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

The Church Growth philosophy initiated by Norman Vincent Peale, developed by Robert Schuller, and massively marketed through the organizations of Rick Warren and Bill Hybels now dominates the evangelical scene in North America and many other parts of the world. The movement’s philosophies, methods, and techniques are pervasive, unchallenged, and saturate the evangelical narrative being presented in substantially all denominations and fellowships. The Assemblies of God must be included in that number.

To understand the extent to which the Assemblies of God has fallen in step with the Church Growth orthodoxy, one need only look at the program for the General Council’s next biennial gathering to be held in early August 2017. The theme is “Influence Conference – Influence Your Community.”[1] To accomplish its agenda, the various breakout sessions contain a variety of subjects that would thrill the hearts of the most ardent promoters of the philosophies, methods, and techniques of the Church Growth movement.

Breaking the 200 Barrier, Breaking the 500 Barrier, Breaking the 1000 Barrier, Coaching Crisis, Coaching Forum, Coaching Teams, Coaching Transitions, Community Engagement, Contemporary Worship Voice, Creative Arts Administration, Developing Small Group Culture, Discipleship Pathway, Generosity, Intergenerational Worship, Leadership Development, Leveraging Technology to Build Spiritual Communication, Maximizing Church Space, Multi-Site/PAC, Self-Leadership, Service Planning, Team Building & Staffing, Urban Ministry, Vision Casting, Volunteerism.[2]

Such Church Growth indoctrination is leading to a declining and powerless church, and the Assemblies of God is not an exception. Compared to the previous ten years (1995-2005), the Assemblies of God has experienced significant declines over the last ten years (2005-2015) in conversion growth and Holy Spirit baptisms. Water baptisms were barely above breakeven, but Sunday morning church attendance increased almost 12%.[3]

Instead of mimicking Church Growth methods, techniques, and philosophies, the Assemblies should once again return to a right understanding and practice of New Testament Christianity which allowed it to become the largest fellowship of Pentecostal believers in the world during its first one hundred years of existence. The Assemblies must expose and expel the worldliness that has crept into its fellowship because of its association with the Church Growth movement and incorporation of its methods and practices. I would suggest a good place to begin is the implementation of the following list of teaching/training sessions at future General Council gatherings and in the various district meetings in the interim.

• Making room for the centrality and dominance of the Holy Spirit in worship/preaching services
• Revitalizing Sunday School and other Christian education initiatives
• Defending the Faith – Training our youth and young adults to counter the attacks on Christianity by a hostile secular/humanistic culture
• Preserving religious freedom
• Seeking revival
• Focusing on the fundamentals of Pentecost so important in the end times
• Understanding and combating the dangers of the New Age, cults, and worldliness in modern culture
• Preaching on prophesy, signs of the end times, the great apostasy, and nearness of the rapture
• The warfare of faith – Ephesians 6:12-18

But even more disheartening than the topics taught in the breakout sessions is the almost unbroken roster of Church Growth seeker-sensitive advocates invited to speak for both the General Council’s main sessions and the breakout training sessions. In addition to three General Council session speakers from the top leadership in the Assemblies, there are three other General Counsel session speakers not affiliated with the Assemblies of God. All are heads of mega churches and disciples of the Church Growth movement. A fourth General Council meeting speaker is Jason Frenn who is a missionary evangelist with the Assemblies, but he is also a good friend to and frequent speaker at some of the largest Church Growth seeker-sensitive churches in America.

Robert Morris – Gateway Church, Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex

The apparent keynote speaker at the GCAG 2017 is Robert Morris, senior pastor of the 36,000 member multi-campus Gateway Church.[4] Gateway closely follows the Church Growth movement’s formula, and Morris frequently speaks at many other seeker-sensitive mega churches such as Rick Warren’s purpose driven Saddleback Church. One is known by the company he keeps, and for Morris that company also includes Bill Hybels, Perry Noble, and Tim Ross, all speakers at Gateway Church’s 2012 Alpha Summit. Each man is an adherent of the Church Growth movement and its seeker-driven model of doing church.[5]

Bryan Koch – GT Church, Decatur, Illinois

Bryan Koch is the lead pastor of 3000 member GT Church. From a quick reading of the church’s website, it appears to follow the Church Growth seeker-sensitive model.[6]

Kendall and Starla Bridges – Freedom Church, Carollton, Texas

Kendall and Starla Bridges pastor Freedom Church. The second line of the church’s mission statement says, “The Vision of Freedom Church is to be a church of influence. A church that cannot be ignored by its community.” [emphasis added] This fits in nicely with The General Council’s 2017 theme of “Influence Conference – Influence Your Community.” The church’s website also reflects trademark seeker-sensitive elements such as contemporary music with full band, rock concert styled lighting, casual dress (“blue jeans were made in heaven”), and tightly scripted “70 minute services from start to finish.”[7] No time there for the moving of the Holy Spirit.

