November 7, 2016

For the Love of Prophecy

Like many people, when I entered adulthood, I sort of took a break from serious Bible reading.

I was raised on prophecy teaching, and I expect that my upbringing in conservative Oklahoma was similar to others’: heavy doses of Bible and Bible prophecy teaching. After all, these were the days of Hal Lindsey and Rapture talk.

That has all changed like the wind.

Recently on my Facebook page, a friend noted that she’d sent a message to her pastor, Kyle Idleman of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky.

If memory serves me, that is the church pastored for years by Bob Russell. Dr. David Reagan preached many prophecy sermons from that pulpit.

My friend was dismayed that Idleman evidently doesn’t have the same love for Bible prophecy teaching that his predecessors had.

I’m not surprised.

It isn’t hard to figure out, though.

Idleman is one of the new breed of pastor/CEOs that have decided Andy Stanley is right and the church/Bible/Christianity needs new marketing. The old-time religion is distasteful to them.

Even Brian Brodersen, the heir apparent (who made sure he was the heir apparent) to Chuck Smith at Calvary Chapel has said that when he filled-in for his father-in-law in the pulpit, he felt it necessary to “counter” the elder’s prophecy-laced sermons, since the “doom and gloom” stuff was, you know, not what seekers are after. This last bit is my paraphrase.

But if I came back to the study of prophecy and Bible reading, how many more do not?

I am curious how many readers of RaptureReady and “Israel Watch” experience this in their churches. I realize it’s a lot. But how many do have pastors who teach prophecy and the specialness of Israel and the Jewish people?

Take Idleman, for example. If you look at those who endorse his books—Craig Groeschel, Jud Wilhite, Mark Batterson, Christine Caine—you see that his circle of friends are not exactly graduates of the Hal Lindsey School of Prophecy.

(A few years ago, Groeschel almost inexplicably taught a three-part series on Bible prophecy, and he sounded like a classic Pre-Tribber. To my knowledge, it’s the only example of a seeker-driven pastor touching the subject in recent years.)

As we have pointed out many times, when the leading evangelical gurus in this country do not want to emphasize prophecy, it is relegated to the shadows. By extension, the general community of evangelical leaders in this country also do not like Israel, and in some cases I’m convinced they are anti-Semites. That ensures that Americans in the pews do not hear the whole counsel of God.

In order to understand how connected this network of evangelical leaders is, notice the recent flap caused by Jen Hatmaker’s interview with fellow progressive Jonathan Merritt.

Hatmaker acknowledged her support for homosexuality, among other things. Incredibly, LifeWay bookstores, an arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, pulled her books! I find it incredible, because LifeWay long ago went over to compromise when it comes to resources offered. If they no longer carry Hatmaker, will they then virtually empty their shelves of other heretical authors?

But Hatmaker is a star on the rise. A few years ago, she tweeted: “At some point, the church stopped living the Bible & decided to just study it…skillfully discarding costly discipleship…”

That was re-tweeted by her mentor, Lynne Hybels, who still cunningly identifies as an evangelical, but whose progressive views place her on the outer fringes of Christianity. It was Hybels who wrote a few years ago that she simply does not subscribe to the eschatological views of those who, for example, read Lindsey or other classic dispensationalists.

This is the air Hatmaker & Friends breathe today. The study of Bible prophecy is out of favor. Israel suffers from this reality, as well.

And the outrageous views of Andy Stanley—who disses the Bible and small churches—is actually the model for “doing church” today. Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay, tweeted last year: “If your church doesn’t have a website, it doesn’t exist. People won’t take you seriously. They think you don’t care.”

Wow. The hubris in that statement is…wow. Rainer and his friends push the church-growth model all day long. Under their watch, for example, the Southern Baptist Convention has lost a staggering 700,000 members!

(The SBC is blessed to have the ministry of Gary Frazier, who travels and speaks in churches a lot. He is one of the best prophecy teachers of all time, in my opinion, mostly because his presentations are rooted in the Gospel. Stanley and others could take lessons from Gary.)

The fact is, solid Bible teaching is still going on in those churches that “don’t have websites.” Paul didn’t emphasize marketing in the New Testament; he emphasized preaching the Word. That Word includes prophecy and the history, past and future, of Israel.

The current evangelical leadership in America is corrupt and more interested in currying favor with Barack Obama and Democrat operatives than pursuing and teaching truth.

The relevance of Bible prophecy is supremely important for this moment in history. Yet you see evangelical leaders abandoning it in droves. I have attempted to ask Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, about his views of eschatology and Israel.

He declined, and later blocked me on Twitter.

Moore, however, likes to present himself as a very tolerant fellow, as witnessed by this comment:

“Why not engage one another? Have the debates in a civil fashion, without attempting to silence one another.”

That would be funny if it weren’t so tragic.

Moore interviewed Andy Stanley at the annual ERLC conference this summer in Nashville, letting him get away with denigrating the Bible. This is but one (but a large one) example of a downturn in real Bible teaching and study and reading in our churches. And when the people do not hear about the power and majesty of the living God through the study of His peerless predictive prophecy, they become unaware of a very real evidence for His existence.

It’s why young people are leaving evangelicalism in droves, despite the contrary statements by the very evangelical leaders who caused it.

I am, though, happy and content. The Church is healthy, vibrant, and looking forward to the future. It just isn’t as well-known as the Church Visible, built by the most famous celebrity pastors and ministry leaders.

If you are in a church or home group that studies and values Bible prophecy and Israel, you are blessed indeed. To take a General George S. Patton quote decidedly out of context, “you may thank God for it.”