Iconic civil rights leader tells Pastor John MacArthur to stop lying

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: Since publication, I have been the recipient of threats, unholy attacks and slander, and an abhorrent smear campaign by several members of Pastor John MacArthur’s own team, who have attempted to bully me into revealing the identities of my research partners/sources. I will not cave. They have gone so far as to accredit authorship of my article to someone else. NOQ Report, too, has been slandered. Worse still, te honesty and reputation of Civil Rights icon Charles Evers has also been attacked. To date, none of the information from this article has been disproved. I am deeply saddened by the unethical behavior exhibited by some members of the Christian community, including several of those on Pastor John MacArthur’s team.]


Civil Rights icon Charles Evers – brother of murdered Civil Rights activist, Medgar Evers is hoping to set the record straight, requesting that radio Bible teacher, best-selling author, seminary president, and mega-church pastor John MacArthur stop “lying” about being with Charles Evers on the night that Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

Testimony from Charles Evers and fellow Civil Rights icon, John Perkins – in concert with official reports from the Memphis police, the FBI, and the Congressional investigation into Dr. King’s assassination – are incongruent with Pastor MacArthur’s statements of the events of April 4, 1968, when Dr. King was shot. Continue reading…

This post was originally published at noqreport.com on February 4, 2019.

Idol-Worshiping Sheep

This is the second part of a two-part series. Your may read part one here. You are strongly encouraged to read the part one before proceeding.


“The Human Heart is a factory of idols.”

– John Calvin

A few years back, I completed a custom painting for a baby boy’s nursery; one that would complement the minimalist style, warm color scheme, and the simplistic, one-dimensional pattern of the bedding set of the new baby’s African Animals-themed nursery.

After creating the landscape and sun, mimicking the simple, leafy shapes from the bedding’s pattern, I created a one-dimensional, dark silhouette of a giraffe.

Lastly, using a wide, fanned brush, I added a slight hint of depth to the painting by dragging layers of cream, coral, and red paint up from the bottom edge of the painting.

DSC01117 (3)

Contrast my very simplistic painting of the giraffe with the intricate, detailed painting of the leopard that my mother created and which I used in my last article.

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While both paintings were created for very different purposes, my mother’s painting of a leopard is, quite clearly, far more representative of one of God’s complex creatures.

My painting of the giraffe, on the other hand, is but a shadow of this truly magnificent creature.

 

Predators in the Pulpits and Prey in the Pews

An even starker contrast between the two paintings is the subject of each: one a predator, the other one, prey.

In my last article, I discussed the concerning phenomenon of authoritarianism, of predatory leadership afflicting some Evangelical churches in America. This phenomenon appears to be on the rise and, since my last article was published, I have learned is far more widespread than I had initially suspected.

Pastor Steve Martin of IRBS Theological Seminary has identified the sins of the authoritarian church leader as [1]:

  1. Idolatry: “[T]he sinful desire to always be in control, especially the control of the lives of God’s sheep. Such sin is but a thinly veiled attempt to play God for His people. And make no mistake, such men become as God to their flock. It is hardly surprising that pastors with such a sinful tendency will eventually attain near papal infallibility in their churches [and beyond]. Paul’s command to young Titus in 2:15 (‘…rebuke with all authority…do not let anyone despise you’) is their ‘life verse’ in practice if not in precept. Usually this idolatrous sin of always needing to be in control is accompanied by a wrathful, berating, anxiety-producing spirit as the controlling leader will tolerate no loose electrons in his personal universe of control (Cf. Ezekiel 34:4 & ff.; Matt. 20:25; 1 Pet. 5:3). Such self-deified leaders produce congregations which are more afraid of displeasing the leaders than they are of displeasing their Lord and Savior. Men who must be ‘God’ to their people ironically lose the authority of God’s Holy Spirit by their sin. Then their God-given authority is replaced by fleshly control maintained by manipulation, intimidation, verbal coercion and the ecclesiastical version of pulling rank (e.g., ‘Now, I’m your elder and you had better do this, or else…’!) The Apostle John’s description of Diotrophes seems to fall under such a category of sin (3 John 9-10).”
  2. Prayerlessness: “[A]uthoritarian pastors and leaders do not rely upon prayer for their people as a primary instrument ordained by God for the edification and protection of His people. As a result, they verbally coerce and bully their people into conformity… Such fleshly shepherds expend far more labor scolding, threatening, manipulating, confronting, ‘counseling’, and ‘EXERCISING DISCIPLINE’ to get their people to knuckle under to their will.”
  3. Unbelief: “[M]any leaders in churches do not believe the declarative statements and promises of God contained in His Word…  In this pattern of unbelief, following hard on the heels of their own prayerlessness, authoritarian shepherds develop the mindset, ‘If I don’t make them do this, they won’t!’ or ‘If I don’t make them do this, who will?’ They really do not believe that Christ will shepherd His sheep and the Holy Spirit guide and convict the saints while they are away from the human shepherd… Sadly, such pastors and elders create a ‘police-state mentality’ in their congregations: everyone’s life is carefully monitored and scrutinized for any deviation, and any ‘sins’ or questionable activities are to be reported to the church leadership immediately.”
  4. Lack of love for the sheep:Many pastors love to study, preach, teach and manage but they just do not like the people. Even their time counseling people is only to ‘fix’ problems that might mess up the church. Compare such attitudes with that of our loving and compassionate Lord for the sheep-like sinners of His earthly ministry (cf. Matt. 9:36 and 14:14; Mark 1:29-41 and 10:21). Do you see how far removed our Lord’s shepherd ministry is from many pastoral examples today?
  5. Pride: “[A]t root, all the above mentioned sins of office bearers stem from an inflated sense of their own importance. John Calvin once observed that from the king on his throne to the scullery maid in her kitchen, each of us harbors a kingdom in our hearts. Such is the sinful pride of the human heart… How unlike their Master!

 

But there is a flip-side to this coin: idol-worshiping sheep.

“But it has also been my sad observation that a reaction has set in among some churches and leaders. ‘Authoritarianism’ has risen among some pastors and officeholders such that whole churches seem to be little more than idol worshipers of ‘the great man’ and the ‘omnicompetent elders’. Instead of wounded shepherds victimized by their flock, we now have the specter abroad of wounded sheep victimized by the very men called to feed and protect them.

Who is to say which set of sins is worse or brings more shame on the name of Christ and the gospel of grace?

 – Pastor Steve Martin

At least one university lecturer and researcher, Charles Chilimampunga, believes that the trend towards pastor/leader worship “is mostly due to the fact that such church leaders are taking advantage of people’s deprivation,” [2].

 

Pastor Steve Martin of IRBS Theological Seminary has identified the sins of the idol-worshipping sheep as [3]:

  1. Idol-Worship: “[S]inful flesh is not content with the unseen reality of the one true God. It wants to fashion an idol in place of the invisible God who is spirit. There is always the temptation to act like the Jews of Saul’s time who wanted a human leader that they could see, rather than the unseen God Himself (1 Kings 8:1-18). But God shares His glory with no man, not even ‘called men’ who are promoted to demi-god status by their adoring flock. Such flocks too often find for themselves a man who likes to lord it over the flock. Thus a sinfully symbiotic relationship is complete with an abusive authority figure coupled to idol-worshipping minions (e.g., Jer. 5:30-31). Such people populate churches that boast of their preacher but speak little of Jesus Christ!”
  2. Fear of Man: “[T]oo many sheep are more gripped by the desire to please a man or more fearful of displeasing a man than they are of pleasing or displeasing Almighty God (cf. Prov. 29:25; John 5:41-44)… Men-pleasers have little stomach for potential conflict or simple disagreement. They would never dare question their exalted leader, no matter how respectfully. They would never ask for the biblical basis for a decision made by the leadership, even when that decision seems to fly in the face of clear biblical teaching. Such men-pleasers crave the smile of a man’s countenance more than the smile of God and they will not speak the truth in love (Eph. 5:15).”
  3. Unbelief:“[T]oo many believers do not believe that God still guides His people today through the means of prayerful meditation upon the Word of God and the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit…  It is not surprising that Christians who put men of clay on pedestals, who then cravenly serve these idol-leaders, and who do not believe that God still guides should fall prey to abusive leaders. It is only the grace of God that it does not happen more than it does… Perhaps authoritarian shepherds are God’s chastening rods upon the backs of idol-worshipping, men-pleasing, unbelieving sheep who will not have God to be their God and who substitute a mere creature in His place (cf. Isaiah 2:22 and Psalm 33:13-19)?”

 

Unlike a giraffe on the Savanna who will put of a fight against any predator looking for a meal, idol-worshipping sheep willingly allow themselves to become fleshly prey animals for predatory church leaders.

As Pastor Martin has pointed out (emphasis mine) [4]:

Flocks of sheep with paralyzed decision-making faculties reveal exposure to shepherds who played ‘God’ for them. Thus the sinful tendency noted in John Milton’s wry observation (‘New presbyter is but old priest writ large’) returns to haunt the churches. And even more sadly, some idol-worshipping sheep love it to be so.”

Christ described those who would flock to such false shepherds, warning, “For wherever the carcass may be, there the vultures will be gathered,” (Matthew 24:28).

For those who wish not to become vultures, it is imperative to remember that the Word of God advises us “to check themselves and make sure they are not elevating pastors to a place that belongs to Christ in their hearts. Whilst we are to appreciate and love pastors, we need not give them the worship that is due God,” [5].

It is important to recognize and avoid systems of toxic faith.

A horrible and shocking thing

has happened in the land.

The prophets prophesy falsely,

and the priests rule by their own authority.

My people love it so,

but what will you do in the end?”

