Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Sin of Entitlement Christianity

I have not met many men or women of God who I hold up as outstanding examples of what it means to be an extraordinary leader of men.  There are a few.  Too few.  There are too many excess driven pretenders that spite the Kingdom of God by their appetites.  

I see many who are in the public eye in ministry for worse.  Many for really worse.  They are become a stumbling block for believers and unbelievers alike.  Their appetites for fame, fortune and fantasy belie who they really are in Christ.  They are rendered useless for the kingdom and they propagate deceit among the weak.

Let me be clear.  None of the great men and women of God I have known ever agreed to live in poverty and want.  They were wise enough to live in abundance not extravagance.  The abundant life is not one that calls attention to itself in it's excess.  These worthy leaders I know personally are wise in the way they deal with material things. So before you think this word is about keeping the servants of God who watch over our souls poor, it's not.  On the other hand, it is a call to wisdom when there seems to be so little on display in the Church World.

It is grown out of hand because of the prosperity teachings that the Word of Faith movement first brought.  I am a word of faith man.  I grew up Charles Capps, Kenneth Hagin and Ken Copeland.  Been to meetings where all of them ministered.  They all began in pure faith.   Yet there came little foxes that have caused many to go shipwreck.  Before he died, Kenneth Hagin warned about this excess we see. They justify themselves in their error by trying to say that it is God's Will for them to live in lavish extravagance simply because they work hard in the Kingdom and are effective.  WHO GAVE THEM THIS EFFECTIVENESS?  From where did that come?  How much did they pay the giver for it?  How much should they charge for it?  Does freely given freely give have any meaning any more?

What follows are observations of real men of God I knew or know personally.  Men who do the work of the kingdom without fanfare, praise or excess.  There are others beyond these, but these stand out strong.

The opposite of these men is most often exhibited when I pull up to a church and see a sign by the door saying "Reserved for senior pastor", or elders, or deacons or some such.  Most of these guys wouldn't be worthy to untie the shoelaces of the real men of God I have known.   But they telegraph a message to the congregation (and visitors), "we are all equal at the foot of the cross but here on earth some are more equal than others". Now if the Senior Pastor is 80 years old and impaired.. OK.  But if he is 40, WALK BROTHER!

The real men of God I know say, "the most holy parking places in the lot are the ones way at the back so the visitors can park up front".  That's what Pastor Dan Rothwell did and said.  That's what Pastor Robert Schmidgall said and did.  They led churches of thousands and influenced people who still are activated for God.  Part of that was the selflessness they exhibited in service.

Then there are the fistfights that break out in some churches over the "Holy Chairs" at the front.  I once was told to sit in one of them when visiting a church in Michigan and was confronted by a deacon who didn't know why I thought I should be allowed to sit there because they were reserved for the "special people".  He was about to evict me from my chair, and I was ready to go, when the Pastor stopped him and said, "I asked prophet Gene to sit there".  

Some churches even have people's names on the chairs.  Some are absolutely fanatic about always sitting in THEIR PLACE which you better not ever violate.  I once saw a woman go to someone (a new visitor) who accidentally sat in her chair and told her to move.  Amazing.  This is not at all like my remembrance of attending church with Reinhard Bonnke in Germany.   He was traveling all over the globe preaching to millions but he always sat at the middle back of the church.  Behind me many times.  People knew who he was.  He is in person the most humble man you can imagine.  It's why I will never sit in the front of a church.  You will nearly always find me 6-10 rows back.  Don't like sitting in the far back, can't hear, but I avoid front seat fistfights.  I'll let the more "holy" sit there.

Then there is the lifestyles of the rich and holy that brings a stench up before God and a stumbling block for any unbeliever or a new believer of weak faith.  You see it all around.  Multi Million dollar homes, Bentleys and Limos, Private Jet Planes and $5000 suits.  Preachers of LA.  Excesses on Christian TV Networks.

How is this justified? Of course you remember when Jesus insisted on someone coming to pour $50,000 worth of oil on his feet?  Right?  Oh you don't?  Believe it or not that is one of the lame justifications for excess.  To be clear I don't believe Jesus was as poor as my Catholic friends make him out to be, He did own a home apparently, He had support, There was money, There was a treasurer.  But it was only for needs, not greeds.  There was no entitlement in Jesus.  He said, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."  Matthew 11:28-30  

Then there is the "Christian Entourage" effect.  This is amazing.  I believe a man who is mobbed by many in public ministry needs to have the capacity to be sheltered from the press of people when it is there.  The sin is when that is carried to illogical and obvious excess.  The heart of God is saddened by the king and queen like treatment some so called men of God allow and encourage.    It starts by the glass of Gatorade in a chalice with a cover, or if someone has to work as an Armor bearer bringing his or her Bible to the podium at just the right time for the man of God.  Or the preacher who cannot carry his own bag to the car or airplane.

There was a time burned in my memory when Apostle John Eckhardt who has a church of thousands and a global network of ten thousand, who goes where no big shot preachers ever go, who is in danger sometimes while ministering in 64 nations around the world, that has many million dollar best selling books, that John Eckhardt who early one morning was all alone pulling his bag to get on a plane at Midway Airport to fly to his next assignment.  No pretense.  No Entourage.  Just a servant of the most high SERVING.  Yes if he can get an upgrade to a better he does.. but he flies just like I do.. in a seat, with people around him.  No bubble for him.  Humility without entitlement is why I admire him.  He could easily fall into the trap of big shot Christianity.. but he doesn't and his ministry is a thousand times more effective than all the pretenders who believe the myth of excess under the guise of Word of Faith Prosperity.

Somehow we have to put this back where it came from, the pit of hell. It was pretty clever of the devil to do this to the body of Christ. Use their flesh and the deceitfulness of riches to strip away any impact we might have otherwise had on the earth.  The Kingdom is declined, not advanced by our excess.

The real question I ask today is this, With the recent dust up over Creflo Dollar's 65 million dollar jet, was the Kingdom advanced or retarded?  Is his impact on marginal believers increased or decreased.  Is there any stumbling block in his actions?  Paul talked about this.  He talked about it in the context of Food and Drink.  Yet today he would talk in terms of all of our consumptions.. and excess.

Paul the Apostle said this, " 1 Corinthians 8:8-10 -- food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol's temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols?…"

To the Romans he said, " Romans 14:20-23  -- Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble. You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right. But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.

I can't tell you what is or isn't.  I can say that many who are living without regard for how it appears to those weak in faith have hardened their hearts and no longer hear from the Holy Ghost.. for if they did they would be convicted for their choices.

That's just how it works.   If you are convicted by this, it's not me, it's what the word of Holy Spirit does.  If you are not convicted by this and some of this hit home.. you have a problem only YOU can solve if you have ears to hear.

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