God and Greed: A Contemporary Case Study

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Discernment, Worldliness

Pastor Steven Furtick’s “House from Heaven”

“If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . he is conceited and understands nothing . . . [and] has a morbid interest in controversial questions . . . out of which arise . . . constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.” Paul to Timothy, 1 Timothy 6:3-5, NASB, Emphasis added. [1]

Introduction—A Contrast
Early the morning of February 10, 2014, 12:00 am, Fox News aired The Fox Files which contained a segment reporting on Samaritan’s Purse’s relief work in various parts of the world, focusing especially on helping the tens of thousands of refugees who have fled war torn Syria to seek safety in northern Iraq. In interviewing Samaritan’s Purse’s President Franklin Graham and its chief operating officer in Boone, N.C., and in traveling to Iraq to observe and report first-hand on the relief organization’s efforts there, Greta Van Susteren brought the heart of the ministry up-close and personal to viewers.

Syrian refugees were shown walking across a make-shift pontoon bridge over the river dividing Syria from Iraq, their only possession being the clothes they were wearing. The scene then shifted to Boone, N.C., where big semi-trucks and cargo planes were shown being loaded with food, water, medical and relief supplies (tents, heaters, water, shoes and clothing, etc.) to be flown to northern Iraq. Little children were shown as they were given their Christmas shoe boxes, the reception of which changed their countenances from the sadness of despair to smiles of delight. Fox Files reported that in most instances Samaritan’s Purse is the first to respond to disaster and refugee crises around the world. At times, it is the only responder. The news program authenticated the ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, the importance of which is crucial in light of recent attempts on the part of the U.S.’s Internal Revenue Service to make life uncomfortable for 501C(3) tax-exempt charities and organizations.

Anyway, my heart was moved to tears as I observed the squalid living conditions of the refugees and the ways in which Samaritan’s Purse was trying to help them, giving something to those who possessed nothing. I point to this legitimate ministry to contrast it with reports that have surfaced over the last months about another ministry in North Carolina located about a hundred miles to the south.

True to the “prosperity-gospel” tenet that God wants his children rich—they are after all, the King’s Kids—a young mega-church pastor (he’s 33 years old) is building a 1.7 million dollar mansion, with reportedly five bedrooms and seven and one/half baths, in an exclusive neighborhood on multiple acres of land. Steven Furtick is the hip, flamboyant and youthful communicator who leads Elevation Church in Charlotte, N.C., a growing 14,000 member congregation with several campuses, even one in Toronto, Canada. Amongst his followers, who claim to be evangelical, he’s not just a rising star, but a risen one. And befitting his stardom, the stylish Furtick is no pauper. His self-indulgence has caused many, mostly outside the realm realm of his followers, to question his ministerial motives in building the extravagant house. Jesus may have promised us a “mansion” in His Father’s house (really the sense is more of an “apartment”), but for the prosperous young pastor that day can’t wait (John 14:2, KJV). He wants the mansion now. So he’s building it with the money received from other of the King’s Kids.

He claims the capital for building the house is coming from “gains” derived from the royalties of book sales and from the honorariums of speaking engagements. In a classic case of conflict of interest, from his influential platform the young pastor promotes his books to thousands of followers. Yet there’s no way of knowing if these royalty/honorarium sources of money are covering the 1.7 million cost of the house because no outsiders are privy Furtick’s compensation package from the church.

Though Elevation Church has a governing body, it does not consist of elders, but rather of a “hand picked” Board of Overseers of other mega-church pastors (Wonder who does the “picking”?). Thus, as Furtick, the church’s CFO James “Chunks” Corbett, other of the church’s administration team and “the Board of Overseers” (“overseer” can mean “bishop”) remain secreted regarding the church’s finances, neither the financial integrity nor accountability of the organization can be verified. Furtick promised Elevation “would always be a ministry of integrity.” [2] Yet the message being left amidst all the hazy financial reporting is, “Trust us!” So when the controversy initially surfaced regarding Furtick’s almost 2 million dollar building project, the young pastor apologized the next Sunday to his 14,000 plus followers that he was sorry for any “uncomfortable conversations” they had to have over “his mansion” under construction. [3] Some evangelical celebrities, and there’s more than just Furtick, seem to be imitating lives of the rich, the famous and sometimes, even the naughty.
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Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats?

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Contemporary Church, Entertainment, Worldliness

By Charles Haddon Spurgeon
(1834-1892) [1]

An evil is in the ‘professed’ camp of the Lord, so gross in its impudence, that the most shortsighted Christian can hardly fail to notice it. During the past few years this evil has developed at an alarming rate. It has worked like leaven until the whole lump ferments!

The devil has seldom done a more clever thing, than hinting to the Church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them. From speaking out as the Puritans did, the Church has gradually toned down her testimony, then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day. Then she tolerated them in her borders. Now she has adopted them under the plea of reaching the masses!

