Hillsong Church’s International Ministry Director Darren Kitto claimed he would need to cover nearly $50,000 in pool expenses in 2018 as part of a $125,000 housing allowance for a Newport Beach, California, home he purchased in the Santa Ana Heights neighborhood for $1.85 million that features a “portable spa.”
The details on Kitto’s housing allowance claim for 2018 were highlighted in a trove of documents first made public on March 9 by Andrew Wilkie, an independent member of the Australian Parliament, thanks to the work of a whistleblower.
Last days church: what did Jesus have to say about the church that is left behind after the rapture of the Saints.
“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” Revelation 3:15-19
In December 2022, Family Research Council (FRC) released an extensive publication documenting a sharp rise in acts of hostility against churches in the United States. Analyzing publicly available data from the past five years, FRC found a total of 420 documented acts of hostility that occurred between January 2018 and September 2022.
The types of acts identified include vandalism, arson, gun-related incidents, bomb threats, and more. There also appeared to be an increase in frequency over the course of the reporting period. FRC’s report identified 137 acts of hostility against churches between January and September 2022. By comparison, there were 96 incidents in all 12 months of 2021. FRC also identified 54 incidents against churches in 2020, 83 in 2019, and 50 in 2018. Since the launch of that report, FRC has continued to track acts of hostility against churches. The fourth quarter of 2022 saw an additional 54 incidents, for a total of 191 in 2022. That number is nearly double the previous year’s total of 96. In the first quarter of 2023, 69 incidents have already occurred. If this rate continues, 2023 will have the highest number of incidents of the six years FRC has tracked, continuing the upward trend. Most of the 2023 incidents occurred in January (43); 14 occurred in February, and 12 occurred in March 2023.
Criminal acts of vandalism and destruction of church property are symptomatic of a collapse in societal reverence and respect for houses of worship and religion—in this case, churches and Christianity. Some people appear increasingly comfortable lashing out against church buildings, pointing to a larger societal problem of marginalizing core Christian beliefs, including those that touch on hot-button political issues related to human dignity and sexuality. The anger and division that increasingly characterize American society are endangering churches and eroding religious freedom. When congregants feel targeted by members of their communities or church buildings bear the brunt of outrage over political events, the very ability to live out one’s faith safely is under attack. Violent or destructive incidents that interfere with an individual’s lawful free exercise of religion at their house of worship present a significant nationwide challenge.
The above report is to be expected as we fast approach the Biblical prophesied time before Jesus returns to restore righteousness to the world. Lawlessness, deception, many abandoning the faith, apostasy, Antichrist, and the Mark of the Beast are all prophesied to take place before His return. Christians need to prepare for these coming events and be faithful to proclaim the GOOD NEWS, the “gospel of the kingdom” until Jesus returns to rapture faithful believers and pour out His wrath upon an unbelieving world.
“And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:12-14
“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, those days will be cut short.” Matthew 24:21-22
“Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him … For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God … The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” 2 Thessalonians 2:1,3-4,9-12
The end times church will be faced with this question (face persecution of flee) more and more as Christians experience the coming prophesied tribulation in the last seven years before Jesus returns first to rapture His church and to pour out His wrath on a lawless, unrepentant world.
In this photo taken Sunday, June 3, 2018, the demolished house church is seen in the city of Zhengzhou in central China’s Henan province. Under President Xi Jinping, China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, believers are seeing their freedoms shrink dramatically even as the country undergoes a religious revival. Experts and activists say that as he consolidates his power, Xi is waging the most severe systematic suppression of Christianity in the country since religious freedom was written into the Chinese constitution in 1982. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Three years ago, 62 members of China’s Shenzhen Reformed Holy Church, also known as the Mayflower Church, fled to South Korea to escape persecution from the Communist government. They requested political asylum in South Korea but were denied. The church is now in Thailand, where members hope to gain refugee status, and eventually resettle in the United States. Until then, they face many challenges, including possible arrest by Thailand immigration police and being sent back to China.
The Mayflower Church believes that they are like the Israelites in Exodus who God brought out of Egypt. As well, if you study the book of Acts, the Apostle Paul fled persecution. Most Christian churches in the Western world would support the course of action taken by the Mayflower Church, however, many of the Chinese house church Christians have a self-identity of being “patriotic martyrs”. They are willing to suffer and be martyred for their faith. So when a group decides to leave persecution and martyrdom, that creates some tension in what has become a cultural and religious identity of the entire house church Protestant movement in China.
