Saturday, July 30, 2016


We just went through the unusual experience of two back-to-back conventions – the Republicans first and then the Democrats. One common theme between them has been talk of “the establishment”. With the G.O.P., people like Mitch O’Connell. John Boehner, and now Paul Ryan were elected based upon appealing to issues valued by Republicans – freedom, less government, moral certitude, adherence to the U.S. Constitution, judges who interpret existing laws as opposed to creating new ones, and being a reliable partner to our allies and resisting the lawless and institutions that promote and carry out terrorism.

However, issue after issue was ceded to the Obama Administration. Important issues. AND WITH NO REASON GIVEN.  When Donald Trump gained traction,  they were like a deer in the headlights and seemed to oppose him more than Obama or Hillary Clinton.  They were exposed as frauds, and we found out they really did NOT believe the same way as their voters did.  Trump’s numbers skyrocketed. So many in his party rejected him and actually worked against him, some even pledging to vote for his opponent showing where their hearts REALLY were.

With the Democrats, their new establishment is far more liberal and “progressive” than traditional democrats like Scoop Jackson, Hubert Humphrey, Harry Truman, and JFK.  People like former Pennsylvania Robert Casey were big on economic issues but totally prolife.  He was marginalized and disrespected, and his own son has become anathema to all he stood for.  The party flipped.  It now promotes unrestricted abortion, the promotion of sexual perversion, treating the U.S. Constitution as a useless relic, appointing judges who make laws and overturn the will of the people when they cannot get what they want legislatively as opposed to simply interpreting existing laws, and pandering to minority groups while secret emails showed how much they despised them.  Bernie Sanders is a socialist, but opposed the T.P.P. and the deep pandemic corruption of the Democrat establishment.  The Clinton Foundation was an utter fraud, and Hillary’s diatribes against Wall Street rang hollow when she was getting a quarter million dollars a speech for saying next to nothing and certainly not offending Wall Street. The last release of emails proved that the fix had long been in. The debates were scheduled on Saturday nights when no one was watching. The press provided questions in advance to Clinton. The outright cheerleading of Hillary by the mainstream media with ZERO probing questions was galling to everyone. 

Bernie and Donald were both considered outside their party, with Repubs claiming Donald was a closet Democrat and Bernie reverted to being an Independent.  Strangely, the fact than Donald was attracting a lot of Democrat votes to expand the base went unappreciated and the bringing in of normally apolitical millennials through Bernie seemed to mean nothing to either party.

Not many people seem to dispute the fact that each party has an establishment and that those are harsh, dishonest, disingenuous, and not open to doing things in a different way.

So, does the same issue exist in the church?  I say it does.  I believe the evidence is overwhelming.  Why do I say this?

Like the parties, the Christian Establishment has a “GroupThink” mentality. They expect people to go along robotically with what they say.   Like the Republicans and Democrats,  there is more than one establishment. They have some issues in common, but many distinctives.  Yet, the problems are the same.

The evangelical establishment has become to mean the following:

1)    The Bible is the word of God, but we will not stand on the Bible in terms of Genesis with an earth about 6,000 years old and no molecules-to-man evolution.  Look at Westminster Seminary’s website and the OVERWHELMING majority of “Christian” colleges.  Also not the utter DISTAIN for true Christians who actually believe Jesus when he wrote the ten commandments that the creation took in six days as the basis for the Sabbath. The harsh words for “fundamentalists” rival those Cruzers had for Trump.

2)    We need to demonstrate BY OUR LIVES more than witnessing the truths of the gospel. I believe Jesus Christ was perfect and that if there ever was any life that could preach the message it was his.  Yet he spoke constantly and ministered the truth.  As the Bible says, “How shall they hear without a preacher?”

3)    We must minister to felt needs.  We must not have a one size first all gospel (Praise God, that is precisely what we DO have!) We must determine what people think they need and minister to that as they do at Willow Creek.  The fact is, people have to be CONVICTED by the Holy Spirit as to what they need – they often have no idea. They often concentrate on the superficial whereas God deals with the heart. The preaching of the cross is the power of God unto salvation.