My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the Church. If it is a Christian work why did not Christ speak of it? ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, and provide amusement for those who do not relish the gospel.’ That is clear enough and so it would have been if He had added, ‘and provide amusement for those who do not relish the gospel.’ No such words, however, are to be found. It did not seem to occur to Him. Then again, “He gave some apostles, some prophets, some pastors and teachers, for the work of the ministry.” Where do entertainers come in? The Holy Spirit is silent concerning them. Were the prophets persecuted because they amused the people, or because they refused? The ‘concert’ has no martyr roll.

Again, providing amusement is in direct antagonism to the teaching and life of Christ and all His apostles. What was the attitude of the apostolic Church to the world? “You are the salt of the world“, not the sugar candy; something the world will spit out, not swallow. Short and sharp was the utterance “Let the dead bury the dead.” He was in awful earnestness.

Had Jesus introduced more of the bright and pleasant elements into His teaching, He would have been more popular. When “many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him,” I do not hear Him say, ‘Run after these people, Peter, and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow; something short and attractive with little preaching. We will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it! Be quick, Peter, we must get the people somehow!‘ No! Jesus pitied sinners, sighed and wept over them, but never sought to amuse them!

In vain will the epistles be searched to find any trace of the ‘gospel of amusement’. Their message is, “Therefore, come out from them and separate yourselves from them . . . Don’t touch their filthy things . . .” Anything approaching amusement is conspicuous by its absence. They had boundless confidence in the gospel and employed no other weapon.

After Peter and John were locked up for preaching, the Church had a prayer meeting, but they did not pray, ‘Lord, grant unto your servants that by a wise and discriminating use of innocent recreation we may show these people how happy we are.’ No! They did not cease from preaching Christ. If they ceased not from preaching Christ, they had not time for arranging entertainments. Scattered by persecution they went everywhere preaching the gospel. They turned the world upside down; that is the only difference from today’s church. Lord, clear the church of all the rot and rubbish the devil has imposed on her and bring us back to apostolic methods.

Lastly, amusement fails to effect the end desired. Let the careless and the scoffers, who testify the church met them half way, speak and testify. Let the heavy laden who found peace through the concert not keep silent! Let the drunkard to whom the dramatic entertainment had been God’s link in the chain of their conversion, stand up! There are none to answer! The mission of amusement produces no converts!

The need of the hour for today’s ministry is believing scholarship joined with earnest spirituality, the one springing from the other as fruit from the root. The need is for Biblical doctrine, so understood and felt, that it sets men on fire.

“Lord, clear the Church of all the rot and rubbish the devil has imposed on her, and bring us back to apostolic methods!” [2]

____________________
ENDNOTES
[1] Taken from The Sovereign Grace Messenger: A Publication of the Sovereign Grace Baptist Fellowship, Issue 37, Winter 2014, Pastor Ron Staley, Editor, Mechanicsville, VA.
[2] I thank my good friend Bob Gifford, pastor of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Dale City, VA, for drawing my attention to this article. It serves as a confirming witness of much of what I have written about and is contained elsewhere on the website, Guarding His Flock Ministries.

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“Half-Baked” Christianity

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Worldliness

A meditation upon Hosea 7:8.

Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned. Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not: yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth not. And the pride of Israel testifieth to his face: and they do not return to the LORD their God, nor seek him for all this.” Hosea 7:8-10, KJV

In a previous generation, a churchman observed of the church’s relationship to the surrounding culture of that era and said: “I looked for the church and found it in the world. I looked for the world and found it in the church.” In the history of American Christianity there perhaps has never been a time when the criticism uttered by that Englishman against the church of his day is not also an apt indictment of Christianity in our culture today.


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The Wrath of Grapes

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Worldliness

Christian Maturity and Alcohol Consumption

"It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak." (Emphasis Mine, Romans 14:21, NASB)

Many in the pan-evangelical church possess a libertine attitude towards alcohol consumption. I have heard reports that pastors and their elder boards visit local pubs and drink together after administrative meetings. Lately, I’ve read where numbers of Christian liberal arts universities have lifted their ban on alcohol consumption for faculty and staff with the excuse that prohibition for drinking alcohol in moderation is "biblically indefensible." [1] In another instance upon visiting one blogger’s website, and as I scrolled down the section containing his Christian testimony, my eyes fell upon a picture of a large smoking stogie laying across an ashtray near a glass half-full of hard liquor. The picture’s message was, it seemed to me, that the blogger, a confessing Christian, saw nothing wrong with either smoking cigars or drinking liquor. Then of late, a movement has arisen among some emerging/emergent Christians called "pub theology." [2] Of course, Christians who might protest drinking alcoholic beverages are labeled with the dreaded "L" word, "Legalist!" But all of this, and more, raises the question, what should be a responsible Christian’s attitude toward alcohol consumption, should it be characterized by the other dreaded "L" word, "Libertine"?


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Tatooing the Temple

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Worldliness

“What’s wrong with tattoos?” the adolescents asked their seventh grade Christian school teacher. On the part of Christian youth the question indicates both a fascination with tattoos and maybe, a temptation to get one. So what’s wrong, if anything, with tattoos?
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