A time will come when instead of shepherds feeding the sheep, the church will have clowns entertaining the goats!
~Charles H. Spurgeon
I believe The Bible is the Word of God from cover to cover and that anything in The Bible is a gift from God to us, His Creation, for our benefit and blessing. If you have read through many of my past teachings you know I strongly advocate keeping The Sabbath, God’s Feast Days, and the food laws, among many other things, and that I believe these are gifts from our Father.
In the same manner I believe that The Bible is clear that God much prefers His children to living in blessing and prosperity rather than in the curse and poverty. I believe that God wants us to live in good health instead of being sick and weak. These too are biblical principles that are clear throughout the Word of God. The problem with such things as the modern prosperity gospel is not that they teach these principles, but rather that they abuse them, stretch them into things they are not meant to be, and prey on gullible Christians who have put their trust in these “preachers” of the day.
Of equal concern, as it is rooted in these extremes of the prosperity gospel and the Word of Faith Movement, is the use of gimmicks by charlatans who will stop at nothing to “get bigger offerings” for their “ministries”. Recently I saw one on television, a man who was caught in a huge scandal deceiving Christians several decades ago, asking for a special offering where he would give you in return some “special piece of stone from Jerusalem”. Another one who spent many years in prison for his scamming ways now has another “Christian television program” where he was selling buckets of “Apocalypse survival food”, using misguided views of eschatology to prey on people’s fears. It’s sad to think how many people will go to clean out Grandma’s home after she passes only to find these buckets of food, never opened, because she put her faith in a man who has already been to prison for such shenanigans.
I used to receive mailings from a prominent Word of Faith ministry. While I never really followed this ministry very much, somehow I ended up on their mailing list. They were always sending some “gimmick” with a Scriptural promise for a miracle attached—if I “sowed a seed” into their ministry, of course. The packets of water, viles of oil, and prayer cloths are all things I can wrap my head around, there is plenty of Scripture to support these elements as connected to some type of blessing and/or miracle. Not saying I approve, just that I can better comprehend them. But then one day I received something that just really irked me.
I opened the latest ministry newsletter from this organization and there was a small plastic packet of cornmeal inside. Yes, you read that right: cornmeal. If I recall, the concept was that Elijah told the widow woman to bake him a little cake with what small amount of “cornmeal” she had and God would bless her. We know from the story that she obeyed the Prophet and she was indeed blessed by God.
You know, I have never once since the time I truly accepted Yeshua as my Messiah felt I needed any type of a gimmick like this for any reason. I have not felt the need for these things to strengthen my faith. I have not felt like I had a better chance of being blessed by God by any of it. Nothing. What I have felt, every time I see such things as this, is annoyed and disgusted that this is the way God’s people are being led—or, perhaps I should say MISLED.
Many consider Kenneth Hagin, Sr. to be the “father” of the Word of Faith Movement. Now, like many others in Pentecostal history, especially during the period of time Hagin ministered and through the present day, there are teachings I have heard from Hagin that I agree with and others that I would take strong exception to. But as it turns out, in his later years he became concerned about the abuses he was seeing in Word of Faith and other branches of Pentecostal Christianity, so he called a meeting with all of the ministers who considered him their primary mentor in ministry. In this meeting it is said that he rebuked these abuses and use of gimmicks.
From what I actually know about the meeting, including things I have been told by others who follow these ministries much more closely than I do, the worst offenders of these abuses and gimmicks to this day are those who declined the invitation from Hagin to attend this meeting.
Interestingly, about a year after this gathering took place Hagin published a book titled The Midas Touch: A Balanced Approach To Biblical Prosperity. In the book he addresses a number of his concerns, certainly the same concerns that he used as talking points in the meeting he held with all of his “spiritual sons” just one year earlier. But I want to draw attention to a segment in the book that deals with the use of gimmicks in ministry, which I will share here in it’s entirety.
The Use Of Gimmicks
by Kenneth E. Hagin, Sr.
Looking back over more than sixty-five years of ministry, I can remember a lot of gimmicks preachers have used to attract attention and get a larger response from people to their ads and appeals. Although you might suppose there are a lot of new gimmicks today, a great many of them have been around for decades. I’ve seen some of them come and go two or three times.
Some gimmicks are absolutely ridiculous, and the fact that they seem to work just illustrates how unlearned and superstitious many people are. They are prisoners of the soulish realm and do not live in the spiritual realm.
Years ago, someone on the radio talked about a red string he would send you for an offering of $10. It was supposed to have special power in it. If you were fat, wearing the string around your waist would cause you to lose weight. If you were skinny, wearing the red string would help you gain weight.
