Posts Tagged ‘churches’

How to Find a Bible-Believing Church

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We have often been asked, “How do I find a good Bible-believing church?” There are many believers who are struggling to find one in their own communities. To start with, we usually recommend they make phone calls to potential churches and ask a few concise questions such as:

“Do you have a Spiritual Formation program at your church?” or “Has your church implemented aspects of the Purpose Driven Movement anytime in the past 10 years?.”

Since thousands of churches would answer yes to both or at least one of these questions, they are worthwhile to ask, and it would certainly narrow down the scope of one’s search. Here are a few other questions that could be asked:

1. Is the pastor using The Message “Bible” in his sermons and studies? Because this paraphrase is very often used by pastors and teachers who promote contemplative spirituality or emerging spirituality (as the language in The Message helps support these false teachings), it is another indicator that a church is going in the wrong direction.

2. Is the church affiliated in any way with the Willow Creek Association? Oftentimes, a church has not implemented the Purpose Driven Movement but is, rather, hooked up with Willow Creek. This is as problematic as Purpose Driven. See our article on our website titled, “No Repentance from Willow Creek—Only a Mystical Paradigm Shift.”

3. Is the church connected at all with Bethel Church of Redding, California? Bethel’s hyper-charismatic influence is huge today, and many churches are getting on board with the Bethel craze. That would include Jesus Culture too, which is an offshoot of Bethel. Before starting your search for a church, make sure you understand what the Word of Faith/NAR, hyper-charismatic movement is. Lighthouse Trails has several trustworthy authors who write about these issues. You’d be surprised to learn how extensive this influence has been in North American churches, even in ones that do not consider themselves charismatic.

3. Ask a potential church if it would mind mailing you a few recent Sunday programs. When you get them, look for some of the key terms used within the contemplative/emerging camp: missional, servant leader, soul-care, spiritual formation, transformation, transitioning, silence, organic, authentic, reinvent, spiritual disciplines, Christ follower (the term Christian isn’t typically liked too well by contemplatives and emergent) Christian formation (or Christian spirituality) (a term often meaning the same as Spiritual Formation). Just using these terms alone doesn’t suddenly make a church contemplative or emerging, but it does show that at least one person in leadership at that church is reading books of that persuasion, and eventually that person’s influence will affect that church adversely.

In addition to those three questions, be sure and visit a church’s website as there you may be able to find the answers to these questions without making the phone call. When on a website, see if there is more talk about unity, “culture,” social justice, and relevancy than about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You can check out the doctrinal and mission statements but be on guard—a church can have a solid-sounding doctrinal statement and be actually going in an entirely different direction. Listen to an interview called Beware the Bridgers for some information on that. And by the way, remember who some of the more popular ”bridgers” are, closing the gap between “rightly dividing the Word” and spiritual deception in millions of people’s lives: Beth Moore, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Tim Keller, John Piper, etc.—those who claim to be orthodox biblical Christians but who promote contemplative spirituality and/or emerging spirituality.

When on a church’s website, you can usually find out which conferences the church is involved with or recommending to their church members. The IF: Gathering conferences are growing tremendously in popularity all across North America, but as Cedric Fisher has documented in his booklet IF It is of God—Answering the Questions About IF: Gathering,  IF is an avenue through which emergent theology is entering the church. There are many other conferences and events, usually with high attendance, taking place yearly that are pumping up Christians with heretical ideas and “theologies.” If you find out a church you’ve been researching is involved in any of these, that is a big warning sign.

Also, once your search for a new church has narrowed down to a few churches, a weekday visit to those churches’ bookstores would be important. Look for books by Richard Foster, Gary Thomas, Henri Nouwen, Brennan Manning, and other authors discussed and critiqued on the LT website. Chris Lawson from Spiritual Research Network has a booklet that provides an extensive list of authors who fall within the contemplative, emerging camps. It’s an excellent resource.

While searching for a good church, it would be important to find out where a particular church is at in relation Jesus Calling and The Shack. Many churches have been allowing New Age ideas into their congregations through such books. Be sure to read former New Age follower Warren B. Smith’s materials which will help you identify what the New Age is and how it can disguise itself as a better, newer “Christianity.”  You might ask about women’s and men’s Bible study groups and which books are being used at these meetings. That will tell you a lot.

