Thursday, October 13, 2011



Every now and then it is worth ‘zooming out’ and taking a wide lens perspective on what is happening to the church. The reality is that we are in the midst of a large scale international spiritual ‘down grade’. The culture is like a river flowing in full flood downstream. Unless one decides to actively swim upstream against the current, you, your family and your church will be swept along by it. In this context, all of us have to make the decision that Joshua did JOS 24:15 “But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.". Further than that, we must be prepared to pay the price to stay faithful to the Lord – if that means, moving church, job, country, school or whatever.

Historically, spiritual downgrades have followed a pattern ‘Revival turns to passive spirituality to compromised spirituality to liberal unbelief (church without faith) and then if not reversed to extinction (abandonment of faith and church). I hear lots of talk about revival, but I don’t know any church in South Africa with a spiritual state anywhere close to revival. The best churches are mostly at ‘passive spirituality’ stage. In other words, they believe the truth, but the lost are not hearing it from many in the church. Most professing evangelical churches are compromised with their ‘idols’. Numerous churches that twenty years ago were at passive stage have moved to liberalism and man made religion. In another generation, such liberal churches will probably close their doors – as they have in Europe already.


There are two main forces pulling evangelical churches into compromise. To simplify things, one could call them ‘right wing’ and ‘left wing’.

RIGHT WING churches tend to be authoritarian, inward focused and centred around powerful charismatic personalities, and focused on building empires, ‘brands’, or tribes around those personalities. They are elitist, hierarchical although they would usually strongly deny this and in their extreme form, the top leader becomes a substitute for God – making decisions for unthinking followers – who profess to be biblical, but rely entirely on their leader to tell them what is biblical. The kingdom of God is substituted by the religious empire of the leader. Other Christian groups are treated as inferior and there is a desire to dominate them. Such empires will put on the best show on Sunday, but behind the scenes, they will bully, compromise and cover up sin to advance their fascist power structure. Anyone who questions anything is pushed out. Their beliefs vary dramatically, but all such groups are convinced their hierarchy are totally and unquestionably right – even if they change their beliefs over time. Usually there is some distinctive belief making them much more right than everyone else.

They do not follow a biblical pattern of governance and accountability. Usually, leaders of such groups don’t participate in unity initiatives unless they can see a benefit to gain power for themselves – and generally don’t care too much what the rest of the world thinks of them. Every now and then, some top leader goes too far and is exposed in a scandal. But usually, the successor continues a similar elitist pattern. Younger movements are prone to fall into this ‘right wing’ pattern’. More on ‘right wing’ churches problems at

LEFT WING churches on the other hand tend to be desperate to get the approval of the surrounding culture. They will do whatever they can to get the approval of this culture in the mistaken belief that this will somehow help them to make Christianity attractive to the lost. Currently, the worldly culture is postmodern and so, such churches tend to be importing Postmodern culture into the church. Such churches tend to be much lower energy, laid back types without a controlling central leader. More on ‘left wing’ churches problems at

Both ‘left’ and ‘right wing’ forms of compromise are a form of idolatry. Just different forms of idolatry. Churches all over are bleeding off the evangelical mainstream in one of these two unhealthy directions. But our focus should be on God, his glory and his kingdom – neither on the ‘right wing’ of great Christian leaders and movements or on the ‘left wing’ of the surrounding neo-pagan postmodern culture. In many ways, these ‘right’ and ‘left’ wings of evangelicalism have similar characteristics to the ‘right’ and ‘left’ wings of political movements – where the right is associated with nationalism, tribalism and populist leaders and the left is associated with unbounded liberty. But they do not necessarily support such right or left wing political movements.


People don’t realize how serious the backsliding is and that God will judge it. In the past, when such periods of backsliding have happened, God has preserved a remnant of faithful people – who have often gone into exile. For example, in the 16th century, during the persecution of Mary Tudor in England where 300 evangelical leaders were burned at the stake, a church of English exiles gathered in Geneva under the leadership of John Knox. When religious freedom returned to England, they went back and seeded the Puritan revival. The same happened again a century later, during the English state church persecution of dissenters. One dissenting church fled to Holland under the leadership of John Smyth. When Smyth turned to believers baptism, the church split. One half went and founded America at Plymouth Plantation. The other half, returned to England and spawned the Baptist church revival movement. During the liberal downgrade in the early 20th century, Gresham Machen left Princeton Seminary and founded Westminster Seminary, which subsequently became a centre for the spread of Biblical worldview throughout the world. In such ways, God has usually formed a ‘Noah’s Ark’ to preserve the faithful few who will spawn the next revival or reformation move of God. The lesson we must learn is the extreme importance of faithfulness at any cost under persecution even if the faithful look very weak in exile – one day, God may use these weak few to re-seed the church in the whole nation with godly influence.


