My family began making arrangements to leave our last church at the beginning of this year. Through the death of my father-in-law, the eventual desire to leave was finally made around April. I couldn't come to some things that do not agree with Scripture and I struggled with it. This is not to say that this church, or any others that I was part of, was not willing to be obedient or serve the LORD, and this can also be seen as finding mundane things wrong instead of focusing on what is right. But the other side of the coin is no one would eat a cake if it had only 1% dog poop in it, with the rest of the cake made with the finest ingredients. I have been having many thoughts recently concerning looking for churches, not a perfect one, for there is no such thing. Just one that is humble in seeking God through the Calvary.
What has happened to the Western Church? Why so much change, especially the last sixty years? What has changed from what blessed America to now, what seems to be a generation of self-righteousness by lowering standards away from God's holiness? Some who read this may not agree with what I am about to say, but I have been having a hard time WANTING to look for a church today, as so many places are accepting doctrine that is more appealing to the secular environment than a desire to be in the presence of the Almighty. Here are things I have been debating in my heart, not any particular order.
When you place the older hymns next to today's contemporary Christian music, the difference is small to many who don't see it, but it is very major. The last five Psalms is replete over music as a prime example of worshiping God, and the older songs are strong in this area. these types of songs have become fewer and far between today, as the praise and worship songs now present how we want to worship Him. I am having a hard time hearing angels sing how they will worship the Almighty, it is all about Him and who He is.
Many churches are seeking more ways to entertain during worship. The bigger the church, the bigger the lights, the bigger the amps, the louder the music. It is meant to invoke the feelings in the younger generation, to have the feel of the concert inside the church walls. With music that compels us to worship God how we feel instead of complete acknowledgement of His holiness, righteousness, even His judgment, the church is missing what true worship is.
I watched a short video on this subject, and this person made a better stance "how you feel?" during worship and compare it to "what you know?" during praise and worship. How you know God is more important than how you feel in the same moment. In essence, how we know and perceive God will determine how we worship Him. In times of yore, the belief is how they knew Him. Today, it is how we feel about worshiping Him.
2. Very little balance in teachings
This can be touchy, but this also determines how the preacher is as well. I have been members of three different churches, but not one since 2010. The one church while we lived in Texas had been different from the pulpit than others, as he said he would use the authority as God instructs him, and he preached as it as so. I have not heard such preaching in person since we moved back up north, and I have missed it.
I am not saying that "good" preaching isn't needed, yes, we should be encouraged through the good news in the Bible. But many pulpits refuse to go after the tougher sermons that allows the Holy Spirit to reprove and correct. All Scripture is used for reproof and correction, but not many are willing to bring those that their congregation spiritually needs.
Don't want to offend women? Avoid those about usurping authority and their attitude toward men if not under submission (Genesis 3:16-17). Sounds too cruel about giving someone living in open sin and "abandon" those to the devil, but it is in the Bible twice (1 Corinthians 5:1-5, 1 Timothy 1:20).
The offering of the sinner's prayer in today's churches tends to be so powerless, all that is required is the number of those raised hands, not of the soul leading toward discipleship. We tend to avoid any type of possible humiliation when it comes to someone's salvation, playing it "safe" by providing the congregation as "cover."
At the end of the service, a pastor will give an invitation to any who wants to be in the kingdom. Some acknowledge "that hand over there," and "I see a hand in the back," ask the congregation to stand, where everyone repeats the sinner's prayer. Service over, those who raised their hands walk out of the church thinking they are now saved, but no closer to God than when they first walked in.
Jesus said if you will not publicly acknowledge Me before men, I will not acknowledge you before My Father (Matthew 10:32-33). How come we will not ask these people to come forward and publicly acknowledge Jesus before the congregation? Didn't Jesus suffer public humiliation that led Him to the Cross? Without this act, mankind is doomed.
No acknowledging of sin, just to ask God for forgiveness. No prayer about changing or repentance, just an invitation of God's love. No expectations of obedience and His holiness, just join in the crowd incognito and claim the Blood.
