but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him." - Hebrews 10: 38 (ESV)
The above link is to a new article by Pastor Joseph Mattera that provides five signs you are becoming a spiritual wimp and six reasons the church is producing spiritual wimps. Let me say up front that it was difficult to write about this article because half of it is pretty accurate. Of the six reasons Mattera provides for why the church is producing spiritual wimps I would agree five of them are problematic to say the least. Preaching "Bible light" messages, a watered down youth ministry, no regular prayer meetings, leaders and members allowed to behave as poorly as the world does and worship as entertainment are five solid problems the church needs to address. I do not think it makes for spiritual wimps per se, but it leads to far too many false conversions or baby Christians who never wean off of the spiritual milk the Apostle Paul teaches us about. Therein lies so much of what is wrong with his conclusions. His foundation is extremely poor:
"It has been my observation the past fifteen years that the commitment level of the average Christian in the United States has been on the decline. People seem to get offended much easier, it is harder to get people to sacrifice and volunteer, and people seem to be caught up more in the needs of their own lives than focusing on the Kingdom of God." - Joseph Mattera
Hidden within this opening salvo is the frustration that appears to be driving Pastor Mattera. He is finding it harder to convince people to sacrifice their money and time to help build his church. As such, he now feels this is because people have become spiritual wimps, as he puts it.
In reading his article I was reminded of the comedy shtick of Jeff Foxworthy. He points out certain behaviors he thinks might indicate that you are from the south or a "redneck" as he puts it. In a similar manner, Mattera employs Jeff Foxworthy Theology to say that if certain criteria are met in his mind; you just might be a spiritual wimp. He has just the solution too. A good ole fashioned sheep beating. The first beating for the sheep from Pastor Mattera is if you give up in the day of trouble, you just might be a spiritual wimp. He correctly points out that God puts a high value on people who draw close to Him during times of testing. In fact, that is often why we are tested. The problem is in conflating church service with one's personal walk:
"It is easy to move away from serving God when times get tough. It is only those who are serious about their faith and desire to get strong in the Lord that will continue to draw near to Him when times get tough." -- Joseph Mattera
Wait a minute pastor. Are we talking about drawing near to God or drawing near to the usher ministry? Because those are two completely different things. One of the greatest problems within the Seeker Friendly models of church growth is this conflation. Someone "gives their life" to Christ and is immediately given a Shape application to ferret out their "gifts." From there it is a quick dunk in the baptismal pool and right into church membership so they can begin "using their gifts" for the kingdom to discover their "purpose." Because very often the person is either falsely converted or still a babe in Christ they now think their service is their walk. They confuse their Mary and their Martha, if you will. Inevitably they are hurt in ministry and the damage is done to their relationship with God because their ministry was their relationship. I do not know if it is fair entirely to say that the only people who are serious draw close because quite often they are just poorly taught and attend churches that do not grow them vertically with the Lord because their pastor is too busy trying to do God's job of growing the church horizontally. Someone in the pastoral business would be well advised to spend less time beating the sheep and more time tending to them.
The second beating for the sheep is if you stay home from church because of bad weather, you just might be a spiritual wimp. Now to be honest this seems a bit nitpicky to me. Remember now the premise is that these things indicate you might be a spiritual wimp, which Mattera has already defined as someone lacking commitment, integrity, or fortitude to live life in line with biblical standards. It seems a bit harsh to beat a sheep because he stays home when the weather is bad. How does Pastor Mattera know what they do when they stay home? Perhaps they have church themselves. Perhaps they worship God and read their bibles. The larger point for me on this one is what does it say for the church when staying home is so palatable? I remember when I was at my former church for over a decade. You could not keep me out of the church. Miss a service? Never, because God was moving through a pastor who preached only the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you have sheep that see storm clouds and think it better to stay home I would start by looking in the mirror before picking up the rod to beat the sheep.
