4 THINGS HURTING CHRISTIANITY TODAY AND THE ONE WAY TO HEAL IT
As Christians we need to be more concerned with our national leaders representing the teachings of Jesus. We must ask ourselves - do they teach by their life example or are they just a voice expounding on their biblical memory of scripture without true understanding. When we forget our past we’re doomed to repeat it. As Christians we must individually grow and know, who to follow, who to support and why. Remember the world takes our Christian example (in action) more seriously than our Christian advice (judgment). Here are 4 things I believe are hurting Christianity today, and the ONE WAY to heal it.
#1. Mega Prosperity “personality driven” preachers who are too big to fail.
For the record - I’m not new to the Mega Christian Movements in America. As a boy, I was raised on Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swaggart and the great Billy Graham. And then as I got older, I remember watching Richard Roberts, Robert Schuller, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, PTL (Jim Bakker), and now I’m 61 watching TBN (Paul Crouch), Paula White, Joyce Meyers, Creflow Dollar, TD Jakes, Mike Murdock and the most popular, Joel Osteen.
Now, what do these preachers all have in common? Outside of Billy Graham, they all lived or live multi-million dollar lavish lifestyles as favored Christian Kings and Queens in America, all the while claiming to “need your money” to help them feed and clothe the needy worldwide. Is this the message Jesus taught? Are they not aware of the public embarrassment this ‘type of hype’ brings to Christianity? Especially in poorer countries where humble servants of God (at the risk of being killed) struggle to help the lost find Christ, while in America preachers brag about having Gods “special favor”. Do they really need to live in big mansions and have multiple luxury cars and planes? Do they really need to have multi-millions of dollars of real estate in their ministry portfolios for their security while discussing the “coming of the Lord” at any moment? Do they really need to give Bentleys away as gifts to one another or allow their churches to give them Rolls Royces while their asking for ‘more to feed the poor’? Is this the true message of Jesus? Is this Christianity in action? I am not here to judge, I’m here to ask the questions.
If you inquire about these people, their lifestyles and review their personal reputations among the most humble ministers of the Lord, you will quickly see through their unfortunate misunderstanding of scripture pertaining to “self worth”. Example: they flaunt their worldly possessions of which Jesus saw no value. Remember the temptation of Satan described in Matt. 4: 8-10? The devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only”. In the end I don’t think we can barter with God by using our tithes as seeds for more lavish things way beyond our needs.
I think it’s time these ‘Mega-Ministers’ scaled back their lavish lifestyles and lived on 10% of their incomes, giving 90% away to feed, clothe and help the needy; first in their city, state and country and then the world. How can we help the world be Christian strong if we’re Christian weak in America? If we don’t start restoring the Christian principles that America was founded on, we won’t have a chance. And it might be too late, if we can’t get our Mega Ministers to realize they’re weakening the body of Christ by living life in such a gaudy way. Jesus said, “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses”.
#2. Preachers bickering among themselves and attacking each other without the love to help one another.
It’s difficult to understand the preachers who openly attack one another while representing the “God of Love”. Now, some of the confrontations may be justified like their inaccurate preaching, adulterous affairs and mishandling of monies. However, we are to do it in love at all times. I know it’s hard for some to watch the top Mega Ministers get away with unchristian like behavior, and then stay in the TV ministry simply because of their mega-money-making skills. Some of the “behind the scenes” behavior of the Tiltons, Hinns, Whites, TBN Crouchs etc., is no different than the behavior of the Swaggarts, PTL Bakkers and Falwells of the past. Its all the same; it’s sinfully shameful.
And as Christians we have all suffered for it as the world mocks us for supporting ministries that manipulate their flock for self gain.
Now, (in present times) there’s a great attack on Joel Osteen by many pastors and preachers. Some call him the “cotton candy preacher” because of the “sweetness of his message” about Gods favor. I can’t tell (from some of them) if it’s just their jealousy because of the huge size of Joel’s home Church, public events or his book sales. As a Christian motivational speaker there’s none better. As a Pastor guiding “lost souls to heaven”, I’m not sure. I will say, that I knew his dad (John) and he taught Jesus above all else. He was very successful and as Joel says, his dad was his best friend. Personally, I think Joel was raised in such a loving Christian home that he never had to deal with “true sin repentance”. As a child, he probably accepted Jesus in his heart and lived an easy life - all his life. His parents were very loving and his dad was very successful in ministry and financially, I’m told Joel was raised in comfort. In the end, I’m confident God will awaken him to teach about sin, repentance and walking in the love and truth of the Lord by the Lord’s example and to do it without waiver.
