Saturday, November 08, 2014

The Sad Story of a Nationwide Church Community


Mark Driscoll, now former pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington, has recently resigned amid a flurry of accusations of financial mismanagement, bullying church members, and a palpable self righteousness concerning the role of pastor as well as his own absolute authority. He seems to have admitted to much of that. The entire network/kingdom of Mars Hill Churches which spanned across the area and in which they viewed Driscoll’s sermons each week was disbanded. He was also known for his provocative “teachings” on sex which he claimed he got from Scripture but to most of us he made out of the whole cloth of his own mind. Many of them were too bizarre and too offensive to even repeat. He was appealing to the younger set and was a kind of a "Gene Scott"  self absorbed provocateur.

But this is just another case of celebrity evangelicalism. It is heavily weighted by the power of a person’s personality and oratorical delivery. Before long it has morphed into a well oiled machine complete with intelligent use of media, books and CDs, and all kinds of “Christian” paraphernalia. And in almost every case the founder/idol becomes very wealthy and holds power and persuasiveness over many people. Many times going to hear them speak has a rock star atmosphere. By the way, this same phenomenon can be seen among orthodox communities who may teach a more Biblical perspective but who also have their heroes and are willing to spend great sums of money and much time and energy just to hear them in person. Many times people leave that kind of aura claiming their lives have been changed. Although sometimes that may be true, but are they changed by the Spirit or by the power of a man’s image?

The interesting thing about all this is that it is diametrically opposed to the ministry of Jesus. Sometimes the crowds would swell as they came to hear Christ, but then He would challenge them with words and truths which would make them turn away. How many preachers say things that turn people and their wallets away? But all across the evangelical landscape there is a tangible sense of self righteousness and personal pride revealed in an aura of Biblical authority. You can see how major conferences are orchestrated and how certain men seem to embrace their popularity. Even the auditoriums are sometimes decorated and the events are adorned with the most polished music.

Sometimes you have the guest speaker rise to speak after his colleague has just introduced him as though he was one of the apostles. The crowd is not there to be broken or to attend long seasons of prayer and repentance. They are there to hear this man or woman articulate usually what they already know and believe. And some have a few well known "theologians" sit on the stage and field questions as though they had the Urim and the Thummim. And the crowd listens to their favorite preacher speak words of wisdom and many times that elicits applause. Again, it is hollow idolatry.

But the entire construct, whether it comes from the prosperity realm or the orthodox realm is a humanistic construct designed to elevate man. It seems every corner of the evangelical community has their heroes, and when they come to town they draw crowds similar in excitement to those drawn by a Papal visit. How did we ever allow such a spectacle to become a part of a church which is supposed to follow and emulate Jesus? The answer is simple. The church sees and emulates the culture, and men and women seek wealth and notoriety just like the secular world.

But Mark Driscoll is just one of many hundreds if not thousands of men and women who have become particular darlings of their evangelical sphere of reference. The minute preachers and teachers began to make money from the gospel and increased their bank accounts the trap was sprung. It is irresistible. You see, the average professing believer has those same lusts only the preachers have found a way to capitalize on those lusts. With television, mail outs, conferences, CDs, books, and other media outlets they have tapped into a resource that had until now had been fallow and unreachable.

And every preacher must have some gimmick or some provocative way of communicating and a subtle way of suggesting, many times without words, that he or she has an intimacy with God unavailable to the average pew dweller. That in and of itself creates an atmosphere of celebrity and spiritual exclusivism. The entire spectacle centers around certain people and what they know and how they can share it. And when you attend these evangelical gatherings which herald a person or persons you can be sure the messages are hardly ever about Jesus, His teachings, or a challenge to follow Him. Oh they many have a message about the exclusivity of Christ which is a well crafted treatise, but it usually lacks the spiritual essence abut Christ and the cross which should provide an opportunity to make a profound application upon our lives and lead us quickly to the threshing floor of repentance. And without that element being a major component then the entire thing is little more than attending a Broadway play about doctrine.

Paul warned us of being known as a follower of men. Apollos and Paul and Cephas have been replaced by Osteen and Warren and McArthur and others. Yes, we now are divided into cliques which are identified by men’s names. And the entire thing is centered upon men and what they teach rather than Jesus and who follows Him. The conferences are not about obedience. They are about knowledge and more knowledge and exciting messages that reinforce beliefs you already have and they lend an air of doctrinal superiority. Doctrinal self righteousness muscles out the challenge to die and pursue a crucified life which is manifestly remarkable within a carnal church community to say nothing of a fallen culture.

I am literally a nobody. But I cannot help but be shocked at how believers by the millions from all camps cannot see the wave of self righteousness that is open and public and unmistakable in the community of faith. I have seen it in blogs where people rant about this sinner or that politician or the gay agenda and without an ounce of love or redemption in their words they climb a pedestal of self righteousness and yet no one notices? Sometimes it is so offensive and so blatant that it would take a strong deception not to see it even if you agree with the sentiment being expressed.

I believe this has destroyed the faith that once sought to follow/emulate Jesus. The faith has become man centered even among those who lambast a man centered gospel. It is not enough to have a “God centered” statement of doctrine. If it does not find its way painfully and remarkably and dramatically into our lives then it is just sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. And that is what we have today. A structured faith with a lot of money and noise, but who looks around and says, “Wow! Those people are so different than we are. I guess they are following Jesus.” We have been led astray and have grown accustomed and even fond of this deviant path.

What am I suggesting? I am documenting that the evangelical church is wandering in a cultural wilderness and has completely left any hint of searching for the Canaan land where Jesus dwells. In fact, in order to return to His teachings without compromise and cultural ingredients the entire ecclesiastical structure and practice would have to be scrapped and we would have to begin all over with only the Chief Cornerstone as our foundation. And then before placing anything upon that Cornerstone we would have to fast and pray carefully with a searchlight to guard against any hint of man’s glory or ingenuity as well as any diversion from the New Testament plumb line.

But make no mistake. That may sound exciting to some and ludicrous to others, but it would be a massive undertaking which would consume the lives of those who desired to please Christ. And many, if not most, would fall by the wayside because of some disagreement or some pressing family issues or the sirens calling to a return of the familiar or just through spiritual exhaustion. And it would take excruciating repentance that stripped us of us and allowed the Spirit to enter with the Sword of God’s Word and slay many dragons we have fed and housed and petted. It is a very painful thing to have your idols toppled over when you have spent so much quality time on them. And our flesh would scream and wail and reason, and the Spirit would inflict much damage to our pride and self worth. It would be a spiritual blood bath and I do mean a blood bath with His blood!

But even if there is no gathering of likeminded people who see what you see that does not excuse us from attending our own funerals and seeking and begging the Spirit to do in us what we can never do in and through ourselves. There is only one thing that keeps us from the glory of a personal repentance clothed in humility.


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