THE FORGOTTEN POWER

No matter how thin you slice baloney, it’s still baloney.  And, almost everything pastors are told about church growth is baloney. Most of it leads to frustration and disillusionment. Think about it.  Most pastors have taken those trendy courses on church growth. If that is true, then why are so few churches growing?

Here’s the big lie: Fix your organization, your brand, and your staff, if you want your church to grow.  And, hasn’t this worked in many cases?  In many cases? No.  But has it worked in some cases?   Yes, but only because even a blind dog finds a bone once in a while.

How then can we explain the overnight success of some church-plants? If what you mean is more like a franchise then, yeah, that’ll work—because they pour millions into establishing a franchise copy of an existing mega church.   Hello?  Is anyone offering you millions of dollars and vast expertise to help you build your church?

Given enough marketing money, I could get a thousand people to come watch yogurt mature. But is it a crowd you want, or is it a Holy Spirit-built army of Christ-following converts?  To paraphrase Paul, “If I master all the tricks in the how-to-fill-a-church seminar, but do not have a congregation who deeply loves Jesus, I am just another mega-church. If I have a room full of a thousand spoiled spectators, it profits me nothing.”

Some of our good friends shake their heads at the advertising we use for our tent crusades. Our cards say, “Come and experience the love and power of Jesus Christ.” Our friends almost feel sorry for our lack of salesmanship and seem embarrassed that we are being so obvious about our intentions. What they don’t see is what kind of crowd we want. We want people who are hungry for a miracle.  We are not trying to hide anything, and people are weary of being tricked. But more importantly, our cards are soaked in prayer. The crowds come for the right reason—because they have been drawn by the Holy Spirit.

I have many things to say about how churches can grow, but I am going to focus on my favorite factor in growth—one that is greatly underrated: THE EXCITEMENT OF THE PASTOR. Here are the reasons an excited leader is both powerful and crucial.

 

1. Excitement is infectious. A sincerely excited leader has an amazing impact on people. The electricity of a leader who is genuinely excited will draw the crowds without any gimmicks or hype.

Here is an example: Transit authorities in the Northeast have spent a lot of money on advertising, begging people to use their services, and they still can’t get commuters to use public transportation. Meanwhile, millions pour into Disneyland to ride trains that don’t go anywhere. The difference is excitement.

Fresh vision chases away depression. Even eloquence is at the mercy of excitement.  We don’t need more teaching seminars. I fear we’ve been taught to death. We need to pour gasoline on our sermons, and light them on fire.

2. Excitement finds a way. The changes in culture are dizzying. The challenge to build great works for God today is daunting. However, if you leave the challenge in the hands of genuinely excited vessels of God, they will find a way. They have the relentless will to conquer by the simple use of prayer and obedience.

3. Excitement doesn’t care about things that don’t matter. The excited leader is not just living their dream, they are a walking miracle. Imagine Lazarus the day after he was raised from the dead. You couldn’t offend him. You couldn’t scare him and you couldn’t make him feel insecure.

Beloved brother and sister in the ministry, we are not far from being a Lazarus! The truly excited pastor doesn’t care about criticism—doesn’t need the approval of men—doesn’t dread a lack of funds. Paul wrote, “Yea, in all these things we are more than conquerors…”

If an excited pastor is a boon to a church, then there is nothing more devastating than a discouraged and broken hearted shepherd. The last thing that leader ever needs to do is go to a church growth seminar. Any pastor who is wounded and broken from the thankless task of ministering to a fickle generation takes a terrible risk by going to a church growth seminar. Even if they get some growth from the shallow advice being given, it will gravely disappoint them because a wounded heart won’t feel any joy in success.  And, if they don’t see any growth, it could be devastating since it reinforces hopelessness and can lead to despair.

Have you ever broken a pastor’s heart? If so, the damage went far beyond what you realize.

Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give an account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” Unprofitable to say the least!

If I could blend the fresh fire that is in the heart of a first year Bible college student with the wisdom of a pastor who has been forged in the crucible of battle, I would have a weapon that is guaranteed to shake the very timbers of hell!  Get your excitement back—by the power of the Holy Spirit—and church growth will happen!

