The western church is in a great war. While we hold fast to the promise of Christ that the gates of Hades will never prevail against the Church Universal and we trust that the Great Commission will in fact be completed, and all the ends of the earth will turn and remember the Lord, these are not promises that guarantee success at every stage.
The fact that we have churches consecrating homosexual unions, preaching socialism and critical theory, and even blessing abortion clinics tells you the state of the modern western church. And now even so-called conservative churches have effeminate non-practicing gays in their leadership. We have what you might call a situation on our hands. But you can’t fight evil with compromise. You can’t fight wickedness with faux holiness. You need real holiness, truth in the inward parts, complete surrender to God’s Word and unflinching obedience to whatever it says. And you can’t insist that the other guys do that while you don’t. That’s what they call hypocrisy.
So read the Bible. When did God’s people prevail? When did they get their hineys kicked? Over and over and over, it’s the same story. God’s people are blessed when they worship God in spirit and in truth, when they forsake all idols, confess their sins, and cry out to God in true humility. And God’s people get trounced when they worship idols, when they compromise with the nations, when they try to hide sins in their tents.
So do the math. Why are Christians being run to the ground in this culture? Because we worship idols, because we hide sin in our tents, because we arrogantly twist scripture to suit our tastes and preferences. Let me give you just one simple example of how conservative churches are currently doing this.
The Glaring Problem
The Bible clearly teaches that the children of church leaders must be Christians. If a church leader’s children rebel, leave the faith, or are otherwise living in scandalous sin, that church leader is no longer qualified for office and in obedience to God should submit his resignation, step down, and find another line of work and serve Christ in that capacity.
An elder/bishop is “one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)” (1 Tim. 3:4-5). An elder is qualified if he is a man who is “blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination” (Tit. 1:6). Likewise, Paul says that deacons must “be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well” (1 Tim. 3:12).
God says that our elders and deacons must have faithful and orderly homes, but in our arrogance, we redefine these verses and insist that we know better than God. We explain the pastor’s daughter’s premarital pregnancy as just what happens in a fallen world. We explain the deacon’s sons in drug rehab as just the cost of doing business. We excuse the fact that the elder’s children are rebellious and apathetic and everything you don’t want in the youth group as the cross he has to bear. We excuse the bitterness of the elder’s wife as a personality quirk or maybe even the not-so-secret fact of the pastor’s anger issues because he’s such a gifted preacher. And sure, the deacon’s daughter was excommunicated, but he was so humble and meek through the whole process, isn’t that just a model of Christian leadership?
Well, if he’s still a deacon, then no, it isn’t a model of leadership at all. Whatever he’s been doing through the whole process, it isn’t biblical humility or meekness. Why wasn’t he at the front of the line with a letter of resignation insisting that he is no longer qualified to serve? Why wasn’t he at the front of the line insisting that he obey the Word of God?
Are there ever exceptional situations? Sure, of course. Should a daughter who was adopted at 13 be held to the same standard as a daughter raised from birth in the pastor’s home? No. But compromise is a road paved with an ever growing list of exceptions, which turn out to be just excuses for not obeying God’s clear word.
Real Intolerance and Bigotry
But this is the point: so long as conservative churches make these excuses, they have no moral foot to stand on when a young, effeminate man arises who wants to identify publicly with his temptation to sodomy and lead worship or pursue ordination. He promises that he is staying pure, has accountability partners, but definitely identifies as queer and this is the cross he must bear. He went to the Revoice conference and feels empowered to live for Jesus as a celibate gay man.
How can you actually stand up and condemn this effeminacy and homosexuality while you harbor high handed disobedience to God on your elder board? While you refuse to actually address the sin in your leadership, you are making it clear that your stance against this sexual immorality is merely a matter of personal prejudice. There are certain sins that you will tolerate. You will tolerate a gossiping secretary, bitter elder’s wives, apostate pastor’s kids, but when it comes to anything approaching a lisp the hammer of Thor falls. But that means that all your preaching and protesting against homo-sins actually is just straight up intolerance. You can tolerate some sins but not those. And to that extent, the Left is entirely right to point out the inconsistency.
The world sees through our hypocrisy. As long as we put up with our pet sins, while condemning the sins of the left, we are not being Christians, we’re just being bigots.
Where Judgment Begins
But the answer is not to go soft on sodomy and effeminacy, the answer is to repent of all our softness at the same time. Repent and step down from office. Repent of your cowardice and respectfully request the matter be considered by your leaders. Repent and insist that freedom and joy and courage is found in Christ, in His forgiveness and in obedience to His word — all of it, no exceptions. This isn’t legalism. This is the only kind of freedom there is. Do you want the world to bow the knee to Christ, why don’t you show them how?
Our leaders have spaghetti sabers and cotton candy canons. To the extent that they refuse to turn their guns on their own sins, they are cowards and fakes. They stand in their pulpits and shadow box with idols and demons or perhaps some will even wave their hands around wildly on Twitter or Facebook, but they will not actually land a punch or launch a real rocket against the kingdom of darkness because their marriage is a sour mess, their kids hate them and their god, and everyone is just biding their time. They don’t really intend to submit to God’s word. They are not actually resisting evil because that requires actual holiness. Their selective application of God’s clear word amounts to returning evil for evil, which really is just malicious, sinful hatred, not godly resistance to sin.
Judgment begins with the household of God (1 Pet. 4:17). We are the salt of the earth, the light of the world – and therefore if the world is dark and rotten, it is because the Church is dark and rotten. We do not believe the gospel for our sin, and therefore we do not really trust and obey the Word of God. Why should the world believe and obey if we do not?
Why is the world going up in the flames of lust and perversion? Because we taught the world that it is OK to read the Bible selectively. We taught them that if something is really shameful, we can just ignore it and hope it goes away. Or worse, we can claim that the shame is actually a sign of our faithfulness, scars of ministry, the cross we must bear. We taught them that God’s word is optional whenever it makes us feel uncomfortable and can be reinterpreted to support whatever it was that we wanted to do in the first place. We taught them that some sins and scandals just can’t be avoided despite what God’s word says. Revoice is just following the logic of what the PCA and many conservatives have been practicing with their leaders for decades.
Why are we losing this culture war? Because we refuse God’s blessing. We worship with bloody hands. There is no truth in our inward parts. Just look at the state of our leaders’ families. And if your church refuses to actually deal with obvious problems in leader families, find a new church. Why would you go to a church where the leaders are publicly insisting that the Bible only applies where they want it to? This kind of selective reading is idolatry. The idol may be the leader himself, a public reputation of the ministry, comfort, ease, financial stability, or any number of other considerations, but you can be sure that the one God that church does not fear is the living God. So why would you want to stay there?