Monday, June 20, 2016

Are You "Stinking Selfish"?

OR... maybe you are Mega-Funded?

When I hear adults say, ‘I don’t like a big church. I like about 200. I wanna be able to know everybody.’ I say you are so stinkin’ selfish. You care nothing about the next generation. All you care about is you and your five friends. You don’t care about your kids, anybody else’s kids. If you don’t go to a church large enough, where you can have enough middle-schoolers and high-schoolers so they can have small groups and grow up the local church, you are a selfish adult. Get over it. Find yourself a big ol’ church where your kids can connect with a bunch of people, and grow up and love the local church. Instead, what you do… you drag your kids to a church they hate, and then they grow up and hate the local church, and then they go off to college, and you pray there’ll be a church in their college town that they connect with, and guess what: all those churches are big, the kind of church you don’t like. Don’t attend a church that teaches your children to hate church.
~Andy Stanley[1]


Yeah, we know this is old news. But we have a little piece of the puzzle that might shed light on the inflammatory comment that Andy Stanley originally delivered (above), and a possible explanation for his retraction as well.

Below is one of the most popular, but controversial, of all of Pastor Anton Bosch's articles. Since this was originally published several months ago it has generated much response, both pro and con. With Pastor Anton's permission, and with his minor modifications, we are republishing this on this blog. We have added a few editorial notes of our own to his footnotes.

As you read this article keep in mind that Andy Stanley* was trained by Leadership Network as an up-and-coming young man, along with the others who would go on to become leaders in the Emergent/Emerging movements, which was also done alongside the formation of the Megachurch and New Calvinist leadership streams. Thus his promotion of the megachurch is tied in directly to the ideas espoused by Peter Drucker, the leadership guru, who taught several generations of Leadership Network pastors that the church should be run like a corporation, and the pastoral function that of a Chief Executive Officer (CEO). We wrote about this in our monograph The Pied Pipers of Purpose specifically, and more recently we described how the process worked in our 4-part series “We Are Not ABANDONED”**

It should be further noted that Leadership Network assisted in the funding $$$ of these Neo-Superstar leaders as they launched their Mega-Churches, including publishing bestselling books, and promoting them on conference circuits. In other words, these evangelical leader SuperStars had their Mega-Church way paved with Mega-Buck$ brick$.***

Thus, given this situation of mega-fundedness, an attitude of scorn towards small churches is an integral component of the so-called 'DNA' of churches in the Leadership Network empire of networks. Below is an example, which includes Andy Stanley in his formative years:
Leadership Network spawned and funded this Next Gen Catalyst movement,
with Andy Stanley a key leader****


Christians in Small Churches are Stinking Selfish

By Pastor Anton Bosch
 
“You are stinking selfish” if you are in a small church. These are the exact words from Andy Stanley, pastor of the 30,000 member Northpoint megachurch in Atlanta on February 28, 2016. His statement is based on his incorrect assumption that big churches cater better to the needs of children than small churches. Even if he is right, it is still not based on any Biblical principle but rather on pragmatism which teaches that if it works it must be good. The problem with this, of course, is that he, his church, and others like it, have no interest in what the Bible teaches but only in what will enlarge their already overblown empires. This is big business and is not church.

Stanley’s people have wiped any trace of the original text of the video from the Internet.[2] In a subsequent Tweet Stanley apologized profusely saying that he does not believe what he said! That only makes it worse – a pastor who preaches what he does not believe! The reality is rather that this is exactly what he believes in his arrogance, and the only reason for the apology and retraction is that he was blown away by the backlash to his ridiculous statement. “Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34)

In the words of A.W. Tozer: 
“The great goddess Numbers is worshiped with fervent devotion and all things religious are brought before her for examination. Her Old Testament is the financial report and her New Testament is the membership roll. To these she appeals as arbiters of all questions, the test of spiritual growth and the proof of success or failure in every Christian endeavor.[3] 

The fact that most big churches are big because they compromise the truth and preach an easy and sometimes false gospel just makes his statement even more egregious. So according to Stanley, you, and your children, are better off in a big false church, than in a Bible teaching small church. The high regard many across the world have for Stanley adds to the impact his words will have on small churches all over.

His definition of a small church is anything below 200. Yet 90% of American churches are smaller than 350 members with an average church size (including mega churches) of 75 members.[4] Thus Stanley clearly has a problem and hates the vast majority of churches in the world, their leaders and members.

So, let’s examine the reasons why many prefer big churches:

  • Big churches have celebrity pastors.
  • Big churches have many (entertaining) programs.
  • I can be anonymous and attend when I want and live as I wish.
  • There is no pressure on me to play my part, unless I want to.
  • Big churches have excellent musicians, facilities and coffee.
  • Etc.
So, I wonder who is selfish: the person who enjoys the comfort and anonymity of the big church or the person who is willing to make personal sacrifices to serve in a small church? Yes, small church is indeed messy, uncomfortable and less than excellent when it comes to gadgets, facilities, brand name preachers and entertainment. But people who attend small churches are generally there because they want to make a difference and not just be a number in the system. People in small churches are often willing to sacrifice selfish desires for the sake of serving others. 
Leadership Network Into Action, No. 46, 8/26/04. Note funding theme.