As Christians we need to know the “words of Jesus” well enough to know if we should be following these personality driven Ministers who may love the sound of their own voice more than the true message of repentance, forgiveness, love and discipleship in the Lord. Above all, we should be praying for their uncompromising awakening to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
#3. Evangelist / Preachers who make it sound so easy to be "born again".
They need to have the nerve to tell it like it is. The whole born again process is the most important beginning for anyone coming to Christ. Some of these people brag about how many souls they’ve saved; but what happens to them 3 months later when they’ve fallen away disappointed their “good life” didn’t show up as promised. Jesus tells the story differently. He discusses the tribulation that fell on Him will fall on all of us. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world”. On the subject of Heaven Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. On discipleship Jesus said, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” Jesus makes no excuses for those who don’t follow Him, every day in every way. You’re either worthy of Him or you’re not!
Being a “born again” Christian might be simple to explain but it’s not easy to do. It should be represented in a truthful way. It’s serious and our souls are at stake. We should be teaching exactly what Jesus said in the Gospels about repentance, love, forgiveness and discipleship.
We need to know what Jesus said even more than what Peter, James, John and Paul said, or anyone else since them. There’s a difference between those who teach the gospel according to Jesus and those who teach the gospel according to Paul. (It’s called Pauline Christianity) and it’s worth your time to review the Great Debate and decide for yourselves. Just remember, it all started with “what Jesus said” first, and He has the last word.
#4. Non-Practicing Christians - The ones who embarrass Christianity by their false confessions and dishonest behavior, while professing to be a Christian.
As a Christian counselor I am always taken aback while talking to professed Christians when they say they “know very little of the Gospels”. They actually call themselves “Non-Practicing Christians” and they expect to enter heaven simply because they once said a prayer of repentance in church or while touching the TV screen. Most of them didn’t even know what the word repentance really meant. And yet, they expect to get into Heaven while they’re playing in Hell.
Whoever thinks they’re going to the same place Jesus is without following His example - truthfully and daily - is sincerely wrong. It’s true; no one can snatch you out of His hand. However, if you’re out sinning and fooling around and not in HIS hand ... you’re out of luck entirely (the parable of the ten virgins and their oil lamps is an excellent example: Matt. 25).
And, this statement from Jesus is for everyone who practices “lawlessness” thinking they’re protected. Jesus said in Matt: 7- “Not everyone who says to Me, ’Lord, Lord’, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. -- And I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”
I think all non-practicing Christians should be warned and informed: You’re either with the Lord or you’re not. Be hot or cold but never be lukewarm, or He will spit you out of His mouth.
(see Rev. 3:16) That sounds very specific to me.
* The ONE WAY to HEAL all this is by knowing what Jesus meant when He said, “I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life”.
I think we ALL need to know for sure WHAT DID JESUS SAY and decide how much it matters to us. Our decision determines our desire to read HIS WORDS. The great Bible teacher and commentator, Henry H. Halley, said it this way,
"The Four Gospels are, by all odds, the most Important part of the Bible: more important than all the rest of the Bible put together: more important than all the rest of the books in the whole world put together, for we could better afford to be without the knowledge of everything else than to be without the knowledge of Jesus Christ."
When you read the “words of Jesus” (highlighted in red) in your Bible, you will quickly see the intensity with which Jesus speaks and teaches. When He speaks He isn’t vague. He’s specific. He tells us over and over again to hear His words and to follow His commandments. Jesus says, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another”. Now, that’s specific!
That’s why it’s so important to know that you know, WHAT DID JESUS SAY. In the end, our test will not be based on what Peter, James, John and Paul said (or any other preacher); it will be based on WHAT JESUS SAID. So, if ‘what Jesus said’ matters to you, then dedicate yourself to HIS WORDS. Be the example of HIS LOVE and you will be called HIS DISCIPLE - forevermore.
And now, I leave you with this from Jesus: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me”. (John 14:23-24)
For the record, I believe we should ALL know, without doubt, the story of Jesus and what He taught His disciples, as well as what they said in their letters about Him. We should also know what Paul said, how he was picked by Jesus and what Jesus said he had to do for Him.
In closing, I believe our test will be based on WHAT JESUS SAID and our living example of Him; nothing more - nothing less. With that in mind, I leave you with what Jesus said about the Kingdom of Heaven: "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” (Luke 13:24)
May God bless all those who serve Him, everyday, in every way.
In His Word and love I serve, as your brother in Christ.