Five-Hundred Years Later; Still, 95 Reasons Why…

This October 31st marks the 500-year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. In the same spirit that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the doors of Wittenberg Chapel, we offer this list of offences. This list has been compiled by numerous Pastors, Professors, Authors, Church leaders and followers of Jesus Christ, across North America. This group consisted of various ethnicities, different socio-economic status and genders.

The purpose of this list is not to encourage division, but to help increase the awareness to the seriousness of the current issues that are facing the evangelical Christian church.  This list is not directed at any specific evangelical Christian Church, even though there may be several things on the list that your church may be guilty of.

It is no secret that millennials have been and are continuing to be disengaged from the evangelical Christian church, and here may lie some of the reasons why.  The hope is that by humbly understanding what millennials are saying about the evangelical church, we will be able to improve and correct the current wrongs. This is the only way that the evangelical church will be able to re-connect with millennials and not lose future generations. 

CONGREGATIONAL SINS

1. You are full of idol worship.

2. Your buildings have become your idols.

3. You have made the Bible into an idol.

4. You have committed adultery with the Scriptures in loving them more than God.

5. You have made pragmatism and ability your idol.

6. In your addiction to church “programs”, you have made them your idol.

7. You have made efficiency your god.

8. Your love of money is humiliating.

9. Money has become the main factor in decision-making.

10. Money, not truth, has become the driving force behind the translation of the Bible.

11. The majority of your tithes goes to “paying the bills” and not to community needs.

12. You have turned the church into a marketplace by marketing the gospel.

13. Personal safety dominates your mindset rather than the will of God.

14. You have become defined by your judgemental attitude – not your love.

15. You manipulate the Bible to justify your silence.

16. You treat women as second-class citizens.

17. Your silence on matters of human rights is abominable.

18. You have allowed human/ sex trafficking and slavery to exponentially grow without being seriously addressed by the church.

19. Your neutrality towards those who are oppressed because of race is disgusting.

20. Your decision to stay neutral when our indigenous people are abused and taken advantage of is deplorable.

21. Your decision to stay neutral when it comes to defending the covenants made with natives is shameful.

22. You abuse the foreigner and immigrant.

23. You have tolerated ethnocentrism.

24. Your intolerance of people from other religious beliefs breaks the heart of God.

25. You spend more time inside your building walls than in the community that you claim you belong to.

26. You are scared to get close to people.

27. You have not taken the time to understand gender issues correctly.

28. Learning to love those with sexual identity struggles is not a priority.

29. You are unable to love those who identify as LGBTQ+.

30. You judge those who are different before you get to know them.

31. You have failed to create a place of safety for those who have been abused.

32. You turn a blind eye to the sick and wounded.

33. You have neglected to address cases of sexual abuse within the church.

34. You are more concerned with your own image, rather than the image of God.

 

CHURCH LEADERSHIP FAILURES

35. You are controlled by fear.

36. You use fear to manipulate those who may think differently.

37. You are obsessed with the idea of physical and emotional comfort.

38. You easily confuse politics and the desires of God.

39. The leadership of your local churches are power hungry, manipulative, and serve their own interests, instead of the commands of Christ.

40. In your pursuit of control, you have neglected the sovereignty of God.

41. You have elevated and glorified the position of senior pastor.

42. You have turned a blind eye to the thousands of church leaders who are addicted to pornography.

43. The church’s authority lies in your local or denominational leadership, and not in the Holy Spirit.

44. Your desire to be “right” overshadows God’s command to love.

45. You speak of agape love, but have settled for conditional love.

46. You abuse those (pastors) who are called to serve among you.

47. You have built a system that unhealthily relies upon the pastor for spiritual growth.

48. Keeping those in your buildings “comfortable” overshadows your love for the lost.

49. You have failed to go to the nations.

50. You have turned missions into “colonization”.

51. You have brought “western culture” to lost peoples, and not the love of Jesus.

52. Your failure to learn and appreciate other cultures has led the world to associating “Jesus” with “white culture”.

53. You have taught children that they do not belong in the worship experience with adults.

54. You have oppressed the younger generations whom God has called to serve.

55. You have neglected to teach the “whys” behind what we believe, resulting in generations of religiosity and legalism.

56. You refuse to believe God can be worshiped in different styles and forms other than what is acceptable to you.

57. You use the excuse, “it’s tradition” to stifle progress.

58. Family has become second priority over ministry work.

59. Your apathy in connecting with this generation is not concerning to you.

60. Your close mindedness toward the discoveries of science has led to an inappropriate view of God.

61. Your inability to admit and ask for forgiveness from those you have clearly wronged is evidence of your complete arrogance.