When all this has been done to find a Bible-believing church, if there are any in your community that have passed the contemplative/emerging/seeker-friendly/hyper-charismatic test, maybe it’s safe to take your family for a Sunday visit. Are many of the people walking in carrying Bibles? Seeker-friendly and church-growth churches discourage that because it might “offend” unbelievers (or as they say unchurched) coming to church. Does the pastor at some point in his sermon talk about the Cross (the atonement) and salvation (and mention of hell)? These are subjects that many churches avoid because of the “offensiveness” of that message. Better to offer an espresso drink and a little rock n roll music during the service and a psychology-based, feel-good message that appeals to the carnal senses (sensual) rather than build up the spiritual man.

Once you have found a church that seems to be sound, you should not stop being discerning. That must be ongoing. That might seem like a ”paranoid” or overly concerned attitude to have, but if we remember the many verses in Scripture that talk about spiritual deception (right from the Garden of Eden all the way to the Book of Revelation), we will realize it is the responsibility of the Christian to be discerning and watchful. And the Bible frequently talks about the latter days before Christ’s return where deception will run more rampant than ever before. Roger Oakland gives a list of signs to look for to see if a church is becoming or has become contemplative/emerging. As you begin to attend a new church, this list may be helpful to you and your family:

Scripture is no longer the ultimate authority as the basis for the Christian faith.

The centrality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is being replaced by humanistic methods promoting church growth and a social gospel.

More and more emphasis is being placed on building the kingdom of God now and less and less on the warnings of Scripture about the imminent return of Jesus Christ and a coming judgment in the future.

The teaching that the church has taken the place of Israel and Israel has no prophetic significance is often embraced.

The teaching that the Book of Revelation does not refer to the future, but instead has been already fulfilled in the past.

An experiential mystical form of Christianity begins to be promoted as a method to reach the postmodern generation.

Ideas are promoted teaching that Christianity needs to be re­invented in order to provide meaning for this generation.

The pastor may implement an idea called “ancient-future” or “vintage Christianity” claiming that in order to take the church forward, we need to go back in church history and find out what experiences were effective to get people to embrace Christianity.

While the authority of the Word of God is undermined, images and sensual experiences are promoted as the key to experiencing and knowing God.

These experiences include icons, candles, incense, liturgy, labyrinths, prayer stations, contemplative prayer, experiencing the sacraments, particularly the sacrament of the Eucharist.

There seems to be a strong emphasis on ecumenism indicating that a bridge is being established that leads in the direction of unity with the Roman Catholic Church.

Some evangelical Protestant leaders are saying that the Reformation went too far. They are reexamining the claims of the “church fathers” saying that communion is more than a symbol and that Jesus actually becomes present in the wafer at communion.

There will be a growing trend towards an ecumenical unity for the cause of world peace—claiming the validity of other religions and that there are many ways to God.

Members of churches who question or resist the new changes that the pastor is implementing are reprimanded and usually asked to leave.

Roger has these signs listed in his booklet/article How to Know When the Emerging Church Shows Signs of Emerging into Your Church.

May God bless you and guide you in your search. It may seem like an insurmountable task, but we know there are still good churches out there because we often hear from pastors who are staying the course and are aware of the times in which we live. May God lead you to find one of these churches.

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural [carnal] man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. . . . For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:12-16)

World in Crisis: ‘Community Beyond Belief’ Follows Church Model Without Religion

LTRP Note: One of our readers sent us this article today. We have posted it for informational and research purposes only and not as an endorsement.

By Katherine Burgess
The Wichita Eagle

People at Wichita Oasis start showing up at around 10 on Sunday morning, drinking coffee and chatting before the music begins.

Once children are safely in the large playroom – complete with a chalk wall, a tent and plenty of toys – the adults and youths find their seats, ready for music and announcements.

But when the music starts, the songs aren’t about Jesus. And when the speaker begins, he or she doesn’t read a Bible verse.

