Leaving the Church vs. Leaving Christ and Understanding the New Move of God
In 2014, Church of the Resurrection, located in my hometown of Leawood, Kansas, which is one of the largest and most affluent churches in America, captured news headlines when they released plans to execute a $90 million dollar project for a new sanctuary. The project was completed in 2017.
Just days ago this August 2019 Marty Sampson, worship leader of Hillsong Church, recently renounced his faith, and did so publicly. When asked why, he noted many of the conflicting issues within Christian doctrine, which he claims the Church has failed to address.
In July 2019 Joshua Harris, Pastor of Covenant Life Church and author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, publicly renounced his faith in a shocking announcement via Instagram that made news headlines. But that’s not all. He left his wife Shannon, and renounced his books, pulling them from production.
In 2010 Francis Chan, Pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Semi Valley, California and author of Crazy Love, announced leaving his megachurch in a decision prompted in obedience to the LORD to endorse and further initiate an Acts model. Chan pioneered a movement by the Holy Spirit that resulted in a phenomenal transformation of his community locally and abroad. Although active in Kingdom service at We Are Church, he has shunned the spotlight ever since.
In 2019 Dale Partridge, an entrepreneur who founded multiple successful million dollar enterprises, suddenly walked away to forge ahead in ministry. He sold out. He and his wife Veronica now help others Relearn Church and initiate Real Christianity according to biblical principles and the teachings of Jesus Christ. Their goal is to establish the true Gospel in lives of believers. They follow the Acts model and help others establish it in their own communities by providing teaching and resources.
God is always preparing for what’s coming. He’s way ahead of us. He is the Beginning and the End, so there are no surprises for Him. For those of us who are watching and praying, there is a fundamental shift taking place among believers today, and I’d like to discuss what is really happening. Because this is not about moving into a bigger building with a $90 million dollar price tag to make room for future expansion. The issues surrounding Christianity today are much deeper. Otherwise committed believers are finding the brand of Christianity the Church has sold them has little to no substance. The resulting apostasy Jesus Christ and the apostles warned about is very real. It’s not new. We just see it more readily. Nevertheless, it’s trending high in our western church culture. But there is another response we see as well. Believers are forsaking the organized Church and finding the true Gospel of Jesus Christ to be extraordinarily powerful.
God is preparing His Church for this hour and the end times that lay ahead of us. But how?
In light of these issues and many others, it becomes necessary to understand what is going on in the Church today. What is the Church really teaching? Is western Christianity actually teaching the true Gospel of Jesus Christ as He instructed? Are we prepared as believers for what Christ told us would happen? All of these are valid questions.
Today we’re going to address one of the most glaring issues in the Church: its incongruence with the true Gospel of Jesus Christ — and God’s just response.
The Sifting of the Church
Judgment begins in the house of God.
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” ( 1 Peter 4:17, KJV).
Those are the words of the Apostle Peter, who denied Christ three times and was later mercifully reinstated into the flock as a chosen apostle. Peter committed an egregious act that could have condemned him, and he understood what it was like to be faced with persecution. He was one of Christ’s most passionate disciples, and one among His inner circle. Yet at the time of his testing the mere recognition of him by two young women was enough to push him over the edge.
In 1999 the Lord was actively teaching and tutoring me on the issues surrounding end times. It was an incessant topic He continued to school me in through prayer, fasting, and the scriptures. One thing I remember Him poignantly revealing was the sifting of the Church that would soon take place. He revealed a great falling away in tandem with an incredible move of His Spirit among His elect that would purify, strengthen, and fortify His Church prior to His return. This would come at His bidding, be done by His Spirit, and was predicated by His judgment, which begins in His house. I did not know exactly when it would transpire, but I knew it would happen in my lifetime. Fast forward twenty years and I now see it unfolding before my very eyes.
