The Church Under the Hood

The following is from Chapter 2 of the Rogue Christian, The Church Under the Hood:

“Everyone put on a sort of church expression, and each one took his or her accustomed seat in decorous silence…

Then we had prayer and a time of silence. Sometimes the Spirit works most in quiet, but there was no sign of life in them… none of these professing Christians had the joy of conscience salvation.

Was it that the power to understand had been withered up within them? Was the soul God gave them dead—sentenced to death by disuse? Dead they are, in apathy and ignorance and putrefying customs, and the false security that comes from adherence to the Christian creed without vital connection with Christ. These poor Christians are dead.

I have told you how much we need your help for the work among the lost; but often we feel we need it almost as much for the work among the Christians.
Over and over again it is told, but still it is hardly understood, that the Christians need to be converted, that the vast majority are not converted, that statistics may mislead, and do not stand for Eternity work; that many a pastor or teacher has a name to live, but is dead, that the Church is very dead as a whole.”31
-Amy Carmichael, missionary to India in the early 1900s

In the previous chapter, we looked at the big picture of what has happened to our nation and the church. For the remainder of the first part of this book we’ll dig into the root causes behind the church’s loss of nation-preserving spiritual power and influence.

Before we move forward, remember that there is hope. There are many churches and committed believers in the US, and revival is possible if we take the action steps God has given us in His word. What you are about to read in the next four chapters doesn’t apply to everyone, or to the same degree. It’s important to understand that we are woven into the same tapestry and are stepping back to look at the church as a whole.

My intent in Part I of this book is not to condemn but to expose for the purpose of healing and restoration. Just as a broken bone cannot be treated until the depth of the damage is assessed, so all of the truth must be brought into the light. If your leg is broken and the femoral artery is cut, putting the leg in a cast isn’t your first move; you’ll die if the bleeding isn’t stopped quickly. Band-Aids, trite clichés, and shallow remedies will not bring spiritual healing and revival; we must delve deeply into the roots.

Blazing Grace is a ministry to people who are in bondage to porn addiction, adultery, and other forms of sexual sin; we also minister to the wives. Every day, men and women come to us for help; their stories give us insight into what the real church looks like under the hood.

Most Christians are isolated

“I don’t have anyone to talk to” is usually what we hear when someone contacts us the first time. In most status quo churches, believers rarely talk to each other during the weekend services. That greet-the-person-next-to-you thing they do for 60 seconds trains God’s people to stay shallow and isolated.

When I speak in churches or conferences, I frequently ask the audience to raise their hands if they meet with another believer once a week for the purpose of support, accountability, and prayer. Usually, only about 15% raise their hands. Last year, I led a training conference for pastors; the result was no different.

Our churches are like jewelry box trays. Everyone stays in the confines of their plush little grid on Sunday morning; we don’t touch others, and they don’t touch us. We watch the performance and go home. Isolated pastors are raising isolated flocks, which is a set-up for a host of problems, including porn addiction, self-absorption, loneliness, depression, and even suicide.

One of the most critical factors in recovering and persevering through any struggle, whether it involves sin, emotional problems, or spiritual battles, is to be a member of a tribe—a community of believers who will accept you and care for you. We were made for community, as God said when He first created the human race.

It is not good that the man should be alone.
-Genesis 2:18

Proverbs 18:1 adds:

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.

An army of isolated believers is fragmented, weak, and prone to sin. Even the secular world has figured out what the church seemingly is blind to.

According to Sam Guzman, the co-author of Transformed by Beauty, “Research shows rates of loneliness among adults have doubled from 20% to 40% since the 1980s. And according to the General Social Survey, an annual study of societal conditions in the United States, the average American has not a single close friend to confide in or rely on in a crisis. Not one…”

“A recent study published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy reported a strong positive association between loneliness and pornography use. Put simply, if you’re chronically lonely, you’re far more likely to use porn on a regular basis.””32

Many Christians have little to no prayer life.

Last year we started Blazing Grace Church here in Colorado Springs. The weekend services were based on Acts 2:42, which included spending the last 15-20 minutes of the meetings in prayer as a body. Or at least, we tried to.

We had around 20 people on our first Sunday. When it came time to pray as a body, I invited everyone to pray as the Spirit led. Not one person prayed. We’re not talking about new believers here; the room was filled with men and women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s who had attended church for decades.

Most Sundays we were lucky if 30% of those in attendance prayed. Some weeks I had to ask one of my kids to kick off the prayer time; otherwise, the adults would sit in silence.

Most of those who come to us for help have little in the way of a prayer life. The leader of our ministry to wives told me that 70% of the women she talks to rarely pray; many have to be mentored on what a prayer life is about. These are Christians who have been in church for years. When I counsel a couple, I often ask the husband and wife to pray for each other at the end of a session. One wife could barely get the words out of her mouth and confessed that prayer was new to her.

No man, woman, family, or church is greater than their prayer life; any Christian, pastor, or church that is prayerless is powerless. Prayer is our most powerful weapon, yet we have failed miserably to teach people how to pray and incorporate it into their lives.

Their relationship with God is all in their head

John Piper is a well-known pastor and the founder of Desiring God Ministries. When it comes to theology and doctrine, he is at the head of the class.

Read his words:

Look around in your life, in your church. How many Christians do you see bent with all their powers to know God more and more — more truly, more clearly, more sweetly? Or, rather, do you see thousands fighting graduate school sins with a grammar school knowledge of God?

