2 Peter 2
New International Version (NIV)
False Teachers and Their Destruction
2 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories.
We were at the end of a rewarding but difficult two-week stretch of ministry in Kenya. I had preached a dozen times in places with no electricity or indoor plumbing. This was the reward at the end of the mission trip-a two day visit to a luxurious hotel in the middle of a national park in Kenya to observe the wildlife. I was so tired and sore I didn’t even go out on the first day for the safari. Instead I stayed back and took advantage of a massage at the hotel. I engaged in small talk with the masseuse and told her I was a minister. Her smile faded and I could quickly tell she was not impressed. I asked her if she was a Christian and she said she was not. She proceeded to tell me that some of the pastors in Nairobi were the most wealthy men in the country while much of the country lived in poverty.
She candidly shared with me that they learn the prosperity gospel from American Christian television and teach greed to the people. Clearly she put me in the same boat. I assured her that our ministry was different and that we were bringing the gospel as well as financial help to the places we ministered. She was not a very open listener and I left her with my muscles feeling better but my sensibilities bruised.
To watch Christian tv, one might think that Christianity is winning. We are not. We are frightfully becoming like our friends in Europe who have rejected the church. We see mega churches thriving before our eyes and sense that if all of us teach what they teach, we will get their results. Like all pastors, I want my church to grow. But at what cost? What the world sees of Christianity is what is piped over the airways 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
This article is not an indictment against Christian television. Television and the internet are a powerful tool by which the gospel can be shared and in many cases it is. The exceptions, however, have a huge platform and they are marketing a distorted brand of Christianity that appeals to our baser instincts such as greed and the pursuit of pleasure for the sake of pleasure.
This unknown masseuse in Kenya is not my enemy, she is my friend. She gave me a sneak peek into the way we are perceived by a watching world. The statistics we never hear are the ones that suggest that while some churches are growing by teaching a distorted Christianity, they are poisoning the soil for people whose deepest longings cannot be satisfied by a gospel that only promises me health and wealth. Something inside of many non-believers knows that there is no ring of truth in these claims.
I am now pastoring in the buckle of the Bible belt. I read that there are over 600 Southern Baptist churches in my city alone. There are churches on every corner. The statistics you will not hear, however, is that half of our population doesn’t go to church. These seekers are not my enemies. They are my friends. I am trying to learn to think like they think. I have great respect for non-Christians. Many of them are this way because they smell something afoul in our watered down gospel. And while I respect them, I whole heartedly disagree with them. I still believe that Jesus is the answer to the world. I also believe that between the resurrection and the second coming, the church is the selected vehicle that Jesus is using to call the world to himself. I believe that the church is still the hope of the world. For the sake of Jesus and the Apostle Paul and all the martyrs, let’s get back to the gospel which teaches us that the secret to the joy of life both now and eternal is in the giving of ourselves and taking up our crosses and following Jesus.