Then someone came up with the idea of blessed billfolds that had been prayed over. People could get them by sending the minister a $25 offering. People were supposed to put the billfold in their pocket and expect God to miraculously fill it up with money. After carrying it a while, people were supposed to open the blessed billfold and find that money had been supplied to pay their bills.
I know it seems impossible that anyone would be deceived by something so silly, but many sent in their money and used those red strings and blessed billfolds. Other gimmicks may seem more believable and convincing.
Back in the 1950s, I heard a radio preacher ask people to send him an offering and a prayer request. He promised to take every letter of request that he received with him on a trip to Jerusalem and pray over them in the empty tomb where Jesus had been buried. I heard that he got sackfuls of mail; thousands of people wanted him to pray over their requests in that special place.
There is absolutely nothing in the Scriptures to suggest that God will hear and answer a prayer from the tomb in Jerusalem anymore than He will hear you praying in your bedroom, or at work, or anywhere else where you cry out to Him in faith. The important thing is not who prays where, but that you believe God, based on His Word.
The Jerusalem prayer deal was simply another gimmick. What that radio preacher really wanted was more people to send in offerings. And he wanted more names he could put on his mailing list to promote with other mailings and appeals. Sometimes the gimmick is very subtle, and even the person promoting it may be deceived into thinking that what he’s doing is genuine. A few months ago, I was glancing through a church paper that had been sent to me (I get a lot of them). One of the upcoming meetings the church was promoting was a special “double portion” night. It said, “Come believing and receive your double portion!”
This item got my attention because I remembered hearing about “double portion” services fifty years ago. It seemed like one person thought of doing it, and then everyone across the country got on the bandwagon.
The problem with “double portion” services is that the idea that every believer can receive a double portion from the Lord is not scriptural. A double portion of what?
The concept is developed from the Old Testament story about Elisha and Elijah, who were both called and anointed in the office of prophet. Elijah said, “Ask what I shall do for you before I be taken away from you” (2 Kings 2:9). Elisha answered by saying he wanted a double portion of Elijah’s spirit.
The rest of the account tells how Elisha met the condition of seeing Elijah go up in the chariot of fire and how the mantle of Elijah fell on him. And the biblical record shows that Elisha did receive a double portion of Elijah’s anointing, and he performed twice as many miracles.
There are at least two reasons, or conditions, that qualified Elisha to receive a double portion. First, he was called and anointed to be a prophet, just like Elijah was. And second, Elijah told him to ask for what he wanted from him.
What qualifies the people at one of today’s special “double portion” services to be asking for a double portion? Are they asking for a double portion of material things? Or are they asking for a double portion of spiritual things? Either way, there’s no biblical basis for it at all. God has already promised to provide all their needs. How can they get a double portion of all?
Every believer has an anointing of the Spirit within. The Bible says, “But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you . . .” (1 John 2:27).
So why have a “double portion” service? No doubt most ministers who use this idea want it to be a blessing to people, but they may well be promising something they can’t deliver. And part of the reason for scheduling the special service is to get more people to attend and participate in the church service.
I believe ministers need to be really careful about what they sponsor and promote. And they always need to be sure their motives are pure.
NOTE: Let me point out that Kenneth Hagin is generally considered the “founder” or the “father” of the Word of Faith Movement. The fact that it is he that came out as the “whistleblower” of the shenanigans, scams, and gimmicks of a movement attributed to being birthed out of his ministry is significant, and that is primarily why I shared this segment from his book. Sharing this passage does not mean that I necessarily endorse everything Hagin taught and certainly does not mean that I approve of everything promoted through Word of Faith beliefs and teachings, particularly when the man who started the whole thing took the time to expose these errors himself.
Have They No Shame?
If the things I have shared up to this point were not bad enough, today there is a new trend that I fear may truly cross the line into the absolute blasphemous. While I certainly don’t want to make light of the gimmicks and scams I, as well as Hagin through the experiences he shared, have mentioned—these are certainly in error and quite likely blasphemy in their own right—this next area of concern is literally taking a major series of commandments from God’s Torah and turning them into gimmicks.
What are these things that I speak of? They are the Feasts of Yahweh listed in the Torah and seen celebrated throughout the rest of Scripture. We see them instituted during the wilderness exodus of the Israelites—whether or not they were celebrated by any of God’s people prior to this time we are not told—and then we see them continuing on even well into the first century through the ministry of the Apostles and likely beyond that based on some things we find documented in early Christian literature after the Apostolic period. Take a look at this passage:
All your males are to appear three times a year before the Lord your God in the place He chooses: at the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Weeks, and the Festival of Booths. No one is to appear before the Lord empty-handed.