The third beating for the sheep is if you attempt to live a Christian life without a local church, you just might be a spiritual wimp. This one is staggering in both its ignorance and arrogance. Let me say up front that I agree that we were meant to be in community with others and Facebook does not count. I have seen groups of people who so hate the organized church so much that they are essentially standing around the bride of Christ, casting stones and calling her a whore. They convince themselves that everyone is equal when it comes to dividing the Word and one peek at their poor hermeneutics quickly dispels that. So I understand why a pastor might feel this way. Before beating the sheep though I try to recognize that there is a reason why these people are the way they are. They are hurt. They were abused by the church and the leaders in the church. They were sold a false bill of goods. They were told to sow and reap but the reaping never came. They were promised healing and their spouse died. They were sold this purpose driven nonsense and woke up one day wondering why they were working for free essentially while their pastor was collecting a six figure salary and multiple "love offerings" during the year. They had their membership revoked after decades of service because of tithing offenses. They had their ministries stripped from them for no reason other than carnal power trips. Yet Mattera not only refuses to see the role the church plays but he doubles down:
"Basically, those attempting to live out their Christian lives without being committed to a local church will soon become spiritual wimps since it is impossible to interpret the Word, feed your soul, pray, and fulfill your purpose to the maximum degree without being committed to the corporate purpose of a local faith community." -- Joseph Mattera
"Jesus said that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church but they will certainly prevail against an isolated, disconnected Christian." -- Joseph Mattera
Wow. Talk about an ego. First of all, Mattera continues to confuse a church building with the church of Jesus Christ. Joel Osteen operates a church building but I would wager precious few folks inside are actually part of the body of Christ. If I am found in Christ and so is my neighbor three doors down, we are the church. Now, I agree that a disconnected Christian is more likely to fall away. More likely to give in to temptation. More likely to fall for false teaching. But to take that to the absurd level of saying it is impossible to interpret the Word is asinine. Impossible to feed your soul? Impossible to pray? What Mattera also fails to recognize is the absolute dearth of Gospel preaching churches left in America. I cannot speak for his church but the vast majority of churches today are not preaching the Gospel at all. They are selling prosperity, greasy grace, word faith, and other heresies wrapped up in the purpose driven church growth model under the rubric of the Seeker Friendly Industrial Complex. I would wager it is much harder to interpret the Word correctly when your church does not interpret the Word correctly. When they use the Bible to proof text their way through some pabulum of faux relevance. I would bet that it is much harder to feed your soul if you are actively part of a faith community that starves the sheep in search of new goats. I would estimate that the real spiritual wimps are the people who stay in such mire for the sake of community instead of taking a bold stand for the truth of the Gospel.
The fourth beating for the sheep by Pastor Mattera is if your moral standards and political posture reflect the majority opinion of society rather than the Bible and historic Christianity, then you just might be a spiritual wimp. Here is the traditional "America worship" offered by far too many pastors today. I am afraid to even remind Mattera that "historical Christianity" is littered with standards we certainly do not want to live up to. It was historical Christianity that defended slavery, witch trials, the inquisition, and the majority of the dark ages abuses. The larger problem is in trying to apply the Bible to the non-believing secular world of politics. In the days of Jesus the secular society was far worse than what we see today yet we never see Jesus overly concerned with Rome. The best word we can use is indifferent. The translation of what Mattera is saying is that if Christians do not vote for two specific social wedge issues then there has been some sort of moral failing on their part. He just keeps beating the sheep. I want you to realize how silly this argument is. In the last presidential election God gave us a laughable, absurd choice. He gave us the most liberal Christian He could find and ran him against a member of a Satanic cult. If you want to hang your hat on determining the lesser of two evils just do not lose sight of the fact that you are still voting for evil. Hardly something to be bragging about. It appears that God is giving us another laughable choice this year and here are the Joseph Mattera's of the world telling us one form of evil is more righteous than the other. And based on what? Words. Promises. No thanks. I will stick with the Word and the promises of God. He is on the throne and doesn't need our vote to use any leader for His purposes and glory.
The fifth beating for the sheep is if you financially give to God "the crumbs that fall off the table" from the monetary priorities in their lives, then you just might be a spiritual wimp. Sadly, it always comes back to money with these guys doesn't it? Let me preface this by saying that if you truly find a church that is preaching the uncompromised Gospel of Jesus Christ you will find no better outlet for your giving. The converse however is also true. If you are in a church that is compromising the Gospel and selling a false Christ you are obligated to not give them a dime to advance the cause of the enemy. I have heard Christians say they just have to give their money and what the leaders do with it is their problem. That is not accurate. We have a responsibility to be gathering for Christ and not scattering and what we "sow" into counts. I put "sow" in quotes because of how often it is abused, as Mattera does as well: