R E M A R K A B L E ! !
Imagination time. Try to imagine what ‘Pastor Average’ – in our country and that of our southern neighbours, the United States – looks like. For example, what would you guess the average age of ‘Pastor Average’ to be? I know you don’t know and I certainly don’t know, but let’s make him 45 years old. Okay? That’s probably close. Now what would you guess the size of his congregation to be? (What is the average size evangelical congregation?) 100? 500? 1000? Let’s imagine a congregation of 400 adults. Okay?
So far our imagination has produced a 45 year old evangelical pastor preaching to a congregation of 400 evangelicals. Now one more thing…. his wages. This is difficult because pastors prefer concealment. I am going to surmise that Pastor Average’s monthly salary is somewhere between $4-8,000. Let’s guess-timate $5,000. Sound fair?
Now that we have created, in our imagination, Pastor Average and his congregation of 400, I want to share some insights, admittedly only conjectures, that I have formulated over fifty years of christianity. You might think I am playing a game, but I’m not. Shrinking the vast world of evangelicalism into a solitary person and a solitary congregation makes it easier to comprehend this powerful religion that encompasses the bulk of born-again christians. Consider: the condition of this religion determines the condition of Christ’s church-on-earth (again, because most of His church-on-earth are attached to an evangelical religion). So here we go….
Pastor Average has the appearance of being spiritually developed – wise, competent, trustworthy – and has captured the trust and commitment of his congregation. But there is SOMETHING missing. It is imperative that you discern and acknowledge that certain SOMETHING that, seemingly, nobody discerns and acknowledges. Why? Because that missing component in Pastor Average’s spiritual makeup is the reason the 400 live a (to be charitable) mediocre christianity. He is their most potent influence.
What is that missing something? That missing something is JOHN, CHAPTER FIFTEEN, VERSE FIVE. And because John 15:5 is (not absent but) seriously deficient in Pastor Average’s christianity, and because he is the congregation’s chief influence, that verse (the truths contained in that verse) is also seriously deficient in the 400 people.
John 15:5: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” Let’s amplify that….
“I [the Lord Jesus] am the [true] vine, you [born-again christians] are the branches. He who abides in [dwells in, trusts in, is occupied with, whose ‘first love’ is] Me, bears much [an abundance of] fruit [the “fruit of the Spirit”, the fruit of knowledge and understanding and wisdom, an affection for the Bible, the salvation of friends and strangers, eternal “treasures in heaven”]; for without [an ongoing relationship with, an attachment to] Me you can do nothing [of spiritual value and consequence].”
Can you see that the quality and quantity of the fruit that each of the 400 bear (401, actually) is relative to the quality of relationship with Lord Jesus? (The branch firmly attached to the vine bears more fruit than the branch loosely connected.) Just as none in that congregation are equally wealthy (financially) – though most are close to average – none have the same degree of devotion to Jesus – though most may be close to average.
Most reading this assume that the pastor is way above average in his fervency for Lord Jesus. But that’s not so. Pastor Average is actually the most religious person (the person most firmly connected to a religion) in that congregation. As such, he is strongly subservient to his denominational lords. His $5,000 monthly salary – just as precious to him as every paid employee – keeps his loyalty from straying from denominational policy. The harsh truth: should he shun his religion’s numerous “commandments of men” and embrace New Testament teaching and precedence he would soon be unemployed. Remarkable, remarkable, remarkable!
And the loss of the pastor’s salary would not be his only adversity; he would also suffer loss of dominance. Pastor Average is by far the most powerful man in the congregation. His influence blankets the 400, not only on sunday mornings but also extending into their homes and workplaces throughout the week. He is often their first thought in the morning and their last thought at night. It was the pulpit that granted him this dominance he so much enjoys. Nonetheless….
Nonetheless Pastor Average is not happy…. not fulfilled…. not at peace. (Nor is any christian deficient of John 15:5.) He is a bondservant to a list of “commandments of men” peculiar to the denomination that consigned him to his beloved pulpit. He certainly could never declare, as did Paul, “I am free from all men”. Rarely does he mention “the name which is above every name” in conversation (and seldom from the pulpit). Why? Speaking Christ draws one closer to Christ and with Christ comes conviction of wrongdoing. Speaking Christ jeopardizes his salary.
Pastor Average cannot convey what he doesn’t possess…. John 15:5. But he successfully conveys the religion to which he has long ago given himself over. Success is a congregation that walks his walk, talks his talk, emulates his loyalty to his lords. (Every congregation is, to varying degrees, a reflection of its pastor.) That is why the 400 rarely speak Christ; they are emulating Pastor Average, walking his walk and talking his talk. These 400 ‘branches’ (“you are the branches”) are not intimately attached to the true Vine (“I am the vine”).
