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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My Ministry Regrets…

The following is my personal regrets in regards to pastoral ministry over the past 10 years, mixed with a bit of satire. Theses regrets do not reflect on one specific church or congregation but are rather a summary of my feelings. These regrets are not meant to be taken personally, unless a personal reference is made.

 

  1. I put too much trust in the Church leaders:

Well before I even get there, I have to say that I have worked in churches where it was evident by the things certain people said or did, that they did not even have a relationship with Jesus. Like straight up disgusting decisions to lie, cheat or even treat a person differently based on their race or socio-economic status.

I made the mistake of trusting church leaders to make the right decisions and lead the church in a “godly manner” which I can admit now; was a huge regret. I would happily swap in any of my middle school kids to replace those “church elders” to serve—they would have been increasingly more effective, loving and caring. I stupidly trusted them when they said they would do something, or have my back in a decision…only to be thrown under the bus literally hours later. They will kick you when you are down.

Church leaders will always put their needs and agenda before you as a pastor. It doesn’t matter how good of a pastor you are or how much you accomplish. Once you fulfill what they want, you are dispensable—like a tampon.

  1. I should have just stuck to running programs:

I thought I knew better, I tried my best to build relationship with the people I worked with. Such as the student leaders, adult leaders and students. Relationship building is my strength, but a majority of the churches I served at, were not comfortable with that. I can recall over a dozen times where relational ministry was challenged with statements like:

“Oh…that means we have to get to know each other?”

“This makes me uncomfortable. I am not ready for this type of commitment.”

“I feel this is inappropriate.”

I apologize, we all know that Jesus was a robot who never had a relationship with anyone, which made going to the cross as non-emotional as possible. Jesus doesn’t really want a relationship with humanity…he just wants the idea of one because who would really want to get to know you?

Not sure what kind of ministry is done without “relationships” but sign me up…it might help me keep a pastoral job longer. Even Scotty P isn’t that stupid..

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  1. I underestimated the power of “church bullshit”:

Church politics? Let’s be real. It’s bullshit; straight from the pit of hell if you ask me. It disgusts me to the point of increasing my need to vomit—truth be told I actually have vomited due to church bullshit.

However, I regret that I didn’t engage in the gossip, backstabbing and slander that occurred in the churches I served in. I think it would have really opened my mind to see who in fact were the “douche-bags” in the church. I could have also exercised my passive aggressive nature to tear some people down so I could earn my stripes with the rest of the “church bullies”.

God knows I have a ton of juicy stuff people told me in confidence, affairs, lies people have been living for years, stealing from work, drug usage, habitual masturbation, church leaders who were actively abusing their children, catching couples engaging in oral sex in the church…man I could have put all that stuff on blast just like them!

Church bullshit can literally tear a church apart. Ever wonder why so many people have left your church? Yes, my finger is pointing right at it, church bullshit.

  1. I invested too much time into people:

I regret wasting my time investing in people. Let me re-phrase, wasting it on people who don’t matter. There are a handful of people in every church that are a waste of time. They are usually considered “trouble makers”, “tough kids” or “emotional sponges” but behind closed doors, church leaders call them “a waste of time”.

I normally found myself drawn to this group of people. This group would be known for their “un-church like attitudes”, smelling of body odor or drugs, their “always wanting to fight you” or tell you off and best yet, their always wanting to be with you…wherever you go.

I should have been more like Jesus, with investing my time with the righteous and the goody goodies. Jesus knew how to do ministry; un-relational, impersonal and with the righteous.

      5. I should have insisted on an hourly salary:

No joke here. Pastors are the most taken advantage among all professions. What other job do you literally work 60-70 hours a week on average, plus be available all hours of the day for immediate email response, house calls, hospital visits, phone calls AND meetings that run until 1:00am? Even if I was paid minimum wage I would have made way more than I did on salary.

If I were to take the highest monthly salary I was ever paid, and divided it by the actual hours I put in…I would come close to $6 an hour. At the end of the day, you can’t help but feel very appreciated. Thanks for showing me how much I am worth to you, truly heart warmed. Oh and I would definitely would have charged a fee every time I had to deal with church bullshit…that would add up real fast, trust me 😉

“..sorry let’s pause, before we continue please swipe your credit card for a bullshit fee, I waived it last time…but this time you gotta pay up” 😉

 

Following Jesus is ALL about Freedom

Since my last blog post, several of you have asked me to expand on what the difference between being a “Christian” and “following Jesus”? Like I said, some may see this as semantics but there are several crucial differences.

First and foremost, it starts with correctly understanding the implications of the atonement. Mainstream evangelical theology of the atonement is decently sufficient; more so the penal substitution theory–but the reality is, God has only revealed a limited amount of information on how everything worked out. No matter what view you lean towards, it is still a theory.

Nevertheless, the idea of freedom emerges once you go deeper into the atonement. The Apostle Paul was an unashamed proponent of the new found freedom that a believer has through Jesus. Paul references this idea of freedom over a dozen times in his letters to the new believers–this new freedom was a BIG DEAL!

