Preaching that Robs God’s People of Peace
By Patricia Backora
Shocking blog posts on the Internet testify to the outrageous psychological abuse being perpetrated on the Body of Christ today. Young married couples struggling with bills and the soaring cost of living are being pressured to pay “tithes” to preachers who live much more luxuriously than they do. Some people go to bed worried that they will lose their salvation “because they’re stealing God’s tithe in order to eat.” Others toss and turn all night, eaten up by a sickening fear inside because some preacher has told them that if they don’t “win more souls to Christ” they will lose their salvation. God, the preachers threaten, will “prune them off the Body of Christ as dead branches” if they don’t hurry up and “bear more fruit” (persuade more people to repeat the sinner’s prayer). I use the word “repeat” because while you can sometimes guide someone in what they ought to pray, many people mouth words they don’t really understand or mean. “Making vain repetitions” (Matt.6:7) is a religious act, not a heart cry to God. God does not hear an insincere utterance and it won’t “take effect”.
God’s people have been traumatized by guilt pressure preaching to the point of sleeplessness, depression, anxiety and tears. Many have been so badly wounded they run away from the condemnation spewing forth from the pulpit…just to keep sane. Pharisaical preachers have ruled the flock of God with force, and driven them away from a Jesus Who is markedly different from that gentle Chief Shepherd of the sheep who said: Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matt.12:29-30). Legalistic preachers truly think the yoke Jesus has put on Christians isn’t heavy enough so they increase the burden they must bear by preaching “saved by grace, kept by works.”
Ezekiel 34:4: The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.
People get so depressed and fear-ridden they sadly turn their backs on the institutional church. The tragedy is that the real Jesus is often forsaken along with the harsh, slave-driver image of Him pushed from the pulpits of so many “radical” churches. A fatal contradiction is being pushed from the pulpit: The Word of God
declares we are saved by grace through faith and not by our own works (Eph.2:8), and we are no longer slaves but sons (Gal.4:7). But preachers say that those who don’t “win enough souls to Christ”, fast, teach Sunday School, give extra on Honor the Pastor Day, etc., just might get consigned to God’s reject heap. Emotional extortion is used by the worst of the worst to rob God’s people of the rest of faith, whereby a Christian ceases from His own works and depends on Christ alone to make him acceptable before a Holy God (Heb.4:10). A money and power-hungry preacher puts himself between Christ and His Bride, which is spiritual perversion.
“God will curse you and send you to hell if you withhold your tithe!” greedy preachers thunder from their powerful pulpits. “If you love money more than you love Jesus, you’re no disciple of His! So pay up!” Guilt and shame are appealed to here, and the believer’s love for Jesus is questioned. Keeping back money badly needed to feed children or keep a roof over their head is construed as “defrauding God” because it isn’t put into the church treasury instead.
Not ONE Scripture in the entire Bible supports tithing on wages, or on non-agricultural items. Tithing, along with all other laws written in Leviticus, the Book of the Law, was given BY MOSES FROM MOUNT SINAI TO ISRAEL ONLY! (Lev.27:30-34). The burden of the tithe was put only on the land, not on poor wage earners. Tithe-payers were given a rest from tithing every seventh (sabbatical) year, because no crops were gathered in that year. How many modern preachers give their people a break every seven years from tithing to THEM? Paul never taught tithing to the churches of Jesus Christ, only cheerful giving OUT OF WHAT YOU HAVE, not out of what you can’t afford (2 Cor.8:11-12;9:7). The Church Council of Acts Chapter 15 didn’t order converted Gentiles to start tithing. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit to add NO GREATER burden than four lifestyle restrictions listed (Acts 15:28-29). If the earliest churches did not have to keep tithing (and other laws), what right does any man have to reimpose this law on the Body of Christ?
Old Covenant priests took tithes from the Levites, but they themselves did not tithe. We are Christ’s New Covenant Priesthood (I Pet.2:5,9). Anyone who extorts tithes of anything from Christian believers is a fraud and putting extra burdens on Christ’s priesthood of all believers. Christians are the sheep of God’s pasture. Sheep don’t bear burdens. Donkeys do. Church tithing was not legislated until the sixth century A.D., when the Catholic Church put it into force. Whoever brings himself back under the Law doesn’t get blessed for it. Instead they come under the Curse of the Law (Gal.3:10). The Bible does not promise prosperity to those who donate money to the rich (Prov.22:16). Instead, it promises a worsening of poverty as the reward of such a gift.
