Robert and Maureen McQuillan share concerns:
Underbelly – the 17th century word has been highlighted recently through the TV series on Australian crime bosses.
Dictionaries explain it as ‘a vulnerable or unprotected part.’ Winston Churchill, concerned about ‘the gathering storm’ in Europe prior to World War 2, later used ‘underbelly’ in a figurative sense of ‘the most vulnerable part’ in a 1942 speech.
Recently a concerned friend travelled quite a distance to share his concerns regarding ‘a gathering storm’ in churches, unrecognised by many, unacknowledged by some pastors.
Areas where Christians and even ministers are most vulnerable though easygoingness, lack of biblical knowledge or experience, indifference, pomposity, pride, and spiritual blindness and deafness through unwillingness to listen to the wisdom of ‘fathers and mothers in Israel.’
‘Being in a vulnerable position’ means to be exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally or spiritually. When we are in this position, we are in danger, peril, jeopardy, at risk, unsafe, unprotected, ill-protected, unguarded.
We assured our friend that he is not alone in his concerns – others, who have been around church life for countless years, are like King David’s men of Issachar, ‘understanding the times and knowing what Israel should do’ (See 1 Chronicles 12:32) – are equally troubled.
Experienced ministers such as us and respected theologian Dr Jim McClure. In his Ask Dr Jim category he regularly focuses on the soft underbelly of current (so-called) Christian teaching and weak none-Bible based sermons.
For a number of years, a growing number of wise Christians and church leaders have expressed concern over the softening of Christian principles and inappropriate biblical teaching that has snaked into church life. Even as a child the late millionaire Bunker Hunt commented: ‘They don’t teach the Bible like they did at our old church’ (See Mark Ellis’ Impact).
As our visiting friend began sharing his genuine concerns over stuff that has slipped into some churches, an image of a slithering snake came to me (Robert). I immediately exclaimed, ‘Hydra! This is that old mythological multi-headed monster… even when one of its heads was cut off it grew two more!’
False teachings like false prophecies come and go. Then subtly return to captivate the unwise especially those not spiritually alert or knowledgeable about scripture, sadly including church leadership.’
No wonder Satan, the greatest con artist, is first described as a snake. It’s easy to picture him slithering around Eden and deceiving God’s original family, murdering their relationship with a loving Father.
No wonder in John 8:44 Jesus called him ‘a murderer from the beginning’ and also named him a liar! He’s the original deceiver and has always delighted in sneaking deceptive teaching into churches often with a cunning ‘Did God really say…’
One is reminded of that brilliant scene in The Passion of Christ where Jesus tramples and then turns his back on Satan – represented as a serpent!
One is reminded of that brilliant scene in The Passion where Jesus takes authority, trampling on a snake – a representation of the seductive Satan! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hh84vr6O8gQ)
Regarding deceptions, Jesus commanded us to alert (Mark 13:33). The Greek word is blepo which means to be aware. As the Message puts it, ‘Keep a sharp lookout.’
He also warned that ‘Lying preachers are going to pop up everywhere. Their impressive credentials and dazzling performances will pull the wool over the eyes of even those who ought to know better. But I’ve given you fair warning’ (Matthew 24:24-25).
‘Pull the wool over the eyes’ – other translations use the word ‘deceive.’ That’s planao – to seductively cause to roam from truth and safety.
‘Those who ought to know better’ – gullible Christians foolishly don’t read the Bible or attend reliable New Christians’ Classes. They know neither the word of God nor his ways but thoughtlessly rely on what the preacher says as ‘gospel.’
Regarding seduction in churches today, Peter warned of a future moment ‘for judgment to begin from the house of God’ (1 Peter 4:17). The Message Bible lays it on the line: ‘Judgment time for Christians.’
He had been talking about suffering because of following Jesus – his concluding strong advice is ‘keep on doing what is right, and trust’ (v 19). We can easily apply this to knowing and believing what God actually says in scripture and refusing to be seduced by blinded ministries who appear to be right.
Although we can’t discuss here the following headings in-depth, they represent some of the deceptions that have crept into churches or slithered in yet again and now seem to be getting stronger …
We warned of this some two years ago – it’s back again: wrong teaching snapped up by foolish and biblically uninformed Christians. Deceptive confusing statements such as ‘Now that you’ve accepted Christ, you never have to ask forgiveness of sins again. You can drink yourself to unconsciousness, take dope, have affairs…’
Scriptures such as John’s clear teaching in 1John 1:8, 10 state otherwise: ‘If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense … only shows off our ignorance of God.’ (We appreciate Dr Jim’s approval of this article and recommend brilliant book, Grace Revisited. See Resources).
Misunderstanding of prayer for healing
Some ministers teach that praying for healing isn’t God’s will! Yet Matthew 8:2-3 tells of a leper who ‘went to his knees before Jesus, praying, “Master, if you want to, you can heal my body.” Jesus reached out and touched him, saying, “I want to. Be clean”.’
(Note: Praying for healing is always appropriate yet the fact that not all are healed in this life clearly indicates that it isn’t always God’s will to answer that prayer!).
Scripture doctrine despised
We hear that ‘Christians don’t have to accept Bible fundamentals’ as truth anymore. Yet scripture states firmly that ‘You will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you’ (John 8:32); Jesus declared God’s word is truth (John 17:17).
Dangerous ‘Sozo Prayer’-type ministries
Although Dr Jim wrote clearly about this ambiguous deception in our July posting, we learn that some mainline and Pentecostal churches have embraced this and have lost good members. Paul’s encouragement in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 holds true today, ‘Test everything. Hold on to the good.’
