Watch That Clock Preacher!

One of the greatest compromises of the American church is limiting the services to a fixed amount of time, often just an hour or an hour and a half. Everything is scripted in advance to fit a tight schedule, often with another service coming in right behind the first service. Like clockwork, pastors follow the schedule with only enough time for a few short songs, a quick hug, pass the plates, then a short message. This is what we call church in America. It officially qualifies everyone in attendance to check the box, “I did church this week.”

Maybe church is not the right word for it because it degrades the meaning of the church to substitute the genuine presence of God, genuine encounters with God, and the genuine church with the powerless, godless traditions of men. Maybe instead of calling it church we should call it “American style church” or how about “drive by church”.

On a more positive note, it gives us a nice, warm fuzzy feeling, at least for a little while. We can feel like we pleased God because we endured sitting through the entire church service. Anytime we feel convicted for not living right, we can take comfort in the fact we did the church thing. We can pat ourself on the back, put a gold star next to our name, and say, “My, my, what a good little Christian I am!”

Never mind the vast gulf which separates us from having close fellowship with God. Never mind the absence of any real power of God in our life. Never mind the fact that we act like a devil from the time we leave the church to the time we come back again.

The cost of this compromise is enormous. Many of these “good little Christians” will go through life burdened with sicknesses, worries, fears and cares they were never meant to carry. Multitudes of others will not even make it to heaven. They will find out too late that they had only a form of godliness but never received the power of a born again life. They will find this out when they arrive in hell, too late to do anything about it.

Jesus said there will be many people who call him their Lord who will not enter into heaven. He is talking about people who call Jesus their Lord. These are the very same people we call “Christians”. Here is what Jesus said:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will tell me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy by your name, by your name cast out demons, and by your name do many mighty works?’ Then I will tell them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity.'”
-Matthew 7:21-23

Notice what Jesus said was the requirement for entering heaven. It is only the one who DOES the will of the Father who is in heaven that will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus did not include all those multitudes of people who merely talked the talk but failed to walk the walk. The ones who heard the word but did not obey will be lost. It is a dangerous place to be.

James 1:22 says if you hear the word but do not do it, you are deceiving yourself. Since you have opted not to follow the way of the truth, the only thing left for you is lies. The very act of rejecting the truth is the same as embracing lies. So when you choose not to obey the commandments, you are choosing to believe lies. This includes lies like, “I do church faithfully every week so I am on my way to heaven!” So if you go to church regularly but do not change the way you live your life to obey the scriptures, then when you die you go to hell and stay there forever.

Nowhere in scripture are we told we get into heaven for being a member of a church or for faithful attendance at church. Kenneth Hagin learned this when he died at age 15 and went to hell. The whole time he was descending into hell he was screaming out to the Lord, “I am a member of the Baptist Church!” Not only was he a member, but he faithfully attended every time the church doors were open. He was able to check all the boxes for perfect church attendance, but it did not keep him from going to hell. The only way we even know about this was because the mercy of God pulled him back from hell just before he entered the gates. He came back into his body and prayed to ask Jesus to come into his heart, to be his Lord. Only then was he born again and on his way to heaven. All those years in church he had never personally invited the Lord to be his Lord. So after he came back from hell, he prayed that prayer by himself at home, not in a church service. There was no pastor or anyone else leading him in a prayer, just a 15 year old boy crying out to God. God heard his prayer and changed his life forever.

Despite the warnings given by these scriptures, it does not stop people from doing church the American way, strictly by the clock. In fact, pastors get an earful if they ever go a few minutes over the “allowed” time. If the pastor is a hireling, like many are, he will cower to the complaints and apologize for his error. If he is a good shepherd, he will tell the whiners to find another church if they are in such a hurry. Better yet, throw out the clock and the schedule altogether.

America has turned the local church into a social club where all are welcome. Not just welcome but almost begged to stay, even if they are not conforming their life to obey the scriptures. Even the whiners would be better off if the pastor would toss them out of the church. At least they would not be able to hinder the people who genuinely want to seek God.

We are warned about the American church in 2 Timothy 3:5. Timothy says in the last days difficult times will come. Men will be “holding to a form of godliness but they have denied its power; avoid such men as these.”