Unfortunately Stanley is not on his own – he has simply said what many others think. Personally I have stopped attending events where other pastors gather and here is the reason: The first question you are asked, once someone determines that you are in the ministry, is how big your church is. The moment you tell them you are in a small church, the conversation ends. They are no longer interested in speaking to a “loser” who obviously cannot be any good since the church is small. What these snobs forget is that many small church pastors could “get” a big church, but they choose to serve the Lord’s people in real ways rather than being the CEO[5] of a business empire. These faithful, sacrificing men are the real heroes, not the celebrity pastors who sell their convictions for popularity. By the way, serving in a small church is a lot harder work than being a celebrity preacher, complete with body guards to keep the members at a distance.

But at the end of the day we must turn to the Scriptures as our guide and manual. So, does the Bible have anything to say about church size? I think it does. And before we continue, let’s discard the 3,000 that were saved in Acts 2:41 and the 5,000 in Acts 4:4. This was unique to the founding of the church and was God’s way to kick-start the church remembering that these would soon be scattered across the world to fulfill the Great Commission. If a church of 8,000 was God’s design, then this church would have survived, but the Lord soon cut it down to 12! (Acts 8:1). The fact is that there was not a single big church anywhere in the New Testament, in spite of those preachers being far superior to anything we have today – after all they had physically walked with the Lord.

On the contrary, ALL the churches in the New Testament were small. Most met in houses which sets the limit at 25, at the most, remembering the size of houses then. Yes, some cities had several house churches (Jerusalem, Rome and probably Antioch). But after a lifetime of studying the New Testament church, I cannot find evidence for a single church bigger than 200.[6] 

Throughout the New Testament, the emphasis in the local church structure is relationships. Think of 1Corinthians 12 and how that each member of the body has a unique part to play and how each member of the body is vitally connected to the rest of the body. There are no passengers or spectators in New Testament churches. Yet Stanley expressly mocks those who choose to be in small churches because they choose relationships over programs!
Andy Stanley with Joyce Meyers*****


Many of those who choose big churches do so because they feel that size means that God is doing something. This is the biggest lie the devil has sold to modern Christendom. The contrary is true. Throughout the history of the church, big and the majority has have always been wrong. At the same time, small does not necessarily mean it is good – there are just as many small churches that are into some error or the other.  But think of the words of Scripture:
  • “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.”(Matthew 7:13) (In the context Jesus is speaking of the broad road as being a religious one).
  • “… when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)
  • “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)
  • “So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.” (Matthew 20:16)
  • The only churches of the seven in Revelation 2 & 3 that were not rebuked were the two smallest and weakest ones.
  • After three years of the most anointed preaching ever, Jesus just left 500 disciples (1Corinthians 15:6).
  • Apart from Jesus, Paul was the most powerful preacher in the New Testament, with a personal call and audience with the risen Christ, yet he leaves Athens without having been able to establish a church. This great apostle, came to the end of his life and confessed that he only had one leader that he could trust to take care of the work after his demise (Philippians 2:20-21).
Where are the mega churches and the celebrity brand-name preachers in the New Testament? They are not there. Don’t be deceived; we are not the chosen generation that has managed to be successful where two thousand years of the true church has struggled to survive against the gates of hell. If churches are big and successful, it is most likely because of the arm of flesh and not the Spirit of God.

Here is your choice: Would you rather be counted with these: 

“Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented– of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise” (Hebrews 11:35-39)
Or these:

“So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’–and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:16-17).

If you are in small church, be encouraged and fulfill the Lord’s call where He placed you. If you are in a big church – drop your selfishness and pride and get into a real church.


Endnotes:
[Ed. Note: Pastor Bosch's original footnotes have been amended to include additional information.] 
1. The sermon is posted online but the controversial section is missing: http://northpoint.org/messages/saved-by-the-church/. A transcript is available upon request. This section of Stanley's comments were transcribed and posted at the following webpages: http://info.alliancenet.org/mos/1517/andy-did-it-again#.VtoT7kU8LCT. Here is a critical article: “Andy Stanley, Megachurches, and the Bullying of Christ’s Bride,” https://entreatingfavor.com/andy-stanley-megachurches-bullying-christ-bride.
2. See: “Andy Stanley Explains His ‘Stinking Selfish’ Parents Comment,”
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2016/march-web-only/megachurch-pastor-andy-stanley-explains-controversial-remar.html?start=1  Stanley's backpedaling is an example of the dialectics taught by Leadership Network. Stanley would have learned how to take two steps forward, one step back, thus shifting the paradigm by planting this outrageous idea, which caught much press attention, into people's minds. For prior evidence of Stanley's dialectic dancing, see “Circling the Wagons,” by Dr. Orrel Steinkamp, http://herescope.blogspot.com/2013/04/circling-wagons.html
3. Tozer, A. W., & Verploegh, H. (1986). The set of the sail (pp. 153–156). Camp Hill, PA.: WingSpread.
4. http://www.soc.duke.edu/natcong/Docs/NCSII_report_final.pdf
5. Stanley also believes that the leader of a church should be a CEO and that the idea of a “shepherd” is outmoded. http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2007/may-online-only/cln70528.html This would be yet another example of the influence of the teaching Stanley received via Leadership Network, especially under the tutelage of Peter Drucker, the business guru, who trained several generations of pastors to become CEOs rather than shepherds. See:
http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2007/may-online-only/cln70528.html
6. Actually, the ideal size in my humble opinion is around 100.


*For further reading on the controversial history of Andy Stanley see the late Pastor Ken Silva's website http://apprising.org and type 'Andy Stanley' into the search box feature. 