(Jeremiah 5:30-31)

The Toxic Faith System

There are several notable features of and rules within an environment wherein Christian fellowship and Christian worship has morphed into a system of toxic faith, a system which enables Nicolaitan leaders to persecute their idol-worshiping sheep:

  1. Control: “When the toxic-faith leader struggles with control on a personal level, he or she also attempts to be in the center of control within the system. The leader desires to have the final say in every decision, whether minimal or monumental… so that total control, or at least the illusion of total control, can be maintained by the leader… The more the person seeks to control all details, the less likely that person will be able to maintain a clear vision of the larger issues,” [6].
  2. Blame: “When problems arise, immediately find a guilty party to blame. Almost every toxic believer caught in a public scandal has relied on this rule to explain or minimize the scandal,” [7].
  3. Perfectionism: “A toxic-faith system traps all its religious addicts into the tyranny of perfectionism. Because they are taught that they belong to an elite system, followers believe they can attain perfection, think they need to attain it, and feel terrible shame when they fail… This rule against making mistakes increases shame and fear and motivates members of the toxic system to deny and repress their humanness. A mistake is considered a reason to fear that their faith lacks strength. Fear becomes the motivation to work harder to compensate for a lack of faith that has produced the mistake… The toxic-faith system has no room for error and no room for people who make mistakes. Since people in need, people who mess up, and people who reveal their humanness glaringly point out the weaknesses of the toxic-faith system, they must be removed. Their expulsions also motivate others to measure up to the perfect standards of the organization. They try harder, lest they be thrown out too… The perfectionist practice of faith becomes product-oriented; the relationship with God becomes less important than the product of acceptable behavior. Anything short of perfection elicits the shame of not being quite good enough… The toxic believer… endeavors endlessly to avoid the shame and pain of not measuring up. He or she always hopes that “this time I’ll do it right,” (emphasis mine) [8].
  4. Delusion: “Never point out the reality of a situation. Religious addicts aren’t interested in reality. They don’t want to know how things are. They are interested in how things should be and how everyone can work together to create the illusion that everything is the way it should be. Anyone not creating that illusion will be discounted or removed. To talk of reality is to commit organizational suicide. If more faithful followers were willing to commit organizational suicide and become outcasts, all the other religious addicts would be forced to face reality and change to meet the needs of the people the ministry is supposed to serve,” (emphasis mine) [9].
  5. Perpetual Cheerfulness: “Never express your feelings unless they are positive. Religious addicts don’t care about people. They don’t care how people feel or what their needs are. They care about their own feelings and their own needs. Addicts who know the rules will never reveal a thought, feeling, or doubt that would make the toxic leader feel uncomfortable. The leader wants to be reinforced only with positive feelings and statements of affirmation. No room exists for those who are negative, depressed, or worried about a problem. In a toxic-faith system, followers must always wear pasted-on smiles. Individuals who make known their problems are considered outcasts and are ostracized,” [10].
  6. Spotless image: “At all costs, keep up the image of the organization [or leader(s), or movement]. The toxic-faith organization and the toxic-faith family exist in a world of denial. They deny everyone’s humanity, including that of its leader. One foundation for the growth of a toxic organization is the image of a godlike leader. The leader must be presented as having a level of perfection that others cannot attain… The toxic-faith organization and the toxic-faith family exist in a world of denial. They deny everyone’s humanity, including that of its leader. One foundation for the growth of a toxic organization is the image of a godlike leader. The leader must be presented as having a level of perfection that others cannot attain… This rule is never observed 100 percent, however. Some members of the organization or a family always come to see the group for what it is and challenge the false perceptions. They become outcasts, but as they go out, they force a crack in the delusive image of the leader, the family, or the organization. Eventually, enough cracks destroy the facade completely, and people recognize the organization for what it is… All rules in a toxic system have something to do with maintaining religious addiction. Rules are designed to fuel the addict’s ego, protect the addict’s position, and perpetuate the status quo. This is the central poison in the family or organization and in the faith of the addicted followers,” (emphasis mine) [11].
  7. Blind Loyalty: “Don’t ask Questions, especially if they are tough ones. Religious addicts must be blindly loyal. Questions, especially the tough ones, reveal that a follower has some doubts and lacks faith. Any questioning is considered resistance to the organization or the leader of the family. Questions are met with responses that indicate certain issues are not to be mentioned. Expenditures of the organization, for example, are said to be beyond the understanding of the followers… There was a time when everything in the solar system was said to revolve around the earth. Those who questioned this belief were cast out, and some were punished. In a system of religious addiction, the toxic-faith leader believes that the ministry or the family should revolve around him or her. Anyone questioning that approach, or suggesting that the ministry revolve around people’s needs, has no place in the system,” [12].
  8. Conformity: “Don’t do anything outside of your role. A toxic-faith system doesn’t permit personal growth. Those who remain in the system must learn their roles and not deviate from them. Otherwise they will be perceived as rebellious and unstable. The toxic-faith leader doesn’t want individualism; he or she wants predictability and conformity. If a person can’t adhere to the rules of the assigned role, that person must be ejected from the system… A toxic-faith system is intent on maintaining the homeostasis of the system, that is, keeping the boat from rocking… The toxic-faith system gets victims to stick to their roles by shaming them. Those at the top encourage followers to shame the rebel to intimidate him or her back into submission… The only individuals who can exist over time in the toxic system are those who stay within the bounds of their roles and continue to find new ways to serve the leader. The more a person can accomplish for the toxic-faith leader, the longer the person will stay and the more respected the person will become,” [13].
  9. Mistrust: “Trust is discouraged so that the system’s leader maintains allegiance of power… Religious addicts exist inside a system based on false reality. Rules are made up, and those living within the rules are unreal. No one can trust in a system where no one is being real. When people do not say what they think or express what they feel, no one can be trusted. Where one must sacrifice the reality of what one thinks, feels, hears, and sees, trust is impossible. In the absence of trust, manipulation and fear grow. Victims allow themselves to be manipulated as long as they remain in the system. Unable to rely on anyone but the leader, they permit that leader to reign over them,” [14].
  10. Elitism: “Religious addicts are at war with the world to protect their terrain and to establish themselves as godly persons who can’t be compared to other persons of faith. In their attempt to maintain and protect their beliefs, religious addicts line everyone up in two camps; there is no middle ground. A person is either part of the toxic-faith system or against it; a person is either supportive or destructive. The toxic organization fosters this mentality until its followers believe that everyone on the outside is a threat to the ministry, has no understanding of what is “really” going on, and must be ignored if they challenge the beliefs of the religious addicts. At the point of any new threat, the leader and the religious addicts are ready to go to war. Individuals who have not made a similar investment will be perceived as enemies ready to strike at any moment… Religious addicts often cease to react and operate like human beings. They show no compassion for the hurting or those who feel trapped in sin. Zealous addicts make sinners feel alienated and hated. The attractive, gathering nature of Christ is lost in the religious addicts’ desire to set themselves above and apart from all the rest. Self-righteousness replaces the humble service to God that probably characterized their walk of faith at the beginning… As the ministry grows, it will come under closer scrutiny, and some of its toxic beliefs will be revealed as such by those who suspect the motives of the leader, the addicts who follow, and the entire organization. When these investigations begin, religious addicts are manipulated into believing that they are being attacked by the enemy. The prudent course would be to admit the mission has gotten off track, confess the wrongs, and bring it back in line with biblical teachings. But religious addicts would never do that until every other option had been taken away,” (emphasis mine) [15].
  11. Labeling: “The technique of labeling is used to discount a person who opposes the beliefs of the religious addict. Labeling attempts to dehumanize critics so that dismissing them or their opinions becomes much easier. The religious addict chooses not to address a critic individually but places a negative label on all who would disagree… Rather than say that John Smith has asked some questions, the addict proclaims that there are “detractors,” “traitors,” or “malcontents” who would destroy the ministry or organization. The labels become rallying points used to squelch a revolt. Once the label is in place, it becomes more difficult to see that person as a human with real needs and the potential for good judgment… By labeling John and by persuading other church members to believe that label, the insecure pastor was able to avoid dealing with disagreement. The military uses labeling to enhance the “killability” of the enemy. The last thing a military leader wants a soldier to think about is that the person in his rifle sights may be a father of five little girls who will starve without a daddy. The enemy is given an ethnic label in an effort to dehumanize him. The soldier is better able to kill one hundred of them than one father or husband. Religious addicts use the technique well, and when they use rumor and innuendo to kill the reputation of a sincere critic, other followers are more apt to go along if a label can dehumanize the dissenter. The purpose of labeling is to separate and divide… The approach is transferred to the person’s individuality. The person is shamed and demeaned for beliefs that have little to do with the person’s value or unique gifts from God. Disqualification by labeling hurts the victims and allows persecutors to continue in their toxic faith. It is sheer poison… Because it is difficult to rally against rational-thinking people who have distinctly different views, labels must be used to polarize the opponents and energize the followers to fight those opponents… Labeling discounts and dismisses the opposition and establishes the superiority of religious addicts. It does not invite the exploration of the beliefs of others; it reduces them to objects of scorn. Labeling becomes the perfect weapon to attack the enemy or defend the toxic-faith system, its beliefs, and addictive practices. Labeling allows religious addicts to define truth, uphold that truth as defined, and destroy anyone who would dare to question that truth,” (emphasis mine) [16].
  12. Sheep Become Co-Conspirators: “[The sheep] are addicted to religion as the means by which they feel accepted and significant… conspirator. In large organizations, more than one co-conspirator usually exists. Several co-conspirators work together to form a team of yes-men and yes-women who will do anything to protect and defend the persecutor. They feed into the persecutor’s ego and further blind him or her from reality. When conflict arises, they usually find a way to agree with the persecutor and support his or her position. They are loyal and supportive of the persecutor in every way. If it were not for them, the persecutor’s empire would fall quickly. In a toxic-faith system, these are the most dangerous followers. They are as driven and misguided as the persecutor, and because they are close to power, people trust them. Because they so deeply believe in the persecutor, many will continue to support that person when trouble, rumor, or admission of wrong surfaces… The primary role of a co-conspirator is to make the persecutor look good… In a typical crisis, the co-conspirator comes to the rescue of the persecutor… Co-conspirators believe their actions are genuine. They say, “I know God’s hand when I see it, and his hand is on this person.” They see everything from the point of view of the persecutor, that he or she has been called of God to head the family or run the ministry and that everything must make sense in light of that divine calling… and further enhance the delusions of the persecutor. Each co-conspirator sees the evil plot as out to get the persecutor [“a faithful minister”] and takes it as a personal mission to protect the persecutor at all costs. If it means that lies and distortions must be propagated, then lies and distortions will be devised. If it means lying to prevent the authorities from taking children out of the home, then lies it will be. For this willingness to lie, thus continuing the delusion of sincerity and purity, the co-conspirator is rewarded with gifts, power, money, and prestige,” (emphasis mine) [17].

“For from the least of them to the greatest,

all are greedy for gain.

From prophet to priest,

all practice deceit.

They have dressed the wound of My people

with very little care,

saying, ‘Peace, peace,’

when there is no peace at all.

