The Death of Reverence

CAN YOU DEFINE REVERENCE?

While contemplating this article I conducted an extremely non-scientific, anecdotal experiment. Basically, I asked several people from various backgrounds (religious, irreligious and a few in between) to define the word reverence as best they could without googling it or phoning a friend. As you can imagine, the answers were varied to say the least: Some were spot on (mostly the extremely religious), others defined reverence as some type of fear (mostly the mildly religious), several thought reverence was a title for priests or clergy (mostly the irreligious), and a handful simply didn’t know how to define the word reverence at all. If they were willing to play along, I also asked them to define the words sacred, hallowed, consecrated, holy, and inviolable (if you’re like most people you had to google inviolable). People’s attempts to define these words sorted out in pretty much the same way as it did for the word reverence.

Douglas Rushkoff is a widely acclaimed media theorist, writer and university professor. His name might not be familiar to you, but you’ve used phrases he coined. Phrases like “viral media” and “social currency” originated with Rushkoff. Some of his thoughts on socialization and technology are fascinating. His theories have silently impacted your life in more ways than one.

THE YOUNG & THE IRRELIGIOUS!

Pollsters, social scientists, and statisticians are super interested in putting us all into nice little categories. In reality, humans are far more complex and less monolithic than we have been led to believe. However, it’s increasingly clear from stats that the elderly are much likelier than younger generations to be religious.

Rest assured, many young adults are extremely religious, but there is an ever-widening gap between the religious and the irreligious. Meaning, the “in-betweeners” are disappearing. People are either becoming more religious than ever or joining the growing number of atheists. So, the question is why? Why is this gap ever widening and what can be done about it? From the secular perspective, nirvana can be reached by eradicating pesky religious notions. It’s a naive and ludicrous idea.

THE MEANINGLESSNESS CONUNDRUM

Douglas Rushkoff is one of many vogue atheists who laid the groundwork for secularizing modern young minds. Here’s a popular and particularly nauseating quote from Rushkoff:

“It’s also hard for people to contend with the difficult possibility that we are simply overadvanced fungi and bacteria hurtling through a galaxy in cold, meaningless space. But just because our existence may have arisen unintentionally and without purpose doesn’t preclude meaning or purpose from emerging as a result of our interaction and collaboration. Meaning may not be a precondition for humanity as much as a by-product of it.”

THE MEANINGLESS FALLOUT!

It’s almost painful to read Rushkoff, and countless others like him, trying to deal with the conundrum of meaninglessness that secularism produces. All the pandering platitudes and pointless philosophizing in the world can’t reconcile the awful emptiness that godlessness produces. Rushkoff’s quote reeks of desperation. It’s as if he’s trying to force the square peg of meaning into the circular slot of secularism. To his credit, at least he’s making an attempt to face the nothingness of secularism. He’s honest enough to admit that his worldview relegates us all to overadvanced fungi and bacteria hurtling through a galaxy in cold, meaningless space. His feeble attempt to insert meaning and purpose into this worldview falls flat on its face. Any intellectually honest person knows that if this trendy shift away from belief in God continues there will be a catastrophic fallout in the collective human psyche.

Actually, I suspect that much of the world’s woes are precursors to this fallout. Many societal problems are directly linked to the psychological and spiritual disruption that occurs when humans start thinking of themselves as animals. Higher evolved perhaps, but animals, nonetheless. Even worse, what if large swaths of humanity adopt Rushkoff’s view and seriously think of humanity as being little more than bacteria? At least most people like animals, but no one likes or cares for fungi. Certainly, dangerous ideas have real life consequences.

HOW CAN IT FEEL SO WRONG IF THERE’S NO WRONG?

The repercussions of a perceived godless universe are already being felt in big and small ways. I believe the growing suicide rates are an indication of how a perceived world without eternal purpose affects people mentally. Not to mention, mass depression and substance abuse. Secular thinkers are perplexed by the dilemma of a wildly advanced civilization filled with unhappy citizens. Our world has more wealth, health, comfort, entertainment, and prosperity than any other generation in the history of civilization. Yet, we are plagued with dissatisfaction, disappointment, and disenfranchisement. Predictably, while society encourages and celebrates freedom from religion the warm fuzzy feelings quickly fade into a haze of melancholia.

Take racism for example, an issue that is currently spotlighted in our nation, many agnostic millennials are waking up to the shortcomings of their worldview. For example, without a God there is no such thing as tangible intrinsic human rights or freedoms. If we weren’t created equally by God and we’re just overadvanced fungi what makes racism wrong? What makes anything wrong? Why would euthanasia be wrong? Why would suicide be wrong? Why would hatred, racism, dislike, or injustice be wrong? The very word injustice implies an intrinsic human right, but without God humanity doesn’t have intrinsic rights. Without God the world really is just an animalistic fight for survival where only the fittest survive.

Without God we’re all just little specks looking for some silly bits of meaning in a vast ocean of nothingness. Try as they might, godless philosophers and thought leaders can’t change that reality. Because it’s the logical dead end to a series of agonizingly long and twisted veins of faulty philosophies.

INCUBATION, INEBRIATION, INHIBITION, HANGOVER

Like all philosophies (and sins), there’s a kind of early incubation period. During incubation a new albeit terrible idea basks in the warmth of shiny newness. Of course, there’s nothing new under the sun, but mankind has a gullible tendency to mistake ancient sins for brand new brilliant ideas. The “new” worldview temporarily blooms into an exciting “free” way of life, unshackled by the silliness of past ideologies, morals, standards, or antiquated religious reverences.

