I’ve been talking to some friends, both old and new, around North America over the last several months and have noticed that one of the consistent problems that my ministry friends face doesn’t come from the congregation, but rather the leadership. I had coffee 5 months ago with a friend who was in youth ministry and was run out of his church for insane reasons, and as we were weeping together and having coffee, he looked at me through teary eyes and asked “how does this happen? How does Satan destroy a whole church like this?”
My reply was fairly simply. I said “all he needs is the wrong guy in the right place; the pulpit”.
My friend then asked me “what should we do? How do we fight that?”
I answered “Well, all God needs is the right guy in the right place; the pulpit”.
I then shared a passage of scripture with him, reminding him that Satan doesn’t have new tactics because his old ones produce results…and when I mean old, I mean old. I shared this passage with him:
“And I said:
Hear, you heads of Jacob
and rulers of the house of Israel!
Is it not for you to know justice?—
2 you who hate the good and love the evil,
who tear the skin from off my people
and their flesh from off their bones,
3 who eat the flesh of my people,
and flay their skin from off them,
and break their bones in pieces
and chop them up like meat in a pot,
like flesh in a cauldron.
4 Then they will cry to the Lord,
but he will not answer them;
he will hide his face from them at that time,
because they have made their deeds evil.
5 Thus says the Lord concerning the prophets
who lead my people astray,
who cry “Peace”
when they have something to eat,
but declare war against him
who puts nothing into their mouths.
6 Therefore it shall be night to you, without vision,
and darkness to you, without divination.
The sun shall go down on the prophets,
and the day shall be black over them;
7 the seers shall be disgraced,
and the diviners put to shame;
they shall all cover their lips,
for there is no answer from God.
8 But as for me, I am filled with power,
with the Spirit of the Lord,
and with justice and might,
to declare to Jacob his transgression
and to Israel his sin.
9 Hear this, you heads of the house of Jacob
and rulers of the house of Israel,
who detest justice
and make crooked all that is straight,
10 who build Zion with blood
and Jerusalem with iniquity.
11 Its heads give judgment for a bribe;
its priests teach for a price;
its prophets practice divination for money;
yet they lean on the Lord and say,
“Is not the Lord in the midst of us?
No disaster shall come upon us.”
12 Therefore because of you
Zion shall be plowed as a field;
Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,
and the mountain of the house a wooded height.”
What was the problem in Israel?
- The leaders who were supposed to care for the sheep ate the sheep (v. 2) and made a stew out of them (v. 3).
- The leaders cried out to the Lord constantly, but he didn’t answer them because of their sin (v.4).
- The leaders worked with lying prophets who praise those who praise them and condemn those who speak out against them, even though their claims to hear from God were lies (v. 5-7)
- The leaders didn’t recognize the true prophet of God who condemned their sinfulness (v. 8)
- The leaders corrupted justice and abused their power (v. 9-10)
- The leaders plied their spiritual deceit for financial gain and thought that their spiritual position made them untouchable (v. 11)
- Israel was destroyed due to the sins of their wicked leaders (v. 12)
Is any of that happening today?
- Do you ever see Christian leaders who are living in habitual sin make foolish decisions and think everything is all right because they prayed beforehand? (see. v. 4)
- Do you ever see Christian leaders love those who love them and condemn those who speak out critically against anything they do? Do you ever see Christian leaders who think they have a direct line to God, and God seems to always confirm whatever ideas they have? (see v. 5-7)
- Do you ever see Christian leaders who are seem to understand the Bible in all areas except the scriptures that contain commands that they’re currently disobeying? (see v. 8)
- Do you ever see Christian leaders who basically use their power only to maintain their power by doing things like covering sin or sweeping controversy and critics out of the church? (see v. 9-10)
- Do you ever wonder how good churches, with good people who seem to love the Lord, end up imploding and closing down? (see v. 12)
Just some quick encouragement for those of you who are out there trying to get ministry jobs and are getting resistance from denominational power-mongers who fight you because you think the Bible “has the answer to everything”. Just a quick shot of scripture to those of you who are working at churches where the leadership makes fun of you in staff meetings for daring to question that God has his headquarters in Redding, California or that the Holy Spirit would ever tell a believer to ignore the scripture. Just a quick reminder to persevere for those of you who have been run out of churches because you had the audacity to think that the gospel involves the bad news of judgment and God’s wrath against sin.
Satan’s read Sun Tzu’s Art of War, and he knows full well that the easiest way to kill and enemy is “in his sleep”.
Keep faithful to the position that the Lord has placed you in. Submit to those over you (Col. 3:22-24; Eph. 6:5-8; 1 Tim. 6:1-2; Heb. 13:17; 1 Peter 5:5). Love the sheep that are under you (1 Peter 5:1-4). Don’t be quarrelsome and pray mercilessly that God would grant powerful fools a return to their senses (2 Tim. 2:22-26; Titus 3:1-3), and “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12).
If you really believe in the sovereignty of God, don’t treat this time lightly. Labor now to learn to submit, love, and become the righteous leadership of the future.
Longing for the day,
Lyndon “The Armchair Pastor-in-waiting” Unger