(Jeremiah 6:13-14)

Turning Sheep into Vultures

As you have likely now noticed, the toxic, pack-like environment of a toxic faith system turns the sheep into simplistic shadows, into silhouettes of the Christ-loving people they once were… They lose all ability to empathize with others whom they view as “wrong” (for any reason) and are incapable of humility and forgiveness.

They become caricatures of their former selves.

Consider the below, highlighted passage from page 33 of Pastor Richard Wurmbrand’s book, “Tortured for Christ.”

4

The sheep became predators, joining in the hunt for His sheep.

Thee became vultures.

These vultures will lie and slander without pause.

These vultures will stalk those deemed “opponents,” both virtually and in person.

These vultures will put good Christians in harm by doxing them.

Some vultures have even gone so far as to send, via “snail mail,” fallacious and defamatory letters to one blogger’s church members (including the janitor), “as well as denominational leaders, the chancellor of a wellknown local university medical center, the chiefs of certain medical divisions, the president of a related denomination’s seminary and a cardiology practice,” and also “all of the members of a community board on which” she and her husband sit [18].

Worst of all, these predatory sheep have sacrificed their relationship with Christ for the worship of a toxic leader and a toxic faith system, and have smeared their once-Christian witness to the world.

“They were bewildered (harassed and distressed and dejected and helpless), like sheep without a shepherd.”

Matthew 9:36

Conclusion

I did not write this for those who have already dedicated themselves to such idolatry (and whom I know will be seeking out and reading this article due to their predatory impulses).

I write this for those who have not yet forfeited themselves to a toxic leader, those who do not yet posess “paralyzed decision-making faculties,” as Pastor Steven Martin describes, and for those precious Christians who, currently, may be feeling trapped in a Nicolaitan fellowship.

Christ is a gift, not a curse.

Christ is humanizes, not dehumanizing or heart-hardening.

If you find yourself in a system where you are being pulled in a direction of becoming a vulture, get out now!

Never create a golden calf out of any human, no matter how much you admire him or her.

Keep your focus on Christ and never let him go!

 

Citations

[1] Pastor Steven Martin, Authoritarian Shepherds and Idol-worshipping Sheep, Abuse of Authority in the Church, IRBS Theological Seminary (2016). Retrieved at: http://irbsseminary.org/abuse-authority-church/

[2] Brenda Twea, Are we idolizing church leaders?, The Nation, retrieved at: https://mwnation.com/are-we-idolising-church-leaders/

[3] Ibid. [1].

[4] Ibid. [1].

[5] Ibid. [2].

[6] Steven Arterburn & Jack Felton, Toxic Faith, WaterBrook Press (2001), P. 216-217.

[7] Ibid. [6], P. 217-218.

[8] Ibid. [6], P. 218-221.

[9] Ibid. [6], P. 221-222.

[10] Ibid. [6], P. 222-223.

[11] Ibid. [6], P. 229-231.

[12] Ibid. [6], P. 223-225.

[13] Ibid. [6], P. 225-226.

[14] Ibid. [6], P. 226-227.

[15] Ibid. [6], P. 154-157.

[16] Ibid. [6], P. 164-168.

[17] Ibid. [6], P. 191-197.

[18] The Wartburg Watch, How a Letter Meant to Hurt Dee in Her Church and Community Gave Her a Precious Gift Instead, retrieved at: http://thewartburgwatch.com/2017/08/16/how-a-letter-meant-to-hurt-dee-in-her-church-and-community-gave-her-a-precious-gift-instead/

Rising Authoritarianism in Evangelicalism

As I was laying in bed, gazing up at the beautiful painting that my extraordinarily talented mother painted me, I couldn’t help but notice a paradox within the picture.

There lay a stunningly beautiful predator.

Peaceful.

Serene.

Yet.. a predator nonetheless.

The image is so symbolic of far too many shepherds in our time; wolves in sheep’s

clothing, of whom Christ so earnestly warned….

“[I]t has also been my sad observation that… ‘Authoritarianism’ has risen among some pastors and officeholders such that whole churches seem to be little more than idol worshippers of ‘the great man’ and the ‘omnicompetent elders’. Instead of wounded shepherds victimized by their flock, we now have the specter abroad of wounded sheep victimized by the very men called to feed and protect them.”

Pastor Steven Martin, IRBS Theological Seminary, 2016

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In the Book of Revelation, we find reference to a damnable group called the Nicolaitans, or Nicolaites.

 

 “But you have this to your credit: You hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”

Letter to the church of Ephesus, Revelation 2:6

 “But I have a few things against you, because some of you hold to the teaching of Balaam who taught Balak to place a stumbling block before the Israelites so they would eat food sacrificed to idols and commit sexual immorality.

“In the same way some of you also hold to the teaching of Nicolaitans.

“Therefore repent! Otherwise I will come to you shortly and wage war against them with the sward of my mouth.”

Letter to the church in Pergamum, Revelation 2:14-16

 

While little is known of the Nicolaitans via Scripture, there are clues to why they were so hated by God.

St. Irenaeus wrote [1]:

The Nicolaitanes are the followers of that Nicolas who was one of the seven first ordained to the diaconate by the apostles. They lead lives of unrestrained indulgence. The character of these men is very plainly pointed out in the Apocalypse of John… as teaching that it is a matter of indifference to practise adultery, and to eat things sacrificed to idols. Wherefore the Word has also spoken of them thus: “But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.”

Confirming Irenaeus’s words, Hyppolytus of Rome noted Nicolaus’s departure from sound doctrine, along with his indifference towards sexual immorality and the consumption of food offered to idols [2].

Etymology also aids us in our understanding of the hated Nicolaitans [3]:

“The Greek word for Nicolaitans is Nikolaites (Strong’s Concordance #G3531), which is three words combined. Niko or Nikos is defined as “a conquest, victory, triumph, those who are dominate over the defeated.” Lai or Laos in the word means people. The “tes” or “ton” of the word simply represents the word “the.” Taken together, the word Nicolaitans means the conqueror of the people (which, in this case, is the church of God).”

This view considers the Nicolaitans as the forerunners of the clerical hierarchy superimposed upon the laity and robbing them of spiritual freedom” [4].

Given the close association of the Nicolaitans to Balaam in Revelation 2:15, we see “descriptive in each instance… an evil teacher who had influence over the people and brought them into bondage to heresy,” a seduction of the people into the pagan culture, and an embrace of pagan society’s hierarchy [5].

 

Thus, we can reasonably assume that the following descriptions capture the essence of the Nicolaitans, their character, and their sins:

♦The Nicolaitans were a people who exploited Christian grace as a license to indulge the flesh, as a release from an obligation to adhere to moral laws; a people who “attempted to establish a compromise with the pagan society of the Graeco-Roman world that surrounded them,” [6].

♦“In its ecclesiastical setting, Nicolaitans means the bishops and prelates of the Church have gained a triumphal victory or conquest over the laity. Members are compelled and forced to submit to the arbitrary dominion of men who have become that thing which the Eternal hates. The Apostle Peter warned that those who were leaders among God’s people were NOT to dominate over the faith of others but rather exhort them to do right (1Peter 5:1 – 3).

“The teachings and preaching of this group is also variously defined as a hierarchy, the power of dominion, or as the establishment of a government by ecclesiastical rulers.

“The doctrine of the Nicolaitans is the teaching that there is a strict hierarchy within God’s church that must be respected by all. Ranks and levels are created in order to maintain power and control so that, ultimately, the lowest level of the church (the members) can be ruled over and taken advantage of at any time. The whole system feeds on competition and strife among those who consider themselves Christians,” [7] and that this system allowed for the perpetuation of doctrinal error [8].

While our knowledge of the Nicolaitans is based on edified theory, informed by etymology, historical writings, and scriptural clues, we do have certainty in knowing that both points 1 and 2 regarding the hated Nicolaitans are scripturally-identified, scripturally-condemned sinfulness.

This sinfulness serves as a useful analogy to that which is occurring in our time…

As a pastor, I am becoming more and more aware of how easy it is for me or any church leader (or a husband) to drift into an unbiblical abuse of authority.  It happens slowly and often without notice and before we know it, we can be found “lording it over” our flock.

Pastor Jeff Crippen of Christ Reformation Church, Crying Out for Justice, 2012

What do the Nicolaitans have to do with American Evangelicalism of the 21st Century?

It doesn’t require the skill of acute observation to detect the obvious: increasing numbers of Evangelical leaders are embracing, promoting, and, by natural extension, leading the flock into bondage of a disfigured Pauline Theology of Grace and other Libertine theological heresies, attempting to reconcile Christianity with the secular culture. (See Nicolaitan point #1 above.)

However, it is the flipside of the Nicolaitan coin (see point #2 above) about which this post is concerned: the essence of Nicolaitan authoritarianism is quietly rising and gaining strongholds within American Evangelical churches, doctrines, and theories/application of ecclesiastical polity.

This authoritarianism isn’t limited in scope, only affecting those who fit into the first point of Nicolaitan sinfulness. Rather, it is equally present – perhaps even more so – among some of the more vocal leaders presently claiming to be contending for the faith and for doctrinal truth; among many who declare themselves to be standing up for the Gospel.

This Romanesque, hierarchical movement towards the Nicolaitan “conquering of the people” has mostly gone unnoticed; a hiddenness which my posts in this two-part series aim to remedy.

As for you, O son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word from My mouth and give them warning from Me. If I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ but you do not speak out to dissuade him from his way, then that wicked man will die in his iniquity, yet I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you warn the wicked man to turn from his way, and he does not turn from it, he will die in his iniquity, but you will have saved your life.

Ezekiel 33:7-9


Before I continue, I wish to be clear:

Authoritarianism is a problem facing all denominations of American Protestantism. It is not exclusive to the Evangelical denominations. However, Nicolaitan-Romanesque authoritarianism has, traditionally, not made the significant headways that it is now. For this reason and out of a deep, agape love for my fellow Christians, I am compelled to address this issue in the context of its subtly growing influence within American Evangelicalism. I am in no way singling out any denominations for the purposes of disparagement, nor to imply this problem exists in isolation within a few variants of American Christianity.

Additionally, this article should not be misunderstood as a condemnation or denial of true God-ordained and God-designed authority, nor of our role in voluntary submission to those who truly follow Christ. Rather, this article details the co-opting of Scripture to elevate authority to an unhealthy and unholy level of domination; the manipulating of His flock; and the hijacking of believers’ fellowship with God through the instituting of an abusive ideology of spiritual feudalism which requires our servitude to mortal men.

