Consistent Inconsistency – Part 1

Some things have been taking place in my life and heart over the past few years and I would like to share some concerns. I believe these concerns directly affect the state of the body of Christ, particularly in the west like here in America.

There is a trend that seems to have developed to great proportions over the last century. In modern evangelicalism, the trend has grown to the point where fellowship between brethren is either non-existent, or teaching of issues and doctrine has become consistently inconsistent.

Let me explain based on the groups that I have seen or been involved with and share a few examples –

For a long time, I heard that the KJV Authorized Version 1611 was the ONLY version that was ever to be used. It is ignorance to hold to such a position when today we know that only a handful of people in the world can even read the 1611 version due to its style of English. But, it has not stopped the arguments which range from the ridiculous (if it was good enough for the apostle Paul, then it is good enough for me) to the well-meaning individuals who believe and practice that the Authorized Version is the “best translation” available in the English language. It is not really the latter that I am addressing here, but those who fall under the ridiculous 3/4ths of the spectrum.

Many in this group are militant and will refuse to even fellowship over coffee with another pastor across town if they learn he uses the NKJV, does his own translation work for his sermons, or <gasp> has denigrated the faith once delivered to the saints by using the ESV.

Or, another doctrinal issue that is prevalent, normally in the same group, is “Are you pre-trib and pre-millennial?” Again, the straw man arguments abound on positions both for and against, but they exist only to break down possible fellowship between people for whom Christ died.

Sadly, these same individuals have rows of books on their shelves from godly men of old that they hold in high esteem who used versions other than the KJV. They will even quote these men from the pulpit, recommend their books, and send their young people to a Bible college that uses books written by and about men who do not use the KJV and did not hold to a pre-trib rapture position. (Gasp – please say it is not so, but as an aside, this includes the great Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon!) Shhhh, don’t tell anybody this little tidbit or sales of The Pulpit Commentary will decline greatly.

However, the inconsistency lies in the fact that if these godly men were alive and called for a meeting – they would be rejected outright because “they don’t believe in the same Bible.“ Many pastors would refuse to have tea or coffee with these old saints because of their belief system.

Please do NOT misunderstand. I am not speaking about sharing pulpits with others who deny the foundations of the faith. I am speaking about refusing to speak or love others who do not hold the same position on areas that are not based solely on the Scriptures. There were 1600 years of church history before the KJV was offered to the English-speaking world.  There were also a number of godly men, like Spurgeon, who did not believe or hold to a position on the rapture of the Church. Yet, these two issues divide brothers and sisters from spreading the cause of Christ.

Let me use this example —

As a missionary, I called hundreds of pastors trying to schedule an appointment to share my ministry to a non-English speaking group of tribes in Liberia, West Africa. NOT once was I ever asked about my philosophy of ministry. NOT once was I asked what my stand was on teaching these tribes about the dangers of polygamy. NOT once was I asked how I planned on teaching the men to become elders and what material would I be using to ensure continued growth should we ever have to leave the mission field.

Yet, I was asked dozens of times, “We might be interested in you sharing your ministry, but WHAT Bible version do you use?”

NOT once was I asked how I would provide spiritually, mentally, and emotionally for my family while spending hours and hours with men who were almost illiterate. NOT once was I asked what we would do when we walked into a new village that had never heard the gospel even once.

BUT, I was asked, “Do you believe in the pre-trib rapture?” Strangely, I was rarely asked my position on the millennium. However, these same pastors never questioned the theology behind some of their favorite hymns. They have never once bothered to determine whether the hymns they are having the sheep in their flock sing each week are truly theological powerhouses, or if the hymns have faulty doctrine.

Do you see the inconsistency here?

The missionary and his family have been called to a mission field foreign to everything they know and love. Yet, the average missionary requires 3-4 years to raise the needed support to sustain them on the mission field.

This involves:

  1. The cost of calling hundreds of churches,
  2. Travel all across the USA
  3. Wear and tear on the body of each family member
  4. Maintaining a home as well as hotel costs or buying an RV like a travel trailer and vehicle to pull it. The expense of living full time in an RV is not cheap and greatly depreciates what they can sell the unit for at the end of the 3-4 years.
  5. Mailing out hundreds of presentation folders, prayer letters, prayer cards, thank you cards, etc.

Why does this happen?

The average missionary on deputation takes so long to raise funds because of the consistent inconsistency in the body of Christ. Instead of asking questions about things that are vital or important, they are being asked to take a stand on areas that have no bearing on the people they will be working with.

