Sat | Aug 19, 2017

God is not an ATM! - Pastor says God's ultimate role and purpose have declined

Published:Saturday | June 25, 2016 | 6:00 AMCecelia Campbell Livingston

 

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place. - Revelations 2 vs 4-5.

Over the years, various criticisms have been levied at what many perceive as 'the Church' - this body of worshippers many expect to be portraying high morals, holy

living and to be 'above reproach'. However, actions from pastors, ministers and others in Christendom have given rise to this religious institution being taken as a big joke or, worse, another avenue to con people out of their money.

Family and Religion reached out to the Rev Teddy A Jones of the Shalom Missionary Church and Jamaica Theological Seminary. He pointed out that 'the Church' is often ambiguous and, as such, throws us into some measure of confusion whenever it is used.

"The question, therefore, is whether these persons have ceased to be and do the things that by nature and definition characterise the followers of Jesus. The answer would have to be yes and no at the same time, and that on many levels," he said.

According to Jones, while some Christians strive very hard to remain true to expectations of Jesus' followers, others have drifted while still operating as if they are still on the path.

Jones points out that there has been a major shift from personal discipleship to institutionalisation since AD 325 when Emperor Constantine decreed the then world centre to be Christian.

"In a sense, the Church has never quite recovered. There began a mad race to the bottom until Martin Luther decided that he had seen and heard enough

madness, so he nailed his 95 Theses to the chapel door in Guttenburg, which initiated the reformation. As good as it was though, the reformation has led to another problem - splintering and a loss of centredness," he said, giving a historical overview of the shift.

One troubling aspect facing the Church now and giving rise to speculations are the preachers who encourage members to "sow into their ministries, encourage sacrificial giving, prophesying big financial payback for the givers."

 

Prophets for profit

 

Jones said, "I have major issues with that kind of focus. The evidence unfolding is that some of these persons are prophets for profit, hirelings rather than true shepherds, charlatans. Could it be that their so-called prosperity gospel fits into the category of 'another gospel' that Paul vehemently renounces by declaring them anathema! Galatians 1:8-9. 'But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema. As we have said before, so say I now again, if any man preacheth unto you any gospel other than that which ye received, let him be anathema'."

For Jones, this kind of gospel seems to be in danger of creating gods of gold.

"It reduces God to a kind of ATM, God's ultimate role and purpose in relating to humans become reduced to making them healthy and wealthy."

Preachers have been accused of straying from 'the old landmark', as, in a bid to increase membership, many have compromised.

Jones attributes this decline to "bowing at the altar of the gods of gold, the desire to not offend (self-preservation), the desire for popularity (say what people want to hear), and the rise of post-modernism itself (the tenets of which are now readily available with Internet access, agenda being pushed at universities, etc)."

The solution, according to Jones, is for the Church to once again be "the salt and light in society".

"Because we have lots of converts and few disciples, the sterilising impact of the Biblical values is not being felt," he said, pointing out that nothing short of a full-scale personal return to Jesus' model of discipleship, being and making disciples will bring back the Church.

"It will take even more than a reformation like in Luther's time. We need a spiritual revolution. This will be costly ... even to the point of some of us having to lay down our lives, perhaps. That, right there, is the biggest obstacle ... . Too few are willing to pay the ultimate price. It will take following Jesus no matter what, and that means answering His invitation to come and see, come and follow and, ultimately, come and die."

In Jones' opinion, the Church in Jamaica has lost her way. He believes that the sooner that cold, harsh reality is faced and broken before God, with genuine desire to be healed and restored to live in and be Kingdom people, "we will never know the true meaning of 'let your Kingdom come, let your will be done' here in Jamaica as it is in Heaven."

familyandreligion@gleanerjm.com