Today the big philosophy in church growth is, 'find out what the people want and give it to them.' It is derived from the model of Bill Hybels church in Willow Creek. Do your market research, find out what the people want, and give it to them.
There are a lot of very unscriptural ideas and influences coming from people like Peter Wagner and others, on how to grow a church. Whenever you use a human discipline or management philosophy, it must always be subordinate to Scripture. It has been said that the bait you use to catch someone is the food you must feed him in order to keep him. The church will therefore become more and more like the world. 'Oh, they want Christian rock music and smoke machines, so we'll give it to them'. So instead of having worship services, you basically have rock concerts in church, based not on the worship of God but on the worship of worship. That's one example; there are others. There are churches that have food courts in them. There are pastors attending seminars at Willow Creek in Chicago to learn church growth.
One month ago, hundreds and perhaps even thousands of evangelical pastors met at Willow Creek Church with Bill Hybels, who interviewed President Clinton. In the Old Testament history of Israel, God's judgment was looming because of the genocidal atrocity of sacrificing children to demons. God put up with a lot of things; He put up with immorality, social injustice, and even idolatry. But once they began taking babies and sacrificing them to other gods in a cruel manner, God drew the line. Judgment must come; even if there were a revival, it would only delay the judgment, not stop it altogether. We see this in the days of Josiah. The revival only delayed the inevitable because of the blood of the babies under Manasseh.
God's judgment is looming over the Protestant democracies, including the United States, because of abortion. 35 million babies murdered, with less than one percent of them aborted for any clinical reason. Now we have partial-birth abortion; this procedure involves a suboccipital puncture -- puncturing the baby's skull -- and suboccipital insertion of a catheter into the baby's cranium, followed by suction of the baby's brain from his or her skull while he or she is still alive. This is partial-birth abortion, supported vehemently by the present administration.
What did Amos, Isaiah, and Jeremiah say to the national leaders about the immorality that was going to bring God's judgment? They openly confronted the king, knowing that they would be persecuted for doing so. But what did Bill Hybels say about partial-birth abortion -- or any abortion, for that matter? What did Bill Hybels say about militant and radical homosexuality, with lesbianism being promoted by Clinton and his wife? Not one word. He was 'politically correct,' and people are looking to him. What did Biblical leaders say to the national leaders when they were bringing God's judgment? We are talking here about little babies having their brains sucked out; yet not one word is said. "Give the people what they want."
But the righteous clergy give the people what they need. They were the minority. Let us look further, to understand how this works.
Ezekiel 44:11; God leaves them in place. Don't worry; God says in verse ten that they will bear the consequences of their iniquity -- they will not get away with anything. Yet God leaves them in place for a season, to be ministers in the sanctuary. In verse 11 it says that they shall stand before the people and minister to the people; but in verse 15, the Zadokites kept charge of the sanctuary when the Lord's people went astray. "They shall stand before Me." A Levite will always minister to the people; a Zadokite will minister to the Lord.
When the Levites give the people what they want, you don't see a real move of God. There are places in the United States which are having real moves of God; there is something of a genuine revival taking place in my native New York City, with the radical decrease in crime and so on. There is an incredible move of God in David Wilkerson's Times Square Church in Manhattan and in Jim Simbola's church, Brooklyn Tabernacle. I remember when that was a small group of people meeting in a YWCA; now it's a congregation of ten or twelve thousand. This has spread to other areas of the Northeast. Their growth is not based on people leaving one church for another; it is based on people being saved. I once taught a Bible study in David Wilkerson's church's rescue mission, called the Upper Room; every day we saw drug addicts, prostitutes, and homosexuals get saved. People are saved during every meeting in Wilkerson's church. I'm not saying he's perfect, but he is honest. The crime rate has plummeted in New York; the current murder rate is lower than that of 1964. This is opposed to places in which there has been no change and no growth, such as Pensacola, Toronto, and London, where instead things have gotten worse.