Although Oasis follows a Sunday morning structure similar to many Christian churches, it calls itself a “community beyond belief,” focused on atheists, humanists and agnostics.

“When you move, it’s so nice to just be able to go to a church of your denomination, make friends there, network there,” said Alexandra Simmons, president of Wichita Oasis and a humanist. “I love being able to provide that for people. Just to have a nonreligious place to get together.” Click here to continue reading.

The Job Description of a Good Shepherd

By Roger Oakland

Bigstock; used with permission

Both the Old and New Testaments consist of numerous references that provide the guidelines required for a leader to be classified as a good shepherd. It makes sense that we would look to the Scriptures for guidance because the Bible is the inspired Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16) and should be our ultimate authority when it comes to discussing this topic.

First, the Psalmist describes the Good Shepherd as the one who goes ahead of the flock to lead the sheep. He is a true leader always on the lookout for their safety.

Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron. (Psalms 77:20)

But made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock. And he led them on safely, so that they feared not: but the sea overwhelmed their enemies. (Psalms 78:52-53)

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth. Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh stir up thy strength, and come and save us. (Psalms 80:1-2)

Second, a good shepherd is constantly aware of where his sheep are in relationship to himself and concerned about their well-being. He is always searching them out when they are lost or remaining behind and does all he can to bring them back to the flock.

For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. (Ezekiel 34:11-12)

What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. (Luke 15: 4-6)

Third, a good shepherd shows tenderness for the weak, the ewes, and the young lambs. He attends those who are sick and in need of special care.

I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick. (Ezekiel 34:16)

And he said unto him, My lord knoweth that the children are tender, and the flocks and herds with young are with me: and if men should overdrive them one day, all the flock will die. Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant: and I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me and the children be able to endure, until I come unto my lord unto Seir. (Genesis 33: 13-14)

So he [David] fed them according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands. (Psalms 78:72)

While many other characteristics of a good shepherd are found in the Bible, there is one more in particular I want to include. A good shepherd watches out for and protects his sheep from wild beasts or predators such as wolves that feed upon the sheep. The good shepherd will lay down his life to protect them with a strong dedication and commitment as we see here:

And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock . . .Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. (1 Samuel 17:34, 36)

I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:11-15)

There is a connection between the term good shepherd and the well-known term pastor. While Christians have made this connection and given this title to leaders who stand behind pulpits, oftentimes these leaders are not being true to the biblical qualifications. Walking in the flesh (human nature) rather than the Spirit, these men are driven by man’s fallen nature which seeks power and attention thereby corrupting what it means to be a pastor. This, of course, has impacted Christianity throughout the ages, but over the past several decades the problem has accelerated to the point where we are now witnessing this present apostasy ravaging churches throughout the nations.

Addressing this topic is not easy nor will it be welcomed by many. Efforts to be helpful will be met by an avalanche of opposition. So many of today’s Christian leaders believe they are above reproach and should not be challenged. In fact, they find biblical correction useless and unnecessary, especially when headed down Apostasy Road. However, the Bible is clear that God has serious concerns about those who pervert the Word of God and lead the sheep astray. For such, serious consequences lie ahead.

Jeremiah’s warning to the spiritual leaders of his day is a good reminder for us today. Consider the similarities to what is happening at present:

Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD. They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you. (Jeremiah 23: 16-17)

As in Jeremiah’s day, our modern-day prophets speak of peace and prosperity. But if they were truly speaking for the Lord, they would be preaching of repentance from sin and faith toward God as becomes apparent below:

For who hath stood in the counsel of the LORD, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it? Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly. I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings. Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD. I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. . . . Which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbour, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal. (Jeremiah 23:18-25, 27)

The prophet Jeremiah concludes this passage with an urgent appeal to the shepherds of the land not to speak falsely but to proclaim the Word of the Lord. We have a powerful Gospel that needs to be proclaimed to an increasingly godless world, but the words of peace and prosperity we hear are only vanity, while God’s Word shall never return void:

The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD. Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that steal my words every one from his neighbour. (Jeremiah 23: 28-30)

While we have the Good Shepherd to follow—a Shepherd who is faithful and true—our own earthly shepherds and leaders should remember with soberness that leaders will be judged more strictly than others (James 3:1). It is a calling that should never be taken lightly.

