Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Are you gonna follow that church leader all the way to hell?

Church leadership just keeps coming up again and again in my circle these days. No doubt because it's church leaders (or, at least those human beings count as church leaders, whether God does or not) who determine where most Christians will go in their spiritual walk. It's church leaders who describe and draw the boundaries for the various paths most Christians will follow.

And it's sorta-kinda supposed to be that way. According to the Bible, a "church leader" (also described as an "elder" and such, in the New Testament) is supposed to be someone like your football coach, or your older sister, or someone else who, yes, is also just another sinful human being like you are, but who also has real-world experience and knowledge in living as a true follower of Jesus Christ. A church leader's shared experience and wisdom, offered with corrective love and hope, is supposed to keep us all continually re-pointed back to Jesus Christ (while everything else in the world keeps trying to point us away). Their function within the Body of Christ is to help keep themselves, each other, and all their "younger siblings" on that narrow Jesus-path until Jesus comes again. 

But anyone truly paying attention to what's happened to the "Christian Church" in the last 1,900 years or so can see how quickly "church leadership" degenerated after those who'd learned firsthand from Jesus Himself died (and so were no longer around to call B.S. on nonsense) – and how "church leadership" stayed degenerated even into today. Despite the Bible's direction, even today almost all "church leaders" are only truly about Jesus Christ (and making the sacrifices and going through the trials following Him demands) when doing so does not conflict with or counter the human-created religious traditions, cultural norms, social expectations, attendance counts, and job and ego security understood as "core" of the religious organization or group they belong to. And that's just as true of "fundamentalist" churches as it is of "progressive" ones. Just as true of "evangelical" churches as it is of "emergent" ones. Just as true of "modern" churches as it is of "post-modern" ones.

We're so proud of ourselves, and we remember always to praise God -- right after we get done thinking so highly of ourselves for how much "better" we've made the religion of "Jesus" in the last 2,000 years.

And all that means if we just go along with whatever "old" or "new" church fad that tickles our fancy, or better addresses our politics or our emotional needs, then we're just wandering around a cheap carnival fun house that has Jesus' face painted on the front and some hymnals scattered around the back.

And that's because most practicing and preparing-to-become "church leaders" today have a "calling" from their own ego, or from a severe misunderstanding of Jesus' truth -- and not actually from the Holy Spirit.

For true church leaders, though, who aren't simply memorizing (and benefiting themselves from) human-crap-of-death that was based on human-crap-of-death which was itself based on human-crap-of-death all the way back to the human-crap-of-death the first disciples named as anti-Jesus, what's really God-required for church leaders to be and do is right there in the Bible. Right there for our understanding to soak in, once we pump the spiritual bilge water from our hearts and minds.

Take a look at Acts 20, for example. I'm starting at verse 17 (end about verse 35). Then look over Titus 1, reading from about Titus 1:5 to about Titus 2:1 (my text below will follow those sequences, if you want to follow along in your own Bible). Compare Paul's Holy Spirit-led, real world experience and wisdom-sharing about what church leaders are to truly do, know, and be – and then compare that to what we see today in "church leaders", whether those "church leaders" are on television or radio or internet, or in local pulpits, megachurches, "creative" churches, "house" churches, and so on.

I'm just going to grab here at the most obvious examples:

