A Preacher with Nothing But God and God's Ways
How do you join someone so hated by the reigning bible-based mainstream religious order and who has no church building of his own to boast of?
I can imagine how people in his day saw Jesus--no money, no car, no title or degree, no fancy clothes, no bed or house of his own, no nothing! Worse, he had no synagogue or church building he could call his own--and we ministers today understand how difficult it is to convince people if we have no religious building with a cross on top of it to show them. Add to that, if you carry a very controversial and extremely radical teaching.
Jesus just relied on the power of the spoken Word and the Holy Spirit. Nothing more, nothing less. What people he attracted, he did mainly by using only what God had provided him with. It was a pure, clean, and unadulterated ministry. It was free of any idolatrous trappings that may subtly divert people's devotion from God.
If you evangelize using church idols to attract people with, you're doing an idol evangelism.
Understandably, Jesus attracted only a few, the 12 disciples among them. Pure has the tendency to delimit, no matter if it's an open invitation. Later, just before he ascended to heaven, there were just 120, compared to the 5,000 and then 4,000 he fed with the multiplied bread and fish. Peter implied, "It's hard...to be saved" [1Pet.4.18], though salvation has been simplified for all [Acts 15.19].
How Many Started Out Like Jesus Did?
How many of us pastors today started ministry as Jesus did? Not many, I guess. I can only think of pastors in countries where the Gospel is forbidden. But for us in the free world, we started with backing from a denomination or a mother church which always has a ready program or plan of action, an SOP.
There's a ready property and church building, programs, musical instruments, a vehicle, some bibles and hymn books, and denominational support. And perhaps a daily allowance? If you're an independent church, you probably started out with help from a mother church or probably some financial supporters.
Jesus started out with nothing. Well, he had his cousin, John the baptizer (who also had nothing), who allowed some of his disciples to transfer to the Jesus ministry. Aside from that he had nothing more.
It was either people were attracted to the God they saw in Jesus, or they weren't. If they weren't, it was no good attracting them in any other way. That Kingdom building principle should still be true in ministries today. We must get people attracted in no other way except the Jesus Way. Any other way automatically results to idolatry.
What is commonly seen in churches today is idol evangelism. They look for other ways to attract people to church. They build little idols or gods by which to attract people with, make them come back to church, and make them active there, too.
Some would argue that, we should make use of what's made available to us now in church. They're also God's provisions for our modern times. Oh?
Jesus is the way. How we find him in Scriptures is what he means by being the only Way to the Father. We cannot adjust him or add things to him to fit him to our modern times or needs. He is the way, and that's it.
One friend who claims to be apostolic asked me if I expected the church to wear Palestinian clothes and grow beards and mustache because I said everything must be done in Jesus' ways. "Are you serious about your question?" I asked back.
I told him, what I meant was to follow nothing but Jesus' Kingdom principles he exemplified in the bible. Well, I added, if he could stomach being seen in Palestinian robes and sandals, and growing a bear and mustache, then why not? I studied him for a while, imagining him with robes, sandals, beards and all. Then I said: "Umm, on second thought, forget it."
A lot of church people are in church for many things. And sadly, most of them do not know Jesus enough. They think he's a blesser or protector--like how people believe in feng shui and the years of the dragon, rat, rabbit, guinea pig, dinosaur, or cockroaches.
Here are some church Idols for evangelism:
- Church building - This is the number one idol. Churches attract people with their impressive and posh buildings. Many church people go there just for the building. They renovate it yearly and pour millions for it. They meet God there (some cannot imagine meeting him in any other) and box him there. In placing great importance to the building, they forget that "Someone greater than the temple is here." I've seen how people go out of the church building to smoke. They dare not smoke in it. They think God cannot see them outside church buildings.
- Denomination - "Oh, we look small but we really belong to a big denomination!" is how church people seek confidence and morale in their denomination. It's their strength and power. Their denomination gives them authority through their titles and licenses (thus, many of them are ignorant about real power from the Holy Spirit, and how to get and use it). They think service to their denomination is service to God. That's nowhere in Scriptures. God wants all believers in complete unity. Denominations have no place in such unity.
