95 Theses to the Modern Evangelical Church

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I’m sitting here with my sweats and pink Yankees cap on, sipping on a Caramel Macchiato (with extra caramel) from Starbucks, taking in my surroundings, observing the calm and return to normalcy after a fatal series of tornadoes swept through the southeast less than 24 hours ago.

It was my intention to take a “vacation” from OITC this week, just to relax my brain a little bit and replenish my “tank” (my fuel gauge was getting low ;-)). But then, I came across this article, and got a recharge of energy! Although I can’t say I agree with each of the 95, I do find most of them to be accurate and noteworthy, and at the very least, worthy of discussion. It’s always a blessing to find that there are people who share your passion and perspective on the things that mean something to you. Restoring God’s order to the church means something to me, and apparently, I’m not alone. In the last week or so, the Lord has blessed me with some really amazing Kingdom connections. I can’t begin to tell you how blessed I am to have made the acquaintance of men and women of God who are also committed to sounding the alarm as a warning to the body of Christ that we’re missing the mark consistently, and heading in the wrong direction, with great speed and fervor.

I’m so excited to share this with you. Thanks to Pastor Saiko Woods for sharing the link.

Please comment below and let me know what you think.

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95 Theses to the Modern Evangelical Church by Greg Gordon

I believe many need to hear these truths and they are shared in the humility of my weakness and lack in my own Christian Life. May all of these lead people to experience the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ and to proclaim His Gospel clearly and accurately. May God in His mercy come and revive, reform and renew North American Christianity for His glory alone. “May the Lamb of God receive the reward of His sufferings in our lives today!”  – Greg Gordon

1. The “church” at large has forgotten that the chief end of man is to glorify God. (Rom 16:27; 1Cor 6:20; Mt 6:9; 1Cor 10:31)

2. Christians ignore most of the methods, practices and principles found in the book of Acts. (Acts 2:42,44; Acts 2:46; Acts 2:38)

3. Many treat “church” like any other social club or sports event that they might attend. (Acts 2:46; Heb 10:25; Acts 1:14)

4. We’ve made Christianity about the individual rather than the community of believers. (Rom 12:5; 1Cor 12:12; 2Tim 4:16)

5. In most “churches” the priesthood of all believers isn’t acknowledged and the role of pastor is abused. (1Pt 2:9; 1Cor 12:12; Eph 4:11-13)

6. The “church” as a whole has lost the concept of their being grafted into the promises given to Israel. (Rom 11:15, 17-18, 20, 25)

7. There needs to be a recovery of teaching the whole counsel of God, especially in expository form. (Acts 20:27; 1Tim 4:6, 2Tim 2:15)

8. We take it too lightly that we have the blessing and honor of having God’s Scriptures in our possession. (Ps 119:16; Acts 13:44; Neh 8:9)

9. There has never been more access to the Word of God, yet so little reading of it. (1Tim 4:13; Neh 8:1-3; Ps 119:59)

10. Some read the Scriptures to attain knowledge, but do not practice what they read. (Jam 1:22; Mt 7:21; 3Jn 4)

11. Worship has become an idol in many “churches.” The music often resembles that of the world. (Amos 5:23; Phil 4:8; 1Jn 5:21)

12. The world is shaping the views of the “church” more than the “church” shaping the world. (Rom 12:2; Mt 5:13; 1Cor 1:22-23)

13. The “church” spends more money on dog food than on missions. (2Cor 9:6; Lk 21:2; Acts 4:34-35)

14. We take lightly the cost of discipleship laid out by Jesus Christ and do not deny our lives. (Lk 14:33; Lk 14:26-27; Mt 8:19-20)

15. There is a lack of true discipleship and making others to be obedient disciples. (Mt 28:20; 2Tim 2:2; 2Tim 2:14)

16. Many subscribe to the error that parts of life are to be spiritual while others are to be secular. (1Pt 4:2; Col 3:3; 1Jn 2:6)

17. Modern Christians often find Jesus’ command to sacrifice and serve abhorrent. (Phil 2:21; Jam 3:16; Rom 12:1-2)

18. Self disciplines in the Christian life such as fasting and praying are considered legalistic. (2Tim 2:21; 2Tim 1:8; Mt 6:17)

19. Little thought and contemplation is put towards the lostness of men, the seriousness of the Gospel. (Phil 3:8; Gal 2:20; Heb 10:34)

20. We are living with an epidemic of cheap grace with flippant confession and shallow consecration. (Lk 14:28-30; Lk 14:26; Jam 4:8)

21. Since the inception of the Church, the Gospel had the requirements of repentance and discipleship. (Acts 2:38; Lk 14:26; Jn 8:31)

22. Now forgiveness is offered without repentance, discipleship without obedience, salvation without sanctity. (Heb 10:29; 4:11; Lk 13:24)

23. Introspection, counting the cost, godly sorrow over sin, are all foreign to many in the “church.”(Acts 2:37; Ps 119:9; Heb 6:1-2)

24. The modern church loves itself more than its neighbor. (1Cor 3:3; Gal 5:13; Phil 2:3)

25. The church must repent of its idolization of personality, and of business principles. (2Cor 2:17; 1Cor 3:5; 1Cor 12:23)

