That pivotal day about two months ago began like most other days…. predictable. But before it ended predictable morphed into momentous. I received a mandate from Lord Jesus to write a book! In the form of a very lengthy letter! To Bill Johnson of Bethel Church! (Whom I had never met but highly regard.) I had the title, “Dear Bill….”. I had the sub-title, “An open letter to Bill Johnson of Bethel Church.” And I had the subject matter, collected over decades: religion vs Christ, religion vs Christ’s bible, religion vs Christ’s people, religion vs Christ’s Great Commission.
It had been about fifteen years since I last wrote a book. Of my total of five books, all were mandated by the Lord Jesus through His most Holy Spirit. Being strongly devoted to Jesus Christ, I would never (never!) write except by His decree.
My brother, I had no idea, no desire, no inclination, no hint that I would ever write a book directed to you (or anyone else). I am convinced the Lord Jesus Christ is giving you a message through a canadian brother-in-Christ for your consideration.
Yes, it’s a book of “hard saying[s]”, one that will upset sacred cows passed on to you by ‘the way it is’, a lengthy letter that will take more than a little courage to hear and heed.
Of course, no one would expect you to drop your guard; every book, except the book, is flawed. My sole hope is that you have “ears to hear”. Not ear, but ears – not half-heartedly but attentively. Now this is my story about that day two months ago….
I must have been listening to you or about you on Youtube – I just can’t remember – and, for whatever reason, I was mildly curious as to your age. Don’t ask me why; I just was. I assumed you were younger than me, and a few clicks so confirmed.
Up popped a questionnaire that included: “How much is Bill Johnson paid?” So I clicked. I was not surprised you were on a salary. Though your income is modest compared to most mega church pastors, I was, nonetheless, seriously troubled.
Please understand, I am not critical…. over the years I have learned to mind my own business, my business being only what Jesus has made my business. And I was not surprised…. many in your position would have raked in millions and millions. You could have been extravagantly wealthy, but apparently you’re not.
And yet my brother, I was hurt. Hurt? Yes, I was wounded. Let me explain. You have the grit to stand against certain evangelical absurdities…. but not all…. not even most. Religion is not your hated enemy as it is Christ’s enemy. (“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites.”) As it was Paul’s enemy. (CEB: “I wish that the ones who are upsetting you would castrate themselves!”) As it was Stephen’s enemy. (“They gnashed at him with their teeth.”) As it is my enemy.
Perhaps I just felt alone. Even my elder brother, this man of wise sayings, doesn’t see what is before all to see? You may be a superior religionist, but a religionist nonetheless. Neither Paul or Peter or John or Stephen would tolerate the religion you so lovingly caress.
Perhaps the sadness I felt was the sadness Jesus feels for His people being coerced to support salaries that He has never sanctioned. I have felt His sadness before. Anyhow….
Back to your salary, if I may. A salary, any salary, is building on the sand of tradition. To make that point may I ask, “Who gave you permission to be salaried?” You didn’t get that permission from the bible. You didn’t get permission from Jesus. No, it was your religion, evangelicalism, that gave you permission to receive a salary.
Do you get it? Evangelicalism, not Christ, gave Bill Johnson permission to receive a non-biblical salary; doesn’t that cause you to reflect? Although the New Testament, including words in red, has much to say about worthy labourers, it does not endorse a salary.
Contributions are God’s way; the salary, which is a contract, is the secular way. To live by contribution (and one’s own labour) is building on the rock of Christ’s sayings; living by salary is building on the sand of tradition.
“And many such things you do.” It seems the evangelical way has given you permission to build your christianity on a long list of accepted traditions, every one “making the word of God of no effect”.
As I said, the Lord Jesus Christ, for whatever reason, unexpectedly gave me an assignment to write Bill Johnson of Bethel Church a very lengthy letter. (That’s how I live out my christianity, assignment after assignment after assignment.) I have listened to you; now it’s your turn to listen to me.
I ask myself, and you might ask yourself, Why Dear Bill….? Why not, Dear Mike.…? Or Dear Rodney….? Or Dear Joseph…. ? Or Dear Whoever….? I simply do not know. Perhaps you should feel complimented; perhaps our Saviour-Messiah sees in you the necessary humility and courage to examine your christianity and adjust accordingly.
My obligation is obedience. Thus this letter from a nobody to a somebody…. from an insignificant to a highly significant…. from a non-credentialed to a credentialed…. from an unknown to a renown.
Note: My library of books, articles and videos can be located at www.larryjones.ca