One instance I will make is when well-known evangelists went to Africa and claimed over 250,000 souls for Christ. One person who heard of this decided to follow through after six months to see their progress in walking with the LORD. They found roughly less than 25,000 still attending church and reading the Bible. What happened to the other 225,000?
This happened when we visited a former church were my family were members. At the end of the service was the call for salvation. Couple hands went up, the congregation stood up, the words went up, when the words were done, we saw one person ask for salvation. He simply walked out of the church. There will be a number given on how many "gave their lives" to the LORD, but did they really? When this happens, the leadership will never know.
One thing I found when I read Charles Finney's book, "Holy Spirit Revivals." He agitated the souls of those who opposed the work of the revival. Mr. Finney's expectation was discipleship, not simple conversion. Today, we have it backwards.
The other part of this is the emphasis on gifts and manifestations than the message of the Cross. I have been to conferences and churches where so much was made on manifestations and certain giftings. One preacher claimed to be "drunk in the spirit," singing "Happy Trails" to the crowd. Another claims that when the Holy Spirit takes over, she violently shakes her head back and forth until she opens the Bible, then the shaking stops. Another claimed oil flowed from her "wounds in her hands" that brought forth healing. One claimed he can control the weather, others mentioned their frequent third heaven trips to the throne of God. All this while manna, gold dust and glory clouds are signs of God.
I heard many people "prophesying" that they "felt" God was saying what they would say, and this would go on for several people, when the Bible explicitly says for two to three speak, and let the others judge (more on this later). There is no balance but on the power gifts, and manifestations that does not glorify God but give an illusion that only God is pleased with them.
When asked of those involved with this on what Scriptures support this, then only answer I got was this can't be "directly" interpreted by the Bible, but that there is nothing impossible to God, so this refers to it directly that this is from Him. Later, we will compare what this doctrine holds to the Hybrides Revival of 1947.
There are two places where discernment should always be used in which I am going to talk about. The third one is spiritual tongues, which should be used as well, but I hope to tie in one of the other two with this. But before I start, I have seen on media (i.e. Elijah's List), as well as churches and conferences that discernment is needed the most. For Scriptural reference, there are three verses I would like to use for this discussion:
Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.
1 Cor. 2:15
But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
1 John 4:1
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
Understand, many Christians abuse the word judge, and other times it ignores the word similar to it. The main word for judge is krino, which is used to make a final determination in the spiritual, but discern had two words that can be translated from the Greek as such:
anakrino and diakrino. Note both have the same root word - krino- but different prefixes. Let's look at the differences.
From the Strong's concordance:
diakrino, dee-ak-ree'-no; from Greek 1223 (dia) and Greek 2919 (krino); to separate thoroughly i.e. (literal and reflexive) to withdraw from, or (by implication) oppose; figurative to discriminate (by implication decide), or (reflexive) hesitate :- contend, make (to) differ (-ence), discern, doubt, judge, be partial, stagger, waver.
anakrino, an-ak-ree'-no; from Greek 303 (ana) and Greek 2919 (krino); properly to scrutinize, i.e. (by implication) investigate, interrogate, determine :- ask, question, discern, examine, judge, search.
Please note diakrino is separate, to oppose, to withdraw, this could imply to remove by discrimination. Anakrino means to investigate thoroughly to make a rightful decision. Both are rooted in making a judgmental call, one is used for separation, the other is to investigate.
Now that I have laid a base for my discussion, we will see where these need to be in play according to prophetic words and teaching/preaching of the Word. As I start with the latter, it is very appalling that to see the young generation easily assume that anything spoken at the pulpit is the Word of God.
I have walked into many churches and very few of the congregation younger than forty never had a Bible. I am not saying everyone, but a definite majority. Even more troubling is how many different versions and translations we have currently of the Bible, so there are many dilemmas on how the rightly discern what is being preached today. Very few people in church check in their Bible to see of the Word is being taught correctly. It is so much easier for everyone to bring their smartphones, read the verses superficially on the big screen, and walk out feeling "fulfilled" you went to church this week.
I am not judging preacher's hearts in what I am about to say. Many do love the LORD but now a pastor goes to Bible college to learn. Is this wrong? No and yes. It is good they learn how to teach, how to lead, but many learn according to the doctrine and denomination of the college. When they leave, they will continue to teach in the ways of the college.
