“Recovering” Part 7 – Where do we go from Here?

It’s been a long journey, and not at all enjoyable.  We’ve talked about the generational gap (part 1), the cyclical nature of church history (part 2), the King James Bible issue (part 3) (we’ll have an article series on that soon, LORD permitting), made a blame assessment (part 4), took potshots at the RFP guys (part 5) (not really), and then made a challenge for churches and believers to stand up against wickedness in the church (part 6).  Now it’s time to finish up with the only hope left to the believer in this day and age.

We’re in a pickle!

As the Bible clearly says, judgment must begin at the house of God.  We cannot sit complacently and point our fingers at the pronoun-popping progressives, the globalist push for total control and a worldwide communist technocracy, or the false “churches” that have adopted all of the world’s mannerisms, methods, and mentalities.  The problem is that the called-out, born-again, Spirit-indwelled body of Christ has been “asleep in the light” (warning: the music might make you a little uncomfortable and the singer has long hair!!!) and has neglected to shine the light of the gospel into the darkness of the world around us.

Many will insist that they are not the ones responsible for this condition, and while it’s true that individually not everyone has been involved in creating the problem, we’ve already seen how God’s men always took responsibility as part of God’s people (Nehemiah, Daniel, etc.).  No doubt there were individuals in the church of the Laodiceans that weren’t of the same mind as the majority, but they weren’t singled out as separate from the rebuke: they were part of the problem because they weren’t part of the solution.  Elijah’s consternation and loneliness might not have been such an issue if those other prophets had been doing something other than hiding in a cave (1 Kings 18:4).  As it was, he stood alone before the enemies of God’s people, and in front of God’s rebellious people themselves.  Jeremiah sought for a man (Jeremiah 5:1) and Ezekiel couldn’t find one either (Ezekiel 22:30), and Christ Himself is looking for a man (Revelation 3:20) among His own church, with the implication that there may not be any (Luke 18:8)!

Yes, it’s true that there are many faithful pastors taking care of their churches, and yes it’s true that a lot of the rot is thanks to a small number of very visible ministries (like the pastor who makes jokes about a former youth pastor joining the church for the pretty girls…while that former youth pastor is sitting in prison, the second youth pastor sent to prison from that church).  It’s not the job for pastor Bill in Bigfoot, Texas, or brother Phil in Deadhorse, Alaska, to fix the problem in Southern California.  BUT, wouldn’t it be great if so many Bible believing, independent Baptist pastors and churches were speaking out vocally against these issues, that the news media would have a story, that the pastor would have to defend himself, and maybe the church would just close down and stop being such a rotten testimony against our Saviour?  One can only dream.

No, you didn’t do it.  But you do have a voice, and maybe you should use it (Isaiah 58:1; Ezekiel 33:6-7).

Taking God’s side against yourself

Take a look at one of the most famous examples of a lone man, with God, taking on the enemy: David facing Goliath.  Countless sermons have been preached on every imaginable aspect of the event, rightly pointing out that one doesn’t have to fear any enemy as long as he is on God’s side.  Despite the obstacles that David faced, and even though he was alone in his fight against Goliath, one thing was certain: the enemy was well-defined, and his people, while not helping, at least were at his back.

We, on the other hand, are confronted by a reality in which the worst enemies of the church aren’t external: they’re internal.  Even worse, the “Goliaths” that we face today are protected by professing Christians.  As we’ve already detailed, there are men in pulpits in independent Baptist churches that should be in prison, and those that should be rebuked and shunned that are invited to preach special meetings and fellowship conferences.  It’s to be expected, though: Ahab and Manasses were two of the worst influences on God’s people, and they were the leaders.  Paul also warned us that there would be both external and internal threats, and that the internal threats would arise to give evidence of the faithfulness of those that would oppose the “perverse” men seeking their own glory.

Ultimately, however, when “my people love to have it so” (Jeremiah 5:31), what are we to do?  There’s no escaping the church, the only God-ordained organism for glorifying God, edifying God’s house, and saving the sinners for whom God’s blood was shed, so what can that one man do?  We really find ourselves in a catch-22 situation: we find it difficult to serve God as part of the church, due to the widespread rebellion and disobedience of the same, but there is no biblical way of serving God outside of the church, regardless of how corrupt and wicked she has become.  “Reforming” the church is a non-starter, and trying to leave and start something new only creates its own problems, as we saw in part 2.