**See the multi-part series we wrote  and for further documentation look into the footnotes and follow the links:
Part 1: "We Are Not ABANDONED"
Part 2: "Under the Bus" and "Off the Map" - The Out-of-Control Bus That Runs Over Sheep
Part 3: The MegaChurch Transit Authority and How it Operates
Part 4: The "Visionpath" Bus Route: The Road Most Traveled 



***Read our 4-part series explaining much of this titled "The Cult of Evangelical Leadership":
Part 1: Sacred Cows & Stars.
Part 2: CA$H COW$ & FAT CAT$
Part 3: Stuffed Shirts & Their Sycophants

Part 4: Scurrilous Shepherds & Their Starving Sheep

****The original url for this in 2007 was: http://www.catalystspace.com/about/past.aspx. Next Generation (or Next Gen) was a project of Leadership Network. The remainder of the text reads: "Leadership has been the topic of focus for the Catalyst brand since inception and will continue to be so. Catalyst and the annual Catalyst Conference provide a wide cover for addressing a variety of topics specific to Next Generation Leaders, including organizational leadership, personal leadership, integrity, character, relationships, and teamwork, among others. Over the last six years, Catalyst has grown in influence and reach, now offering an annual event, multiple resources, a dedicated online magazine, a podcast and many other tools for young leaders. Catalyst has only just begun to go deeper with the Catalyst Community in taking them beyond a conference experience and into a relationship that provides ongoing support for growth and continued learning." Catalyst is just one of many evangelical annual conferences where Leadership Network leaders are given star-studded status as keynote speakers, and also opportunities to promote their latest books for fame and fortune. See also:  http://herescope.blogspot.com/2005/11/how-leadership-network-created.html and http://herescope.blogspot.com/2007/05/god-branding.html

*****See the video here:  http://apprising.org/2012/10/12/andy-stanley-on-joyce-meyers-enjoying-everyday-life-program-today/

Anton Bosch is the author of Building Blocks of the Church, which teaches and encourages lay people how they can have church. He has also authored Building Blocks of Encouragement and Contentiously Contenting. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Sluggard-ish

Part 2

Read Part 1: Slackerly Sloths
 
 “The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit
than seven men that can render a reason.”

(Prov. 26:16)

Strong's H6102: עָצֵל ʻâtsêl, aw-tsale'; from H6101; indolent:—slothful, sluggard.[1]

sluggard (n.) 
late 14c., late 13c. as a surname, "habitually lazy person," from Middle English sluggi "sluggish, indolent," probably from a Scandinavian word such as dialectal Norwegian slugga "be sluggish," dialectal Norwegian sluggje "heavy, slow person," dialectal Swedish slogga "to be slow or sluggish."[2]

slug (n.1) 
"shell-less land snail," 1704, originally "lazy person" (early 15c.); related to sluggard.[3]
Another animal that was named after an old biblical word because of its unique characteristics is the common garden slug. Slugs are well-known garden pests whose behavior has been extensively studied in order to better learn how to control and, to be quite frank, eradicate (kill) them. These are similar to snails but most slugs have no external shell:

A slug is any snail in which the shell is completely lost, or buried in the mantle. If land snails are an unlikely proposition, then slugs seem doubly unlikely — but there are some 500 species of terrestrial slugs, and approximately 1000 species of land-dwelling “semi-slugs” in which the shell has become reduced to the point where the animal cannot withdraw fully into it.[4]

Slugs are slow creeping creatures that can severely damage growing plants. Without a shell they are quite obviously vulnerable to natural predators.[5] These two descriptions alone provide applications to the biblical description of a sluggard. In the Bible sluggards are negligent about the Word of God – i.e, not hearing nor diligently searching the Scriptures, which is the Word of life.

In contrast to sluggard, Proverbs suggests that we emulate the characteristics of the ant. A recent fascinating article in Entymology Today reports that "Ants Can Lift up to 5,000 Times Their own Body Weight, New Study Suggests."[6]

 
In a contrast to a sluggard's sluggish complacency, notice Paul's active stance in the following declaration:  

Holding forth the Word of life;
that I may rejoice in the day of Christ,
that I have not run in vain,
neither laboured in vain.”

(Phil 2:16)

The following commentary[7] admonishes believers to avoid being a sluggard in understanding the mysteries of the Gospel. Below are reasons to more diligently study the Bible.

Hearers [of the Word] do greatly need the exercise of it. They are apt to be slothful and weary; many begin to run well, but are quickly ready to faint [due to]...
  • weariness of the flesh; 
  • self-conceit of having attained what is sufficient, perhaps more than others;
  • curiosity and itching ears, in attending unto novelties;
  • dislike of that holiness and fruitfulness of life which an increase of [biblical] knowledge openly tends unto;
  • misspending on the one hand, or covetousness of time for the occasions of life on the other;
  • any prevailing corruption of mind or affections;
  • the difficulty that is in coming to the knowledge of truth in a due manner, making the sluggard cry, “There is a lion in the streets;” (Prov. 26:13 and Prov. 22:13)
[All these reasons] with other things innumerable, are ready and able to retard, hinder, and discourage men in their progress.  

And if there be no [teachers] to
  • excite, warn, and admonish them; 
  • discover the variety of the pretenses whereby men in this matter deceive themselves; 
  • lay open the snares and dangers which hereby they cast themselves into; 
  • mind them of the excellency of the things of the Gospel and the knowledge of them which are proposed before them; 

it cannot be but that by these means their spiritual condition will be prejudiced, if not their souls ruined.