Regardless, it was encouraging to learn what Pastor Pan said in response to this contradictory view, “While church members still face restrictions and potential deportation, we enjoy the freedom we have to worship. I struggle with many uncertainties in my heart like most of my congregation. But we find strength every time we experience how God has been faithfully providing for our daily needs and how He is constantly protecting us from the evil men who want to harm us. “Whether we go live in the US or are taken back to China, we will regard this experience as listening to God’s call and continuing to be a vibrant testimony of His goodness and faithfulness.”
Archbishop of York says gay sex is OK if in ‘committed, stable, faithful relationships’
The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, and Rev. Canon Stephen Race (R) when he is consecrated as the new Bishop of Beverley during a service in York Minster on November 30, 2022, in York, England.
BBC Radio Four’s William Crawley asked the archbishop the following questions:
Are homosexuality and same-sex marriage sinful? The C of E’s new stance on the issue is that it’s OK, as long as couples are in “committed, stable, faithful relationships,” adding that same-sex married couples will be “welcomed fully into the life of the Church, on their terms.”
William Crawley asked the archbishop whether the C of E’s recent decision not to officiate same-sex weddings while allowing gay marriages to be blessed was a “bit of a fudge.” Cottrell responded, “I see it as a way of holding together a church which doesn’t agree on this issue and it takes us to a place where LGBTIQ+ people, people entering into same-sex marriages, people in civil partnerships are able to come to the Church of England and those relationships and marriages can be acknowledged and celebrated.”
Crawley then asked if the denomination believes “gay sex is sin,? The archbishop replied, “Well, what we are saying is that physical and sexual intimacy belongs in committed, stable, faithful relationships, and therefore where we see a committed, stable, faithful relationship between two people of the same sex, we are now in a position where those people can be welcomed fully into the life of the Church, on their terms.”
Crawley said the C of E must be blessing same-sex unions because it believes it to be good. Archbishop Cottrell replied, “As I say, we believe that stable, faithful, committed, loving relationships are good. They are the place for physical intimacy …”
Crawley again asked, “And not a sin?” The archbishop then responded, “But well, that … that’s what I’m saying … we’re looking to focus on the good in relationships and we want people to live in good, stable, faithful relationships.”
Earlier this month, C of E bishops apologized to the LGBT community for their “rejection and exclusion” within the denomination, saying they were now “welcome and valued” within the denomination.
The group Christian Concernsaid Cottrell’s statement confirms the CofE’s departure from its own biblical teaching on human sexuality which states that marriage is: “in its nature a union permanent and lifelong, for better for worse, till death them do part, of one man with one woman.”
Andrea Williams, Christian Concern’s chief executive who was also a member of the general synod for 10 years, said Cottrell’s comments “embody the compromised position of the Church of England on human sexuality.” “The role of the Archbishop of York is to lead in explaining God’s beautiful pattern for human life and relationships, not to preside over a convoluted process of compromise. Sadly, it has been a failure of leadership from the start by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. For this, they will answer to God, and we must pray for them. It is not loving or kind to hide the truth from the culture,” she said.
God’s Word is adamant that sexual expression is reserved for marriage between one man and one woman. Any other form of sexual relationship is sexually immoral.
This is just one of the many signs Jesus told us would happen before His second coming to restore righteousness.
“And then many will fall away (from faith) and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Matthew 24:10-13
For Christians, all of life is the enterprise through which we glorify God and enjoy Him forever. The means by which we do that is simple: we must know who this God is and how we can enjoy Him forever. This is only derived from a robust understanding and application of Scripture and understanding the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Thus, when we are faced with whatever progressive ideals might creep in, the principle is one whereby we test all things according to Scripture empowered by the Holy Spirit.
I am convinced many within the broader church have been pressed into the mold of a system of thought the broader culture adopts (i.e. progressivism), and the foremost institution this has been accomplished through is education. Generations of children have come and gone through this institution, which with the adoption of evolution has rejected any involvement of God in science and now education, as a result, society is largely secular. God’s values have been jettisoned and the progressives now dominate our educational establishments and parliament.
How do we solve this dilemma? The answer is surprisingly simple but unflatteringly naïve to the world, and even many professing Christians. The Word of God must be re-established as the foundation for all of life. Everything else is subservient to it and must align with it. In other words, we live consistently to the message we proclaim, from the seemingly mundane choices we make in entertainment, to how we spend our money, raise and teach our children, and how we do church, which means getting back to church as outlined in the Book of Acts, house churches that make disciples, and more. Only then will we be salt and light in the world. Only then will the Holy Spirit truly lead believers and the fruit of the spirit will be evident in their lives: love, joy, peace patience, faith, gentleness, goodness, kindness, and self-control. The ministry gifts, all nine will be evident including miracles, words of knowledge, and discerning of spirits.
