The Greatest Deception – Part 1
“By their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7:20 NIV)
How many churches in America on any given Sunday are eager to have any and every person enter their doors? I mean white, black, Latino, gay, homeless, rich or poor, clean or dirty, drugged up or slightly inebriated. Jesus Christ shed his precious blood for everyone on earth and never turned away anyone who sincerely came to him for help. We know that the angels of heaven rejoice when any unbeliever repents, and we claim that God’s love reaches out to the worst prodigal among us. But do our churches reflect the Savior’s heart? Do pastors and congregations wait with open arms for the worst of sinners to enter their sanctuaries?
What does it matter how well we know the Bible if we don’t aggressively love the folks Christ died for? What good are the gifts of the Spirit if they’re only for people like us—people we feel comfortable with? Is this Christianity? Is it found anywhere in the Bible? The greatest deception of all has nothing to do with New Age philosophy or the occult. Rather, it is the idea that we can represent and preach Christ while being strangers to his heart of love.
Sadly, the church growth movement has attempted to legitimize much of our racial prejudice and lack of love for people who are different from us. With no scriptural basis whatsoever, we now have yuppie churches, generation-X churches, and all-white middle-class congregations that somehow never become integrated even though they are located in cities with high minority populations. Rather than being embarrassed, the so-called experts boldly proclaim that this is the secret to success—but everyone knows what’s really going on…
I have heard just about every justification and cover-up for this sad state of affairs. People have told me that I can’t understand “the problem” because I’m not from their part of the country. Preachers have told me that they are happy to start another church downtown for the “poor and downtrodden” but they can’t risk lots of members leaving if their own doors open up to everyone. Others tell me that “twice a year we join together with minority churches in a big rally.” “Seeker-sensitive” technicians have even asserted that it’s impossible to have a growing church unless you focus on a homogeneous target group.
How can the world put any stock in Christianity if we practice this kind of exclusivity? Attendance at football games is interracial, people of different races work together in office buildings across the country, and all professional and collegiate athletic programs are now integrated. But as soon as eleven o’clock rolls around on Sunday morning, churches around the country form strange, segregated enclaves that don’t reflect life in America.
Both black and white ministers sometimes cunningly reinforce these prejudices and fears so they can hold the crowd and keep money coming into the church. Although they might keep their own congregations happy, I worry for them in the end. Warning of apostasy in the last days, the book of Jude graphically describes godless men who “have secretly slipped in among you… autumn trees, without fruit” (Jude 4, 12)…
Never forget the following, no matter how pretty someone wants to paint the picture: 1) "A tree is recognized by its fruit; and 2) "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."
To be continued...
-Pastor Cymbala (excerpted from Breakthrough Prayer)
Read Matthew 7:15-20.