The congregation, especially young, energetic believers, are pressured to “storm the streets” and persuade strangers to repeat a short prayer after presenting three or four easy steps to salvation. Nothing is said about a seed planted needing time to mature and ripen. Many times people aren’t given time for the Holy Spirit to do a deep-down work of convicting for sin, to lay the groundwork for a true spiritual regeneration to occur in the sinner’s heart. Jesus wants a godly sorrow to take place in the heart of a lost person (2 Cor.7:10). True sorrow for sin leads to repentance, or a “turning away from” sin. A superficial nod of acceptance that Jesus died to save all men and He loves everybody just isn’t enough, although it is less messy than confronting a lost person with his lost condition. Jesus said: “Except ye repent (turn away from sin) ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). There is a big danger of false conversions resulting from a stranger feeling pressured to pray, with no change of his eternal destination. He might “pray” just to get the “salvation salesman” off his back so he can go on his way in peace. At best, he’ll walk away as the same old sinner who feels a bit better about himself.
We must boldly (not stupidly or rudely) share our faith and tell people the truth, while at the same time trusting the Holy Spirit to ripen the harvest for the Gospel seed sown and bring them to salvation. At other times you will find that people are READY to commit all to Christ. That may very well happen because the Lord has ALREADY been dealing with them for some time. If so, chances are, some other soul winner planted the gospel seed in their heart, with seemingly no immediate results.
Many people have been guilt-ridden because they failed to persuade another person to come to Christ before that one died. Preachers have shouted about blood being on the hands of Christians who didn’t win all the lost around them, with many sleepless nights and nervous breakdowns resulting from such spiritual abuse. Before you heap condemnation upon yourself several things ought to be considered:
1. How did the sinner treat every mention of the name of Jesus when he was alive? For that matter, how did he view your claims that Bible was the only true Word of God? If he kept on throwing your holy things back in your face, your loving witness to him was like casting pearls before the swine (Matt.7:6).
2. Maybe, just maybe, if you HAD browbeaten that one long enough, he would have mouthed a “prayer” just to get you off his back. But praying under HUMAN pressure is the spiritual equivalent of a shotgun wedding, with very insincere results. Remember this: Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord (Heb.12:14). Can you HONESTLY say you could have persuaded that one to turn away from his cherished sins (which might include perversion, hard drinking, lust, profanity, etc.)? If you can truly say you wouldn’t have had the power to persuade him/her to give up those things forever, you can’t be held accountable for the path that one took. There must be a willingness to FORSAKE all sin before a person can be truly converted.
3. After you planted the Gospel seed through your witness, did that one do his worst to rip it back out so it wouldn’t take root? Did he brush off your walk with the Lord as something weird and not take you seriously when you spoke of it? How could you be held accountable if he did?
4. Perhaps this person hurt you so much that you yourself went into emotional meltdown. In your numbness you were unable to feel any compassion for him/her. If that happened to you, you yourself were (temporarily) taken captive by a devil who took full advantage of the situation. Just because sinners are in greater peril, doesn’t mean Christians aren’t also being attacked by satan. Many, if not most of God’s people, have periods in their lives when they barely feel saved anymore (satan puts that doubt there). You might be in a place of little or no true fellowship. There is NO ONE on earth you can share all your heart with! Unless the believer has learned to rely on the Lord alone in his personal wilderness, satan can overwhelm that Christian with disillusionment, trials, etc. (I Pet.5:8) I don’t believe a Christian can be possessed, but he/she can be so bound by satan’s demons that they are temporarily UNABLE to reach out to the lost. Even years down the road, after you have recovered spiritually and regained sensitivity of Christ and His love for others, satan will keep you awake nights and accuse you of failure to prevent someone from going to hell. There’s no worse soul torment! While someone else was in eternal danger, you were too traumatized by the enemy to respond. You yourself ought to have been ministered to, as a casualty of this war against satan. But you felt all alone in your struggle against the devil. Any soldier who’s been blasted in the chest on the battlefield can’t be expected to carry on with the fight.
5. There are cases where the Holy Spirit stops contending with lost sinners because they have crossed a line known only to Him. They love their sins too much to give them up. God will not always strive with man (Gen.6:3). Modern man is used to convenience, and things always being there waiting for him when he has the time to get back to them. People want to wait till they’re too old and worn out to have fun anymore, then they’ll think about their souls. But God is not at man’s disposal, to be sent away and then recalled like a servile butler when the person decides he’s had enough of sin and wants to make sure he makes it to heaven. God is not a genie in a bottle to be kept on the shelf till you need His services.
We live in a push-button age of instant oatmeal, microwave dinners, quick downloads, etc. This attitude of demanding instant soul winning results is reflected in much of the condemnation roared by preachers from pulpits. “How many souls have YOU led to the Lord this past year? If you can’t count even two, you’re in danger of being cut off as an unfruitful branch!” I’ve heard preaching like this before, especially at a “radical” church I went to many years ago. All the condemnation preached at that church drove me out, though I’d had good friends there. I recently read a post or two where people are worried sick that God no longer loves them because they “aren’t doing enough for Jesus.” One guy wrote that he felt suicidal.
