When Church Leaders are Getting Rich from “Ministry,” Evil is Present

1 Peter 5:1-3 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: (2) shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; (3) not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

1 Timothy 6:9-10 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. (10) For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

1 Corinthians 9:14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

The Pharisees were lovers of money (Luke 16:14). They used their position as religious leaders for personal gain. Their associates, the scribes, shared in the same wickedness:

Mark 12:38-40 And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces (39) and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, (40) who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

We see then a very clear pattern throughout Scripture. Leaders in the visible church who are growing wealthy from “ministry” are corrupt or well on their way to becoming so. An elder is required to be a man not given to the love of money (1 Tim 3:3). Therefore, I pose a serious question:

How is it that the mass of Christians today are being largely taught by celebrity leaders in the visible church who are growing quite wealthy from the proceeds of their “ministry”? The ones who are writing the books we read, who publish the study Bible notes, who make the Christian conference rounds as featured speakers, who pastor the “notable” and mega churches? Why are we not insisting that their incomes be made public?

Our Lord Jesus Christ was not wealthy. The Apostles were not wealthy, nor did they grow wealthy. The most pathetic “church” addressed by the Lord was that at Laodicea of which Christ said:

Revelation 3:15-17 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! (16) So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (17) For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

A minister of the gospel is deserving of a living. There are churches who intentionally and unnecessarily keep their pastor in poverty so the “pillars” can more easily keep him under control, and that is an evil sin. But here we are speaking of the opposite wickedness – a minister gaining fame and fortune from the ministry. Pride is dangerous. Wealth is dangerous. And wealth stockpiled from doing “the Lord’s work” simply cannot be justified.

It is long past time for Christ’s people to insist on full disclosure in regard to the financial status of the pastors, theologians, and authors who are teaching them. In most local churches this is already done annually in the published church budget. But there are celebrity leaders who are writing the notes in our study Bibles, the books that we are told are “must reads,” who are speaking regularly on the “christian” conference circuit, who are selling their sermons and taking salaries from their “non-profit” ministries that so many people listen to unquestioningly who are not being held accountable.

Do you really want to be taught by and do you really think you should trust the teaching of someone who has grown rich and continues to do so as a result of their stated “ministry”? How much of the “Bible truth” we are being fed has been polluted by the influence of money and the love of it? How many decisions in local churches and other Christian ministries are void of justice because money has swayed the verdict? No matter who a person is, no matter how soundly they appear to have begun in the service of Christ, wealth remains a danger and we are very foolish if we think that it is not having an effect on these people.

They won’t hear me, but I will ask the question and issue the challenge myself. I call on such leaders in the church to full financial disclosure in regard to monies earned from any and all of the entities they are involved with that claim to serve Christ. And I would go further. I would challenge them to stop receiving wealth that they do not need. Any ministry entity that is paying large sums to their leaders, beyond what is really necessary and commensurate with the culture they are in, is working to the corruption and destruction of those leaders. Human beings are human beings. Wealth and fame corrupt.

These Are the People Who are Enabling Abusers in the Church

I have to post this right away because it is soooo false and so incredibly damaging to victims of evil ones (like domestic abusers hiding in the church) and so enabling to the wicked. It is a quote from a pastor who claims to be an expert on domestic violence and who has been rather successful at putting himself off as such. His message, he says, is one of “hope.” But it is anything but that for victims.

You will see as he answers the question put to him by a supposedly “reformed theology” talk show moderator that he minimizes and levels the sin of the abuser. He lumps ALL of us into the same category as the conscienceless sociopath, and he shames and guilts any of us who are righteously angry about how this wickedness is being tolerated in local churches. In so doing, he is showing that he himself is guilty of the very sin that the Apostle Paul confronted the Corinthians with:

1 Corinthians 5:2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

Does Scripture teach us that all people, including Christians, are sinners and in fact sinners of the same category as those who creep in among Christ’s flock and work to destroy their souls (which is what these domestic abusers who hide in churches in disguise are doing). Of course not!