Mario’s new book will awaken you to your assignment in God’s greatest work in the Earth. It’s $15 each or $12 for ten or more. Get a signed copy plus free shipping by clicking here.  https://mariomurillo.org/product/vessels-of-fire-glory/ 

 

Programming

A man of God and his wife, who are dear friends of mine, were placed in an awkward but all too familiar situation recently. They were at a reception with other spiritual leaders when hard liquor was offered to them. They politely refused and slowly excused themselves, trying hard to mask their shock.

That is not the end of it. A “prophet” later confronted them and told them that they were being legalistic for not drinking. He went so far as to say that unless they got in line with the new “revelation of freedom,” their church would not grow.

 This is no longer a case of just saying drinking is okay. Now they are saying you should be drinking if you want to be in the flow. That “flow” is part of a scheme for rapid church growth that compromises many other areas of Christian life—and programs believers to backslide. The Bible predicted this deception…

Isaiah 59:15 says, “So truth fails, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. Then the Lord saw it, and it displeased Him that there was no justice.” Some pastors today are attacking church members who seek to be holy…accusing them of a having a religious spirit.

 Have we really come to the point where believers are making themselves a target by pursuing holiness?  The answer is a loud, “YES!” Many churches in America have become mere factories that are churning out converts who are preprogrammed to backslide. And don’t fool yourself, this church growth machine is found even in spirit-filled churches…even in so-called ‘revival’ churches.

 Holiness is now rejected and called a ‘religious spirit.’ Satan rejoices at this, because it has created the greatest display of false success in the history of the church. Many churches are now conveyor belts that attract large numbers of people only to have them rapidly fall off at the end of the belt.

In fact, the ones who fall off may be the fortunate ones, since there is a chance that they will crash and burn and eventually come to their senses in true repentance. But, woe to those who are backslidden and don’t even realize it, because they have been taught the lie that they can never backslide!

 

 The growth we celebrate today is a grand illusion that hides the greatest turnover ratio ever.

Doesn’t this explain why so many believers have been deceived by these false teachings, and have been reclaimed by the enemy? Doesn’t this explain why the church has no authority to push back against the flood of evil in our nation? How can we field an army of warriors when the church is setting them up to fail? Forgive me, but I am about to get passionate!

How can it be that the very vessels chosen of God to equip the saints, have instead conspired to create a system that rewards carnality and shames holiness?

Listen to most sermons today. They give the impression that the church has exhausted herself trying to serve God, or that she has overdone sacrifice—that now she needs vast portions of comfort food.  That’s the way it sounds when ministers keep telling them to relax, and quit trying so hard, because, ‘Daddy is so pleased with them.’

 Even after there’s proof that a congregation has become a listless, flabby, biblically illiterate club of moody consumers—preachers will still heap on them one more message of pampered entitlement.  Forgive me…but it’s kind of like handing a diabetic a case of Snickers bars.

Sundays are too often a celebration of how much God lets you get away with. Pastors are giving sermons full of soothing guarantees that confuse God’s love with His approval.

1 John 5:4 says “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”

There are two things to take away from this promise. The first is that a major goal of the child of God is to overcome the world. That goal is largely missing in modern preaching—preaching that sees the world as a kind of ‘friend’ and not as a mortal enemy. (15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. I John 2:15).  Secondly, it shows us the desperately urgent place of faith—faith that overcomes! That is also missing.

 We program failure when it is not clear at the moment of conversion that we must die to our own will, and Christ must become Lord of our existence. That is an ultimatum that cannot be postponed. Without it, you are producing new converts who will have no power to overcome evil. They will have no hope of growing in faith. You are robbing them of the joy of the Lord!

Repentance, spiritual warfare, and the authority of the believer, are all subjects that would protect the child of God and help them stand against the enemy. But these preachers never get around to these truths because they are afraid it will stop the influx of people. Think of that!

Gently suggest the church could go deeper—call for more prayer meetings—voice concern about inappropriately dressed women—tell them you don’t want to party with them, and they will scream, “YOU HAVE A RELIGIOUS SPIRIT!”

