The following are some key points from Joe McKeever’s insightful article The Church’s Dirty Little Secret which answers the question:
Why does the church— which is the institution which we Christians should respect the most— end up being the least respected by many in the church? And why is the pastor the least respected professional of all?
The article points out the following reasons:
1. They, the spiritually immature in the church, see the church as a human institution belonging to them.
2. They see the pastors as their employees, there to do their bidding and accountable to them. (I actually had a deacon once tell me, “Pastor, I was here before you came and I’ll be here when you’re gone.”)
3. They see God’s work as something the professionals do and their roles as volunteers when it’s convenient and easy. Ah, it’s the old, “Let the hired holy-man do the hard stuff, I’ll just buy my ticket and watch from the cheap seats.”
4. They see their contributions (money, service, teaching, etc.) as voluntary and not required.
5. They see their church’s reputation in the community as irrelevant and unity as beside the point.
6. They see their childish behavior as no one’s business but their own. Poor little boo-boo kitty.
7. They see themselves as the center of their own universe and think everything revolves around them. In fact, just this morning I read the following:
Q: How does a narcissist screw in a light bulb?
A: He holds the bulb and stands still while the world revolves around him. Sad, but true.
Finally, the article sums up the magnitude of the problem by quoting a pastor, fresh out of seminary, serving his first church. He says:
“Church is the only place on earth where people can throw hissy fits and get away with it.” Ouch.
And we all know, church life is not meant to be like this.
If you, like me, find yourself in a church family that functions like a family, you are indeed blessed. And if you don’t, what are you prepared to do about it?
Don’t you think it’s about time you packed your bags and caught the first train out of Laodicea?
Sometimes, as true followers of Jesus, we have to stand alone.
Now I’m not talking about standing alone against the onslaught of evil in our society or the corrupt individuals in our government or even the forces of darkness that align themselves against us. No, I mean to “stand alone” when it comes to worshiping our Lord in the manner He is most pleased with, in a way that brings Him the most glory.
Let me explain.
True Worshipers vs False Worshipers
When Jesus was confronting the Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar He made a statement about true worship that has rocked me to my very core. And it should have the same effect on you if you are one of those who truly desires to leave the spiritual lukewarmness of our Laodicean heritage that has become the mainstay of much of what we call church today. His words have put a longing in my heart for more of Him, that “I may know (1097 – ginōskō) Him and the power (1411 – dynamis) of His resurrection, and the fellowship (2842 – koinōnia) of His sufferings” (Phil. 3:10). And it’s my prayer His words will do the same for you.
So what exactly did Jesus say to the woman at the well?
Their discussion was about worship. The woman was playing on the inherent prejudice between Jews and Samaritans regarding the location where proper worship should take place, either on Mt. Gerizim or in Jerusalem (John 4:20). But Jesus would not be goaded into a fruitless argument. Instead, He said:
“Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship (4352 – proskyneō) the Father. You worship (4352) what you do not know (1492 – eidō); we know (1492) what we worship (4352), for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship (4352) the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking (2212 – zēteō) such to worship (4352) Him” (John 4:21-23).
Did you catch that? Jesus said the hour is coming when the true worshipers, as compared to false worshipers, would worship the Father in spirit and truth and that the Father is actively seeking true worshipers to worship Him that way. In other words, there is a type of person who worships the Lord in a way He actively seeks, that He earnestly desires, that He is striving to find. And it’s possible, even probable, for you and I to become that type of worshiper.
But what does that mean? And what does that look like? And what does that have to do with “standing alone” in regards to true worship?
Standing Alone in Worship
Fast forward a year or so and we now find Jesus coming back to Bethany just six days before His last passover. He’s at a party given by Simon the Leper (Matt. 26:10) along with Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha (John 12:1-2), and His disciples. After supper, Mary quietly comes up behind Jesus and breaks an alabaster jar of very costly oil of spikenard and begins to anoint the head and feet of Jesus and then wipe His feet with her hair (John 12:3). The sight of Mary’s raw, open, unashamed devotion to her Lord was unnerving to both those at the party and to us had we been there. It’s far too extravagant, way too lavish, and an extremely unwise use of money. It was a classic example of financial irresponsibility, especially when you consider her gift of spikenard would cost about $25,000 in today’s dollars.
In fact, those who also loved the Lord, His disciples, felt like we probably would about what Mary did. Their conviction at her love and devotion, and embarrassment at their own lack of love and devotion quickly turned to anger, condemnation and judgmental indignation. In fact, they called the anointing of Jesus, their Lord and Master, a “waste” and said the money could have been spent better on the poor, on a stranger, on someone less deserving that they didn’t even know (Matt. 26:8-9).
