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.

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