What was once normal discipleship is now ‘legalism.’  Anything that dampens their festivities is judgmental. What have we done?  We have unleashed a counterfeit liberty.  These are not the features of a Spirit-led people.  These are the clear symptoms of people with sick souls deceived and careening toward disaster.

 But the final nail in the coffin of this deception is this: It is utterly unnecessary to compromise to get a crowd. Jesus never had trouble getting a crowd. That is why He focused on changing the crowd. Go ahead and boast about growth, but you must do it at the expense of truth—the truth that while churches grow, the nation is dying—and the very people tasked by God to save America are having zero impact!

The greatest gift God can send a church is a holy child of God whose heart is for revival.  A holy child who longs for the fire, glory, and power of God to electrify the church.  Make them your enemy and you have also made an enemy out of God. Woe unto you, if you have ever called holiness a religious spirit.   God bless you, if you love holiness and understand what a treasure it is!  1 Timothy 6: 6 “Now, godliness with contentment is great gain.”

 Thank God that at this critical hour the Holy Spirit is separating to Himself a core of Christians. These are pastors and regular believers who are praying to go deeper into God. They are busy saying to each other, “This sideshow is not God! There is so much more! No way can Satan win if we take our stand on the authority of the cross!”

 He is imbuing them with boldness, wisdom, signs and wonders, and most of all…a blazing passion for holiness!

 “Pursue peace with all people, and pursue holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” – Hebrews 12:14 

 

 

The Best Kind of Church

What is the best kind of church for this dark hour?  What kind of church transcends outward success and has true impact? What kind of church does not kill its pastor or crank out lukewarm believers?

Right now God is recruiting men and women to lead a new kind of congregation. He is asking for volunteers to build churches that can save America. He is offering you a glorious opportunity to build a storm proof, battle tested family of believers.   An army who will not just survive, they will thrive.

I am writing to the sincere, brokenhearted pastor and to the people who love that pastor. I want this to be a word that brings life, hope and direction. You will not hear this in any seminar on church growth. It is a radical departure from what you have been told.  But there is no doubt this will work.

1. Let go. Let go of the stress of human church growth models. Let go of the nasty people—both the pharisitic who criticizes all you do and the parasitic who sucks the life out leadership.  Let go of the pressure to please anyone but God.  Let go of the fear of finances. Let go of the fear of failure. Now what are you left with? You are in a complete state of joyous dependency on God. 

2. Seek Jesus. I am absolutely telling you to break away and seek God. Don’t seek guidance. Don’t seek provision. Don’t seek growth. Just seek Jesus until He is more real than anything you fear.

David Wilkerson said this after Christ set him free from man made ministry: “Now, my greatest joy is waiting upon Him for direction. I have made time to be alone with Him, and have prepared my soul to abide in His quiet presence. He is letting me sense what the Spirit is saying to this generation. The more He empties me, the more He fills me with a desire to depend only on Him for everything. I see now that all along the Lord was waiting for me to lay down all my plans, all my ambitions, and be given over to Him as a bond slave. The sweat is now gone – the pressure is off. He is recreating all my values.”

3.Tell the people they are destroyers of the works of the devil. Does that sound oversimplified or strange? The fact is, this is the most lethal announcement Satan will ever hear in your church .

1 John 3: 8 tell us that Jesus was purpose driven: “for this purpose was the Son of God revealed that He might destroy the works of the devil.”  However, the purpose that drove Him was totally unlike what modern preachers love to talk about.  Jesus is a destroyer of the works of the devil.  Why is that important to note?

It shows the people the purpose that should drive them.  They are an extension of the purpose of Christ and not some freelance boring substitute. So much is said about being purpose driven. Here is the purpose!

If the people redefine themselves as destroyers of the works of the devil it will instantly transform your meetings. Gone is the harmless fellowship or self-help seminars. From this point on, church services are demonstrations of the power of God and training sessions for your people to go out and destroy the works of the devil.

Your people will cease to attend church to do time, or learn to tread water. They will expect miracles. That part is the key to reaching modern America.  If church becomes a center for Holy Spirit led signs and wonders. If the moving of the Spirit is free and balanced then outsiders will see undeniable proof of the power of Christ. That becomes the attraction.

