There is scarcely anything that hinders or is more destructive to the move of the Spirit in the church than the manipulative, overbearing attitude of those who operate in the spirit of religious narcissism and elitism. This cult of religious, manipulative overloading within the church. The very thing the Lord Jesus warned about so many times. Have you seen this in churches? Most of you have if you’ve ever attended churches. I have, many times. It’s not always evident in the so-called leadership only, but in some of the members, who deem themselves pillars, as well. It’s one of the most obnoxious, offensive leavens that can take hold in any church. Also, unfortunately, it is altogether too prevalent, and the very reason the most needy of all people, those who are yet unsaved, to reject and shun Christianity,“because of all those hypocrites in the churches”. They are right! Even the world sees it! Word gets out, and the world recognizes the blatant hypocrisy operating in these churches and their clergy. What do you have when you are confronted with an elitist, intellectually arrogant “leadership” or the self righteous “pillars” in churches? Pharisees. Remember that the Lord Jesus greatest enemies was the religious bunch, the Pharisees, blind guides. Blind guides are not capable of leading others into anything except a ditch. Is this the reason many are leaving churches in droves? Quite possibly. The above video and the article by Mark Stephan, below, nails it!
By Mark Stephan on February 8, 2012 Missiology
There is a prevalent behavior in the church that is deeply rooted, often preached against, and almost always ignored, often by those preaching it. It is deeply integrated in western culture, could perhaps even be considered a foundation, yet with many things man-made, it is diametrically opposed to the gospel. I have been part of it, experienced it, fought against it, and even promoted it but for the last few years as I have focused in on it I have realized how damaging it is.
I am talking about Christian elitism. Elitism based in having some newfound knowledge that is world-based that makes a Christian think they are ‘better’ than another or another is ‘better’ than them. While we say this is not true, that we are all saved and equal in the eyes of God, our actions betray us. The cult of Christian idol worship has been spread thick. From marketing campaigns of hero-worship of ‘Christian idols’ to organizations of higher education trying to make a system where getting a Christian or even a secular degree with acronyms placed behind your name from academia is given equal value as receiving a special knowledge from God.
This in no small way has impacted missions. Missiologists and their organizations spend more time studying and promoting strategies based on anthropologies, sociologies, linguistics, cultural sensitivities, even business-like strategies marketing and multiplication taught by gurus and leaders and motivational speakers from around the nation, than they do deep in the heart of the Word of God and deep child-like following of the simple call to go and preach the gospel. They would make any politician envious of the tools they have in their war chests. The western church has become salesmen of the gospel, not bold men and women having been changed by it glorifying God as megaphones spreading the truth that God the Father, Son, and Spirit have done an amazing thing through Christ the Son! As salesmen, they have distracted from the Sonship of Christ, as though it were a product undesirable or a painful side-effect of some medicine. It is regulated to the fine-print footnotes if presented at all. It is with this special man-made knowledge that they deem to have authority over the gospel to adjust, change, contextualize and improve on the message. Many of these mission idols have their own websites, branding, they go out on the speaker circuit, written books, and even involved in politics. If there were an ‘Mission Idol’ contest, they would be the celebrity judges. If you think I am thinking of one individual, I am not. There are far too many of them. We humans love the cult of celebrity. We give them power because we believe they have some secret knowledge that we lack. Do not misunderstand, I am not saying books and training are wrong. But we have relied on them and given them power above who we should adore, Christ, and His Word to us, the Bible. If capitalism ever did something truly evil, it was making the outreach to the nations a capitalistic endeavor. A whole industry has been created to support it. The temple is full of money exchangers of the gospel.
‘Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.‘ (1 Cor 3:18)
‘For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.‘ (1 Cor 1:25)
We know these verses; we quote them all the time. Yet, do we practice them? The guilty are on both sides. In the last week I have seen many emails pertaining to the sinfulness being exposed in one notable Christian organization. In one dialogue the individuals I was corresponding with said that they trust this organization because they have training in such and such degrees, and are known to be very smart in such and such things. Yet, when I asked them, when they first heard about the actives, what did the Holy Spirit tell you. Immediately the person said, they felt grieved in the Spirit. Then, when I asked ‘why do you say you trust this organization still?’ They replied, “Because they were trained for this.”
This is the crux of the issue. We as humans have relied on our own understanding, in spite of the Holy Spirit clearly saying something to the opposite. Why is it, that even though the Holy Spirit tells us one thing, we over-ride it with outside knowledge? Or, in fear hold our tongue and remain silent because of what people will think of us, or afraid we are too uneducated? Can anyone be more an expert than God? Has any Christian organization or person ever been without fault and worthy of such steadfast praise overriding God’s distint warning? Do we truly believe in the Holy Spirit and that He is God himself? Does not the Holy Spirit confirm what is in the Word of God? What is it that we Christians say we believe, and is that truly congruent with what we do?
