Jumping On The Bandwagon
Jumping On The Bandwagon
Seduced by the Beat of a Different Drummer?
by Hughie Seaborn
A spirit began to emerge on the world scene towards the beginning of this (20th) century. The outstanding features were supposedly "messages from the Lord", miracles, tongues plus an experience called "slain in the spirit". At that time it was only a dim and obscure spot on the horizon. Those puzzling days of uncertainty are gone. The Pentecostal Movement has fully emerged from the shadows of early dawn and now stands exposed in the glaring light of today's TV programs, publications; unmasked for those who wish to see. (Wilson Ewin "Seminar on Pentecostalism" - "Its Mutations Are Legion, But Its Species Is One.")
band n. 1. A company of people having a common purpose; group: a band of outlaws.
band-wagon n. 1. U.S. a wagon, usually high and brightly coloured, for carrying the band in a parade. 2. Climb, jump, or get on the band-wagon. Informal. to join or give support to a party or movement that seems to be assured of success. (Collins English Dictionary)
After reading the above definition in the Collins Dictionary, I think my title "Jumping on the Bandwagon" is an appropriate description for the subject I am about to discuss, that of the February 2000 launching of Australian Christian Churches (hereafter, ACC), the result of an initiative of the National Executive of the Assemblies of God in Australia (hereafter, AOG). The initiative called for an alliance between various Pentecostal and Charismatic denominations in Australia with Brian Houston, General Superintendent of the Australian AOG, installed as the inaugural President.
The launching of the ACC has been hailed in both secular and Christian press as an enormous success in bringing together a number of independent Christian bodies for the purpose of "making a real difference in the community" and "offering a dynamic spiritual dimension missing from many people's lives." 
But is the ACC alliance really anything more than just a numbers and money game using secular and new-age business principles in conjunction with questionable, but popular, and very successful church growth programs? Are the key players behind this alliance perhaps just a group of people who have observed some of their overseas colleagues tapping into a lucrative market and then deciding to employ identical principles and methods in an attempt to achieve the same results in Australia? To me, it seems that there are striking similarities between what the leadership of ACC are trying to achieve and what has already been tested and proven in other countries, particularly the U.S.A. These observant Aussies have watched while their overseas friends have applied dubious, though highly successful methods to draw huge crowds into their folds and, having heard the bandwagon lumbering toward them, have decided to climb aboard for a slice of the action.
The "Corporation" Church
Surely it is obvious, to those who wish to see and have had their eyes enlightened by the Lord, that the professing church, Christendom, has become nothing more than a very successful business, reaping huge profits into the coffers of those who, wandering off the right path, have been enticed by a desire for fame, fortune and universal acceptance. They have turned the Father's house into nothing more than a house of merchandise and are utilizing the world's resources and the world's methods to achieve what they believe to be spiritual success.
The Pentecostal churches, as well as an ever escalating number of Evangelical churches, are currently being conducted as business corporations, organized along the same lines as any other secular business enterprise. Senior pastors have taken on the role of business managers, or executives, whose main function is increasingly leaning toward running the business side of the empire and making a profit, rather than equipping the saints for the work of the ministry that Christ called us to, that of preaching the Gospel, calling men and women everywhere to repent, and making disciples out of sinners.
The corporation churches, in the same manner as the corporations of the secular world, have definite characteristics that are clearly observable. They are human-initiated and governed, management-based, profit-oriented, success-driven, client-friendly, product-focused (programs and services), and image conscious. 
I believe that, as we progress through this article, it will become evident that the charges I have leveled at the Pentecostal church, are well founded. They are conducting a business and they are using secular business principles and methods to achieve recognition and financial success. They have jumped upon the brightly decorated bandwagon that already carries a great company of musicians, both secular and those who profess to follow Christ. However, the joyful music emanating from the wagon has a distinctly worldly beat to it. I perceive that they are playing to the beat of the wrong drummer! He who has ears to hear, let him listen. What do you think?
"They have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness." (2 Peter 2:15)
In my Bible, in 2 Timothy 3:1-5, I read the following important, prophetic information:
"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God. Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away."
Because I believe that the Word of God is true and prophetically correct in all of its predictions, I know that I can be absolutely confident that what we have read above will already be taking place in the world. Because we know these are the last days, then it stands to reason that all we should have to do, to actually see these above mentioned attributes, is simply, look. Open our eyes and have a look around.
It needs to be pointed out that this portion of Scripture I have presented for consideration is not describing the crude, rude and unrefined individuals on the outside of Christendom, as is presumed by a vast number of believers, but it is describing people who profess to be Christians, those within the hallowed walls of the churches. The support for my disturbing claim is presented in verse 5, which clearly states that the people who display these ungodly characteristics have a "form" of godliness but deny the power thereof. It would have to be agreed that the unbelieving man or woman out in the street does not have any form of godliness, however strongly one may desire to disagree. We are clearly discussing professing Christians here.
Paul was writing to Timothy, with God's intention that what he wrote would be recorded for succeeding generations of Christians, and he expressly pointed out that in the "last days" a perilous situation would arise which was of great concern to him. A dangerous time would come, it was prophesied, in which a great number of people who professed to love the Lord would, in fact, be lovers of their own selves. A dangerous time would come because professing Christians would be lovers of self. All of their thoughts and actions would be influenced by a high regard for their own selves, displaying a form of godliness on the outside, for all to see, while concealing self-serving motives and aspirations on the inside. Echoes of Isaiah 29:13,
"...this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me..."
So there's nothing new under the Sun, just worse examples, apparently.
The Fruit Of Self-Love Is...
It is an enlightening experience, indeed, to look into the meanings of some of the original Greek words that Paul used in describing the temperament of these individuals. Practically all of them describe character traits that could only be produced by a person who is completely obsessed with self.
For example, Paul says that they will be "covetous". The Greek word used is philarguros, which literally means to be fond of silver or money. It portrays a person who is grasping for money. One who is greedy. A greedy person who is a lover of money is a person who is concerned with self.
God's Word tells us in 1 Timothy 6:9-10 that,
"such that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."
Paul also wrote that these people will be boasters. The Greek word used here is alazon, which, along with "boaster" also means braggart. The person will be a big talker, an exhibitionist and show-off, desiring the recognition of man to puff up his ego and draw people's attention to himself.
Jude 16-19 speaks of these people as
"... walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men's persons in admiration because of advantage. But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; how that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit."
Paul also wrote to Timothy and said that these people would be proud. The Greek word here is huperephanos, which has a meaning of wanting to appear above others. To promote yourself so that you are conspicuous. Haughty. Proverbs 16:18-19 reminds us that,
"... pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud."
Paul also said that these people will be traitors. The Greek word used here is prodotes, which carries the sense of giving forward into the enemy's hands, to surrender and betray the cause. A traitor.
Matthew 24:10-12 warns that,
"many [shall] be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold."
They will be highminded. The original Greek word for this is tuphoo, which means to be inflated with self-conceit and lifted up with pride. They will see themselves as absolutely essential to the fulfillment of God's purposes in history. They will be puffed up with their own importance.
They will also be lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God. The original Greek word translated here as pleasures is philedonos, which means to be fond of pleasure, voluptuous or addicted to sensual indulgence. The root word of philedonos is hedone which mean sensual delight, desire and lust for pleasure.
They may profess with their mouths that they love God with all their hearts, but their hearts will have deceived them and it is really only the pleasurable experience that they love. They are chasing after feelings. Again we quote Jude who said in Jude 18-19,
"... there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit."
Could any Scripture more fittingly describe the Pentecostal church, particularly after what we have seen take place since the early 1990's with the inception of such movements as the Toronto Blessing and Pensacola Revival? God's Word is prophetically accurate and clearly has predicted that the professing church of the last days would be filled with people who would be more interested in, and attracted to, sensual experiences and pleasures of the flesh rather than a sober, watchful and orderly walk with God.
We could continue on, elaborating upon each word Paul used in describing the group of people who, he was moved by the Spirit to prophesy, would be members of the last days church, but from what we have already seen we can be assured that an unhealthy, even dangerous preoccupation with self will play a predominant part in the makeup of the congregations of the last days.
The Message of the Gospel
In Mark 8:34-37 (as well as in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke) we read the very clear and restrictive words of Jesus concerning the qualifications of becoming one of His disciples.
"Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"
Obviously, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for a person who is obsessed with his own life to deny himself. Yet it is the first requirement stipulated by Christ Himself if a person desires to become one of His disciples. One might say that I am promoting works as a way for Salvation but that is not really the case. You see, unless a man or a woman is able to deny themselves they will never be able to see themselves as a sinner who needs a Saviour. What self loving, greedy, bragging, egotistic, self aggrandising, inflated, conceited, person is there in this world who believes he needs to be saved?
But Paul's letter to Timothy warns us that this type of person will not only profess to be a disciple of Christ but will also fill the pulpits and the pews in great number in the last days. How is this possible? If Christ said we must deny ourselves to become His followers how is it that Paul could prophetically accuse the church of the last days of being crowded with people who obviously refuse to do so?
Church Growth Strategies
After my conversion in 1982 I became keenly aware that one of the priorities of the brand of Christianity I was involved in was Church Growth. There seemed to me to be a lot of energy focused towards learning from pastors with big churches how they actually got to be so big. Church Growth was the buzz phrase of the Pentecostal/Charismatic community and a number of pastors with large and prosperous congregations traveled the length and breadth of the globe promoting their growth and prosperity strategies. Their principles and methods for growing large and prosperous congregations were eagerly sought after by ambitious men and women who aspired to greater things.
Because I was zealous to serve the Lord and discover as much as I could about Him, I was encouraged by other mature Christians to enroll myself in an external study course with a Christian College in Sydney. I ploughed into my course of study with great enthusiasm and soon received a Certificate and a Diploma that I was supposed to hang on the wall of my future office - but never did. Thinking that Christian Colleges held the answers to my quest of acquiring as much knowledge about the things of the Lord as possible, I further enrolled in an Associate in Ministry course with Garden City AOG College in Brisbane. With a bit of effort and the credit points from my previous studies with the Sydney college I could envisage myself qualifying as an associate pastor in a couple of years. The prospects were exciting for a young Christian who believed that God had called him to preach the Gospel and who had an enthusiasm and a determination to see the call obeyed and fulfilled.
I soon had my subjects chosen and my study material arrived in the mail. My first two subjects of choice were Leadership and Church Growth. I completed the Leadership module first, without too much trouble but when I started on the "Church Growth" module I immediately ran into difficulties. I discovered that some of the things that I was reading in the textbooks for the Church Growth course were contradictory to what I was reading in my Bible, and I mentioned these things to my examiners.
The text books for the subject were written by Robert Schuller of Crystal Cathedral fame (who teaches New-Age possibility thinking, positive mental attitude and self esteem) and Paul Yonggi Cho, pastor of the world's largest Pentecostal congregation and General Superintendent of the Korean AOG (who teaches New-Age positivity thinking and occultic visualisation techniques).
I had many problems with the teachings of these two men and warning bells were ringing, but being a young Christian, I was not able to fully appreciate just how far from orthodoxy they had departed with their beliefs and theories for church growth. It seemed to me that there was more of a focus upon helping people out of their problems and making them feel good about themselves rather than telling them that they were sinners on their way to Hell if they didn't recognize the reason for their separation from God and accept His plan for redemption, justification and restoration. In fact, Robert Schuller recommended that you don't even mention the word Jesus until you have established a solid relationship with the person. This takes place over a number of months by catering to their social and material needs and building up their self esteem. By which time they have come to believe that you are someone worthy of unquestionable trust and that they are rightfully entitled to receive such lavished attention. Only then do you reveal to them that you are a Christian and tell them about Jesus who loved them so much that he died on a cross for them and that He is patiently waiting until they decide to invite Him into their life so that He can abundantly bless them further. At no point, according to Schuller, do you make people aware of their lost and sinful condition. In other words, I was being schooled up in a social gospel of the most extreme variety.
I thought there was something dishonest about this approach to reaching people for Christ and told my examiners so. I even spoke to the pastor of the church I attended about my perceptions and the problems I was having accepting the teachings of Schuller and Cho. My quiet protests were brushed off as insignificant, old fashioned and out of touch with contemporary society.
Not long after this I came in possession of the book "Seduction of Christianity" by Dave Hunt and Terry McMahon and despite being warned by my pastor not to read it, I did, and I eventually saw the reason I was having so much trouble accepting the teaching of Garden City College. Along with the money I had paid into it, I threw the course away and relinquished the goal of becoming a pastor in the AOG denomination. There was no other solution. If I were to continue pursuing the goal of becoming a pastor in the AOG, then I would have to accept teachings that I knew to be un-Biblical and outright heresy. It wasn't an option.
Lovers of Self
Looking back, it is easy to see that the likes of Robert Schuller, Yonggi Cho and a host of other leaders of "successful" growing churches have tapped into a lucrative market. Whether by design or by chance (I believe the former) they have come up with a product that the non-Christian public have been eagerly awaiting.
These leaders, especially those who have been led off the "old paths, where is the good way" by Church Growth teachings and strategies, have heard the alluring sound of the approaching band wagon, playing the new tune of self-love, and have climbed aboard as it passed by, taking with them a few contemporary songs of their own.
Someone Changed The Signpost
As a member of the Pentecostal/Charismatic stream of Christendom for seventeen years, the "gospel" that I heard in the numerous "sermons" and messages during that time falls somewhat short of what I see presented in the Word of God. Every now and again you will hear someone preach something that comes close, but they are few and far between and still, mostly, fall far short of the mark. For the main part, the messages come across to inform the "seeker" that God loves him unconditionally and that He has a wonderful plan for his life and that God is just longing for him to come to the place of making the decision of allowing Christ into his life. Jesus is humbly and patiently knocking at the door of his heart waiting to come in and abundantly bless him.
The message has somehow been flipped around to say that Jesus died because He loved us so much, rather than Jesus died for our sins. Someone has changed the signpost. Of course God did so love the world that He sent His only Son, but our sin was the reason He was sent. The way I understand what I read in the Scriptures is that it was my sin and your sin that caused Jesus the punishment of the Cross of Calvary, not His great love for us. Because of His love and His obedience to God, He did it, but it was our sin that caused it. If there hadn't been a problem with sin Jesus could have stayed at home in Heaven where it was safe.
People are led away from seeing their worthlessness and their wretchedness and are, instead, led to believe that they have great value in the scheme of things. The majority are told by the evangelist that all their problems in life are caused by a faulty perception of themselves. Sin and the necessity of repentance are only mentioned as a consequence of that faulty view.
Robert Schuller, the mentor of a great number of these "New Believers" who are now riding on the crest of the wave of his church growth strategies and principles, actually stated that,
"I don't think anything has been done in the name of Christ and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality and, hence, counterproductive to the evangelism enterprise than the often crude, uncouth, and unchristian strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition." 
Hence, if contrary to Schuller's advice, sin is mentioned at all, the prospective Christians are led to believe that their great sin is the way they have messed up their lives, the result of the lack of love they have for themselves. Nowhere are they informed that without God they are subject to His wrath. According to Schuller, and a legion of Christian leaders who have followed his teachings, to inform them of this is counterproductive, crude, uncouth and unchristian. Nowhere are they told that they have offended God and come short of His glory and the standard He has set in His Holy Law and that, in His sight, they deserve the condemnation and punishment that Jesus took in their place. They are not told that God is angry with the wicked every day (Psalm 7:11), nor that the wrath of God abides upon the unbeliever (John 3:36), nor that because of the manner of their living they are destined for God's wrath unless they make some drastic changes in their thinking and behaviour (Ephesians 2:3). These truths are smothered by a message that emphasizes the love of God and the blessings He desires to shower upon all who would agree to come to Him.
It doesn't take much to convince someone in this day and age that they are of such immense value that, even if they were the only person alive on the planet, Christ would still have died just for them. It doesn't take much to convince people that they lack self-love, especially after being bombarded for decades from the TV and the media that the most important person in the world is "me" and "I" deserve better things from this life.
The second aspect of this "other gospel" that I have heard predominately preached during my two decades as a Christian is what God will do for us if we will just submit to the coaxing of the preacher and come down to the altar at the front and pray the "sinners prayer". It soon becomes obvious to the struggling seeker sitting in the pew that, according to the preacher, who, being the expert in things pertaining to the subject of God, should know about these matters, not only is God about to forgive him of any past misdemeanors, but there are also immense benefits just waiting to be claimed if he will gather up courage, swallow his pride and embarrassment, get up out of his seat and obediently proceed down to the front. Outstanding health, immense wealth and eternal happiness are assured once you get on God's side, he is told. Financial difficulties will be a thing of the past, he is assured. As well as that, any emotional or social problems will be sorted out once the step is made.
This is the kind of message the people of our society want to hear. It's called, in the Word of God, "tickling itching ears". Let's face it, who wants to hear that they are directly to blame for broken relationships and that it is they themselves who are responsible to do something about it? Who wants to hear a message that puts the blame for all their problems squarely at their own feet? Isn't it more pleasing to blame everyone else for life's difficulties and failures?
We are now living slap bang in the middle of the days prophesied in the Scriptures where "... men shall be lovers of their own selves ..." It should be noted with due soberness that the word used in the original Greek and translated in our English Bibles as "men" or "people" (NIV) is anthropos. This word does not restrict the interpretation to mean the male version of the human race, but also includes the females as well. A valid, and perhaps more appropriate rendering would be, "perilous times shall come because the human race, both men and women shall be lovers of their own selves..." The girls are going to be just as self centered as the boys in the last days and equally contribute to the "perilous times" prophesied by the apostle Paul.
Do we see this situation of selfishness in society today, both secular and Christian? I dare say that the condition is clearly obvious. I would also dare to say that it is not plainly obvious to a large number in the community simply because they have been progressively conditioned to think that their regard for self is normal and right. How many perceive the peril that confronts our society as a result of the unhealthy focus upon self that now prevails?
There are a host of illustrations that I could give to substantiate the claim that we have arrived at the age, or period, which Paul prophetically described as "perilous times". For example, who is thinking about whom, or whose welfare is being considered during the countless millions of abortions that take place, each year, in our modern society? Some might attempt to argue that abortions have always happened and it is no proof of anything. They fail to see, however, that this ungodly activity has never before happened so openly, in such great numbers, legally sanctioned by governments, and neither has it previously been so widely accepted and considered as justifiable by the world community.
As another illustration, who ever would have thought that the day would come when it would be necessary for a young couple, who seek to be married, to protect their individual interests and rights by making legal arrangements for the distribution of their earthly goods, thus protecting themselves from each other in the (most likely) event that their marriage should fail? And this, before they are even married!!!
This type of self-focused and self-protecting behaviour is also prevalent in the professing church. The extreme selfishness and the number of separations and divorces among the unbelievers is quickly being eclipsed by professing Christians. How can this be possible when the Lord has said "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself"?
It is a very brave pastor indeed, in these perilous days of self-love, who will point the finger during the counseling session and declare "You are at fault and you need to repent!" This is not good strategy if you have a dream to be popular and influential and grow a large church because nine times out of ten the person will be so highly offended that he, or she, will never be seen again. At least, not by that pastor. That offended person will flit from church to church until finally finding one where he will be "understood" and "accepted" and have his "rights" recognized. The church in which this kind of person will ultimately find acceptance and comfort will be a successful, growing church that caters to his needs, something of the type that we will see described further along in this article.
The World In The Church
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." (1 John 2:15-17)
One of the spin-offs of the church growth strategies of the last twenty or so years and the resulting emphasis upon attracting numbers at any cost is a toleration and endorsement of activities that are bringing the world into the church. Youth, in particular, are allowed to bring the behaviour of their contemporary culture into the church. In fact, the church uses ideas and activities which conform to contemporary secular society to draw the unsaved, younger generation into the church. They are actually encouraged to bring their culture with them! No longer is it "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel" but rather "Go ye into all the world and tickle their itching ears." Or perhaps, "Come ye into the church, just as you are, and bring your culture with you."
Worldly Entertainment = Praise And Worship
In the twenty years that I have been a Christian I have recognized a progressive build up (or perhaps I should say degeneration) in the style of music used in the churches.
The music departments in the churches have been surrendered mostly to young musicians, a great number of whom have previously been involved in the perverted and diabolical secular music scene, prior to becoming members of the church. As soon as it becomes known by the leadership that a "new convert" is musically gifted he is immediately invited to "serve the Lord" with his unique talents by joining the church band. The band is one of the most promoted "ministries" in the contemporary church. It is generally believed, in the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches, that the musicians, along with providing entertainment, are uniquely responsible to lead the people of the congregation into worship and progressively bring them to a place (condition) where the glory of the Holy Spirit can finally descend upon them.
Praise has been equated to singing loud and long to the accompaniment of a Christian Rock band pumping out the music of the latest Christian hit, usually about jumping into some river, getting drunk on the new wine, or joining some army and taking the cities for Jesus. Worship, on the other hand, comes after receiving a good, long dose of the beat and the rhythm of the praise music. It is the function of a "good" worship leader to discern when the music has had time to affect the souls of those in the congregation, when they are beginning to "feel" something, at which time the tempo and the sound level are reduced and worship begins. Most Pentecostals believe that praise and worship consists of what I have just described. A lot of noise and a lot of activity. It involves loudly singing choruses accompanied by even louder music, otherwise it isn't praise and it isn't worship. Hence, the focus upon music.
Perhaps, without the deafening heavy rock music, few would reach such a place of ecstasy where they can tangibly feel the "presence of the spirit" which they believe is confirmed by an accompanying bout of goose bumps, warm feelings or light headedness.
Usually, the only thing that the new musician is told about his previous involvement with the music of the world is that it was perhaps a bit loud and that he might have to tone the volume down a fraction during church services, particularly during the morning services which tend to be frequented by the older, more reserved members. During meetings catering to the youth however, he can turn the volume up, along with the tempo, and reminisce about the way things used to be. No restrictions are imposed at youth meetings.
