Mustard Seeds and Mega-Churches :: by Ron Graham

“Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it. And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.” (Luke 13:18-21)

It’s important to see that Jesus, speaking of what the Kingdom of God is like, follows up the large tree and birds of the air parable above with a lesson on leaven. First of all mustard seeds don’t morph into huge trees, they only grow as small bushes. In this parable Jesus is exaggerating the growth of the mustard seed to instill in the reader a reality of massive proportions.

Many see this parable as an explanation of the ever expanding influence of the Church around the world. Some actually preach that the Church will be the all encompassing world influence before the end. But in these same verses Jesus tells us the birds of the air are nested in its branches.

In Jesus’ parables, the birds of the air consistently refer to an evil presence, and this evil presence has made their homes in the branches of this huge tree. Certainly we see Jesus referring to something much more sinister in this parable.

After all, He commanded us to spread the gospel around the world, and in that respect His Gospel has been and is being expanded worldwide. What do all the birds of the air and the leaven have to do with the kingdom of God? Is there something evil lurking in the Church?

Considering the concept of leaven, which is a reference to sin, Jesus has just given us a glimpse of what He saw happening as the enormity of His church became manifest. The birds of the air and the leaven refer to the corruption of His Church. False religions have been around and flourishing since the tower of Babel.

As the Church became established it has been bombarded with false teachings to lure people away from the truth. The birds of the air are infiltrators adding infusions of false teachings to the body of Christ’s Church. Our Lord is providing us with a picture of something very disturbing coming upon the Body—His very Church, in the last days.

It began with just a small amount of untruth. An insignificant amount of leaven added to the dough and after a while it encompasses the entire mix. Sound doctrine becomes flawed as tiny bits of erroneous teachings begin to spread through the Church. Eventually major doctrinal flaws develop. Consequently these flaws begin to become established as truth all co-habituating in the Church.

The woman has three measures of meal which was a normal grain offering to God in those days. She hides leaven within the grain offering thereby corrupting the whole offering. Many congregations nowadays attempt to place on the altar of God totally corrupt offerings. God doesn’t accept corrupt offerings but He will accept a change of heart and a return to the truth of His word.

Leaders and others in the Church who have been taught through corrupt sources, such as their liberal professors in seminaries, that the Bible is in error try almost with abandon to ingratiate themselves to their flocks so they may teach as experts on the fallacies of the Bible.

They will use allegory or twist words, even go as far as to say the Bible has never really been the inerrant word of God. In this way these false teachers can substitute their message for the truth. Their message will be one of deceit, completely untrustworthy, but it will sound as though it were doctrinal, even biblical.

Jesus saw His Church growing into a massive gathering of believers, but becoming corrupted from within. As sad as this reality seems, Jesus tells us it will happen and it is.

Many heresies permeate our Churches today and it’s hard to completely identify them and expose them before they’ve actually gained a strong foothold and accomplished their evil goal. It’s Satan’s agenda to corrupt from within and to lead astray whole congregations. Many falsehoods have crept in unawares and like leaven have now corrupted to a point that many of these once sound doctrinal congregations may be un-salvageable.

You’ve all heard the old adage “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” Satan has joined the Church. Why? It’s much easier for Satan and his minions of evil to instill their corrupt ideas into an established community of believers who won’t study their Bibles. Especially since many now believe the Bible to be erroneous. All Christian cults began with a smidgen of truth. They continue because they’ve convinced masses of people they’re right and the Bible is wrong.

Satan, for the most part, was hitting a brick wall in his deceptive practices against the established Church until he joined it. Just like the leaven in the above verse, little by little these satanic lies spread among the saints. It’s not difficult to recognize those who have been deceived by his lies.

Those who are deceived and leading congregations are the ones taking Satan’s lies to the next level. These are folks who are well trusted by the flock, and thus they are doing Satan’s biding and leading whole congregations down that slippery slope to destruction.

How is it this possible to deceive from within you might ask? It’s really quite simple in these days of self importance and time limitations and constraints. Satan knows many won’t take time out of their busy schedules to read their Bibles.

How many will spend a few hours watching an ungodly movie and then turn right around and say they have no time to study their Bibles? Satan knows of the apathetic attitude towards God’s word because he has been the major source leading to that apathy.

Satan’s influence in the Church is apparent. The Bible which was once revered and looked upon as God’s truth and sought after, has now, become to many as just an old, antiquated, mythological nuisance.

Through Satan’s leadership some have even re-written the Bible so it will adhere to his agenda. He’ll use any means to show the Bible to be of little or no consequence spiritually or truthfully. Many have fallen for his deception and many more continue to allow themselves to be led in that direction.

As we watch the growth of the mega-church we can see, in many cases, a shift away from being a Christ centered community of believers to a worldly outreach center. Just like the exaggerated results of a mustard seed in the above Scripture verse, we watch the growth of the mega-church with astonishment. Corruption is there as those with discernment watch the “birds of the air” – Satan’s minions of evil – landing in those branches spreading their evil influence throughout.