While growing up in the Christian faith, I was taught that this “freedom” was “spiritual freedom” from sin or a “freedom” that came with certain rules and restrictions. However, this by its own definition is a contradiction.

Freedom is not truly freedom unless it is independent of all conditions

Example: In light of Independence Day here in the States, we celebrate independence and freedom from England. Now, if after the Revolutionary War in 1776 we agreed to become a free nation but yet England wanted to impose and enforce a couple of their rules and regulations on us still, I would be the first to object in saying that that is not true freedom.

America as a nation is NOT in fact a free nation either. There are still laws and restrictions. Such as immigration, taxes, legal procedures, and a bunch of things you can and cannot do. Don’t let your mind become warped…America is not a free country.

True freedom is completely separate and independent from ALL rules and regulations. Somehow in the Christian religion they have been able to sell this idea of “freedom” with it not being complete freedom. I would argue that if it is not “complete freedom” it ceases to be freedom at all.

Jesus comes to bring complete freedom (spiritual, emotional and physical) to those who follow him. A true follower of Jesus does not need any laws, rules, conditions, or guilt in order to “keep them in line” or “on the right path”. Many Christians are under the illusion that they are living in freedom but all they have done is allowed people to control them, tell them what to do, dictate their emotions and appearance…while telling them they are free. Boggles my mind.

 A follower of Jesus has been filled with the Holy Spirit which is sufficient for EVERYTHING the person will need in this life.

This differs drastically from the mainstream Christian stance, where they believe that you need these extra things to keep the person on the right path. Such as the Bible, or man made conditions; don’t drink alcohol, don’t get a tattoo, don’t get divorced, don’t smoke, don’t dress or act a certain way, don’t listen to that type of music, don’t go to that club or bar, don’t hang out with those people, don’t cuss, blah blah blah…in order to live a righteous life.

All those can be good things, don’t get me wrong; but they will never substitute the all encompassing sufficiency of the Holy Spirit. Take away the Bible, take away all the rules, regulations, cultural expectation, all the “do’s and don’ts” and take away all the conditions and just give me the Holy Spirit; that will be more than enough to help me living a life that is pleasing to God.

Trust the Holy Spirit. 

A true believer does not need the Bible to tell them to be patient or to love or that they should tell others about the true freedom that is found in Jesus, because the Holy Spirit has already been or will empress these things upon them. The Holy Spirit will lead, guide, teach, empower, strengthen, comfort, encourage and mature a person much better than anything man has set up in Christianity. When following Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes first; before anything else.

In Regards to Freedom: Following Jesus is much more than freedom from sin; but it’s a freedom to love unconditionally. Unfortunately not many believers are able to grasp this.  What this truly means is that the believer has been freed from the bonds of hate, rage, anger, stress, worry.  In the lives of one who truly claims to follow Christ, love must govern their actions and thoughts, Love must prevail over all.  You can choose to do whatever with your freedom as…. there is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ. (Extreme example: But if I were to murder someone I know Christ will forgive me and He will love me no less). However, the Holy Spirit calls us to love.

True freedom is only found in true love, therefore with your freedom, choose to love. 

Why I am no longer a Christian.

I have been on a journey over the past several years.  This journey has been instrumental in shaping my theology and understanding of life.  As some of you know, I have endured many different struggles and hurts. I have been broken, betrayed, threatened and abandoned. I’ve had people lie to my face. I’ve been judged by the things that have happened in my life and the choices I’ve made–all by people who hide behind church walls and misinterpret scripture. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but I am no longer a Christian.

Before you jump down my throat, let me explain…

What is a Christian? According to the dictionary it’s:

A follower of Christianity or the religion of Christianity”

What is Christianity?

            Christianity: “A religion based on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth”

I have to stop here; my problem is not with the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, but his teachings were not meant to be a religion.

Religion: “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.”

As someone who has been raised in the Christian Church and has even pastored for almost a decade in the Christian Church, I have to admit, Christianity is not what it’s all cracked up to be. 

Christianity has morphed into this “luke-warm, sour tasting, rancid milk” that has been left open in a hot house for a month. Trust me, you wouldn’t want to drink it, yet alone get close to it; the smell alone will make you gag. It’s not only gag-worthy but it’s aided in breeding maggots and poisonous bacteria.

People have added their own personal preferences to the Bible in order to control others.

Poorly educated people have been allowed to become influential Christian authors, who write books and get on TV to say things that the Bible really doesn’t say. All you have to do is go to the “Christian book-store” (not sure how a book-store can be Christian) and you’ll see Joel Olsteen, Joyce Meyer, Max Lucado and every author that has written a “Christian dating” book, claiming the Bible “says this”, “promises that” or “tells us to do this”…They are in it for the money. Sadly, the average Church attender won’t be able to tell the difference since they haven’t learned how to read the Bible appropriately either. (Don’t even get me started on “The Circle Maker”…talk about one of the worst ones yet.)