Jason Frenn – Assemblies of God World Missions missionary evangelist

The fourth General Council speaker comes from inside the Assemblies of God. Frenn appears to be quite comfortable ministering at seeker-sensitive churches. Since his first appearance in 2009, Frenn has spoken many times on Robert Schuller’s Hour of Power broadcasts from Chrystal Cathedral prior to its demise.[8] Frenn also has spoken at Warren’s Saddleback Church.

In addition to General Council speakers, there are a number of well-known speakers for various breakout and other sessions to be held during the General Council gathering. Three are particularly disturbing.

Rick Warren – Saddleback Church, Orange County, California

Space does not allow discussion of the list of offenses committed against the Church of Jesus Christ by Rick Warren. Much of the last two-thirds of Evangelical Winter was devoted to detailing the apostasy caused by the Church Growth movement’s Warren, Hybels, and their predecessors Peale and Schuller. Warren and like-minded church leaders have enormously advanced the anti-biblical, humanistic, and New Age friendly Church Growth movement; made friends with and legitimized false religions; introduced heresies and false doctrines into the church; and led the American evangelical church into a death spiral of powerlessness and apostasy. It is utterly appalling that the leadership of the once venerable Assemblies of God have allowed Warren to address the Assemblies not once but numerous times including the upcoming General Council in 2017.

Mark Batterson – National Community Church, Washington, D.C.

Batterson is the author of The Circle Maker, a bestselling book that is rapidly invading many evangelical churches and which has inspired the practice of prayer circles. Praying in circles is has become all the rage in many Evangelical churches. People are taught to draw circles around the things they want, or even to walk in circles around the things they are sure the Lord ought to grant them. In either case, they are to pray around those things and in that way to claim them for the Lord. Batterson bases his prayer technique on a story of the life of Honi Ha-Ma’agel, a Jewish scholar who lived in the first century B.C. On one occasion according to the Talmud, it was well into winter and God had not sent rain to the land of Israel. Honi drew a circle in the dust, stood inside it, and informed God that he would not move until it rained. God responded to Honi’s demands and sent rain. From this story Batterson conceived the idea of praying in circles. But Batterson’s prayer circles are drawn from a tradition not found in the Bible. Prayer circles are anti-biblical because they violate those principles of prayer that are found in the Bible. Batterson has substituted fables about prayer for sound biblical doctrine.[9] What possible thing of value could Batterson teach those attending the 2017 General Council?

Priscilla Shirer – Author, speaker, actressS

Shier credits Jan Johnson with speaking “wisdom into my life that was extremely pivotal in my life—personally and in ministry.” Johnson professes to be an evangelical Christian but writes about, endorses, and promotes the practice of contemplative prayer. She says, “Contemplative prayer, in its simplest form, is a prayer in which you still your thoughts and emotions and focus on God Himself. This puts you in a better state to be aware of God’s presence, and it makes you better able to hear God’s voice, correcting, guiding, and directing you.” However, contemplative prayer practices closely mimic New Age and Eastern meditation techniques and can quickly lead to putting the mind into a neutral, altered state. Those practicing contemplative prayer are encouraged to achieve inner stillness through meditative, mantra-style practices such as taking a word or syllable and repeating it over and over. Johnson states that, “The repetition [of a word or phrase] can in fact be soothing and very freeing, helping us…to empty out our crowded interior life and create the quiet space where we can dwell with God.” In her books and writings Johnson frequently quotes various contemplative prayer teachers, New Age sympathizers, and mystics. Although Shier has written a book on how to discern the voice of God, one questions her own discernment when she engages in and advocates the practice of contemplative prayer that is closely associated with New Age and Eastern meditation practices.[10] Can the General Council not see the dangers of such speakers who teach false doctrine and anti-biblical practices at its biennial assembly?

Influencing the world but seeking the world’s wisdom

The evangelical church is also told that it should learn from those outside the church on how better to minister to the world. It is interesting to note that the same week that keynote speaker Robert Morris will be addressing those assembled at the General Council in Anaheim, his Gateway Church in Dallas will be participating in Bill Hybel’s annual Global Leadership Summit whose theme is “Everyone has Influence” and which features twelve speakers of which only two purport to be ministers of the gospel. [emphasis added] If Hybel’s prior conferences are an indication, the profession of Christianity is certainly not a requirement to be a member of Hybel’s panel of speakers. [For a list of Hybels’ 2016 conference speakers, see “Take Heed that no man deceive you – Part V.”][11] It is apparent that the leadership of the Assemblies of God wholeheartedly agrees with Hybels that the church can learn much about doing God’s work by listening to the wisdom of worldly leaders. This is indisputably confirmed by our examination of the agenda for the General Council of the Assemblies of God 2017.

