Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. -- Romans 12:2 (ESV)
We have become numb to it. We have spent decades watching the church lower the bar repeatedly for morality and behavior to the point that both seem meaningless in today's organized religion. We know the stories but are no longer shocked at the bottom line. When Tully Tchividjian returned to run a church last month his actual defense was if the two people having sex are consenting, then there is no problem! Never mind that it was sex outside of marriage. Never mind that it was shepherd to sheep sex. The pure carnality of that statement should have made every Christian shudder, and none attend his new church. Fast forward a couple of weeks and we had the Todd Bentley fiasco. Forget the unproven salacious details. Just what he admitted to should have made the church vomit collectively. Bentley admitted to sexting with his interns details about his wife's sexual deeds. Yet somehow, he determined that this did not violate his marital vows and we all shook our head and moved on to hear Dr. Michael Brown announce an investigation into Bentley. As if punching and kicking people to impart healing is not a disqualifier to begin with. As if an affair with your nanny, who you then leave your wife for is not disqualifying. As if sexting your new wife's sex life to interns was not disqualifying. We are so coarsened to simply accept disqualifying behavior because we have sought this moment out as a church for so long.
The key verse reminds us that we are not to be conformed to the ways of this world but the purpose driven industrial complex and seeker friendly theories of church growth have been rabidly pursuing relevance to the world for several decades. That is why worship has become self-worship. That is why the word has become self-help and motivational speeches. Rick Warren, the father of Purpose Drivinism has taught pastors to NOT preach the Gospel if they want visitors to return the following week. This is why we have sermons based on the Avengers and calling Jesus our wingman. This is why songs like Highway To Hell and I Like to Move It, Move It have been played in lieu of worship. This is why churches have been transformed into motocross tracks and monster truck events. When you preach the real Gospel, the world wants nothing to do with it. So for decades the purpose driven movement has relentlessly pursued relevance with a fallen world. Now, they finally have it. Now the church looks so much like the world that the behavior and reaction to sin is the same as if we were never saved at all. With this as the backdrop, let's look at two stories from this week in Christianity that seemed to have fallen by the wayside. They are both linked above.
The first story is about Jerry Falwell Jr., President of Liberty University. A recent story reported that he directed university resources into projects and real estate deals in which his friends and family have stood to make financial profit from. The story also alleges Falwell installed a company owned by his son to manage a shopping center owned by the university. Then there are the stories of sending sexual pictures of his wife and bragging around campus about his sexual exploits with her. Now, these remain allegations that he has of course denied but let's be honest -- would anyone be truly surprised? Along with this story several pictures were published that showed Falwell and his family at Miami nightclub in 2014 dancing and drinking. No big deal? Well remember that Liberty University demands that their student abstain from alcohol and they are punished if caught not abstaining. Falwell immediately cried -- photoshop! So now the photographer has released more photos proving that Falwell is at least lying about the foray into the nightclub and if he is willing to lie about that, why would we believe him about anything else?
This does not even brush up against the other story involving a 20-something year old pool boy and the purchase of a gay-friendly hostel in Miami. Look, you can dismiss this all you like but where there is this much smoke something is usually on fire and out of control. Jerry Falwell Jr. is president of one of the largest Christian Colleges in the nation. We cannot afford to be this naïve beloved because the world sure isn't. When Franklin Graham endorses Donald Trump right after receiving $200,000 donations to his charities, we can do the math. When Bentley is accused of behavior that he has engaged in his entire life, we can do the math. When Falwell lies and then is busted for lying, why would we believe anything else he has to say?
As if that story were not bad enough, let us travel up north to Minnesota. Specifically, Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Pastors Bill and Sharon Predovich founded Resurrection Life Church there 30 years ago. They recently sold the church to developers, and then bought a million-dollar lake front home while telling their congregants that "God wants them to worship in micro-churches." These would of course be held in their homes. The pastoral new luxury home is a five-bedroom, three-bathroom, 42,000 square feet beauty with an in-ground pool, sand volleyball court and a three car insulated garage. When asked, Bill Predovich told local news that there was nothing secretive about what they were doing. They bought the home in cash the same day they received one million dollars from the developer for the church land.
Once again, this is how the carnal minded think. This is a pastor for at least three decades and he thinks as long as he is transparent about ripping off his flock for personal gain, that somehow he is righteous. When you cannot tell the difference between the church and the world why would anything bother you? You would think nothing then of deeding the new home to the church and declaring that you are a "church resident" in public records, which the Predovich's did. Then the wife took to the church website to post this beauty:
"We're not quitting, we're repositioning. We'll no longer be your pastors, we'll be your apostles over smaller works. What happened is we began to sell the property over there and all of a sudden they wanted to buy this property and before you know it they're buying it all. Which leaves us without a building. Well then you know when you don't have a building what do you do? You look for another building. And so we began to look for more buildings more locations and nothing was available. When nothing is available " you go back to the Lord and say 'hey God what are you saying?' And so then we began to believe that maybe God had a new vision a new way, some other ideas and so Bill and I prayed. We probably prayed now for two years over all of this and decided in the end that we're not closing a church, we're just repositioning the church." -- Sharon Predovich
Stop it! God told you no such thing! You stole these people's church because you forgot somewhere along the line that it did not belong to you! God did not name you apostles over these people, so you could avoid shepherding them! Your story about the building is simply not believable. You have repositioned yourself to a lakefront home with three baths and five bedrooms so save your pious sounding nonsense. Do you think you can so easily plead your case when you stand before the Lord? Father forgive us! Sharon then told her sheep that she learned on the Internet that micro-churches are a big movement, further reinforcing that the thought of what to do with the sheep was secondary to fleecing them. Longtime member of this church, Jeff Proctor spoke with local media and said that they were kept in the dark about the sale of the church. On the church website a pastor named Chris Harken told the congregation the following:
"This is God's plan! It's not Pastor Sharon, Pastor Bill's plan. It's God's plan. And that's what we have to remember. God is changing the face of the church with micro churches. We have to embrace the change; you can't stop it. It's God and so we might as well yield and embrace what God has in store. When you fight or when you murmur or when you don't yield to it, you're really coming against God." -- Reverend Chris Harken
How predictably and pathetically sad. You are not coming against God when you properly speak against abuses of the sheep. Micro churches may be another scheme within the purpose driven industrial complex but that does not make it God's plan. You see, God has already laid out His plan in the bible and He does not change. The people of this church are hopefully not so naïve that they will fall for what is a clear money and power grab. If these two hustlers are still in control as "apostles" I would demand an accounting for how church resources are gathered, spent and kept because they have proven to be lovers of money and self at the expense of the sheep. Do not think for a second that the world does not see through this sham beloved. The witness of Christ is severely damaged and we should be prepared because stories like this will only multiply as we go deeper into the end times.