But Mary kept on worshiping her Lord by wiping His feet with her hair while the whole “house was filled with the fragrance of the oil” (John 12:3), with the sweet aroma of her worship to the One who meant more to her than life or reputation or acceptance or the approval of her family and friends.
No one came to her defense. No one said, “Hey man, cut her some slack. If she wants to worship our Lord that way, so be it. It’s a free country, she can do what she wants.” Even Peter, who just a few days later would categorically deny any knowledge of the very existence of Jesus, stood with the others in condemnation of her appalling and disgraceful actions. And even John, the disciple “whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23), remained silent.
No one came to Mary’s defense. No one stood by her side. No one offered a kind word of encouragement or a nod of understanding or a polite smile. She was standing alone among those who also loved her Lord but were indignant and resentful of the way in which she chose to express her love for her Lord.
But in the midst of that hostile crowd, someone noticed Mary. It was the same someone who permitted her to worship Him the way she did and even defended her actions. Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always” (John 12:7-8).
Jesus graciously accepted Mary’s act of worship and devotion. He was pleased at her willingness to give so sacrificially and recognized that Mary understood the whole picture of why Jesus came, she grasped the rest of the story, she got the point. Mary knew that Jesus was born to die. And this lavish, loving, costly gift of hers was in honor of His death and burial.
And I think Jesus wanted Mary to know that He knew that she knew that He was soon to die.
But she had to worship Jesus alone. In the midst of friends and fellow committed followers, those, like her, who had given their all to Jesus, she still stood alone in her worship.
And sometimes, so will you.
Often the greatest enemies of a faithful follower of Jesus are those who claim to be His faithful followers, but aren’t. Our churches are sadly filled with lukewarm, half-hearted, tepid, followers of the one and only Son of God. When confronted with an act of devotion like Mary’s, these Laodicean church members will criticize and denounce the true worshiper only to make their lukewarm efforts seem worthy. They will viciously tear down others to make themselves feel better. They live in the gray, the shadows, and are frightened of those, like Mary, who live in the light.
After all, didn’t Jesus say the same?
“And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (John 3:19-21).
So understand this, if you truly desire to know Jesus more and more, you will find you’ll make some enemies along the way. And often, actually, more than not, those enemies will be found nestled in your church and family and among your friends. Why? Because they have a vested interest in keeping your spiritual temperature about where theirs is. Lukewarm. And if you get too hot for the Lord and make them feel guilty or ashamed or embarrassed, you’ll face, like Mary did, their indignation, rejection and condemnation.
In essence, you must commit yourself to leave Laodicea at all costs and run, full speed, into the non-lukewarm world of fervent worship directed to an audience of only One. And His name is Jesus.
So if you truly desire to be the kind of worshiper the Lord seeks as His worshiper, you may have to do that alone. And that’s totally OK.
1097 – to know intimately or by experience, to place favor upon, to choose, a Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse between a man and a woman.
1411 – explosive, dynamic, achieving, miracle working strength, power, or ability.
1492 – to know cognitively, to perceive with the mind, to comprehend, to understand.
2212 – to actively seek after, to look for, to strive to find, to desire earnestly.
2842 – participation in, communion, partnership, the close association between persons, emphasizing what is common between them, being a member of a family.
4352 – to worship, to fall or prostrate before, to kiss as a token or respect or homage.
While I was preparing for last Sunday’s sermon I was arrested, literally taken captive, by a statement Jesus made during His last message to His disciples before heading to the cross. He was praying to His Father for them that they would be protected from “the evil one” (John 17:15). He was not praying for the lost world, but only for His disciples (John 17:9).
But a phrase in Jesus’ prayer stopped me cold in my tracks. He said:
“I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them” (John 17:9-10).
It was the last sentence that really got to me. Read it again for yourselves. Slowly.
Jesus said, in effect, that all that is His belongs to the Father and all that is the Father’s belongs to Him. The context of the “all” is Jesus speaking of His disciples, those with Him in the Upper Room and those, you and me, the church, “who will believe in Me through their word” (John 17:20). Jesus was also speaking of His church— the called, chosen, justified and redeemed (Rom. 8:29-30).
But look closely at what He said about His church, about you and me. He said, “I am glorified in them” (John 17:10). That’s not future tense, but present tense. He is glorified, now, in them. He is glorified back then, and also today, in them. He is glorified in the present in them. And the “in them” means, of course, the church. “In them” includes those in the Upper Room and those of you reading this post today. It includes all that call upon His Name for salvation no matter where they live or what local church they attend. It includes all, everyone, who have ever been saved.
And it includes you and me, individually, and each of us, collectively, as the church— whatever local body of Christ we choose to attend.
I Am Glorified
But what convicted me the most was the glorified part. Jesus said He is “glorified in them” or in us. Not will be glorified or maybe, someday be glorified, but He is, right now, glorified in us. How can that be?
