Church Study Reveals Deception Gripping Believers

 

This story from Charisma News:

spiritual maturity chart

Professing Christians progressing toward spiritual maturity will have a firmer grasp on important doctrinal positions.  However, plenty of churchgoers still struggle with basic truths about God, the Bible and salvation. So says a new study from LifeWay Research.

The LifeWay Research study on “Doctrinal Positions” shows that while 81 percent of churchgoers say “When you die, you will go to heaven because you have confessed your sins and accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior,” 26 percent agree “If a person is sincerely seeking God, he/she can obtain eternal life through religions other than Christianity.” Fifty-seven percent disagree.

“Consumers in America are accustomed to having endless combinations of choices for every want in life,” said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research. “Biblical truth is radical because it teaches that eternal life is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ alone.”

Other responses given regarding beliefs about life after death include:

  • When you die, you will go to heaven because you have tried your best to be a good person and live a good life (selected by 7 percent of churchgoers).
  • You have no way of knowing what will happen when you die (5 percent of churchgoers).
    When you die, you will go to heaven because God loves everyone and we will all be in heaven with Him (4 percent).
  • When you die, you will go to heaven because you have read the Bible, been involved in church, and tried to live as God wants you to live (2 percent).
  • There is no life after death (1 percent).

Churchgoers strongly hold to the accuracy of the Scriptures, the survey reveals. Eighty-two percent agree with the statement: “The Bible is the written word of God and is totally accurate in all that it teaches.” Ten percent disagree and 8 percent neither agree nor disagree.

While the majority of churchgoers (75 percent) strongly hold the God of the Bible is not the same god worshiped in other world religions, 13 percent say the God of the Bible is no different from the gods or spiritual beings depicted by world religions such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. Another 12 percent neither agree nor disagree with the uniqueness of the God of the Bible.

The study also shows nearly two-thirds (71 percent) agree with the statement: “God is just and sin has to be punished.” However, 13 percent of churchgoers disagree and 16 percent neither agree nor disagree with the statement.


I would love to see the details of this survey.  At first glance it would appear that we have about 80% saved and 20% goats in our churches.  I would also guess that people who answered biblically on one question did so on all and were probably older and lived in Southern states.

That someone could attend church on a regular basis and not know some of these most foundational doctrines is a sore indictment against the preaching in the church.  Perhaps a few more sermons on doctrine and a few less on “finding your destiny” might help.

Heretical or not?

If you read “discernment blogs” you will soon discover that there are very few, if any, teachers of the word of God that meet all the standards that have been set up.  Sooner or later, someone you have watched on TV or have read their book will appear on the latest blog watch list as persons to avoid as heretical.  The only one untouched by criticism so far as I know is John MacArthur.

Some, I think, rightly deserve some criticism – such as Rick Warren for inviting three non-Christian doctors to teach his people about weight loss and his seeker-driven mentality.  T.D. Jakes is a known modalist and has never repented publicly of that heresy.  Mark Driscoll cusses and speaks in an incredibly vulgar manner.  These men have drawn criticism for what they themselves have done.

Others have been skewered on the fire for associating with those who are suspect.  James MacDonald comes to mind for hosting the Elephant Room 2 and refusing to challenge T.D. Jakes on his modalist beliefs.  John Piper drew criticism for hosting a Desiring God conference at Rick Warren’s church.

Let me offer my opinion on three popular ministers and why I don’t think they belong on any “heresy watch list.”

Beth Moore

 

beth mooreBeth Moore is a favorite target of Ken Silva and others for having the audacity to include women from different denominations in her ministry.  Their argument against it has to do with The Roman Catholic Church being heretical and thus every person who is Catholic must be heretical too. I would agree that Catholic doctrine needed Reformation (and Martin Luther addressed that) but I don’t see why women from Catholic churches can’t come to a ladies’ bible study.

The second criticism comes from statements that Beth Moore makes such as “I heard God say…” or “I felt God lead me to…”  This hardly rises to the level of heresy.  As far as I know, cessationism vs. continuationism is not a fundamental doctrine that would cause one to be shunned from orthodox Christianity.

