Mar 26, 2017

Dear Esther,

I became a born from above Christian about eight years ago after being a cafeteria cradle Catholic for about fifty. I was not being evangelized to or witnessed to; it was truly a Holy Spirit “Get your act together” moment.

Suddenly I couldn’t get enough of the Word…I was on fire for Him and wanted everyone to know it. But my earthly family slammed the door in my face and thought I had truly lost it. So no problem, I had a new family.

My husband and I joined a Bible believing church with expository teaching and were fed the word and drank regularly of His goodness. We were baptized believers and ate at the communion table regularly. But we could never get into “fellowship” (small talk). I am extremely shy even at my age. LOL

Then the floor dropped out from underneath us. I had quit my business of 22 years because of knee problems, and then my husband lost his job of 19.9 years out of the blue. The last 3 years have tested our faith, yes but never dampened my trust in the Lord, His plan, His way.

My husband’s new career choice had him working Sundays with a crazy schedule and we both stopped going regularly to services. Yes, I know I could have gone on my own but for me that was awkward. I’m not a shut in, I just don’t like going alone.

Anyway, we went back last Sunday and found quite a few changes. The words “church membership” required classes and “plugged in fellowship dinners.” Plugged in is a term being used by my current church as a means to get more involved — they call it a power source. Their thinking is the more involved the more you can serve the church and the more you feel at home; I think is their thinking (?).

“Plugged in” is a term I’ve been hearing a lot as of late. Not just here at our congregation but also online in different chat rooms, YouTube, etc. So when we went back and started hearing it at our church, I questioned it. I always thought the power source in one’s Christian life is the Holy Spirit.

“Set your priorities” was also a common term being spoken by everyone. There are many strangers, and people calling themselves deacons. Now some of this was not new, I always felt the fellowship was most important for some of these folks.

But, I came to hear the Word proclaimed and never came to drink coffee and eat donuts. Everyone wants to be BFF with the pastors instead of holding them to a higher authority. I feel this as the reproach of a modern church. Am I wrong for judging these changes?

Do you have any suggestions on how to fellowship more comfortably as I’ve never been a social being? What do you think of this “plugged in” approach to church? Do we need to find another church? I really don’t want to go through all the howdy do’s again. 🙁

I don’t think this is as important as some of your questions. I do so enjoy reading them. Thank you for your time and wisdom.

Marlene

 

Dear Marlene,

Actually your questions and concerns are very important. Not everyone is a social being and there is nothing wrong with not being one. It sounds like the church you speak of has taken a turn for something that is somewhat ritualistic with New Age undertones.

You are right, the only power source in one’s Christian life is (should be) the Holy Spirit. Anything beyond that is dangerous. Contrived ideas by even well-meaning pastors and Bible teachers can erode the simple message of the gospel and God’s individual calling upon believers’ lives.

When I read your letter I could not help but wonder how your church went from what seemed to be a solid Bible-teaching church to more of a social club. The emphasis now seems to be on spending time in a church building hobnobbing and not a whole lot of time spent studying the Bible. This is a common problem today. I know a lot of people who are not strongly involved in a church for this very reason.

This “plugged in” movement which you brought to my attention sounds like it has a number of problems. We are called to fellowship but that does not mean we have to spend hours and hours hanging out with one group of people and participating in events that may or may not be where the Lord is leading us each, individually.

Some of the most solid authentic believers I know spend a good deal of time “plugged in” to their Bibles in prayer time alone communing with the Lord, and sometimes with a small group of people; not complex church services or mandatory church social events so one can be counted worthy to become a church “member.”

Certainly there are still some good churches, but they seem harder and harder to find. Participation in a local church body is good if the pastor is genuinely “plugged in” to his Bible and not church growth for the sake of numbers and popularity.

When worshipping the Lord and growing in His Word becomes more of a business and sets of rules are created outside of Scripture, then the intimate spiritual connection between the congregation is eroded—not to mention the spiritual connection with the Lord if one is not careful.

In an email to me you also mentioned Kevin DeYoung, who prescribes to what he terms the “Plus One” approach to church, and that he has been a guest speaker at the church you attend. Once again, we are getting a man’s ideas on how to participate in church; good works, lots of small talk, comfort zone coddling and little of the Bible. The focus is on attendance rather than growing spiritually through a good solid discipleship program.

I understand that Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of the University Reformed Church. According to Wikipedia he is now shifting his church to Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). The word “reformed” always concerns me. And the PCA is overall very liberal and generally not a supporter of Israel.

From my research it appears that this man does not hold to the true and solid Pre-Tribulation view of the Rapture and he also convolutes the teaching of the 144,000 which Scripture clearly tells us are all Jews. DeYoung dogmatically teaches they are not. [1]

In Revelation 7:4-8 the identification of those who are sealed is clearly specified as Jews. Twelve tribes are listed with the statement that 12,000 are chosen from each of the twelve tribes. This careful portrayal definitely shows that the 144,000 are Jews and will be nothing else, in spite of much conjecture from those who want to read in into the text their own interpretation.

If you read the “Statement of Faith” from Kevan DeYoung’s church website you will see that there is no mention of the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52), no reference is made to the literal 1000-year millennial reign of Christ; instead they skip to the (Revelation 21:1-5) “a new heaven and new earth” (which do not come until after the Lord’s 1000-year reign). [2]

The entire passage (Rev. 21:1) reads: “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.” This is definitively a passage for the eternal order which comes after Christ’s 1000-year reign on earth. Also, there is no mention for the need to be born-again by the Spirit of God to enter heaven (John 3:3).

