State of the Church part 4: Carnal Carnival, & the greatest sin pastors commit

Part 1: Introduction, Love growing cold
Part 2: Are you tending your anchor?
Part 3: The numbers aren’t good
Part 5a: When carnality leads to spiritual abuse
Part 5b: Is your church spiritually abusive?
Conclusion: Spiritual Leaders and Humble Relationships

In the Introduction/Part 1 of this series, I discussed the Matthew 24:12 prophecy Jesus gave of “love growing cold”, and showed how that prophecy relates to believers. So then if love of believers for God and of each other is predicted to grow cold, in this series I ask what causes love to grow cold. Part 2 explored that question, focusing on the Hebrews 2:1 verse “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.” Part 3 looked at just how many bible believers, exactly, might have drifted away and hold to a non-biblical world view, and how the numbers impact our churches toward carnality. In this part I will take a look at what Paul Washer calls the greatest sin that pastors commit, and how that also is hurtling our brethren toward carnality and eventual cold love. Last, this series will hopefully (by God’s grace) discuss how to spot waning love and how frequently these days waning love gives rise to church spiritual abuse.

We have an old man in us that Jesus died to make become a new man when we are justified.  (Romans 6:6-7). We still live in the body of the old man but the new man is being sanctified each day as we submit and grow. The saved are still carnal creatures but it should be less so every day. It is incumbent on us to resist the fleshly desires, and to live a holy life. Succumbing to or clamoring for the carnal is never acceptable at any time.

From Forerunner commentary “(Matthew 9:16) “No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old” (Luke 5:36). Mark’s version of the same parable stresses that the “tear is made worse” when the new patch eventually “pulls away from the old” garment (Mark 2:21). Christ’s message is clear: When it comes to doffing the old man and donning the new one, we cannot “mix and match.” Successfully mixing them—combining them—is as impossible as serving two masters. We just cannot do it (Matthew 6:24)! The two men represent intrinsically and irreversibly opposing ways of life.”

The problem is that when we look to things other than the bible and Jesus crucified, satan drives a wedge between us and our carnal nature, which is ever-present. It doesn’t take much for our carnal nature to raise its head, and then crane its neck, and then start leading us down the broad path. Some believers let it. Once our view becomes distracted and shifts from Jesus, we begin to renew our relationship with the carnal. Listen to Paul Washer describe the problem. It is a cycle with a terrible end. Please take a moment to watch, it is only 3 min.

Church Leaders Who Permit Carnality from NCFIC on Vimeo.

Mr Washer said that church pastors are increasingly catering to the large group who want the carnal at the expense of the small group who wants Christ. I agree with this. I have seen it all too often. For me, it is like the chicken and the egg. Some pastors introduce the carnal and once tasting, the large group gets addicted. Or some churches clamor for it and sinning pastors find they want their position more than the truth and cave in to their wishes, finding that they like the carnal way too much after all.

Rev Washer mentioned the small group. In the last part I did the numbers. If we take on face value the Barna research stating that 8% of Baptists hold a biblical worldview (and we can because the Barna numbers have remained consistent for 9 years), and we take a medium-small congregation of 200 Baptists, 8% is 16 people. One hundred eighty four people will want the carnal, or at least, accept it. Now, not all of them will want the carnal in the same degree. There are some unregenerate who are all carnal, all the time. There are others who have just started drifting and will not stand for a lot of it, only comfortable dipping a toe into the carnal. But suffice to say, in the last piece we looked at the numbers and we can see the depressing truth of what Mr Washer says: the small group starves while the large group gorges.

He also mentioned something that I’ve seen is a downward process. He said that sinning pastors try to retain the carnal congregants by presenting ever more carnal means. The issue in many churches today is that pastors and their congregations have become adventure junkies, always seeking the next big thing, then the bigger thing, then the biggest thing. Everything has to be a thrill now. Let me give a few examples.

In a previous piece I wrote on Jentezen Franklin, I quoted him from his book “Fasting: Opening the Door to a Deeper, More Powerful Relationship with God.” Franklin said, “When I feel myself growing dry spiritually, when I don’t sense that cutting-edge anointing, or when I need a fresh encounter with God, fasting is the secret key that unlocks heaven’s door and slams shut the gates of hell.”

Heaven help us when we grow dry spiritually, lacking the latest cutting edge thing! Why do we always seem to need a fresh encounter? Like Jesus grows stale or something?

Here is another example: Mega church Willow Creek pastor Bill Hybels wrote a book called “The Power of a Whisper: Hearing God and having the guts to respond.” There are a host of problems with this book which I’ll address in another piece. In reference to the issue I am raising issue about adventure junkie syndrome, in his book, Hybels said, “Without a hint of exaggeration,’ says Bill Hybels, ‘the ability to discern divine direction has saved me from a life of sure boredom and self-destruction.”

Thank goodness Jesus died on the cross to save Bill Hybels from boredom! His next quote from the same book is more telling. As his second grade teacher assured Hybels that God still speaks to people today as God spoke to Samuel when Samuel was called to the office of prophet, Hybels says,

“I felt a swell of release as I considered for the first time in my seven years of life that perhaps Christianity was more than ancient rules, creeds and other stiff-necked ways.” (The Power of a Whisper, 20-21).

