I visited a mega-church this morning. By definition, it’s a church that has a vested interest in developing and maintaining groupthink. By that I mean, the Rick Warren model of demanding consensus. The pastor—who addressed the congregation via video—is part of a large denomination that has traditionally been “conservative.”
That is changing.
It was disconcerting watching the pastor from a satellite location, but that isn’t the point of today’s discussion. The point is that the type of consensus-building running rampant through evangelical churches today bodes ill for Israel.
To give you an idea just how choreographed and monolithic the Purpose Driven model is in our churches today, you might find it interesting that the pastor whose church I attended (but he didn’t) highly recommended a new book by Thom Rainer, who is CEO of LifeWay, the Southern Baptist curriculum resource. The book, I Am a Church Member, outlines how a congregant should behave in the modern American church.
Dissension, what some of us might call checks and balances, is not only strongly discouraged—it is in effect outlawed. Rainer makes the point that “unity” is the end goal. If you question the Purpose Driven model (as my friend Noah Hutchings explained to me, after receiving hundreds of letters from the “dissenters” who were shown the door) you will eventually be asked to leave the church.
Rainer’s pastor friend, helping him market the book, told the congregation that the following Sunday, they’d all receive a copy of the book, due to a generous donor. He also said (I thought somewhat chillingly) that the entire staff not only was required to read it, but discuss at the Monday meeting.
What does this have to do with the price of bagels in Tel Aviv?
Just that the entire leadership culture of the American evangelical community is moving away from supporting Israel. Stories like the one I’m relating here are part of the problem.
Before the service, I stopped by the church’s bookstore, a LifeWay store, of course. There I found books by Rick Warren, N.T. Wright, John Ortberg, John Piper, Bill Hybels, and Steven Furtick.
Warren is no friend of Israel—though he might protest that; doublespeak is another skillset required of mega-leaders today—John Ortberg speaks at Christ at the Checkpoint; John Piper tweets bizarre messages, such as when he asked Who is a Jew?; Hybels and his wife, Lynne, are solidly in the Palestinian narrative camp; and young Mr. Furtick, while not overtly anti-Israel, has chosen to carve-out his own ministry niche by, among other things, appropriating OT stories about the Israelites (Joshua, Elisha) and turning them into his own Christian self-help messages…books included.
There is a culture in mega-churches. The culture is set by the senior pastor of course. The senior pastors of this country are in turn influenced by Warren, Hybels, and a handful of other change agents who are transforming the American church into a syncretic hotbed of left-wing ideology. Think I’m too alarmist, or just plain crazy? Keep this blog post handy and let’s compare notes in 2018. Seriously.
Look, are there sincere people doing good things in mega-churches? Of course there are. There are also good, sincere pastors who have a heart for people and for advancing the Gospel, which is their job.
But on the whole, churches like the one I visited help market an ideology and philosophy demanded by Warren, Andy Stanley, and a few of their friends. By the way, and this is mentioned merely to put flesh on the skeleton of this story, outside this particular church there are Boze speakers planted in the manicured lawn. Inside, in the lobbies, are new “Giving Kiosks.” I find all this loathsome.
I also object to the weak “support” for Israel from pastors like this. He goes on “Holy Land” tours, visits Christian sites, then comes home and allows his bookstore to be stocked with titles from N.T. Wright & Friends.
He then has the audacity to say from the pulpit that the church rigidly proclaims biblical truth. Not when you carry books by Leonard Sweet, Erwin McManus, and Bill Hybels.
Add to this fact my recent experience trying to get Dr. Russell Moore to comment on his support or lack of support for Israel, and one begins to get the picture. Moore, newly installed president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, has been described in an article at WorldView Weekend as having less-than-stellar feelings for Israel. When I asked him to elaborate, his assistant told me he declined.
The Big-Tent philosophy demanded by the mega-church monster naturally puts a damper on pro Israel support, because a huge congregation that necessarily has to keep the cash flowing in cannot afford to offend United Methodists, Lutherans, non-denominationals, etc., who find their way to that particular locale. There are too many coming from other denominations that dislike Israel and Jews to risk strong support for Israel.
An additional failure is the almost complete lack of teaching of Bible prophecy in these churches. To their great, eternal shame, they rigidly avoid it (except to throw a sop to the oldest generations). One will not see a prophecy speaker address the youth, or student ministries. Why? Believe it or not, primarily because Rick Warren denigrates it and directly tells thousands of pastors not to bother with teaching prophecy!
Let me be clear: the failure of American churches to teach the specialness of the Jews, and to reveal through teaching predictive prophecy the power and majesty of the living God…is killing American Christianity. There are still large churches that teach well, and many small ones that do. But the trend is toward decline and finally, whimpering extinction. This is the opposite of the grand view of the future church presented by Rick Warren.
The Boze speaker startled me at first, stuck there in the sod. The giving kiosk reeked of naked greed. The pastor was literally somewhere else.
So what we have at this level is a pastor who really isn’t there for the flock. This includes teaching them the truth about biblical history, the whole counsel of God, and the gigantic story of Israel in our day.
I see the endgame in view.