Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Institutional Church is Not Coming back


Sometimes an individual believer strays so far and goes so deep into sin that only a miracle could bring him back. Perhaps we all have seen such miracles so they are not out of the question. But in those cases the individual knows he is in sin and either likes it or cannot seem to extricate himself. But when a church collectively systematically slides into sin via doctrine and practice, it takes on a completely different kind of deception. The individual is deceived by the deceitfulness of sin, while the church’s deception is multilayered.

The major difference in the prodigal son and the prodigal church is that the church is unaware of its sin, and in fact embraces its condition. The visible and institutional church in America has been blinded by prosperity, church growth, and a general atmosphere of narcissism. Heaven is now here on earth and hell is little more than an archaic doctrine expressed seldom with lips and that in reality has long since vacated hearts. The church continues to slide, but since it is tethered to and measures itself by the culture, it is blind to the slide.

The extent to which the western church has fallen away from Christ and the gospel is climactic and so deep, that it is almost beyond belief that the church at large could or would ever come back to following Christ. And Scripture itself predicts such a falling away.

II Tim.4: I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

Instead of preaching the Word, the western church has created humanistic doctrines which scratch the ears and soothe the conscience. Millions of unregenerate sinners march into evangelical sanctuaries every Sunday and leave still lost but joyful and content. They have been lulled by “how to” messages, hopes of divine prosperity, patriotic lullabies, and all kinds of earthly advice camouflaged as God’s Word. Jesus and His gospel are asides and sometimes find a shallow cameo at the end of these self help sermons.

How can you describe the color red to a blind man? How can you share Mozart with a deaf man? So how can you reason with people caught in deception and the demonic powers of the enemy?

Matt.13: 19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;
21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.
22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.
23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

There are three ways in principle that snatch away the Word of God and they are the direct influence of the enemy, the allurement of riches, and the superfluous way in which it is received.


How does Satan steal the Word of God from the hearts of people? Sometimes the church does not even spread good seed. Sometimes people allow it to fall all around them without even a mild consideration. Many times in this culture that is saturated with a mixture of good and bad seed people get confused and remain careless and uninterested. And because of the unremarkable lives of professing believers, even the good seed has no value in the eyes of those who have been insulated by the poor testimony of those who profess Christ.


The allurement of the hedonistic culture has shipwrecked the church. In fact the American evangelical church has incorporated that same culture within their practice. Millions of professing believers file into evangelical pews after having lived a life saturated in the culture and without so much as a shred of spiritual evidence. Millions have spoken words of hatred, millions have unforgiveness in their hearts, millions have lusted after the things of this world, millions have not prayed, millions have been self righteous, and yet in they come and out they go with a weekly redundancy that is religiously robotic. And millions dream of personal prosperity and financial gain because they have been told that is God’s will. The riches of this world have choked out God’s Word.


Perhaps no generation has so diluted God’s Word as to make it work for you instead of work in you. God has been made a servant to man and not the Lord over His people. Much of what is preached is situational ethics, good advice, and a Judeo-Christian morality that is lifted up higher than following Jesus. If you do not commit adultery you are the noblest of creatures and if you do you can quickly change marriage partners then all is right once again. And with that new partner you can be a church leader and even a pastor. The Word no longer cuts away the flesh, it soothes the flesh.

So the power of the Word has been systematically removed and what is left is only some bits and pieces of Scripture carefully sown together as a path to earthly happiness, contentment, and success. And that is why people can go and come to church with nary a change much less any deep and penetrating conviction that results in repentance and a sacrificial journey to seek and follow Jesus. The western institutional church has become a religious system of outward structure but with an inward void. In fact, it is no longer Christian in practice and only very little Christian in Word. The church no longer believes or practices the Word.

So how can a system so entrenched and so blind and so wrapped within the cares of this culture ever return to Christ and His teachings? And when the shepherds and teachers are leading the flock further and further away from Christ and His righteousness, how is it that the flock is able to see? The church has so lifted up man that the flock treats them as celebrities and receives their words as coming from God. And with a multiplicity of Bibles in almost every home, the Word of God is still rare. The evangelical church in the west has become a cultural leviathan with tentacles which reach almost every area of the modern culture but without having roots which live and grow within Christ. Its appetite is insatiable, its upkeep is costly, and its power is of this world.