The word, glorify means “to bring glory, honor, or praise to someone, to show great dignity, to highly esteem, to celebrate profound worth, to magnify and exalt above all others.” Wow. Jesus said He is all of that in His church and in you and me, right now. I don’t see it. I don’t see it at all.
Do you know why? Because I live, like you, in the Laodicean church age (Rev. 3:14-22) where the prevailing spiritual mindset is embodied in the meaning of the name, Laodicea: “the people rule.” That’s right, we call the shots. We’re masters of our own fate, our own destiny. We’re independent, self-made and proud of it. We refuse to bend our knee to anyone or anything except our own selfish lusts and pursuits. And this carnal attitude is engrafted into our DNA, into the very fabric that makes us who we are.
How can Christ be glorified in a church like that? And, worse yet, how can He be glorified in me when the only glory I seem to seek is my own?
In my flesh, He can’t. There’s no way. It’s an impossibility. There’s nothing I can do on my own to bring Him glory. Jesus said, “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5) and He was talking about bearing spiritual fruit so that “My Father is glorified” (John 5:8). He even goes on to say that we are created, as disciples, “to bear much fruit, (why), so you will be My disciples” (John 15:8). And bearing fruit, according to Jesus, is the greatest evidence of our salvation (Matt. 12:33).
But the good news is that with the Spirit “all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26) and we can move beyond our inherent, diseased DNA and leave the land of Laodicea and strive to live in the wonder of His grace, of His Spirit, in union with the Father, as children of God and “joint heirs of Jesus Christ” (Rom. 8:17). In other words, we can be different than those of the church age in which we live. Things can change. We can change.
“How?” you ask. “How can we be different from all that is around us and all we’ve ever known?”
The answer to that question is the reason this blog exists. Together we will devote our lives to knowing and understanding how to help each other move beyond our apathy, our cultural conformity and moral carnality and embrace the life our Lord designed for us to live. Remember? He called it the “abundant life” found only in Him (John 10:10). Are you living the “abundant life” in Him right now?
If not, I’d say it’s high time to pack your bags and jump on the next bus out of Laodicea. It’s time for all of us to leave Laodicea and never look back.
Are You Ready?
Are you ready? Are you ready to forge ahead into the wild unknown in your life with Christ? Are you prepared to “count the costs” of true discipleship? (Luke 14:28). Are you willing to forsake everything, and I mean everything, for the sake of “knowing Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead”? (Phil. 3:10-11).
Are you ready to live your life for the sole purpose, like Paul, of fighting “the good fight, finishing the race, keeping the faith”? (2 Tim. 4:7). Are you prepared to “suffer hardship as a soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3) and to bear His reproach gladly?
Are you ready to experience an intimacy with the Lord Jesus that is beyond description? Are you ready, maybe for the first time in your Christian life, to be truly one with Him?
If so, rejoice. Because making a commitment, a definite resolution, a sacred vow to forsake your citizenship in the land of Laodicea and move to the promised land the Lord has given you, will open for you a promise of blessing previously unknown to the church for centuries. It’s the promise to the overcomers, the blessing of Ephesians 3:20-21. Read these words with a hunger and anticipation of the glory waiting to be revealed in you and “run with endurance the race that is set before us, (how) looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2).
This, beloved, is your inheritance in Him today when you leave Laodicea.
Now to Him (Christ) who is able to do exceedingly abundantly (or, immeasurably, beyond comprehension) above all that we (you and I) ask or think (or, can conceive in our minds), according to the power (Gr. dunamis – explosive, miraculous, achieving, overcoming power) that works in us (in you and me, in the church), to Him be glory in the church (in us, collectively, as the Body of Christ) by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen (Eph. 3:20-21).
This is our inheritance, our birthright. Let’s not let the toys and trinkets of this world take it away, shall we?
Will you join me?
Come what may.
One more post about Elevation Church and pastor Steven Furtick.
The following are 30 reasons affirming to their employees that Elevation Church is the Best Place to Work. Pay close attention to numbers 1, 3, 7 and 16.
1. We serve a Lead Pastor who seeks and hears from God.
3. We serve a Lead Pastor we can trust.
7. We serve a Lead Pastor who pours into us spiritually and professionally.
16. We serve a Lead Pastor who goes first.
I find it beyond disturbing that the employees of Elevation Church are encouraged to serve a man, Lead Pastor Steven Furtick, and not the Lord Jesus Christ. Does that bother you? Does that seem to be getting pretty close to man-worship manipulation and idolatry? It does to me.
Oh, and don’t forget number 23.
23. Two words: game time— we love competition.
Really. But who are you competing with? Other churches and other Christians? Boy, talk about unity in the body of Christ. Oh wait, my bad. I forgot that you defined unity as all falling in line lockstep to the vision and leadership of Steven Furtick… at least that’s what you’re teaching those innocent and impressionable young minds with your children curriculum.
