The Biblical Model of a Church - Contrasting Five Aberrations

So what does the pure Bride of Christ look like? The simple answer is that the church of Jesus Christ should have Jesus as its center in every respect. A Christ-centered church is committed to personal and corporate prayer, passionate for the word of God and to be led by the Holy Spirit. The healthy church practices regular heart-felt personal and corporate worship and God-honoring praise. There is no fear of man, while there is a healthy fear of the Lord. Furthermore, in its view of church leadership and membership, there is no pastor/laity dichotomy. It sees that we are all priests of the highest God and ambassadors for Christ. Every Christian is to be a disciple and make disciples. The Fivefold ministry functions as per Ephesians 4. In other words, it is not a one-man show led by a celebrity pastor who tries to be all and do all. The Church of Jesus Christ exists to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry, and to help people grow into mature believers. Every member of the body of Christ needs to know about spiritual warfare, and to learn how to battle against his or her own flesh and adamic sin. The Lord’s higher calling for each of His children is that we strive together to develop unity and become “one accord” like-minded followers of Christ. A healthy church understands and follows biblical directions for relationships within the church. The emphasis is on the love of the saints for the saints, remembering that we are the body of Jesus. How can we claim to love Him if we don’t love His body? Finally, a healthy church is focused on disciplined Bible study to use and properly apply the word of God in our own lives and in our relationships with others. Doing so facilitates true community and love for the saints, for the lost, and for the needy. So here are five types of churches which preach a different Gospel. 1. The Prosperity Gospel Church This type of church views godliness as a means to gain. They preach only one side of the gospel; the blessings of being Christians, while overlooking the cost of discipleship, dying to self and suffering for Christ.

There are some warning signs you can see in these kind ministries. There is an emphasis on giving to my ministry in exchange for the potential of being blessed. There is often pride in the pulpit. Its pastors and preachers often claim to care for the poor and destitute, while personally living lavish lifestyles. There is an emphasis on huge following and crowd hype within enormous seemingly successful ministries at the expense of true discipleship. 2. The Liberal Social Gospel Church These churches put an out of balance emphasis on social injustice, gay rights, transgender rights. The church that once confessed its sins, now confesses its rights. They often redefine gospel terms to advance their agenda. They go as far as having pride in what the Bible clearly labels as an abomination to God, stressing the importance of love and acceptance, while ignoring holiness and sacrificial living. Furthermore, they elevate personal rights over the sanctity of life. This movement desires social change more than personal sanctification. Its members are often too busy working for Jesus to talk to Him. Instead, they seek societal changes through political power, rather than through changed hearts and personal purity.

Take a minute and contrast these methods with the ways the Holy Spirit literally changed nations during the Welsh Revival and the Great Awakening in our country. In contrast, this church often advances its agenda by shaming the privileged and generating class envy and divisiveness instead of unity. Sadly, this approach often erupts in violence and anger, rather than peace and brotherly love. What's even worse is that this church portrays biblical holiness as synonymous with hatred, homophobic bias, being judgmental, and unloving. True Christians are often accused of being the reason many gays people commit suicide. Hopelessness and continued bondage are assured by telling people who are struggling with their sexual identity or with same sex attraction that they were born that way and can never change. Instead, they are encouraged to enjoy whatever type of sex and perversion they desire whenever they want it.

3. The- Hyper Charismatic Church

These churches are often an outgrowth of a revival gone astray. Sadly, church history has shown that what starts as a true move of God can devolve into a false gospel through manipulation by men seeking recognition, power, and control over others

An example of this danger was noted during the Azusa Street Revival of 1907. Some 113 years ago, Frank Bartleman, who reported on the Azusa Street revival, wrote a tract warning people of a Christ-less Pentecost:

“We may not hold the doctrine, or seek an experience, except in Christ. Many are willing to seek power to perform miracles, draw attention and adoration of the people to themselves, thus robbing Christ of his glory, and making a fair showing in the flesh. The greatest need would seem to be for true followers of the meek and lowly Jesus. Religious enthusiasm easily goes to seed. The human spirit so predominates the showoff, religious spirit. We must stick to our text-Christ.”

Some of the warning signs for these movements are just downright weird, such as people writhing on the floor like snakes, laughing uncontrollably, and stories of gold dust glory clouds and of gold feathers dropping from the ceiling during services. Some exploit those seeking powerful spiritual experiences for personal gain by charging huge fees, such as $1,200 to attend a class where, it is promised, you’ll learn to “dance in the Spirit.”

These churches put and excessive focus on spiritual gifts and emotional experiences. Their services are like concerts with music focused on emotions, spirituality, and “me songs.” Furthermore, great emphasis is placed on speaking in tongues, being slain in the spirit, and experiencing supernatural healing.

The leaders of these movements often lack Christ-like humility and lead lives that are devoid of integrity. Their focus is often on the Holy Spirit, rather than Jesus, and the pursuit of practices and experiences which are contrary to or found nowhere in the Bible.

4. The Intellectual Church

These churches focus on “exegesis” more than relationship. They have concluded that God no longer speaks to men, so they must study to determine “Biblical truth.” Unable to receive answers to prayers, they know all “about” Jesus, but don’t know Jesus personally and intimately. Knowledge for them has gotten in the way of experiencing Jesus. They are all head knowledge and no heart intimacy. 

5. The Luke Warm Church

This church wallows in apathy, is often loving, but never passionate. It embraces and promotes worldly lifestyles and offers programs with only a Christian veneer. Repentance is viewed as a onetime event, followed by assured salvation. People in these churches often tell you don’t judge me or you will be judged! They are devoid of spiritual discernment which the Bible constantly urges us to desire and exercise. There is an emphasis on pursuing happiness rather than holiness. There is no focus on prayer, little discipleship – most who attend are at best babes in Christ, oblivious to their own spiritual poverty. These congregations literally make our Lord sick to His stomach. See Revelation 3:14-17.

Concluding Thoughts

What’s the takeaway? This blog and video do not seek to criticize the church of our Lord and Savior, but rather offer a warning. Both Slaveck and Chip love the beautiful bride of Christ, and hope to alert and caution their fellow pilgrims as together we walk on the Highway of Holiness, that all who practice some of these things without seeking true discernment and intimacy with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ risk facing the wrath of God. What a tragedy to stand before Jesus at the end of one’s life and hear, “I never knew you!” See Matt 7:21-23. May the Lord give us ears to hear what the Spirit is speaking to us in these tumultuous days.

By Evan Thomas and Slaveck Moraru