by Mike Ratliff
“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD. Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD. “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’ “Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when they shall no longer say, ‘As the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ but ‘As the LORD lives who brought up and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ Then they shall dwell in their own land.” Concerning the prophets: My heart is broken within me; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the LORD and because of his holy words. For the land is full of adulterers; because of the curse the land mourns, and the pastures of the wilderness are dried up. Their course is evil, and their might is not right. “Both prophet and priest are ungodly; even in my house I have found their evil, declares the LORD. Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery paths in the darkness, into which they shall be driven and fall, for I will bring disaster upon them in the year of their punishment, declares the LORD. In the prophets of Samaria I saw an unsavory thing: they prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray. But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.” Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets: “Behold, I will feed them with bitter food and give them poisoned water to drink, for from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has gone out into all the land.” Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’” For who among them has stood in the council of the LORD to see and to hear his word, or who has paid attention to his word and listened? Behold, the storm of the LORD! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the LORD will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intents of his heart. In the latter days you will understand it clearly. “I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds. “Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God afar off? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the LORD. Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who steal my words from one another. Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who use their tongues and declare, ‘declares the LORD.’ Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the LORD, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the LORD. “When one of this people, or a prophet or a priest asks you, ‘What is the burden of the LORD?’ you shall say to them, ‘You are the burden, and I will cast you off, declares the LORD.’ And as for the prophet, priest, or one of the people who says, ‘The burden of the LORD,’ I will punish that man and his household. Thus shall you say, every one to his neighbor and every one to his brother, ‘What has the LORD answered?’ or ‘What has the LORD spoken?’ But ‘the burden of the LORD’ you shall mention no more, for the burden is every man’s own word, and you pervert the words of the living God, the LORD of hosts, our God. Thus you shall say to the prophet, ‘What has the LORD answered you?’ or ‘What has the LORD spoken?’ But if you say, ‘The burden of the LORD,’ thus says the LORD, ‘Because you have said these words, “The burden of the LORD,” when I sent to you, saying, “You shall not say, ‘The burden of the LORD,’” therefore, behold, I will surely lift you up and cast you away from my presence, you and the city that I gave to you and your fathers. And I will bring upon you everlasting reproach and perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.’” (Jeremiah 23:1-40)
I hope you took the time to read the passage I placed above this post in its entirety. This series of articles on the Compromised Church has been very painful for me to put together and write. There is no joy in delivering this type of message to people who consider themselves to be the religious leaders of their day, but who are deceived into a form of Christianity that is man-focused and non-Biblical. Why? This message is not just a rebuke, but it is a proclamation of coming judgment upon those who have perverted what is Holy and used their influence and ambition to confuse, harm and scatter the flock.
The leaders in the Compromised Church will be held to the highest level of accountability. However, they have also led multitudes of professing believers into their false form of Christianity. God is not amused. Many may say that I am splitting hairs or making a big deal out of something of little importance. However, God says in His word (Jeremiah 23) that those leaders who do not lead their flocks into a true and proper worship and devotion of Him are false and He is against them. He proclaims, “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” You may be saying right now that I have it backwards. Aren’t those in the Church Growth movement actually building huge churches by bringing in large numbers of the unchurched to the Kingdom? But as we have seen in earlier posts in this series, they are simply taking existing churches with genuine flocks of believers in them then transforming them into fleshly churches that starve and scatter their flocks by becoming “seeker-centered” in everything they do. They do not minister to the flock. Instead the entire focus of the church becomes one large sustained evangelical push that, unfortunately, presents a version of the gospel that is not biblical.
As we have seen, the major problem these leaders have is their self-deception caused by their idolatrous worship at the alter of Church Growth. What do they sacrifice on this altar? They sacrifice their flocks. Their idolatry produces spiritual blindness that is based in their pride. This blindness and self-deception has them fooled into thinking that their pragmatic (copy-cat church growth tricks) approach to doing church is being blessed by God because of their numbers. They are blind to the fact that the Church of Jesus Christ is a suffering church made up the few who find the narrow gate while broad and easy is the way which leads to destruction.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
Pastors and other Church leaders will be judged by God on the basis of their faithfulness to their calling, not how good they become at being popular with with the world.
