Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, - 2Thessalonians 2: 3 (NKJV)
The great falling away. God has warned us that it would come. The key verse actually teaches us that it paves the way for the antichrist and final chapter of these end times. Jesus is coming back beloved. Sometimes we get caught up in the rhetoric around the politics in this country. For years when I thought of the great falling away, I reflected to the false narrative of this country turning its back on God. Only after a better understanding of scripture and American history can one come to the conclusion that this country cannot "fall away" since it was never with God to begin with. While the majority of the founding fathers believed in a god, they did not believe in THE God. No, the great falling away occurs within the church system that claims Christ as Lord yet does seemingly little that He has commanded. It makes perfect sense for the enemy to attack the church from within. To get people to go to steepled buildings each week thinking they are serving God when in reality they are not. To convince people that a three sentence prayer with no repentance means they are saved when they are not. That is how we get to this scene:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.' - Matthew 7: 21-23 (ESV)
Beloved these are people who clearly thought they were serving the Lord yet He knows them not. These are people in ministry. These are people in leadership. People who could not tell their false signs and wonders from a true manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit. People who could not tell their demonic clairvoyance was not actual prophecy. How do we get there? How can we sit and watch this great falling away all around us and still think that somehow we are doing the Lord's will? Because we cannot discern the Holy Spirit from the demonic. We like our apostasy. It is entertaining to go to church now. Singing, dancing and self glorification? Who wouldn't like it? A message designed to make me feel better about myself instead of feeling better about God? Sign me up! Let us take a look across the landscape of popular churchianity and see the schemes of the devil in action. The organization known as Newsmax has recently put out an article about the top 50 influential churches. For time consideration, we will look at the top eight and the damage they have done and continue to do to the cause of Christ. It is interesting to note however that the author chose so malleable characteristic as "influential." Here is how the author defined influential:
"The notoriety of the megachurches' leaders, the reach of their books, the ratings of their television and radio programs, and the way the public views them."
How fitting in this narcissistic church culture that influence is entirely based upon the human pastor and not the eternal God. How famous are they. How far do their book sales penetrate foreign markets. What are their media ratings and lastly, how does the public view them. Would you expect this criteria to result in a list of biblically adherent followers of Christ? Of course not. I would expect to find a list of the most compromising preachers on the planet who have all contributed their own special brand of heresy to the overall scheme of the great falling away.
The number one most influential pastor in the article is Rick Warren of Saddleback Church. He is the architect of the great falling away. Intended or not, no one pastor has done more damage to the cause of Christ than Rick Warren. Most of the larger heresies taught in church today came from the mind of Warren. The Purpose Driven Life swept through the church like an aggressive cancer, convincing people that the Bible is really about them instead of God. In the Bible we are presented with a God who has a purpose to save mankind. In the Purpose Driven Life we are taught that we are the ones burdened with glorious purpose. The real damage however was from the companion book, The Purpose Driven Church, which was given to church leaders across this world to show them a new way of doing church. A new scheme of man. It is the heart of the seeker-friendly theologies. Pulsating modern music designed to entertain instead of glorify. Messages designed for personal relevance to this temporal life and a shift away from eternal concerns such as sin and repentance. A change from feeding the sheep of the Lord to drawing goats to fill the pews. The new doctrine of blessed subtraction that teaches pastors it's ok if sheep wander away. The result is a generation of Warrenites are now leading "mega-churches" and fully implementing his church growth practices with devastating results. The landscape is littered with slaughtered sheep as the Gospel is watered down to the point of ineffectiveness. In the entire book, The Purpose Driven Life addresses salvation one time. The "sinners prayer" Warren presents is all of nine words long. Does anyone honestly think salvation is this cheap? When penning an article to pastors about increasing the return rate of Easter visitors he advised them to not preach the Gospel but rather something that speaks to their relevant life needs so they "have a reason to come back." It is not surprising that Rick Warren comes in at number one on the great apostasy list. He laid the foundation for it.
Second on the list is TD Jakes and The Potter's House Church. With the foundation laid, the first order of business for a successful carnal church is speech craft and no one knows speech craft like TD Jakes. Now mind you, all of these heretical leaders are great orators. It is part of the requirements for the success of this model. But to hear Jakes preach is like listening to poetry. He defines eloquent wisdom. The very thing Paul says empties the cross of its power.
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, "I follow Paul," or "I follow Apollos," or "I follow Cephas," or "I follow Christ."Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. - 1Corinthians 1: 10-17 (ESV)
This is not to say that one should not strive as a public speaker to be good at it. The issue is when our speech craft replaces the Gospel as the reason why people go to hear us speak. As we can see even in the early Corinthian Church, they too were struggling with this. We can replace I Follow Paul or Apollos today with "I follow Jakes or Warren." Most Christians identify their faith with their pastor before their Savior. That is what Paul is warning us about here. For Paul, all he wanted to know when teaching was Jesus Christ and Him crucified because that was all they needed to hear. Today, Jakes is so well spoken at his craft that he routinely gets away with such nonsense as denying the trinity. Not to mention his alliance with the new age Oprah.
