Saturday, June 8, 2019

If the Shoe Doesn’t Fit

Photo by WMC2207 2018

I recently dreamed that my husband, mother and I were attending a church camp for adults, described as a Vacation Bible School for children, at a church we had never attended. We had expected a series of sermons, Bible study, breakout groups, prayer, singing and fellowship, but were surprised to find that the format was more like that of a large stage production in which all attendees would participate.

The associate pastor was on a large outdoor stage and we were all seated in a surrounding amphitheater in a wooded area. He announced what parts we would all play in the production and said that the pastor would pray, after which we would all rehearse the opening number.

But the pastor apparently had other plans. I could spot him leaving the backstage area in the wings and sneaking out to a jogging trail that circled the property. Oddly, he was wearing a hot pink terry jogging suit with white trim!

Apparently the associate pastor saw him too, for he ad-libbed that now we would have an opportunity to buy some of the merchandise that was for sale, and then we would rehearse. Vendors filled the aisles, hawking shoes! Adding to the incongruity of the whole situation, these were the strangest, ugliest, least practical shoes I had ever seen.

We politely shook our heads, hoping the vendor would pass by, but instead he thrust a pair of clown shoes in my mother’s face, demanding that she buy them, accusing her of having tried them on and leaving a purple stain on the sole from where she had been treading grapes!

“She was doing no such thing,” I protested. “Why would she even try them on, when they don’t suit any of us and wouldn’t even fit?”

Scowling and muttering, he finally moved on to his next victim. The associate pastor took the stage, announcing that the schedule had changed yet again, and that we would break for snacks. We all left our seats and proceeded to the serving tables, which were filled only with sweets.

Normally I enjoy desserts, but these looked like they would be sickening to eat on an empty stomach, so I headed to the elevators back to our room. Holding open the elevator door was a woman I recognized from a church that we used to attend.

“Do you still read the King James Bible?” she asked, and I answered yes.

“Well, I used to,” she replied, “but not since I heard that the best way to witness to the Russian Orthodox is to have Hindu Indians explain the Gospel to them using their own Bible.” My jaw hung open in disbelief when the elevator doors closed, whisking her away. Just then a woman rushed out of the nursery holding two infants, which she deposited in my arms without explanation and hurried off.

I sat down, juggling both infants on my lap to contain them before they could squirm out of my arms, but I soon realized that they weren’t going anywhere. Both were newborns, remnants of the umbilical cord still attached, and they appeared sickly, pale and lethargic.

As I awoke and considered the meaning of the dream, I interpreted it as a warning regarding many churches today. Thankfully, my husband and I are blessed to be in a Bible-preaching (Acts 8:4, 25; 2 Timothy 4:2), Christ-centered church with a Godly pastor and leadership (1 Timothy 3:1-13), but many churches are no longer like that.   

Too many churches aim to lure large numbers with promises of entertainment rather than of preaching the Word (1 Corinthians 1:17; 2:4). Some attendees prefer to sit passively and be entertained, while others want their claim to fame by being part of the megachurch production. This movement started with Children’s Church and youth groups, but now affects adult services as well, with rock bands, stage lighting, movies and iPad giveaways.

For any age group, this strategy is doomed to failure, because the world provides more and better opportunities for worldly entertainment and for fame and prestige than the church can or even should offer. Isn’t Jesus, and His Gospel of salvation to eternal life by trusting in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), more than enough? 

Why should preachers be ashamed of the Gospel (Romans 1:16; 2 Timothy 1:8), when nothing can compare with its saving grace? Why don’t they just preach Christ, and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 1:17-31), as the apostle Paul urges us?

In the dream, the pastor was more interested in his own agenda and physical fitness than he was in praying for the church and its opportunities to share Christ. Paul cautioned Timothy to prioritize his spiritual fitness ahead of physical exercise, which by comparison is of little benefit (1 Timothy 4:8).

The effeminate attire of the pastor in the dream may symbolize that many preachers today are becoming effete, losing their spiritual power and being afraid to offend anyone by speaking of sin or of hell, preferring to remain popular by being politically, not Biblically correct.

Rather than hearing a message, lesson or prayer, or even participate in the production that was supposed to be the main event, the congregation in my dream was subjected to sales pitches for useless items. Many churches today sell books, CDs, and even T-shirts, coffee and snacks to supplement income, despite Christ’s warning not to turn His Father’s house from a house of prayer to a den of thieves (Matthew 21:12-13).

Yet this would be unnecessary if part of the Bible-based preaching centered on the blessings of tithing, free-will offerings, missionary support (Philippians 4:14-19) and love gifts. Many preachers ignore these topics altogether for fear of offending the flock, allowing them to miss out on the blessings that God faithfully provides when we give according to His Word (Malachi 3). On the other hand, many televangelists are not shy about hawking their useless merchandise, like prayer shawls or crystal figurines, or about spending the proceeds on private jets and custom-tailored designer suits.