Is it really that bad?

The tendency of the average individual in any group or movement is to view his group or movement with optimism and positivity, while rejecting any negativity or judgment as unfair or disloyal.  In fact, it’s a hallmark of cults (both regular cults and cults of personality) to view all negative feedback as treason to the leadership, dismissing it completely without ever considering whether there may be truth to it or that it may be offered out of sincere concern.  It’s the same attitude that tells Mormons to obey the leadership without questioning, that also told a faithful board member that his daughter “isn’t that important” when it was reported that the son of the pastor of the “world’s largest Sunday school” had repeatedly raped her.  No criticism is ever acceptable, which is why the author of this series will be mostly rejected despite a deep love for the church and for God’s word.  It’s just the way things go.

All of that simply goes to illustrate the difficulty of objectivity within a system: no one wants to face the possibility that the multi-year slump in attendance, spiritual performance, and leadership capacity signifies a decline that will culminate with shutting the doors and an end to the church’s or the movement’s history.  And, making any suggestions in that vein is considered disloyalty, even if the intention is to motivate a change in direction, a rethinking of position, to try to prevent that all too obvious outcome.  While pragmatism is wrong (“it must be ok if it the visible results are to our liking”), it can be clear that a certain trajectory is not being blessed by God, especially if a church or system is simply going through the motions out of loyalty to bygone, manmade tradition.

So, is the situation really that bad?  Yes.  The IFB movement has become almost synonymous with sexual abuse coverups, nearly as much so as the Catholic Church.  You can blame Eric Skwarczynski and others for exposing it, but there was a man somewhere that covered it up when he should have gone to the police instead, and a lawyer that showed up to do damage protection when the pastor got caught molesting a teenager (the same lawyer who tried to cover for an abusive pastor by claiming that the pastor’s notes from counseling a child rapist were protected by “pastoral privilege”).  Expect to see a steady decline in overall bus route participation, not just because of “COVID” but because people don’t trust churches anymore.  Public denouncement of abuse, coverups, and protection of abusers should be a normal, everyday thing in churches.  Unfortunately, it is instead a rarity and something to be praised instead of standard operating procedure in every church in the nation.  How DARE we denounce taking kids to drag shows when we won’t even denounce child molesters in the PULPIT!  This level of vile, putrid, satanic hypocrisy is unfathomable, and the world knows it.

The world is the way it is because the church is the way it is.  It is the testimony (salt and light) of the church that is supposed to convict, guide, enrage (and engage), and conflict with the world around it.  However, since we have DESTROYED our testimony by not walking the walk and simply being a bunch of religious, loud-mouthed hypocrites, the world scoffs at the church, ignores us completely, and has relegated us to the sidelines of society–and it’s our fault.  You will find very few examples of local churches that are truly respected in their communities for their steadfast testimony of honesty, consistency, and dependability; often the church’s testimony is one of rude customers at restaurants on Sundays, ministry cheapskates begging for discounts and free stuff, and dishonest business dealings with both church members and pastors.

Yes there are exceptions, and I hope, dear reader, that your church is one of them.  But no, the exceptions don’t change the overall reality.

Spiritual STDs

Now we get to the really uncomfortable part.  I assume that most of my readers are saved adults, but if you’re a minor or uncomfortable with biblical language about promiscuity and sexual deviancy, you probably ought to skip to the next heading section.  This is going to be rather graphic, but it’s the Bible, so get ready.

We understand as dispensationalists (and if you’re not a dispensationalist, then whatever, go invent another new explanation for “a thousand years” and leave us alone) that Israel is not the church and the church is not Israel, and that God’s promises and covenants with Israel are eternal, to be fulfilled in the future during “the tribulation” and into the Millennial Kingdom.  We understand that there is no “replacement” of Israel by the church, and any applications made to the church of scriptures written to Israel must be done carefully, as the doctrine almost never applies to the church.  However, we know that the practical and spiritual applications almost ALWAYS have an application to every reader at any point in time, regardless of the doctrinal meaning of said passage.  With that being said, take a look at what God said to His people in Ezekiel chapters 16 and 23.