Today we have been ushered into one of two extremes in church models. One is totally entertainment business model that runs like a machine. The other, sadly, is a model of reaction where declining attendance and religious defiance drives preachers to preach angry sermons and put increasing bondage on their dwindling numbers.

Church should attract but for the right reason. When the reason is right it, brings people who are hungry for truth, who need a miracle, who yearn for deliverance from addiction, perversion and all the damage of our sick and stupid culture.

Best of all they not only come—they stay. You don’t have to cater to their whims because they have met Christ and have been ruined by His glory.

4.Give the Holy Spirit actual and not symbolic control to make revival sustainable. Once you start growing and the crowds come, you will need wisdom from beyond this world to make it sustainable. Don’t violate the power that brought you this miracle by falling back into human wisdom and old habits. Determine to make your dependency on the Holy Spirit real not symbolic or mystical. The more you do this the clearer His guidance will become.

How can you not try this? If the possibility exists for a congregation that is excited, unselfish, supernatural and uniquely forged to save America why wouldn’t you be open? I pray you will!

Is God doing a secret work in you?

Mario Murillo says, “Many Christians are fed up with the world system—especially the way it operates in the church.  They leave church thinking, ‘this is not it, there’s something bad wrong here.’  They can’t stomach the glitzy entertainment centers anymore…”

IS GOD DOING A SECRET WORK IN YOU?

by Mario Murillo

Many Christians are fed up with the world system—especially the way it operates in the church.  They leave church thinking, “this is not it, there’s something bad wrong here.”  They can’t stomach the glitzy entertainment centers anymore.

They are angry at ego-centric pastors with grandiose, expense and carnal visions.  They accuse them of being distracted—even derailed from their first love.   Disciples are abandoning attraction churches—something revolutionary is happening inside them.  God has started a secret work in them.

Many honest Pastors are also in divine turmoil.  The enemy condemned them for having a smaller church.   After years of blood sweat and tears their churches were battered, broken and diminished because they can’t compete with mega-mania.

And why can’t they compete? It’s because they keep their integrity!   When they see large crowds and big money pour effortlessly into churches that either hide or pervert the Gospel…it’s easy to feel like a fool for staying true.  The Bible says, “Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, And washed my hands in innocence. For all day long I have been plagued, and chastened every morning.” Psalm 73:13,14.

However, our friend in Psalm 73 came to a great conclusion. After being bull-dozed by the success of the wicked he took action “16 When I thought how to understand this, It was too painful for me—17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God; Then I understood their end.”  Many pastor’s  hearts are crying out for more—for a miracle they can’t even describe.

When he entered the sanctuary exhausted and discouraged, the greatness of God began to overtake him.  He saw that there is no version of this battle where Satan wins.  This is a part of the secret work God is doing in pastors!

A growing number of hungry hearts agree—with all its money and crowds—the compromised church did nothing to rebuke America’s sin.  The seeker model was a house of cards against the onslaught on the unborn and marriage.  While men slept, we had millions of abortions and marriage was destroyed.  The last 10 years we have lost battle after battle in government, education and the media.  We are a hopelessly divided nation—to a large extent the pulpit is to blame.

Charles Finney said, “If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the public press lacks moral discernment, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses its interest in Christianity, the pulpit is responsible for it. If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it.”

Deep, deep in my soul where the real knowing happens—I know God is doing something new.  Every atom of my being tells me that God is doing a secret work in His people.  God is finished with hirelings.  He is drawing a remnant out of corruption and into a special, supernatural nearness to Him.  They will empty themselves of everything, every ambition will be burned out but one…to love and please Christ.

Is God doing a secret work in you?  Has God closed you in and stripped you of all enjoyment of lesser things?  Are you in divine frustration because you are going to be a part of something only God can do?

What if millions of Americans get so miserable that they cry out to God in total desperation?  What if their cry is too deep and their hunger is too great to ever be happy in a lukewarm church?  This is why the Holy Spirit is recruiting a new breed…a breed that can be trusted in an awakening.