For a long period of time the Western Hemisphere has enjoyed the inebriations of heady Rushkoffian philosophies. Secular society has tried really hard to create its own brand of morality from nothingness. The inebriation produces predictable inhibitions. They’ve been comfortably intoxicated with the exhilaration of their “new” notions, but for many the hangover phase is kicking in. The stark realization that most secular “moralities” are poorly imitated holdovers from the Judeo-Christian worldview is unsettling. Morality always unravels without the involvement of humanities Divine Creator.

THE GROWING DIVIDE

There was a time when secularists and Christians agreed that certain things were considered sacred. They treated those things with reverence. For example, most agreed human life was sacred and should be treated with reverence. Most agreed there was something sacred about the innocence of children, and that children should be protected. Most agreed freedom and common decencies were sacred. Family was also considered sacred. But an alarmingly large number of secularists hold their noses in disdain at the very mention of things we used to hold in common.

THE DEATH OF REVERENCE

I could fill lots of paragraphs with examples of how society is cheapening the value of human life. The abortion issue alone could fill volumes of books. Certainly, secular society gives lip service to the sanctity of life, but they are increasingly less interested in protecting the lives of those who are in disagreement with their worldview. And, of course, the slow decline of the family unit has been documented for decades. Society can’t even agree to call biological men, men and biological women, women (and supposedly Christians are the science “deniers”). It’s not even socially acceptable to teach children that a family consists of a biological mom and a biological dad who are married. So, how can we expect the family unit (the basic fundamental building block of society) to thrive.

Furthermore, marriage is viewed more and more as antiquated. Admittedly, if marriage isn’t a sacred covenant between a man, a woman, and God then it is pretty ridiculous. Western cultures respect for the sanctity of marriage bit the dust when gay marriage was legalized and celebrated. To be sure, it was already gasping its last breaths, but it officially died with that legal pronouncement. Culture can’t even define the family properly anymore. Ironically, even morally ambiguous counterfeit Christians got more than they bargained for after supporting the homosexual agenda. Most liberal Christians never dreamed the transgender agenda would be the next culture battle. But if life, and family, and marriage isn’t sacred or definable than sexuality isn’t either. Western society had already been pushed down the slippery slope of letting go of sacred things. Vast groups of carnal gullible Christians became willing conspirators in the destruction of yet another holy and sacred institution, marriage and family.

IT ONLY GETS WORSE

Ok. I’ll admit it! I really like to say I told you so. But this is one situation where I desperately wish my predictions had been wrong. Years ago, on this blog I predicted that pedophilia would become socially acceptable. My prophecy was met with incredulity, mockery, and dismissiveness. I was called a fear-monger and worse. I was told by atheists that children were the last sacred totem. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at that because I’m fully aware of the massive abortion rates. At that time, science was already definitively affirming the position of anti-abortionists, yet secular culture didn’t care at all. So, why would I believe children are any safer out of the womb than in the womb? I didn’t believe it then and I really don’t believe it now!

A recent TED Talk entitled Why Our Perception of Pedophilia Has to Change is just one of many disgusting examples of how pedophilia is being normalized. Pedophiles are brazenly referring to themselves as Minor Attracted Persons or MAPs. The internet is filled with MAPs going public and beginning their sexual revolution. Much of the so-called scientific research in this area is trending more and more favorably towards the MAPs community. One recent study (The Internalization of Social Stigma Among Minor-Attracted Persons: Implications for Treatment) reports that 5% of the world’s population might be MAPs. The overwhelming reports of child molestation coupled with the bleak knowledge that the majority of child molestation cases go unreported lends credence to the 5% theory. With that kind of percentage, the societal push for destigmatization will only grow stronger. One day soon there will be no social stigma for MAPs.

NETFLIX HITS A NEW LOW

As if on cue, while writing this article Netflix announced the release of a new show called Cuties where little girls are explicitly sexualized in bizarre and repulsive ways. Girls as young as eleven are scantily dressed and perform sexually provocative dance routines. This is hardly a first for the entertainment culture, but it is one of the more unblushingly pro MAPs shows ever released to the general public. It would do us all well to remember how the gay agenda used this same kind of strategy to normalize itself in the public eye. Little by little shows were littered with overt references and subtle instances of homosexuality. Western culture was predictably desensitized over a relatively short period of time. History is repeating itself, but now innocent children will suffer because of our godless culture (godless churches aren’t helping either, but that’s a different blog for a different day).

DON’T PANIC! PRAY!

Keeping all of this in mind, its little wonder secular culture doesn’t value or consider it worthwhile to protect the religious freedoms of Christians or their churches. This long trending cultural shift makes the Church more countercultural than it’s ever been in modern times. I want to quickly look at how the Church should and should not respond to the death of reverence taking place right before our eyes. Of course, it’s easy to feel panicky when the world seems to be in a moral death spiral. But rather than panic why don’t we commit ourselves to prayer as never before? Prayer will stabilize us and make a difference in the world around us. Prayer isn’t simplistic or naive. It isn’t a lesser course of action then other pursuits. Rather, prayer is the action by which all other actions are judged. Nothing else we do could ever match the importance of praying over our world.

BE SUPER SERIOUS ABOUT SACRED THINGS

In response to societies drastic shift away from reverence the Church should contrast itself by intensifying our respect and awe for sacred things. Our gatherings should be filled with a sense of reverence and majesty. I’m not talking about stuffy formalities; however, we must resist the external pressure to approach the things of God flippantly or casually. I’ve long contended our attire is a reflection of our sense of reverence for the house of God. We should oppose societal pressure to approach corporate worship casually in demeanor, attire, focus, and attention. We must prioritize sacred things above the secular. For example, jobs, relaxation, and entertainment should never be prioritized over the sacred. Even family time shouldn’t be prioritized above sacred things. Family time should always be a major priority, but it should be balanced so the sacred isn’t encroached upon. When Christians consistently prioritize the secular over the sacred it signifies the impending death of reverence in their hearts.