~Deuteronomy 16:16 (HCSB)
Due to the growing interest among Christians to do things they can find in The Bible the way that The Bible says to do them, the con artists of Christianity are now taking passages like this one and spinning it to mean that we are supposed to give their Church or Ministry some “special monetary offering” for these three appointed times. There are numerous problems with this, but perhaps the most concerning part of this tactic of raising an offering is that these ministries don’t actually celebrate these Feasts of Yahweh in their Churches.
Think about that for a moment. Why in the world should I “sow a fifty-dollar Feast of Tabernacles seed”, as they might say, into a Church or Ministry when I don’t see them actually celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles? And while I’m at it, I will say I am that much more less inclined to give money to such a Church when, after they have used the Feast of Tabernacles as a gimmick to collect an offering, they are hosting some kind of “Halloween alternative” event, yet another gimmick, claiming that they can attract the unsaved to their Church (more on that in a moment).
In like manner, they will use the same tactic on Passover, but they perhaps take this one a bit too far. One thing I have seen many ministries do around this time of the year—the season of the Spring Feasts (Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits)—is that they will say something to the effect of: since that’s the time when Yeshua was crucified, God gave His best, and so we should give our best. At this, they seek to persuade willing parishioners to give offerings of such large sums as one-thousand dollars, one week’s income, or some other significant offering.
Now, let me clarify and say that I have absolutely no problem at all with a ministry making such a call of their people to support the Kingdom of God…. IF. I don’t see an issue with it IF they are actually following The Bible, celebrating the Feasts of God the way Scripture says, and not turning them into a gimmick. But, much like Tabernacles, they do not do this. Instead, Passover and the related Spring Feasts are used only as a gimmick to raise an offering, which they certainly need because instead of hosting an actual Passover service, they have an Easter Carnival with all manner of worldliness in their Churches (again, more on that in a moment).
How sickening it must be that these shysters are going to an all-time low by using something as holy as the Feasts of God as a gimmick. I assure you, God is not pleased by this and judgment is hanging in the balance should they not realize the error of their ways and repent.
I appreciate the ministry of Pastor Larry Huch in Bedford Texas. He has a television program and uses that platform to teach the Jewishness of Christianity. One day, in what has become more of a rare occasion to turn on his program (merely due to my own time limitations), he was talking about some aspect of Torah and the Jewish roots of Christian faith and he paused to tell his audience that he takes these things serious, this is not a gimmick were his words that day. Perhaps, much like Hagin, he is seeing the concern of others he has influenced who are taking this revival of the Torah message and manipulating it simply to create bigger offerings.
The Spring and Fall Feasts are one of the most sacred things in the entirety of The Bible. We see so much Messianic prophecy in them and the celebration of them, as Colossians 2:17 tells us, are a foreshadowing of Yeshua and our future in the Kingdom. By celebrating them properly we are gaining divine revelation on who our Messiah is. How dare any preacher have the nerve to defile these sacred times of the year by turning them into another offering scam!
False Prophets Profiting
Some of the things I have seen from the so-called “Christian Pastors and Prophets” of the modern era are beyond ludicrous. I have seen Pastors ride motorcycles down the aisles of their Church or zipline from the back of their Church to the platform. I recently read about one Pastor riding a bull in his Church. Of course, all such activities are advertised in advance to attract curious spectators: “Come to the service this week and see the Pastor as he _______________________!!!”
I have read reports of people claiming to be “Prophets” doing such things as selling “holy pens” that you can use to pass any test as the pen will magically guide your hand to the correct answers—no, that doesn’t sound like the demonic practice of Ouija boards at all (sarcasm). I saw one so-called “Prophet” selling bars of soap that you could use to wash away your sins and bottles of a red liquid labeled to be “The Blood of Jesus”. I saw another one claiming he was the very angel that rolled away the stone when Yeshua rose early on the first day of the week and still another that claimed he could cast out devils by spraying a dangerous pesticide in people’s faces. And the worst part is that people fall for this stuff and are attracted to it because it all seems so appealing. If only people would read their Bible!
I hear a lot of people today claiming to be “Prophets”. These people would do good to read Ezekiel 13. But I want to look at two other accounts of false prophets in The Bible.
For this is a rebellious people, lying children,
children unwilling to obey the Torah of Adonai.
They say to the seers,
“Do not see,”
and to the prophets,
“Do not prophesy to us what is right.
Speak to us smooth words.
Get out of the way!
Turn away from the path!
Let’s hear no more about
the Holy One of Israel.”
