In 1997 the Lord graciously called my wife and I into the ministry of the evangelist. We live in a motorhome and travel across the nation preaching at churches, camp meetings and conferences. No matter how busy we get there always seems to be a few holes in our schedule. Major holidays are difficult to fill because churches usually don’t want evangelists on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Mother’s Day. We often fill those empty slots by ministering at Christian rehabs such as Teen Challenge.
While traveling south to a minister at a Teen Challenge we attended an authentic Spirit filled, on fire church. The worship was awesome and the preacher delivered an anointed sermon that was firmly grounded in God’s Word. No namby-pamby preaching here. It was truly refreshing.
We then began ministering for a few weeks at the Teen Challenge that was further south in that state. Since our Sunday mornings were free for a few weeks we began looking for an on fire church to attend. We could not find one. The one’s we did attend were the exact opposite of the on fire one mentioned above. The people were slaves to their watches and the pastors were slaves to the people. The song services were anemic, the preaching pitiful and the Spirit was perceptibly absent. At one church the pastor preached gross error to tickle the people’s ears. When we left that church my heart was broken over their error and the deadness of the other churches we visited.
As I got before God that afternoon I called out to Him, “Where are the men of God? Where are the pastors that fearlessly preach the Word through the love of God? What happened to churches that love your presence more than popularity, finances or buildings? Where are the men of God that can marshal a spiritual army and lead them into winning a perishing world?” My heart was in agony.
This experience helped me sympathize with all the people over the years that told me they could not find a good church. Now I believe them. After searching the internet for a genuine Spirit-filled church that was sound in the faith I came up with nothing. I am not saying that there was not a church in that area which fit the criteria; it is just that I could not find it. Nor am I saying that the other churches did not have some authentic believers. The travesty is that American Christianity has mutated into a lukewarm religion that is void of the Spirit. There are not many truly Spirit-filled, Biblically sound churches left in America.
My search for an on fire church began with scratching off my list those that posted on their web sites their “core values.” You can go to major corporations or local grocery and department stores and read virtually the same “core values.” “Core values” are the pop church growth buzz phrase that was directly stolen from the corporate world. They are worthless! Those who use that form of church growth principle become cookie-cutter churches offering people little in the way of spiritual vitality, but they do offer programs—lots of them.
I was looking for a church where the Word was faithfully preached under the anointing and God showed up in a tangible way; my heart was aching for His presence. So the next group to be checked off my list was the “good old boy” kind of churches that put you to sleep during their song service and preaching. Off the list were churches with cowardly pastors that speak fluff to the people or aspire to be a motivational speaker (I have no use for such worthless preachers). Nor did I want a church that was trying to be hip with Hollywood style song services and “talks” that teach the people how to suck down beer and sip wine. I have seen the devastation that alcohol and drugs do to people for the last 34 years of ministry and what it did to me before I became a Christian. I had no desire to attend a backslidden, apostate church.
Now let me get to the point of what I really want to say. The problem of the spiritual bareness of the church at large is the result of the spiritual condition of the pastors and parishioners. The fault begins with pastors who are called to shepherd God’s flock, God’s way no matter the cost. Yet many pastors are so terrified of their people that they obey the will of men rather than God. This often happens because pastors have been bitten enough times by rebellious and complaining sheep that they do not want any fresh wounds. At one large church where I ministered the pastor apologized to the people for my preaching before I even said a word. This man was cowering before a flock of contentious sheep that had very sharp teeth. He was their slave, not their shepherd.
Success in ministry has nothing to do with the size of the church (notice the above example). Genuine success is about obedience to the Lord which means a pastor gives the sheep what God says they need, not what is popular or feeds their flesh. In the Old Testament the Lord often rebuked the pastors because they failed to lead the people for their eternal good. Jeremiah prophesied, “The shepherds are senseless and do not inquire of the LORD; so they do not prosper and all their flock is scattered” (Jer. 10:21). Many pastors have become “senseless” because they no longer obey God by preaching the unadulterated Word. Instead of preaching truth they give them fluff; instead of bringing them into the tangible presence of God they give them dead religion. I have preached to congregations where long time church goers were weeping at an altar next to board members who were weeping next to teenagers, all repenting of practicing sin. Where was the senior pastor? Where was the youth pastor? Why were they not preaching repentance and holiness to the people? This is why the Lord declared, “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” (Jer. 23:1).