You don’t have to go back too far in history to remember a time when American culture kept Sunday’s sacred on a national level. Even the irreligious enjoyed the benefits of work-free Sundays. Now, Christians are caught between the need to be in the workplace and the need to keep the Sabbath. But Christens must have the courage to put God first and trust Him to bless their faithfulness. This is a basic area where Christians must win the battle, or we will not be able to stand when bigger battles move to the forefront. If we can’t prioritize God over our finances how will we prioritize Him over our lives if needed?

BEWARE OF ALPHABET SOUP

Logical fallacies are fake or deceptive arguments that seem irrefutable but prove nothing. Fallacies often seem superficially sound and far too often they retain immense persuasive power even after being clearly exposed as false. Alphabet Soup is a fairly modern fallacy where a person or group inappropriately overuses acronyms, abbreviations, form numbers and arcane insider “shop talk” primarily to prove to people that an individual “speaks their language” and is “one of them”. Secondarily, people use Alphabet Soup to shut out, confuse, condescend, or to impress outsiders. Officially showing someone, they are on the outside looking in. For example, “It’s not uncommon for a KC-113 with ABC to be both GW and YB;” “I had a twenty-minute DX Q-so on 17with a SED-Q12 and a couple of SQ’s even though the QR-JANE was 34 over B10;” or “I hope I’ll keep on seeing my JNT on my HVL until the day I get my WW511.”

You get the picture. Alphabet Soup is a great way to misdirect someone from noticing you don’t actually know what you’re talking about. And, it’s a wonderful way to keep people at arm’s length by intimidating them into assuming you know things you don’t really know. Secularists use this pseudo intellectual insider jargon all the time to make Christians feel feeble or out of touch. They use made up phrases and talk about elaborate unprovable theories as if they are cold hard facts. They blather about billions of years and trillions of eons as if they know something with certainty they don’t even understand partially. It’s a condescending intellectually dishonest way of dominating any form of real debate before it even begins.

REFUSE TO BE MARGINALIZED

We must not allow ourselves to be marginalized or bullied into silence. If you know Jesus, you know more than the most highly educated atheist in the world. Refuse to be overlooked because of your faith. Be vocal, confidant, and unashamed.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Originally, I set out to write an article about irreverent behaviors creeping into everyday Christian life and church services. You know, things like cell phones lit up all throughout preaching. And, one of my biggest pet peeves; talking and joking around during altar services. Empty prayer rooms, grungy casual attire, disrespect towards ministry, disrespect towards elders, immodesty, untouched Bibles, and the list goes on. But while pondering these problems, I realized these are just spiritual manifestations of much deeper cultural problems ineluctably bleeding into the Church. Everywhere I look irreverence seems to be the norm. The dereverencing and dismantling of traditional institutions like faith, family, honesty, and morality are eroding ordinary everyday life. The needed human perceptions of majesty, grandeur and transcendent supernatural accoutrements are sadly lacking even within sincere religious settings. We live in a post-respect, post-truth, post-logic, post-virtue secular society. That secular mindset has imperceptibly influenced unsuspecting Christians.

How has this happened? Well, mostly through secular educational systems that work to legitimize secular evolutionary philosophies and stigmatize religious viewpoints. No longer can Christians unthinkingly hand their children over to be influenced carte blanche by secular educators from preschool to the end of college. Colleges are especially egregious in their cultural brainwashing efforts. This doesn’t mean we should become anti-education, to the contrary, we should be more educated than ever before. However, we must promote positive educational reforms and demand a seat at the table within educational systems.

Beyond that, Christians have allowed secular media to dominate their time and captivate their thinking for far too long. When the elders abstained from television and movies before television and movies were really all that bad, they had spiritual foresight. In the name of freedom and progress, many Christians engage in grotesquely sacrilegious and immoral viewing on a regular basis. I know pointing out television is antiquated. Television is quickly becoming a thing of the past. But the ever expanding web of the internet is far more dangerous than television could ever be. Not to mention the sticky world of social media. It would be incredibly naive and foolish for the Church to ignore the vast powers of all media sources to influence, infiltrate, desensitize, destabilize, demoralize, and stigmatize the holy things of God.

But the Church is shaking itself loose of past naivety. We are learning to recognize what reverence looks like when it is dying. It isn’t too late for the Church. In fact, the only hope for the world is a sanctified Church calling them to repentance and a supernatural Holy Ghost encounter with God.

“But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer (1 Peter 4:7).”

Christianity Isn’t Dying (Dead Churches Are Dying)

Secularists and others who crinkle their noses at Christianity enjoy pointing to the apparent decline of Christian faith in America. They look longingly at Europe’s seemingly thorough secularization and wistfully prophecy that America is finally following suit. Of course, many iconoclasts realize the death of Christianity is being exaggerated, but they continue the facade to belittle believers. By marginalizing Christianity, they hope to intimidate Christians into silence on cultural issues of importance.

This is actually a very powerful bullying tactic. Many Christians feel as if their belief system is in a hopeless state of decline. Ostracism from mainstream society leaves many Christians either wanting to completely withdraw from the culture wars or compromise completely. Others simply feel adversarial and defensive all the time. Generally, Christians (especially young Christians) are intentionally manipulated into feeling as if they are silly and insignificant. Ironically, agnostics are extremely evangelistic in their attempts to proselytize Christians into their cult of faithful faithlessness.