~Isaiah 30:9-11 (TLV)
Notice that it was the people, rebellious and unwilling to follow God’s Torah, who demanded the “Prophets” of the land speak what they wanted to hear. And so it was that these so-called “Prophets” were instructed to speak “smooth words”, happy thoughts, smoke and mirrors. These people did not want to hear about a Holy God, they wanted a “happy god” who bestows grace on them in such a way to allow them to live in the filth of their sin and think they would be “saved from hell”.
Let me tell you a thing, the theology that says people are “saved from hell” is a lie from the pit of hell. Nobody has ever been to hell and so nobody needs to be saved from hell. Not going to hell is an assumed result of salvation, but it is absolutely NOT the thing you are saved from.
Matthew 1:21 tells you what you are saved from, if you really are saved, and that is SIN. And remember, 1 John 3:4 defines sin as the violation of the Torah. So what people are saved from, if they find the real thing, is the violation of Torah—which means that if you are really saved you will be attracted to the Torah like a bee is attracted to a flower and you will want nothing but to obey what God instructed. Remember, it is rebellious people unwilling to follow Torah who raise up false prophets to speak to them only happy thoughts.
Another interesting passage is found in 1 Kings 22. Here we find a discourse between the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah. Jehoshaphat inquired about a prophet in the area who they could seek out. Israel’s king said there was still this one prophet in the area, Micaiah, but he didn’t want to seek him out because he didn’t like what that prophet had to say.
So, they sought out this Prophet Micaiah, but the king’s messenger told him: “Behold now, the words of the prophets are uniformly declaring favor to the king. So please let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably.”
Can you imagine going to a Prophet of God and demanding that he give the word you want to hear instead of the Word of God? Yet that is exactly what they were doing here.
Micaiah answered and said he would speak what God spoke to him. But then he does something unexpected, he tells the king what he wanted to hear anyway. Make no mistake about it, though. It seems very clear that the prophet was speaking sarcastically and essentially telling the king: “You already made up your mind, go do whatever it is you want to do and quit asking me to lie to you.”
Well, as the story goes on the king saw what the Prophet was doing and insisted he give the Word of God, whatever it may be. So he did, and the king got upset again because, despite being the truth he asked for, it was not what he wanted to hear.
It’s a funny thing about religious people: You never can please them. Give them what they want, and they will complain. Give them the truth, and they will complain. This is because they want their feel-good religion but their soul is in turmoil as a result. If only they would realize that the only way to have peace is to submit wholly to a Holy God and just do what The Bible says. Much like what we read about in these accounts of the Prophets of old, we too have to contend with the lies of religion and deception. Look at what your Bible says through the Apostle Paul:
For the time will come when they will not put up with sound instruction, but they will pile up for themselves teachers in keeping with their own desires, to have their ears tickled. And they will turn away from hearing the truth and wander off to myths. You, however, keep a clear mind in all things, withstand hardship, do the work of proclaiming the Good News, and fulfill your service.
~2 Timothy 4:3-5 (TLV)
We see this Scripture being fulfilled more today than it ever has been at any other time in history. When we have the most influential men in Christianity waffling about on national television saying such things as “I don’t know if we can call homosexuality sin”, “We don’t use the word sin in our Church, that was OK for past generations but we don’t want to focus on such negative things today”, and “You know, Muslims are good people who love God too” we have a problem. When the leading hyper-grace preacher with one of the biggest Churches in the world says that God only gave The Law to prove that people can’t keep The Law we have a problem. What kind of a “god” are these people serving anyway? It’s not the God of The Bible, I assure you of that.
Do you really believe that God delivered His people from actual bondage in Egypt just to put them under bondage to Torah and keep them there for thousands of years just to prove He is God and we can’t obey Him? Not only is that ludicrous, but it goes completely against what God says about The Law. Deuteronomy 30:11-14 tells us that it is EASY to obey Torah and 1 John 5:3 says God’s commandments are not burdensome. It’s not bondage to follow Torah, it’s bondage to follow these false prophets that are propheLYING to you, telling you only happy thoughts, and leading you to believe you can be saved (from sin) and still sin.
Be very careful about those who dare to declare the lies of popular religion, proclaiming what sounds good to the majority because it fills up their Churches. Peter warned against such lawless men who twist the Scriptures (2 Peter 3:16). The Bible poses the question: What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul? I have to wonder what will become of these popular preachers who do the things I have discussed thus far and the things I have yet to present in this message.
