Here are some questioning, prophetic and practical challenges to you and to me. Hopefully Biblical too!
Think about what is said, test it against the Bible and make up your own mind. Part Three.
THINGS TO STOP IN CHURCH SERVICES
A Hit List to call some more way-out conferences and churches back to practical reality!!
Please note, myfishbites wants to be completely submitted to God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts etc. We are also evangelical (and charismatic in a Biblical sense). So none of this comes with any agenda, except to be Biblical and Kingdom driven!
1. Be careful what you say about Jesus!
– Can we please stop saying things like, ‘God’s in love with you’ or asking people if they are ‘in love with God’. For many people, it sounds weird – wrong even, nor is it Biblical. God loves us (through Jesus) but he isn’t ‘in love’ with us.
– In the same vein, we need to stop saying things like, ‘have a relationship with Jesus’. In these sexual and sexuality-aware times, this also sounds weird. There are many other ways of expressing our lives in Christ, or the life he offers.
– Another phrase that we need to be rid of is, ‘turned on to God’. The phrase being ‘turned on’ is a sexual phrase and we need to not use this because of these connotations! Preachers don’t mean it in this way, but we nevertheless need to be careful not to use the phrase.
– In the same way, let’s not hear things like “Gay means happy. I’m not using it in the modern context, it’s a great old word.” OK, that’s your choice to don’t use the word with its modern meaning, but you’ll make yourself sound pretty silly..
2. Appeals for money using manipulation.
Someone calculated that if getting a ‘hundredfold return’ on giving was financial, if we offered $10 on Day 1, by Day 7 we’d own the world. So clearly we need to re-examine giving to get. As others have rightly pointed out, if we simply reap the money we sow as money, why don’t Christian TV companies simply reap the level of money they need, in order to get the return they want..?! Our rewards in God are so much deeper and more eternal than this simplistic idea. Additionally, many Christian TV stations wheel in previously unseen and unknown experts and ‘ministers’ to attempt to convince you with spiritual sounding arguments that have very little to do with God, and much more to do with extracting money out of you. Sometimes (but not always) we need to look at ourselves when finances dip. Are we genuinely following God’s call, or simply prolonging the life of something we want to do..?
3. Me, me, me..
Without doubt, this is the one thing that we must be very cautious about, both personally – and in terms of people with allegedly ‘big’ ministries. We often talk about Derek Prince here at myfishbites, but the humility with which he used to conduct himself is in disturbingly stark contrast to some preachers and big-names on Christian TV. Too many Christians talk about prosperity, what they do, what they have, what they deserve and what they own a little too much. We must be cautious not to believe our own hype and follow the life that God has set before us. Jesus measured himself only in doing what the will of the Father was and bringing that to completion, not in anything else! There is no place for pride as a Christian. Jesus saved us, he brought us to himself, died for us, empowers us by his Spirit, gifts us, changes us and makes us who we are. None of us can take real credit, although we can choose to make right decisions as God leads us. Let’s will to do God’s will ! Jesus made himself of no reputation, humbled himself even to the cross – obeying God’s call beyond anything.
4. Constant SHOUTING by preachers – shhhh!! LOL!
Many speakers deserve to lose their voices. Despite having a microphone and the advantages of quality PA systems, they insist on shouting. I wonder how many times we find Jesus shouting in the Bible.. Ever? We want passion of course, but shouting all the time suggests a manic-ness. Used continually it becomes overbearing and alienates people. Can you imagine living at home with one of these guys… “CAN I HAVE A COFFEE?”… “Yes dear, just let me get my ear plugs.” Some people shout so much, they’ve wrecked their voices – and probably made themselves deaf LOL! Shouting a point doesn’t make you any more spiritual. God is well able to hear us – reading our thoughts and knowing our words before we say them. If your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (including your voice), don’t destroy it 😉
5. Copying the examples of the ‘Holy Spirit’ on big-named preachers.
The 2008 ‘Lakeland Revival’ was infamous for Todd Bentley’s shaking of the head. This may well have been a sign from God. However, people across the globe started copying the ‘sign’ and it became ridiculous. People in my local church started manifesting this. Yet a sign has no power and we should not seek the signs, but God alone. God alone has the power, not the head shaking in itself! And God works differently in all of us – so not everyone that God moves in will react in the same way, so we must never try to make people do something (‘falling down in the Spirit’ is exactly the same – it is not necessary for God to touch people and has become a charismatic religious symbol). We must seek God for who he is, not for what he can ‘give’ us. Seek first the Kingdom and his righteousness, and then these other things will be added. It is as we seek God that he moves. We move to his rhythm and commands, not vice versa.
It is perhaps significant how God rebuked Israel for making the staff of Moses an idol. In 2 Kings 18.3-4, we read about King Hezekiah – “He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father David had done. He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it.” The instrument God had used in the hand of Moses had become the idol and the ‘power source’ in itself, for the people of Israel. King Hezekiah destroyed it. We learn from 2 Kings 18 that there was no other King like Hezekiah who ‘held fast to the Lord’and was successful in all he did. In the New Testament, this lesson is continued – John the Baptist tells us, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up.”(John 3.14).
It is Jesus who must be lifted up. The ‘rod’ with the snake on had no power. In the same way, our symbols and ways of acting have no power in themselves. It is the Holy Spirit who takes what we are and have, and the Word of God – and divinely energizes and transforms lives through it.
6. Crazy manifestations of the Holy Spirit that don’t glorify God.
We know from the Bible that the Holy Spirit can be grieved – he is often described as a dove (a very sensitive bird). Therefore, the Holy Spirit does not force himself on people and make anyone do anything they don’t want to. We must be careful not to undermine manifestations of the Holy Spirit, while not limiting the Holy Spirit.