Paul says he served Jesus not only with humility, but also through all the tears and trials that came via evil plottings of "good religious people".
Discernment opportunity: Which "church leaders" today are actually the self-satisfied "good religious people" doing the evil plotting or working against those that don't conform to their own ego-boundaries or human-inspired doctrines, instead of being those grieved and suffering because of trying to be about Jesus in spite of them? 
Doesn't matter how "good" or "spiritual" or "religious" they are -- they do not have their hearts on the real Jesus -- and therefore don't qualify as God-chosen church leaders.
Paul says he never shrank from publicly testifying to everyone about (1) the need to repent to God from evil choices, (2) to keep faith in Jesus Christ, and (3) the good news of God's love even for those who've never deserved it for one millisecond. 
Discernment opportunity: Which "church leaders" ignore the need for us all to repent because telling people they're making evil choices "turns people off" (and therefore lowers the ministry's follower numbers and/or tithes) or just doesn't match how they've imagined "love" to be? Which church leaders push people to keep faith in their own particular human denominational/doctrinal/etc interpretation of Jesus Christ, as if that were the same as Jesus Christ?
Doesn't matter how "good" or "spiritual" or "religious" they are -- they do not have their hearts on the real Jesus -- and therefore don't qualify as God-chosen church leaders
Paul says he's innocent of causing anyone else to end up in hell, because he's taught God's whole intent and not just picked and chosen what he liked and ignored the rest. 
Discernment opportunity: Which "church leaders" – of "right" or "left", "evangelical" or "emergent", "modern" or "post-modern" – only pick and choose what they emphasize about God (like, for example, teaching that God is about hating sin without also showing from their lives God's boundless love for all humankind, or teaching that God is about nothing but love without also showing from their lives God's triumphant justice and rejection of evil?).
Doesn't matter how "good" or "spiritual" or "religious" they are -- they do not have their hearts on the real Jesus -- and therefore don't qualify as God-chosen church leaders
Paul says church leaders need to be on guard for themselves, each other, and for everyone God has seen fit to make them an elder-sibling over, to make sure they properly shepherd what God shed His own blood for to buy us back from destruction.
Discernment opportunity: Which "church leaders" claim to "guard the flock" but actually help fleece the flock of dollars and adoration that belong only to God, while enforcing human rules, human traditions, and human ideas as if they were from God?
Doesn't matter how "good" or "spiritual" or "religious" they are -- they do not have their hearts on the real Jesus -- and therefore don't qualify as God-chosen church leaders
Paul says that after he's dead, evil-minded people are going to emerge from inside churches, and are going to be ripping up and ripping off those people within them, teaching things that pervert the real Good News of Jesus Christ, and getting people to leave real fellowships and follow them instead.
Discernment opportunity: Which "church leaders" (past and present) are doing just this, while using Bible quotes and church law and appeals to tradition to "justify" it, so that people even  believe this kind of "Christianity" is "normal" and "healthy" and "godly"?
Doesn't matter how "good" or "spiritual" or "religious" they are -- they do not have their hearts on the real Jesus -- and therefore don't qualify as God-chosen church leaders
Paul says church leaders therefore must be on the alert, expecting these anti-Jesus wolves to show up, and tearfully warning each other of even possible slipups.
Discernment opportunity: Which "church leaders" simply "go along to get along", not "rocking the boat" in their fellowship, church, denomination, or world so things still have the appearance of being godly and cozy, even when people are being taught a false way to salvation, when children are being raped, when women are stuck in battering relationships, when the poor and oppressed are suffering, when people are being convinced God hates them, when people are being convinced that human-add-ons are requirements of the Gospel, and so on? 
Doesn't matter how "good" or "spiritual" or "religious" they are -- they do not have their hearts on the real Jesus -- and therefore don't qualify as God-chosen church leaders
Paul says that God Himself is able to build up church leaders, to give them what they need to be sanctified and true.
Discernment opportunity: Which "church leaders" rely on themselves, their denominational position, their theological education, their religious doo-dads, or something else besides God to "prove" them holy-living godly church leaders who should be followed or even "obeyed"?
Doesn't matter how "good" or "spiritual" or "religious" they are -- they do not have their hearts on the real Jesus -- and therefore don't qualify as God-chosen church leaders
Paul says as a church leader he never had a thought about gaining others' money and such, and that with his own hands he took care of his own needs and the needs of the other ministers working with him. He says that by working hard like this, church leaders can and must help those who are weak, remembering always that Jesus Himself said that it's better to give than receive.
Discernment opportunity: Which "church leaders" have made or hope to make a good career out of ministry, especially in "administration" of buildings, programs, "ministry teams", college courses, and denominational politics, as if anything like that means diddly compared to the simple Jesus-acts of personally getting someone in need a meal, hugging someone covered in filth, or teaching lost people about the Good News of Jesus Christ?
Doesn't matter how "good" or "spiritual" or "religious" they are -- they do not have their hearts on the real Jesus -- and therefore don't qualify as God-chosen church leaders
(Now I'm working my way through Titus 1):

Many churches (especially but not only "right-wing" ones) like to believe they've satisfied the requirements for church leadership -- but what they actually do is pick as "church leaders" people who satisfy worldly standards (like picking business people to "run" the church and its "finances"), and/or by picking church leaders who conform to their own human doctrines, traditions, cliques, biases, and politics -- but don't conform to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it was given by Jesus Christ.


How many "church leaders" are said to be "above reproach", but by their ugly and/or empty hearts and their "church over Jesus" belief systems they've brought tremendous shame on the Body of Christ? Well, that means they are not "above reproach" at all!

When "good religious people" are said to be in "rebellion" in the New Testament, it means they are in rebellion against God's way of doing things. So how many "church leaders" even just today are easily accused of being in "rebellion", since they put more value on religious deeds and doo-dads that only make show (even though they don't fool God, of course)? How many run "churches" and teach things in complete opposition to things Jesus taught, yet still count what they're doing as "according to God's will"? These are people in rebellion!

Do we even need to cover "prosperity preachers", "televangelists", but also all other "church leaders" who've managed to make a huge living at representing the God who said that those who have good things in this world won't get squat in the next, and who said you simply cannot have your mind and heart on God and money at the same time? These are people fond of "sordid gain", and who are stewards of their own interests, not Gods!

Paul wrote someone qualified to be a church leader will "[hold] fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching" passed down from Jesus to His first disciples, so the church leader is "able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict [it]." How many "church leaders" of the past nineteen centuries have even pretended to stick only with the simple Good News of Jesus Christ, as taught and commanded by God Himself, and not instead added and/or adored the human accretions layered on top of it like muddy dirt and filth on gold? How many church leaders – "right" or "left", "evangelical" or "emergent" or "catholic", "modern" or "post-modern" – won't correct or chew themselves or each other out when they're following or teaching human-crap-of-death, refusing to stand up at all costs to themselves, "their" ministry, "their" church, and so on to counter those who twist Jesus Christ and His message into their own human-shaped pretzel? These are not people faithful to God's Word.