Lastly, the examples used must be researched on your part. As I regularly do, I again implore you to be a Berean: Do NOT believe me. Do NOT trust me. Instead, check my work and see to it that I have been truthful. Check the Scriptures. Examine the context.

And, may God bless you!

Genuine Christians want to obey Christ.  If Scripture calls us to obey our leaders and submit to them, we want to do it because we want to please our Lord, and because we know it must be for our good.   We will all admit that as sheep, we need to be shepherded – fed, protected, and so on.  There are wolves out there looking for lamb chops and it takes a seasoned shepherd many times to spot them in their disguises.  We want to be in a real flock of Christ.  But this genuine desire can also make us prime targets for abusive leaders if we are not careful.

Pastor Jeff Crippen of Christ Reformation Church, Crying Out for Justice, 2012


Christ’s Model: Our Servant, Our Shepherd

Although Christ never gave His disciples any specific instructions for church government, leaving it up to His people to determine, He did, without doubt, provide divine guidance which upended the contemporary concept of leadership, rank and greatness. He distinctly exhorted the disciples to exercise their authority in sharp contrast to the ways in which the Gentiles exercised their authority.

To His disciples, Jesus said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their superiors exercise authority over them. It shall not be this way among you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many,” (Matthew 20:25-28).

From the Barnes’ Notes on the Bible [9]:

The princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them – That is, over their subjects. “You know that such honors are customary among nations. The kings of the earth raise their favorites to posts of trust and power they give authority to some over others; but my kingdom is established in a different manner. All are to be on a level. The rich, the poor, the learned, the unlearned, the bond, the free, are to be equal. He will be the most distinguished that shows most humility, the deepest sense of his unworthiness, and the most earnest desire to promote the welfare of his brethren.”

Minister – A servant. The original word is deacon – a word meaning a servant of any kind; one especially who served at the table, and, in the New Testament, one who serves the church, Acts 6:1-4; 1 Timothy 3:8. Preachers of the gospel are called minister’s because they are the servants of God and of the church 1 Corinthians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 4:1; 2 Corinthians 3:6; 2 Corinthians 6:4; Ephesians 4:12; an office, therefore, which forbids them to lord it over God’s heritage, which is the very opposite of a station of superiority, and which demands the very lowest degree of humility.

Peter, reinforcing Christ’s instructions while addressing a group of elders, said, “Do not be bosses over the people you lead. Live as you would like to have them live,” (1 Peter 5:3).

Paul reinforced this edict in his second letter to the Corinthians. He wrote, “Timothy and Silvanus and I have preached to you about Jesus Christ, the Son of God…” adding, “We are not the boss of your faith,” {2 Corinthians 1:19, 24).

Anyone assuming a role in church leadership is expected to be a living example of humble servitude, one who continually earns the respect and honor of God’s heritage with the provision of loving guidance; an attentive shepherd feeding and protecting the flock.

Jesus Christ said, “I am the good Shepherd.”

Any person in a position of leadership must strive to be Christ-like, emulating His example; must truly exercise a sacrificial love for Christ’s sheep!

“[S]hepherds… walked ahead of their sheep, leading them on and calling them by name to follow them to green pastures and cool waters. The sheep followed because they had come to know and trust the shepherd’s faithful care and loving concern for their well-being. It was the shepherd who slept in the doorway of the sheepfold to guard the flock by night. It was the shepherd who fought the bear, the lion and other predators. It was the shepherd who protected the flock from the thief. It was the shepherd who stayed awake that the sheep might sleep in peace. It was the shepherd who left the ninety-nine safe to search for the lost sheep. It was the shepherd who gently led the nursing ewes and their young, not cursing them for being ‘weak, slow and consumed with mundane matters’. The Bible surely uses such images to depict a sacrificial and empathetic love for the sheep on the part of the shepherd,” [10].


Temporal Lordship

Yet, for many church leaders today, leadership is all about position/rank and authority: it’s about the power of a few being lorded over the many.

These are the Nicolaitans of our times.

In the minds of individuals such as these, the mere possession of a leadership position is means for the automatic attainment of power and authority, and the unwavering admiration and allegiance from the flock.

Title means everything to the Nicolaite, setting him apart and above the rest.

In truth, “underneath the raging ego of the leader is a suffering person who fears being unimportant,” [11].

Such a papal pastor, for example, will often self-servingly employ selective Bible verses, placing an exaggerated emphasis on the authority granted him in scripture and on his own giftedness or qualifications as one who is “God-appointed,” while simultaneously emphasizing the importance of a submissive and passive laity.

To this end, he will utilize the “terribly poisonous misconception claims that God has a special calling only for certain people and everyone else needs to find something ‘unspecial’ to do” [12]. Yet, “[t]his special anointing or calling is often nothing more than the pathological need to be valued or esteemed. It also takes some of the power that should be attributed to God and gives it to the toxic minister” [13].

The resulting relationship between this Nicolaite leader and his subjugated laity is rigidly top-down.

He is not one to sleep in the doorway of the sheepfold to protect Christ’s the sheep.

“But if the watchman sees the sword coming and fails to blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes away a life, then that one is taken away in his iniquity, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood.”

Ezekiel 33:6


Unconditional Obedience

A leader of the Nicolaitan persuasion is often eager to view “Old Testament texts related to authority in the theocratic nation particularly applicable to his pastoral position!” [14].

The New Testament is also fair game.

Hebrews 13:17 is a favorite verse employed by the “conquerors of the people.” It reads:

“Obey your leaders and do what they say. They keep watch over your souls. They have to tell God what they have done. They should have joy in this and not be sad. If they are sad, it is no help to you.”

This is an exhortation (accredited to St. Paul) to the Jewish Christians – and to the rest of us by extension – to show their religious leaders “proper respect, and to submit to their authority in the church, so far as it was administered in accordance with the precepts of the Saviour,” [15].

It is important to note that this “obligation to obedience does not, of course, extend to anything which is wrong in itself, or which would be a violation of conscience,” [16]. As St. Paul emphasized, “The people must search the Scriptures, and so far as the ministers teach according to that rule, they ought to receive their instructions as the word of God, which works in those that believe,” [17]. See Acts 17:11.

As Pastor Jeff Crippen of Christ Reformation Church pointedly remarked [18]:

“Now, the moment a pastor or elder ceases to exercise this overseeing ministry in accord with… qualities of Christ-allocated leadership, they cease to be true shepherds – at least in the particular case in which they err.  And thus, they lose any authority as they are functioning outside of the boundaries Christ has established for them.”

Tellingly, one’s Berean duty as a Christian and the limitations on one’s unwavering obedience to religious leaders will be omitted from the Nicolaite’s sermon on Hebrews 13:17.

While a countless number of faithful, honest ministers may mistakenly leave this portion out of their sermons, the Nicolaite acts with absolute intention.

If the existence of false shepherds is even acknowledged at all during these sermons of subjugation, properly edifying instruction on the limitations of unquestioned obedience will go without mention.

Instead, you may be treated to systematic catechizations regarding your God-commanded and God-pleasing duty to submit and obey the God-ordained leaders of your church. With elevated emphasis on your call to obedience and submission, such behavioral conditioning sessions orated from the pulpit may include statements to the effect of, “Now notice… There is no qualification to that [25]

This is a lie of omission – which is, yes, a lie.

Remember, “The people must search the Scriptures, and so far as the ministers teach according to that rule, they ought to receive their instructions as the word of God, which works in those that believe,” [19]. Throughout the Bible you will find that there is only one being to which you are expected to show blind, unwavering allegiance, unqualified obedience: the one, triune God.

To clear away any roadblocks to establishing superiority, the authoritarian, Romanesque leader will emphasize his authority as a God-ordained, as a special anointing, and he will then proceed to associate a parishioner’s act of obedience to him as being an act of obedience to God.

If parishioners don’t keep up the appearance that the “value the minister enough to submit to his or her dictatorial rule, God’s anointing is called in to make sure everyone understands that any waver of support is really a waver in faith in God,” [20].

“A controlling leader may also attempt to instill a sense of obligation by reminding his congregation of everything he has done for them,” [21].

So, lest parishioners be tempted to forget the many great sacrifices of their Nicolaitan superiors who selflessly look after their souls, regular reminders are dutifully proselytized to the congregants, so often characterized as the ever-wayward sheep.

Yet, Jesus, our Good Shepherd, whom all religious leaders should strive to emulate, warned His flock to beware of false teachers:

“Look out for the teachers of the Law. They like to walk around in long coats. They like to have the respect of men as they stand in the center of town where people gather. They like to have the important seats in the places of worship and the important places at big suppers. They take houses from poor women whose husbands have died. They cover up the bad they do by saying long prayers. They will be punished all the more” (Mark 12:38-40).


Absolute Loyalty

As the authoritarian church leader measures his success in membership numbers and Sunday service headcounts, his insecurities may lead him to “actually develop a doctrine in order to stop people from leaving,” [22].

He “may preach sermons about unconditional loyalty, using the biblical stories of David and Jonathan, or Elisha and Elijah,” [23] or even use Paul’s letters to the Corinthians.  By using examples like these, the leader can “actually gain “biblical” grounds to control even the personal areas of his parishioners lives,” [24].

For example, ask yourself if the below excerpts from a sermon emphasize loyalty to God or loyalty to an individual (emphasis mine) [25]:

“Real loyalty has such yearning for the individual that it hates anything that affects negatively that individual, the object of that love. In other words, we could say, in a simple vernacular, loyalty sticks up for whoever it’s loyal to.”

“…these false apostles came into the church; they started criticizing and undermining the integrity of Paul, and people started buying into that stuff. That is overt disloyalty. There’s no zeal there. They should have run to his defense. They should have jumped on the bandwagon to defend him immediately.”

“Loyalty means you have a yearning for that individual; you mourn whenever you do anything at all that could harm that relationship, because it’s so precious, and where your longing and your yearning and your desire for that object of your loyalty is so strong that you literally go to battle to defend that person against any attack.”

“I hope you’re loyal to your church leaders that way.”

“[Loyalty is] the beginning of [restoring] the grieving pastor’s joy.”

You want to crush your pastors, be disloyal to them.”

“And God, who comforts the depressed, has his way of sending comfort. But nothing is as comforting as loyalty. To the one who is loyal to God, you must give your unwavering loyalty.”

