Right Hand Publicity, Inc.

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:

Matthew 6:2-4

“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.

Bel Air Presbyterian Donates $40,000 In Food
The Church is donating the food, just in time for Thanksgiving, to 115 needy families and 60 non-profit organizations. Mia Lee reports

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.

Revelation 3:1-6
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.

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Speaking the Truth in Anger and Lying in Love

Ephesians 4:15
but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ

There is a dynamic I see being played out in the comments section of Christian blogs everywhere. God has called all of us to, ‘speak the truth in love’, but that seems to be the exception more than the rule.

More than two years ago a serious conflict began with one of my oldest and dearest Christian friends. After months of everyone trying to work things out earnestly, things took a turn for the worse and it was time to abandon the relationship. I wrote to him to say goodbye, and included one of my observations on this dynamic that was preventing the conflict from being healed biblically.

I would like to share part of that letter to him, as it ‘confesses’ my own predilection for sin, explores his and challenges all of us to examine ourselves.

“…From the outset of this [conflict] I have known that if I was going to fall into sin, my predisposition would be to ‘speak the truth in anger’. I have worked hard to keep that from happening and confessed it when it did…

You on the other hand have, and continue to, ‘lie in love’. You believe and speak things that are not true, your decisions on how to handle these problems do not line up with scripture…, but you seem to believe that as long as you have a “good heart” none of that matters. It matters. It is having devastating consequences…”

This seems to be a good analogy (albeit an oversimplification) for what is happening in the hostile discussions taking place between reformed or discernment proponents that are very concerned with presenting God’s unadulterated Truth (of which I am one) and emergents that are very concerned that love be the focus of the church.

But bottom line, when we speak and do not balance the two, we sin. And if we want to keep from falling into sin, we need to know where our weaknesses are so that when we can recognize our flesh when it pops up to take over, confess the sin quickly and get back on the road that God would have us on.

Some of us tend toward lying in love, because we really, truly want to believe the best, even when the evidence is to the contrary, and really want God’s Kingdom to be as inclusive as we can make it. We really, really want the visible church to be God’s Kingdom on earth. But stretching the Word of God beyond that which the text will logically allow, is sin. It is adding to and taking away from scripture. Even when we do it with the best of intentions, it is still making The True God into a golden calf who will be the god that you want him to be. It is sin.

Some of us have become so concerned with getting things correct and defending the true faith, that we loose sight of God’s command to balance our truth with love. We fall into the trap of becoming noisy gongs or a clanging cymbals. We keenly see the danger in the assumption that the visible church, not the invisible church, is God’s Kingdom and are very serious about warning those who think that, because they prayed a prayer once, they are going to heaven. In warning of those dangers we can offer harsh rebuke in cases where the bible does not set a precedent for it.

A few of us, in our relative youth and immaturity, vacillate back and forth between the two.

And there is one person in my life that is able to balance the two when she speaks, and when she has spoken into a conflict, brings the tension in the room from a fever pitch down to safe vulnerability, but she does not speak. Fear of fighting has driven her to retreat from the conflicts in which she could have been a stabilizing force.

We can also change from one extreme to the other in our lives. Where I had spent the first few decades of my life as one who would tend to lie in love, becoming the mother of an autistic child, and then seeing that child get the shaft (even at the hands of professing Christians), drove me from one camp into the other, and since April of 2006, I can say with out hesitation that my tendency now when I sin in this area, it is to speak the truth in anger.

But there is hope for all of us. If we are true disciples of Jesus Christ, and if the Holy Spirit is in us, we can be brought back to the place that we can deal with terribly difficult truths even when our flesh wants to run screaming into denial or defensiveness; and we can be humble and loving and considering others more important than ourselves when dishing out the hard truth, choosing words that provide edification according to the need of the moment.

I know that because last week, all three of us, the woman who was afraid to speak, the man who had such a hard time with the hard truth, and me, the angry autism mom, after two years of God working on us, were able to step outside of our flesh and into the Spirit and do those things which God called us to do.

And in our obedience, God healed the relationships that had been broken for years.

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away… blessed be the name of the Lord!

So here is my question for my commenters, where are you in this picture? When you sin, do you speak the truth in anger like me? Do you lie in love? Or do you fail to speak at all?

Update: Sadly the aforementioned friend was not able to follow through on his attempt to deal truthfully, no repentance of sin followed and the reconciliation fell apart.

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away… blessed by the name of the Lord.