Are you beginning to understand the direction the Church Growth movement’s leadership is taking the evangelical church? It’s all about influencing the world. We are told that the church can influence the world if we will only bend a little, make a few compromises, and show some tolerance for another point of view. As Warren wrote in The Purpose Driven Church, “Sometimes you need to give the unbeliever some slack in order to reel them in.”[12] “Slack” in the seeker-sensitive model of doing church means attempting to entice the sinner through the church’s doors with whatever bait works and then focusing on meeting his or her felt needs.

According to the Church Growth narrative, the church can and must influence the world. But its version of influence is wrapped in accommodation, tolerance, and worldliness, not in the work of the Holy Spirit and a faithful presentation of the powerful soul-saving Word of God. Consequently, the world has influenced the church which has led to spiritual poverty and powerlessness. Therefore, a large number of evangelicalism’s local churches, denominations, and fellowships have become frail vessels depleted of their spiritual vitality within and have lost power to speak truth to the larger culture without. This quest for influence with the world is also occurring in the Assemblies of God. This has brought sin into the camp, and its leadership must recognize the source and take decisive action to expose and banish it from the fellowship.

What is the only remedy for this great tragedy besetting the evangelical church in America and Western civilization? It is a revived church. For those Christians of our day who are in anguish at the sad spiritual and moral condition of the church and the nation, there is perhaps no verse that is relied upon more than 2 Chronicles 7:14 when seeking revival and restoration. It is often called the revival verse.

…if my people who are called by my name shall humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. [2 Chronicles 7:14. KJV]

Notice that there are four conditions that must occur before revival will happen: humility, prayer, seeking God’s face (presence), and turning from sin.

Here we must return to the story of Joshua and the Israelites following their defeat at Ai. What did Joshua do following defeat? He humbled himself, prayed, and sought the return of God’s presence among the Israelites. Was that enough? No, the fourth requirement for revival and restoration was still missing. They had not turned from their wicked ways and were accursed because sin still resided in the camp, and God’s presence and blessing was not restored until the sin in the camp was removed.

While many in the church are dabbling with other gospels and seeking other Jesuses, there is a faithful remnant that is hungering for revival of the church in America. But God’s power and presence will not return until all four of His requirements for revival are met. This compels those seeking revival to recognize, expose, and expel sin residing in the camp. To do so the church must have bold preachers and lay men and women full of wisdom and the Holy Spirit, and who have humbled themselves, are praying for revival, are seeking the face of God, and who confront sin within the church while at the same time preaching the uncompromised message of Jesus Christ to a hurting, lost, and hell-bound world. Our only hope is for the Holy Spirit to be poured out afresh on all of His people who love Him and obey his commandments.

Larry G. Johnson

Sources:

[1] Influence Conference – Influencing Your Community, General Council of the Assemblies of God 2017. http://generalcouncil.ag.org/(accessed July 19, 2017).
[2] Ibid.
[3] Larry G. Johnson, “The Assemblies of God 2007 and 10 years later – Part I,” culturewarrior.net, March 10, 2017.

The Assemblies of God 2007 and 10 years later – Part I


[4] Gateway Church. http://gatewaypeople.com/ (accessed July 20, 2017).
[5] Ken Silva, “Robert Morris teams up with Hybels, Noble, and Word Faith preacher Tim Ross,” Apprising Ministries, February 26, 2012. http://apprising.org/2012/02/26/robert-morris-teams-up-with-hybels-noble-and-word-faith-preacher-tim-ross/ (accessed July 20, 2017).
[6] GT Church. https://www.gtchurch.com/ (accessed July 20, 2017).
[7] Freedom Church.https://findfreedom.church/our-mission/ (accessed July 20, 2017).
[8] “Jason Frenn speaking at Saddleback Church,” YouTube, October 11, 2012.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61IX9mfmd9Q (accessed July 22, 2017).
[9] Tim Challies, “Don’t Pray in Circles,” Challies, January 10, 2014. https://www.challies.com/christian-living/dont-pray-in-circles/ (accessed July 20, 2017).
[10] LT Editors, “What your church needs to know before doing a Priscilla Shirer Study,” Lighthouse Trails Research Journal, Vol. 5-No. 4, (July-August 2017), 8-9.
[11] Larry G. Johnson, “Take heed that no man deceive you – Part V,” culturewarrior.net, October 7, 2016. http://www.culturewarrior.net/2016/10/07/take-heed-that-no-man-deceive-you-part-v/
[12] Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), p. 216.

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

Sources:

[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.

The death of reverence – Part III

The theme of this three part series is that reverence for God and the things that represent His person and presence are dead or near death in many American churches and the lives of Christians who profess to be a part of the body of Christ. The church is being called to recognize and take actions to remedy this loss of reverence.

