The Church as Boy’s Club

Thomas Sowell once said that “The biggest myth about labor unions is that unions are for the workers. Unions are for unions, just as corporations are for corporations and politicians are for politicians.” And I might add, sadly, some churches are for churches, and some church leaders are for church leaders – not necessarily the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We kid ourselves if we think some believers and Christian leaders are in the church for only pure spiritual motives. There are all sorts of reasons why some people covet leadership positions in churches. The same desire for fame, fortune, glory, power, self-aggrandisement and empire building we find in the world can also readily be found in our churches.

Many church leaders exist simply to protect their own turf, their own livelihood, and their own ego. They especially thrive on the praises and adulation of men. Indeed, while the Bible clearly warns about men pleasers, they are by no means absent in much of the church today.

Sure, one can see why believers can so easily fall into such traps. No one wants to be unpopular, disliked, unloved, and not respected. That is a very human characteristic. But Christians are not supposed to be simply catering to human desires and whims.

We are to be seeking to please God above all else. Indeed, I would rather be accepted by God and spurned by men than be loved by men and spurned by God. At the end of the day the only thing that really matters is what God thinks of us, not what man thinks of us.

I am reminded of a story concerning Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. A clergyman had assured him that God was on the North’s side of the conflict. Lincoln replied to him, “I know that the Lord is always on the side of right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord’s side.”

Quite so. I don’t want to be simply ‘right’. I don’t want to be popular. I don’t want to be successful. I only want to be pleasing in all things to God. I want to one day hear those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And if that means falling out of favour with man, then so be it.

That is a very small price indeed to pay to be pleasing to God. Yet we seem to find so few leaders today who put God’s pleasure above everything else. They seem more intent on heaping upon themselves the praises of men. They want to be surrounded by admirers, fans, and groupies. They bask in the limelight of human praise, but seem less concerned about heavenly approbation.

And too often such folks find great comfort in the company of other like-minded folks. Thus too often the church becomes a closed shop, a little men’s club, a mutual pat-yourself-on-the back club, where they simply become yes men to one another. It becomes just like any other closed club where any outside assessments, questions or criticisms are verboten, and they remain above any searching evaluation.

They exist simply to exist. It is a self-perpetuating kingdom where existence is paramount. Just as so many politicians will put staying in power above all else, so too many church leaders have ensconced positions of power, where they feed on the praises of men and the adoration of the crowds.

I have seen this first hand too often, and it is not a pretty sight. These folks would rather bask in the applause of men than spend time in the shadow of the almighty. They would rather parade around the world and receive the praises of men than spend time on their faces before the crucified Lord.

They do not believe in the offense of the gospel, or recognise a rejected saviour. They only know glory, power, fame and fortune. Their Christ is only a triumphant conquering king, not a messiah crowned with a headpiece of thorns. Because of this gross imbalance, their Jesus is not the Christ of Scripture, but the stuff of fiction.

And so many believers are so very happy to hop on board such a triumphant and prosperous faith. At such venues the gospel message is usually mangled beyond comprehension. Banished forever are words and concepts like sin, mortification, self-denial, holiness, repentance, sacrifice, and the wrath of God.

Instead, the words are always so warm and fuzzy and reassuring and accepting. It is all about you, and how you can feel better about yourself, and how you can prosper and lose weight and succeed in your business and be wealthy and free of illness, trouble, trials, or suffering.

It is a man-centred gospel preached by man-centred preachers. And for all that, there is only applause and cheers. The offence of the cross has been well and truly disposed of. Jesus is the buddy of mankind, not the righteous judge of the universe whose eyes flash with fire and whose sword drips with blood.

This domesticated Jesus is to everyone’s liking. The masses love him and the false prophets love to proclaim him. His message is so easy and so me-centred. Who wouldn’t want to follow such a figure? But as Leonard Ravenhill rightly warned, “If Jesus had preached the same message that ministers preach today, He would never have been crucified.”

Indeed, Joseph Sobran was quite incisive when he said this several decades ago: “The church is hated more for her virtues than for her weaknesses. Nobody hates Zeus or Thor or the Buddha, because nobody feels deeply rebuked by their standard of morality. We can look back on them benignly, because they are remote from us and pose no threat to our self respect. Christ is different. He is not out-of-date because he was never up-to-date. He was immediately loved and hated by his contemporaries, most of whom rejected him because his teachings were too hard. As G.K. Chesterton said, his morality was poorly adapted to his time: That is why he was crucified. Anyone who teaches his morality today can expect to be attacked too.”

William Booth said this over 100 years ago, and it is spot on: “I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.”

This perfectly describes the modern day church. And I am not just talking about the obvious liberal mainstream denominations, but about so many of our supposedly Bible-believing evangelical and charismatic churches today. This describes to a T the situation in so many of our churches.

As is so often the case, A.W. Tozer hit the nail on the head when he said, “The desire to please may be commendable enough under certain circumstances, but when pleasing men means displeasing God it is an unqualified evil and should have no place in the Christian’s heart. To be right with God has often meant to be in trouble with men.”

Let me offer you one more quote which is one of my very real favourites: “Controversy for the sake of controversy is a sin: controversy for the sake of truth is a Divine command” (Dr Walter Martin). I for one absolutely hate controversy and conflict. I would much rather sit in a corner and read books all day.

So why in the world I do what I do is a good question. But there is only one right answer: it is because my saviour did not just sit in a corner and read books, but gave up everything so that I might be made right with him. How can I do any less in return?

If standing with him against the gates of hell and the hatred of men toward us is part of the cost, then so be it. I am not in the least bit interested in living a life of ease and comfort. Sure, I can get that and more if I simply go with the crowd and seek to please men. But if I do this, I am crucifying my Lord afresh.

We have sold out the gospel to please men and be acceptable. This is the great scandal of the modern-day church. I for one do not want to be part of this scandalous situation. I want to be with the Lamb who was slain, who now deserves all praise and honour and glory. Forget the lousy praise and honour of men.  Who needs it? It is time to seek His praise, and His alone.

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18 Replies to “The Church as Boy’s Club”

  1. I just had read this article, before I came across yours.
    I often wonder if these people were put to the same test as Job, would they pass? I have no problem with wealth as such, but making obscene wealth using the name of Jesus is a bit much.

    Jeffrey Carl

  2. Thanks for the link Jeffrey. It certainly makes for depressing reading. One day we will all stand before our Lord and give an account. It will be a scary prospect for many I suspect.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  3. Hi Bill

    This highlights how dangerous the ecumenical movement is. Christians are not intending on uniting on truth, but uniting on a watered down feel good gospel. This is precisely what is prophesied in Rev 3:15 where the church of our time is described as ‘lukewarm’. The world is heading for a one world religion as prophesied in Rev 13 where the gospel is watered down to a wishy washy mess far from the truth.

    Luke Belik, Toowoomba

  4. Bill I live in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne and every time I go down Surrey Road I pass two churches that underwent massive rebuilding programs. These churches are supposedly evangelical. One i call the cube – it has a Cafe wow. What got me angry was the fact that when it was seeking to rebuild, neighbours objected and to me the church’s persistence in rebuilding was a poor witness.
    The other church further on I call the Chook house, because that is what it looks like. Yes it has a counseling service and does chaplaincy in the nearby High School. However in both cases I wonder if the money spent in rebuilding should not have been put into mission programs, and community support programs.
    Wayne Pelling

  5. Hey Bill, I only had the time to read the first quarter of this article, re some church leaders on their own side. Wow so true, unfortunately, but there are some preachers who are so much out there for their own ego etc its tragic. Whilst there are many very very good Christian pastors, priests etc. who do a fantastic job, there are also those who will have a lot to answer for one day, unless they wake up sooner rather than later. God Bless,
    Loretta Coffey

  6. I’d say the church is more of a “girl’s club”. Church activities are croche clubs, not apologetics clubs. It thrives on emotion and scorns the intellect as non-spiritual. Today’s church fosters a personalised spiritualism and ignores (or draws erroneous conclusions about) the public sphere – an area that is traditionally the habitat of men. It loves feelings but hates ideas. It is not a place where boys are turned into men but, instead, encouraged to feel good about themselves.

    That is one of the main reasons the church has failed so miserably.

