Monday, May 15, 2006

You can't serve God and Mammon

A news article I read several years ago made a very interesting point - if you see a church parking lot filled with pickup trucks, you are more likely to hear fire and brimstone from the pulpit. If the average member of a particular church drives a Lexus, the sermons are more likely to be toned down. Churches that are dependent on large amounts of money will be tempted to betray God's Word for fear of angering the congregation - and therefore losing members and contributions. I made a similar point a couple of years ago in a letter to the Evansville Courier:

The Bible (especially the teachings of Jesus) is very clear on divorce, but the Christian church has been very weak on preserving marriage for the last generation. While homosexual marriage should be opposed on its own merits, divorce has already weakened the institution of marriage enough on its own.

What is most distressing about Christians' failure to take a stand against divorce is the high rate of divorce among Christians. How can we expect to be "salt and light" when we ignore the principles of God's Word? Why have so many pastors abandoned their responsibility to teach their congregations about God's stand on divorce? Is the money collected on Sunday mornings more important that God's Commandments?

Pastor Bayly makes a great point about an Episcopal "bishop" who claimed that "schism is a greater sin than heresy." While the desire to "get along" motivates compromise within the church (even liberals within a denomination who compromise to avoid angering conservatives), I believe that the core issue is something else. Greed is at the heart of the desire to keep the church "unified". It is a desire to keep members - but more importantly to keep those members' tithes & offerings.

The Bible says "ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Matthew 6:24) and "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:24). The first and only loyalty of a pastor and elders board must always be faithfulness to the Word of God. The Word of God divides men by its very nature. Jesus said that "I came not to send peace, but a sword," and that He will divide families against each other for His sake (Matthew 10:34-37).

We are commanded to be a witness for Him in this world and to bring people to salvation by grace through faith. But Christ does not only command us to baptize all nations "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost", but also to teach all nations "to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you," (Matthew 28:18-20). As is the case with all Scripture, you cannot embrace the first part of the Great Commission and ignore the second.

The question of whether to appoint a homosexual to a position of leadership within His church should never hinge on whether it would create divisions within the congregation or factions within the church. The only criteria for decisions made by church leadership should be what the Word of God says on the matter, because our ultimate purpose is to serve and glorify Him.