If I take money from my right pocket and move it into my left pocket, am I any better off financially? What kind of businessman, or any person, would do such a thing and think themselves richer? Much of this seeker-friendly stuff, 'give the people what they want', is transfer growth. People leaving one church for another to have their ears tickled, as Paul tells us. They find somebody who tells them what they want to hear. This is not people being saved; it's not the forces of darkness being challenged; it's not immorality being thrown back. It's people taking money from one pocket and transferring it to another. No businessman could run a business on transfer growth, taking money from one column and putting it into another. Only a Pentecostal preacher can get away with that. Believe me, I should know; I am a Pentecostal preacher. I am embarrassed to admit that the Pentecostal ministry has become a dumping ground for people who simply cannot do anything else. Do you really think that these guys could be electricians or plumbers and build up a good business? Could they be dentists or mathematicians? No, they're not intelligent enough. The Pentecostal ministry becomes for these people a ticket to the success they couldn't achieve in the world. I am not saying that they're all this way, but most of what we see today is like that. It's all hype artistry, psychological manipulation, and pop psychology, not the Bible. It's 'give the people what they want'; they're pandering to a market.
A lot of people knew Pensacola was not a revival. A lot of Assemblies of God ministers knew it was wrong, just as a lot of them knew that the PTL club was not of God. They went along with it anyway, why? Because the people liked it! 'If we don't have it,' they said, 'we'll lose members to the church up the street that does have it.' You see, they are no longer running a church; instead, they are running a business, an enterprise. Just as you have to give the customers what they want if you run a haberdashery shop, you have to give the customers what they want if you're running a church. They are ministering to the people and not to the Lord.
A Zadokite, however, a righteous clergyman, would rather teach the truth to 50 people than teach error to 50,000. He is ministering to the Lord, you see. The other guy, verse 11, he's ministering to the people.
There was no revival in Pensacola, and none in Toronto. No real revival like we see in New York City, with people really getting saved. That didn't happen in London at Holy Trinity Brompton with the Alpha Courses; the city has actually only gotten worse. All they do is get people leaving one church for another, and then say that the Lord is blessing them, for look how they've grown. But that's silly; it is sheer idiocy. We have men standing in pulpits today behaving like idiots. Not a nice word; but Paul uses the word idiotae in Corinthians.
I think that people should leave bad churches in order to come to good ones; yet the Gospel should be our focus. One danger that can happen in good churches is this: Because they will stand up for truth against the error, they wind up becoming hospitals for Christians who have been ripped off and abused in bad churches, and lose their own evangelistic focus. This shouldn't be allowed to happen; a balance should be kept. It can easily happen that a good church becomes a hospital for abused Christians rather than focusing on evangelistic outreach to the community.
What comes next? "It shall be that when they enter, they shall be clothed with linen garments; wool shall not be on them while they are ministering in the gates to the inner court of the house. Linen turbans shall be on their heads, and linen undergarments shall be on their loins. They shall not gird themselves with anything which makes them sweat." This refers to an elaborate Hebrew ritual for the Day of Atonement called the Mustafa. We read about this ritual in an ancient rabbinic tractate called yoma, which describes what the Day of Atonement was like in the day of Jesus. When you read the book of Hebrews in light of its background, you understand Hebrews a lot better. In this ritual, the high priest is of course a picture of Christ, as we are told in Hebrews. But when he went to the Holy of Holies once a year, he put on different clothes that the people could not see; all-white linen garments. He looked different from the way he normally looked when he went into the Holy of Holies; this is a picture of Christ as well, when Jesus went before the Father to make atonement for our sin. It was a mystery what happened behind the curtain while the high priest was behind it; when he went before the Father, he was different than when he was before the people. The apostles only had glimpses of this; the transfiguration, or later on when John saw Jesus in His manifest glory. And although John knew Jesus humanly, when he saw Him in His divinity, he was shocked in Revelation chapter 1. They saw one Jesus; but when He went in back of that curtain, as it were, to make atonement, they didn't see Him. Likewise the high priest had to change his clothes and put on these linen vestments once a year, that he would not transmit holiness to the people. After the final sacrifice on the Day of Atonement, he would again put on his ordinary clothes and come down the Temple Mount stairs on the south, to the City of David, and then he would make a right, turning west, and go up the stairs to the upper city where the high priest lived. As he attempted to come down the stairs and go up again to the upper city, the people would grab onto him and pull him, saying 'don't leave, don't leave,' and surrounding him. He would have to battle his way through the crowds in order to leave. After Jesus made the atonement for our sins, he said "I ascend now to My Father," and they did not want him to go; yet He said that it was to their (and our) advantage that He goes.