We now have a condition in the Pentecostal/Charismatic churches where one is no longer able to distinguish between the music that is played in the church and the music that is played in the world. They are identical! The services have become entertainment extravaganzas catering to the soul. Visual effects, such as lighting and stage smoke, have also been introduced into many of the larger churches to assist the congregation to "get into the spirit". When the goose bumps and giddy feelings come and the hair stands up on the back of your neck, you know you have arrived. The Holy Spirit is touching you and blessing you.
However, anyone with half an ounce of discernment, and even a rudimentary understanding of the Scriptures, would instantly recognize that these activities have nothing at all to do with the Lord Jesus Christ and that they are nothing more than fleshly exhibitions of worldly entertainment that cater, not to the spirit, but to the soul. The pulsating rhythm and incessant beat have zilch to do with the Lord Jesus Christ and his disciples. But the music draws the crowd, especially the younger age group, which is precisely the generation that the disciples of "Church Growth" are targeting.
Perhaps I Am Wrong?
Is it such an unkind accusation to claim that church leaders, who have been indoctrinated with Church Growth principles, over a number of years, and who have aspirations of being pastors over large congregations, are using the things of contemporary secular society, the things of worldly culture to entice people to join their fellowship? Am I wrong in claiming that there is an ungodly focus upon entertainment, particularly of the musical kind, to attract crowds of younger members? Am I being unfair to suggest that church leaders have found that if they cater to a person's love of self they can get them to join their particular congregation? Have they really jumped on the bandwagon or am I just imagining things? Let's find out if I am perhaps just a bit overly critical or whether I really do have something of great concern worth complaining about.
The Changing Of The Guard
Except for a brief time toward the end, during the entire period of my attending the AOG church, the man at the helm was Andrew Evans. During the 1997 AOG National Conference, however, the job as General Superintendent of the AOG in Australia was passed over to the much younger, and more dynamic, Brian Houston, son of well known and very popular Sydney AOG pastor, Frank Houston.
However, Brian Houston, like his father, Frank, is a Word of Faith proponent who parrots the Kenneth Hagin/Kenneth Copeland health, wealth and prosperity doctrine. Additionally, he is well schooled in Church Growth strategies, having sat under the tutoring of the likes of "Christian Buddhist" Yonggi Cho, who is welcomed with opened arms in his father's church, Christian Life Centre in Sydney. He is also indoctrinated with the heretical Kingdom Now/Latter Rain/Dominionist beliefs having come under the influences of teachers who have political and social ambitions for the whole of Christendom.
Submission To Spiritual Leaders
Brian is ambitious, vigorous, old enough to have respect from the "old guard" that the AOG desires to keep on-side and yet, still young enough to identify with the younger generation that the AOG is currently courting with outstanding success. Having grown up in his father's church, he also fits very snugly into the ideals and standards held by the leadership of the AOG and other Pentecostal denominations, such as the spiritual authority of leaders and unquestioning submission from the members of the congregations to the men and women in positions of authority. For example, in the October '97 issue of the Australian Evangel, the official monthly magazine of the AOG in Australia, writing as General Superintendent of the movement he wrote,
"There is a need in the Church today for gifted followers. It involves taking risks and trusting leadership. Followers have to follow the lead. Further you have to be able to change direction, often quickly. As the leader turns a corner, you have to have the capacity to go with the flow, wherever it may take you. People are far too quick to turn away from those who have been their spiritual leaders. Followers shouldn't! We should honour and respect them. People who don't are insecure. Never think that it was a coincidence that God gave you the leader you have."
No! I don't think that the leader that my previous church gained was a coincidence. I do believe, however, that because of their desire to follow after false gods and false revivals, God gave the members of my former fellowship the leader they wanted, and most likely deserved - a leader who is leading them blissfully, further and further down the ever widening and accommodating path of apostasy.
This dangerous and self-serving version of "spiritual leadership" is rampant throughout Christendom, and has been since time immemorial, and Brian Houston has simply become one of its victims, a modern-day promoter who now believes himself to be "some great one" in the affairs of God's Kingdom and what God is supposedly doing in the earth today. It's called Heavy Shepherding, and a number of key men who were involved in, and had their fingers badly burned by just such an un-Scriptural leadership debacle just prior to my conversion in 1982 have been, over the years, welcomed and promoted by Brian's father, Frank.
"... Whose Faith Follow"
While I do read in my Bible in Hebrews 13:17 that we are to "...obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief", I also read in verse 7 of the same chapter that we are to "...remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation."
Judging from what we read above, we are only to follow those who speak the Word of God and not some self-serving version that they have made up for their own benefit. Consequently we are not commanded by God to submit to, to trust and obey, and follow at every sudden change of direction, a leader in the church beyond the degree to which he is in submission to the Word of God himself. If they call themselves pastors and church leaders but are not in submission to the Word then we are instructed by God to expose their error (Ephesians 5:11), and if they continue in promoting their error, we are to depart from their presence (Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 1 Timothy 6:5; 2 Timothy 3:5; 2 John 1:10).
Brian Houston might kid some into believing that we are "insecure" by our refusal to submit to leaders who are obviously in conflict with Scripture, but it is that same Word of God, which in Proverbs 14:15-16, encourages us to resist the psychological pressure of our companions by stating,
"The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going. A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident."
Judging by the size of Brian Houston's congregation, there are a lot of "simple" people around who blindly believe everything he says. Perhaps he should try and convince Jim Jones' followers that they did the wise thing by taking a few risks in trusting the leadership of Jim, who I might add, was a fellow pastor (Disciples of Christ) who held to the same beliefs about authority, submission and following the leader as Houston professes to.
"As the leader turns a corner, you have to have the capacity to go with the flow, wherever it may take you."
So says Brian Houston. As we look at the state of Christendom today and what has resulted from the last ten or so years of unreservedly jumping into the various rivers of revival, it becomes apparent, to those with eyes to see, that a multitude of "gifted followers" are prepared to obey the teaching that is being promoted here by Houston. They are quite prepared to follow their leader and go with the flow to wherever it may take them. Any expression of concern coming from a "gifted follower" with regard to his destination is pronounced as insecurity.
But God's Word is clear that we are not to blindly put our faith in someone just because he is proclaimed a spiritual leader. Always, we are commanded in 1 John 4:1,
"... believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world."
Also, we have the testimony of Acts 17:11 which demonstrates that the Jews in the Synagogue at Berea didn't simply believe and follow Paul's teaching based upon his recognized position as a spiritual leader. They checked thoroughly to see that what he was promoting aligned faithfully with the Scriptures. The devoted bestowing of honour and respect upon leaders who are promoting unbiblical beliefs and practices will not help on the day we have to stand before the Lord and give account of ourselves - on our own. There will be no spiritual leader holding our hand on that day.
"Can the blind lead the blind? Shall they not both fall into the ditch?" (Luke 6:39)
The Sound Of Music
One explanation for the unanimous choice of Brian Houston, as the man to lead the AOG into the new millennium, would be his involvement in the contemporary "christian" music scene. His church, Hills Christian Life Centre, is the home of the world renowned and extremely popular Hillsong Music. Along with all his other charisma, he is a "christian" entertainer, which only serves to enhance his appeal among the younger generations as well as increase his endorsement by the "Old Guard" AOG executives.
For some diabolical reason, the current band of leaders in the Pentecostal and Charismatic streams of Christendom believe that God has instructed them to reach the lost of the world through music. Not just any music though. Hymns, which are typically based upon sound biblical doctrine, are definitely not acceptable. The thrust for reaching the lost is by using the same type of music you would hear on any radio station, anywhere in the western world, anytime during the day or night. By a twisting and misrepresentation of 1 Corinthians 9:22, where Paul says,
"To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some",
these new leaders have justified the use of worldly, if not demonic music to entice the unbelievers into their fold. According to their logic and their interpretation of this portion of Scripture, there should be nothing wrong with becoming a prostitute for a while, providing you are evangelizing prostitutes. Perhaps becoming a thief to reach the thieves in the community would be considered acceptable. Perhaps it would also be acceptable to the endorsers of this theology if one became a murderer, or even an adulterer to reach those types of people in the community?
The suggestions are ludicrous, of course, but for some profound reason, that is clear only to them, they see no problem with using Rock-&-Roll, Heavy Metal, or any other kind of modern music, as a tool for evangelism - supposedly to bring the ungodly and the rebellious to the feet of Christ as their Lord and Saviour.
But it is not called Rock-&-Roll or Heavy Metal or Pop or any such worldly thing by its promoters. It has been sanitized with the label, "Contemporary Christian Music", and some big names within the current "revival" movements have been pushing this new method of evangelism for a number of years.
For example, the very popular Rick Joyner in his book, "The Harvest - Volume 2", which promotes mysticism and outright heresy, says,
"Anointed music will be one of the church's biggest guns in the battle of the last days ... The Lord is about to anoint prophetic minstrels who will capture the world's attention ..."
In 1990, in an article that has become famous, and accepted as God-inspired among the "River Revival" people, James Ryle wrote about a couple of dreams he experienced regarding the new music that God is supposedly going to unleash upon the church, during these last days, as a tool for evangelism. The article was entitled, "The Sons of Thunder - A Prophetic Dream". At the time he experienced the dreams, James Ryle was the Senior Pastor of the Boulder, Colorado, Vineyard Church. He counts such illustrious people as Bill McCartney, of Promise Keepers fame, as part of his congregation.
Speaking about the dreams, in his article, "Sons of Thunder", James Ryle said,
"After I had written the dream down, the Lord spoke to me and said, 'I'm about to release a new kind of song in the streets. It will bring a revelation of the truth and it will usher men into my presence.' I filed that away until about a month later when I had another dream."
"In the second dream, I was taken to a large church which had a stage ... When I awoke, the Lord said that there was going to be a new and distinctive anointing and sound restored to music that will turn the heads and capture the hearts of men for Jesus Christ. He said that we would see this happen when the church gets beyond the limits that she set for herself, into his grace, and takes the praise that is in the sanctuary and makes it music in the streets ... We must overcome our insecurities to sing the Lord's song if our light is going to shine in this world; Simply singing the truth in the name of Jesus Christ 'we say unto you be saved' will release the power of His Spirit in such an awesome display that men and women will collapse in their seats converted to Christ. But the Lord said that a key will be this new anointing he is about to give to his music."
Quite amazingly, it seems that the Bible must have gotten the message of Salvation mixed up somewhere. For the last two thousand years, ever since Paul wrote the letter to the Romans, it has been the Gospel of Christ that is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes, and now, suddenly, at the end of the church age, we find that God is using the words "we say unto you be saved" in accompaniment to Contemporary Gospel Music, based upon the rhythm and beat of Rock-&-Roll, to cause people to collapse in their seats and be converted to Christ.
If people like Joyner and Ryle were some nondescript hillbillies living out the back of beyond where nobody ever heard of them, the issue wouldn't be so serious. Unfortunately, these two individuals are only a sample of a great number of like minded men and women who are having a profound influence upon the professing church and have greatly been involved in guiding Christendom in the direction we currently see it travelling.
Of course, it's not only the unconverted who are being subjected to, and sucked in by the promotion of Contemporary Christian Music. The people in the congregations, who already profess to be Christians, have also been targeted and are now well and truly seduced by the rhythm and beat. After years of subtle conditioning and progressing from one level of Rock to the next, it is now being taught that the manifestation of the Holy Spirit comes about through extended times of praise and worship accompanied by loud, up-tempo, Rock music. Hence, the success of men such as Brian Houston who direct a great part of their creative energy and talent into building a lucrative business/ministry based upon the world's lust for music and entertainment, slapping upon it the label "Christian" to pass it off as sanctioned by God.
The word "Christian" has been hijacked!!! Acts 11:26 tells us that followers of the teachings of Christ "...were called Christians first in Antioch." Some two thousand years later, the word "Christian" is the flavour of the masses - whether they be disciples of Christ or otherwise.
The word has been seized by corrupt men and women, enemies of the Cross of Christ, and has been twisted and reinterpreted to mean any number of ungodly things. Unfortunately, the unsaved, as well as a great number of professing Christians, no longer understand what the word "Christian" really means. No longer, in this dark and evil age in which we find ourselves, does the word describe a person who has come under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, who has heard and believed the message of the Gospel, who has repented of his evil, sinful condition, who has been born-again by the Word of God that lives and abides forever, and who follows, and walks in obedience to the commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ, but rather, it has been watered down to become an all inclusive and all embracing term that represents any person that seems to have good intentions, or any action that is deemed, by the wider community, to be of worthy cause.
However, there is another aspect of this hijacking that should be of utmost concern to anyone who truly qualifies to wear the title "Christian", and that is with regard to the multitude of false religious organizations who, with a loud voice for all to hear, persistently and adamantly profess to love the Lord their God with all their heart, with all their soul, with all their strength, and with all their mind, who profess to love Jesus in exactly the same way, who also claim to be led by the Holy Spirit and wholeheartedly love the Truth of the Scriptures, and yet, when examining their claims in the light of God's Word, we find frightful discrepancies.
Discerning Between The Holy And Profane
One of the primary functions of those who have been called of God as Shepherds of His flock, is to teach the people the difference between what is right and what is wrong. Ezekiel 44:23 tells us that the Priests
"... shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean."
Malachi 2:7 also tells us,
"... the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts."
In the New Testament, in 1 Timothy 1:3, we find Paul instructing Timothy to remain in Ephesus, while he journeyed to Macedonia, for the express purpose of correcting people who were leading God's people astray with wrong doctrine. Further, in 1 Timothy and in the Book of Titus, we find that the criteria that qualifies one to shepherd God's flock includes being able to teach and expound upon the Word of God and
"... hold fast the faithful Word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers." (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:9).
Isaiah 5:20 solemnly warns these people, who profess to be the leaders of God's household,
"Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!"
One of the greatest difficulties that I have encountered when witnessing to my unsaved work colleagues is to bring them to an understanding of the difference between a real Christian and a religious person who also calls himself a Christian. After a lifetime of being conditioned to the lies about Christianity, it takes a fair bit of time and explanation to get them to understand that just because something is called Christian, doesn't mean it really is. When asked the question, "What is a Christian?" the usual response is that a Christian is a person who believes in God. I have to point out that the Devil believes in God, but that certainly doesn't make him a Christian.
The confusion caused by this falsification is only complicated further by highly publicised events such as the recent act of repentance by Pope John Paul II, supposedly on behalf of the Christians around the world, for the deeds of violence perpetrated upon people in foreign lands when attempting to convert them to Christianity. My friends are quick to point out that here is infallible proof that Christians are responsible for most of the wars that have taken place, and still are, in the name of God and religion.
Our cause of putting the record straight and attempting to get at the truth of the matter is not helped by people who, professing to be Christians, come out in the public arena and give praise to the Pope, and compliment him, for his wonderful achievement in the area of reconciliation. These well meaning, though uninformed and gullible Christians, do this, all the while being utterly uninformed of history as well as ignoring the vast difference between Roman Catholicism and Christianity. The two systems can not be reconciled. It is one thing for the unbeliever to be deceived about such issues as to who has been killing whom down through the ages, but it is another matter entirely when so called Protestant Christians fall for the same deception.
As if to add salt to an already open wound, on page 21 of the June 2000 issue of Alive, the monthly Australian Christian Magazine, a young lady by the name of Angela Eynaud, while agreeing that the Catholic Church was guilty of "past failings", made the following, misleading comment about the Pope's apology. Her contribution only fueled the prevailing deception that the Catholic Church is "THE" Christian Church, further compounding the confusion of what the word Christian really means. She said,
"... when the Pope apologised, a cynical world responded in surprise that a church leader would humble himself and risk the dignity of his office. This authentically Christian act, empowering the weak and the isolated, would, I imagine, have marked for some, the beginning of a return to the Church."
Angela spelt the final word Church, here in this sentence, with a capital "C" suggesting that some will be caused to return to that particular Church that Jesus Christ said the gates of Hell would never prevail against.
Obviously, this young lady has not been taught by her Shepherd to discern the difference between the holy and the profane, to differentiate between bitter and sweet, and to recognize a wolf when it is wearing a sheep-skin rug. The ulterior motives behind the Pope's hypocritical act of repentance aside (true repentance is not initiated by any self-serving motives), the word Christian has again been hijacked by just one more misguided person who has used it to give a flavour of integrity and virtue to something that clearly, to those who have eyes to see, is not.
Further adding fuel to the raging flames of deception, we also have "Christian Bookshops" that not only sell Bibles of every version and persuasion but also sell the multitude of books being produced by all the popular heretics of our day. The owners and staff of these bookshops will have to give account on the day we stand before the Lord, as they are probably most to blame for propagating much of the error that is currently being accepted in Christendom. If there's a market, they'll sell it. They refuse to discern the difference between the holy and the profane, and, as Ezekiel has said in chapter 22, verse 27, they are
"... like wolves ravening the prey, to shed blood, and to destroy souls, to get dishonest gain."
Perhaps these bookshops started off with good intentions. Who knows? But the truth of the matter is at they are now only Christian by name. They have hijacked the name for profit.
Along with so-called "Christian" churches that deny the deity and atoning sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, we also have our Contemporary "Christian" Music, which, as we have previously mentioned, is indistinguishable from the music of the world. Adding the word "Christian" to some product or endeavour immediately gives it respectability, whether it promotes the truth of the Gospel or otherwise, and professing Christians, lacking discernment, rush out and embrace it.
And so now, we progress to The Australian "Christian" Churches, the main focus of my concerns, to try and discover if perhaps they will somehow bring some honour and integrity back into the word "Christian", that wonderful word that had its beginnings two thousand years ago at Antioch, but, as we have briefly seen, has been seized, trodden under foot and made to be something common by a multitude of ungodly people for a multitude of ungodly reasons.
The Australian Christian Churches
The national launch of ACC was held in Sydney on February 18, 2000, attended by 400 guests including Federal parliamentarians, state and local politicians, a number of famous sports stars, such as jockey, Darren Beadman and footballer, Jason Stevens, "christian" musicians and song writers such as Steve Grace, who kept the crowd entertained, and Hills Christian Life Centre's very own Darlene Zschech, of Hillsong Music fame, who led the gathering - including the unbelievers I presume - in "worship".
According to the article in Alive Magazine of April, 2000, ACC is an umbrella organization consisting of AOG, Apostolic and Bethesda denominations and independent churches such as Waverley Christian Fellowship, Melbourne, and Riverview Church, Perth. Elsewhere in the article it is claimed that Abundant Life Fellowship on the Gold Coast as well as about twenty other related churches had joined the alliance that already boasted more than 1000 local congregations with around 170,000 members.
ACC was first proposed by the AOG National Executive in 1998, with Brian Houston fresh in the General Superintendent's chair, vacated by Andrew Evans the previous year. As I said, this boy is ambitious and thinks himself to be "some great one" in the affairs of God's Kingdom. Initially, the idea was offered that the AOG would change its name to Australian Christian Churches and invite other denominations to join. However, leaders of some of the denominations that they approached were suspicious - and most likely protective of their little bit of diminishing turf - and interpreted the offer to join as a "take over" rather than a partnership. As Diana Bagnall, the writer of a separate article, published in the April 11, 2000, edition of the Australian Bulletin magazine, correctly discerned, "...there is territorial jealousy in this arm of the church too." 
Brian and his senior AOG executives seem not to have considered that they are not the only ones who have sat under the Church Growth gurus of the last twenty years and they are not the only ones who have aspirations of leading "successful" churches and having nice lives. They are not the only ones who perceived that there is something to be gained by jumping upon the bandwagon.
Although Christian Outreach Centres, Christian Revival Crusade and Christian City Churches had not joined by the time of the launch, "negotiations continue with various movements and an increased ACC membership is likely." [5a]
The article also quoted that "The Australian Pentecostal Ministers Fellowship, which represents all Pentecostal churches, was due to meet in early March and the development of ACC is expected to be high on the agenda." [5b] The writing is on the wall, so to speak.
Interestingly, the president of Australian Pentecostal Ministers Fellowship is Phil Pringle, founder of Christian City Churches, who, no doubt, would prefer to keep himself autonomous, but the pressure from the already participating members of ACC to recognize the alliance as an integral part of what God is doing in the Earth today will surely "help" him to comply with their agenda in some form or another. If he resists their invitation to join, remaining independent, Phil Pringle will be made to seem like he is actually opposing God and hindering His progress. We know from first hand experience what happens to those who should so recklessly resist "going with the flow" of God's mighty river of revival that is supposedly streaming through Christendom in these days.
I hope you have noticed in the last couple of paragraphs, just how many times the word "Christian" has been used. Who could possibly think anything would be wrong with all these organizations, who claim the name of Christ, and who infer, by their use of the word "Christian", that they are loyal followers of Christ and staunchly obedient to His Word?
The Agenda Of ACC
What is the agenda of ACC? In The Bulletin, April 11, 2000, entitled "The New Believers" the question was asked,
"So what is the Australian Christian Churchs' agenda? Making disciples, of course. There is no other for Christians. "I love this country and I really believe the church has answers for Australia. I genuinely would like to see the church helping people and give them the answers that they want," says Houston."
This all sounds very noble and righteous but it is a different agenda from the one that was stated in Alive Magazine by reporter, Peter Hallett, who wrote that the specific aim of ACC is to produce greater networking and unity between Pentecostal and Charismatic churches. [5c] In other words, it's ecumenical.
I have a question. Who are the other Pentecostal and Charismatic churches with whom ACC desires to produce greater networking and unity? Does ACC mean, for example, that particular Charismatic church, the members of whom are strongly petitioning their leader to recognize Mary, the mother of Jesus, as co-redeemer along with her Son? Obviously, they do, as we will see later in this article. They are going to have unsuspecting and blindly trusting AOG members rubbing shoulders and fellowshipping in religious, social and political endeavours with people that God clearly commands in Scripture that they should depart from and to whom they should not even bid the time of day. (2 John 1:10-11)
Brian Houston enthusiastically claims in the same Alive article,
"Where the church is exalting Jesus and moving in the power of the gospel in relatable ways, it will grow. ACC is set to challenge all preconceptions of what constitutes a church in our modern society."