The issues of the KJV or the rapture are obviously not the only ones that are at stake. I have received dozens of “surveys” or “questionnaires.” These pastors and churches who are to be a guide and a shepherd to the sheep would spend great deals of time asking questions like: 1) whether my wife or girls wore pants, 2) what version I used even in my devotions, 3) whether we listened to a certain Christian music group or individual, 4) what hymnbook we used personally, or 5) whether we went to the pastor’s favorite Bible college.

Sadly, if the questions were not answered correctly or favorably, the missionary has to call more churches just so they can find “the right place” to talk about their love for the Lord and for an unreached people group.

Oh, and for all this hard work of finally gaining a meeting, the average missionary gains a love offering that rarely covers his expenses for a week and a possibility of support. The average missionary requires 4-6 churches visited to gain an average monthly support of $50-100 per supporting church.

Brothers and sisters, this is just wrong. Such inconsistencies bring many missionaries to conclude that they must not have been “called.” Many use up all of their savings accounts just trying to gain enough funds to support their family and their ministries while they are on the road. They are worn out and often not in a position spiritually, mentally, or emotionally to then go through the culture shock of entering a foreign land.

To conclude for now, I realize that many who claim to be called as missionaries are not qualified. They were not taught by their home church, or have no clue about what they are going to do when they arrive in their chosen land. There are many factors that affect a missionary going overseas, but again, this is just a concern that needs to be addressed.

There is nothing about inconsistencies that bring honor and glory to Christ. All it does is helps to perpetuate poor or shallow theology at best to lies at worst.

Just because a church or pastor is consistent in their inconsistencies in belief or practice does not make it right. Inconsistencies are harming the body of Christ and not just when it comes to dealing with missionaries. Over the next few blog posts, I will have other thoughts on consistent inconsistencies.

I look forward to hearing any thoughts you may have.

 

 

Bandwagon Fellowship

With the rise of social media, it is very easy to “friend” someone you are complete strangers with, or with someone who may be a friend of a friend. Within Western Christendom there is the opportunity to connect with your favorite pastor/teacher, or at least one of their close associates. And if you know one of their close associates, then you’ll probably get bombarded with friend requests. And if people are flooding to be your friend because you know X person, then that makes you pretty popular too and somewhat influential. But herein lies the problem.

Some people on social media are doing what I call “bandwagon fellowship.” They only care about who you are or what your ministry does only because of who is associated. It has been something that has turned my stomach for a few years now. And one of the dangers is that unless you are in the circle of the elite, it can easily become an “us vs. them” playing field. Also, what eventually happens is that people begin to gossip and slander on social media for all to read simply because their social media associate did not do, or did do, something they didn’t agree with. Because no real fellowship or Christ centered foundation was present, it is just as easy to divorce yourself from someone as it was to be their “friend.” It is sort of like dating, but for socialmediaphiles.

That’s not the worst part. The worst part is that this inevitably breeds the very worst, demonic mindset that it is not about what you know, but who you know. And sadly, this kind of thinking has been around for centuries. How that looks may change, but the reality of it does not. And this grieves me. Very much so. Instead of believers being known for their knowledge concerning the Gospel/Scripture, their character in accordance with God’s word, and whether or not they are truly a believer in Christ, we seem to only turn our heads and give notice to those that are most influential or are friends with those that are (or at least friends with friends who are friends with those that are). One day, you’re a nobody, and another day, get a famous person/preacher to mention your name or take a picture with you, then you get a thousand likes on Facebook. Or even better, friend requests and a following! Perhaps even start your own discernment blog, apologetics ministry, radio show, etc.

I’m not saying that we can’t appreciate the approval of godly men. I would be a hypocrite to say that I haven’t sought counsel or advice from prominent men I respect. Also, I’m not saying that it’s evil take selfies with respected members in the Christian community. But beware of vain-glory and self-seeking. Beware of bandwagon fellowship and false pretenses. I have had a great time with popular people in the faith, but often chose not to post selfies or friend them on Facebook just because I had few moments with them (sometimes I didn’t know they were popular). I seek genuine Christian fellowship. One that does not vainly recognize, or even ignore, someone because they are/are not popular. One that glorifies Christ and furthers the gospel in a way that would solidify the fellowship in time of trial rather than dissolve at the first drop of conflict.

