Are our leaders wimping out?
... and in doing so producing wimpy believers unwilling and unable to contend for the Faith?
... exhorting you that you should earnestly contend for the faith
which was once delivered unto all believers ~ Jude 3
Are some of our leaders wimping out, compromising important doctrines of the Faith in an effort to keep the boat from rocking? The answer is "Yes." Clearly, not all leaders; however, far more than anyone would have guessed just a few years ago! The most recent example: the pastor of one of the largest Assembly of God churches in Northern California. (I'll call him "Pastor X" - though I used his actual name and the name of his church in the public censure I sent out.) He succeeded to the position of senior pastor following his father's retirement in 1995. His father and I knew each other well; in fact, he personally dedicated the church I helped to found. In addition, he and I worked on several important projects together, including (1) a large prophecy conference in 1990, (2) several worship conferences, and
(3) the "Rogue River Fellowship" under the leadership of the late Pastor Ray Stedman (Press this link
Just in case you happen to think I'm alone in rebuking Christian leaders for the compromises so many are making, press this link for Jackie's similar rebuke. She's speaking to black congregations, but her rebuke is even more applicable to white congregations. More and more believers are complaining about such compromises and wanting to see their leaders develop a backbone.
There's no doubt that Pastor X has been championing "emergent church" values for the last several years. What exactly he's been touting is made clear in an article published in the Sacramento Bee on Sunday, July 13, 2014. Two matters to keep in mind: (1) it's an interview and, therefore, no one is putting words in his mouth; he's speaking for himself; and (2) it's recent, having been published a little less than two years ago. Simply reading the article should make clear Pastor X's flirtation with "emergent church" values; however, to underscore that point, I've commented on several quotes included in the article.
Concerning common ground with other faiths,
this is Pastor X's comment - a direct quote:
"I know the Quran is a great source of wisdom in understanding who God is. We share four of the five pillars of Islam: there is only one God; daily prayers; give to the poor and help the hurting; and fasting, self-control and self discipline."
It should be obvious that it's not what we share in common, but what we don't share in common that's all important: that Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Godhead and that redemption is found him alone - "for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12).Searching for common ground upon which to build friendship can be a laudable objective; however, it's not our friendship that persons of other faiths need the most from us, it's the gospel. That alone will save them. Nothing else! Let's be honest: to play up the so-called common features of our respective faiths inevitably plays down the utter importance of the features that separate us. And, once again, it's the features that separate us that are all important - and in the end will determine our eternal fate.
But that's not all! How can an evangelical pastor lend any credibility at all to the Quran, calling it a "source of wisdom and understanding" concerning the nature of God - and not just that, but a "great source of wisdom and understanding?" How is that possible? At the risk of seeming insensitive and impolitic, the Quran is a work of the devil - plain and simple. Past generations of evangelical leaders had no problem saying that. What's happened? It's that many evangelical leaders are desperately searching for a means of avoiding the hostility that holding to the faith in these troubling times inevitably spawns. Our leaders need to be drawn from a much sterner mold.
this is Pastor X's comment - a direct quote:
"It (meaning Pastor X's changed perspective on homosexuality) is something I've grown into the last five or six years. Life is a journey, and we should always be learning and growing along the way. It's OK to have strong beliefs and convictions, but when we make that the only message, it becomes a dividing line that doesn't help us build community with others who don't see things quite the way we do. I had a revelation that God wants us to find ways to love people and not separate them. God's heart of love for each of us is equal. Homosexuality's still a complex subject and can cause some to be judgmental. I can maintain convictions but don't have to impose those convictions on people who don't share them."
"Life is a journey and we should always be learning and growing along the way!"
Note the emphasis on change. Change is what postmodern relativism celebrates and extols. Change for its own sake. It's a mark of intellectual respectability. For a postmodernist, nothing is more terrifying than being trapped by intellectual constraints that won't bend. The wording here is almost word for word what Rob Bell and Brian Mclaren use to preface all their lectures, articles, and books. (For Rob Bell, press this link
; for Brian Mclaren, press this link
No one disagrees that changes in our understanding and perspective of scriptural truth occur over the course of a life-time - and to highlight that is little more than a red herring: it leads believers to overlook the more important fact that the Bible consists of a core set of beliefs that are not subject to change; that are by and large immutable; beliefs we're told to "contend earnestly for" (Jude 3), resisting any attempt to alter or modify them; beliefs that define what it means to be faithful on the one hand and unfaithful on the other.
