There is much to write about when discussing corruption in the American “church”. Big “churches” with big budgets operating like big businesses and occasionally like big mafia.
The gross sin is certainly important to expose, but usually when you attend a church, you don’t see a sign on the door that says, “Our pastor cheats on his wife with male prostitutes and has a meth problem”. What you may be able to see is that there is sin peppered all over the place, seemingly “lesser sin” that is not just tolerated, but encouraged and directed by the church leadership.
When really examining the health of a church, these are often more interesting, because they are closer to the moment of the spiritual death, if you will. You see the corruption at its early stages. No church is healthy Tuesday, and Wednesday the congregation finds out that the assistant pastor has taken off with the church’s money and it’s secretary. No, the corruption began long before that, as just a little sin that was tolerated, which became bigger sin that was unaddressed, and after a time, fully blossomed into systematic corruption.
But that corruption was born when someone (usually in a power position) stepped off the path that Christ had set, and the church didn’t make him either get back on or leave.
Since leaving a “church” where corruption was fully in bloom, I have become fascinated with the anatomy of how a church becomes corrupted. It happens much the way cancer happens.
It is estimated that 90% of the population has “cancer” at any given time. Cancer is merely cells that have divided incorrectly resulting in two dysfunctional cells. In those with healthy immune systems, those errant cells are recognized and destroyed. In those with broken immune systems, the cancer cells go unrecognized and unaddressed are allowed to keep dividing until they eventually form a tumor and metastasize, killing the body.
So by the time someone is diagnosed with cancer, they have actually had it for many months or even years, but the symptoms were not seen on the surface.
So too, when a church is discovered to be corrupt, it can be traced back months and years to a time when the actual break down in the system of accountability. When confronting sin and exercising church discipline stops, the cancer starts to grow, and it is only a matter of time before the body is dead, and just becomes a social club, civic organization or entertainment arena.
So while there are endless examples out there of full blown apostasy, let’s look at a more subtle example of outright sin that gets skipped over. Usually because this kind of thing is now ubiquitous in the “church” as it has become deaf to God’s wisdom and replaced it with the wisdom of the world.
One of the most obvious phenomenons, when you start paying attention, is how “churches” are promoting themselves.
Here is Christ’s direction for believers:
“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
“But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
Spend an hour on you tube and see how many “churches” have disobeyed Christ in his direction to serve in secret, instead making videos of their good works and posting them on the internet for all to see. Missions trips, building projects, food drives, and on and on. Videos that serve no other purpose than to say, “Look what we did!”.
Here are two videos that inspired this post (in the interest of full disclosure, this our former “church”):
In this video the leader of a group video tapes himself going to donate blood at a drive that they held after the serious injury of a parishioner.
In this local CBS affiliate news story, the press is actually called in to video tape the Thanksgiving food drive and they have been provided with the exact dollar amount that was spent on food for the needy and how many needy it will feed.
These weren’t even videos that went out before or during the events so that others could be notified and participate, they were done after the fact, purely for publicity.
Let me be clear, in no way am I criticizing them for doing these good works, on the contrary. But they didn’t do them in secret.
In complete contradiction with “not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing”, the right hand has become a public relations firm for it’s own good works. Right Hand Publicity, Inc.
They have chosen the way of the world, issuing press releases that show them doing things that make them look good, and turned their back on the way of Christ, to do good in secret.
And this is not a people that didn’t know any better. In the case of both of these videos, the subjects have been completely briefed on Christs “press blackout” command. The guy in the first video I have known for two decades. He grew up in a Christian home, attended bible college and been in and out of church leadership positions since he was a teenager. He has read Matthew 6. In the second case, the pastor of the church has a Ph.D. in biblical studies and teaches at Fuller Theological Seminary, so it is fair to assume that he either is ignoring Matthew 6, or is an absentee shepherd who is not teaching his staff and doesn’t know what they are doing.
This is not a case where well meaning, over enthusiastic, newbie converts just didn’t know about the right hand/left hand policy.
And as both of these were posted last year, and are still up, (along with the many dozens of others you will find on You Tube) we can see that the accountability system that God set up to teach and hold his disciples accountable is broken. None one has gone to these people and reminded them of, and held them accountable to, Matthew 6.
So if the easy sin to address, self-promotion of good works, is being practiced openly, how likely is it that they will address the difficult sins of lying, adultery, spousal abuse, drug abuse, sexual harassment and assault, fraud, stealing and the like.
If this were a church I didn’t know anything about, I would chance that their immune system is broken and say that it is a pretty safe bet that there is a serious cancer growing there. But as I have reported elsewhere, we have already been witness to the fact that the cancer there has metastasized and the corruption is in full bloom.
But if you showed up to church there on Sunday, you will not see the big tumor (you don’t really get a good look at it until you get involved in leadership and see how problems are handled behind the curtain), but you can see the smaller symptoms, the sin like this that has risen to the surface and remains unaddressed.
So learn from this. Look for the smaller sin that is going unchecked and unaddressed both in your life and in your church. See if the immune system is functioning and attacking the individual cancer cells or the tiny tumors. If not, then it is only a matter of time until the Spirit is gone and the body is dead.
Message to Sardis
“To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.
Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.
So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.
But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.
He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
And it may have already happened.