In a time in which “churches” are being run as businesses with CEO’s, CFO’s, and other business titles disguised as “parishoners,” it should really come as no surprise that these establishments are feeling the same economic crunch that has just yesterday allowed GMAC to be taken over by the federal gov’t? When we have people in the name of progress or relevance making decisions to alter church structure based upon successful business models rather than the first century Christian example we find in the New Testament what do we expect to be the outcome? The answer is becoming clear.
In churches that are people-centered and not Christ-centered, the fruits are so obvious. More often than not, these establishments end up going belly-up financially due to the fact that when one digs in looking for Christ and his teachings as found in scripture the return is lacking to say the least. The saddest part of this is that one could audit to find the financial trappings that lead to these downfalls but when these organizations are being audited on their teaching, they want to hear no part of it. For years, those who love the truth of God’s word yell from the mountaintops to these entities and point out what they are missing but the response is one of self-righteousness and rebellion. More often than not, this rebellion is encouraged and preached by the non-biblical leadership within these organizations. Further, as proof of their faithfulness, these leaders often live and lead extravagant lifestyles that they point to as showing God’s goodness reigning down on them while their followers continue to dwell in less than extravagant situations. The answer, love God harder by giving more and you can be more like us. I hear those statements and I hear “continue funding my lifestyle and we will continue telling you how you are falling short.”
Yet, without fail, the time comes when financial pain comes crashing down and on who does the burden fall? The leadership casts it on their followers who obviously have just not done enough yet. While they watch the leadership prance around on television and in fancy cars and jets, the followers are asked to just “try harder.”
Two such calls from these goat herders have come across my desk in the past weeks. The most recent came today from purpose-driven guru and emergent church partner Rick Warren. While leading a congregation that boasts a membership of 22,000 Rick Warren’s Saddleback church has somehow fallen into tremendous debt. So much so that Rick Warren has sent out a call to the members of his church to come up with $900,000 before Jan. 1 (isn’t that tomorrow)? Question: could Rick Warren himself not afford this?
The second call is one that hits closer to home for me. This one comes from the Word of Faith youth center in Hamilton, AL known as The Ramp. This organization whose mission statement contains the man-centered statement of “calling them to their individual purpose (hmmm, purpose driven) and corporate responsibility as an offensive army imposing the Kingdom of God,” In a letter sent out to The Ramp’s “dear friends” from Karen Wheaton ministries they ask for $50,000 to meet some unspecified need. While they do not tell what the money is needed for, the tone of the letter would lead one to believe that they are in the midst of some financial crisis. This from an organization whose leadership lives lavishly and who has individuals filling it’s building over and over and over. Apparently God runs up quite the tab when your sole income comes from fleecing and grubbing. Was Paul’s full-time “job” ministry? I seem to remember him paying his own way.
I would like to point out a common thread in these two calls for financial assistance. In the call from Saddleback church, Warren’s spokesperson states they cannot divulge the reason for the call for money. Also, in the call from the Ramp one finds the quote “Time would not permit me to breakdown the entirety of our budget and cost…” So, out of faith people are supposed to just be sending you guys money? For what? Where did the money you received so far go? Why can’t you just tell me what it’s for? Yet, should one ask these questions, I can almost guarantee that their faith would be questioned. If you trust God, you will trust these people, right?
Wrong. If you trust God and his word you will notice that it is not being taught and will call these people to repentance and seek a church where Christ is being taught. Repent of what one may ask. Where to begin? In this case though, let’s return to the business aspect you have made your “church” into. The model for church leadership is laid out in scripture yet you have no elders to lead. Instead you lead by feeling, emotion, and delusion that you like to tell people is God’s secret word to you. You publicly and boldly slam churches that have and trust in the church elders to lead them and call them names such as “religion” (what a scandalous word). Yet, these churches who follow the model given by the Holy Spirit not only find themselves secure in their faith, but with surpluses of budget to meet the needs of Christ’s church. Further, there is a level of accountability from the elders of how the church money is used and no one is asked just to trust them about why the collection plate is being passed. Isn’t it odd that the ones who find themselves in the most peril financially are the ones who proclaim to be themselves the closest to God and all others the furthest. Further, truly faithful elders would not allow what is the second problem to come from the mouth of one in their pulpit.
The second problem, and even more important is the man-centered aspect. As I write this I am listening live to The Ramp’s annual Winter Ramp in which men, women, and children from all over the United States are there to be fulfilled spiritually. Yet, at least the part I have listened to, this is not a Christian service. How do I know? Because there was nothing about Christ being taught. For the past 90 minutes I have watched live as one Mr. Dutch Sheets was given the pulpit stage and ear of a large congregation of people. In an opportunity to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ, the only thing that saves people or as he desires, nations, he spoke for one hour. Granted, my UStream connection was choppy but time spent in scripture = 5 to10 minutes; total mentions of Christ in his hour = ZERO. None, nothing. No Christ = no effect. In the closing song, Rick Pino ranted for five minutes that “we’re an army dressed for battle” over and over and over – zero mentions of Christ. Why are you ruined? Because Christ is not welcome there. Why will the people leave there entertained but unfulfilled, no Christ.
My prayer is that both of these ministries will turn away from themselves and toward Christ in a repentant and humble manner. There is nothing more in this world that I would love to say then I know that people are being taught their own sinfulness and the atonement of Christ alone at these huge gatherings. The only way this will happen though is for these people to recognize their error and repent. Stop teaching man and start teaching Christ.
The root of all this lies in the opening statements of Mr. Sheets. He said “We have created an atmosphere that allows Him to come.” You just taught that God needs not only mans help, but permission and actions to intervene on this Earth. Apparently, that’s quite expensive as well. Last I checked, the God in the Bible does what he pleases when he pleases. As of today, Dutch Sheets and his followers serve and believe in a completely different God than that which I believe in. I just wish they would quit calling it Christianity, because it’s not. Want to get God into your building, open your Bible and teach Christ crucified – every passage points to it. Please do it.