One of those core beliefs is that Jesus Christ is first and foremost a savior
. To save us from what? From the penalty of sin
! As obvious as that seems, it's implications are being lost sight of - that sin is what salvation is all about
; that to play down the gravity of sin or to redefine either its nature or the many specific examples of sin cited in the Bible (e.g., 1 Corinthians 6:9) is to undermine the true meaning of Christ as Savior
. That's precisely what's at issue in the struggle over homosexuality. And it's what Pastor X seems to have lost sight of.
But homosexuality is only one example of sins that are being played down by "emergent church" leaders. Other sins are also being redefined - to the point that the truly egregious nature of sin is being trivialized and disregarded. Is it any wonder that over the last thirty years or so, it's Christ as Friend
who's been highlighted, not Christ as Savior
? And that means we're losing the true meaning and significance of the Christian Faith?
Pastor X goes on to underscore the need to build community
with men and women of other faiths - especially the leaders
of other faiths. And, yes, the Bible speaks often of "building community."
But it's the community of faith
that the Bible encourages us to pursue. None other. It's not possible to build genuine
community with the unsaved. It's a truth Paul stresses to the point of warning believers against marrying anyone who's not "of the faith" (2 Corinthians 6:14).
Pastor X warns us against establishing dividing lines between ourselves and the adherents of other faiths - implying that division is an evil that needs always to be jettisoned. But that's not what Jesus teaches. He clearly warns us that becoming his disciple will inevitably cause division (Matthew 10:35). Let's be honest: the gospel itself
causes division. Division always follows in the wake of the gospel. And if the gospel we're preaching doesn't cause division, we should question its authenticity. The chances are good that we've watered it down to the point that it's no longer genuine.
And that brings us to Pastor X's remark, "God wants us to find ways to love people and not separate them
." But proving our love for the unsaved by tearing down walls of separation misses the mark altogether. God's love of mankind is proven by the Cross - which, however, if not embraced will reveal the other side of God: his wrath arising from his holiness. And that's a truth the unsaved will never embrace with equanimity. But unless we make that an integral part of the gospel message we preach, what we preach will never be real. Could it be that's why the evangelical church has not grown over the last thirty years - that we've been preaching a gospel that's not real - that lacks power?
Two more points that Pastor X stresses in the interview: that (1) homosexuality is a complex issue and (2) we should never impose our convictions on others. It's hard for me to fathom how any evangelical pastor could possibly lend credibility to either of these points.
To say that homosexuality is a complex subject is nothing more than another of Pastor X's red herrings. It's not complex at all. It's very plainly declared in both the Old and the New Testaments. (Press here
for five articles I've written to make clear why homosexuality is proscribed). It's not that it's a complex issue; it's that teaching against homosexuality stirs up so much animosity and rage.
And, finally, Pastor X's last point: that we should avoid imposing our convictions on others who don't share them. Good grief! So much for the gospel! I can't begin to tell you how many persons I've pursued over the years for Christ who have thought me rude and intrusive - bent on imposing my convictions on them; and, yet, how many of them over the years have repented and have been saved - and have returned to thank me for not giving up on them.
More Compromises here
Sacramento Pastors in Conference with
Recently, here in Sacramento a group of evangelical leaders, senior pastors of some of the area's largest churches, agreed to dialogue with several homosexuals. An unrepentant, flagrant homosexual activist was among those invited to attend. He's President of the Evangelical Network, an organization promoting the claim that homosexual behavior is not sinful and that practicing homosexuals should be vouchsafed full inclusion in evangelical churches.
Once again, I decided that remaining silent was not a very courageous option; that doing so would only further distort the meaning of the gospel message here in Sacramento. My reply began with an admonition, "You are being called upon to leave your comfort zone." The full text is reprinted below ...
The Full Text
For many evangelical leaders, the fear of hostility is what lies behind their growing willingness to dialogue with homosexual activists. Just recently, a homosexual activist sent me a video documenting a dialogue between evangelical pastors and homosexual leaders, insisting that though it does not prove that the longstanding prohibition against homosexuality has been overthrown, it does indeed reveal that there's a growing willingness to discuss it. And for many within the homosexual community that's enough - at least for the time being! It's a significant break in the dam, a break they're convinced will eventually lead to its complete collapse. In short, they're using dialogue to prod evangelicals in the pews to harbor second thoughts about the prohibition against homosexuality - to, at the very least, justify questioning it.