26. Many elders and pastors of the “church” sadly are fleecing the flock to supply their own wants. (Jn 10:12-13; 1Pt 5:2-3; Rev 2:15)

27. The qualities most in demand in today’s pastorate are frequently foreign to the Scriptures. (1Tim 3:2-3; 1Tim 3:5; 1Tim 1:5-7)

28. The professionalization of the pastorate is a sin and needs to be repented of. (2Cor 11:13; Gal 3:1; Gal 2:6)

29. There must be repentance for the ambitious desire and idolization of the celebrity pastorate. (3Jn 9; Jer 17:5; 1Cor 12:22)

30. Pastors must trust the Spirit, not statistics. (2Sam 24:1; 1Cor 1:25; Rom 8:14)

31. Modern day prophets are being stoned by criticism and neglect. (2Tim 4:3-4; Gal 1:10; Jer 1:7-8)

32. God’s prophets are ill-treated and shunned by most “christians” who consider them too extreme. (Jer 6:10; Isa 6:9-10; Gal 4:16)

33. The prophets prophesy falsely, priests rule by their own power; and my people love to have it so. (Mt 24:4, 11-12; 1Cor 1:19, Jude 8 )

34. There are many false gospels being preached from pulpits in our day. (2Cor 11:4; Gal 1:8-9; Jude 16)

35. There is an epidemic of a “mock” salvation message. It is correct in doctrine, but false in reality. (2Cor 3:6; 1Jn 5:11-12; Rom 8:9)

36. A salvation that does not make men holy is trusted in by a deceived multitude. (Jude 4; Rom 8:1; Rom 6:17-18)

37. There is a needed perseverance in the truths of the Gospel without unbelief. (Eph 1:1; Heb 6:11-12; Heb 10:26-27)

38. A great need is to see “christians” become saints in actual experience. (1Jn 2:29; Col 3:5-8; Tit 3:8)

39. Many professors of religion are forbidding people to be a part of the holy body of Christ. (Mt 23:13; Ps 119:1-2; 2Pt 1:3-4)

40. Preaching has become all about the happiness of man and not the glory of God. (Jn 6:26; Rom 4:20; 1Pt 4:11)

41. Preachers give smooth words to entice men, yet very few give any words of correction or rebuke. (Jer 6:14; Pro 1:23; 1Tim 5:20)

42. Run from gospels that focus on our success and prosperity in the name of Jesus Christ. (Jn 2:16; Acts 20:33; Jer 6:13)

43. Run from gospels that focus on self-improvement. (1Tim 6:5; Heb 12:14; Jam 4:14)

44. Run from churches where men, and not Christ, are glorified. (Col 1:18; Jude 25; Jn 16:14)

45. Run from churches where there is no Bible, no cross, no mention of the blood of Christ. (1Pt 1:18-19; Eph 3:13; Rev 1:5)

46. Run from churches where the worship leaves you cold, where there’s no sense of God’s presence. (1Cor 5:4; Ps 80:14-15; Jer 12:11)

47. Run from churches where you’re comfortable in your sin. (1Cor 14:25; Heb 10:30-31; Heb 4:13)

48. Run from churches that use the pulpit of God for a personal agenda. (Jude 10-11,19; 3Jn 9)

49. Run from those who preach division between races and cultures. (Jam 2:4, Gal 3:28, Rev 5:9)

50. Run from ungodly, spasmodic movements and endless empty prophesying. (Jer 5:13; 1Cor 14:33, 1Jn 2:16)

51. Run from preachers who tell mostly stories and jokes. (Eph 5:4; Tit 1:8; 2:12)

52. Run from those that are only after money, who use one gimmick after another to get your money. (2Pt 2:3; 2Cor 12:14; 1Cor 9:18)

53. The phrase “accept Jesus as your personal Saviour” is not found in the Scriptures. (Rom 10:9-10; Col 1:13; Acts 26:20)

54. Evidence of true conversion does not seem important to modern day Christians. (1Jn 2:6; 1Jn 4:17; Mt 7:20)

55. Thousands of sinners think of God as having only one attribute: Love! But they continue in sin. (Rom 1:18; Acts 5:11; Ps 2:12)

56. “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life!” has hindered true evangelism. (Rom 3:19; Acts 26:18; Phil 3:18-21)

57. A Gospel of love and grace only, without the law of God being preached. This is a doctrine of Satan. (2Tim 4:3-4; Rom 2:4-5; 3:19)

58. There has clearly arisen a careless mixture of 20th century reasoning with God’s revelation. (Col 2:8; Rom 1:25; Gal 1:6)

59. Decisionism and the “sinner’s prayer” has been a major cause of false conversions in the “church.” (2Pt 2:1-2; Eph 2:4-5; 2Cor 5:17-18)

60. Many will be surprised to hear Jesus say, “I never knew you, depart from me.” (Mt 7:22-23; 1Cor 6:9-10; Gal 5:19-21)

61. Men have taken the place of the Holy Spirit in confirming men in their supposed salvation. (1Jn 2:3-5; 2Ths 1:8; Gal 6:12-15)

62. The doctrine of hell and eternal suffering is something little grasped by most professing “christians.” (Mt 13:42; Jam 5:1; Ps 9:17)

63. The judgment seat of Christ is perhaps one of the most neglected topics in the modern pulpit. (2Cor 5:10; Rom 14:10; 1Cor 3:13)