Tragically, “[t]his kind of preaching causes church members to seek a position of favor with the pastor rather than a proper desire to ‘please God and not man.’” [26]. It is within this Nicolaitan, ecclesiastical environment, that parishioners are led into pursuing the honor of men, at the expense of their personal relation with the Lord.

The misguided loyalty of the congregants to their supreme leader only “allows the delusions of the leader to grow and destroys the faith of the loyal. The result may be financial or spiritual bankruptcy,” [27].


“Why, Grandmother! What big teeth you have!”

Little Red Riding Hood

Hunting Sheep

While “[a] true shepherd realizes that the people in his congregation don’t belong to him — they are God’s flock,” the authoritarian believes the sheep to be his possession, as many Christians have learned upon attempting to switch churches [28].

Believing that their power extends to the personal lives of believers, some churches have taken a decidedly cult-like turn.

In a frightening move that is far more characteristic of the Church of Scientology and the Mormon LDS than of a Christian church, more and more Evangelical churches will track members who leave their congregations, even sending letters to ex-members’ new churches.

This subject has even found its way into sermons, appearing to manipulatively function as cautionary tales for the passive audience of parishioners [29]:

“According to Hebrews 13 I have to give an account to God for you…. [A] person will leave… and we will try everything we can to track them because we feel responsible for their spiritual life and so we hear that they end up in a church in another place and so it may come down to a letter that says ‘we think this person was at our church until so-and-so and now we think they’ve gone to your church, we’re not sure,’ that’s very difficult. And we may get a letter back and say that the person you think was in your church who you think is in my church I don’t think is in my church. How can we be responsible for shepherding?”

Let me be clear: this is not normal or acceptable behavior. Period.

If a romantic relationship between two people ends, it is unequivocally inappropriate for one of the two to “try everything to track” the other down. It is also unequivocally inappropriate for one of the two to send letters to several people in hopes of learning who may or may not be the other’s new romantic companion.

The same rule applies to churches.

This is not shepherding: it’s stalking.

It’s predatory.

It’s wrong.

According to several sources, this wildly misguided and/or malicious practice is found most frequently in churches which require a membership covenant.

Such leaders have forgotten that they are to love the believers under their care; not hunt them down in reminiscence of a Jew named Saul (St. Paul).

[NOTE: it is fully appropriate for one church to warn another if a member to poses a risk, such as a known sexual predatory undoubtedly would.]


In November of 2016, a woman named Marie became the victim of a campaign of letters from the Nicolaites occupying positions of leadership in her church, Heritage Bible Chapel (HBC).

Not long prior, Marie had informed the church that she had signed divorce papers. Marie and her ex-husband had already undergone Christian counseling due to her ex-husband’s abuse of Marie. The counseling had not succeeded, which lead Marie to sever the abusive relationship.

Displeased by the divorce, the elders of HBC repeatedly insisted that Marie and her ex-husband re-marry, regardless. The elders declared that until she and her husband reconciled, Marie would be living in sin. The leaders also expressed dismay that Marie had not asked their permission before proceeding with her divorce.

In September of 2016, Marie submitted a formal letter of resignation of her voluntary membership from Heritage Bible Chapel.

On October 14, 2016, Marie received a letter from HBC stating [30]:

“The covenant that you entered into when you became a member does not permit you to resign during circumstances such as these.”

The letters continued…

In November of 2016, Marie received another letter from the HBC’s Nicolaitan leadership pushing the boundaries of Romanesque control over voluntary membership even further. Below are some excerpts of that letter [31]. Notice they too use Hebrews 13:17 as justification (emphasis mine):

“You may view the affairs of your life as a purely private matter. But the scriptures paint a very different picture… We know that the Lord will not let our significant sins go unanswered, promising to discipline us as a father… For our part, we take our responsibility as under-shepherds very seriously as ‘those who keep watch over your soul and will give and account’ and we are praying that you will respond with submission to the authority of Christ in your life (Hebrews 13:17).”

Any authority that we exercise in dealing with this matter with you is in submission to God’s clearly revealed will as we seek to shepherd the sheep that God has entrusted to us, humbly and faithfully calling you as a wandering sheep to return to the loving arms of the shepherd (Eze 34:4-10, 1 Peter 5:1-4).”

“It is our prayer… to draw your heart back to the Lord. This would be demonstrated by recognition of your sin, repentance of your sin, and reengaging toward the goal of reconciliation in your family.”

“[I]f you will not reengage in conversation or repent of your own sinful response then we are called to continue to pursue you… Because you have ‘refused to listen,’ then the next step that Scripture outlines is that we are to ‘tell it to the church’ which entails sharing sufficient, but not exhaustive detail of your sinful choices with our HBC membership so that they might pray for you and join us in seeking your repentance and restoration (Matthew 18:15-17).”

To continue to pursue former members in this way is an abuse of authority.

Nothing about Christ’s teachings involves the coercion of involuntary participants.  

Regardless of whether, or not, the leaders in the case of Marie acted out of good intentions, the result is the same: shepherding becomes lording.

A church that is truly healthy, “will not allow genuine pastoral concern to cross the line into manipulation or control” [32].

Sadly, it is “[u]nder the guise of” God-ordained authority and of pursuing God’s will that “many individuals have compromised their faith and fallen into a trap that did nothing but establish one person’s [or group’s] authority above any earthly accountability” [33].

“A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land. The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own authority.”

Jeremiah 5:30-31


Nickels and Numbers

Another examples of predatory behavior by an insecure leader abusing his spiritual authority is the obsessive focus upon “nickels and numbers.” To this end, the authoritarian nose counter will contort the exhortation of Hebrews 10:25.

The verse reads:

“Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day [of His return] approaching.”

For example, Thom S. Rainer, who is the current President and CEO of Lifeway, has suggested churches methodically raise the expectations of what it means to be a church member, and to begin institutionally, systematically monitoring the attendance of each and every single church member in order to raise attendance numbers [34].

In a salute to the public school system, all absentees are to receive an inquiring telephone call to their home.

Pastor Kevin DeYoung, who is also a board chairman for The Gospel Coalition, has used Hebrews 10:25 to imply that church attendance is reflective of one’s salvation as a Christian. Thus, has encouraged Christians to ask themselves these 5 questions (emphasis mine) [35]:

1. Have you established church going as an inviolable habit in your family?
2. Do you plan ahead on Saturday so you can make church a priority on Sunday?
3. Do you order your travel plans so as to minimize being gone from your church on Sunday?
4. Are you willing to make sacrifices to gather with God’s people for worship every Sunday?
5. Have you considered that you may not be a Christian?

After all, DeYoung explains, “The danger of legalism and false guilt is very real. But so is the danger of disobedience and self-deception,” (emphasis mine) [36].

Wording such as that above is extremely manipulative and has no place in the Body of Christ.


“Does the servant get thanks for doing what he was told to do? I am sure he does not. It is the same with you also. When you do everything you have been told to do, you must say, ‘We are not any special servants. We have done only what we should have done.’”

Jesus Christ to His followers, Luke 17:9-10

Thou Shall Not Question

For any “conqueror of the people” [37], it is “considered rebellion when someone questions decisions that are made or statements that are said from the pulpit,” and any rebellion is considered as “threats to the pastor’s ‘God-ordained’ authority,” [38].

This is indicative of a leader who is filled with pride, and yet deeply insecure and fearful of rejection.

On the one hand, the Nicolaitan has defined his entire identity on his title. He operates out of fear: the fear of losing his importance and the fear of competition.

A Nicolaite’s duality as both insecure and prideful may find its way into sermons or other communications. This can often take the form of tiny, little bread crumbs of error and/or manipulation, sprinkled about, inconspicuously laying in plain sight…

He may toss in a weighted, insinuating remark.

He may manipulatively frame things in a two-choice, “either-or” manor.

He may draw you in to becoming dependent upon his approval for your own salvation.

For example, carefully read the below statement, considering the behaviors noted just above (emphasis mine) [39]:

“If you have a faithful pastor or church leader who exemplifies the qualities of a shepherd, let him know how much you appreciate his labor on your behalf (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:12). It will be a great encouragement to him to know he’s making a spiritual difference in your life.

And if you’re a believer who rejects the biblical authority of the local church and won’t submit to your pastor or church leaders, you need to do a careful, thorough examination of your heart. What’s behind your rebellious spirit? What sin are you harboring that’s keeping you from submitting to godly authority? Are you sure you’re truly saved at all?”

Quite often, a church leader operating with this type of imbalanced control will have convinced himself that he is the only one who is capable of accurately interpreting Scripture, the only one who can correctly hear God.

He believes himself to be a sort of divinely-called superhero, and he needs for you to believe so too.

However, as noted in Toxic Faith [40]:

“This premise contradicts the teaching that God has a special plan for every person’s life. In a healthy church, a pastor will encourage individuals to minister as they discover talents and gifts that can be used in serving God. The minister of pure faith will encourage everyone to consider themselves special in the eyes of God. Each person has a very special place of service designed by God, and each person should be encouraged to find it…

This special anointing or calling is often nothing more than the pathological need to be valued or esteemed. It also takes some of the power that should be attributed to God and gives it to the toxic minister.”

Unfortunately, any leader who, in Romanesque fashion, uses the claim of divine direction to counter “rebellion,” creates a perilous situation for his congregants. “This type of claim concerning divine direction is very dangerous. It places the leader above all others. Challenging the authority or accuracy of the leader is equated with challenging the very Word of God,” [41].

Like several of the leaders found in the Old Testament, the modern Nicolaite leaders, “[c]onsumed with their own ambition… have convinced the people that their power is divine. Yet in reality, these false prophets are merely wielding their self-imposed influence for personal gain, claiming they speak for God,” [42].

Or, as Thomas Watson described, “Creatures that have been saved by the sovereign grace of the Creator, put into the service of their fellow creatures and commanded to herald the good news of Divine pardon and deliverance may all too quickly forget that they are but clay pots made out of ‘proud dust,’” [43].

For Christians trapped in this environment, the personal fellowship of individual believers with their Lord and Savior is thus abdicated by a manipulative leader and exchanged for a relationship with a man.


“Now the Bereans were more noble-minded than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if these [Paul’s] teachings were true.”

Acts 17:11

Defaming Discerning Sheep

What is discernment? Why is it important?

“Discernment may be simply defined as the ability to biblically decide between right and wrong, between truth and error, between good and evil.  The New Testament teaches in 1 Corinthians 14:29, Philippians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 5:21, and in 1 John 4:1, that it is the responsibility of every Christian to exercise discernment.  Failure to discern between error and truth leaves the Christian immature, and vulnerable to false teaching and deception.”