It is through these things which represent God’s person and presence that Satan often attacks the church—the sanctuary, worship, and music. In Part II it was noted that the American church is making two serious mistakes with regard to music in worship. There has been a loss of sacredness in worship music and that worship has been humanized and redirected toward man and away from God. But the corrupting influence of worldly music in the church goes much deeper than these two issues and will be examined in Part III.

Music – Adoration of God or the anthem of rebellion

Without question music is the driving force in corporate worship and is of such importance that it must be addressed separately. Little more can be said in this section other than to repeat some of the thoughts expressed in Evangelical Winter – Restoring New Testament Christianity.[1]

Music and song are chief expressions in a church’s communal worship of God. When music and songs that mirror the world are brought into the house of God and presented as worship, what distinguishes worldly music from music that is true worship of the living God? Is it words alone? The Old Testament had much to say about defiling God’s house, and things that defile included much more than words. “But they set their abominations in the house, which is called by my name, to defile it.” [Jeremiah 32:34. KJV]

Rick Warren is typical of those in the Church Growth movement who believe that the style of music is immaterial and that it is the message (words) that makes it “sacred.”[2]

Music is the primary communicator of values to the younger generation. If we don’t use contemporary music to spread godly values, Satan will have unchallenged access to an entire generation. Music is a force that cannot be ignored.

I reject the idea that music styles can be judged as either “good” or “bad” music. Who decides this? The kind of music you like is determined by your background and culture.

Churches also need to admit that no particular style of music is “sacred.” What makes a song sacred is its message. Music is nothing more than an arrangement of notes and rhythms; it’s the words that make a song spiritual.[3] [emphasis in original]

Writing over thirty years ago, the late David Wilkerson delivered a devastating indictment of rock music which destroys Warren’s contention that the style of music does not matter.

I hear sincere Christians say, “Satan doesn’t own music. It belongs to God. The music doesn’t matter as long as the words are right.” Dead wrong! The devil owns all music that is ungodly and evil. And Satan had all the right words when he tempted Christ. The Israelites dancing around the golden calf had all the right words. Were they not singing, “This is the god that brought us out of Egypt”? Same people, same words—but their god had changed. It is much more than holy, intelligent words. Satan has always spoken in temptation with accurate words mingled with a lot of Scripture, and so has every angel of light who has come to deceive.[4]

A substantial portion of the music in Warren’s church and many others following the Church Growth model is centered on rock music. Unlike Warren who says that it’s just the lyrics that matter, Wilkerson wrote that rock music can’t be defined or judged on technicalities because it is primarily a soul and spirit matter. The line between satanically inspired punk or heavy metal rock and other forms of popular music cannot be drawn by legalistic rules—it is a matter of spirit and truth.[5]

But spirit and truth receive scant attention in many Church Growth/Purpose Driven churches as they compete for the best musical hook to snare the seeker surfing the church scene. Warren and others in the Church Growth movement have forgotten that God’s house is a house of sacrifice. “And the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for a house of sacrifice.” [2 Chronicles 7:12. KJV] God will reject any offering that is polluted or spotted in the least bit and that includes music and song.

This is not a condemnation of all non-sacred music. There is much music in the world which is not ungodly or evil in and of itself. However, even when “non-spiritual” popular music passes the spirit and truth test, it still doesn’t belong in God’s house of sacrifice.

In Part I it was noted that a great contributor to the decline in reverence was a loss of respect for authority and hierarchy in the general culture. There is a strong causal link between the general culture’s rebellion against authority and rock music.

Judge Robert Bork in his book Slouching Towards Gomorrah – Modern Liberalism and American Decline wrote that in keeping with the themes of liberalism and its progress in the 1960s, popular entertainment embraced the hedonistic concept of the unconstrained self. The importance of self was expressed in the music of the era—rock ’n’ roll which evolved into hard rock[6] and its various iterations such as punk, heavy metal, acid, and rap. Bork quoted Michael Bywater who wrote of the modern music industry.

[The music industry] has somehow reduced humanity’s greatest achievement—a near-universal language of pure transcendence—into a knuckle-dragging sub-pidgin of grunts and snarls, capable of fully expressing only the more pointless forms of violence and the more brutal forms of sex.[7]

Bork contended that the rock music business clearly understood that a large part of the appeal of rock music to the young was its subversion of authority through its incoherence and primitive regression.[8] Rock ‘n’ roll was the rebellious cadence to which many in the Boomer generation and their liberal elders marched. So too are many in today’s evangelical churches.

Recall that Warren wrote, “Music is the primary communicator of values to the younger generation.” Whether or not it is the primary communicator of values is debatable, but Warren is correct insofar as he meant that music is an important communicator of values. And here we speak not just of the words that communicate values; it is the whole package in which the words are wrapped. The message of rock ‘n’ roll music still communicates the attitudes and values of much of the rebellious Boomer generation to the present day. It has no place in the lives of the followers of Christ, and it certainly has no place in the house of God.