And if that wasn’t enough… well, there’s always Steven’s Hey Haters video. Just what I adore in a pastor, true humility.
The following from Elevation Church and their pastor, Steven Furtick, is frightening. This is a page from the materials Elevation uses to teach their children. Note what it says at the bottom:
Elevation Church is built on the vision God gave pastor Steven. We will protect our unity in supporting his vision.
Question: Whose vision are we protecting? God’s or Steven’s? And what if Steven’s vision differs from God’s vision? Where does our allegiance lie? I understand that it’s Biblical to follow Steven as Steven follows Christ… but what if Steven stops following Christ? What do I do then?
According to what Elevation’s children are being taught, follow the man, follow Steven, support his vision.
Reminds me of the Wehrmacht Oath of Loyalty to Adolf Hitler, issued on August 2, 1934:
“I swear by God this sacred oath that to the Leader of the German empire and people, Adolf Hitler, supreme commander of the armed forces, I shall render unconditional obedience and that as a brave soldier I shall at all times be prepared to give my life for this oath.”
It could read:
“I swear by God this sacred oath that to the Leader of Elevation Church and its people, Steven Furtick, supreme pastor and visionary of our church, I shall render unconditional obedience and that as a brave church member shall at all times be prepared to give my life for this oath.”
But that’s another post for another day.
To the Church:
Please note, Christian musicians and entertainers who have a loud voice and a large platform are not theologians nor, for that matter, pastors, teachers or elders. They are, as stated, simply musicians and entertainers and not divinely inspired prophets of God. Trust me, after working for 10 years as a concert promoter for a Christian radio station in Charlotte, I know. Believe me, I know the spiritual shallowness of many Christian artists. The Christian music industry and the carnal, Laodicean church may view them as the Pied Piper for cultural relevance and moral tolerance and accommodation, but that does not make them spokesmen for God. Far from it.
Take for example Dan Haseltine, lead singer for Jars of Clay. In dealing with the issue of gay marriage he summed up his Biblical knowledge on the subject this way: “I don’t think Scripture ‘clearly’ states much of anything regarding morality.” Really? Are you serious, Dan? Have you ever read your Bible, Dan? Do you believe in absolute, finite truth, Dan? Or do you believe that whatever seem right to you… uh, well… must be right with God?
In fact, over the last couple of days Dan has come out in favor of homosexual marriage. “How?” you ask. Simply this. When you jettison the Word of God and replace it with your own mind, thoughts and feelings, then you become God over God’s Word and will believe and support anything your heart tells you is right. You become the moral absolute in your life. You become the final authority over what is right and wrong. You become the standard that God must adhere to. You, in effect, become God.
But remember this, Dan (and all others out there who claim to have the mind of Christ yet do not follow His commands), the Scripture has much to say about God’s view of your feelings and logic and opinions and of your heart. It says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). Did you get that, Dan. Your heart, as well as mine, is deceitful above all things, above everything, and is desperately, incredibly, unashamedly, incurably wicked. Dan, this is what the Lord says about your heart. So if your heart or mind or opinions don’t agree with the Word of God, the problem is with you, with your deceitful, wicked, Laodicean heart, and not with God.
After reading the following article, Dan, I would strongly suggest you drop to your knees and repent for elevating your sinful opinions and skeptic questions higher than the Word of God and then having the arrogant audacity to shake your fist in the face of God and proclaim them publically. And if I were you, I would repent ASAP. After all, I think you may have awakened the sleeping giant.
Sad day for you guys, Jars of Clay. Looks like another one bites the dust. Oh, remember Rob Bell? Didn’t think so.
Jars of Clay Frontman Comes Out in Support of Homosexual ‘Marriage’
In a series of assertive Tweets yesterday, Dan Haseltine of the popular band Jars of Clay took to his Twitter account and came out in support of homosexual ‘marriage,’ citing that he does not “particularly care about Scripture’s stance on what is ‘wrong.'”
Haseltine, who is the lead singer of Jars of Clay and whose band became famous for its Christian-themed music, posted to his Twitter account on Wednesday: “Not meaning to stir things up BUT… is there a non-speculative or non ‘slippery slope’ reason why gays shouldn’t marry? I don’t hear one.”
“I’m trying to make sense of the conservative argument. But it doesn’t hold up to basic scrutiny. Feels akin to women’s suffrage. I just don’t see a negative effect to allowing gay marriage. No societal breakdown, no war on traditional marriage. Anyone?” he went on to argue.
“I don’t think Scripture ‘clearly’ states much of anything regarding morality,” Haseltine stated.
You can read the entire article here. And, you can read a response to Dans’ views here.