BIBLE BELIEVING COUNTER-CULTURAL CHURCHES THRIVING

The most common religious identity among young adults in the U.S. is “none,” and the majority of Americans don’t believe it’s necessary for a person to believe in God to be moral and have good values, a new survey has found. The survey on American Life investigating contemporary religion in the U.S. found that among young adults (age 18 to 29), the most common religious identity today is none. More than one in three (34%) young adults are religiously unaffiliated.  Nearly nine in 10 (87%) Americans report they believe in God, but just over half (53%) report they believe in God without any doubts at all. Overall, 42% of Americans have a close social connection with someone who is religiously unaffiliated — up from 18% in 2004.
Additionally, most Americans say it’s not necessary for a person to believe in God to be moral and have good values. Close to six in 10 (59%) Americans say a belief in God is not a precondition to being moral and having good values, while 41% of the public say a belief in God is essential. These statistics, the authors say, mark a “remarkable shift in recent years. The study also found that Americans are almost equally divided over whether it is better to discuss religious beliefs and ideas with those who do not share the same perspective, and most Americans have never been invited to church. A majority (54%) of Americans say they have not been asked to participate in a religious service in the past 12 months or have never been asked.

The survey corroborates a 2019 Pew Study survey that documented the decline of Christians and rise of religiously unaffiliated. Pew noted that the religiously unaffiliated group rose to 22.8% share of the population in 2014, eclipsing the number of Catholics in America, who fell to 20.8%. Christians as a whole fell from 78.4 to 70% of the population between 2007 to 2014, with every major group experiencing a decline. Similarly, the 2018 General Social Survey found that the number of religious “nones” in the U.S. are now statistically equal to the number of evangelicals. Ryan Burge, a political science researcher at Eastern Illinois University who analyzed data from the survey, told The Christian Post that the religious “‘none’s’ are not slowing down.”

THE GOOD NEWS

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, previously said the “increasing strangeness” of Christianity is actually “good news” for the church. “Christianity isn’t normal anymore. It never should have been. The increasing strangeness of Christianity might be bad news for America, but it’s good news for the church. The major newspapers are telling us today that Christianity is dying, according to this new study, but what is clear from this study is exactly the opposite: while mainline traditions plummet, evangelical churches are remaining remarkably steady,” Moore said.

He added that statistics indicate there are honest atheists in America today, and that they are rejecting what’s called “almost-Christianity,” or traditions that “jettison the historic teachings of the Church as soon as they become unfashionable.” “The churches that are thriving are the vibrant, counter-cultural congregations that aren’t afraid to not be seen as normal to the surrounding culture. This report actually leaves me hopeful. The Bible Belt may fall. So be it,” he continued. “Christianity emerged from a Roman Empire hostile to the core to the idea of a crucified and resurrected Messiah. We’ve been on the wrong side of history since Rome, and it was enough to turn the world upside down.”

GOD’S WORD IS INERRANT

MORE WISDOM FROM FRANCIS CHAN ON THE FUTURE CHURCH

Francis Chan, the Cornerstone Church founder said he believes God has given the Church an opportunity in the pandemic to grow and become “deeply intimate” with Him. Chan said he believes God is using the crisis to wake up Christians.

Chan questioned how effective the Church has been with religious freedom when compared to places like China where the Church is persecuted.

“When you look at the places where there is religious freedom and you compare those places to where there is not religious freedom, what have we done with the freedom? It’s just weakened the Church,” he said.

I’m grateful for the people who fight for religious freedom. I’m grateful to have it. At the same time, I’m not really afraid of losing it because I look at how the church is flourishing and how it actually looks like the Church of Scripture where there is persecution. And again, I’m not saying I’m wanting that or desiring that. But what I am wanting is to see a pure Church where people are devoted, they’re serious and they understand what it means to really follow Jesus. Then we can really be a light to the world,” Chan explained.

“God does not put us in a situation where we can’t be deeply, deeply, intimate with him and growing with one another. Man don’t miss this,” he said, noting that it’s a great opportunity for parents to become more hands one with the spiritual development of their children.

CHURCH IN THE LAST DAYS – IRAN’S FAST GROWING CHURCH

We in the West are waiting for a move of God, and yet in many parts of the world, a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit is already taking place that rivals the Book of Acts.