62. When disagreements arise within the local church, you settle for division- over unity.

63. You honor Christ with your lips but your heart is far from Him.

64. Your exclusivity of like-minded people has pushed out thousands.

65. You have deemed this generation’s demand for truth as rebellion.

66. You have allowed the “prosperity gospel” to mislead thousands of people with heretical teachings.

67. You have been misled to believe a heretical understanding of a “successful church”.

 

THEOLOGICAL FAILURES

68. You have forgotten how to pray, you focus on continual “asking” instead of seeking the will of God.

69. You have made Jesus “white” and expect those who follow Christ to act accordingly.

70. The Lord’s Supper has become a measurement for who is holier.

71. You have forgotten how to be led by the Holy Spirit.

72. You have minimized the role and power of the Holy Spirit.

73. You marginalize the Holy Spirit by presenting polished sermons every week.

74. You worship war and violence instead of peace and compassion.

75. You have a high view of scripture, yet a low view of Jesus.

76. You have failed to acknowledge and teach on the humanity of Jesus.

77. You have mistaken sexual repression and oppression for sexual purity.

78. You have removed the holiness of sexuality.

79. You obsess over having new converts but this has led to tolerating a heretical teaching on salvation.

80. You have defiled salvation by teaching that it is contingent on saying “the sinner’s prayer”.

81. You have misled many into a false security of salvation.

82. Your passion for people stops after the salvation experience.

83. You are ignorant of pagan practices and influences, and therefore have filled the church with pagan practices on your quest to be “biblical”.

84. Your failure to correctly interpret and understand scripture has led to many false and heretical teachings.

85. You teach that “blessings” come in forms of comfort, getting what you want, health, and success.

86. You teach that the “church” is a local congregation while failing to acknowledge the universal church of believers that exists worldwide.

87. Your desire to “know” and “prove” everything in relation to God, has minimized the sovereignty and love of God.

88. You inappropriately teach an Old Testament version of tithing; you impose it and frown down upon those that do not conform to it.

89. “Worship” has been defined by singing, but you have failed to teach the importance of a life lived in worship.

90. You elevate a concert-like environment of worship, instead of a genuine Spirit-led worship encounter.

91. Your desire to build a concert-like environment causes your resources to be spent on materialistic items, rather than towards building the Kingdom at a local and global level.

92. Your emphasis on a performance-level worship shuns those with a genuine heart to serve.

93. You have led your congregations astray by singing heretical songs.

94. You glorify large churches rather than small gatherings that are filled with the Holy Spirit

95. You have neglected to teach a sufficient theology on death and the after life.

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 Do Not Resuscitate: The Death of Evangelicalism

“We are on the verge – within 10 years – of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity. This breakdown will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and it will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West.” –Michael Spencer, 2009

To be clear evangelicalism is just one of the dozens of versions of Christianity; it is not christianity. It has grown in North America over the past 50 or so years but it has significantly declined over the past 10-15 years. We can point fingers at many different reasons why- all which have some validity. However, I would argue that the main reason this collapse is inevitable is solely due to the fact that the evangelical church has “sold out”.

To be fair, the evangelical church has “sold out” on so many different levels in so many different ways, that it’s hard to find an area that they have NOT sold out in. Their passion to stay relevant to the culture has taken a fatal turn into compromise and destruction.

I can rant all day about the number of areas that have been jeopardized (maybe one day I will), but today I want to focus on a couple major areas that the evangelical church has “sold out” in.

  1. The first area of “sell out” is in the area of defining success. The evangelical church has completely redefined the understanding of a successful church.  I would bet that every evangelical church when asked what a successful church is, would say that a successful church is one that “brings the gospel to the world”.  But that is not happening.  I don’t need to throw the stats at you as they are widely available (Suggeted reading: UnChrsitianby David Kinneman, You lost meby David Kinneman & Barna Group, & The Great Evangelical Recession: 6 Factors That Will Crash the American Church by John Dickerson). All the stats point to major decline in all mainline denominations over the last 10-15 years along with the average age of people who attend church increasing above 50 years old. The decline is not just in church membership, but in baptism and new believers. This means that not only are churches not reaching non-believers in their community with the gospel, but once avid church attenders are losing interest and no longer going to church as well. Instead of addressing the issues head on and realizing the failures of evangelicalism, churches have tried to redefine what a successful church looks like, in hopes of re-wiring the minds of its members.