64. The second coming of Christ needs to be re-instated as the church’s general thrust and burden. (1Jn 3:2-3; Col 3:4-6; 1Ths 4:14-17)

65. The church has lost the fear of God and has over emphasized the love of God. (Heb 12:28-29; Lk 12:5; Heb 10:31)

66. The church has left evangelism to a few trained professionals. (Acts 8:1,4; Acts 4:29; Rom 10:14)

67. Repentance is considered a one-time act in modern evangelism rather than a way of life. (Rev 3:19; Heb 12:17; 2Pt 3:9)

68. The Lordship of Jesus Christ is something that is not taught in many pulpits. (Acts 2:36; 1Cor 12:3; Rom 6:18)

69. Many in “churches” are not open to correction, church discipline or rebuke. (1Cor 5:5; 1Cor 11:31-32; Heb 12:7-9)

70. Some preach salvation as a theory instead of persuading men to come to Christ. (Jn 5:40; Col 1:28; 2Cor 4:5)

71. There has been a loss of the fullness and majesty of the gospel. (1Tim 1:11; Jude 25; Rom 15:29)

72. There is little mention of sin or the depravity of man from “church” pulpits. (Jn 3:20; Gal 5:19-21; Eph 5:5)

73. Covetousness, consumerism, and coddling of the world’s goods does not appear wrong. (Jer 22:17; 1Jn 2:15-16; 1Tim 3:3)

74. Little is made of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in churches or in evangelism. (1Cor 15:14-15; Acts 4:10, 33)

75. The “church” has relied more on technology than God. (Zech 4:6; 1Cor 1:21; 2:4)

76. The prayer meeting is considered one of the least important meetings in the “church.” (1Tim 2:1; Acts 4:31; Phil 4:6)

77. Pastors have never prayed less than they do in the “church” today. (Jer 10:21; Phil 2:21; Eph 6:18-19)

78. Very few are waiting on God for His direction and purpose for His Church. (Eph 1:11; Ps 37:7; Isa 40:31)

79. The “church” has many organizers, but few agonizers. (Phil 3:18-19; Rom 9:1-3; Jer 9:1)

80. We need to have the gifts of the Spirit restored again to the “church.” (2Tim 4:2; 1Cor 14:39; 1Cor 12:31)

81. A serious, sober, self-controlled Christianity is very seldom found or preached. (2Pt 3:11; 1Pt 4:7; Jude 3)

82. The “church” at large has forgotten how to pray. (1Jn 3:22; Acts 6:4; 1Ths 5:17)

83. Many “churches” are more dependent on tradition than the leading of the Holy Spirit. (Mk 7:13; Acts 16:6; Acts 13:2)

84. Multitudes of professors preach and teach: that you cannot be freed from sin. (Rom 16:18; Rom 6:1-2; 2Pt 2:1)

85. The Apostles and Christ always preached the possibility to walk free from the bondage of sin. (Tit 2:11-12; 1Pt 1:14-16; Rom 6:19)

86. Sinners are not saved to sin, but rather, saved to holiness and good works. (Rom 6:13; Eph 2:10; 2Pt 3:14)

87. Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. (2Tim 2:19; 1Pt 4:17-18; 2Tim 3:12)

88. A baptism of holiness, a demonstration of godly living, is the crying need of our day. (1Tim 6:3; 2Ths 3:6; 2Ths 2:13)

89. Many are confused about obedience and the good works that are readily mentioned in the Scriptures. (Tit 3:8; Jn 10:32; Rev 3:15)

90. Little emphasis is put on the plan of God to make us like Jesus Christ in “churches.” (1Pt 1:14-16; 1Jn 2:6; 1Pt 4:1)

91. Christ did not die on the cross to obtain a worldly “church” but for a “glorious Church.” (Eph 5:27; Tit 2:14; Col 4:12)

92. Christ does not come into an unregenerate and impure heart as many contemporary theologians say. (2Cor 5:17; Mt 5:8; Eze 18:31)

93. A holy Church is God’s blessing to the world; an unholy “church” is God’s judgment upon the world. (Mt 5:14,16; Eph 4:1; 1Ths 2:12)

94. If Christianity is to make any headway in the present time, it must be proved to be more than a theory. (2Ths 3:6-7; 1Ths 4:1,11-12)

95. Unbelief has gagged and bound us as risen Lazarus! We need release in this final hour! (Heb 3:12-14; 1Cor 3:21-23; Heb 11:6)

Nominate Order in the Church! for the 2011 Black Weblog Awards

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Greetings! The Black Weblog Awards have been recognizing the best Black bloggers since 2005. This year, for the first time, the awards will be presented at a Live Awards Show in Los Angeles, California. Order in the Church! is eligible for nomination in several categories, and your support would mean the world to me! 

Click to nominate Order in the Church!

I am seeking nomination in the following categories:

  • Best Faith-Based Blog
  • Best New Blog
  • Best Writing in a Blog
  • Blogs to Watch

Please click on the BWA image on your left and complete the quick and simple form (it probably won’t take you longer than 30 seconds – seriously). Copy and paste this URL: http://orderinthechurch.com into each category listed above, and press the “submit” button at the bottom of the page. Yep. That’s all. (Now, if you REALLY want to be a doll, you’ll forward the link to all your friends and family, and ask them to nominate OITC as well. :-)) Nominations end on May 7th. Oh, and one last favor to ask: Will you PLEASE use the Facebook and Twitter buttons at the bottom of this post to share this page with all your FB friends and Twitter followers? I would SO appreciate that.

