Who Hijacked The American Church?
Portions of the American church have been hijacked, but not by politicians as it would appear but rather by a frustrated faction of the Christian church that is being headed up by a group of religious zealots who have lost faith in the wonder working power of God; the same have instead jumped in bed with venal politicians in hopes of accomplishing God’s agenda for him, through the use of earthly methods. Even some of America's more erudite black ministers and ministries have been inveigled into serving an American Religious/Political idol!
Shall we name names for some prominent names come to mind e.g. the President of the United States of America George W. Bush, and some of his accomplices who head major organizations like the Reverend Pat Robertson, Reverend Jerry Falwell, Dr. Dobsen, Ralph Reed, Tony Perkins and Tim LeHay? These men and others like them are by and large responsible for the hijacking of today's church. Similiar to the false prophets in the new testament who taught that the resurrection had already passed, these men have colluded and melded together a vicious political-religious movement in America. The objective of this movement that is centered around a false sense of religious nationalism and morality, is to change the face of America by a marriage of politics and the church.
And these individuals believe that their efforts (that diverge from scripture), are being done in the name of the Lord and are somehow being directed by the Lord. But are they right? Does God use carnal means to attain his objectives or to fulfill his purposes? Has God suddenly instructed his church to join in with salacious politicians in order to accomplish his objectives? Or am I correct in believing that God's church is not to be confused in any manner with the corrupt, prideful, self-serving, salacious, meritricious and warlike United States of America or those who idolize America. The two are not one and the same, and Christians but must not be inveigled into believing that somehow they are one and the same, or otherwise Christians will wind up being led by those who are blind to the ways of the Lord.
I am reminded of the Apostle Paul’s epistle to his protégé Timothy where Paul explained to Timothy that, ‘no man that warreth entangles himself in the affairs of this life, see 2 Timothy 2:4. Every Christian should take Paul’s admonition to heart and as a warning to be vigilant and to stay focused no matter whom comes to you, and in what manner they come, even when they purport to be doing God's will. Remember Peter’s admonition ‘to be aware of false prophets’, for some will come to you wearing sheep’s clothing!
There are many false prophets apparently, but for the sake of our discussion let us focus on two particular types. There is a false prophet who teaches or prophesies in the name of a false deity, and that false deity could be anyone or anything. Remember in scripture how deities were fashioned out of wood and stone, yet the people worshipped these idols as if they were living creatures? God customarily sent his prophets to warn Kings and politicians that their ways were in error. It was customarily the false prophets, such as the prophets of Baal who joined themselves with local monarchs. God sent Moses not to join in with Pharoah, but to instruct Pharoah to release his people so that they could worship him.
I. What I Believe That We Are Witnessing Today: And What Some Have Been Unwittingly A Part Of For The Past Decade:
The other category of false prophets includes those teachers and preachers who identify with God, but in actuality they were never ordained or sent by God to do the work that they are attempting to do. How do you know the difference? It is extremely difficult to know at times, particularly when these false prophets preach from the Bible and much of what they say is consistent with scriptures.
The danger of this type of prophet is that along with his teachings he brings a spirit of deception, and the deception is mixed in with those portions of his message that are true. This self-deluded false prophet will ultimately deceive his audience, just as he has been eceived himself into believing that he is serving God (as if our ways and motives are God’s ways or God’s motives).
I became concerned about the direction that the church appeared to be taking just over a decade and a half-ago. I had begun to notice a radical change that was taking place within the the Pentecostal/Evangel church world. Not since the 1906 Azusa Street Revival has such a profound and dramatic change taken place in pentecostal/evangelical circles. Those who have been a part of the Pentecostal/Evangel church, know that Pentecostals and Evangelicals have always been considered 'fringe' by more conservative mainstream Christian churches in America.
During the periods of A.A. Allen, Daddy Grace, Father Divine and I will also include Reverend Ike, all of these men and there ministries were also considered to be fringe, even by the fringe pentecostal/evangelical movement. But when evangelical and pentecostals became just like them and to mimick the behaviors of the Allen, Father Divine and others, no one seemed to protest thedramatic modification in teachings and behavior in the once more fundamentalist Pentecostal/Evangelical Churches.
In place of the Daddy Grace's and AA Allens of the world, names like Jim Baker of PTL and Jimmy Swaggart and Jimmy Swaggart Ministries began to pop up, and I consider both of these ministers and their ministries to be responsible for what I call a post-modern slide in the Pentecostal/evangelical church movement that began in America in at the end of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century.