Notice that the high priest could not have a mixture. The Levites had a mixture, but the Zadokites had none. The Zadokites could also not wear anything that would make them sweat. Why? Let's begin by looking at the mixture: they were forbidden to make a garment of flax and wool. God hates the mixture; He despises the mixture. Two passages we will touch on briefly: 2 Peter 2:1: "False prophets arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you," Peter uses false prophets and false teachers synonymously and interchangeably, why? Because if someone's doctrines are wrong, their prophecies will also be wrong! The reason that Kim Clement, Paul Cain, Rick Joyner, and Gerald Coates get it wrong -- the reason their prophecies don't happen -- is that their doctrines are false. " . . . who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them." Joyce Meyer did this; she said in her book that if you do not believe that Jesus went to hell, you cannot go to heaven. Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth Copeland got their beliefs from E.W. Kenyan; they too deny the Master who bought them.
" . . . secretly introducing damnable heresies . . ." We translate it 'destructive', but a better word is 'damnable'. That phrase is man's best effort to translate this Greek word, parasaxousin. Para is the Greek prefix meaning 'next to'. It means that they put truth adjacent or next to error. In other words, they use truth to camouflage error. 'There is always real cheese in the rat trap.' What did Satan do when he tempted Adam and Eve? When the serpent beguiled the woman -- a figure of Israel and the church being seduced -- he took something the Lord said out of context. What did Satan do in Matthew chapter 4 when he tempted Jesus? The whole argument was from the book of Deuteronomy. Satan would quote from Deuteronomy, and Jesus would answer from Deuteronomy. Satan put truth next to error; he took verses out of context. Jesus answered in context.
When you see people taking verses out of context and making it a pretext -- Rodney Howard-Browne is a master at it, and Mike Bickle is another -- that is the signature of Satan; Lucifer manifesting himself as an angel of light. What does he do? He puts truth next to error. And Peter calls them 'damnable' heresies; some Bibles translate the word as "destructive"; the King James is more accurate in this case, and calls them 'damnable'. "Oh, there's some truth in Pensacola!" "Someone once was actually healed at a Benny Hinn crusade!" For one thing, we know of people who were pronounced healed by Hinn who are now dead, and we know that there is no medical documentation of true healings. But even if there was, Matthew 7:22 -- "Lord, we did miracles in your name --" "I never knew you." A true healing would not prove anything about Benny Hinn.
People so often defend these things by pointing out that there is some good in it, some truth in it. Yes, and by virtue of the fact that it is a mixture of truth and error, it is clearly not of God. "Oh, there's some good in it!" -- God has damned it. There is a false wisdom of man, which goes something like this: "Eat the meat and spit out the bones." Again, think of a three-egg omelet, in which two of the eggs are good but one is rotten. If you want botulism, bon appetit. God hates the mixture; His priests were forbidden to have a mixture.
Paul compares his own ministry and those of Timothy and Silvanus with the Benny Hinns and Kenneth Copelands of the day, saying this in I Thessalonians 2:3: "Our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the Gospel, so we speak not as pleasing men, but God, who examines our hearts. We never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext of greed -- God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from men -- either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have exerted our authority."
The true apostles were being compared to the false ones. What the false apostles did were flatter people with a motivation of greed -- in other words, to get money out of them. They went around flattering people, telling them what they wanted to hear, in order to get money from them. Today they're going around prophesying over people, telling them "You're going to do this and have that and the other thing", and then they take up a really big offering. The fact that none of it happens doesn't matter; the people go back for still more false prophecies.