In other words, what we currently understand as the Church (notice the capital "C" please), gained from a systematic study of Gods Word and a careful look at history, is about to be changed. What has constituted the Church (notice the capital "C" again, thank-you) for the last two thousand years is about to be cast aside, remodeled and replaced with a new, improved, contemporary version that more suits the needs and desires of modern society in "relatable ways".
Do you remember a certain person back around 300AD who challenged all preconceptions of what constituted a church in his modern society and took it upon himself to restructure the Church so that it would fit with society in "relatable ways"? The only trouble was, he failed to consult God and His Word and created Mystery Babylon, the great harlot religious system, and Houston and his ACC crowd are following in his footsteps doing exactly the same thing. As though to help these modern church leaders to achieve their goal of a "New Apostolic Reformation" (note this term please) we discover, by consulting God's Word, that our modern society, both secular and religious, has been accused, by an explicit prophecy coming from the lips of the apostle Paul, of introducing the perilous condition of loving self and pleasure more than loving God. Remember the Scripture reference at the start of this article? Let me remind you by repeating it.
"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God." (2 Timothy 3:1-4)
Upon examining the articles that I have read, which promote ACC, it seems that their agendas have been tailor made expressly for people who correspond to the above-mentioned characteristics. Rather than having a church that confronts the world with its sin and corruption and preaches a message of repentance, we have a church that is conformed to, and comfortably accommodates the world in "relatable ways". And we have Brian Houston saying,
"I genuinely would like to see the church helping people and give them the answers that they want."
It seems to me, from reading my Bible, that Jesus more often gave people answers that they "needed" but didn't want, rather than what Houston is proposing. But then, he is singing the words of "Lovers of Self" in accompaniment to the tune of "Church Growth", a song Jesus and the apostles had never learned.
I have news for these leaders who would come in their pride and haughtiness to do a make-over on the Church that Jesus instituted two thousand years ago, so that it becomes acceptable to society in "relatable ways" and gives the lost and unregenerate "the answers that they want". They are using Band-Aids as a cure for cancerous tumors.
Don't they know that the Church of Jesus Christ is alive and well in the Earth today, and has been since the time that Christ Himself proclaimed that He would build His Church and that the gates of Hell would never prevail against it? The problem is, only those who are part of it have eyes to see it. Not all that professes to be "Christian" is. Not all who name the Name of Christ are Christ's. Read Matthew 7:21-22 to see what I mean. The "True Church" doesn't need remodeling. The "True Church" doesn't require a reformation and it is presumption of the most extreme variety to suggest that it does.
Now, if Brian Houston and the ACC were referring to Christendom, then that would be another matter all together. If we take a look at Christendom as opposed to the Church then we definitely see problems on every side and can probably be forgiven for imagining that we are capable of performing some kind of miracle make-over upon it. Their problem, however, is that they are unable to differentiate between what is real and what is false, they are unable to discern the difference between the holy and the profane, what is wheat and what is tares, who is the church and who are merely religious imposters.
But the leaven is in the lump, my friends. The tares are among the wheat. The Mustard seed has grown out of all proportion to its intended size into a great rambling tree with many branches and birds of the air in residence (read Matthew 13 and the article on my Web Site entitled "Parables of The Kingdom" ), and if you are reading this article and have been taken in by the foolishness of what ACC is proposing, I would urge you with all seriousness to obey God's Word that tells you to come out from among them and be separate from it, or suffer the consequences as described in the Book of Revelation, chapters 16 to 18. As I have already mentioned, this that you are embracing, endorsing, or are a part of in any way, is Mystery Babylon, the false, harlot, religious system described in those chapters.
"Issues That Really Matter"
Another of the benefits of ACC, according to Brian Houston in Alive Magazine, is that it allows
"a common platform to speak out with a united voice on issues that really matter, like social justice and community care...ACC will provide leadership, opportunities for sharing resources and a united voice to help affiliated churches in fulfilling their mission."
What mission would that be? In all of the articles that I have read concerning ACC, including their very own promotion brochure, the only mission I can perceive is that of gaining vast numbers of people through social welfare programs and political action. The Great Commission of the Church, however, is to go into the world in the Name of Christ and preach the gospel, calling sinners to repentance and converting them to Christ (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16). You would never know this from reading any of the promotional literature that was released during the launch of ACC though.
The Great Omission
The Cross, the Blood, Salvation, The Gospel and Redemption are not mentioned in any of the articles that I have read on the launching of ACC. In fact, in their own promotional brochure you will not find these words; God, Jesus or Holy Spirit!!!
In the article in Alive Magazine, which has three pages devoted to the launch of ACC, you will not find any of the above words either, except one mention each of Jesus and the Gospel where Brian Houston stated
"...where the church is exalting Jesus and moving in the power of the gospel in relatable ways, it will grow."
In articles that I have read of the launch that were reported in regional newspapers, the trend is the same. For example, a full page article and advertisement in a Queensland daily, The Gladstone Observer, dated Saturday, February 19, 2000, had none of the above-mentioned words either, except for a single mention of the word "Christ" uttered by a pastor Howard James, who said that ACC
"...was to present a united and strong voice to the community that Christ cares for all people."
Like I said at the beginning, the message presented by these people is that Jesus loves all mankind with an unconditional love and patiently awaits their response to His knocking on the door of their hearts so He can finally come into their wretched lives and bless them. No mention that God is angry with the wicked every day (Psalm 7:11), nor that the wrath of God abides upon the unbeliever (John 3:36), nor that because of the manner of their living they are destined for God's wrath unless they make some drastic changes in their thinking and behaviour (Ephesians 2:3).
Now I don't want to seem to be going on and on and on, but...
In The Bulletin, dated April 11, 2000, the cover story for the week was entirely about Brian Houston, the growing success of the Pentecostal churches in Australia and the launch of ACC. I am disappointed to say that I have read the article through numerous times to try and prove myself wrong, but again, the trend is the same as with all other literature I have read on the launch of ACC. Six pages are devoted to the article (which we will discuss in detail later) and, as I have justifiably complained above, you will have to search long and hard to find any of the words, such as "God", "Jesus" or "Holy Spirit". The words "the Cross", "the Blood", "Salvation", "the Gospel" and "Redemption", and other foundational words or terms for anything that regards itself as Christian, are just not even mentioned.
I have to confess though, that after searching through the quite lengthy article, I did find Jesus mentioned once, the Holy Spirit mentioned once and God referred to a whopping four times. The references to God, however, were not made to acknowledge Him in reverence and awe, but, rather, to assure the reader that those people quoted in the article, who were mentioning His Name, belonged to Him. They are the people of God, His chosen ones. In secular society it's called name dropping, the practice of referring to some important individual as though he were an intimate friend, when he really isn't, with the express purpose of impressing others or gaining credibility for a cause.
Another reference was to do with assuring the reader that if you joined one of these groups and got your thinking sorted out then the prosperity of God was yours and you would "never have a problem with money again." In fact, to compensate for the scanty references to the members of the Trinity, there are abundant references to prosperity, success and happiness which perfectly cater to our hedonistic and materialistic society. Doesn't this sound appropriate for the claim that "people will be lovers of their own selves and lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God."? If you listen to people long enough it soon becomes obvious who and what they love. People who show such fascination toward prosperity, success and happiness are usually people who also show a fair amount of fascination toward self. Unfortunately, we are talking about people who profess to be leaders in the Church of the living God, who also profess to have taken up their cross, on a daily basis, to follow Christ. But their words and their actions reveal they are lovers, more of pleasure and self, than they are of God. I find the Scriptures that foretell this currently prevailing condition absolutely amazing, and disturbingly, for the sake of these people, prophetically accurate.
Perhaps there is something wrong with me, but doesn't it seem extraordinary to you that an organization that so freely splashes around the word "Christian" would not even mention, in its advertising literature, the Almighty God, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit or the Bible?  Quite amazingly, for Pentecostals, who almost claim exclusive ownership of Him, not even the Holy Spirit is mentioned! Further adding amazement to amazement, the Holy Word of God, the Bible, is not even given a moment's promotion. And they're professing to represent the Bible believing, Bible preaching, Christian Church, the Bride of Christ?
In Matthew 10:32-33, Jesus said,
"Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven."
Mark 8:18 records also,
"Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."
Does what I have described above, about these leaders of the "New Time Religion", suggest, to you who are reading this document, that perhaps they might be ashamed of Jesus and His Words? Give careful thought to my question and its serious implications for these people. In their promotional literature they have not confessed Jesus Christ nor the blessed Holy Spirit. They have not acknowledged God even. Why have they denied Him? Are they ashamed to mention their wonderful Saviour? If they are not, then I would like to challenge them that, before that day arrives when we all have to stand before the Lord and give account for ourselves, they had better come up with some very convincing reason why they have failed to mention all these things to the people who mostly need them.
What about the word "sin"? Not even mentioned! From what I read in my Bible, Jesus died because of sin, and the first time that people were called Christians was because they recognized this fact and accepted that they were lost and condemned and headed for eternal suffering and sorrow, if they didn't take some drastic action. What about "repent"? Not mentioned! Three of the Gospels emphatically declare that Jesus came to call sinners to repentance and acknowledge the truth about themselves. We, in turn, are commissioned, as were the disciples in Mark 6:12, to go out and preach that men should repent. According to Luke 13:3 & 5,
"...except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish."
Can you imagine, for one moment, Jesus commissioning His disciples to go into all the world but telling them not to mention His Name, nor anything about the Bible or the Gospel? Could you imagine Jesus telling His disciples not to ever challenge the people with their sin or their need for repentance? Could you imagine Him telling them not to mention His redeeming sacrifice, His resurrection, His ascension and His promised return to judge the wicked? Somehow, these people propose to get the lost into the Kingdom by this strange, new method which fails to make mention of any of these things.
In stark contrast to the commands of Jesus recorded in Matthew 28:19-20 and Mark 16:15, which teach us His preferred evangelization method,
"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." and "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."
we find that the modern day leaders of the church have found another way. Like the words of the song I once heard, "When the Lord said, 'This way to Heaven!', man found a better way to go."
As we will see below, there is a very real reason why words like "God", "Jesus", "Holy Spirit", "sin" "repent" and "the Cross" have been excluded from the vocabulary of ACC promotional literature. These words, in the context of Scripture, are an offense to the unbeliever and it would be folly to mention them if you are attempting to gather a following from among those who have rejected the truth about themselves. People who are only interested in getting what they can from life, to cater to their own self-love and their belief that everybody owes them something, have no pleasure in these offensive and threatening words.
It is a "Social Gospel" that this ACC alliance is promoting, friends. Their social band-aids may provide some temporal comfort for a time but what will it do for a person's eternal standing with God?
"For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mark 8:36-37)
Australian Christian Care
"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it." (Amos 8:11-12).
According to the article in Alive Magazine, "Australian Christian Churches also encompasses Australian Christian Care (ACCare), an alliance of welfare groups and services provided by ACC churches. ACCare will be one of the largest non-government community welfare groups in Australia, incorporating a number of high profile organizations including Teen Challenge, one of Australia's most successful drug rehabilitation programs."
Whose money are they going to use? Where is the finance for this scheme going to come from? Are we finally going to see the tithe brought into the storehouse so there will be meat for God's people rather than having it squandered upon extensions and renovations to the numerous grandiose "storehouses" that already exist throughout the land? Or will they perhaps depart from Scripture in this area as well by being unequally yoked together with unbelievers and qualify for government assistance?
However they intend to finance all these social welfare "ministries" is probably not as important as the question, "Has God called them to this exercise?" Are they really called to a social welfare program at the expense of the Gospel? The quick and simple answer to that question is "No! They have not." Paul wrote in Romans 1:16-17,
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith."
The Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, not welfare programs that are designed only to bring people into a Christian, or moralistic style of living rather than to real repentance and conversion to Christ. As faith without works is dead, so works without faith is but wood, hay and stubble.
Let The Good Times Roll
The article, "The New Believers", which appeared in The Bulletin Magazine would most likely be seen as a positive and glowing report by a great number of people from the Pentecostal stream of Christendom. It would be victoriously held up as a wonderful testimony to the secular portion of Australian society of the wonderful benefits of belonging to such a group. It would even be seen as an evangelistic tool that could encourage those lost souls who are remotely wondering about eternal things to at least make some form of inquiry about the reality of God. After all, despite my charges of certain "embarrassing" words not being mentioned, the writer does say that the article is about born-again Christians and religion. Support for my claim that the article would be received with great enthusiasm by many Christians could be substantiated by the fact that the edition of The Bulletin, which carried the article, was practically sold out at the news stands immediately upon its release. It was virtually impossible to obtain a copy on the entire eastern seaboard once it came off the press. No doubt, the Christians all ran out and bought a souvenir copy.
In my opinion, the article is a damning indictment against the AOG, the ACC and Pentecostalism in general. If what is portrayed in the article is supposed to be a valid representation of Christianity, then we might as well throw the Bible on the rubbish heap, as Scripture bears no resemblance to what is written up in the article. However, if we profess the Bible to be our authority on all things to do with faith and practice then the article is incriminating evidence that clearly reveals that the Pentecostal branch of Christendom has wandered far from the narrow path that has been trodden by true Christians down through the last 2000 years. As well, if the Word of God is to us everything we need to guide us in the matters of life and godliness then it is clearly obvious that the Pentecostal movement has somewhere failed to hearken to the voice of the Lord and have staggered away from the narrow "old path where is the good way" and are now well and truly upon the broad way that leads to destruction.
The article, "The New Believers", is mainly about the spectacular growth of the Australian Pentecostal churches, the amazing popularity and success of certain individuals within the movement, the potential political power of the movement, the availability of acceptance and friendship within the group and promises of financial prosperity, health, happiness, entertainment, social welfare and all things that cater to the true lover of self.
Reaching The Young
Diana Bagnall, the author of the article in The Bulletin, has rightly perceived that the "predominant style" of the AOG churches "is contemporary and prosperous. Hip even." The focus is upon catering to the younger age groups. "Pentecostal churchgoers are predominately young people ... 70% of attendees are aged 15-39" she claims.
What's wrong with targeting the younger groups? Nothing, providing it is to preach the Gospel to them, convict them of their sinful lifestyle and help them to show forth fruit of repentance. There wouldn't be anything wrong if the church was showing these people, from the Scriptures, how far short they come from the standard that God has set for us. Nothing at all would be wrong if the church was informing these young people that they are in a dangerous position, as far as their eternal destiny is concerned, if they don't make some serious changes to their belief system, conduct and general outlook on life. But this is not the case. They are invited to come into the Church and are told that God loves them just as they are. Of course, that He loves them is true, but He hates the things that they are involved in. God does not expect that they should remain just as they are once they have recognized the bankruptcy of their unregenerate condition and have come to the place of repentance, accepting His offer of Salvation and making Him Lord.
It is also seen as gross arrogance, pride, judgmentalism and legalism on the part of anyone who would suggest that perhaps these new members should change their lifestyle, their manner of dress or appearance, or that perhaps their vocabulary could be modified. We are not to instruct these new "converts" in any way for fear they will take offense and will never be seen crossing the threshold of the church door again. We are told that it's the Holy Spirit who will bring conviction in these areas of the young person's life, not other Christians.
As already mentioned previously it was Robert Schuller who made the statement that
"I don't think anything has been done in the name of Christ and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality and, hence, counterproductive to the evangelism enterprise than the often crude, uncouth, and unchristian strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition." (Christianity Today, October 5, 1984).
However, my Bible shows me that it was Christ Himself who said "...for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance..." (Matthew 9:13), and that we should go into all the world making disciples and teaching them to observe all the things that He has commanded us. (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16). Doesn't that count for anything?
But even worse than failing to heed Scripture by denying our responsibility to "make people aware of their lost and sinful condition", to give instruction and to make disciples of these young people, they are deliberately being charmed into the church by the very things that mature Christians should be warning them about and helping them to get out of. The church is actually using the abominations of their worldly culture to get them in. It is excused by being given a label entitled "Contemporary Christianity". We've got to reach them where they're at, is the current rationale. We've got to use the same things that they are already conditioned to by their culture, otherwise they just won't come.
Also previously mentioned, one of the most successful drawcards to attract the youth is music. Loud, beating, throbbing rock music. Our culture is now so much driven along by music that it seems you can't have any function or meeting without some form of music playing in the background - or the foreground in many cases. For some reason music is seen as a necessity of life. Even in the workplace, radios blaring forth the latest hits, with all their filthy and ungodly lyrics, must be played. In the shopping malls, rock music, with bass and percussion emphasised, constantly assault your ears. More and more motorcars, belonging to young owners, are being fitted with the latest and most powerful amplifiers and they literally pulsate along the road to the thumping vibrations of the bass guitar and drums. You can hear them coming for miles - even with their windows tightly wound up! It seems that there is nowhere we can go to escape the confusion of sound that invades our peace from all sides.
Fifty or sixty years of modern technology have conditioned society to accept these things as normal. But they aren't normal, friends. Neither is it normal to have such an attitude about your neighbours or work mates or the general public at large that you play your music at such a level that it annoys everyone within a two mile radius. Lovers of self! "Who cares about everyone else" is the prevailing opinion. " Whether they like my music or not, I'm going to play it anyway and to Hell with everyone else. And they better not complain or I will exercise my privilege to defend my rights."
Churches now compete with the world and each other to attract membership and they use the same methods as the world. Loud, contemporary music. Entertainment. Crazy as it may seem, I have recently read articles that report that, due to falling attendance rates, Anglican clergy are resorting to rock concerts in the great Gothic cathedrals in England in their attempts to attract young members. Not that I hold anything special for Gothic cathedrals that cost huge amounts of money that could have been better used for other purposes, but somehow the two just don't seem compatible. Trying to visualise what would be going on conjures up some rather humorous mental images, does it not?
Everyone has come to the same conclusion and have come up with the same ideas as to how to grow their churches and overcome falling attendance rates. Perhaps they have been attending the same Church Growth seminars. Everyone is on the same bandwagon playing the same tune, so it seems.
Going Where It's Happening
According to The Bulletin,
"The National Church Life Survey found that the overall growth in Pentecostal denominations was predominately due to "switchers", that is people who are joining from other denominations. The survey found nearly three times as many switchers joining the Pentecostal churches as there were newcomers without a church background."
According to the article, Phil Pringle of Christian City Churches is quoted as saying,
"People will go where it's happening for them."
What is it that is happening for them? Is the attraction the message that demands that we deny ourselves, our worldly passions, desires and aspirations and take up our cross to follow in the footsteps of Christ? Has our love for our neighbour magically taken on more importance than our love for ourselves? Have great numbers of people all of a sudden decided that a life lived in obedience to the Word of God is more attractive than having a "good time" flirting with the world? Of course, none of these things is true and the article explains for us what the attraction is. Quoting The Bulletin again, we read:
"Hills Christian Life Centre pushes through 7000 churchgoers on any one weekend. Like those who attend any of the big, new regional churches, they are likely to drive past 100 other churches on their way. The question is, why? We can talk, as Pringle does, about an "ache" for God, we can talk about seeking refuge from the confusion of modern life and about the eternal longing for meaning. And all these things go some way to explaining the filling up of the churches. But there are more temporal reasons, to do with charisma, seductive packaging, the power of positive thinking, professional standards and, possibly most importantly, the effective harnessing of youthful idealism and passion."
I am amazed at the perceptiveness of Diana Bagnall, the journalist from The Bulletin. Perhaps the Lord Jesus was thinking of someone just like her when He said,
"...the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light." (Luke 16:8).
Why don't we have a look at these five "temporal reasons" that Diana has proposed as an explanation for the great numbers of young people who are flooding into the Pentecostal churches.
The leaders of "The New Time Religion" attend seminars and take courses that specifically teach them how to manipulate an assembly by presenting their messages in an appealing and entertaining way. The courses are usually conducted by so called "Christian" psychologists and communications experts. It's part of the Church Growth curriculum and a fundamental requirement if you want to join those already aboard the bandwagon on their way to fame and fortune. And if you don't have what it takes to present a message in an entertaining, "compelling" and "seductive" way, you just won't make the grade. I have actually seen pastors who, although they were gifted for teaching, were removed from the church preaching roster simply because they were considered as not flamboyant or entertaining enough. They didn't have the style. People don't want to be taught, they want to be entertained. This generation of "New Believers" is hooked on having its emotions constantly stimulated by professional showmen and actors.
However, Paul in chapters one and two of First Corinthians, defending his seeming deficiency in this area of charismatic distinction, said,
"I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." (1 Corinthians 2:1-4)
In verses 17 and 18 of the previous chapter, Paul said,
"For Christ sent me ... to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God."
How long would Paul have lasted in the contemporary Pentecostal or Charismatic church practicing such a drab preaching style as these verses suggest he did?
In contrast to Paul, however, The Bulletin tells us that the core role of church leaders, such as Brian Houston and Phil Pringle,
"...is to spearhead the growth of their churches by presenting their deeply conservative religious message week after week in a compelling, high-energy, contemporary format."
Elsewhere in the article we are told that
"in the new churches, the power of the message is in its communication."
In other words, the power of the message is not in the content of the message, but rather, in the style of its presentation. The amount of truth or error contained in the message is irrelevant. It's the "compelling, high-energy, contemporary format", that is all important. That's what draws the crowd! They have paddled their canoe away from the safe and stable shore of objectivism out into the dangerous and stormy waters of subjectivism. That's one of the reasons why they can preach gross error and get away with it the way they do. That's why they can make such unbiblical comments the way they do and no one seems to bat an eyelid or blush. To these "New Believers" of the "New Time Religion", both leaders and "laity", right doctrine is not as critical as the style of communication.
