A recent worldview survey was released from George Barna and Arizona’s Cultural Research Center detailing what many have been saying for years: there is a fundamental issue in the church and it stems from the pulpits. The results of this report are particularly damning, as they indicate only 41% of lead pastors, 28% of associate pastors, 13% of teaching pastors, 12% of youth pastors, and 4% of executive pastors actually hold to a comprehensive worldview. Taken on the whole, just under 2/3 of pastors embrace a form of syncretism, which is the blending of various belief systems together as one. In other words, purported ministers of the Christian faith don’t actually hold to the Christian faith, but an eclectic grab-bag of ideological, philosophical, and theological ideas that are fundamentally at odds with one another. The impact this has upon the congregants cannot be overstated.
When one considers past reports, such as The State of Theology from Ligonier Ministries, it is little wonder why so many Christians are embracing heresy condemned by the forebearers of our faith. It is little wonder why so many lead lives opposed to the faith they profess when those in leadership model a life of unbridled hedonism, a rejection of the Word of God, and an embrace of various competing worldviews and philosophies that run counter to the Christian faith. Many have no concept of how the Word of God applies to every aspect of life because they have never been taught how it applies to all of life.
Don’t misunderstand me to be saying that there is a reasonable excuse mankind can give in times of such ignorance; the onus is still upon us all to know and love God. Yet when the shepherds do not shepherd—or when they mislead the people to place their trust in false gods, false doctrines, and false practices, surely, they shall bear greater culpability. Afterall, Jesus did have much compassion upon sheep without a shepherd. Jesus did, in fact, vehemently oppose those who created many obstacles, burdens, and hurdles, for the people of God to jump through. Christ likewise despised those who twisted the truth, calling them sons of their father, Satan.
Shall we collectively scratch our heads in wonder and wring our hands in frustration at why is the church in such shambles?
Occam’s Razor would lead us to believe that these shepherds are not shepherding. And yet if these men are not shepherding, the question must be asked: precisely what is it that they do?
You see, it is the shepherds who will be held to the strictest account by God for their failure to teach sound doctrine (Ja. 3:1). It is the pastors who will be judged by God for their ineptitude to guard the flock from perverse doctrines and the carnal depravities of evil men. They are to be men, fierce men, building upon the foundation laid by Christ, and yet so many are keen on cutting corners and running roughshod through those actually seeking to edify the body. Rather than building upon the cornerstone, they have all but rejected it, crudely piling on the straw and fluff of competing, but blind, dumb, deaf, and lifeless gods. To borrow a phrase from Ezekiel, these shepherds are lifting up dung-gods before the people, smearing excrement on the pulpits and even the people of Yahweh.
Rather than lift up those sacred truths of old, they hide the Law of God behind the wall of the sanctuary. There is little cry of, “Thus saith the Lord!” Instead, many pepper their sermons with newspaper clippings, humorous anecdotes, and not-a-few out of context Bible verses so as to save face before the undiscerning ones. They preach canned sermons written by other men, lifting up the silver screen as if to find the shred of Christ “At the Movies,” as they ask the rhetorical question, “Are you not entertained?” Well do they tend to the goats, belittling, demeaning, defaming, and unhitching from the very Word of God as if to say the Christian faith is religion a la carte. You can form a quasi-Christian worldview and flourish, so they say. Many teach that you can compartmentalize your faith neatly in one part of your life, as if the Sovereign One does not demand wholesale allegiance, slavery even, to Christ.
The litmus test of the faithful minister of God is his integrity, yet we have all but abandoned the very inspired Words of our Lord when it comes to the qualifications listed for such men. Many find themselves in the crosshairs of the apostle Paul, who he condemns in Romans 2, for though they teach that others should not steal, they steal. Though they teach that none should commit adultery, they commit adultery. And though they proclaim that all men should flee from idols, they rob temples, raise up the high places once more, and neglect to teach themselves of that which they shout from the pulpits. The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of them.
Numerous denominational institutions, conventions, seminaries, and churches alike are facing a reckoning for their failure to proclaim the oracles of God and safeguard Christ’s sheep from savage wolves seeking to devour. While some stand strong against the tide of liberalism, wokeism, feminism, and what can only be stated as a twisted form of self-defeating sadism in an amalgamation of worldviews, many more have failed, in every aspect, to actually feed and protect the people Christ bled and died for. Rather than stand guard at the gate to discern the wolves from the sheep, these shepherds are asleep at their posts. Some have even taken their place amongst the hidden reefs in our love feasts—eagerly looking to make a shipwreck of the faith of many. Sordid gain, filthy lucre, sexual abuse and anarchy, debauched and drunken on what little semblance of power they wield, these white-washed tombs have taken every means captive to revel in their licentiousness and pummel the flock.
It should be little wonder then to see the lifeless, bloated corpses where many a church used to stand. Judgment begins in the household of God. The stench has reached the heavens, and the God who sits enthroned above it all is not well-pleased with the aroma reaching His nostrils. Rather than the fragrant smell of living sacrifices conformed by the renewal of their minds, who are able to discern the will of God, the putrid, defiled odor of a church conformed to the world has come up before His face. Yet God is not mocked and will by no means clear the guilty.
