Is it Possible that Most Local Churches are the Creation of Man and not Christ?

John 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Gal 4:28-29 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. (29) But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now.

Why is there so much evil in local churches? Bickering and grudge holding. Sexual immorality. Domestic abuse. And on and on the list goes. Now, you might respond to this question with something like, “well that is how the churches were in the New Testament. There is always going to be sin in churches. No church is perfect.” And at least in regard to the earthly, visible local church these things are true.

But I suggest to you that today we are seeing evil in churches more and more commonly. A departure from the truth of Scripture. A false gospel. A false Jesus. False sheep. And very few professing Christians who seem to be at all concerned about it. A pastor can be found out to be a serial adulterer/fornicator or an embezzler of church funds, and after he receives perhaps some initial consequences for his misdeeds ( or “poor choices” as the language seems to go nowadays), very soon people begin to talk about “restoring” him. And very often, there he will be, the pastor of a church once again. Everyone pats themselves on the back and prides themselves in the depths of their grace and forgiveness.

I suppose what I am asking is, why are there so many counterfeit churches today? Counterfeit pastors. Counterfeit Christians. I want to propose to you what I think is at least one of the chief reasons for it all. Here we go:

Local churches and supposed Christian ministries are being built by man, not by Christ. Fleshly, human methods are being used that can only produce fleshly, human products. These things are not fruit of the Spirit, but Babel towers constructed by man. As such, they will be places where evil can thrive.

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” Man is incapable of birthing a new creation in Christ. It is just as we see in the Old Testament account of Ishmael and Isaac:

Gen 16:1-4 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. (2) And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. (3) So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. (4) And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress.

Gen 17:17-19 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” (18) And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” (19) God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.

Gal 4:28-29 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. (29) But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now.

Now this is absolutely vital for us all to understand. God gave Isaac by a miraculous work of the Spirit. Isaac was the son of promise, not Ishmael who was born of Abraham’s own doings. And notice carefully that the one born according to the flesh persecutes the one born according to the Spirit. See it? False, counterfeit churches and sheep persecute the children of promise. The real children of God, genuine Christians are ONLY born by the work of the Spirit.

But I recommend to you that today many if not most local churches are Ishmaels. The product of the flesh, not of the Spirit. Let me give you an example.

Quite a number of years ago the “church growth” movement was really rolling. We had classes in church growth in seminary. There were experts running around giving conferences on church growth. I attended some and as a result of the teaching I received in seminary, we even hired one such consultant to come to our church, do a study, and give us recommendations as to how we could “reach” more people. You have to have a second worship service, he said. You need to implement multiple styles of worship. This program and that program needed to be started. Yada, yada, yada.

And one day during the closing phase of this “expert’s” study, he talked to me in my office and I remember him asking me this question:

Jeff, why do you keep setting yourself up for failure?

Do you know what he meant by that? What he was saying was “Jeff, why in the world did you accept a pastoral call to a town like this, away from a big population center? What are you doing here?” In other words, the way to “grow” a church, according to the church growth gurus was and still is today – to use worldly corporate methods. Follow this formula and you will be guaranteed an increase. You will be a success. And if you don’t see the numbers grow, you are a failure.

Well, let me tell you what the truth of the matter really is. When we utilize these man-made, worldly methods, we are operating in the flesh, apart from the Spirit and guess what? The product “birthed” will always be flesh. Fallen, sinful, flesh that is still alienated from God and dead to Him.

I have been a pastor now for going on 36 years. I have tried these methods. Oh, not all of them because even in my newbie days I realized that much of this nonsense was not of Christ. But my wife and I have done it all, you might say. We have initiated large children’s and youth programs. We have taught ESL classes. We have published sermons in the newspapers (for a long period of time by the way and at considerable expense). I have visited people, become friends with them. And what has been the result? Trouble. Sin. Fleshly, unconverted people claiming to be Christians, coming into the church and making us all think that this was “of the Lord,” only to have the whole thing come crashing down before long.

The church that I now pastor (been here 26 years) was a flesh pot when we arrived. It was the product of the very kinds of methods I have been describing here. And what an absolute mess it was. Very few real Christians in it and a whole bunch of counterfeits. What a battle we had over many years in exposing this thing for what it really was.

The flesh only gives birth to the flesh. Only the Spirit of God can make a man a new creation. We preach. We sow. We water, but it is God and God alone who gives the increase. Any “increase” that is not produced and birthed by God is still fallen, sinful flesh.

And that is why, that is my theory, as to why there is so much evil in local churches today and why so many real children of the promise are being oppressed and persecuted by those born according to the flesh.