1 Corinthians 5:11-13 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. (12) For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? (13) God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

And again:

2 Peter 2:20-22 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. (21) For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. (22) What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

With those Scriptures in mind, listen to what this “expert” has to say. This is the kind of false teaching that gathers the crowds and leads to popularity. Oh, well, unless you are a victim of the “christian” abuser –

Question: How does the gospel speak into, heal, and really answer the problem of domestic violence and how might we hope in Christ in the midst of a dark, broken Genesis 3 world where it seems like domestic violence abounds?

Answer: I want us to be a voice of hope because there are a lot of voices out there speaking to this topic and many of them can be angry, can be resentful and somewhat rightfully so.  But I think the church can be a voice of hope here.  Not hope for marriage restoration, but hope for the glory of God and the advancement of the gospel, which is our best hope for marriages moving forward.

What I often say in the idea of redemption is ‘Did Jesus die for abusive men?’ And while I do understand the aspect of the reprobate and being targeted by God’s wrath and a seared conscience and so on, I do believe there’s an aspect of hope that we don’t simply write everyone off.  But we embrace the reality that not only did Jesus die for violent men, he hung on a cross designed for a violent man and by a sermon on the mount type of theology each of us have that heart of violence potential within us and so if we have no hope for the abuser then there’s little hope for us…

Show us, Mr. Pastor – show us in Scripture where we are commanded by the Lord to counsel and give hope to and “redeem” the reviler. You may point us to the following words of Paul, as I suspect:

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, (10) nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (11) And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

But these people came to real faith and genuine repentance. Authentic transformation in Christ. We essentially NEVER see such in the abuser, the sociopath, the reviler as Scripture calls them. Yet people like this pastor claim they have a program, they have a system, all of which gives “hope” to people who continue to lie and deceive and abuse. This very Scripture tells us that such people will never enter Christ’s kingdom as long as they walk in evil, which is exactly what they are continuing to do. We are not to counsel them or educate them. We are to put them out from among us and not even eat with them.

What About Bob? – He’s a Really Nice Guy, Right?

Of course the title of this post is a reference to the movie in which Bill Murray played the agoraphobic, manipulative narcissist – Bob Wiley. The movie was a comedy.

In real life, there is nothing funny about Bob. So, what about him?

If you focus some attention on Dr. Leo Marvin’s wife, daughter, and son, I suggest to you that you will have a pretty accurate portrayal of the average professing Christian today when it comes to being duped by evil. Here is Mrs. Marvin, the kind, warm, loving type person that most people think a Christian should be.

In contrast to her judgmental psychiatrist husband, Mrs. Marvin is accepting of Bob. She invites him into her home, sits him down for dinner, and even permits him to sleep in her son’s bedroom with her son!  When Leo tries his best to show her that Wiley is a manipulating, conniving, sociopath working to take over her family, she simply will not hear it. Bob is a good person.

And so it is in most every local church today if you pop in for a visit and take a look. Their doctrinal statements speak of the depravity of man, of sin, of coming judgment in the Day of the Lord, but that stuff has just about become archaic in practice. Church signs read “Everyone Welcome” – and they really are. Everyone. If a newcomer says they believe in Jesus, well, they can become a member right away and before you know it they are teaching the kids’ Sunday School class or working in the youth group. Nicest people you ever met, you know.

But, what about Bob? In real life I mean. Scripture paints a far more somber and serious picture:

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. (2 Peter 2:1-3)

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. (1 John 2:18)

But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. (2 Corinthians 11:3-4)

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)

In future posts we will look more closely at these Scriptures and at many others like them. This is just a small sampling of the mountain of warnings the Lord has given us about the “Bob’s” who come along with Bible in hand, smile on face, ready to serve,  speaking of Jesus – “just the godliest people you could ever want to meet.” Right.