However, my Bible tells me in Romans 1:16-17 that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes, despite the way in which it is presented, providing it is clearly heard and understood. Eloquence of speech and displays of charisma are not what convicts the sinner and brings him to the place of repentance. The Gospel is the power unto salvation "for therein is the righteousness of God revealed", we are told. The righteousness of God is not revealed by "compelling, high-energy, contemporary format" stage performances that cater to lovers of self who seek more after pleasure than they do after God. Nor is the righteousness of God revealed in entertaining messages that do more to tickle the itching ears of a self indulgent, contemporary society than leading them to a true relationship with Christ. The power and the righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel, which is the doctrine of Salvation in Christ, free from any adulteration in content and also free from any theatrical showmanship in presentation.
2. Seductive Packaging
The Bible tells us that in the last days men will be lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God. And the Church Growth gurus know how to exploit this condition to their utmost advantage. They know how to package the 'gospel' message to capitalize on the universal condition of fallen mankind.
One of the things that continually amazes me is how professing Christians will try all the tricks in the book in their attempts to make God more acceptable to the people they are desperately trying to convert. God has to be made acceptable to the unbeliever so that they will gladly welcome Him into their lives. Perhaps they will emphasise that God is in the healing business or the prospering business or, if they have been caught doing something exceptionally wicked, in the unconditional forgiving business or some other such thing that will effectively seduce their victim to make that momentous decision to accompany them to their church on the next Sunday and make the trip to the altar.
If, however, in their efforts to entice or seduce the unbeliever into the church, they move over into the area of promoting God in such a way as to make Him more acceptable to man, then they have moved away from the real message of the Bible. Nowhere in Scripture will you find that God has to be made acceptable to man. God doesn't need to be gift wrapped in attractive paper, in fact it is detrimental to the message of Salvation if He is. As with the over-emphasis upon God's love that we discussed earlier, the signpost has been changed here as well. It is man who must be made acceptable to God, and that can only be achieved by man believing what God has to say about his fallen, depraved condition, and coming under His merciful plan for redemption which is only available through the shed blood of Christ. The Gospel is not about what God might, or might not do for anyone who takes Him up on what the evangelist says He has to offer, but, rather, about what God has already done for us in Christ Jesus upon the Cross of Calvary. And the terms and conditions are His, not ours!
Seeker Sensitive Services
These "new believers" are being enticed by a message that presents God as a good old buddy who doesn't mind joining in with a bit of drunken tomfoolery at Joel's Bar, or perhaps a bit of "moshing" or "head banging" up front at the altar in accompaniment to the rock band, complete with the stage smoke, lighting effects and all the glitter and razzmatazz you would normally find at a worldly night club. That's what the "new believers" like and that's what the leaders of the "New Time Religion" give them.
This is one of the principles of growing a big, successful church. Find out what the community wants and then serve it up to them. Let the unsaved determine the benchmark and then set the standards to their requirements.
That is exactly what Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago believed God had called him to do. (Should I mention that Hybels was a distinguished guest at the launch of ACC in Sydney? What a coincidence.) He took survey teams out into the highways and byways of Chicago and asked the non-believers why they didn't attend a church. According to Hybels, the survey revealed that people didn't like being bugged for money, they thought church services were boring, predictable, and routine, they didn't think the church was relevant to their lives, and they complained that they always left church feeling guilty due to negative messages about sin, etc. Hybels found a solution to these problems by tailoring his church services to suit what the unbelievers said they wanted a church to be like.
Hybels and his leadership team put a lot of time and effort into finding what the unbelieving, non-churched people thought they would like if they did attend a Sunday church service. When they finally collated all of the information that the survey teams had collected the results showed that the people would prefer to have anonymity, they would want the truth of the Bible presented at an introductory level, they would like time to 'make a decision' and they would expect excellence in programming (i.e. creativity, humor, contemporary music, etc.).
Because Hybels has tapped into providing what the people said they wanted, his church, Willow Creek Community Church, has enjoyed phenomenal growth and vast crowds now attend his Saturday evening and Sunday morning "seeker services" to be entertained by the contemporary music, multimedia displays, dramatic sketches, and messages that are specifically geared not to offend the non-believers who are simply "investigating Christianity."
Now, because of his astounding success at making the non-believers feel welcome, unthreatened, and entertained in church, a great company of church leaders from around the world are seeking to learn and implement Bill Hybels' church growth strategies which he promotes via conferences and the multitude of resources that he now markets.
Can you see what Bill Hybels did? He heard the bandwagon approaching, quickly learned the words and the tune and jumped aboard. And now, large groups of church leaders are scrambling to learn the tune and climb aboard and join him.
Unfortunately for Christendom, and for those who are being lured into it, by way of what is nothing more than another gospel, there are other big wheels and cogs within the system who are also using the same strategy as Bill Hybels. His strategy is simply to find out what the people want and give it to them. If you can supply what they want, that is, meet their felt needs, while at the same time appealing to their sense of religiosity, they will pay for it. They will willingly allow you to exploit them.
This quote from the promotional material of Dr. Tony Evans of "Urban Alternative Network" (a national network and coalition for Christian leaders who are committed to bringing about change in their community through a biblical moral standard) illustrates the point. He says,
"Community Assessments help you to appraise the unique need of your community so that the church can be more effective in addressing them. The assessment examines such areas as demographics, environment, history, strengths and weaknesses, and problems in the community. It also looks at the existing systems and efforts in the community which may already be at work. This could provide opportunities for partnership and prevent the duplication of efforts and resources."
It seems to me that the leadership of Willow Creek Community Church, Urban Alternative Network and the leadership of ACC have been attending the same choir practices. They are all singing the same new song. At least Bill Hybels and C. Peter Wagner turned up for practice at the launch of ACC. No doubt, as experts in the field, they were specially invited to give a few tips about luring people to church.
"For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." (Acts 20:29-30)
3. The Power of Positive Thinking
An integral component of the Church Growth agenda has been the promotion of positive thinking. A positive mental attitude about all things is the "be all and end all" of a successful and victorious "christian" walk.
The great sin of our age, so we are told, is to entertain negative thoughts about ourselves and others. To grow a successful and flourishing assembly and to live a successful Christian life, negativity must be banished in all its forms.
Attempting to point out that the Word of God contains much that would be considered negative to both the evangelist and the evangelized, falls upon deaf ears and earns the promoter of such truths nothing less than scornful derision.
Negativity is seen as a poison, which, unfortunately for many genuine seekers after truth, attracts much more attention and effort at eradication than the very real poison that is permeating throughout Christendom in these last and perilous days, which is that of false teaching, the promotion of a gospel that has lost its offense, that has been watered down and made so attractive that the sinner is captivated by it rather than convicted by it. The message of the Gospel has become anemic and effeminate to the point that it practically neglects to expose the dilemma of the human condition in any convincing way and virtually ignores the judgement to follow. There is no awareness of impending peril or a need to "flee from the wrath to come." These are perceived as negatives and need to be avoided in any message aimed at gaining converts and growing a successful church.
Is it any wonder that the AOG and other Pentecostal and Charismatic denominations, not only in Australia, but throughout the world, are experiencing phenomenal growth? Their message of Salvation ruffles no feathers.
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables" (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
The Biblical answer to this predicament is to do as God has commanded us in His Word. In 2 Timothy 4:2 we are shown the way.
"Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine."
However, an all out assault has been conducted by church leaders and teachers against a doctrine which reproves (which means to expose or point out someone's fault) or rebukes those who would have ears to hear it. Such a hard message would severely jeopardize membership. This is not the tune being played on the bandwagon. Negativity must be purged from the thinking and vocabulary of the "new believers" and be replaced by motivational preaching and teaching on positivity, personal success and self esteem.
There is perhaps nothing that could be more pleasing and soothing to the soul of an unconverted "lover of self" than the thought that he really is worth something and that he really is highly important in the scheme of things. Just tell the person something good about himself, whether it be true or otherwise, and you will soon have him lapping out of your hands. Unscrupulous church leaders are well aware of this condition of pride, particularly in immature Christians and they exploit it to the fullest.
There is nothing more alluring to the "lover of self" than a message that promotes that if you have enough faith in something, if you think positively enough about something God will be pleased, or even obliged to bring it to pass. This has been the message of the "church growth" gurus for as long as I have been a Christian.
A Corrupt Tree Bringeth Forth Evil Fruit
I guess there would have been a certain amount of this type of thing in the early church, because, as we know, there is nothing new under the Sun, but probably the greatest promoters of the "Power of Positive Thinking" in our generation has come from two distinct but closely related groups which are those lead by (1) Norman Vincent Peale whose life and ministry were enormously impacted by such cults as Science of Mind, the Unity School of Christianity, Christian Science, and New Thought metaphysics, and Robert Schuller, promoter of "Positive/Possibility Thinking" and "Positive Mental Attitude", and (2) Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth Copeland, promoters of "Positive Confession" and the "Word of Faith" teachings, which have their roots in E.W. Kenyon, William Branham, and the Manifest Sons of God/Latter Rain teachings.
It has been normal, in my experience, when visiting pastor's offices, to see row upon row of books upon their bookshelves which major on possibility thinking, positive mental attitude, self esteem, prosperity, visualisation techniques or other such self promoting subjects. Obvious, and in full view upon their bookshelves for anyone interested in who or what influence the teachings of these pastors, are books by Robert Schuller, Norman Vincent Peale, E.W. Kenyon and more recently people like Rick Joiner, John Arnott, John Killpatrick, Rodney Howard-Browne, and a host of "Word of Faith" teachers and writers.
It was quite distressing for me, during my early enthusiasm and zeal to become a preacher of the Word of God, to discover the roots of some of the teachings that I was expected to learn and apply in my life if I was anticipating fulfilling my aspirations. It was also distressing to know who was influencing the preaching that came from the lips of the pastor during a Sunday church service. As previously mentioned, I experienced difficulty reconciling the teachings and principles promoted by Robert Schuller and Yonggi Cho during my course on Church Growth, and I was disappointed, to say the least, when I fully understood where these men were coming from theologically.
I discovered that Robert Schuller gained his understanding from Norman Vincent Peale who, besides being profoundly influenced by the occult, was a 33rd degree Mason. Possibly unbeknown to Diana Bagnall, the reporter from the Australian Bulletin Magazine, when she used the term "the power of positive thinking", she was actually quoting the title of Norman Vincent Peale's most popular book, "The Power of Positive Thinking", which was written in 1952 and which has sold more than 20 million copies in 41 languages. It was the model for a flood of self-help books that followed.
On Robert Schuller's 1000th Anniversary television show (The Hour of Power, aired on 4/2/89), Schuller's son said of Peale that he was "responsible for dad's possibility thinking." Robert Schuller teaches that there is no need for one to recognize his own personal sin, no need for repentance, and no need for the crucifixion of self. Concerning the crucified life, Schuller teaches just the opposite to Scripture - that self is to be exalted. This is nothing less than an outright denial of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Schuller once wrote,
"Jesus knew His worth; His success fed His self-esteem. He suffered the cross to sanctify His self-esteem and He bore the cross to sanctify your self-esteem. The cross will sanctify the ego trip." (Self-Esteem: The New Reformation).
However, in Matthew 16:24-25 Jesus tells us in His own words,
"If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it."
The Word of Faith teachers, such as Kenneth Copeland and Kenneth Hagin promote a message that says that faith is a force that can be harnessed providing you put into practice the right formulas. God is not sovereign and He can be manipulated and is obliged by His own laws to perform for anyone who gets the recipe right.
After twenty or thirty years of being conditioned by positivity and self esteem as well as "faith in faith" theology and a host of other erroneous teachings, the church ends up preaching the same New Age, self-serving message as secular society. The power of positive thinking appeals to the "New Believers". But it is ripe fruit upon a tree that has its roots embedded in the fertile soil of gross error, evil fruit that is being plucked and devoured by the leaders of the "New Time Religion" who, in turn, have served it up on a platter to the unsuspecting "New Believers". But as Matthew 7:19 warns,
"Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire."
4. Professional Standards.
Quoting again from The Bulletin article (April 11, 2000) by Diana Bagnall, we read,
"The purpose-built auditoriums are cathedrals of modern entertainment with all the technological wizardry. Christian City Church at Oxford Falls is in the process of redesigning its web site to give live online access to church services. But even in more modest locations, church services are conceived of as multimedia events - display windows for marketing Christianity - rather than as liturgical set pieces to mark a religious calendar. There's none of that intimidating business of knowing when to stand and when to kneel, and which page of the order of service or which number hymn to turn to. "Culturally relevant" is the buzz phrase used to describe the approach. Instead of priests and altar boys, the focus of attention is a rock band, usually several musicians and singers who pump out music with the catchy rhythms and romantic tug of good pop. The words are simple, and projected on big screens."
"In fact, the services are not unlike Saturday night variety TV - seemingly effortless, but planned down to the last minute. At Edwards' Assembly of God church in Ipswich, each service (and, typically, there are several each Sunday, designed for different congregations) is planned six months in advance by a salaried creative arts director who leads a team of about nine people and draws on a bigger pool of about 70 musicians, singers, sound, lighting and drama people. Edwards explains: "You go to a Barbra Streisand concert and you expect a certain standard of that concert. Why should people who come to our church expect any less?""
Speaking of Brian Houston and Phil Pringle, Diana Bagnall added,
"Masters of communications technologies, they draw around them sophisticated teams to produce web sites and videos, music recordings and television programs for broadcast on both free-to-air and pay TV."
Professional standards! No expense is spared in the struggle to compete against the world in attracting new clientele. Worldly standards are being employed by these pastors of the "New Time Religion" in their efforts to outdo the worldly entertainment industry in enticing worldly, self-loving young people into the churches. All, supposedly, in the name of Jesus!
Diana Bagnall claims that
"...'Culturally relevant' is the buzz phrase used to describe the approach"
for attracting new members and keeping those already in the fold. She correctly perceived (again) that the Pentecostal churches and the new breed of pastors, such as Houston, Pringle, et al., are attempting to make the transition for the unbeliever into the church scene as smooth and inoffensive as possible. They have done their investigation and discovered just what it is that attracts the crowds of young people to the entertainment houses of the world and are applying that standard to the church.
Bagnall also discovered, during the investigations and interviews that she conducted for her article, that
"...the focus of attention is a rock band, usually several musicians and singers who pump out music with the catchy rhythms and romantic tug of good pop."
The churches are purposely and specifically appealing to the ungodly fruits of contemporary youth culture, the very things that are dragging most of the world's youth off into a Christless eternity.
Should the Gospel be redesigned and reshaped so that it becomes "culturally" relevant, as Bagnall claims it has? Has the message of the Bible ever been "culturally relevant" for that matter? Isn't the message of the Bible an affront to any deference or compliance to culture? To try and promote the Gospel while at the same time attempting to protect the (mostly occultic) culture of those being evangelized is doomed to failure. For example, in Australia where I live, there is a drive, by various denominations, to promote Christ among the indigenous Aboriginals while at the same time encouraging them to retain their cultural beliefs in the "Dream Time" and the "Rainbow Serpent". The same kind of theological gymnastics are being applied in North America among the indigenous Indians. These are not isolated examples. It is happening on an international scale.
The justification for such activity has been an accusation that asserts that white man has been forcing a white man's religion upon indigenous people in foreign lands. It is claimed that Christian evangelism has been culturally destructive and intrusive and so, new methods to win the lost are being implemented which are less threatening and allow for more flexibility. But Christianity is not really a white man's religion. According to Romans 3:2, it was unto the Jews that the oracles of God were committed, not some white skinned race in Europe, and it was that Word of God which molded and shaped the Jews into the people they became. The Jewish nation did not shape God's Word, rather, the Word of God shaped the Jewish nation. We are asked in Romans 9:21,
"Hath not the potter power over the clay?"
But this is another subject altogether. The point being made is that the churches are promoting a Christianity that is culturally relevant, not only in a racial sense, but also in a generational sense.
In the generational sense, the article by Bagnall in The Bulletin correctly reported that in these modern churches "...the focus of attention is a rock band."
To walk in off the street into an AOG "Youth Alive" rally in full swing, you could be forgiven for thinking that you have mistakenly stumbled into a secular Night Club. Don't be surprised if you see a bit of stage diving, body surfing and demonic head banging going on to the accompaniment of the deafening rock music, exactly as you see in the world. Even Benny Hinn warned against such devilish behaviour being carried on in the church during his July 4th, 1997 telecast message from TBN when he attempted to convince his critics that he was distancing himself from the increasingly outlandish manifestations that were happening at places like Toronto and Pensacola.
A few years ago, I had the "pleasure" of video recording a Saturday night Youth Alive rally for the AOG church that I attended. There was no one else to do the job, and after much pleading and cajoling on behalf of the youth pastor, I finally relented and agreed to do the job for him. The main "worship leader" for the night yelled himself hoarse by the second song and had to be replaced by a fresh singer. I knew the rallies were way out, but I wasn't prepared for what I saw and heard that night. The music was so loud that I could literally feel the vibrations inside my chest! A person didn't have to be too expert in the gift of discernment to work out where this "culturally relevant praise and worship" would eventually lead the youth who were being attracted to it.
This is simply culturally relevant pleasure dished up to a generation of people, who are accused in Scripture of being lovers of self and pleasure more than lovers of God, in religious "cathedrals of modern entertainment" with the professional standards that have been set by the world. As the AOG pastor so shamelessly asked, showing that, in his way of thinking, this activity is normal and acceptable in the churches,
"You go to a Barbra Streisand concert and you expect a certain standard of that concert. Why should people who come to our church expect any less?"
A worldly and ungodly entertainment industry, whose focus is upon financially exploiting their fans, sets the standard by which we are supposed to worship and praise our God? And, let us not try to kid ourselves of anything to the contrary. It's the entertainment that's attracting the people, not the Gospel!
Where in all of this "New Time Religion" do you suppose the Lord Jesus Christ is to be found? Where in all of this absolute folly do you suppose there is any resemblance to what will be found during a careful reading of the books of the New Testament? I would not hesitate to proclaim that there is none. This has nothing to do with the Church as described in the Bible. These people have been grossly deceived and they are deceiving a multitude into believing that this is the way to eternal life.
"Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us." (Psalm 2:1-3).
5. Effective Harnessing of Youthful Idealism and Passion.
To suggest that the church would exploitatively harness youthful idealism and passion in its efforts to gain members and grow numerically enormous congregations should cause us to seriously question just what is being promoted, supposedly "in the name of Jesus" and perhaps should even tempt us to deny that this is really happening at all. However, once again, in her perception of just what the "New Time Religion" and "The New Believers" are all about, Diana Bagnall has hit the nail squarely and soundly upon its head. I couldn't have expressed it better myself, but this is exactly what is happening. This is a classic example of jumping on the bandwagon and playing the new tune. These new breed of leaders are exploiting a known condition to their advantage, all the while thinking that they are doing God an immense favour. I repeat, they are grossly deceived!
Don't they know that evil is endemic to the human nature? To even contemplate that the unsaved youth of contemporary society have anything to offer the church in regard to idealism and passion is ludicrous in the extreme. Besides, this is the generation of human beings that have sat, practically from the time of their birth, in front of a television set, being thoroughly indoctrinated with every ungodly belief, perpetrated upon them by powerful men and lobby groups with evil intentions. This is not to mention their pilgrimage through the anti-God, state controlled education system which has also been infiltrated by the same powerful men and lobby groups. Every Christian parent (as well as a growing number of concerned non-Christian parents) who has lived through this era of history knows what I am talking about. The age group that the church is now focusing upon, the 15-39 year olds, which Phil Pringle's denomination boasts makes up "70% of attendees", have predominantly gained their "ideals" and understanding about what is right and what is wrong, and what is acceptable and what is not acceptable, directly from the television set and their state educators, with perhaps a minimum of input from their parents. They certainly did not gain their "youthful idealism and passion" from any Godly source. What ideals they do affirm have been thoroughly contaminated and distorted by the influence of the world. 2 Corinthians 4:4 tells us that
"...the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not."
How is it that the church sees it as appropriate to harness the ideals of minds that have been blinded to the truth by the god of this world?
If the aim of the exercise is only about gaining a large following by appealing to youthful idealism and passion by use of worldly entertainment delivered via music, stage performances, electronic gadgetry, lighting effects and razzle-dazzle, then these new leaders are on the right track. They are bound to attract a huge following. But they should not call this "church", nor should they call it "Christian". It is no different from what the world dishes up to the youth of our society through night clubs and entertainment centers, leading them upon a path that progressively steers them away from an understanding of God's righteous requirements. They could perhaps call it "The Australian Secular Club" or something, but they should not promote it as "Christian" or "church". It is certainly more club orientated than it is church, and this can be effectively demonstrated simply by asking someone why they continue to fellowship at a "church" that they know promotes unscriptural programs and alliances, such as March for Jesus, Alpha Course, Promise Keepers, Ecumenism, Toronto Blessing, etc., etc., and they will tell you that they stay there because they like the people. They have good friends at that church. It matters not that their friends have strange ideas about doctrine, because that is never mentioned. Doctrine is not an issue. It's the fellowship that is sweet and that's what really matters to them. It a club mentality!
Effectively harnessing youthful idealism and passion will not bring anyone to Christ. It might bring them to church, but it won't bring them to Christ. A bad tree cannot produce good fruit. If the root is bad, then so shall be the fruit, according to God's Word. It's the Gospel that is the power unto salvation to all who believe, but as I pointed out previously, the Gospel is strangely absent from all of the promotional literature for the ACC, and so is the mention of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
Having Itching Ears
To suggest, before this article by Diana Bagnall was released in the Australian Bulletin, that the leaders of the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches were employing questionable means by which to add members to their congregations, one could easily have been accused of being extremely contentious or negative, even of opposing God, but the evidence that incriminates these new leaders of their folly is laid out on the table for all to see and not just in The Bulletin article. Evidence of gross departures from the constraints of Scripture have been mounting for years, but leaders have been able to suppress evidence or silence dissenters. But here is damning evidence, presented for all the world to see and evaluate.