Preachers hardly ever mention that Noah lived and preached for hundreds of years and only took seven other souls with him onto the Ark (all family members). But the Bible still honors Noah as a preacher of righteousness (2 Pet.2:5). God called Jonah to preach to the Ninevites, mortal enemies of Israel. Jonah hated them. God had to send a hungry whale to drag Jonah by the scruff of the neck to get the job done. Reading the text you get the impression Jonah didn’t even WANT those souls saved, because he hung around waiting for God to nuke Nineveh. Jonah wouldn’t have shed one single tear if God had fulfilled his prophecy of doom over that city. But God still gave Jonah a rich harvest of souls. Good salesmanship and a sweet disposition don’t guarantee genuine conversions to Christ. To keep new souls pouring into THEIR church, preachers threaten their congregations with the parable of the unfruitful branch in John Chapter 15.
What, exactly IS the fruit Jesus is referring to? Who the unfruitful branch which doesn’t abide in Him is cut off and cast into the fire? Is Jesus threatening to throw you into hell if you don’t gather in X number of souls in a year?
Matt.7:15: Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
Verse 16: Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
Verse 17: Even so, EVERY good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
Verse 18: A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
Verse 19: Every tree that bringeth forth not good fruit is hewn (chopped) down, and cast into the fire.
Verse 20: Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
In Luke 3:8 John the Baptist tells the people what fruits are demanded by God: Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, etc.
Verse 9: And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn (chopped) down, and cast into the fire.
Verse 10: And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do, then?
Verse 11: He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat (food), let him do likewise.
Verse 12: Then came also the publicans (tax collectors) to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do?
Verse 13: And he said unto them, Exact (collect) no more than that which is appointed you.
Verse 14: And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely, and be content with your wages.
Contentment is the opposite of covetousness (greed), a bad fruit of the flesh (I Cor.5:10). How many prosperity preachers encourage Christians to “aim higher”, not for spiritual treasures above, but for earthly things that perish? Christians are taught to never think they have enough and always strive for more.
And what about John the Baptist’s exhortation to collect no more than your due? How many preachers find every excuse in the book to take up extra collections?
More on the fruit God is looking for in a Christian:
James 3:17: But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
Verse 18: And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.
Gal.5:22: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith (faithfulness),
Verse 23: Meekness, temperance (self-control); against such there is no law.
The evil Pharisees who attacked Jesus weren’t manifesting these Fruits of the Spirit. Instead, they had a murderous desire to get rid of Jesus so they could keep on oppressing the people without opposition. Throughout the Old Testament, the fig tree is used as a type of the Nation of Israel (see Jere.24:8;29:17). God spoke of evil and vile figs (bad fruits of the nation) which could not be eaten. Many Israelites had fallen into idolatry so God found the fruit of this nation bitter. Shortly before His crucifixion, Jesus cursed the fig tree for failure to produce fruit (Matt.21:17-20). Christ’s first disciples were Jewish, but the Jewish nation as a whole would not receive Him. In A.D. 70 the Temple was destroyed and the Jews were exiled from their homeland as had happened before.
Do abusive preachers manifest the nine Fruits of the Spirit, as they roar at their congregations to give more and work more to bring in more souls to THEIR services? Could it possibly be that OTHER numbers are whirling around in their head? If I get X number of faithful believers to attend MY church, MY offering will go up dramatically. Now for a few questions about the Fruits of the Spirit:
1. How much LOVE do rich preachers show when they condemn poor families for spending their “tithe” to take their children to the dentist?
2. How much genuine JOY do you see on a stern Pharisee’s face as he tells you God will send you to hell for “withholding His tithe”? Rather, such preachers steal the joy of the assurance of salvation out of Christians’ hearts.
3. How much PEACE is in the church when the preacher fries his congregation in hell for failure to “win more souls” (increase church membership)?
4. How LONGSUFFERING is the covetous preacher when a big recession strikes and he starts hearing more clinks than rustles in the offering plate?
5. How much GENTLENESS does the preacher show when he hears bad news about several bad tithe checks bouncing?
6. How much GOODNESS does the preacher show when you tell him you just gave the church your last five “by faith” only to discover your car was almost out of gas and could you please borrow it back till payday?
7. How much MEEKNESS does a preacher show when he boasts that if you don’t pay the kind of offerings he demands and do enough work for the church, you’ll end up being his shoeshine boy in heaven?
8. How much TEMPERANCE (self-control) does a “prosperity” preacher show when his second (or third) wife gains two pounds and he feels like he needs a “fresher image to enhance his ministry”?
9. If that preacher didn’t grow any temperance in his life, chances are you won’t see much FAITHFULNESS on his tree either, just wife number four on his arm.
