So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. - 1Peter 5: 1-4 (ESV)
I just spent this morning weeping over the above linked interview. I am often asked why I bother with discernment ministry work. Nothing is ever going to change. The power that is spoken to is oblivious to the damage it wreaks in the lives of people. Even worse, many people prefer to defend evil leadership and blame the sheep willing to sit under it, than admit that maybe one of their television favorites is not really doing the work of the Lord. I do not say evil lightly beloved but the Bible compels honesty in such matters:
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! - Isaiah 5: 20 (ESV)
I will not rehash the interview details in much detail because my hope is that you listen to it if you can sit through it. These are mega churches built on the American exported CEO-Church theology. The purpose driven heresy of Rick Warren and the seeker friendly church growth model that is employed by the vast amount of churches in this country today. Hillsong and C3 churches are the two largest enterprises in their area and have international tentacles. The "pastors" mentioned here are not small names. Brian Houston, Phil Pringle and Gary Dench will answer for what they did and did not do in these matters and in that I stake a small measure of sober solace realizing we all will answer one day:
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. - Hebrews 4: 12-13 (ESV)
So the interview will speak for itself. The tales of spousal battery over years and when the wife seeks the help of the church she is told she would not be beaten if she was a submissive wife. Then she is made to wallpaper the pastor's house as some form of therapy in obedience. Abusive tithing messages where promises of breakthrough never come to pass. False feel good prophecies directly over the abuser, while the victims stand right there. Molestation offenses disbelieved and then when admitted to in court the church leadership shows up at sentencing to stand with the rapist and not the child. Decreeing and declaring an end to the abuse and never following up pretending it would show a "lack of faith." These are all just a portion of what you will hear in this interview conducted by Pastor Chris Rosebrough, from Fighting for the Faith Radio.
Beloved these are the dead bodies Mark Driscoll so gleefully preached about several years ago. Not from his church of course but this is the mindset. The purpose driven teachings for pastors turns the role of shepherd into that of a vision casting CEO. The fundamental change therein is that the leader is no longer concerned mightily with the growth of the sheep he has been entrusted to but rather to the overall size of the church he is trying to grow. In Rick Warren's book, The Purpose Driven Church, this is a taught principle to up and coming pastors:
"Be willing to let people leave the church. And I told you earlier the fact that people are gonna leave the church no matter what you do. But when you define the vision, you're choosing who leaves. You say, "But Rick, yes, they're the pillars of the church." Now, you know what pillars are. Pillars are people who hold things up " And in your church, you may have to have some blessed subtractions before you have any real additions" -- The Purpose Driven Church
If you do not think this resonates with the new breed of young gun pastors you are sorely mistaken. In fact, go back and listen to the clip from Driscoll's infamous sermon where he refers to the people who disagree with him as "a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus" and you will hear him introduce the subject by admitting that he is "all about blessed subtraction." The exact term taught by his mentor, Warren.
One of the more interesting angles in this interview is when Ms. Ferguson correctly points out that these churches have brands to protect. Hillsong is an internationally prosperous brand. The main church in Australia alone raked in one million dollars from its congregants last year and increased its overall brand by 10 million dollars in 2015. That is an enterprise that must be protected at all costs. So when a story comes out that threatens its image, you immediately get the spin coverage. The same goes for C3 church and Phil Pringle. He was recently adamant in his support for convicted pastor Kong Hee in Singapore who was found guilty of misappropriating 50 million dollars to create a pop music career for his wife. So when little Kerri Ferguson comes along with her abusive husband and raped children, you gotta protect the brand at all costs.
Now many may read this and think that it is so far removed from them. That these are the biggest churches with the biggest names and "not my church." The cold hard reality is that it is many of your churches too. If the pastor does not have mega-church status (2000 attendees per week) you can bet he wants it. He strives for it. He plans for it. Now, it will all be Jesus-couched for sure. It will always be discussed as needing to expand the kingdom or "reach as many for Jesus as possible" but the truth is that the pastor is not responsible for the horizontal growth of the church body but rather the vertical growth of the sheep God has entrusted to him. Don't believe me? Let us go back to the only authority, Scripture:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awecame upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. - Acts 2: 42-47 (ESV)
What is it here in the early church that the church itself focused on? The Word of God. Breaking of bread. Fellowshipping. As a result, God worked through the leadership to show Himself mighty with signs and wonders. I do not mean the nonsense we see today with clairvoyance, gold dust, gemstones, and fake glory clouds. Those are demonic signs and wonders. I am talking about real healing, deliverance, and prisoners from sin being set free. All the people cared more about each other than they did themselves. They met collectively and also in their homes. This is not a design for cell groups either, another Rick Warren heresy that seeks to transfer the pastoral responsibilities to the sheep themselves. It means that they had everything in common - their faith! Why wouldn't they be spending time with each other and building each other up? Yet what do we see is the role of God in this? What is the final line of this chapter? The Lord added to their number day by day, those who were being saved. Who is responsible for the horizontal growth of the church? The Lord is!
The abuses we see on the grand stage are also happening all around us of we are willing to be honest and admit it. We all know people who have been hurt badly in church and by people who were supposed to shepherd them. I have even heard on this level the defense of the leader over the sheep. "They should have known better." "It's their own fault." These are the sheep beloved! Often times, we do not know better! That is why Jesus used the terminology of shepherding! Sheep need to be led. They need to be nurtured. They need to be protected. Seeker friendly mega church guru, Andy Stanley is on record as saying that the term shepherd should not even be used anymore because it has no cultural relevance. Dear Lord! It does not need to have cultural relevance Andy; it has Biblical relevance! But this is the end result of decades of Warren theology on church growth. The leaders no longer fancy themselves in the sheepherding business. They cast the vision, run the daily business operations, and hone their speech craft so as to draw more and more people to fill the seats of those being blessedly subtracted. They point to financial statements and pie graphs to prove that their model is working or even worse that God is somehow behind it. Joel Osteen does not pack 50,000 people a week into his building because God approves. He packs them in because the world approves.