A Study of Authoritarian Church Leadership and The Individual Freedom Of Church Members

Because the authoritarian, the Nicolaitan, is woefully insecure, he constructs around him a system which he can control.

Sure… Such leaders may pay lip service to “accountability” and so forth. However, just as many artists reused their canvases, the surface of what “seems to be” often hides what truly “is.” Thus, there is created an illusion of accountability [44]:

“There may be a board of directors, elders, or deacons, but when the authoritarian ruler picks them, he or she picks people who are easily manipulated and easily fooled. What appears to be a board of accountability is in fact a rubber-stamp group that merely gives credibility to the leader’s moves. These board members become the co-conspirators of the persecutor and permit the toxic leader to persecute without interruptions.”

The papal leader is thus threatened by elements beyond his tightly controlled boarders.

And so, with tragic consequence, the Nicolaite will discourage individual discernment and defame those who dare confront error within both the immediate and the wider body of Christ.

Allegiance to the all-knowing, God-ordained “authority” thus “requires overlooking the truth must be pledged daily. When that allegiance evaporates, the confrontational workers or church members are labeled as outcasts and rejected by the organization. In this way they are forced to rebel, since the organization allows no room for disagreement,” [45].

Co-conspirators have been known to go so far as to have innocents wrongfully arrested and escorted away, by police, from denomination-wide events [46; 47].

All “outcasts who challenge the delusion of the system are discredited immediately,” [48].

An insecure leader clinging to control may use slanderous words towards the sheep publicly object to the heretical statements by “Big Name” Evangelicals and, thus, are challenging the status quo, pejoratively referring to them as, believers pretending to be ministers by putting aRev” in front of their name or women who add “pastor” to their website moniker. Craziness!” [49].

The prideful Nicolaite may feel besmirched by the spiritual oversight of bloggers as well, especially of the feminine variety: in one instance classifying female Christian, “women bloggers, ‘mostly amateur discernment experts who are housewives and homeschool moms’ who are ‘shrill’ and out of line in their critiques of popular ministries,” [50].

Such leaders have been known to characterize female Christian bloggers as disobedient for sharing God’s Word and offering up a critique as is her right under Scripture [51]:

“…it’s not fitting for a woman who has no teaching authority in the church to raise a public objection against a teaching elder whose office is recognized by the church. That’s not to say the pastor is infallible or above critique, and there is (of course) a proper venue for a lay woman to share her concerns or ask her questions, but a blog on the Internet is not that venue. If any woman fancies herself a gift to the church as a guardian of sound doctrine because she thinks she has a special “gift of discernment” that entitles her to go online and write insulting epithets against a duly ordained and divinely-called pastor, She is seriously mistaken and grossly out of line–and she is an embarrassment to propriety and feminine modesty.”

Of course, the leader who is only interested in “conquering the people” who disagree with him is quick to backtrack, making exceptions for those who agree with him:

I didn’t have the Sola Sisters in mind when I said that. I appreciate most of what I have read at your blog” [52].

 “…first of all to lowly women did the Lord appear, and the apostles themselves had to go to school, to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to learn that great truth, ‘The Lord is risen indeed.’”

Charles Spurgeon

The Nicolaite is quick to poke fun at the street preacher, entrenched among the lost sheep, referring to him or her as “Pretend Pastors” and “Alarmists” who call out that “the sky is falling” [53; 54; 55].


Discouraging Evangelism

Through his insecurity and pride and inner need for “specialness,” the papal preacher or elder may even insist that only those permitted to address concerns regarding heresy within the Body of Christ are those such as himself, claiming that only pastors have “been given a heavenly charge to preach the Word. The laity are not given that duty,” [56].

Wrong.

Really, really wrong.

Evangelization: isn’t that what Evangelical churches are supposed to be about?

“But the word of God increased and multiplied.” (Acts 12:24)

 

“And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.” (Acts 13:49)

 

“So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.” (Acts 19:20)

As a matter of fact, when the persecution of the Church in Jerusalem began, the Apostles stayed in the city while the many Christians scattered and brought the Gospel to other nations.

And that day a great persecution arose against the church that was in Jerusalem; and all the believers were scattered . . . those who were scattered passed through everywhere, PREACHING THE WORD OF THE GOSPEL” (Acts 8:1, 4)

Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that arose concerning Stephen went through Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word . . .

But certain men among them who were Cypriots and Cyrenians came to Antioch and spoke to the Greeks, PREACHING THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD JESUS. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed . . .” (Acts 11:19 – 21).

Despite Scripture and despite of the way in which the early church functioned (valuing and depending upon the Christian individual), the authoritarian pastor will invoke his “specialness” and his “authority” to separate Christians into two separate classes of people: the chosen kings and the measly subjects.

And, since only “the elect” are permitted to be Bereans under this man-made Nicolaitan system of injustice, manipulation, and lies, the “laity” should passively, submissively “Leave th[e] heavy lifting to us pastors boys” [57].

“Remember that God does not call the equipped; He equips the called—and as Christians, we are all called to share what Christ has done. Some of Christ’s last words on earth were, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Sharing our faith isn’t just a suggestion, it’s a command. And God is with us when we obey Him.”

Billy Graham Evangelistic Association


Heavy Lifters or Light Weights?

Such men, drawing upon their “authority” and “anointing” and “super fantastic weight lifting skills” are, in reality, little more than cowardly, “do-nothings.” They are the maintainers of the status quo, whatever that may be.

These are the same heavy lifters who allowed apostasy to not only take root within the churches, but to flourish!

And they expect your admiration?

Ha!

How many lambs have been carried away by wolves under their watch?

How many lambs have been carried away by wolves under their watch?

How many lambs have been carried away by lambs under their watch?

How many???


Reality Check From a True Heavyweight

Richard Wurmbrand was a minister in Romania before and after the Communists took over. He was jailed and tortured for his faith in Our Savior Jesus Christ and he later wrote the amazing book (you should totally read it), “Tortured for Christ.”

The below, highlighted excerpts are from Wurmbrand’s book [Chapter 1].

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2

Are we to expect that the Christian leaders in America are not as human as those in Soviet Romania? Are we to expect our leaders so be super human and immune to such ideological seduction?

Are we supposed to just leave the work of sharing Christ to the world and forfeit our discernment to those “pastors boys”?

Of course not!

After all, “[i]ndividuals who gather around a ministry of true faith use their talents to reach out to people and serve God. They fit in their talents and abilities where God can best use them. In a toxic-faith system, talents and abilities are used to meet egotism of the leader, line up to assist in serving the persecutor,” [58].

Sadly, were Wurmbrand and his wife alive today, the Nicolaitan lords would even condemn their work in the underground church, for operating outside of the Nicolaians’ control.

3

There are Christians presently trapped under the thumbs of “omnicompetent” church leaders.

The effects upon the sheep are visible and discomforting.

And, as the sheep are God’s heritage, we mustn’t let this issue pass us. Therefore, the effects of such a imbalanced system upon Christ’s flock will be the dedicated subject of the second part of this series.

May God bestow His blessings upon you until we meet again.

 

CITATIONS:

[1] Irenaeus, Against Heresies. Retrieved at: http://gnosis.org/library/advh1.htm

[2] Hyppolytus of Rome, The Refutation of All Heresies. Retrieved at: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/hippolytus7.html

[3] BibleStudy.org, The Nicolaitans. Retrieved at: http://www.biblestudy.org/basicart/why-does-god-hate-practices-of-the-nicolaitans.html

[4] John F. WalvoordThe Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1966), P. 58.

[5] Encyclopedia of the Bible, Nicolaitans. Retrieved at: https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/encyclopedia-of-the-bible/Nicolaitans

[6] Ibid. [5].

[7] Ibid. [3].

[8] Ibid. [5].

[9] Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Matthew 20 Commentary. Retrieved at: https://biblehub.com/commentaries/barnes/matthew/20.htm

[10] Pastor Steven Martin, Authoritarian Shepherds and Idol-worshipping Sheep, Abuse of Authority in the Church, IRBS Theological Seminary (2016). Retrieved at: http://irbsseminary.org/abuse-authority-church/

[11] Steven Arterburn & Jack Felton, Toxic Faith, WaterBrook Press (2001), P. 153.

[12] Ibid. [11], P. 148.

[13] Ibid. [11], P. 148-149.

[14] Phil Newton, How to Diagnose and Treat Pastoral Authoritarianism, 2016, Founders Ministries. Retrieved at: https://founders.org/2016/09/01/how-to-diagnose-and-treat-pastoral-authoritarianism/

[15] Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Hebrews 13 Commentary: Retrieved at: https://biblehub.com/commentaries/barnes/hebrews/13.htm

[16] Ibid. [15].

[17] Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, Hebrews 13 Commentary, Retrieved at: https://biblehub.com/commentaries/mhc/hebrews/13.htm

[18] Jeff Crippen, The Abuse and Limits of Pastoral Authority, A Cry for Justice (2012). Retrieved at: https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2012/04/20/the-abuse-and-limits-of-pastoral-authority-by-jeff-crippen/

[19] Ibid. [17].

[20] Ibid. [11], P. 147.

[21] Mike Fehlaur, Warning Signs of Spiritual Abuse, Part 2, (2001). Retrieved at: https://www1.cbn.com/warning-signs-of-spiritual-abuse-part-two

[22] Ibid. {21].

[23] Ibid. [21].

[24] Ibid. [21].

[25] John MacArthur, Restoring the Grieving Pastor’s Joy, Part 1. Retrieved at: https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/47-48/restoring-the-grieving-pastors-joy-part-1

[26] Ibid. [21].

[27] Ibid. [11]

[28] Ibid. [21].

[29] John MacArthur, Commitment to the Church. Retrieved at: https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-130/commitment-to-the-church

[30] Heritage Bible Chapel Admonishes Former Member Repent or Else…., The Wartburg Watch. Retrieved at: http://thewartburgwatch.com/2016/12/16/heritage-bible-chapel-admonishes-a-former-member-to-repent-or-else/comment-page-1/

[31] Ibid. [30].

[32] Ibid. [21].

[33] Ibid. [11].

[34] Thom S. Rainer, #1 Reason for Decline in Church Attendance, (2013). Retrieved at:  https://thomrainer.com/2013/08/the-number-one-reason-for-the-decline-in-church-attendance-and-five-ways-to-address-it/

[35] Kevin DeYoung, The Scandal of the Semi-Churched, The Gospel Coalition (2013). Retrieved at: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevin-deyoung/the-scandal-of-the-semi-churched/

[36] Ibid. [35].