The average size of an American church is reported to be approximately one-hundred members, and of course there were Pentecostal/evangelical churches that were exponentially larger and some were smaller than one hundred members. However, a new phenomenon came into being, not only was a church measured by the mammoth size of its membership and the number of succesful tent meetings that it held, successful ministires also came to be measured by their successful use of the media, particularly television and more recently the internet. The same ministries brought their mega-ministries right into America’s living rooms, and today they can be witnessed on America’s computers.
The pedant ministries of the Reverend Ike's and daddy Grace’s of the world paled in comparison to the high-stakes ministries of Jim Baker and Jimmy Swaggart. There's had become technological, high-fashioned glitz ministries with all of the accoutrement of a modern Las Vegas strip show. And what happened next, traditional evangelicals and Pentecostals gravitated towards these new style ministries, and other ministries sought to emulate them. These were large choirs singing and wealthy ministers who could get the crowd going with there were remarkable facilities and national outreach ministries. Suddenly religion was a force to be reckoned with in America again, for religion had reached the big time, and nowgoing to church, among evangelicals and Pentecostals was cool and fun to do again.
There were massive swaying back and forth choirs that would rival the size and sounds of the formerly infamous Mormon Tabernacle choir, except these choirs accompanied by a variety of musical instruments includied African beats rap and worldly songs converted into church and choir songs. While the choir and church together sang and swayed back and forth, some even engaged in forms of boot and street dances as they all lifted their voices and holy hands unto God. The new exuberance was infectious, for even the minister began to use borrowed slangs from the streets, and incorporated the same into his sermons and cheerleading. Some ministers, instead of commanding his audiences to say ‘amen’, as ministers did in the past, would instruct the audience to turn and give your neighbor a high five. In fact, it caught on so that I recall aa young pastor and his wife who left their home church and relocated to New Jersey (following the leadership of God) to go and plant a new ‘Hip Hop Church’ ministry.
Note: [Kirk Franklin even admitted that he borrowed music ‘The Revolution Album’, directly from the world as he experimented with drugs and frequented porn sights when his wife was not watching].
II. When did the church begin to slide this time?
Following the scandals that took place in these ministries, including Jimmy Swaggart’s now well known televised confession accompanied by tears cascading down his face when he proclaimed that he ‘had sinned’, it appeared that the death knoll had been sounded for both of these mega ministries. But instead of the deaths of the mega-television-ministries, a whole new crop of mega-ministries began to pop up all over the country. Suddenly there were prominent names and huge ministries replacing the former ministries of PTL and Jimmy Swaggart(who has returned to the air).
And with the change, I became concerned when during the 90’s suddenly these new mega-ministries were changing believe it or not from the orthodox teachings of the orthodox Pentecostal/charismatic/evangelical church movement in America. The very meaning of being ‘born again’ appeared to have been co-opted if not compromised. Suddenly, instead of an experience of being born again, one repeated the Apostle’s Creed, or joined one of the mega’s and suddenly they were declared born again.
As opposed to the long drawn out process that was once part and parcel of traditional pentecostal/evangelicals, you know confession, repentance, baptism in water, going under watch care and for some remaining on the mourner’s bench and tarrying/waiting to be endued with power from on high usually accompanied by some physical sign or gift, particularly, the speaking in tongues or glossalalia. Suddenly everything changed and the memberships in this type churches exploded, outpacing traditional orthodox mainstream denominations like Catholics, Baptists, Lutherans and Episcopalians.
Many of the ‘frozen chosen’, and former Catholics and Baptists were being transmogrified as they became members in the formerly disdained charismatic churches. Now they too were ‘singing and swinging’, and hollering out the name of Jesus. But all was not well!
Soon, not only the typology and topology of the church shifted, but the ministry, the preach word itself changed. Ministers had tired of preaching those same old themes, and the modern charismatic minister would make fund of the old charismatic traditions in terms of dress and style and teaching. All of the sudden it was okay for women to wear pants, even tight pants; and on top of that short pants and all of the former were appropriate church wear. Suddenly the old teachings about holiness were modified, and jokes were made about all of us are simply doing the best that we can. Then it became okay for former evangelicals to participate with the world in dancing, attending sports venues, partying, wearing makeup and others; everything was changing.
And the modern charismatic preacher began preaching and introducing new doctrines e.g. The Prayer of Jabazz, Mega-Church Growth, The Prosperity Gospel and Just Wars. These four themes seemed to predominate and permeate our churches of late. What had been no longer suited a more educated class of members, many of whom now were professionals. In the olden days, the old store-front Pentecostal and Evangelical churches would boast about one or tow members who held college degrees, but suddenly all of the churches had members with post and secondary degrees. There were lawyers, businessmen, doctors, scientists, principals and others now members in the new movement and they demanded more than simply coming to church on Sunday and attending two services during the week. .