Countless men and women have fleeced the flock. Many others are priming the pump and building the brand for the next wave of Big Eva conglomerates. A horde of others are rabble-rousers and opportunists, lulling the weak and needy into a stupor by offering a shoulder to cry on—all so they can advance their own little fiefdoms on earth. Widows, orphans, cancer patients, the ignorant, the weak and destitute—all of them alike, are stepping stones to reach a seat at the banquet table of the socialites. It is every man for himself, unless, of course, you can come together to form some sort of coalition against the gospel, as you proffer solutions antithetical to the Christian worldview. Others still seem to only revel in the line of work their forefather, Alexander the Coppersmith, who opposed the gospel and caused Paul much harm. Many leaders not only vigorously oppose sound doctrine, but actively seek to ravage and exploit the people under their charge.
This is nothing new in one sense, as this is part and parcel to the historic faith. Over the span of redemptive history, the Scriptures are replete with examples of entire generations, from the leaders to the layman, who have embraced syncretism and perverted God’s moral order. Israel’s long and sordid history is fraught with this sort of tension—where the true shepherds and sheep alike lament such dark days amongst oppressors from their own tribe. The New Testament writers were also under no illusions that the church could not lose her way, nor that savages would not arise from within their own ranks. From the mouths of Peter, Paul, Jude, John, and even the author of Hebrews, came dire warnings. Men from within and without intruded the sacred halls of God’s people, luring many away who were never “of us,” yet simultaneously looking at the people of God as prey to be consumed.
The annals of church history have likewise told us a tale, where the light of the gospel became shrouded, sound doctrine became perverted, and rampant abuse from the very men who were tasked to lay down their lives for the sheep, became commonplace. Brave men and women of the historic faith rose to the occasion to bring the truth to bear once more. Post Tenebras Lux. After Darkness, Light. Divisions and factions must take place so that those who are approved may become evident among you (1 Cor. 11:19). Generation after generation has faced the very same dilemma the church does today. Take up your place among those men and women of faith, those reformers, or rather, those recapturers, of the good, the true, and the beautiful. Fight the good fight on all fronts; moral and doctrinal, personal and corporate.
Let the fault lines form. Let the scoffers, scoff. But you, you do the work of the faithful. Agonize for the faith. Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for His return and your glorification. Have mercy on the doubters, snatch others from the flames of Hell, and have mercy tinged with fear on those whose garment is even polluted by the flesh. Do not let them slip idly into Hell without availing yourself to much prayer, pleading, and tears—but don’t give an inch of compromise on truth. God is very much so a winnowing God. While the deconstructionists deconstruct and the false shepherds bite and devour whomever they can, don’t lose heart nor shrink back from the difficult work of repairing the ruins—but don’t be naïve either. Theology matters. Theology has consequences, and bad theology has victims.
The temptation for many is to sequester themselves off from participating in the life of the local church, but if you’re serious about your faith, you will recognize this is not an option. The Scriptures plainly command that we are to be part of a faithful, local body of believers (Heb. 10:24-25). For the child of God, this gathering with the saints is not only the means of your own spiritual sustenance and growth, it is the God-ordained means by which you persevere to the end. If you’re not part of a biblically faithful local church, while the options may be slim, there are still options. Build something new, relocate to a place where you can be part of a faithful community of believers, or, make the drive. Do not forsake the assembly, but do not stand idly as a bystander among them either.
If you’re part of a biblically faithful, local church, be on guard. Protect the doctrinal and moral purity of your church in every conceivable way you can. Disciple young men and women. Invite new and old saints alike into your home. Evangelize the lost. Read your Bible so thoroughly that you are one of the few who have to routinely get it rebound. Know the contents of the faith, put it into practice, and teach future generations of these ancient truths so they too can stand grounded in the that which was handed down, once and for all, to the saints. In all that you do, let it be done in love, for God is love.
If you’re a pastor in any capacity, relentlessly stand upon the one sure foundation of the Word of God, and let the chips fall where they may. This is your God-given task. This is what you have been called to do, through in-season and out-of-season times. You are in an out-of-season time. Stand and boldly proclaim the excellencies of Christ and His Word in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, trusting that God will see to it that His Word will not return void. Remember: your faithfulness to your calling, and not the results, is what you shall be judged upon. Guard your life and your doctrine, for by this, you shall save yourself and your hearers. In the wake of countless ministerial failures, let your life and reputation remain unstained as you serve your God.
These are perilous days, good Christian. And the days to come may be even more perilous than today, but hope in God. Join the throng of God’s people and wage war against the power and principalities of darkness looming over the church. The powers of hell cannot prevail against Christ’s bride; time and time again this keen and hopeful Word has proven true. Be strong and courageous, act like men, and gird up your loins by going about those ordinary works which He prepared beforehand for us to walk in. Lo, Christ is with us, even to the end of the age.