Yea, sometimes men are so captivated under the power of these temptations and seductions, and are furnished with such pleas in the defense of their own sloth and negligence, as that they must be dealt wisely and gently with in admonitions concerning them, lest they be provoked or discouraged....

[W]hen seducers abound, false doctrines are divulged and speciously obtruded. Wherein there are so many wolves abroad in sheep's clothing, and so great an opposition is on all hands made to the truth of the Gospel, for any to hold out firm and unshaken unto the end their minds [must be] inlaid and fortified with a sound, well grounded knowledge of the mysteries of the Gospel.... 


“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:
God was manifest in the flesh,
justified in the Spirit,
seen of angels,
preached unto the Gentiles,
believed on in the world,
received up into glory.”

(1 Tim. 3:16)
Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard,
and hold fast,
and repent.
If therefore thou shalt not watch,
I will come on thee as a thief,
and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.

(Rev. 3:3)

Endnotes:
1. https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/Lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?strongs=H6102&t=KJV
2. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=sluggard
3. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=slug
4. D. W. Burton, "HOW TO BE SLUGGISH," Zoology Department, Victoria University of Wellington, N.Z., TUATARA: VOLUME 25, ISSUE 2, JANUARY 1982, http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-Bio25Tuat02-t1-body-d2.html. This is an interesting article but full of evolutionary teaching.
5. Gardening enthusiasts will recognize the slug as a nuisance. Read all about how to control slugs here: http://www.weekendgardener.net/how-to/snails-slugs.htm
6. "Ants Can Lift up to 5,000 Times Their own Body Weight, New Study Suggests," Entymology Today, 2/11/14, https://entomologytoday.org/2014/02/11/ants-can-lift-up-to-5000-times-their-own-body-weight-new-study-suggests/
7. John Owen, D.D. (1616-1683), Exposition of Hebrews, Vol. 4, Reprinted by Banner of Truth Trust, 1991, pp 548-549. Excerpted, edited and adapted for modern blog posting by updating grammar, spelling, word usage and punctuation.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Azusa or Pentecost?

Now, Then or Later?


By Pastor Gary Osborne

“In the last days I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh.”
(Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17)

I'm unashamedly a Christian that believes God is still pouring out His Spirit on all flesh. I believe that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is as real and valid today as it was nearly 2,000 years ago on the day of Pentecost. I believe in the gifts of the Spirit. I am, to be blunt, a full Gospel Christian. This type of personal background isn't something I normally feel compelled to share when I write articles for Christian publications. But I think it's both justified and important in this instance. I believe examining an event that calls itself “Azusa Now” warrants disclosure. Some have already weighed in on this recent gathering, and more will undoubtedly follow. But many will scrutinize it from a theologically benign, or even hostile, position that denies the Spirit of God is still being poured out in the same manner as in the first century A.D. I'm not one of those people. This article will not be prejudiced by a cessationist mindset. So having laid that groundwork, let's examine “Azusa Now.”

On April 9th an event was held in Los Angeles, California called “Azusa Now” in the L.A. Coliseum. It boasted hosts such as Lou Engle, Bill Johnson, Mike Bickle, Cindy Jacobs, Heidi Baker, Todd White, Daniel Kolenda, and Shawn Bolz—names all well known as leaders in the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) movement that has its roots in the Latter Rain/Manifest Sons of God. In fact, Bill Johnson's Bethel website stated that this “Azusa Now” ministry “is partnering with Lou Engle’s The Call to commemorate the 110th anniversary of the Azusa Street Outpouring.”[1] It was reported that this event was attended by nearly 100,000 people, and it lasted for some 15 hours while individuals prayed and worshipped, asking God to send another “Azusa” revival.

For those who don't know about the significance of this, a small amount of background is in order. In the summer of 1906 a relatively new congregation was meeting at the Apostolic Faith Mission on 312 Azusa Street in Los Angeles, California, when a time of revival broke out. From these meetings entirely new fellowships and denominations sprang forth, including the Assemblies of God. It was undoubtedly something that changed the landscape of Christianity in America, and eventually around the world.
Lou Engle describing a dream at Azusa Now (Source)

Now, some 110 years later, NAR self-styled “apostles” Lou Engle and Bill Johnson have tried to recreate that original event with “Azusa Now.” Their expressed purpose was, and is (because they consider this an ongoing movement), “to believe for a fresh outpouring of signs, wonders, miracles and the proclamation of the gospel!” And this recent event was, of course, filled with the obligatory “signs” that always accompany this type of spiritual jamboree. For example, the bizarre sight of watching Shawn Bolz call out “words of knowledge” to people in the audience with a cell phone that apparently already had all the “words” on it.[3] Or the appearance of a giant gold angel standing over L.A.[4] And an event like this wouldn't be complete without some example of ecumenism—this time in the form of Lou Engle prostrating himself to the ground to kiss the feet of Roman Catholic leader Matteo Calisi, appointed by Pope Benedict to serve on the Pontifical Council for the Laity.[5]
 
Christianity Today article with image of prostrate Engle (Source)

In fact, Azusa Now suffers badly from the same “Kingdom Now” teachings that so many previous events have taught. These NAR leaders are well known for holding Dominionist theology, and their beliefs drive these types of assemblies. They are seeking to network with other groups and leaders that share these beliefs.[6] Specifically—along with the characteristic signs, wonders, and so-called prophetic words—this gathering also sought to emphasize ecumenism, as clearly demonstrated in this statement from the The Cry Movement's “Azusa Now” webpage:

“In our deeply divided world, perhaps the greatest miracle is love. Sadly, by 1916, the original Azusa Street Revival had officially ended. Segregation once again fractured the fragile unity of the Church, dividing God's children along the very same color lines previously and gloriously erased by the Holy Spirit. Even so, the flames of Azusa led to various renewal movements that spread like wildfire across the U.S. and abroad. Over the last 110 years, these movements have helped to produce more salvations than the previous 19 centuries combined! If the kingdom has expanded in spite of our division, how much more could it achieve in unity? 