Thank goodness God is revealing to Pastors like Francis Chan and John Comer – see recent post “Do You Really Believe God is in Control”, that the church has deviated from His design for the church, as outlined in the Book of Acts.

Non Biblical Churches, which include many, if not most, of the Institutionalised churches, Mega churches and Prosperity Doctrine churches, to name the principal groups, are not producing disciples of Christ committed to the call of God on their lives. Sadly, what most churches are doing has little to do with what the Bible teaches e.g “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:16, What about “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

The model of the institutional church isn’t structured to foster close biblical relationships. In most, you can go on almost indefinitely enjoying your uninvolved routine merely consuming but never contributing to the community you call church.

The church is not a building or a place to go, but a body (ekklesia) of believers.

One of the places, where a great outpouring of God’s spirit is evident, is Iran, the most unlikely place from a worldly, so called natural viewpoint, but typical from a Biblical perspective. View the following video and be challenged or encouraged or both.

GROWTH OF CHRISTIANITY IN IRAN

Report from CBN News on Christians in Iran. Watch this short video and be encouraged. You will see Dylan Thomas of FAI talking about what God is doing in Iran. If you haven’t viewed the first “Sheep in Wolves Clothing” video that I recently posted then can I suggest you do so, if you want to learn more.

CHURCH IN THE LAST DAYS

Expect God’s judgement on His church in these last days.

Both Ananias and Sapphira, together with Simon the sorcerer, attempted to introduce into the glory of the early Church corrupt values that would have defiled and greatly diminished her glory. However, it was stopped at the door and the glory was protected and allowed to increase.

In like manner, the true judgements of the Lord that produce holy fear and genuine repentance will return to the Church in these “last days”, so there can be a thorough cleansing and the glory of the Lord can be restored. Already, we see a great falling away in the church as it compromises with the world’s values. This will increase as tribulation builds: “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake” Matthew 24:9.  But we also know the “end times” church will receive Holy Spirit power, as in the early church as described in the Book of Acts, so that “this Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached to all the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:14

Smith Wigglesworth prophesied correctly back in 1927:

“There must be special preparation for the return of Christ and at least half of all believers will be totally unprepared. We have to see that these days have to come before the Lord can come. There has to be a falling away. I want to speak to you very exactly. All the people which are pressing into and getting ready for this glorious attained place where they shall not be found naked, where they shall be blameless, where they shall be immovable, where they shall be purified by the power of the Word of God, have within them a consciousness of the very presence of God within, changing their very nature and preparing them for a greater thing and causing them to be ready for translation.

This is the day of purifying. This is the day of holiness. This is the day of separation. This is the day of waking. O God, let us wake today! Let the inner spirit wake into consciousness that God is calling us.”

What an appropriate call for our day. Let us prepare now for what Jesus is calling us to do preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to our circle of contacts, our community where God has placed us.

WHEN WILL THE CHURCH BECOME AN ACTS 4 CHURCH?

When will the church in the west become an Acts 4 church? Only when the circumstances around us mirror the conditions of the early church. Fortunately, we are seeing many examples of it happening in the Middle East where the church has come under intense Islamic persecution. We are being given an example of what our Lord requires of us during the prophesied coming Tribulation.

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In Egypt, where more than forty churches were destroyed in the months following former President Morsi’s (Muslim Brotherhood) removal from office via a military coup in July 2013, Christians who had not fled the country continued to calmly meet for worship and show forgiveness to Muslims who broke the steeples of their churches as they screamed, “Allah is great”! As one church’s caretaker  said, sitting in front of a devastated church building, “Whatever they didn’t take they destroyed”. Believers met while sitting in front of a wall with graffiti proclaiming “Egypt is Islamic!”

Bob Simon reported on 60 Minutes that Egyptian Copts believe suffering deepens their faith. “We were surprised that there was no anger, no call for revenge.” he added, after attending a worship service in the one room not burned to the ground in one church. Bob Simon explored this further with Bishop Thomas , a Copt leader, who replied, “Forgiveness is a very important principle of the Christian life. When you are able to present forgiveness and love, you are able as well to ask for justice. One day, justice has to be fulfilled.”

Middle Eastern Christians have learned what it mean to bless those who persecute them, but also insist on justice where possible.

