If you have not studied the foundational biblical truth about Socialism, you should. There is no secret the church in general long since quit providing social safety nets for even its own people, let alone much of any kind of such outreach to greater society, the poor, the orphan, and the widow. The relationship between the failed churches and a socialistic state are symbiotic, and it grows more entrenched over time. It’s time we at least wake up to it.
Someone shared this blog post in my feed the other day: it is a devastating criticism of the American churches. It is from a mother who recently lost her husband to cancer at a young age. Listen to some of her powerful lines:
When church leaders sit around and discuss how they can reach people, I don’t think they have the widow in mind. I don’t think they have the cancer patient in mind. I don’t think they have the children who are growing up without a parent in mind. I am not paying attention to the church décor when I walk through the doors. . . .
The lighting, coffee bars, relevant messages, graphics and other things are secondary and serve no assistance to me during the darkest hour of my life. This is in no way a criticism of churches that have coffee bars, nice lighting and catchy sermon titles. However, in everything that is done, we need to make sure that Jesus is at the center. It is a also a reminder that there are hurting people sitting in your congregation. There are people whose marriages are crumbling, people whose finances are deteriorating, people whose children are rebelling and people like me, whose husband has passed away after a brutal fight with cancer. And these people are not impressed with the stage lighting. They could care less about the coffee flavor. They don’t need to be pumped or hyped. They need and are desperate for Jesus. And they may actually be turned off by all that they consider gimmicks to get people to go to church.
I scroll down my social media feed and I see churches with pictures of their coffee bars, their concert like settings, their graphics, their trendy sermon series and those don’t appeal to me. I want to see how Jesus has changed a person’s life. I want to see the power of prayer. I want to see how the Word of God can be applied to one’s life. I want to see how Jesus can help the hurting. I want to see how Jesus can heal the sick. I want to see how the broken heart was restored. I want to see how the mourners were comforted. I want to see how lives were restored. Rather than posting pictures of coffee bars I would rather see testimonies of the power of God. I am thankful I attend a church that focuses on prayer and the word of God. I am thankful that in one of the darkest moments of my life I knew I could count on others to pray for me and with me.
She’s right, you know. And if we’re honest with ourselves, the problem is far deeper than even this.
It is not merely that churches have gotten distracted with awe-inspiring trivialities. It is not merely that in its distractions it has forgotten the hurting, etc. It is far more systematic than that, and that critical view (as important as it is to get even that far) is backward. The church first dropped social issues, first neglected its calling to the widow and orphan, the prisoner and the poor, and then found itself anemic in society and grasping for the IVs of pop culture.
Among some evangelicals and Reformed folk (most of them), a flatlined orthodoxy has become the norm. They have even adapted the classic two kingdoms theology to serve as an excuse for their rebellion against God’s order. I have written on this in the past, for example, about the “two kingdoms” tyranny and its contribution to social welfare and statism.
The prophetic denunciation of this failure is clear in Scripture. Paul is quite clear that everyone has a duty to provide for themselves and their own household. He is equally clear that the church should administer a fund for those widows and orphans who cannot (1 Tim. 5:3–16). This is not the state’s job; it is the churches’ job.
Paul likewise says that someone who will not provide for their own house “has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
What do you think this says about whole churches that refuse to provide for their own?
It says that the vast majority of churches in America are worse than unbelievers.
Getting closer to the right discussion
Recently, T. D. Jakes hosted a huge pastoral conference that included a panel discussion on church and state. Megastar Paula White had apparently made comments about churches taking up their biblical role in these matters. Jakes then stole the show with a very entertaining, and in part correct, sermonette that had the seats rocking: churches cannot fulfill a mandate to feed the hungry when the state takes 35 to 40 percent of our income from the beginning, and then does not even use that money to reach the poor as it could. The church needs to challenge them [the state] to do its part (of course I disagree in principle here, but. . . .).
