When the 2022 State of Theology Report came out last year, the results were far less than encouraging. For example:
– 43% of US Evangelicals agreed with Statement No. 4: “God learns and adapts to different circumstances.” In other words, for nearly half of US Evangelicals, God it not omniscient or all-knowing.
– 53%, over half of US Evangelicals, agree with Statement No. 16: “The Bible, like all sacred writings, contains helpful accounts of ancient myths but is not literally true.”
– 42% of US Evangelicals agree with Statement No. 27: “Gender identity is a matter of choice.”
– 46% of US Evangelicals agree with Statement No. 28: “The Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behavior doesn’t apply today.”
– 56% of US Evangelicals agree with Statement No. 3: “God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.” (the heretical view called perennialism)
– 43% of US Evangelicals agree with Statement No. 7: “Jesus was a great teacher, but he was not God.”
I suppose we at MCOI should have been surprised by these distressing figures, but we were not. Saddened but not surprised. The reason is fairly simple – in an effort to bring more people into the church, many churches have replaced sound biblical teaching with user-friendly messages. Large segments of the church today, though thankfully not all, are failing to faithfully teach the word of God and discipling their people. As a result, there has been a massive decline in congregational understanding of vital doctrine and even a misunderstanding of the very gospel itself.
Even for churches that are stalwartly teaching the Word of God, it is difficult for pastors and elders to protect their flock. The reason may be the easy access to books (even those sold by so-called “Christian” bookstores and sources) and high-sounding ideas that present an altered view of what Christianity should be and what the true gospel is. These alternative teachings may not deny the faith outright and even may use the name of Christ and sound “Christian” – while presenting “another Jesus” and “another gospel” altogether. “New” ideas can be very gratifying to the old nature still lurking in us. We have been culturally flattered with the idea that we can “trust our gut,” but in reality, our human gut can only be truly trusted to act up at the most inopportune times. Your gut does not know what is true – it’s just a gut – but the real truth is readily available to us in scripture. We need to believe the true thing, not the new thing.
Proverbs 14:12 reads:
There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.
People also fall prey to popular culture, which is decidedly opposed to Christian beliefs and ideals. Most people develop their worldview through osmosis, often not paying close attention to what is being “taught” through popular music, movies, television, and best-selling books. People then often bring these unfiltered and unchallenged thoughts and ideas into the gathering of believers – perhaps without the knowledge of the Pastor and elders – and infect others. It’s like the spread of a virus, and it must be effectively treated before it reaches critical mass and sinks the Bismarck. Since youth are especially susceptible to cultural messages and peer pressure and are being heavily propagandized against the faith in public schools, we are losing the young. We must not lose the next generation to seductive lies. The “new thing” often sounds right and may even be partially true but leads to false conclusions and beliefs.
George Orwell, the author of 1984 and Animal Farm, made an interesting observation on the nature of deception.
All propaganda is a lie, even when it’s telling the truth.
Unless there is a deliberate ongoing Church emphasis on combating the messages of the culture and giving sound refutation to its unbiblical ideas, the downward slide of the church will continue. This trend will persist and perhaps accelerate exponentially if we do not take steps to counter the erroneous ideas the young are being heavily indoctrinated with.
None of this is new. As we read the Hebrew Scriptures, we find a constant thread of God condemning false prophets, correcting false teaching, and calling out bad behavior in His people, Israel. Nearly all of the New Testament letters were written to correct bad behavior and warn the church about false prophets, false teachers, and false teaching.
In the book of Revelation, the Lord directed John the Apostle to write to seven churches. In the messages to two of the seven churches, the churches in Ephesus and Pergamum, a group called the Nicolaitans was named. In a third church – the church in Thyatira – there was a group that was being led by a prophetess that espoused teachings similar to the Nicolaitans.
The heretical doctrine of the Nicolaitans is simple to understand, and, like so many ancient heresies, it is being, to some extent, recycled in the church today. The Nicolaitans strayed from the true faith in the same way that the people of God have typically strayed from the true faith. They did not overtly reject the Christian faith, but instead, they added on whatever pagan teachings tickled their fancy, thus syncretizing pagan beliefs and practices with the true Christian faith. It thus became a “Christian-ish” faith but wasn’t at all the Christian faith and gospel they had once received. The Nicolaitans believed and taught that a person was saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, BUT – and this is where the deception begins – it is only the spirit of a person that is saved, so it didn’t really matter how one lived his life in the flesh. They had a different Jesus, a different salvation, and a different understanding of how to live the Christian life. Their gut may have been happy, but the Lord was not.
