Sunday, October 21, 2007

Super Preacher

On October 31st, 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg. This document was Luther’s bold response to years of oppression by the Catholic Church, gross misconduct, and the sale of indulgences. It is the spark that ignited the Protestant Reformation.

Luther was fighting for what he believed was right, as he is famously quoted as saying, “It is unsafe and dangerous to do anything against one’s conscience. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. So help me God. Amen.” He was fighting for key ideas, ideas that continue to shape the Modern Church and Doctrine:

Sola Scriptura- The Bible alone is our ultimate authority.

The Priesthood of all Believers- the equality of all men before God and the Law.

Faith is a gift of God.

These are powerful ideas that rocked the very foundations of established religion. They even contributed to the creation of representative government. They undermined the Catholic Church’s stance that the Church alone could read and interpret Scripture, as well as the Church being the source of Law.

The eventual result, thank God, was greater freedom. A better understanding of Grace and the acknowledgement that all believers have direct access to God through his Son, Jesus. This is the true beauty of the Gospel. The incarnation of Christ and what it means for us as Christians.

As Christians, we have the opportunity to have a relationship with the Divine Creator of the Universe. The Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the Lord God Almighty. We could spend our entire lives simply trying to comprehend the magnitude of Who He is, let alone the fact that He is not only willing to have a relationship with us, but that He wants to.

Christianity is the only religion in the world in which the deity pursues us. This is the Gospel.

Since its inception, the Gospel’s primary forum has changed its shape time and time again. From the socialistic early church, based on charity and community, to the Crusades, to the abuses of the Catholic Church in Luther’s time.

Look at the Church today, particularly in the United States. Look at how far we’ve come. We are no longer the hate mongers of the Crusades. We are no longer the petty Corinthians. No, we build cathedrals with hundreds of millions of dollars. We have exciting preachers who dazzle us with untold revelations and miraculous works.

Ten thousand, twenty thousand, even thirty thousand member churches! Television stations, universities, political action committees! The signs, the wonders! Our preachers fill the halls, wall to wall. They bend our minds around the mysteries of Scripture that we could never unveil ourselves.

These men (and women) are attractive, stunning even. They tan, they bleach their teeth, and their wives stay fit and trim (some have their own clothing lines). They are captivating speakers, they have funny stories, sad stories, stories to fit every occasion. They can take us fast, they can take us slowly, they can take us high, only to take us low again. Then it all comes together, and we are amazed.

They heal, they prophecy, they stun. Some don’t even have to lay their hands on you, they can simply touch you with their $5,000 suit, or merely blow in your general direction. The production values are high, the musicians professional and the lights and cameras are right on cue. Surely, great revelation, deep spirituality, and the Holy Spirit fill the room.


Why do “God’s Generals” continue to embarrass us? They are some of the most public of our representatives, the leaders on the frontlines who proclaim the Gospel more loudly than anyone else. Every week tens of thousands of faithful listeners tune in, turn on, and listen raptly to every word they have to share. Their ministries continue to grow, they are always building a larger sanctuary, adding another satellite station, and beginning a new program. They command the attention of so many, they hold such status, they help so many. Right?

Which raises the simple question, why do they continue to fall, these Super Preachers?

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “So then, you will know them by their fruits.
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’
Matthew 7:15-23

They cheat on their wives.
The commit fraud
They do drugs.
They hire prostitutes.
They steal money.
They bastardize the Scripture in the name of revelation.
They are greedy and covetous.
They breed hatred and condescension against the ignorant sinner.

Every time one of them takes a tumble, the fallout is painful. They have forced themselves so far into the public eye, that everyone is watching them, center stage, as the scandal unfolds. The Church receives another black eye. Thousands lose their faith, and unbelievers become inoculated against ever believing in the Scripture.

It breaks my heart.

The Gospel is only contingent on one man, Jesus Christ.

God calls us to spread the Gospel, not to build larger buildings. He calls us to feed the hungry and minister to the poor, not promise untold riches to the downtrodden if they would simply part with their last dime. That’s what con artists do.

God calls us to be humble, not to build an empire unto ourselves.

You rarely hear about them. The real Generals. That’s because they are too busy carrying the lame to safety, to stop and tell a reporter how much they’ve done for the cause of Christ. I’m talking about the Bill Wilsons of the world, who would rather stay out of the spotlight. Who are more comfortable in a flophouse than they are in a first-class cabin.

It seems that the Body of Christ is experiencing some surgery, that the Almighty is in the process of separating the wheat from the chaff. I thank God for it, and I welcome it.

The next time you begin to declare that something is an attack from the Enemy on God’s Anointed, please consider, that they may not be so anointed after all. God is still sovereign, and no one can touch his truly Anointed unless He allows it.

But we are not blameless. We have come to them, these charlatans with itching ears. We have demanded what we want to hear. The production values, the emotional highs, and the exclusivity of their “special revelations” have fed our egos. They have stroked our pocketbooks and whispered gently in our ears, but we have asked for it.

While I despise these men and the mockery they have made of the Gospel, I am equally angry with those of us who demanded a golden calf. So they built it.

The true Gospel does not need to be made more exciting. It does not need man’s help, and it does not need to be dressed in the finest linens. And that is the real tragedy, that we would be so quick to accept any counterfeit that comes in a shiny box.

Have we forgotten so quickly?

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, 3 for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men?
5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
I Corinthians 3:1-15

Maybe we haven’t come nearly as far as we would like to think. Have we really been so proud, that we thought the Gospel was adequate, it just needed a little dressing up? We would simply fill in the gaps? We have not evolved the Gospel, we have gilded a precious jewel with garbage and declared it “better.”

The reason we have these “Super Preachers,” is because we have demanded them, like the Isrealites demanding a king. And we should repent.

The Gospel is rarely discovered in a building made of gold glass and bright lights. It’s found in a quiet and dark closet on one’s knees.

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