By comparison, a believer’s staid old faith, prayer, service, obedience seems dry as yesterday’s toast.

(PS as an aside, often these adventure junkie pastors selectively clip from the OT and normalize the experience of whom they are highlighting. God audibly calling people as He called the prophets is not the normative NT Christian experience.)

Brethren, if you are in a church that lifts up Hybels as the favorite read of 2011 and legitimizes divine whispers, RUN. You have a carnal pastor feeding you carnal pabulum.

Paul Young, author of The Shack, has the same adventure junkie addiction. The regular old faith that has been good enough for 2000 years is BOR-ing! Here is what Young said on page 178 of The Shack: “For Mack these words were like a breath of fresh air! Simple. Not a bunch of exhausting work and long list of demands and not the sitting in endless meetings staring at the backs of people’s heads, people he really didn’t even know. Just sharing life.” Doesn’t that comment sound more than a bit like Hybels? Satan always tries to get us dissatisfied with what we have, which is a perfect revelation contained in the bible, but for Hybels, and undiscerning pastors who promote him, the ancient bible is not enough.

A concern is also in the sly ways these books chip away at solid biblical principles with craftily written statements like Hybels, or these in The Shack such as, “the dusty old King James Bible” or that church attendance is “religious conditioning” or that the term “Christian” is outdated. People may not even be consciously aware of being influenced by these kind of statements. But the cumulative effect is the diminish the Word and heighten the personal experience. This only adds up to spiritual adventure, which equals carnality.

Beth Moore is another one who lives for breathless moments with Jesus, seeking the thrill rather than the faith. She is a big one for always looking for the divine whisper, the personal revelation, having a blast, the heart to heart chat, the date with God to make a snowman. In her book, she said, “Christ seemed to say, “Let’s go play.” And that we did. I hadn’t been to the zoo in years. I heard about all the improvements, but I never expected the ultimate: Starbucks coffee! (OK, so I don’t have my health issues down pat.) Can you imagine watching a baby koala take a nap in a tree on a rare cold day in Houston with a Starbucks grande cappuccino in your hand? Now that’s a Sabbath moment! God and I had a blast.” (The Beloved Disciple, p. 220). And never mind about the time when she was minding her own business on her back porch and it was as if God raised her up right then to see all the churches of the world through Jesus eyes in another dimension. That must have been quite an adventure.

Now, who would want to spend half an hour on their knees praying, or a hour in the bible when you can go to the zoo with God?! Or visit another dimension? For all these ‘Christian evangelicals,’ the bible is insufficient. They add their experience to the Word and count it as faith.

Jesus said that love would grow cold. It grows cold when we drift away, as in Hebrews 2:1. We start looking at the world which contains satan. Our appetites for the carnal grow. The more carnal we get the less love we have for Christ and for others. You see the authors above substituting the bible for their own, carnal experiences. Suddenly the bible is insufficient and the thrill of the zoo, the fast, the whisper is all they clamor for.

Woe to the pastor who offers this poison to the flock. Woe to the flock who accepts it.

Love grows cold because we compromise, and pastors, leaders, deacons are stringing along the sheep on this carnal carnival of heightened biblical insufficiency and exalting personal experience in its place. You can see we have gone from a solid, Christ-centered church in part 1, to drifting away, using carnal means to attract congregants, to diminished numbers of true sheep, to an atmosphere where pastors use carnal means to catch and keep the sheep, and the sheep love it.

Puritan John Owen wrote, “The first and principal duty of a pastor is to feed the flock by diligent preaching of the word. It is a promise relating to the new testament, that God would give unto his church “pastors according to his own heart, which should feed them with knowledge and understanding” (Jer. 3:15). This is by teaching or preaching the word, and no otherwise.”

No other word. Not secular books, not man-made fasts, not “Divine Whispers,” not any other word. Pastors who fail in their duty will be called to account. Congregants who stood by will be called to account also. It is a serious thing to set aside our first love and allow ourselves to grow cold while we seek or accept carnality and bible insufficiency, and substitute personal experience and spiritual adventure junkyism in its place.

“The only hope is a return to Scripture and sound doctrine. We evangelicals desperately need to recover our determination to be biblical, our refusal to comply with the world, our willingness to defend what we believe, and our courage to defy false teaching. Unless we collectively awaken to the current dangers that threaten our faith, the adversary will attack us from within, and we will not be able to withstand.” (source). Yes, return to the biblical worldview!

“Yet, surely, there must be some who will fling aside the dastard love of peace, and speak out for our Lord, and for his truth. A craven spirit is upon many, and their tongues are paralyzed. Oh, for an outburst of true faith and holy zeal!” (Charles Haddon Spurgeon)

And what of the churches where the faith and holy zeal is turning cold? All believers are at risk. Part 5 will deal with one of the risk: spiritual abuse.

A craven spirit. Don’t let it be you. If it isn’t you, but you’re despairing of finding a good church to worship in with other like-minded believers, keep praying. Jesus won’t abandon you. He will install you in the place He wants you to be. “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b

Part 1: Introduction, Love growing cold
Part 2: Are you tending your anchor?
Part 3: The numbers aren’t good
Part 5a: When carnality leads to spiritual abuse
Part 5b: Is your church spiritually abusive?
Conclusion: Spiritual Leaders and Humble Relationships