We need a true jubilee of love and mercy to sweep our land. A dark question looms over our children's future: riots or revival? The only answer is to be found in Christ. Prayer, love and unity remain the Acts 2 template for breakthrough. On April 9, 2016, join a great multi-ethnic, multi-denominational, multi-generational assembly as we strike a match for awakening in our day. It's not just Azusa then. It's Azusa Now.”[7]

This type of all-inclusive spiritual undertaking, under the guise of ethnic, economical and/or denominational unity, is seemingly always being called for—or “prophesied”—as being on the proverbial doorstep. And while true Christian unity should be a heartfelt desire of all believers, the focus and the solution of the NAR always seems to be under the guise of some large-scale ecumenical movement that obliterates doctrine.
Bill Johnson discusses the original Azusa (Source)

The biblical reality is that people are changed one by one when they are genuinely converted by Jesus Christ.

Is unity important? Absolutely! This was our Lord Jesus Christ's prayer in John 17, where He prayed for such unity among His followers (verses 20-23):

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”[8]

Christian unity is firmly rooted in what Jesus prayed directly before these words. In verses17-19 He prays to the Father:

“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.”[9]
 
Lou Engle: "...we release a great beholding of Jesus..."
(Source)

Any kind of spiritual unity attempted through another “way” other than the Truth is doomed from the outset. How can Engle, Johnson, and the other NAR leaders speak of unity when they are willing to bow and kiss the feet of a Catholic? Where is the truth in that? I cannot walk hand in hand with people under the banner of Jesus Christ if they are worshipping another Jesus. Or, even if they claim to be worshipping the same Jesus that I am, but yet are contradicting the Word of God over and over again with their doctrines and practices, I cannot walk in unity with them. Paul spoke strongly about this in his letter to the Galatians.

“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the Gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.”[10]

So ignoring the clear teaching of Scripture, and despite serious theological differences, the men and women who planned and led the Azusa Now event in L.A. have attempted to link arms in unity with those who preach another gospel.[11] For instance, read the words of Dean Briggs and note his blatant advocacy of ecumenism:
“In the invisible realm, intercessors of every stripe—evangelical, charismatic, Pentecostal and Catholic—felt the silver cord tremble in our hands. If prayerless vacuums have been responsible for eventually swallowing every previous revival, then the patient wisdom of God has been made plain. The Holy Spirit has preemptively architected a massive, global Worship-Prayer-and-Missions movement. Could this sustain the next wave in perpetuity unto His return?”[12]

Again, this cannot be the basis of unity! The early Church was unified as it “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Azusa Now fails horribly in this regard.

Nevertheless, I think the bigger question is whether a revival, or true work of God, can even be orchestrated and planned out like Azusa Now. This is, to me, the crux of the issue. Can we recreate sovereign moves of God? Well, Lou Engle states that this movement has been in the works for years in the short video he hosts on Bethel's “Azusa Now” page. Engle says that a “prophecy” was given in his living room that a “shift” would be coming to his ministry, stadiums would be filled, and that Billy Graham's “mantle” was coming on the nation.[14]

Shawn Bolz "calling out words of knowledge" at Azusa Now (Source)

But this type of “prophecy” has been given many times before. I remember back in the 1990s when a host of TV evangelists and Latter Rain teachers spoke of filling stadiums with people that would supposedly come to the Lord by the thousands.[15] This is not a new declaration. And while I would be the first in line with interceding for souls to be saved, a scheduled national “revival” is simply not something one can command God to do.

Yes, we can seek the Lord for personal revival. We can renew our first love, as Jesus called the church as Ephesus to seek for, at any time. We can band together with other believers and pray for God to fill us afresh with His Holy Spirit, as the church at Ephesus was exhorted to do by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:18. But this is a far cry from “declaring” or “decreeing” a supposed prophetic word from Almighty God that stadiums will be filled, and then schedule an appointed time for God to show up!

So often with these types of meetings the NAR/Latter Rain “prophets” introduce some spiritualized schedule and then ask God to bless it. This thinking is completely wrong. What we need to do is go to the Lord, in complete humility, and simply seek Him. He blesses His plan and His schedule, not ours.


But Azusa Now tried to manipulate the Sovereign Lord. They all tell Him when He should show up, performing signs and wonders for the spectators. This has been attempted many times by those in charismatic circles down through the years. And it always ends the same way, with a stadium filled with people clamoring for something “more”—anything—that might somehow “prove” that God actually came down in power and might.