Desecrating The Holy Things Of God
It is said that the famous “Prince of Preachers” Charles H. Spurgeon was once approached by P.T. Barnum, the founder of the equally famous Barnum & Bailey Circus. The purpose for Barnum’s reaching out to Spurgeon was to offer a deal for him to speak in circus tents and be paid for his time. In referring to this story, the late Evangelist Lee Roberson says in his book The Gold Mine:
Many would doubtless have said, “What a wonderful opportunity to reach people with the Gospel!” But not Spurgeon.
Knowing it would be wrong to join hands with the world, he sent a reply to Mr. Barnum:
Dear Mr. Barnum:
Thank you for your kind invitation to lecture in your circus tents in America. You will find my answer in Acts 13:10.
Very Sincerely Yours,
Charles H. Spurgeon
It is sad that all Christians do not have such convictions.
His referenced Scripture says this: “O you, full of all deceit and trickery, son of the devil, enemy of all righteousness—will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?” It’s almost hard to imagine that there was a day when the Word of God was revered as too holy to take into the circus tent when we live in a day when circuses are now being brought into Churches—desecrating what is supposed to be a holy place—as some type of ungodly “bait” to attract people with.
If you are doing things that oppose the Word of God to attract them to your Church you have created an environment where it is literally impossible to get people saved. First of all, you have asked the Holy Spirit to leave because you prefer to rely on unholy things to draw people instead of God’s Spirit. But more than that, you are telling people from the moment that they walk through the door that it is acceptable to engage with the demonized worldly culture as a Christian. The preachers of today shout things like “KINGDOM OVER CULTURE” from their pulpits, but then you turn around and they are bringing some of the most ungodly aspects of the world’s culture into their Churches as “bait”. Did they forget that bringing the world into God’s House (or Temple) is what Ahab and Jezebel were famous for?
These people you got to your service might raise their hand and respond to your “altar call” (something you don’t find anywhere in The Bible). They might parrot your watered-down scripted “sinner’s prayer” (something else you don’t see in Scripture at all and a practice that is borderline blasphemous at best). When you do this, these people simply do not walk out saved and changed. The best you can hope for is that they didn’t convert to anything at all, as this leaves them with some hope of getting the real thing one day. But more concerning is that they did convert to “something”, that “something” being the deception of a counterfeit version of biblical faith where they now believe they found the truth when in reality they’ve embraced a lie that you led them to.
Bait And Switch “Evangelism”
Something that I find of great concern is the growing amount of bait and switch tactics being used by Churches today. Many denominational Churches that have abandoned biblical standards of holiness long ago have had their egg hunts at Easter, their “Halloween alternatives”, their Christmas parties, and numerous other such things. These types of events have been bad enough in the liberal Churches. But now, because the larger “megachurches” that rose up in the 1980s and 1990s through the preaching of holiness are beginning to see declines in their numbers, in order to stay afloat it seems that they are using their campuses to do these worldly things “bigger and better” than ever before.
As such, there is no longer the simple “egg hunts” that everyone knows comes directly from pagan worship. Now they are dropping hundreds of thousands of “Easter eggs” out of helicopters and having huge “carnivals” of sorts to try and draw the surrounding community with the idea that “if we can get them in the door, maybe we can get them saved”. And, like with every other gimmick, the majority of the parishioners in these Churches just go with the flow. They do this because most of them don’t spend much time (if any at all) reading their Bible and studying history. As such, they are completely ignorant and oblivious to the fact that what their Churches are doing is completely contrary to The Bible and is literally bringing paganism into the alleged “House of God”.
If it weren’t bad enough that these places are doing this with such “holidays” as Easter and Christmas—as their “Christmas parties” are about the same with all the trees and the Satan Claus and if you are fortunate MAYBE you will at least hear something about the Nativity story mentioned—many of these Churches insist on hosting some “alternative” to the demonic festival of Halloween. Even the founder of the “Church of Satan” praised Christians until his death for taking their children out to worship the devil by celebrating Halloween. So, in order to “draw a crowd”, the Churches host these events calling them such things as “Trunk-or-Treat”, “Hallelujah Parties”, or “Neewollah” (Halloween spelled backwards).
But what are they offering at these events? They are basically doing exactly what the world does. During their “Halloween alternatives” many will even have carved jack-o-lanterns, witches, ghosts, tombstones, spider webs, and all the other standard décor. Just scour the Internet for what Churches do for Halloween, what you find might shock you. The worst part is that they seem to honestly believe that they are engaging in evangelism. Even those that claim to have some type of a “standard” will have such things as comic book superheroes—many of which are modeled after the gods of actual pagan religions—and unicorns, which are a major part of Wiccan religion, witchcraft in general, and the occult.