- Church programs - many people go to church because they like the program. They like a particular church better because the other church's programs are not fit for them. Some attend the solemn worship service because they do not like the lively one--and churches provide these services accordingly. It's not what God wants--it's what they want.
- Choir and worship team - Choirs and worship teams are made to look impressive. They're like TV commercials--you get a glimpse of the product--what kind of church life you get from this or that church. You need to know the quality of something where you'd invest your tithes and offering. Choirs and worship teams are also a way of making people active in church. You join them and be seen on stage. Your family will be proud of you. Who knows, you might even make it to being a soloist or worship leader some day. You'd be popular, like your favorite rock star.
- Part in the program - Some churches, to make people attend them or be active in them, assign parts in a worship program or even church positions to people. They assign them for opening or closing prayers, presiding, scripture reading. etc. The church is a virtual playground for members they want to pamper and please. They target pleasing especially moneyed ones or those with careers or professions. These people feel honored or flattered and soon become active and occupy board seats. I've seen churches offer seats in the worship team wholesale to young people so the latter would be active in church.
- Ministries - They offer you a church ministry, like teaching Sunday school or going to outreaches, so you'd commit your time to church. They'd officially call you elders or workers or deacons--now, don't you like that?
- Concerts - Now, who wouldn't want to be seen on stage performing? You want to be seen up there some day? Well, attend our church!
- Fellowships - Fellowships in the bible were times of meeting with kindred spirits who were hungry for the Word and for His presence. Today, it's a get-together for fun and games, with some Word they call "devotion." It's an escape for bored people with problems at home. And you'd be surprised at the number of church people who have marriage or family problems but want to get away from it all, stay out of the house, by being in church fellowships.
- Worship musical instruments - This is the latest best seller. Young people who want to look like their favorite rock stars can now fulfill their dreams by joining the worship team and play with musical instruments ala their rock idols.
Modern churches create idols or gods like these in church to attract people to them and keep people in them. Church people get busy with these idols but are never really introduced to Jesus Christ deeply. When they see the real Jesus, they mistake him for someone else and call him ghost or cult--or else, they make shelters as Peter, James and John almost did in the Transfiguration. When I preach about Jesus' Sermon on the Mount realistically, I often see Christians smirk in disbelief, sometimes hatred. They were shocked to discover that Jesus really expected them to live like that. They thought it was just for Jesus' apostles, or for rhetorics sake.
Jesus, Not Attractive Enough
These idols are added to Jesus because church leaders and people do not believe Jesus per se is attractive. They're going to lose members if they stick with Jesus alone. What more if they take him seriously and begin to live as he did--giving up everything, no possessions, no car, no posh church building, no denomination, no house...nothing. Then they'd accuse you of being so silly to take things too literally and say that you better go and take more lessons from their seminary.
Fear of Rejection
Doing the genuine Jesus church ministry since 2005, I feel the brunt of rejection. Yes, people love hearing you teach--they ask you for more because they hear fresh and new heavenly stuff they never hear from others--but when they see that you and your disciples meet in an open, dilapidated porch, or a hot makeshift garage, and that you have given up a lot of things many people consider important, they go away.
They see that you have no printed program, no choir, no worship team, no musical instrument, no church building, no fun fellowship, no stage-show church ministries where people will see them performing in the limelight or on stage--and that you don't have any intention of having any of the above--they leave and look for another church, wondering what's become of you. People naturally lose interest when there's no idolatry involved.
Indeed, it will be hard for the rich (and rich-minded) to enter God's Kingdom. Only the poor in spirit will.
Cream of the Crop
But the few people who stay with you are disciples who really want Jesus. They are radical Jesus followers who want nothing to do with fancy or stage-show Christianity but only stuff that they see in Jesus and in the genuine Jesus ministry, as they seen in Scriptures. They understand and pursue after only things that count in the spiritual realms. They're serious about being closely connected and looking very similar to the Acts church.
