He said to them, The Scripture says, My house shall be called a house of prayer; but you have made it a den of robbers. (Matt. 21:13 AMP). And He taught and said to them, is it not written, My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations? But you have turned it into a den of robbers. And the chief priests and the scribes heard [of this] and kept seeking some way to destroy Him, because they feared Him, because the entire multitude was struck with astonishment at His teaching. (Mark 11:17-18 AMP).
Then He went into the temple and began to drive out those who were selling, telling them, it is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a ‘cave of robbers’. And He continued to teach day after day in the temple [porches and courts’] The chief priests and scribes and the leading men of the people were seeking to put Him to death. (Luke 19:45-47 AMP)
We are all familiar with the above Scriptures, but because we have been saturated with the stories of the Bible, it is often easy to dismiss a situation as not applying to us in our modern age. Many times I have found that I have to hear the testimonies from the Bible from a few different angles in order for the revelation, or Rhema word, to open up inside my heart, like a present from heaven. I hope that this Epistle will open your hearts in such a way to look at this practice that I believe is gaining momentum in ‘the Church’ in the year 2010. Hopefully you will see the demonstration of this Scripture reference in our modern system. I always hope that those who have allowed this to happen, will be convicted and repent, and not be offended, but that is close to impossible, since self righteousness rises very quickly to defend when confronted by the truth. God says that with Him, all things are possible, so I still have hope!
Who got offended at Jesus’ teachings? Was it the multitudes? Was it the common man? NO! It was the leaders of the day! Let’s take out the word “Pharisees and scribes” and substitute the words “pastor”, “elder”, “board member”, or “deacon”. I am not trying to pick on leaders here, as I am in this category myself.
Have you seen the church being used as a place of business recently? Have you seen anyone merchandizing for the purpose of profiting their ministry, their church or themselves personally? What was going in Jesus’ day? The sellers were selling doves, pigeons etc as the people needed these items to present before the Lord as a sacrifice. They would often come from a long way and this practice of selling the required sacrifice offering would save them from having to carry the offerings from their hometown all the way to Jerusalem. In the current church we may not be concerned with these kinds of sacrifices, but every day we are presented with the latest and greatest idea on how to become more spiritual, or how to grow our churches. (What about God’s church?) There are multitudes of books, CD’s, and DVD’s promising to unveil the latest answer that everyone is hungering for. How many of us have cupboards full of old books and tapes that also promised “The Answer”?
One of the things that I learned from a book by Watchman Nee is that the gifts that people possess in the secular world are not always useful in the Church. He gives an illustration of a successful salesman who is always in the top ten sellers in his company, who would have sales in the millions if measured by current day standards. As a contrast, he gives another illustration of a very shy man who feels better just staying in the background and invisible. Is it a ‘given’ that the first guy will be able to use his incredible gift for selling in the church in order to enhance the kingdom of God? Which one do you think would be more valuable to the kingdom of heaven? In my earlier life, I would definitely have chosen the first one who already has a track record of success. That was when I was confused, thinking that the gifts were the most important consideration when slotting people into duties in the Church. I now realize that CHARACTER is far more important than GIFTS ! A gift that is not allowed to be submitted to the will of God can cause destruction to the gift bearer and also to those affected during the operation of it. Humility is essential for any successful ministry! Character purifying is a requirement for every minister of the Gospel.
Many times a new convert will come into the church and it seems obvious to everyone that they are gifted in a certain way, and coincidentally the church may be in need of that particular gift at the present time. The obvious solution is to plunk the new member into his or her tailor-made-slot. Speaking personally for a moment, the worship ministry is a place where I have seen this in practice first hand. Nothing could be more destructive for the church than to elevate a worship minister whose gift has not been through the purifying fires of God’s holiness. We even allow those who sing and play in the bars on Saturday night, surrounded by drunken people, get up on the platform on Sunday morning and lead God’s people. WOW?
