If your intention is to build up a big congregation, keep the masses happy, and keep the money rolling in, then there are a few things the aspiring mega-church pastor must never do. He must never rock the boat; step on anyone’s toes; offend anyone; dig too deep into Scripture and theology; or speak on any controversial issue of the day.
Sadly there are far too many pastors and church leaders who fully adhere to these unwritten rules. Their number one priority is to please people, to be liked by the crowds, and to keep everyone happy and docile. They will go to great lengths to avoid any and all controversies – even biblical ones.
Their business is to placate the crowds and amuse the masses. They are in the business of men-pleasing. Sure, they may not even be aware that this is in fact what they are doing. They may think they are being “peace-keepers” or working for “unity” or trying to just get along.
But when the truth of God is at stake, we must speak out, even at the risk of breaking fellowship, losing some unity, and offending some folks. As Martin Luther once put it, “Peace if possible, truth at all costs.” Yet far too often truth is sacrificed in order to placate and appease the masses.
We had a very good example of this with a US pastor who was recently interviewed on network TV. Consider one report on this: “Hillsong NYC Pastor Carl Lentz has made it clear that he will not take a public stance on social issues like homosexuality because, as he said during media appearances this week, that is not the example Jesus Christ models in the Bible.
“When asked during an interview with Katie Couric on her self-titled daytime show if he felt that he had a moral imperative to speak publicly about ‘some of these more controversial issues,’ Lentz said, ‘No, because we try to be like Jesus.’
“He explained, ‘Very rarely did Jesus ever talk about morality or social issues. He was about the deeper things of the heart. Often people want to talk about behavior modification, and our church isn’t about that. … We’re about soul transformation. You start talking about some of the symptomatic stuff, that’s not what we’re about. We’re about talking to people about their heart and the condition of their soul, and some of that stuff out-works itself. But we’re not trying to change anybody because we can’t’.”
And in another interview he said more of the same: “Some media wants us to use our pulpit to have a soapbox for social issues. I don’t believe that’s our job. You go look at what Jesus did, he was always talking about the heart of an individual and the soul of a person, not these symptomatic societal problems. People hate that, because a lot of churches are about what they’re against. We’re about what we’re for.
“When it comes to people’s sexuality, I don’t want to use a public forum to talk about private things. Because how in the world could you have a dialogue? How in the world can I hear your story? How in the world can someone have a question?”
Now, those familiar with the original Australian Hillsong church, or with other mega-churches, such as Joel Osteen’s, would be entirely familiar with such responses. We hear such things all the time from these guys. It sounds a bit spiritual and pious, but in many respects it is just a lousy cop-out.
Does this pastor even read his New Testament? Or the Gospels? Or even the Sermon on the Mount? We have more moral issues crammed into these three chapters (Matthew 5-7) than most mega-church pastors preach in a lifetime. Jesus and the disciples were always speaking about moral issues.
I can’t believe this pastor is actually saying all this. And all this talk about “soul transformation” is of course just missing the mark big time. Of course Jesus is in the business of changing lives. But we are also to be salt and light, whether or not everyone first gets converted.
With his dodgy reasoning we should dispense with all traffic lights. Indeed, we should dispense with all laws altogether. After all, we can’t expect a non-Christian to not run a red light or murder his grandma. But of course we can talk morality – even to the unsaved.
God created the state, and moral laws, and gave us a conscience. Of course he expects us to be moral beings and to live responsibly. Expecting everyone to become a believer before we discuss moral issues is just plain foolish. And when God’s institutions of marriage and family are under attack, or those made in his image slaughtered in the millions, you sure do have a Christian obligation to speak out on these things.
And guess what? Killing babies and decimating marriage are not just “private things” as this pastor wrongly suggests. They are very public matters indeed which impact upon every single one of us. The homosexual assault on marriage affects us all, and is as public as you can get.
Also, this sort of unbiblical baloney has been heard far too many times before. Every time bold men and women of God stood for righteousness and biblical truth, the naysayers come out with the same old whining and weasel words. Wilberforce for example knew all about this:
But Wilby old boy, don’t you know you are not being Christ-like here? Don’t you know you are rocking the boat and offending people with all your abolition nonsense? Don’t you know that there are all sorts of fine and upstanding clergymen and church leaders who are slave owners?
Who are you to judge them? Who gave you the right to condemn them? You must learn to just quietly pray and read your Bible. It is just not appropriate for you to tackle moral issues and public affairs such as this. Don’t you know that this is not a good example of WWJD?
Your job is not to be the moral conscience of the nation. You are talking “about behavior modification, and our church isn’t about that. … We’re about soul transformation. You start talking about some of the symptomatic stuff, that’s not what we’re about.”
Can’t you just learn to keep your mouth shut and stop being such a rabble-rouser? Don’t you know you are turning people off to the gospel with all your focus on treating blacks as human beings? Don’t you know that Jesus was into relationships, and not about moral issues? So just ease up Wilby!
The really strange thing about all this is these hip, groovy and trendy pastors actually think they are being like Jesus here. They somehow think Jesus would never harm a fly, never cause division, never stir up the crowds, and never give any offence. Just what Bible are these guys reading from?
Do they just accept half of the gospel accounts and tear the other half out of their Bibles? Have they never read how Jesus carefully and deliberately formed a whip, and then used it in a most ungracious manner in the temple, flipping over tables and chasing out the money changers?
Do these folks even believe this story, and many others like it? Sure, it sounds nothing at all like what these men-pleasers are doing. Sure, it seems light years away from the namby-pamby, watered down men-pleasing gospel so often heard today.
Indeed, the really mind-boggling thing about all this is this: these guys in fact think they are being more like Jesus than Jesus was. They actually believe they are being more Christ-like than Christ was. They really seem to think they can improve upon the methods and words of Jesus. Go figure.
Sorry, but if I have to choose between the Jesus of the Gospels, and the wishy-washy, saccharine-coated mush of today’s mega-church preachers, I know who I will side with any day of the week. Let me finish with the words of some real men of God – men who were so unlike the spineless wonders occupying so many pulpits today:
“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.” A.W. Tozer
“The test of whether someone is teaching the cross rightly or wrongly is whether it is an offence to the natural man or not. If my preaching of this cross is not an offence to the natural man, I am misrepresenting it.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones
“It is a poor sermon that gives no offense; that neither makes the hearer displeased with himself nor with the preacher.” George Whitefield
“A sermon often does a man most good when it makes him most angry. Those people who walk down the aisles and say, ‘I will never hear that man again,’ very often have an arrow rankling in their breast.” C.H. Spurgeon
“God’s obedient people will always offend the world, no matter how much we seek to be peacemakers and to walk in compassion and love. Our very lifestyles are a reproof to the ungodly.” Dr. Michael L. Brown