Ravi Zacharias wrote, “The lesson from history is that sanctity within the temple ultimately defines life outside the temple, and without the former, life becomes profane. Just as reverence is the heart of worship, profanity is at the heart of evil.” Zacharias was speaking of worship in the larger sense of living a Godly, holy life.[9] [emphasis added] But if applicable in the larger sense, it is also applicable to corporate worship. There is certainly no sense of reverence in the type of rock music discussed above. Regardless of the words, it is not sacred but profane.

Richard M. Weaver wrote that, “…it is admitted that what man expresses in music dear to him he will most certainly express in his social practices.”[10] One need only look at the social practices that have grown over the last half century as rock music became the anthem of popular culture.
______

In every facet of American life, there has been a decline of the sacred and a breakdown of what it means to be a civilized and moral society. The church must be included in those institutions in decline. One of the reasons for the decline of the sacred is the death of reverence for God and those things pertaining to His person and presence. Without reverence for God and the things of God, the church will also die.

Larry G. Johnson

[1] Larry G. Johnson, Evangelical Winter – Restoring New Testament Christianity, (Owasso, Oklahoma: Anvil House Publishers, 2016), pp.221-225.
[2] Rick Warren, The Purpose Drive Church, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1995), p. 281.
[3] Ibid., pp. 280-281.
[4] David Wilkerson, Set the Trumpet to Thy Mouth – Hosea 8:1,” (Lindale, Texas: World
Challenge, Inc., 1985), pp. 99-100.
[5] Ibid., pp. 92-93.
[6] Robert H. Bork, Slouching Towards Gomorrah, (New York: Regan Books, 1996), pp. 125-126.
[7] Ibid., p. 124.
[8] Ibid., pp. 23-24.
[9] Ravi Zacharias, Deliver Us From Evil, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 1997), p. 15.
[10] Richard M. Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 1948, 1984), p. 87.

The death of reverence – Part II

The theme of this three part series is that reverence for God and the things that represent His person and presence are dead or near death in many American churches and the lives of Christians who profess to be a part of the body of Christ. The church is called to recognize and take actions to remedy this loss of reverence.

In Part I, it was noted that there has been a general demise of respect for authority and hierarchy in culture which has greatly contributed to the decline in reverence for God. Also, there is a loss of the fear of God among His people which is revealed in two ways. First, there is a loss of reverence for His majesty, holiness, anger against sin, and judgment. The church’s and the individual Christian’s relationship and interaction with God have become so casual and sporadic that it is undeniably apparent that much of the church has lost its first love. In Parts II and III, the Church’s declining reverence for the “things” that represent His person and presence will be examined—the sanctuary, worship, and music.

Have reverence for my sanctuary

Most sanctuaries in evangelical churches are now designed to give the consumer-oriented Christians and seekers the ultimate experience in doing church. And what attracts them is entertainment which is now disguised as worship. As a result, seeker-sensitive churches are building world-centered sanctuaries and entertainment complexes designed for and directed at the consumer-seeker instead of being places for Christ-centered worship that is directed toward God.

In the age of doing church instead of being the church, sanctuaries have become state-of-the-art, high-tech enterprises with walls entirely covered with multi-colored lights that are programmed to change to fit the mood dictated by the printed order of service. Strobe lights are coordinated to the music and smoke machines do their work to mimic the atmosphere found at rock concerts. Sound systems have decibel-generating capabilities that can crack paint but which can only convey unintelligible words during the worship service. Sanctuaries now contain the preferred theater-style seating in which one may enjoy one’s favorite drink and popcorn that are available just outside in the lobby. All that is missing are the cup holders, and those will soon be ordered.

But those concerned with the direction and future of the church must ask themselves several questions as to how their plans fit in with God’s view of what His sanctuary ought to be. Where does reverence and awe of God’s sanctuary fit into all of this? What particular facets of this type of atmosphere and activity in the sanctuary help in training our children and grandchildren to reverence God and His sanctuary? How do these distractions encourage and foster a hunger for and seeking of revival so desperately needed in the church and nation today? Is the sanctuary designed to be bait for the seeker and entertainment for the church member, or is it aa house to welcome and honor the presence of God?

The prophesies of Hosea written 2,700 years ago present a chilling portrait of the modern American church. Hosea’s prophecy was God’s last effort to call Israel and Judah to repentance for their rebellion and desire to follow false gods. In Chapter 8 we see the consequences of their rebellion.

Set the trumpet to thy mouth. He shall come as an eagle against the house of the Lord, because they have transgressed my covenant, and trespassed against my law…For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk: the bud shall yield no meal. [Hosea 8:1, 7. KJV]

In verse 14, we see God’s verdict and pronouncement of the judgement to come.