I started OITC to get some things off my chest and clear up some “traffic” in my mind. As I’ve said before, I was once challenged to stop complaining about the church and DO SOMETHING about it. I didn’t know what somebody like me could do… until I realized that Order in the Church! is my way of “doing something.” This blog is my contribution to the cause. My goal is to share this exhortation with as many as I can to start conversation about this all over the country. The Lord’s Church simply does not reflect what He designed it to be, and it’s time we stop ignoring it and start fixing it. The Black Weblog Awards is one sure way to bring attention to the cause. If you believe in this message (or if you just like me :-)), please nominate OITC today.

Click here to learn more about the Black Weblog Awards.

The Good Friday Edition: 10 Things to Try Before You Give Up on The Church

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Happy Good Friday to all of you! I hope you’ve enjoyed a very peaceful and solemn week of reflection on the sacrifice Jesus made for you and me, over 2000 years ago. Because of His blood, we have the right to full remission of our sins, and after all these years, the cleansing, healing, saving, delivering power of the blood of Jesus STILL works! Whew… that made me want to bust out in a song!

Okay, I’m back. Whew!!! So here we go… the Good Friday Edition.

Before You Give Up on Church…

1. Spend more time “in the mirror” (figuratively, of course). One problem we have in the church is that everybody thinks everyone else is the problem. Philippians 2:3 (AMP) says “Do nothing from factional motives [through contentiousness, strife, selfishness, or for unworthy ends] or prompted by conceit and empty arrogance. Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself [thinking more highly of one another than you do of yourselves].”  Chances are, you either are part of the problem or you have been in the past. Don’t allow yourself to think you’re above the fray. Acknowledge your reflection. Own it. And fix it. If we could only think more highly of others than we do of ourselves…

2. Spend more time in prayer. As I mentioned in A Few Things I’ve Learned, prayer changes things. Prayer has a way of humbling you, calming you down, showing you yourself, and activating the characteristics of Christ that dwell in you. It’s hard to pray for someone who wronged you, as the Bible instructs, and not feel compassion and love for them. Prayer changes things, but more importantly, it changes people – and that change usually starts with the person praying.

3. Don’t gossip, and don’t allow anyone to gossip to you. Gossip contaminates your thoughts, your mind, and your heart. Most of our frustrations in church wouldn’t even exist if we didn’t know what we know (or what we think we know). So stop letting people use you as their trash can, and stop depositing your trash in others. Keep your mouth shut and turn your ears toward Jesus. I Peter 4:15 (KJV): “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.” As said in I Thessalonians 4:11, study to be quiet and mind your own business!

4. Measure yourself against Galatians 5:22-23. I participated in this Bible Study teleconference once, and at the end of it, the instructor asked everyone to rate themselves 1-5 on each of the fruits of the Spirit. WOW. That was a life-changing experience. I realized that while I could take a 3 or 4 in some areas, and a 5 in one area, my overall rating was pretty dismal, and I had some work to do. If everyone in the church – YOU and me included – spent time working on this, things would start to look a lot better.

5. Be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath. James 1:19. I know that sometimes, you just have to say something. But remember, that Jesus was oppressed and afflicted, and He opened not His mouth. He was wrongfully convicted, and didn’t try to defend Himself. He let them think they had won, knowing that victory was already His.

6. Stop trying to resolve conflicts YOUR way (in the flesh). I don’t know why we act like the Bible was just written to give us good sermon material, or to sit in the back windows of our cars. There’s some good stuff in there! If we follow it, we could easily achieve order in the church. Conflict is normal, and it can even be healthy. God knew conflict would arise in the church, so He gave us the remedy. When issues arise with a sister or brother, the ONLY “right way” to resolve it (the only BIBLICAL way) is to follow the three steps outlined in Matthew 18:15-17.

7. Stay focused. So often, we forget the real reason we assemble ourselves together. It’s not for auxiliaries, fashion shows, holiday services, or any other reason but Jesus Christ. When things get rough, remember the reason you’re there. The enemy (and the people he uses) would desire to frustrate us to the point that we don’t want any part of the church, but keep things in perspective and remember your role in the body. The Church cannot function properly without YOU. You are part of the body (I Cor. 12). Keep your mind renewed (Rom 12:2). Keep your thoughts in captivity to Christ (II Cor. 10:5). Think on the things that are of good report (Phil. 4:8). Look to the hills… (Psalm 121:1). When your eyes are on Him, you probably won’t even notice all the other stuff going on (unless you’re the administrator… lol).

8. Always look for God in that trouble-making person.  Look, the truth is, not everyone’s light will shine as brightly as it ought. Try to remember that no matter who you’re dealing with and what they’ve done, God loves them. And He wants them to experience His love through you. He won’t hold YOU responsible for what they do to you, but He will hold you responsible for how you respond. You never really know why people act the way they act or do the things they do, but what you do know is that everyone needs love. Isn’t it just like man to go off of what we see and not what lies in their heart, under all the muck and mire?