It’s worth noting that Christianity was birthed from a marginalized minority Jewish culture and established in relative obscurity. Genuine practicing Christians are no strangers to persecution whether overt or thinly veiled. To be separated from the world in inward and outward attributes is a defining characteristic of the Church. Jesus warned us this would be so on many occasions. However, American Christians have enjoyed unprecedented freedom and respect. As our country declines into deeper and deeper polarizations many Christians are left shaken by a perceived unpopularity. But millions of practicing Christians in other parts of the world have never served God without literally placing their lives and livelihoods in jeopardy. Perhaps American Christians are on the brink of learning what it means to be truly unashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Sheer numbers are not an indication of what position, philosophy, worldview, or religious theology (or lack thereof) is correct. Packed stadiums, swelling bank accounts, and massive followings aren’t accurate gauges of rightness. History is littered with atrocities committed by majorities that considered themselves virtuous in their evil.

But the dirty little secret is that Christianity isn’t dying, dead churches are dying. Studies are finding that old “mainline” denominations are in sharp decline, while fundamental evangelical churches are holding steady and, in some cases, growing exponentially. Pentecostals (like myself) are particularly interesting in their outlier status of continued growth. Catholics, Methodists, Episcopalians, and vast swaths of highly ceremonial denominations are losing members at a breathtaking pace. Statistics also show that churches are mostly losing nominal members. Meaning, members who never really had a strong connection to their faith in the first place aren’t maintaining membership in the church they grew up attending irregularly. People are no longer willing to remain connected to dead churches that don’t officiate real, lifechanging, relationships with God. Christians-in-name-only are finally dropping a meaningless title and substituting it with the religion of secularism. The Easter only crowd is ditching Easter, and why wouldn’t they abandon a weak powerless imitation of genuine Spirit-filled faith?

The steady advancement of secularism is separating the genuine from the fake. Squishy middle-ground Christianity is being revealed for the whitewashed tomb it has always been. Fundamentalists have long been derided by so-called mainline denominations, but the Christ of Christianity demands a radical, transformative, countercultural, multicultural, unashamed, uncompromising Church. And, that Church is alive and well.

The Church should prepare for the coming wave of emotionally and spiritually broken refugees. Many are already reeling from the gross hopelessness that secularism produces. It’s not coincidental that spiked suicide rates correspond statistically with increased levels of atheism and agnosticism. As the logical progression of moral relativism smashes against walls of reality countless lives are being catapulted into turmoil. Moral relativism and logical incongruities are being portrayed as a panacea; however, they are only a temporary placebo. As the placebo affect wears off the Church must be ready to administer genuine biblical solutions. If the Church capitulates to the pressure to move away from biblical absolutes under the guise of maintaining momentum or moderation it will cease to be the Church and meet the same fate as the “mainline” majorities of the past.

David, don’t worry about who is bigger or stronger, just make sure you’re representing the one true God fearlessly.

What Churches Can Learn From Chik-fil-a

Full disclosure, I’m not a Popeyes hater. And, at the risk of being burned as a heretic, I don’t think Chik-fil-a has the worlds best tasting chicken sandwich. I did the Popeyes verses Chik-fil-a sandwich challenge, and Popeyes tasted better by a wide margin. I’m probably risking my life making this admission because I pastor in the treasured heartland of Chic-fil-a headquarters. I live a stones throw away from the first CFA; right in the epicenter of the eat-more-chiken world headquarters. CFA is revered around here to say the least.

That said, I still choose to eat at CFA nine times out of ten. So, even though I typically prefer the food at Popeyes, I almost always go to CFA instead. I think the reason for that oddity contains a lesson that every church should notice. Don’t worry, I’m not going to give a cheesy lesson about God’s chicken or something like that. The reason I go to CFA over and over again is simple; the service and the experience.

Recently, I enjoyed a delicious meal at Popeyes. I mean, the food was really really good. But, I stood in line for twenty minutes to order. A very unpleasant cashier took my order without uttering one friendly word. After ordering, I waited another twenty minutes for the food. In the meantime, the restroom was so disgusting it made my eyes water. I had to clean my own table before eating. And, the greatest tragedy of all; the soda machine wasn’t working. A little detail I discovered after paying for a large beverage. My food was still delicious, but the service and the experience was terrible.

I wish that was an anomaly at Popeyes, but it’s not. While that was more extreme than usual, there’s almost always some variation of that scenario when I “attend” a Popeyes. Otherwise, I’d probably “attend” Popeyes over CFA nine times out of ten. In contrast, I can’t remember ever waiting for more than a few minutes for my food at CFA (even when the line was wrapped around the building). My family and I are always greeted with a smile and genuine friendliness. If they make a mistake (which is very rare), they go overboard to correct it. The dining areas and restrooms are always neat and clean. Without fail, a nice CFA person will stroll by and offer to get refills or extra condiments for the table. I’ve been to high-end fine dining establishments where their service didn’t rise to CFA’s level of customer kindness and consideration.

The lesson every church can learn from CFA is so simplistic it almost escapes us. The human experience is more important than flavor. Let me put it this way, fancy buildings and programs are great, but not if we forget how to treat people with common kindness and courtesy. It’s not enough for churches to offer lots of options and bold flavors if they can’t connect with people on the most basic human levels.

Your church doesn’t have to be the best at everything to make people want to come back over and over again. In fact, some churches get so caught up trying to be awesome at everything they wind up doing everything pretty poorly. At the heart of CFA’s success is their simplicity. They do four things really really well. One, they serve a small menu but it’s always fresh, consistent in quality, and in stock. Two, they are extremely friendly and welcoming in a sincere and honest way. Three, if they make a mistake they own it and fix it. Four, they are fast and organized so they can take care of you in a timely manner.