I’ve made a similar point in the past: conservatives say they are opposed to socialism, but in practice they are not. They fight savagely for public schooling, social security, and medicare, not to mention the most expensive standing military in the world several times over. But this makes socialism the status quo, and as along as socialism is the status quo, those who want to help the widow and orphan will have the moral high ground. By default position (opposed to social welfare except for themselves, and in favor of socialistic-funded militarism), conservatives more quickly defend bombing children and Arabs before feeding children at home.
By default, their political choices of some people say they prefer making widows and orphans to feeding them.
Jakes kept saying, “It doesn’t add up.” “I don’t need a Scripture. I don’t need a newspaper. All I need is a calculator.”
White was largely correct when she responded: “Everything’s got to be overhauled. . . . It starts at a local level of holding accountable, and the church working with government partnership [oops!] on a local level, changing our communities, changing our churches, changing our families, because it doesn’t add up on the calculator of the U.S. national debt either.”
Many of the people who criticized White afterward were quite clearly coming from a more leftist political angle: Jakes’s argument essentially supports status-quo welfarism, only he’s calling for Christians to challenge the state to do its part in providing for the poor given the fact that it has already taken the forty percent.
But, he added, “I’ll feed them if you give me my forty percent back. Give me my forty percent back and maybe I can do it!” That is getting closer on track.
White is absolutely correct that we need a systematic overhaul. It must eliminate the national deficit, meaning, the solution cannot be centralized. It must be local. It must eliminate the role of the central government.
To go further, it must eliminate the role of the civil governments in welfare altogether. This is a private matter, and for the church; it is a church matter. Jakes is absolutely wrong about one point: he does need a Scripture. He needs the Scriptures that say welfare is the job of the family and church, and that the state’s job is to punish crime (not feed the poor).
The change of which White speaks also necessarily involves changing the churches. Remember, “change” is simply the mundane word for “repent.” In other words, where this must begin is with widespread repentance in the churches.
To be honest, we are still far from such an ideal. We are still far from making the application of our theology a priority over professing it neatly, pretending to be nice, and building facades of buildings we call “churches” yet marked out by espresso machines and fog machines, or maybe just the classic looks we cultivate, like wooden pews and the finest leather-bound edition of our favorite Confession of FaithTM.
The gilded edges of our Bible pages, still shiny, is more representative of the faith of many than any symbol you could put on the cover of it, or certainly then content of it, let alone any outward act for which we may be known.
Proof positive of some of this critique is the fact that many readers will be more upset because I just made a positive example of two TV preachers they consider heretics than by the central failure of the churches I am pointing out. What such readers (you?) really want from a guy like me is another discernment blog exposing why Jakes and White have bad theology and how our own Reformed theology is so much more orthodox and right than these “false teachers” and “wolves.”
That would sure give us yet another affirmation of our doctrinal superiority, wouldn’t it? Boy, do we love fresh coats on our veneers.
Smoke machines come in many forms.
I can say that while I strongly object to their theological deviancies, I even more strongly support the line of thought they are at least entertaining. At least they are discussing a subject about which the Bible directly commands us, and the churches at large for centuries have neglected, and in some cases outright deny. At least they are being faithful in this area where so few are and leftists lead the discussion.
They may be unfaithful in some key doctrinal points, but at least they are not worse than unbelievers like our churches too often are.
We have the same choice, church. We—who have our key confessional points correctly professed, and even our jots and tittles—have a choice whether or not we wish to continue to deny the faith and act worse than unbelievers in the area of the social application of God’s Word.
Until we engage this issue seriously and widely, and in a biblical way, God will continue to use unbelievers, heretics, and the heterodox—just as He has done in the past on issues like race, justice, civil rights, education, and many other areas that Conservative Christian churches seem to have studied hard to ignore. And when leftist remain in charge, the end result will be worse than the first, and the churches will have no one to blame but themselves.
And when that day comes, crying about religious liberty will be the biggest joke you’ve told to date.