Over the many years we have served the Lord here in Oregon at Christ Reformation Church, we all have learned some hard lessons. One of those lessons is this: “not everyone who says they are a Christian, is.” While most people would say “yeah, duh” to that statement, in practice they do not believe it. They energetically deny that anyone is “all that bad” and all the while mouth the horrid mantra, “but we are all sinners, you know.” So the sociopath, the narcissist, the pedophile, the domestic abuser looking for a target finds a warm welcome in the very place that is supposed to be, well, this:

if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:15)

The very foundation of Christ’s truth is to be evidenced in and supported by every local church. That is not the common scenario today however. What about Bob? Bob is soon an elder in the church, welcomed with open arms, the finest Christian anyone has ever met.

And Bob’s master is very pleased.

If You Refuse to Acknowledge Evil, You Don’t Believe God

And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” (Isaiah 6:9-10)

Willful blindness leads to further darkness. When human beings refuse to acknowledge and give thanks to God, He steps back (Romans 1). The darkness increases because God is Light. Christians are no exception. When God’s people close their eyes to the light of God’s truth in His Word, they too can expect darkness to overshadow them.

Literally everyday, and I say this with no exaggeration of the facts, I read or see or hear real life examples of professing Christians (are they Christians at all??) willfully choosing ignorance and falsehood rather than Christ’s light. Want some examples? Here:

  • Hugh Hefner, porn king who led millions of people into wickedness and used and abused how many women, died recently. What did some “christians” have to say when Hefner’s evil was pointed out? “We must not and cannot judge him. He was someone’s son. His life should be celebrated. He too was one of God’s children.” Really. I am not making this up. They said it and were incensed that anyone would be “judgmental” about Hefner.
  • A sermon is preached in a mega-church by an “expert” on marriage. He says that every marriage – EVERY marriage – is a garden that, if properly tended, will be beautiful and bear good fruit. The only reason the garden goes bad, says this “doctor of ministry,” is because the husband and wife let it go to weed through neglect. He makes no mention of the fact that there are many spouses who are sociopaths, conscienceless workers of evil whose intent is to deceive and destroy.
  • A wicked and evil man is confronted for his unrepentant and ongoing reviling of the righteous and enabling of the wicked. He is put out of the church. He simply drives down the road the next week, plugs into another “church,” wearing his facade, and within two years is appointed to a leadership position there. The pastor and other leaders never bother to look into his history.
  • A growing, “happening” mega-church wannabe boasts about how many new people are swelling its ranks and how many “baptisms” are being performed. “It’s the Lord at work! We are kingdom-minded and He is going to do a huge work through us!” When a church member involved in the women’s ministry cautions the pastor that there are numbers of men who are domestic abusers parading as Christians who are members of this church, the pastor scoffs. He accuses the lady of being paranoid and asks her rather mockingly, “do you want us to go on a sin-hunt in a church this size?”
  • As judges will testify if you ask them, when a pastor or “saintly” church member appears in their courtroom, charged with rape or child molestation or some other unspeakable evil, the courtroom seating will be filled on the defendant’s side. Filled with other church members who have come to “support” their fellow “brother in Christ” who they just know could not possibly be guilty. Oh, and who is on the victim’s side of the courtroom? No one. None. Empty.

And on and on we could go. The climate in most local churches is one which accepts as valid virtually anyone’s claim to be a Christian, regardless of how they are living their life. They can be walking in immorality. We must not judge them. They can be people who mistreat their employees, who regularly look at porn with no remorse, who love the world and the things in the world, and yet “grace abounds,” for them we are told. The only really heinous sin it would seem is to call sin, well…sin!

But there is more. If you take the time and have the opportunity to chat with the average, typical member of local churches today, you will very commonly find an astonishing degree of biblical ignorance. The Apostle’s words are spot on for our day:

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14)

Take particular notice of the very last phrase here. “…who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” Did you think that “spiritual maturity” was something else? Like knowing lots of verses by memory, or winning attendance badges in Sunday School, or reading your Bible through in a year? Those can be good things, but the fact is that spiritual babies can and do accomplish those things if tantalized by the right bribes. No, real spiritual maturity is the ability to distinguish good from evil.

