Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Covert Attack

If you're over the age of 25, you probably remember at some point seeing one of those 3D image pictures that looked like a bunch of lines and colors until you focused just right. To jog your memory, they looked something like this:

(You can see this on the computer, by the way. It's a bird.)

These pictures were neat, and I have always like them. I thought it was cool that behind all the noise of the picture you saw at first was another image. In order to see that other, hidden image, you had to act like you were looking through the picture, beyond what you saw at first.

Turns out life is a lot like that.

There is a show that just came featuring preachers from L.A., California. Originally I had no intention of ever watching a single episode. It's one of those fake reality shows where they get some suckers to allow themselves to be filmed throughout the day and then squash all the disparate parts together in order to make a storyline. This time, however, the suckers they got were men who lead congregations of thousands of people in the name of God.

Unfortunately, I felt that I did need to at least watch the first episode, which I did alone while everyone else was asleep. The reason I watched it was because I saw a trailer that one of my ministry friends was commenting on. Feeling that I should at least know what is going on, I went ahead and watched it.

I will admit right here that it is very, very hard not to be judgmental while watching this show, especially as a minister myself.

By the time I got to the end of the show, however, I wasn't angry, upset, or even frustrated. I was just kind of disappointed and a little bit frightened. You see, the men and churches portrayed on this show were wrong in so many ways. From the lavish houses to the Bentley, Ferrarri, Land Rover, etc they were wrong. From the "look at me look at me" phrasing to the obviously very expensive sets and stages they were wrong. From the "say this prayer and be saved," to the health and wealth teaching they were wrong.

But in the end, that's not what bothered me the most. Allow Admiral Ackbar to tell you what I really felt like in the end:

(Admiral Ackbar, spotting traps since 1983)

The real problem has less to do with how these preachers and churches portray themselves. The real problem is the attack on Christianity as a whole that this show opens up. By propping these men up, with the lives that they lead and the messages they speak, as leaders in Christianity, it opens up an enormous attack on real Christian faith.

Now I did some research on this show. The producers are both people who grew up going to churches, and who think it is a great way to "reach people." Whether or not they believe what they said in the interview is not for me to decide. I will even give them the benefit of the doubt that they do believe it.

Unfortunately, just believing something is good does not make it so.

Because what you mostly see on the show is a bunch of extremely wealthy men telling people what they want to hear. You also hear soundbites like this:

“The Bible says ‘I wish above all things that you prosper, and be in health, even as your soul prospers.’ I believe that.”

That quote, right there, filled me with rage.

The man speaking obviously has no idea who Jesus really is. The verse (3 Jn. 1:2) is so taken out of context and used so poorly as to make it sound like God is saying He wants us to have material health and wealth more than anything. Really?

First, the verse does not say "I wish above all things," nor is it a quote from God. It is John writing to Gaius, and basically telling him that he hopes everything is going well. It has nothing at all to do with God saying He wants us to be rich in this world.

But back to the covert attack, because in war there is no such thing as friendly fire.

Purposefully or not, the attack comes in this form:
1. Men are propped up as leaders in the Christian movement based on congregation size, money, and power.
2. Showing these men in the midst of their wealth and power, and filming them rationalizing their great material goods.
3. Portray this as "real" Christianity, because after all, these men are "leaders" in Christianity.
3a. Watch people turn away from Christianity in disgust at what they see.
3b. Spread a false message of Christianity further than it has ever gone before.

It is not the fact that these men have money that is the problem. It is the how they portray that wealth to the masses. When you drive around in a Ferrari (minimum $100,000 used) or a Bentley (minimum $135,000 used) and live in a mansion or home costing millions, you automatically remove yourself from the common people. It's not the money, it's the use of it. And when you, as a minister, waste enormous amounts of money on stuff that you do not need or stuff that puts a barrier between you and those who desperately need Jesus, that is a problem.

I will add an addendum here that one of the men (the Bentley driver) seems to regularly go to Compton where he grew up to reach out to gang members. I applaud that. Even then, however, I have to ask how much good could he do with the money he has wasted on extravagant creature comforts when that money could likely be used to create an enormous ministry for the very people he wants to help?

I hope I do not sound overly judgmental or apocalyptic, but I do believe it is important to speak out against this in the beginning instead of just pretending it doesn't exist. Fact is we are attacked every day not head-on, but covertly in an effort to wipe out the truth about Jesus Christ and the Gospel that He preached. Make no mistake, the world hates us (Jn. 15:18-19; Matt. 10:22), and it will do whatever it can to get rid of us. 

It will even use those who think they are doing something good in order to turn it against Christ and His people.

So please be aware of what we are really facing. Sometimes we will face a head-on attack, and will have to fight in that way. More often, however, we will be faced with what looks like a straight attack, when in reality it is a feint for something else. Be faithful and endure to the end. We follow Christ and Christ alone, and we need to be sure to show it in our lives every day in order to combat the war that constantly surrounds us. 

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