* We must be prepared to pay the price to be faithful, whatever that is. Jesus warned us the cost of following him and in evil times we will be forced to surrender all to follow him.
* We must choose who we mix with carefully. Especially our pastors and leaders. Likewise who our children mix with. We are social animals and we mustn’t fool ourselves into thinking we can endlessly fend off temptations of social pressure.
* Put in safe boundaries against temptation.
* We must be careful not to let our love grow cold due to the increase of wickedness (Revelation 2; Matthew 24:12-13).
* Don’t be deceived by the substitute religiosity of the ‘right’ and ‘left’ wing.
* If you see your church falling for the ‘right wing’ or the ‘left wing’ errors, do what you can to steer it back to the central focus on God and his kingdom. If you can’t, then move to a church which is focused on God.
* Realise that we cannot expect the same type of ministry fruit during backslidden times as in revival times, but continue to be faithful and focus on the different roles required in such times – (such as the example of Elijah and Jeremiah – rather than Joshua).
* Remember the message of the scriptures and of history, that God does revive – continue to pray faithfully year after year and make ourselves available to God.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011



As most Western churches slide deeper and deeper into postmodern thinking, more and more decisions are based on sentimentalism rather than truth - gradually this affects all aspects of church life. Officially, such evangelicals claim to believe what biblical Christians have always believed, except that when decisions are made feelings and relationships are put before objective truth. Trying to argue from the Bible with such people is very difficult because they will always affirm the Bible, but in practice feelings come first - before God and the Bible. Most of the time, they just ignore the Bible and statements of belief and follow their feelings and personal relationships. It is quite easy for anyone including me and you to make such a mistake, but increasingly this is becoming the norm rather than the exception - by people who really should know better. Let us consider some real examples.

* DIVORCE COUNSELLING: A wife comes to a pastor at a well known evangelical church and complains about all the faults of her husband, saying she wants divorce. She gets his sympathy. Then they have counselling as a couple. The husband says positive things about his wife. Officially, this church opposes divorce except where there is adultery (which was not the case). Nevertheless, instead of quoting the Bible or repeating the official position of the church on divorce, the pastor just gives relationship counselling - sympathising with the wife who talked to him first. Eventually the wife does divorce her husband and the pastor fails to speak up against it.

* HOMOSEXUALITY COUNSELLING: A generally mixed up young lesbian comes to a church counsellor for help. Instead of using the Bible to challenge the girl to repent of her sexual sin and to change, the counsellor just listens and affirms her (in accordance with the methods mostly taught at universities). The lesbian has found some clever arguments twisting the Bible to defend homosexuality on the internet and repeats these to the counsellor. Instead of saying that this is error, the counsellor just tells the girl how clever she is. When challenged, the counsellor claims she is opposed to homosexuality. Nevertheless, it is emotional feelings and not the Bible which come out in the counselling.

* CHURCH DISCIPLINE: A senior pastor commits adultery. He pleads for mercy and argues that public exposure will damage his marriage. His associate pastors, ignoring the Bible's standards on eldership and procedures for disciplining leaders (1 Timothy 5:20), feel sorry for him and decide not to inform the congregation. They give him private marriage counselling instead. Those doing the discipline ignore the Word of God and the numerous sheep who will be harmed by the ungodly pastor. They are blinded by personal relationship and feelings for the one they are close to. He does it again and the church backslides.