God is doing a secret work!  He is pulling a remnant to Himself.  He is taking the prophetic core and communing with them—training them—empowering them—preparing them for one last mighty blast of power.  The Holy Spirit sees that our nation hangs by a thread.  The death-rattle is in America’s throat.   Before God allows destruction—He is going to do one last massive miracle.  What will that look like?

-People no one’s ever heard of will come to the forefront.  They will arrive with awesome power and piercing messages.  Not all of them will be regular ministers.  In fact, the majority will not leave their secular careers as God is using them.  Some will be children!

-Strange locations will house massive outpourings.  Churches that have been small for years will become ground zero of God’s presence.   People will flock in from everywhere to these centers of fire and glory.  Stunning signs and wonders will rock entire communities.  These churches will be forced to stay open 24 hours a day.

God is doing a secret work in you.  He is making you miserable to make you into a miracle.  

A.C. Valdez was a child at Azusa Street who later became an evangelist.  God showed him the future and here is what he said:  “All the electrifying adjectives in the dictionary shaken together, pressed down and running over will not begin to describe the soon-to-come, greatest outpouring of the Holy Spirit of all times-what the Bible calls “the latter rain.”  You are going to see lay members carry out an amazing ministry through gifts of the Holy Spirit.  There will be wholesale cures of “incurable” conditions, healings of the blind, deaf, dumb, and handicapped, and creative miracles that will strain the imagination.  For those born without eyes ears, fingers arms or legs-or those who have lost them through disease or accidents- God will make new ones. Many astonishing miracle swill happen to bring on an international Christian breakthrough.”  I believe A.C. Valdez is not talking about a time far off in the future.. he is talking about now because, my friend it is now or never.

We are only days away from the Warrior’s Workshop in Houston

Something big is coming to Houston:  If you live anywhere near Houston today is the last day to register! Give me 3 hours and you will be revolutionized.  Why not you?  Become the weapon our nation needs now.

By Mario Murillo

 

Millions of Christians are done with watered-down Christianity.   To them, it has been a terrible waste of time and money.  They say that modifying the Gospel “not to offend” totally backfired.   By omitting the “offensive” parts they also removed its power to transform society and contributed to the present downfall of our nation.

They are intensely frustrated.   They see large churches filled with people who are systematically weakened—too weak to ever impact American culture.  They say we are losing the battle for America’s soul for stupid reasons.  They remember the legacy of true Christianity.  They know its power to change nations.

We have the best message humanity has ever heard—and the best book ever written.   We have the all-powerful Holy Spirit sent to aid us.   We have access to power, strategy and wisdom.  All of this and more was supposed to direct our operations.

They ask disturbing questions.  Why have we cast it aside?  Why have we accepted a cheap substitute?  Why would we rather let America die than admit our desperate need?

Warriors workshop tease

But they also see their own need.  A fast growing number of Jesus followers want training and power.  They want the skills of their spiritual ancestors.  They want the Jesus within them to overtake the culture around them.  They want to convert lost souls to Christ.  They want to see true signs and wonders.  They want to see victory in their everyday life.

God forged a new weapon at Mario Murillo Ministries—a weapon that answers the monumental, unspoken frustration in the heart of millions of believers.  It will yank believers out of the Christian Witness Protection Program and turn them into lions.

We call it the Warrior’s Workshop.  A workshop that makes a bold claim:  With just 3 skills we’ll revolutionize America.  You will get these skills at my Warrior’s workshop…a workshop that took me 40 years to build.

The best way I can describe it is this:  The object of military training is not to prepare men for war but to make them long for it.   The same is true of this workshop—it makes you yearn to reach out—heal the sick—and walk in total victory.

Give me just 3 hours and you will be revolutionized.   Why not you? You can become the effective weapon our nation needs now.  See you there!

signature

 

 New Houston AD

Sign up now there are only a few days left!  Saturday September 17th at 10: AM at New Life Church 10800 Hammerly Blvd, Houston, TX 77043

The workshop is FREE but you need to register.  Click on the link below to register instantly.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

The Warrior’s Workshop is going nationwide!  If you are interested in bringing the Warrior’s Workshop to your city contact us!