The danger with some well-meaning individuals who confuse the straight forward teachings of Scripture is that they do not study and understand the whole Bible, and if two or three major biblical truths are not understood and are rejected (changed), then I would not have any confidence in that person’s ability to lead or teach about anything. If your pastor is having guest speakers who do not hold to the truths cited above, then you have good reason to be concerned.

Worship should be a commitment to the Lord, not always a commitment to frequently worship with one particular group of people as the “Plus One” approach seems to teach. I say, the Holy Trinity plus nothing. You are right to be concerned about this church and it would be wise to seek another church or home group that is much more into the Bible than socializing the congregation.

We know there is no perfect church or perfect people. But when it comes to church involvement it should be done from a holy Spirit-led approach of love and obedience to the Lord—wanting to please Him, and not from a cookie cutter approach. Of course a church needs to be organized and have some regular programs, but unless the strong Bible exposition and discipleship are on the top of the list, the leadership is missing the mark.

Your statement: “Everyone wants to be BFF with the pastors instead of holding them to a higher authority.” This really gives me pause. Sadly, there are far too many pastors and “leaders” in ministry work and churches today who want to be adored and admired. Of course they would be the first to deny it. Their egos and control issues are huge and have no place in true Christianity.

A credible Christian leader should not encourage this type of “groupie” mentality. And those who are chasing these leaders to gain their approval to get some sort of attention and “status” need to realize that they are placing their priorities in the wrong place.

I would not say you are judging in any of this, but rather that you are dumbfounded because of the lack of biblical veracity. A true leader, a true man of God is one who deflects attention from himself. His entire persona should reflect the love and humility of God. He does not engage in gossip or tear down other people, cause division or encourage adoration by encouraging and having personal followers. If he does, those around him who recognize this unbiblical behavior should in love, point out the problem and not let it go because they want to be accepted.

I think if you and your husband go before the Lord in heartfelt prayer, He will guide you to a place where you can worship and interact with other believers—without feeling you are expected to attend this and that function, and do this or that to be part of a church or become a church “member.” And the howdy do’s may not be so difficult if you connect with others who are genuine in their desire to place Christ first in their lives.

I am confident that the Lord will bring some like-minded people into your lives who praise the Lord and not individuals. You will feel more comfortable when you are not placed in a position of forced interaction. When we participate in Bible studies and discipleship classes with others, the focus is on Christ. Any socializing that comes out of that interaction would naturally evolve and would be based on biblical matters; the heart of the fellowship would be Jesus and not anything or anyone else.

As far as the term “setting your priorities,” that is fine depending on what those priorities are. If it is a phrase used to be more available to a particular church or agenda when the Lord is leading you in a different direction, then you must be faithful to Him even if it means going against popular ideas.

As long as we set our priorities on the Lord Jesus, our lives will reflect His goodness. When we set our priorities on someone else’s idea of fellowship and worship outside of God’s Word then it is tough to have a strong meaningful walk with the Lord and we suffer.

In closing I want to quote something Kevan De Young wrote in the article you shared with me titled, “The Plus One Approach to Church.” He states: “When you meet people who feel disconnected from church, start with this question: Are you committed to worshiping with us every Sunday unless you are providentially hindered?” He also states, “The idea is simple. First, be faithful in attending the Sunday morning worship service. Don’t miss a Sunday.”

Okay, well, a discerning believer may automatically feel disconnected from a particular church because he or she may be sensing (discerning) that not all is well. De Young’s words “committed to worshipping with us unless providentially hindered” are quite telling. His focus is on the group of people in his church building and not on the omniscient God who is available to us anywhere at any time.

The place of worship and those involved are elevated above Almighty God and it is insinuated that unless one is “plugged in” to a particular group and church building with regimented church attendance, a less than favorable situation abounds. Whatever happened to focusing on a relationship with God Himself, which we can all readily access directly through Jesus Christ, without the help of those who like to tag on rituals and demands?

Man does not reign supreme, only God does and when church leaders stray from that truth nothing good can come out of it. Instead of doing the Lord’s work, they are creating their own empires and sadly there are too many gullible and biblically illiterate “Christians” who would rather follow the popular trends than their Creator. This is what I refer to as the “groupie mentality.”

But you, Marlene have not been fooled. You are seeing problems in your church and are not wanting to participate in an environment where the leadership screams, “Follow me and my way.” When clearly Jesus said, “Follow Me.” I would not want to be in competition with God for attention. Perhaps those who place themselves first and leave true biblical teaching on the backburner will recognize their sin and repent. But Scripture warns:

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it” (Mathew 7:13).

And another very scary Scripture states:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

God bless you, Marlene. You are wise to discern and reject the negative changes at your church. Trust that the Lord will guide you and your husband to a place where you can quietly worship and not feel uncomfortable; a place where the Lord reigns and not the church leadership and their demands.

In God’s love,

Esther

“Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be greatest. And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a little child and set him by Him, and said to them, “Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great” (Luke 9:46-48).

Endnotes
[1] http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2012/01/17/who-are-the-144000-in-revelation/
[2] http://www.universityreformedchurch.org/about-us/statement-of-faith.html

 

Last Modified on March 26, 2017
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