In other words, Copts are willing to die for their faith, but they also will continue to insist on constitutional protection of their people, as any Christian should. When Jesus said “turn the other cheek”. He said it in a society that guaranteed no rights for His followers. If we live in a country that does protect those rights, we should insist on them for as long as the legal code covers us, which it probably will in the early days of the Tribulation.

Christians in Syria have learned how to do this. many have chosen to stay in their towns and cities, even if Islamist’s rebels have overrun them and looted, tortured, raped and killed them. As Open Doors USA spokesperson, Emily Fuentes has reported, based on eye witness accounts:

There are some Christians who are fleeing because they have no other choice, but there are many Christians that have really felt God’s call to stay in town, even though they have been attacked and targeted because of their faith. They realise that God is using them, and are reaching out to their Muslim neighbours.” 

Can you put yourself in that setting? Close your eyes and picture that for a moment. What would you feel? How would you act? At least, say a pray for your Middle Eastern brothers and sisters that are living this right now.

Churches have become de facto refugee care centres in the Middle East, not houses of worship alone.

In the parts of Syria where church buildings have not been desecrated, they have become de facto relief agencies, providing clothes, food, and Christian teaching. These churches are seeing people come to faith in Christ as the congregants love everyone who has been made homeless, not just for Christians. This is in stark contrast to the Islamic approach to provide aid for Muslims only. What an amazing witness, to care for everyone in the midst of intense suffering. The church has done this throughout history and no doubt will do it again during the coming Tribulation.

What will we do when faced with a similar situation, will we run or stay? Will we stay to win our attackers and fellow refugees to Christ? Will we show grace to other Christians who choose differently to us? Maybe, we will be in a church where people go separate ways as persecution intensifies.

Can I suggest church, we need to start to pray and prepare now, to know what God will have us to do to help our brothers and sisters under persecution around the world, not only in the Middle East, but also to know what we should be doing to prepare, in our own church, community, and nation.

 

PROPHESIED PERSECUTION OF THE CHURCH IN THE LAST DAYS

Chinese President Xi Jinping  believes in the absolute power of the Party and wants his government to exert control over every aspect of Chinese life.  Since coming to power in 2012, Xi has severely cracked down on human rights, religious freedom and freedom of expression.  Christians in China are experiencing some of the worst persecution in decades.

The recent arrest of a prominent church pastor underscores the level of persecution against Christians.  Authorities in the city of Chengdu, in China’s southwest, recently arrested pastor Wang Yi, along with his wife and 100 members of his Church.  Authorities shut down the church and charged pastor Wang with “inciting subversion of state power.”

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Wang’s church, like scores of other congregations, is outside government control as part of China’s burgeoning so-called underground or house church movement.  Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs, says this movement has touched every corner of China.  “All across China, there are house churches, or what they call ‘family churches’ and the reason the Communist government is so worried is because there are far more Christians in China than there are members of the Communist Party,” Nettleton said.

In recent months, Beijing has waged a brutal and widespread crackdown to stop the growth of these unregistered churches. “This crackdown is a direct response to the fear of the Communist Party leaders who see the church growing faster than the party is,” Nettleton said. Fenggang Yang, a leading expert on religion in China, says what started several years ago as a small campaign against unregistered churches has turned into all-out war.  “The campaign started first in Zhejiang province from 2014 to 2016,” Yang said.  “Now, it is a nationwide campaign.” Now authorities routinely target houses of worship, destroy crosses, burn Bibles and arrest pastors.

Foreseeing his arrest, pastor Wang wrote a letter with instructions that it should be published if he went missing for more than 48 hours.  In it, Wang vowed to use non-violent methods to stand against Chinese laws he believed were against the Bible and God.

My saviour Christ also requires me to joyfully bear all costs for disobeying wicked laws,” Wang wrote.

Wang continued “I am filled with anger at the persecution of the church by this Communist regime, at their wickedness in depriving people of the freedoms of religion and of conscience.  As a pastor of a Christian church, I must denounce this wickedness openly and severely.  The calling that I have received requires me to use non-violent methods to disobey those human laws that are contrary to God’s word.  Separate me from my wife and children, ruin my reputation, destroy my life and my family, the authorities are capable of doing all of these things,” Wang warned.  “However, no one in this world can force me to renounce my faith; no one can make me change my life.”