I used to handle a traditional church when I was not yet into the genuine Jesus ministry, and it was easy to attract people. I just showed them my posh church building, the school which earned a million plus yearly for the church, the playground, the musical instruments, the stage, the fun fellowships, concerts, and the colorful printed programs with its orderly succession of events--and they're impressed. They loved the idols and gods.
Many pastors coveted that church and attempted to kick me out of it. They saw the benefits I had--the free water, gas, and electric bills, medical allowances, book allowances, transportation allowances, vacation allowances, the high pay (I was paid by the church and school), plus many other perks. In my blessedness I was even sometimes giving out money to fellow pastors. I though I had it good--until I saw before me--live via Holy Spirit satellite--the genuine Jesus ministry as the Spirit of God revealed it to me and led me deeply in my Word meditations.
Seeing God Changed Everything Radically--to the Extreme!
I saw that I had to give up everything. I saw how pleasing people must be trashed; I must focus only on pleasing God alone. I saw how God's prophetic message is really tough, sharp, and biting, and I should not tame it in any manner I saw fit. It was a hard decision to face.
It's been tough doing church ministries the way Jesus did it, without using any idol or god for evangelism. They see that all you have is Jesus, God's Word, the Holy Spirit, and rigid righteousness--heavenly stuff Jesus also solely relied on. Nothing for ego or flesh entertainment. Have you tried to evangelize with nothing but Jesus, just showing people how beautiful and fearsome Jesus is? How he loves sinners and punishes them, too?
Some churches would tame the Gospel message and present half truths--like how God hates only the sin but not the sinner. It's a big lie! Just look at Scriptures to see how many times God hated sinners and killed them. God loved Jacob but hated Esau. God gives eternal life to true believers but punishes those who don't, forfeiting them of seeing LIFE (that's the punishment, and that's severe! I cannot imagine going through life not seeing LIFE!), and giving them nothing but his wrath all their lives [Jn.3.36].
Can you imagine God's wrath on you all your life?
God loves sinners? Oh yeah! He loves souls burning in hell right now. God is sovereign; nothing's impossible to him. He can both love and hate people, as he provides sunshine to both the good and evil.
The Sins of Jeroboam
For fear of rejection, a lot of churches today compromise and set up idols in their hearts as they try to "serve" God. What they really do is serve men. They so dread the judgment and rejection by men and try to enthrone man with God in church. You know what the most effective scare tactic of Satan against pastors is these days? SImple: "Pastor, if you get serious with the genuine Jesus ministry, you'll lose your church members! Booo!" And pastors scram like scared dogs.
In these last days, this enthroning of man will progress until God is "taken out of the way" and man is regarded as "God," even the triune God, promoting this as 666--man's ways, man's effort, man's wisdom.
Now, don't wait for the anti-Christ to literally mark the numbers on foreheads or hands. You think you'd really see digital numbers marked on people? That would be too obvious--for sure, no one would subject himself or herself to something as plain. This is more spiritual. If your mind and deeds are all of man, you have received the mark of the beast initially.
"Get behind me, Satan. Your mind is not of God but of man!" said Jesus once. Being of man's mind is deadly--God sees Satan in you if you are a man pleaser--which brings us to the sins of Jeroboam [1Kings 12.26-33].
Pleasing Men Automatically Leads to Idolatry
Jeroboam feared losing his "church" members, so to speak. Israel had just divided into the north and south. Being from the north, he feared that his northern people might abandon him and go to the south to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. So he built idol shrines on hilltops and two golden calves (he learned this during his stay in Egypt, just as Aaron had learned the same there years ago). In effect, he told the northern people: "Hey guys, you don't need to go to another church building and withdraw your membership from me. I have built you a better one right here in our locality!" Now you know how church denominations started--they are offshoots of Jeroboam's sins.
