But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.” (Jeremiah 23:14)
I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds. (Jeremiah 23:21-22)
If you have been a reader at this blog for very long at all, you know the old, old story. Abusers hide in local churches, parading as model Christians. They gain allies in the church. Their victims are ostracized and blamed and sometimes even ex-communicated. This is not an occasional event. It is the sad norm in the churches.
When evil is able to exist unchallenged among the Lord’s people, it is a direct reflection upon the preaching ministry in that church. The function of preaching is to declare both the Law and the Gospel in the plain language of Scripture so that the Spirit of God will wield that Word like a mighty sword, convicting and exposing the wicked, encouraging the righteous. God’s Word is not only a revelation from God, it is a revealer of what is hidden. It is Light shining in darkness, giving hope to the weary and contrite, but also shining upon evil for all to see.
This was not happening in Jeremiah’s day, except by Jeremiah’s own preaching. The rest of the “clergy” were idolatrous scoundrels whose preaching and behavior “strengthened the hand of evildoers.” The result was that no one repented. No one turned from their evil. These preachers were not sent by the Lord, yet they ran to their pulpits, commissioned themselves, and claimed to have God’s Word. They did not turn the wicked from the evil of their deeds. They were wicked themselves.
When evil can continue to hide and function in a local church over time, it is a sad reflection upon the pulpit ministry in that church. The evildoer’s unmolested practice of wickedness indicates that they are not being exposed and challenged by the preacher. And that means that God’s true Word is not being proclaimed faithfully. Today many churches are led by people whom the Lord has not sent, yet these kind run to the pastoral ministry. They do not proclaim; God’s Word to the people. And how do we know? Because the wicked are prospering in churches. The innocent are oppressed. Injustice rather than justice is dealt them.
Pastor, your calling is to declare the Word of God so faithfully and clearly, in its entirety, that a wicked counterfeit masquerading as an eminent saint in your church will start to squirm. As his mask is torn away each Sunday, his comfort zone must shrink. And make no mistake, he and his allies will hate you. At the same time, the Gospel (if you will preach it, will function to heal the broken-hearted and deliver the captive from the wicked one’s oppression.
In most cases today that means the numbers of people in your church are going to reduce. And yes, you might just even get thrown out of your pulpit if your church has been left to go to weed seed for a long time. But let me give you some personal encouragement here. That is exactly the kind of church that existed over two decades ago when I first came to my present pulpit. It was a weed garden controlled by counterfeits. They hated God’s Word and they hated the preacher of that Word.
But they are gone. None of them repented, not one. But they found the Light of Christ far too brilliant and they ran. The remnant stayed, and enjoyed peace. The hand of God’s people has been strengthened, not the hand of the wicked. That is the pattern we see in the Bible, and it is the pattern that has played itself out over and over again down through the centuries of church history.