Why did I go on that tangent? Many times I have heard motivational speakers who could rival the best in the secular world stand up at the front of the church and brag about their successes in the secular world in the field of business. The illustration from Watchman Nee surfaces in my heart as the ‘hyper banter’ starts to grind against my spirit. I wonder why we expose our precious saints to this kind of “hype”, designed to elicit an emotional response and a “rah, rah, rah” reaction. I recently read in a book by Derek Prince called “Protection from Deception” that Jesus never used HUMOUR in His presentation of the Gospel. Why do we need to use devices and techniques successful from the world to sell ideas to God’s people? Could this be what Paul talks about when he says, “But the Holy Spirit distinctly and expressly declares that in latter times some will turn away from the faith, giving attention to deluding and seducing spirits and doctrines that demons teach, through the hypocrisy and pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared (cauterized). (1 Titus;1-2 AMP)
I am sometimes left with the impression from these “power speakers” that if Jesus were here today, His ministry would be ineffective unless He signed up for the latest electronic technology, and subscribed to Facebook, Twitter, MSN, Hotmail, Gmail, and got an internet stick so that He would never be “out of the loop”. It causes disgust to rise in me that we have grown so vain that we think we have improved on His ways, and anyone who opposes the new ultra modern approach becomes a reproach, and is delegated as a fool in the eyes of the multitude. I can barely contain my distain right now as I write this Epistle that will hopefully open a few ears to the deception that has been gaining momentum in His beloved Church! Can anyone see it? Have we become so dull that we cannot hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches? It seems that the god of this world has truly blinded the eyes of those who have succumbed to the intoxication of power and position, and refuse to relinquish control! What a tragedy!
With so little discernment alive and well in the saints of God, it is easy for the enemy to roam around our churches disguised as something “good” committed to church growth. What about holiness? What about repentance? What about character purification? What about submitting to a holy God, to find solutions directly from His heart? It seems in our modern world, the microwave has become the way many cook, and also the method that many use when seeking the heart of God. If He does not answer us in a prescribed number of minutes, then we come up with a logical solution derived from the mind of man. That is called making an Ishmael folks!! Is that what we want?
If money were not involved in our plans, I wonder how different our planning sessions would be? I declare: The church has become a BUSINESS! Looking back at the first paragraph of this Epistle, we have come full circle. Can you see that the business model for the church may be successful on the books, but the sheep are often left to die in their sins? Jesus said, My house shall be called a house of prayer, not of BUSINESS!! We were called to make DISCIPLES, not converts who remain unchanged! This is a slap in the face of God to see how sin is allowed to thrive in His Church and has become so common that memory strains to remember a time when the church was different than the world. We are implored in Romans, “Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2 AMP) Does it get any clearer than that?
I believe if we spent more time with God in the secret place and less time trying to figure out how to increase the numbers in our churches, we would be much more successful from the perspective of heaven. He says that He will be found by us, if we seek Him diligently! The average pastor in North America today spends less than 5 minutes a day in prayer ! No wonder the church is so lukewarm and absent of the power of God. We invite Him and then give Him a time limit in which to work! Shame on us! Jesus said “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” If anything from this letter sinks into your heart, that is good, but realize that you are now responsible to do something about it! You will be held responsible before God for what you know ! REPENT if anything here is being confirmed by the Holy Spirit, then begin to turn things around for you personally. We need less work and more time with Him! This is where the answer lies, not another seminar from some high power speaker who can sell anything he sets his mind and his mouth on! We should not be looking for more awards on the earth where moth and rust corrupt but rather be seeking the great reward in heaven by the only One who matters! Has Jesus become redundant? Are His methods outdated? Do we need to enhance Jesus with multi-dimensional-techno-savvy presentations designed to intrigue and override the purity of the heart of God, and the message of the Bible? NO ! We need more prayer and less programs! We need to ‘presence centered’ not ‘program centered’! We need to seek to please Him and stop catering to the flesh of the average human being’s insatiable appetite to be stroked and pampered! It will never be enough! Let’s start by learning how to please Him, and He will take care of everything else that is required. There is no substitute for the simplicity and perfection of the Word of God!
On a final side note: (Food for Thought)
Hypothetically, how many disciples can one man or woman of God handle at one time? In other words, if a pastor of a church sets out to disciple people, how many is a reasonable number that he is able to carry? For any of you who have set out on the trail of discipling people, what do you think is a reasonable number? If we consider that 5 would be a practical number of disciples at one time, how many pastors would a church of 200 need? 200 divided by 5 would be 40 pastors. What if we stretched it to 10 per pastor? Then we would only need 20 pastors per church in order for the disciples to be sincerely mentored. Does that seem realistic? It is time for a serious reformation of the church structure as we know it?