I have posted this as exhortation toward modern-day churches because I felt that if something prevented God’s precious children from having a meaningful relationship with God then I would try to break down that barrier. I thought by pointing out the common shortcoming of modern-day churches would help break down that barrier. I only desire to see God’s precious children to have a wonderful and meaningful relationship with their own CREATOR and not to let anything hinder that relationship from growing.
While I can’t speak for all of the churches out there, I am only writing from my own personal observations, a little bit of research, and others’ second-handed account with churches. Several observations came across my mind regarding modern-day churches. I was grieved to see that they had distorted the TRUTH, disbelieved in the LIVING POWER OF GOD, became like the world, became infiltrated with “devouring wolves”, and lacked much in LOVE and COMPASSION.
Please understand that this is not directed against those who truly worship God in spirit and truth. This message is intended to be a strong exhortation for churches whom had strayed away from God.
1. Distortion of TRUTH
Easy and comfortable listening sprinkled with personal or interesting stories has diluted the HOLY GOSPEL in modern-day churches. Most of the preaching I’ve heard throughout my life consisted of inspiring life stories with some or little connection with God’s Holy Scripture. Not even a testimony about how God changed their life. Emphasis on stories can’t teach fellow believers more about God throughout the history of mankind! We have everything we need in the Holy Scripture – poetry, songs, stories, and wisdom!
There is also a tendency of not preaching much about sin and the need to repent. It was considered too “judgmental” and “harsh.” People need to know about sin and the consequence of sin! And how they desperately NEED JESUS in their life in order to be healed and saved! It’s a matter of life or death!
Suppose if a doctor came to a patient with a terminal disease (SIN) saying everything is okay and treated the patient with kindness? Should the doctor soothe patient with painkiller making everything comfortable and all right? No! Far from it, instead the doctor should explain the bad news about the terminal disease (SIN) to the patient first and then proceed to tell the patient about cure (CHRIST). Painkiller doesn’t cure the disease. We need the antidote to cure the terminal disease that lies within. Christ is our cure to sin that lies within, only He can save us from death! Preaching a diluted GOSPEL is akin to giving patient a painkiller, soothing them but not curing them.
On the other extreme end, leaders or fellow churchgoers can spew out condemnation and guilt onto God’s children although this usually happens in more subtle way. This distorts the GOSPEL by minimizing GOD’S EVERLASTING LOVE for his precious children. They can bombard us with so-called challenges to be “better” or “work harder” at being holy. A few examples below –
“You need to be a better father, look at this guy. He’s a good example!”
“You need to give more”
“You need to be more involved in church..”
God’s grace covers us and Holy Spirit will guide us with our permission. Only God can truly fix us from inside out, not some man’s challenge to be more “holy.”
Look at how Jesus dealt with woman caught in adultery –
John 8:1-11 (ESV)
8 1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
See how Jesus didn’t condemn the woman but instead told her to stop sinning.
I know it seems contradictory with the need to preach about sin and not condemning folks at the same time. I’ll explain in a bit. If we go back to the doctor analogy I mentioned earlier – Imagine when if a doctor recoils from patient’s disease then treats the patient with hostility and judgment. That would be acting without love and compassion. Compare that with doctor who genuinely wants to see patient to improve and be cured of their disease. Like the compassionate doctor, we can still explain how SIN infected our lives and how we need JESUS CHRIST’S BLOOD to free us from bondage of sin. We do it with LOVE and a fervent desire to see people freed from bondage of sin and their relationship restored with CHRIST, rather than putting people down with only condemnation and guilt.
Jesus spoke hard truth frequently and told His listeners about the cost of following Him including the possibility of dying for Him. He also spoke of wonderful things: treasures in heaven, everlasting LOVE, etc… Instead of diluting the GOSPEL with only good and easy stuff or without love, we need to include FULL and unaltered GOSPEL including the good (blessings), the bad (our sin, the cost of following Jesus, dying to self), and the ugly (persecution for Christ’s sake). There’s nothing like preaching the GOSPEL with sweet aroma of LOVE!