If you don’t discern the fruits of the Spirit in the life of that preacher who yells about giving and getting busy “for God”, chances are he’s got ulterior motives for pressuring you to be “good salesmen for Jesus” and “close the deal” after preaching a three-minute gospel message to a total stranger.
Still MORE on the fruit God is looking for:
2 Pet.1:5: And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
Verse 6: And to virtue temperance (self-control); and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
Verse 7: And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity (see also I Cor.13:1-7).
Verse 8: For if these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The apostle Peter shows us in the above passage that being fruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ constitutes true fruitfulness, not yanking green fruit off the vine by pressuring a reluctant individual to repeat the sinner’s prayer. That’s just like delivering a baby five months before it’s due. For sure you’ll get it out, but it just won’t survive.
Out of a true love for Jesus will flow an ardent desire to BE a witness to others, not just “go out there and sell Jesus.” The only person in the Bible mentioned as selling Jesus was Judas Iscariot, and he is in hell for it today. Seriously, anything done to try to earn or keep God’s favor is fatal to faith in Christ alone. The Way of Works leads away from the Cross, not toward it. Even the Pharisees boasted of all the sacrificial works they’d done, allegedly to please God (Luke 18:9-14). The sinner who didn’t perform good religious works was the one who got justified, because he cried out to God for unmerited mercy.
Why do (some) preachers pressure young people to “storm the streets for Jesus”? The lack of people is the destruction of a prince’s kingdom (Prov.14:28). Young people are most likely to preach to other young people. Young converts have a longer working (and earning) life ahead of them than oldsters. Ever notice how preachers keep a tote board up on the wall to the right of the pulpit, letting everyone know how much money was donated, how many attended Sunday School and church, etc.? So much for “giving in secret” (Matt.6:3-4). Throughout the Bible, God lets us know He is not impressed by numbers. Big congregations can be hampered by ice-cold formality. Paying the upkeep on a huge building complex can be a white elephant on the backs of poor people who stay away for that very reason.
Smaller fellowships don’t cater to fleshly pride, but they can be better for people who are intimidated by vast numbers in a huge auditorium. Preachers are often impressed by numbers and think their church will not achieve worthwhile goals without a huge congregation and plenty of committees. But God can save by many or by few (I Sam.14:6). A lot of “church projects” are nothing but expensive deadwood as far as He is concerned. Pointless programs, carnal concerts and fancy fixtures devour funds which could care for the poor and reach the lost in inner city areas. Billions are wasted on things that “promote the church to the community.” Worthless ego-boosters gotten by religious taskmasters at the cost of the rest and peace of God’s people will someday be burnt up as wood hay and stubble (I Cor.3:11-15).
Since I’ve made a real effort (and had much more time) to serve the Lord in various ways, satan has played the rumba on my conscience for weaknesses and failures of the past. I have fought him in the following ways:
1. Satan’s attacks only began after I felt God’s approval on my work and felt His closeness as never before. Now, it just doesn’t make any sense. Why would God shower Me with His love and approval for many months on end, then turn around and torment me with memories of past sins? That can’t be the Holy Spirit. It must be a wicked spirit at work trying to tear me down. Seems to me that if God thought my sins and mistakes were unforgivable, He wouldn’t have blessed me so mightily before troubling my sleep about the things of the past. So those torments couldn’t have been the conviction of the Holy Spirit. It must have been a wicked spirit! Jesus plainly declares satan is the father of lies and there is NO truth in him (John 8:44).
2. One powerful weapon I’ve used against the accuser is this verse: I Cor.6:17: But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.* * *When God sees me, He sees Jesus, because I am in Christ. My sins have all been forgiven by God, and He does not even remember them any more (Heb.8:12;10:17). How significant, that God thinks this truth is so important that He repeats it in the same book of the Bible!
3. Trying to argue the devil away isn’t enough. He’s so determined to wear me down that still another weapon must be pulled out of my arsenal to fight the fiery darts of the enemy: praying in the tongues of the Spirit (I Cor.14:2; Eph.6:18). In the Spirit we pray mysteries to God. When God’s Spirit moves in power satan doesn’t know what’s about to hit him.
Just reading about my war with satan should give you some idea of the harm done when Christians are ACCUSED BY PREACHERS of being unfruitful. When they hurt God’s people like this, they’re preparing people’s hearts for satan to plant seeds of condemnation and torture them, especially at night when they should be at rest. The quiet hours of such an oppressed saint are spent not in restful contemplation about the goodness of the Lord, but in futile hindsight: “What if , ten or twenty years ago, I’d been bolder or avoided making this or that mistake?” God has put a NO FISHING sign on forgiven sins and failures of the past, but condemnation preachers lure sensitive souls out into forbidden waters to sink beneath troubled waves.
Acts 20:29: For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
Rom. 8:1: There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.