It is exciting to see that the USA is starting to open up for business again after that deadly, silent, and invisible killer called COVID19 has done tremendous damage to our psyche, economy, and national pride. It has also made us pause and contemplate where we are and where we are going, especially in the church.
People want things to return to near normal as soon as possible. Most are relishing a visit to their friends and families, going to their favorite restaurants, and getting back to church. Ah yes, church! So many can’t wait to get back to church, hear sermons, meet friends, study the Bible, go out to eat afterward, and remain the same.
Wait, did I say, “remain the same?” Yes, it was intentional. The church in America has been asleep for decades now. Pastors across the nation lament that their congregations are lethargic and not really motivated by the Gospel. There are some that are on fire, but not many. Why?
The Apostle Paul stated it Clearly to his protégé in 2 Timothy 3: 1-5: “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
Our world and society have crowded out the Gospel with other more enticing pleasures. People flock to sporting events, movie theaters, malls, restaurants, and a host of other distractions. Meanwhile, the church is trying to offer similar kinds of things with high powered music, darkened facilities with light shows, hip pastors with feel good messages, and programs for every palate and taste.
Let’s take a hard look at the problem. First, there is the feel-good theology that is rampant throughout most churches in America. It’s that doctrine that says this religious stuff is all about me, a pop psychology that does not address the real underlying spiritual conditions or issues that plague us. John Piper I once said in a sermon that nearly anyone can form a church and get thirty thousand in attendance. He meant that large numbers of people attending church does not necessarily mean there is true revival or awakening in those that are present.
Secondly, there is a trend away from formal church attendance especially among the younger generations. According to studies by Pew Research Center: 71% of millennials are at least “fairly certain” they believe in God. 67% of millennials rank religion as at least “somewhat important” in their lives. But only 28% attend church at least once a week. I believe the reason is that these young people find no attraction to the church of their parents or grandparents. The church is not relevant for them. The reason is this: feel good theology is not attractive to those who are in need of deeper meaning.
Third, Westernized Christianity does not reflect the reality of the Gospel. I just returned from Israel after an extended stay to study their history and culture. First Century Christianity was more about the community than the individual. Just look at the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:
“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.”
Not one word about the individual in this model prayer that the Lord taught His disciples. It was all about “us” not “I.” There is a united sense of community, of intimacy in small groups, and the power of being united together.
The real reason the US military is so strong is that in the very heart of the formation is a small unit. It really starts at the lowest level with an Infantry squad of about four to ten Soldiers led by a seasoned Non-Commissioned Officer usually in the rank of Sergeant. The next largest unit is the platoon with about four squads with a total of 40 plus Soldiers and is led by a lieutenant with an NCO as second in command. A platoon usually consists of three to four squads or sections.
These small units are the centerpiece of the Army because they train, sleep, eat, and fight together. They know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and they watch each other’s backs in combat. They live and die together.
Somewhere along the line, the church has lost its way and we need to get back to basics and our center which is the very heart of the Gospel in John 15:12: “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” You cannot love if you do not know each other, if we attend a large gathering every week and then walk out with no change, no real fellowship, and no knowledge in community, then what difference is it really making in our lives, in society, our country, and our world?
How End Time Spiritual Warfare Causes Real and Deadly Conflict
Colonel David J Giammona, US Army, RET
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” ~Jesus
We were all saddened to hear of the suicide of one of the beloved pastors in America, Jarrid Wilson. We were equally shocked to hear of several mega-church pastors that have stepped down from their lofty positions: Pete Wilson’s of Cross Point Church and
Perry Noble from NewSpring Church. Other influencers have major setbacks in their faith and calling Joshua Harris, pastor and author of I kissed Dating Goodbye, and Christian artist (Hillsong Writer) Marty Sampson.
There are literally scores of high-level pastors, artists, writers, and influencers of the Christian faith that in the last serval years have succumbed to the pressures of warfare and ministry. Why? From my perspective and I think, correctly form the Biblical view, they are causalities of war. Both physical war and spiritual war involve death and destruction. I know. I have been on real battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have seen first-hand what war can do to Soldiers and civilians alike. It is unrealistic to believe that in conflict that there will be no causalities, death, or destruction. Those things are in the very nature of war.
As the return of Christ draws near and the end times heat up, the Apostle Paul explicitly tells us that things will get dramatically darker and more chaotic: “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come (2 Timothy 3).” The casual believer goes to church once a week, goes home, goes to work, has family or fun time, and then repeats this cycle week in and week out. When hard times hit, they fall apart. When strong leaders fall away, most of these believers go into shock or even leave the faith.
What we do not realize is that war is with us whether we like it or not. It is all around. Everyday our enemy is attacking Christian strongholds and bastions of freedom. Everyday our freedoms our eroding and we don’t even know it. Churches are closing at an alarming rate, Christian leaders that we have esteemed for years are now catering to dark forces, once strong educational facilities are crumbling under the weight of societal pressures.
War is not pretty or glorious. It is tough, dirty, gritty, exhausting, fear-filled, bloody, and destructive. What makes us think that spiritual warfare is any different. Several contemporary Christian worship songs talk about the war being over, I strongly disagree! The war is ongoing until the final return of Christ and the destruction of the forces of evil and the Antichrist.
The stressed and strains of modern-era ministry are enormous and unrelenting. Many of these things are brought on by our own doing and attitude. Some believe that they have to neglect their family in order to win. Others believe that we need more and more programs that take a toil of both the leader and those who participate. Unfortunately, many of those called into ministry are emotionally unhealthy in the first place. The enemy of our souls uses these things to bring them down.
What does this war look like in real time and terms? Most pastors, influencers, and Christian leaders do not wake up one morning and tell themselves “this is the day I will fail.” Spiritual warfare is devious and stealthy, it takes many subtle and soft turns. A leader starts counseling or consulting with a good-looking member of his or her staff, they spend time alone, and then in a blink of an eye, they have fallen into sin. They think: “well, I have earned this since I have been working so hard.”
Our enemy targets many of the leaders in three areas: money, sex, and power. Christianity Today interviewed one of the elders of Willow Creek Community Church and asked about how things were going, he replied with the following: “Battered, weary, divided.” Willow Creek’s founder and leader Bill Hybels has been accused of misconduct by the church. Willow Creek Community Church installed new elders in January and they in an email update that there now is “a fracture in our church marked by disbelief, confusion, fear, and hurt” from elders sent to members on Friday.
The kinds of casualties in spiritual warfare include wrecked marriages, affairs, abuse of position and power, money scandals, suicide, alcoholism, drug addictions, pornography, and the list goes on. The landscape is littered with the aftermath of human wreckage. We, who are not casualties, need to form a kind of combat medical facility to care fo0r our hurting and wounded.