2. Disbelief in the LIVING POWER OF GOD
I was talking with a Christian about Joseph’s dream. I mentioned how I loved the story of Joseph and how cool it was when God gave him a dream and which was then fulfilled many years later. I think at some point in the conversation, this person told me in a lecturing tone that dreams and prophecies only happened back in the biblical times, not in present-day as to dissuade me from believing in them.
Miracles, dreams, and prophecies are still very much alive to this day! We just need to have faith. Have you noticed Jesus healed those who had faith in His healing power and didn’t much healing for those who didn’t have faith? Check out the following scripture about FAITH –
Matthew 8:5-13 (NIV)
The Faith of the Centurion
5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”
7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”
8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.
Matthew 9:20-22 (ESV)
20 And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, 21 for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” 22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.
Matthew 9:27-30 (ESV)
27 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” 28 When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” 29 Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” 30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it.”
Matthew 13:57-58 (ESV)
57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” 58 And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.
Luke 18:27 (NIV)
27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
Seems like a lot of miracles depends on our faith, doesn’t it??
3. Becoming like the world
There have been accounts of pastors wanting to make their churches more “seeker-friendly” to increase attendance. So they resort to worldly means to attract more folks to their church without emphasizing GOD’S HOLY WORD first! People need to know more about the GOD, not to be entertained. We already have plenty of entertainments in this world, can the modern-day churches set aside time that is completely devoted to GOD? Unfortunately churches are filled with music programs, game nights, movie nights, etc.. Modern-day churches looks more like a community center rather than a house of worship. I even remember one church added a basketball court so they could attract more folks to their church. Yikes!
Modern-day churches operate their organization very much as the world does. I’ve heard of emphasis on running the church like a business with pastor as the “CEO” of the church. Reaching out to the lost has become reduced to slick marketing efforts, trying to “hook” outsiders inside and then casting them aside once they’re inside. Marketing catchphrase has diluted biblical truth and God. Sometimes I wonder how much modern-day churches depend on God for their day-to-day guidance or are they mostly following their man-made agenda?
Ancient Israel started out without kings and depended on God to rule over them as a king. But over time Israelites eventually clamored for earthly king to rule over them rather than letting God rule their lives. They wanted Israel to be like rest of the world with an earthly king.
1 Samuel 8:19-20 (ESV)
19 But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”
I’m seeing similar pattern in modern-day churches. We have hierarchical man-made organization with earthly leader at the top, rather than letting God lead them. I suppose it’s easier to go by what we can see and touch instead of going blindly by FAITH and trusting in GOD completely without looking to any man on earth for answers. Is God greater than man is? Why look to man for answers when we can go to GOD ourselves?
4. Devouring Wolves
There are people who purposefully use God’s word to abuse His children. I can’t put specific number or exact percentage of people who does this. It could be widespread or it could be limited to few churches, I do not know. But I do know it’s important to speak out against this kind of practice so God’s children can be set free from these devouring wolves!
There are pastors who peddle God’s word for profit. I did a quick internet search about pastors living in luxuries hoping to find some examples. Some of the stories I came across blew my mind and grieved my heart. I struggled to comprehend why anyone would take advantage of other people like that. Greedy pastors would guilt trip their congregation into giving their hard-earned money, claiming it’s for God and yet the money went toward their selfish indulgences. They bought private jets, mansions, vacations, etc.. Some were even struggling to pay bills while these pastors lived in extravagance. How can the love of Christ be inside these wolves?
1 John 3:16-18 (NIV)
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
Let’s look at how Paul treated the early churches in the following verse –
1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 (ESV)
Paul’s Ministry to the Thessalonians
2 For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. 2 But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. 3 For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5 For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
9 For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
See the difference? Paul worked hard as not to be burden on the early churches. As loving parents gave to their children, Paul poured his time and efforts into helping the church grow spiritually. God’s children shouldn’t be pressured or guilt-tripped into giving to specific ministry or church. There are many ways of giving back to God including but not limited to: spending time with Him, getting a nice present for your least-loved relatives, sending a card to the lonely, helping out a friend, and taking care of your elderly parent.
