America's present religious landscape is approximately equivalent to those predicted post-nuclear fallout scenarios. We are living in a day when thermonuclear warheads of false doctrine have hit their targets and exploded, obliterating entire denominations and sending showers of toxic theological debris in all directions. Masses of unbelievers have swept into buildings that are falsely labeled as Christian churches, not realizing they are only sliding deeper into the abyss of destruction by doing so. They won't hear the Gospel in there. But they really haven't come in to be converted, anyway. They have come to enjoy the plush theater seating, to watch entertaining talk-show style "messages" designed to build their self-esteem, to hear rock, rap and hip-hop "worship" concerts that are completely secular and devoid of Gospel content, to learn how a big person named "God" can give them a better life, to re-imagine and re-invent Christian faith, and to be comforted and coddled in their unconverted state. They have come for a weekly "worship experience" that does not center on the person and work of Jesus Christ or the Biblical Gospel of a blood-stained cross and empty tomb calling sinners to repentance and faith. The fleshly desires and cravings of the unregenerate now determine the agenda for many institutions that call themselves churches. It is a day of rampant, pervasive, dizzying apostasy.
Following are two true examples of this phenomenon from online services I saw this week (although these might seem similar to the fictitious satire I sometimes serve up, I assure you I did not make these up).
Become a Better Goat?
A leader from "Potential Church" in Cooper City, Florida recently shared a message at the weekend "experience" in which he encouraged everyone in his audience to set their goals high and try to become the, er, "GOAT." That stands for "Greatest of All Time." Yes, you read that correctly. You have the potential to become the GOAT (yes, you!). The irony of a potential church calling its members to become better goats is just too much. Apparently it IS all about YOU (I mean, "ME"). Here's a prescription for Potential Church: hang fluorescent pink banners all over your building with the opening line of Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life emblazoned on them. Then, buy cases of the book, tear the first page out of every copy, and hand out just that page to everyone who attends your weekend "experience." This would be shocking, but potentially useful. The remaining portions of the books could be put into a capsule and shot into outer space.
Common Sense Salvation?
The pastor of Calvary Christian Center in Ormond Beach, Florida (it's one of the largest churches in the Assembly of God denomination, and is located almost directly across the street from Roy Hargrave's Riverbend Church) recently shared a message called, "The God Who Changes His Mind," in which he attempted to use a Biblical anthropopathism to wrench the scepter of sovereignty right out of God's hand. While trying to define and refute the "Reformists," (who believe in the "5 pillars of Calvinism" !?), he actually said, "I happen to believe that God chose everybody . . . He's chosen the whole world, but you know what, there are some of us in here today who had the sense enough to turn around and choose him back!" Yes, that is a direct quote, and you read it correctly. We had the SENSE ENOUGH to turn around and choose Him back! We are so amazingly smart and sufficient! Now you, too, can enjoy salvation via your own sensibility and remain completely free from the humbling side effects of needing to be saved by grace.
These were just two haphazard sparks of absurdity which were observed as they shot out of the flaming ball of heresy that is currently rolling across North America.
Getting angry about the alarming spread of apostasy won't do much good. Becoming a heresy hunter won't really help. Yes, we should thank God for folks like Chris Rosebrough (curator of the Museum of Idolatry) and support their efforts. Exposing lies is somewhat useful, but ultimately it will be tireless proclamation of the Truth that God uses to change hearts (I know Chris would agree). God only saves sinners one way: by the preaching of the Gospel. God only regenerates where the Gospel is proclaimed. So in this era of spiritual radiation and doctrinal fallout, let us faithfully proclaim the Gospel without ceasing, and without wavering - and let us put our hope in the God who regenerates and sanctifies all who by grace believe!
Also, let us never forget that God has preserved His own regenerate people, even within denominations and institutions that are falling over the edge doctrinally. We must be careful not to broad brush and sweep away the righteous with the reprobate. God will judge everything at the proper time, and judgment will begin with the household of God.