CLICK HERE TO CONTACT US

THE COMING PERSECUTION AND THE COMING POWER

 turth

Editor’s note:   In case you missed it we are reposting it.  If you read it, reread it now in the light of what is happening.

THE COMING PERSECUTION AND THE COMING POWER

By Mario Murillo

As I prayed, I experienced colliding emotions of dread and excitement.  The Holy Spirit made it clear that persecution against Christians is going to spike in the United States in the next few months.  He also made it clear that this would touch off a towering flow of miracles of healing.

I was led to a specific moment recorded in the Book of Acts: Acts 12:1-3, “Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. 2 Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. 3 And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also.”

That mood, the one that pleases people when Christians are harassed and blamed, is upon us.  I am warning you that it will start within weeks, and the mindless ferocity of it will surprise you.

mood

Satan wants America destroyed.   It is the grand prize.  With America gone, the devil can unleash worldwide devastation.   But the global tyranny that he craves cannot happen until the American firewall is removed.

He also knows that he can only destroy America from within.  Somehow, he must pit us against each other. 

The only deterrent to civil war at this point is Christianity. Notice that I do not say the church, I say Christianity.  The church is sidelined by equal parts division and denial.  The Christianity that seeps out despite religion is the only thing protecting us.

The only reason there was no rioting, looting, or arson in Charleston was Christians.  Individual believers, under the impulse of faith and forgiveness, won the day.

The devil’s weapon of choice is hate.  He must foment hate.  Today, that hate is coming from secular progressives who seek social justice. The things that were once loving, moral and trustworthy, including marriage, manhood, military service, freedom of speech, witnessing, the Bible and, yes, freedom itself, are now hateful.

Don’t let them fool you with the term “new normal.”  Their new normal is nothing but the old abnormal.

Hitler fueled a frenzy of hatred by blaming anything and everything bad on the Jews. He created a new form of right and wrong that made it your duty to hate Jews.

Today, as it was in Nazi Germany, only one side of the story is allowed in the media.  Only one narrative is legal.  That narrative redefines every element of our daily lives.  Even Tylenol has a commercial meant to brainwash you about gay marriage.

Why on earth would Tylenol feel the need to weigh in on gay marriage?  The answer is chilling: it is economics.   This is an early version of the mark of the beast.  The beast will bankrupt any business that stands against gay marriage.  You are not allowed an opinion on this or any other pet peeve of the social justice movement.

My great heartache is in the fact that God has been lovingly warning the American Church.  He has repeatedly ordered the church to stand as one against immorality, but she has flatly refused.  God reserves the right to allow persecution if it will wake up the church and spare the nation.

lovingly

Look at these verses: Isaiah 8:5-8, “The Lord also spoke to me again, saying: 6 “Inasmuch as these people refused the waters of Shiloah that flow softly, and rejoice in Rezin and in Remaliah’s son; 7 Now therefore, behold, the Lord brings up over them the waters of the River, strong and mighty—The king of Assyria and all his glory; He will go up over all his channels and go over all his banks. 8 He will pass through Judah, He will overflow and pass over, He will reach up to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings will fill the breadth of Your land, O Immanuel.”  Why would God side with Israel’s enemy?  They had rejected the countless gentle tugs and warnings.

Is there any good news in this?  There is much good news, but only for a certain group.  A core of Christians who refuse to side with the compromised church, and who are seeking Jesus, will be protected and used mightily. 

After this, Herod arrested Peter, but an angel appeared and brought him out.  This miracle ignited the church.  I am telling you what the Holy Spirit has told me.  Every vessel that seeks God right now will receive greater power and greater miracles.

vessel

Call it legend, call me crazy, but I know that this wave of persecution is here.  We can turn it all around.  We can regain lost ground.  Those who disobey God cannot escape this misery and those who obey God will not be denied special grace and increased supernatural power.

HOW CELEBRITY, CONSUMERISM & COMPETITION ARE KILLING THE CHURCH

HOW CELEBRITY, CONSUMERISM & COMPETITION ARE KILLING THE CHURCH

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Obituary for the American Church

by Mike Breen

From time to time I will have the people I’m discipling write out their own pastoral obituary. I ask them to write out how our enemy would take them out, rendering them unable to serve their family and communities. As you can imagine, the answers vary, but always serves as a really helpful exercise as they are forced to confront issues of character, etc.

