title: DEAR BILL….
sub-title: an open letter to Bill Johnson of Bethel Church
author: Larry Jones
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The purpose of this open letter is to relay truths that I have garnered over almost fifty years of christianity for your consideration.
I know you have been subjected to incessant criticism over the years. God forbid that I should heap further criticism onto that already monstrous heap.
Hopefully you might consider that this letter could possibly be from a loving Father who prunes every fruit-bearing branch “that it may bear more fruit”.
Why, you might ask, would the Father speak through a stranger when I am surrounded by proven disciples, some considered to be generals in God’s army?
Perhaps a fair answer would be…. why not? And also….
You will soon realize that my perspective regarding the most vital issue of one’s christianity – one’s relationship with Jesus Christ – is quite dissimilar from that of your companions. Most, if not all of your associates are, like yourself, attached to a religion of one sort or another. I am not, and haven’t been for decades.
My position is this: Jesus Christ never initiated a religion after He terminated the one, true religion – that could be referred to as “the law of Moses” – with His words, “It is finished!”
Of those attached to one of thousands of christianized religions, most would object to that characterization. How demeaning to consider their assemblage/fellowship a mere religion instead of a God-appointed mission. And yet every strain of evangelicalism of which I am familiar definitely falls under any reasonable definition of religion.
I am of the strong opinion that every christianized religion vies with the Holy Spirit, and by extension Jesus Christ Himself, for governance of Christ’s church. There is much theft within christendom but none so cruel as the looting of devotion to Jesus to be stashed within the deep bowels of religiosity.
Further, I define those giving leadership to, and those adhering to, a religion as religionists. (This is not meant to be disparaging; I simply do not know a word more suited to describe proponents of religion.)
Note: Religionists are not the issue, and not to be castigated; religion is the issue and is to be severely castigated. Religion contends with the Holy Spirit as “Helper (Comforter, Advocate…. Counselor, Strengthener, Standby).” (See John 14:16, AMP)
The heart and purpose of this letter is to present an opposite perspective regarding evangelicalism that you may not have seriously considered, this to your possible benefit and, subsequently, the profit of those you influence. I am certain Lord Jesus would 1) have me speak and 2) have you consider. (“Let two or three people prophesy, and let the others evaluate what is said.” NLT) You know the adage, “If the shoe fits wear it.” I would add to this, “If the shoe fits, wear it…. or don’t wear it…. what you do or don’t do is none of my business.”
Also, and primarily, the intent of this ‘open’ letter is to present to evangelicals worldwide a reasonable contention that the local church they diligently attend is a religion, just a religion, one of many thousands, and not worthy of their obeisance and financial support.
Let me further clarify my position. Although our God chooses and anoints some (every?) for leadership, I differ from most christians in that I do not believe the New Testament teaches organized leadership, leadership organized by religionists. An example….
Elders are biblical; a board of elders is a “tradition of men”. The word pastors can (after diligent searching) be found in the New Testament. But Senior pastor? Assistant pastor? Youth pastor? Worship pastor? Like really?
Jesus taught us that tradition makes “the word of God of no effect”. Jesus further said, “And many such things you do.” What I hope to make clear is that “many such things” evangelicals do, though they evidently don’t realize it.
I hope to make you (et al) see that every “tradition of men”, though time-honoured by those at the helm of christianity, impairs the relationship between Christ and christian. What could be more devastating to every believer? And to Christ’s Great Commission?
My brother-in-Christ, I fully understand your skepticism of one claiming to deliver a message from Lord Jesus. (“Here we go again.”) But please also understand that I sincerely believe my message to you (and all reading these words) really is from “the head of the church”, the “Lord of [religious] lords”. Perhaps my goodwill will be evident as this letter unfolds.