Superstar preacher cult
Christian Television (which often fails to represent authentic Christianity) has been largely responsible for spawning the superstar preacher whose word is held to be true. They have their followers who often seem incapable or unwilling to evaluate the things the superstar says and does. There is very great danger in putting anyone on a pedestal.
Over-obsession with end times
Such obsessions are accompanied by various (and often contradictory) theories often backed up with ‘personal revelations’ from God and misinterpretation of the scriptures. While it is highly appropriate that Christians should look forward to that glorious day when Jesus returns, it is equally inappropriate to interpret every event that takes place in the world as solid evidence of his soon-coming.
Quenching the Spirit
For a number of years the moving of the Spirit including singing/speaking in tongues has been discouraged. As have prophetic words and words of knowledge. Paul warned against gagging the Holy Spirit (eg 1 Corinthians 14:39).
This ‘gospel’ is popular in much preaching today – but found nowhere in scripture. This weakened ‘gospel’ omits the basic truth of the true gospel that repentance of our sins is needed in order to receive forgiveness and new birth. The reality of repentance and real confession of sin in order to receive Jesus as Saviour is ignored or soft peddled with wimpy invitations of non-biblical appeals to ‘Simply ask Jesus into your heart’ and ‘give your heart to Jesus.’
Such meaningless phrases are not only unbiblical but also conceal the invitation of the true gospel.
It’s judgment time when Jesus’ words of Mark 1:15, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe the gospel’ and Paul’s in Romans 10:9, ‘If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved’ are ignored. Conversion calls for public action and a 180 degree turn! God is looking for sincerity! (See Harold Harvey’s Opinion article).
Self-centred worship songs
Evidently it’s no longer necessary to mention Jesus in worship songs! Self-centred songs focus on the ‘Me, me’ and ‘Gimme, gimme’ syndromes. Yet in John 12:32, Jesus said, ‘When I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ Yes, he was talking about his death on Calvary, but Christians who know he is alive delight to lift him up in worship!
Entertainment replacing worship
Sometimes one wonders where genuine worship went to and when entertainment took over. There’s often a distinct absence of the anointing in some churches. Spiritual emphasis has been replaced by entertaining the congregation (and calling it worship).
Hype presented as Holy Spirit presence
When hype is generated and described as God’s glorious presence, many Christians, who evaluate what is happening on the basis of their feelings (and because they are told that ‘God is here!’), are deceived into responding to the counterfeit. Only the authentic presence of the Holy Spirit moving graciously among God’s people will make for lasting change.
A young lady from Brazil where the Holy Spirit was genuinely moving in power visited a large Sydney church. Youth, she observed, were gleefully engrossed in the ‘worship’ (which, as mentioned above, lacked a scripture base). During the preaching she was surprised that they enthusiastically voiced the typical Sydney catchcry of ‘Come on, now’ in agreement of virtually everything that was being said.
The ‘worship’ came across to her as hype; the pressure to give at offering time didn’t impress her either.
Asked later if she enjoyed the ‘great’ service, her concerned reply was carelessly shrugged off. It was ‘But where was the anointing?’
Discounting children’s ministries
‘Children are too young to understand.’ Jesus’ Mark 10:14 attitude was different: ‘The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very centre of life in the kingdom.”’ (See Generational articles – Maureen’s May challenge and this month’s Becky Fischer’s prophetic encouragement).
Dispensable seniors, including experienced ministers
A few years back we wrote about disrespectful young leaders telling their youth to ignore what seniors, including wise, experienced ministers and parents say, claiming ‘They’re old-hat.’ Now we learn that some churches have a policy of making people over 60 feel unwelcome (and not only through ‘loud’ music!).
Rise of socialism
Reports of social activities and religious man-devised programs replacing the godly emphasis that has held churches in balance for decades are of concern too. Especially when one remembers that some great denominations went this way years ago losing strength and respectability. Some are no longer around and if they are, their congregations still dwindle and their buildings heading for closure.
The list goes on!
A couple of years ago chanting ‘Do the Hokey Pokey…’ was considered the ‘latest’ in calling down the Spirit’s anointing! Now (from the Sozo-Prayer stable) ‘Grave Sucking‘ is the newest craze spreading among many contemporary churches. To receive God’s anointing for revival and his spiritual gifts visit the graves of church revivalists and ‘suck it out of their bones’ by standing over or lying on the grave! Especially over the graves of dead saints such as below!
(Check out https://walthope.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/grave-sucking-bill-johnson/ and Truther Spirit – http://trutherspirit.com/2013/11/14/grave-sucking/)
Scripture is very clear about going directly through Jesus to receive the Spirit and his gifts. This is yet another Hydra head – the underbelly of spurious Christianity! Deception like this results in confusion, with churches losing some good people.
Another sad aspect is that some wise Christians who reject and resist what they observe corrupting the Christian faith are themselves rejected and resisted by some church leaders who have chosen to follow to current popular deceptions and fads.
What to do?
We must be on our guard against such ‘Hydra serpents’ that find their way into the church. The best way to identify them is to become better acquainted with what the Bible actually teaches and not be tempted to run with the latest fad, however attractive it may appear to be.
If leadership humbly embraces concerned counsel and become alert themselves, great. If they don’t and condemn us as hindrances, then we must make a God-directed choice and leave without carrying any adverse criticism.
Even then we must also continue to care and pray for that church. And to openly share biblical truth with anyone who seeks our counsel.
In Greek mythology Hercules was ordered to go kill Hydra, that monstrous venomous snake. He could only stop sliced off heads from growing back by ensuring the stub was cauterised with a flaming torch. And the help of a friend.