If every church borrowed this model they would see immediate growth results and visitor retention rates. Your church doesn’t have to offer a giant “menu” of programs. Find a streamlined “menu” that fits the needs of your community. Make sure your church menu is sustainable and always fresh and good quality. I didn’t say it had to be the best in the world, but it does need to be consistent and fresh (in the sense that it maintains enthusiasm, and doesn’t become stale, boring, or mediocre). It’s better for a church to do fewer things really well than to do tons of things poorly.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to simply smile and speak to people when they walk in the doors of your church. It’s not enough for the pastor alone to be friendly. The entire culture of the church must be intentionally and genuinely friendly. Many churches think they’re friendly when in reality they are mildly nice at best. Every single church could learn a lesson from the culture of kindness that CFA carefully cultivated and maintains. Many churches pray for revival, but kill every chance for growth with their inward cliquish behavior.

Every church makes mistakes, drops the ball, misses the mark, and gets the “order” wrong in some way or another. Churches are full of humans and humans make mistakes. When that happens (and it will), accept it and go the extra mile to make it right. Most people will forgive mistakes if they are acknowledged and corrected.

In a church setting we aren’t taking orders and trying to get people in and out in twenty minutes or less. However, we will repel visitors if we are disorganized and disrespectful of their time. When services start late or run over for no good reason we reek of disorganization. When people don’t know where to go or what to do next we make visitors incredibly uncomfortable. Of course, we never want to hinder the Spirit or prioritize organization over the flow of the Spirit. However, I believe that when churches are properly organized it creates an environment where the Spirit is not quenched by incompetence.

Over the years I’ve helped many churches that stood for truth and fervently preached sound doctrine, yet they could not keep guests coming back. It wasn’t because their doctrine was heretical, or their location, or an insufficient building. Rather, they struggled with some combination of all the areas mentioned above. As they addressed these issues intentionally they began to grow organically.

Nutshell: Streamline (do less things with excellence rather than many things with mediocrity), smile (be genuinely welcoming), admit mistakes (go overboard to make them right), and organize.

The apostolic Gospel works, but sometimes our Popeyes mentality sends people across town to a different location. I think we owe it to a lost world to run our churches with even more excellence than a fast food chain.

“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might (Ecclesiastes 9:10)…”

Top 10 Articles of 2019

At the end of every year, I enjoy reviewing the most read posts of the past twelve months. I’ve included links to all ten of them below. Just click the pictures and it’ll take you to the articles. Interestingly, the top three haven’t changed in several years. I haven’t written much new content in 2019 (I plan to change that in 2020). Oddly, this has still been an exciting year for Apostolic Voice; we leaped over the million click mark, gained a tremendous number of new readers, and made progress on relaunching the podcast. I deeply appreciate your confidence and support. Thank you for allowing my writings into your life. God bless you all, and may 2020 be your best year yet. If you’re new to the Apostolic Voice family, welcome and I hope you find something helpful, inspiring, or at least mildly interesting.

Politically Incorrect Prophets (Speaking Truth In an Age of Timidity)

When modern ears hear words like “prophet” or “ prophecy” they typically invoke imagery of futuristic predictions or something sensationally mystical. Most people relegate the role of prophecy to the ancient scrolls of the Old Testament. And, prophecy does often involve a God given vision of the future. Furthermore, the prophetic role certainly seems more prominent in the Old Testament.

To understand the role of prophecy today we must begin by understanding the role of the ancient prophets. Otherwise, it’s like trying to understand algebra without a rudimentary knowledge of addition. It doesn’t take much casual browsing through Scripture to realize that prophets were intensely controversial, mostly misunderstood, extremely negative, and overwhelmingly politically incorrect.

Pre-Pentecost prophets were politically incorrect centuries before politically correct speech and behavior was embedded into mainstream culture. And, contrary to what most modern “prophets” peddle, their predictions of future events were rarely rosy. Their predictions were typically terror inducing warnings straight from the mind of God. Aside from eschatological prophets (like Daniel and Ezekiel), their warnings were anything but vague. Prophets were acutely aware of the looming death penalty if they lied or spoke out of turn (Deuteronomy 18:20-22). God despises false prophets who invoke His authority to speak lies or manipulate people to their own will (Jeremiah 23:9-40).

This was the backdrop which framed the mindset of true men of God. They feared the judgement of God and eschewed the opinions of men. To be sure, that nobility of heart and strength of moral character took a toll. Habakkuk felt abandoned by God (Habakkuk 1:2-11), Jeremiah mourned the prosperity of the wicked and felt the loneliness of being discounted (Jeremiah 12:1-4, Jeremiah 20:8), Elijah longed for death (1 Kings 19:4), Noah succumbed to strong drink after the fulfillment of his prophecy of worldwide judgement (9:21), Hosea was forced to marry an unloving prostitute (Hosea 1:2) and endure a lifetime of heartbreak.

Their difficulties and struggles don’t make the prophetic calling particularly compelling. Modern readers glamorize the prophetic life, but the reality described in Scripture is sacred, scary, and sacrosanct. To put it mildly, most people claiming the prophetic gifting have more in common with Balaam than Elisha.

To convolute the existing confusion surrounding prophecy, the definition itself is mostly misunderstood. Old Testament prophets did more than predict the future. They bubbled forth the Word of the Lord. They were God’s mouthpiece. They spoke what God spoke regardless of the personal repercussions. They taught, they reproved, they rebuked, they informed, they corrected, and they did all of this with long-suffering. In other words, they operated much like the preachers described in the book of Acts. That being said, in many ways all preachers carry the prophetic mantle.