Jeremiah 5 says that the prophets prophesy falsely and God's people love it so, but look at what God says through Paul: "Our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit . . ." Error, impurity, or by way of deceit. It begins with error; doctrinal error becomes mixed. That word for 'mix' is akatharis, mix or mixture of pure and impure. The whole thing is impure because some of it is; it's a mixture. Get a nice big glass of orange juice, and then pour in a few drops of arsenic; it becomes a homogeneous solution, doesn't it? Can you decide to swallow the juice and spit out the arsenic? When you hear people saying that we have to 'eat the meat and spit out the bones', they don't know the Greek language for one thing, but they don't know basic doctrine either. Those are the babbling words of foolish men. It is impossible to swallow the juice and spit out the arsenic; it's akatharis. That is how deception works. Error gets mixed with truth, leaving you with this mixture, which is an impurity; the result of which is spiritual deception. Deception works by mixing truth and error. It is ridiculous to try to spit out the arsenic and swallow the juice, yet that is what people will tell you to do: "We shouldn't reject all of it; there's some good in Toronto." At best a person who would say that is an ignoramus with no Biblical right to be behind a pulpit. If someone is unable to teach, unable to rightly divide the Word of God, that person has no right to be in the ministry. James says, "Let few of you be teachers," for teachers will be judged more strictly than the rest. When we stand before Jesus, your pastor and I are going to be held more accountable than most of you. And yet there are people who will teach you that you can swallow the juice and spit out the arsenic. But that's absurd; it's homogeneous! I don't mind that these people don't know Greek, but some of them don't even know English.
There is a mixture; now, the mixture will make them sweat. But the Zadokites were different; they would not perspire, because there was no mixture. Their garments were pure linen. Revelation 19:8: "It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints." A Zadokite wore pure linen; his deeds were no mixture, so there would be no sweat. The Levite had a mixture, so there would be perspiration. In other words, a Zadokite would rest in the Lord, whereas the Levite would strive in the flesh. Again, if I only have 100 people in my church and they are the 100 that God has given me, I am going to teach them the truth and I will rest in the Lord. I will be content with what I have, and ask that the Lord may add to my numbers. I will do my evangelism, I will preach the Gospel, I will pray, I'll seek the Lord, I'll do all that I can do; but it is the Lord who gives the increase. I'm not going to sweat about it.
Today's Levites, by contrast, get one program after another. They are program-oriented, and become event-oriented. They have to put on one big event after another to bring in numbers in order to bring in money to pay for the program that has never been ordained of God. They are striving in the flesh; they sweat. They have to worry. There is some good in what they say and what they teach, of course, because it is a mixture. A Zadokite will strive to be in the Lord, for that is where his rest is. Remember Jesus as our Sabbath rest? A Zadokite will strive to be in the Lord. Anything he does will be a result of his abiding in the Lord. A Levite, however, will strive in the flesh. He'll have to get the latest gimmick, the latest program, the latest church-growth plan; and if those don't work, he'll have to get others. He'll always be a mixture. There's a mixture in what he preaches, a mixture in what he believes, and a mixture in what he does. It is impure; it is akatharis, because he is trying to please man instead of pleasing God.
Verse 23 of Ezekiel 44: "They shall teach My people the difference between holy and profane, and cause them to discern." A Levite and a Zadokite; a Zadokite will teach discernment. A Levite will be politically correct; he will not teach discernment. If your pastor is not teaching discernment, if he is not teaching the people to discern, he is not a faithful leader. Only a righteous leader will teach discernment. When you see churches that will not deal with error, will not teach the people what is wrong with what's being shown and espoused on popular 'Christian' television -- when you see people who will not take a stand and warn people when they go to a Christian book shop what kinds of books to keep away from -- when you find that discernment is not being taught in a church -- that is a Levite, not a Zadokite. He will always compromise. A Levite will always compromise truth. Once people begin compromising truth, it won't be long before they are compromising morality. Give them enough time, and the same guys will begin to compromise morality.
Finally, we're told, " . . . they will take their stand in a dispute, and judge according to My statutes." A Zadokite, a righteous minister, will take a stand in a dispute and judge Biblically. Again, a Levite will be politically correct. He will come down on the fence. In England we have a Baptist preacher whom I once respected, though I no longer can, by the name of David Pawson. He watched the videos of the laughing revival, and he was appalled; but when his followers began writing to him to ask whether it was of God or not, instead of telling them the truth, he called Toronto a 'yellow light'. It wasn't red, nor was it green; in other words, he said, proceed with caution; go into it cautiously. It's a mixture, he said; and he's a man who knows Greek as well as I do. By virtue of the fact that it is a mixture, it should not be gone into. He was told that by me and by another pastor, yet it did not change his mind. It was not politically correct to take a stand. Why would he not take a stand? Because he no longer ministers to the Lord, he ministers to the people. It is a tragedy, because he is a man who did take a stand in the past. He took a stand on a lot of issues; he stood against annihilationism, he said that leadership is male -- he took a stand in the past, but now he no longer takes a stand. Now he bails out. He will not take a stand in a dispute.