Therefore, my thesis is this: The light of God’s truth is exceedingly dim in most local churches and individual professing Christians today. And the proof of this statement is the plain, evident fact that the large (very large) majority of church members cannot or will not distinguish good from evil. Instead, this is what we are seeing:

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20)

Do you want to grow up? Do you want to be someone who loves righteousness and hates evil, who is sick and tired of the name of Christ being blasphemed because of the actions and teachings of those who claim to belong to Him but do not? Then stick with us here at Light for Dark Times as we contrast what God’s Word says with the darkness being preached in the visible church.

Remember, anyone who refuses to acknowledge evil is a person who necessarily refuses to believe God.

The Light is Dim in Goshen

I have selected the name for this blog very purposefully. It is my judgment that the evangelical church of our present day has a bad eye and that therefore our Lord’s words apply directly:

Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. (Luke 11:34)

Many professing Christians will disagree with my assessment. They will accuse me of overstatement and exaggeration. “It’s not that bad” they will insist. But I insist as well. The lights are very dim in the land of Goshen when that is the very place Christ’s light of truth should be shining most brightly.

So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the people of Israel had light where they lived. (Exodus 10:22-23)

By Goshen, of course, I mean the visible, local church. This is the darkness of which I speak. Spiritual blindness to the truth of God’s Word, varying from pitch black in some cases to a partial eclipse at noonday in others, all designed by the Prince of Darkness to obscure the glory of Jesus Christ.

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)

The Apostle Paul of course was speaking of unbelievers and yet because of creeps creeping in among us, the false teachers Jude warns us about, the light of the glory of Christ has grown very, very dim in the church as well.

For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:4)

The articles I plan to publish here are primarily written then for people who claim to be Christians. No, I will be more specific than that. They are written for people who are real, genuine Christians, for people who are Christ’s sheep and who hear His voice and yet they are in bondage to wicked ones who put themselves forward as pastors or elders or “eminent saints” and yet whose greed and lust for self-glory leads them to savage the flock of Christ, driving that flock further and further from Jesus the Good Shepherd. If some unsaved folks happen to come along and the Lord uses the articles here to open their eyes to Christ, that will be wonderful as well.

Who I am not writing for are the creeps themselves (I take that name from Jude 1:4 above). That is to say, I am not writing to correct them. These kind never receive correction. I write in respect to them only to expose them, and thus my title, Light for Dark Times.

How do I know? Where is my evidence that the darkness in the church today is really this prevalent? My evidence has been gathered these past 34 years in which I have served Christ’s church as a pastor. In addition, I have spent the last six years, as some of you know, dealing with a specific kind of evil that is hiding in the spiritual darkness of local churches – domestic abusers. I have written two books on this subject. I have spoken to and corresponded with scores (if not hundreds) of Christians who were the targets of these kind of abusers and I have heard their stories of how their pastors and church leaders and fellow Christians treated them. The level of blindness in churches to such evil is remarkable.

Therefore, it is now my purpose to broaden the subject of my writing. While I will still refer to domestic abusers on occasion in order to illustrate evil and the blinding darkness it casts over churches, I want to address this subject of evil more broadly. I want to shed light, the Light of Jesus Christ, on it and thereby dispel the darkness and help Christ’s people see clearly once again. The portrait painted by the sentimental old hymn is a facade behind which evil is lurking and darkness prevailing:

There’s a church in the valley by the wildwood
No lovelier spot in the dale
No place is so dear to my childhood
As the little brown church in the vale.

Light for Dark Times. For dark times in the church. May the Lord bless His truth and use our labors to bring such a blazing of His glory among us that evil will simply not be able to remain, the eyes of our minds and hearts will be enlightened, and we might once again be taught by the Spirit of Jesus to discern His perfect will. Here is our prayer:

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:9-10)

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