Compromised Church

compromised-church

“The chief danger of the twentieth century will be religion without the Holy Spirit, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, heaven without hell.” ~William Booth (founder of the Salvation Army)

Like so many other ideas, “tolerance” has been redefined in our postmodern society. Tolerance is something that focuses largely on morality. If one doesn’t embrace the behavior of another when that behavior is celebrated by society at large, then that person is likely to be labeled “intolerant.” This label carries consequences. Being called “intolerant” quickly discredits your views in the arena of public opinion.

Scripture is full of instances where Jesus interacted with people He didn’t agree with morally. Jesus teaches us that love has no boundaries. We are called to love people wherever they may be on their journey. That’s what true tolerance is: being willing to walk with and bear the burdens of others even though we disagree with their choices and behaviors. True tolerance says, “While I don’t agree with you, I love you anyway.”

Today’s view of tolerance requires much more than loving and walking with a person. Today’s tolerance requires that we celebrate a person’s choices. Today’s tolerance strips us of the ability to say that anything is “wrong.” This view doesn’t leave room for absolutes. It teaches us that we are incorrect, possibly bigoted, and certainly close-minded to even think that another person’s behavior misses the mark.

When properly defined tolerance requires one to identify right and wrong, truth and untruth, good and evil. It is recognizing that something that is less than what it should be and deciding that you can live with it. True tolerance means you endure something that you believe to be incorrect. Loving someone is different than celebrating immoral behavior. If you don’t believe something’s wrong, and you embrace it, that’s not tolerance. Jesus accepted everyone, yet with love and compassion, He also confronted their sin and offered them a better way.

Western culture has become a battlefield; truth and morality is what’s at stake. While we must remain tolerant toward all people, that doesn’t mean we should celebrate sinful behavior. The church is being influenced heavily by the cultural undertones of the day. We want to be liked so badly that we’re willing to compromise. What we end up compromising are the very things scripture declares as nonnegotiable. In our negotiations we forfeit the power of Jesus. Without His manifest presence there is no anointing, no transformation, and no sense of purpose.

In many ways the church has become a mere reflection of the American way. Entire denominations are revising the basic tenets of biblical theology as it pertains to Christian practice. Church leaders are legitimizing immorality because it’s become legal. Just because laws change regarding sin doesn’t make it right. We can legalize drug use, but that doesn’t make it right. We can legalize same-sex unions, but that doesn’t make it right. We make it lawful to deport people and rip families apart, but that doesn’t make it right.

Reports of our shifting views make the news all the time. A few years ago an openly gay bishop was ordained in the Episcopal Church. He went on record to say that he considered his relationship with his partner “sacramental.” Since when do the Episcopals get to make “sacred” what God calls an “abomination”?

We are so concerned with what everyone thinks that we’ve forgotten to care about what God thinks. Have you checked out the stats of some of the more “progressive” denominations lately? They’re in rapid decline. Why? Because God does not bless what He has declared in His Word as being wrong. It doesn’t matter what we call it. When the Holy Spirit withdraws from a group of people there’s nothing left to do but go though the motions and gather in powerless huddles hoping for the best.

Recent studies by Barna Research indicates that large percentages of people identifying as Christians see nothing wrong with occasional adultery, abortion, homosexual behavior, casual use of pornography, living together outside of marriage, and the use of profanity. Many of these same people don’t believe in Satan, and hell is merely a contemporary platonic construct, not an actual place. To add to the confusion only 15% of people who identify as Christian actually hold to any sort of biblical worldview.

I’ve interacted with people who adhere to many of the above-described views. A few years ago a candidate who was seeking ordination admitted to a few people in a restaurant if they were ever questioned about their beliefs concerning sexuality that they’d lie. They indicated that their cause was more important than the ordination process. Let that sink in. . . These up-and-coming progressive leaders have a cause that’s more important than anything else, including orthodoxy, scripture, sound doctrine, church tradition, and life-transformation.

This theological confusion is spreading across denominational spectrums. In a day and age where we need hope more than ever before we are offering people theological play-doh. The problem is not that these folks are being disingenuous. It’s just that they’ve accepted a worldview that is far from the one given to us by Jesus, Scripture, the Apostles, and the Early Church Fathers. Beyond that, they’re extremely intolerant of anyone who holds a more centered biblical view.

The immorality of western culture has created instability, confusion, and a church that is void of power. Many people who identify as Christian have aligned so closely with the postmodern religious narrative that they’ve lost the ability to recognize the “anointing” of God. In fact, they don’t even like words like anointing, manifest presence, glory, revival, etc. They rely solely on forms and functions. They can’t hear from God because their minds are muddled by the noise of postmodernity.

This is not who the Church is called to be. We are the Bride of Christ, the Body of Jesus, and the Light of the World. We are God’s ambassadors in a world void of hope and power. The Church is a group of called-out, sold-out, radical world-changers. The Church is on mission through the infilling power of the Holy Spirit as she takes presence of Jesus to communities all over the globe.

However, postmodern pollution has built a dam. The rivers of Living Water have been largely shut off. When the things God calls sin is continually validated in Christian articles, on Christian bookshelves, and in classrooms and pulpits, the source of this contamination is made clear. Yet, the dam is protected and even celebrated in the name of tolerance.

