Perilous Times For The Megachurch

I am a big fan of a program on Moody Radio called, “In The Market With Janet Parshall.” I like it so much because the host relates current events to Bible teaching. Recently she interviewed the producer of a new video entitled, “Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus.” It explores the wealth of archaeological evidence that supports the migration of Semitic shepherds into the northern region of Egypt, their rapid population growth, a period of devastation that crippled the empire and led to a mass migration, and the subsequent destruction of most major cities in the land of Palestine.  Scientists are well aware of these discoveries and their chronology, but refuse to identify the events with the biblical account of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob because the timeline doesn’t match their assumptions. But their assumptions do not match the chronology indicated by archaeological findings from the surrounding regions. Rather than change their assumptions to make them fit the facts, as they normally would, they cling to their assumptions and dismiss the evidence because it would support the biblical view.

I shared a link to this video with my friends. A few days later one of them approached me during a sports event and asked me where I went to church. I told him I attended a little Chinese fellowship with my wife, who is a Chinese immigrant. He asked me, “Have you ever heard of Willow Church?”

I said, “Do you mean Willow Creek Church?”

“Yes, that’s right. My wife and I recently started attending there and we love it! We’re both Roman Catholics and we haven’t had to change a thing we believe.”

I was dumbstruck. The last time I checked, Willow Creek Church was a Protestant Church. Protestants get their name from the fact that they protested the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Protestants subscribe to the tenets of the Reformation – the priesthood of the believer rather than some cleric, salvation by faith alone in Christ alone through grace alone and not through church tradition, Jesus Christ as the only mediator between God and man, and that Mary did not get caught up alive into heaven but died like any other human being, was buried, and will be raised again when Christ returns. Somehow those differences were never conveyed to this enthusiastic couple!

When my ex-wife had an affair with her boss, she switched from the little congregation we belonged to and started attending Willow Creek. She felt comfortable there because she could blend in with the crowd and no one would ever confront her with her sin. I once belonged to a small group that grew out of the Divorce Care Ministry at Willow Creek Church. Though these folks seemed enthusiastic about doing ministry, I soon discovered they had very little Bible knowledge and were inexperienced in prayer.

It seems Willow Creek Church is everything to everyone, weak on doctrine, and totally affirming regardless of what one believes or how one does or does not choose to practice their faith.

I have a friend who attends another very large church in this area. He teaches a class on financial stewardship that helps people get on a budget, eliminate debt, start saving, and put money aside for God’s work. He teaches his classes how to pay off their mortgages early so they can prepare for their children’s college, weddings, and retirement. When he learned that the church elders had just refinanced the church mortgage with a variable rate loan, something their curriculum advises against, he approached them. They told him that matters of finance are not a ‘salvation issue’ even though the Bible repeatedly warns against indebtedness. So what is good for the goose is apparently not good for the gander. These same elders also subscribe to a long age theory of creation that contradicts the clear teaching of the book of Genesis.

Yesterday my friend announced to his class that he is leaving the church for doctrinal reasons. Fortunately, his uncompromising stand for the truth of God’s Word gave some of them pause for thought. One elder said that he might even start taking scripture into consideration when making financial decisions!! This coming from a leader in the church!

Unfortunately, many large churches have sacrificed fidelity to the Word of God on the altar of church growth. When done the right way, the Holy Spirit will grow the church through the faithful preaching of the unadulterated Word of God. Compromising the truth in order to avoid giving offense always leads to apostasy. It may attract more people, but it attracts the wrong kind of people. Paul says that the preaching of the Word of God is foolishness to those outside of Christ (1 Cor 1:18). Making it acceptable by discounting those passages that seem implausible or offensive eventually leads to apostasy.

In His great High Priestly Prayer, Jesus prayed for His disciples that God would “Set them apart in the truth; your word is truth.” (Jn 17:17). He did not say that only part of God’s Word is truth. All God’s Word is truth. In the book of Romans, Paul says,  “For what does the scripture say?Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’” (Rm 4:3). Simply put, faith is taking God at His Word.

Ps 19:7-11 reads:

The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

The Psalmist was never cavalier in his approach to scripture. He treasured it all as the very word of God. So did the prophets and apostles. Jesus referred to Old Testament events as One who had been a participant. No matter how preposterous the story of Jonah being swallowed by a great fish may sound, Jesus believed it. He said, “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Mt. 12:40). For Jesus, both His death and burial and Jonah’s sojourn in the stomach of a great fish were equally factual.

Is it so hard to believe God could have created the universe in a literal six day period? How long did it take Jesus to create the fish and loaves He used to feed the multitudes? How long did it take Him to create the fish that filled the disciples’ nets so full that they nearly swamped their boats?

In John 14:15 Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Following God’s commandments regarding money may not be a salvation issue, but it is definitely a love issue. By disregarding His instructions on the wise use of money, church leaders declare  their independence from Him, not their love for Him. For a church leader to justify disobedience to God’s word because he already has one foot inside the Kingdom indicates he has more desire for a big megachurch salary than he has for the kingdom of God.

When he picks and chooses what parts of the Bible to believe, the church leader demonstrates a lack of fear of the Lord. The Psalmist refers to God’s Word as the law, precepts, commandments, testimony, and rules of God. He then notes that the proper response to the words that come from God’s mouth is reverence.  The book of Proverbs tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Without wisdom it is impossible to rightly discern the will of the Lord or to please Him. So as long as church leaders have no fear of the Lord, their churches will continue to stray further and further from the truth until they arrive at their final destination – apostasy.

About craigolson001

Follower of Jesus Christ. Devoted husband. Avid student of the Bible. Former missionary to northern Japan for eight years. Retired. Author of The Lukewarm Church. Pickleball enthusiast. Biker, golfer. Member of Bethel Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Wheaton, IL.
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