[37] Ibid. [3].

[38] Ibid. [21].

[39] John MacArthur, Membership is Submission, (2013). Retrieved at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B130121/~

[40] Ibid. [11], P. 148.

[41] Ibid. [11], P. 147.

[42] Mike Fehlaur, Warning Signs of Spiritual Abuse, Part One, (2001). Retrieved at: http://www1.cbn.com/warning-signs-of-spiritual-abuse-part-one

[43] Ibid. [10].

[44] Ibid. [11], P. 151.

[45] Ibid. [11], P. 211

[46] ERLC Allegedly Has Dallas PD Toss Pastor From SBC Meeting After He Questions “Revoice”, Pulpit and Pen (2018). Retrieved at: https://pulpitandpen.org/2018/06/13/erlc-allegedly-has-dallas-pd-toss-pastor-from-sbc-meeting-after-he-questions-revoice/

[47] Thomas Littleton, LIVING LIKE A REFUGEE IN THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CHURCH: Why SBC Leaders Turned to Lying and Abuse Over Revoice in Dallas SBC 2018, (2018). Retrieved at: https://www.worldviewweekend.com/news/article/living-refugee-southern-baptist-church-why-sbc-leaders-turned-lying-and-abuse-over

[48] Ibid. [11], P. 211

[49] Steve Camp (Pastor), Twitter, (2018). Retrieved at: https://twitter.com/PastorSJCamp/status/1068717602938241024

[50] “amateur discernment experts who are housewives and homeschool moms” ~ tell us what you really think, (2011). Retrieved at: http://thatmom.com/2011/11/18/amateur-discernment-experts-who-are-housewives-and-homeschool-moms%E2%80%9D/

[51] Ibid [50].

[52] Phil Johnson, The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Discernment Divas, (comment by Phil Johnson in the comment section), Pyromaniacs, (2011). Retrieved at: http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2011/10/first-blast-of-trumpet-against.html

[53] Steve Camp (Pastor), Twitter, (2018). Retrieved at: https://twitter.com/PastorSJCamp/status/1068191537530580992

[54] Steve Camp (Pastor), Twitter, (2018). Retrieved at: https://twitter.com/PastorSJCamp/status/1068161366589083649

[55] Ibid. [54].

[56] Ibid. [53].

[57] Steve Camp (Pastor), Twitter. Retrieved at: https://twitter.com/PastorSJCamp/status/1068328013572521984

[58] Ibid. [21], P. 157-158.

[59] Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ, The Voice of Martyrs Inc. (2017).

Paige Rogers

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“‘In the last days, God says
    ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people.

Your sons and daughters will prophesy,

your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.'”

Acts 2:16-17

In the fifth chapter of the letter to the Hebrews we find an exhortation (pictured below) to not only be teachers of God’s Word, but also to be students of God’s Word.

Apollos, “an eloquent man, well versed in the Scriptures,” found the righteous teachers whom helped him to grow into spiritual maturity in Prisca (Priscilla) and her husband, Aquila.

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“Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, well versed in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord and was fervent in spirit. He spoke and taught accurately about Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him in and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” (Acts 18:24-26)

Later in the The Acts of the Apostles (21:8-9), we find four more women who served the early church. These four women remain nameless, simply remembered as Philip’s daughters who prophesied.

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Raised in the Episcopalian church founded by her parents, Paige Rogers and her family incurred, and continue to carry, tremendous sadness in departing their beloved church after the denomination’s national leadership embraced unbiblical beliefs.

In the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 8, we learn of the persecution of the Church in Jerusalem. We are told that, with the exception of the Apostles, the  Christians were “scattered throughout the regions.”

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lay2

It was those scattered believers who then “went everywhere preaching the word.”

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(Above 3 images from the Catechism, Book of Common Prayer.)

As Christ told us, ” What has been will be again. There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

We are living in a time where the ministry of the laity is more important than  we ever could have imagined…

Recognizing that there has been a great void in courageous, outspoken doctrinal clarity from the vast majority of church leaders, and inspired by the Biblical accounts of

Prisca,

of Philip’s four daughters,

Junia(s) (a female Apostle according to St. Paul),

Euodia and Syntyche,

Pheobe,

and other strong women of the Bible,

Paige Rogers began this online ministry as an ordained lay minister (pastor) to share the unpolluted Word of God through her gift of painting and as  a wordsmith.

Honoring and fully trusting in God, Paige Rogers has embraced her role as a woman in the church.

As such, she does not lead or preach within a formal church.

This unique, online ministry allows Paige to share God’s Word through her art and her words, always allowing the Holy Spirit to work through her.

Paige’s purpose is to honor God through her artworks by sharing her Christian reflections, calling on Biblical truths and sound exegesis.

Additionally, Paige’s work in investigative journalism will often grace the pages of this ministerial website as she contends for the faith in a fallen world.

She is also a former Early Childhood Development professional, and an avid history/civics enthusiast.

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Court affidavit: Church that defended violent pedophile run by sex predator

statue-church-amor-cupidLast week I obtained court affidavits proving that a Vermont church that came to the defense of a violent pedophile in 2016, is itself headed by a convicted sexual predator.

Now a “pastor” for Fellowship Bible Church, John Longaker was a trusted teacher at a Christian school in Pennsylvania when he sexually abused his 14 year old student.

And I have the court affidavits to prove it.

I have PUBLISHED the court documents in my in-depth article on this matter at NOQ Report…  continue reading…

The Courage to Say Goodbye to the Church of Rotten Fruit

Christ simply said, “I never knew you. Go away from Me, you who do wrong!”

Project 3, Post 7: The Courage to Say Goodbye to the Church of Rotten Fruit

This is my final post in this series on dealing with apostasy, with heresy in our churches. This post will be the most difficult for you to read, to hear. There comes a time when courage is needed to overcome our fears and also, perhaps more importantly, our immense sadness.

You may read PART 6 HERE, PART 5 HERE, PART 4 HERE, PART 3 HERE, PART 2 HERE, AND PART 1 HERE.

Before I continue, take a moment to pray with me:

Lord,

Please bless each reader, sending the Holy Spirit to guide them as they read this important post. Grant each individual Your holy power to read, to hear, and to interpret Your Word, Your Gospel with Your divine wisdom. Grant each one of Your precious children the Courage needed to use the information below for Your Holy Purposes. Please send Your angels to protect them, Lord.

In the name of your son, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

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The finished painting of the tree.

Let us begin…

Imagine for a moment that you are walking through a forest, your dearest friend at your side.

Together you remark on the many trees: some trees are very large, with outstretched branches, while other trees are far slighter in stature, able to nimbly sway in the breeze. All of the trees in this forest are beautiful.

The two if you soon come upon a fork in the path.

To the left, the heavily trodden path widens, and it appears smooth and welcoming.

To the right, the path is far narrower, with spouts of grass peeking through the seldom-trodden dirt. In the distance you can see hills.

After a short argument, you and your friend decide to go your separate ways:

Your friend adamantly chooses to venture down path to the left.

You, conversely, choose the path to the right.

“A wise man’s heart inclines to the right, but the heart of a fool to the left.”

Ecclesiastes 10:2

As you walk along the narrow path, you notice that the many trees have borne fruit, even the smaller ones.

Thirsty from your walk, you pick a plum from one of the trees as you pass. The fruit is crisp and sweet. The juices drip down your chin.

As you continue walking, a soft rain shower soothes you from the sun’s warm rays and quenches the thirst of the many trees along the path.

After some time had passed, you came to realize that each of the trees along the narrow path are a congregation of believers.

You could hear a multitude of voices singing hymns of praise emanating from within the trees. Though he road is narrow and bumpy at times, you discovered that a guiding hand was readily there to steady you should you stumble.

Having heeded the Lord’s call to “Expel the wicked persons from among you,” the multitude were in holy unity in righteousness, “all of the believers were in one heart and mind,” as the anointed among them preached the One, the Only, the Holy Good News! (1 Corinthians 5:13; Acts 4:32; Galatians 1:7)

You found yourself filled with joy, your load lifted.

“Go in through the narrow door.

The door is wide and the road is easy that leads to hell.

Many people are going through that door.

But the door is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life that last forever.

Few people are finding it.”

Matthew 7:13-14

This was not the case for your dearest friend who chose to wander leftward down the wide path…

He, too, heard singing and saw many people gathering within each of the giant trees.

He heard enthusiastic preachers shouting sermons to the masses.

Walking the wide path among many large and beautiful trees, your friend, too, became thirsty.

He, too, picked a plum to moisten his mouth.

However, the plum was rotten.

When he bit into the plum he found the fruit to be dry and sour, and his mouth became filled with worms.

Still, your friend was convinced that a good fruit could be found among such beautiful, powerful, grand trees.

He searched and he searched for one good fruit.

As your friend walked onward, he passed several strangers fleeing the wide path toward the narrow road which you, yourself, had taken.

One stranger warned your friend to not be deceived by the grandeur and beauty of the large trees lining the smooth, well-trodden path, proclaiming that Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light,” (2 Corinthians 11:14).

The other stranger reminded him, Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise,” (1 Corinthians 3:18).

“Come with us,” the strangers pleaded.

Yet, your dearest friend thought himself to be quite wise. Thus, he continued his search for good fruit, traveling further down the wide road.

And as the two kindly strangers fled the wide path for the narrow, saddened by their inability to convince your dear friend to join them in reversing course, the two strangers were comforted by whispers of reassurance from Christ, His words spoken upon their hearts.

Christ softly instructed the strangers, Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God,” (Luke 9:60).

Meanwhile, your dearest friend, his throat parched, his brow wet from the warm sun, continued his search for a piece of good fruit down the wide path…

One fruit after another, all of the fruit was rotten, and your dearest friend’s thirst was left unquenched.

Before long, as he walked the wide road, the air became clouded with smoke. With each step he saw fewer and fewer trees, but more and more stumps where trees had one been.

Finally, your dearest friend came upon a giant inferno; thick black smoke bellowed upward into the air.

In the fire he could see the burnt remnants of trees. He could hear cries of agony: these were the cries of the parishioners, of the proud  preachers, as they called out to God above.

Your dear friend heard the tormented calls from the enthusiastic preachers, hollering “Lord, Lord, did we not preach in Your Name? Did we not put out demons in Your Name? Did we not do many powerful works in Your Name?”