4)    Hate the sin but love the sinner.  Not in the Bible.  God hates sin and the sinner. He hates homosexuality, partiality, racism, murder, filthiness.  As Jack Cottrell has well said, “A. H. Strong (“Systematic Theology,” p. 290) observes that God both hates and loves the sinner at the same time: “hates him as he is a living and willful antagonist of truth and holiness, loves him as he is a creature capable of good and ruined by his transgression.” In other words, God hates the sin, and he also hates the sinner. “You hate all who do iniquity. You destroy those who speak falsehood; the LORD abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit” (Ps. 5:5-6). This and many other passages show that God’s hatred is directed against the PERSON who sins and not just the sin itself.”   The Evangelical Establishment is harsh toward those who actually believe Romans 1. Abominations are not negotiable.  If you do not believe me, read recent Intervarsity books which are so soft on sin. When you object, they latch into you with claws like Cruz did with Trump.

5)    The charismatic gifts are no longer present. W have the Bible and they are useless for today.  The Bible says not to QUENCH the Holy Spirit.  I Corinthians 14 talks about the essential need for the gifts to be in evidence by EVERYONE in EVERY service.

6)    The pastor must have theological training and is the head of the church. You cannot find that in the Bible.  There were elders and the people were called to minister. I know so many with massive theological educations who like the Scribes and Pharisees miss the entire point of the gospels.  The Bible gives the qualifications for leaders, and notably ABSENT is ANY mention of formal training.  It is based upon life integrity.  I have found that many pastors with “acceptable” training have been socialized into the establishment’s way of thinking.  They do not have intimate communications with God. They barely scratch the surface of what is in the Bible, and they tend to preach their ideas as opposed to what is actually in the Bible. So much preaching is pabulum, not the heart of the gospel and the essentials for sanctified Christian living.

7)    All church members must contribute 10% of their gross income to the local church who solely decides how to spend it.  This is called tithing, but was a creation of the establishment to build cathedrals and was unknown in the early church if you take the time to read the writings of the church fathers.  While the Sabbath is dismissed along with most of the rest of the Old Covenant, this alone is held up as an absolute. Some churches I know insist one tithe to be leader and some require you to produce your 1040 tax return so they can assess you your giving!  God forbid! Paul taught us that we are NOT to give under compulsion. We are free in Christ.  I would add that most of the New Testament calls to be generous deal with THE POOR and the WIDOW, and the ORPHAN, not to fund preachers and buildings.  Paul noted those living high n the hog off the gospel, and determined to pay his own way.  I have paid my way my entire ministry, and I have preached more messages than most pastors.  The Bible says one can make their living off the gospel, but I have found that when people pay you to preach they want CONTROL over what you say.  Sometimes it is overt (and I have stories to tell) and sometimes it is subtle or simply implied, but I am delighted to have TOTAL FREEDOM to speak whatever God tells me to say without the fear of being fired or not getting paid.  I would not trade that FREEDOM IN CHRIST for ANYTHING.

Briefly, three more establishments – first the Charismatic and Word Faith Establishment. The Charismatic movement morphed in something unrecognizable if you were there in the beginning, although some bad seeds were there very early on.  I do not use that term for myself any longer – I am simply a New Testament Christian.  It brought a whole lot of good to the table, but was corrupted like just about every other move of God. Here is how it works:

1)      You can take number six above and put it on steroids. You are promised all manner of blessings for simply being generous.

2)      The Seed-Faith teaching says that by giving to a man of God, you will give you crazy stuff. The promises get bigger and bigger and the “testimonies” wilder and wilder.  It dilutes the whole idea of sacrificial giving – we give because we love God and want to meet real needs.  It also creates mega-wealthy leaders which Paul scorned and the poor, the widow, and the orphan get little of anything of what people sacrifice.

3)      Everything is in the atonement – healing, money, etc.  The net result is that what really IS in the atonement gets short shrift. The atonement is a GUARANTEE.  Our salvation is guaranteed in Christ.  Healing is not guaranteed – even the most successful faith healers are at one percent, at least in America, and some of the biggest names do not have even ONE medically verified healing.  I believe in healing and have seen and experienced it. I preach it. I anoint with oil. I believe real New Testament style healing will be restored to the church.  However, not through showboaters, money-oriented folks, or slick ministries, but through sincere men of God.  THE SAME WITH MONEY. Most of the best Christians have suffered financial deprivation during some period of their lives, some MOST of their lives. Remember, the Bible was not simply written for Americans, it is universal, and you need to evaluate people in the third world as closely as those in a wealthy suburb.

4)    Practices such as “slaying in the spirit”, “soaking”, uncontrolled behavior, and variations of “personal prophecy” which are alarmingly close to dealing with a familiar spirit have spread like wildfire to the Biblically illiterate. While God can certainly give a word to someone, and I have seen that a lot and in fact have done it myself, I have also seen long lines of people wanting someone to speak over them which often results in the "prophets" telling people what they want to hear - having a great ministry, travel, money, etc., much like what your astrologer might tell you.  A "prophet" told me I would be a billionaire.  I was hoping he would be right, but you get the idea.

