Jesus said that the poor would always be with us. He did not say however that just because they will always be around, we were to neglect them and their needs and put religion above love. And yet that is exactly what the Western Church is doing. The piece below is written by a pastor who lives in Nashville, Tennessee. It was sent to me by a website I have subscribed to and as I read it, I immediately felt the stirring of the Holy Spirit to echo in this space the travesty that this person is trying to put an end to by getting off the fence and by calling and recognising things for what they truly are. Though he speaks of the situation in Nashville, Tennessee, I a pretty certain this is a reality which is also common in many other North American cities and States as it is in many European countries. Indeed, I have witnessed this in the UK where I live.
My spirit totally resonates with what this person is saying. It has done so for years but even today, despite the thousands of prophetic voices and secular voices who are shouting out: STOP PUSHING RELIGION OVER JESUS!, the Western church is blindly marching on to a beat that has nothing to do with the heart of Jesus Christ, and the watchmen and women who have been called to blow the trumpet are cast out to the sidelines as man’s pride determines that the kingdom of God no longer needs them on their ranks.
Expenses incurred by flashier technology, communications and stage setting, substantial salaries paid to people who are to shine like a lighthouse for those lost but who instead use that power, potential, gifting and resources to promote themselves and their campaigns, to gradually climb up the ladder of la creme de la creme of church hierarchy (and please note I am not talking here about the Catholic Church hierarchy, but a much more ferocious, deceiving monster disguised as an angel of light which operates by pulling the strings of the prideful puppets who are driving the Western Church today).
Most Christians I know are in love with the idea of being the Church of Jesus Christ to the world rather than being in love with Christ himself and His Church. The problem is that what many Christians understand as what it means to be The Church falls way too short from what Christ intended it to be, and though many leaders know this deep down, they would rather live through the next best thing than push for authenticity and the foundational principles and core elements of the Christian faith. Christian leadership is in my opinion for the most part gutless today. There is a deeply rooted fear of alienating their following by getting down to the nitty-gritty of what it truly means to be a Christian. Instead churches have become auditoriums, fountains of theoretical knowledge with little if any hands-on acts of grace, mercy, compassion and selflessness. Show me a church that is intent in casting out a new vision for a concise, clear and to the point mandate that was given thousands of years ago by Jesus Christ, and what you truly have is a group of people who strive to define new ways and come up with new formulas to continue doing the same old, same old about Christ’s command to look after the orphans, the widows, the poor, the lost, those in prison, the broken-hearted, those tormented by demons, those in despair. Oh no! It is much easier to keep talking about it and to keep learning different ways to tackle all these ministries without actually doing any of it, or doing simply enough to be able to pat ourselves on the back, but not really giving our all to any of it as a church. Just enough to make the church’s “resume” look like it is that of a church, but only just.
There are two of my posts which are by far the most read daily on my blog. To me this is illustrative of what is going on in people’s minds today. These are:
“Why did I stop going to church? Because I was looking for Jesus and I could not find him there” (https://mercedesphere.wordpress.com/2011/04/05/you-are-always-on-their-lips-but-far-from-their-hearts/) and
“You are the only Bible most people will ever read” (https://mercedesphere.wordpress.com/2010/06/23/you-are-the-only-bible-most-people-will-ever-read-ouch-2/).
The world is hanging from a very delicate balance at the moment and men and women all over the world are beginning to truly see their own vulnerability and God’s supremacy above all that there is and ever was. And as they do, the acts of The Church are scrutinized and closely followed and questioned. The Spirit of Christ lives on but it is certainly not to be found amongst folk who are happy to part with their money, time and resources so that Sunday worship is more contemporary, slick and so that better venues can be hired, state of the ark equipment can be bought and the latest leadership trends can be taught in top-notch premises by the most charismatic, trendy and entertaining of speakers.
The name of Jesus is far too Holy and precious to be used as the banner that condones, promotes and fattens up the calf we call Church today. As in Moses’ time many are once again ceasing the worship of such idol and instead turning their ears to the voice of their Shepherd Jesus Christ as He leads them to further the kingdom in fresh and unique ways away from a religious system which seeks to control, manoeuver and own what is freely given and should be freely shared and ultimately belongs to God alone. Those who are intent on worshipping a golden calf which relies on its own discernment, wealth, power and authority will miss the spirit of Christ which lives on away from man-made enterprises that behave, operate and do without the spirit of God just as the rest of the world we fail to lead by example does.
Many will reject this message as coming from a person who in their eyes is intent on tearing down The Church as we know it, but in my heart I know that before I knew Christ and God’s word I did not have this message burning deep in my heart and now I cannot but shout it out to the four corners of the earth. I will never tire from doing so and will only stop when that flame that burns within me is extinguished. Many will say that it is more Christ-like to love than to criticize and judge, but what person who claims to love would let another continue living in error and deception? What kind of love for Christ is it that turns a blind eye to the shambles that today’s Western church really is? Does God not tell us that wounds from a friend can be trusted? I may note be your friend but our faith in Christ sure makes us spiritual brothers and sisters, and God knows the bond birthed out of being part of the same family goes way deeper than any friendship. It is my absolute conviction that when it comes to Christianity and the role of The Church in the world at this hour, tearing down is exactly what is needed in order to allow good fruit the chance to flourish and abound. There is nothing else for it. We keep re-inventing the wheel, but the truth is it was never man’s job, responsibility or even calling to dictate how to follow the Holy Spirit, how to be a follower of Jesus Christ or how to even be the church. One discovers how to do all these things by simply seeking and abiding in Christ himself. It is all in the book and the truth is we have drifted so far from the simplicity of Christ’s heart that we can no longer discern where Christ ends and man begins.