9. Don’t kick a sister or brother when they’re down. Galatians 6:1 says:  Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Try to remember that when you’re tempted to kick someone who messed up. Whether it’s Tonex, Eddie Long, Tye Tribbett, J. Moss, Alvarado, or Sister Susie from next door, try to remember Galatians 6:1. We’re all in the same army, remember? Often, they’ve already been restored and are counted among the friends of God, and positioning yourself as an enemy by shooting at them with “friendly fire.”

10. Take personal responsibility for making sure that everyone in your congregation experiences love. Judging from the many stories I’ve heard over the years, it seems the primary reason people give for leaving the church is that they are somehow wounded, abused, or mistreated. If we all take personal responsibility for showing the love of Christ, which IS the greatest commandment and the one on which all the others depend (Matthew 22:36-40), no one would get hurt. Let us remember what Paul told the Corinthians:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” — I Corinthians 13:1-3 NKJV

Remember that those who don’t show love, really don’t even know God (whew, I know that’s a tough one to digest, but it’s Bible – I John 4:8).

Call me crazy, but I think that if the pastors, bishops and apostles catch hold of the list in What is Wrong With the Church – 10 Things That Need to Stop! and the lay members catch hold of the 10 things above… shucks, we’d be on to something big! What do you think?

The Abusive Church – Exposing the Master Manipulators

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If you’ve missed parts 1 and 2 of The Abusive Church series, you can catch up here:

The Abusive Church – Introduction
The Abusive Church – The Control Factor (When the Pastor Becomes Their God)

In this third installment of The Abusive Church series, we will discuss manipulation. Manipulation is the skillful and deliberate use of external forces to get others to do what someone else wants them to do or to suit one’s purpose or advantage. In the church, it is often used by the powerless to get trusting people to submit to the leadership of the church, to bestow unearned honor on unscrupulous leaders, to increase their financial support of the ministry, to commit ungodly sexual acts or unlawful acts, or to isolate certain individuals or groups from others. Manipulative tactics can include the use of false promises, guilt, peer pressure, intimidation, and misuse of scripture to threaten divine judgment from God for disobedience. Manipulative pastors and church leaders tend to prey on those who are naive, depressed, have low self-esteem, are isolated from their families, or are brainwashed into believing false teachings that promote deifying men and women of God.

Manipulation in the Bible

In Churches That Abuse, Dr. Ron Enroth reminds us that church abuse isn’t new to our generation, or even to our century. He goes back to the early 1920s and tells the story of a controlling, manipulative leader and the people he abused. But a look at III John lets us know that manipulative leaders were present in the church since its beginning.

I have written briefly to the church; but Diotrephes, who likes to take the lead among them and put himself first, does not acknowledge my authority and refuses to accept my suggestions or to listen to me.

So when I arrive, I will call attention to what he is doing, his boiling over and casting malicious reflections upon us with insinuating language. And not satisfied with that, he refuses to receive and welcome the [missionary] brethren himself, and also interferes with and forbids those who would welcome them, and tries to expel (excommunicate) them from the church.” (III John v9-10)

The King James version says that Diotrephes loved to have “preeminence,” which in the original Greek is philoproteuo, meaning that he loved to be first. People who share Diotrephes’ attitude want all the attention, power and authority for themselves; they don’t want to share the spotlight or yield control of their members by allowing them to fellowship with anyone outside of the local congregation. Not only would Diotrephes resist visits from key leaders in the body of Christ, he would try to excommunicate (or kick out) any members who showed these guests any hospitality. Dude was a master manipulator.

Today’s Masters of Manipulation

In the 1900+ years since Diotrephes’ day, manipulation in the church has flourished and gone far beyond just isolating members from the freedom that comes with hearing the truth.

In today’s church, members are more likely to be manipulated into giving more than they want to or can afford to, or into having extra-marital or pre-marital sexual relations. There are few active churchgoers who don’t know of a pastor who engaged in an ungodly relationship with another woman, man, or teen. The news is filled daily with reports of pastors who impregnated their members or face criminal charges for some other sexual indiscretions. They get caught with the joint in their mouths, the prostitute in the car, the stolen cash in their gym bags, coming out of hotels, etc. and will still lie bold-faced and say it wasn’t them. And the manipulated members will believe and defend them. Many have been manipulated into stealing money to pay overdue church bills or line the pastor’s pockets. Many have been manipulated into keeping secret something that should’ve been reported. And how many of us have never been taken on the Offering Guilt Trip? I’ve even been in services where they have locked the doors, declaring “nobody is moving until we meet this goal!

How to raise a good offering

Recently, a friend shared with me some of the tips he was taught for raising a “good offering.” Included in his list were:

  1. timing,
  2. association with a theme,
  3. prophetic encouragement, and
  4. aiming high.

