Thursday, August 17, 2017

Smash the Idols and the Gospel will Grow!

June 18, 2011 by  
Filed under Monthly Articles

Smash the Idols and the Gospel Will Grow” is not a popular church growth formula gleaned from a Church growth seminar but is one that emerges from a highly successful underground church in China. Ironically it was the communist regime of Mao that set the stage for the church’s growth, even though persecuted. Mao’s structure and doctrine set the people up for a fall, and when he died, a spiritual vacuum was created, one that the Church was able to take advantage. From their subsequent success in reaching thousands an important principle emerged: “When the idol is smashed, the gospel grows.”

One would hardly imagine that such a principle is valid in the post-modern church scheme. The church in the U.S. doesn’t deal with idols. Yet, also emanating from the underground church in China is the fact that the Church in America has indeed been seduced by false prophets and in many cases worship “some idol that is not God.”

This subtle influence is captured by Walter Brueggemann in his book, The Prophetic Imagination(3). Writing in 1978, Brueggeman offers this insight:

The contemporary American church is so largely enculturated to the American ethos of consumerism that it has little power to believe or to act. This enculturation is in some way true across the spectrum of church life, both liberal and conservative. It may not be a new situation, but it is one that seems especially urgent and pressing at the present time. That enculturation is true not only of the institution of the church but also of us as persons. Our consciousness has been claimed by false fields of perception and idolatrous systems of language and rhetoric. (4)

The danger of affluence is the perception that we may purchase power, prestige, and all the trappings of apparent success that is in accordance with contemporary American worldview that has usurped the Apostolic Faith. The irony, however, is that while in some circles there is a semblance of success (an in reality there are perhaps some true success stories) while in actuality the church has lost the cultural war in America. Even worse American culture has captured the church’s heart, values and imagination.

The modern-day prophet faces a daunting task, but not unlike those that have gone before. Challenging the status quo has never been easy, nor has it always been successful (in terms used today). Not only does the prophet face a post-modern spirit of universalism, it also must face a neo-Pentecostalism, a neo-Pentecostal movement that emphasizes charismatic figures rather than the charisma of the Holy Spirit. It has not embraced the power of the Holy Spirit but, rather, embraced a message of personal empowerment and entitlement. [It seems that we can add to the list of “ministries” the ministry of “self-helps”].

Much of the worship is designed to illicit an emotional, feel good response than worship of the true and living God. It is worship that creates a co-dependency where the pastor has the need to pray and speak prophetic words over the hapless that can hardly make it from altar service to altar service.

What has “emerged” from the “above-ground” church free to exercise its own will over the past decades is genuine need for true revival, one that leads to transformations of lives rather than an hyper-extended faith that is fleeting, one that challenges before it comforts, that holds our feet to the fire so that the true prophetic voice can speak, that opens our eyes to the real world in which we are living, and offers alternatives that prepare us for that which is coming.

At the heart of the Church’s problems is the influence of an idolatrous nation. The idols are not figurines crafted from stone, wood, or metal, but are images of success and prosperity. Americans worship the bold and the beautiful, celebrities, athletes, power-brokers, and even thugs and gangsters that shape values and morals upon which many within the church pew make their decisions.

A final thought for today’s genuine prophet: If you are looking to be successful than look again. When asked about her inability to reach all the poor in Bangladesh, Mother Teresa replied, “God has not called me to be successful but to be faithful.”

Smash the idols and the gospel will grow! That’s my view, what’s yours?

Served as a pastor in the Church of God in Alabama for 28 years before “retiring” so my wife, Rhonda Bradley Ledbetter, could provide care for aging parents. We have four grown children and one grandchild. My eldest boys are twins and both serve in law enforcement as patrolmen. The oldest twin and his wife are expecting our second grandchild in August. Our daughter and her husband gave us our first grandchild. Our youngest son serves in the Marines and is anticipating his second tour in Afghanistan.

Presently I am serving as a volunteer Chaplain with the Sylacauga Police Department and have been commissioned by the Church of God Chaplain Commission as a community service chaplain. Rhonda and I attend Beth Hallel, a Messianic Jewish congregation outreach in Birmingham, Alabama. I serve as a liaison with churches and have conducted Passover Seders in the local area. I am available for preaching, teaching engagements (maqqebet@yahoo.com).

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Comments

One Response to “Smash the Idols and the Gospel will Grow!”
  1. Nancy Conner Coons says:

    “At the heart of the Church’s problems is the influence of an idolatrous nation. The idols are not figurines crafted from stone, wood, or metal, but are images of success and prosperity. Americans worship the bold and the beautiful, celebrities, athletes, power-brokers, and even thugs and gangsters that shape values and morals upon which many within the church pew make their decisions.”

    How profoundly spoken. Only recently, some of the church leadership of a congregation with which I am familiar had presented to its membership a less than fully disclosed financial offer. They chose to not give all details in order to guide a “yes” vote — not trusting that God would make come to pass that which He decides to make happen. One of the deacons presented that “people in this area expect excellence [of facilities/buildings]” indicating that he believes that the church’s growth would be dependent on better buildings than what it currently meets in (although the church membership hasn’t grown in 20 years). That comment, along with withholding the full terms of the offer, is a spiritual issue — that they are not depending on the Holy Spirit but on their own abilities. And this from leadership. Your comment about decisions being made within the church pew brought this particular instance to mind as one concrete example. As you’ve quoted from Mother Teresa – we are called to be faithful. God will choose what to do with that faithfulness.