The move He revealed did not look like any other the Church has seen. It was not headed by any particular person or leader. On the contrary, it will be hidden and to some, even obscure. The Holy Spirit will begin leading and directing His people away from the organized church back to the model we find in Acts when the earliest church gatherings were in homes. These eventually branched out in powerful cohesive yet integrated ways that allowed the Gospel to reach multitudes exponentially. The fruit of the early Church was prolific. By today’s standards, it went ‘viral’. The Church was familial, unified, vibrantly interconnected, accountable, and received oversight by the twelve Apostles. These churches were not perfect, hence their accounts in the epistles. They had many things to overcome both culturally and spiritually. Nevertheless, these were the beginning of the Christianity we see today that transformed an otherwise pagan world.
A similar move is happening now, yet for a different purpose. It’s not for the beginning of the age, but the end. It’s not for the establishing of the Church, but for the preservation of it. We are coming full circle. It will be for the salvation of the elect and the generation yet to come, of which He warns will be few in number (Matthew 7:14). This is why we are told in the scriptures, again by the apostle Peter, to make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10). We are told to test and prove ourselves in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). And we are also instructed to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). The fear of the Lord is returning to His Church. We will either embrace Him, be sanctified, and walk with Christ, or separate ourselves and subsequently fall away.
As persecution begins to heighten, the organized Church will struggle to survive, and in due time die out. In the very least it will succumb to the secular norms imposed upon it, which is already taking place en masse. True believers who want to diligently follow Christ are going to find the organized Church at odds with their faith, and a hindrance to the Holy Spirit and His sanctifying work. That hindrance is going to be a combination of casual compromise, heretical doctrine, indifference, Christian marketing and propaganda, the neglect of repentance and biblical accountability, the embrace of a modern secular culture, and the exchange of God’s Word for the opinions of man in the pulpit. Today many Church leaders are more concerned with keeping members and taking head counts to fund their projects and salaries, than they are the people’s individual needs or investing in the Kingdom of God. There is a lot of “filthy lucre” (1 Peter 5:2) in the modern Church that both seeks and elevates a lifestyle of ease, comfort, and complacency as the sheep are fleeced by leaders of greedy gain. As the apostles warned us, these are talking heads that don’t know their own sheep, the Bible, or Jesus Christ intimately. That is a 180-degree shift from the Church we see in Acts that sacrificed all for the Kingdom, had all things in common, reached the lost, ministered the Word, fasted, prayed, broke bread, embraced persecution with joy, and saw miracles follow their testimonies for Jesus Christ. They knew each other and Jesus Christ intimately, there was proper accountability, and they walked in the power of His Holy Spirit with grace, conviction, and according to the revealed Word and will of God. And finally, they loved not their lives to the death. They were ready and willing at a moment’s notice to give their lives for the Gospel. By in large, that is hardly the Church we see today, especially in the Western Hemisphere.
The fear of the LORD is returning to His Church.
We will either embrace Him, be sanctified, and walk with Christ,
or separate ourselves and subsequently fall away.
So, what is happening? What is God doing? This end time move is precipitated by the Lord’s judgment, which must begin with His house. It is not His will that we be condemned with the world (1 Corinthians 11:32). We need to understand His deliberation. This move is very timely. As Peter said in 1 Peter 4:17, “The time is come…”
By the time the LORD returns, the Church will have come full circle back to the Acts model. That means as we draw nearer to the time of His appearing we will eventually see the Church functioning as the biblical model found in Acts. However, I believe it will be quite small in comparison with the organized Church we see today. With that said, let’s talk about what is really happening in the Church today for these two camps of people: those who are leaving the Church vs. leaving Christ.
Leaving the Church
Many devoted Christians, out of a love for God and in an effort to follow Jesus wholeheartedly, have made the very difficult decision to leave the organized Church in exchange for the original Acts model. In modern terms, the Acts model reveals what is otherwise known as ‘house churches’. House churches are not new. They are just becoming more prevalent. That is not to say that all organized churches are getting it wrong, or that they are all bad. That would be an inaccurate takeaway. But across denominational lines, those lines have become very scripturally blurred, in-cohesive, and incongruent. When weighed against the plumb line of God’s Word many are at odds with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and with each other. People just can’t agree. There is far too much disparity: the doctrines they profess are not those by which they ultimately abide. Hence, the hypocrisy within the Church which accounts for the hatred and disgust most Christians suffer by nonbelievers.
