Often, churches today share the Gospel to a community where they become popular. In fact, they become a friend of the community. Perhaps this is good. Perhaps this is the apt and effective end result. You even see pastors working comfortably with and for politicians, serving as their “spiritual adviser,” whatever that means. It seems the church is finally having considerable influence on society.
However, when you go back to Scriptures, you see something different. And there’s where the problem lies. You see the Lord, rejected, persecuted and crucified. And then he says somewhere that:
The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household! [Matthew 10.24-25]
Why are these churches welcomed by the world while their Lord was killed by the same? I sometimes ponder on this as I watch churches enjoy the warm acceptance of the community, and even by crooks and politicians. Are we doing it differently from how Jesus presented the Gospel, that’s why we’re getting a different result?
And we’re supposed to “lose” our lives as we follow Christ to also “find” it, while those who “save” their lives would lose it completely. But then you look around and you see churches winning the approval of the community (which is not christian) and actually prospering. They get more crowds in, get more offerings, and get more money.
And you see their huge, modern buildings rising up, their expensive vehicles lining up in front, and their pastors living like the rich and famous. Just look at how they dress and the jewelry and accessories they wear. Some even have their own planes and jets and choppers, some even their own private airstrips.
While those who lag behind in their small, poor churches try their best to emulate these “successful” pastors by doubling time on their evangelism, church planting and earning all sorts of titles and degrees. The more you have, the better chances of getting higher pays. They work like mad to “save” their lives, not lose it.
No one today buys the idea of losing his life for Jesus’ sake. They want the best of both worlds. They want Jesus and the approval of the world. I remember how Lot chose the portion of the land that was well watered like the garden of Eden and the land of Egypt—best of both worlds, Eden and Egypt.
So, where have all the supposed persecutions and “losing one’s life” gone? The only churches I hear getting real persecutions and losing everything are those in the Middle East and communist countries. They are really losing their lives over there for Jesus’ sake. That’s the authentic Jesus Gospel. Truth is, the true Gospel incites persecutions and losses.
Those in the free world are persecution free. And some of them even enjoy luxury as people in the world enjoy it. Are we really succeeding at sharing the Gospel or are we doing it the wrong way? Worse, are we compromising the Gospel or are we sharing another gospel?
One day I was meditating on Matthew 10, specifically studying Jesus’ instructions to his apostles on how to share the Gospel. Aside from preaching and miraculous healing, genuine ministry from God is one that gives without any strings attached. A lot of ministries today give you lots of freebies, but there’s a catch. They get your personal details so they can follow you up and make you their church members later, and then ask you tithes and offerings (and they invent other kinds of offerings) all your life.
Jesus’ ministry was different: they were to rely solely on God’s provisions. They did not “get any gold or silver or copper to take with (them)” and gave away real benefits for free. And I mean FOR FREE! “Freely you have received, freely give.” They didn’t get people’s names and addresses to follow up or visit later to make members of and then collect money or “love gifts” from. There was no ulterior motive or hidden agenda.
As they preached the Gospel from town to town, God provided them with “worthy persons” to stay with. These persons were those who willingly (of their own accord) took them in and believed in their message—not those they have trapped with their ministries. They set food before them and they were to eat anything offered them, for the laborer deserves his wages.
Reading and re-reading the whole passage, I noted one thing—the Kingdom Gospel they carried had a dangerous message. It made you look like sheep and your hearers like wolves. Because of this “Good News” you will be flogged in religious places, get arrested, be betrayed and probably killed (even by your own family), and finally be terribly hated by everyone! Persecutions everywhere!
And then he concluded by saying that if he himself suffered thus, we his followers are sure to get the same treatment. We are not exempted. We will suffer as our Master did. It’s a given, a surefire thing. Matthew 10 makes persecution because of the Word certain.
But question is, where is the persecution today? Where is the hatred from everybody? The way things are, the church has become the friend of everyone in the world—from barangay officials to mayors, councilors and governors to senators. Yes, even of corrupt government officials. They gladly receive us and actually like our message without being radically changed. I wonder why.
Herod had John beheaded because John exposed his corruption. Where is this now today? Some church leaders run for public office and get elected and then later accused of corruption. Instead of exposing sin, they are exposed.
Why do we get a different result from the result Jesus got? The problem could only be in the message. We’re probably carrying a different message, another gospel. Yes, we’re using the same Word of God in the bible but are carrying a different message. It’s a message that the world likes to hear. It’s similar to how the Pharisees used the same Old Testament Jesus used. But their results were different from Jesus’ results.
Jesus said, you identify the false by its fruit. “You will know them by their fruit.” And what is the fruit of our gospel? It’s the exact opposite of what Jesus had—a message the world accepts and likes. A message that makes us friends with the world. A message that makes us false prophets.
Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets. [Luke 6.26]
But if we share the Gospel and get persecuted:
Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. [Luke 6.22-23]
A lot in church think the world is almost saturated with the Gospel except in the 10/40 windows. But what “Gospel” have we brought to the world? Is it the same Gospel that Jesus and the apostles preached and which brought them tremendous persecutions? Or is it another gospel that makes us accepted by the world?
We have adulterated the Gospel to make it so easy for people to get saved. We have watered down its meaning to expedite our church planting efforts. But Peter shows us how real salvation is:
“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” [1 Peter 4.18]
Paul and Barnabas said:
“We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” [Acts 14.22]
The Pharisees added in a lot of extras to make it hard to enter God’s Kingdom. Church today have taken out important things to make church growth easier and faster and eliminate persecutions. But remember, God designed the Good News of the Kingdom to incite persecutions wherever it is proclaimed in its pure and unadulterated form.