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General Council of the Assemblies of God 2017 – Sin in the camp – Part I

I have loved and been a part of the Assemblies of God for seven decades. In recent years I have watched as the Assemblies have followed the downward path chosen by numerous other evangelical denominations, fellowships, and churches. This is the path of accommodation and tolerance of sin and worldliness in their midst. It is one thing to privately believe there is sin in one’s camp, but to say this publicly is a much more serious matter. Many critics will argue that such a public declaration causes division and strife, but the Bible is plain with regard to sin, both in and outside of the church. Paul warned the church, “And have no fellowship with the unfaithful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” [Ephesians 5:11. KJV] To reprove means to scold or correct, usually gently or with kindly intent. It is with kindly intent that I make this matter public.

In Part I we will examine the modern deception and seduction of the church that coincides with the end-times event called the great apostasy or falling away. In Part II we will consider the direction of the Assemblies of God in light of our discussion in Part I.

Separation of God’s people

God’s solution for the church in dealing with sin has always been separation.

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” [Ephesians 6:14-18. NIV]

In the Old Testament, God demanded complete separation of the Israelites from other nations because their “corrupt lifestyles and religious practices would influence his people to rebel against him and abandon their faith in him.” When the Israelites cross the Jordan to possess the promised land, God commanded the complete destruction of all of the Canaanites and even their animals.[1] The complete destruction was necessary to guard the Israelites from the overwhelming wickedness of the Canaanite peoples. “God knew that if those ungodly nations had been allowed to remain in the land, they would have influenced the Israelites to adopt their immoral practices of worship, follow their false gods, and commit all kinds of other sins that were common to the people of Canaan.”[2]

Following their first victory at Jericho, the Israelites marched on Ai, but the men of Ai routed the Israelites and killed thirty-six of their number. When Joshua saw what had happened, he tore his clothes, fell face down, and was greatly grieved, especially at the dread of God’s displeasure. [See Joshua 7:6-9]

And the Lord said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them…Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you. [Joshua 7:10, 11a, 12. KJV]

God was telling Joshua and the Israelites that there was sin in the camp, they were defeated because of it, and he would not be among them until the sin was removed. Achan’s theft of gold and silver and the consequences thereof was a warning to the Israelites. God’s people cannot commit or allow sin to continue in their midst. Sin that is allowed to remain and fester in the church will compromise God’s blessing or cause it to be lost altogether. God will not bless His people if sin is not removed from their midst, either individually or as a group. Just as the sin of Adam and Eve affected all of mankind, the sin of one or a few in the camp affects not only those who are guilty, but the entire camp suffers as well if sin is allowed to remain. May we liken the camp to the family, the local church, a denomination or fellowship, or perhaps the entire body of Christ dwelling within a nation?

But the proponents of modernized Christianity argue that we live under the new covenant and reject God’s Old Testament demands of separation of the church from the world because they believe such separation is not consistent with God’s love, righteousness, justice, and hatred of evil found throughout the Bible. They believe the Old Testament standard of separation inhibits modernized Christianity’s efforts at influencing the world which they view as necessary to fulfill the great commission in these modern times. However, Donald Stamps wrote in his commentary that, “Deuteronomy 20:18 expresses the lasting Biblical principle that God’s people must separate themselves from ungodly behavior and resist the evil influences of worldly cultures.” [emphasis added] Although Christians are living under the new covenant, the destruction of the generation of the Canaanites is a prophetic symbol pointing to God’s final judgement on the unrighteous and all worldly powers.[3]

In the New Testament God still requires His people to remain separate from the world. But the separation is not from nations but separation (1) from world systems (by which is meant the “beliefs, lifestyles, and God-defying ways of doing things”), (2) from those in the church who are disobedient and defiant toward God and refuse to turn from their own ways, and (3) “from false teachers, churches, or religious systems that promote ungodly beliefs and deny the truth of God’s Word as revealed in the Bible.”[4]

Modernized Christianity and the loss of separation from the world

What is this modernized Christianity that has not only allowed but invited sin in the camp? Once again I must return to A. W. Tozer’s scathing condemnation of the loss of separation between the world and many evangelical churches, denominations, and fellowships in America.