He explained that the key is to have good timing, even if that means stopping in the middle of a sermon while emotions are high. Sometimes, you have to tune up even when the sermon didn’t call for it, just to “take them there” emotionally, so they’ll give. He went on to explain that you can associate the amount requested with a scripture number, a date, a number from the text, or even a current event. He said that if you prophesy to people, they will give, so start the line with a high amount and begin to prophesy and watch others join the line (especially if the people in front of them are falling out). *blank stare* He also said not to be afraid to ask for an outrageous amount because you never know who is there and what they have. If the congregation is sparse or appears to be poor, you can assign each pew to raise a certain amount. His last “tactic” was to use lines like “a desperate need calls for a desperate offering” and “sow a seed into your breakthrough;” and we all know the ever-popular “NAME YOUR SEED,” where the congregation is told to name their seed after the blessing they need from God. Often promises are added like “the more you give, the faster He’ll move for you,” or “you’ve got to give until it hurts so He can see that you’re serious about this seed.” Sometimes, my friend said, people will give just because they feel bad for you standing up there so long, or they want to hurry up and get this over with so they can leave. So, take your time and don’t rush.

Those are all manipulative, unBiblical tactics. I know I just lost a lot of pastors, but that’s okay. Wrong is wrong.

What are some of the signs you’re being manipulated?

1. You’re made to feel guilty or troublesome for asking questions about teachings, doctrine, rules, or decisions. If there is no clear scriptural reference, and the rules or decisions cost you, but benefit the church, it is possible you’re being manipulated.

2. If you are a tither and you’re encouraged to give money that you don’t have or money that is designated for a bill, or you’re made to feel guilty for not giving enough, you are being manipulated. First of all, in most states, it’s illegal to write a check for an amount that is not in your account. Secondly, if you owe anyone (mother, co-worker, credit card company, landlord, bank, or any other lender), that money belongs to the person you owe, not the church – you are giving the church stolen money.

3. If you are made to feel guilty about anything other than outright sin and/or wrongdoing, you are being manipulated.

4. If there are benefits associated with giving (prophetic word, better seat, position/title, public acknowledgement), you’re being manipulated.

5. If you are underage and you are sexually involved with any one who is over 21 and is not your spouse, you are probably being manipulated. If you are sexually involved with your pastor or any other leader who is not your spouse, you are probably being manipulated.

6. If you are told that you shouldn’t fellowship with a certain person, group of people or a certain church, denomination, or organization, it’s possible that you’re being isolated and controlled, which is a form of manipulation.

7. If your pastor uses scripture irresponsibly to threaten you (like the pastor who once threatened his congregation saying that “God will stroke your mouth!” from Proverbs 18:6 – yeah, I rolled my eyes on that one, too), it is possible that you’re being manipulated. In fact, any intentional misuse of scripture is manipulative.

8. If you are encouraged or asked to do anything unlawful or ungodly, you are probably being manipulated.

9. If your pastor knowingly lives a lifestyle of sin, and you aren’t sure whether you should leave, you are possibly being manipulated (unless you’re living in sin yourself so you take comfort in his sin).

10. If you are being mistreated, but you are afraid to leave due to reasonable or unreasonable fears, you are probably being manipulated.

11. If your pastor is telling you one thing and telling everyone else (or anyone else) something different, it is possible that you’re being manipulated.

12. If you receive “prophetic” words that contradict what (a) the Bible says, (b) God said to you, or (c) you know to be right, you are being manipulated. The same is true if you receive “prophetic words” that don’t come to pass or come with financial strings attached. And God takes this very seriously, too. Deuteronomy 18:20 says “but the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.

13. If you are frequently leaving church feeling good but never convicted or urged to change or improve your ways; if the preached Word wasn’t actually Word at all, or if you have no idea what the message was, but you know it sounded good and felt good – it’s possible you’re being emotionally manipulated.

Get out

If you are in a manipulative church, I strongly urge you to get out. I don’t advise you to pause to pray about it, because it is not the will of God for you to be manipulated by someone claiming to be His servant. You don’t need confirmation on that one; it’s just not the will of God.

God WILL take care of those who abuse His sheep. Click here to read His warning to the shepherds who aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do, and His promise to the sheep.

From Harmless to Hell: A Message for the Church Folks

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She was frustrated, and so she let it be known.

That was her style, I guess. She always did seem to speak up. Outspoken is her middle name. Especially when it comes to matters concerning leadership. But this time, it was okay because she wasn’t really complaining, just venting a little bit. It was harmless; a sincere, honest question. She wasn’t trying to be funny or start any mess. She just genuinely wanted to know what was up. And who ever said that we can’t question our leaders? If they can’t take criticism, then maybe they’re not fit to lead. And she would be doggoned if she was going to follow his leadership and not have a voice about the questionable decisions he was making. She wasn’t some newbie. She knew what she was doing as well as he did.

She’s not the Church Busybody, she’s the Church Prophetess, so.. I mean, obviously she had good intentions. After all, she was a prophetess. A praiser. And he was her brother, not just some random stranger. But as she would soon learn, prophets, praisers, and family are not exempt from honoring God’s elect. Like most of us, she thought she had a right to express whatever was on her mind… until she got called into the office.

Her name was Miriam.

Her brother, Moses, married an Egyptian woman, and she questioned his decision. She did what many of us do when we have issues with our leaders: she hooked up with someone else who she knew would either share her opinion, entertain her rant, or would be persuaded to complain right along with her. She and Aaron said, “What, does God only speak to Moses? Has He not spoken to us, too??” If she’s anything like most of us, there was probably a neck roll/eye roll combo, some twisted up lips and a hand on a hip, I’m sure. The Bible says that the Lord came to where they were and called them to Him. He said, “listen here, if there are prophets around here, I will reveal myself to them in visions and in dreams. But Moses? He’s so faithful that I speak to him directly (mouth to mouth) and clearly. He sees the form of the Lord. And you weren’t afraid to speak against him??” God was angry. REALLY angry. So angry, in fact, that when He left, Miriam was afflicted with leprosy (Numbers 12).

