Pastors: Beware of Deception and Ambition

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American values have so crept into the corporate consciousness of the Church that we now operate the church on the same model and with the same mindset that a secular manager or C.E.O. runs his business, and our bottom line is the same: success, which is measured in larger crowds, more products sales and a healthy profit. We have created a church culture that is conducive to deception and open to ambitious leaders who want to use Christianity for self-glory.

Pure Life founder and President Steve Gallagher explores this phenomenon in an interview with Mike Johnston.

Steve Gallagher has joined me in the studio. Steve is the founder of Pure Life Ministries. Steve as always it's great to see you again. Thanks for coming in.

Great to be here with you, Mike.

As we continue our discussion in your book Intoxicated with Babylon you make the point that a worldly-minded church will embrace worldly concepts that inevitably pervert the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and as you talk about this happening, you have laid the blame for this squarely at the top.

There's a culture in Christianity that just makes it possible for people to rise to the top who are good at working the system that we have in place here, but you know Mike, this is nothing new. Paul faced it; all the First century Christian leaders faced it. You know when Paul was giving his final address to the Ephesian leaders, he told them that after he left, there would be savage wolves in their midst, not sparing the flock, but wanting to accumulate to themselves followers; and elsewhere he talked about angels of light who are really serving Satan. And of course, Jesus alerted us to be wary of false prophets who come in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. It's all through the New Testament we're warned to be aware of the fact that there's going to be false teachers who are going to try to capitalize on the Christian situation for their own selfish purposes.

Steve, you talk about deceivers in the body of Christ, in your book you talk about two types of deceivers that are at work in the body today.

Yeah, there's those who are just outright deceivers, you know, television preachers begging for seed faith offerings or men who prey on vulnerable women; you know entertainers that are tapping into the lucrative Gospel music industry. And you know that there are people out there that our capitalizing on the system to further their own aims. But not so obvious are that the teachers who are inadvertently leading people astray. You know they've been taught wrong doctrine and they are simply passing along what's been given to them. And that's what makes the deception so powerful is because they're sincere, and they're simply telling others what they've been taught.

So when we're talking about false teachers, when the average Christian is looking for a false teacher, they may not be as obvious; they may not be the wolf that so oftentimes we're looking for.

Well that's the problem; people are looking for wolves instead of sheep, you know, they're looking for servants of Satan instead of angels of light. In other words, a deceiver doesn't look like a wolf; a deceiver doesn't look like a servant of Satan. That's what's really the challenge is that the people who are out there deceiving are so often very smooth in what they're doing.

And when you talk about a church, especially the church in America today that doesn't have a solid foundation to begin with there are real trouble.

When Christians are wrapped up in the spirit of the world, their discernment is just going to be practically nonexistent, so it's very easy for a worldly-minded church to be led astray by false teachers.

In your book, Steve, you've laid out four reasons that this kind of deception can occur; false teaching is one of the inevitable side-effects, you said, of number one, ambition within the Christian church, or blind ambition.

What we have here, Mike, is a morphing of two distinct cultures: We have the Christian culture, which follows the teachings of Christ obviously, and things like what Paul said, “Do nothing from selfishness but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important himself.” Or Jesus saying to his disciples, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last and servant of all.” That is a kingdom mindset, but we also have fused into this Kingdom culture the American culture, which is exactly the opposite. The American culture all revolves around success, driving ahead, being the first, it's all about putting self forward, so you have a clash of two cultures or it's not really a clash, unfortunately. We have the American culture because of the worldliness in the church which has kind of overtaken what should be the culture of the Kingdom of God.

You said earlier that this was not new in the church and of course even with Jesus we found the disciples arguing about who was going to be first already, looking to make their way up the ladder of the church even at that time.

Well, in those early days they just didn't understand things very well and it wasn't until after Calvary that they began to understand that it wasn't going to be like they thought it was going to be where that worldly mentality of trying to be first. Calvary destroyed that mentality.

That kind of leads into your second point about worldly-minded teachers, Steve; You said that the substitution of education for anointing is another cause of this problem.

Well, certainly in certain circles, academic achievement is given so much credibility that if you have a Ph.D., or you have a doctor before your name, that that somehow is supposed to establish your credibility as a spiritual leader, but just because you have academic accomplishments doesn't mean the slightest thing in regards to your life in God. It reminds me of something that John Wesley said. “I don't care about your seminary degrees. Just give me 100 men who are hungry for God and fear nothing but sin, and I'll turn this country upside down.” And you know he understood that a man's life in God was the most important thing, and education can be a good thing, but it certainly should be secondary to a person's life in God.

Steve, the third cause that you bring up here really stems from that, and that is, men of God that are going to the pulpit that are not prepared to be teaching and preaching and so they're just making assertions about things they really don't know anything about.

Well, what those kind of teachers are depending on, maybe not their academic achievements, but these teachers depend on their own personal abilities, their charismatic personalities or their abilities to really woo a crowd or affect people emotionally or challenge them intellectually. In other words, it isn't their life in God, their walk with God that is giving them confidence. Their confidence is coming through their own personal abilities, and they use those abilities to create a following for themselves.

In concluding your discussion on the subject, you did have something to say to the men of God, the true men of that are really preaching the Word of God and what they can expect.

I need to say, Mike, that there are many godly people pastoring churches, but, the reality is that in this current culture that we find ourselves in, true men of God are going to be largely ignored by people who prefer charisma to godliness and flash to spiritual substance. But you know God did not call us to success, He called us to faithfulness. And when we stand before Him, even if we were nothing more than a pastor of a tiny church, or something like that, if we were faithful to what He called us to do, then we will hear those words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” And many of these big, big names that we have come to look up to so much are not going to be hearing that same thing.

This excerpt is from our podcast episode, “The Church Addicted: When Leaders are Compromised” Episode #350.

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