The Christian faith, based upon the New Testament, teaches the complete antithesis between the Church and the world…It is no more than a religious platitude to say that the trouble with us today is that we have tried to bridge the gulf between two opposites, the world and the Church, and have performed an illicit marriage for which there is no biblical authority. Actually, there is no real union…When the Church joins up with the world, it is the true Church no longer but only a pitiful hybrid thing, an object of smiling contempt to the world and an abomination to the Lord…

Christianity is so entangled with the spirit of the world that millions never guess how radically they have missed the New Testament pattern. Compromise is everywhere. The world is whitewashed just enough to pass inspection by blind men posing as believers, and those same believers are everlastingly seeking to gain acceptance with the world. By mutual concessions men who call themselves Christians manage to get on with men who have for the things of God nothing but contempt.[5]

In 1985, Dave Hunt and T. A. McMahon wrote The Seduction of Christianity – Spiritual Discernment in the Last Days[6] which attempted “to identify the worldly ‘folly’ being embraced by today’s church not merely as immorality but as an even more seductive and destructive form of worldliness: the cultivation of occult powers attributable to human potential and its concomitant evil—the idolatrous deification of self.” [emphasis added] Hunt pointed out in his subsequent book that this seduction was prophesied by Christ and His apostles. Its fulfillment would be the greatest apostasy and deception in history, and it would occur in the last days just prior to His second coming. The greatest danger faced by the church in those last days was not persecution but seduction. The book caused a firestorm of controversy. Some called it the most important Christian book in decades while others called it the most divisive and destructive.[7]

Restated, this modernized Christianity is the cultivation of New Age and elements of Eastern religions through the human potential movement and deification of self through Christian humanism. These two forces began merging in the 1950s and became known as the Church Growth movement by the 1970s.

The substitution of man’s efforts to replace the redeeming work of the cross appears to be one of the great failings of the Church Growth movement and its seeker-sensitive churches. Paul’s second and final letter to Timothy warned of what many churches would be like the last days, “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” [2 Timothy, 3:5. KJV] Three hundred years ago Matthew Henry wrote of Paul’s warning. “In the last days would come perilous times, not so much on account of persecution from without as on account of corruptions within…A form of godliness is a very different thing from the power of it; men may have the one and be wholly destitute of the other.”[8] [emphasis added] This is an apt description of much of the Church Growth movement and its many seeker-sensitive churches.

This loss of power began as some leaders of the church first opened the door to the New Age/New Spirituality. It began in the 1950s with the theology of Norman Vincent Peale and was conveyed through his hugely popular book The Power of Positive Thinking. Peale preached a unique blend of humanistic psychology and occult beliefs and practices of the New Age, all wrapped in a façade which he called “practical Christianity.” His theology became the foundation for the therapeutic gospel of the seeker-sensitive Church Growth movement. Peale’s practical Christian living was indisputably New Age, a Christianized version of New Thought taught in the occultic writings of Florence Scovel Shinn during the early part of the twentieth century.[9]

Robert Schuller was perhaps Peale’s greatest admirer and practitioner of Peale’s methods. Peale’s “positive thinking” became Schuller’s “possibility thinking.” Schuller’s connections with various New Age spokesmen and promoters were well known before the 1980s. One example was Schuller’s long and much-publicized association with prominent psychiatrist Gerald Jampolsky, a well-known teacher and practitioner of the New Age based “A Course in Miracles.” Schuller is widely considered to be the father of the Church Growth phenomenon and the first “megachurch” and “seeker-friendly” church pastor. To spread the Church Growth philosophy, Schuller established the Institute for Successful Church Leadership, and Rick Warren and Bill Hybels were early graduates of Schuller’s school.[10]

Without doubt, Warren and Hybels are responsible for the vast expansion of the Church Growth movement and its Philistine philosophies and methods throughout evangelical churches in America and other parts of the world since the 1980s. Much of the great apostasy that blankets the church has arisen from the teachings of the Church Growth movement. The following is the essence of the Church Growth movement’s apostasy which I described in Evangelical Winter.