How in the world do you expect to win the world by offering the world what the world already offers the world?
Think about that. The modern Church actually thinks that they can utilize worldliness to win the world to godliness. Am I the only person on this planet who can see how absolutely absurd that is?
They tell you that you can’t take something away from children without offering something in it’s place, so if you aren’t going to let your children celebrate “actual Halloween” then there needs to be some replacement for it. So, why aren’t the Churches getting into their Bible and figuring out that God gave a fall festival that lasts for eight days called Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles, and do that? Could you imagine the crowd you would get if you set up an eight-day festival at a large Church that was wholly biblical and that is commonly referred to as “the season of our joy” and invited the whole of the surrounding community? People attracted to such an event might actually get truly saved at that event because it is actually from The Bible!
Hear me “Preachers” and “Pastors”: You might be shockingly amazed at what would happen if you celebrated Passover instead of Easter, Hanukkah instead of Christmas, Tabernacles instead of Halloween, and add in Shavuot (Pentecost) and Purim. If you trade the worldly festivals of the world for the biblical festivals of The Bible you might actually experience a true revival that will shake your community to the glory of God.
Bait and switch is a much-hated sales tactic often associated with such places as used car dealerships and mattress stores. It is absolutely NOT a method that God would ever approve of as a means to attract people to His Kingdom.
It is true that Yeshua told us that He wants to make us fishers of men (Matthew 4:19). But bait and switch doesn’t work in real-life fishing. You have to use the right bait if you want to catch fish. You can’t use one kind of bait to attract a fish and another to catch them. The same is true of the Kingdom of God, and Yeshua told us the only “bait” that will ever truly work to bring people into His Kingdom:
Yeshua responded, “This voice hasn’t come for My sake, but for yours. Now is the judgment of this world! Now the prince of this world will be driven out! And as I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all to Myself.”
~John 12:30-32 (TLV, emphasis added)
Many translations render this to say: if I be lifted up. The bottom line is that Yeshua, “Jesus”, the Messiah sent to save His people from their sin (Matthew 1:21) is the ONLY way to truly draw people into the Kingdom. Take heed to my words, “preacher”: If you feel you need anything other than The Bible, the Holy Spirit, and the name of Yeshua to win souls to the Kingdom of God YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG!!!
One of my favorite statements comes from Francis Chan’s wonderful book Letters To The Church. I’ve used it numerous times before and will likely use it many more times in teaching, but it is quite fitting here. Says Chan:
If Muslims were advertising free doughnuts and a raffle for a free iPad as a means to get people to their events, I would find that ridiculous. It would be proof to me that their god does not answer prayer. If they needed rock concerts and funny speakers to draw crowds, I would see them as desperate and their god as cheap and weak. Understand that I am not judging any church that works hard at getting people through the doors with good motives. I spent years doing the same thing, and I believe my heart was sincere. I wanted people to hear the gospel by any means possible. Praise God for people who have a heart for the truth! I’m just asking you to consider how this looks to a watching world. While our good intentions may have gotten some people in the door, they also may have caused a whole generation to have a lower view of our God. It is hard for the average person to reconcile why a group of people supposedly filled with God’s Spirit, able to speak with the Creator of the universe, would need to use gimmicks.
And that really sums it up. The Gospel DOES NOT NEED GIMMICKS. Christian Churches and ministries that utilize worldliness and cons are only declaring that they don’t actually believe The Bible is true. Sure, they “say” that The Bible is the only standard of true truth, but if they really believed that they wouldn’t do most of what they do. If a Pastor, Evangelist, or anyone else leading a ministry truly believes that The Bible, the name of Yeshua, and the Holy Spirit had the power to draw people to The Gospel then they would not use these other things. At the very least the use of gimmicks requires you to place some of your faith in the gimmicks. And once you deviate from wholly putting your faith in God and His Word alone, you’ve already lost.
The late A.W. Tozer once said that if the Holy Spirit would have left the community of Believers in the first century about ninety-five percent of all activities would immediately cease. I believe he came up short on that, I think one-hundred percent of first century activities would stop at that point. In contrast, said Tozer, if the Holy Spirit abandoned the modern “Christian Church” about ninety-five percent of Church activities would continue on and nobody would even notice that Ichabod–the glory has departed had occured. In Tozer’s era there was still some flicker of a standard of holiness left in American Christianity. My concern is that Holy Spirit has now separated Himself from the American Church at large and Tozer’s words are proving true—and nobody even notices. Take a look at these words, also from Tozer, as recorded in the book The Size Of The Soul: Principles of Revival and Spiritual Growth:
The crowds-at-any-price mania has taken a firm grip on American Christianity and is the motivating power back of a shockingly high percentage of all religious activity. Men and churches compete for the attention of the paying multitudes who are brought in by means of any currently popular gadget or gimmick ostensibly to have their souls saved, but, if the truth were told, often for reasons not so praiseworthy as this.