"It's a mixture," he says. Of course it's a mixture! That very fact tells you it is not God, that it is damnable. How can you try to defend something, which, according to Peter, God has damned? If God has damned something, it is indefensible. There's nothing more to be said.
Remember that Ezekiel prophesies not only for his own day or even for the first coming of Jesus, he also prophesied for now.
In whatever church you go to, does your minister give place to the secretly hostile alien? Will he fool around with the liberal Protestants or the Roman church, people with a stated agenda? Will he go down the road to Babylon? When that happens, true worship ends, the grain is no longer being shoveled out for the people, and the wine and oil are gone. Does your leader give place to the alien, or does he kick the alien out?
Does your pastor give the people what they say they want, or does he give the people what God says they need? In other words, does he minister to the people, or does he minister to the Lord?
Does your minister strive in the flesh? Does he allow a mixture of what is right and wrong, true and false, Biblical and unbiblical, spiritual and carnal? Does he allow for akatharis? Does he tell you to eat the meat and spit out the bones? And if there is a mixture, in the process of it is your minister always striving in the flesh for another gimmick, another program, and another 'celebration/praise' event? Or is he someone who has no mixture; what he teaches and what he does is purely Scriptural? Does he rest in the Lord? Would he rather have 100 people that he can teach the truth to than 5,000 to whom he can only give a mixture?
Does your pastor teach God's people discernment? Does he teach you to discern? Does he protect the sheep from the wolves? Or is he a hireling as described by Jesus in John 10, who is not a shepherd, who is out for his hire -- his job, his housing allowance, his credentials, his standing in the community? Is he a hireling or a pastor? Does he teach discernment, or does he compromise truth?
Finally, on a disputed issue such as seeker-friendliness, the Alpha courses, Promise Keepers, or the laughing 'revival', will he take his stand and judge Biblically? Or will he rather come down on the fence, refusing to take a stand and refusing to judge Biblically, even though he knows better, as so many of these guys do?
These are not questions for me to answer; these are only questions for me to ask. I don't know all of you, and I don't know what churches you go to. I am only asking the question: your leader -- is he a Levite or a Zadokite?
If your minister is a Zadokite -- if he is somebody who will kick the alien out, who will give the people what God says they need, who ministers to the Lord rather than to men, in whom there is no mixture in what he teaches, believes and does, who will rather rest in the Lord than strive in the flesh, who will teach people to discern, and who will take a stand in a dispute -- if that is your pastor, you stand by him. You pray for him, you support him financially, and you help him in any way you can. He may not be a perfect man, but he is a good man, and he is God's man. You stand by him, you pray for him, you support him, you be loyal to him so long as he is loyal to the Word of God. He needs your prayers, he deserves your support, and he is entitled to your help.
On the other hand, if your minister is a Levite -- if he will give place to the alien and walk down the ecumenical path to Babylon, if he'll give the people what they want, if there is a mixture in what he teaches, believes and does, if he will not teach discernment but rather is politically correct, will not take his stand in a dispute and does not want any controversy -- do not sit under that man's ministry, do not bring your family under his ministry. He is not a shepherd; he is at best a hireling or an incompetent. He is somebody who does not deserve your support. You can pray for him, but get away from him and get your family away from him, and take anybody else away from him that you can. He is leading the sheep to destruction. At best, he is an ignoramus who should not be behind a pulpit. Don't support his ministry, don't support him financially, don't stand by him, and don't be loyal to him, because if you are you are being loyal to something not of God. God has damned what he does. If he is not right, he is not and cannot possibly be righteous.
Again, I am not the one to answer this question, only the one to ask it. Is your minister a Levite or a Zadokite?