If you build upon another foundation other than Christ, be sure that whatever you gain will crumble. If you base your friendships on the superficial surface of social media, don’t be surprised to have your phantom fellowship wiped away by something else just as superficial. If your hope of salvation is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness, then you should have your hope of true Christian fellowship built upon the same pretense. Anything else leads to contentions, strife, bitterness, envy, vain-glory, and self-seeking. May God deliever us from bandwagon fellowship.

See James 3:13-18, 4:1-5; Philippians 2:3-4; 1 John 1:6-7

– Until we go home

 

 

 

The Disconnect of Evangelicalism

While we alluded to this briefly in a previous post, I believe it is beneficial to give further consideration to an epidemic of massive proportions that is prevalent within evangelical churches throughout the west. The epidemic has caused much heartache but few seem to see it for what it actually is. The reason for this is at least two-fold. First, the epidemic is not considered a danger because living with it has become normal within many circles. Second, some would stand forth and while they would proclaim the dangers, many ignore them or consider them to be religious fanatics.

Psalm 133:1 reminds us that it is good for brothers to dwell together in unity. Yet, this is rare. Dwelling together in unity seems to be either a bygone relic or conjures up the idea of living in a commune with other Christians.

we-gather-togetherLet’s consider a far too common scenario in the average evangelical church that goes something like this. People get up on Sunday morning, rush around, and show up late for one service. Many mouth the songs projected on the wall while their minds wander to the events that will need to transpire during the coming week. The pastor/teacher stands with a prepared word of exhortation and edification while a few more either doze off to sleep or make further plans for the next week. Finally the service is over and many bolt for the back door before somebody catches them, especially the pastor!

Jumping in their vehicles, the majority leave almost before the strains of the benediction have died away. The rest of the day there is no further thought of those with whom they were just “worshiping.” The entire week is filled with various activities that are designed and orchestrated by the world to keep us from interacting with one another. So, the week rolls quickly by and we fall exhausted into bed late on Saturday evening only to get up and run through the same routine again on another Sunday morning. Patting themselves on the back, they justify what they have just done because everybody else does it.

For those who fail to submit to the normal protocol, we might even loudly proclaim in a self-righteous tone and/or demeanor, “Well, Hebrews 10:25 says, ‘not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.'” (ESV)

However, is one rushed service on a Sunday really assembling ourselves together? Is such behavior among the people of God truly permit us to proclaim to the world that we are not neglecting one another? To ask further, how is little to no interaction throughout the week and certainly none on Sunday actually “encouraging” one another?

Surely, this cannot be all that the writer of Hebrews was exhorting and encouraging the believers to do was a small one hour window on a Sunday morning. Is this all that is required? At what point did we fellowship.

The teaching elder may have even stood and reminded us that worship is not just something we do on a Sunday morning between 10:30 and 11:30. Our corporate interaction is to be a direct reflection of our own personal, private, and family worship throughout the week being manifested before the world and our brethren of the wonders of the triune God.

But, was our corporate worship truly a reflection of the worship in which we were engaged throughout the week? Or, is our Sunday one hour offering all that we can manage to give because it conflicts with our overwhelming pursuit of the Great American Dream?

This is compounded by the fact that in our coming together, we give little time for prayer which should be another uniting factor. The requests normally mean nothing to everybody but the person giving it because we actually know little of those with whom we are worshiping. Prayer time can often be lifeless or another ritual that we go through because the Bible commands we pray without ceasing.

Yes, there is the rare church fellowship where most seem to sit in preassigned seating and everybody walks out full but with no greater knowledge of their brothers and sisters than when they came that morning.

Oh yes, we also have the time of a bereavement when everybody shows up with the never-ending green bean casseroles. We sit around awkwardly wondering what to say either to the family that is suffering and then with a quick whispered, “We’ll be praying for you,” we fade back into the twilight until the next event that “pulls” us all together again.

While their doctrine is wrong and damning, we could learn much from groups like the Mormons, the Muslims, the Amish and others. They spend a great deal of time together. They laugh together. They mourn together. They build their homes together and they see each other throughout the week. Weddings, funerals, or normal every day activities are not the cause for their fellowship. These are simply products of who and what they are. Their connections are strong.

But along comes the evangelical seeking to share the gospel with a person from one of these groups. The invitation is extended to pay the local church a visit and every now and then, the invitation may be accepted. Walking out of a cult that shows preferential treatment to every person within their midst, the cult or religious person walks in and observes – well, nothing extraordinary. People sitting off to themselves and most do not seem to know one another.

The prayer time is a perfunctory measure that sounds lifeless, there is no fellowship, and there seems to be no encouragement to interact with others throughout the week. But wait, yes, there is a house group that meets during the week. Maybe that will be different from what was seen on Sunday.