Perhaps my biggest shock when reading the article was when I encountered the comment attributed to Mark Edwards, the ex-lawyer, senior pastor of Ipswich Region Community Church half an hour's drive west of Brisbane in Queensland. In his zeal to attract "converts" he is apparently more than willing to become one of the false teachers so clearly condemned by the apostle Paul in his second letter to Timothy. Paul wrote to Timothy, warning him of false teachers who would exploit the doctrinal impoverishment of self-indulgent church goers with the following words which have been preserved in our Bibles in 2 Timothy 4:2-4.
"Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables."
How fitting a Scripture to describe the very circumstances we find prevailing in our churches in this day. And how fitting a Scripture to describe senior pastor Mark Edwards of Ipswich Region Community Church. Let us read what Diana Bagnall wrote that I found so absolutely shocking, coming as it did from one who claims to be a minister of God's Word.
"People are open to persuasion. In the new churches, the power of the message is in its communication. "We scratch where people are itching," says Mark Edwards, 41, an ex-lawyer who has increased membership of the Ipswich Region Community Church sixfold in the eight years he has been its senior minister."
Who in their right mind would be so defiant, or foolish, to make such an incredible statement as " We scratch where people are itching"? How utterly amazing! Has this man never read his Bible? Surely he has, being a pastor? Why then is it that he seems not to comprehend what it was that Paul was conveying to Timothy when he spoke of itching ears and rejection of truth? Has Mark Edwards no fear for his eternal destiny? But then again, Edwards' focus is not upon sound doctrine anyway, so we shouldn't be too surprised, I suppose. According to The Bulletin article
"His sermons are more likely to focus on financial management (he has just finished a two-year term as president of the local chamber of commerce) and work issues, relationships and raising children than on fine theological argument."
It becomes apparent that the members of Edwards' congregation will not endure sound doctrine and "fine theological argument", but after their own lusts they heap to themselves teachers, like Mark Edwards, who scratch their itching ears. That's what they want and that's what Edwards dishes up.
The Rich And Famous
I know I have written other articles on this subject before but please forgive me as I bring it up again. The Pentecostal churches are guilty of exploiting rich and famous personalities for the purpose of making the Gospel more appealing to the unsaved. It's as though we have to sugar coat the message to make it more palatable to the hearer. As the words of the song say, "...a spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down." But should we be using celebrities to entice the unsaved into the churches? Should we be using famous people to make Christianity appear more attractive to sway the struggling and undecided sinner into making a decision to join the fellowship? Apparently, the leaders of ACC and the Pentecostal Movement, in general, think we should.
As we have already discussed, the power to save the sinner is in the message not in its presentation, or the style of its communication, as the article in The Bulletin by Diana Bagnall suggests. If the unsaved person is moved to respond to the "altar call" because of the fame and charisma of some celebrity, or the style of his presentation, rather than the content of what is being presented (if it really does contain the Gospel at all), I would hazard to say that he is not really converted at all - not to Christianity anyway. We have multitudes of people being converted to a pious or moralistic, and even legalistic lifestyle and confuse it with genuine conversion to Christianity. Conversion to church life is not conversion to Christ! That's churchianity, not Christianity. It's the Gospel that has the power to bring a person to salvation, not the endorsement of an organisation by some famous and popular celebrity.
In the three page article, announcing the formation of ACC, which appeared in the News & Views department of the Alive Christian magazine for April 2000, we read;
"The national launch, held in Sydney on February 18, was attended by 400 guests including Federal parliamentarians Senator Brian Harradine, Bruce Bird MHR and Alan Cadman MHR and sports stars such as jockey Darren Beadman and Cronulla Shark Jason Stephens. There were also several state and local politicians present."
Elsewhere, in the same article, we read;
"The ACC advertising campaign on national television focuses largely on the array of social welfare work carried out by member churches and features Darren Beadman, a member of the AOG in Sydney. Speaking at the launch, Darren said he was proud to endorse ACC which he believed would have a major impact on the nation in the years to come."
Of course, Darren is correct in his assessment of ACC and ACCare. The alliance will have a major impact on the nation, but it won't be a good impact and it won't be for Christ and His Kingdom. The focus of the whole organization is to gain members for the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches, through the offer of an array of social welfare programs and fellowship opportunities with pleasant people, who accept you into their group and make you feel as though you are loved and belong. As Diana Bagnall pointed out in her article,
"These are places where winners hang out, where the rewards are tangible and tantalising. They promise the good life on Earth, and of course, the bonus of eternal life. They offer intimacy and excitement, a sense of belonging and of righteousness. A heady mix."
So, who could resist?
Besides the national launch of ACC in Sydney there were also 22 state and regional launches held over the same weekend. Most of what I have read concerning these regional functions suggested that they were conducted in the same vein, with famous personalities or politicians in attendance to give the proceedings an air of distinction.
The Foolish Things Of The World
The glossy, three fold, A4 advertising brochure, which was released to promote the ACC among the lost and needy in our society, also used the "rich and famous" method to entice the unbeliever to "have a go" by picturing three celebrities on its cover page.
Again, Darren Beadman is promoted, and his photo is given pride of place at the top of the page. Darren comments,
"I'm proud to be associated with an organisation who is so committed to the needs of Australians today."
Next in the celebrity lineup is Nalishebo Gaskell, reigning Miss World from Australia, who enthusiastically claims,
"It's exciting to be part of a Christian network with over 200,000 people dedicated to serving Australia."
Finally at the bottom of the page, Matt Rogers, a famous Australian Rugby League football player, is promoted. He comments,
"While Australia might be a 'lucky' country, our social needs aren't. It's great to know there's a network of over a thousand churches offering our nation unique community care."
With such high profile individuals giving endorsement to ACC, who would be so reckless as to suggest that anything could be wrong? And this is the express reason that organisations such as the AOG and other denominations exploit the rich and famous in this manner. But is there anything mentioned in Scripture where we read that Jesus, or the apostles or the disciples used the techniques of promoting celebrities and appealing to "social needs" to convince the people of the world that they should come and join their group? No! In fact, just the opposite is true. In 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 we read,
"For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence."
You see, the Gospel doesn't need any help from the rich and famous or the mighty and noble, to convince people that they should believe and repent towards God and live a life that brings glory to Him. In fact their fame and fortune can actually be a hindrance. Besides that, their glossy little advertising brochure doesn't even mention the Gospel, and as I have said before, so say I now again, it doesn't mention the Bible, God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit either. "What are the people going to get saved into?" is my embarrassing and puzzling question.
The Preaching Of Christ Crucified
In verses 17-24 of 1 Corinthians 1, we read,
"For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God."
It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching, my friends. And the content of the preaching is clearly defined for us who might think we can make up our own way of reaching the lost. The Scripture says "we preach Christ crucified!!!", not some fraternity or social help program.
There is no mention of the Cross of Christ in the advertising brochure that has been distributed by ACC my friends! Nor is there any mention of Christ crucified! The message of the Cross and Christ crucified are foolishness and a stumbling block to those who refuse to believe, so it is discarded for a new and better method. Their agenda is clear. Numbers! Huge numbers of followers! There's a particular tune being played on the bandwagon and they're scrambling aboard to take their part!
Since the time that Jesus preached His message to the multitude in John 6:25-69 and they all fell away from Him, except for the twelve, it has been demonstrated time and time again that the message of the Cross and Christ crucified doesn't draw huge numbers. Loaves and fishes will, and so will social help programs and any other thing that caters to self, but when the message to deny self and take up your cross daily is mentioned, the crowds begin to thin. But Jesus did not compromise His message, nor did He introduce some new strategy in an attempt to retain a following, and neither should ACC.
False Teachers Making Merchandise
In my article, "The D.B. Debacle - The Exploitation of Darren Beadman", I spoke about the mistreatment of Darren Beadman by his spiritual leaders, at Christian Life Centre, in Sydney, and their failure to properly ground him in the truth of the Scriptures. Some alarming, occultic influences from his childhood and teenage years have clearly not been dealt with, and have been permitted to prevail in his understanding of Christianity and his presentation of the "gospel", approved by his pastoral oversight, which includes Frank Houston and his son, Brian, who now reigns as the General Superintendent of the AOG in Australia and as the President of ACC.
In that article I asked the same question that I do here. "Does the Gospel message need help from the testimony of some famous person in order for it to be efficient?" Quoting from my article, I said the following:
"Perhaps one reason for the soft approach by his leaders towards Darren's difficulty in separating himself from his former life (the horse racing industry) would be that they could perhaps gather to themselves a few more high profile and prosperous business men or sports celebrities to give credibility to the stories they use in attracting people to accept their "Word of Faith" version of Christianity. But do we really need to parade famous people before the unconverted in the community to convince them that they need to repent and join the Church? This brand of evangelism appeals to the covetous and materialistic desires in the unsaved rather than convicting them of their sinful life and their indifference to God and bringing them to authentic repentance."
"During my fourteen years of fellowship in the AOG it seems there has been an endless stream of famous identities paraded across the platform to entice the skeptical and un-believing to "give their lives to Christ." Famous rock stars, businessmen, astronauts, athletes, criminals, you name it, usually in their infancy as Christians, are ushered around the world in an attempt to convince the un-Godly that we have the right message and that they should come and join our particular group. Not all of these celebrities have continued in the walk that they promoted in their initial zeal, I might add. And sadly, Darren is simply one of the latest in the long and ongoing procession."
"Does the Gospel message need help from the testimony of some famous person in order for it to be efficient? Again, I do not see any precedent in Scripture to support this practice. In fact, the story of the "Rich Ruler" in Luke 18:18 would suggest otherwise. This man who, in his enthusiasm to be saved actually came running to Jesus, bowing his knee before Him, was exceedingly rich, was a ruler in Israel, possibly famous, and yet Jesus allowed him, in his obvious zeal, to walk away as lost as he came because he was not prepared to leave his lifestyle behind to follow Him. It seems there is some discrepancy between the 'methods' employed by the AOG and the principles set out in this Scriptural example."
"In Sydney Christian Life Centre, the rich, young celebrity is encouraged to remain in his lifestyle in the hope that he might entice some of his influential and prosperous friends along to give credence to the style of gospel being presented by these Word of Faith teachers. Jesus was not interested in the rich ruler's 'merchandise' nor of making 'merchandise' of him. And neither should we be when the issue comes down to a person's eternal destiny and his willingness to forsake all for Christ. Not even for the benefit of promoting the Gospel."
Serving The Community
Quoting from the glossy promotion brochure distributed by ACC, we read from the President, Brian Houston;
"A New Force for Good in Australia - Australian Christian Churches (ACC) is a dynamic, growing network of caring, generous and open-hearted churches. In one of the world's finest and most envied nations, ACC is dedicated to helping Australians negotiate the demands and challenges of life."
"From family crisis counselling to emergency relief, the churches in ACC have been working independently for many years. By combining our strengths and resources in one organisation, we can better serve our communities with a wide range of professional care facilities and services."
"Our services are unbiased and respectful of the non-church community. Yet we also extend a warm invitation to you, your family and friends to visit one of ACC's great local churches. You'll find details of one nearest to you at the back of this brochure."
Elsewhere in the brochure we read;
"Australian Christian Churches has a committed vision to meet the needs of Australian families and their local communities. ACC, a new representative body of the country's most dynamic and fastest growing churches, is working together to deliver a renewed spirit of care and hope for Australians."
"With our nation suffering from depression (one in four people are using anti-depressants) and thousands of young lives stolen through drugs and suicide (tragically one youth suicides every 20 hours), ACC is taking an active stance against issues affecting all Australians. Through professional care programs, ACC unconditionally works towards helping people regain fulfilled and uncompromised lives."
What About The Gospel???
Where in all of God's Word do we find any reference to the church, the Bride of Christ, the washed in the Blood Virgin, serving the unbelieving and God mocking heathen in our communities in social welfare programs, while at the same time concealing any reference to God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Cross, the Blood or the Gospel? We are commissioned to preach the Gospel to the brokenhearted, the oppressed and the poor. Not soothe them or alleviate their problems with some temporal welfare band-aid while at the same time helping them to evade the root of their problems - their rejection of God and His plan of Redemption, and their preoccupation with self.
The words of Jesus Himself are recorded in Luke 4:18
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised."
Again, in answer to their questions, Jesus told John's disciples,
"...tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached." (Luke 7:22).
In the agenda of ACC, the poor are served but the Gospel is not preached.
Brian Houston claims, "Our services are unbiased and respectful of the non-church community." But the real issue is revealed in his next breath, "Yet we also extend a warm invitation to you, your family and friends to visit one of ACC's great local churches." Reaching the wounded with a social program, showing respect to those who hate God and despise His Son to get them in the door. Church Growth principles at their very best.
It is interesting to do a word study in Scripture to find out who is to serve whom. The Christian is called to serve God, not the unbelieving heathen and those who are openly hostile toward His offer of reconciliation. So, God is not mentioned, nor is His plan of reconciliation, for fear the unbeliever and God mocker won't turn up. Classic Robert Schuller methodology!
The little, glossy ACC advertising brochure also contains testimonies of three people who have been "assisted" by ACC.
Firstly, Katrina testifies,
"When I was 18 years old I was diagnosed with anorexia then later, bulimia. It devastated my health, emotional well being and I became severely depressed and suicidal. With the help of Australian Christian Churches, I have now been living a life free from the disease for six years."
Next, David tells us his story.
"Through the help of ACC, I have stopped drinking and taking drugs. My marriage has been restored and my attitude to life and society changed for the better."
Then we have Angela, who tells us,
"I am a mother of three who has experienced neglect and severe abuse for most of my life. Through the care and support of ACC, I have been able to put the pieces of my life back together again. While it hasn't been easy, I can honestly say I have a new sense of wholeness and fulfillment in who I am today."
I have some questions. Judging by their testimonies, it becomes apparent that these three people have been in the "church" environment for some time. For instance Katrina received help from ACC at least six years ago. She is free from bulimia, she says, but is she saved? There is no mention of ACC helping her to meet Jesus and receive Salvation and life everlasting through Him. There is no mention of gratefulness to God for His Grace in rescuing her, only an obvious commitment to ACC for their assistance to her, over a six year period.
David's testimony is the same. Obviously, his kicking of booze and drugs didn't happen overnight. Nor would his marriage have been restored in a short space of time. Convincing his wife of his genuineness and commitment to forsake his former life would have taken some time as well. My point is that he didn't meet with representatives of ACC yesterday. Even if it were only six or eight months ago, surely there has been enough time for him to hear the Gospel and receive Salvation in Christ? He may be a better person than he was before he met ACC representatives, but what about his eternal destiny? There is no mention of anything to do with God or Jesus in his testimony. Again the commitment is to ACC.
Sadly, Angela's little testimony is the same as the previous two. Putting the pieces of her tormented and unhappy life back together would have taken time. She even confesses that there were struggles. But where is the mention of God being involved in all this? Where does Jesus get any recognition for restoring Angela's peace and security?
If these people had just recently been reached I could possibly be a little less severe in my criticisms of ACC, but they have been in the church scene for some time and there is no mention of anything to do with God, who has delivered them from the power of darkness, and who translated them into the Kingdom of His dear Son. There is absolutely no mention of Jesus in whom they have redemption through His Blood, even the forgiveness of their sins. There is no mention of the Holy Spirit who has led them into truth. All glory and recognition for their deliverance, and all allegiance and devotion is given to ACC. Something is terribly wrong, friends.
My other problem is one of mathematics. How can ACC possibly be given credit for rescuing these poor souls from their social and material distress, one at least six years ago, if the organization only came into being on the 18th of February 2000, which happens to be this year? I am left in absolute amazement!
"...In A Rich Man's World"
As could well be expected, considering the obvious influence of Word of Faith and Latter Rain theology upon the leaders of the AOG and those now aligned with the ACC, the subject of money and the prosperity message is given significant space in Diana Bagnall's article. She came to the understandable conclusion that these leaders of "The New Time Religion" equate Christianity with financial blessing and material abundance. The Pentecostal churches, over the years, have increasingly promoted a doctrine that assures the believer that God wants all of His people to be wealthy and lacking in nothing. In fact, it is their opinion that if you are a Pentecostal Christian, you should expect to prosper, not only spiritually, but also in all things pertaining to financial matters and material possessions.
Quoting Diana Bagnall's comment again, we read:
"The predominant style is contemporary and prosperous. Hip even. These are places where winners hang out, where the rewards are tangible and tantalising. They promise the good life on Earth, and of course, the bonus of eternal life."
Again, I am impressed with Diana Bagnall's powers of perception. Not only that, but she also has a way with words that is truly amazing. In her comment she has successfully chosen a single word to describe the Pentecostal movement in Australia that fully sums up what I have been trying to say in twenty or thirty pages. Not only is the style of these churches predominantly contemporary and prosperous, but "hip" even! The word "hip" means "to be aware of or to follow the latest trends or ideas." How appropriate a choice. The closest I could get was "Jumping on the Bandwagon".
In a separate short side article, entitled "Forget the Camel and the Needle's Eye", also by Diana Bagnall, she quotes from "The Pentecostals in Australia", a book written in 1996 by Philip Hughes. Hughes wrote:
"It is common among Pentecostals to believe that God rewards people materially, as well as spiritually, for their faithfulness and tithing."
In the same side article she quotes Phil Pringle as saying,
"We want to have success, really nice lives, family lives, personal lives."
Reference is also made to Brian Houston's book, "You Need More Money", in which he expounds on what he believes are Biblical foundations for the pursuit of wealth. She quotes from Houston's endorsement for the book which was written up in "Life", a magazine published by his own church.
"I know that money is a highly sensitive subject ... but in this book I am going to tell you why you need more money and secondly how you can get more money (even if you won't admit it, I bet you are interested in the latter). I don't believe we should be uncomfortable talking about something that plays such a big role in our day-to-day lives ... If you can change your thinking and develop a healthy attitude to money, I believe you will walk in the blessing and prosperity of God and never have a problem with money again."
Diana Bagnall comments on the quotes by these leaders by writing,
"No hair shirts for these new Christians. For them, the best is their due as God's chosen people."
Brian Houston encourages that we should change our thinking and develop a healthy attitude to money. But what is a healthy attitude to money? Obviously, from his perspective, a healthy attitude is one that conforms to the lust of our materialistic, consumer driven society. Apparently, a healthy attitude is one that is expressed in always wanting more of everything rather than being content simply with God providing all your needs. Does he really believe that God is pleased with modern society, particularly the western developed variety, that says, "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing."?
What is this inordinate attraction to money all about? How is it that in the face of so many scriptures that contradict their beliefs, these people continue to promote a hope for temporal pleasures and the expectation of material and monetary prosperity for all who will enter their doors and follow their principles? I'll tell you what it's about.
"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous ... "
There it is! The Word of God tells us quite simply why there is such an attraction to money and worldly possessions. Men will be lovers of their own selves, and part of this love of themselves will lead to covetousness. Their hearts will be drawn away to seek after material and financial blessings, which, their teachers have led them to believe, they rightfully and lawfully deserve. Covetousness, the lusting after money or possessions, is rooted in self-love, and unfortunately, the church has followed the lead of the world in this area. The modern church has actually convinced the people who will join their congregations that God regards them with such high esteem that He just can't hold back from blessing them in the area of finances and worldly goods. After all, He loves them and would not really expect them to have to suffer by going without all the trappings of modern society, would He? We do deserve the best, don't we?
Godliness With Contentment Is Great Gain
But what does the Word of God have to say on the matter of worldly riches and abundance of possessions?
In Luke 12:15, Jesus Himself cautions us to
"... take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth."
In 1 Timothy 6:3-12, we also read,
"If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself."
Rather than teaching their congregations to beware of covetousness and to think less about prosperity and abundance, these new Christian leaders actually entice their ardent followers into believing that God wants to express His love toward them by lavishing them with money and material possessions. Exactly the opposite of what we read in the above Scriptures. But let us read on:
"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content."
"But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."
"But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses."
Here's the things that count to the Christian. Righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness and fighting the good fight of faith.
Forgetting The Implications Of The Camel?
In Mark 10, we read the account of the rich young man who came running up to Jesus to inquire about salvation. After perceiving that the man was bound up in his possessions and riches, Jesus challenged him to lay down all for the sake of the Gospel. He challenged the rich young man with the very challenge that He makes upon us today, "... take up your cross and follow me." But the man was not willing and Jesus allowed him to walk away as lost as he had arrived, commenting, "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!"
In verses 24 and 25 we read Jesus' response to His disciple's amazement that He had let the rich young man walk away.
"And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."
Isn't it disturbing that Diana Bagnall, by naming her side article "Forget the Camel and the Needle's Eye", has correctly determined that this new breed of Christian leaders is not concerned by the warning messages regarding wealth that we find in the Scriptures, like those quoted above? They have chosen to willfully forget them. These people could never be content with just the basics of life, and they actually look down upon anyone who finds contentment and fulfillment in living a simple life, without the trappings of every new electronic and electrical gadget that is released on the consumer driven market. They see it as a sign of spiritual immaturity and impoverishment if you don't at least desire to be rich and appear successful in the world's eye.
Erecting A Facade
A facade is a false front which is used to deceive people into believing something that isn't quite real. Like what you see on movie locations. The front of the building looks great, but as you open the door to enter, you find that there is nothing behind it. Simply empty space with a few pieces of timber to prevent the structure from toppling over. The "gospel" that is being preached in many churches is just like that. All front but no substance.
A method being employed to entice people into the church is for the leaders, in particular, and for the members of the congregating, to a lesser degree, to portray to the unsaved that God rewards His people with financial and material abundance. By presenting a facade that displays financial success and material abundance the church is appealing to a couple of known conditions that prevail in the characteristic of modern society - which includes Christendom. Firstly, that of an attitude which says "I am important and deserve the best" and secondly, a covetousness that has been generated by years of suggestive and appealing advertising that has spewed forth from the modern TV sets and printed media.