The Gospel will then be unstoppable. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:14
The Great Commission, that is, the making of disciples of all nations by going, baptizing, and teaching them to obey all that Christ commands us, has been pushed aside as the church scrambles after various social and political causes to make itself relevant.
People in churches are seeing and hearing virtually everything else except their need for repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and what life really submitted to Jesus Christ really looks like. They are being taught to look to external measures to solve issues in our world, rather than asking the Holy Spirit (the third person of the Trinity) who is our counsellor, teacher, and comforter. Jesus made it clear that what He accomplished for us on The Cross was life-changing. He made it possible for our Heavenly Father to send the Holy Spirit to enable us to live the Christian life. Proverbs 20:27 tells us that our Spirit was always meant to be the lamp of the Lord which requires oil, the Holy Spirit to function as God intended.
The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all his innermost parts.Proverbs 20:27
Instead of people hearing that the problem of mankind is endemic—that each individual is culpable for their own sin before a holy and just Lord, they hear that the largest issue of our day is systemic racism (Critical Race Theory and Black Lives Matter). Instead of recognizing issues bound within homes due to selfishness and fatherlessness many wish to relegate issues to a lack of money, education, or healthcare. Instead of shunning every instance of sexual immorality, impurity, and sensuality, our culture and entertainment promote them as exciting and desirable.
The natural result is half the populace is confused about what the gospel is, with roughly another half confused about how the gospel applies to all of life. The second group wants a seat at the table in the cultural marketplace. Nearly ten years ago Carl Trueman challenged the Reformed world with these words: “…the beautiful young things of the reformed renaissance have a hard choice to make in the next decade. You really do kid only yourselves if you think you can be an orthodox Christian and be at the same time cool enough and hip enough to cut it in the wider world. Frankly, in a couple of years, it will not matter how much urban ink you sport, how much fair trade coffee you drink, how many craft brews you can name, how much urban gibberish you spout, how many art house movies you can find that redeemer figure in, and how much money you divert from gospel preaching to social justice: maintaining biblical sexual ethics will be the equivalent in our culture of being a white supremacist.”
Peruse any Reformed group on Facebook and you’ll see that these words are equally as applicable as they were when Trueman first gave them, which means they’ve been largely unheeded. Even many who hold strictly to their confessional documents are wildly inconsistent with a rigorous Christian worldview. Simply ask a piece of basic advice and see how many different prospective teachers offer up counsel that is not only unbiblical but often anti-biblical.
Obviously, this is not all Reformed Christians, nor all Evangelicals for that matter, but I have to wonder at what point people will stop scratching their heads when they see surveys that reveal most people don’t “get” the gospel. At what point, will people drop the convenient talking points and blame-shifting, and take a long, hard look at what has happened? Proper discipleship still demands a comprehensive biblical worldview born out of the gospel. Therefore, we now need to target those in our churches who reject parts of the Biblical worldview for whatever reason. We need to focus our efforts and funds on the proclamation of the gospel.
How many young people in the Reformed island of conservative Christianity are wedded to degenerate worldviews opposed to that of the Bible and enjoying it? How many of them no longer believe that the proclamation of the gospel is the primary mission of the church? How many of them are lying to themselves about why the majority of people in the broader church cannot articulate a saving gospel?
Jesus told us that in the last days there will be a great falling away (apostasy) in the church. This is evident now even in Reformed and Evangelical circles.
Foley Beach, Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, provocatively but convincingly calls “neo-pagan Anglicanism”—Anglican in style but not substance.
Speaking with a prophetic mantle, Beach observes that “liberal innovations in theology and sexual ethics” are hidden within an orthodox façade, comparable, I would say, to the Trojan horse: This so-called gift to Anglicans in North America and Great Britain signals ruin. He bemoans:
“Neo-pagan Anglicanism is beautifully packaged in some of the most elegant liturgy, music, and tradition in Christianity. But it has become liturgy for the sake of liturgy, music for the sake of music, and tradition for the sake of tradition. As the apostle Paul wrote, they are “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:5). And as Athanasius argued against Arius’s heresy, the Jesus whom they promote is not the Jesus of which the Bible speaks.“
As a result of this tragic accommodation to culture, Beach eschews the flaccid slogans of Canterbury and New York City about “communion across difference,” “mutual flourishing,” and “walking together” because there can be no truce with heretics and schismatics who advance a counterfeit gospel (Romans 16:17–18). Estranged Anglicans in the Global North, he argues, can address their “ecclesial deficit” by joining forces with Anglican leaders from the Global South, who, beginning in 2008, formed the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), which has continued to serve as a vital reform movement: “As colonial and aging wineskins continue to promote neo-pagan beliefs and practices, the new wine of Christ’s continuing redemptive work will burst out to transform lives and renew our churches among the nations.”
