I went to a “campmeeting” tonight. I went because my parents were in town and they love the week long revival that a local church puts on every year. I spent several years of my life at this church, made many friends, met my wife there, got saved there, felt the call into full time ministry there; so it has played a large role in my life.
This week they are celebrating their 34th consecutive homecoming and camp meeting. The preacher that preached has done so for 34 straight years. He’s 79 years old and though he has slowed down in his older age, he is still passionately doing what God called him to do, preach.
However, I left a little disappointed tonight. Although this pastor loves Jesus, gives him 100% of his life, and preaches like there is no tomorow; he often resorts to horizontal religion. Early in the message he ripped Rick Warren because Rick has purposely led his church to be “seeker sensitive” in their worship services, in order to reach the lost. The assumption was made, that the seeker sensitive approach is only to build a large church (basically to put butts in the seats) versus a true motive to preach the Gospel to see those outside the faith get saved. Do I agree with everything Rick Warren says or does? No! Do I agree with everything this pastor who is ripping on him says or does? No! In fact, I want to be very careful not to participate in horizontal religion myself through this post. I do however know many people at Saddleback and with first hand knowledge of their church and how they operate and their hearts for the lost, I can say, this pastor simply does not know what he is talking about.
I believe Horizontal Religion is when we put more focus on earthly things that we do on heavenly things. In this case, the pastor was attacking flesh and blood versus going after the evil in the world that is our true enemy. In another instance, I wanted to say a loud Amen when the pastor said that Al Gore was a ‘one-eyed idiot.’ Now, outside of the pulpit I totally agree! However, from the pulpit, the focus was turned away from Jesus and placed on a man that clearly needs Jesus. I am the first to admit, when I am debating politics on my personal time, I am passionate and to some I may be considered polarizing. However, I would never use my opportunity to preach the Gospel, to grow fellow believers, or to share the truths from God’s word to attack someone I disagree with politically. Its like saying Liberals are all ‘one-eyed idiots and are not Christians.’ Funny a Conservative would defend a liberal 🙂
But, this one statement helps make my case. The Gospel is not “Al Gore is a one-eyed idiot,” that is clearly an opinion. So, what if the biggest Al Gore fan was sitting in the audience, he was lost and needed Jesus? Did we marginalize him and turn him off with the opinionated statement? Or did we draw him closer to Jesus? Being seeker sensitive has nothing to do with changing the Gospel message, but because I am sensitive to the fact that their are lost people in my crowd, I am going to choose not to attack someone I politically disagree with. (My next post will be “Why Al Gore is a One Eyed Idiot!”) I believe issues like these build walls between believers and those outside the faith versus tearing walls down.
By writing this I am sure there will be some who totally shun me. Some may call me a liberal. I really don’t care. I am not ripping on this pastor. In fact, when I am 79 years old, I pray that I am as passionate about Jesus as this pastor is. I pray that the doctors give me an additional outlook of 10-15 years to keep sharing Jesus with everyone that I can. This man has been a spiritual mentor to the pastor who leads the church that hosts this camp meeting. Both pastors have been in the ministry and serving Jesus for over 40 years. I cannot criticize or complain about that, Wow! That is awesome! We need more influences like that in our culture. Like I said in the beginning, it was through this ministry hosting this revival that a lot of my spiritual journey began and a lot of my personal life has been wrapped up in. So, this pastor I am talking about has had an integral part of helping shape a church and a ministry that has molded part of me.
I am however tired of the Horizontal Religion. Christians, we already have a big enough battle on our hands with our enemy, Satan. Ephesians is as clear as can be, “Our enemy is NOT flesh and blood!” What part of that don’t we understand? Apparently, we are not devoured enough by the enemy, because we cannibalize those on our own side. We ravish each other and shred ourselves apart. This pastor should have just taken a knife and cut his own right arm off. There is no difference, 1 Corinthians 12 tells us that we are all the body of Christ. When we attack another Christian, we are attacking our own body. Ephesians 4 says, “There is ONE body and ONE faith.” Whether we all agree or disagree on certain opinions, we are all of the same body and faith. Trust me, I am not ripping on this pastor, he is just a fresh case for my argument. There are hundreds of Christians doing the same thing! We will never be effective for Christ in the way he has called us to be effective when we have a civil war going on within our own faith. One of my favorite chapters in the Bible is Philippians 1, where a report gets back to Paul (who is in prison) that some Christians are preaching the Gospel with selfish motives. They were using the Gospel to gain personally from it versus to see people saved. Paul says, “How can I complain? I must rejoice because Jesus is being preached!” Why do we feel like we are above Paul? One of the greatest preachers of all times? I think the issue is, we have control issues. We want everyone to do things our way. Trust me, if I had my way, they would have been playing some Passion and Hillsong music instead of the Gospel group and the choir, but is my way any more effective? No! Paul could not control “How” these preachers delivered the Gospel, but he understood that the Gospel is truth and once it is spoken and delivered, there is no stopping it. So, what if I do something in my church that you do not like because I feel we can reach more lost people? What good does it do you to sit around and criticize me and complain? If I am preaching the Gospel, the Bible says, His Word will not return void. Believe me! I am speaking to myself as much as anyone else. I am as guilty as anyone. I struggle with this too. I have my opinions and sometimes I believe they are better than your opinion. Therefore I believe we need to extend Grace to one another as well, but at the same time we need to wake up! (See THIS story to read about my own struggle with this very topic!)
Jude tells us to defend the Gospel. To protect the faith from false teachers who have wormed their way into the faith. I am all about protecting our faith and if we hear someone preaching in error and leading people astray, we better speak up. However, Horizontal Religion, tearing people down in our own faith will never benefit Christ. I love this pastor who I’ve used as an example. I will not speak an ill word against him. I know God uses him, it is evident, so I praise God! Let’s agree together to quit tearing each other apart and hold each other up, lets decrease so Jesus can increase in our lives and in our influence!
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