For Israel has forgotten his maker, and buildeth temples; and Judah has multiplied fenced cities: but I will send a fire upon his cities, and it shall devour the palaces thereof. [Hosea 8:14. KJV]

Over three decades ago the late David Wilkerson published a small book that compared the condition of Israel and Judah in Hosea’s time to the condition of Christianity in the modern American church. Wilkerson wrote that history is repeating itself once again because many in the American church who claimed to know God “were actually being chased by the enemy into projects that were an abomination to God.” At the same time they were neglecting His true temple, the one not made by human hands.[1] In other words, these projects were not just a lack of reverence but a crass irreverence and contempt for the things of God.

Reverence is the heart of worship

Many Pharisees of Christ’s time acted as if they were very concerned about violating God’s law but in many ways broke that law to achieve their own ideas, traditions, and conveniences. Jesus rebuked them for their hearts were far from God.

You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you; These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men. [Matthew 15:7-9. NIV]

Likewise, many in the modern church have also “nullified the word of God” because of tradition, popular ideas, cultural norms, or their own interests. This is the same trap into which the Pharisees fell.[2]

Today’s monolithic seeker-sensitive Church Growth movement is leading uncountable thousands of churches into incorporating man’s ideas of marketing God to the target consumer audience—the unchurched seeker. The Church Growth gurus insist that seekers must be given what they want. As previously stated, worship is now entertainment, and much of the entertainment is world-centered so as to appeal to the seeker-consumer. However, Rick Warren and the other Church Growth advocates have committed a critical error that undermines the entire concept of the Church Growth movement. They have wrongly redirected the purpose of preaching and weekly church gatherings from being primarily focused on Christ and the body of Christ to weekly seeker-sensitive services aimed at the unchurched. Similarly, they have redirected the worship service toward the unchurched seeker instead of being Christ-centered worship directed toward God.[3]

Chapter 13 of Warren’s The Purpose Driven Church is titled “Worship Can Be a Witness.” He states that “Everything we do in our weekend services is based on twelve deeply held convictions.” These convictions all center on the various elements of worship such as “style” of worship, witnessing, seeker expectations, and seeker understanding.[4] What Warren does not talk about is what the Bible says about worship belonging to God.

Perhaps the ultimate expression that worship is a tool for man’s gratification, entertainment, and happiness is found in the words of Victoria Osteen, wife of mega-church pastor Joel Osteen. In August 2014, Ms. Osteen, with her husband standing close behind and nodding his approval, admonished their congregation that the purpose and intent of obedience to God and worship was to make the people happy. In other words, God wants you to be happy; it’s all about you.

I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God—I mean, that’s one way to look at it—we’re doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we’re happy. That’s the thing that gives Him the greatest joy…

So, I want you to know this morning: Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy…When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy. Amen?[5] [emphasis added]

Ms. Osteen’s pathetic beliefs about worship are the ultimate outworking of the gradual redefinition of worship and its redirection from Almighty God to man.

Very few have so precisely described the reasons for this redefinition and redirection of worship as has F. Dean Hackett. He states that this has occurred because there has been a decline in the proper identification of the nature and character of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Over several decades many Christians and non-Christians alike have come to perceive God and Jesus in human terms and the Holy Spirit more as a force than a person. These general perceptions are being mirrored in many areas of life—the media, sermons, writing, teaching, and worship songs.[6]

Hackett believes that the decline in the proper identification and understanding of the nature and character of the three persons of the Godhead has led to two serious mistakes in worship. The first mistake is removing the sacredness of the worship experience. When the words of a song used to worship the living God are so generic that the song is able to be used for other purposes in secular venues, something is missing. Hackett believes that what is missing in the song are those words that provoke holiness and fear of the Lord in the heart of the worshiper. Ture holiness and fear of the Lord result in adoration, worship, and a holy awe of God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This occurs when worship and praise music correctly identifies and declares the nature and character of the persons of the Godhead.[7]

The second mistake being made in worship services is the humanization of the worship experience.

Worship songs are being written using terms of intimacy in public worship that are not seen in any of the holy Scriptures on the subject of public worship. That level of intimacy between God and the worshipper reflected in the writing of the Song of Solomon is reserved for the privacy of one’s own heart and life, not public worship.[8]

Without properly identifying Almighty God, the words of a song subtly change the emphasis of worship and the motivation of the worshipper. As a result there is greater emphasis on what the worshipper feels and experiences as opposed to adoration, exaltation, and worship of God. Effectively, worship has become humanized instead of being centered on the divine. The human–centeredness of worship songs is further encouraged by subtle changes in the worship center. Hackett identifies several innovations of recent years which are designed to enhance the worshipper’s feelings and experience: low house lights, spotlights on musicians and singers, and smoke and staging designed to bring focus to the stage experience.[9]

Worship of God is not optional for the Christian, and it is not about making us happy or entertained. God rejects worship that is offered with the wrong attitude or is corrupted by man-centered ideas and practices. Such worship is an offering of less than our first fruits. True worship is an expression of our love, adoration, respect, devotion, praise, and reverence.[10] To our great harm, very little of what is seen and experienced in many evangelical churches of today comes close to this description of true worship.