Many churches in the Methodist, Lutheran and Presbyterian churches are now accepting what is an abomination to the LORD, and allowing it access to the pulpit. How did this manage to override hundreds or thousands of years of teachings. Even the Catholic church has seen a chink in the armor, as Pope Francis quotes about "judging" those living the homosexual lifestyle, as long as they do not let it out of their head.
How is it that today's preachers and scholars demand they know more than those in the past? I haven't been able to find it, but there were scholars from different versions of the Bible demand their translation is right on the John Ankerberg Show. KJV, NKJV, NIV, NLT and I think NASB all were debating, spending quite a bit of time proving the others were not right. How did this happen?
I remember having a discussion over the phone with a pastor, and every time there was a reproof, he quoted scholars every time. What, no Holy Spirit? Isn't He the guide to all truth for all? One thing I learned in the difference between today's English and the language written then, which is Koines Greek. America's English continues to change and evolve, while Koines is a dead language. The difficulty is when scholars and other people use current definitions to translate the language of yore. With ours always changing, eventually the translation will do the same.
Discernment in the prophetic word is almost nonexistent in churches today. All that is needed is "thus saith the LORD," roll out some words that sound biblical, and you are now a bonafide prophet. I used to be crazy for this manifestation of the Holy Spirit but with what I have heard, from churches to cell groups to personal givings, I am not testing and being apprehensive of these types of words freely spoken as if they were from God. We need to judge these righteously, but how?
One is to base it according to Scripture. Two, base off the works of the Holy Spirit, since one part of prophesying is from Him. Third, it should glorify Jesus, as this is will of the Holy Spirit. Fourth, it needs to bring you closer to God (Deuteronomy 13:1-5). Too much of sounds wonderful, but where does it lead you? Do you "feel good" about it for yourself? If that is true, it isn't about you, it is about Him (Jeremiah 9:23-24).
Some leaders flaunt it so freely that anything that resembles "reading their mail" to acknowledging the desires of our heart is not necessarily from the LORD, either. I have no doubt the devil knows my weaknesses and my heart's desire as well, and if these "good words" keep you dwelling on them and not focused on the Almighty, then this isn't truly a word from the LORD.
Personal prophecies can be more dangerous, as some are given by those who add or interpret what they feel is from the LORD. Others that I have heard only "followed" what was said, and seemed to have no validity or originality. Prophetic words holds power, but many do not realize the enemy would like to distort its worth, and "Make more money," by thus I mean if it is used too much, it loses its worth.
4. The doctrine of Balaam
We need to note that Balaam is mentioned at least three times in the New Testament, and they are all related, but different in its context. There is the way of Balaam (2 Peter 2:15), there is the error of Balaam (Jude 11) and the doctrine of Balaam (Revelations 2:14). I will concentrate on the later, because I believe this has infiltrated many churches, albeit in different methods, depending on the church.
In simple words, Balaam's desire was to get what he wanted, and that was riches. He was hoping that God would not be watching when he met with King Balak, and he wanted what he had to offer, and he would do anything to have it. Eventually, he told Balak that be sneaking in to the camp women that would lead them into idolatry, which I believe lead to deaths into the thousands.
Now that we are under a new covenant, God has chosen a different route for mankind, through His Son Jesus, but His hatred for this doctrine hasn't changed. Doctrines have come in through the side door, and is bringing many of His children into idol worship today. Even I have fallen into this trap, and it is a difficult one to get out.
As I mentioned earlier, there are churches that are being influenced more on the signs and wonders, the emergent church, and the Word of Faith movement than ever today. I am ever saddened by seeing a former church take more grasp on the supernatural than the Omnipotent One. It seems many churches are now allowing many doctrines that preachers in before the sixties would not dare touch. We wouldn't claim idol worship as it was in the Old Testament, but it seems we do it while it is still in our heart, and the church is allowing it.
We as a church now are finding ways to change the image of God in our hearts because we know in our current state we would fail in the sight of a Holy God. The lower we go in our image of Him, the better we feel in the lifestyle we desire to have. We are not challenged to be in His presence, but also have mistaken what we term His presence. Which brings me to number five.