The good news is there’s a leak. God is raising up prophets. The Living Water is starting to seep through the cracks. There is a remnant of committed Christ-followers passionately calling out to Jesus. They are praying earnestly for revival every single day. They realize that the powerless tolerant form of religion that’s currently in vogue will never suffice in transforming the world. So, while these are serious times, they’re also exciting times. May we wait with hopeful hearts for the King of Glory to make His presence known once again.


(Sources: “Trouble with Truth” by Rob Renfroe; “Desperate for His Presence” by Rhonda Hughey; Barna Research Group)

4 Comments

  1. Lots of good things to think about here, Brian. Off the top of my head, here are a few thoughts that occur to me as I read this. As I have been spending a lot of time with my 23 year-old daughter and her friends, I have a lot of thoughts about these things from their perspective. First, we are living in a culture where we have seen so much abuse of scripture and spiritual manipulation by those in positions of power that it seems the more religious authority one has, the less a lay person is likely to believe what he or she has to say (at least an unchurched lay person; I fear it’s more true that I’d like to admit with those in church as well).

    Following on from this recent history of spiritual leaders who have used their positions and false interpretations of scripture to manipulate their people into the kind of behavior they desired, many young people feel that now they are back at the beginning, having to question even the most basic tenets of scripture. Of course they may be wasting time doing this, but they are also seeing a lot of hypocrisy as they are evaluating these things, and this is causing them to lose even more respect for the traditional views of the church. Some examples that come to mind immediately are when the church places an uneven emphasis on certain sins, making them appear unequal in severity. The pastor of a church filled with people who are gluttons, or where gossip is rampant, really has no credibility to speak out against any other sin if she isn’t confronting these things that are clearly problems in her community.

    I think in your first three paragraphs you probably have most people agreeing with you. The problem comes in your fourth paragraph, and stems from what I mentioned above. I disagree with your definition that tolerance equals celebration, but I suppose that depends on your definition of “celebration.” I think for many who are working through the issues of scripture, and are not as convinced in the absolutes as you are, their default position is that one cannot go wrong by showing love to others. Love is always the right thing. If someone is a glutton and I don’t confront him or her when I run into that person at the buffet, am I wrong? I don’t know. But I can’t be wrong to show that person love in that situation, can I? And if I am showing that person love in that situation, you might consider that I am celebrating their gluttony. In reality I would say that I am stepping back and leaving the judging to God. Obese people probably get plenty of judgment from everyone anyway, most of all from themselves. Is more pressure from me telling them that their behavior is something that is condemned in scripture really necessary? And if you chastise me for not confronting that person in that situation, it does feel like perhaps you are ungracious.

    I know that in this recent election I believe Christians did a lot of damage to the group we call Millennials. As they looked on at the way Christians behaved on both sides of the partisan lines in this past year, we appear to have been characterized by everything except love. We do certainly appear to have to have been influenced by the cultural overtones of the day, as you say. We have absolutely compromised the very things scripture says are non-negotiable—love for others, embracing the poor, the widows, the orphans—for our political ideology. We have become a reflection of the American way, and not only that, but we are pushing for laws that will continue to move us further away from love for our neighbor. God is fully capable of judgment; what I see lacking everywhere I turn is love. I don’t know how we restore our credibility in the eyes of our young people. I don’t know if we can. But one thing I agree with the kid my daughter’s age group—if I love God and others, I can’t go wrong.

    Thank God the Wesleyans exist to spread this message; may we be trustworthy with that mission. God’s best to you as you lead other in this endeavor!

    1. Great insight, Bruce. Thank you. I could have probably used the word “embrace” in place of “celebration”. I was attempting to differentiate between “accepting” something and “embracing” something.

      I have a 24 year old son and realize that Millennials have a different perspective on many issues today. My son and I talk about how confusing the current culture is. When we speak of the “power” of Jesus the idea seems foreign to him. It’s not that he doesn’t believe in such a thing it’s juts that he has never experienced it like we read about historically.

      My heart is to compassionately and lovingly speak to the life-transforming power of the risen savior. It seems that some have become afraid of certain words, and I understand why. I just don’t think overcorrecting the faults of fundamentalism will help move forward in a meaningful way.

      I really appreciate you sharing. You’ve given me something to think about. God bless you, Bruce.

    2. I appreciate your discernment of the present situation of the church, especially when you said, ” We have absolutely compromised the very things scripture says are non-negotiable—love for others, embracing the poor, the widows, the orphans—for our political ideology. We have become a reflection of the American way, and not only that, but we are pushing for laws that will continue to move us further away from love for our neighbor. God is fully capable of judgment; what I see lacking everywhere I turn is love.” I thank God that He is in throne and He always leaves a remnant that continues to be faithful to His words and cause. As He said talking with Elijah in I Kings 18″…“Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars. I am the only one left, and they are seeking my life as well”? And what was the divine reply to him? “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” The church can change with the grace of God! Our God is a God of second chance as long we repent and seek Him as we should. He can restore the vision we need to fulfill His will.
      Bro. Gill

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