The Christian culture at large, especially among churches in the western hemisphere, has become incubated against the world to the degree its become ineffective. The focus of the Gospel, which has always been outward toward community and the world at large, has shifted inward. Members have become the primary focus. Subsequently, the Gospel today is very secular and self-absorbed. Having a “Thy will be done, they kingdom come” focus, is virtually lost. While the scriptures teach we are to be in the world and not of it, the converse appears to be more true: We are of the world and not in it. The focus of wealth, happiness, and prosperity instead of sacrifice, sanctification, and servanthood has brought corruption at every level. The Church is very heavily invested in appearances, opulence, notoriety, and platforms. Expensive buildings and alluring programs that promote a lifestyle of ease, comfort, and enjoyment are the priority. Yet the biblical contradiction is glaring, and for those who are true believers, this Christian culture demands a divorce of sorts. We can no longer embrace it.
Those who have left the organized Church, however, have often found themselves struggling to move into what the Bible describes in the Book of Acts. Those few who have separated themselves deeply desire and seek to participate with a body of believers who embrace the scriptural model and follow Christ biblically. But finding it can be a challenge, precisely because it’s not organized. Therefore, in layman’s terms, these small families of believers, have for all practical purposes, gone underground. Not to mention they are few comparatively, which is not surprising in the biblical context of Christ’s teachings about the times in which we live. And although their numbers are growing, they are still a minority when compared to those who now remain in the organized Church. However, I anticipate that shift will invert as time passes. Nevertheless, these believers are hard to find, and sometimes obscure. However, numbers are indeed growing, and I believe they will continue to increase. Discovering believers who are intentionally following Christ in a committed lifestyle, who are meeting in homes, gathering as family, fasting, praying, and breaking bread together as Christ taught, can be challenging to find. Believers are seeking Christians of character with whom they can safely congregate, share, and grow. They’re out there, but there’s not necessarily a signpost. Word of mouth and being divinely led by the Holy Spirit, just as in Acts, are the primary means by which believers are successfully navigating this move God has initiated.
For those who are embracing this move of God, it’s become necessary to defend the faith and survive as a Christian in a westernized counter-culture. Persecution from the organized Church against committed Christians who have left it can be common, largely because their faith and devotion to Jesus Christ is misunderstood. Believers who choose to leave endeavor to embrace the true Gospel. They deeply desire truth, and value those teachings Christ has instilled for His disciples. The organized Church, regardless of denomination, has embraced a formula and culture all its own that eschews repentance, passively invites sin, and elevates comfort above holiness. Gross amounts of money is required for it just to function, while most of those dollars never reach those who are truly in need. Pastors and preachers are more concerned with keeping members happy to secure funding by stimulating growth through massive projects, and manipulating their motives of giving through prosperity messages, rather than shepherding the sheep as Jesus taught. Many don’t even know their own members. These leaders are pastors in name only. They hold a title despite their absence and deficiency, and often take leave of their office for other ventures that promote their platform or reputation. Appearance and platform are common primary concerns for leadership in megachurches and mega-ministries. There is a lot of whore-mongering going on in the organized church in an effort to keep the financial profit rolling in — all of it packaged with a tidy Christian bow with government labels affording its expanding wealth. The marketing of this secular Gospel by the Western Church is often very affluent, very alluring, and very deceptive to naive believers and those who are genuinely seeking God. These are like homing beacons to those who are otherwise lost. The sad truth is, the organized church excels at making disciples of men rather than Christ, and new converts grow up following them.
The biblical contradiction is glaring,
and for those who are true believers, this Christian culture demands a divorce of sorts.
We can no longer embrace it.
Those who do belong to an organized Church that follows Christ and His doctrine are the fortunate few. These are the exception rather than the rule. I dare say that as times progress and persecution increases, we are going to see the organized Church slowly die out while others will become so unrecognizable by biblical standards that no true Christian would dare darken their doors.
