Satan is always looking for ways to trap, confuse, or dilute believers. If he can find a crack in the door, he will make every effort to mix truth and error, all the while saying, “Just be open minded.” Satan does far greater damage as the angel of light than as a roaring lion.
The most gullible fall into several categories. New believers who aren’t well-versed in Scripture can be tricked into the traps of emotionalism and fanaticism. Older believers, tired of business as usual at the church, can look for some new teaching or teacher who tickles their ears.
The greatest danger I’ve seen in these decades of ministry is the swinging to extremes that has led to the improper exposition of Scripture. We try to relate to a generation or culture by acting like them rather than showing them how Christ transcends culture and trends. Drifting with the drift of the times will end up causing a believer, a church, or even a generation to crash on the rocks of relative thinking.
We are a culture obsessed with trends. Trends in hairstyles, clothing (baggy jeans, skinny jeans, tee shirts, work shirts, miniskirts, leggings). Just name it and by the time you get it in your closet, it’s out of style. There are other trends not so obvious. There is a generation obsessed with getting their parents’ wealth (Baby Boomers), but they will squander it. According to some studies, Boomers completely spend their parents’ estate in less than two years. Wanting it all now is a denial of self-sacrifice and clear biblical teaching. Yet prosperity churches applaud that mentality as a sign of the blessings of God. Like heroin, the love of money is an addiction that can never be satisfied.
There’s another trend that is encroaching on evangelicals: the lack of morals. The growing acceptance of gay marriage, abortion, premarital sex, living together, pornography, and immorality on our pews and in our pulpits is appalling. The Scripture teaches us to “abstain from sexual immorality.” While we don’t yet applaud it in American Christianity, it certainly is not dealt with as it once was. When “anything goes,” ultimately “everything goes.”
America has forsaken the Judeo-Christian ethic. We are living in the sewer of Romans 1. The new morality—open-mindedness—is leading to bondage on every front. Because we don’t teach Romans 1-3 in our churches, our culture is embracing the acts of Romans 1-3 as acceptable behavior. Our silence is a denial of what God has clearly spoken.
The great trend I’ve seen over the last few years of simulcasts and super conferences is the blending of heresy, error, and truth on the same platform. We are so concerned about not being cool that we allow spiritual cancers on our platforms. We are turning from truth to “what works.” If it works, it must be of God, right? WRONG! We are told in 1 Timothy that we are to condemn and correct the spirit of the age and not catch it.
The Old Testament is filled with examples of false teachers who got their way. They got the ear of the king and led to the downfall of the nation. They excused the blending of idols with worship of the living God. Read the Old Testament and you’ll find false prophets supposedly speaking for God. At one point, there were 400 false prophets who gave their opinion. Only Micaiah stood against them. The old English preacher Joseph Parker said, “The world hates the 401st prophet.”
I’m not saying I’m the 401st prophet. But I am concerned that we have so many conferences geared to train, equip, and encourage church members—and especially the younger generation—that have no discernment. I look at far too many conference programs that supposedly promote something geared to raise up the next generation, when, in effect, they are polluting and diluting the power of God.
We need a voice of dissent. We need a prophet in every generation who will call us back to our senses. We need an Elijah, an Amos. We need someone who is not afraid to say, “You can’t mix truth with error and come up with truth.” What you come up with is error at best, and, most likely, it leads to heresy. God will not bless that which is not of Him.
Why is this happening? A failure of sound teaching from the pulpits of our land. We are so concerned about people feeling good, having better relationships, that we’ve forgotten the horizontal will only be as good as the vertical. If a person is not living right with God, they won’t get their earthly relationships on the right plane. Without Spirit and truth (you must have both) all you have is rules, principles, cool power points, and videos but no power to live as God intended.
You can go to a major city and sit with thousands upon thousands in a big arena with multiple bands, lights, sound, high-profile speakers. You can watch these conferences on the Internet. My question is, where’s the power? Where are the results that sweep across this land and change the culture, bring in revival, and give evidence of repentance?
I am NOT saying all these are bad. Much good has come from these events. But at the end, when we stand before God, how much will have been eternal good? The t-shirts will be gone. The causes will be long gone (or replaced by a new trendier cause). But will they stand the fire test? Will these events be wood, hay, and stubble or gold, silver, and precious stone?