Why are so many weekend Christians attracted to these mega-churches? Could it be because they offer so much in the way of worldly pleasures? Coffee shops, boo stores, bowling alleys, really, the list goes on and on. Is Christ the attraction or has He been relegated to a back room where no one really needs to be bothered by Him? Are these weekenders attending so they can return home with the knowledge they paid tribute to their god and his huge new pleasure dome?

There are many pastors, some from the mega-church and some not, who have a skewed view of the Bible. In some cases we see these pastors teaching non-biblical self-reliance and prosperity gospels, writing books and becoming themselves more popular to their congregations than Jesus Himself.

Is it the gospel and Christ that’s being promoted, or is it the pastor who is promoting himself? Many are only tickling the ears of their parishioners to the exclusion of the core teachings found in the Bible. What’s worse, this is exactly what many weekend Christians want to hear.

“For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.” (Proverbs 1:32)

Convicting messages from pastors are also on the way out these days, and feel good messages are in. Passive messages from pastors that will bring people back to fill pews week in and week out are the current rage, whether or not these folks receive any edifying truths is certainly in question. Church growth at any cost now seems to be the norm. God loves us, no debate there, but neglecting core Christian issues is not preaching the whole truth.

If we need to supply people with creative nuances within our church buildings to draw them in, then we’ve traded the truth of the Gospel for a lie. We’re never told to entertain the masses to achieve high number results, we’re to preach and teach Christ and His doctrine. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the key teaching that will lead a soul to God. We are to pray the Holy Spirit’s conviction upon hearts of the lost people as they sit in those pews.

Jesus tells us that many will hear the message (receive an invitation to the feast) but will come up with many excuses as to why they can’t commit. In churches where the gospel message is made fluff and of no significance, many will never come to understand that becoming a born again believer in Christ is a life change and a full life commitment to the One who paid the price “In full” for our salvation and who now owns us.

Jesus tells us in Luke’s Gospel to count the cost before deciding to commit our lives to Him.

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, this man began to build, and was not able to finish. (Luke 14:28-30)

If this message never gets preached many will never come to a full understand of just what it means:

“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27)

Hate is a harsh word used here by our Lord. No, He’s not telling us to hate anyone. Jesus is telling us to be prepared for the cost of following Him. Many, even in our own families will believe we hate them because we put Jesus first before anyone else. Is this a part of the teachings in those feel good, Church growth centered congregations?

Brood of vipers, serpents, (Matt. 12:34, 23:33), woe to you hypocrites, (Matt. 6:2, 5, 16, 15:7, 16:3, 22:18, 23:14, 15, 23, 25,  27, 29, 24:51, Mar 7:6, Luke 11:44, 12:46), blind Pharisees, (John 9:40), fools, (Matt. 23:17, 23:19, Luke 11:40, 24:25).

Did Jesus pull any punches when He addressed the Pharisees in the midst of the crowds with those words? Most pastors, when addressing their congregations, would not go near those terms today avoiding them like the plague. By using the words “brood of vipers” and “serpents”, Jesus was referring to those whom he was addressing as “the children of Satan”. By using the word “hypocrite,” it would be the same as referring to someone today as “two faced.”

Would it not be appropriate for us to teach and preach as Jesus taught using the same methods as He? Many pastors today could take a lesson from Jesus on how He built His ministry. What truths did He use to convict the hearts of those who listened to Him and followed Him all around Galilee? Can we not assume that, not just occasionally but constantly, we must proclaim the whole truth of God’s word, just as Jesus did?

“For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6)

Pastors should be speaking to the heart of every lost soul that sits before them.

Granted, Jesus performed many miracles and through the public viewing of most of those healings He established His ministry. But it was His words that actually brought the people to Him and left them in wonderment. We have those words written within the pages of our Bibles.

He wants us to learn His words and to teach others those words. We aren’t to proclaim a new message to the masses. We stand on the truth of the Gospel. We believers are admonished to spread the message, His message which is the truth. That’s our job and it’s been our job for almost two-thousand years now. It’s never changing, it’s ever powerful, and it’s more than adequate for producing the miraculous.

Jesus Christ spoke the truth no matter to whom He spoke or what He encountered. Everywhere He went He had to confront obstacles such as doubt, hatred, even attempted murder, and He always used truth to establish His footing.

He never relied on entertainment to pull in a crowd, as a matter of fact Jesus, for the most part, tried to distract those viewing the miracles He preformed, even telling those who were involved to keep silent about them. Most who heard Him speak loved His words which were and still are the core of His ministry. Those same words should be the core of our ministries also.

As I watch in astonishment where the Church heading today, I must ask the question: Isn’t it about time for some old time Gospel preaching? A little hellfire and brimstone Jonathan Edwards’s style couldn’t hurt in these times of political correctness where everything has been watered down through the delivery of milk to the parishioners instead of meat. Think about it.

God bless you all,

Ron Graham