The apostasy and falling away prophesied by Jesus Christ is indeed happening — both among laity, and by those who once held notoriety as leaders with a global platform. Some of this apostasy is very blatant and outspoken. But most of it is happening gradually among believers as they walk contrary to the Gospel truth. Slowly, like the frog being boiled in water, they are becoming numb to the dangers of deception surrounding them and falling prey.
Jesus Christ talks about standing firm unto the end. And He makes very clear statements that reveal the faith crisis. He said,
I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8, KJV).
That is a very poignant question, and within it lies a truth we must be willing to face. Not all will stand firm unto the end, hence the falling away He warned about (Matthew 24:10).
Regardless of the reason, when there is a lack of fruit in a believer’s life,
we must ask why.
And not for the sake of knowing, but for the sake of redemption.
The Apostle Paul tells us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). He tells us that we need to test ourselves and prove ourselves to see if we are indeed in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). The assurance of salvation is given to us by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:16). He will always glorify Christ and bring sanctification in our personal lives. The greatest evidence of the Holy Spirit is the sanctification in the life of the believer. His resident power within us is what sustains us and fills us, allowing us to live obedient Christian lives that produce fruit for the kingdom. If we are not producing fruit we need to ask why. There should be a legitimate reason which can be remedied. Are we being pruned? Or have we failed to abide in the True Vine of Christ? Are we withering in the faith? Is there unrepentant sin? Are we disconnected from the Vine altogether? Or as Christ taught, is the seed being choked out by the cares of this life? All of these questions beg to be answered when we see a lack of genuine Christian fruit. Perhaps the reasons are more extrinsic. We should question if there has been an abuse or moral injury. Perhaps the Lord is testing our faith so we may triumph in Him, even as with Job and Peter. There are many reasons why a professing believer may not bear fruit. Yet Christ taught us we will know them by their fruit. An equally worthy question may be: Are they a true Christian? We neglect to ask it, but ask it we must. Regardless of the reason, when there is a lack of fruit in a believer’s life, we must ask why. And not for the sake of knowing, but for the sake of redemption.
In light of all this, one of the greatest reasons a person falls away is deception. The false teaching and gross heresy within the Church is so embedded that many biblically illiterate believers are defenseless. The foundation of their theology is severely impaired, being unable to survive the storms that assail them. And when temptation or tragedy strikes, they find the Christian faith they’ve been taught by the modern Church to be powerless. The lies of the enemy so deeply woven into the fabric of the western Church culture and its teachings are hard to weed out. For those who do not know how to navigate life by the Holy Spirit with the scriptures at hand, they simply falter. And when God doesn’t abide by their Western secular formula, their faith fails them.
When God’s people are manipulated with messages that induce a self-absorbed lifestyle, in no way are they prepared when their faith is contested on those terms. Areas of sin are left unaddressed. There is a lack of accountability or support. And there is very little, if any, biblical teaching beyond salvation. When the storms do hit these naive souls are an open target. They flounder and flail. The Gospel Jesus preached did not promise the riches of this world. He did not promise a life of ease. He promised we would suffer for Him and endure hardship and persecution. He promised we would have enemies. He promised we would overcome because He overcame, if we followed Him. He promised He would be our Comforter. He promised He would be with us to the end. He always leads us in triumph. However, many of the blessings of God are contingent upon obedience to Him.
When God doesn’t abide by their Western secular formula,
their faith fails them.
When Jesus Christ told the parable of the sower He described four soil conditions which determined the outcome for the seed He had sown in the heart of the individual who heard it. The truth is very few Christians are prepared to live the real Gospel. And very few really are living it. It is no surprise therefore, that Jesus Christ says narrow is the way to life and few there be that find it, (Matthew 7:14). Many will come to Him on that day proclaiming their works and He will say to them:
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity,” (Matthew 7:23, KJV).
The Gospel of Jesus Christ plays hardball. It is wholly unapologetic. Christianity is not soft. It’s not for fools. Jesus Christ is the real deal. He’s the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Once you’re a Christian, the rules of life change. You’re living under the King, and for a different Kingdom. You become a citizen of heaven. Sudden the frame of reference for life on earth is clear: Life here is extraordinarily temporal.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ plays hardball.