(This is an excerpt from Roger Oakland’s new book, The Good Shepherd Calls)

Review of The Good Shepherd Calls by a Calvary Chapel Pastor

The Good Shepherd Calls: An Urgent Message for the Last-Days Church – Lighthouse Trails

I am blessed to have read this book, it’s refreshing. It is so good to hear the truth being told. This man, Roger Oakland, is the watchmen on the wall, and he is crying out, “WAKE UP AMERICA, BEFORE ITS TO LATE.” It is rare that I can read a book and say that I agree 100% with everything that has been said here, but that is precisely the case. I told my congregation that if I could write a book, this is the book I would write. So praise the Lord for the truth. Absolutely a necessity for the discerning Christian. Pastor John Sutherland Calvary Chapel Spring Creek.

Letter to the Editor: Finding a NON-Politically Correct Church Not Easy

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Dear Lighthouse Trails:

When I first became a Christian, I was 21 years old, but unfortunately the other believers around me became a part of the “Shepherding Movement.” Thankfully, I listened to that “still small voice” and the wife of a family who had defected, helped to bring me out of it! (She simply asked me where my joy was by trying to live back under all the laws, which Jesus released us from, which in turn, the Shepherding Movement was trying to revert us back to . . . I had no joy.) As the years rolled by, I realized I had a gift of discernment. Fast forward 30 years:  I am now 57, and I am appalled by the emerging church, contemplative prayer, etc. I have stood against these, and by speaking the truth lost so many church/personal relationships because of it.

It is becoming very difficult to find a Bible-based church that doesn’t compromise and will preach the “whole” word of God.  This is my biggest concern however . . . my husband and I recently left a United Methodist Church for this reason: We loved the concept that the doors were open to all people, in all walks of life. This included a homosexual couple. My problem soon began to be realized –  that those issues would never be addressed truthfully.

Our pastor just didn’t want to acknowledge, and certainly not preach on, ANY Scripture in the New Testament that plainly speaks of the consequences of those, or any other types of those behaviors/sins. It seems that all churches we attend are just politically correct like this. Many of the things that your articles speak about which are blatantly attacking the church are more obvious. At least to me. Unfortunately, I believe this “political correctness” is what is really going to be the churches undoing. It is so insidious and frighting. I don’t know whether God wants me to stay in churches like these and keep fighting and exposing His truth or leave because eventually it becomes too hurtful and unbearable. ANY suggestions would be welcomed!! Thank you for all the hard work you do.

P.Y.

Our Comment: This reader has asked us if we could provide them with any comments our readers have regarding this letter. For those who are reading this on Facebook, please feel free to comment and offer suggestions or insights. Many, many people who contact Lighthouse Trails, either through e-mail, phone, or letter, share similar concerns, in particular when it comes to finding a solid Bible-based church.

 Related Helpful Articles:

Letter to the Editor: In Looking for a Good Church, “What’s a Sheep to do?”

6 Questions Every Gay Person Should Ask by Michael Carter

 

Letter to the Editor: Three Generations of Seeing the Truth

Dear Lighthouse Trails:

Many years ago when  I was teaching an adult Sunday School class, I was so impressed with the importance of a certain book, I had the whole class order that book by Ray Yungen. It was called A Time of Departing.

It was all about how a new movement was entering the church. It went by a variety of names: spiritual formation, contemplative prayer, contemplative spirituality. It included topics like centering prayer, meditation, lectio divina, and visualization. It is a linking of Catholic and Eastern religions and has nothing biblical in it. Both my adult children and their spouses were in the Sunday School class.

Five years passed, and we got a new pastor who began to talk of John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila among others (they are Catholic saints, and the Catholic link to all this is immense). Because we had read Ray Yungen’s book five years earlier, we were aware of the error that was being preached. All of our family were very active in the church – some had been there for over 20 years and held positions of authority – but we had been warned so we took our families, after having warned many others, and left.