The five-fold ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13) is mostly divided into distinctly separate categories by apostolic thinkers. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are usually viewed as non-overlapping roles. Even those who theologically recognize the simplistic nature of this way of thinking revert back to it in practice. However, every New Testament preacher operates with a blending of the five-fold ministries. The prophetic mantle rests on the shoulders of every God-called preacher of the Gospel regardless of official title or position.

Modern preachers should be fountains that bubble forth the pure Word of God. They are keepers of the Word and carriers of the cross. They are the original truth to power brokers. Tweaking the Word for convenience is unacceptable in the eyes of God. Refusing to speak the full revelation of God’s Word is a perversion of the prophetic office. To pollute, dilute, or exclude any God-given words for profit is detestable and stirs the wrath of God.

I am genuinely concerned that many apostolic preachers are losing the courage to remain righteously counter-cultural and unavoidably politically incorrect. I say “unavoidably” because it’s not possible to be biblically correct and politically correct at the same time. Politically correct preachers are really just biblically incorrect preachers.

I’d rather eat glass than jump into impossible-to-resolve eschatological debates. And, there’s probably no stickier debate than the question of who the Two Witnesses are in Revelations chapter eleven (Revelation 11:3-12). However, it would be foolish to overlook the appearance of burlap-wearing, fire-breathing, element-controlling, loudly-testifying, plague-inducing, death-defying prophets roaming the streets in the last days. When God calls two witnesses to preach during apocalyptic times they will be eerily Old Testament in nature. And yet, more often than not, New Testament preachers seem frightfully out of step with the biblical prophetic legacy.

Every self-aware preacher wrestles inwardly with the tension that exists between their human desire to be excepted by men and their calling to be godly counter-cultural mouthpieces. Some bow, some bend, some break, and some refuse to surrender their will to anyone but God’s. No one really desires to be politically incorrect, but it’s the nature of the calling. The truth (especially God’s Truth) is rarely mainstream, annoyingly inconvenient, and stubbornly unchanging. The world desperately needs courageous modern godly mouthpieces that will speak the truth in an age of timidity.

I’ve noticed six growing tensions developing in the hearts of ministers in my lifetime. Every politically incorrect prophet must win these battles that rage within their own hearts, and resist the pressure to become just another name on the long list of false prophets. This is a genuine life and death, Heaven verses Hell battle between good and evil. Not only does their eternity hang in the balance, the souls of their followers do as well. Many have lost their stomach for the fight, others are just learning the importance of the struggle, and yet a powerful remnant of true prophetic men of God are stepping to the forefront of spiritual warfare.

Truth vs. Timidity

Post modernism has been eroding the perceived value of truth for at least sixty years. Just calling a biological man a man is considered borderline hate speech in our stupefied society. Peddlers of confusion malign and attack simple voices of reason. Spiritual truths are betrayed, minimized, and shunned by purveyors of moral ambiguity. Preachers are portrayed in pop culture as buffoonish curmudgeons or wild eyed lunatics. Sometimes, godly truth tellers are physically punished or stripped of their comforts.

In America, they are silently bullied and quietly derided (at least publicly) in an attempt to intimidate or embarrass them into submission. More and more, western preachers feel the urge to be timid about truth. They fear preaching controversial topics and eventually avoid speaking of the things God cares about altogether. But true men of God choose to shake off the shackles of timidity and speak the truth with boldness (Acts 28:32, Proverbs 28:1, Acts 4:13, Acts 4:31, Ephesians 6:19).

Clarity vs. Confusion

God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). True prophets clarify. False prophets confuse and convolute. Genuine preachers aren’t vague, cryptic, or overly speculative in their preaching. If a prophetic preacher generates more confusion than revelation he’s more than likely a false prophet.

Conviction vs. Compromise

Have you ever noticed how excruciatingly uncomfortable the Last Supper must have been for the disciples? Judas was on the verge of betraying Jesus, and Jesus was painfully aware of that impending “kiss” of death. Judas was probably acting super strange. Jesus was always perfectly willing to make people squirm. So, naturally, He decided to mention a betrayer was in the room. That little grenade caused a lot of commotion.

As if that wasn’t enough drama for one night, Jesus took the opportunity to warn the disciples about all kinds of discouraging things (John 16:1-4). He told them they would be kicked out of synagogues and become societal outcasts. He even told them they would be killed by people who thought they were doing the work of God. Surely the disciples were thinking this is the kind of stuff we should have been told a long time ago. And, Jesus perceptively addressed those thoughts by assuring them that even though He was leaving in the flesh, He would remain with them in the Spirit (John 16:5-7).

During this revelatory conversation about the coming of the Holy Ghost, Jesus laid out a description of what the role of the Spirit would be on the earth (John 16:8-11). Jesus didn’t mince words, He said the Holy Spirit will convict people of their sin, reveal their need for righteousness, and warn them of the coming judgement. Notably, conviction is one of the primary roles of the Holy Ghost.

Conviction. Sin. Righteousness. Judgement. All of these are becoming taboo topics. But if these topics are the primary issues the Holy Spirit was sent to address than preachers who refuse to handle them are not Spirit filled. Compromising eventually places preachers in the position of actively resisting the work of the Spirit. Essentially, they become an enemy of God.

As people search for “safe” spaces and Truth is viewed more and more as confrontational hate speech, preachers are placed in a precarious situation. The temptation is to avoid conviction and replace it with an ooey gooey, warm and fuzzy brand of non-intrusive, conversational preaching. Please understand, there’s rarely a need to be intentionally offensive or off putting, but God’s Word usually offends carnal sensitivities. Conviction isn’t comfortable but it’s irreplaceable and completely necessary. In fact, preaching conviction is a huge part of the prophetic job description. Prophets who never preach conviction of sin into the hearts of their flock are not prophets at all.