You see, taking the same exercise I’ve used with pastors, for the past year I’ve been thinking how the enemy would/might be trying to take down the American church. Now what I’ve noticed is that the original temptations Jesus faced (which can best be boiled down to Appetite, Affirmation and Ambition) are somehow warped and insinuated into the culture.

As each culture is distinct and different, a smart enemy would come at each culture in subtle ways, tempting them in ways they don’t see or expect, and with things that would look different from culture to culture.

For instance, the issues the European church deal with are actually quite different than the ones the American church is dealing with – even though often times they are put under the same broad umbrella of “Western Church.” Sure, there are some similarities, but the attack is different. More nuanced.

But those original temptations of Appetite, Affirmation and Ambition are slowly insinuating themselves into everything we call CHURCH. We just often don’t recognize it or see it.

And so this is how, if our enemy gets his way, the American church could be taken out:

A culture of CELEBRITY (affirmation)

A culture of CONSUMERISM (appetite)

A culture of COMPETITION (ambition)

The original temptations of Appetite, Affirmation and Ambition are creeping into everything we call CHURCH.

CELEBRITY

The idea of celebrity is deeply woven into American culture and values. All you have to do is look at the ridiculous nature of Reality TV and you see how Americans are constantly craving celebrity (either to be a celebrity or to find the next celebrity and stalk their every move).

Now there is nothing dark or sinister about “celebrity” in and of itself. You can’t find an argument that says Jesus wasn’t a huge celebrity in his day.

(continued…)

However, there is a difference between being famous and being significant. If Jesus was famous, it’s because he was doing something significant. The problem with many pastors is they make decisions, develop personas and define success from the lens of what will make them a celebrity/famous (even if they don’t know it or see that they are doing this).

So in American church culture, it’s pretty easy to become a celebrity: Grow a HUGE church. Now all in all, it’s not terribly difficult to grow to be a giant church if you have the right tools at your disposal – but that doesn’t mean the ends justify the means of getting there.

For instance, though Jesus was a celebrity in his day, he was willing to say things that ran people off in droves. In fact, the book of Mark chronicles the way (from about the mid-point of the book on) how people left Jesus to where, at the end, virtually no one was left. NO ONE wants to be associated with him for fear of the consequences.

That’s a Charlie Sheen-esque flameout (obviously without the character issues!). That’s not something you see too often in American churches.

I suspect it’s because riven deeply into the American psyche is the desire to be a celebrity. And American pastors are very susceptible to this. Many subtle things happen in people who desire to this kind of celebrity status:

* They can disengage community and isolate themselves, setting themselves up for moral failure.

* They can make decisions that are numbers driven and not always Kingdom driven.

* They can skew to a shallow understanding of the Gospel as opposed to a holistic one that leads people to discipleship.

* They can put the good of their church (their personal Kingdom) over the good of God’s Kingdom.

Question: In what ways are your decisions made by a subtle undercurrent of ambition and a hope for celebrity?

CONSUMERISM

We live in a culture that revolves around consuming. Every TV commercial, every store, every credit card company, every bank, every TV show or movie, every piece of clothing, car or product, every website, every restaurant every everything is tailored to fit your desires, needs or personal preference.

We are easily infuriated when things don’t happen exactly as we want them. We exist in a place that implicitly says this: “We are here to serve you and meet your every whim and desire. Let us take care of you.” What’s more, it’s never enough.

We live in a culture that revolves around consuming.(continued…)

Eventually the house or the car get older and we want new ones. The clothes aren’t as fashionable and we want something more in style. That restaurant is getting boring, we must find another. Our favorite TV show is wearing thin, so the search begins for the next favorite. And on and on and on.

This is how we are wired to think in the United States. And it is all backed up by this rationale: You’re worth it. You deserve to have what you want, how you want it, when you want it. And for the most part, the church plays the exact same game.

We do as best we can to provide as comfortable an experience as humanly possible, using every means at our disposal to attract them in (and then keep them in). So we tailor what we do around their wants and desires. That’s Marketing 101, right? The problem is at the end of the day, the only thing that Jesus is counting is disciples.