So church becomes a lifeless ritual. Everyone is allowed to be a member except for God. The church has no time for God because he has a habit of getting things off schedule, and people don’t like that.

Pastors have believed the lies that people in their city are different from people in other areas. Their people just don’t have much time for church so we really have to be strict about the time schedule. You know those first century Christians just weren’t as busy as we are nowadays.

So the American pastors have accepted the compromise. Out with the Holy Spirit and in with the man made program. The pastors agreed to this compromise at the expense of the life of the church and at the expense of the life of the people in the church. There is more interest in what is good for the pastor than what is good for the people. Cowering to the time clock usually pleases more people so church attendance increases, but the power of God almost completely disappears.

But wait, it gets worse.

At least when your mom made you eat vegetables there was some benefits from it. That is not the case with the American church. Pastors are serving up a plate of dry sawdust and they are expecting you to eat it. To make sure you keep coming back for more, they hit you with scriptures like Hebrews 10:25 where it says we ought not to forsake our assembling together. So the people are required by God to assemble together, but God is required by the pastor to keep out of the assembly. Hmm…

So what is so bad about keeping God on schedule? At least we have a little time to do church. So it is better than nothing, right?

There are some big problems here. First, Jesus is not allowed to be the head of the church, at least not during church assemblies. He has been fired and replaced by men who know far more about how to do church than Jesus. Keep it moving, in and out the door fast so we can get the next service started on time.

Another problem is you cannot rush God. God is able to do his part of the deal with lightning speed. We are the ones who require more time. It takes us time to leave the natural realm behind and enter into the spiritual realm because our minds are often distracted by other things. Sometimes we get weighed down with the cares of this world. Other times we get caught up in our relationships with our family and friends, or burdened with worries about financial provision or other things. As a result, it can often take us some time to unload these cares on the Lord so we can be freed up to give our hearts totally to him.

God does not operate as a magician who waves a magic wand and presto change-o, all bad things go away and good things come. He is also not a hard taskmaster who forces us to change our view and conform to his view. He is gentle and patient and waits for us to come to him willingly. After we put it in his hands, he fixes it.

This is like pulling weeds in a garden. The weeds must be removed so the nutrients from the sun and rain can get to the beautiful plants. Weeds of unbelief and bitterness will take root if they are allowed to remain, which can do great harm to our faith. But the Holy Spirit needs our cooperation before he can pull them up. He does not force his will on us but waits for us to give him permission. We must do this if we want to receive the fullness of his presence and all the benefits that come with that, including his wonderful peace and joy. Unfortunately, this process takes some time. If we get in too big of a hurry, the weeds do not get removed.

You have to wonder, how many people leave American church services exactly the same way they came? How many of them truly entered into the spiritual realm, the realm of God, and received the assurance they needed to overcome the attacks of the evil one so they could be filled with victory, healing, faith, peace and joy?

What the heck is the big hurry? If God is truly first in our lives, why do we force him to work with so little of our time? Unless our actions line up with our words, then we are just kidding ourselves when we say he his first in our lives.

What if we let all those busy people find another place to go do church? What if we actually took time to worship God in our “worship” services? What if we allowed the Holy Spirit to take complete control over our meetings so we do not stop the worship until he says to stop and we do not stop preaching the word until he says to stop? I know that sounds radical to us Americans, but has anyone read the book of Acts? The first century church clearly did not run their meetings by the clock, especially since they did not have clocks in the first century.

Even today, in other parts of the world, churches are thriving and filled with signs and wonders. In China, severe persecution has led to a strong level of devotion and commitment from Christians. To be a Christian there means risking your life. They don’t have time to play religious games when they come together for services. They understand the concept of laying down your life to obey God and to serve each other. According to Brother Yun’s book, The Heavenly Man, it is common in China for sermons to last several hours. In his book, he shares how he is amazed by the lack of life and power in the American church. He barely recognizes American church services as being anything that resembles real church.

Perhaps it will require similar persecution in America before the church is awakened from complacency and compromise. That would be most unfortunate if it comes to that. It is time to forget our ideas about how we do church in America. It is time to throw the clock out of the church and invite the Holy Spirit to come back, not just inviting him with our words but also with our actions, allowing him to take the lead and control the meetings.

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