Also check out the following verse about giving:
2 Corinthians 9:7 (ESV)
7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Another type of devouring wolves is those who seek glory from men. Out of generosity, God has bestowed many gifts to us. Is it right to take credit for what God has created? Glory belongs to God, not man. To seek glory from man is to steal glory from God. Pastors are not to be worshipped! No man is to be worshipped either! While some pastors or Christians may be helpful in guiding our spiritual walk, we are not to be dependent on them for our spiritual nourishment. Jesus Christ is the only one who could truly fulfill our spiritual need. With the blood of Christ for forgiveness of our sins, we can boldly go before God! God gave us His Holy Scripture for us to be spiritually nourished and to learn more about God.
Body of Christ has one leader – Jesus Christ!
We are not to call any man father or priest but only to consider each other a brother. I sincerely believe that every Christ follower can learn AND teach one another.
Matthew 23:8-10 (ESV)
8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ.
Some wolves seek power and control over their followers. These type of wolves are very dangerous and leave much destruction in their wake.
When we serve Christ, we always strive to reflect Christ best as we can and of course, if we’re willing, we let Christ increase inside us while Self decrease. God will never force Himself upon us. He waits for us to come to Him! What does this has to do with power-seeking wolves? It’ll make sense in a bit, bear with me. As a follower of Christ, we are essentially an ambassador of Christ – representing Him to the lost and the unsaved. Therefore, when the lost looks upon us, they don’t see the Self that lies within but rather we hope they see the sweet aroma of Christ’s love emulating from within.
Now, with these power-hungry church leaders, they are supposed to be ambassador of Christ to reflect His glory and His love but instead they have exchanged these for corrupted Self. What happens when outsider, assuming they don’t know much about Christ, looks upon these power-hungry leaders as representative of Christ? They might mistakenly associate Christ with these leaders because they claim to be speaking on God’s behalf. Then the outsiders will have the wrong picture of God because of how these power-hungry leaders have misrepresented the true character of Christ! Furthermore, these leaders have denied spiritual nourishment to churchgoers who desperately need it. Fear and condemnation have enslaved the churchgoer under the bondage of law and man-made commandments.
Pride, greed, and lust for power have prevented God’s love and glory from reaching the believers and outsiders alike. This should not be the case!
5. Lacking in LOVE and COMPASSION
Loving God and one another is the most important commandments to follow. Seeing it in modern-day churches is another story. Their lack of love ranges from a simple indifference to condemning mindset towards others.
Imagine this – a poor person comes to a church with tattered clothing hoping to experience God’s love and learn more about Him. One churchgoer tells the poor person to wear a better clothing for the church. How would that person feel? Loved or judged?
Or if someone is struggling with addiction – does the community try to help those who struggle or do they condemn and shun the addict? I’m not saying that we don’t take a stand against sin, but we can strive to be like loving parents toward the weak ones – guiding with loving hands and explaining why certain action is wrong while remaining unchanged in love with healthy boundaries. Loving parents know each child is different and uses different approaches to discipline tailored to each personalities. Some only require a gentle correction and a strong approach may damage that child’s well-being. Other only needs a strong approach.
Or if someone wants to change churches, are they condemned and slandered simply because they left for a different church? What about when churchgoers or leaders condemn other churches simply because they have different ‘doctrine’?
When the community lack in love and compassion, they are falling short of reflecting Christ’s everlasting LOVE and His GLORY.
I wanted to wrap this up with one parting verse
Revelation 3:20 (ESV)
20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
I see Jesus knocking on the door of modern-day churches while everyone inside is having a party. It hurts me to see that they won’t let Jesus in, or even hear Him in the first place! Again, this is only an exhortation for modern-day churches to turn and truly seek God with their heart.