Some of you might say, “Wait, there are as many PhDs in theology who commit adultery as less-educated people.” To which I would say, “Probably more.” Why is it that people with PhDs in theology commit adultery? They don’t know God! You can read theology ten hours a day for forty years and not know God as beautiful and all-satisfying — as the highest treasure of your life. Who cares about knowing God the way the devil knows God? He hates everybody. His knowledge of God helps him hate people.33

There is one memory of church from childhood that sticks in my mind. The pastor is striking his pulpit and screaming: “Bible doctrine! Bible doctrine! Bible doctrine!” As a kid, I internalized the message that Bible knowledge was what the Christian life was about. Funny thing, this pastor had a habit of stopping the service to berate someone in his church for talking or showing up late. I guess 1 Corinthians love was more of a precept than something to live out.

I spent years wandering around as a head Christian. Christianity was about reading the Bible, gaining knowledge, fine tuning my theology, memorizing verses, and doing the things good Christians are supposed to do such as praying, helping others, going to church, and being nice. I spent years under some of the best verse-by- verse teaching there is.

And I was miserable.

Until 2000, when God radically changed my life by flooding my heart with His amazing love, I was an empty, self-absorbed, fearful, critical sex addict with a mountain of pride in my heart. All that teaching and doctrine, as good as it was, had left me with a big gaping hole inside.

Today I know what I desperately needed was someone who had an intimate love relationship with the Lord who could show me how to draw near to Him. I needed far more than mere head knowledge; I needed my heart filled with the love of God that I read about in His word, a love that was so powerful that it revolutionized the lives of the broken men and women Jesus encountered in Scripture.

Fast forward 20 years. I see the same problem repeatedly in men and women at every level of the church, from the pastor to the janitor. I see it in licensed counselors who show off their collection of letters behind their name and in arrogant ministry leaders who boast of the great things the Lord is doing through them while their marriages and families are train wrecks. As Piper said, “They don’t know God.”34 Their relationship with the Lord is all in their heads and is based on their education and knowledge. They don’t have a passionate love relationship with God that flows from their hearts. As I once did, they are living the Christian life in their pride-corrupted flesh.

The men and women we work with who have the hardest time breaking free from lust—or any sin—are those with the degrees and education. Their hearts are split off from their heads; it takes more work to get through their defenses and into their hearts. They may not feel pain, but neither do they know joy. Humility is an act. They confuse knowledge with wisdom, which is the Holy Spirit-inspired good judgment and discernment they need to understand how to use the knowledge God has given them.

Spiritual abuse is widespread

A while back, I had a wife in my office whose husband had been unfaithful to her all of their marriage with pornography and affairs. She had gone to multiple churches for help, all with disastrous results. One pastor at a church told her, “Forgive your husband, and move on,” which is the same as saying that her heart didn’t matter and to bury her feelings.

Another church leader tore into her. As we were talking and she told me her story, her eyes had a look of fear that said, “Are you going to treat me like other Christians have?” I always work to make people feel safe in counseling; minutes later she broke down sobbing and poured out 20 years of pain.

Her story is not rare. We often hear of how churches are doing more damage than good with the people who come to them for help. Some churches believe that pastors are the anointed ones who do no wrong. This philosophy breeds the arrogance that fuels spiritual abuse, especially when a broken believer goes to them for help and the pastor isn’t equipped.

We have lost our purpose

One Christian father told me how his teenage son who had been raised in the church all his life came to him and said he no longer believed in God. The reason? He wanted to be more than a nice person. We are losing our youth because we’re not giving them a faith and a purpose worth fighting for and dying for, which shows that our leaders don’t have it themselves. By avoiding the hard topics, status quo churches have sterilized the Christian life. They’re churning out really nice people who are no threat to the gates of hell.

One recent study this:

Fifty-five percent of American Christians are concerned with modern youth ministry because it’s too shallow and too entertainment-focused, resulting in an inability to train mature believers.35

A Barna poll revealed that 61% of 20-year-olds who attended church during their teen years no longer read their Bible, pray, or attend church. We have lost our heart and our sense of purpose, and we are losing our youth.

They’re blind to the spiritual battle.

Recently, I was talking to a friend I’ve known for 20 years. He’s passionate about the Lord, and has attended church for decades. I had never discussed the topic of spiritual warfare with him, and brought up the battles we go through at Blazing Grace.

To my surprise, he told me he struggled with the idea that there is such a thing as spiritual warfare. The churches he and his family have attended in the past are similar to the one I described in Chapter 1 where the topics discussed from the pulpit are usually light and airy.

The leader of our wives ministry said that many of the women she’s worked with have never been taught that we “do not wrestle against flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12) or, like my friend, have any understanding that some of the struggles in their marriage stem from spiritual warfare.

One of Satan’s strategies is to keep God’s people blinded to the warfare that Satan’s army of orcs is waging against God’s people. Christians who are untrained for battle or don’t believe there is one offer no resistance to an enemy whose purpose is to steal, kill, or destroy. Our status quo church of today is like France in 1940 when the Germans tore through their country and conquered them in two months.

One historian wrote:

In the late spring and early summer of 1940, it became clear that France was woefully unprepared for the German onslaught. France suffered a humiliating defeat and was quickly occupied by Germany. Its failure was a result of a hopelessly divided French political elite, a lack of quality military leadership, and rudimentary French military tactics. On the battlefield, France faced a vastly more prepared German army that utilized both more advanced weapons and sophisticated tactics.36

Divided political elite. Lack of quality leadership. Sound familiar? Satan’s employing the same tactic today by working to split our country in civil war and neutralize the church. The leaders in our churches are not equipping our people to be overcomers or fighters. They’re not even acknowledging that there is a battle. Christians tell us all the time that their church doesn’t address topics such as pornography, sex, masturbation, depression, suicide, or spiritual warfare, to name a few. No wonder Satan is having a field day corrupting our country. We’re not even showing up to the fight!

What has happened to the leaders of the church? Why are they avoiding the hard topics, and why aren’t God’s people being equipped to be warriors and overcomers?

The next two chapters will answer those questions.