How many "church leaders" of any brand won't even acknowledge that church people who don't do things God's way, who spout their own nonsense, who deceive people, or who obsess on only parts of the Bible message are – Paul says – supposed to be made to shut the %)#@*% up? How many "church leaders" just continue to absorb (or seek) all the bennies promised to their human church position and assignments, doing right by themselves while ignoring, passing off, or justifying the loss of all those turned away from the Gospel or otherwise hurt by "the Church" (no doubt they are "prayerfully working on the problem from within" -- for years, decades, centuries...)? These are not servants of Jesus Christ.

How many "church leaders" won't severely accuse destructive, anti-Jesus "Christians" (even though that would give them an opportunity to get their spiritual heads on right and stop hurting other people and blaspheming God)? More, how many won't call wrong wrong because they don't want to risk the political poo-storm it would cause to stir up the sleeping demons in their "church"? How many won't do this because "God is love" and therefore they are going to demonstrate "God's love" by letting the devil destroy people's lives and faith? These people reject God's way.

How many "church leaders" – instead of knowing and standing up for Jesus and doing what He said to do – actually themselves "profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed"?

As always, it all comes down to this:

Whether we count ourselves as "church leaders", or as followers of "church leaders": do we take Jesus and (real) His teachings (as given us through His first disciples) seriously, or don't we?

The fact that the vast majority of those calling themselves "Christian" do NOT take Jesus seriously is demonstrated continually in our support of politicians (republican, democrat, whatever -- all the same), religious figures (protestant, catholic, emergent, whatever -- all the same), business leaders and their various economic systems (all the same), and others (all the same) who start or continue or don't act against war, torture, oppression of the poor and minorities, falsification of the Good News of Jesus Christ, and other demonic practices.

And we learn to be "good Christians" who defy Jesus Christ to His face and happily do the exact opposite of what He says (while still expecting His praise, of course), from following and learning from "church leaders" who may be very nice people who want to love and serve the Lord but who just don't qualify according to the simple standards set out for us by God in His Bible. 

So, what's the Jesus-deal? 

The deal is: take Jesus as seriously as He takes you. And only follow and learn from those other human beings whose lives and faith lead and point you only to Him. 
  • Remember, as you look for real "elder-siblings" to help you out, that they may or may not be found in actual church buildings (or even in "house churches", etc), because these days few such places have enough Jesus left in them to do anything but (at best) wear people out spiritually, and the real Body of Christ is found everywhere. Keep an eye and heart out in all the places such folks might be found: online, at your work, in a Bible study, and so on. God's been amazing in all the places He's dropped "elder-siblings" into my life. 
  • Remember that nothing in the Bible says being an "elder-sibling" is supposed to be some kind of ritualized or formal relationship. That's how human beings like to do things -- not like Jesus did or does things. Look for friendships and fellowships, not someone with a title or collar or organizational position. Most of the time, it won't even be recognized as an "elder-sibling" thing at all, but as simply a neighbor-thing, or a friend-thing, or whatever. Lots of the best "elder-siblings" are found amongst the "least of these" in the world, because they've actually gone through real trials (often at the hands and hearts of the "good religous people" in their lives), and they've learned through Jesus Christ how to deal with and be better despite such things. 
  • Remember that if you yourself are a "church leader", you also need God-chosen church leaders to keep YOU on the right path, because you're just as human as everyone else, and you also will for the rest of your life need to learn from and listen to only those who actually match what the Bible says qualifies someone to be an "elder-sibling". This ridiculous and shameful ego thing of pretending to be so "holy" you (unlike everyone else) no longer desperately need strong counsel and a good butt-kicking more days than not is exactly what makes so-called "ministers" into drunks, drug addicts, perverts, ego-maniacs, spiritual-masturbators, wealth-chasers, and God-trashers. If you aren't willing to be the truly humble person first in line each day for godly correction and teaching, then do the rest of the world a favor and "minister" instead in a Church of Satan, where you will at least be honest about who you're really serving. 
  • Finally, always remember that having (real) "elder-siblings" in your life is a very nice thing to have, and can sometimes keep us from doing a face-plant into the thorn bushes along the narrow path -- but elder-siblings aren't required for our salvation. Only Jesus is required for that. He'll provide all the other stuff as we're willing to look and to accept them, and as He determines we need them. But in any case, He's our ultimate safety, only real Teacher, and only true Elder (pastor, priest, etc).  
Until next week -- God continue to bless and keep you, and to grow you, and to open your mind and heart in all the ways that make Him more and more your only Source, each day!

In God's love,


---This article written by Lynne at No Junk. Just Jesus. You can contact Lynne at