I would like to think that Beach is right that GAFCON “will burst out to transform lives and renew our churches” but I do not believe the institutional church is capable of doing it.
C. S. Lewis envisioned Christianity as a house with “a hall out of which doors open into several rooms.” The rooms are ecclesial traditions that offer disciples a fire for warmth, a chair for rest, and a meal for nourishment and fellowship, whereas the hall is “mere” Christianity, a place where disciples greet and gift each other with riches from their respective rooms.
The Book of Acts describes the early church meeting in homes and the church in various cities, like the church in Antioch or the church in Caesarea were a collection of house churches but one church and the leaders of those house churches would often meet to deal with issues that sought to divide the church in that city. The “end times” persecuted church will be like the church in the Book of Acts and like we are now seeing in places where the church is already under intense persecution like in Africa, China, Middle East. Moreover, we are hearing amazing stories of the tremendous growth of the church in Iran.
Listen to what this pastor in Iran said: “In the east, hearing God’s voice is absolutely crucial. Being led by the Spirit is the difference between life and death. We can not afford to get away with the sins that so easily entangle. The disciple-making lifestyle accelerates your maturity in God. You must have an active relationship with God. You must pray and remain in prayer. You must be in the Word. This is the only way forward in the days ahead – total absolute reliance on God.
Loving your enemies is unnatural, but you can only do that if you are seeing with spiritual eyes. Natural eyes tell us to stand and fight against oppression…but what if oppression brings harvest and grows the church? That’s our tension.”
Moves of God happen in the most desperate places, and right now, Iran is one of those places. The political upheaval, economic distress, resource scarcity, social unrest, and religious persecution are creating a perfect storm for the Gospel to spread like wildfire inside Iran.
Just as these Iranian Christians have discovered, being sold out to God is what will be required to live the Christian life in the prophesied “last days” before Jesus returns. In the west, since Gay Marriage and LGBTQ issues are now law Christians are coming under increasing persecution and this will only intensify.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2
In the early Church not only were there no church buildings but there was also no such thing as any Christian denominations. The denominational or independent churches of today are nowhere to be found in the New Testament except Corinth where they started to crop up and there were strongly condemned by the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 1:10-13).
Even though the multitude of Christians in a city would regularly gather in their respective house churches, all the Christians in every city were viewed as one body, as members of one church in their respective city. And the spiritual leaders were not divided in a city but were a single overseeing body of pastors/leaders. Nowhere does the New Testament use the word “churches” (plural) in a city, but only “the church at Jerusalem” or “the church at Antioch” or “the church at Ephesus” etc. (Acts 11:22; 13:1; 20:17; 21:18; 1Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1; Revelation 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 4, 7, 14). And there are no exceptions to this fundamental truth. In the New Testament the word “church” was used in three different ways:
The universal church: All believers in the world were members of the one single universal world church ꟷ Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18).
The city church: All believers in every city were members of one city church ꟷ “The church at Jerusalem… the church at Ephesus” (Acts 11:22; 20:17, etc.).
The house church: All believers were a part of one House Church ꟷ “They met in homes for the Lord’s Supper… in their home for church meetings” (Acts 2:46; 1 Corinthians 16:19, etc.). There was no other kind of church other than the ones condemned by the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). Every believer was a member of the universal church, a city church, and a house church. In other words, Jesus has His universal group, His city group, and His house group. All elders/pastors in a city were a single body of leaders subject to one another and all responsible together for unitedly overseeing all the Believers in their city. This has many extending implications for reaching cities for Christ and literally fulfilling the Great Commission in every nation. And this is one big reason why the early Christians were fulfilling the Great Commission in their generation. We’ll look at this in more detail later. The word “church” in the Greek is “ekklesia”. This word has nothing to do with any kind of building. The word means only a “gathering” or “assembly” of any group of people for any reason. It was not a religious or Christian word at the time and had no such connotation. It was a very common word used for any group of people that would gather when Jesus used the word, and He said, “I will build my church.” There were lots of “churches” or “groups” at that time for any number of purposes. Jesus was simply saying, “I will build My group!” In time Jesus’ group became so dominant in the world that the word “ekklesia” began to only refer to Jesus’ “group” or “church”.