Not for these new Christians to be satisfied and at ease in whatsoever state they find themselves, nor to be content therewith having food and raiment. No way! As Bagnall says,
"No hairshirts for these new Christians. For them, the best is their due as God's chosen people."
And as Phil Pringle pointed out,
"We want to have success, really nice lives, family lives, personal lives."
No sign of any crosses around here, friends! No indication that they are perhaps making a few sacrifices in their self-indulgent lifestyles.
But if new members are convinced to join a fellowship simply because they have responded to the attractive call of material and financial stability, are they really saved? Even if they have heard the Gospel are we sure that that is what they have responded to rather than their coveting after the trappings that, they have been led to believe, come with such a decision?
Beware Of False Teachers
It is obvious to me, with the publicity of wealth and success having such prominence in the Gospel that is being promoted, that God is speaking about a great many of these "New Believers", the ones who are promoting this "New Time Religion", in the following Scriptures.
"But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you." (2 Peter 2:1-3).
Let us see the meaning behind some of the words Peter used in his warning to the church.
"And through covetousness (the Greek word translated as "covetousness" is "pleonexia" which carries the meanings of avarice, fraudulency, extortion, greediness. The word is derived from "pleonektes" which has the meaning of holding or desiring more, that is, eager for gain, avaricious, hence a defrauder) shall they with feigned words (the Greek word translated "feigned" is "plastos" which means moulded, artificial, fictitious or false - where we get our word plastic from) make merchandiseof you (the Greek word for the phrase "make merchandise" is "emporeuomai" which has the meaning to travel in a country as a pedlar. That is, by implication, to trade, buy and sell. It comes from the Greek word "emporeusometha" which means to carry on a business)."
The Bible Knowledge NT Commentary says it like this:
"Ministerial charlatans and quacks have often troubled the flock of God. In their greed they use others for their own mercenary purposes and turn the church into a dirty marketplace. Exploit (emporeusontai) means to commercialize ("buy, sell, trade"; cf. emporeusometha, "carry on business," in James 4:13). Stories they have made up is literally, "fabricated words" (plastois [whence the English "plastic"] logois). They are artificial, not genuine. And their end is condemnation (krima, "judgment") and destruction (apo˘leia; used twice in 2 Peter 2:1 and also in 3:16)."
So the likes of people such as Tetzel (the Dominican indulgence merchant, who financed the construction of St. Peter's in Rome), and John Avanzini (the Word of Faith man who is automatically enlisted when a loosening of the finances from the pockets of the people is required for some new church endeavour), is nothing new and the activities of people like the leaders of the "New Time Religion", that is the Pentecostal movement and now, the ACC, is nothing new either. Just getting worse by degree as the end draws near.
"Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence." (John 18:36).
One of the most disturbing trends, becoming clearly apparent among the leaders of the "New Time Religion" is their aspirations for political recognition and power.
For an organization that pointedly uses the word "Christian" in its name, giving the impression that it closely follows the doctrine of Christ, ACC seems to me to have a desire to be involved in some things that the Lord declared He has nothing whatsoever to do with. "My kingdom is not of this world", Jesus emphatically said. For people who so confidently assert that they are called of the Lord to lead His Church, in these closing "times of the Gentiles", and proclaim the Gospel to all creation, they seem to have no trouble in fraternising with the leaders of the world system and being involved in matters that are distinctly to do with the kingdom of this world.
But in 1 John 2:15-17, we read the words,
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."
Further, in John 15:19 we read,
"If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you."
The World Loves Its Own
Why is it that the world system, instead of hating the church, is very sympathetic and supportive, even giving approval to the things that these new church leaders are proposing? Why is it that they all appear to be on such good terms when the Word of God would lead us to expect otherwise? Why is it that these same leaders want, not just the church, but the world to sit up and take notice of them? Jesus tells us in the Scripture above that, because He has chosen us out of the world and because we do His will, the world will hate us. Who is right and who is wrong here? Is it possible that the Lord was mistaken about this? Perhaps he didn't realise that the church of the last days would be able to discover a method by which to reach a multitude of unbelievers, a method that would cause the world to sit up and take notice, and receive Christians in brotherly love. Will Jesus be impressed when they stand before Him and report that they discovered ways, during the last days, in which they could join with the secular governments of the world in political, social and humanitarian activities, while at the same time improving relations with them in such a way that, instead of hating the Christians as the Word of God says they would, they loved the Christians and everything that they stood for?
Brian Houston comments in the article by Diana Bagnall,
"The church that I see is a church of influence, a church so large in size that the city and the nation can't ignore it."
Bagnall comments further on this subject:
"Houston's stated desire for influence more in keeping with the size of his church is a sharp new turn for the Pentecostals. Until very recently, Pentecostals have lacked a cohesive national voice. The hallmark of Pentecostal churches is that they are strongly autonomous. Individual pastors run their own show and are not answerable to a church hierarchy. To their members, that flat management structure is undoubtedly a drawcard, but it means these new churches lack any kind of national cohesion, and they've punched below their weight politically. But if politics is about whose values are going to prevail, then these communities are finding their voice."
It is evident to me that Brian Houston and his numerous colleagues within the AOG, as well as the ACC hierarchy, have aspirations for things other than to be servants of God and of His people at the spiritual level and within the church community? It's not so much about the church becoming so large and influential that the cities and nations can't ignore it, but, rather, about whether leaders such as Brian Houston become so large and influential that they cannot resist the temptations to be politically involved in the cities and the nations - the kingdoms of this world.
Friends In High Places
Although he professes that he doesn't like the idea of Australia developing a Christian political party, nevertheless, Phil Pringle keeps close company with political giants. For example, Bagnall reveals in her article that it was actually the Prime Minister, Mr Howard, who officially opened Pringle's church at Oxford Falls. Pringle is also a reasonably regular visitor to Canberra, at the invitation of Alan Cadman (MHR), federal member for Mitchell. Apparently, Cadman attends Pringle's church services. The article also reports that Pringle has lunched with John Anderson, John Forrest and Senator Brian Harradine.
In the article which appeared in Alive Christian magazine of April 2000, it was reported that Senator Brian Harradine, Bruce Baird (MHR) and Alan Cadman (MHR) were guests at the launch of ACC in Sydney. In Queensland, the launch celebrations were actually held at Parliament House hosted by the Speaker of the House, Mr Raymond Hollis.
There's an awful lot of governmental influence and participation here wouldn't you agree? Of course, it could be claimed that all of these government ministers are Christians. I don't really know if this is so or not, and whether they are or not doesn't make any difference to the point I am about to make, which is, we don't see anywhere in Scripture where Jesus or the Apostles sought to receive political approval or where they enjoyed government participation while attempting to bring the Gospel to the masses. Could you possibly, even in your wildest imaginations, conceive of Jesus or the Apostles joining together with other religious organizations in the regions round about Israel, to form some kind of ecclesiastical affiliation, with the express purpose of pooling their resources so that they could be more effective in the community, and convince more people to join with them, all initiated with an official launching ceremony, conducted at the King's palace, with both Herod, the king, and Pontius Pilate, the governor, in attendance?
Of course, this is nonsense. Neither Jesus nor the Apostles nor the disciples of Christ ever appealed to the Government of their day for approval or assistance, nor did they ever try to impress them, for the purpose of acceptance and credibility, by performing wonderful social works within the community.
This type of activity is birthed in compromise and leads along an ever widening path of delusion. The men and women behind this alliance, particularly the leadership of the Pentecostal churches, are influenced by the misguided "Latter Rain/Kingdom Now" theology that promotes that they can change the world and its people by political activism. If they can get Christians into key administration positions within all of the spheres of modern society, particularly governmental, they believe that they can actually be an influence to change the laws of the land and legislate morality. While this may sound very noble, and perhaps even very wise, nowhere do we find in Scripture that the church is supposed to change the world by legislating morality at a government level. We are commissioned to interact with people on a personal level, by preaching the Gospel to them, not to change nations by legislating restrictive laws. Government laws have never changed nations in the past and I can confidently predict that they will never change them in the future. It's the sin issue that has to be dealt with, on an individual basis, and the Bible gives us the one and only solution.
"Consider the necessity of human laws, fenced with punishments and terrors to restrain men's lusts: yet despite the vast and costly apparatus of police forces, law courts and prisons, what little success attends their efforts to repress human wickedness! Neither education, legislation nor religion is sufficient." 
Only the Gospel, and its capacity to deal with the power of sin in a person's life, is sufficient.
In a subtle way, these aspiring leaders are guilty of the very thing that Paul berated the Galatian church for. They want to rewrite the laws of the land so that people are forced to live a moral life. But the history of the Jewish nation, as well as the testimony of Scripture, should be enough to demonstrate to anyone, that forcing people to live by laws is not the way to change society for the better. The Law was given as a tutor to drive us to Christ. Galatians 3:22-27 clearly tells us:
"... the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ."
It's not legislating morality that will change our society but faith in Christ! It's not the behaviour of the people that needs to be addressed but rather their beliefs. The ungodly behaviour of our society is the symptom, not the cause. Our society has rejected God and we are witnessing the results of that rejection. The duty of the Christian is to preach the Gospel of repentance and faith in Christ to the unbeliever, wherever and whenever the opportunity arises, not try to get into some government position of influence where he can rewrite laws to force people to conform to some moral code. Nor is it the Christian's duty, as the ACC are doing, to initiate some huge social welfare program at the exclusion of the Gospel, which has the purpose of enticing crowds of unbelievers into the cool shade under the umbrella of the church, where they will learn to live a more moral and socially acceptable lifestyle.
A River Of Revival Or A Flood Of Apostasy?
Of course, none of what I have mentioned above has even taken into consideration that the Bible actually paints a picture, for the closing days of the Church Age, that is vastly different from the one promoted by the propagators of Latter Rain/Kingdom Now theology. Whereas the Latter Rain people see that there is to be an enormous revival at the end of the age, with an absolute multitude of unbelievers, even whole nations, being ushered into the kingdom of God, the Bible tells a story of worsening moral conditions upon the earth, mostly the result of an apostasy, a rejection of God and the Truth of His Word.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 prophetically reminds of this. We read,
"Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition."
What could be more clear than that. The day of the Lord's return shall not come "... except there come a falling away first..." An apostasy. Our English word, apostasy, comes from the Greek word, apostasia, which means a defection from truth, a falling away, to forsake truth.
As we have already seen, 2 Timothy 4:2-4 also encourages us,
"... preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables."
Instead of a bright light shining on those who sit in darkness, the light of the Gospel will become a flickering candle. As Jesus said in John 9:4,
"... the night cometh, when no man can work."
A time of gross darkness will descend upon the earth and no amount of government intervention or legislation on the behalf of well intentioned Christians, who are alarmed at the increase of the sinful actions and perverse attitudes of our society, and who long for a world with a more sane and moral social structure, will cause light to shine in the hearts of men and women who are destined for an eternity of damnation. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, not social programs, not government legislation and certainly not the way in which a message is presented.
Jesus said, "My Kingdom is not of this world." Along with Abraham we can say "... [we look] for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God."
Let me conclude this part of our discussion with a quote from Dave Hunt of "The Seduction of Christianity" fame.
"... more than 30 years of civil protest and Christian activism (Focus On The Family, The Christian Coalition and so forth), have not stopped abortion. Instead of the hoped-for moral awakening, morals have declined. Crime, drug addiction, pornography, divorce and so forth increased, scarcely 10% of Americans believe in all of the 10 commandments, 1/3 of all married Americans have had an affair, and 1/5 of the children have lost their virginity by age 13."
"Would all of that effort that has gone into political and social action have done more good if instead, it had been expended upon reaching the lost with the gospel, as Christ commanded us. The question remains, what are we to do? We must follow Scripture, neither Jesus nor His apostles, nor the Biblical early church ever engaged in social or political activism or even advocated it. The great commission is not "go into all the world to reform its morals by forcing sinners to behave like saints", but to preach the gospel and convert sinners. And in the end, the conversion of sinners will have a far greater impact on society than all of the lobbying, protest marches and passionate appeals to morality that consume the time and energy of 'concerned Christians'." 
The Issue Of "Gender Hierarchy"
Although Diana Bagnall has proved to be extraordinarily accurate in some of her perceptions and the views she has expressed, never-the-less, and understandably so for a reporter of a secular magazine, she has been misled on a number of issues. One issue in particular that I would like to address relates to her comment regarding church leadership. She wrote,
"... make no mistake, this is a man's world - women have a vital place in it, but the Bible's teaching is firm on the gender hierarchy."
Thanks For The Blessing
The statement that I am about to make may sound a little strange, coming as it does from one who has been so passionately opposed to the Toronto Blessing ever since its initial appearance upon the universal Church stage, but I thank God for allowing all the heresies and all the strange and foolish manifestations that accompanied the 'preaching' of men and women like Rodney Howard-Browne, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Marilyn Hickey, the Arnotts, the Killpatricks and all the other heretics they flock together with. I really praise God that He allowed these people to come to the fore on the stage of Christendom, at this particular time in history, to promote their absolutely ridiculous and unscriptural version of Christianity.
The reason I make that statement is because a number of people, like myself, were compelled, because of the increasing foolishness, into taking some course of action. Not only that, but, by necessity, we were forced to flee back to the Word of God to make absolutely sure that we were right, in the course of action that we were taking. We had to be absolutely sure that what we were saying and doing, during our stand against what was being promoted in our churches, was according to the Scriptures. After all, we were being told that we were actually opposing God by our non-conformity. It is not the most comforting of feelings to openly demonstrate that you are travelling in a direction diametrically opposite to the one that just about everyone else in the congregation is going. It is not so pleasant a thing to go against the status quo, especially when everyone else is convinced they are on the right path and they repeatedly question your decision not to join them. I thank God that He gave us His Word as a bright light to guide us and lead us through a very dark and difficult period. I praise Him for giving us the absolutes of His perfect Word upon which we could firmly stand, even when prophecies of personal harm were being pronounced against anyone who would question the direction in which the leaders were intent upon taking the Pentecostal congregations.
Never was the message of 2 Timothy 2:15 more appropriate to the occasion then when the "Holy Ghost Bartender" arrived upon the scene, proclaiming his message of "belly up to the bar" and "be drunk on the new wine". Paul reminded Timothy at the beginning of the church age, and he reminds us today,
"Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
And that's exactly what a number of us did in our desire to discern the difference between the holy and profane and be absolutely sure that we were walking in obedience to the Scriptures and in a manner that was pleasing to our God.
As a direct result of virtually being forced into earnest study of the Scriptures, for our own Spiritual safety, six or seven years down the track from the beginning of the laughing phenomenon has been a journey of dealing with quite a number of other issues. Little things that were standard practice in a Pentecostal church service, but that used to be a source of niggling doubt, little things that seemed to be unimportant but were in contradiction to a simple reading of Scripture, have taken a more prominent position in the priorities of what can be glossed over as unimportant and what can not. It is quite amazing what happens when one determines to prayerfully study the Word of God for himself, trusting the Holy Spirit to lead him into all Truth, rather than simply reading along with whoever might be behind the pulpit, and allowing him to be the interpreter.
Coming back to our article in The Bulletin, Diana has contradicted herself by claiming that Pentecostal church leadership is "a man's world". She correctly points out that "... the Bible's teaching is firm on the gender hierarchy" but she sees no disagreement in the fact that she addresses Mrs. Bobbie Houston, wife of Brian Houston, with the title of Pastor. She is addressed as "Pastor Bobbie Houston" on the front cover of The Bulletin magazine and also within the body of the article, "The New Believers".
Suffer Not A Woman To Teach
One of the resulting issues that I had to deal with, when searching the Scriptures in regard to the Toronto Blessing, was the issue of women in leadership. After years of being indoctrinated and conditioned by the teachings of Pentecostalism there seemed to be little wrong with sitting under the ministry of women teachers. And over the years there have been many. However, the more I looked into this aspect of the Pentecostal movement and its relationship to the direction in which the movement is heading, the more I became convinced that, as the serpent beguiled Eve, with his subtlety, into partaking of forbidden fruit, so Pentecostalism is also being beguiled by the subtleties of the serpent into disobeying the distinct Words of God and is also committing a great and serious error.
Diana Bagnall says of the Pentecostal church, that,
"... fundamentally, there is still only one message - salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Part and parcel of that is acceptance of the Bible's authority, literally, across the board."
She made that statement despite the fact that Jesus Christ, Salvation and Faith are not mentioned in the entire article, except here in this one quote that she made. (Also of interest is the fact that the Bible is only mentioned twice in the whole article as well. Once here in this quote and the other, quoted above, when Diana briefly mentioned it in her remark about gender. A strange omission for a lengthy article on the Church, is it not?).
The above statement by Diana is misleading in the extreme. If "... acceptance of the Bible's authority, literally, across the board ..." means anything at all then what has happened to Paul's command in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 where he says,
"let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence."?
This Scripture clearly says that women should not be in teaching positions in the church nor should they stand in authority over the men, but to be in silence.
In the article which appeared in the April 2000 Alive Magazine, which told of the launch of the ACC, it was reported that nine percent (that's nearly one in ten) of the credentialed ministers in the Pentecostal and Charismatic denominations are women, the highest proportion among mainstream denominations.
If these people accept the Bible's authority, literally, across the board, as Diana Bagnall suggests that they do, then it would stand to reason that the percentage of credentialed women ministers in the movement would stand at zero, Mrs Bobbie Houston wouldn't have the word Pastor tacked on to the front of her name, Marilyn Hickey, who was the main speaker for the AOG National Conference of 1998, and who stood in authority and taught the leading men (and women) of the AOG, would be out of a job and ladies like Joyce Meyer would be off the air, and, in my opinion, that would be a great victory for Christendom.
"But really," we ask, "could God's Word possibly be that black and white? Surely, nothing can be so cut and dried, even if it is plainly obvious what the words read?" And so, great debate rages on this subject. Some say it is not relevant for today, that it was only relevant for the culture of that time. Some say Paul wrote this to address a particular situation that existed in the church at that particular time, where some women were apparently trying to run the show and wrest control from the hen-pecked men.
"But," we are assured, "that scenario doesn't exist in our modern church." Today, in our enlightened culture, and with our superior knowledge, we have great advantage over the infant church, and the command from Paul, although clear in its wording, doesn't really mean what it says, and even if it did, it is irrelevant for our time in history. It would be absurd even to attempt to act upon such a command in our day and age. The command is discriminatory. It discriminates against women. We now have laws that protect oppressed groups against discrimination, and perhaps the church leader who attempted to enforce such a command could be charged, and put out of business, by the anti-discrimination department of the United Nations? We would need to be very cautious. Surely God wouldn't expect us to get into trouble with everyone, especially the government, over some command that is no longer relevant in our modern society. He understands our circumstances.
And, so, onward we go, making our own rules to conform to our own opinions and fit in with society, doing our own thing until we get to the place where God says "Have it your way!" and He gives us over to a strong delusion, so that we end up thinking He is pleased with us when He surely isn't.
It's A Matter Of Husbands And Wives
However, it needs to be pointed out that even if we were to accept one of the tendered arguments that suggest that the Scriptures don't really mean what they say in regard to women functioning in the role of pastor, having teaching ministries and exercising authority over men, we are still confronted with other Scriptures that confirm God's clear will in the matter. For example, when laying down the criteria necessary to qualify one for the role of Bishop in 1 Timothy 3, Paul says,
"A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife."
Further, in verse 12 of the same chapter, when outlining the requirements for the role of Deacon, Paul said,
"Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well."
Also, in his letter to Titus, Paul, when instructing him to appoint Elders in every city, stipulated, as part of the selection criteria, that the Elder must "... be blameless, the husband of one wife."
By performing our theological gymnastics we can somehow come to the conclusion that it's appropriate in God's sight to appoint women to the positions of Bishop, Pastor, Elder or Deacon, but if we are to be in "acceptance of the Bible's authority, literally, across the board" then we would have to recognize that to be a husband of one wife requires one to be a male. A lady pastor could not possibly be the "husband of one wife", now could she?
From Deception To Transgression
It has most likely been asked a million times since Paul wrote the command under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but, why would God want to deprive the church from all the excellent teaching that seems to come from the ministries of women? Immediately following His prohibition of women teaching and having authority over men, God gives the reason. The four verses pertaining to this issue read,
"Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression." (1 Timothy 2:11-14).
The restriction upon women teaching men goes way back to the Fall. It's part of the curse that God pronounced upon the woman for her disobedience to His clear command, in Genesis 2:17, where He said,
"of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it."
But, the woman did eat of it. The serpent beguiled her into eating of it. Genesis 3:6 tells that after listening to the serpent's lies,
"... the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat."
The woman was open to the suggestions put forward by the serpent and he was able to convince her that what she was doing was good and right and extremely wise, despite that which he espoused being in contradiction to the clear commandments of God.
God does not allow the woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence, because, back in the beginning the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
"... My Words Shall Not Pass Away"
Further, in answer to those who say that Paul's command in this matter was only a temporary decree, it needs also to be pointed out that Paul was not saying that his commands were just for that particular time. In fact, as we have seen, he goes right back to the Fall and demonstrates that the prohibition, "I suffer not a woman to teach nor to usurp authority over the man", is an abiding principle that was valid, not just for the time it was spoken, but, from the time of Eve's transgression, upon which the decree is based. It is a principle that was true from the time of Eve's transgression, it was still true at the time Paul wrote it and therefore, it is a principle that is still true for the age in which we live, despite how enlightened and liberated we may consider ourselves to be. It matters not whether we think times have changed. We are without excuse! The circumstances upon which the command is based has never changed.