Christianity has been allowed to breed condemnation for people who wrestle with different struggles. Self-righteousness runs rampant. Judgment rains down upon those who choose to look, live and sin differently. It saddens me to say this, but the most racist people I have been around in my life have called themselves Christians. That’s saying something because I have been around several rough crowds of people but they held to the value of all people no matter what color of their skin of country they came from. The people who have lied to me the most and stabbed me in the back most often, have called themselves Christians. I thought there was suppose to be a difference between “Christians” and “non-Christians”? There really isn’t.  And God forbid someone chooses to follow another religion.

“Claiming to have ‘the truth’, is truth held in vain if your truth allows prejudice, racism and inhumane treatment of those who disagree with you”

For example, Christians have completely forgotten Genesis 17:20. I bring this up to prove this point: we like to pick and choose what we like from the Bible, and then we let those things, that we like, influence the formation of our religion—while having a total disregard for the important things in the Bible, that “we don’t like”.

Genesis 17:20 says “And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation.”

Yes, God blessed Ishmael and yes that Ishmael. Abraham had two sons. God, being a God who made a covenant with Abraham, kept his covenant to bless, multiply and make Abraham’s decedents a blessing to others (Gen 12:1-3). God promised to bless, multiply and make Ishmael into a great nation, just like Isaac. The only difference is found in the promise of Jesus’ coming through Isaac’s lineage.

Do I know exactly what that means? No, but what I do know is that a Christian’s understanding of Ishmael, is wrong due to the fact that they’ve ignored several important passages that could help them better understand how God has promised to protect Ishmael and his descendants (which are more commonly known as Muslims). Again, this is only one example.

Christianity is not a group of people who follow the teachings of Jesus. Christianity is a blend of Judaism, paganism, archaic eastern Arabic customs and culture that has been mixed in with fear, consumerism, rituals and morality.

Most practicing Christians wouldn’t be able to tell you when culture ends and their religion starts. Christianity does not mean adapting to “white north American” culture, yet how many times have we seen “what is acceptable in Christianity” being defined by “white culture”? Or subconsciously expected someone, who decides to become a Christian, to give up their culture and adopt “white culture”. Christianity, by all intentions has become white—and ethnocentric.

For example, let’s look at the concept of sin. In order for something to be “a sin”, it has to be independent of, and un-reliant on culture. Culture cannot define sin, for if it does, it no longer becomes sin but a cultural “faux pas” or “taboo”. For what constitutes as sin, cannot change. If sin is able to change, then that means that God changes the rules on his requirement for righteousness, but God does not change. For example, in Deuteronomy there is a clear command “Do not wear clothes of wool and linen mixed together”. Yet how many articles of clothes do we all own that are made of mixed materials? Or in Leviticus 19:26, the Israelites were told not to eat meat with blood still in it. To be honest I do like myself a nice rare stake every once in a while.

(By the way this verse is two verses away from where people get the “it’s a sin to get a tattoo” and its only 6 verses away from “When a foreigner comes to you in your land, do not mistreat them.” Perfect example on how we like to pick and choose).

I digress, so are those sins or not? My understanding was that these laws were given to God’s people in a specific context thousands of years ago. They weren’t given specifically to me. Does sin change then? Actually, no. Sin is not so much a “do this” and “don’t do that”. God has given an overarching command, which is to love and obey Him. Therefore, whatever He asks of you, or me, we must in love, obey–and it’s different for everyone.  Not loving and obeying God, is truly the definition of sin. The Bible contains examples of previous instructions that were given to people–not necessarily prescriptive for us to follow exactly today.

We have to understand sin in the context of God. The one character that governs all of God’s actions is love; and to that, it’s the highest form of love. God IS Agape. Therefore, a more appropriate understanding of sin is this:

Sin is any action that is done that lacks the perfect amount of  full agape love. In the end, it doesn’t matter how good of an act we do if it’s lacking love or obedience to God.

God expects love to emanate from all aspects and actions. Murder, hatred, selfishness etc…those are not loving.

The problem now, is that we have allowed our understanding of sin to be developed by culture and morality rather than God. This has led to self-righteousness (because the emphasis has been put on “don’t do this, don’t do that”. So a person who stares at the wall their whole life becomes “righteous” because they have never done anything wrong, or so they believe).

When considering sin, we should be asking instead,

“Does what I am about to do, say or think, demonstrate the Love that God has called me to emanate?”

Jesus gave clear instructions on how to follow him. These commands were not tied to any specific culture. There is no legalistic expectations, but unconditional love. Religiosity has no place in his teachings. Fear is replaced with trust in his sovereignty and perfect love. Hate is replaced with Love. Love for all, not just those that are like you, or those who like you. Christianity today, has strayed drastically from what Jesus taught, however His expectations for those who say they follow him remain the same. “Love as I have loved you”. Simple yet very challenging.

“Salvation is not found in the church nor in Christianity. Salvation can only be found in the person of Jesus Christ.”

I am no longer a Christian. I follow Jesus now. I am going to allow his love; Spirit and power, change me from the inside out. I seek to allow his love express itself through my brokenness. I gather with people who are broken and also follow Jesus; where we seek to love and change the world together, through His love. Some may call this semantics but for me this is life altering.