How can we know them? Look at the next part of Matthew 7.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’’” (Matthew 7:15-23)
So, how do we tell a Compromised Church leader from a genuine Church leader? We look at their fruit. Fruit is not works. Works are what men do to try to please God. Fruit is the product of the Holy Spirit working through His people. (John 15) The fruit we look for in a their lives and ministries would be those that can only be produced by a work of God. When men attempt to counterfeit this fruit with their works it is obvious to any discerning believer who looks closely.
The first thing we need to look at is how they preach the gospel. Is their doctrine of salvation biblical? If they preach a salvation based upon works righteousness then their gospel teaches that salvation is a work of Man. However, the Bible says that it is a gift from God.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
This passage is very clear. No one is saved by any attribute or decision on their part. The genuinely saved were saved by God’s work alone. God, working through His preachers genuine gospel presentations contrasts His Holiness, Justice and Righteousness with Man’s utter lack of holiness, justice and righteousness. This contrast is then used by the Holy Spirit as He regenerates the heart of new believers. That contrast then becomes apparent to them and they believe and repent. God then justifies them. If a preacher handles the Gospel this way, totally obliterating works righteousness, then their fruit will be obviously godly. However, if they preach the opposite then, even though they may baptize thousands, their fruit is bad. It is like a rotten apple on a diseased tree. Their version of the gospel eliminates any call to repentance from sin or submission to Christ as Lord. The genuine Gospel includes a call for both, but they are accomplished by grace through faith as a gift from God.
If the focus of the church gathering is to bring in large numbers of unchurched people by appealing to their fleshly desires for loud worldly music and entertaining sermons then these church leaders are guilty of manufacturing an environment for “worship” that is man-focused. There is no God glorifying worship or sheep edifying preaching because both of them are fruit while the entertainment version are man-made works.
The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:19-24)
We are called to worship God in spirit and truth. This is only possible as a fruit of a God glorifying grateful heart that Loves God with its entire being. Simply singing a song is not the same thing. Simply listening to worship or praise music is not the same thing. Instead genuine worship of God in spirit and truth involves our Love for Him as being our All in All. The Holy Spirit enters into this worship and God is glorified in it. Using Rock Music or any secular music to appease the desires of fleshly people is not genuine worship music nor does it glorify God
Another bad fruit we see in these false shepherds is a lack of faith. This one is rather obvious to the discerning believer, but it is easy to overlook. For instance, if a shepherd is always calling for people to get excited and busy then they are not believing that God will provide for His work. It can also include new programs that totally leave out any mention of the Holy Spirit. Even more insidious in this is a lack of trust in the Bible as Sola Scriptura. They shrug off the Bible as being absolute truth because so much of it condemns what they are doing. This is a product of their self-deception. When they are biblically rebuked they ignore it or challenge it saying that it is wrong to cause division in the body.
There is much more, but I think we can plainly see that any compromise on Biblical truth is a sure sign that we are dealing with a portion of the Compromised Church. Genuine Christianity is not all-inclusive. It is not getting everyone under one big tent no matter how doctrinally pure or impure they are. Jesus was very emphatic that there was one and only one way to the Father and that was through Him. He also said that no one could be His disciple who did not deny self and take up their cross and follow Him.
Oh Lord God, we desperately come before you now full of fear and remorse. We are a sinful, fleshly people who are in love with this present age. Oh Lord cleanse us. Send your mighty power upon your people to divide the true from the false. Cleanse us of our tolerance of the world in what should be sacred. Oh Lord, please forgive us and give us the direction to go. Show us how to preach, teach, worship and serve you for Your glory alone. In Jesus Name – Amen!
Click Here for another perspective of the fallacy of pragmatic Christianity
Click Here for a perspective on the coming judgement against the Compromised Church
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™ Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.