I've witnessed this firsthand, observing men like Rodney Howard-Browne and Todd Bentley. And every time the so-called “signs and wonders” are poor excuses for genuine, biblical miracles. Someone is always healed of a migraine headache, or a sore back. A generic “word” is given that could apply to almost anyone for any reason. Or, if the operation is really sophisticated, some information about specific people in the crowd may have been stealthily gleaned and then disseminated to an astounded audience. (Peter Popoff is an example that comes to mind, illustrating what I'm talking about.[17]) And, of course, in such orchestrated circumstances the person that gets up out of the wheelchair is never a true cripple.

Oh, don't get me wrong. I know the Lord does heal and perform miracles today. I know of legitimate, incredible healings and miracles. But I've never seen one at these types of events, and I've been to a lot of them over the last 35 years.[18]

So should we be declaring that God is going to bring a huge revival to us in a specific way, at a specific place, and at specific time—all of our own choosing—because that's where, when and how it happened last time? I'm reminded of what A.W. Tozer said about such calls for revival:

“Our mistake is that we want God to send revival on our terms. We want to get the power of God into our hands, to call it to us that it may work for us in promoting and furthering our kind of Christianity. We want still to be in charge, guiding the chariot through the religious sky in the direction we want it to go, shouting ‘Glory to God,’ it is true, but modestly accepting a share of the glory for ourselves in a nice inoffensive sort of way. We are calling on God to send fire on our altars, completely ignoring the fact that they are our altars and not God’s. And like the prophets of Baal we are working ourselves into a frenzy as if we could by violence command the arm of the Almighty.”[19]

Azusa Now is the poster child for everything Tozer said we should NOT do when it comes to revival.

Bill Johnson leading Azusa Now (Source)

Even still there is error in the Azusa Now phenomenon that is more profound than its silly “signs,” its rampant ecumenism, or its prophesying and then scheduling a national move of God. No, the deeper issue is in trying to duplicate a previous event in church history at all. What biblical rationale is there for attempting to re-create any spiritual undertakings outside of the pages of Scripture?

If we believe that the message of Pentecost, as defined in the book of Acts as well as the rest of the New Testament, is for today, why should we be trying to replicate some experience from 100 years ago? Such thinking is severely flawed, yet the Azusa Now crowd pushes this idea to the hilt. Lou Engle stated that
“William Seymour, the catalyst of that great revival, prophesied in 1913 that in roughly 100 years another revival far eclipsing Azusa would come. The fulfillment of Seymour's word is overdue... or right on schedule. Let us therefore ‘pray for the rain in the time of the latter rain.’ Who knows? Maybe like those who were baptized in the Spirit in the original Acts 2 upper room, we will say, ‘This is that which was spoken by William Seymour the prophet!’”[20]

Imagine that! Instead of the prophet Joel and the Apostle Peter, people are going to William Seymour and putting alleged statements by him on the same level as the Word of God itself. What folly! And the truth of the matter is there's no reason for such a statement or mindset. Read again what Peter said on the day of Pentecost nearly 2,000 years ago:

“But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 

“‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, 
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; 
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, 
Your young men shall see visions, 
Your old men shall dream dreams. 
And on My menservants and on My maidservants 
I will pour out My Spirit in those days; 
And they shall prophesy. 
I will show wonders in heaven above 
And signs in the earth beneath: 
Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. 
The sun shall be turned into darkness, 
And the moon into blood, 
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. 
And it shall come to pass 
That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved.’”[21]

Note that Peter links the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to the “last days.” And he states that the culmination of the Last Days is “the great and awesome day of the Lord.” The conclusion to Joel's prophecy has clearly not taken place yet. The sun has not been turned into darkness and the moon has not turned into blood (in spite of some predictions to the contrary of recent). This is a reference to the end of the tribulation period and the ultimate return of Jesus Christ at Armageddon (Rev. 19). And since we haven't seen those events occur, this means we are still in the “last days” that actually began at Pentecost. And this, in turn, means that God is still saving “whoever calls on the name of the Lord” and baptizing people in His Holy Spirit.

Nothing has changed in almost 2,000 years. It is ongoing. Pentecost has never stopped! It continues today. What we have often called national revivals—whether it be the 1st Great Awakening, the 2nd Great Awakening, the original Azusa Street Revival, etc.—are nothing more and nothing less than the ongoing work of God pouring out His Spirit in these “last days.”

So why would we try to duplicate any subsequent revival or awakening that takes place beyond the biblical history that is written in the New Testament? There are a couple of problems with this line of thinking. Firstly, as I've noted previously a prior event may or may not have been genuine. It's as simple as that. Maybe it was and maybe it wasn't. And secondly, and just as importantly, there is no need to do so because God has not changed, and His program continues because we are still in the “last days.”

The crowds at Asuza Now (Source)

Yet Azusa Now was aiming at the tens of thousands! The “big one” as they say when referencing both earthquakes and heart attacks. They have even claimed that a “Second Pentecost” of a “Presence” is coming.[22]

It is true that thousands were added to the true Church on the day of Pentecost. And after that we are told “the Lord added to the Church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). From that initial ingathering of souls we read in Acts that numerous people in Samaria were saved and then filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 8); individuals were also saved one by one, such as the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8) and Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9); and that small gatherings of people were saved (Acts 10) and filled with the Spirit (Acts 19). But neither settings nor numbers were important in the biblical narrative. And I read of no occasion when any of the disciples planned out or announced far in advance that stadiums of people in specific locations would be saved. No, they simply went about their business of being led by the Spirit of God and proclaiming the Gospel to any and all the encountered.