The very same organization that this person is talking about has often spoken about the ‘man in the pew’ in patronizing ways. As though they are some mass mob to be swayed and if this mob gets too big and sways against them, then only then will they have to change their ways. This is a perfect example of Christian elitism, looking down on brothers and sisters in Christ as though they do not know what they are doing, wanting to sway them with a public relations campaign. Of course, most people who sit in the pews do not have the training that this organization does; neither do they have PhD’s after their names or grand titles. The average man in the pew has not spent years in training philosophizing and theorizing. The average Christian is just that, average. Yet, is being average so bad? Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools (Rom 1:22) We walk a very thin line. Academia is highly praised by those who have it, and equally praised by those who see people who have it. I myself have highly esteemed it, and considered the studies of man-made knowledge to be very useful. I know very well I am highly over educated in the knowledge of men, and the pride and puffed-up knowledge that comes with that is a foolishness that I fight daily. Do not misunderstand me, I have no problem with higher education, but does this learning make you wiser? Does it give you more discernment? For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. (Prov. 2:6) If you are truly a Bible-believing Christian, then there is only one answer to this question. Wisdom comes from God alone. It cannot be learned. It is only revealed by the sovereign will of God.
Yet, we are so treacherous. We betray that which we say we follow. Of course as Christians, we say we know this. We know we are fallen creatures desperately in need of a savior. We know our own depravity, and hopefully at the same time, we realize the abundant grace that is given to us through the blood of the Son of God the Father, Jesus Christ. Yet, for some reason, or minds are clouded, judgment impaired, and knowing our own faults, we rush to support people who are no more perfect than us. We bestow on them super-human credibility in their man-made knowledge, when in truth, they are fools.
Rather, the scripture is clear:
1. “… both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2)
2. “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! … For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33,36)
3. “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright …” (Proverbs 2:6)
4. Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him.” (Daniel 2:20)
5. “Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than heaven – what can you do? Deeper than Sheol – what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea.” (Job 11:7)
6. ‘Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’ (Jeremiah 33:3)
7. “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” (Matthew 13:11)
8. “… that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe …” (Ephesians 1:17)
9. “Surely the Lord does nothing unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7)
10. “But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets.” (Daniel 2:28)
11. “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31)
Brothers, Sisters, there is no hidden knowledge in Anthropology, Sociology, Linguistics, neither in Mathematics, Physics, nor any creation of man. Knowledge, Wisdom, and truth lay in one central and sole location, God the Father, Son and Spirit. The good news is that, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free– and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Cor. 12:13) We could add educated and non-educated, ‘professional Christian’ and laity, Missionary and seat warmer, pastor and disciple to this list. We are all in one Spirit. If this is true, and any Bible believing Christian should attest to this, then it is that the same Spirit that is in all of us. The same voice of God speaks to all of us. So why is it then that we allow worldly knowledge, which is foolishness to God, supersede Heavenly knowledge, which is inside of us? Does the Word of God come from man’s lips? Or should we seek the Word of God from His Word?
This is not an issue of authority or advocating a free-for-all within the church. But the measure of a man, and the leadership of which he ought to exercise over those around him should be determined over their maturity and wisdom in one thing alone, God. There are many with academic splendor, and the notoriety of man lifts them up. Yet in the simplest of things, their faith, their walk, and wisdom of God, they fail. A mark of true maturity and wisdom in the Spirit is a mark of a man who continually lays all earthly knowledge, all learned things, at the feet of God the Father, Son and Spirit and trade it for foolishness of following the one true God, who has chosen the simplicity of having dearly loved children to be the ones who go out and preach and display a gospel of love, sacrifice, of Fatherhood and Sonship, and of total utter dependence on that Father for not only physical and spiritual needs, but for all of our mental needs as well.
This is a reminder, to all believers out there, that whether you are the man in the pew, or the theologian, academic, linguist, anthropologist or mission’s strategist, that you are not smarter than God. That no matter how intelligent you make something sound, the Spirit of God that is in a child is far more wise on its most foolish day than you could ever be on your brightest. On the same token, the child of God should feel no timidity in the presence of those who lord their gained academics over others. As for me, I fight daily against my pride, and work out my faith to be like a Child worthy to be Gods, trust in the Word of God, and rely on the Holy Spirit that backs up the Word of God. Revealing the deep truths, and the simplicities and power of the Gospel for the world and myself. If I have knowledge, I compare it to the Word, and it cannot stand. Outside of the Word I am a fool. Immersed in the Word, I am a child. To God alone be the Glory.
Praise to him, for he has made attaining his wisdom simple.
Trust in Him. Listen to the Spirit. Dig deep in the Word of God. Measure all your thoughts, desires and activities by these, alone.
Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Mark 10:15)
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. (Eph 5:1)