How is it that we, “the holy and upright people of God,” manage to overlook that lesson and continue to mistreat, badmouth, criticize, dishonor, and question our leaders and their calling and anointing and gifts so FEARLESSLY? How do we show such brazen insubordination to the sent man or woman of God? And why is it that we who know the Word of God still think we have a “right” to say whatever is on our minds, however, whenever, to whomever? Sure there are those wolves in sheep’s clothing, men and women claiming to be “of God” but are really of flesh. Sadly, there are many who occupy the office of a pastor or leader, and are unworthy of honor. But when God sends one out to do His work, He will guard that one viciously. Today, I admonish you, the Christian Church, to fear God, honor His sent leaders, and grow up.

No one is exempt.

Miriam’s story makes it obvious that no one is exempt. Even prophets, apparently, will get frustrated (or envious, or be threatened by someone’s authority, jealous of their anointing or popularity) and run off at the mouth, fearlessly. But the Bible makes it clear that God will not stand for that. Don’t allow the venting and criticizing that you think is harmless and justified to land you a place in hell. Don’t stand so vehemently for holiness and righteousness and morality and cleanliness, and still end up in hell because you ran your mouth one too many times. Don’t be one of the ones to whom God says:

Yes, you prophesied in My name, yes you cast out devils in My name and did all these wonderful things in My name… but I never knew you. Now depart from Me, you worker of iniquity!”

I can hear the defense now, “but God… I’m ordained! Licensed!! I never missed Bible Study. Was on time every Sunday. Spoke in tongues seven times a day. Sis. Mary was healed when I laid hands on her! And, and, remember Bro. Ben whose cancer dried up? Remember that one I ministered to when everyone else got tired and went home? I stayed with her all night on that altar until she got her breakthrough! It’s me, Lord!!!” And He says, “I never knew you.”

How devastating.

We simply cannot continue to focus on the “big sins” and ignore the character issues. Jesus is love. Love is not gossip. Love is not bitter. Love is not hateful or hypocritical. Love is not short-tempered. Love has self-control. It doesn’t get excited and pick up the phone when sisters and brothers err. Love covers. And if you don’t show love, you don’t even KNOW God (even if you speak with tongues). Let us remember integrity. Self-control. Respect. Honor. Compassion. Let’s not perfect the appearance of Godliness (the huck, the buck, the quickening, the falling out, the crying, shouting, running, dancing, speaking in tongues) and fail to embrace the CHARACTER of Christ.

The one you attack may save your life.

One other principle from the story found in Numbers 12. Often times, the very one you attack will be the one who saves your life. After Miriam became leprous and was banished from the camp, it was Moses who interceded fervently on her behalf for God’s mercy and healing.

Let us grow in grace. Let us grow in love. Let us journey to heaven together.

Note: Sound familiar? I originally published this on my Facebook page on June 15, 2010. I’m sharing it here with minor edits.

Monday Morning Manna: Downtown Sodom

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When you pitch your tent toward Sodom, it’s only a matter of time until you’re living in downtown Sodom.” — John Edmund Haggai

Every leader faces that moment when they have to make a decision that affects them and their entire team, and perhaps others. Sometimes, it doesn’t even appear to be a major decision, until you begin to see the benefits or consequences of the decision long after it’s made. Sometimes, we consider certain factors when making decisions, while overlooking those factors that appear irrelevant.

We find this to be the case in the book of Genesis, where Abram and his nephew, Lot, had too many possessions to remain in the same land together. Their herdsmen began to clash, so Abram asked Lot if he would be willing to separate himself and relocate. Abram told him that he could choose whatever land he wanted, and that Abram would go in the opposite direction, giving them both all the space and nourishment for the cattle they needed.

Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom.” – Genesis 13:12 KJV

It was really a no-brainer to a logical thinker. Lot looked toward the east and saw how healthy, well-watered and fertile the land was in the plain of Jordan, it looked to him like “the garden of the Lord” and like Egypt. He wasn’t thinking about how it looked through God’s eyes; he never seemed to consider what God had just brought him through and what this move could mean for his family or their future. He looked with his natural eyes and saw that the land to the east would provide an abundance of nourishment for his cattle. So he made what most would consider to be a good business decision and chose the land that would give him the most opportunity for success. Lot decided to head east and pitch his tent toward Sodom. It would prove to be one of the worst decisions he could’ve made. The land Lot chose looked good, but it wasn’t good to the Lord.

Downtown Sodom

Verse 13 tells us that the men of Sodom were wicked and “exceedingly great sinners against the Lord.” In the next chapter, we find that Lot is caught up in the middle of a war, is taken captive and loses everything he owned. Fortunately, Abram learns of Lot’s misfortune and is able to go and rescue him. Shortly thereafter (Genesis 19), the evil men of Sodom visit his home while he’s entertaining angels. In order to appease the men, who surrounded his house, demanding that the angels come out, Lot offered his virgin daughters to them. With the help of his angelic guests, Lot and his family just barely escaped the perverted wrath of Sodom’s men.

