Tag Archives: Stewardship

Spiritual Adultery: An Explosive Epidemic Wrecking the Church.

When President Trump nominated a number of prominent evangelicals to lead various departments of the federal government following his inauguration, I viewed it as a tremendous opportunity. These men and women could demonstrate to the nation that those who follow Jesus govern much differently than those driven by other motivations. Their leadership would be marked by humility, diligence, and most of all integrity. Scandals that rocked prior administrations would not surface at agencies led by those committed to Christ.

Sadly, some of these ‘Christian’ leaders betrayed the trust of the American people. Even worse, their behavior dishonored the Lord. Not only did they fail to establish a high-water mark in government ethics and maintain the highest standards of integrity, they left a trail of corruption and financial malfeasance in their wake.

Federal officials are investigating one of these men for violating anti-corruption laws surrounding efforts to leverage his government position for personal gain, using public funds for personal travel (in first-class no less), having employees perform personal tasks, and demanding a personal security team that cost millions of dollars.

Another cabinet official resigned after reports revealed he regularly traveled on private charter and military jets at taxpayer expense rather than travel on commercial flights that would have saved nearly a million dollars. Compounding his graft was the hypocrisy behind it. As a congressman he regularly railed against government waste and demanded more accountability from profligate bureaucrats.

Of course, senior Trump officials aren’t the only Christian politicians who have besmirched the name of Jesus in recent years. It also includes multiple pro-life congressmen who, despite their public policy positions, insisted their mistresses obtain an abortion after they became pregnant. In contrast to the conservative political platforms these men supported – predicated on family values and Christian principles – they pursued extra-marital relationships and then demanded the murder of a life they helped create. Such hypocrisy nauseates those already cynical of Christianity.

What’s more, each of these officials denied all wrongdoing, insisting he had crossed no criminal, ethical, or spiritual lines. Perhaps that’s not surprising. The ‘Christian’ motivated by self-interest and personal gratification rarely cares about confessing his sin and repenting.

Sadly, the tarnishing of Christianity isn’t limited to prominent and powerful people. It includes celebrated churches and popular pastors as well. For example, last August one of Houston’s mega-churches refused to open its facilities to those left homeless from the historical flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey. Despite the massive size of the sanctuary (which seats nearly 17,000) and an enormous church campus, the pastor ordered the doors locked. Apparently there was no room in the inn for those in desperate need of compassion.

It was an act of incomprehensible selfishness. How could a pastor worth upwards of $40 million (and who owns multiple homes including a $10 million estate) and a church that spent nearly $100 million on renovations turn away the needy from its doors? The response stands in stark contrast to Jesus’ expectations for His followers, as illustrated in the parable of the Good Samaritan.

The pastor’s explanation merely compounded the problem. He insisted the church was inaccessible to outsiders because of flooding in and around its property. When photographs surfaced online refuting that claim, he quickly backtracked and opened the church doors.

But the damage was done. In the midst of one of the worst natural disasters in America’s history, the nation watched a prominent evangelical church and its pastor model behavior marked by greed, selfishness, and dishonesty instead of generosity, sacrifice, and integrity. What it learned was that the Church too often reflects the values of the world instead of the teachings of Christ.

More recently a highly esteemed evangelical pastor at a renowned suburban Illinois church resigned amid reports that he met in private with female leaders and congregants at hotels, in his summer home, on his yacht, and inside his private jet. He claimed that nothing inappropriate happened with these women; his actions simply reflected bad judgment. But according to the allegations of a half dozen women it wasn’t for lack of trying on his part that nothing happened.

That one of the nation’s most respected evangelical pastors could have a pattern of pursuing women that goes back decades is disturbing enough. But at least church leadership eventually intervened and secured his immediate resignation. They recognized that the pastor’s behavior violated biblical standards of holiness and purity. They understood that keeping him on staff would sully the reputation of the church and dishonor Christ.