Accepting the extended invitation, the person shows up and listens to talk about everything from the weather to the latest job news. The conversation covers the scores from the professional ball games since last Sunday, and again, sadly, all of the communication seems so lifeless. There are little to no connections between those who have gathered together. A quick prayer and short Bible study later, everybody departs still not really having a clue as to who the brother or sister sitting next to them may be struggling with or whether they might have something in which they may rejoice together.

fellowshipcrossThe beloved apostle recorded the words of the Lord Jesus Christ in John 13:35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” He writes again in the epistles of 1 & 2 John that it is not a new commandment, but an old one that we are to love one another.

How can we say we have love for one another when we cannot stand to be with one another for more than one hour per week? How can we say we love our brethren when we very little about them? How can we attest of our love for each other to the world when visiting with each other throughout the week only works if we live within a 10 minute drive from each other, and everybody outside the 10 minute drive is too much of a chore to visit because anything more is an inconvenience?

Whatever happened to the older men and women teaching the younger? I venture to say that so many churches are either catering to the young people or a small group of old people sit week after week wishing and hoping that some young families will come and visit. When the young families visit though, all they receive is a quick handshake and a “Hope to see you again” and we are all off on our merry way again. The young families never come back again and we proclaim that they obviously wanted the latest and greatest programs for their children.

Is it possible that what the young family really wanted was an opportunity to be connected with somebody who would love them, welcome them, and make them feel like they were truly part of a family? Maybe they want a church where the older gray-haired couples will assume the role of surrogate grandparents and help encourage their children in the ways of the Lord. I guess we can never know when we never extend the offer of help, love, friendship and fellowship that extends beyond a one hour window on a Sunday.

I welcome your thoughts and comments. How can we (or even how do you) bridge the widening gulf of no fellowship that is so prevalent in evangelical churches? Instead of placing the blame on the pastor, elders, deacons, or anybody else, what should each of us be doing to exhibit the love of Christ that has been shed abroad in our own hearts to a world that is lost and dying with the Savior?

Important Article Regarding Mark Cahill

Recently, CARM published an article regarding evangelist Mark Cahill. This article was authored by my friend and mentor, Tony Miano, who has had direct interaction with Mr. Cahill. The article was written as a public rebuke of Mr. Cahill’s uncharitable and derogatory treatment of Christians who believe in the Doctrines of Grace. Mr. Cahill has been spoken to privately and publicly on several occasions regarding his unbiblical behavior, however, he continues to publicly decry those who believe in reformed doctrine, going so far as to even refer to them as worshipping a false god. Because of his continued unbiblical behavior, this article been written to caution Christians in their dealings with him.

The article was not written in an effort to be judgmental of Mr. Cahill, nor to decry his Arminian beliefs, rather it was written to caution the brethren in supporting him until such a time as he repents of his mistreatment of other Christians. Part of the article reads as follows:

“Throughout my conversation with Mark, I asserted that I do not believe Calvinists and Arminians worship different gods or believe different gospels. I assured him that so long as we agree we are saved by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone (the Jesus of the Scriptures) we are brothers in Christ. I told Mark I would welcome the opportunity to evangelize the lost with him, and he was welcome atop my box to open-air preach, anytime. Sadly, by the end of our phone conversation, Mark would not affirm me as his brother in Christ. I repeatedly asked Mark if I was his brother in Christ. He refused to answer.

Sadly, Mark Cahill’s ongoing campaign to marginalize, vilify, and otherwise mistreat Calvinists has necessitated the writing of this article.

This article will document how, for more than two years, Mark Cahill has quietly and behind the scenes engaged in a campaign of misrepresentation, malignment, and malevolence toward Christians who ascribe to Calvinism and to those who associate with Calvinists. The timing of this article coincides with the recent publication of Mark Cahill’s new book, The Watchmen, in which he speaks disparagingly about Calvinism. It also coincides with the recent development of Mark speaking disparagingly about Calvinism during some of his recent public speaking engagements.”

I encourage the readers of this blog to go to the main article here and read it in it’s entirety.

I do wish to make the disclaimer now that this is not going to be an open forum to assault and argue the viewpoints of Calvinists and Arminians. This article is for the sole purpose of calling a Christian brother to repentance. Therefore, comments that are submitted which intend to do otherwise will not be allowed. Please read the CARM article and share it with others. And please be in prayer for Mark Cahill that he would repent of this behavior and be reconciled to his brethren. Thank you.