He ended up having to leave everything behind just in time to escape the fire and brimstone God sent on the city, while they were making their dramatic escape, his wife looked back only to be turned into a pillar of salt, and later after he and his daughters took shelter in a cave, they got him drunk so they could get pregnant by him.

I’m not one for adding to Biblical stories, but after all that, I’d be surprised if Lot didn’t reminisce on the day his uncle asked him to move and wonder “what if….” I’d be surprised if he didn’t kick himself for not asking his favored, wise, older uncle for advice. Having left everything behind, and losing his wife along the way, I can’t imagine that he wouldn’t want to turn back the hands of time just a little bit and pitch that tent toward the west. I once heard an acquaintance quote, “if the grass looks greener on the other side, you can bet the water bill is higher.” Lot chose the greener grass, and paid quite a price for it.

Don’t Just Go for the Obvious

So today, I remind you that no matter how sound and reasonable your decision appears to be, if you set up camp close to disaster, just to gain irresistible benefits, could end up costing you everything you’ve worked for. When given a choice, we must keep our eyes on Jesus, and not fix our eyes on what looks best to us. Pitching your tent toward Sodom isn’t just about making a choice to move here or there. It’s about self-indulgence, hasty decision-making, failure to obtain wise counsel, and failure to consider the promises of God. Even the greatest expertise won’t lead us the right way, if our eyes aren’t focused on God and His plan. Don’t just go for the obvious. Pray about it, explore all the possible scenarios, consider all the possible consequences, ponder the benefits, and count the cost… then pray some more.

But whatever you decide in the end, know that if you pitch your tent toward disaster, it’s really only a matter of time before you end up living there.

Who Told You You Could Preach?

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In Who Told You You Could Preach?, the comedic musical video from Sean Plummer’s Church™ series, Lil Ricky and the Church Thugs offer a humorous glimpse into a not-so-comical experience nearly all churchgoers have had at one point or another.

We all know “that person” who thinks they are better at what they do than they really are. There’s the one who blames everyone else for their teams’ failures or shortcomings. Or maybe you know the one who wants to lead every song – and can’t sing worth a rusty penny. Or perhaps you know the one who is always complaining that he doesn’t get enough opportunities to preach, but doesn’t have any Biblical knowledge, or the ability to execute an effective sermon. There’s the person who always volunteers to cook for fellowship dinners, and always serves burnt, dried out chicken. Or there’s the teacher who enthusiastically talks about how great his Sunday School class was this morning, meanwhile all the students gather after class to exchange tips on how to stay awake in class.

The unfortunate thing that these folks all share in common is that everyone knows how difficult it is to be on the receiving end of their ministry – except them.

Look, I know this is pretty tough to discuss. People get really defensive when this subject is raised because nobody wants to consider that they may be “that person.” You begin to hear defenses like “well, I’m not singing for you anyway, I’m singing for the glory of God,” or “as long as I’m doing my best, God is pleased.”  This may (or may not) be true, but the Bible reminds us not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought, but to think of ourselves with sober judgment (Romans 12:3).  Sometimes, we need a little help with the sober judgment part. 🙂

In a previous post, we talked about the importance of giving regular performance evaluations to your team members, so they will know what is expected of them and be able to gauge their accomplishments, progress, and success. Periodic performance evaluations also allow staff to ascertain what areas require improvement and are invaluable in determining the changing development needs of your staff.

Today, I want to encourage you to conduct regular self-evaluations to ensure you’re in the right position, performing at an excellent level, ministering to the people, and being effective in whatever it is you’re doing. Whether you’re a minister, pastor, administrator, or other church leader, you should always be striving to excel in the work of the Lord. That means that from time to time, you’ll have to make sure that the people you’re ministering to are (still) benefiting from your ministry.

The shame in continuing to do something you’re NOT good at is that you’re missing the opportunities to do what you are good at. The time you’re spending on the thing you’re not so good at could be spent honing your true craft. You’re sowing valuable seed that won’t even yield much fruit. And the people who need you to minister to them in that area, are missing out, too. Plus, there’s satisfaction in doing what you’re good at. It just feels good.

Three ways to ensure you’re not the guy Lil Ricky is singing (or rapping?) to in that video is:

1. Be humble and approachable – make sure that the people you’re serving feel comfortable talking to you about sensitive issues.

2. Ask your mentors, family, friends, and other people you trust to help you evaluate yourself. Ask for their feedback; ask them what they think you could improve and what they think you excel in. Ask for resource recommendations (classes, books, online communities, etc.).

3. Seek God. Make sure that what you’re doing is what you’re actually called – BY GOD – to do. Don’t just pursue your talents and what you perceive to be gifts; and don’t let other people push you into serving in areas where you don’t belong. Don’t wear out an old gift after you’ve been called to do something else. Seek God.

Bonus: Read the signs. In case you’re one of those people that others aren’t comfortable approaching, watch your “audience.” Try to read their facial expressions, reactions, posture and body language. Listen for clues in their feedback, and if you’re still not sure: ASK. (But don’t ask the ones that you know will sugarcoat or withhold the real assessment).

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