- A false teacher, Graeme Codrington publishes an article teaching the heresy that it is acceptable for a Christian to practice homosexuality. Biblical Baptists strongly speak up against this. The denomination condemns the false teaching and takes steps to ensure such views are not published again. Nevertheless, postmodern pastors say they disagree with the false teaching but instead of speaking up against it, they attack the Biblical Christians saying that they have hurt the feelings of the false teacher and those who published the false teaching.
- This is also what happened when postmodernist Rob Bell published his infamous book on hell 'Love Wins', claiming that everyone would get a second change to go to heaven after death. Bell argues from sentimentality that God would never do something so nasty as send someone to eternal punishment. Brian McLaren doesn't defend Rob Bells logic, but just continues the sentimental argument that Rob Bell is his friend and that he has a duty to protect his friend and tries to throw doubt on the logical arguments of Albert Mohler against this.

* WHISTLEBLOWING A SCANDAL: There is a scandal in a church. Someone attempts to bring the truth to the congregation following Matthew 18 process. Nevertheless, the church authorities, re-frame the scandal as a personal relational issue. They ignore the scandal and say that the whistleblower must now reconcile with those he is exposing. When the whistleblower continues to blow the whistle, he is victimised for failing to reconciled.

* LEWDNESS: A professing Christian publishes a lewd photograph on the internet. A Biblical Christian asks him to remove it. A postmodern pastor, instead of supporting the biblical Christian and telling the publisher that this was wrong, instead complains that the Biblical Christian has now caused emotional upset and harmed relationship. Thus by this new feelings-based interpretation, the pro-moral person is the one mostly in the wrong.

* ABORTION: Instead of considering issues like the teaching of the Bible and the Sanctity of human life as it relates to abortion, postmodern Christians look at it from a feelings angle. They don't know the feelings of the unborn child - so that is ignored. They consider the feelings of the woman with an unwanted pregnancy and the feelings of the secular media. From this angle, pro-life protesters are hurting the feelings of women who have had abortions or are considering killing their babies. Do they win the fight on grounds of logic? No. On logic they would lose, but on sentimentality - the person who is seen trumps the person who is unseen. Given the sentimental thinking of the public, pro-lifers respond by trying to profile cute pictures of the unborn in the womb - to pull back some public sympathy - or use harsh pictures of aborted babies. Then they are attacked by the other side for being too harsh. Nevertheless, logic, truth and the Bible have been thrown to the wind and sidelined out of the debate.

A slogan used to promote this attitude is 'Follow your heart and not your head'. It is not in the Bible. Its plain foolish and unbiblical. The Bible says that the heart is deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9).

And one could give a hundred more examples following the same pattern. If your church is not very focused on Biblical truth, probably you will also find this kind of thing going on behind the scenes.

The problem with all of these examples is that the people just evade argument based on truth and the Bible as a standard for truth - while concentrating on feelings and immediate personal relationships. The result is favouritism (forbidden by James 2), where there is no objective justice or investigation of the truth. Those who have personal relationships with powerful people are favoured and those who don't lose out. The Bible is sidelined in favour of personal feelings.

This is not a minor trend or the action of a few postmodernist extremists. Most of the evangelical church has already gone this way, even if it is officially still evangelical. Only a minority are resisting it.

Really such an approach does not help personal emotions or relationships except in the very short term. In the long term, relationships and feelings are trashed on a large scale due to ignoring the teaching of the Bible, God's judgement and the natural result of cause and effect.


To win a war, one has to recognise the tactics being used by the enemy. After World War One, which was fought mostly in trenches, France prepared a line of defences against a future similar war. There never was another similar war. World War Two was different. Armoured tanks over-ran Frances Maginot Line defences in days. They were useless. In the same way, the battle for the Bible has changed. We cannot fight it the way it was fought in the last generation. We will lose if we try. We have to see the opposition is using different tactics. So many are claiming to be biblical Christians, while they are actually 'feelings-based' rather than 'Bible-based'. We have to recognise these tactics, recognise the enemy pretending to be biblical, expose them and fight back.

Postmodernists are mostly refusing to engage in logical debate based on the Bible. When cornered as obviously unbiblical, they just argue the other side is causing relational and emotional pain. The reality is that the fight for truth always has and always will cause pain. We can try our best to minimise this, but unless we want to just give up and lose the fight, there will always be pain in such conflicts.

'Feelings-based' Christians leaders who claim to be biblical need to be steered back to the Bible. Those who won't change need to be weeded out of Christian leadership. Lets remind people to follow the Bible first and feelings after that.