I used to regularly read the blog of a Nashville Pastor, a very charismatic and likeable individual, a good man no doubt. One day he shared in his blog that him and hundreds of other pastors in the States would meet for a spiritual retreat/conference on board of a cruise ship. I left a comment on his site to challenge the audacity and blindness of hundreds of Christians leaders who had turned a blind day to the fact that they openly and publicly declared and identified themselves daily as having been given authority from above and as leaders of the Christian faith, and yet were clueless and blind enough to think that Jesus would approve of resources and blessings destined for spreading the Kingdom of God to be lavished upon the very ones called to lead by example in humility, meekness and sacrificial lives. I was astounded at the level of deception that has gone into the deepest layers of the Western Church. This pastor replied to my comment half agreeing that yes God’s blessings should be used wisely and in the same sentence defending that pastors have a very tough time of it and deserve to be refreshed and nourished spiritually as they need to be in fellowship with other pastors and be pastored themselves. To the idea that pastors need to go on retreats and be nourished and refreshed, I have to say, don’t we all? We all have extremely busy lives full of responsibility, concern and things to do and places to be at. As a mother, a wife and a person holding a job, and specially as a Christian sometimes I feel suffocated, desperately trying to come to the surface for a gasp of air to help me breath. I spend most of my time looking after the needs of another, and I have to be honest, there are times when that kind of sacrificial giving just proves too much and I want to throw the towel in and be refreshed and nourished myself, but something deep inside as I am down on my knees ready to give up always gives me that wake up call that if I am to truly follow Christ, I am here for others and not myself and that the only refreshing and nourishment I need is that of my spirit and that MUST come from Christ himself and no one or nothing else.
If the millions of secular Christians who have full-time jobs, families, and ministries manage to find time to nourish and refresh their spiritual life, then why can’t those remunerated Christian leaders do the same without rewarding themselves as the world would do for what is meant to be sacrificial? How are they then different from the world? I do agree that pastors need to be pastored themselves, but that links us to the same principle that they need to go to the source and not hang out with others who are in as much desperate need to have their hunger and thirst quenched by the spirit of Christ as they themselves are. The Spirit breaths more of the Spirit, the flesh will simply feed the flesh.
This pastor also told me that I should not knock down all these different conferences and retreats as a negative in the Christian world and put them all in the same basket, because he himself gave his life to Christ during one of this conferences. God in his grace and mercy will give us ample opportunities to seek Him and to find Him, and yes He will use any place, time and circumstance to reach out to us and draw us to Himself, but what percentage of people attending these conferences and retreats do you think have not given their life to Christ already? I can assure you, having attended a few of these things myself years ago, the majority have been a Christian for years already and are there for self-gratification and for fellowship which in many instances does not mean to pray and to lead sacrificial lives together, but simply to hang out with people who are of the same mind and will never challenge them or rub them up the wrong way, in other words with those who will tickle their ears.
There is a need for Christian teachers and shepherds to be out there teaching and shepherding, of course there is, but it is the thousands outside the church walls who have not heard it all before who are perishing in front of our very eyes not having known salvation, redemption and forgiveness, and not the millions who mechanically and lawfully march to the churches on a Sunday and walk out pretty much in the same way they went in: unchallenged, uninspired, and above all not having encountered God. How could they? Jesus was never found amongst those who had it all, those who had need for nothing, those who were confident in their own ability and strength, or those who thought they knew it all already and had the magic formula to spirituality and to how to get into God’s good book so that in turn many blessings and prosperity would follow. My, my how far the mighty have fallen.
Below is that piece from the Nashville Pastor, whom by the way is not the same guy with whom I had a few exchanges in his blog.
1000 CHURCHES and 4000 HOMELESS??
I live in Nashville where more Bibles are printed than
anywhere else in the world. We have more Christian publishing houses in
Nashville than anywhere else on the face of the earth – more churches per
square mile – and, outside the Vatican, a greater percentage of bodies in
buildings on Sunday morning than anywhere else on earth. So we in Nashville
have a better chance to get it right, wouldn’t you say??
We have 1000 churches and 4000 homeless people living and
dying under bridges and in culverts. I know because I have prayed with them and
lain with them as they died, and every week I feed and pastor them. We can’t
even get it right enough for every church to reach out to 4 homeless people.
And yes, that includes children as young as they get.
Nashville is the headquarters for a swag of church
denominations, and para church organizations like the Gideons, and from this
buckle on the Bible belt of the richest nation on earth, missions go out all
round the globe. Those missions are funded with .01 percent of all monies
collected in North American churches.
That’s right! For every $1000 collected by North American
churches, ONE Dollar is sent to evangelize those who have never heard the name
“Jesus” – but from the latest stats, are probably well aware of the name “Coca
And frankly, whereas I once despaired of these manifest
failures of the church, now I say, Bring it on! Let the world see forever the
rich failures of putting religion before Jesus, ritual before relationship,
rules before lives and liturgy before love.
When the world at large finally see that the emperor has
no clothes, so also will the light of the real gospel of grace and peace shine
the brighter. For where sin abounded, grace did much more abound!
Let it get darker, our Jesus will shine brighter.