Last week I wrote two posts about so-called gospel declaration in independent Baptist churches (one and two). The warped or corrupt or lacking presentation of Kurt Skelly just represents what's already all over. It's bad that he and that whole direction of practice is so admired among independent Baptists or that even those not with him still think of him as successful. Evangelicals as a whole are worse in general than these independent Baptists. I don't think it's close on this, especially considering an article in Christianity Today last week, naming the most influential Christians in 2016, which included the pope and Hillary Clinton -- very sad. What has happened? Why did this happen?
Satan and the world system has already been at work through all history blinding men to the truth. Because of the nature of human fallenness, man in his lost condition tends toward what is really bad. We should be amazed anything good happens with this darkness in and all around. There are always going to be multiple fronts of false teaching to deal with and if you take scripture literally, it's going to get worse before it's going to get better. You can count on a lot of bad stuff, but knowing that, to have scriptural discernment, we need to look out for it, see it, and call it out when we do. Let's say that you have known what I've written in this paragraph. Now what are the specifics that explain what we see occurring today?
Lack of conversion leads to further lack of conversion. Unsaved people can really twist the gospel and large numbers of them have done so through history since Christ. This is not my saying that Kurt Skelly isn't saved, but false teachers almost as a definition are not saved people. They aren't telling the truth, because they themselves haven't believed it. They may have believed some truths, but not enough saving truth to be saved. This doesn't explain how all this lack of conversion started, of course. You can trace false teaching back to something from an unsaved person, a doctrine of demons (1 Tim 4:1), then passed along to unsuspecting, gullible believers. True teaching doesn't often change in giant, radical shifts, but in incremental steps (the frog in the kettle).
James 3:1 says, "Be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation." Teachers have far more responsibility. We need to be more serious about judgment of them, even doubting the salvations of those who won't stop teaching a false gospel. We should at least regard ("let them be unto thee") them as unsaved, even if they are not (cf. Mt 18:17). I see a sweeping disregard of required components of a true gospel among independent Baptists.
A false gospel can't then but produce false sanctification. People aren't saved by a false gospel, so the production of change that comes only from a true gospel shouldn't be expected either. Very often the Skelly type of "gospel" preaching doesn't expect the continuous obedience that marks the identity of a true believer. The endurance in actual Christian living is the biblical assurance of salvation. Their means of change will be similar to the false gospel, however, usually some kind of manipulation. In many cases, I've seen it to be one program, one human strategy, after another, that doesn't then bear biblical gospel preaching either. Carnality just begets more carnality.
The carnality that crafts external changes has resulted in numbers. The numbers bring a sort of validation, justifying the methods before men. They say it's spiritual because things happened that they made happen. When things happen that they make happen, they testify that God did it. If God did it, they must be right, because God isn't wrong. However, God's Word sufficiently lays out the manifestations of true spirituality. God's Word is the confirmation of whether it is of God. If you hear a false gospel, it's still wrong, because it isn't biblical -- the same with a false sanctification.
The numbers of people interested in false teaching don't make it true. The effect of false teaching doesn't make it true. Numbers are particularly convincing short term even to many true teachers. They want to see something work. They are afraid to say something is wrong that seems to be working. On the other hand, they don't want to say it isn't working, when it looks like it is working. They do a very surface level, superficial, investigation, perhaps asking leading questions, softballs that allow for plausible deniability. They also might fear a charge of "sour grapes" or jealousy or bitterness. They may think they are failures who don't deserve to criticize. A lot of this relates to how we endure hardness and find joy in the Lord. Men look to results for their happiness when their actual joy is in the immoveable. Don't forget this.
On a more short term consideration, I believe that the lack of biblical preaching, the deficiency of true, actual exposition of scripture has resulted in perverted doctrine. The doctrine of salvation comes from exegesis of God's Word. Men are crafting sermons, using the Bible, not preaching the Bible. Apparently many think this is how to use the Bible, like some kind of divining rod that yields messages not necessarily found in the text itself.
On the other hand, some preachers just don't know what they're doing, which relates to their view of sanctification. They judge on a mystical basis that they must be preachers, disconnected from the preparation and then actual objective proof that they rightly divide the Word of Truth. Preaching is mostly a mystical event rather than God speaking through the plain meaning of the text. The true meaning of the text exists separate from a subjective experience.
As a result of not knowing how to study the Bible, and, therefore, not actually studying the Bible, they don't have a solid doctrinal standing from the Word of God. They are weak in their theology, because they don't know the Bible. They don't have a grasp of doctrine as a basis of their practice and methodology. Further, their doctrine isn't historic. They don't have beliefs rooted in historic Christian doctrine. To relate to the mystical experience men have sought as validation, theology is said to be dead. They wouldn't want to be caught being too theological, and, therefore, dead.
What's practical is the practice of scripture. Much of the practice in churches comes from the silence of scripture. It's right because the Bible doesn't say it's wrong. Practice relates to what works rather than what God's Word says. When something is practical, however, it explains the practice of scripture, not how you can succeed at implement methodology that will yield success.
In a broad category, false teachers have centered the gospel on man. You see this corrupt tendency in two different directions in scripture, either legalistic or licentious. Salvation is not by works, lest any man should boast, so it isn't legalistic. When grace is an occasion to the flesh, that's also man-centered. God's grace teaches to deny ungodliness and worldly lust.
Skelly purveys the latter of the previous paragraph. The whole world has the same problem. Skelly misidentifies his audience. He sees them as consumers to whom he markets his message. Instead, they are sinners, and sin isn't changed through sales type techniques. The needs of sinners are the ones God Himself identifies. We don't start with what sinners themselves feel or what they might feel. We start with what God says. When someone is so concerned with what his audience feels, he shapes his message to their feelings and that twists the gospel. The foundation of this corruption is not starting with the Bible and the teaching it reveals. This centers on man again.
Men do not by nature seek the gospel. No one is a consumer of and for it. It is not something to be sold on men's terms. It is completely God's. Man's disinterest should not shape the message. We must depend on the message itself. The message itself is the means. Everything I'm writing here is theological, and it is theology that needed more consideration from the men who crafted these plans.
Wrong doctrines resulting in a wrong message from a wrong message exhibit faithlessness. In Matthew 12:39, Jesus said, "An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign." The Charismatics have their signs. Many independent Baptists seek for their own signs. The Bible is true whether lots of people believe it or not. If we believe it, then we like it. We love it. We preach it. We're not ashamed of it. We preach it to people like it's the greatest thing, because we think it is.
The signs that people seek they often produce. Then they say they must be right because they got a sign. The sign was how many people prayed prayers or how many people gathered in their building in any one week. They produce an environment in which people feel like something spiritual is taking place. This is all faithlessness.
Signs were for unbelievers, because they didn't believe. Believers don't need them, because they do believe. Needing them is again faithlessness, not faith. God is pleased by faith, not by mass producing experiences as a means of self-validation, which also relates this to pride. Man is being pleased and he feels proud of what he sees.
Because men seek validation through these numbers, they also honor those who see the most. Very often, bigger churches have the most influence, because it is assumed they most know what they are doing. Years of succeeding provide a buffer against criticism. The benefit of the doubt comes because of the report of mighty events occurring, not the account of faithful, obedient service.
More to Come.