Two stories this week highlight the nature of the narcissistic church in America.
You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 'I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.' The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease." -- John 3:28-30 (ESV)
Anything that distracts from Christ works against the cause of the Gospel. That includes me. That includes you. That especially includes anyone who claims to be a preacher or teacher of the Word. John the Baptists understood this truth in our key verses today. You see up until the point that Jesus came on the scene; John was a pretty important fellow. Everyone came to him to be baptized. Here we find in the third chapter of the Apostle John's Gospel the followers of John the Baptist seem upset at best and downright jealous about the fact that now people were going to Christ to be baptized instead of them. John's answer in the key verses are a humbling reminder to us in ministry that it really is not about us. We must rejoice greatly at the voice of the Bridegroom! He makes our joy complete! Most importantly we see the inverse relationship of being a follower of the Messiah -- I must decrease because He must increase. Jesus does not need you to be His wingman. He does not need you to be His co-pilot. He needs you to make the cause about Him -- which means we must decrease.
What do we see today instead however? The purpose-driven churchianity model creates cult of personality pastors who are too big to fail. The stage is theirs. The spotlight is theirs. The attention is theirs. Jesus? He may make a cameo appearance but this is about them beloved. Don't believe me? Just check out any of the books they write and see whose face is on the cover. This model of leadership creates a very self-centered church that is inwardly focused instead of heavenly targeted. There is real damage when your pastor makes the bible to be about you. Beloved you are not David facing down your giant. If we are anyone, we are the cowering Israelites. Do you know who David is in that story? Jesus. He is a type of Christ and when we think He is us, we miss Christ. It seems every week the evangelical world plays a game of can you top that crazy. Let us look at just two stories from this week that brilliantly displays this egotistical, shallow and narcissistic Christianity.
John Gray made news this week when he posted an Instagram video of him giving his wife a $200,000 Lamborghini for their anniversary. Yes you read that right. Social media blew up with correct criticism of this and of course with the same old tired defenses. The fact that this has to be explained at all is a damming statement on the state of the church. This is however a natural outgrowth of the prosperity gospel, word faith, and many other active heresies. Let us not lose sight that Gray made his bones as an associate pastor for Joel Osteen. Who better to teach the luxury of excess as something to aspire to from the pulpit? Recently Gray was given the senior pastorship of Relentless Church, formerly Redemption Church. Let us reason together through his tortured defenses in the above linked article:
'"God helped me to make my wife's dream come true," he wrote in an Instagram post Tuesday night. "Why not? She's made mine come true!" By Thursday, he was on Facebook Live, tearing up at times as he defended his decision and said the sport utility vehicle was bought with "not a nickel, not a penny" of his salary from the church or other church money. "My wife has pushed for my dreams and my vision, and she has toiled with a man who is still trying to find himself," Gray said. "That carries a weight. I wanted to honor her for how she's covered me."' -- John Gray
Please John, do not blame God for your carnal decisions. He did no such thing. He gave you the ability and opportunity to make money and you then decided what to do with it, which is your right as an American. Of course, your citizenship is not supposed to be American anymore. It is supposed to be in heaven with your mind on kingdom matters. Secondly, your wife's dream was to own a Lamborghini? I will leave that right there and move on to this tired defense from millionaire pastors who defend themselves by saying they did not spend the congregational money on their lavishness. While that small sacrifice may be commended, exactly who do you think is buying all of your books sir? The same congregations you think you are not taking from. So spare me the "I scratched and saved" defense when most people in your church are living paycheck to paycheck if that.
'His wife, Aventer Gray, defended her husband Sunday in her own Instagram post, saying he gives away cars and furniture as well as coats off his back in addition to tithing to the church. The pastor recently said that people in need, especially widows and veterans, should take money from the church's donation baskets. "I don't see anyone screaming about how basketball players drive what they do while you paying $$$ to see them play in arenas and on fields," she wrote on Instagram. "We don't live for people! We live for God!"'
Only in the depraved mind of a false teacher's wife can one reason that buying a $200,000 car is living for God while beating the sheep you pretend to serve. As for giving away cars -- when? To whom? Who paid and were they worth as much as your new car? I might add that being nice on one hand does not mean you get to be unseemly with the other. You also should not be bragging about how generous you are. That is like swearing how humble you are. And what exactly do basketball player have to do with this conversation? Is Lebron James a pastor? I was not aware that James Harden had an active call of God on his life. Stop making ridiculous comparisons to excuse your guilt.