Watching some church services or conferences, you would think that everyone was on LSD, such are the strange physical expressions of “God’s Spirit”. These are often accepted without testing, though we are urged to test spirits in the Bible. There are Biblical examples of more ‘out there’ things – David danced in front of the Ark and the Acts 2 disciples looked to be drunk, many other times we see lively and strange ways that God works. But in the Bible these always led to dramatic change and were accurate prophetically. Can we say the same today, or are we too interested in the signs above the changes that God works with us to make? If prophetic words and actions do not lead anywhere or do not happen, we must be cautious – as in the same way we must welcome the Holy Spirit where he is clearly at work.
We also need to question how this looks to people watching on who don’t know God. Very often, there are such mad things in the church, that no-one would want to be part of it! We need to get real and not do crazy things that make us look ridiculous. We are in danger of doing spiritually abnormal things or doing things that will turn people away from Jesus. I once heard someone say a person needing money came to their church. The woman who reported this went to the lady’s aid, shaking ‘uncontrollably’ under the power of the Spirit. Now we don’t want to deny this or the power of God. But would God honestly ‘make’ us shake uncontrollably while handing money to someone who doesn’t know God? That does not sound like the character of the Holy Spirit at all. People in the world will think we’re fruitcakes. I guess it’s one way to guarantee they wouldn’t come back.. God does manifest in unusual ways, but let’s cut out the freaky to make way for real Godly manifestations.
The spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophets. You are able to control what you do – God does not make us do anything we don’t want to do. Let’s not forget that preachers and prophets should have a personal integrity and a good, Godly reputation that extends to those around them, their church and their neighbours. They must be part of a local church and accountable.
7. Personal responsibility and action, not simply ‘spiritual fixes’.
This neatly leads on to the point of people needing to be changed, but taking a personal decision to do so, submit to Christ and be open to working with the Holy Spirit to see inner change. Why do we have so much ‘ministry’ and so much ‘response’ at the end of church services and conferences? Often it appears that people want God to hit them with a magic wand or a ‘spiritual fix’ and change everything in their lives. without doing anything themselves. God does do one-off incredible things and we must expect it. But we also need to work with him and take personal responsibility for our own spiritual lives, not simply get spiritual ‘hits’ all the time.
8. Strange church names and strange sounding conferences.
While not getting at anyone at all specifically, when we hear about ‘glory zones’ and ‘breakthrough signs and wonders’ conferences, we need to think carefully. For one thing, the names sound like cults. My strong belief is that there is a spiritual realm and that this is where the battle is fought. But why, when God is so practical, do we do things that are likely to engender criticism and mockery totally unnecessarily. It’s one thing to suffer for your faith, quite another to create your own problems.
9. Words without The Word.
So many conferences, so many talks complexly pass over the word of God, especially ‘prophetic’ type conferences. This is a highly worrying trend as only the Word of God is inspired, not people’s words – as insightful as they can be. While passionate about the prophetic (and seeing it as a far wider and often far more practical manifestation than is often claimed), too many times people have words from ‘angels’ or from ‘God’ but they lack anything to do with the written Word of God. Anyone that has extra-Biblical revelation should be very carefully scrutinised and treated with caution. As Derek Prince said, there is so much in the word of God so that we merely scratch the surface, why would anyone want extra revelation?! Prophetic words need to be done carefully, they need to be tested (not held back), but encouraged sensitively. RT Kendall makes the excellent suggestion of never giving someone a prophetic word and saying “The Lord told me…” Instead, speak to others normally and say that you think this is something from God, but that they should ask God to reveal it, or ‘quicken it to their spirit’ – ie. they feel / know it’s right. Often (though not always), a prophetic word will line up with something God has already been speaking to someone. Remember that God definitely does speak to us outside of the Bible (through other Christians, prayer, books etc) but it must always line up with God’s Word.
It is time to get back to the Word, inspired and led by the Holy Spirit!
10. Asking people to repeat back words..
I can understand this to some extent in certain contexts, but it’s become a preaching tool and not a very effective method at that. It has become very boring and repetitive as it is used so often. Everyone say, ‘boring and repetitive’… 😉
11. Bullying the people listening.
There are some speakers who almost bully their listeners by demanding certain things, certain responses or attitudes – even rebuking people for not responding as they’d wish (including the people listening, the tech teams and others). This is actually very patronising and assumes that people have not heard a point simply because they don’t respond a certain way. It can even come with a slight superiority complex.
Yes, some people have a teaching gift, but our love for God & people must be our motivator, as well as having a servant heart. God has no favourites. It can be disappointing not to have people react, but we’re serving God not people. We leave the results to him as it’s his Spirit that brings growth, not us. I love to see encouragement, engagement, life and passion. But let’s know our audience – for example, us Brits are a bit stuffy and not as excitable as our friends around the globe – but it doesn’t mean we’re not excited. We’re just not all always good at showing it (a polite British ‘nice one’ might be the same as an American clapping and cheering LOL!) But if people are patronised, they will quietly walk away from both the speaker and possibly even what’s been said. It is great to have a response, but we can never be sure what God is doing in people, as he’s made us all different.
The Holy Spirit never manipulates us. Never trust a speaker that tells you that you must obey them, or do what they say. It simply isn’t Biblical. If you feel a check in your spirit (beyond something that challenges your comfort zone), then something probably isn’t right. Maybe if you make a point and people don’t respond, it says more about you as a speaker than it does about them as a listener…