And it's working! Though most evangelicals continue to endorse the prohibition against homosexuality, many of them are no longer willing to affirm their opposition publicly. The cost of doing so, they believe, is prohibitive. And, after all, if their leaders appear to be questioning it, even if some are not actually doing so, why not just let it alone. It's not worth the risk. Let sleeping dogs lie!
Once again, what evangelical leaders are doing, whether inadvertently or not, is producing wimps, both unable and unwilling to face up to the ever mounting opposition against the Christian Faith - its apparent bigotry and narrow minded intolerance.
What's truly telling in so many of the dialogues is the obvious reticence of the participating evangelical pastors to declare blatantly and forthrightly that homosexuality is an egregious sin - and unless repented of and thoroughly forsaken warrants excommunication. Instead, what we all too often get is equivocation:
- "This is my interpretation."
- "This is what God has shown me so far."
- "My journey of faith has not led me to conclude that homosexuality is acceptable."
That's all nonsense, pure and simple! Again, what we have here is an unwillingness to declare that the Bible condemns homosexuality, and that's the end of it; and then, without getting angry or bitter or demeaning, to courageously withstand whatever hostility follows in the wake of standing firm.
There seems to be little or no willingness on their part to break off the dialogue even when its only purpose is to debate the legitimacy of homosexuality. Let's be honest: continuing the dialogue at that point inevitably gives the appearance that the prohibition against homosexuality is, in point of fact, a debatable issue.
Homosexuality - the Leading Edge
Homosexuality is the leading edge of the changes "emergent" church leaders are promoting. And if homosexuality is played down, so is sin generally. But, once again, sin is what the gospel is all about - it's the sum and substance of Jesus' messianic mission: deliverance from both its penalty and its power! In playing down the significance of sin, we're eviscerating the meaning of the gospel message.
Once again, Jesus as Savior is no longer what's being preached from some pulpits. It's Jesus as Friend. It's Jesus as Mentor. It's Jesus as Guide. And it's not that Jesus can't be our friend; it's that first and foremost he's our savior - and if not our savior, then our judge, whether at the Bema or the Great White Throne. It's that simple!
Dialogue is fine so long as its purpose is to force a flat-out confrontation with Jesus Christ. Our purpose is not to win friends, but to win sinners to Christ. Our purpose is not to find ways of negotiating a modus vivendi with the world, but to declare war against the world.
Here's the Point
Our love and compassion for homosexuals is revealed in our desperation to see them saved; and that's possible only if we confront them with their sin. How complicated is that?
We Need to Toughen Up
Matthew 24 clearly warns believers that apostasy will be a characteristic feature of both the Birth Pangs era and the Tribulation itself. It calls upon believers to be on guard against it, and to step away from it when it surfaces; to vigorously resist it; to contend earnestly for "the faith once delivered" (Jude 1:3).
Apostasy Arising from the
Fear of Hostility
Once again, much of the apostasy spreading throughout the evangelical church arises from the fear of incurring the hostility of apologists for a secular culture awash in immorality. And Matthew 24 tells us that this hostility will only get worse; that, furthermore, any attempt to placate it will result only in more and more compromises that gut the gospel message. Once again, we need to toughen up!
Look for Another Church
I can be any more out front and straight forward than this ...
- if the leaders of your church are engaged in an ongoing dialogue with leaders of another faith and attempting to play down the differences that distinguish yours from theirs, or
- if they're minimizing the egregious nature of sin, especially the sin of homosexuality, and are instead preaching a gospel that's not set against the backdrop of sin ...
... don't kid yourself: it's time to raise a ruckus. Your church's standing before God is at stake. Respectfully confront your leaders; and if they won't back off, find another church that's clearly committed to Christian orthodoxy. That's right! That's what I said: find another church that doesn't compromise the truths of the gospel. It will keep you safe from being defiled and, hopefully, will shake up the leadership of the church you've left.
We live in a culture that extols diversity and tolerance. And inevitably that means any faith (1) claiming exclusive legitimacy for itself and denying that same legitimacy to all other faiths and (2) highlights the gravity of sin runs the risk of exposing its adherents to ridicule - and, increasingly, to outright persecution. But that's the Christian Faith! And to go out of our way to avoid the hostility that's becoming an ever more salient feature of our culture is to abandon our faith.
Once again ...
Are your leaders wimping out?
... and in doing so producing wimpy believers unwilling and unable to contend for the Faith?
You need to answer this question!