As for the staged and reported event last month where Gray allowed people in need to take from the offering baskets -- so what? Can you even see the rank hypocrisy? Just 20 days ago, John Gray excoriated what he called "pulpit pimps" who "seek to only make money off their congregations." Twenty days ago and now you think nothing of sending out a video giving your wife a $200,000 car that you were able to get only because of the money you have made as a pastor! This was the exact quote that day from the pulpit by Gray:
"For too long people have stood in the pulpit and told you to give, give, give. Very rarely have I seen churches that stop to say, leave the baskets out. Let the people get what they need. We've got too many pulpit pimps [who] want to get fat off of people, [who] don't want to meet the needs of the poor people. Jesus said that's who you're supposed to be taking care of. We got widows. We got orphans. We got single moms in here. We might not be able to do everything but we can do something. I wish we could do more, but this is the best we can do right now. Just know as the Lord keeps blessing us, we're going to do it more and more. We're going to buy cars for women who are catching the bus. We're going to buy houses for people who've been renting. And we're going to have more than what we need." -- John Gray
I guess he kept his promise about buying cars for women. While there certainly was some nobility for the gesture made, it cost Gray nothing. The money was taken from the offering. Nothing affected his salary. So the church building fund gets set back a week. I am not suggesting that he had to give any of his own money beloved but do not use the giving away of some of your congregation's money as an excuse for why it is ok to buy your wife an absurdly extravagant automobile. Gray declared that day that everyone in his church was entering into a season of "all you can eat" but I wonder how many other folks in his church were able to bestow such a lavish gift on their spouse.
Let's be clear. In the world, one is free to do with their money what they want. We are not supposed to be of this world however, especially in leadership. Gray mocked the criticism by saying if he had purchased her a mid-sized, mid-priced sedan no one would have cared. Yes John, that is the point exactly. Just 20 days ago you railed against what you are -- a pulpit pimp. Don't get me wrong because that status starts with your false doctrine. It starts by daring to tell everyone in your church that they all are entering a season of all you can eat when God never said that to you. By instilling in them every week the same tepid pablum Joel Osteen taught you lo those many years. That you are just so special. Your status as a pulpit pimp is from preaching a false gospel of prosperity and refusing to deal with the sins of people and their need to repent. It is about making church and the bible to be about them when it is supposed to be all about Him. The fact that you cannot tell why it was wrong to send out a video of giving your wife a car worth five years' salary to most of your employed congregants is not the problem John -- it is the symptom.
Moving on, this week there was a little story reported out of the "Jesus 18" conference in Orlando. This heresy fest included many of the top rank heretics in the world. Benny Hinn, Todd White, Heidi "Shaba" Baker, Randy Clark, and Lou Engle just to name a few. It was reported that Bethel worship leader Steffany Gretzinger told a panel of Christian leaders she had been having a visceral emotional reaction to the entire conference but didn't know why. Perhaps God was trying to break through about her role in helping one of the greatest cesspools of false teaching on the planet? One could only hope but Benny Hinn interjected with what he called a "prophetic word." Mind you this is the same Hinn who famously prophesied in 1990 that Fidel Castro would die that decade and despite giving himself an absurd ten year window he still missed the mark by a mere sixteen years. The word was that "Very few of us are chosen to comfort the Master. You're one of them."
Well, aren't you special.
No, you are not. Beloved, God does not need us to comfort Him. This is again the narcissistic; I am so special Christianity, on full display. Even if the creator of the heavens and universe wanted comfort, why in the world would He seek it from Steffany Gretzinger? Why would he seek it from the worship leader of a church that leads so many people away from Him? Quite obviously, He wouldn't. I can see the defenders already lining up. I saw them already on the John Gray story. One person swearing how much Gray "loves the Lord." I am sure those standing up for Gretzinger would say the same thing. They are of course wrong. They love the god they have created. The god that thinks its ok to tell poor people that God wants them rich and to step up for "all you can eat" when they do not know how to arrange dinner for their family that night. A false god who looks the other way when someone shows such utter contempt and disdain for the sheep by making absurd equivalencies between their new Lamborghini and Joe Smith taking fifty bucks from the offering to pay his electric bill.
A god who needs a false worship leader to comfort him. Ironically, there is a comparable story and it comes from the testimony of another Bethel worship leader, Kim Walker-Smith. The leader of Jesus Culture is fond of saying God gave her a waking visitation from Jesus where He whisked her away to the throne room of God where she met the Father face to face. Did she cry unclean lips like Isaiah? Did she fall prostrate before Him as the Apostle John did? Did she even realize that it must have been a demonic encounter because Moses tells us that if we see the Father we would die? No, because Kim Walker-Smith has been taught how special she is; just like Gretzinger and Gray. When you think the bible is about you, that is how you can be this deceived. Walker-Smith claims that Father God ripped out a piece of His heart and molded a miniature version of Kim to set in a jewelry box so she can dance and sing for Him. Dance and sing for him. Comfort him. The truly sad part is they convince themselves this is worship and they convince others that it means they love God. Yet they are the heroes of the stories. They are the ones who are just so special that they can provide comfort to the God that spoke the universe into existence. Or that God wants to rip out a piece of His own heart so that they can sing and dance for Him. Or so special that you think because you "earned" side money that God wants you to brag about spending $200,000 on a luxury car for your wife. These are just two stories from this past week. There are countless other stories every single day. The fact that they have to be explained at all is an embarrassment to where the modern church is today. It is time to get over ourselves, and fast.
Reverend Anthony Wade -- December 20, 2018
Credentialed Minister of the Gospel for the Assemblies of God. Owner and founder of 828 ministries. Vice President for Goodwill Industries. Always remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.