There are more religious networks and programs on television than ever before. Likewise, there are more churches than ever. However, upon closer examination there is another observation which saddens the heart of every genuine believer–there has never been as much false teaching, false doctrine and perverse representations of Christianity as we see today. There is a famine in the Land!
“…not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord:” (Amos 8:11)
In the midst of an explosion of technology, we see a lot of lateral movements with showmanship and youth culture idolatry, but few genuine conversions. This famine is from the loss of the clear and biblical presentation of God’s Word and it produces several problems which now confront us.
Prosperity Pimps - We see the ‘get rich’ false prophets rob the widows and gullible so they can maintain their lavish lifestyles. They are worse than the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. These charlatans twist the meaning of passages in an attempt to manipulate the ignorant into believing they are giving to God, when in fact, they are financially supporting the fleshly lusts of the preachers. These are modern day ‘money changers.’
Entertainment Houses - Another sad situation we see is that most places of worship simply become ‘entertainment houses.’ Secular man can easily be drawn to musical productions, plays and concerts with emotion filled atmospheres. The modern church has become a night club without the beer. It is a place where you pick up dates, make business contacts and enter the social network of the community, instead of a place to hear the gospel proclaimed without compromise and apology. Entertainment is replacing sound teaching in many churches.
False Doctrine - False teaching and doctrine are paramount within the Christian community. Our generation is reaping the results of biblical illiteracy. For the most part, this can be identified with the advent of religious broadcasting. In order to gather and maintain participation from the audience, televangelists and radio ministries manufactured gimmicks and tricks to keep the audience committed and comfortable. False doctrine is the religious pillow which offers comfort without holiness, honor without heart purity and games without genuine salvation. Any self centered modern man will love to hear about a God which loves him and wants to bless him as long as the message does not require repentance and obedience. (See what I mean?)
Contentless Messages - Walk into the majority of churches today and you will hear a lot of things about life, handling problems and staying positive. However, you hear very little which has to do with the gospel of the New Testament. We are not houses of secular psychology, get rich schemes and personal views of life. We are to be a place where people can hear what they cannot get ‘anywhere else.’ That is, that man is separated from God because of sin and that Jesus gave His life to redeem us back to God. Man is lost and needs a redeemer. All of our problems stem from our sin and rebellion to God, and no amount of positive attitudes, friendships or popularity will solve this. Contentless sermons from dead preachers will not change a person’s inner life or eternal destiny. Man’s heart can only be changed by the message of the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Understanding Success - The modern church has embraced the secular view that success is based upon results. Biblically speaking, success has nothing to do with results, but is rooted in obedience. This pragmatic view of Christianity is one of the reasons our churches have walked away from God’s call to proclaim the gospel. When we believe that results is the measure of success we will slowly change the gospel to meet the needs and desires of man, instead of calling man to repent and allow the Lord to change his needs and desires. Success is when we have proclaimed God’s Word, without compromise or apology, in brokenness and love, and have stood fast regardless of the acceptance or rejection of modern man.
Reversing the Famine
How do we reverse this famine which is helping to destroy the faith of many, confuse those looking for truth and making the church a laughingstock to the world. There are many things which could be offered, but here are two which I think are crucial.
1) Faithful Preachers
Look for faithful and God called preachers who genuinely understand the nature, purpose and sacrifice of their call, and who hold to sound doctrine! This will be a difficult search, as many use the ministry as a business opportunity, popularity contest, or a path to fulfill their need to control others. If you sense through prayer that a minister is unspiritual, not teaching the Word of God with sound doctrine, is seeking to build a name and reputation for himself, or seeking to pad his pockets in the name of ‘honor the prophets,’ then run, run, run!!!
If they are part of the ‘health, wealth and prosperity teaching,’ they are perverting God’s Word. If they are part of the ‘positive confession or attitude’ gospel, they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. If they are always talking about money, they are greedy prophets void of truth. If they are part of the ‘Word of Faith’ movement, they present a false gospel. Any of these four groups are threats to the spiritual welfare of believers and should be avoided and stood against for the sake of Biblical truth and salvation.
Find a Pastor who preaches the gospel of the New Testament without seeking the approval of man or the riches of this world. One who loves the sheep, rebukes the unruly and comforts the weak. One who is not lording over the congregation, but who encourages and challenges them to obey the Lord and fulfill their purpose in life for God’s glory. Find a Pastor who is given to prayer and continual study of God’s Word without hype or pretense.
2) Discerning Christians
The second crucial element to reverse the spiritual famine in our day is for believers to become mature and discerning Christians. False ministers can ONLY take advantage of you if you are ignorant of God’s Word. The manipulation and false teachings which are so prevalent in our day cannot exist under the light of sound biblical doctrine. Let every believer commit themselves to understanding the teachings of the Bible in order to evaluate and judge the teachings of every minister. False teachers must have ignorance in order to prosper with their heresy and manipulation. It is that simple!
Believers need to get beyond popular authors and daily devotional reading and embrace a study of the major doctrines of Christianity from time tested and classical books of systematic theology. This is the only way a believer will have the discernment to ward off the arrows of false teaching which are continually bombarding our faith. If you do not know what books to read, write me and I will suggest some you can pick up at a Christian Bookstore.
Let each one of us offer ourselves afresh to the Lord to do all that He is calling us to do. Let us fulfill our individual mission and be a part of a fellowship with other believers who are doing the same. Let us pray that the Lord give us divine appointments to meet and share with those who are looking for truth, but have given up on the modern church because of the hypocrisy they see. Let us be different, so we can offer that difference to them.
There are small showers of rain on the horizon. There are men responding to the biblical call with faith, prayer and steadfastness. Let us pray the Lord raise us many workers into the harvest to bring about fruitfulness and clarity of message. Let us pray the Gospel in our generation is delivered from the charlatans, gamers, egotists and control freaks. Let us pray the Lord uses each of us to reverse the famine!
What would you add?