Rom 16:17-19 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. (18) For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. (19) For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.
In the soon to be four decades in which I have been a pastor, I have seen the visible church become more like a den of robbers than the body of Christ. What would you experience if you checked into a robbers’ den? A thieves’ hideout? Oh it looked good on the outside – a nice place to stay you thought. But inside? Well, you were preyed upon. Not prayed upon. Preyed upon. Beaten. Robbed. Turns out the place was filled with the wicked.
I don’t need to tell most all of you who follow this blog that this is precisely what happens to oppressed, abused people in their local churches. Preyed upon. Beaten. Robbed. Like some horror movie script, the pastor and saints turn out to be on the devil’s side and protect the evil oppressor instead of rescuing the victim.
As a result, I am concluding that the real church, that body of believers who really are believers, are scattering. And has that not been the case down through the history of the church? Christ’s flock is scattered by wicked shepherds.
Jer 10:21 For the shepherds are stupid and do not inquire of the LORD; therefore they have not prospered, and all their flock is scattered.
Jer 23:2 Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD.
The times – they are a-changin. I used to tell people “be sure you plug into a local church.” Now, I don’t know where to send them in most cases. Recently I spoke with a man I had never met before and in the course of our conversation I told him about this blog and the work I do to expose evil abusers in the church and help their victims. He said “That is the problem I have with the church. My wife’s father is a well-known, popular pastor. But he abused all his kids horribly all the time they were growing up.” I suspect that man may well have been a Christian, but he and his wife have been scattered by false shepherds.
My own congregation is very small here locally. But we take much encouragement from knowing that many, many more believers are really part of our church though they live all over the country and even the world. And most all of them are not in a local church. Why? Evil shepherds have scattered them.
This business has become so widespread that I conclude this: the majority of the true church, Christ’s remnant, is probably going to be found outside the walls of local churches. And if that be the case, then this whole mechanism we call social media and the internet is a gift from God. The scattered flock can be fed, led beside still waters, and their souls restored.
Jer 23:14-16 But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.” (15) Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets: “Behold, I will feed them with bitter food and give them poisoned water to drink, for from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has gone out into all the land.” (16) Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.
One day the Lord is going to come. He is going to gather all of us who have been scattered. On that day His true church will be seen by all and the counterfeits will be put out of sight forever.
Until then, do not be surprised if you must, more often than not, go “outside the temple” to find Jesus.