5)    Women can minister the same as men. Just try to object to this abject disobedience to the Bible. “Neither male nor female” is as prevalent as Hillary’s “A Woman’s Right to Choose”.  I remember when my wife taught psychology at a Christian college. We had her class of students on our deck talking about life.  This came up sure as shootin’.  They only changed the subject when I asked if any of them every studied the times First Corinthians was written in.  There were two cultures in Corinth, the Athenian Culture, which was traditional male-led and the Spartan culture, where education was egalitarian and women had major roles in running businesses and the economy. This was granted in part because of practicality since the men were seafaring by-and-large, but also as a trade-off to not criticize the men for homosexuality.  The presence of the Spartan Culture was unique. The reason Paul was so pointed was than EVEN WHEN IT IS PERMITTED BY THE CULTURE, God’s way stands.  This was totally opposite to their position that it was written to unenlightened male chauvinist society and not at all applicable today. The devil really turned that around.  The other objection is that the submission of women was a curse to them which is released in Christ.  If that were true, why tell Christian women to submit???  In Timothy, we are told it was CREATED this way, not simply a result of sin. Read the curse in Genesis carefully. That goes beyond what Paul is saying as the order of creation.  All this said, I have had numerous clients and interchanges with Christian women pastors.  NONE was without SIGNIFICANT spiritual deception. It goes with the territory.  You should also vet every MAKE pastor as well so you do not follow a self-willed or deceived person either.

Next, the Black Church Establishment. I need to be very careful here because there is a fair amount of diversity on some issues and some of what I have shared above applies as well to a significant number of Black churches.  However there are dominant issues upon which there is very widespread conformance so I will deal with those.

1)        The Black church sees itself as the rock of the Black community and expects blacks to come. While whites are not excluded, they are generally few in number and share the dominant political mindset. There is a mindset that black preachers are superior and that black music is superior and those who go to "white" churches are ;piled at somewhat askance.  I have been blessed by both black preaching and black music, so I would be the last one to diminish either, but content is critical, and when in comes to passing the Biblical accuracy test, there is much to be desired. I love a diversity of music and appreciate a very wide variety of styles. The more recent phenomenon of harder music is a somewhat logical progression from being more edgy, and this has happened in predominantly white churches as well, especially those in the Hillsong model with black drapes and very loud, hard music.   I had to walk out of a service in a black church where the singer had the mike practically in his mouth and was thumbing the audio booth to make it even louder.  It was painful.  The same happened in a Carmen concert, though that was a concert as opposed to a service. If reconciliation is to be real, people need to worship together and not be segregated. Unfortunately, there are so many vested interests, and perhaps a fear by some pastors that they would not be in charge anymore.  The pressure to conform is great, with "thinking white" a greater sin than the real sins Jesus talked about. Unfortunately, that Balkanizes Christianity, especially in view of the next point.

2)        The modern Black church is an extension of the Democrat party.  Those who depart are heavily marginalized. I know a black pastor who preached moral issues, never political partisanship - he faced a rebellion and his church ended up in foreclosure.  I know another pastor who was strong on moral issues and had candidates who espoused them come visit at election time. He flipped in 2008 and started preaching abominable things. While many black Christians consider themselves conservative, they put moral issues on the shelf and vote overwhelmingly for the party that seeks to marginalize ALL Christians. Misplaced loyalties always compromise judgment. None of the demonstratively true economic issues are taught, as one is accepted for going along, just like in college, no matter what your ethnicity, no one cares if you understand evolutionary theory or Marxism or whatever as long as you say you are for it. So many churches are no longer clear in their moral teachings, as they have to permeate EVERY area of one's life. While this was historically not the case, to be a Black Republican today  is a profile in courage.

3)        While academics are often preached hard about, the black church has copies many of their white brothers in cherishing titles, especially "Doctor".   A stunning number of leaders has honorary degrees and their congregations adore the title, even though there was nothing done academically to get them.  Honorary degrees were intended for those with amazing life stories who never could go to college, not as a substitute for rigorous academic work.  Thankfully, there seems to be trend toward earned degrees, though many of the institutions attended are theologically liberal and not nearly rigorous enough with the Bible. While title creep is a problem everywhere, the sheer number of Bishops, Apostles, Chief Apostles, and the like are a genuine embarrassment.  Some are even women which violates the scriptures, but whether men or women, the fascination with titles is not wise.  We are to be servants, not exalting ourselves.