It is wholly unapologetic.
Another issue at hand, which is not so readily spoken about, is the religious and spiritual abuse taking place in the Church, which accounts for the loss of so many souls. Many leaders have hurt God’s lambs and His sheep. These wounds are not superficial. They do not heal easily. They go extraordinarily deep. There are souls who have been mortally wounded. The manner in which God’s people have been abused is so heinous that it accounts for many falling away from the faith or rejecting it altogether. This is so horribly sad that it’s unspeakable, and it breaks my heart. I shudder to think what these leaders will face when they stand to give account.
Persecution and Apostasy
Let us understand there is a grave difference between leaving the Church and leaving Christ. Many believers, in an effort to both persevere and preserve their faith, have made the difficult and somewhat unpopular decision among their peers to leave the organized Church. But make no mistake: they are more committed to Him than most. Some of the most devout Christians will no longer be found within church walls. Still, there are unbelievers who are genuinely seeking God who end up in the organized church. If that church fails them, where do they go? They leave. The chance they will continue seeking Christ is questionable.
We live in an age when Christian cults abound. There is spiritual abuse. There is gross compromise. The scriptures are blatantly transgressed to embrace modern norms in society because the clear preference is to offend God rather than man. In this wake we see heresy, false doctrine, false teaching, false prophecy, and whoremongering becoming widespread. Churches spend millions to market themselves and these diabolical doctrines of devils. This method of mass-marketing is pandemic across denominational lines.
For those who would survive the modern culture of the organized Church and all its woes,
I see the Holy Spirit conducting a sweeping move among His elect
who will dare to follow Him in an exodus of biblical proportions.
I applaud the leaders out there who are diligently preaching God’s Word and leading God’s people by the Holy Spirit. But know this: the time is short. Jesus said to work while it is yet day, for the night comes when no man can work (John 9:4). That time is coming. The Holy Spirit is shifting His elect into an Acts model now. Not later. He’s laying that foundation in a timely manner so that when all of this shakes down (Hebrews 12:27), His elect will be able to stand unto the end (Matthew 24:23).
The scriptures are blatantly transgressed to embrace modern norms in society
because the clear preference is to offend God rather than man.
The impositions upon the organized Church by governing bodies are becoming greater all the while. When push comes to shove, many have succumbed to the pressure. Apostasy is very real. Jesus said it is not the Father’s will that any be lost. But there’s nothing that will take you there quicker than compromise. If you are a church leader and you find yourself struggling to survive, grieved in your spirit at what you see, and are at odds with what is happening within the Church at large — you are not alone. There are an increasing number of believers out there just like yourself who see what’s happening, endeavor to escape it, and earnestly seek genuine Christian fellowship and pastoral leadership. Unfortunately, we are living in the age when people will not endure sound doctrine (2 Timothy 4:3). They want to be entertained. They want what feels good. They want what is quick. They want what is convenient and comfortable. They do not want accountability. They do not want change. They do not want to repent of their sin. The do not want to be corrected. Therefore, do not be surprised if you’re trying to serve Truth and people run the other way. Compromise is not the answer. For those who would survive the modern culture of the organized Church and all its woes, I see the Holy Spirit conducting a sweeping move among His elect who will dare to follow Him in an exodus of biblical proportions. We will also see a gross wave of apostasy that will become commonplace. But for those who refuse the truth, this is what He says:
And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness,” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12, KJV).
I believe we are seeing the fruit of this delusion in society right now, today. As people turn away from God and refuse the Gospel there will be increasing delusion to which God will give them over. When He returns He will be coming for the faithful, good, and wise servant who is about His kingdom business, of which He says this:
His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord,” (Matthew 25:21, KJV).
Do not compromise. Do not be allured, provoked, or misguided by the current secular Christian culture. Be faithful. As Jesus Christ said, “Count the cost,” (Luke 14:25-35) and surround yourself with others of like spirit who intend to stand for Christ — to the very end.
Cheers & Shalom,
Image Credit: Foto-Rabe | Pixabay
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