A third criticism arises from Beth’s participation in the “Be Still” conference where contemplative prayer and lectio divina were endorsed.  I too have questions about this and certainly don’t endorse this teaching per se but don’t consider it a deal breaker.  After all, John Piper stood right beside her at Passion 2012 and gave his blessing to what she did.

In my experience of watching Living Proof Live meetings, and having done the Daniel, Jesus the One and Only, Inheritance, Revelation and James bible studies – I like Beth Moore and her style of teaching. Now that she has her daughter Melissa doing research and writing, the overall quality of the materials has gone way up.  Before you crucify Beth Moore for her lack of hermeneutics in earlier works, may I remind you that the SBC has recently decided that women don’t belong in hermeneutic classes.  I’m certainly glad I went to seminary before women were barred from attending!

Perry Stone

 

Perry StoneI have watched Perry Stone and attended his meetings for a dozen years or more.  In all that time I have never heard or read anything from him that even remotely rises to the level of heresy.  One complaint I have heard frequently is his use of extra biblical sources in presenting a theory.  The people complaining though don’t mention that Perry always states what source he is using and that it is not to be considered as authoritative as the bible.  When he talks about giants in Gen 6:4 he clearly says that he has a theory about that instead of issuing dogmatic assertions.

The other complaint I have heard is his association with TBN and in particular Rod Parsley.  In the case of TBN, I’m grateful they have at least one person I like to watch who hosts the program on a semi regular basis.  As far as Rod Parsley, I’ve known him for over twenty years.  I can see where Perry and Rod would hook up – both are revivalists.  I don’t think though that Perry endorses every word of faith teaching that Rod would but that doesn’t preclude them from being friends nor should it.

Jonathan Cahn

 

CahnI almost hesitate to address this one as the firestorm of controversy is still brewing.  Let me say that I have read The Harbinger and have read most of the criticisms of it from various discernment ministries. Having spent over thirty years with charismatics and having attending seminary, I can see where both sides are coming from.

I think Jonathan has ably addressed the criticisms of his work and others have as well so that I don’t need to elaborate here.  What I will offer are some of my observations.

First, not everyone is a theologian.  You cannot judge books marketed for general audiences in the same way you judge theology textbooks.  The message of The Harbinger is that America needs to repent and turn to God.  How Cahn delivers that message could have been polished up a bit but it is hardly heretical to suggest repentance.  Rather than denouncing the whole book, a word of encouragement and some editing tips would have been more appropriate.

Secondly, just because he appeared on television shows to promote his book doesn’t mean he agrees with everything that television host has ever said.  Just because John MacArthur appeared on Larry King Live doesn’t mean he is Jewish.  He was promoting a book and took the advice of his press agent on what programs to appear on.  Cahn is not a media savvy celebrity and I hope he doesn’t become one either.  A little bit of grace would be nice for someone who is new to all this attention.

Summary

 

Not everyone is a heretic.  Most of the people in the limelight who are criticized are simply not as educated in academic theology as some of us would like.  That doesn’t make them a heretic and it doesn’t mean you can’t learn from them either.

Hold people accountable for what they do and say not for appearing on the same show or stage with someone.  This whole guilt by association to the 2nd and 3rd degree thing is getting old.  Every person should stand or fall on what they themselves have said or done.. Amen?

Reaching the Unchurched…

Thom Rainer in a guest article for the Christian Post writes about our failure to reach the “unchurched.”

For now, let us focus on what is wrong. Let us look with stark honesty and candor at the ineffectiveness of most American believers when it comes to sharing their faith. And let us look at reversing the trend through God’s power.

1. Spiritual Lethargy – One of the main reasons many Christians do not share their faith is simply explained by the word disobedience. Spiritual lethargy takes place when we fail to obey Him. The problem for many Christians is that they are not growing spiritually, and lack of spiritual growth inevitably leads to a diminished desire to share Christ with others.

2. Growing Inclusivism – One of the faster-growing belief systems today is pluralism (all religions lead to God). A variation of pluralism called inclusivism is a dangerous doctrine that is gaining momentum in many American seminaries, Christian colleges, and churches. This view affirms that Jesus is the only way of salvation, but he can be found in other “good” religions. There is a subtle but growing belief among many Christians that somehow “good” followers will make it to heaven outside of a true Christian conversion. Our message will fall on deaf ears if this belief persists and grows.