Sadly but understandingly, at least 90% of the 400 have long ago left their “first love”. (Jesus to the Ephesians: “I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”) Like the one they call “Pastor”, they have almost zero interest in Christ’s Great Commission to reach the world with His gospel. Pastor Average’s long list of “commandments of men” is now their list. Most of these decrees have been passed on non-verbally. (Most of what we have learned about anything and everything has been assimilated non-verbally.) They are taught by what the man says and also by what he doesn’t say. (Bonhoeffer: “To not speak is to speak.”)
The 400 correctly discern Pastor Average does not want them preaching “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (this evidenced by, for example, their lack of preaching on social media platforms), does not want them led individually by the most Holy Spirit (his mantra: “we can do more together”), does not want their generosity distributed elsewhere (thus the awful evangelical tithe). To be quite frank, the 400 as a team and individually bear LITTLE fruit, not MUCH fruit. (“By this My Father is glorified, that you bear MUCH fruit.”)
Those of the 400 that surrender 10% (or any percentage) of their income to the supervision of Pastor Average have also surrendered a percentage of their soul (heart). Jesus taught, “Where your treasure [i.e., one’s income] is, there your heart will be also.” Giving as the Spirit directs is giving to Jesus. Giving in obedience to “commandments of men” is giving to “flesh and blood”; giving to “flesh and blood” causes one to become disciples of “flesh and blood”.
Most of the 400 are disciples of christians, never preach “Jesus Christ and Him crucified”, do not submit to the governance of the Holy Spirit, do not bear “much fruit”, accumulate an abundance of “treasures on earth” and scant “treasures in heaven”, rarely mention that “name which is above every name” and will be severely distressed at the “judgement seat of Christ”. Remarkable, remarkable, remarkable!
In the last few years there has been an onslaught of perversion, corruption and brutality in their city. The 401 do not (because they cannot) defend their city “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness.” Why so little power? The answer is found in John 15:5: “Without Me you can do nothing.” Jesus is talking relationship. No relationship, no power. Feeble relationship, feeble power. The 401 have frail power because Jesus is no longer “first love”. Paul to the Corinthians (NLT): “I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted.” Corrupted devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ has dwindled the power of the 401 to about 10-20% of their potential.
Understandably you may balk at, even dismiss, my portrayal of the spirituality of the average pastor within evangelicalism. And you may be offended by my perspective of the average pew-person (so called layperson, parishioner). NEVER have you heard or read such an overview of the religion you have so thoroughly adopted. So many can’t be wrong!
In fact so many can be wrong. Every evolutionist is wrong, every atheist is wrong, every catholic and every mormon and every Jehovah’s witness is wrong. The pharisees were wrong. Assuming that christians are immune from mass error is a trespass against New Testament writings and against reason. The Galatians (evangelicals) were all “bewitched”. The church of Ephesus (evangelicals) left their “first love”. The church at Pergamus (evangelicals) taught “the doctrines of Balaam”. The church of Thyatira (evangelicals) allowed “that woman Jezebel” to seduce the congregation. The split within evangelicalism between pentecostals and baptists, and between Calvinists and Arminians are a few examples that establish that so many can be mistaken.
It is good to be cautious. I want you to challenge every sentence, every statement, every conclusion I have made. More important, JESUS wants you to evaluate my teaching (and every teaching). It was your trust in feeble men that has crippled your effectiveness as God’s servant, and has cost you eternal rewards, “treasures in heaven”. So PLEASE take the time to compare this message with New Testament writings. You are responsible for you. Amen?
Now let’s look at the big picture, Canada and the USA. As the 401 could not defend their city against the mentioned “principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness”, the total population of evangelicals within our two countries are powerless to combat the mentioned “onslaught of perversion, corruption and brutality” that is at this very time sweeping over our nations. UNDER OUR WATCH, the hateful enemy has already made inroads at such a fast pace that even many in secular society are amazed. Why, oh why, is this happening? The answer is simple….
Missing in evangelical christianity (that enfolds most born-again christians) is John 15:5. John 15:5 is lacking in evangelical congregations because John 15:5 is lacking in evangelical leadership. Pastor Average portrays Pastor Typical and the 401 portrays typical congregations, from miniature to mega. Evidence that love of salary and love of dominance has gripped evangelical leadership is obvious to anyone daring to compare them with Paul and his writings.
I believe the outcry of Christ’s heart to evangelical pastors and denominations is the same decree God spoke to the mighty pharaoh through Moses: “Let My people go, THAT THEY MAY SERVE ME.” [“Release My people from your mighty religion, your “commandments of men”, THAT THEY MAY SERVE ME.”]
If you think Jesus, through this teaching and that of others, is wanting to bring reformation to your evangelical religion you are mistaking; He wants to set you free from institutional churches. Jesus wants you. Again, Jesus…. wants…. you! Jesus wants you to embrace John 15:5 and never let go. Jesus is calling you to deep, serious repentance; you have abandoned “first love” and Jesus is extending an invitation to return.
So what’s it going to be, YES, JESUS or NO, JESUS?
NOTE: Ask Lord Jesus (Jesus IS your Lord, right?) if He wants you to visit my library of books, articles and videos at www.larryjones.ca God bless!!