It is God who has declared this prohibition. Should we, like naughty little children, strive against His pronouncement, somehow convincing ourselves that it is right to do so, and that He won't be bothered about it? If my Father banishes me from the back yard swimming pool as punishment for some misdemeanor, what is he going to do when he arrives home from work to find me joyfully splashing around in the pool as though he couldn't care less? There's going to be trouble, friends.
I realise that this is not popular theology in our culture of 'liberated' women and personal 'rights', but do we allow the contemporary church to rewrite the Bible so that it conforms to our own opinions and our cultural standards, or, rather, do we allow the Bible to confront our misguided opinions and our God-forsaking culture and bring it into conformity with the Scriptures?
I am sorry, but the Pentecostal movement, as it stands today, and as it has stood from its very beginnings, is not in "... acceptance of the Bible's authority, literally, across the board ..." and this can be clearly demonstrated in numerous instances. And women as pastors, having authority over men, is simply one example of the many that could be used to substantiate my claim, despite how boisterously the leaders of the movement may protest to the contrary. Clearly, the leaders of the Pentecostal church and the "New Time Religion" are more interested in being seen up on the nicely decorated bandwagon, entertaining with their church growth friends, tickling itching ears and attracting huge crowds, than accepting "the Bible's authority literally across the board".
Birds Of A Feather...
It is probably true to say that you can get a fairly accurate feel for which road people are travelling upon by watching whose hands they hold as they make their journey. Perhaps we could get a good idea of what people promote by looking to see who is on the bandwagon with them and listening to what tune they are playing.
In my opinion, the importance of all the dignitaries and celebrities who were mentioned in the articles regarding the launch of ACC, pale into insignificance when compared with one man in particular, and that man is C. Peter Wagner. In my opinion, one of the most dangerous and deluded men to travel the modern day "Christian" preaching and teaching circuit. The power and tremendous influence of C. Peter Wagner can not be overly emphasised. The threat that his teachings impose upon the true Church also can not be overly emphasised. His circle of contacts and friends include some of the most apostate and heretical people ever to populate Christendom. To find that he was present at the official launch of ACC and that he is influential upon the leadership of the AOG in Australia is disturbing in the extreme and only further reveals the apostate condition into which the AOG has deteriorated.
Who Is C. Peter Wagner?
Wagner served as an Evangelical missionary in Bolivia for 16 years, during which time he opposed what he considered to be Pentecostal excesses. The change in his thinking occurred when, in 1971 he was appointed to the Donald McGavran chair of Church Growth at the Fuller Theological Seminary School of World Mission, at which time he recognized the rapid expansion of John Wimber's Vineyard ministry. In 1982 a new course was offered at Fuller's School of World Mission, co-taught by Wagner and John Wimber, who by this time had been appointed adjunct professor. The course was MC510 "The Miraculous and Church Growth". It was the most popular and, according to other staffers, also the most disruptive course on Fuller's campus.
He currently holds the position of Professor of Missions and Church Growth at Fuller. He is also head of the Global Harvest Ministries in Colorado Springs, Colorado, as well as the Kingdom Now/Dominionist World Prayer Center situated on the property of Ted Haggard's charismatic New Life Church. Charisma magazine referred to C. Peter Wagner, Ted Haggard and Chuck Pierce, the three heads of World Prayer Centre, as "God's Generals." C. Peter Wagner is more well-known in recent years for his "third wave" Power Evangelism and demonic stronghold deliverance ministries.
In October, 1999, Wagner's Global Harvest Ministries sponsored a praise and worship event in Ephesus, Turkey for the final stage of spiritual warfare (8/99 Charisma). Participants were to declare the lordship of Christ over the ground where pagans once protested Paul's preaching. The "Operation Queen's Palace" event was to underscore the breaking of the power of the "strongest ruling demonic spirit" still blocking the spread of the gospel - the Queen of Heaven ("the force most responsible for the population of hell").
Wagner, who convened the event, is also coordinator of the AD 2000 & Beyond's United Prayer Track and is recognized by a growing number of church leaders as one of the world's leading authorities on spiritual warfare. The June 1999 American Vanguard magazine said that in spiritual warfare preferably two or more "lock ourselves" into a hotel room and "discover the name of the 'principality' in charge over the city then bind that principality and then the city will be released to be evangelized...."
However, practically none of what is practiced by Wagner and his spiritual warfare friends can be substantiated from a proper reading of the Scriptures. Most of what he teaches is based upon extra Biblical ideas which are substantiated by mystical experiences, dreams, visions and the like. Quoting T. A. McMahon in "The Berean Call" of June, 1998, we read:
"Incredibly, what may be the fastest growing technique-driven prayer among evangelicals today is known as "strategic-level intercession." According to its promoters it involves newer varieties of prayer such as "spiritual warfare," "territorial spirits," "prophetic acts," "spiritual mapping," "warfare prayer," "tearing down strongholds," "identificational repentance," and "remitting the sins of nations." (Confronting the Powers, 130.) Explanations of these prayer systems are found in advocate C. Peter Wagner's book, "Confronting the Powers", along with definitions of other methods, including "four ways of praying in the community": praise marches, prayerwalks, prayer journeys, and more wide-ranging prayer expeditions. These, the author notes, "were virtually unknown to the majority of Christians before the 1990s..." (Confronting the Powers, 21.) Certainly, they were not known by God's prophets and apostles! (See The Berean Call, May/June 1997)"
"The rationale for these new approaches to prayer sounds appealing: Satan and his adversaries are obstructing the preaching and acceptance of the salvation message and must be confronted directly and removed from their positions of power so that the gospel can flow freely. That premise fails to meet the biblical criteria ... Nevertheless, Peter Wagner, recognized leader in this movement and a professor at Fuller Seminary School of World Mission, insists that it must be of God because the Lord commanded him to "take leadership in the area of territorial spirits." He is presently Coordinator of the International Spiritual Warfare Network (ISWN) and the AD 2000 United Prayer Track."
The Apostolic Council Of Prophetic Elders
Over the last eighteen months or so, C. Peter Wagner has convened gatherings called the Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders, where nationally recognized prophetic voices have met together on three occasions in Colorado Springs. Under C. Peter Wagner's apostolic oversight, Cindy Jacobs has been the moderator of this emerging council. Participants thus far include: C. Peter Wagner, Mike and Cindy Jacobs (Generals of Intercession), Chuck Pierce, Dutch Sheets (Vineyard pastor), Bart Pierce, Tommy Tenny (author of the theologically deficient book, "The God Chasers"), Kingsley Fletcher, Mike Bickle (false prophet and pastor of the Kansas City Fellowship, now the Metro City Fellowship), Paul Cain (former second in command to the heretical William Branham), John and Paula Sanford (promoters of New Age beliefs and practices), Bill Hamon, James Ryle (the Vineyard pastor who believes God is using Rock music to convert people to Christianity), Beth Alves, Barbara Wentroble and Jim Goll. All of the above-mentioned "leaders" are heavily involved in promoting the heretical Dominionist and Latter Rain teachings.
If C. Peter Wagner attended, and was involved in the launch of the ACC, as The Bulletin and Alive magazines report that he was, then we have to presume that the Australian AOG, like its counterpart in the USA, has finally succumbed to the incessant pressure of the heretical Latter Rain promoters to accept their teachings. This, despite the fact that Latter Rain theology, as introduced to the church in the 1940's by George Warnock and George and Earnest Hawtin, and now being openly and vigorously promoted by the likes of Wagner, was thoroughly denounced and condemned by the AOG in America.
The Resolution Of 1949
In 1949, at the General Council of the AOG held in Seattle, the Council overwhelmingly approved a resolution that was prepared by a committee that dealt with the Latter Rain Movement. The adopted resolution disapproved of the following practices of the Latter Rain, the action being deemed necessary as a result of the movement invading the AOG churches:
1. The over-emphasis relative to imparting, identifying, bestowing, or confirming of gifts by the laying on of hands and prophecy.
2. The erroneous teaching that the Church is built on the foundation of present-day apostles and prophets.
3. The extreme teaching as advocated by the "New Order," regarding the confession of sin to man and deliverance as practiced, which claims prerogatives to human agency which belongs only to Christ.
4. The erroneous teaching concerning the impartation of the gift of languages as special equipment for missionary service.
5. The extreme and unscriptural practice of imparting or imposing personal leadings by the means of the gifts of utterance.
6. Such other wrestlings and distortions of scripture interpretations which are in opposition to teachings and practices generally accepted among us.
In a letter from the Executive Presbytery of the AOG, dated April 20, 1949, these observations of Latter Rain teachings, which are still valid today, were given:
"The true test of any movement is whether or not it will stand up under the light of the Word of God. We cannot depend alone upon the testimony of spiritual blessing, which many have claimed to have received under the 'new order.' When the 'Jesus Only' issue swept the country in the years 1914-1917, there was a constant testimony that this was a revelation from God accompanied by great spiritual blessing. The movement was judged, however, not on the testimony of spiritual blessings, but on its adherence to the Scriptures. When it was found that its claims did not conform to sound doctrine, its message was rejected. Dire calamities were predicted upon all who failed to 'walk in the light' of that 'revelation' but all predictions failed of fulfillment. We have heard similar predictions for failure to accept the 'new order' teaching, which we regret exceedingly."
Although Latter Rain theology was denounced it never went away. From the time of its inception, in the late 1940's, until now it has consistently developed and resurfaced in many different ways. The progression has followed a path that went from Latter Rain to the Manifested Sons of God. This led to the Kingdom Now beliefs which were picked up by the Word Faith Movement of Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth Copeland, literally being broadcast, via the electronic media, into the professing church and the world. The beliefs were then promoted by the Church Growth strategists, the Spiritual Warfare specialists, such as John Wimber, the Prophetic Movement practitioners, such as C. Peter Wagner's Restored Apostles Movement and, finally, it arrived at the Toronto and Pensacola outbreaks of mystical manifestations. The same basic teaching is held by all of these people who believe that, the church will somehow develop and perfect herself and come into glory and honor and power, and that the members will be dominant and influential in this world, bringing it to perfection, without the physical, bodily presence of Christ. That is, before the return of Christ. However, a careful study of the Scriptures does not support their teachings. They were classified as heretical by the leadership of the AOG in 1949 and they are still heretical today.
Confronting The Powers
C. Peter Wagner has written several books and produced a number of videos, which instruct Christians exactly how they are supposed to bind demons, principalities, and powers when taking their cities and nations for Jesus. He promotes a concept called Spiritual Mapping and Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare, which involves people going into a city, locating any statues which represent some form of paganism, areas of crime, abortion, pornography, etc. Once these areas have been mapped out, a team of intercessors begin to pray against the demons that have control over these specific evils and sins. When God reveals the names of the principalities, powers, governing spirits or strong men of Satan over an area, the intercessors are then to ask God for instructions on how to bind him. Once the work of discovering, naming and binding the power over a city, or other area, has been completed, the binding must be performed daily, by intercessors, to keep those powers bound.
C. Peter Wagner and other members of the Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare Movement, such as Cindy Jacobs and Ted Haggard, travel all over the world, supposedly pulling down satanic strongholds, so, that people can come to know Jesus Christ!
Under The Big Top
Mid 1998, an AOG church in my city, Living Waters Christian Church, erected a huge tent in one of the parks in the centre of town, and conducted "revival meetings" for a period of one month. They promoted the meetings as absolutely vital to God's purposes for our city and declared that no one, if they were serious about God, should miss the meetings for any reason. They had a guest speaker from Brisbane, Noel Mann, who they billed as a great prophet of God, and who they assured everyone, also had a prophetic message from the Lord for our city of Cairns.
I decided to go and have a look. On the two nights that I attended there were perhaps fifty or sixty people, obviously already professing Christians, most of whom ended up down at the front in an open area, dancing wildly about and yelling at the top of their voices to the sound of the church band playing very loud rock music. This activity, which was supposed to represent praise and worship to God, continued on for possibly an hour and a half until, being thoroughly worked up, a number of people began to exhibit the usual Toronto style manifestations.
Noel Mann's message was preceded by the blowing of the Shofar, a practice that was (and still is) becoming increasingly popular among the Toronto, Pensacola, and Spiritual Warfare groups. This was done, apparently, to call down the presence of the Holy Spirit, as well as to serve notice upon any demonic spirits to depart. 'Invoking' the presence of any spirit by the blowing of an instrument, however, is called shamanism. There is no relationship between the Old Testament blowing of the Shofar, and the idolatrous exhibition performed by Noel Mann and his AOG pastor friend.
Noel Mann's message consisted of the details of a vision that he said he experienced when approaching the outskirts of Cairns during his journey, by car, from Brisbane. He said that he saw a huge cloud hovering over the city and that, up in the cloud, he saw a demon sitting on some kind of throne. He explained to the attentive gathering that God had shown him the territorial spirit that was responsible for all the evil that was taking place in our city. However, he encouraged everyone that by his coming to Cairns and being involved in the meetings, accompanied by all the praise and worship that was ascending up to God, all the prayer and his blowing of the Shofar, the territorial spirit over Cairns had been unseated and the city was now open for the free proclamation of the Gospel. He assured us that he had seen that in his spirit, as he traveled along the highway into Cairns. The strongholds of the enemy had been assaulted and torn down.
Unbelievably, for me of little faith, he also assured us that, from henceforth, there would be absolutely no hindrance to the evangelising of the city. We could now take the city for Christ without any opposition from the enemy. People were encouraged to go into the town and bring whoever they could find, asking them to come to the meetings and get saved, and they would come. All the sin and crime and corruption over the city had now been cast down. I was absolutely amazed, but most of the rest of the congregation seemed to believe him as they cheered and clapped and praised God for this wonderful announcement.
From the content of what was proclaimed and the terminology that was used, Noel Mann had obviously been reading the literature produced by the Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare people. I don't specifically remember him mentioning C. Peter Wagner by name, but obviously, he has been thoroughly influenced by his teachings. Doesn't this also sound like what I reported above, about James Ryle, Vineyard pastor and close associate of Wagner, who, in 1990, experienced a couple of dreams and wrote an article about them which he entitled "The Sons of Thunder - A Prophetic Dream". In his article he said that God was saying to him,
"Simply singing the truth in the name of Jesus Christ 'we say unto you be saved' will release the power of His Spirit in such an awesome display that men and women will collapse in their seats converted to Christ."
Opportunity Comes Knocking
During Noel Mann's "sermon", something quite unbelievable happened. I witnessed an event that, to me, was incredibly relevant to the claimed victory over the demons that supposedly inhabited the skies over our city. What took place, however, would have been lost to the likes of Noel Mann, the AOG pastor, and the rest of the people who had just agreed together that they had pulled down the strongholds of the demons presiding over Cairns, thus preparing the way to "take the city" for Christ. After all the energy expended in singing spiritual war songs, shaking their fists and railing at the Devil and his demons (in contrary to what we are told in the Book of Jude, verses 8 to 10), to me, it seemed as though the enemy (or was it perhaps God Himself?) openly slapped them on the face and mocked their unscriptural and boastful claim.
Staggering into the tent, from the darkness of the park outside, came one lonely Aboriginal man, one of the homeless park dwellers who frequent our community. Obviously, from his actions and his disheveled appearance, he was well and truly under the influence of alcohol. He staggered, down the aisle, past the rows of empty chairs at the back, toward the front and sat in amongst the congregation. He was very well behaved, considering his condition. However, as Noel Mann continued to speak on the victory and liberty that he had secured for our city, every now and then the man would call out, "Hallelujah!" Eventually, Noel Mann sternly addressed him, telling him that he had better mean what he says by calling out "Hallelujah!" upon which he got up out of his chair and stumbled back out into the darkness of the park.
After a couple of minutes, I heard the man shouting and children's laughter coming from outside. Apparently, some children, whose parents were attending the meeting, were outside the tent and decided to have a bit of fun by teasing the drunken man. Amazingly, after about a quarter of an hour, the man stumbled back into the tent. This time he walked the full length of the aisle and came to a stop directly in front of the pulpit from which Noel Mann was preaching his message. He looked intently at Noel Mann for a moment, then abruptly turned around, walked back up the aisle toward the rear of the tent where no one else was sitting, and sat down again. Just like before, he was very well behaved, but every now and again, like a real Pentecostal, he would interject with a loud "Hallelujah!"
After a while, I noticed some activity down at the front in the area where the "officials" were sitting. As I watched, it became obvious that the leadership of the Living Waters Church were going to do something about the drunk man. Two young male members of the church, themselves of Aboriginal or Islander extraction, unobtrusively left the tent by a side entrance. One came inside again by the front entrance and took a seat directly in front of the man. I realised that they were going to try and remove him from the meeting. In my opinion, he wasn't doing anybody any harm, and they should have just left him alone. However, as the young man turned around and spoke to him, no doubt asking him to leave the tent, the drunken man began to yell out loudly and tell the young man to leave him alone and get away from him, with a few colourful, but embarrassing adjectives thrown in for good measure.
I had seen and heard enough by this time to realise where Noel Mann and the rest of the people in the tent were coming from, so decided to leave during the distraction, exiting by a side door, whereupon, I ran into the second young man who had been sent to eject the drunk. I pointed out to the young man that they were going to have their hands well and truly full if they imagined that they would be able to get the man out of the tent without making a very embarrassing scene, one that would far outweigh any distracting contribution the drunken man would have made if they had just left him alone. He seemed to agree with me that probably they had started something that wasn't going to be easily resolved.
I walked across the darkness of the park toward my car, listening to the increasing sound of protests coming from the man as I went. As I got into my car to leave I caught a glimpse of the man staggering away into the darkness in the other direction. The two young men were standing in the light of the doorway watching to make sure he did not return.
The preacher and the congregation were once again without the distraction of the drunken Aboriginal man, no doubt, to continue on with the very challenging and important message of how they were going to "liberate the city and win multitudes to Christ", etc., etc., etc.
Hypocrisy And Foolishness
After sitting in my car and thinking about these events, I became quite disturbed as I realised the seriousness and the spiritual implications of what I had just witnessed. What I had heard preached in the tent was bad enough, but what I had just seen these people do was of far greater significance. What hypocrisy! What utter blindness! What absolute folly and foolishness! What pride and arrogance! The obviously unsaved, and desperately lost Aboriginal man came into their midst, where they were boasting of the great exploits that they had done, and further intended to do in the Name of Christ, and they cast him back out into the darkness, both physical and spiritual, where, I should imagine, he remains to this day.
Why didn't Noel Mann and the AOG leaders of Living Waters Christian Church, stop the meeting and practice their "strategic spiritual warfare" on behalf of the drunken Aboriginal man? After all, they had hardly finished boasting that the demonic strongholds over the city of Cairns had been ripped out of existence and, it was literally only a matter of going into the city and telling the people about Christ and they would be saved. Why didn't they stop the meeting and tell the lost man the Gospel, the message of Salvation for those who sit in darkness? That's what I want to know. Surely, by what they were professing inside the tent, it should have been a simple task?
However, the Lord showed me something that night about the hypocrisy, the pride and the grand standing of a great number of the people promoting this whole "new move" of revival and spiritual warfare, something that only causes one to more vigorously stand for the Truth of the Gospel and expose the stupidity of what is going on. Hopefully, by doing so, we might rescue some, who, either through immaturity, ignorance, or some other means have found themselves in the company of such performers of deceit.
Spiritual Warfare - A Biblical Perspective
Quoting again from T. A. McMahon's article in The Berean Call of June, 1997, we read:
"Spiritual warfare is not hand-to-hand combat or strategic battle in the heavenlies against spirit entities. It is contending for the truth, vanquishing false teachings, and resisting the lies. The "wrestling" of Ephesians 6:12 refers to disputations over truth (verse 14), not body slamming demons. Our weapon is the "sword of the Spirit (of Truth), which is the (written!) word (rhema) of God" (verse 17). Jesus himself used that sword against the devil: "It is written ..." (Matthew 4:4,6,7,10)."
"The strongholds of the devil to be pulled down are not literal "territories ruled by demons," but Satan's lies, which hold captive the minds ("every thought") of the lost (2 Corinthians 10:4-5), and can even deceive God's "very elect" (Matthew 24:24). Scripture tells us clearly and simply how we are to deal with such strongholds: "... If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31-32)."
The New Apostolic Reformation
From the 7th through to the 12th of February, 2000, Ben Gray, pastor of Christian Outreach Centre in Mansfield, Brisbane, hosted the 21st Century Church National Apostolic Conference which was presented by CityHarvest International and the Wagner Institute for Practical Ministries. The main attractions were C. Peter Wagner, Mike and Cindy Jacobs, Dutch Sheets and Tom Hess. That explains why C. Peter Wagner was in the neighborhood and could be an honoured guest at the launch of the ACC in Sydney a week later.
The conference was billed as "Truly the Dawning of a New Day ... Converging the Streams for a Mighty River of Revival".
As I have already stated, perhaps we could get a good idea of what people promote, and where they are headed, by looking to see who is on the bandwagon with them and listening to what tune they are playing.
It should come as no surprise then, that one of the confirmed Australian speakers for the 21st Century Church National Apostolic Conference was none other than Brian Houston himself. Obviously, he and his AOG Executive companions and their supporters, go right along with what is being promoted by C. Peter Wagner, in regards to a Latter Rain "New Apostolic Reformation". They have no apprehension or remorse about being on the bandwagon with these "Latter Rain" heretics. In fact, it seems that they are there specifically to learn the "Latter Rain" tune.
The list of Australians confirmed to speak at the conference included, along with Houston, a number of other AOG big names. The AOG was very well represented at this conference, which plainly shows, as far as the 1949 warning about Latter Rain heresies is concerned, they couldn't care less. They have an agenda to attract large numbers and, apparently, the cause justifies the means.
Laying New Foundations
Above, we read that in 1949, at the General Council of the AOG held in Seattle, the Council overwhelmingly approved a resolution that was prepared by a committee that dealt with the Latter Rain Movement. This was as a result of the movement rapidly invading the AOG churches. The leaders of that era, in obedience to the Lord, stood up and soundly defended the Lord's tender lambs from the frothing jaws of ravening wolves. And you will notice that the weapon they used was the Sword of the Lord, the Word of God.