I just need to ask, are we falling into the bigger is better, find the latest YouTube sensation, get the most recent American Idol who’s a Christian, find the new hip band, get the speaker that “really connects” — and then what? Where’s the seasoning? Where’s the discernment? Where’s the maturity in decision making?
What I often hear is excuses. “Well, they do have some issues when you study what they say by Scripture, but people love them…” “I know there are some concerns, but look at how many people respond to their concerts…” “I know they sometimes use profanity when they speak, but they also have a great message on holiness…” Huh?
We’ve lost discernment. We’ve lost purity. Thus, we’ve lost power. We don’t need gimmicks, we need godliness. We don’t need smoke and mirrors, we need the Spirit. Bethel was in pathetic shape until Amos showed up and pointed out their problem. Jerusalem had the biggest shows in the land until Jesus showed up and cleaned out the temple.
Just because it looks good doesn’t mean it is good. God told Isaiah he hated all the new moons, Sabbaths, and solemn assemblies where men didn’t worship God in spirit and truth. I’m just posing a question. Could it be God hates our “events” that do not honor the Lord in Spirit and truth? We raise speakers to rock-star status, and some aren’t even clear on the gospel or their stance on the fundamental doctrines of our faith.
You can have all the hype in the world, and God may see it is lukewarm. It’s not how high we jump; that’s not spirituality. It’s how straight we walk when we land; that’s Spirit and truth in balance.
I guess my plea is this: let’s learn to discern. Don’t swallow something hook, line, and sinker. If we are going to put the name of Jesus on it, let’s make sure it’s about Jesus, not products, causes, or preferences. Keep the main thing, the main thing.
And another thing—where are the speakers who have the courage and discernment to say, “I’d be honored to speak at your event, but I can’t if you are going to host other speakers/artists that I find issues with their core beliefs.” Why is it that a person who has strong convictions about truth is considered a trouble maker? Why are those who have deep convictions labeled as uncooperative if they don’t jump on the band wagon?
The test of cooperation for me is: Where are you going? If I follow your path, take your teaching to what appears to be an obvious conclusion, will I end up at the cross or a club? Too many who say they are broadminded are actually shallow. The gate that leads to destruction is wide. The door that leads to error has no lock on it.
My concern has risen recently because I see well-known, solid Bible teachers sharing the platform at events with those who apparently have the theological depth of an earthworm. At a recent event, well-known teachers were on the same conference platform with some who could be classified as extremist in evangelical circles. Some, you could even question if they believe in the deity of Christ.
I’m sorry, I’m old-fashioned. I am willing to cross a lot of lines to see the gospel furthered. But when asked if I would share the platform with someone who believes revelation didn’t stop with the Scriptures, I have to say no. Is there really any difference between a so-called Christian who has “special revelations” and a Mormon or Muslim who says God revealed something better than or beyond Christ? Are not all those in the same camp? All of them see Christ and the Scriptures as inadequate or insufficient. Their “teachings and revelations” are thus on the same level as the writings of Moses and Paul. I think not. I think it’s dangerous to get in bed with those who have rejected sound doctrine for dreams, schemes, and unverifiable revelations. Or with those who on their own initiative call themselves Apostles.
My mentor Vance Havner said it this way, “The trend today is toward the homogenization of mankind into one faceless mass. Light would have communion with darkness, righteousness with unrighteousness, believers with infidels, and the temple of God with idols; we would establish concord between Christ and Baal.”
I know I’m out of step. I’ll never be a bestselling author. I’ll never be invited to these super meetings where the superstars speak. That’s okay. I can live with that and not lose a moment’s sleep. What I can’t live with is a generation that is growing up not knowing the difference between truth and half-truth and error. I grieve knowing that people I would consider sound Bible teachers have no conscience to share the platform with people who add to or take away from the Bible. If we wait until compromise is entrenched, it will be too late.
As a shepherd, I want God to let me see the wolf coming. I need to be able to discern when predators are at the door. I’m not on a witch hunt. I just want to stand on the right side of this issue. We are drifting toward a diluted gospel. Drifting is easy, it’s natural. But if you want the touch of God, you have to swim against the tide.
The only way out of this trend is for leaders to speak up, stand up, say no, draw lines, and repent of selling out to the invitation for bigger and better. In the wilderness of temptation, Jesus was offered a “greater platform” by the devil if he would just do things the devil’s way. My fear is some are selling out the gospel and the blessings God has given them to try to stay “in the loop.” God help us.
(copyright Michael Catt, All Rights Reserved)
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.