Goats in Sheep’s Clothing

Earlier today, while reading an interesting article on church planting, I ran across this statement:

“Millions of people in the United States do not know Jesus and millions more claim to know him but have no connection to a healthy local church.”

While the first part is an undeniably true and important, it was the second part of the sentence that caught me. Just how many UNhealthy churches have I known? No, not “imperfect churches striving to follow Christ,” but unhealthy, even toxic churches? More than I care to dwell on: personality cults, Clique Clubs, “business churches” (moneymakers for the “in” group), etc. Goats dominating the sheep and misleading them is more common than it ought to be (heck, one case is too common, IMO).

But one case stands out. Oh, about 30 years ago or so, I knew of a church that was in turmoil. It seems their pastor–well-liked by almost everyone, “productive” in church growth, a “pack the pews” preacher–had admitted that by the church’s–and his own–standards, by any biblical standard, he wasn’t a Christian, did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God or had worked redemption for man, had doubts, even, that God existed, etc.

Let that sink in a bit. Accepted as pastor of a supposedly Christian church but did not believe anything that would define him as a Christian.

I suspect there are more churches in this position than are known. And, from my experience, even more with other toxic circumstances that lead many astray.

Crucial: if one is going to share one’s Christian faith, and Christians are enjoined to do so, being a part of a healthy body that is pursuing the doing of His will, with sound biblical grounding, and a clear lookout for subversion of biblical truth, is pretty darned important. If that group is just a dedicated group of “laymen” studying the Bible and praying, approaching the throne of grace in a proper attitude of humility, then that is better than becoming a part of a toxic social club or a personality cult.

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”


2 Replies to “Goats in Sheep’s Clothing”

    1. Yeh, there are more than a few “voices crying in the wilderness” nowadays. Need to be even more.

      Repentence is hard, but as you noted in a recent post on your blog, God Himself aids us. All we need do is genuinely make the decision, and He empowers our sincere desire to turn around. I am reminded of an analogy from Martin Luther about the power of the cross of Christ. When our face is toward the cross (that is, proceeding toward Christ, or in Thomas a Kempis’s words–echoing Paul’s–imitating Christ), then Christ’s grace is manifested toward us as a warm light that reveals our path and lights our way (“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet. . . ” etc.). When we stray from the path, His grace is manifested as a burning radiance that casts shadows all around, as the light is no longer on the path to Him. There’s more to the lil Lutheran sermon, but that’s pretty much the basics.

      God’s chastisement can (if we’re paying attention at all, though He doesn’t give up *heh*) goad (see “Damascus Road” 😉 ) us to turn back to the correct way. Repentance allows us to see the right path better.

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