So I exhort you, my friends, do not expect the institutional church to come back. And those of you who still attend a local church, please be light to that fellowship but be keenly aware that even that fellowship has strayed. Be humble, be loving, and be gracious. But also be vigilant and always growing in the Person and power of the Lord Jesus.


Evelyn said...

Amen! Every word of this post is true. I pray that the Lord Jesus Christ will continue to give you boldness and courage to speak out as 2 Timothy 4:2 says "Preach the Word: be instant in season, and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine." Verses 3 and 4 quoted in the article details exactly the state of today's church in America.

Anonymous said...

AW Tozer predicted this in the 1950s but did not wish to live to see it. Now I understand why...

Anonymous said...

Everything that you have written about the church is the very ( reasons) reason I left. Preach one thing do another. -Noel

Anonymous said...

Before my husband and I left church, where we were spiritually heavy and exhausted, I was told we need the Body which is correct. Was told we should not forsake the gathering of church, yes, it's bible, and correct. Friends would tell me to 'pray' about it. Acquaintances would say no child of God should be without a pastor, a covering, because he prays for his flock, that we'd be without a covering and alone in the world, where Satan could tempt us. All true.

It was our weakness, and our circumstances, I suppose, that helped make our decision. It's not a conscious decision not to attend; it's like a heavy weight is there when we even contemplate going. The emptiness of the services, the sermons that focused more on the anointing of the man of God, being told members not praying enough, giving enough, and being blamed for the lack of 'revival' in the city. The haves and have nots in the church. Those less fortunate who volunteered their time versus pastor wife who was paid a salary as secretary. We had moved a lot and in each church I felt the same patterns, that each pastor and staff didn't thing the Lord's Spirit was sufficient to draw men to Himself, was the One who called those to repentance, but they made us feel like we must submit our testimony to them, and we had to perform holiness duties that showed on the outside, before they took us seriously. While my husband had undergone total depression and joblessness, we were unvisited, uncalled, the pastoral staff didn't show concern. Their motif was, come to church, and all will be right. You'll find what you're looking for with Jesus, but AT our church. The Rick Warren purpose-driven church bible studies came along, the new teaching methods with actors, dance worship, the pastor trying new ways to keep the audience wanting to come back for more. We decided the 'holiness' works movement was too much, and moved to a denominational church that taught the bible, but spent more time on the meat of the word. Still, there was something that didn't seem right. We were always made to feel that we were driven to perform, perform churchianity. It was the 'business' that the pastor was much interested in, that his church grow, SURE, to save souls, but also so that it gave him the reputation he craved as being a rising star in that denomination, traveling back and forth internationally, to the States, hopping on planes with a special VIP airport pass. When he was away the assistant would take over, or 'pastor' would be fed live from his travel destination and give us a 'live' sermon, which we would listen to on the screen, with his 'image' talking. Technology and the 'church' for some reason, feel IMO, like they don't mix. Satan wants people to run to and fro. He doesn't want people to engage face to face. He is trying his utmost to keep people away from each other, and push texting messages to friends and family without their presence. There's something awry about the lack of human interaction these days. And the great social divide between those who volunteer and those who are paid. Young families who have to work 40-hour a week jobs with children still having to the church's legworkers, be the honeybees of the institution while the Queen bees make the decisions in secret board meetings.

I thought biblical gathering of the saints was about everyone having the same in common and whoever was without, they gave and when it was their turn, they were given. It's just not working in this society. We can't find common ground with the laiety versus the clergy the way it is. And we can't find common ground with each other, as it's human nature to be a respecter of persons especially where there is such an economic class divide now in America, where we sit in pews and get entertained; whatever "gathering" means in the bible, this isn't it.

Rick Frueh said...

When you are in such a quandry it is difficult to unravel God's will for thoseof us who feel the institutional church is a whore. Patience and prayer is all I know to do.