And all of these themes exploded upon the scene within a period of about 10 -15 years.. All of the sudden what churches, particularly black churches had preached against for a century it would seem, suddenly became chic. Remember Reverend Ike, Daddy Grace and Father who once openly boasted of opulence and personal gain. During the 60’s and 70’s most black ministries dismissed their type as scoundrels and imposters, how dare they. For charismatic’s taught, that ‘godliness with contentment was great gain’. Charismatic’s weren’t concerned about wealth for Jesus cared for the poor and besides, it would be as hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom as it would be for a camel to enter the ‘eye of the needle.’ But suddenly it all changed. God wanted his people to be prosperous if not wealthy.
God wanted his people get more and to have more. God even wanted his people to get more involved in politics. Suddenly at church there were seminars. There were financial seminars, real estate seminars, personal growth seminars, how to start your own business seminars, seminar seminars, any topic under the book. And some pastors admitted that they were now more motivational speakers than anything else began to preach series, and no longer sermons, it would appear, from God.
And the crowds liked and preferred what was happening; church was in vogue again for yuppie and buppie Americans. The post-modern Pentecostal evangelical church was on its way. Now professional athletes, entertainers, actors were known to frequent many churches, not only as members, but many were in the pulpits. I can recall visiting church where Smokey Robinson, Evander Holyfield, Donna Douglas, Randall Cunningham, Ce Ce Winans and all of the celebrity ministers Bishop Jakes, Rod Parsley, Dr. Cho, Oral Roberts, and Carlton Pearson were the marquee speakers or the entertainment of the evening. And the new pastors when they were not watching had suddenly taken on the spirits of those that they once denounced. Many of these speakers had become in a nutshell A.A. Allen’s, Father Divine’s, Daddy Grace’s and Reverend Ikes. And unfortunately the lure of wealth has drawn many away from contentment with God and today many of them remain celebrity preachers and there is a whole new crop in the wings waiting for a chance to ‘take their turns at bat.
III. Where Has It Gotten Us?
Today we have bloated and larger churches, holding services in massive 2, 4, 5 10 and some 30,000 seat opulent auditoriums. However, is the church weaker today or softer today? Now we frequently hear of scandals in the church, e.g. a San Jose Mega church where a case of child molestation broke out. It took the pastor years to admit that he had fallen down and instead of trusting God to ordain leadership for his youth ministry, he appointed people over the youth ministry having never checked their backgrounds. And remember; now people were simply being swept into the church and on to the church roles. At his 15,000 member ministry, it was not uncommon to take in 60 to 150 new members on any given Sunday. All it took was to come to the altar, say the magic words, go in the back room where you were led, sign up and suddenly you were a full-fledged born again member of his and other ministries that wee styled the same way.
The new teachings that the inchoate ministers who guided these large flocks also dwelled on a theme of liberty in Christ, as opposed to the more reserved historical teachings which focused on discipline and self-control. Suddenly grace was being abused, and that liberty of yours that Paul was warned his listeners about became the most important thing, it would seem, in the modern movements. Suddenly, these new members were not under ‘bondage’ as they would put it, they were free in Christ. And free they were, for the new members began attending mega-fests, sea-fairing cruises, musicals and other church activities in the Bahamas and in other venues.
The new Pentecostal/evangelicals attended pool parties and lay on the beach in their undersized and less than modest swimming apparel. Modesty was no longer preacher. Women wore extravagant coiffured hairstyles, extensive make up and jewelry, tight fitting clothes, and men weren’t any different except they focused more, unabashedly, on the women in the church. Churches sat up dating services and nightclubs in the church. One could come to church and pick up a honey, date her at church, party with her at church, worship with her and receive pre-martial counseling and finally a marriage ceremony right at the church. But then more scandals began to break out in the church. The new liberated members wanted more. A church in Maryland was embarrassed recently when it leaked to the press that this evangelical ministry was seeking a liquor license for its large family all purpose accoutrement, another new trend in the former conservative literalist evangelical Pentecostal church.
Swimming pools, video game rooms became the order of the day. Kids came to church to play video games instead of going to Bible classes. And what is the end of all of this, in just a few short years fun church …the highest divorce rate among any other group in the country. Bishops, pastors, church officials and church members would no longer endure the trials and tribulations of marriage; suddenly it was also okay to divorce. And divorce each other they did.