The imagery is brutal; along with a detailed description of how Judah had betrayed her Saviour, God reveals exactly how He perceives this unfaithfulness: it is a wonton, insatiable desire for fulfillment that only God could supply, but instead His chosen was paying for sexual favors from every John she could find (Ezekiel 16:32-34).  She thought that she could make the world around her appreciate her by becoming like them.  She accepted their lifestyle, their lingo, their licentiousness, and their lusts, but all it bought for her was their contempt and God’s punishment.

The church has adopted the world’s methods and mentality, turning a holy, solemn event into a circus; the pastorate is equivalent to the CEO of any small company, thanks to the incorporated 501(c)(3) “charitable organization” status of most churches; and the lack of purity and holiness in our daily lives makes us a laughingstock before the world around us.  Instead of a spiritual body of believers, the church is now a tax-exempt charitable organization with a board of directors, a treasurer, a secretary, trustees, an employee 401k plan and a mortgage payment.  How are we any different from the world?  We have chosen the easy route and as a result have lost the favor and power of God in our ministries.

As such, having accepted the intimacy of the world’s system instead of the purity of God’s commands for His church, the church (which is a body, don’t forget) has become a business, and when a body becomes a business, it is only a matter of time before the consequences become evident.  Is it any wonder that the Bible says that many are “bastards, and not sons” (Hebrews 12:8), when Christ’s bride is spending more time hanging out with His enemies than with Him?  When holiness is ignored in favor of impressive numbers and massive ministries, it’s to be expected that the spiritual kids are not God’s children.

God’s message to Judah via Isaiah was much the same.  Isaiah gets off to a roaring start in the very first chapter, describing God’s chosen people as “From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.” (Isaiah 1:6)  The recurring theme throughout the prophets is that God isn’t interested in the offerings or religious motions of His people, while those people are in spiritual disobedience and rebellion.

Isaiah 1:13 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.

How do you think that God feels about our independent Baptist assemblies, camp meetings, “revivals,” and other evidences of just going through the religious motions?  God called their “obedience” to the law “iniquity” because it was done with a wicked, disobedient heart.  Just as Judah was described as being full of putrefying sores, as a clear result of her spiritual infidelity, so the church displays the visible results of her long-running affair with this world.  The worst part is that the world sees it and the church doesn’t, just as a used-up barfly doesn’t take note of how her body has been abused and spent, and is no longer of any interest to potential clients.  The world doesn’t want what the church has, because what the church has can’t help anyone.  It has spiritual STDs, the obvious end result of her constant whoredoms with the world, seeking fulfillment that can never be satiated by God’s enemies.

Is there any hope?

Despite the horrific condition in which Christ’s bride finds herself, there is still a glimmer of hope.  Practically speaking, there is no earthly hope for the church; she must await the purifying fire of the Judgment Seat of Christ (not “baptist purgatory,” just judgment of her works) to be made white and clean and prepared for her wedding day.  There is simply no way that she will obey her Saviour’s commands in Revelation 3:18-19.  However, for the individual believer, there is still a way to recover some semblance of fellowship with the Saviour, and that’s in Revelation 3:20.  Far from being a verse about Jesus wanting to save the unbeliever, it is Christ wanting to have fellowship with His church!  The zeal for the things of God may be gone, and true repentance may be a foregone conclusion, but the individual that seeks intimacy with Christ can have it.

Yet, note that this door is unique; it’s not the “open door” that was set before the Philadelphian church.  This is a closed door that only you can open.  And, if you open it to Christ, it just may have to close on someone else.  After all, that “zeal” is also jealousy: He wants our attention, to the exclusion of all else.

Will anyone heed His call?  Will anyone decide that fellowship and intimacy with the Saviour is more important than life itself?  When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?  That’s for each and every one of us to decide.  To your own Master you will stand or fall.  I’m just the messenger.

It’s true that judgment must begin at the house of God (a spiritual house made up of lively stones; 1 Peter 2:5), but if the church as a collective has determined that she is not interested in hearing Her Saviour’s voice, then what are we supposed to do?  Again we come to Jeremiah 5:31:

…and what will ye do in the end thereof?

Or, in the Southern vernacular: whatcha’ gonna’ do ’bout it?

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