Focus on what we are taught to focus on 2 Timothy 4: 1-4

Have you ever kind of camped on an issue, position, concept, that you knew in your heart was important, but you seemed to be kind of hanging over the edge? No one really backing you up?

If you don’t know, I’ve been writing a lot about how the contemporary Christian church is just really out of step with what Christianity is about. It’s moved way too much toward a consumer mentality, toward making people happy and comfy. I keep asking; how do you reconcile that with the persecution of Christians starting in the Acts church and continues today all around the world?

I haven’t seen, received, heard, etc, any type of response. Doesn’t seem as though anyone who is part of that movement has any incentive to respond. They’re bringing people in, they’re clearly raising money, they’re clearly impacting their followers and what some pipsqueak like me has to say just doesn’t register and isn’t worthy of any response. These “churches” clearly have an attitude of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, don’t try to confuse me with the realities of Christianity. This works so I have no reason to change it. If anything maybe God’s changing course and I’m coasting in His wake. The only justification for this position is in worldly terms, numbers, money, big buildings, big shows, so it must be working. But God tells us that “my ways are not your ways…”, there is Scripture and what God tells us. The only thing the other movement has is numbers, but truth doesn’t seem to be something they get too caught up in.

Anyway, I’m reading “The Church Awakening” by the man himself, Dr Chuck Swindoll, and anything I’ve said, he’s said it better, in spades and makes a much more compelling case then I ever could. I take what he writes in “The Church Awakening” as affirmation of what I’ve been writing.

A side note; I didn’t become a Christian until my mid-twenties and around the same time I discovered Christian radio, heard Dr Swindoll early all and I was hooked. I have a lot of his books, but the guy writes a lot of books, so I’ll never have them all. Highly recommend any Swindoll book, heck I’d read his grocery list if he published it.

Please allow me to quote at length from the book (but you should buy it anyway and read it), the book was published in 2010, so I think Dr Swindoll has a good handle on the contemporary situation:

“When you look across the landscape of churches today, you find many congregations that have experienced phenomenal growth. Unbelievable growth. But upon closer examination, you discover that they have not committed themselves to the four biblical essentials for a church as prescribed in the Book of Acts: teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer (see Acts 2:42). The church may have more than these four… but it must not have less.

It is precisely these four areas the adversary will attack so he can disrupt and, if possible, destroy the church. That’s why it’s important to keep our priorities straight. It’s essential that we not get distracted by all that we can do as a church … and stay focused on only what we must do as a church. Otherwise, we may be attracting a crowd for the wrong reason.

This emphasis on the essentials is what the apostle Paul had in mind when he passed on the torch of ministry to a young pastor named Timothy:

‘I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. for the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.’ (2 Timothy 4:1-4)

Notice both the command and the reason for it. The command is clear: ‘preach the word’ – followed by an explanation of when and how to do it. But there’s also a why, a reason to proclaim boldly the Bible on a consistent basis: there will come a time when biblical truth will be rejected in favor of what people want to hear. The biblical alternative? We learned in the last chapter that the Lord will honor and bless any plan that upholds prayer and promotes His Word. This is what Paul was affirming to Timothy.

Large numbers don’t necessarily reveal God’s blessing. They could, in fact, reveal error. They could reflect an ear-tickling ministry that panders to people and tells the crowds what they want to hear, instead of what they need to hear. A growing number of churches and denominations today have found the four essentials unnecessary – burdensome, you might say. Archaic traditions of a bygone era. So they have hired what I call ‘pulpit whores’, or put more mildly, ‘teachers in accordance to their own desires’ – to affirm them in their selfish and carnal lifestyles. No wonder the crowds expand … it’s as if God has officially approved their sin!

But even a calloused conscience eventually aches with the emptiness that only God – the true God – can fill. The tragedy is that these empty individuals think they have already tried God .. and He has left them just as unfulfilled as the world has. It’s downright tragic.” (Dr Charles Swindoll The Church Awakening pp 71-73)

So yea, a long quote, but I think you can see why.

YES!! YES!! YES!! It has been my firm conviction with the happy-clappy/name it and claim it/prosperity types that they are setting people up for failure. They are not moving people to God. They are moving them to worship themselves. When trials occur, and they will. These people will be shaking their fist at God: “Pastor Billy Bob said that if I had enough faith that I would be pretty and wealthy and healthy, that God would bless me with infinite good stuff. Well I lost my job, my house, my wife, my child! How could you do that to me?! So the heck with you God, I’ll get a deal somewhere else.’ I always wonder how these people think. Where do they think they’re going to get a better deal? But they do. But it can only end one way? God doesn’t send you to Hell, you chose to worship yourself and what you wanted, you chose to be separated from God, so you can’t expect God to undermine that, right? Hey you have free will, right? Time for the church as a whole to repudiate these false teachers. The ancient church had no problem to gather in council and cut off people who were pushing spiritual poison. I know the public arena is not a friend to orthodox Christianity, but that is not a reason for the church to refrain. If the church expects to be taken seriously, at least respected, it has to distance itself from the false teachers: “Those people are not with us, they are wrong, people shouldn’t listen to them, for their spiritual health and we completely cut them off from any relationship in Christ. Yea, excommunication. Will it be popular? No. Is the church about being popular? It shouldn’t be. Our job is to edify and strengthen people in Christ, by allowing spiritual poison to be circulated we are not being faithful to our call in Christ. It’s got to be about living in Jesus and not what’s in it for me.

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