Our constant effort should be to reach as many persons as possible with the Christian message, and for that reason numbers are critically important. But our first responsibility is not to make converts but to uphold the honor of God in a world given over to the glory of fallen man. No matter how many persons we touch with the gospel we have failed unless, along with the message of invitation, we have boldly declared the exceeding sinfulness of man and the transcendent holiness of the Most High God. They who degrade or compromise the truth in order to reach larger numbers, dishonor God and deeply injure the souls of men.
The temptation to modify the teachings of Christ with the hope that larger numbers may “accept” Him is cruelly strong in this day of speed, size, noise and crowds. But if we know what is good for us, we’ll resist it with every power at our command. To yield can only result in a weak and ineffective Christianity in this generation, and death and desolation in the next.
Friend, I have a hard truth for you: we are that next generation Tozer spoke of. This man who wrote these powerful statements died in 1963 and while the modern Church carries on with shenanigans far more outrageous than anything he could have imagined when giving his discourse, we are also living in a time where death and desolation are quickly becoming a societal norm. J.I. Packer shares these similar sentiments in his book God Has Spoken (emphasis added):
What, then, must be said of the mass of our churches today? For at no time, perhaps, since the Reformation have Protestant Christians as a body been so unsure, tentative and confused as to what they should believe and do. Certainty about the great issues of Christian faith and conduct is lacking all along the line. The outside observer sees us as staggering on from gimmick to gimmick and stunt to stunt like so many drunks in a fog, not knowing at all where we are or which way we should be going. Preaching is hazy; heads are muddled; hearts fret; doubts drain our strength; uncertainty paralyses action. … We know in our bones that we were made for certainty, and we cannot be happy without it. Yet, unlike the first Christians who in three centuries won the Roman world … we lack certainty. Why is this? We blame the external pressures of modern secularism, but this is like Eve blaming the serpent. The real trouble is not in our circumstances, but in ourselves. The truth is that we have grieved the Spirit, and God has withheld the Spirit. We stand under divine judgment. For two generations and more our churches have suffered from a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. For us, too, the Word of God is in a real sense lost.
I’m fed up with what people today call The Gospel. I’m fed up with the methods of Churches that once built their ministry on preaching the truth and now bow to the altars of the world because somewhere along the way they became convinced that the way to win the world is to be like the world. It’s about the most unbiblical perversion in the world to believe that worldliness is the way to conquer the power of worldliness in people’s lives. Do you know what The Bible says?
You adulteresses! Don’t you know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
~James 4:4 (TLV)
All this unbiblical nonsense you see in Churches today is nothing more than adultery against God. When Churches resort to unbiblical gimmicks to raise money they become God’s enemy. When Churches resort to the worldly celebrations of secular-pagan holidays they become God’s enemy. No matter how you approach it, when Churches, Pastors, and Christians do what is not in The Bible and shun what is in The Bible, they are God’s enemy plain and simple.
There is another passage, however: One that I hope to influence you to embrace, even if nobody else will. I pray that you will make this your life’s declaration.
“Now therefore, fear Adonai and worship Him in sincerity and in truth. Get rid of the gods that your fathers had worshipped beyond the River and in Egypt, and worship Adonai. If it seems bad to you to worship Adonai, then choose for yourselves today whom you will serve—whether the gods that your fathers worshipped that were beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will worship Adonai!”
~Joshua 24:14-15 (TLV)
How You Win Them Is How You Keep Them
Perhaps the biggest problem with gimmicks and bait and switch evangelism is the fact that whatever methods you use to attract people to a Church or ministry is also what you will have to do to keep them coming back. Consider this passage as it reads from The Message Bible (and I know some people have an issue with this paraphrased version of The Bible, but I am using this because of how it reads—if you don’t feel The Message is a valid translation of Scripture, then read this passage the same as any non-biblical religious reference, such as those I used in this message from men like Tozer, Spurgeon, and Chan):
God didn’t send me out to collect a following for myself, but to preach the Message of what he has done, collecting a following for him. And he didn’t send me to do it with a lot of fancy rhetoric of my own, lest the powerful action at the center—Christ on the Cross—be trivialized into mere words.