Faith vs. Fear

The spirit of antichrist doesn’t care if prophets speak the truth as long as they whisper it in fear and cower in the corner. Fear is normal and often justified, but true prophets overcome their fears with faith. They preach fearful things, but they temper it with faith that encourages and edifies. They preach doom and coming judgment, but they also preach that faith will bring us into an eternal relationship with God that is blissful beyond comprehension. Faith and fear are not compatible. One eventually pushes the other out. True prophets allow faith to cast out their fears, and they inspire their followers to do the same.

Reverence vs. Irreverence

There is a growing sense of irreverence towards spiritual things even among “religious” people. I believe this is reflected in a myriad of ways including how people dress for church (check out Should We Still Dress Our Best For Church?).

Ancient prophets brimmed with righteous reverence for the things of God. They demanded the same from those listening to their divinely inspired words. Modern Christianity must overcome the growing tension between reverence and irreverence in our culture. God will not accept irreverent sacrifices in His name.

British theologian Thomas Smail gives an interesting warning in his book The Forgotten Father:

“Abba is not Hebrew, the language of liturgy, but Aramaic, the language of home and everyday life… We need to be wary of the suggestion… that the correct translation of Abba is ‘Daddy.’ Abba is the intimate word of a family circle where that obedient reverence was at the heart of the relationship, whereas Daddy is the familiar word of a family circle from which all thoughts of reverence and obedience have largely disappeared… The best English translation of Abba is simply ‘Dear Father.”

I think Smail was attempting to strike the delicate, yet hard to achieve balance, between reverencing God and simultaneously feeling closely connected to God. In the apostolic movement, many have over-corrected away from highly liturgical denominations (like Catholics, Methodists, and Presbyterians) whose reverence is more like a cold indifference, into a mushy “God is my best buddy” mindset. Not only does this endanger reverence, it breeds lots of unintended theological fallacies as well.

Power vs. Prosperity

Perhaps, the worst degrading of prophecy has come from the proponents of prosperity theology. Basically, the “God will double your money if you send me a thousand dollars right now” crowd. These charlatans either genuinely or disingenuously believe that wealth, health, and fame are the measures of spiritual success.

But, ancient biblical prophets were far more concerned with spiritual power than earthly power. They called down fire from heaven while barely having enough food to eat or a place to live. If prosperity theology is correct, the ancient prophets were wildly out of the will of God.

Most people reading this have long ago rejected prosperity theology, however, there is a lingering (unspoken) assumption that struggling preachers are somehow out of God’s favor. This is a subtle trick of the enemy. It’s just another way to shame godly preachers into conforming to the will of the carnal majority.

The real measuring stick of apostolic authority isn’t bank accounts. Rather, it’s the manifested power of God. Interestingly, as materialism grows, manifestations of the Spirit decline. Men of God should seek the power of God not positions or materialistic prosperity. I’m all for the blessings of God, but never at the expense of the power of God.

In Conclusion

The household of God is built on the blood-soaked foundation of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20). Jesus is the chief cornerstone of that unshakable foundation. Next time you read through the Gospels, pay attention to how astonishingly politically incorrect Jesus was in word and deed. He wasn’t trying to be odd or quirky. It wasn’t a gimmick or a facade that Jesus put on for attention. He just spoke the truth even when it was unwanted.

God is calling a fresh generation of preachers who are willing to be completely unashamed of the Word of God. They will preach without thought for their own safety or societal security. They will leave their comfort zones and abandon the shackles that carnal culture wraps around their minds. They will seek to grow the Kingdom of God and not their ministry. They will value Truth above tolerance, and wisdom above worldliness. The spiritual revolution is already beginning; which side of it will you be on?

Kanye West Might Be Sincere (But Sincerity Alone Is Not Salvation)

If you’re a social media user it might feel like a non-stop Kanye West extravaganza has taken over your feed lately. The frenzy from all directions has been palpable. Many people in my inner circle didn’t even know who Kanye was until a few weeks ago. For me, his name was associated with lyrics and artists that I purposely avoided because of the vulgarity, sexuality, violence, and substance abuse they promoted.

This article is late in the making. Frankly, I just didn’t care about the Kanye kerfuffle until the noise escalated into a fever pitch. Beyond that, lots of people have already been contributing wise words to the ongoing (seemingly neverending) conversation. One of my favorite Apostolic bloggers, Search of Kings has a must-read article about the “Kanye Conversion”. Others have convincingly commented that Kanye’s sincerity might be less suspicious if he would remove all his old music from circulation. I’ve noticed several people expressing frustration at the Apostolic hype over Kanye’s new album Jesus Is King, by pointing out the lackluster support Apostolic artists typically receive. We Apostolics do tend to demean our own and glamorize (perhaps even idolize) artists who are distinctly non-apostolic.

Speaking of idols, the flip side of the coin is the ardent, almost breathless support many Christians have afforded Kanye’s new album. It reeks of an adolescent desire to finally be accepted by the “cool” kids. The internet is littered with comparisons of Kanye’s conversion to Saul’s transformation into Paul. Others dream of stadiums packed with people who would never listen to “Jesus” music being deeply impacted by Kanye’s newfound faith. Many elders felt this way about Elvis Presley in past decades. I still frequently hear people mention how sincere Elvis was about his Christian (perhaps even Apostolic) faith.