Once you have the foundation laid and the great orator is in place you need to make the church motivational. Enter Lakewood Church and Pastor Joel Osteen at number three on the list. Osteen is on record as saying the doctrine is not a "gifting" of his, which should disqualify him from ministry. He has stated that he believes people already know what's wrong with themselves and that his role is to help them feel better about themselves. His sermons brush past scriptures or wrench them horribly out of context. He is the master of proof texting. That means he does not approach the Bible to hear what God says but rather he uses the Bible to justify some carnal premise he already has decided to preach on. This is not only Osteen but everyone on this list. There are no real expositors of the Bible anymore. Osteen is also a huge proponent of the word faith heresy which teaches that we are little gods with the power of creation within our spoken words. While he does not often refer to the Bible when he preaches we discover that when he does it is usually a butchering of Scripture.
The fourth on this list is Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Church. Known as one of the pioneers of the emergent church, Hybels represents the secularization of leadership within Christ's church. In order to draw people he used the Warren technique of canvassing the neighborhoods and found that people did not like the image of crosses in church. Why would they? It reminds us of our sinfulness! So Hybels promptly removed all crosses from Willow Creek. While the true Gospel is meant to offend, the false one preached today strives to offend no one. Hybels' other main contribution to the great apostasy is his annual leadership conference. It seems today that seeker friendly leaders in the church are obsessed with carnal leadership principles. Essentially asking the world what are the best ways to lead the church. This is why so many pastors today view themselves as a CEO who casts vision. That is a secular principle being applied to the growth of the church. Take a look at any of the annual lineups of speakers at the Willow Creek conference and you will find it is dominated by unsaved, carnal experts at leadership. The remaining few are false teachers who have grown huge churches and the occasional celebrity who is neither a leader nor Christian, such as cross dressing legend Tyler Perry.
So we have the foundation laid, the motivational speech craft addressed and ensured that the leadership training will continue to lead pastors back into the world. Now we need to expand the plan by placing the easy believism of Warren theology on steroids and creating a network for the false teachers to prop themselves up. Fifth on the list is Craig Groeschel's Life Church. A master of using social media and technology to spread his word, Groeschel represents the growing new wave of hipster pastors designed to look relevant, feel relevant and be relevant to young generations. He is the forerunner for people like Carl Lentz and Steven Furtick, who refers to Groeschel as "his pastor." Groeschel is also a frequent guest speaker across the country as he enables the seeker driven industrial complex. What Groeschel also contributes is the complete deconstruction of worship in church. It is bad enough that many modern worship songs are nothing more than narcissistic self worship but Life Church does not even pretend it is worshipping God by including completely secular songs into traditional worship sets during services. Not even secular songs that might have some redemptive overtones either. In one service it was Will Smith's Wild Wild West and in another it was Guns N Roses' Welcome to the Jungle. This has paved the way for other Groeschel adherents to do the same. It is how we saw Highway to Hell at Perry Nobles Church and the popular club song, "I Like to Move It Move It" at Hillsong London. It only makes sense that a scheme of the devil to have people fall away from God must ensure that the true worship of God ceases.
If you are going to attract people with flashing lights and smoke machines that is what you will need to keep them. The sixth part of the plan is to turn church into pure entertainment. No church today better represents this than Brian Houston's Hillsong. Based out of Australia, Hillsong is the definition of an international brand with outposts in New York City, Los Angeles and London to name but a few. Their music is known worldwide and rakes in tens of millions of dollars per year. This contributes greatly to the superficiality of the modern church. Hillsong makes sure to avoid taking a biblical stand on anything. They are in the business of church and do not wish to drive anyone away. Thus there is no real discussion of sin. As we have seen, this is a foundational portion of Warren theology but Hillsong perfects it. When asked about his churches stance on sin, NYC pastor Carl Lentz quipped, "we have a stance on love and everything else is a conversation." His wife followed it up with, "It is not our job to tell people how to live their lives." This is the stupidfication of the pastoral role. It is the pastor's role to tell people how God wants them to live their lives but not at Hillsong. There it is their job to entertain people.
The seventh church on the list reveals the bondage Satan places people into within this paradigm. In order to run these mega-corporations you need a lot of money. That money has to come from the people who come to be entertained. But the pastor-dude can't leave it up to the goats what to give because without the Holy Spirit the real things of God are still foolishness to them. So enter Gateway Church and pastor Robert Morris. While all of the teachers listed here are false, none may be so vile as Morris. While all may preach the wildly unbiblical notion of tithing in order to fleece their flocks, only Morris makes it obscene (although Brian Houston comes close). Morris not only preaches tithing but he teaches the doctrine of cursed tithing. He actually tells his sheep that if they do not give him his 10% FIRST, then God will curse the remaining money they have. Don't pay your bills - pay him! He has written books on this very subject where he eviscerates the Bible to prop up this false teaching. He is so good at delivering this message that the seeker-friendly industrial complex uses him as a hired gun to come visit their churches and preach on "giving." The end result however is twofold. First those in the church are actually in bondage and are trying to serve two masters because Morris also promises blessings based upon giving. Secondly however the world sees the hypocrisy and many are driven further away from even trying to seek God.