As part of the armor of God that we should put on daily, our feet should be shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace, allowing us to share the Good News wherever God leads us to go (Ephesians 6:15). Yet in the dream, we were nearly shamed into buying useless footwear that would support neither our feet nor a Godly message, for we were not offered any Biblical truth.  

Our own Bible study should be the staple of our spiritual diet (2 Timothy 3:16) from which we receive our daily bread (Luke 11:3). Yet church services should be a vital opportunity to guide and enhance our study by hearing wisdom and God’s Word from one who has devoted his whole life to understanding it. Sadly, today there are many false teachers who tickle people’s ears (2 Timothy 4:1-4) with topics other than God’s Word, or even perverting the latter to justify popular, yet wrong, beliefs (2 Peter 2:1).

In the dream, I believe this was represented by the food offered, which was merely empty calories devoid of nutritional value, and by the infants who were malnourished as a result. Many born-again Christians (John 3:3-8) remain babes in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:1-2), never maturing to the point where they can digest the strong meat of the Word (Hebrews 5:12-14). But if the pastors and teachers do not even feed them with the sincere milk of the Word (1 Peter 2:2-3), their spiritual growth is stunted and they will never be able to leave the nursery, let alone to witness to or teach others.

Further preventing growth is the trend in many churches away from the King James Bible, not only toward newer “translations” but even to religious texts of other faiths. Many churches are bringing in Muslim clerics purporting that we all worship the same God. But if that were true, why does the Koran deny the divinity of Jesus Christ, and why don’t mosques ever invite Christian evangelists to speak there?

The same Gospel message is the power of salvation to the Jew, Greek, and people of all faiths (Romans 1:16). To try to reach the lost by using the beliefs of another faith is as ludicrous and futile as asking Hindu Indians to convert people of Orthodox faiths to the Gospel of grace (Acts 20:24), not works (Ephesians 2:8-9), which is the basis of Christianity.

As the signs of the times warn us that the time is short and Christ’s return is ever drawing nearer (Matthew 16:3), may we use our remaining days to lead others to the Lord through His true Gospel. When we face Him at the judgment seat for believers and give an accounting for our lives once we were saved, we will suffer loss of rewards for the missed opportunities God gave us to share His truth (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Not only pastors and teachers, but all born-again believers will face the consequences of tolerating ersatz substitutions for the sound diet of His Word!

© 2019 Laurie Collett



Tanza Erlambang said...

I love this sentence: "the congregation in my dream was subjected to sales pitches for useless items."...

May God bless you and yours

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks, Tanza! May God richly bless you and your family also!

Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
Here in the UK, our State Church, the Church of England, has Sunday congregations steadily declining over the years, and one statistic says that if the rate of decline continues at its present rate, within just a few years from now the C. of E. will go out of existence.
Therefore it did not come as a surprise that some years ago I read in a national newspaper that an Anglican church was to show boxing matches on its screen with a particular purpose of drawing men back into the church.
I live in a country where as many as 95% shun church on Sundays. The Gospel has lost just about all its credibility, and this is due to the rise of Darwinism as established science.
Day-to-day evidence all around me indicates that this evolutionary philosophy fails to satisfy, fails to revitalise the spirit, and as a result, there are some churches which are growing rather than shrinking, including ours. But among the students, theistic evolution is upheld among many of them and when one graduate was assigned to preach against the historicity of the first chapter of Genesis, I stood him to his face.
An excellent post but with a shocking content. We all need to be more serious with the Gospel God has entrusted to us.
God bless.

Brenda said...

Hi Laurie,
how strange! I recently had a dream about what is going on in the church, which I hope to write about in a post. I have nearly finished it, and hope to put it up soon.
God bless Lauri, your interpretation of your dream is absolutely right.

Laurie Collett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
So true, that church attendance is dropping precipitously, as even luring people in with worldly pursuits is of no help. Far better just to preach the Word, which God will bless and honor and lead others to Himself. Praise the Lord that some churches still do, and at least their preachers will hear "Well done" when they face Christ at the judgment seat.
Thanks as always for your thoughtful comment and encouragement, and God bless,

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Brenda,
It is amazing how God often impresses the same theme on the hearts of many of His children at the same time. Thank you for your comment and encouragement. I look forward to reading about your dream!
God bless,

Donald Fishgrab said...

Great and timely post, Laurie.

We are seeing far too many who are more concerned with getting a bigger crowd than with serving God. As Peter warned, they turn worship into a way of making a profit rather than a devotion to God, even changing the scriptures to appeal to popular culture without concern for what pleases God. As a result, even those who do get saved never grow spiritually, and many have no understanding of what salvation means or why it is needed. Truly, we are in the last times.

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks, Donald! It is truly sad to see this apostasy, yet as you point out, it confirms that we are living in the End Times as His return is that much closer. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!
God bless,