So, the speculation about Kanye’s sincerity has become a lightning rod of controversy. For what it’s worth, I think Kanye might be sincere. Admittedly, I don’t really know if he’s sincere or not. I struggle to know if people around me are sincere sometimes. I’ve never met Kanye and I doubt anyone reading this has either. Sincerity is a hard thing to judge in a short period of time. It’s even harder to judge from a distance. Even Paul had to undergo many years of scrutiny and training before he was fully accepted as a new creature in Christ Jesus. That’s one of the reasons Paul wrote to Timothy and said, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15)”. Regardless, Kanye’s sincerity or lack thereof is a moot point. Why? Because sincerity is not salvation.

Yes, sincerity is a good thing. I like sincere people. Most of us are drawn instinctively to sincerity. In fact, sincerity is so compelling we often trust sincere people even when they are completely wrong. Sincerely incorrect people can unintentionally do great damage to their circle of influence in countless ways both big and small. For example, it took thousands of years for doctors to finally realize that bloodletting was actually more likely to kill than to cure patients (read this disturbing article, 7 Unusual Ancient Medical Technique). Last year statistics shockingly revealed that over 800,000 people died because of medical devices prescribed to them by very good and sincere doctors (read that article HERE). Lets not even start thinking about how many sincere judges and juries have sentenced innocent people to prison or death (How Many Innocent People Are Sentenced to Death? and A Leading Cause for Wrongful Convictions: Experts Overstating Forensic Results). Clearly, in certain situations, sincerity without correct information is extremely dangerous.

We easily understand that principle when it comes to the physical, but we’re a little fuzzy when it comes to spiritual things. We don’t just want doctors to be sincere, we want them to be sincere and correct at the same time. Frankly, the latter is far more important than the former. But when it comes to spiritual leaders and influencers we’re a little less cautious. Maybe its time to consider that we Christians are overly concerned with sincerity? Perhaps we’ve elevated sincerity above biblical sanctification? Is it possible many Apostolics, either consciously or subconsciously, equate sincerity with salvation? Do we believe that sincerity without biblical salvation can save us? If so, we are doomed to become just another variation of the Catholic church. The Catholic church now officially teaches that Muslims, Jews, and really any sincere person can be saved without converting to even the mushy Catholic perversion of the Gospel (Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1260).

If the prescription for sin is the blood of Jesus it can only be accessed via the Gospel of Jesus Christ (John 14:6, 1 Timothy 2:5, Acts 4:12). At the heart of the Gospel is the teaching that we must undergo our own spiritual death, burial, and resurrection just as Jesus did physically (Romans 6:3-8Galatians 2:20Colossians 2:12-13). There is one recorded instance in the Bible where bystanders clearly asked a question about salvation (Acts 2:37). Peter gives the most concise biblical answer in the following verse and everyone in the early Church followed that apostolic foundation for salvation. The apostle Peter preached: “…repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38).” That precise formula is the only way to be birthed (John 3:31 Peter 1:23) into the Kingdom of God.

Essentially, repentance is our spiritual death (Galatians 5:24Romans 6:11Galatians 2:201 Peter 2:24Romans 6:6)baptism in Jesus’ name is our spiritual burial (Romans 6:3-4Colossians 2:12-13), and the infilling of the Holy Ghost is our spiritual resurrection (Romans 6:5Colossians 3:1Romans 8:8-14). Furthermore, the infilling of the Holy Ghost is first evidenced by supernaturally speaking in unknown (previously unlearned) tongues (languages) just as they did in the book of Acts (Mark 16:17Acts 2:4Acts 10:46Acts 19:6) and every time from then on. And, baptism is only salvific when done in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12Colossians 3:17Acts 2:38Acts 22:16Galatians 3:27Acts 10:48Romans 6:3).

After we are obedient to the fullness of the Gospel all the old sinful things pass away and we become a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). We walk in agreement with the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). Meaning, God not only saves us from our past sin, but He also empowers us with His own Spirit to live righteously (2 Peter 1:3-4). The extra good news of the Gospel is that God doesn’t just save us and leave us the same: He saves us, changes us, dwells within us, and continues to strengthen us daily.

Having said all of that, I am far more concerned with Kanye’s salvation than I am his sincerity. I hope he’s sincere and that his sincerity leads him to salvation. Otherwise, his sincere religious error will probably do far more damage than good. Furthermore, any sincere, yet theologically incorrect preacher is more dangerous than any charlatan could ever hope to be. Charlatans are eventually exposed, but sincerely wrong people fight with misled convictions that are deeply influential to others.

Let me leave you with a passage of Scripture to ponder where Paul addresses the issue of zealousness for God without a proper understanding of God’s word. This passionate sincerity without knowledge will cause them to be lost unless they learn to walk obediently to God’s plan.

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God (Romans 10:1-13).

Hey, if you’re looking for awesome Apostolic music check out Nathan + Rachel. You’re welcome!

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Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?

My brother, Nathan French, hosts an outstanding podcast called Noteworthy. You can easily find it on your favorite podcasting platform. The latest episode is something I believe everyone should listen to with an open heart and mind. For your convenience, I’ve embedded the Halloween episode below.

Should Christians Celebrate Halloween, Noteworthy Podcast with host, Nathan French.

You Might Be In Ministry If…

You might be in ministry if you have…

…encouraged those who discouraged you.

…loved those who left you.

…prayed for those who preyed upon you.

…lifted those who let you down.

…laughed with those who laughed at you.

…given to those who do not give.

…rejoiced with those who rejoiced against you.

…worked for those who worked against you.

Count it all joy. That’s what it means to be like Christ. Why would we have it better than our Master?

Of course, there are tremendous blessings and rewards as well. Most of them are spiritual and otherworldly. However, I think we set up young aspiring ministers for failure when we fail to prepare them for the realities of ministry. Ninety-nine percent of ministry is not glamorous or exciting.

Make sure you have a genuine calling and unshakable burden before you enter the ministry.