3. Growing Disbelief in Hell – At one time, this was a view held almost entirely by unbelievers. However recent books by those claiming to be evangelicals have brought this discussion front and center. Those who truly have a desire to reach the unchurched have a burden to see people in the eternity of heaven, but they also desire to see them escape the wrath of an eternal hell. Denying the existence of hell undermines the urgency of placing one’s faith in Christ.

4. Busyness – Perhaps one of Satan’s most effective strategies is to get us so busy that we fail to do that which is such a high biblical priority. We can be deluded into complacency about the lostness of humanity around us. The unchurched are waiting for you to tell them about Jesus. They need to be on your to-do list. What priority do you give to reaching the lost?

5. Fear of Rejection – In research on this subject, I found that only one in four unchurched persons we be resistant to faith discussions. But nearly four out of ten of the unchurched will be receptive to your concern for their eternity, and more than one out three will simply be neutral to your attempts. Simply stated, fear of rejection is unfounded. The few with an antagonistic attitude are not rejecting your personally; their anger is merely a reflection of something in their past. Fear of rejection is an often-used excuse by Christians for their failure to witness. And it is just that: an excuse.

6. A Desire to Be Tolerant – The message of the gospel, in some senses, is intolerant. The one true God insists there can be no other gods. He is a jealous God and leaves no room for other gods. In the post-modern culture of 21st century America, Christians should know the criticisms of intolerance will come. The great concern is that many Christians are unwilling to take a narrow view because they do not want to be labeled as intolerant. But Jesus never waivered in His insistence that He is the only way to the one and only true God.

7. Losing the Habit of Witnessing – Some Christians have been very active in sharing their faith with the lost and the unchurched. But, for a myriad of reasons, they get out of the habit, and it no longer becomes a priority. Witnessing, like prayer and Bible study, is a discipine. It is a habit to learn, to retain, and, if lost, to regain.

8. Lack of Accountability – Programmatic evangelism in local churches is sometimes denigrated because it is seen as a “canned” approach to witnessing. But one of the strengths of many of these programs is that some inherent system of accoutnability is built into the program itself. Accountability is likely to engender more witnessing attempts to the unchurched. Attempting more evangelistic encounters creates a habit of witnessing that then increases our zeal for evangelism.

9. Failure to Invite – When is the last time you invited an unchurched person to church? When is the last time you offered to take a person to church, or, at the very least, meet him or her at church? It’s a simple gesture, yet so few Christians do it.

10. We Go to Churches That Do Not Reach the Unchurched – We only reach one person for Christ each year for every 85 church members in the United States. That is a frightening and terrible ratio. One of the key reasons we do not reach the unchurched is that most Christians in America are members of churches that do not reach the unchurched.

I think he pretty much nails it on items 2,3 and 6.  The main problem as I see it is:

  1. Failure to preach the gospel – we have taken the gospel out of our pulpits (where did the pulpit go? it’s just an empty stage now) and replaced it with devotional homilies that help us get along better.
  2. Too many false converts – a true Christian will share his faith and knows what he was saved from and saved to – the false converts fill the pews (or stadium seating) and go live like the world the other six days of the week.
  3. The concept of sin is missing – pastors don’t preach on sin because it might offend a visitor.  In fact, everything about the church has been tailored to visitors or “unchurched” and thus the sheep haven’t been fed in so long they can barely stand any more.
  4. The gospel is assumed but never taught – many invitations assume that people know what to do to get right with the Lord but it is never clearly presented in the sermon or the invitation.
  5. You can’t share what you don’t know – those who are unfortunate enough to have been saved only in the last twenty years have probably never heard a rousing sermon on salvation that included the fall of man, his sinfulness, his need of a Savior and exactly what steps are needed to be saved.

Romans 10:13-14 ESV
(13)  For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
(14)  How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

If the pastors won’t preach the gospel, don’t blame the church members for not sharing it.