It is disappointing and alarming, that fifty years down the track, even though the resolutions they drew up have not been annulled, most of what they condemned is now common practice in the AOG assemblies. In particular, I want to point out the second item identified in the resolution as being disapproved by the AOG, and that was specifically,
"The erroneous teaching that the Church is built on the foundation of present-day apostles and prophets."
In the brochure that I received, advertising C. Peter Wagner's conference in Brisbane, the following was written:
"The New Apostolic Reformation is an extraordinary work of the Holy Spirit that is changing the shape of Christianity globally. It is truly a new day! The Church is changing. New names! New methods! New worship expressions! The Lord is establishing the foundations of the Church for the new millennium. This foundation is built upon apostles and prophets. Apostles execute and establish God's plan on the earth. The time to convene a conference of the different apostolic prophetic streams across this nation is now! This conference will cause the Body to understand God's 'new' order for this coming era. We look forward to having you with us in Brisbane in Feb 2000."
It was signed by Peter Wagner and Ben Gray.
The Church For The New Millennium
Did you hear that? The promoters of this movement say that through them and their "New Apostolic Reformation",
"The Lord is establishing the foundations of the Church for the new millennium. This foundation is built upon apostles and prophets."
That is a clear and absolute contradiction to item number two mentioned in the resolution of 1949 and identified as heresy at that time. It is also a clear and absolute contradiction to the Word of God. However, what is being proposed here by C. Peter Wagner goes even further than what the General Council of the AOG in the USA warned off. Wagner says that the Lord is establishing the foundations of the Church, now! Wagner is not saying that he and his deluded followers are going to build upon the foundation that has already been laid, that which was laid at the inception of the Church age by the apostles and prophets, with Christ Himself as the Chief Corner Stone. No!!! This is another foundation that the Lord is supposedly establishing (present tense) for the Church of the new millennium, upon present day apostles and prophets, with C. Peter Wagner, of course, as the chief apostle.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ. This is outright blasphemy. Ephesians 2:20-22 tells us very clearly that the church is
"built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone, in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit."
Nowhere in Scripture does it even remotely suggest that the foundation that was laid at the beginning of the Church age would become obsolete and need replacing with another foundation, because the Lord is doing a "new thing". The foundation for the Church of the new millennium will be the same foundation that was laid, at the beginning of the Church age, by the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ as the chief corner stone. That foundation is already established, complete, set in concrete and needs neither replacement nor modification. Also, we the Church are to build upon it, not add to it. I feel extremely confident in saying that anyone who attempts to meddle with that foundation has not been ordained by the Lord to do so, no matter how strenuously he may declare that he has, no matter how expertly he twists the Scriptures to support his beliefs, and no matter how many professing Christians support him. He is grossly deceived and he is a usurper!
If The Foundations Be Destroyed?
Let me quote from the excellent article, "Coming Out Of The Latter Rain - A Biblical Critique, Part 2" by Thomas Ice of Biblical Awareness Ministries.
"Christ's giving of apostles and prophets to the Church is said in Ephesians 2:20 to be something which is to be foundational to the Church, not something given to each generation of believers. The passage says, "having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone. The picture is that of a building process which is going on during the entire period of the Church age; from Pentecost to the rapture. This process can be described as taking place in three stages."
"Phase one is the laying of the corner stone, which describes the first century, nonrepeatable, work of Christ. The rest of the building is supposed to orient itself in terms of Christ the corner stone."
"Phase two is the foundation of the apostles and prophets, which also occured in the first century and is nonrepeatable. However, just as with Christ, even though it is nonrepeatable, it does not mean that it is nonapplicable for today. Just as with a foundation in a physical building, which once it is built it continues to be used, so it is with the ministry of the apostles and prophets who gave us the boundaries of the gospel and doctrine upon which believers are being used of God to build Christ's Church. Once the foundation is laid, you don't keep redoing it each generation, instead you continue to build upon it."
"Phase three is the superstructure of the rest of the building which is built upon and in terms of the guidelines laid out by the corner stone and the foundation. This work will be completed at the rapture when the last person destined to make-up the final component of the Body of Christ believes. Then the Church will be complete."
"Within the framework of the Biblical picture of Ephesians 2, to say that God is restoring apostles and prophets implies that foundation which has been laid is not complete and we have been building the house upon a shaky foundation."
"Ephesians 3:5 echoes the thought of 2:20 when Paul says concerning the mystery of Christ: "which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His Holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit." The emphasis is upon revelation received during the time of Paul's writing, which implies that the ministry of apostles and prophets was completed in the past."
"When we come to the Ephesians 4:11 use of apostles and prophets, with evangelists, and pastors and teachers we observe a division of labor employed in the building of God's spiritual temple - the Church. Phase two, the foundation, was completed during the apostolic age ending around AD. 100 and those workmen left the scene, while the fruit of their labor remains. That foundation was the New Testament canon of Scripture. Phase three is entrusted with the task of building upon the sure foundation of Christ and the apostles. This is why the bulk of labor over the life of the project (the Church age) is done by the evangelist, and the pastor-teachers. They remain on site until the structure is complete at the rapture. This is why the Pastoral Epistles (1 & 2 Timothy and Titus) stress the importance of following and protecting the fixed deposit of Apostolic faith by faithful men, so that it can be passed from generation to generation (2 Timothy 2:2). Therefore, evangelist, and pastor-teachers have never faded from the scene so that they have to be restored as latter rain advocates teach."
"The Holy Spirit has been using believers to win and disciple others for the last 2,000 years without interruption as taught by restorationists. The Church is being perfected with the original doctrine contained in the New Testament and does not need an updated version of "Apostles' doctrine 2.1." The first edition did not have any glitches. Why would anyone want to bring the foundation crew back on the job when the roof is near completion, unless they want to improperly change the foundation. Yet, to want to add to the foundation, when it has already been set is the desire and practice of false prophets and teachers. The believer who opens themselves up to "new revelation" is opening themselves up to deception. As Paul told Timothy, "Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you" (2 Tim.1:13-14)."
"This is the Church's calling in our day: to guard the foundation laid by Christ, and the apostles and prophets, while building upon that foundation the superstructure through evangelism and discipleship."
It has always been, and ever will be, false apostles, false prophets and false teachers who suggest that the foundation of the Church needs modifying in some form or another.
"For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." (Matthew 24:24).
It has always been, and ever shall be, this same group who will attempt to convince the Lord's people that God is up to something new. "It is truly a new day! The Church is changing. New names! New methods! New worship expressions!"
That's why they need another foundation. What they're attempting to build doesn't fit properly on the existing foundation that the apostle Paul and his companions built two thousand years ago. They can do a more excellent job, apparently. They say, the foundation for the church of the new millennium is being established, today, upon new apostles and new prophets, with C. Peter Wagner and his close associates self-installed as the leaders. The church is changing, they say. Their intention is to tear down the old, irrelevant, existing structure, break up the existing inappropriate foundation, and start a whole new building which will be more suited to contemporary Christianity.
Psalm 11:3 asks the frightening question,
"If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?"
Solid Rock Or Shifting Sand?
Will you, who are reading this article, allow these people to destroy your foundation? Is your foundation based upon the solid rock of the Word of God or is it upon the shifting sand of some new thing that God is supposedly saying and doing? As for me, with the Lord's protection, I will not allow C. Peter Wagner or any of his followers and promoters, neither Brian Houston, the AOG Executive, or the ACC to destroy my foundation. They can try, but if we keep our feet firmly planted on solid ground, we will weather the winds and rains of false teaching that are descending upon and buffeting the Church in these last days. Our foundation remains upon that particular foundation which was built two thousand years ago by the apostles and prophets, with Christ Himself, the Logos, the Word as the Chief Corner Stone.
Jesus said in Matthew 7:24-27,
"Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock."
"And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it."
I would suggest that all the people holding hands together, up on the brightly coloured and decorated bandwagon, are in for a mighty crash. The sound of their joyful singing will come to an abrupt stop. If I was them, I would stop trying to be someone important, seeking to be rich, famous, successful and popular, looking for the favour of men, and humbly ask the Lord to forgive them for their foolishness and for leading His people astray. Also, they should urgently get back into the Word of God and allow His Holy Spirit to lead them into Truth.
I would suggest that they begin a couple of verses previous to the ones I have just quoted in Matthew 7, which are really the grounds for Jesus making the remarks He did regarding the choice of foundations, either rock or sand. Verses 21 to 23 contain the chilling words of Christ directed at people who think they are truly serving God and doing a good job for Him. People who jumped up on the bandwagon instead of fleeing in the opposite direction.
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
Prophesying, casting out devils and doing many wonderful works in the name of the Lord is what these people major on. Obviously it won't help in that day, when we stand before the Lord, if what they are doing is not based upon the Word of God, the sayings of Jesus, the doctrine of the Bible. If they've moved off the foundation that has served the Church since its beginning, onto some new foundation that they have built for themselves, and for those who would follow them, then I have grave fears for their eternal wellbeing.
"Wherefore hear the word of the Lord, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem. Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves: Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it." (Isaiah 28:14-18).
"... whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock ..."
From what I have written in this article it should be apparent to any thinking Christian that something is seriously wrong in Christendom, particularly within the Pentecostal and Charismatic streams. From what I am discovering as the Lord leads me out of error along the path of increasing light, things are not at all well in the Evangelical stream either. They too, are being seduced by the same subtleties that have led Pentecostal leaders to chase after, and promote, a false gospel. However, what I have written is primarily relating to Pentecostalism and as we look at the prevailing trends and compare with Scripture what is happening and being proposed by a great number of leaders within the movement, we should be very concerned.
I have laid many serious charges at the feet of the current leadership which they need to consider with utmost urgency. The apostasy promised in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is rapidly maturing and many Scriptures that warn of false teachers and the general acceptance of heresy in the days, leading up to Christ's return, are already being fulfilled.
My controversy with the leaders of this "New Time Religion" and my reasons of accusing them of having "jumped onto the bandwagon" are summarised below.
1. Most of the Pentecostal churches have been turned into business enterprises, organized along the same lines and employing the same principles as any other secular business enterprise. More and more pastors are taking on the role of company executives. The business of 'church' has become profit-oriented, success-driven, client-friendly, product-focused (programs and services), and image conscious, something I believe the Lord never intended.
2. The leaders of the "New Time Religion" are exploiting a characteristic of fallen humanity, called self-love, to build their mega-churches. By building their churches in conformity to the demands of unregenerate men they are assured of huge congregations.
3. Implementing Church Growth principles that have been formulated by men such as Robert Schuller and Paul Yonggi Cho are more important than adhering to the Scriptures.
4. The gospel that is being preached in these churches focuses upon God's love and forgiveness and the promise of temporal blessings and what God will supposedly do for us. The leaders of "The New Time Religion" cause their converts to equate Christianity with financial blessing and material abundance, leading the unwary into the sin of covetousness. Sin and the need for repentance are only given lip service. Attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition is seen as destructive to the human personality and counterproductive to evangelism. The unsaved are made to feel comfortable rather than convicted.
5. The current leadership has a strategy of reaching the youth of our society by using contemporary rock music. The music being played in the churches is no longer distinguishable from the music being played in the local night clubs. Worldly music and entertainment is being confused with praise and worship.
6. The word "Christian" has been hijacked and no longer has exclusive reference to its initial meaning, that is, a person who has been born again according to the Scriptures and lives in obedience to the commandments of the Lord. The word has been confused to become an all inclusive and all embracing term that represents any person that seems to have good intentions, or any action that is deemed, by the wider community, to be of good cause. Many organizations and churches, such as ACC, which make use of the word "Christian" as part of their title seriously depart from the doctrine of the Bible.
7. The launch of Australian Christian Churches is, among other things, a move by the new breed of church leaders to gain recognition on a wider platform. The leadership have political aspirations and are under the illusion that they can change society for the better by introducing moralistic laws on a governmental level. This is nothing more than the introduction of "Kingdom Now/Latter Rain" heresies into the church.
8. In harmony with the principles of Church Growth, the leadership of ACC sees the role of the church as one of identifying with society in "relatable ways", serving and helping un-believers and giving them the answers that they want. There is no mention of confronting society with its sin and corruption and calling people to repentance towards God. What they are practicing is not evangelism as defined in the Scriptures.
9. In the brochure promoting the launch of ACC there is no mention of God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Sin, Repentance, Bible, etc., etc., etc. ACC has purposefully avoided confessing the Lord for fear of causing offense to un-believers and losing numbers. They have denied Jusus before men, and according to Matthew 10:32-33, Jesus will also deny them before the Father.
10. ACC is denying the Great Commission of the Church, which is to go into the world in the Name of Christ and preach the gospel, calling sinners to repentance and making disciples. They are instead promoting the availability of acceptance and friendship within the group, promises of financial prosperity, health, happiness, entertainment, social welfare and all things that cater to the true lover of self. They are using band-aids to treat a case of advanced, malignant cancer.
11. The unbelievers are flocking into these churches for temporal reasons rather than because they have been convicted of sin and are desiring Salvation. Along with Diana Bagnall I would say that the temporal reasons are to do with "charisma, seductive packaging, the power of positive thinking, professional standards and the effective harnessing of youthful idealism and passion." As one of their own has said, "We scratch where people are itching."
12. The leadership of the Pentecostal churches and ACC repeatedly make merchandise of rich and famous people, such as sports celebrities, in their efforts to make Christianity more attractive and palatable. This is a strategy employed for the purpose enticing the un-saved into the churches. In direct contradiction to Scripture which forbids the practice, most of these celebrities are thrust into positions of leadership and given authority while they are still novices. Hence, the testimonies which they are allowed to present to the congregations usually contain much theological error which is never corrected.
13. In direct contradiction to the Scriptures, which forbid women to teach and hold positions of authority over the men, the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches boast that nine percent of their credentialed ministers are women.
14. The Pentecostal churches and ACC are promoting the ministry of C. Peter Wagner and his associates, who teach unscriptural "Spiritual Warfare" strategies and techniques.
15. The Pentecostal churches are encouraging the introduction of "Latter Rain" heresies into the congregations. In particular, they promote a "New Apostolic Reformation" as taught by C. Peter Wagner. They teach the heresy that the church is being built upon the foundation of current day apostles and prophets, a belief that was denounced as heretical in an American AOG Executive resolution in 1949.
16. A new teaching is being propagated by the Pentecostal and Charismatic leaders that God is doing new things and is building a new foundation for the church of the new millenium, suggesting that the old foundation is no longer current. It has always been false apostles, false prophets and false teachers who have attempted to move God's people off the foundation which was laid two thousand years ago at the inception of the Church age. Nothing has changed!!!
Eating Every Bitter Thing
Unfortunately for them, a great number of the current leaders of the Pentecostal Movement are motivated by a desire to be seen as absolutely essential in what (they imagine) God to be doing in the Earth today. They like to think that they are important in the scheme of things and they have an unhealthy longing for others to also regard them as such. As 2 Timothy 3:1-5 so eloquently states, in the last days perilous times shall come because men will be highminded, inflated with self-conceit and lifted up with pride. They will see themselves as utterly necessary to the fulfillment of God's purposes in history. They will be puffed up with their own importance.
These leaders are also being driven by a need to please their peers. They are continually striving to appear successful to those a little ahead of them up the ladder. They are "yes" men, completely submitted to anyone above them and thoroughly indoctrinated with the erroneous Pentecostal interpretation of God's command in 1 Chronicles 16:22, "Touch not Mine anointed!" Because of this, during their own journey to what they perceive as success, they are willing to employ methods that are leading them further and further away from a dependence upon Scripture. Although they may protest to the contrary, they have come to a place where the Bible no longer has the sufficiency and ultimate authority over their faith and practice. In fact, many are deserting the Word of God because an appeal to Scripture is always divisive, and one of the primary aims of those who perceive themselves as leaders in Christendom today, is unity.
Quoting again the Book of Amos, chapter 8 and verses 11 to 12, we read,
"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it."
Of course, this prophecy was made in Old Testament times as a result of national disobedience toward God, but that does not preclude a parallel fulfillment during the time in which we currently find ourselves, and for the same reasons. In fact, because people have been denied the true Word of God and, instead, have been fed by false shepherds with myths and fables to please what their itching ears want to hear, there is indeed a famine in the land. Instead of leading God's sheep to the lush pastures of nutritious food that He has provided, these leaders of the "New Time Religion" have led the sheep astray into barren paddocks that contain only weeds. They have been fed with error that leaves them empty and in continuous search for more. The problem with God's sheep being hungry when they shouldn't be is that they stand a good chance of eating anything that is dished out before them. Proverbs 27:7 tells us,
"The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet."
Once you have eaten and are satisfied you no longer have the desire for food, even if it is your favourite dish. But if you are hungry, really hungry, you will eat just about anything. If the so called shepherds would feed the sheep with the right food we would not see so many of them running here, there and everywhere eager to eat every bitter thing that comes along.
The solutions to the problems addressed in this article are very limited. In fact, I can think of only one. Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)!!! With the Roman Catholic Church under the authority of the Popes and adrift in the turbulent waters of doctrinal heresy and mystical experience, the leaders of the Reformation sought to bring her under the authority of the Bible alone. Of course, as history shows, it didn't work. Many good and godly men and women lost their lives for the cause of Truth and we ended up with the Protestant Reformation. The Roman Catholic Church and her subjects, to this day, remain adrift upon the stormy ocean of false religion, simply because they have an authority other than the one God ordained. His Word!!! Sola Scriptura!!!
Sola Scriptura is nothing new. It is not some bright idea that Luther suddenly thought up in 1517. It is a principle of God which is found, among other places, in 2 Timothy 3:15-17.
"And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
The Scriptures thoroughly furnish, or equip the believer in all matters of doctrine and are the standard by which all doctrines are to be tested. During his ministry, Timothy was confronted with all manner of difficult and perilous situations, which included hostile false teachers. Paul knew of these circumstances and continually referred him to the Scriptures for answers.
The principle of Sola Scriptura is also revealed in the words of Christ Himself. He used the Scriptures as His final court of appeal in every dispute, whether with the religious leaders or the Devil himself. When contending with the Pharisees on their exaltation of tradition, He proclaimed,
"Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition..." (Mark 7:13).
The recognition and acceptance of any tradition must, therefore, be determined by Scripture.
During His testing by the Sadducees with regard to the resurrection, Jesus pointed out to them,
"You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures..." (Matthew 22:29).
During His temptation in the wilderness, Jesus responded to the Devil three times with the phrase,
"It is written" (Matthew 4:4-10).
Clearly, Jesus practiced Sola Scriptura, accepting it as the supreme authority and subjecting Himself to it (Luke 24:44). We, as His disciples, would be foolish to think that we could be safe doing otherwise.
It needs to be stressed that without a strong conviction regarding the Word of God, people will find themselves in the company of the Roman Catholics or the Mormons or the Jehovah's Witnesses, hopelessly lost, adrift upon the raging seas of traditions and experiences. If the leaders of this "New Time Religion" continue upon their current course of departure from the Reformation cry of "Sola Scriptura", then they and their followers will be at the mercy of every new experience and every new theology that arrives upon the scene. They will not be adequately equipped to discern the difference between the holy and the profane, and consequently, they will be led astray. From my perspective, from what I have seen and heard and read with regards to teachings such as those being propagated by the likes of C. Peter Wagner and numerous others, perhaps, for a great many of them, it is already too late.
That Word - "Christian"
If people are going to call themselves Christians or if they are going to have the word Christian in the title of their organization then they need to demonstrate that they deserve that privilege by adhering faithfully to the Word of God, despite how many followers they might gain or lose. They urgently need to go to their Bibles and practice sound exegesis instead of being enticed by every wind of doctrine that comes along in the name of Church Growth, evangelism, revival or success.
In John 8:31-32, the Bible records what Jesus said to the Jews who believed in Him,
"If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
To gain the privilege of being called a Christian, one of Christ's disciples, a person needs to hear the Word of Jesus, accept that Word as Truth and then continue in it.
All the testimonies in the world, despite how rich or famous the person testifying may be, will count for nothing if the people have moved off the foundation as laid by Christ and the apostles two thousand years ago. All the activity and good ideas about how to get people saved and into church will be absolutely valueless if the principles and methods depart from God's principles and methods as found in Scripture. All the wonderful experiences, that are supposedly from God, will be utterly worthless if they are contrary to the Word in even the slightest degree. Beware! It was by his subtlety that the serpent deceived Eve.
Take Heed To, And Continue In The Doctrine
"Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee." (1 Timothy 4:16).
If we are to take heed to the above Scripture, an enormous problem arises which has no easy solution. If my complaints of a serious departure from, what Diana Bagnall calls "...acceptance of the Bible's authority, literally, across the board..." are well-founded, and if my proposal of a return to sound Biblical exegesis bears consideration, then it seems to me that what we call the "Pentecostal Movement" is a house that man has built upon seemingly good ideas, independent of God's direction. Along with C. Peter Wagner's new church for the new millennium, it doesn't sit squarely upon the foundation that apostle Paul an Co. built two thousand years ago. It is a different building than the one Jesus referred to when He said, "I will build My Church." The enormous problem that comes with considering with what I have written in this article is Psalm 127:1, which clearly states,
"Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it."
What does that leave us? Perhaps we should pull the building down (which is what I have been accused of doing anyway)? Well, why not? If it's not the Lord's building, He certainly won't mind. It would be a better scenario than standing before the Lord and hearing those dreadful words, "I never knew you, depart from Me you who work iniquity!"
My humble counsel, for what it's worth, if they are not prepared to forsake their own building and build something worthwhile upon the foundation whose cornerstone is Christ, is to come down quickly off the brightly coloured and decorated bandwagon and flee from the wrath to come. Hear what the Lord says:
"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people."
"Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
Click here to Email Hughie Seaborn - In Cairns, Qld., Australia