    Damien Spillane

  7. Hopefully to cheer you up a bit, there is a pastor living locally in a very affluent area who has decided that his wife and he will live on a very modest salary and who gives away the rest of his stipend. In addition he constantly has troubled youngsters into his house at considerable cost in ruined possessions. He is an ardent soul winner, active on the social justice front as well as being a totally biblical preacher and encourager of others.
    I appreciate what you do in your articles but find some of the backbiting comments to them a bit depressing so wanted to redress the balance a bit.
    Katharine Hornsby

  8. I think this article is just another expose on why we need Jesus. His sacrifice is the only thing that will atone for any and all of this for those who put their trust in him.
    Steve Davis

  9. With you 100% Damien. And in my experience, the men are trying to be blokey while vying for position, but it’s the women who essentially control it through cliques and manipulation.

    The Jesus’ life and the church in Acts were characterised by sacrifice for God & for others. There is no such focus today.

    Just want to thank you again Bill, for what you do. You are a true modern hero, mate.

    Garth Penglase

  10. Garth & Damien
    Furthermore, as a male in my 40’s I’ve been shunned at the church and I get the feeling that when I’m 70 ill fit right in.
    Jesus is not my lover or my boyfriend or a big mushy teddy bear who cuddles me and says everything will be alright.
    I have a much manlier picture in my mind. He’s dangerous and is not a coward.
    Those of you who think he’s soft and warm… you will be sadly mistaken.
    Daniel Kempton

  11. Well Daniel i left the BUV church i was in because I wanted a more traditional form of Christian worship but I noticed that there was hardly any older people being involved in leading worship – except for the Deputy pastor. I called it NO TIME FOR OLD MEN.
    Wayne Pelling

  12. Thanks Wayne for picking up on my point and keeping me honest. I was, and not very well, trying to show the unbalance in the church and i guess your having or have had a similar problem.
    Daniel Kempton

  13. Hi Katharine, it is very good to hear that you know of a pastor actually living according to the Gospel, and it is indeed heartening to hear it. The pastor of the church I attend is of a similar vein and the consequence is that the congregation is similarly focused – the reason I have left others in this area and attend this church.

    And there are ministries such as Iris Ministries, through whom God is liberating Mozambique, started by Rolland & Heidi Baker who made it their goal to live according to Matthew 5.

    But, there are few, if any, churches like the one I attend in the area that are truly focused on God, his Truth and what His heart desires, doing it His way as explained in the NT as opposed to those focused on ‘church growth’, and are more event& party planners than spiritual liberators.

    So isn’t it a valid thing to question modern ‘church’, especially by those who have suffered the disappointment of seeing so much empire building and apostasy? I’d hardly call that backbiting (ie.
    ‘malicious talk about someone who is not present.’). Indeed shouldn’t we question why so little of the Western church is spiritually alive, even if only to ensure that we don’t fall into the same malaise?

    Garth Penglase

  14. It is sad to see the liberalism, apostacy and the excesses in our church today. However, in wanting to avoid becoming a self-righteous, embittered finger-pointer, I felt challenged by Bill’s article to make sure that my own life measures up. The best thing we can do is spend time with Jesus, keep a clean spirit, and have Him direct us.
    Gary Morgan

  15. Hi Bill,

    It is so refreshing to read someone else’s words echoeing what I have been ranting on about now for quite some time on my own blog. I particularly liked the quote “Controversy for the sake of truth is a Divine Command”. There are many times when I feel strongly led to write harsh things about today’s Church. Like you it is not in my nature to be argumentative or to seek conflict in any way shape or form, least of all to be judgemental. I am the lady that always sits in one of the corners of the room trying to blend with the room, preferrably at the back. But something very deep within keeps shouting out this message that needs to get out.

    Thank you for the encouragement on my own journey through a message which rings so much truth within me.

    I hope you don’t mind if in the next couple of days I post this blogpost on mine with a link to your website at the bottom.

    God bless you!

    Mercedes Underwood

  16. I do worry that the “example” to follow seems to be the corporate business church. You know the one that has 12,000 attenders, mainly young people, a vast commercial music programme, a TV programme and various commercial businesses, and effectiveness is judged by numbers. This must mean they are “successful” so it is to our advantage to join their “association of churches” and hope some of their “success” rubs off on us.
    Roger Marks

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