The fault of a dead church rests not only on the shoulders of pastors, but on the people as well. Jeremiah stated, “The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?” (Jer. 5:31). Pastors would not preach Christless, crossless messages filled with fluff or heresy if the people did not want it that way. The people have gotten what they deserve. When people refuse to be ruled by God they will seek out pastors that will satisfy their carnal nature or tickle their itching ears.
Paul, speaking on this issue wrote, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). Those who do not want the truth will settle for anything the tickles their fancy, while those who want the truth will settle for nothing less. Returning home after visiting the above mentioned church with the heretical pastor my wife put on an internet sermon preached by a man that fearlessly presents the truth through God’s anointing. At the end of his sermon people ran to repent at the altar. What a loving message that shook the people out of their damnable condition and what refreshing it brought to my soul. The preacher that truly loves people will warn them of sin, point them to the crucified and resurrected Christ and then command them to repent. Those who do not warn of sin and faithfully present the demands of discipleship do not truly love the people.
So what is the solution to the problem of spiritual deadness in our churches? It is not to run away from the church and hide in our safe little homes where we will not be hurt. The answer is complicated because of the ramifications of doing what is right. However, if we want to please God we must do what is right no matter the cost. The solution begins with pastors. First they must become men and women of prayer above all things. Better to neglect business at the office than to neglect God in prayer. Powerless preachers are always powerless in prayer.
Second, pastors need to preach the Word fully, faithfully, fearlessly, lovingly and under the anointing or do not preach at all. Preachers need to remember that they will give an account before God for each sermon they preach. “But what will you do in the end” if God declares that you have been unfaithful to Him and His Word? (Jer. 5:31). Better that you incur the wrath of man, be expelled from the church or even beaten than to face the wrath of God. Better to be hated by the people for telling them the truth than to hear the truth when you stand before God that you were a traitorous shepherd.
Finally, pastors must become like Steven who was full of faith and the Holy Spirit. We desperately need leaders that are authentically Spirit-filled so they can lead the congregation into the very presence of God. To our everlasting disgrace the church has become like Samson who, after breaking covenant with God, did not know the Lord had left him. We can do church without God and do it well, all the time never realizing that the Lord has left us. Why? Because the church is backslidden! The fact remains that we are not desperate for His presence and He knows that. Any church that does not have God tangibly show up has absolutely failed, even if thousands of people attend the church.
Now what can average church goers do to change the situation of the deadness of the church? First you must become a people of prayer that helps build a house of prayer. If the church is prayerless it is your fault. Don’t blame the pastor. If you are not praying there is no one to blame but yourselves. If the prayer meetings are empty it is your fault! If you settle for a dead church then you are getting what you deserve. So do not blame God for your spiritual barrenness.
Next, do not settle for namby-pamby, cotton candy preaching. Lovingly and kindly encourage your pastor to preach the whole truth and preach it boldly. If he refuses, do not start a war in the church or begin gossiping about him. If you do, you will be guilty before God and that should make you very afraid. All that is left for you to do is peacefully and lovingly leave the church and find the most on fire, Spirit filled church that faithfully preaches the cross.
When you work with ice, ice will get into your soul! Therefore, at all cost, get into the fire of God so that holy fire will consume you. Fan into flame a passionate desire for God and then guard that flame so it never goes out. The joy of salvation is intimate fellowship with God, who is a consuming fire. When we fellowship with a fiery God His holy fire will burn in us.
Glenn Meldrum has been a national evangelist since 1997. Prior to his calling as an evangelist he pastored for 15 years. He is ordained and holds an M.A. in theology and church history from Ashland Theological Seminary. Visit www.ihpministry.com for articles, sermons, books and information on Glenn Meldrum and In His Presence Ministries.