5. False revivals
I believe the Toronto Outpouring, the Brownsville Revival, and the worst of all, the Lakeland Outpouring, have produced nothing more than people looking for power without repentance. The church in Brownsville today is some million dollars in debt, and the pastor who was in charge during the "movement" felt a leading for a traveling ministry, leaving while the going was good. My point is that, if God was involved with this, would He leave His church in this financial state? We all know the simple answer.
The fiasco of the Lakeland Outpouring led by Todd Bentley has left its mark, and right now he is in South Africa attempting to resurrect his ministry in more revival meetings. Many named prophets and self appointed apostles made fools of themselves by giving him great prophesies and words without discerning his work behind the scenes. Rick Joyner desired to make a name again after his error by "gently restoring him" to ministry, all the while allowing Bentley to keep his girlfriend and get married as soon as his divorced cleared the courts. to finalize how history repeats itself, GOD TV decided not to learn from its mistake and started preempting more programming to showcase Bentley's new attempt at his boot kicking healings.
The Hybrides Revival of 1947 makes no comparison to any of these revivals. All the aforementioned was more of power, prophetic, and signs and wonders. The Hybrides Revival was so authentic, there is absolutely NO WORD on manifestations. More on mercy, holiness, and getting right in repentance through acknowledgement of their depraved soul in the face of a Holy God. People did not ask for healing, they asked for mercy. They did not seek manna, people saw their spiritual condition and prayed for repentance. They were agitated in their minds and souls and they HAD to get right. It had to be HIM, and there was no other alternative.
People ran to the police station, looking for what was needed to avoid the punishment of hell, and one boy was asked to pray. He got one word out - "Father" - and the Holy Spirit took over. Now, when my wife hears someone say that the presence of God is strong today, she says when she sees people running down to the altar in repentance, THEN she will believe it.
I will, too.
6. Preparing for Tribulation
The world is walking in the last days, and the fading freedoms that America has had is deluded many Christians into a false sense of security. We believe God is going to protect us in every way, but that is not totally true. There is one section of Scripture that many fail to realize, because it is another set that is never taught from the pulpit:
Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:  And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:  They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, 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 in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.  And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:  God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
Anyone notice this is the so called "faith" chapter? How come everyone can go after the first few verses of the chapter, and easily avoid these last few verses? Because we don't believe it will happen to us There us another Scripture that Christians should hold in their heart:
2 Tim. 3:12
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
I want to look at the last couple verses of Hebrews 11, and compare it to the verse above in 1 Timothy 3, and see where it would lead those trusting in the LORD completely. For those living godly, they will suffer for it in the world. God sees it as a good report, and will provide a BETTER thing than what earth can offer. We tend to focus much on the promise, and not the reward for our faithfulness. Remember, Jesus says we should store treasures in heaven, for the ones here pale to the eternal.
It will get worse, the Bible says so. Are Christians prepared to stay the course when the world begins to fully turn on them? Granted, I do not how ready I am, and there are people being persecuted all over the world, and America has shown little concern, but we will pray for healings and miracles for ourselves. Don't think it won't make it into America, because it already is here. It doesn't seem bad now, but it is gaining strength to where it will become more physical than political.
I do not have all the answers, and I do not want to be in a "perfect" church, there is no such thing. If there were, would they need Jesus to begin with? I see so much change in the church compared to the writings in Charles Finney, John Wesley, even Smith Wigglesworth in the early twentieth century. Finney and Wesley saw the depraved soul of the church, and cried out to the LORD to move and be a vessel, and revivals came about from conviction and agitation from acknowledgement of sin in our lives. Now it is better to sleep a dream a pleasant life in church than live it. I have struggled as well, so I am no better than others. It is my heart is searching in a different way for God that what churches are showing. the church has changed, and I am hoping it finds the err of its ways. We need a return to the old ways, which was good (Jeremiah 6:16a). I hope we do not have the response in the second part of that verse (but they would not listen).
Truthfully, I am hoping for a church that holds more value in the way the Bible was taught and led, not as it wants to not to offend. It is the only true way to attract the sinners and bring a true revival.