

 

Tony Dean

Moriah Ministries Australia

©2007

 

 

 

End Notes

 

 

a.        Examples of good, literal translations are KJV; NKVJ; NASB; and the ESV (the new English Standard Version). The NIV is a readable version that mostly gives a good sense of the author’s meaning. Paraphrases should be avoided for serious Bible Study.  I have debated some who claim that since the New Testament was not written then, they obviously were not studying it, so we cannot use Acts 2:42 as proof of the need for studying the New Testament. However, that they were discussing the teachings of the then living apostles that they heard orally and that we instead study their authoritative writings is not substantially different. It is still the teachings of the apostles.

b.        From Ray Comfort’s sermon Hell’s Best Kept Secret.

c.         Dan Southerland, Transitioning – Leading Your Church Through Change; (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1999) is a “how to manual” for this type of process. In it he admits he lost 300 previous members, with not preaching the gospel being one of the complaints. But the process of converting to Purpose Driven resulted in a church of 2,000 members. This book is promoted by Rick Warren who wrote the forward and it is an eye-opener for those who ask, “what happened to my church.” There is a sophisticated plan that is laid out to intentionally change the church for the purpose of church growth and by the means of making the church appealing to the average, potential religious consumer.

1.    George Eldon Ladd, Commentary on the Revelation of John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972) 66

2.    http://www.ourfatherlutheran.net/biblehomelands/sevenchurches/laodicea/laodictxt.htm

3.    See Ryan Habbena’s article published in CIC issue 59: http://www.twincityfellowship.com/cic/articles/issue59.pdf ; Ryan corrects this misinterpretation.

4.    Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation in The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans revised edition, 1998) 109.

5.    Ibid.

6.    http://www.ourfatherlutheran.net/biblehomelands/sevenchurches/laodicea/laodictxt.htm

7.    See Malachi 3:3 and 1Peter 1:7. Genuine faith will stand the test of fire that burns up dead works and leaves only that which is pure.

8.    Mounce, 111.

9.    Ibid. 113.

10.    Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 2002) 34.

11.    James Sundquist, Who’s Driving the Purpose Driven Chruch?; (Bethany, OK: Bible Belt Publishing, 2004) 149-171 establishes the connection between SHAPE and Carl Jung. Jung was an occultist.

12.    Warren, 89.

 

 

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