 Production based church: A successful church is one that produces a great experience for its attenders. Utilizing the latest technology is not sinful nor wrong but after the service is over, those serving gauge the “successful-ness” of the service based on how many “hiccups” or ” screw ups” occurred during the service. The lights have to be perfect. The sound has to be flawless. The outfits need to be coordinated. The pastor needs to be eloquent. The “flow” of the service needs to work for the people. The service needs to end “on time”. The emphasis is placed on the production.

The Worship Experience: A successful church provides a touching worship experience. I mentioned this in one of my earlier blogs (What is the goal of worship? (https://wordpress.com/post/jonscarpuzzi.wordpress.com/4 ). How can there be so much effort into the worship experience and walk away feeling satisfied even though no one connected with the Spirit? The result is like walking out of a theater after watching a great movie. It was great but it didn’t change your life. There is such a huge emphasis on the “worship experience” that I get nauseated even thinking about it now. I wanted to kick something every time someone told me “that was a great experience, it went really well”.

The Mega-Church. The formation of the Mega-church has severely warped the minds and expectations of evangelicals. Don’t get me wrong, there has been good that has happened through the mega-church movement over the years. However, evangelicalism has elevated the mega-church as it’s “pride and joy”. They highlighted the pastors of mega-churches who became the “go to” for answers on “how to grow a successful church”. They started showing the glitz and glamor of the mega-church on TV, and soon the mega-church was seen to contain all the answers to a “successful church”. As a result, theology started to exit the church almost as quickly as people streamed in. BUT according to church growth statistics, this too was a fad and is now declining. What it has left behind, among other things, is spiritual confusion, consumer-driven churches, un-fulfilment, disappointment and unfortunately–something a majority of evangelical churches are still striving to become.  It is ridiculous the amount of breath I have wasted explaining to people that the mega-church model is NOT the ultimate church that Jesus expected his church to be. It was something that was tried, and had its “heyday”…now let’s move on.

“Evangelicalism has made buildings, numbers, and paid staff its drugs for half a century.”

2. The second area of “sell out” is in the area of clinging to the “Business Model”. All of the churches I have been a part of over the years, have either adopted the “business model” of running the church, or were in the process of doing so. I have to say this for the sake of my sanity. If the church is NOT a business, it should NOT be run like one. You only run something like a business, if it is a business. Leaders that have come to believe the best way to run a church is by using the “necessary evil of a business model” have been duped to believe a lie. If a church “has to” be run as a business…there are probably a bunch of other things wrong that need to be addressed. The challenge for churches is to avoidthis model at all costs. Agreed, it may be more work but it is better than being lead astray. Churches that run by using the business model shelter their leaders from the accountability that business leaders are held to. The stage is set for total abuse of power; using God as their witness–“church leaders need to be completely respected and obeyed and never questioned”. Businesses would not be able to get away with a fraction of what church leaderships have been able to do. The “money eyes” of church leaders are completely humiliating…I have seen it first hand multiple times.

3. The third area of “sell out” is in the area of “Replacement”. If Jesus could write one sentence to the evangelical church, I think it would be, “You have replaced me”. Jesus has been replaced with the Bible, christian education, the worship experience, the preaching, the singing, the fellowship, legalism, the church culture, the building, morality, church leadership, christian bookstores…and so on. Evangelicals have such strong relationships with “Christian things”, but all those things have silently and slowly replaced a legitimate relationship with Jesus. Thus leaving evangelicals questioning their faith once one of those things are taken away. As a result, evangelicals have begun substituting their faith with books, unbiblical teachings and heretical aspirations (ie the prosperity gospel). Going hand in hand with that is the replacement and marginalization of the Holy Spirit. The evangelical version of Christianity has been able to operate without intentionally seeking the leadership, guidance and teaching of the Holy Spirit.

“There are three kinds of evangelical churches today: consumer-driven mega churches, dying churches, and new churches whose future is fragile. Denominations will shrink, even vanish, while fewer and fewer evangelical churches will survive and thrive.” –Michael Spencer

Evangelicalism doesn’t need a bailout, it has already signed a DNR. All evangelicalism needs is a funeral. Let’s remember the good, learn from the bad, bury it…and move on!  Personally, I am not mourning the impending death of evangelicalism, I am rejoicing as I know there is a new chapter that the Holy Spirit has waiting to unveil for the Church!

“Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”–Matthew 9:17

What’s the DL on “Spirit led Worship”

Let me first start by helping us better define what Spirit led worship is NOT…

  • First, it does NOT mean you get to prepare or practice less…if anything it means you need to prepare and practice MORE!
  • Second, it does NOT mean you get to go off into your own personal “la la land” of worship and leave your congregation behind.
  • Third, I know I am not speaking to the majority here, but it is NOT a time to show off. (I’ll explain this later in the blog)

So now that we know what “Spirit led” worship is not, we can head off in the right direction. Unfortunately, the Bible does not decipher between “regular worship” and “Spirit led worship” for us so we cant really go to the Scriptures and pull out an easy answer.

For me growing up, Spirit Led worship was always the alternative to stuffy, boring, planned to the “T”, structured—how “A type” people worship. As someone who has a hard time paying attention for long periods of time, the more structured a worship time, the more I felt like I wanted to scream and smash my head on the pew (this was totally my jr.high days). So by the time I started leading worship, some years later, I was drawn to the FREEDOM that “Spirit led” worship provided.

So what is “Spirit led Worship”? Well, here is my understanding: Spirit led worship is when the Worship leader/ team allows the Holy Spirit to go before them, lead, guide and execute the worship time. In my opinion, there are three levels of Spirit led worship.

  1. Level one is very basic. When planning the worship service, time is spent in prayer asking for the Holy Spirit to guide the leader to songs, scriptures or different elements in the service that will help the church meet Jesus during the worship time. Once the worship leader receives the direction of the Holy Spirit, the worship set is constructed and communication with the Spirit is stopped (I’m not trying to be a jerk…just being honest here) and the rest of the time is spent polishing the set, both musically and vocally. Song order is decided upon…and if there is any diversion from the planned set, it is severely frowned upon. You might even be called out for disobeying God..This is how a majority of our North American Churches do worship these days (90-95% planned).
  1. Level Two is more advanced: Level two takes the preparation from level one but during the service, the worship leader/team is open to the Holy Spirit’s leading. What I mean by that is that during the Worship Service, The Spirit may lead to not do a song, or to repeat a certain chorus or bridge over and over, or that there may be a time or prayer or scripture in the middle of a song that was not planned or even possibly just do a chorus or bridge from another song. Some of you just got super stressed and that’s ok! Moving from level one to level two is not meant to happen over night. It can take months or even years. It will take more practice and a heightened connection with the Spirit. But don’t get caught up in all of it though…because the main goal of leading worship is to increase our trust and faith in Jesus as we lead. As a worship leader, we should always be looking for new ways to push ourselves in our faith and reliance on Jesus. We should be afraid of getting comfortable in our worship service…because the mundane leads to atrophic worship, which then leads to the decay of our church. This style is increasingly becoming popular as a strong median (50-70% planned)
  1. Level three is usually what people understand as “Spirit led worship”. Usually the Worship leader/ team will have a repertoire of songs that they practice regularly and can perform very well. So instead of practicing all the time the week of the service, the worship leader/ team spends more time in individual and corporate prayer. They strive to be on the same page as each other and in sync with the Holy Spirit. The worship leader/ team may enter the worship service knowing a time span they has (ie. 45 min) and they may only have 2 songs agreed upon. But during the worship service, much time is devoted to prayer and the Holy Spirit leads the leader/ team to different songs/ scriptures/ choruses/ bridges that can be done to compliment the direction of the worship service. The next step in the service is not planned as the worship leader/ team is completely reliant on the Holy Spirit for direction. This style is something to be strived for but is not very common. (5-10% planned)

Now, ok lets be real here. How can worship that does not seek to push us into further reliance and faith in Jesus…be true worship? Wouldn’t that be “self dependent” of “self led” worship? But yet how many churches do we know, that are stuck in this rut? I don’t know how many times I have observed a worship service and left going, “wow they didn’t need God at all in that set…they just had to rely on themselves”. How is that pleasing to God? Sure we aren’t suppose to be showing off and drawing attention to ourselves like a concert, with drawn out instrument solos, or singing in a key or octave only you can hit, or playing a song that contains complicated words that most people have to google, to know what they mean -.-

So I guess what I am saying, is this; every worship leader/ team should learn how to lead by faith and look to increase their reliance on the Holy Spirit during their times of worship. I believe one of the main reasons why many of the churches here in North America have such bland…mundane…borning…”life sucked out of them” type worship, is not because of the songs they sing, or the style of music they play or even the instruments they use. It is a direct result of self-reliant worship…they have diminished the role and power of the Holy Spirit and his ability to overwhelmingly blow us away with a personal encounter with the Divine—that my friend is the goal of true Spirit led Worship.