In Part III, we shall discuss in greater detail the role of music in worship and the lives of individual Christians.

Larry G. Johnson

Sources:

[1] David Wilkerson, Set the Trumpet to Ty Mouth – Hosea 8:1, (Lindale, Texas: World Challenge, Inc., 1985), pp. 118-119.
[2] Donald Stamps, Commentary – Matthew 15:7-9, The Full Life Study Bible – King James Version – New Testament, Gen. Ed. Donald C. Stamps, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1990), p. 1718.
[3] Larry G. Johnson, Evangelical Winter – Restoring New Testament Christianity, (Owasso, Oklahoma: Anvil House Publishers, 2016), p. 221.
[4] Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), pp. 239, 240-249.
[5] Heather Clark, ‘Do Good for Your Own Self’: Osteen Says Obedience, Worship ‘Not for God’, Christian News Network, August 28, 2015. http://christiannews.net/2014/08/28/do-good-for-your-own-self-osteen-says-obedience-worship-not-for-god-video/ (accessed December 18, 2015).
[6] F. Dean Hackett, “Many Christians Make These 2 Serious Mistakes in Worship,” Charisma Magazine, May 9, 2017. http://www.charismamag.com/life/women/32626-many-christians-make-these-2-serious-mistakes-in-worship (accessed May 17, 2017).
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Johnson, Evangelical Winter – Restoring New Testament Christianity, p. 221.

The death of reverence – Part I

Reverence for God and the things that represent His person and presence are dead or near death in many American churches and lives of those who profess to belong to the body of Christ.

In some instances reverence and respect may be used interchangeably, but they are not identical. While respect is a special regard, esteem, or consideration, reverence has a much narrower focus and rises to a higher level such as worship, adoration, awe, veneration, or devotion.

The demise of respect for authority and hierarchy

Without a doubt, the decline in reverence within the church and the lives of individual Christians is a reflection of the decline of respect for authority and hierarchy in the larger culture and has led to a general loss of civility and respect for law. The demise of authority and hierarchy is a result of the ascendance of humanism’s false definitions of freedom, democracy, and equality. These false definitions have seeped into the church and eaten away at the biblical understanding of holiness, reverence, and ultimately the fear of God.

As the evangelical church has become a cultural captive of the humanistic spirit of the world, it has absorbed humanism’s demands for a perverted understanding of democracy and equality. God has been “democratized” and is no longer the Great “I AM.” He is ignored much of the time, even in His own house. What is preached from many pulpits today is only a single-sided message that God is all-loving, kindly, non-judgmental, and tolerant. Many in the church have begun to see the once mighty Creator of the universe as little more than a kindly grandfather that is visited only on special occasions (Christmas, Easter, or when in need of a favor). For others, he is portrayed as the big daddy up in the sky, a cuddly teddy bear, or a good buddy who will see them through when they are in a pinch.

This casualness that borders on insolence has invaded the sanctuary where “God meets with His church community.” This informality and indifference in the sanctuary has extended to the manner in which Christians dress. Although there are no biblical directives for dress in the sanctuary, there are manners of dress that are at best disrespectful and at worst are sacrilegious. The position of one evangelical denomination expresses the proper approach to dress that reverences the sanctuary which represents God’s presence.

The dress of both men and women should show at least as much respect as we would expect to show in the presence of an important government leader. On the other hand, we cannot demand the same of a sinner who walks in off the street needing to find Jesus as Savior. Maturity in the Christian walk will naturally show more reverence and respect for God’s presence.[1]

To varying degrees, the profane beliefs, attitudes, and actions of the dominant anti-Christian culture have been absorbed by the church and have greatly contributed to the death of reverence.

Decline in the fear of God

It is a safe assumption that many Christians and churches do not reverence God because they no longer fear God. A. W. Tozer wrote that, “No one can know the true grace of God who has not first known the fear of God.”[2] But fear is a negative concept in our modern society. And the evangelical church that presents only the soft side of religion agrees with the culture’s assessment of fear. That is why for almost two generations messages on sin, the end times, the rapture, tribulation, judgement, punishment, hell, and other “negative” topics have been banned from many pulpits in America for they don’t sell well to consumer-oriented Christians shopping for the right gospel. In their efforts to avoid the topic of fear, ministers must leave out considerable portions of God’s revelation because the Old and New Testaments speak of fear in relation to God almost three hundred times. But the Bible is explicit that Christians must have a healthy fear of God.