The cross upon which the Son of God was crucified stands at the crossroads of history and the story of mankind. Its stark and demanding message is an irritant in the soul of sinful man. For many its message is too confrontational, an agitant, inconvenient, an offense, something to be mocked or shunned. In modern times the way in which the cross is perceived by many who profess allegiance to Christ has also changed. The message of the cross has been muted if not altogether silenced to minimize its offensiveness in churches filled with people trying to decide if Christianity is right for them. Others have rewritten its message to smooth its abrasiveness and soften its demands by making it a thing of comfort and beauty instead of and instrument of death to self and hope of life eternal. The old message, having been modernized and adapted, seamlessly blends with the world’s fascination with humanistic concepts of self-esteem instead of the reality of the fallen nature of man. The new cross at its core rests on ego and selfishness and is the great enemy of the old cross of Christ.[11]

The deceived church seeks influence with the world

The dominant opinion that has captured most of modernized Christianity in the West is that the Church Growth movement and its modern seeker-sensitive methods of evangelism will usher the church into a new day of Christian influence with the people and affairs of the world. Six decades ago Tozer used the following terms to describe the church’s entanglement with the world: “joining up with the world…seeking to gain acceptance…mutual concessions…getting on with men.” Modern evangelicals have changed the terminology but it still speaks of its entanglement with the world: seeker-sensitive, modern methods of evangelism, attractional, ecumenical, peace, accommodation, tolerance, and unity. But the evangelical church’s quest for a new day of Christian influence with the world is nothing more than an age-old seductive and destructive form of worldliness in the church.

I do not remember the source, but I recall that many years ago Dave Hunt also wrote that he believed there would be a few denominations and fellowships that were not likely to fall to the deceptions and seductions of the enemy during the apostasy of the last days. Among those he included the Assemblies of God. It grieves me to say that I believe Hunt has been proven wrong about the Assemblies of God, particularly over the last decade or so. It would appear that the Assemblies of God is also unashamedly carrying the Church Growth movement’s banner of seeking influence with the world. This is confirmed by the theme of the General Council of the Assemblies of God’s 2017 biennial gathering titled “Influence Conference – Influencing Your Community.” The sin in the camp of the Assemblies of God will be examined in Part II.

Larry G. Johnson


[1] Donald Stamps, Commentary – Spiritual Separation for Believers, The Full Life Study Bible – King James Version – New Testament, Gen. Ed. Donald C. Stamps, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1990), p. 2210.
[2] Stamps, Commentary – The Destruction of the Canaanites, The Full Life Study Bible, p. 374.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Stamps, Commentary – Spiritual Separation for Believers, The Full Life Study Bible, p. 2210.
[5] A. W. Tozer, God’s Pursuit of Man, (Camp Hill, Pennsylvania: WingSpread Publishers, 1950, 1978), pp. 115-116.
[6] Dave Hunt and T. A. McMahon, The Seduction of Christianity – Spiritual Discernment in the Last Days, (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1985).
[7] Dave Hunt, Beyond Seduction – A Return to Biblical Christianity, (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1987), p. 1)
[8] Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1961), pp. 1896-1897.
[9] Larry G. Johnson, Evangelical Winter – Restoring New Testament Christianity, (Owasso, Oklahoma: Anvil House Publishers, 2016), pp. 125, 137.
[10] Ibid., pp. 148, 157.
[11] Ibid., p. 274.

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  1. Chris R. Branstetter


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