In practice, the Nicolaitans treated the inspired, inerrant word of God in the Hebrew Scriptures and the teachings of the Lord and His apostles as little more than inspired wisdom literature. Christ may have been viewed as important, but the Christ of this user-friendly faith was permissive, unconcerned, or even supportive of engaging in a variety of sexually immoral practices. Idolatry was tolerated, and this new faith mix was elevated as equal or perhaps superior to the biblical and apostolic teachings on following Christ.
The three churches in Revelation each responded differently to the same problem.
– The Church in Ephesus would not tolerate this false teaching, BUT they had lost their love for the Lord and the lost.1The church was initially zealous and motivated by love, but that love diminished as time passed. This love could be directed at God or brothers and sisters in the Lord. Their love for unbelievers in the city may have also waned under the heavy hand of persecution; John D. Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), Re 2:4
– The Church in Pergamum held firmly to the Lord but was seemingly unaware of the infiltration of false teaching in their midst.
– The Church in Thyatira tolerated a false prophetess in their midst, along with the sexual immorality and idolatry that was being promoted.
The growth and spread of the New Apostolic Reformation and the embracing of the Enneagram, along with pagan Eastern Contemplative practices – are some areas where this heretical syncretism is manifest in our day, and these heresies are changing the theology and understanding of God and morality for many in the church. As we have mentioned above, the 2022 State of Theology Report demonstrates that, like the Nicolaitans, a growing percentage of the church today is compromising with the world in the area of sexual morality.
– 46% of US Evangelicals agree with Statement No. 28 “The Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behavior doesn’t apply today.”
That is nearly half of Evangelicalism (it was less than 20 percent in 2004), and the percentage is growing. In our 2007 piece, “The Rise of the Evangelical Left,” we pointed out that Brian McLaren, a celebrity Progressive and very popular rising star of the Emergent Movement, was paving the way to normalize homosexuality within the church:
McLaren has further asserted that we should not be too hasty in thinking or specifically teaching that homosexuality is a sin. After all, Jesus never spoke out against homosexuality. He has stated that we should declare a moratorium on this discussion of homosexuality until the Holy Spirit gives us a consensus on this – perhaps in 5 years or so. Then, if we do not have a unanimous consensus at that time, we should be willing to wait another five years.
In 2012, five years later, the headline was, “Brian McLaren Leads Commitment Ceremony At Son’s Same-Sex Wedding.” In 2020, a popular Christian author, speaker, blogger, and television presenter, Jen Hatmaker, publicly came out as Gay-affirming in support of her daughter. Christian celebrities like Amy Grant, dcTalk, Lauren Daigle, and others are supporting LGBTQA+ or are Gay-affirming.
Also, in 2012, Andy Stanley discussed a situation that arose in his church of a married man having a sexual relationship with another man. The man’s wife divorced him, and the ex-husband subsequently began attending one of Stanley’s satellite churches with his same-gender “partner.” On the first Sunday, the same-gender couple also volunteered for the hospitality ministry. Andy Stanly was fine with that until it came to light that the “partner” was still married to his wife and therefore committing adultery. Andy spoke with them and had them step down because of the adultery. OK, so Stanley took issue with adultery while affirming homosexuality. Stanley also teaches “Gay Christians” More Faithful Than Straight Christians, We Must Learn From Them.
Every one of us struggles with sin. We all struggle in different areas, but we do not find anywhere in Scripture that we are to endorse or promote sexual immorality or any other sin. To the woman caught in adultery, Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on, sin no more.” She was not to intentionally and actively engage in sin, and neither are we. To the young pastor Timothy, the Apostle Paul writes:
Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:22)
Pastors indeed have a very difficult job, particularly when celebrity Christians give a thumbs up to false teaching and willful sinful behavior. I wonder what sort of letter the Lord would write to the 43% of the church today that is following the way of the Nicolaitans?
Then, as now, some of God’s people, perhaps many of them, desired to avoid conflict while others simply trusted their emotions (gut) to inform and guide their beliefs and decisions.