IV. And The Last Straw:
No longer depending on the power of God and the wheels of his ever slow grinding methods to bring about change, the new Christian having tired of the conditions that he was witnessing, not in the church of all places, but outside of the churches decided that it was time to make a move. The new church leaders decided that it was time to take over America and how do you do that, you take over Washington DC.
For years many believers did not vote. Many did not believe that they should be involved with the worldly systems, just as many had been swayed in the olden days to stay away from seminaries many had been dissuaded from participating into a worldly political process.
Groups like the Moral Majority, Focus on the Family, National Association of Evangelicals, Family Research Council were born, and these organizations and their leaders Pat Roberton, Dr. Dobsen, Tony Perkins, Tim LeHay and others led the church in politics. By doing so they created what we now know as the political church. Should Christians vote or no has always been a topic of discussion in the Pentecostal/evangelical churches. Which ever side you come down on, what is more important is not whether you vote or not it would seem, but whether you become entangled or not in the political process. And the new group of leaders such as those mentioned above were unabashed about their claims that Christians must not only vote, but one even said that after we get them baptized and saved, we must make sure that they are registered to vote.
I suppose that at some of these ministries when you are taken in the back to fill you’re your new members card after you come to Christ, you are also given a voter registration card.
The irony is that some are entangled to the extent that the idol of politics has taken place of God. Certainly there is power in both. But listening to the new crop of church leaders, the church has lost its power and must revert to other means in order to accomplish God’s objectives.
So churches have taken advantage of their own power. As we discussed in a national pastor’s meeting held in Hunt Valley MD a few years ago, there are not only millionaire ministries but many millionaire ministers in the church today. Many ministers, it was acknowledged had entered the ministry for the newly acquired wealth that was taking over many black churches. As mega –ministries have popped up all over the country, many churches boast of membership rolls that are in the thousands, some as high as 30 or 40,000 members as high as Dr. Cho’s in South Korea’s 600,000 member plus church, the last figure that I read.
Since many of these ministries have not only one service, but in addition to numerous services (not only to minister but to raise additional funds), many of these ministries have numerous money making activities taking place right in the lobbies of their churches. Churches are selling quickly written books, badges, trinkets, crosses, water, and blessed oil, anything that they can get their hands on. So many wealthy ministries are no forced to wait on God’s move or his direction; many are walking a thing line in terms of their 501C3 Tax Exemption status. Some are in the process of having that tax exemption status reviewed and revoked, given the misuse of funds and their churches and church organizations for political purposes.
Departing from God’s strategy in scripture where God always combined need, strategy and provision. God would give the strategy and their would be a need and God would make provision. Today, because of the wealth of today’s church, one is readily reminded of the Tower of Babel, when heaven proclaimed that unless we go down and stop them, nothing shall be withheld from them.
Today’s churches no longer prayerfully seek God for direction or provision, given the vast amounts of wealth that they have amassed, instead the church board, or some plenary session decides on a projects, someone makes a token prayer and the rest is history, its done. Whether political, a fund raising, a building raising, it is voted upon and done.
Carlton Pearson once confessed on his television program that given the demands of his former mega ministry, that he recently lost, he had come to rely on professionals to assist him with his ministry. And eventually, professionals took the place of God’s leadership and were actually running the church. The hijacked church is on the cusp of a great fall, given its dependence on personal wealth and its self-devised political vision.
Some years ago, I sat in on and listened to numerous Congressional Debates in Washington DC on the Faith Based Initiatives. I remember that some prominent black church officials and leaders were for it like the King Family, the late Rosa Parks and others. While others warned of the danger of the church getting in bed with venal politicians. Some suspected that the church was only being paid off by these politicians in order to secure their votes. Today books have been written by authors like David Kuo, who has recently written the book, Tempting Faith. A former administrator in the office of the Faith Based Initiative in Washington DC, he tells how the Pentecostal/evangelical/ charismatic church is not only not respected in Washington in the current Administration, but that it is a known fact that the trade off for the political support of these churches, was the under funded Faith Based Initiative measure having been passed.
Many of the smaller churches, The Washington Post recently reported, do not even qualify for the meager funds that were allotted form the Federal Government, those churches with membership of less than 100, do not have the manpower to put into place to staff the type of services that communities require. The Washington Post also reported that majority of Pastors in the areas that need the most help are only part-time pastors. In other words, they are not vocational themselves; they have a primary job.