The church needs to prepare for the coming tribulation which we know will escalate as we approach and move into  the last seven years before Jesus returns to rule and reign in the Millennium. Jesus refers to great tribulation in the last half of 70th week of Daniel and prior to the Rapture of the church at the trumpet blast at the seventh seal and before God’s wrath is poured out with the trumpet and bowl judgements. Time is wonderfully short before Jesus return, but we need to be bold and courageous and open to the Holy Spirits lead to pray for and evangelise the lost.

PROPHESIED LAST DAYS EVENTS – PROOF THE BIBLE IS INFALLIBLE AND INERRANT

The California Assembly approved a bill 50-18 that tells churches and other[s] with traditional beliefs about gender and sexual orientation that advocating for their views could get them sued.

AB 2943, declares ‘advertising, offering to engage in or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with an individual’ is illegal under state’s consumer fraud law.” Note carefully the vote in the Assembly was 50 to 18 in favour of the bill. Talk about insane.

On April 17, David French noted that this bill “would actually—among other things—ban the sale of books expressing orthodox Christian beliefs about sexual morality. “Yes, ban the sale of books. What about banning the best selling book of all time – The Bible?

Perhaps those truly born again in the church will now see the utter intolerance of the radical left, but we know from Scripture that in the last days there will be a great falling away in the church. Jesus said, that even the elect will be deceived.

Thank goodness for Bible Prophecy, which besides being the ultimate truth of Holy Spirit inspiration of God’s Word, it tells us that when we see the events that are unfolding in our time, that we are approaching the last seven years prior to Jesus return (Daniels 70th Week). In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus tells us that Christians will experience tribulation and even see the Antichrist, “Therefore, when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place ” (Matthew 24:15).

Are we ready? Is the church even talking about these end times prophecies and the coming tribulation?

ALARMING EVIDENCE OF THE APOSTATE LAST DAYS CHURCH

What is unfolding is almost beyond belief but it further supports the thesis that Pope Francis is the prophesied False Prophet of Revelation.

Pope Francis is finalising a deal that could legitimise the most genocidal ideology in modern history. It elevates the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as a religious authority over millions of Chinese. It violates core Christian principles that sustain the free world. It renders millions of Chinese vulnerable to state persecution.

In March, the Vatican will recognise the Communist Party as a spiritual authority with the power to appoint bishops. The idea is controversial, as The Australian has been reporting over the past few weeks. The accord will reverse decades of Vatican resistance to communism. It will give the Chinese state power over church leadership.

For many years, the CCP has been frustrated by Christians including Catholics who refuse to worship the gods of the red state: Marx, Lenin and Mao. Underground churches have developed in Christians’ homes where they defend the vital separation of church and state by resisting the communist bible and its politically correct, false Christ. Many believe these Christians, loyal to Christ’s teaching, are being led like lambs to the slaughter by the Vatican’s deal with the communist state.

Pew Research estimates that by 2030, China’s Christian population of 70 million would grow to between 250 million and 300 million. If the forecasts prove accurate, China will soon overtake the US as the most populous Christian country.

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The CCP response to the Christian renaissance is to crack down on the Christians over which it has no control, the House Church Movement, even to demolishing buildings and removing crosses from buildings. The party is rattled. It is desperate to revive belief in the dead faith of communism by cracking down on spiritual rivals.

President Xi Jinping has instructed CCP cadres to be “unyielding Marxist atheists”. The Global Times reported Wang Zuoan, director of the state administration for religious affairs, warning CCP cadres to be “firm Marxist atheists, obey party rules and stick to the party’s faith”.

If Pope Francis recognises the tyrannical regime as legitimate, it will surrender Catholic spiritual authority to communism. It will be a realisation of Hegel’s totalitarian dictum: “the state is God on earth”. By contrast, Christ’s teaching provides for the limited state, which is a bulwark against totalitarianism. On the separation of church and state, Christ said: “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s: and to God, the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21).

The most publicised opposition to the coming Vatican-communist accord was issued by Chinese cardinal Joseph Zen. He warned the pact was a blessing for a communist-ruled church. Its true effect will be to validate a corrupt system of state-governed religion and empower the persecution of Christians in underground churches who reject it. He believes the Vatican is selling out the Catholic Church in China.