Finally, as your friend stood there by the raging fire, he heard Christ answer those preachers and those congregants with an abrupt condemnation.

Christ simply said, “I never knew you. Go away from Me, you who do wrong!” (Matthew 7:23).

“Watch out for false teachers.

They come to you dressed as if they were sheep. On the inside they are hungry wolves.

You will know them by their fruit. Do men pick grapes from thorns? Do men pick figs from thistles? It is true, every good tree has good fruit. Every bad tree has bad fruit. A good tree cannot have bad fruit. A bad tree cannot have good fruit.

Every tree that does not have good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

So, you will know them by their fruit.”

Matthew 7:15-20

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The finished painting of the tree.

“Assuredly the New Theology can do no good towards God or man; it, has no adaptation for it. If it were preached for a thousand years by all the most earnest men of the school, it would never renew a soul, nor overcome pride in a single human heart.”

Charles Spurgeon

Now, let’s put this into context.

Our American churches are ripe with apostasy, limbs hang drooped, heavy from fouled fruit.

Loving correction under our present circumstances is difficult and the chances of success are grim, considering the advanced stage of Biblical departure in which many churches now find themselves.

More often than not, and this is especially true for denominational churches, a church’s leadership will turn a blind eye to apostasy/heresy when confronted with the truth.

Some churches will claim that objections weren’t submitted in proper form, and, at other churches, a laundry list of regulations/restrictions/red tape will spring forth preventing concerns from ever being addressed. Still, at other churches, the elders will huddle around the accused to shield him from rebuke… all the while these same elders cast doubts upon your credibility.

Some denominations have handed over far too much power to councils or organizations, elevating the voices of a few men while providing these men the image of legitimacy which comes with fancy titles. These small groups of cohorts (such as the Southern Baptists’ Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, for example) are easily taken over by those who ambitiously seek their own glory and who wish to further their own agendas at the expense of the Gospel Truth.

The reality of our present circumstances is this: churches and their organizations will, far more often than not, punish the person(s) who shine a light onto the error taking place, while protecting the perpetrators from correction, ensuring the perpetrators’ reputations remain intact.

“A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not respond to rebukes.”

Proverbs 13:1

REMEMBER, it only takes a tiny amount of yeast to make the entire loaf of bread rise (Galatians 5:7-9). It only takes a little bit of error to pervert the whole of your church, sending it down the wide, easy, heavy-trodden road to Hell.

When error is not addressed, it grows.

Or, as Paul aptly put it,their message will spread like cancer,” (2 Timothy 2:17).

Do you expect for a church which has abandoned core truths to put a sign out advertising their apostasy?

No way!

As scripture informs, the departure from the narrow path onto the wide road to Hell will occur subtly, undetected, with many unaware (Jude 4).

As the Rev., Dr. Paul Elliot has stated:

“Like cancer in the human body, false teaching in the body of the church begins undetected and unrecognized. By the time Christians who are still true to the Word of God recognize the cancer of false teaching and are stirred to action, often it is too late to stop its deadly progress. The damage has been done, and a spiritual crisis is upon the church.” 

So, then what?

What should you do if efforts at correction have passed by unheeded?

This, sweet beloved, is where your own path may take a heart wrenching turn.

Thus, bearing in mind Christ’s warning that that the path to salvation is narrow, and that only a few will find it, because the wide road often mimics the narrow road… and bearing in mind that the wide road leads to Hell… You must LEAVE.

That’s right: you must bid farewell to your beloved church. And you must welcome the sadness and the mourning that such a departure will assuredly bring upon you with a joyful, humble heart.

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what partnership can consist of righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”

 2 Corinthians 6:14

Yes, you will in deed mourn, as I have been mourning since departing from my own beloved church.

Yet, there is but one True Body of Christ.

It does not consist of four walls. Nor a particular denomination. Nor a wide, liberal tent. For if it did, then the late, great Charles Spurgeon wouldn’t have left the Baptist Union.

Nor does not constitute a schism to depart from an apostate church or  an apostate denomination.

Rather, it does constitute a schism to remain yoked to the unrighteous.

If we were destined to remain in unity with evil (which we should never do), then the late, great Dr. J. Gresham Machen wouldn’t have departed the Presbyterian Church of the USA.

In your cowardice, you perpetuate a schism within the true body of Christ by remaining tied to those who have chosen a the wide path, the popular path, the easy path  that ultimately leads to Hell.

Having gone through this myself, I can attest to the difficulty of this matter. Yet, I rest assured, my burdens cast upon Christ, my heart unstirred and free from regret.

Just as the two strangers in the story above, I am comforted by Christ’s instructions: Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God,” (Luke 9:60).

And so it is now that I leave you with my sincere prayers… and I leave you in the loving care of our Lord Jesus Christ as I close with the profound words of Dr. Machen:

“If the liberal party really obtains full control of the councils of the Church, then no evangelical Christian can continue to support the Church’s work… To do so would mean the most terrible bloodguiltiness which it is possible to conceive. If the liberal party, therefore, really obtains control of the Church, evangelical Christians must be prepared to withdraw no matter what it costs. Our Lord has died for us, and surely we must not deny Him for favor of men.”

In search of doctrinal clarity…

This is Article #6 is a series on confronting apostasy in the church. You can read the last article HERE.


I began redefining my tree painting, bringing focus and detail to the blurred foliage. Adding dots of color, greens and blues, depth and visual clarity slowly returned.

Clarity… that magic word…

Clarity… Isn’t that what so many of us seek?

Clarity… Isn’t that what so many churches have forsaken?

 

 

 

In my last article, I discussed the three preliminary principles of motivation for confronting apostasy in one’s church:

  1. First, love must be your motivation in confronting apostasy.
  2. Second, self-sacrifice must be this love’s demonstration.
  3. The third principle I want to reiterate is this: Biblical truth is the issue.

If you have not read the last article, please do so before proceeding.

What the Bible says:

Dr. Paul M. Elliott of Teaching the Word Ministries has written an excellent series on what the Bible teaches us about confronting apostasy.

As he correctly points out, we have been given instructions through God’s Word:

So let me now come to the process itself. We find the process for dealing with apostasy, in fact for dealing with offenses of all kinds, given to us in Matthew 18:15-17. We find there a process set forth by the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Jesus said this:

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that “by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17)

Here we find a four-step process:

  • First, go to your brother alone and make his offense known. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. The force of the original language is that if your brother will pay attention to what you are saying and will repent, you have helped your brother to escape from evil.
  • Second, if he will not hear you, take one or two others with you and speak to him again.
  • Third, if he still refuses to hear, bring the matter before the church as a body.
  • Fourth, if he refuses even to hear the church, then treat him not as your brother, but as an unbeliever.

Be humble, but alert:

Pastors are humans and make mistakes. A single departure from scripture may simply have been an honest mistake.

Still, it is prudent to keep in mind the words of John Calvin:

Truth is not always nurtured in the bosom of the pastors…

Private situations versus public situations:

Private sins should be confronted privately, while public sins should be confronted publicly.

The risk to souls posed by the public teaching of false doctrine is acutely emphasized by Dr. Elliott:

If someone has persisted in false teaching from the pulpit, or in a Sunday school class, or in a home Bible study, or has persistently written false teaching in books or other publications, this is a public matter. It is not a private sin. And so it immediately becomes a matter to be dealt with by the church as a body, and not on a private basis. That is because there is more than the spiritual welfare of one individual or a even handful of individuals at stake. The spiritual welfare of the entire church is at stake.

There are several Biblical examples of public confrontation, including:

  1. in the epistle of Third John: Apostle John said he was going to publicly confront Diotrephes, the pastor of a local church, about his falsehoods;
  2. and in Galatians chapter two: Apostle Paul publicly confronted the Apostle Peter at Antioch when Peter publicly strayed into legalism.

Expect hostility in return:

If there’s one thing you can count on it is resistance. In fact, the simple act of politely questioning, for example, a popular evangelist, is the one of the easiest ways to make yourself unpopular.

Dr. Elliott even gives real-life examples and probable outcomes to prepare you, which you can read about here.

Remember to be humble and steadfast in your defense of God’s Word. Accept hardship. Remember that souls are at stake.

The Truth is the goal.

Examples of public confrontations:

Public confrontations may take on different forms. Some choose to write, such as myself, others use technology such as Twitter or podcasts. Also, some people may choose local vestry meetings, et al.

Example 1:

What I am about to say may make you angry and cause me to lose favor in your sight. Nevertheless, I will proceed with love and with truth: Beth Moore is a hugely popular evangelist. She says many scripturally-based things, but, through her lack of Berean-diligence, a lack of exegesis and through her insistence on undisciplined allegorical interpretation, she has become, over the years, more and more prone to veering wildly off course (scripturally speaking).

For example, in November of 2017, Beth Moore tweeted the following:

BM1

In response, a minister tweeted a response:

BM2

It is utterly bizarre that Beth Moore would paint Noah as having some sort of negative instinct and then extend that negativity upon the rest of us.

Noah acted on faith:

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in godly fear built an ark to save his family. By faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. – Hebrews 11:7

Noah’s faith in God is a positive example for us, not a negative one. The minister was right to correct Beth Moore’s scriptural folly.

Example 2:

Recently, at the MLK 50 conference, the ministerial visionaries of a world-infected doctrine – a false gospel obsessed with the aesthetics of pigmentation ratios in the pews – preached a false doctrine of superficial, identitarian justice.

In a brave response, two black theologians who rightly and Biblically reject the false category of race – Darrell B. Harrison and Virgil Walker – released two different podcasts (which I encourage you to listen to) denouncing the growing apostasy of this mankind-driven false doctrine within evangelical churches:

  1. MLK 50 CONFERENCE
  2. SIN BY PROXY

Here’s the takeaway:

If you wish to save souls, if you wish to liberate others (and yourself) from the shackles of sin, doctrinal Truth is the answer. Those possessing a deep concern for others and a genuine love of Christ must safeguard The Word.

You will face many obstacles. You will face rejection from every direction; from foes, as well as from friends and from those with whom you believe you have alliances.

As I clearly state in the disclaimer to my website, “readers of this blog with likely be presented with an inconvenient truth at one point or another.”

The Truth matters.

Every voice matters.

Your voice matters.

Clarity matters.


There will be one, final post in this series. It will be the most difficult: What to do when your church fully rejects Gospel Truth?