In the 4th century when Constantine had Christians take over large pagan temples to worship in, the word “church” then began to take on a very foreign unbiblical meaning. Now instead of the word “church” meaning Jesus’ group or gang of followers, the word “church” began to be identified as a building! Today we say, “Let’s go to church.” But we don’t go to church, we are the church!
The only “building program” in the New Testament is the building of men and women up in Jesus Christ. In the New Testament God did not reinstitute a new physical building program as He did in the Old Testament. God sovereignly destroyed the only physical building in the world that had any reflection of Him!
In the New Testament, in every town and city, Christians gathered in house churches. It was through all these small house churches everywhere in cities that Christians so rapidly multiplied and “turned the world upside down” for Christ. Only when we follow God’s model can we expect to do the same.
In the New Testament Jesus’ followers came together to “break bread” and “remember the Lord” only in house churches. Why only in houses churches? Jesus may have many more reasons that we don’t think about or understand, “His ways are not our ways.” But I can think of at least 10 pretty good reasons: 1. Identification: God does not want to be identified with a lifeless dead building anymore but rather only with life – the life of Spirit-filled believers. 2. Invitation: No one ever feels defensive when invited to come to a home, but rather gratitude and appreciation. 3. Extension: A house church is like a large family. It is just a large spiritual family. How a family operates is similar to how a house church family functions. Thereby, a good family becomes a good model for a house church and a good house church becomes a good model for a family. 4. Participation: A group as small as a house church allows everyone to participate and enjoy doing so. There is no such thing as “pew warmers”. House churches naturally foster real spiritual growth among everyone. In a traditional church, you are like a “spectator”. You walk in and are ministered to, spoon-fed, and entertained. You sit, you listen, you hear music, you hear a sermon and then you walk out. It’s like a spectator sport where you go, sit, watch and walk out. But believers in the New Testament church were not spectators ꟷ they were participators! 5. House Unity: Believers that meet in small house churches all feel very close to one another and experience true practical unity, quite unlike and impossible to experience in a large church congregation. 6. City Unity: Small house churches feel a greater need and desire to have unity with the larger body of Christ throughout their city, breeding a citywide spirit of love and unity with all believers in their city. The big building church congregations are so large that they often don’t see outside of their own big organization, unlike the small house churches. 7. Multiplying Leaders: The more leaders that develop within any group in society, the greater that group will multiply. Small house churches automatically stimulate spiritual leadership where large church building congregations with their professional clergy intrinsically suppress multiplying leaders. 8. Spreading the Gospel: Preachers are more apt to follow the New Testament example of going out to the public to preach the gospel when they don’t have a big church-buildingorganization for people to come into. They’re more apt to follow the New Testament command to “GO and make disciples…” 9. Money: Billions of dollars are spent on church buildings, while if the same dollars were spent directly on people it would have an explosive impact the world over for the Kingdom of God. 10. Our Heavenly Father knows best: If we are not able to see any good reasons for house churches, we should still defer to house churches for no other reason than it is the only New Testament example that God Himself gave us. Does not our heavenly Father always know what is best? “What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?” (Isaiah 45:9). The implications of the precedent that God set in the New Testament for meeting in-house churches is staggering once you understand all the benefits and implications of it. Here are 8 more important implications:
Spiritual growth explodes qualitatively and quantitatively because everyone is committed and involved in a house church.
Real accountability with all the believers becoming close, loving one another, and being “subject one to another”, as the Scripture instructs.
Potential leaders have real and practical opportunities to develop and multiply rapidly unlike possible in traditional churches.
All Believers can be more individually encouraged and motivated to share their faith in all their workplaces and marketplaces.
Eliminates the destructive clergy/laity class system so unbiblical and oppressive in traditional church organizations. In house churches, all the Believers are not just “priests” in theory but in practice (1 Peter 2:5, 9).
Stimulates all Christian men to rise up and see their spiritual opportunity and responsibility to become mature men and spiritual leaders within house churches, thus greatly benefiting and affecting their own physical family, their workplace, and their whole community (1 Timothy 3).
Allows for and galvanizes the “apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers” to get out of their “church” buildings and follow Paul’s example to preach in public areas and from house to house (Acts 20:20).
No money is diverted into building programs or church bureaucracy etc. but all funds go to help any faithful believers that are in genuine need and into the growing number of spiritual leaders to “fill all the city with their teaching about Jesus” (Acts 5:28).
Extracted from Jim McCotter’s book Church Revolution Today.