When the Apostle John was exiled on the Isle of Patmos for the Word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ, he saw a vision of the Glorified Christ who gave him a message to write to the seven churches of Asia Minor, one of which was in Laodicea. He said among other things, I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth [Rev. 3:15]. Now there just isn't a nicer way to say "vomit," but that is exactly what the word "spue" means. This church which was neither hot or cold, on or off, up or down, in or out, simply made God sick to His stomach.
The Lord Jesus also made quite a startling statement to His disciples when He said, Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men [Mt. 5:13].
Paul the Apostle also referred to powerless religion as having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof … [2 Tm 3:5].
As we examine the church at Laodicea, we see several things that quickly stand out about this church. First, in spite of its condemnation, it was still considered to be one of the Lord's churches, whom He expressed his love for and had not given up on, even though He was not even welcome to come inside to worship. The process of forsaking them wasn't completed yet, because He said that He was still rebuking and chastening them like backsliding Israel in the Old Testament. His hand was "outstretched still" as He calls them to "be zealous therefore and repent."
They were the "lukewarm" church, as was Israel "at ease in Zion," settled on their lees and settled down in the world. They were the First Community Church, and they were comfortable in the community and the community was comfortable with them. They had no controversy with the community and the community had no controversy with them.
Some years ago our church, along with another church in our city, went down to protest at an abortion clinic; many were arrested. During the process, we noticed that the church next door to the clinic had an agreement with the clinic that the murderers and murderesses could use the church parking lot while they did their dirty work. Their excuse was that before the clinic rented the space, the church had an agreement with the office building. Guess it never occurred to them that they might have even put a porn bookstore in there.
The Laodicean church was also a proud church. It said, I am rich, and increased in goods, and have need of nothing. They had no need of the prayer meeting, or the old protracted revival meetings, or the old camp meetings, or the old tent meetings, or the old prophecy conferences. If they had needed those things they would still have had them- they that hunger and thirst after righteousness shall be filled. These are not the things the Laodicean church of today hungers after. But she has a softball team, a basketball league, children's church, church suppers, seminars of all kinds. Because these are the things that she really needs, rather than those other "outdated" things.
The World Mocks a Sickly Church
What is the result of this Laodicean spirit? It has resulted in a church that has no relevance in the world today. Every indication shows that the church in America, as in Europe, is becoming less relevant to society in general every day. Like Lot, he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law when he warned them to get out of Sodom. When he warned them that God was going to destroy Sodom, they thought that he was joking. The world thinks the average preacher and church is just a big joke. When it comes to our point of view, they could care less.
Young blondes who give political analysis on CNN and Fox News, and the glib Rachel Maddow on MSNB are far more important than the pastors of America. Listen to Joel Osteen making a fool of himself to Larry King when he says that he has no problem with Mitt Romney as President; in fact, he told King that he hasn't ever studied much about Mormonism. Dr. Phil has now become America's pastor as the average woman literally worships at his altar of wisdom.
Do they not mock us when they say that we can pray in the halls of the state house or Congress but leave our Jesus outside on the street? Do they not mock us when they say to our Christian chaplains in the military, we want you to go into battle and conduct services for our boys but leave your Jesus back home? Do they not mock us when they say to us, you can send cookies to the boys in Iraq but leave your Bibles in America? Do they not mock us when they say, we want your moral teaching in our schools to tame our little barbarians so we can keep them from climbing the walls and raping the girls and killing the teachers, but leave your Jesus at your church when you come?
And does the IRS not mock us when they say, we will give you tax exemption and we will give your members credit on their 1040 for gifts for your churches, and we will give you pastors tax credits such as housing, etc. and other goodies, but you cannot endorse specific candidates and legislation from the pulpit? And the preachers salve their conscience by saying, "No one has ever told me what I can or can't preach from the pulpit." That's like saying, "No one has ever told me that I can't speed." The preachers may not have awakened from the ether, but their church members have, according to a recent poll from Life Way Christian Resources conducted for the Alliance Defense Fund.
The ADF is the Christian legal society that has been the ramrod behind the pulpit initiative program. This is the effort that encourages pastors to preach political sermons from the pulpit in order to bait the IRS into a legal challenge. The intent is to overturn what is called the "Johnson Law," passed by Congress in 1954 at the behest of Lyndon Johnson, which prohibits preachers of 501(c)(3) tax exempt churches from endorsing particular candidates or legislation from the pulpit. So far the IRS hasn't taken the bait. Read on and weep.
In a Sept. 11, 2011 article by Ed Stetzler, Vice President of Research and Ministry Development for LifeWay Christian Resources whose polling institute has been collecting data for the ADF, he writes the following:
We have completed two surveys recently looking at pastors, people, and politics. The numbers are pretty clear: pastors and people do not think that pulpits are the right place for politics and they also feel that the IRS should not be using the threat of the loss of tax exemption to regulate those pulpits.
Today, we released new data, conducted August 2011. Here is an excerpt from the release and an earlier release on the place of politics in the church: [We] found that 79% of Protestant pastors largely disagreed that, "The government should regulate sermons by revoking a church's tax exemption if its pastor approves of or criticizes candidates based on the church's moral beliefs or theology."
But on the other hand, 84 percent disagree-70 percent strongly and 14 percent somewhat-with the statement, "I believe pastors should endorse candidates for public office from the pulpit."