That’s it.

He doesn’t seem to care too much about converts, attendance, budgets or buildings. It’s about disciples. And, by nature, disciples are producers, not consumers.

Yet most of our churches are built around feeding consumers. I’d argue 90% of the church’s time, energy and resources are linked to this. But the issue is this: The means you use to attract people to you are usually the means you must use to keep them. In other words, if you use consumerism to attract them to your church, it often means you must continue using it to keep them or else they will find another church who will meet their “needs.” And yet, that consumer mentality is antithetical to the Gospel and to the call of Discipleship.

Disciples aren’t consumers, they are producers. Jesus cared about disciples more than anything else.

The means you use to attract people to you are usually the means you must use to keep them.

Question: In what ways is your church community using consumerism as the means to draw people to a Gospel that is, in and of itself, anti-consumerism?

COMPETITION

You will never find a more hyper-competitive culture than you do in the United States. As a foreigner living in this land, I can attest to that with the utmost respect. Americans love to win, they love the struggle of the journey and love holding up the gold medal of victory. Now don’t hear me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with being competitive, it’s just how competition has become warped and twisted within our culture. And it’s that, at least in the church, we are competitive about the wrong things.

Much of the American church finds itself competing with the church down the road. “Are we bigger than them? Do we have more influence than them? Do we have the best/biggest youth group in town? Do people like to get married in our church building? Do people like our church better than theirs? ”

The fact of the matter is that there is a battle, we do have an enemy and we should be competitive – but against our enemy! What we haven’t seen is how crafty he is. This seems to be the alliance he has struck with the American church: “I’ll let a good chunk of your churches grow, just not at the expense of my territory.”

Disciples aren’t consumers, they are producers. Jesus cared about disciples more than anything else.FREE eBook, Simple Ways To Be Missional, when you sign up for our FREE email updates. Enter your email address below to download your free eBook:

And so what happens? 96% of church growth is due to transfer growth and not churches striking into the heart of our enemy’s territory. We’ll consider it a win because we have the new service or program that is growing – but that growth is mainly from people coming from other churches. That’s not a win! That’s a staggering loss.

Furthermore, for many pastors, we don’t think we’ve won until we’ve won AND someone else has lost. Seriously?! For sure, we have an enemy and we should be competitive, but we should be competing against our enemy, knowing that the final battle has already been won, and not competing against our own team members.

(continued…)

So gifted and skilled is our enemy, so conniving is he, that he has convinced us that beating the people on our own team is victory while he stands back and laughs, rarely having to ever engage in conflict, protecting his territory. He is beating us with a slight of hand, with a clever distraction, turning us against ourselves. Question: In what ways are you competing (both in actuality or simply in your mind) against people who are on your own team?

In all honesty, it isn’t that the American church will ever truly die or cease to exist. It will always be there. But it is entirely possible that if these three critical issues aren’t addressed and dealt with, it will be a hallow shell that is spiritually listless.

If we think through Celebrity, Consumerism and Competition, the anti-body against all of these is sacrifice. Learning to lay down what builds us up and giving to others instead. Learning to serve, rather than to be served. Looking for anonymity rather than celebrity. To build a culture of producers rather than a consumers.

To live in a vibrant, sacrificial community fighting a real enemy rather than competing against the same community God has given us to fight WITH rather than AGAINST. It’s about sacrificing what we want for the glory of God and the advancement of his Kingdom, regardless of our advancement or desires.

Clearly this is what Paul was getting after in Philippians 2:6-11 when describing the attitude of Jesus as taking on the attitude of a servant, willing to sacrifice all acclaim and equality with God. It was a willingness to set aside and sacrifice celebrity, consumerism and competition at the altar of the incarnation.

Fifty years ago, as these three subtle threads were being woven into the American church, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., serving as a prophetic voice, said this:

If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.

We are now into the second decade of the 21st century and we find ourselves still, for the most part, refusing to sacrifice what we want for what God is asking of us and his Church. Will we have the courage to sacrifice as Christ sacrificed? Will we do the things that cost us so that his Kingdom may advance?