Because of housing, our families went to two different Assembly of God churches. One day I saw sign-up sheets on tables in the foyer of one of the churches.  One was for Spiritual Formation classes. I hoped it wasn’t what I feared it was. Things had seemed calm for approximately five years.

On Sunday Oct. 9 of this year (2016), the Spiritual Formation Pastor gave a sermon and told of his visits to Catholic monasteries. He then asked everyone to close their eyes, take deep breaths, picture Jesus, look at His face (during this time gentle music began to play), think of a time during the week that made you sad  and invite Jesus into your thoughts. This is visualization. It is called an Ignatian exercise after Catholic founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius Loyola. It is everything that Ray Yungen described in his book, and the pastor stood there and led all those thousands of people in an exercise totally unbiblical. He then suggested they do this 2-3 times a day whenever they encounter difficult or sad situations.He says he does this every day himself. My granddaughter – who was 13 at the time we left the former church and is 20 now – knew what she was listening to. She had heard us speak of Ray’s book often. She had been educated just as the Lord would have her to be.

How strange that this book has followed us. Yesterday, I was preparing for my Thursday night meeting with the woman I’m discipling. We are studying the 23rd Psalm. The author of the book suggested we read Gal 5. What I found there made me think of what happened at these two churches: Gal 5:9: “A little leaven [or a few false teachers] leavens the whole lump [or misleads the whole church].”

On Sunday Oct. 16, a week after the Spiritual Formation Pastor gave his sermon – the author of the book that tried to warn everyone about this danger, Ray Yungen, died of a complication of a leukemia treatment at the age of 64. There are many of us who mourn his passing and highly respect his life. He has helped keep us from darkness and walking in the light. May God be pleased and say “well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

His concern at the end of his life was not only for his generation and the darkness that had infected us but ensuring that it not touch the next. That was the kind of man Ray was—always longing to expose the darkness. My granddaughter shows that his legacy continues.

Barbara W.

Letter to the Editor: “It truly was a time of departing for me!”

LTRP Note: This was actually a review of Ray Yungen’s book, A Time of Departing on our store site, but because this scenario is playing out in churches throughout North America, we are posting it as a letter.

To Lighthouse Trails:

bigstockphoto.com

bigstockphoto.com

A few years ago a friend at my church came up to me looking quite disturbed and said, “Can you believe our church is teaching contemplative prayer?”

I just looked at her in shock and asked, “What’s wrong with contemplating and praying?”

She said, “No, no, no! You don’t get it – it’s not that – it’s CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER!!”

I asked again, incredulously this time, what’s wrong with contemplating and praying. “I don’t have a problem with that – at all.”

She said, “You don’t get it – but I’ll bring you a book next week that will explain it.” And she brought Ray Yungen’s, A Time of Departing.

It helps to have an open mind. If a Christian brother or sister tells you they have something they want you to consider – at least be willing to consider it. I started the book with an open mind and was quickly engrossed by it. It very methodically and logically lays out the case against contemplative prayer/spirituality/meditation. By the end of the book, I realized what our church was doing was really dangerous and completely unbiblical. It’s a prominent well-known mega church in New York City where I had heard the pastor speak out against eastern/mystical meditation from the pulpit so I naively thought he must not be aware that the church was promoting it in several of its weekend classes.

After reading Yungen’s book and doing a little further study, I had the information I needed to go to the leadership of the church to warn them what they were getting into. I say naively, because as it turns out, they knew exactly what they were doing, and they had every intention of continuing it. They knew it was unbiblical, but they didn’t care. And that’s all I needed to know to make my decision whether to stay or leave the church. I decided to depart. It truly was a time of departing for me!

I will be forever grateful to Ray Yungen and this book for being the instrument God used to open my eyes to this new/old teaching that is consuming churches everywhere. Every Christian in America needs to know about this – even if you’re in a good church. Even good pastors can be fooled by it because it’s so subtly deceptive. And it’s absolutely pervasive. It is everywhere.

So arm yourself with knowledge, and A Time of Departing is a great place to start!

Jonathan


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