4)        Somewhat related to three is the tendency to unhealthily exalt ministers and vicariously live through them.  Many black pastors are given fine cars and far better homes than would be typical in the congregation. I will not give examples to keep you from guessing, but I personally know of many examples.  This makes it even worse when there is a moral failure, as the tendency is get the person back as quickly as possible,  Mt Dad was seriously underpaid as a pastor, so I do not favor starving any pastor,  However,  multiple luxury cars and a luxurious lifestyle usually impact the integrity of the message. If you question any of this you will be the odd man out.

5)        False teaching on giving is endemic as it is in evangelical churches. However, only in black churches have I heard  that pastors insisted people show their 1040 to be assessed their "tithe".  High pressure, including walking to the altar which marginalizes those unable to give stand out to me - perhaps not to you.   The Bible says to not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.  I prefer private giving wherever I am.  A side issue here is financial accountability.  A black bank VP was a trustee of his church yet had no idea how much the pastor made or where the money went.  He asked me if this was typical around here, as he was from New York.  I showed him the financial report from the church I was attending at the time, which was largely white.  His eyes lit up and said that was what he was looking for.  Tables and charts and a full financial picture plus the offer that an attender could meet with the church finance officer if they needed ever more information. Outside auditing is a problem with many ministries of all types, but in my business dealing over several decades, this seems to be an acute issue in too many black churches.

6)        Lastly, in many venues, the call for salvation is very weak and ambiguous and is mixed in with "opening the doors of the church".  This leads to many church members not being born again, and weakens the church in terms of being able to follow the Lord in everything. Members must be believers in any church, and I favor really checking someone out before inviting them to be a part of you, but unfortunately churches of all stripes want members and have lowered the bar.  This particular practice though, makes it incredibly easy for an unbeliever to join.

I will close with the Catholic Establishment. I know numerous born-again Catholics and been to the Catholic Charismatic Conference in Notre Dame and been in Newman Center Meetings. While they differ fro the old school in some ways, and diminish the role of Mary and do not pray for the dead, much of the baggage remains.

1)        The Pope is seen as the Vicar of Christ.  A Vicar means in place of”, so even if a pope were totally righteous and sanctified, it would be wrong to accord him that honor.  However, history has shown that MANY popes throughout history lived in debauchery.  The current Pope Francis has contradicted Jesus and the Bible so many times it is hard to believe he ever had any serious encounter with Christ at all.  Yet just TRY to change born-again Catholic minds who think he is the best thing since Swiss Cheese.  Remember, misplaced loyalties always compromise judgment.

]2)       The primacy of the Catholic Church.  I  and a Baptist fellow went to a meeting at the College of St. Rose in Albany, NY at the height of Charismatic movement for a prayer meeting. They were discussing whether Protestants could actually be Christians – they had heard God had been working among Protestants!  As Yogi Berra liked to say, it was deja vous all over again.  I was raised primarily as an independent Baptist, and we discussed whether Catholics could be born again if they did not leave their church.  Many of course have, and we attended a non-denominational church where perhaps 1/3 of the people were ex-Catholics.  Yet many have remained. If they spoke up, they would probably not be welcome, yet people on both sides of the aisle stay in church which teach things contrary to the Bible.  I say LEAVE.  “Can two walk together except they be agreed/” and “What fellowship has light with darkness?”

3)        Like the Democrats, Catholics used to be strong on patriotism and morality. Did you know Al Gore used to be strongly pro-life? The infiltration by those who do not even have a passing knowledge of Christ has made it harder for the traditional Catholics.  The Pope has been sending all the signals to encourage this new group, and many have compromised the traditional strong stands of the church.  Those who feel they have been hijacked are being marginalized and soon we may be able to recognize it.  Like Al Gore long ago, and like Tim Kaine now, compromise and further solidarity with wickedness is the order of the day.

In my mind, the only establishment that matters is the establishment of Christ’s kingdom, Unless we live in a kingdom matter, whether one belongs to the Evangelical Establishment, the Word of Faith establishment, of the Catholic Establishment is only a matter of degree,  We are called to come out from among them and to be separate, says the Lord.  We are to stand for what is true and not empower nor support that which is contrary to the eternal, perfect, and infallible word of God.   I am anti-establishment.  Are you?


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