~1 Corinthians 1:17 (The Message)
Speaking of Spurgeon, he is also quoted as once having said: “If you have to give a carnival to get people to come to church, then you will have to keep giving carnivals to keep them coming back.” Much like this sentiment and the above cited Scripture as it reads from The Message, the reliance on anything other than The Bible, the Holy Spirit, and the name of Yeshua to build the Kingdom of God creates a scenario where you need to continue the use of these other things to maintain the crowd you built.
Now think about this for a moment: If you attract people with something worldly, you really cannot speak against that thing. The moment you try to speak against it and tell people that it’s actually evil and against the Word of God the people will be confused at best, and most likely they will be angered and feel deceived. So through your compromise of the standards of the faith you also sacrifice your credibility and ability to preach true holiness. If you try it, the people will leave.
My admonition is simple. Just teach The Bible. Do Bible things in Bible ways. Your job, preacher, is to win souls for the Kingdom of God and restore people to their Genesis 1 purpose to be the caretakers of the Earth and to be God’s image-bearers to the surrounding world. You cannot do any of these things if you are embracing the very culture you are called to stand in opposition to.
Some like to twist the words of Paul from 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, where he talks about becoming all things to all people, to mean that we can do whatever we want to “build His Church”. The ends justify the means, they say, and so even defying the Word of God is within the scope of reason. After all, if we “cross the line” we can just repent, right? As if we never left the deception of the Roman Catholic system and continue to have confession, only without the booth and the priest. I suggest you read my article All Things… To All People?: 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 to properly understand the context of that passage and why it absolutely does not allow for the majority of what today’s Christianity uses it to justify.
Perhaps the worst part of all of this is that the world sees right through all of it. You aren’t winning the lost by doing any of these things. You are simply entertaining the religious lost. As alluded to above in 1 Corinthians 1:17, the use of worldliness to draw people makes the actual message of the cross nothing more than trivialized rhetoric when you present it on the heels of your worldly attractions. People come to your Church because they are attracted to what you are offering. So if you offer them worldliness, then you will attract people who are in love with worldliness. If you offer them the Torah and the Gospel, you will attract people on fire for the things of God and people who truly want that fire. Which would you rather have in your Church?
Meanwhile, the people you claim you are trying to reach are sitting back and laughing. They find it quite amusing that Churches are doing things that their Bible speaks against. They mock the worldliness of the Church because they have better quality worldliness in the world. It doesn’t take much to see that whatever unbiblical thing the Church tries to do the world does better. Just go to the movies. Have you ever watched a movie produced by “Christians”? Most of the time they are quite pathetic. Even the world’s low-budget movies are “better”—as far as quality of production and ability of the story to captivate the audience—than most of the “Christian-produced movies”.
Look also at the music industry. Churches work hard to create entertaining “worship services” thinking that if we can mimic the concert halls of secular music we can attract more people. The only people you will attract are people who think it’s OK to be halfway in the Kingdom and halfway in the world. People with no interest in the Kingdom of God will not suddenly become interested just because you have a “worship team” that can imitate the most popular musical acts of the unsaved world. They will simply laugh at you.
The world even offers bigger and better Halloween, Christmas, and Easter celebrations than even the biggest Churches are able to host. Why? Because these are the world’s festivals to begin with and they have more money and more power to host bigger and better parties for these “holidays”. You know what you won’t find the world offering? The Feasts and festivals that are exclusive to The Bible. Why not offer the world what the world cannot offer the world? Imagine what could happen if you stepped out in faith and did what The Bible says for once!
Here’s an idea, “Preacher” or “Pastor”, why don’t you abandon the trends of worldly gimmicks and make this your advertising slogan: “NO GIMMICKS, JUST THE BIBLE”. If you do that and actually believe through faith that The Bible has the power to be the main attraction then maybe, just maybe, you might actually see your Church filled to overflowing. Why don’t you give it a try? Get rid of all the gimmicky nonsense and do only Bible things in Bible ways for a year. If it’s not in The Bible, don’t do it—and I will remind you, Christmas, Easter, and Halloween are NOT in The Bible. And if that doesn’t cause your Church to explode into true revival, you can come back and tell me I’m wrong.
In Acts 3 we see the Apostles Peter and John going to the Temple for the time of prayer when they encountered a man begging for charity. In verse 6 we see Peter turn to this man and say, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give to you—in the name of Yeshua ha-Mashiach ha-Natzrati, get up and walk!” Whether it is healing in one’s body or the salvation they so desperately need, the only source for which these things can be found is the name of Yeshua. So, I conclude with this statement, for the third time: If you are relying on anything other than The Bible, the Holy Spirit, and the name of Yeshua to draw people, YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG!
~Blessings and Shalom~
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