His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation… I tell you my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell, you, fear him. [Luke 1:50, 12:4-5. NIV]

First and foremost, reverence is a matter of the heart. For those that love and obey His commands, fearing the Lord means that they must remain in awe and total reverence of His majesty, holiness, anger against sin, and judgment. For those of His followers who lose the fear of God, there is a corresponding loss of awe and reverence. Those Christians who have lost their fear of God generally develop a casual and sporadic relationship with Him. This strained relationship and growing separation often leads the Christian into a state of ungodliness by which is meant a loss of purity and separation from evil. Therefore, we can say that reverence begins with a right understanding and practice of “the fear of God” as taught by His word.

Reverence for the things that represent God’s person and presence

Although reverence to God must first be a matter of the heart, the depth of that reverence is generally revealed by the manner in which the Christian reverences those things which represent His person and presence. The Old Testament has much to say about reverence for God and the things of God. “Observe my Sabbaths and have reverence for my Sanctuary. I am the LORD.” [Leviticus 19:30, 26:2. NIV] However, many moderns say that we are not living under Old Testament law but in the age of grace. Therefore, grace has released the Christian from the strict rules and rituals required of the Israelites in the Old Testament. In other words, grace has effectively suspended many of the requirements to reverence the things of God. But this is a misunderstanding of grace.

The Holy of Holies contained the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat and was where the presence of God resided in the wilderness tabernacle and later the Temple. God’s presence in the Holy of Holies was separated from the people by the Temple Veil. The high priest was allowed to enter into God’s presence only once a year to offer a sacrifice for atonement of the sins of the people. No one could enter the Holy of Holies but the high priest. When Christ died on the cross the Temple veil was rent from top to bottom. The significance of the torn veil is that Jesus’ sacrifice made God accessible to all people. For those who put their trust in Him it was now possible to come directly into His presence.

In the age of grace, God’s children may approach Him directly as a child would approach a loving father. But the child must still have a filial fear of God which does not lessen or excuse the Christian’s duty of reverence for God and the things that represent His person and presence. Claims that grace is a replacement of the law is an excuse for many to bring the things of the world into the church but which clearly dishonors those things that represent God’s person and presence. Christ said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” [Matthew 5:17. NIV] The law that Christians are responsible to follow are the ethical and moral principles of the Old Testament as well as the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. These laws and teachings disclose God’s character, desires, standards, and general purposes for all people and still apply today.[3]

There are numerous biblical commands in both the Old and New Testaments which require Christians to reverence God and the things that represent His person and presence. The New Testament does not lessen or relax those standards of reverence due God. We see this continuing requirement of reverence in the book of Hebrews. “Let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.” [Hebrews 12:28-29. NIV]

As we have said, a Christian’s reverence as he communes with God is a matter of the heart, but reverence is also required for the “things” which represent God’s person and presence. These can generally be grouped as reverence for places (His sanctuary), persons (people and their relationships including hierarchy), and actions/things (worship, dress, and music). It is through these things which represent God’s person and presence that Satan often attacks the church. In our modern times Satan attempts to lure the church into worldliness by claiming it must be relevant to the culture but which is merely an attempt to lessen and ultimately replace the church’s reverence for the things of God. Writing over a half century ago, our friend Tozer once again cuts through the fog oozing from the smoke machines populating evangelical sanctuaries across the nation and reveals the heart of the matter.

Those Christians who belong to the evangelical wing of the Church (which I firmly believe is the only one that even approximates New Testament Christianity) have over the last half-century shown an increasing impatience with things invisible and eternal and have demanded and got a host of things visible and temporal to satisfy their fleshly appetites. Without biblical authority, or any other right under the sun, carnal religious leaders have introduced a host of attractions that serve no purpose except to provide entertainment for the retarded saints.

Any objection to the carryings on of our present golden-calf Christianity is met with the triumphant reply, “But we are winning them!” And winning them to what? To true discipleship? To cross-carrying? To self-denial? To separation from the world? To crucifixion of the flesh? To holy living? To nobility of character? To a despising of the world’s treasures? To hard self-discipline? To love of God? To total committal to Christ? Of course the answer to all these questions is no.[4] [emphasis in original]

As the church focuses on self and its fleshly appetites, there is also a precipitous decline in attention to and reverence for God and the things of God. In Parts II and III, an examination will be made of the death of reverence with regard to three things that represent the person and presence of God—the sanctuary, worship, and music.

Larry G. Johnson

Sources:

[1] “Reverence and Respect,” The Assemblies of God. https://ag.org/Beliefs/Topics-Index/Reverence-and-Respect (accessed May 8, 2017).
[2] A. W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous, (Camp Hill, Pennsylvania: WingSpread Publishers, 1955, 1986), p. 39.
[3] Donald Stamps, Commentary – Matthew 5-17, The Full Life Study Bible – King James Version – New Testament, Gen. Ed. Donald C. Stamps, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1990), p. 1683.
[4] A. W. Tozer, Man – The Dwelling Place of God, (Camp Hill, Pennsylvania: WingSpread Publishers, 1966, 1996-997), pp. 150-151.