Is it any wonder, then, that Jesus asked the people if He would find true faith when He returns to earth? (Luke 18:8b)
We believe that He surely will. The situation in much of the church today is sad to witness, as it seems that wave upon wave of falsehood and immorality seems to be crashing against the church. But only the Lord has the full picture, and we do not believe the gates of hell shall prevail against His Church. We cannot let what we are watching deter or dishearten us but must each seek the Lord’s help to stand strong in the faith in troubling timesΩ
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|↑1||The church was initially zealous and motivated by love, but that love diminished as time passed. This love could be directed at God or brothers and sisters in the Lord. Their love for unbelievers in the city may have also waned under the heavy hand of persecution; John D. Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), Re 2:4|
As an adolescent believer, around 1961, I had the thought that as comfortable as we were, with our freedom to worship and to have a voice in public policy, that the believers under persecution from Rome had likely been in closer fellowship with God. It follows that their faith would have been refined by the fire of persecution and informed by the Holy Spirit. Never wanting to see persecution become the norm, once again, I nonetheless longed to experience the consecrated church it forged.
All one has to do is look at the Christian Post and see all the things they promote. Or go to Christian books and see the most popular books that pop up. Jesus Calling tends to be on top at Christian bookstores. Brenna E. Scott and Chris Lawson have a new book out that ALL the church should read called ‘Christian Journaling or Psychic Channeling? My answer is Jesus Calling IS witchcraft and teaching Channeling to the dumb church, especially woman who share like Eve with their husbands, and bring the books to church and leaven it. Further many types of witchcraft have crept into the church, but it is still witchcraft. If you try to warn others like I have you get called a Pharisee, or told, “judge not”. Is it too late for the church? I say, yes, it is! The Apostasy is in full force, but we can still save some of them, pulling them out of the fire! “And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” Jude 1:23. The Lord will put you in a situation where you meet one or two of these who are led astray and lost to disciple them. My experience is that it does not take much to make them angry with you and never talk to you again. But, on the other hand it is worth it for the one or two that do turn around what JOY! God is still working in the church, there are still some getting Biblically saved through the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4, John 3:14-19). “HE THAT OVERCOMETH” Rev. 3:5. You must be born again. John 3
It appears 2 Thessalonians 2:3 which speaks of widespread apostacy is taking place now. 1 Timothy 4:1 identifies the origin of false teaching that leads to that apostacy. Bad theology does have devistating consequinces.
There certainly is a lot of this going around today. I think it’s partly because many folks are not hearing anything against it in the churches. They think everything like reiki, energy healing, etc. is all from God. And, they are not being taught the real meaning of love. Love does not mean that you condone everything a person does. Especially young people can be very idealistic, they want to love everybody, see the good in everybody and help everybody. But that doesn’t mean that you accept everything they do. Conversion has to come first though. Can’t make people live the way Christians are supposed to if they aren’t Christians.
A Singaporean Christian leader named Samuel Tow delivered an address to the International Council of Christian Churches in 1983 titled “Today’s Evangelicals, Tomorrow’s Liberals.” I think 40 years later would qualify as “tomorrow,” and his prediction has come true.
The title of Dr. Tow’s address could be reversed, and it would be equally true; what was considered “liberal” in 1983 is now acceptably “evangelical.” The people on the wrong side of the statements in the survey at the top of this post may be “evangelicals,” but they’re not Christians.
Where is the doctrine of the nicolaitions explained. The error of Balaam seems quite clear….
Revelation 2:14-15 NKJV
 But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.  Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
Where is the doctrine of the nicolaitians explained?
Revelation 2:14-15 NKJV
 But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.  Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. a …
As we mentioned in the article, “There is not much about the Nicolaitans directly in Scripture. We only have two direct mentions of them, and they are both in this chapter. What we know about the Nicolaitans we mostly learn from some of the Early Church Fathers, Irenaeus, Hippolytus of Rome, Epiphanius, Jerome, Clement, and Eusebius of Caesarea.
The Nicolaitans believed and taught that a person is saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ BUT and this is where the deception begins, it is only the spirit of a person that is saved and therefore it doesn’t matter how you live.” However, some additional resources may be helpful, for example, the “ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE BIBLE – NICOLAITANS,” and “Who Are the Nicolaitans in Revelation, and Should We Look out for Them?“
I noticed the pastor at church preached on unity.
Quoting 1 cor 1:10
His version said only unity of mind and thought.
The KJV says same mind and same JUDGEMENT.
The doctrine of the nicolsitians is only concerned with the human spirit.
