"Falling Away" of the Church
As one reads news articles from around the Christian community, it is hard not to notice that many churches and denominations seem to be stepping away from "controversial" biblical teachings in favor of a world view version of the bible. This means that tough topics such as homosexuality, abortion, adultery, and going to hell for not acknowledging Jesus as Lord and Savior, are not being discussed, let alone preached about in churches. Moral relativism and congregational entertainment seem to be all the rage. So are we in the period prophesied in the Bible as the "great falling away" of the church; the age of the church apostasy?
We are warned in 1 Timothy 4:1-2:
"The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron."
And in 2 Timothy 4:1-4:
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage-with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
Paul is saying that people will move away from a strict teaching of the gospel and begin to substitute other ideas in place of the guidelines and directions God gave to us through Jesus Christ, the apostles and the Word (Bible). These "false teachers" will teach doctrines that are easy to hear and don't cause the congregation to become uncomfortable with their own sin and failure to do God's will. Moral Relativism will become commonplace and in order to maintain their revenue, preachers will teach a "feel good" approach to the scripture, where such things as divorce, adultery, homosexuality, gossip, unwillingness to forgive, strife, jealousy, anger, disputes, and factions are never discussed. Sermons might as well be a seminar of Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits for Highly Effective People" (1) with religious words and phrases added for Christian palatability. No longer do many fellowships ask "what are you willing to do for God" but instead clue in on a feel good "look what God can do for you" message. They reduce the Creator of the Universe, to a short order cook at the window of a drive through. They have a "Hello this God, may I take your order, please?" mentality.
In the last ten years, I have seen this move away from basic Christian doctrine. Pastors now have to entertain and amuse people. Music directors have all but removed traditional Christian music from the service and replaced it with what I have heard called 7-11 music (the same seven words sung eleven times). Sermons capitalize on two or three verses instead entire passages. In a nutshell, the dumbing down of society has walked through the door of the church.
This "dumbing down" philosophy and desire not to offend anyone leaves a church fellowship open to the very things Paul warns us about in first and second Timothy, "for the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear". The desire to accumulate enough revenue for the latest sound system and theatre lighting for the stage, bigger and better buildings, and a new bus with the church logo on it, will skew all but the most determined pastors into "softening up" their messages of salvation. They will avoid the social issues such as homosexuality, adultery, divorce, and other vices that might "hurt someone's feelings".
Some denominations take this even further by redefining marriage as being between "two people" instead of between "a man and a woman". They actively support homosexuality, contrary to true Biblical teaching, even appointing them as pastors and bishops.
The Bible and its Truths have truly become minimized to the modern, enlightened church's search for something more "appealing". Something to keep the collection plate dollars rolling in. Something to keep from making people "feel bad". Something "nicer" then that old fashioned message of sin, salvation and hell.
People are not stupid though. Where Satan closes their eyes to the message of hope from Jesus, he opens their eyes to the duplicity of the churches. The people realize that instead of being something different from what they see in the world, churches use the same methods one might use to sell any number of items in a store. "C'mon in, have a cappuccino and a cafe latte while you sit in our multimillion dollar "theatre", I mean sanctuary, and watch our pastor spin out those words of peace. Everybody grin now".
Sound far-fetched? You may not believe just how true these words are. They are my words, but they represent actual churches I've seen with my own eyes. Mainstream, supposedly "down to earth" churches. Fallen-away churches?
Maybe not yet, but certainly headed in the right direction.
Time to get back to basics.
Jesus is Lord, A Worshipping Christian Family
1. Copyright Stephen R. Covey, 1989