I'd also note that nowhere in the New Testament do we ever read of Peter, John, James, Paul, or any one else trying to duplicate the day of Pentecost. At no time were they insisting that people from outside of Jerusalem come back to the city and reassemble in the same upper room.[23] Nowhere were they insisting that the “tongues of fire” that initially came down on the 120 be expected or encouraged. Rather, we read in Scripture that men and women who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ also trusted God for His promise to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

That's it. No theatrics. No orchestrations. No priming people to expect specific “signs and wonders,” as was being claimed in the advertisements for Azusa Now.

Azusa Now was a rock concert (Source)

What does the Bible teach? Simply repent, believe in Jesus, and then be filled with His Spirit.

I heard a story awhile back from a minister who mentioned meeting with a small group of Christians in a mountain village in a country in Asia. He asked them a thought-provoking question that I think applies to the Azusa Now movement. He saw that the Lord was blessing this small group in a far away land, with no real technology or modern “evangelistic” know-how, and asked them what they thought of the Church in America. Their answer surprised him (and me). They told him that as best they could tell the Church in America seems to always develop an agenda on how they will get the work of the Lord done and then afterwards ask God to bless their plan. These small village believers, on the other hand, go to God with nothing and simply ask Him what His agenda is, in full accordance with His revealed will already outlined in the Scriptures, and then carry it out in His wisdom, power and strength. That's all they needed to make a difference in their village.

And that's still true for us today. God has already given us His agenda in His Word. And He's given us the power to accomplish it by pouring out the Holy Spirit that we might be witnesses for Him. There's no manipulating or planning out mighty moves of God on some regional, national or international level. At times He sovereignly does this as He wills. But we can't plan it!

Azusa Now? No. Azusa later or yet to come? No. How about a new and improved Pentecost now? No. Is God still doing the same thing He's been doing since the day of Pentecost? Absolutely! And that's where I'll keep my focus—on God's Word and in lifting up Jesus Christ. I pray you do as well.

Endnotes:
1. http://bethelredding.com/calendar/azusa-now 
2. Ibid. 
3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GC6sCweWaNI 
4. http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/watchman-on-the-wall/56395-jeff-jansen-sees-huge-gold-angel-at-azusa-now 
5. http://christiannews.net/2016/04/10/lou-engle-of-the-call-prostrates-himself-kisses-foot-of-catholic-leader-as-act-of-reconciliation/ 
6. http://herescope.blogspot.com/2016/02/7-mountain-politics-and-theology.html 
7. http://thecrymovement.com/wp/azusanow/ 
8. The New King James Version. (Jn 17:20–23) 
9. The New King James Version. (Jn 17:17–19) 
10. The New King James Version. (Ga 1:6–10) 
11. See documentation here: http://www.piratechristian.com/berean-examiner/azusa-redux-lou-engle-greg-laurie-uniting-denominations 
12. http://www.charismamag.com/spirit/prayer/25523-azusanow-the-power-of-the-silver-cord-between-heaven-and-earth 
13. The New King James Version. (Ac 2:42) 
14. http://bethelredding.com/calendar/azusa-now 
15. Read: http://herescope.blogspot.com/2013/01/the-significance-of-youth-filled.html 
16. Read: http://herescope.blogspot.com/2010/04/may-day-prayers.html 
17. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Popoff 
18. For example, I wrote a 5-part series for Herescope blog titled “Lakeland’s Recycled Revival.” 
Read Part 1
Read Part 2
Read Part 3
Read Part 4
Read Part 5
19. A.W. Tozer, The Size of the Soul (Camp Hill, PA: Wingspread, 1992), 5. 
20. Elijah List Email Update dated March 30, 2016. 
21. The New King James Version. (Ac 2:16–21). 
22. See Dr. Orrel Steinkamp’s report: http://herescope.blogspot.com/2014/05/a-second-pentecost.html and read the 6-part article series “The Passion of the Presence” that begins here: 
Read Part 1
Read Part 2
Read Part 3
Read Part 4
Read Part 5

Read Part 6
23. http://herescope.blogspot.com/2006/02/geographical-heresies-of-new-apostolic.html

Reprinted with the permission of the author. Originally published in the March-April-May 2016 issue of the Discernment Newsletter (Vol. 27, No. 2), http://www.discernment-ministries.org/Newsletters/NL2016MarAprMay.pdf  Additional graphic illustrations were added for blog posting. 

NOTE: Discernment Ministries has been writing about these false revival issues since 1990. See the newsletter archive page: http://www.discernment-ministries.org/newsletters.html

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Nudge Not Lest Ye Be Nudged

The Word of God is Clear… Until it’s Not 

https://onetablefuller.com

Commentary by Pastor Jim Jenkins


I love Fridays. There are predictable events. They will offer clam chowder at your favorite restaurant. Perhaps it is pizza night. School’s out for the weekend and… The mullahs are whipping up the obligatory “Death to America” chants at Friday prayers. Oh, and the federal government will announce its most odious dictates just in time to catch everyone distracted. 

President Obama, who is ostensibly responsible for protecting the United States (while Russian and Chinese fighters are buzzing our naval ships unchallenged) ‘ordered’ (another report used the word ‘decreed’) public schools (those that receive federal funds) to immediately make the necessary adjustments to see to it that the bathrooms are accessible to any student who self-identifies as the opposite sex. 