Therefore unity of thought is all that is necessary. No need for judgement …
Sadly, as we point out, too many churches lack judgment/discernment.
Don, Too little too late! Local planted churches should have been strongly standing against this 45-50 years ago. And you know as well as I do that it begins with the leadership allowing Christ to be the “head” of His church(what a joke that it even has to be said). Few things are more important to Christ that a pure, virtuous Church. And the only way that can happen is to practice the church discipline that Jesus commanded in Matthew 18:15-20. Pastors never teach this to the rank-and-file Christians so how could we ever expect to have holy churches? Of course that can’t happen because Jesus hasn’t been given preeminence. For all these years pastors have gone light to nothing on church discipline because a “profit motive”has compromised most pastors. That’s why they have spent years in a reprehensible pandering to the seeker friendly culture so their salaries won’t be diminished. So, God’s Church and it’s holiness has continually been sold out to a self aggrandizing leadership. Now all that’s left is to reap what has been sown, and the only way to do that is to make money pay unattainable and go back to following Jesus and His command to preach the gospel as a gift given for nothing in return, not acquiring money, and accepting the bare needs food reward that He named as the acceptable reward for ministerial service (per Matthew 10:8-10). Still applicable today as Jesus stated (per Matthew 28:20). As for your comments at the end on Luke 18:8b, you should have quit while you were ahead. I’ll accept Jesus’ not so encouraging words: “will He find faith on the earth? [at His coming] over your grasping at straws, wishful thinking that this will all turn around in what we perceive to be His Church. Also the gates of hell not prevailing against His Church comment is not persuasive since it is the gates of “hades” (the abode of the dead) that Jesus is likely referring to, not Satans kingdom.Yes,Christians will prevail over death and the grave in the resurrection which I believe is a better understanding of that statement. I agree with you that we should not be disheartened in terms of our personal faith and His actual Church standing strong, but there is plenty to be disheartened about concerning those who are deeply involved in the counterfeit institutional churches – I don’t think there is much hope for them as long as they continue to energize a largely mercenary leadership. Everyone who thinks the present condition of what we think is Jesus’ church has no real logical reason to believe so.
All of this is SO sad and really reminds me of the ending of the Thornbirds. Cardinal Ralph after a lifetime of sin and denial of his love for his soulmate and blinded by his own ambition for wealth and prestige, didn’t even realize it was his own son (conceived out of wedlock) who drowned to death. Kept a secret by his love until the end of his life when he was sick and dying. Too, too late!
This is where you lost me regarding the state of the church when using the word “unattainable “
Now all that’s left is to reap what has been sown, and the only way to do that is to make money pay UNATTAINABLE and go back to following Jesus and His command to preach the gospel as a gift given for nothing in return, not acquiring money, and accepting the bare needs food reward that He named as the acceptable reward for ministerial service (per Matthew 10:8-10). Still applicable today as Jesus stated (per Matthew 28:20).
I think get what you meant?Was it to begin to require pastors to be working and ministers both? Tent makers as some call it.
Yes, that’s correct John, and thanks for your comments and correcting me. It is my fault that I lost you with my use of “unattainable.” But I think you read past my poor explanation and “got it.” But just to clarify, This is what I meant to say… The only way for the Body of Christ to free itself from the sad decline in our churches as reported by Don, is to see the “Big picture.” That being the Pastoral greed that bares the lions share of this problem and can only be made right, once and for all, by making Jesus the head of His Church/churches and following His command by making money unattainable. As you said, requiring pastors to be working. If they meet the qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9 they are “worthy” to have the food provision that Jesus referred to in Matthew 10:10b; Luke 10:7-8 that Paul restated in 1 Corinthians 9:4 7-15; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-10; 1 Timothy 5:17-18 (Verse 18 being a verbatim quote from Luke 10:7).
There’s a lot to be said for that directive. While some have capped their personal earnings–Billy Graham comes to mind–and I’ve known pastors who led their churches to not pay them according to church size, many are just as motivated by their bank account as corporate ladder-climbers. Three of the pastors I’ve most respected were bi-vocational. Two were in construction and the third worked at a refinery as an hourly worker. All were committed students of the Scripture and devoted hours of their time every week to study.
As I read these survey results, a quote came to mind from H. Richard Niebuhr (~1920s) as he described what liberalism taught…”a God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgement through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”