Scott on June 9, 2008 at 12:08 pm
I had a short but extremely interesting conversation on Saturday. My wife and I were at a get-together with a bunch of her relatives – aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. I really like her family, so I enjoy these times to hang out.
Anyhow, one of her relatives and I were talking about the church that we left recently and the church we are attending now. I made several comments about the “new church” related to the work that they do in the community and around the globe, and then said something about the excellent teaching. (The teaching pastor, Mike Erre, is top notch. Seriously! His book, The Jesus of Suburbia, is supposed to be fantastic. I will be reading it this summer.)
Anyhow, as I talked about the excellence and depth of the teaching, this very sincere and passionate man grabbed my shoulder and said, “No teaching. Teaching and studying don’t matter. The Lord is coming. It isn’t time for teaching. It is time to do the Lord’s work. There isn’t time for studying. The End Times are almost here.” With that, the conversation ended rather awkwardly. He left shortly there after, leaving me in thought about the root of his thinking and the logical conclusion of his thinking as it is lived out in every day life.
This very sincere guy fully believes that in-depth teaching and studying isn’t necessary any more. It is a waste of time because he believes that the time is short and we (Christians) should be doing other things.
I guess I am thinking that one of the problems with the on-going end times hysteria is that it encourages people to abandon trying to grow as believers in order to try and multiply believers before “the deadline.” Obviously, bringing people to Christ is important. But learning and growing in the faith is also just as important, as it prepares you for living a life in Christ for the long hall.
I remember when I first moved to California in 1989 and was first exposed to TBN. They were such an big-top oddity that I used to put on Praise the Lord while I was cooking dinner just to see what they were up to. The big hair, the over-the-top music, the teaching about prosperity and blessing. It was just too surreal. Anyhow, this one night I had TBN on and they were in the middle of a telethon for a new satellite. What was amazing to me was the sales pitch to get people to give/donate. The pitch went something like this: “We need you to give like you’ve never given before. We are working to send the gospel to every part of the globe and reach the entire world for Christ. Put it on your credit cards if you have to. After all, we know we’re in the last days so the Lord may very well come before you have to pay off your bill. We’ll be raptured and the credit card companies will be left holding the bag for a satellite that God used to reach the lost of the world!”
That isn’t an exact transcript of the show because it was almost twenty years ago, but I was so shocked by it that the memory of it was seared into my brain, so it is pretty darn close. I couldn’t believe that people would be taken in by such blatant manipulation, but I watched as money kept pouring in to their phone lines.
I think the TBN End Times financial extortion and my wife’s cousin’s End Times abandonment of teaching and studying are rooted in the same thing – if the time is short, why bother worrying about bills or studying the Word. It’s kind of like the whole “eat, drink and be merry because tomorrow we die” mentality, but rather than “tomorrow we die” it is “tomorrow we are raptured.”
But there is no thought to some other outlook on the world and on end times prophecy. What if the rapture isn’t imminent? What if we are NO WHERE NEAR the end times? In fact, what if the view of the end times as promoted by John Hagee, Tim LaHay and the whole TBN crowd isn’t even close to being how things are/will be? What if the return of Christ doesn’t happen for another 1000 years? Then what?
People who gave/give to TBN are left with massive credit card bills with no clue about how to pay them. People who follow the thinking of my wife’s cousin are left in a static (non-changing/non-growing) mode, unprepared for challenges to their faith from those in the world who ask questions and expect well-reasoned, well-thought-out, grounded answers.
There is a need for urgency, but it should be urgency grounded in practicality. As an old teacher of mine used to say, “Live like Jesus is coming back tomorrow BUT plan like He is coming back in 100 years.”
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