Aaron had done the same much earlier. Fearing the people's rejection, he cast a golden calf for them. If you're a man pleaser, you become a goldsmith of the people. And to be sure, "Every goldsmith is shamed by his idols," [Jer.51.17}. It used to be that the church turned the word upside down. Today, the world turns churches upside down---what a shame!
God Hates Idols
God hates idols, especially those found in his sanctuary. This was exactly why he destroyed the temple in Jerusalem through the cruel and merciless Babylonian army. "They put up disgusting idols and gods in the very temple that has my Name on it and messed it all up," [Jer.32.34]. God wants nothing but God seen in God's house. Hence, His people should be filled with God in them.
Watch why God hates idol evangelism in church:
"(Man's) idols and images are a fraud; idols don't breathe (they're dead, and so are those attracted to them). They're nothing, worthless, deserving to be made fun of. Idols have their day in God's court; when the day comes, they will be demolished" [Jer.51.17-18).
People Attracted to Church by Idol Evangelism are Spiritual Zombies
Years of observing in different churches of different denominations, I saw that there are church goers...
- Who find the church as a playground. They love playing there, and their favorite is riding the merry-go-round...they just go round and round and round, like the Israelites were around the wilderness. Year in and year out, they do the same things, with no real spiritual progress.
- Who see the church as a hiding place, as an escape from their spouse, parents, school, or office. There were people who hated being with their spouses so they ran to the church (because their spouses hated church) and became active there. Some who hated house chores or office work also saw it as a refuge.
- Who feel their worth in church because of the accolades and recognitions they get. Their egos are pampered there, and they like it that way. Their egos grow. The self is fed well. They get voted to position, cited positively by pastors in their sermons, and given responsibilities and authority. They love people applauding them, appreciating their performance on stage. So they are active in church. Funny, but I once saw how one choir was so disappointed and angry because the church audience didn't clap at their performance. They seriously thought, the church needed to be lectured on how to be a responsive audience.
- Who go to church to see their crush, or the person they find very attractive, or their sweethearts. They also get active in church to show off, so their crush or sweethearts would applaud them. This is so especially if their crush is spiritual--they'd pretend some spirituality and show it off in church. Blind people would happily remark how so and so is "growing in the Lord" because he or she is seen more often in church and taking part actively.
- Who are in church because they get some material benefit. How often do I see members packing take-home food during church celebration while many others still have not eaten? Or, how paid church workers drag themselves to church because they don't want to lose their jobs. There are also those who go to church as an insurance--so that God would protect their money, possessions, and jobs or businesses--or, so that God would promote them at work, or give them employment.
Why All These Mess?
Many think God is a genie--a blesser or protector of some kind. Very few see God as Lord. And why is this? It's because these people were attracted to church through idol evangelism. Jesus said, what is flesh is flesh, what is spirit is spirit. People whose flesh or ego you pampered will never turn spiritual later. You cannot start with the flesh and somehow end up in the spirit.You will have to start all over again--as Jesus told Nicodemus, you must be born again.
Sure, idol evangelism can produce masses of people in church. It has built countless mega churches everywhere. But they produce walking spiritual zombies--people who mouth bible verses, are active in church, and yet have no spiritual stature in the heavenly realms. A lot of them do not even know Jesus that well. They hate the Word. They're like the sons of Sceva in Acts who tried to scare a demon but got beaten up by the demon instead. Why? Because they had no spiritual stature--they had not been properly introduced by God in the spiritual realms. Paul was properly introduced. Jesus was properly introduced; "This is my beloved Son..."
The church has been producing members with no Jesus DNA in them. If God finds no Jesus DNA in you, He won't introduce you to the spiritual realms as His child, so that stray dogs easily bark at you and bite you.
Church Buildings and Activities are Good
Church buildings and activities are good if they're all the genuine works of God. If God is leading you into these, sure, do them. The problem is, church people use them as evangelism idols to lure and trap people with.
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