David Sylvester: The Spirits of Absalom, Jezebel, and Diotrephes Are Alive and Well in the Church Today

Oprah sidekick and former pastor Rob Bell penned the controversial and theologically dubious book, Velvet Elvis and later wrote the equally shaky Love Wins, and then he lost………but I digress. He writes how his former church in Michigan saw one thousand folks show up on launch Sunday without a shred of advertising and then mushroom to ten thousand packing the seats within two brief years. But the blunt reality is that the average church in America has about a hundred faithful on Sundays with thousands of churches closing their doors or merge each year.  Researchers tell us that near 75 – 85% of our churches are at a plateau and some are hemorrhaging.

All of us scratch our collective heads and ask the proverbial why?

Ethnikitis, a seminary-coined diagnosis is a disease of the church that displays itself as a glaring cultural or racial disconnect that results when the church and its community no longer resemble nor speak to one another. We don’t like it, but it happens. And moral lapses on the part of church leaders and pastors strangle the life out of many churches. Flat church life is often blamed on the pastor’s lack of leadership skills, so much so that theological fidelity, solid Bible teaching, and pastoral care are viewed as inadequate to atone for that weaker skill set, at least according to some pundits. God help us when secular leadership skills outweigh biblical fidelity in importance. I suspect that many churches have an ingrained infatuation with security and shy away from risky ventures like a plague while others retreat into isolation in fear of change.  Some close-knit fellowships may resist an invasion of new faces that may threaten the closeness of the fellowship and cause Uncle Leo to lose his favorite seat and throw a jaundiced eye at his replacement.  One person in a declining church recently told me, “Our church is just not risky enough.” Well said.

We love reading of the churches which have mastered the art of multiple services, meet in countless alternative venues with everything from Bach to rock and coffee bars for the flock, have facilities for kids like a virtual Disneyland, design stages that rival Broadway, and hand out bagels and backrubs. I instinctively cough and imagine I have emphysema due to the hazer machines in full use at some churches. Hazers are not inherently evil, of course and I kind of like the vibe but they will never replace the work of the Spirit or the faithful teaching of the scriptures.  A replication of shekinah glory they are not.

For a brief and perhaps painful moment I want to expose the dark side of church life, the underbelly as it were, the dirty and scandalous experiences that many of us have encountered and some actually survived to talk about it. H.B. London, Focus on the Family’s former pastoral adviser has written that as many as 40% of pastors have seriously considered seeking another line of work, and many have. Southern Baptist churches alone unceremoniously lose 800+ ministers every year as reported by SBC Life. Let’s go figure.

Absalom was the long-haired golden boy of Israel impatiently waiting in line for the throne. A relative raped his sister causing Absalom to explode in anger and make sure the abuser died for it. He fled the scene but returned to hatch a cleverly designed plot rooted in personal evil ambitions and ascend to power. He used deception, underhanded accusation, touted his own abilities, and turned the people against King David. It’s a nasty story, indeed. Is that spirit alive today? You had better believe it. You may have met him last Sunday.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, David Sylvester