What makes this story even more alarming, however, is that these same church elders found no issue with the pastor owning a second home on the lake, a yacht, and a personal jet. It never occurred to them that such ownership constituted a troubling misunderstanding of biblical stewardship and revealed an unbridled love for worldly possessions. (Click here for a detailed discussion on stewardship). Their indifference to the greed and selfishness evidenced by such misuse of the Lord’s resources signaled an astonishing message to society: Evangelicals believe such behavior is not sinful. In fact, it is to be celebrated as a sign of God’s blessing. God gives some Christians (including pastors) exorbitant sums of money to lavish themselves with luxuries, while other believers suffer in extreme poverty.

Unfortunately, these are not isolated or infrequent incidents; they simply reflect the most extreme and egregious examples of a dangerous condition gripping the heart of the Church. American Christianity increasingly ignores the growing greed, selfishness, materialism, and covetousness that has taken root and is flourishing in thousands of churches across the country, especially inside evangelical congregations. American Christians increasingly exhibit the same insatiable appetite for worldly treasure, power, and popularity desired by society as a whole.

What we fail to realize is that such behavior is more than a minor blemish on the Christian community. It has fully disfigured the body of Christ. Our unabashed embrace of this world is an affront to Jesus and mirrors the idolatry practiced by Israel in the Old Testament.

It ignores Jesus’ repeated statements on the subject and His numerous warnings to avoid pursuing the things of this world, and it reveals a willful and rebellious rejection of Scripture. Worse, it signifies a willful and rebellious rejection of Jesus Christ.

How could American Christianity – especially evangelicalism with its emphasis on orthodox doctrine, a personal relationship with Christ, and salvation by grace – enter into such an adulterous relationship with the world?

Obviously, it didn’t happen over night. Like most adulterous relationships, it happened over time. Initially, Christians and the Church simply flirted with the world. Over time that seemingly innocuous relationship grew to include secret kisses, which then evolved into heavy petting, and eventually morphed into full-blown adultery. Of course, like most adulterers the Church attempts to maintain the appearance of a healthy marriage with its betrothed (Jesus) and tries to hide its clandestine affair with the world.

Oddly, it largely succeeds in keeping its adultery hidden in plain sight (though it’s glaringly obvious to independent observers), because an overwhelming number of American Christians have bought into this grotesque expression of faith, ignoring Jesus admonition that “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and riches.” (Matthew 6:24, NLT).

It continues to thrive and spread throughout the Church in part because pastors are unwilling to confront this issue with their congregations since their lives and lifestyles evidence the same adulterous relationship with the world. This pattern of adulterous behavior continues to escalate in intensity and frequency among churchgoers because they have no interest in learning the truth. Of such people Paul says, “They follow their own desires and look for teachers who tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They reject truth and chase myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

This ongoing and blossoming affair does more than discredit the name of Christ and undermine the mission of the church; it consigns millions of churchgoers and would-be believers to eternal darkness by sanctioning an abominable sin and selling the souls of parishioners in exchange for this world’s momentary pleasures.

So what’s the solution? How does the Church exit this adulterous affair and renew its commitment to Christ? How does American Christianity return to its first love and extinguish its self-destructive love for the world?

Ideally, God sends a few prophets to preach a message of repentance and burdens thousands of prayer warriors to pray for national revival under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

If this fails to galvanize the Church and Christian community to return to the Lord, then it’s likely God will intervene by removing the object of our affections from our lives: our prosperity, comfort, and security.

I hope and pray we quickly and wholeheartedly turn back to Him before it comes to that. Or worse, it becomes too late.

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Faith Lessons from the NFL.

With the NFL Conference Championships now concluded and the Super Bowl only a week away, what an appropriate time to explore what Christians can learn from the NFL, in particular the Seattle Seahawks historical comeback against the Green Bay Packers last Sunday. While any comparison between sport and faith is tenuous, the dramatic outcome of that game represents an ideal metaphor for understanding several truths from Scripture. Here are three important spiritual lessons gleaned from that memorable game.

1] For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required. Jesus spoke these words about faithful stewards in a parable to His disciples (see Luke 12:48). In football, those players in whom the team invests the most resources (largest contract) ought to have the biggest impact on the game. In Sunday’s match-up Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay quarterback with the biggest team contract, was expected to be the playmaker who delivered a victory for his team. Instead, his lackluster performance contributed more to the team’s loss than any Packers player, evidenced by the abysmal six points off of five defensive turnovers.