Pope Francis, long rumoured to be a darling of the socialist cause, is closely associated with men schooled in liberation theology. In general terms, liberation theology combines revolutionary socialism with selected Christian teachings on poverty. South American priests led the ideological charge by joining Marxist revolutionary movements and appropriating Christ for the cause.

Concerns about growing Marxist influence on Vatican thought mounted earlier this month after Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, head of the Pontifical Academy of Social Science, said China was the best example of a Catholic society. Sorondo said the communist state had a “positive national conscience” and praised it for “best implementing the social doctrine of the church”.

THE REMNANT CHURCH IN THE LAST DAYS

There is always a true remnant left during times of apostasy and persecution.  It is the surviving vestige of the body of Christ that remains true to biblical principles in spite of cultural opposition. Elijah the prophet found out that God always preserved a remnant, by His grace, that held true to the faith.  1 Kings 19:18 “Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” and Romans 11:5 “Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.”

Characteristics of the “remnant church”:

1. More entrenched in the word of God as the world opposes them.

The more resistance they face, the remnant church will become more resolute in their faith. Instead of compromising the message of the Word, they may change their method of presenting the gospel but will never consider watering down biblical ethics, values and the message of the cross of Jesus Christ.

2. Vilified in society.

The remnant church was merely unpopular but has now reached the point of being hated. It is very apparent that Christian values are constantly mocked, such as by shows like The View, The Late Show With Steven ColbertReal Time With Bill Maher and the like.

3. Preach counter-cultural biblical messages.

Remnant pastors will continue to preach the gospel of Christ, which always has vast implications related to human sexuality, the sanctity of human life, the definition of marriage and family and such, albeit they apply the gospel to cultural issues in a wiser, more winsome way. The remnant church will remain faithful in preaching the gospel in spite of the backlash they will receive from church attendees and the public.

4. Produce committed Christians and make disciples.

Liberal, progressive, compromising churches are shrinking, while conservative evangelical churches are still growing in numbers but the big growth is happening in “house churches” that are committed to growing disciples. It takes great sacrifice to believe in Jesus in the midst of hostile environments (consider the Christians still living under persecution in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Northern Nigeria, Sudan and similar regions.) Compromising churches produce wimpy believers and the remnant church produces committed disciples.

5. Experience the presence and power of God.

The first century church was a hated minority, yet great power and the presence of God accompanied its ministry! (Acts 3-5.) The more difficult it is to confess the truth of the gospel, the more God shows off His glory! Where sin abounds, grace does more abound (Rom. 5:20).

 

6. Excluded from mainstream secular evangelical churches and denominations.

Presently, it is still not as easy for the average person to discern between remnant and compromising churches. As the heat gets turned up more and more, compromising pastors and churches will choose to accommodate culture and compromise Scripture, thus making a clearer distinction between the remnant and mainstream church.

7. The remnant church will impact the world for Jesus Christ.

God allows difficult circumstances to weed out the un-committed followers from the committed followers (Gideon’s army of 300 in Judges 7.)

As it was during the days of Elijah, the early church period, and the time of the confessing remnant church in Nazi Germany, only the remnant has what it takes to bring about change! Only the remnant church has the conviction, the sacrifice, the devotion, the endurance, the message and the power to change the world. The compromising church will enjoy their temporary popularity in the present time, but those who are wise and turn many people unto righteousness will shine as the stars forever and ever (Dan. 12:3).

8. The remnant church will endure, whilst the compromising church will experience the wrath of God.

In Malachi 3:16-18 God promises that He has written a book of remembrance for those who speak of Him and fear His Name. The reward for them (the remnant) is that He will spare them as a man spares his son. The implications of this are vast. Whilst the children of the compromising church will probably become agnostic, the children of the remnant will carry the torch of Christ to the next generation, which will increase in strength and do greater works (John 14:12). The remnant church goes from strength to strength and faith to faith (Rom. 1:17). Meanwhile, the compromising church goes from strength to weakness and from faith to apostasy and eventually into oblivion.

I pray God will help us remain faithful to the end and participate in the remnant church!

adapted from article by Joseph Mattera in Ministry To-day – Characteristics of the Modern-Day remnant Church.