Why I Choose Cuss Words

If you know me, you should know one thing; I love music. I mean, I LOVE music as in I could easily listen to over 60 hours of music a week. I enjoy almost every kind of music, from hip-hop/ rap, rock, country to punk/Emo rock, rock, dubstep/trance. It won’t take you long to realize that none of my music is the “edited version”.  Because of this, several times the remark has been made “Christians shouldn’t be listening to music with swear words in it? You know there is the edited version right?”

Yes, I am aware that edited versions exist but I purposely choose not to listen to the edited versions of songs. Why? Well here are several reasons…

First, as music is an art form and as someone who appreciates art, I feel it is unfair to the artist to listen to a version of their song without how they intended it to sound. It just like going to see the edited version of Michelangelo’s David, or the edited version of the Sistine Chapel. If the original version of the artwork is really that bad, we shouldn’t be observing or listening to it. There are songs out there that are so raunchy and completely disgusting, but I have seen people listening to them—just because it’s the edited version. (Trust me, if its just a song with a bunch of raunchy imagery and cuss words I skip right over it).

Many artist incorporate swear words to emphasize an extreme emotion or pain that they have experienced in the past or are going through. This should not be edited out, because when it is, we lose the angst and intensity that the artist wants to portray to the listeners. To me using swear words appropriately in a song, is in itself, an art.

Second, we live in a society where “Political Correctness” runs rampant without harness. I personally hate being PC, it’s just not who I am…apparently that makes me “rough around the edges” but that’s ok 🙂  The music scene is the last place that we have in our culture, that has not been completely corrupted by the “political correctness” leech…it still has pockets of rawness and legitimateness that other parts of our society have abandoned and lost. Artists are still able to express their emotions freely in a unprejudiced way…it’s still real. We need to realize that in our society we all desire realness. We are immersed in so much fakeness in our daily lives, that finding something real and untarnished is hard. Thats probably why I listen to so much music 🙂

Third, what should be our “Christian response”? It may surprise you but the Bible we read should have the “PARENTAL ADVISORY EXPLICIT CONTENT” warning on it. I could list a bunch of things that would make you super uncomfortable…like the two sisters who got their dad drunk so they could rape him and get pregnant…or the two families who agreed to swap their sons to eat for dinner because of the famine…or the person that God told to marry a prostitute…not to mention Songs of Solomon and all the gruesome murders that have been toned down for our 20th century religious readers…even the harsh language that Paul and Jesus used in the New Testament has been changed up. But yet we encourage our children to read it…just saying, this is more disturbing to me than a couple curse words in a song, unless we really don’t intend for our children to actually read it?

While at Moody, we had a pretty heated debate between those who thought like me and the more self righteous people…and toward the end of the discussion our Professor (who was also the dean) said something that really left a mark on my stance on this discussion. He said

“there are appropriate times to use swear words. The Bible does not say we are not to use swear words…when it talks about “swearing” its talking about making a vow or taking an oath. But we shouldn’t just go around using those words freely without care since we will be held accountable for every word we speak, but we should learn how to use them in the right context. As followers of Christ we need to use these words carefully, never to curse another, but use them to express intense emotion or to convey something more clearly”.

He then proceeded to tell us of a story of when he used a swear word during a church board meeting (and yes he did say “shit” in class at a Bible School).

I still remember back when I was in my early High School years there was an interview with Jon Foreman the lead man of the band Switchfoot, back when they were considered “edgy” for the Christian market and there always was this debate about who was a “Christian Band” and who wasn’t, and he said something very profound. He said,

“In order for us to understand our true spiritual condition we need to understand the F-word. We need to stop watering down and pretending that we are “ok” without Jesus…because the truth is without Jesus we are truly fucked. We aren’t screwed or at a disadvantage…we are fucked”.

Oh how true.

So, if this is the intent of swear words in music (to better convey an idea or the intensity of an emotion), then there is nothing wrong with musicians who use these words appropriately.

…my question is when will the “Christian Music Scene” start reclaiming swear words and start using them in their lyrics to express our desperate need for Jesus? (sorry if I just gave you a heart attack). Talk about a way to bridge into the lives of lost people real fast. Unless we are too concerned about our own self-righteousness to risk our reputation to save souls..