Similarly, those believers whom God has given the most are expected to faithfully steward those resources for His Kingdom. Sadly, this truth has been lost on many of us – corporately as a church and individually as believers. Blessed with incredible wealth the church regularly chooses to direct a vast majority of God’s resources on beautiful buildings and programs that often have a tangential relationship to the gospel, all the while neglecting the biggest need of all: taking the gospel to the entire world. Most churches spend less than ten percent on global ministries and bringing the Good News to people who have never heard of Jesus’ forgiveness and mercy.

Not surprisingly, many churchgoers adopt this model in their own lives and with their own resources, refusing to tithe or giving very little as a percentage of their income. Like the church, they direct nearly all their income on themselves, acquiring more and nicer stuff, and pampering themselves with luxury and comfort. That mindset has infected the church so severely it is destroying it from within and is representative of the unwise and unfaithful steward. We would do well to reevaluate how we employ God’s resources and make sure we use them to proclaim His message of hope, love, and forgiveness locally and abroad.

2] Everyone plays a role, so be ready. The play that turned everything around for the Seahawks was a fake field goal in the fourth quarter. The placeholder scrambled to his left and floated a wobbly pass twenty yards downfield to a wide-open third-string tight end who had not caught a pass all year. The two players perhaps least likely to connect on a passing touchdown had a tremendous impact on the game. Without them executing that play the comeback never begins.

Similarly, God has a plan for each of us no matter how insignificant we seem. He wants us involved in His game plan not sitting on the sidelines offering excuses for why we are not impacting the world. Are you sitting on the bench with regards to your faith? Do you remain silent about your faith when talking with friends, family, and work colleagues? Are you disengaged from sharing God’s love with the marginalized, destitute, and haters in your community? It’s time to get in the game and make a difference. Paul tells us to be prepared at all times to share the gospel with others (2 Tim 4:2). Are you prepared? Do you act on that preparation? You need not be a pastor, eloquent speaker, admired author, or engaging extrovert to have a substantive impact for Christ and His Kingdom. You need only have a servant’s heart, a willing spirit, and an authentic love for the Lord. Ask Him to reveal opportunities to serve, love, and teach others in His name. He’ll answer your prayer and soon you’ll be making a real contribution.

3] Don’t presume the outcome. This is, perhaps, the most critical lesson of all. With less than three minutes to play in the game nearly every Packers fan believed their team was headed to the Super Bowl. They led by twelve points, which meant the Seahawks needed to score two touchdowns in a game in which it had only managed one touchdown over the first fifty-seven minutes. Fans were probably already booking flights and making hotel reservations so they could see the Super Bowl in person two weeks later. After all, what could go wrong? Well, as Packers fans soon learned, just about everything could, and did, go wrong. The Seahawks pulled off arguably the most impressive last-minute comeback in NFL playoff history and defeated the Packers in overtime. Green Bay fans were devastated. How could something so certain end in such misery? Fortunately, their emotional turmoil will subside as life goes on.

Jesus informed His followers of a similar scenario playing out on the day of His second coming. He explained that many who claim they are Christians and profess Him as Lord will not join Him in heaven (see Matthew 7:21-23). This will come as an unbelievable shock to them. They will protest vigorously and insist He reconsider, reminding Him of all they have done to deserve heaven. However, the absence of a personal, robust, and healthy relationship with Him prevents them from enjoying eternity in heaven. Like Packers fans from last weekend, these men and women are devastated. They, too, were certain of the outcome – that they would spend eternity in heaven. Like Packers fans, they were wrong. Unlike Packers fans, their turmoil does not subside and life does not go on.

Are you a Christian? Do you consider Jesus, Lord? If so, take time to study the Bible regularly and understand His expectations for those who follow Him. Learn who He was, and is, and live according to the pattern He established. Most of all, cultivate a love for Him. Consistently carve out time in your schedule to worship, praise, and serve Him. In the process you will learn what it means to make Him Lord and develop a relationship that precludes you from getting shocked when He returns.