Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) came to America in 1831 to study our nation. On what makes America great, the following quote is attributed to him:
“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers—and it was not there … in her fertile fields and boundless forests—and it was not there … in her rich mines and her vast world commerce—and it was not there … in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution—and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
I wonder what de Tocqueville would say if he came to America today. Would he still see pulpits aflame with righteousness? Would he still believe America is good? Amidst the chaos of what many believe is an illegitimate government working feverishly to try and remake America into a fascist state under the guise of utopia, many of those who attend church on a regular basis have become fearful, wondering what this world will look like tomorrow, next week, next year – let alone what their children will inherit.
While on every side we are being torn apart and pitted against one another, the false prophets of the universal church are beating the bushes of consolation, inviting the confused to come nurture on a god of their creation instead of the God who IS. At the same time, pastors in the traditional churches many of us grew up in are silent, and as a result end up compromising the word of God and the Christian faith. The sermons and series they are preaching could be relevant for any period or time in history, but are definitely missing the mark for where culture is today and what people need to hear the most. The Church in America, in many ways, looks like it has lost the ability to be a change-agent that sets the tone for an upright and moral society.
Why? Why would pastors so willingly compromise and offer up a powerless faith instead? I can see two possible reasons.
1. The Power of Christ
The first reason starts with the idea that they have been taught their whole lives to “stuff it”. Politics and religion don’t mix, and after all, separation of church and state is in the Constitution (NOT!!). After decades of being told this, however, pastors have become comfortable with the lie that has replaced the truth, and the risk of losing their tax exemption status, being shut down, or losing influential congregation members far outweighs any need to speak what is truth about politics or what is relevant regarding today’s government. This long ago set the stage for pastors to begin watering down their message instead.
‘Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”’ John 8:31-32
Knowing that truth is what sets people free, a watered down, weak message can never deliver the life-changing power of salvation and healing, and can never engage the hearts of believers to partner with Christ in these end days. Why would so many pastors then continue to allow themselves to be lured into this lie? I believe it also may be that the idea that their brand has become more important than their message.
A combination of the notion to “stuff it” along with the idea that building a brand is important are two main indications that they have lost their ability to truly believe in the power of Christ. If they did, they would not bend to any government mandating their doors be closed or that their parishioners do not sing songs of worship while in attendance, and we would see a lot more pastors like Ché Ahn in California or Artur Pawlowski in Canada. And before you throw Romans 13 my way, there is no such thing as slavish submission to a Godless government. This is errant teaching and is not what Romans 13 is saying. If I blindly follow a government that steps outside of their authority and role, that makes me as lawless as it makes them. There are many examples in scripture where God’s people did not slavishly follow a government that had stepped outside of their God-given authority, including the mid-wives in Exodus 1:15-22; Daniel (Daniel 6:7); and even God Himself when He recruited Moses to resist Pharaoh (Exodus 3:10). Bottom line, there is no passive Christianity.
People are only transformed by the truth, and are clamoring for something real amid all the fakery and facade they have perceived over the last decades, which means they are open and vulnerable to wolves in sheep’s clothing. There is a difference between believing IN God, and believing THAT God, and sometimes it is that difference which makes ALL the difference!
If pastors truly understood the implications of compromise, the fear of the Lord would be too great upon them to even consider it. If you look at Ezekiel 33:1-6, for example, take the word “watchman” and replace it with “pastor”, you begin to get a sense of this weightiness:
‘Once again a message came to me from the Lord : “Son of man, give your people this message: ‘When I bring an army against a country, the people of that land choose one of their own to be a watchman. When the watchman sees the enemy coming, he sounds the alarm to warn the people. Then if those who hear the alarm refuse to take action, it is their own fault if they die. They heard the alarm but ignored it, so the responsibility is theirs. If they had listened to the warning, they could have saved their lives. But if the watchman sees the enemy coming and doesn’t sound the alarm to warn the people, he is responsible for their captivity. They will die in their sins, but I will hold the watchman responsible for their deaths.’’ Ezekiel 33:1-6
2. The Fear of Man
“for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.” – John 12:43
Favor of the Lord is a tricky thing to the fallen nature. A man who has the favor of God resting upon him, like King Saul, in his fallen nature can begin to feel infallible and invincible. A shift can easily take place where gaining the favor of man becomes more important than maintaining the favor of God. Should the favor of God ever be removed, he is hit square in the eyes with all that he is outside of Christ, and realizes he can do nothing on his own.
Pastors often fear of offending their audience because they would rather grow attendance than lose it. The compromise is to hold up the idea instead that Jesus is love and His message is also one of love. But was Jesus afraid to speak truth? The eight woes to the Pharisees found in Matthew chapter 23 alone tells us that Jesus was not afraid to have direct conversations, and did not make a practice of dancing around the issues. In case you are wondering if He may have limited that to Pharisees only, there are lots of other examples of Him speaking directly, such as when he was speaking with the woman at the well in John 4:16-18:
‘“Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her. “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied. Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband— for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!”’
We cannot be afraid to speak the truth.
Don’t be a Stiff-Neck, be a Co-Creator with God instead!
The trap that we see so many pastors falling into today is believing that they don’t have to address today’s culture from the pulpit, and that as long as they preach scripture, the Holy Spirit will do the rest. Even the Pharisees preached scripture, but they missed the very presence and move of God happening all around them. Read Luke 11:29-36 to see what Jesus says about this, and note He speaks plainly that someone greater than Solomon is in their midst, but they refuse to listen. Listen to what? Listen to what the Spirit is saying about the times they lived in! He goes on to give them a warning, to “make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness”.
Also about the Pharisees, Jesus said: Luke 11:44:
‘Yes, what sorrow awaits you! For you are like hidden graves in a field. People walk over them without knowing the corruption they are stepping on.”’
In wanting to better understand this verse, I looked it up. The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary had this to say:
- “As one might unconsciously walk over a grave concealed from view, and thus contract ceremonial defilement, so the plausible exterior of the Pharisees kept people from perceiving the pollution they contracted from coming in contact with such corrupt characters”
Wow! Is it possible that pastors today, like the Pharisees back then, do not realize how much they have been corrupted by the things this world has to offer, and that the light in them is actually darkness? People who attend their churches have no idea the danger they are putting themselves in.
Getting back on track…
This is what the Lord says: “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls. But you reply, ‘No, that’s not the road we want!’ – Jeremiah 6:16
We can see this as a warning, but it also provides pastors with the way to correct their path. They don’t have to be the stiff-necks Jeremiah describes in Jeremiah 19:15. They can choose to return to the old, godly way instead.
Anyone can study and prepare a sermon or a series of sermons. Fire in the belly that comes out of intimacy with Him enables us to take the time to co-create with God in the process, by communicating and listening to Him first and foremost on what message is on His heart for the people. He knows each and every person who will be hearing the sermon. He knows their heart, their fears, their concerns. He knows the arguments they had on the way to church. He knows what they need to hear. Through a ministry that flows from that intimacy, you can tap into that stream and begin to discern what God is saying about the times we live in, where He is moving, and how we ought to engage and follow. Not only will your faith and trust in Him increase, as you see the power of God flowing from the transformational truth of His Word, and you will also gain confidence and boldness to stand uncompromising.
‘For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.’ Ephesians 3:14-21 NASB