There was an immediate, albeit tepid response from someone claiming to be a spokesman for evangelicals that, “We haven’t given the process enough time.” He went on, “Why, we took longer to decide on what should be included in the Food Pyramid.” Note, he didn’t say this is wrong. Merely that he and others like him weren’t quite ready for the inevitable blowback. 
https://onetablefuller.com

Pictured above is an announcement of an event which took place at Fuller Seminary in 2014. The ONETABLE group–a recognized student group of LGBT students advertised its event by starting with the trailer, The Word of God is clear… until it’s not. 

For a number of years now I have been trying to get people to realize that there is an inevitable trajectory to this relentless onslaught of lawlessness. “The love of the many will wax cold, said Jesus in Matthew 24. This, He said, would be the direct result of “the increase in lawlessness.” 

I want to first of all acknowledge people like Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster, Harold Lindsell, The Battle for the Bible, and Paul Smith, New Evangelicalism: The New World Order, and others who were prophetic when they predicted that we would end up here once we abandoned the centuries old belief that the Bible is inerrant. How else could the largest evangelical seminary in the world countenance an event of a student organization which posits that the Word of God is unclear when it comes to something as basic as gender? 

What I say next could be dismissed as some sort of conspiracy theory. Let the reader decide. 
(Source)

The very verbiage of the ONETABLE[1] organization at Fuller belies the fact that there is collusion and social engineering going on in our culture at such a breathtaking level that we should all be alarmed. Here are some facts. 

The Obama administration has used more social scientists and behavioral psychologists than any administration in history. “President Obama has announced a new executive order on Tuesday which authorizes federal agencies to conduct behavioral experiments on U.S. citizens in order to advance government initiatives.”[2]

The new program is the end result of a policy proposal the White House floated in 2013 entitled ‘Strengthening Federal Capacity of BehavioraI Insights.’ 

The initiative draws on research from University of Chicago economist Richard Thayer and Harvard law school professor Cass Sunstein, who was also dubbed Obama’s regulatory Czar. The two behavioral scientists argued in their 2008 book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, that government policies can be designed in such a way that ‘nudges’ citizens towards certain behaviors and choices. The desired choices almost always advance the goals of the federal government.”[3]
(Source)

Back to the wording of the Fuller LGBT group…

I knew something about the ad sounded familiar. Do you remember when all the children from Central America showed up at the southern border of the U.S.? Remember how it was touted as a humanitarian crisis and that there just happened to be a number of church groups that took in the children? The Obama administration had reached out years before to a group of self-appointed evangelical leaders. I remember the chill I got when the president had a press conference and said “I don’t know what the big deal is, law enforcement is on board with it… the military is onboard… and we’ve got the evangelicals…” 

The name of the group of so-called evangelicals was The Evangelical Immigration Table. It was headed up by the likes of Jim Wallis, a radical leftist crony of Obama whose organization Sojourners[4] got grant money from none other than George Soros.[5]

Around the same time this occurred, I heard something streamed from the convention of the denomination I served for over thirty years. A pastor got up and declared (he had actually mailed it in it before the convention) that he had a word from Jesus. He was allowed to give it at a plenary session of the convention. In essence he said that “If the group did not welcome the LGBT community to the table that Jesus would withdraw His presence from them.” 

The next day an elder stood up with the man with his arms around him and said, “We really don’t want to diminish this man’s growing influence or diminish his voice. In his zeal, he just ‘over-spoke.’

Can you in good conscience deny that the progressives have not only infiltrated the church, but that the church has become an echo chamber for ‘Nudges’ in the direction of apostasy? 
OneShower? [6]


The ‘Nudge’ crew clearly thought the image of the Table was a winner. You know, like the communion table. They will not stop until they declare that God created homosexuality and that the Bible is merely a genre of literature that has evolved. 

The Word of God is clear… until it’s not? 

No. 

“The Word of God is alive and active, sharper than any two-edged sword piercing to the division of joints and marrow, soul and spirit and discerning the thoughts and the intentions of the heart.”
(Heb. 4:12)

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
(1 Cor. 6:9-11[7]

Endnotes:
1. https://onetablefuller.com, emphasis mine
2. Chuck Ross, Daily Caller, 9/15/2015, http://dailycaller.com/2015/09/15/president-obama-orders-behavioral-experiments-on-american-public/
3. Ibid.
4. See Herescope articles about Jim Wallis: http://herescope.blogspot.com/2010/03/covenant-for-civility.html, http://herescope.blogspot.com/2011/08/denying-dominionism.html,  and http://herescope.blogspot.com/2010/10/emerging-order.html
5. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Soros. Remember to pray for this man. 
6. This graphic and satirical comment was added to this article. See: "The Minnesota Child Protection League published a full-page in the sports section of the Star Tribune recently that depicted a school locker room and posed a question to parents: 'A male wants to shower beside your 14-year-old daughter. Are YOU ok with that?'” http://eagnews.org/minnesota-mulls-policy-to-allow-transgender-boys-to-shower-in-girls-locker-room/ and also see "MADISON GESIOTTO: Blurred lines: Will boys be allowed to shower with girls?" May 12, 2016, The Washington Times, http://license.icopyright.net/user/viewFreeUse.act?fuid=MjI1MDIwMzc=
7. These verses from 1 Corinthians were added to the commentary.  

Dr. Jim Jenkins is the author of Fatal Drift: Is the Church Losing Its Anchor? (Deep River Books, 2014). See: http://herescope.blogspot.com/2016/02/fatal-drift.html and also read http://herescope.blogspot.com/2016/03/mind-numbing-narratives.html.