A June 2008 LifeWay Research survey also found 87 percent of American adults disagreed with the statement, "I believe it is appropriate for pastors to publicly endorse candidates for public office during a church service." In an October 2008 study, less than 3 percent of Protestant pastors agreed that they had publicly endorsed candidates for public office during a church service that year.
These figures show that the Johnson law is accomplishing exactly what it was designed to accomplish-it is silencing the preachers of America. Isaiah the prophet called them in his day, "dumb dogs" that cannot bark [Isaiah 56:10]. They also confirm that the old adage, "politics and religion don't mix," is well entrenched in the American psyche to the extent that the average congregation will not tolerate what is called much "political preaching" from the pulpit. We have surely come to the place where the words of Paul have come true, for the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears [2 Timothy 4:3].
May we dare ask, what political issue is not a religious issue, and what political subject is God not interested in? Also, what political decision will be made in the state house that will not affect the family home or the church house in some manner? If that be the case, then why should the pastor not be informing his people regularly as to what the scriptures have to say on these subjects?
If two candidates are running for office, one for abortion and one opposed, is the pastor to remain silent on the subject of murder? Or sodomy, or sex education in schools, or socialism, or any number of other subjects? What if a member of the church is a candidate, is the pastor not to allow him to give a testimony to the congregation? But the IRS rules say that he would have to give his opponent, even if he or she was a sodomite or lesbian, equal opportunity.
Also one other thing before we leave this subject … When the pollster asked the question, why didn't someone think to say that no pastor should ever tell anyone how to vote or who to vote for, or for that matter, what to do or how to live? The pastor is an Ambassador of Jesus Christ according to the Apostle Paul and stands before the people in "Christ's stead." He also said, Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. If a preacher cannot back his instructions to the people on the authority of the Holy Scriptures, they have no obligation to follow him. However, if he can show them, "Thus saith the Lord," then their controversy is not with the man of God, but with God himself.
The old saying, "Come Shekels, Come Shackles", has now come true. Because of tax exemption-the not-for-profit gift, and the pastors housing allowance and various tax breaks, he is afraid of the IRS. So, whether conscious or unconscious, he is tailoring his preaching to stay within the IRS guidelines. And all the while he says, "They aren't telling me what to preach, I haven't changed my preaching, I preach on any subject I want to preach on," etc. But he has no idea how toned down his sermons have really become.
One preacher said, "I have learned to stay under the radar." But he can't stay under God's radar because God is omniscient, and besides, Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us [Hebrews 12:1].
The Results of Watered Down Preaching
According to a recent Barna group poll, 40% of 16-29 year old Americans identify as non-Christian; 85% of them consider Christianity hypocritical, and 52% of Christians in the same age group agree. Does Christianity have an image problem?
By Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY
Polls show that in 1991, 24% of U.S. adults hadn't been to church in the past six months; today, it's 37%. That's one of the key findings in newly released research that reveals America's drift from clearly defined religious denominations to faiths cut to fit personal preferences. The folks who make up God as they go are side-by-side with self-proclaimed believers who claim the Christian label but shed their ties to traditional beliefs and practices.
More people claim they have accepted Jesus as their savior and expect to go to heaven. And more say they haven't been to church in the past six months except for special occasions such as weddings or funerals. In 1991, 24% were "unchurched." Today, it's 37%. Barna blames pastors for those oddly contradictory findings. "Everyone hears, 'Jesus is the answer. Embrace him. Say this little Sinners Prayer and keep coming back.' It doesn't work. People end up bored, burned out and empty," he says. "They look at church and wonder, 'Jesus died for this?'"
"The consequence," Barna says, "is that, for every subgroup of religion, race, gender, age and region of the country, the important markers of religious connection are fracturing." When he measures people by their belief in seven essential doctrines, defined by the National Association of Evangelicals' Statement of Faith, only 7% of those surveyed qualified. Barna laments, "People say, 'I believe in God. I believe the Bible is a good book. And then I believe whatever I want.'"
LifeWay Research reinforces those findings: A new survey of 900 U.S. Protestant pastors finds 62% predict the importance of being identified with a denomination will diminish over the next 10 years.
Sociologist Robert Bellah first saw this phenomenon emerging in the 1980s. In a book he co-authored, Habits of the Heart, he introduces Sheila, a woman who represents this. Sheila says, "I can't remember the last time I went to church. My faith has carried me a long way. It's Sheilaism. Just my own little voice. … It's just try to love yourself and be gentle with yourself. You know, I guess, take care of each other. I think God would want us to take care of each other."
John the Baptist was The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. No matter what the cost, we need a nation of pastors, evangelists, and missionaries who will determine in their hearts that they will be a "voice" for God to cry out in the "wilderness" of apostasy, sin, and debauchery that we find ourselves in today. We need pastors and churches to throw off the shackles of tax exemption so they can preach with power what God wants them to preach and say without fear as Nathan did of old to King David, Thou art the man! And as John the Baptist did when he said to Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife.
The Lord Jesus says, knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
Obviously they were not aware of their condition. The solution was drastic, I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire
The only hope for this condition is to suffer shame for His namesake; that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
Is this the last call for Repentance for the Lord's church? As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
For more information, go to www.unregisteredbaptistfellowship.com, www.biblicallawcenter.com, and