The Embarrassed Hijacked Church
Many leaders in the new Religious Right like Ralph Reed have brought embarrassment to the church world, having gotten to close to venal politicians which has cast a pall over these men themselves. Many of their closest counterparts are now serving time jail for malfeasance and some of these will probably fallow.
The problem as I see it has to do with 21st century styled ministries and ministers who take people into their congregations, substituting membership in their ministry; instead of being born into the Kingdom of God these have not submitted to righteousness of God. Instead, as Paul wrote in his epistle to the Romans, they have gone about to establish their own righteousness and not the righteousness of God.
Were their motives correct? Some would argue yes, but the scriptures inform us that our ways are not God’s ways, our thoughts are not God’s thoughts and as high as the heavens are above the earth, are God’s way above our ways and his thoughts above our thoughts. I am and have been skeptical of the new syncretic teachings of our new dispensational come-lately theologists.
I am convinced that many who call themselves Christians today, including the ministers who pastor them and many of the above named ministers were never truly born again. They had zeal for God but not according to knowledge. And just as the leaders joined themselves to God and their well-intended ministry (having never been fully converted), they have swelled the ranks of their churches and religious organizations with people who still have never been converted and adopted into the body of Christ. They have never been born into the church; rather they simply joined themselves unto someone’s often well intended ministries.
Like Peter who walked with Christ for years but had not been converted, many of these ministries are what I would refer to as ministries in an embryonic state, they are in the womb, but they have never truly been born. Pat Robertson encourages the country to fight and to kill, and he has even suggested that other heads of state should be murdered. And Pat is only an example of the type of thinking that is being shared by these ministers and taught to their congregants. Reaching back to the famous Catholic priest, St. Thomas Aquinas, many churches openly teach and boast of what is a just war and they encourage the country to fight battles as if by doing so they can usher in the Kingdom of God.
Pastor Hagee contradicts himself when interpreting the winding up of things. ON one hand he says that there will not be any Army present in the end times to assist Israel, and that God will fight himself. Then he joins with Robertson and others to declare that what is going on in the Middle and Near-East today is the work of God, and that God is actually using the United States who is on a murderous rampage, to usher in the Kingdom Age.
Many Christians need to be refocused and retaught the ways of Christ who for example steered clear of politics and the political establishment. Although he encouraged followers to give the state what belonged to the state and to God what belonged to God, he never encouraged his people to become entangled with politics or the State.
Many believers bought completely into the prayer of Jabazz as well as the prosperity Gospel for selfish reasons. Many Christians want wealth and to blow up never considering the windows that God has already opened, and the blessing s that have been poured out to them already while their brothers and sisters around the world, many of them still go to bed lacking the basic necessities. Christians forget, many of them, that their closets are full, their garages and basements are overrun. In fact many Christians today have had to purchase larger homes in order to have space for all of their blessings and still they don’t have enough space. Many are giving away clothing to the Salvation Army, but still find that their storage units are full.
I explained to a group of ministers and prayer warriors about 6 years ago that the reason I believe that the church was caught off guard when the 9/11 attack took place in America because American Christians were so subsumed and consumed with economic gain and prosperity, many of them were practicing the principles from a guide of the book, The Prayer of Jabazz, that God could not get a message to them that the country was about to be attacked.
Conclusion: And Who Hijacked Who?
Once again Satan used his number one device, the same that he employed in the Garden of Eden in order to hijack a sleeping church, and what is that device, deception? The church was not deceived from without; instead it was deceived by those who have barged in with the acceptance apparently of most of the church body and taken over the leadership of the church. We need to wake up from sleep and run from false teachings. If anything, American Christians ought to be sharing their wealth as well as praying that benefits be given to their brothers and sisters around the world instead of seeking to tear down their own barns and build bigger barns in order to fill them up with more stuff.
Let’s take back the church that has become for too many congregations a greedy, self-absorbed, businesslike and political church; even Bishop Jakes teaches that, ‘the Church is a business’. Let’s place our reliance back in God and prayer to God to heal conditions that can actually be healed in the land. The scriptures let us know that much of the negative stuff that we are witnessing in the land would be and that there would be nothing that we could do to change it. We cannot change what God has already told us will come to pass. But what we can do is seek God’s counsel for how we should conducts ourselves in such a seemingly untoward world, and we should seek him for counseling and to show us how to draw out of the fire those who are actually a part of God’s, not ours, Redemptive plan!
Peace & Grace
Rev. C. Solomon
Addenda: Was the old the best way, consider that the truth lies somewhere in the middle?